Ducks, Bayer extend winter wheat research funding

Research on cold hardiness in winter wheat will continue for at least another $600,000 with a funding extension from Ducks Unlimited Canada and seed and ag chem firm Bayer CropScience.

The company’s Calgary-based Canadian arm and the national conservation organization on Tuesday pledged a total of $200,000 for each of the next three years, to be managed by University of Saskatchewan winter wheat researcher Brian Fowler.

Fowler, whose varieties now make up the majority of Prairie winter wheat acres, is winding down his plant breeding program to focus on understanding winter hardiness in wheat and other cereal crops, DUC said.

“Improving our understanding of how plants adapt to cold and which genes are responsible will help future plant breeders develop more winter hardy varieties,” Fowler said in a DUC release.

Ducks Unlimited Canada, a longtime promoter of winter wheat crops as a habitat for waterfowl, “has been a long-term supporter of winter wheat research at the University of Saskatchewan and without their ongoing support the program would have ceased to exist long ago,” he said.

The risk of winter kill on the Prairies is “not much different” than in primary winter wheat growing areas of the U.S., DUC said, but many farmers still cite the crop’s winter survival as one of their main reasons for not growing winter wheat.

Fowler’s cold tolerance research, it’s hoped, will give growers “a variety of choices that will address this concern.”

Partnering with Bayer in the previously announced Winter Cereals: Sustainability in Action program, DUC and Bayer also back winter wheat variety development at the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Research Centre at Lethbridge and at various universities in the northern U.S.

“Investing in winter wheat is part of our efforts to make food production more sustainable in Prairie Canada,” Paul Thiel, vice-president of public affairs for Bayer CropScience, said in the same release.

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