Press Releases

AWC announces $720,625 investment in five wheat-related research projects


(Calgary, Alberta), August 30, 2016 – The Alberta Wheat Commission (AWC) is pleased to announce an investment of $720,625 in five research projects that will provide Western Canadian wheat farmers with innovative tools and solutions to improve crop performance and net profitability. AWC’s investment leverages an additional $622,625 from other funding partners.

Through these projects, farmers can look forward to new insights on management practices for hail damaged crops, advanced monitoring to better understand stripe rust in Western Canada, improved water use efficiency for better yield and drought tolerance, new, low-cost testing technology for mycotoxin detection, and new tools to improve wheat grain yield under normal and abiotic stress conditions.

“Investing in research is a key priority for AWC as it ensures farmers have access to tools and technology that will improve efficiencies, as well as innovative ways to solve some of the challenges we face during the growing season,” said Kevin Auch, AWC Chairman. “I look forward to seeing the results of these projects and extending the outcomes to farmers.”

The projects are taking place at a number of field research institutions in Alberta and Ontario. Projects are being funded through the Ag Funding Consortium (AFC), a partnership of 13 organizations that create a one-window approach to agricultural research and development funding in Alberta.

Other funding partners for these projects include the Western Grains Research Foundation (WGRD), Saskatchewan Wheat Development Commission (SWDC) and Alberta Innovates – Bio Solutions (AI Bio)

Producers can look forward to project updates for these projects through AWC and other funding partners, and are encouraged to visit to learn more about other AWC-funded research investments. More information about these projects can be found in the backgrounder below.

The Alberta Wheat Commission is a producer-directed organization dedicated to improving the long-term profitability of Alberta’s 14,000 wheat producers.

Media Contact:
Victoria Russell
Communications Specialist


The following backgrounder contains further details on the five projects included in the announcement.

1) Crop Management Decisions in Hail Damaged Crops

Principle Investigator: Ken Coles, Farming Smarter Association
AWC contribution: $180,000

Summary: Hail damage crop losses vary depending on intensity, timing and spatial extent in terms of growth stages of the affected crops. This 3 year research project proposes to identify wheat’s response to simulated hail damage at different growth stages, estimate potential benefits of using fungicides and nutrient blends, and identifying potential management practices that improve crop growth, harvestability, and yield after hail damage.

Objectives: To provide farmers who experience hail crop damage insight for the many management decisions available for crop recovery. This project will investigate:

  1. Wheat crop response to simulated hail damage at different growth stages
  2. Potential benefits of fungicides and nutrient blends on cereal crops damaged with simulated hail events at various growth stages
  3. Identify potential management practices that improve crop growth, harvestability and yield after hail damage.

Benefit to producers: Providing farmers with local and applicable information to recover crops from hail damage.

2) Integrated Management of Stripe Rust in Wheat for Alberta
Principle Investigator: Dr. Dean Spaner, University of Alberta
AWC contribution: $252,000
Funding Partners: WGRF, SWDC

Summary: This 3 year research project aims to monitor incidence and severity of stripe rust in Alberta through annual surveys, determining the virulence of prevalent wheat races, and identification and characterizing new sources of resistance including introgression of genes into wheat grown in western Canada.


  1. Monitor incidence and severity of stripe rust in Alberta in both winter and spring wheat fields from early spring to late July in annual surveys and determine the virulence of prevalent races.
  2. Identification and characterization of new sources of resistance including introgression of these novel resistance gene into important classes of wheat (CWRS, CPS, SWS) grown in Alberta.
  3. Broadening the genetic base of western Canadian spring wheat resistance against stripe rust
  4. Development of wheat cultivars with improved rust resistance.

Benefit to producers: Severe stripe rust epidemics may lose up to 50% of yield, this constitutes to more than a billion dollar damage annually. Although stripe rust can be reduced through forecasting, agronomic management practices, and applying fungicides, the most economical and environmentally friendly approach would be to develop resistant cultivars. Research findings will improve our understanding of the genetics of stripe rust resistance in western Canada and will facilitate development of stripe rust resistant wheat cultivars in the future.

3) Tweaking Stomatal Development to Improve Water Use Efficiency and Biomass Production of Wheat Under Drought Stress
Principle Investigators: Dr. Nora Foroud, AAFC Lethbridge and Dr. Jinsuk Lee, Concordia University
AWC contribution: $43,750
Funding Partner: AI Bio

Summary: Stomata are small openings found on plant surfaces that mediate gas exchange with the surrounding atmosphere. This structure is important for photosynthesis and water use efficiency as they control the amount of CO2 intake and water lost by opening or closing their structure in response to stimuli. This 3 year research involves characterization of stomatal density and distribution in wheat in the context of yield and drought tolerance.

4) Scale Up and Validation of a Low-Cost Paper-Based Test for Mycotoxins
Principle Investigator: Dr. Maria DeRosa, Carleton University
AWC contribution: $76,875
Funding Partners: WGRF, SWDC

Summary: A simple, paper based mycotoxin testing platform was created previously to detect mycotoxins that may contaminate major food crops. This 3 year research proposal aims to upgrade the platform for use in farms, grain elevators, and for processor testing. This larger platform will require optimization to lower the limit of detection, tested in raw and processed grain matrices, and field validated.

Objectives: Mycotoxin testing must be scaled up from a simple, inexpensive platform. Overall objective is to move the laboratory to the field by:

  1. Optimization and scale up of paper-based assays. A full validation will require 1000+ tests; test preparation will need to be optimized to reduce costs and limit of detection and ensure reproducibility.
  2. Testing complex matrices. The assays will be tested on raw and processed grains.
  3. Preparations for field testing. Test kits will be assembled and protocols developed for eventual field use.

Benefit to producers: Producers require a fast, reliable testing technology that is simple and inexpensive to be used on site without social expertise. Mycotoxin detection strategies exist, but they do not meet all the needs of producers. Therefore, this research seeks to provide a simple, low cost, robust assay for mycotoxin detection on farm, elevators, or at the processors. The goal for this testing device would range from $1 to $10 each.

5) Development of novel tools to increase wheat grain yield under normal and abiotic stress conditions.

Principle Investigator: Dr. Jocelyn Ozga, University of Alberta
AWC contribution: $168,000

Summary: This 3 year project proposes to further develop the use of the plant growth regulator class, auxins, as a tool to increase wheat grain yield grown under non-stress and abiotic stress conditions. By determining the traits that lead to increased auxin response (with respect to increasing yield), and characterizing how these traits are affected by abiotic stresses, we can provide a novel option to producers for increasing wheat grain yield for improving operation profitability.


  1. To screen a randomly derived recombinant inbred line population from a cross between CIMMYT spring wheat “Attila” and the Canadian “CDC Go” from Dr. Spaner’s group (University of Alberta) for auxin responsive phenotypes that result in increased seed yield after auxin application when grown under non-stress and abiotic stress conditions.
  2. To identify a group of auxin responsive lines under the different environmental conditions imposed.
  3. Further phenotypic analysis will be done for a select number of auxin responsive lines to determine if auxin treatment improved seed set at specific positions on the spike.
  4. Determine if auxin responsiveness maps to an identified QTL in this RIL population, or if it is associated with the gibberellin-related rht-B1 dwarfing gene.

Benefit to producers: This research will facilitate both identification of commercial cultivars that are most likely to benefit from auxin treatment as well as incorporation of auxin responsive traits into breeding lines for future cultivars. This potential crop enhancement management tool will go hand in hand with current and future work on cultivar-specific responses to agronomic practices. By optimizing agronomic practices to each cultivar, producers can optimize yields while minimizing environmental consequences.