Recent improvements in winter wheat production potential
The Crop Development Centre (CDC) winter wheat breeding program at the University of Saskatchewan has released eight highly adapted winter wheat cultivars in the 1990's. As a group, they represent the first semidwarf, rust resistant winter wheat cultivars with superior winter hardiness that have been developed in western Canada, or, for that matter, the world. Their short, strong straw allows for the use of higher nitrogen fertilizer rates thereby providing the farmer with the opportunity to achieve both a much higher grain protein concentration and greatly increased grain yield. When combined with the management package that the CDC winter wheat program has developed, they have allowed farmers in higher moisture areas to increase their yield targets from 45 to 50 bu/acre to 60 to 90 bu/acre while maintaining or improving grain protein concentration. As a result, they have been widely accepted by farmers and, according to Canadian Wheat Board surveys, accounted for more than 95 percent of the western Canadian winter wheat acreage in 1999 and 2000. The improved rust resistance, lodging resistance, and high yield potential of recent CDC cultivar releases makes them highly adapted to the rust hazard area of the prairies. Winter wheat is also of particular interest to farmers in this area because it avoids most of the of problems they have been experiencing with Fusarium Head Blight, Orange Blossom Wheat Midge, herbicide resistant weeds, and seeding delays due to excess spring moisture. In addition to the traditional Canadian Wheat Board markets, the expansion in livestock production across western Canada has increased demand for high-energy low fibre feed grains such as wheat. This has become an important alternate market for winter wheat and demand for this purpose and in other niche markets is expected to continue to grow in the future. Improved cultivar performance, effective extension programs, experienced growers, and new opportunities have resulted nearly a four fold increase in winter wheat production (bushels harvested) in western Canada in the last six years.
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