Cigi brings expertise to evaluation of new wheat & pulse varieties at PGDC

By Ellen Goodman

Durum wheat samples are tempered in Cigi’s pilot mill for quality testing of potential new varieties in preparation for PGDC evaluation.

Five Cigi technical staff participated as members of wheat quality evaluation teams involved in recommending the registration of 28 new wheat varieties at the annual Prairie Grain Development Committee (PGDC) meeting in Banff, Alberta at the end of February. As well, one staff member was involved with the pulse quality team that moved forward 17 varieties of peas and beans.

“The main purpose of the annual PGDC meeting is to evaluate and recommend new lines for registration or movement within the registration process,” says Lisa Nemeth, Cigi Technical Specialist, Winter Wheat. “Cigi staff on the wheat side, including myself, are on the quality evaluation team which looks at the different qualities of new varieties compared to check varieties to make sure they fit the profile that customers are demanding.”

The PGDC has four independent committees responsible for the testing, evaluation, and recommending of grain crop candidate cultivars for registration in Western Canada. This includes the Prairie Recommending Committee for Wheat, Rye and Triticale which has three subcommittees: quality, disease, and agronomics.

Cigi’s experience with customers worldwide and its technical expertise in the evaluation of grain quality characteristics and end-product evaluation best applies to the quality committee, Lisa says, adding that additional representation from industry, government, and universities offers a wide range of feedback.

“Cigi’s interaction with customers is a big reason we are there, to represent their quality expectations or desires,” she says. “Customer input on quality carries a lot of weight because it’s a driver of demand. If there’s no demand for a variety a farmer isn’t going to want to grow it.”

One particular focus of the quality evaluation was on the gluten strength of CWRS where the team wanted to make sure that it met target parameters, Lisa says. “CWRS is also known for having very good milling properties and very good water absorption. It’s used in noodles and we look at baking quality parameters. There’s reference check varieties with upper and lower quality limits and we evaluate based on those quality profiles.”

Evaluation using extensograph methodology was also brought back into the quality evaluation, she adds. The equipment is used as another parameter to measure gluten strength to ensure the wheat meets the requirements of customers.

The meetings were very successful this year with a record 28 wheat varieties recommended for registration, Lisa says, noting that all classes of wheat are covered including general-purpose varieties and others designated for interim registration. “This is great for farmers because it is going to give them all these improved varieties. Agronomics and disease evaluations are part of the package too while the quality is maintained or improved. There will be a lot of new material that farmers will be able to choose from.”

Over the past couple of years the PGDC has taken steps to streamline the registration process, she says. This year, for example, the winter wheat trials were damaged by degrading factors so new varieties were not available for evaluation. However, flexibility in the new system allowed for data on potential new varieties to be brought forth from previous years, resulting in one variety being recommended for registration and another for interim registration.

“It may still take some time before the new varieties are commercially available for planting,” Lisa adds. “They now move on to the Canada Food Inspection Agency to undergo a registration process and then seed stocks must be increased.”

 Cigi on pulse quality evaluation team

Peter Frohlich, Project Manager, Pulses and Special Crops, participated on the quality subcommittee of the PGDC’s Prairie Recommending Committee for Pulse & Special Crops. “Quality evaluation is mainly the work we are involved with, based on our expertise here at Cigi. We look at characteristics such as protein content, cooking time, and canning quality which gives assurance that the lines brought up for registration are constantly evolving, improving, and of high quality.”

He says this year 17 lines of pulses were recommended for registration including green and yellow peas, dry beans, and faba beans. Each line and their attributes, from agronomics and disease to quality, were discussed thoroughly to meet certain criteria.

“It’s Important to have the breeder and processors involved but also important to have representation from end users,” Peter says. “That’s where Cigi comes in, because of our connection with the food industry and knowing what the industry wants regarding varieties of pulses. The food industry is changing and as their requirements become more stringent we can bring ideas to the table.”

Cigi’s knowledge of what new lines of pulses are coming up, in turn, can benefit certain food markets, he says. “We can report back to the food industry telling them there are some lines that are really good that may be of interest. So it works both ways.”

Participation in the PGDC helps provide ideas for work at Cigi as well, Peter says. For example, interest in faba beans, which can be fractionated for their high protein, is increasing and Cigi will be conducting more investigative work with them. 

The PGDC meeting is also a good opportunity to network, he adds, pointing out that Cigi’s pulse area does a lot of work with breeders, specifically from the Crop Development Centre in Saskatoon. “Every year they bring new lines out for registration. So we can talk about future projects. Also, relationships with stakeholders are as important so (at the PGDC meeting) you have an opportunity to engage in discussions with them.”