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Wheat: Innovation through Collaboration

VICTORIA LINDEN, Director of Research, Cereals Canada

Innovation is a competitive advantage for Canadian farmers. It is through ongoing innovation that Canadian wheat exports will compete with the likes of the Black Sea. In the period of 2015-2018, Canada has consistently been in the top 10 wheat producing countries in the world and within the top 5 wheat exporting countries in the world. Focusing on innovations to increase wheat yield while maintaining or exceeding our country’s reliability in yield, sustainability, food safety and quality will help to maintain, or ideally advance, Canada’s position in a competitive global wheat market. Cereals Canada has been working to improve Canada’s innovation in wheat, by coordinating the National Wheat Research Task Group alongside Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. The Task Group is a unique collaboration from across the country and value chain which includes public and private funders of research, public and private researchers, farmers, exporters and processors. The goal of the Task Group is to facilitate investment in innovation in wheat, to ensure Canada continues to be at the forefront of research efforts, so it can help enable the industry to respond to changing producer and consumer demands. I’m still buzzing with excitement from the latest Task Group meeting at the engagement of the Canadian wheat value chain which included representatives, from researchers to producers through grain handlers and exporters to end-use customers. This group came together several times throughout the past year to update the first National Wheat Research Priorities document, which was originally published in 2017. The document from 2017 represented the first time the Canadian wheat value chain came together to align on national wheat research priorities. The results of this work will be published this summer, in the updated National Wheat Research Priorities document. The recent updates to the national research objectives include re-prioritizing goals and deliverables, as well as establishing key performance indicators and other metrics to measure the success of investments in research and innovation in Canadian wheat development and production. The contribution of this unique partnership across the value chain is not limited to the publication of a report. The work, developing consensus positions on objectives and measurements, has already resulted in improved communication of market demands and farmers’ priorities. It is through this collaboration on where research, and therefore investments, should be focused researchers and developers can then collaborate to deliver solutions, to enable producers to grow more wheat on less land, while using fewer crop inputs. Also, by having this cross-value chain group involved in this prioritization process, we are able to leverage different perspectives, to position Canada as not only a leader in wheat production and export but also in innovation. This is particularly important when we are in a time of intense competition and increased protectionism, usually seen through non-tariff trade barriers. One of the ways we’ve been able to evaluate wheat research investments from 2016 to present is through the creation of a National Wheat Research Database. Through an analysis of the research projects included in the Database, the majority of wheat research projects fit within the themes of improving yield, yield reliability and sustainability, with a small proportion of projects having a main focus on food safety or quality. Projects within these three main themes have a primary focus on agronomy, variety development and/or foundational/discovery. The centralized Database also is able to provide consolidated information on funding commitments, by research theme and category, so the value chain is able to critically evaluate whether research investments are in line with national research priorities. My experience, being involved in this, has been energizing, to see people who are so passionate about what they do, working together towards a common goal. The sum truly is greater than it’s parts, and this collaboration will no doubt produce a result better than what individuals could have delivered on their own. We have a lot to be proud of with Canadian wheat and this is another feather in our caps.

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