AWC - Funded Research

Expanding Albertan capacity for HRS breeding and the education of future scientists

AWC contribution: $250,000

Start Date: March 1, 2014                                                     
End date: February 28, 2019


This project supports continued research and development activities of the Canadian Western Hard Red Spring (CWRS) wheat breeding program at the University of Alberta. The overall objectives of this research are to develop new CWRS cultivars selected for growth in Alberta, and to educate graduate students in this field for the Albertan Agricultural Industry. The project proposes to continue the development of new varieties that meet the market quality needs of CWRS, with early maturity, disease resistance and agronomic adaptability to Alberta’ s diverse production area. Over a five-year period, this project is geared to train and educate three graduate n plant breeding / agronomy and related disciplines. These students will graduate to productive roles in agriculture in the coming years.


  1. To develop new varieties and germplasm adapted to the diverse production area of Alberta,
  2. To develop new varieties and germplasm developed with enhanced earliness, straw strength, bread making qualities, resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses and favorable functional properties,
  3. To gain an improved understanding of the genetics of earliness, straw strength, resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses, bread making qualities, functional properties and genotype by environment interaction for wheat grown in Alberta.
  4. To educate and training of graduate, post-graduate students and undergraduate summer students in the areas of plant breeding and agronomy.

Benefit to producers:

At least 2 new CWRS lines will be developed with improvements over the checks in the Parkland or Western Coop for one or more of the following aspects: yield, earliness, lodging, stripe rust, leaf rust, FHB, bunt, protein, flour yield or other quality parameters. In addition, the program will graduate 3 new highly trained professionals.


Dean Spaner is a Wheat Breeder and Professor at the U of A, and has been since January 2001. During that time, Dean's program has registered 3 CWRS cultivars (in various stages of commercialization), graduated 20 PhD and MSc students (presently working in various agricultural scientific posts in Alberta, western Canada, and globally) and published over 80 refereed scientist articles pertaining to studies on wheat genetics, agronomy and breeding. Dean is appreciative of the support he has received for his program from producers.


Project Completion Report

Wheat is the largest crop grown in Western Canada (MacCallum and Depauw 2008). Acreage in Alberta alone equates to more than $1.1 billion annually in farm-gate sales. CWRS makes up the largest and most profitable wheat class in Canada. Canadian wheat yields have increased about 10 to 15 percent over the past 20 years (Depauw, 2004). There has been about a 0.5 percent increase in yield per year in recent years, which means we should expect to see at least another five to six percent improvement over the next 10 years (Pierre Hucl, 2004). It is important, then, that breeding efforts are maintained at the U of A if we are going to keep pace with the industry as a whole.

A highly-trained, competitive workforce is essential to keeping Alberta agriculture at the cutting edge of global developments. Students trained during this project graduated to become part of the highly-qualified workforce needed by the Alberta grain industry in the coming years. During the breeding project which preceded this proposal (2010-2014) three graduate students were trained, published refereed journal articles, and have all moved onto jobs in the larger agricultural world.

The overall objectives of this research was to develop new Hard Red spring wheat cultivars selected for growth in Alberta, and to educate graduate and post-graduate students in this field for the Alberta Industry.

Over this five-year project (2014 - 2019) we registered and released eight CWRS wheat cultivars. The CWRS wheat cultivars (the marketing company) are: 1. Parata (Secan) 2. Zealand (Lefsrud Seeds) 3. Tracker (Canterra) 4. RedNet (SeedNet) 5. Ellerslie (Secan) 6. Jake (Canterra) 7. Sheba (Penwest Seeds) 8. PT786.

Ten graduate students (5 MSc and 5 PhD) defended theses, convocated and moved into their working careers over the duration of this five-year project. Our wheat research group (mainly the MSc and PhD students) published 29 scientific papers in peer reviewed journals, one book chapter and one book over the duration of this project.