Pasta lovers may not know plant breeder Curtis Pozniak, but they ll get a taste of his work in the near future when they tuck into a plate of their favourite pasta dish.
That s because 2011 marks the first year of significant commercial production of CDC Verona, a new durum wheat variety used primarily for pasta. Developed by Pozniak at the University of Saskatchewan s Crop Development centre, CDC Verona is the first new durum variety to be released commercially in 19 years from the Centre. With Canada supplying up to 60 per cent of the world s durum needs, it won t take long for Pozniak s work to go global.
Technology is really advancing quite rapidly in the area of genomics research and understanding key genes that influence desirable traits, says Pozniak. Application of this technology to plant breeding is starting to gain steam, and will allow us to follow key genes within our breeding program using DNA testing.
Pozniak and his colleagues will be helping blaze the genomic sequencing trail in wheat thanks to a recent three-year, $8.5-million research grant to begin the process of sequencing the genomes of the best Canadian wheat varieties. That s giving us the opportunity to look at all the genes that are present in wheat and how they contribute to yield, disease resistance and end-use quality, he says. His research team will also be contributing to developing a high quality reference sequence of wheat as part of a larger effort co-ordinated by the International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium.
Pozniak says that while scientific innovation is vitally important, plant breeders also need to look well into the future to foresee the long-term needs. The yield-maturity relationship is very important for Prairie farmers, as is having strong disease resistance. But breeders also have to listen to the needs of Canada s customers.
I think the role of plant breeders is to solve problems now and in the future, he says. We need to be thinking about making food production more sustainable and tackling production challenges well before they become a serious problem.