Wheat School: How do we fund wheat research?

Over the last decade, the average yield increase for corn tips the scale at five bushels per acre, per year. During the same period wheat yield gains have averaged a meagre one bushel per acre, per year.

What is the future of wheat if it can’t match the yield gains of crops like corn and soybeans? Will we see less wheat in the rotation and how could that impact soil health and the yields for grain and oilseed crops? In this episode of the RealAgriculture Wheat School, resident agronomist Peter Johnson visits with C&M Seeds general manager Ellen Sparry to talk about the future of wheat genetics and variety testing in Ontario

Sparry discusses C&M’s efforts to tap into new genetic sources, including testing and screening to identify adaptable varieties that deliver improved disease defence and higher yields.

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The road ahead for wheat research, however, is a difficult one. Both corn and soybean performance gains is driven by significant research dollars from seed companies that can recoup their investment from the sale of certified seed which is planted on 100 percent of corn acres and almost as much soybeans.

Wheat genetic and variety development is also funded from the sale of certified seed, but only a fraction of the wheat seed planted is from certified sales. That means the resources available to companies like C&M for wheat research pale in comparison to the hefty investment in corn and soys.

“We have two industries that we’re competing with that get 100 per cent support and we get this wheat crop that we aren’t supporting at anywhere close to the right level,” says Johnson.

He says it’s critical for the agriculture industry to find a means to fuel wheat research. “Certified seed is one way if 100 percent of the people bought certified seed, but if we are not going to do that we have to look at other ways to support the industry.

“The end goal is to help the farmer and to help the soil because that’s what it’s all about,” says Johnson.

Click here for more Wheat School episodes.

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