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WheatStalk 2022 showcases importance of seed development in southern Alberta

Fields of test plots just outside of Lethbridge are showcasing the many varieties of crops in the phase of seed development.

The Alberta wheat and barley commissions are using WheatStalk 2022, a field tour with keynote speakers, to highlight the hard work being done in seed design.

“New varieties are one of the pillars for farmers to improve profitability, and so I think it’s very important for farmers to know what new varieties are in the pipeline,” said Robert Graf, a research scientist specializing in winter wheat with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Lethbridge.

He has been developing seed varieties for more than 20 years with AAFC and is retiring this year. He is leaving behind a legacy of seed varieties.

“We want to have continual improvement,” Graf said.

“My feeling would be one of those varieties from 23 years ago, I would hope most farmers out there would say, ‘I’m not going to grow that variety, there’s better ones that have been registered much more recently.'”

Brian Otto farms near Warner, Alta. He said the research in crop production has been a gamechanger, shaping the way his family farms today.

“We are seeing more efficient, better products, fungicides for seed treats, and we are relying on all these things to help us maintain our farms and stay sustainable,” Otto said.

Graf said last year’s widespread drought that blanketed most of Canada was a clear indicator of the importance of developing different seed varieties that can grow in constantly changing conditions and fight off different diseases.

“With climate change, that’s going to become even more important,” he said.

With unpredictable weather being the only guarantee in the farming business, Graf added that farmers don’t need more varieties, they need better ones that will continue to meet their changing needs.

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