b'PLANT BREEDERUniversity of Alberta professor Dean Spaner, who runs the universitys wheat breeding program. PHOTO: ANNE PRATTAn Overachiever Wheat BreederOver the past two decades, Dean Spaner has left his mark on Alberta fields as he has turned around the University of Albertas wheat breeding program.DEAN SPANER GREW up in a family of overachievers inreally market sensitive, listening to commercial customers and Edmonton, Alta. As a child his father uprooted the family,the breeding lines that are coming out are more of what the taking them to the other side of the globe to Nigeria during themarket is expecting.Biafran War. Spaners father was a teacher, and most of his siblings becameTaking Over the Programmedical doctors. While living in Nigeria, he firsthand witnessedWhen Spaner first arrivedat the U of A, he was still learning the food insecurity, which inspired him to later work in agriculture. ropes. In 2002, he had only recently started, and was picking Having lived in the developing world, I had decided thatwheat lines. There was a drought that year and he chose the I would like to do something to help feed the world, Spanerones which made it through, however the next year there wasnt explains in a phone interview. drought, and all of the selected lines grew too tall.He went on to attend the University of Guelph for hisFor a plant breeder were trying to select the ones that do undergrad degree in crop science, with a minor in internationalwell in both good and bad years, Spaner explains. But theres agriculture. He then received his masters degree and PhD incaveats to that, as with everything You get to know what corn breeding from McGill University, and conducted his PhDyoure doing, which I didnt in the beginning. research on the islands of Trinidad and Tobago.While Spaner may have been green at the start, it didnt take After his schooling, Spaner did genomics work at McGilllong for him to learn. He quickly sorted out what he needed to University and then moved out to Newfoundland to work asfocus on to make the U of A program valuable to Albertan farmers.an agronomist and turnip breeder, before returning to hisWe are the most northern ranging wheat breeding program in hometown of Edmonton. He became a professor and took overCanada. Early maturity is our biggest breeding objective, and we the University of Albertas (U of A) wheat breeding program,also try and develop lines for the Peace Region area of Alberta which he has put his own mark on over the last two decades. and northeastern B.C., in addition to the rest of Western Canada The program has come a long way lately. In the early years,Spaner says.it was just not a lot of useable varieties, Larry Penner, ownerSpaner mainly works with the Canadian Western Hard Red of Penwest Seeds, says in a phone interview. Now (Spaners)Spring (CWRS) wheat class. While he has focused on early 24seed.ab.ca'