Blog: The Wheat Sheaf

University of Alberta and Bon Accord Tour – August 3rd 2016

Alberta Agriculture and Forestry (AF) has been hosting research field tours at the University of Alberta South Campus farm and Bon Accord sites annually. This year, the event was held on Wednesday August 3rd. Dr. Dean Spaner was the speaker for the morning session and led participants through his wheat breeding program, including the breeding process, co-op trial testing, and disease resistance selection. Afterwards, the tour continued to the AF Bon Accord sites to see Dr. Sheri Strydhorst’s advanced agronomic management research project. 

Dr. Dean Spaner conducts research for both organic and conventional operations. He is a wheat breeder with the University of Alberta, operating on over 11 acres of farmland on South Campus. During the tour, Dr. Spaner showcased several of the biotic factors that damage wheat cultivars, such as stripe rust, tan spot, powdery mildew, leaf rust, common bunt, and cereal leaf beetle. We also got a glimpse of his potential varieties in c-oop trials that are being tested for agronomic and disease resistant traits.

Graham Collier is a PhD student working with Dr. Spaner and Dr. Brian Beres at Agriculture and Agri Food Canada in Lethbridge. Graham is currently working on a project that looks into cold tolerance in spring wheat and showcased his work alongside Dr. Spaner. Graham explains the process as “taking winter wheat and turning it into spring wheat to create cold tolerant spring wheat.” This project aims to create a spring wheat variety that is able to be seeded earlier in the season.

In the afternoon, the tour proceeded to the Bon Accord sites to see Dr. Strydhorst’s research plots. Her project on advanced agronomic practices (with in-crop urea and ammonium nitrate (UAN), plant growth regulators (PGRs), and foliar fungicides) in wheat and barley was discussed and preliminary results were shared. In-crop UAN increased yield and protein at several sites, but unfortunately the yield increase did not cover input costs. PGR analysis indicates that “if soil moisture is <10% or average air temperatures are >17 °C on the day of application, then there is an increased chance of yield reduction.” In addition, “protein reductions were reported with PGRs, however, foliar fungicide used later in the growing season prevented the protein reduction,” says Dr. Strydhorst. The project found that, on average, advanced management, as compared to standard management, increased yields by 3-13 bu/acre.

Laurel Perrott is an MSc student working with Dr. Strydhorst. Her project focuses on the barley side of the advanced agronomy project. Laurel explained that “Amisk Barley had a better yield than wheat with in-crop UAN applications.” However, despite the yield increase, “advanced management did not sufficiently increase yield to pay for itself in any site year,” she added.

Although it was a rainy day, it did not stop producers from coming out and learning about the breeding and agronomy research projects funded in-part by the Alberta Wheat Commission. It was a great learning opportunity, and we would encourage everyone to attend in the future!


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