11 Advancing Seed in Alberta | fall.2017 collection (to remove harvested weed seeds) with some of the best cultural weed management techniques – high seeding rates, winter cereal crops, early-cut silage, perennial forage – in canola- wheat and more innovative crop rotations. This five-year experi- ment (2016-2020) is being conducted at six western Canadian locations under direct-seeding conditions.” Weed control tools such as chaff collection have more subtle effects than herbicides and require multiple years to determine their impact. This research will introduce crop growers to new IWM strate- gies that reduce herbicide use and herbicide resistance selection pressure. “Combining chaff collection with previously proven IWM tools provides an opportunity to decrease the reliance on herbicides. With many weed seeds passing through the combine in the chaff fraction, collection of the chaff prevents many of the seeds from supplementing the seed-bank, thereby reducing weed populations,” says Harker. “Chaff collection has the potential to reduce populations of many grassy and broadleaf weed species, and in combination with other weed-suppressing agronomic practices, can preserve the efficacy of herbicides.” In addition to WGRF funding, this project is supported by the Alberta Canola Producers Commission, Saskatchewan Wheat Development Commission (Sask Wheat) and Alberta Barley. Another current WGRF project concerns the pea leaf weevil. Many pea growers in southern Alberta are all too familiar with the yield losses due to pea leaf weevil larvae feeding on pea root nodules and the adults feeding on pea foliage. Now this pest is spreading into new regions and a new host. “The pea leaf weevil has recently expanded its geographic range to the Parkland agricultural regions in central Alberta and Saskatchewan where it threatens to damage faba bean, in addition to peas,” says Héctor Cárcamo, a research scientist with AAFC who is the project’s principal investigator. “This project aims to learn more about the interaction between the pea leaf weevil and faba beans to determine if the weevil reduces yield in this crop and to assess potential management strategies. Another major objective is to improve our knowledge of the overwinter- ing biology of this pest to enhance our ability to forecast local populations.” This research will help faba bean growers determine if the weevil is a concern and how to manage it. “Faba bean is the best crop for nitrogen fixation and it may be able to compensate for pea leaf weevil feeding on the foliage (expected) and the larval feeding on root nodules,” notes Cárcamo. “The study will also provide objective data on the potential yield benefits of using seed treatment and foliar insecticides for the pea leaf weevil. The information on overwintering could help refine forecasting tools so we all have a better idea of the size of weevil pest populations to expect given certain winter conditions.” WGRF and the Alberta Pulse Growers are funding this project. The University of Alberta, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, and especially AAFC are providing substantial in-kind support. Fusarium head blight (FHB), one of the most important wheat diseases on the Prairies, is the focus of a current spring wheat project. FHB lowers yields and results in downgrading because the fungus can produce toxins that limit the grain’s use. Fungi- cides can suppress the disease, but they only give up to about 50 per cent control. So cultivar resistance is a very important tool. Unfortunately no single gene confers strong resistance to FHB. Breeders have to bring in several resistance genes, and even then most wheat varieties are only moderately resistant at best. So Randy Kutcher, a professor at the University of Saskatchewan, is working with AAFC’s Plant Gene Resources of Canada and the National Research Council to find new sources of FHB resistance in spring wheat. These three agencies are part of the Canadian Wheat Alliance, a partnership to develop new wheat varieties that produce stable and increased yields, and have stronger resistance to stresses including FHB. The researchers are screening for FHB resistance in Plant Gene Resources’ 14,000 accessions of wheat collected from all over the world. “In a Fusarium head blight nursery, we screened about 4,000 lines in 2016 and 2017,” says Kutcher. “We have picked many promising lines and will now begin intensive rescreening of them in the field and growth chamber.” After that, they will do some further work with the best lines to confirm the resist- ance and to see how easy it would be to cross that resistance into adapted germplasm. They will pass along any useful new sources of FHB resistance to wheat breeders. This project is supported by the Agriculture Development Fund of the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture, Sask Wheat and WGRF. Growth and Transition for WGRF In 2016, WGRF invested over $18 million in breeding and other crop research, about a three-fold increase since 2011. WGRF has seen significant changes in its revenue sources over its history. The WGRF Endowment Fund got its start in 1981. “At the time, the Prairie Farm Assistance Act [an early version of crop insurance] was wound down. It had $9 million that came from farmers, so the federal government put that into kick-starting the Endowment Fund to fund research in a wide variety of crops,” explains Patterson. A WGRF-funded project is testing chaff collection devices to remove harvested weed seeds, one of several methods to reduce the need for herbicides. Photo courtesy Neil Harker, AAFC