Canadian Wheat Improvement program


Wheat is a valuable agricultural export, generating more than $5 billion in export revenues every year. The Canadian Wheat Improvement (CWI) flagship program works to improve wheat varieties and serves as NRC's contribution to the Canadian Wheat Alliance (CWA) which also includes Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), the province of Saskatchewan and the University of Saskatchewan as partners.

By integrating their complementary areas of expertise in wheat breeding, genomics, biotechnology and pathology, CWA members develop new wheat varieties that produce stable and increased yields, better resist environmental and disease stresses, reduce agricultural input costs, lessen the environmental impact of fertilizers and improve prosperity for Canadian farmers. The CWI program provides the CWA with expertise in genomics technologies, tool development and plant biotechnology that contributes to the CWA's goal of improving the yield, production, sustainability and profitability of Canadian wheat for the benefit of farmers and the economy.

Canadian Wheat Alliance

The Canadian Wheat Alliance (CWA) represents an unprecedented 11-year commitment among Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the University of Saskatchewan, the Government of Saskatchewan and the National Research Council Canada, to support and advance research that will improve the profitability of Canadian wheat producers. CWA members are integrating their complementary areas of expertise in wheat breeding, genomics, biotechnology and pathology to help create the critical R&D mass needed to enable Canada to significantly increase its share of global wheat production.

Collaborate with us

Collaborate with us on strategic research projects to help de-risk your innovative ideas, reduce your start-up costs and accelerate your commercial development timelines.

Collaboration opportunities

The objective of the Canadian Wheat Alliance (CWA) is to develop new wheat varieties that:

  • Produce stable, increased yields
  • Better resist environmental and disease stresses
  • Reduce agricultural input costs and the environmental impact of fertilizers
  • Improve prosperity for Canadian farmers

Alliance members are currently seeking engagement with private sector entities, not-for-profit corporations, Canadian public-sector organizations, provinces and international agencies that can collaborate in initiatives that will enhance the likelihood of achieving CWA objectives, while offering partners valuable expertise and insights into the industry. In particular, alliance members are proactively soliciting private sector engagement in R&D activities, as well as members for CWA's Doubled Haploid Consortium, which will accelerate the development of low-cost, high-efficiency technologies.

NRC's flagship serves as a gateway to collaborating with, or joining, the alliance.

Collaborator benefits

Partners will benefit from shared opportunities, access to extensive data, and unparalleled genomics expertise and discoveries. They will be in a unique position to take advantage of various types of outputs from CWA activity, ranging from technology platforms and biomarkers, to new and/or improved wheat varieties. The CWA also offers opportunities to join existing projects through collaboration or consortia, or to establish additional incremental project activity. Partners who contribute significant resources to the alliance will be encouraged to help set R&D objectives.


The CWA is currently focused on six pillars that will reduce wheat losses due to drought, heat, cold stress and disease, and reduce nitrogen fertilizer requirements. They are as follows:

  1. Genomics Assisted Breeding (GAB) – Using high through-put DNA sequencing and genotyping technologies to develop and deploy novel genomic tools.
  2. Wheat Improvement through Cell Technologies (WICT) – Delivering methodology for low-cost routine production of doubled haploids.
  3. Enhanced Fusarium and Rust Tolerance (EFRT) – Developing durable genetic resistance against Fusarium head blight (FHB) and rusts.
  4. Improving Wheat Productivity under Conditions of Abiotic Stress (Abiotic stress project) – Delivering markers to facilitate traditional breeding efforts, and identifying superior gene alleles that will serve as a genetic platform to pyramid multiple superior gene alleles into one cultivar.
  5. Targeting Developmental Pathways to improve Performance and Yield in Wheat (Development project) – Delivering a comprehensive gene expression atlas for wheat seed development; identifying genome-wide expression programs associated with maternal and/or paternal alleles during seed development; and developing a suit of potential gene targets associated with improved performance and seed yield traits.
  6. Beneficial Biotic Interactions (BBI) – Applying a powerful metagenomics platform to identify wheat-microbe interactions that will reduce nitrogen requirements and define the microbiological characteristics of healthy productive soils for wheat varieties.

Throughout the course of the alliance, additional projects will be added.

Contact us

If you're interested in wheat research and development, expanding your network or knowledge base, accessing our advanced scientific infrastructure or connecting with our experts, contact:

Alison Ferrie, Program leader
Telephone: 306-975-5993

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