Graf takes into consideration both the interests of farmers and the interests of end users, who are looking for winter wheat that has better flour water absorption. The more water that flour absorbs when dough is produced, the less costly it is to produce the end-product such as bread.
Graf’s breeding program is at a point where one of his recent varieties, currentlyknown as W569 — which received support for registration at the 2019 meeting of the Prairie Grain Development Committee — now exceeds all disease requirements for its class. It has resistance to stem rust, leaf and stripe rust, fusarium head blight (FHB) and bunt.
He’s proud of the fact his first variety “McKenzie” was among the Top 5 CWRS varieties in Western Canada for almost a decade. McKenzie was also the first doubled haploid wheat released in North America and is the most popular privately developed CWRS wheat variety to date.
AC Emerson was the first variety of any wheat class in Canada to get a “Resistant” rating to FHB. AAC Wildfire, which recently received registration, represents a new yield level for winter wheat on the Prairies.
But he doesn’t just care about agronomic performance. Graf has become a truly contemporary breeder, taking into consideration both the interests of farmers and the interests of end users, who are looking for winter wheat that has better flour water absorption. The more water that flour absorbs when dough is produced, the less costly it is to produce the end-product such as bread.
“This has been a really difficult trait to correct but we’re finally making progress on this,” he says.
Working with the Canadian Seed Trade Association helps bridge the gap between breeders and all of the various end-users, he says. “It’s one of the conduits where breeders get insights into what is important to the industry. Part of the success of any breeder is to have an understanding of what the industry needs and be there when that need arises.”
But, he adds, before a true revolution in winter wheat can really take place, the industry needs to change paradigms among farmers. The number of winter wheat acres in Western Canada still pales in comparison to spring wheat, according to Statistic Canada.
“We need to get farmers thinking about adding winter cereals into their rotations and understanding all of the associated benefits. Many producers still say, ‘I don’t want to be seeding when I should be harvesting.’ We need to get them thinking, ‘I should be seeding rather than harvesting right now.’ That’s when winter wheat will really take off.”
The Buzz About Rob Graf
“The Alberta Regional Variety Advisory Committee has been chaired by Rob for the past decade. The result of his keen eye for detail is improved province-wide consistency of the regional variety trial data. All aspects of the crop sector benefit when there is confidence in these trial results.” —Renee Hoyme, Alberta Seed Growers president
“I came across a publication where Rob described the person who inspired the name of the first double haploid wheat as someone ‘whose career was dedicated to the practice of agrology and service to farmers.’ For anyone who knows Rob, it’s apparent he has the same dedication.” Chris Churko, FP Genetics CEO