Skip to content

National Wheat Improvement Program Cluster, Activity 12: Hard red winter wheat breeding for eastern Canada

Principal Investigator

Gavin Humphreys

Research Institution

Ottawa Research and Development Centre, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC)

External Funding Partners

This project is part of the $25.2 million National Wheat Improvement Program funded by the Western Grains Research Foundation (WGRF), the Canadian Field Crop Research Alliance (CFCRA), the Alberta Wheat Commission (AWC), and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) through the Industry-Led Research and Development Stream of the Growing Forward 2 AgriInnovation Program. Grain Farmers of Ontario is a founding member of the CFCRA.

Project Start

April 2013

Project End

March 2018


  • Evaluate the hard red genetic lines in the breeding program for traits like winter survival, yield stability and lodging.
  • Identify and develop resistant/tolerant lines for disease resistance to powdery mildew, Fusarium Head Blight (FHB), stem rustUG99 and other specific diseases related to eastern Canadian.
  • Screen early and advanced breeder’s lines for grain quality traits for bread applications.


  • The development of better screening techniques to find winter wheat lines with high winter survival and Fusarium Head Blight resistance will lead to improved varieties.
  • The development of winter wheat breeding populations with improved disease resistance including Fusarium head blight and powdery mildew could allow for increased economic return by allowing farmers to plant improved varieties and be more efficient in applying pesticides used in production.
  • The development of advanced breeding lines with improved bread wheat quality will allow farmers to grow winter wheat for domestic processing and manufacturing of many value-added products.

Scientific Summary

Winter wheat forms the basis for significant domestic processing and manufacturing of many value-added products. Most of the food processing capacity for wheat utilization in Canada is in Ontario and Quebec; there are also millers in the Maritimes that have been sourcing Maritime- grown hard wheat for years. Hard red winter wheat is used in a wide variety of bread and noodle products. Because large quantities of the hard red wheat are used in eastern Canadian domestic food industry are sourced from western Canada, the hard red winter wheat class is the winter type with the greatest opportunity for expanded production in Eastern Canada. Areas of eastern Canada with longer, cooler growing seasons such as Atlantic Canada, Quebec and eastern and northern Ontario require varieties of winter wheat with high degree of winter survival. Screening for improved disease resistance/tolerance is an activity that occurs in parallel with end-use quality improvement that ensures successful development of adapted varieties.

The ultimate goal of the Activity is the delivery of improved high yielding winter wheat cultivars with superior winter hardiness and bread making characteristics, which will be “pulled” through the market by both producers and the processing industry. The hard red winter wheat class for bread applications has the most promising prospect for expanded production in Eastern Canada and it is also the winter type that is in demand in all three eastern Canadian regions covered by this Activity. While milling wheat will be the primary quality goal, high yielding winter hardy lines will not be discarded as they will fill a niche opportunity in potato rotations (and other cropping systems) providing nutrient management, water quality and soil erosion risk mitigation.