Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Most outsiders believe that potatoes are the cream of the crop on Prince Edward Island (PEI). And while that remains true in terms of acreage, cereal crops like wheat and barley are gaining popularity with farmers across the Island.
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) biologist, Dan MacEachern, and his team help support the development of new wheat and barley crops that grow best in Atlantic Canada. They, along with AAFC barley breeder Raja Khanal in Ottawa, are the only known organization creating locally-adapted varieties for the Atlantic region.
Tailor-made crops for Atlantic Canada
The unpredictability of Atlantic Canadian weather as well as unique pests and diseases means that cereal crops need to be tailor-made for local fields. What works in Western Canada doesn’t necessarily translate to success in Atlantic. Additionally, changing weather patterns are creating the need for new, more resilient breeds.
“Breeding is one science that takes into account climate change – consistently evaluating how varieties are performing in current climate and then making adjustments.”
- Dr. Raja Khanal, Research Scientist, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Dan’s team provides valuable input for two crops, spring wheat and spring barley, to the AAFC breeders in Ottawa including which varieties are performing best in fields at the AAFC Harrington Research Farm. They also help evaluate how spring wheat, winter wheat, spring barley, oats, corn and soybeans grow in the Atlantic Canadian climate and then help develop new management strategies for farmers in partnership with organizations like the Atlantic Grains Council.
A typical season for the cereal breeding program would be to harvest in the fall, process the crop, and put data together such as yield, disease and weed pressure for breeders. The breeder then works with Dan to select the highest performing varieties that will move forward to the next growing season. The process is year-round since there is also growing and evaluation in the AAFC Harrington greenhouse during winter months. Like potato breeding, it typically takes about ten years for a new cereal breed to come to fruition. Recently, the program released three new barley varieties – AAC Ling, AAC Bell, and AAC Madawaska.
The program has paid huge dividends for farmers in Atlantic Canada from new high quality crops to expertise from AAFC on how best to grow those new varieties. Greater than 80% of the barley and 90% of wheat grown in Atlantic Canada comes from the AAFC breeding program.
A new barley variety with a lasting legacy
As a farmer and farm leader, Allan Ling, who passed away in 2018, was a tireless supporter of AAFC agricultural research and its role in the development of the industry. So it’s fitting that a standout new barley variety, AAC Ling, at the AAFC Harrington Research Farm on PEI now carries his name.
AAC Ling is a high-yielding barley variety with superior disease resistance that can stand up to severe weather that is common in Atlantic Canada. AAC Ling was also evaluated by a large maltster in Quebec and should have some success as a malt barley for the craft malting industry. The variety was developed by AAFC breeder Dr. Khanal using cross selections from Harrington.
Ontario-based seed supplier, SeCan, has the selling rights to AAC Ling. SeCan retailers across Quebec and Maritimes, including McCardle Bros. in Kinkora, PEI, are growing and selling AAC Ling seeds directly to farmers. Currently, there are approximately 100 tons of AAC Ling certified seeds available to Canadian farmers.
“AAC Ling is a great legacy for Allan, who founded the Atlantic Grains Council. I think this variety is going to be one of the great barley varieties on PEI, better in performance than the current top varieties, Island and Leader.”
- Dan MacEachern, Biologist, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Allan’s brother Melvin Ling, who has operated Lingdale Farms since 1975, grew AAC Ling in his fields for the first time this past summer. Those fields happened to be next to Allan’s old house.
“Allan was very proud of the research done by AAFC in Harrington, and he and I were both proud for AAC Ling to be named after him,” said Melvin. “I’m quite happy with how this new barley performed at my farm this past season. It outperformed all my other barley varieties.”
Melvin and other PEI farmers are quickly taking notice of this new AAC Ling variety. It’s likely to continue its rise to prominence in Atlantic Canada and farmers will benefit from a high yielding, quality barley crop – truly a fitting way to honour Allan’s legacy.
- Prince Edward Island based AAFC biologist, Dan MacEachern, and his team support the development of new wheat and barley crops that grow best in Atlantic Canada.
- Dan’s team provides valuable input for two crops, spring wheat and spring barley, to the AAFC breeder, Dr. Raja Khanal, in Ottawa including which varieties are performing best in fields at the AAFC Harrington Research Farm on PEI.
- The program has paid huge dividends for farmers in Atlantic Canada from new high quality crops to expertise from AAFC on how best to grow those new varieties. Greater than 80% of the barley and 90% of wheat grown in Atlantic Canada comes from the AAFC breeding program.
- AAC Ling is a new barley variety developed specifically for Atlantic Canada through the cereal breeding program. The high performing variety is named in memory of Allan Ling, a prominent farmer on PEI, agriculture research advocate and founder of the Atlantic Grains Council.