Varietal development continues to play a key part in developing a successful Saskatchewan pulse industry
The best thing about the spring and seeding season is the optimism that generally comes with it. Seeding in 2017, for many in Western Canada, has included harvesting left over crop from 2016 and wet weather challenges, which quite likely clouded the usual spring
optimism. On average though, spring on the farm is a great place to be and as the seeds are flowing into the soil, you can visualize the great yield potential of the crop.
Pulse crops are most often the first planted on farms each season. Soybeans are the exception, while other pulses can tolerate cool soil and spring frosts relatively well. We usually talk about maximizing yield, when really what we mean is maximizing economic net return. Strong yield is always
fun, but it is the net profitability of a crop that really matters.
The yield potential of the pulse crop varieties we now have access to is really quite amazing. If you have had a strong yielding field, or even high yielding areas in a field, you will have probably experienced our current varieties of peas, lentils, chickpeas, and others that can really produce. The work that has gone on at the University of Saskatchewan’s Crop Development Centre (CDC) for decades has brought this potential to our fields. The ability of crop varieties to yield well in an environment to which they have been adapted, has been a significant component of pulse crop success in Saskatchewan.
The pulse crop breeding agreement between Saskatchewan Pulse Growers (SPG) and the CDC has been in place for quite some time. The current agreement was started in 2005 with a 15 year horizon – until 2020. The level of investment was determined in five-year blocks for this duration, with SPG's current five-year funding reaching nearly $23 million. This funding agreement has been a win-win for the breeding program and pulse crop producers in our province. The program has had access to stable and compensatory funding and pulse growers have had access to new and better crop varieties, royalty-free as a result of the upfront investment by SPG.
One thing is absolutely certain – there is and always will be an ongoing need to continue work improving varieties. There are always new challenges to production – root disease currently comes to mind, but foliar diseases are evolving continually and current resistance in varieties will not always be adequate. Similarly, weed control is an ongoing production challenge, and the weed spectrum we face as producers shifts over time in response to crop rotations and environment. Continual crop breeding to help address these and other challenges is critical to keep our sector competitive.
Over the next year and a half or so, the next era of the crop breeding program needs to be established. The success of the partnership between the CDC and SPG has been remarkable. SPG intends to continue to support crop breeding to bring continued value for pulse crop growers in this province. While there has been change during the existing agreement - including amendments to Canada's Plant Breeders' Rights legislation to conform with UPOV 91 - being significant – the need for funding this work continues. A long-term agreement is desirable by all involved since a truly successful program can only be established and operated when secure funding is in place.
During this next period of time, SPG welcomes input from all producers on the direction forward in relation to pulse crop breeding. A lot of credit is due to previous SPG boards and growers for their support of crop breeding efforts and enabling growth of our industry. Our current board is committed to ensuring invested producer dollars continue to provide grower returns and we believe pulse crop breeding investment is a sound part of that strategy.
Sincerely, Corey Loessin, Chair