March 21, 2022 (Calgary, AB; Saskatoon, SK; Carman, MB) – According to a new study, western Canadian farmers have received nearly $33 in return through varietal improvements for every dollar they invested in wheat breeding.
In 2021, the Canadian Wheat Research Coalition (CWRC), which includes the Saskatchewan Wheat Development Commission, Alberta Wheat Commission, and Manitoba Crop Alliance, along with the Western Grains Research Foundation (WGRF), and the Saskatchewan Winter Cereals Development Commission (SWCDC), began working together on a study to quantify the benefits of wheat breeding investments by western Canadian producers over the past 27 years.
The three farmer-led crop commissions comprising CWRC receive funding through mandatory but refundable producer levies on grain sold. The commissions contribute a large portion of their budgets towards innovative research on farmers’ behalf. Genetic and agronomic advancements to achieve maximum yields, and achieving a consistent end-use quality are properties on which the Prairie commissions base their research programming.
“This study clearly indicates that farmer investment in public breeding programs is working and is providing substantive returns to farmers,” says Fred Greig, Chair of the CWRC and Manitoba Crop Alliance representative. “Current information will allow CWRC and wheat commissions the ability to affirm our investment strategy and/or adjust it to better utilize farmers’ hard-earned dollars.”
The CWRC, WGRF, and SWCDC worked with Dr. Richard Gray and Dr. Katarzyna Bolek-Callbeck to update the previous studies that examined wheat farmers’ return on investment (ROI) for wheat varietal development.
Only yield improvements were considered when calculating the benefits to farmers to keep the estimate as conservative as possible. Including other traits such as improved insect and disease resistance would have further increased ROI but are dependent on specific environmental conditions and are difficult to assess. Improvements in agronomic practices over the same period were also not included in the final ROI estimates.
“Our measure is conservative because we don’t include many other potential benefits. It does provide a very defendable estimate because we can measure it accurately,” says Gray. “Wheat yields are something that everybody sees. They understand that the new varieties are better than the older varieties, yielding better, and improved yields are the key trait that delivers value back to the producer.”
The report also outlines that varietal development investments have a trickle-down benefit to all of society, with taxpayers reaping the returns, as well. Enhancing breeding capacity and maintaining funding relationships and budgets will be key to ensuring the continued success of farmer investments in varietal development moving forward.
The Benefits and Costs of Producer and Public Investments: Wheat Varietal R&D in Western Canada 1995 to 2020 Katarzyna Bolek-Callbeck and Richard Gray1
University of Saskatchewan
CLICK HERE or click the image to download the report.