Cigi shares technical expertise in recommendation of new wheat, pulse varieties at PGDC


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Cigi milling staff working with grain samples as part of the quality evaluation process for PGDC.

In late February Cigi attended the Prairie Grain Development Committee (PGDC) annual meeting in Saskatoon where technical staff participated on quality evaluation teams involved in recommendations for the registration of 27 new wheat varieties and 14 varieties of peas, beans and lentils.

The annual meeting is designed to evaluate data generated on candidate cultivars developed by plant breeders and move them forward through the registration process, ultimately recommending them for registration if they meet the required quality criteria, says Elaine Sopiwnyk, Cigi Director of Grain Quality, who attended the meeting. Recommendations were also made for registering lines of oats, barley, flax and canaryseed.

Four committees are responsible for the testing, evaluation and recommendation of grain crop candidate cultivars for registration in Western Canada. The Prairie Recommending Committee for Wheat, Rye and Triticale is one of these committees comprising three teams that cover quality, disease and agronomics.

“Technical staff from Cigi are involved in the quality side as are representatives from the Canadian Grain Commission, industry, and universities,” Elaine says. “Evaluation includes wheat protein, falling number, milling yields, ash content, rheological properties such as the farinograph and extensograph on flour, and alveograph on semolina.  And then there’s further evaluation of end-product quality in baking and noodles or pasta.”

JoAnne Buth, Cigi CEO, who attended the PGDC meeting this year as an observer, says, “Cigi represents the end-use customer at the table. Staff voice their expertise when it comes to how the varieties perform in bread, pasta and noodles. Their understanding of the quality parameters and end-use customers are the strengths that we bring.”

Cigi is also involved in testing the quality of new wheat lines developed by private breeders in preparation for the meeting, Elaine says.

“The recommending process typically requires three years of evaluation of each candidate cultivar and after the third year if all three teams deem it to meet the required evaluation criteria, it’s moved forward automatically,” Elaine explains. “If one of the evaluation teams has concerns about a candidate cultivar and the other two think it meets the required criteria, then it goes to a vote. These are just recommendations for registration. It’s then up to the breeder to submit the variety to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, which oversees the variety registration process, and then the CGC will put a variety into the appropriate wheat class.”

She says that each wheat class has its own specific quality objectives that need to be met when the data is examined. “We need to know what we are looking for. Do we want to see an increase in a certain attribute or are we trying to maintain or decrease that attribute?  For example, gluten strength is a top priority for CWRS and we want to see improvements and continued progress.”

This year a focus of the meeting was on the new milling wheat class established by the CGC — Canadian Northern Hard Red (CNHR) — which takes effect August 1, 2016, Elaine says. “This was part of the wheat class modernization strategy. In order to improve the quality and consistency within the CWRS class, wheat varieties with weaker gluten strength will be removed from CWRS and moved into CNHR.”

She adds that even after a variety is recommended, it will take a number of years before suitable seed quantities are available and the variety is taken up by producers to represent any significant proportion of crop production in Western Canada.

JoAnne says the recommending process may take time but it is important to provide farmers with the best wheat varieties possible while meeting customer needs. “I think Cigi brings a unique perspective with our experience and expertise in analytical testing, milling, baking, Asian products, pasta and international markets. But it’s about cooperation, doing it together as an industry. One player alone cannot make these kinds of decisions.”


Cigi on pulse quality evaluation subcommittee

This year Cigi also participated on the quality evaluation subcommittee of the Prairie Recommending Committee for Pulses and Special Crops. The committee recommended for registration 14 lines of peas, beans and lentils, in addition to one line of canaryseed.

“Our presence on the committee is important as the Cigi pulse team carries out work related to seed quality from processing through to end-product utilization,” says Peter Frohlich, Project Manager of Pulses and Special Crops at Cigi, who has sat on the committee for six years. (Another Cigi staff member is expected to join him on the committee next year.) “And because we undertake pulse ingredient development and processing we have a strong connection with the end-users.”

Peter says this year offered some excellent presentations and other discussion focused on the importance of protein levels in pulses, specifically in peas going into the market.

“Traditionally there’s been a huge focus on yield when coming up with new varieties which makes sense as higher-yielding varieties will generate more profit. However, with higher yields you also lose a little bit on the quantity of protein. And one of the main reasons pulse flour is used as an ingredient is for the nutritional aspect which includes protein.”

He says committee members include pulse breeders as well as end users. “I think it is important that the breeders see what the end users such as ingredient processors and food companies require. There are more breeders on the committees now but I think in future the number of end users will likely increase as pulses are used more in food applications.”

Peter adds that producers also want to grow the best pulse varieties possible and that breeders aim to make sure they are satisfied with the lines available to them.