OSC Activity B.2

Organic cereal crop breeding

Activity Researchers

Name Affiliation
Stephen Fox, Lead Researcher

Research Scientist
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Cereal Research Centre
195 Dafoe Rd
Winnipeg, MB R3T 2M9

Jennifer Mitchell Fetch, Co-applicant
jennifer.mitchellfetch@ agr.gc.ca

Research Scientist
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Cereal Research Centre
195 Dafoe Rd
Winnipeg, MB R3T 2M9

Pierre Hucl, Co-applicant
Crop Development Centre
University of Saskatchewan
51 Campus Drive
Saskatoon, SK S7N 5A8
Dean Spaner, Co-applicant
Associate Professor
Crop Breeding/Agronomy
Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science
University of Alberta
Edmonton AB T6G 2P5


Identification of superior Canadian Western Spring (CWRS) wheat and food quality oat breeding lines that are adapted for organic production systems and that can be registered in Canada. These lines will be submitted into existing registration tests or some other suitable vehicle to accommodate the generation of data required for variety registration. Although the area of adaptation of the breeding programs is western Canada, some western varieties have been found to be successful in eastern Canada also.

Activity Summary

Small scale breeding programs are being conducted by the leader and co-applicants of this activity. These programs target the needs of organic cereal producers which appear to differ from those of conventional farmers. These projects are adjuncts to much larger programs for wheat (Fox, Hucl, Spaner) and oat (Mitchell Fetch); thus, these organic programs will benefit from advances in the areas of disease resistance and marker assisted selection (MAS) by association with the larger conventional programs. While at the same time, genotypes that are adapted to the biotic and abiotic stresses that are associated with organic crop production will be identified through conduct of all breeding nurseries and agronomic tests on organically managed land. In addition, the associated conventional breeding programs all benefit from use of contraseason nurseries and indoor growth facilities which speed the rate at which generations are completed. Thus, organic programs can benefit from the production of conventional parents and other breeding information.

Three wheat breeding programs and one oat program are considered in this proposal. Since 94% of wheat is grown in western Canada, locating these breeding programs in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta is very appropriate.  The oat program is located in Manitoba, where one of the two publicly supported western Canadian programs resides.

The proposed breeding programs will use many of the same breeding objectives and methods as conventional programs. Differences arise mainly in areas of plant nutrition, weed control and differing soil abiotic and biotic properties. Plant nutrition is provided through crop rotation or approved soil amendments. Weed control is provided only through appropriate crop rotations and in-crop harrowing. There continues to be more elucidation of differences in soil texture, nutrient availability and type and distribution of soil organisms found in organically managed land compared to conventional. It is all of these factors that result in a growing environment complexity that is different enough from conventional crop production to warrant direct selection for genotypes adapted to this differing complexity.

The existing organic cereal selection programs have lacked any collaborative activity, and all lack adequate support for experimentation required to provide data on advanced breeding lines. This proposal will directly address these two concerns.  The eventual outcome of this work is new wheat and oat cultivars with adaptation to organic crop production. Improved cultivars should lead to improved profitability for participants in the value chain of these two cereals.