While we usually think of fall as harvest time, you might not realize that a great deal of planting for the new year is already underway in Ontario. Across North America, Europe, and northern Asia, farmers plant winter wheat that will be harvested in the spring.
Winter wheat is harder than other wheats, and it has a higher gluten protein content (in its food uses, gluten is the protein that gives dough elasticity to rise and keep its shape). Winter wheat is used to produce flour for yeast breads and other chewy grain products; it is also blended with soft spring wheat to produce all purpose flour.
When farmers plant wheat in the fall, it must survive the cold winter. A process inside the plant called vernalization is what allows plants to flower in the spring, after long periods of colder weather. Many other species of plants undergo vernalization, including a variety of fruit tree species and annual and biennial flowering plants.
There are several varieties of winter wheat grown in Ontario, and wheat breeders are interested in learning more about and furthering the crop’s resistance to major diseases by developing new varieties. In a new partnership with Grain Farmers of Ontario and SeCan, the University of Guelph has hired Dr. Ali Navabi to fill a new professorship in wheat breeding in the department of plant agriculture. Researchers like Dr. Navabi hope to develop new varieties of wheat that will directly benefit farmers across Ontario. You can read more about Dr. Navabi and his research in the most recent issue of Ontario Grain Farmer magazine, and online here.