Western Canadian Farmer Organizations Announce Funding for Wheat Genomics Research

The Alberta Wheat Commission (AWC), the Saskatchewan Wheat Development Commission (Sask Wheat), and the Western Grains Research Foundation (WGRF) announced a combined total investment of $3,582,992 over four years for a world-leading, Saskatchewan-based research project focused on advancing wheat genomics that will lead to better productivity and profitability for wheat farmers.

The $8.8-million project, titled Canadian Triticum Applied Genomics (CTAG2), is being led by Dr. Curtis Pozniak of the University of Saskatchewan’s Crop Development Centre and Dr. Andrew Sharpe of the National Research Council Canada and will combine the expertise of genomic researchers and wheat breeders to improve genetic gain.

“This is incredibly important research right now, as wheat is one of the world’s most fundamental food crops and food security has become a major global concern,” says Sask. Wheat Chairman Bill Gehl. “Currently global wheat production needs to increase to meet growing global demands. This type of research will help Saskatchewan wheat farmers meet this increasing demand.”

“This research will result in a value-added breeding model in Western Canada,” says Kent Erickson, AWC Chairman. “By enhancing innovation in breeding techniques, scientists will be better equipped to develop high quality wheat varieties that result in better returns for farmers.”

“Our investment builds on Dr. Pozniak’s current wheat genomics research of which WGRF is also a funding partner,” says Dave Sefton, WGRF Chairman. “Our funding of Dr. Pozniak’s research has enabled him to participate in the International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium to help development of a wheat genome sequence. This work will ultimately result in better wheat varieties for Western Canadian farmers.”

Other co-funders of the project include the Agriculture Development Fund/Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture, Manitoba Agriculture, Genome Canada, Viterra, SeCan, University of Guelph, DuPont Pioneer, Bayer CropScience, the International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium (IWGSC), and Manitoba Agriculture. 

About the project

Dr. Curtis Pozniak of the University of Saskatchewan’s Crop Development Centre is leading the CTAG2 team, with scientists participating from four Canadian research institutions: The National Research Council Canada, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, University of Guelph, and the University of Regina. 

The CTAG2 team will continue to work with the IWGSC to generate a high quality reference of wheat and drive innovation in wheat breeding by developing genomic strategies to improve utilization of untapped genetic variation from related species.

A major goal of the CTAG2 project is the development of a “breeder-friendly” genotyping platform to allow whole genome selection for agronomically important traits. The end result will be a useful tool for wheat breeders to enable development of improved cultivars that are more productive, resistant to disease and pests, and resilient to heat and drought stresses. These cultivars will provide wheat farmers with crops that are more productive, profitable and environmentally sustainable.