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WHEAT ISN‘T WHEAT, ANYMORE 

It’s off, in the bin, and good quality. Now how do you get a decent return on your investment?

When producers are looking to market that wheat crop, the first thing to remember is that wheat isn’t wheat – and hasn’t been for a long time.

That bin is full of bread or noodles or cookies or ethanol. If it has a little bit of everything, it’s fit for livestock – and not much else. And it’s being priced accordingly.

That’s why there is a huge push to move into what are known as Identify Preserved (IdP) markets.

IdP is the protection of quality and condition of the crop against any changes or deterioration, so that the unique characteristics of a particular variety are maintained throughout the production process.

While IdP is becoming increasingly popular among producers, it is becoming increasingly vital for end users and consumers.

IdP isn’t new, it’s just becoming more complex. Canadian agriculture has been at it for years, but on a limited scale. The vast majority of western Canadian production went through two commodity streams  -- human food or animal feed. There was some dabbling in cash or niche crops, but volumes were small and markets were few.

In the past, most new variety development centred around improving agronomic characteristics – increased yield, improved disease resistance, tolerance to drought or frost. New crop varieties are now  being developed with specific consumer traits: low trans fat content for healthier cooking oil; high lubricity for industrial use; high starch, low sugar ... the list is growing.

And then there’s wheat.

Mom was a pretty good cook. She could make cookies or bread or cake out of that “multi-purpose” flour by adding a pinch of this or subtracting a dab of that. Large scale, automated manufacturing plants can’t make the same adjustments.

The protein content wanted for the Asian noodle market is too high for other uses. Different gluten strengths are needed that are “tougher” for noodles and “mellow” for bread. Weak gluten, high starch and low protein will roll in sheets, and is good for cake. High starch grains are wanted for ethanol, confectionery products and breakfast cereals, but they make lousy buns.  New wheat varieties are on the way with improved malting characteristics for beer.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Wheat varieties are no longer interchangeable. It’s like trying to put Ford parts on your John Deere ... they just aren’t going to fit.

Planting Certified Seed can get you off to a good start, but there’s more to IdP than just planting the right variety. Producers will need to clean equipment, pay closer attention to crop rotation, check fertilizer for potential contaminants, do more paperwork, keep accurate records and a host of other activities required to meet the specifications required by the customer.

Where do you find that kind of expertise? Your local seed grower.

Canadian seed growers have been at this for more than 100 years – and to make sure they’re doing it right, there are third party inspections every step of the way. It’s not Certified Seed until it’s been produced and processed according to regulations; has passed all the required checks, met all the standards, and is properly labelled.

So what are you going to plant next season ... bread, noodles, ethanol or beer?

If you want to get a decent return, remember that you aren’t planting wheat.

And if you want to keep the cookies out of your beer, start with Certified Seed.

This web site is produced in partnership with The Saskatchewan Seed Growers Association.
It is a member site of The Western Producer Online Network. All rights reserved.