The cultivar Red Fife, developed in Ontario, became very popular because of its good yield and excellent milling and baking qualities. By about 1870 Red Fife was very popular on the prairies but it, too, froze in the fields in years with early frosts. Later investigations have revealed that Red Fife is actually the central European cultivar Galician.
William SAUNDERS, first director of the Dominion Experimental Farms, was interested in plant breeding. His son, Sir Charles SAUNDERS, took over the wheat-breeding work in 1903 and developed the cultivar Marquis (see MARQUIS WHEAT) from a cross, made some years earlier, between Hard Red Calcutta and Red Fife. He had a small increase plot (12 plants) of Marquis in 1904, but it took several years to verify that it matured earlier than Red Fife and had excellent yield and superior milling and baking qualities. It was distributed in the spring of 1909 and quickly became very popular throughout Canada. Western wheat production was increasing rapidly at this time: 2 million t, 1904; 3.7 million t, 1906; 7.7 million t, 1913. Red Fife and Marquis made Canada famous for its high-quality hard red spring wheat. Marquis was later adopted as the statutory standard of quality for this class of wheat, a position it held until 1987.
Stem rust (Puccinia graminis tritici) is a FUNGUS disease disseminated by spores, which can be carried by wind for thousands of kilometres. In Canada, epidemics in 1916, 1927 and 1935 caused losses estimated at about 3.6, 3.3 and 3.2 million t of grain. The Dominion Rust Research Laboratory was set up in Winnipeg in 1925 to investigate stem rust and develop resistant cultivars. Renown, their first cultivar, distributed in 1936, has been followed by several other important cultivars (eg, Selkirk, Manitou, Neepawa); however, the Thatcher cultivar, developed in Minnesota and licensed in Canada in 1935, became the dominant form for many years. A new physiologic race of stem rust (15B) became epidemic from 1953 to 1955, causing losses of at least 8 million t of grain. Since that time, stem rust has caused little loss, but leaf rust (P. recondita) has been a problem because of its rapid changes in virulence. Cultivars resistant to both rusts are available.
In Alberta and western Saskatchewan, rust was rarely a problem, but drought and wheat-stem sawfly (Cephus cinctus) were. The sawfly, which occurs mainly in the Swift Current, Sask, to Lethbridge, Alta, area, cuts stems so that the heads fall on the ground and cannot be harvested. Resistance has been obtained by developing cultivars with solid stems, eg, Rescue (licensed 1946). RESEARCH STATIONS in the area have since developed a number of resistant cultivars with better yield and quality. They also work on developing drought-resistant cultivars.
Within Canada, wheat is the most important cultivated crop (grown on over 9 million ha), though production has declined in the last 20 years and canola is now nearly as important. Only one class of durum is grown, amber durum (spring); however, there are several classes of common wheat, based on seed hardness and colour, and on sowing time (autumn or spring). About 4.8% of Canada's 327 000 farms are classified as wheat farms. Wheat in Canada brings almost $4 billion to the farm gate and represents more than $5.5 billion in exports. Soft white winter wheat is grown on an area of some 750 000 ha, mainly in Ontario, although production in Western Canada has been increasing in recent years due to varietal improvements and good yields. Over 3 million t are produced annually, of which more than half is exported. The protein content is usually 9-10%, and this class is used for cake and pastry flour and breakfast cereals. The flour, mixed with hard wheat flour, produces an all-purpose flour.
Saskatchewan alone grows over 45% of Canada's wheat. Production on the PRAIRIES is usually much greater than domestic consumption; therefore, the industry is export oriented. Common wheat is grown on about 7 million ha and durum wheat on 2 million ha. The protein levels of prairie wheats are usually 12-15%. Durum wheat is used for the production of semolina for pasta products, and hard red spring wheat is used for bread. Wheat contains gluten protein, which forms minute gas cells that hold carbon dioxide during fermentation, allowing dough to rise and resulting in light bread. Importers of Canadian wheat often blend it with weaker wheats before using it for bread. For this reason, much effort goes into maintaining the strength and mixing qualities of Canadian wheat. Maintenance involves controlling cultivars grown and applying a comprehensive grading system.
See also COMMODITY INSPECTION AND GRADING.
Author A.B. CAMPBELL
Links to Other Sites
A profile of Marg Newton from the Canadian Science and Engineering Hall of Fame.
The website for Viterra, Inc., a widely held, publicly traded agri-business corporation which owns country and port terminal elevator facilities, 100% of Agricore, 100% of Can-Oat Milling, 100% ownership of Western Co-operative Fertilizers Limited, 42.4% of Prairie Malt Limited, and 64% of Prince Rupert Grain.
The Canada Agriculture Museum
The Canada Agriculture Museum in Ottawa showcases the history of Canadian agriculture and the connection between agriculture and familiar foods.
Charles Edward Saunders
A profile of Charles Saunders from the Canada Science and Technology Museum Hall of Fame.
See a video about Charles Saunders experiments that led to the development of the highly successful strain of Marquis wheat. From Science.gc.ca.
Sir Charles Edward Saunders, Dominion Cerealist
A biography of Charles Saunders, the Canadian scientist who developed Marquis wheat from the website "Named Things in Chemistry & Physics," York University.
Saskatchewan Grain Elevator
A brief history of the iconic Prairie grain elevator from the Canadian Museum of Civilization.
Canadian Wheat Board
The Canadian Wheat Board, an agricultural marketing agency. Check out information about wheat varieties grown in Canada, organic grain, quality control issues, and related topics.
Eat Your History
A series of stories about the amazing histories of local food delicacies. From The Tyee website.
The Flour Milling Industry in Manitoba Since 1870
An illustrated article about the history of the flour milling industry in Manitoba. From the Manitoba Historical Society.
From a single seed
An account of the surprising origins of Marquis wheat from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.
Information page about snow mold, a fungus that can infect cereal plants and residential lawns. From the University of Saskatchewan.
A daily roundup of the latest news and information about the Canadian agricultural industry.
Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute
Check out this website for information and reports about current issues impacting on the productivity and competitiveness of Canada's agri-food sector.
The Wheat That Won The West
See an academic paper that examines the economic impact of the development of Marquis wheat in Canada. Prepared by: Amy McInnis for “Winning the Prairie Gamble: The Saskatchewan Story,” May 11, 2004.
An online feature about planting and growing wheat crops and the history of producing foods made from wheat. See also information about other food crops. From Agrilogic International Solutions Inc.