Going with the grain 

Development of a National Wheat Research Strategy
 
In 2014, Cereals Canada commissioned a white paper, "Research Innovation in Cereals," to start a conversation about developing a preeminent science and innovation model for Canada’s agri-food industry, specifically intended to support a profitable cereals value chain.
 
Following national meetings in Saskatoon and Winnipeg in the spring of 2016, wheat industry representatives met in June 2016 to start work on the National Wheat Research Strategy.
 
The development of the strategy concluded in December 2016 although ongoing measurement and evaluation of goals is planned. 
 
A purposeful plan
 
The overarching objective of the strategy is to ensure that research is focused on wheat output, defined as yield, quality and production value, and to provide information and direction to the research community so that efforts are optimized. With the entire value chain working together towards the same goal of creating greater value in wheat in Canada, the industry can maximize its investment by ensuring research is not being duplicated.
 
“A clear understanding of research priorities and alignment within Canada will lead to the most effective use of limited research investment dollars to reach the best outcomes for Canadian cereals in the marketplace,” said Patti Rothenburger, manager of research intelligence in the Transformation Branch of Manitoba Agriculture.
 
The National Wheat Research Strategy consists of regional and national priorities for wheat research in Canada and takes into account the needs of organizations along the value chain.
 
“The researcher network covers all of Canada and objectives that are national in scope, but recognize regional requirements, and it will enable organizations to align priorities to maximize the efficiency of producer-funded research expenditures,” said Lori-Ann Kaminski, research manager with the Manitoba Wheat and Barley Growers Association.
 
Diving into the To-Dos
 
There are five key goals in the National Wheat Research Strategy:
 
1. Increase wheat yield production;
2. Improve wheat yield reliability - protect yield from pests and diseases, and improve crop adaptation;
3. Enhance cropping system sustainability - improve nutrient use efficiency, ensure the agronomic fit of wheat in a crop rotation or system, and increase profitability or net return per acre;
4. Encourage continuous improvement in food safety; and
5. Maintain quality to meet customers' needs and to ensure access to markets.
 
Karen Churchill, director of research and market support with Cereals Canada, commented, “While each goal is critical to our success, projects that consider different aspects of several goals are valuable. For instance, yield and quality have always been key goals for Canadian Western Red Spring wheat breeding programs, but by also considering things like adaptation and nutrient use efficiency - which are important for sustainable agriculture - we help ensure Canada’s grain quality remains high and can be delivered in the future.”
 
The task force also identified the importance of integration and knowledge transfer. 
 
Churchill believes that sharing information or transferring knowledge to researchers will help support each group’s efforts.
 
Government, private researchers and representatives along the value chain will regularly meet to review progress and adjust goals as necessary. Each goal has measureable markers to gauge success.
 
Who in grain will gain?
 
The National Wheat Research Strategy was developed with input from all sectors of the wheat industry, from growers to consumers.
 
“Because of this unique approach,” Rothenburger commented, “farmers benefit from the development of new wheat varieties that have improved agronomics, disease resistance and quality traits. Grain handlers and marketers are able to sell product into potentially new wheat markets or expand existing ones with continued high quality standards of Canada’s grain.”
 
As domestic and international markets evolve due to advancing technology and consumer taste, Canada must focus on the demands of the future. Insights gained from “customer research and market development efforts help guide our research and make sure we are headed in the right direction,” said Churchill.
 
By producing wheat varieties that meet the end user demand, and possess desired agronomic, disease and quality traits, everyone in the value chain wins.
 
Cereals Canada successfully completed this project with funding from the Grain Innovation Hub, an initiative of Growing Forward 2.