Most seeded winter wheat varieties in Manitoba – 2023

The Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation (MASC) has released its 2023 Variety Market Share Report. This report breaks down the number of acres seeded to each crop type in Manitoba. As well, the relative percentage of acres each variety was seeded on within each crop type is reported. This information is useful to understand overall production patterns in Manitoba. A link to the 2023 report can be found here. Furthermore, 2023 results from the winter wheat sites of the Manitoba Crop Variety Evaluation Trials (MCVET) have been published. Results can be found here.

It is important to note that farmer members’ dollars directly contributed to the plant breeding research activities which were instrumental in the development of the top winter wheat varieties.  

Select Take Aways

A small number of Winter Wheat acres were seeded again in 2023, with approximately 59 thousand acres seeded. This is up slightly from 2022 and up over 20 thousand acres from 2021. The top six varieties by percentage acres seeded are listed in Table 1, but 12 varieties were listed in this year’s MASC Variety Market Share Report. All top six seeded varieties are Canada Western Red Winter (CWRW) wheat.

Table 1. 2023 top six winter wheat varieties by percent seeded acres in Manitoba.


Wheat Class

Yield (bu/ac)**

Relative Maturity**


Relative Winter Hardiness**

FHB Resistance**

Relative Acreage (%)*

AAC Wildfire





Very Good

Moderately Resistant







Very Good





AAC Goldrush






Very Good



AAC Gateway





Very Good




AAC Elevate





Very Good




AAC Vortex




Very Good

Very Good

Moderately Resistant


Note: * Data obtained from MASC 2023 Variety Market Share Report. ** Data obtained from the 2023 MCVET Winter Wheat and Fall Rye report. Fusarium Head Blight; FHB.

AAC Wildfire was the top seeded winter wheat variety, occupying 43.2 per cent of seeded winter wheat acres. This is an increase of just over 14 per cent from 2022. AAC Wildfire was registered in 2015 and is a late maturing CWRW variety. AAC Goldrush, which was registered in 2016, also increased in percentage of acres seeded, increasing by three per cent from 2022. AAC Vortex, which was registered in 2021, was seeded on over four per cent of acres in 2023. There were no reported acres of AAC Vortex in the 2022 MASC Variety Market Share Report.

Emerson, which has a fusarium head blight rating of ‘resistant’, has been the most seeded variety in Manitoba for several years. However, its acreage has dropped just over 14 per cent from 2022. A similar trend was seen in AAC Gateway, which dropped from 16.1 per cent in 2022, to just over five per cent in 2023. AAC Elevate remained steady from 2022 to 2023, at just over five per cent of seeded acres.

The Seed Manitoba Variety Selection and Growers Source Guide should be consulted when making variety selections.

MCA staff move to temporary location during office renovation

MCA_SM Office Renos Graphic Twitter

We’ve (temporarily) moved!

Work is now underway to renovate our current office at 38 4th Avenue N.E. in Carman, with completion expected in about five months. The good news is that for the next five months, you won’t have to look far to find us.

For the duration of the renovation, our staff will be operating out of the building directly south of our main office at 40 2nd Street N.E.

Directions from our main office to our temporary office location.
Directions from our main office to our temporary office location.
Our temporary office, located at 40 2nd Street N.E.
Our temporary office, located at 40 2nd Street N.E.

Renovations to our existing office were necessary because the space no longer meets the evolving needs of our organization. The building was built more than 20 years ago to house one of our founding organizations, the Manitoba Corn Growers Association, and no substantial renovations have been made since.

These renovations will create significant benefits for our farmer members and staff, including:

  • Improved office functionality, as the space was originally designed around the needs of multiple organizations.
  • An upgraded boardroom, providing a professional environment for meetings and other formal gatherings of staff, farmer members and industry stakeholders.
  • Greater privacy for our cash advance program clients who visit the office.

If you have questions about the renovation or our temporary office location, please contact us.

Aaron Beattie, Chair in Barley and Oat Breeding and Genetics, University of Saskatchewan Crop Development Centre

Follow @CDC_USask on Twitter.
Follow @CDC_USask on Twitter.

Aaron Beattie completed his undergraduate science degree at the University of Waterloo, his master’s in plant breeding at the University of Guelph and his PhD in plant pathology at the University of Saskatchewan. He grew up in Saskatchewan and currently lives in Saskatoon.

Where did you work before the Crop Development Centre (CDC)?

I worked at Southern Seed Technology, a winter nursery in New Zealand for about a year. This is the nursery we collaborate with and send our barley to in the winter. Prior to that, I was working in the dry bean breeding program at the University of Guelph.

What got you interested in this area of work?

My background from my undergrad was biology and genetics. When I finished my undergrad, I knew I liked genetics, but I wanted to do something that wasn’t pure research. That’s where plant breeding made sense because it leans heavily on genetics and various aspects of biology, but it has that applied piece as well. That helped me make my decision to go to the University of Guelph. My thesis was focused on plant breeding and I continued in that area afterwards in my work. I came back to Saskatchewan for school, and eventually landed my current job.

Tell us a bit about what you’re working on at the CDC.

The summer is busy between running tours for the barley and oat programs for farmers and funders, doing selections in the field and keeping my crew organized leading into harvest. Teaching is a big part of my winter, as well as evaluating data we collect from the fields in the summer and organizing our winter work, such as the quality and molecular data. I’ve got four graduate students working at the moment, and we have a lot of industry interactions.

In terms of research, one project we are working on, Phenotyping and Genomic selection for improved barley Deoxynivalenol (DON) resistance, is funded by Manitoba Crop Alliance, SaskBarley, Alberta Grains and Western Grains Research Foundation. This project deals with trying to get a better handle on fusarium resistance in barley, which the barley research community has made a lot of good progress towards over the past 20 years.

This project aims to develop genomic tools to help me select for better resistance. We’re working closely with James Tucker at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Brandon. We send him a few thousand lines every year and he evaluates them for DON and fusarium resistance. We are also genotyping these lines to create prediction models for fusarium resistance.

Eventually, we hope to develop a way to select for better DON resistance using genomic tools early on in our breeding program, and evaluate only those lines that we think have better resistance in the nursery as a means to confirm the better resistance.

What can you say about the value of farmers providing funding and support to your organization?

The work we do as breeders spans fairly large periods of time. You’ve likely heard that it is an eight-to-10-year process to go from a cross to moving forward a variety. Funding from farmers is key to our program, as well as to other barley breeding programs in Western Canada because it allows us to make long-term plans. It allows us to test more, which means we have a higher probability of producing something better in the future.

How does that farmer funding and support directly benefit farmers?

It allows farmers to have a voice in terms of what we do, which is critical. Hearing new ideas from farmers based on things they are seeing in the field is invaluable. We try to listen to the whole value chain, and farmers are at the start of that chain. They need to be engaged in the process because we want them to see value in our work and keep barley in their rotation.

How do you spend your time outside of work?

I coach and play hockey.

What is the best part about your job?

I like the idea that what I do is practical to people. The idea that you can take research and translate it into something that has value to other people is rewarding. Also, it’s a very nice community to work in. There are a lot of very engaged and enthusiastic people in agriculture and a lot of innovation. People are willing to incorporate new ideas – I really like that about the industry.

What gets you most excited about your work?

Interacting with people across quite a wide range of disciplines; researchers all the way to the end users and farmers. Having that diversity of viewpoints is quite interesting, and then trying to figure out how to make it all come together into a variety. It’s fun to go through that process and interact along the way with people influencing your end goals.

Follow @CDC_USask on Twitter.

Carbine Insecticide – Emergency Use Registration Approved for Use on Lygus Bug in Confection Sunflowers in Manitoba

Manitoba Agriculture, Manitoba Crop Alliance and FMC Canada are pleased to announce that Carbine insecticide has been approved for use to control lygus bug in confection sunflowers in Manitoba.

The need for an emergency use registration was identified in the wake of the re-evaluation of lambda-cyhalothrin product use in Canada, which left a void in lygus bug control in confection sunflowers. This insect pest is a serious economic threat to human consumption market confection sunflowers.

Lygus nymph and adult.

Lygus bug feed on developing sunflower seeds, which can cause kernel brown spot, a physical scar on the bare seed, and a bitter taste when consumed. Sunflower processors allow only 0.5 per cent damage in physical product. Since tolerance is at an absolute minimum, confection sunflower farmers need an insecticide product to control lygus bug to maintain the quality that is so highly demanded.

Lygus bugs can damage 30 to 35 seeds per head per adult. With the industry standard allowing for a maximum of 0.5 per cent kernel brown spot, the economic threshold for lygus bugs on sunflowers is about one lygus bug per nine heads. In research trials, damage to sunflower heads was approximately twice as severe when infestations occurred at late bud and early bloom compared to stages when heads had completed flowering. Thus, lygus bug management should be initiated prior to or at the beginning of the bloom stage if adult densities approach the economic threshold. Also, fields should be monitored for lygus bugs until flowering is complete to reduce incidence of kernel brown spot damage to confection sunflowers.

Please note that confectionary sunflower farmers interested in using Carbine on their sunflowers are recommended to contact their ag retailer as soon as possible to allow for timely delivery in case there is no local stock available.

Here are key details regarding the Carbine insecticide Emergency Use Registration:

  • Carbine® insecticide is registered for control of lygus bugs (Lygus spp.) on confection sunflowers in Manitoba from July 21, 2023 until July 20, 2024.
  • This emergency use is for Manitoba confection sunflowers only with intended sell-in markets of Canada or the U.S. Please confirm this with end purchaser prior to application.
  • This emergency use is not for oilseed sunflowers, as maximum residue levels are not set in other countries where oilseed sunflowers might be sold.

What you need to know about Carbine® insecticide:

  • Application Rate: 81 grams/acre (20 acres per 1.587kg jug); maximum of three applications per year.
  • The emergency use covers both air and ground application.
  • Application Water Volume: Thorough spray coverage essential for optimum control. Apply in sufficient water to ensure good coverage (min. of 50 L/ha for ground; 30 L/ha for air). Finished spray volumes should be increased when plant foliage is dense.
  • What to expect: Carbine® insecticide will stop lygus bug feeding rapidly and irreversibly, but it may take several days to see a reduction in lygus bug numbers, as they take time to desiccate. They will not be causing damage in this time.

Please contact your local FMC Account Manager for more information.

Dilantha Fernando, professor and dean of studies, University of Manitoba

Connect with Dilantha Fernando on LinkedIn.
Connect with Dilantha Fernando on LinkedIn.

Dilantha Fernando is a professor in the Department of Plant Science at the University of Manitoba (UM) and dean of studies at UM’s St. Paul’s College. Dilantha was born in Sri Lanka where he completed a bachelor of science in botany with a chemistry minor, as well as a master’s in microbiology. He then moved to the U.S. and completed his PhD in plant pathology at Oregon State University.

Fernando has been recognized with several prestigious awards for his work in research and teaching. He is an editor of six journals, including two where he is editor in chief. He lives in Winnipeg with his wife, who is also a researcher, and the two youngest of their three sons.

Where did you work before UM?

I have been very fortunate to have had work opportunities in many places. After completing my PhD, I held a postdoctoral position at the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines, where I worked on rice diseases. Next, I was presented the opportunity to come to McGill University as a postdoctoral fellow, which brought me back to North America.

After McGill, I held postdoctoral positions with the University of Arizona, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Ottawa Research and Development Centre (where I first worked on fusarium head blight) and Michigan State University. I then accepted a full-time position with UM.

What got you interested in this area of work?

While doing a degree in botany, one must have that moment of realization: “This is what I want to do.” I was not going to be a top scientist looking at plants, I was more fascinated by what I could not see – the bacteria, the viruses, the fungi. My microbiology research was entirely on bacterial microbiology. I became fascinated with how a single cell of a bacterium can do so much – good or bad. That’s where it all started, with my background and fascination with microbiology.

Tell us a bit about what you’re working on at UM.

I begin my days very early. I generally wake up around 5 a.m. to do any editing work and catch up on emails with a nice cup of Sri Lankan tea, before sending the kids off to school. In my office which is beside both of my labs, I spend time with my graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, working on research papers, developing new ideas and writing proposals and reports, before heading to St. Paul’s for the afternoon to do administrative work.

I teach two courses: plant disease management in the fall and the epidemiology of plant diseases in the winter. I also work with graduate and post-graduate students in the lab. This is one of the best parts of my job, mentoring students through research.

In research, I focus mostly on canola and cereal diseases. I have been working on Fusarium in wheat and barley, and training post docs in this area. The population structure of Fusarium pathogens of small grain cereals, their distribution and relationship to mycotoxins research is funded by Manitoba Crop Alliance, Western Grains Research Foundation, Alberta Wheat Commission, Brewing and Malting Barley Research Institute, SaskBarley and Sask Wheat.

In this research we are looking at the western Canadian cline, or the way the pathogens are moving, and how that is impacting farmers. Our studies are also looking at how different chemotypes can impact the cereals.

Building on this opportunity, we have received thousands of isolates from different sources, including scientists in the east and in Ontario, enabling us to do several studies and make comparisons, which is very important. With these isolates, we are starting to see differences and to understand why a certain area might be getting less or more disease pressure. One of the key questions we are interested in is to understand why the 3A-DON chemotype is displacing the 15A-DON chemotype.

What can you say about the value of farmers providing funding and support to your organization?

The funding farmers give to support any research is so important. If you have good ideas and you want to help the world, to execute those ideas you need funding. It enables us to train highly qualified personnel and to answer farmers’ key questions that can only be answered through doing the research.

In our lab, we as researchers have a moral obligation to provide applicable results back to farmers.

How does that farmer funding and support directly benefit farmers?

The direct benefit a farmer would see in the type of research I do on Fusarium is increased yields and decreased loss of quality. Because of that, farmers will gain a lot of opportunity at the trade level.

Safeguarding their fields is another direct benefit, because if they know how to reduce the inoculum of any fungus, any pathogen, they are going to have a better opportunity the next season with less inoculum of the pathogen in their fields.

How do you spend your time outside of work?

I have a very busy lifestyle. My biggest hobby seems to be family and keeping in touch with friends, which has been a pleasure, especially when I am travelling. When I travel overseas, I always have somebody to meet up with, and some of those friendships have continued for more than 40 years.

What are you excited about for the future of agriculture?

This is a discussion we have at home because we feel very proud to work in agriculture. There are industries that come and go or change, but everyone in the world has to eat. Our land is not going to grow, but the population is.

So, we have to find new techniques to improve production, with less diseases, higher yields and high quality. I think agriculture is going to be one of the most desired industries also from a work standpoint where there will be more opportunities for people trained in agriculture to find jobs.

Who or what inspires you?

I give the highest credit to my parents. Both my brother and I were interested in playing sports, but my parents told us, “If you want to play sports, you have to be really good to be someone in the sports world. If you have an education, you can go a long way.”

I loved doing science and up until my PhD I had never worked in agriculture, but that opened up a new area that got me excited.

Connect with Dilantha Fernando on LinkedIn.

Gurcharn Singh Brar, assistant professor, University of British Columbia

Follow @gurcharn_brar on Twitter!
Follow @gurcharn_brar on Twitter!

Gurcharn Singh Brar grew up in Punjab, India’s “breadbasket,” where he completed his B.Sc. in agriculture (honours in crop protection) at Punjab Agricultural University. In 2012, he moved to Canada’s breadbasket, Saskatchewan, and completed his M.Sc. and PhD in wheat genetics and breeding at the University of Saskatchewan.

Currently, he is an assistant professor of plant science in the Faculty of Land and Food Systems at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Vancouver, and lives in Surrey with his wife.

Where did you work before UBC?

I started my job at UBC in January 2020, and before that I was working at the Crop Development Centre (CDC) of the University of Saskatchewan where I did my M.Sc. and PhD. For a short time after I completed my PhD, I was working at the CDC as a research officer in wheat breeding and genetics.

What got you interested in this area of work?

I often say I am in a long-term relationship with wheat. I’ve been around wheat fields since I was a child – my dad grows wheat and rice on his farm. When I was in high school, I would visit the wheat fields and loved wheat as a plant. When I started my bachelor’s degree, I used to interact and look at wheat from a different perspective. In my third year, I saw stripe rust in our field and decided I would focus my work on wheat rusts.

Tell us a bit about what you’re working on at UBC.

My research program is split between wheat and barley. I work closely with public wheat and barley breeders in Western Canada. The major focus of my research on wheat and barley is breeding for disease resistance.

We focus on the five priority diseases, and in my program, we’ve established uniform disease screening nurseries, mainly for Fusarium Head Blight (FHB) and stripe rust, where wheat and barley breeders send us their material, we plant it and provide them with data. We also started working on bacterial leaf streak (BLS) of wheat.

For barley, my main focus is on FHB, net blotch, scald and stripe rust. Recently, we started working on BLS of barley, which is emerging as a new disease, especially in southern Alberta and Manitoba.

For wheat, pre-breeding is where we do a lot with genetics. The Mapping novel FHB and stripe rust resistance genes from Watkins landraces project – funded by Manitoba Crop Alliance, Alberta Wheat Commission, Saskatchewan Wheat Development Commission and the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture – will feed into our pre-breeding research pipeline.

Our colleagues genotyped a panel of Watkins landraces (a few thousand lines) and shortlisted a core panel of about 300 lines. Of those 300 lines, which we screened with stripe rust and FHB, we have identified close to 12 which have a very high level of resistance to FHB and deoxynivalenol (vomitoxin) accumulation. Of these 12, there are two which are highly resistant to FHB and stripe rust.

We have two graduate students working on this project, aiming to identify the genes that are making these landraces resistant to both diseases, and we are very close to finishing this research. The goal is to develop breeder-friendly markers with the aim to transfer these resistant genes into elite CWRS wheat lines that breeders in Western Canada can use.

What can you say about the value of farmers providing funding and support to your organization?

We can’t do the research if we don’t have the funding from producer groups. I really appreciate the funding and support from the deepest core of my heart. One thing I learned from my mentors and I keep in mind is to make sure my research goes back to help the farmers. If not in the short run, in the long run it should pay back.

I think the Prairie producer groups are doing a commendable job. For me, the biggest positive is although I am sitting on a UBC campus far from Manitoba, they understand my research has value, too. They don’t limit funding to the provincial boundaries, which I think is a very visionary approach.

How does that farmer funding and support directly benefit farmers?

If we develop a variety, for example, that is a direct benefit to the farmer because it gives them another option. The other research we are doing, like genetics and pre-breeding, also has benefits. Suppose we identify novel genes for resistance to FHB from these Watkins Landraces. We transfer that resistance to some CWRS wheat lines and develop markers that we give to breeders. They can use that resistance in their future varieties.

When these varieties are released, if they have improved resistance over today’s varieties, there is potential to minimize and possibly eliminate fungicide reliance. Or, for example, in some years you have to spray twice, maybe we can limit it to one application. That will save money and a lot of effort. It will also improve the grade of the crop, and grade improvement means more money in pocket.

How do you spend your time outside of work?

I am a workaholic. I really love my work, but I like to spend time with friends whenever I get the chance. I also like to read Punjabi literature – fiction, poetry, etc.

Who or what inspires you?

 My father is a big inspiration. He worked tirelessly in the field and I don’t think I can work as much as he did at my age, or even now. For wheat breeding, my PhD supervisor Pierre Hucl is my biggest inspiration. He is hardworking and very passionate about wheat – I think he is crazy for wheat, but in a good way!

Follow @gurcharn_brar on Twitter.

Integrated Crop Agronomy Cluster 2018-2023

The Integrated Crop Agronomy Cluster (ICAC) was designed to put focus on a whole-farm approach, it addresses critical gaps in research for farm management as a whole and does not put focus on one crop type or approach. There are seven research activities within the cluster, MCA participates in all research activities as they all bring valuable information to Manitoba producers. Each activity and a brief description are listed below, for more information, view the Integrated Crop Agronomy Cluster Summary 2018-2023.

Co-ordinated monitoring of field crop insect pests in the Prairies Ecosystem

Co-ordination of a crop disease monitoring network for Western Canada

  • Provides funding for the Prairie Crop Disease Monitoring Network.
  • Funds the activities to continue to provide timely information about crop diseases and highlight effective disease management approaches.

Developing a risk model to mitigate Fusarium Head Blight (FHB) in western Canadian cereal production.

  • Provides funds to develop a FHB risk map model that is based on data taken across the Prairies and takes into account over 500 weather stations to produce a user-friendly, online risk-mapping tool.

Management of glyphosate-resistant kochia in western Canadian cropping systems

  • Studied the effect of several different non-chemical ways to manage kochia, including crop rotation, row spacing, seeding rates and harvest timing.

Spray drift management under changing operational requirements

  • Studied how the machinery plays a role in creating spray drift.
  • This included quantifying drift as a function of travel speed, spray quality and boom movement.

Optimizing systems productivity, resilience and sustainability in the major Canadian ecozones

  • With increasing evidence that supports the benefits of diversifying crop rotations to ensure long-term sustainability, this project studied several different crop rotations at eight sites across the Prairies to determine the impact of different rotations on productivity, resilience and sustainability.

Economic and agronomic performance of emerging cropping systems for Western Canada

  • Looks at including soybean and/or corn in crop rotations in Western Canada (regions where this is not a traditional crop included in rotations) and the economic, agronomic and environmental impacts this will have.

We’re Hiring: Agronomy Extension Specialist – Cereal Crops

MCA_SM_Hiring Graphics Agronomy Ext Twitter v3

We are seeking a permanent, full-time Agronomy Extension Specialist – Cereal Crops to join our dynamic team and serve our farmer members who grow high-quality wheat and barley in the province of Manitoba.

The Agronomy Extension Specialist – Cereal Crops is responsible for the development, co-ordination and extension of wheat (spring and winter) and barley agronomic information and research results to MCA farmer members under the supervision of the chief executive officer.

This role requires a highly motivated individual with a passion for agriculture, strong communication skills and a positive, team-oriented attitude.

Click here to view the full job posting – including duties and responsibilities, desired qualifications and experience, and working conditions of the position.

To apply, please forward a resume and letter of interest by e-mail to Application deadline is 4:30 p.m. CDT on June 6, 2023.

First Wheat Retreat connects food influencers to Canadian wheat

First Wheat Retreat connects food influencers to Canadian wheat

Consumers play an important role in agriculture, and finding new ways to reach this audience is important.

With that goal in mind, the first ever “Wheat Retreat” brought about 30 influencers in the food and nutrition world together to explore all things wheat – nutrition, functionality and sustainability. 

The Wheat Retreat was hosted by the Canadian Wheat Nutrition Initiative, aka What About Wheat?, at Cereals Canada’s world-class facilities in Winnipeg on April 27-30, 2023.

Manitoba Crop Alliance (MCA) supports market development initiatives that provide value to our farmer members, so we sent Mallorie Lewarne, our former agronomy extension specialist – cereal crops, to add some perspective on farming in Manitoba.

The retreat included a tour of Cereals Canada’s technical facilities, a pasta sensory session, a hands-on sourdough workshop, a bannock making session and discussions about wheat farming.

Photo Gallery

“Everyone who attended had great questions – including plenty about agriculture. They asked lots about general farming practices, pesticide use, the wheat class system and more,” says Lewarne.

“These influencers are much more public facing than the typical farmer or agronomist. I think this was a great opportunity to connect and provide them with accurate information they can share with the general public.”

Sheila Elder, a delegate on our wheat and barley crop committee, and her husband Jeff attended one day of the retreat and gave a presentation that took attendees through a growing season as a farmer. 

They talked about seeding, scouting, spraying and harvesting, while focusing on technological advances that allow them to be more profitable and sustainable.

“I think there is often a disconnect between the farmer and the consumer,” says Lewarne. “Any opportunity we get to share accurate information about farming practices in Canada is invaluable, and these small opportunities can add up to make a large impact on that disconnect.”

What About Wheat? is a platform for nutrition professionals to find the latest science-based information on wheat to share with their clients and consumers. The information is vetted by a Scientific Advisory Council made up of researchers and registered dietitians.

Member organizations include Cereals Canada, Grain Farmers of Ontario, Alberta Wheat Commission, Manitoba Crop Alliance, Saskatchewan Wheat Development Commission and Canadian National Millers Association.

Derek Brewin, professor and head of the Department of Agribusiness and Agricultural Economics, University of Manitoba

Connect with Derek Brewin on LinkedIn.
Connect with Derek Brewin on LinkedIn.

Derek Brewin is professor and head of the Department of Agribusiness and Agricultural Economics at the University of Manitoba (U of M). He earned his B.Sc. at the University of Alberta, followed by an M.Sc. at the University of Saskatchewan (USask) and PhD at Penn State University. Brewin has worked at U of M since 2003 and lives in Winnipeg, dangerously close to the best ice cream in the city. 

Where did you work before U of M?

I started this job after I finished my PhD, and before that I worked as a research associate at USask in the Strategic Development Fund. Prior to that I worked at the Canadian Wheat Board as a corporate advisor, a policy advisor for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) and a lender for Farm Credit Canada (FCC). 

What got you interested in this area of work? 

There are so many opportunities in agriculture. Once I got the B.Sc., I kept getting wonderful offers. I was fortunate that FCC needed somebody like me when I came out of my program. Working and learning about how FCC forecasted prices led me to go back for my M.Sc. I thought I would return to work with FCC, but when I finished my degree there was an opportunity at the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration (PFRA) in transportation policy, and once I got into policy I’ve stayed interested. 

Tell us a bit about what you’re working on at U of M.

I teach an agriculture marketing course where we evaluate the ag supply chain from the producer to the consumer. We know consumers are the main drivers, but ag supply chains are complex. To be able to work out the different steps in the beef, grain and oilseeds supply chain, or livestock supply chains, requires understanding of a lot of firms and agents.

When you’re thinking about the whole supply chain, the incentive to grow at the beginning, or the farmer’s bottom line, is a big part of why there is supply at all. This is something I’m always watching as part of my classes. I ask my students to think about what the price of canola is in Manitoba, for example, and how that factors into the price of the bottle of oil in a supermarket. Thinking about how those prices are all connected and how they cover the costs of processing to transporting helps us understand the market better. 

The Research to explore socio-economic impacts of disruptions on Agri-food supply chains and markets project, funded by Manitoba Crop Alliance, is about building capacity in this area, as there is growing demand for it. 

COVID-19 had a huge impact on food markets and in the food supply chains, there was a large shift from people eating out to buying retail and feeding themselves. That was definitely a big disruptor. The barriers put up during the protests of the grain supply chain at the beginning of 2020 also slowed down some grain transportation and led to backlogs in terms of movement. These are some of the areas we focus on for this research. Learning about current and historic disruptions, like the Great Canadian Grain Logistics Crisis of 2013-14, is what I teach to my students and what drives my research. 

What can you say about the value of farmers providing funding and support to your organization?

Some of the evidence on public sector investment in agriculture shows that it pays off 40 to 1. I’ve done some research on innovation systems and I feel really good in terms of the economics of it. It can be a really slow process; sometimes it’s 40 years between when something is invented and when it has an impact on yield. I think, in the long run, farmers are going to be a lot better off for the research investments made through the check-offs. Economists need to keep checking that return on research as well as contribute in their own areas, especially in training new analysts. 

How does that farmer funding and support directly benefit farmers? 

For my work, we are looking backwards to learn. Learning more about these big interruptions through a few projects with Alankrita Goswami, we are collecting evidence from disruptions like BSE, COVID-19 and the transportation breakdowns in 2013-14. The more we understand these, we can work to determine whether or not current policy could help us get through a similar interruption. For us as economists, it’s a good thing to make sure the incentives have stayed in the right place to invest and monitor these systems in order to keep our supply chains functioning.

How do you spend your time outside of work? 

I enjoy reading about economics and international economics, as well as history and historical fiction; I really enjoy books by James Michener. I like playing old-timer hockey, curling and occasionally camping. Every year I go on a pretty serious canoe trip, a tradition that began back during my master’s.

How do you celebrate agriculture?

The first thing that came to mind was working the calves at fall. Some of our own work was tough sledding with just my dad, brother and I. But sometimes we would tackle the calves as a community with friends from the bigger ranches and we had calf weaning/branding events. It was a real celebration of the year’s calf crop and everybody getting together in a very traditional way, one they were doing 200 years ago and are still doing today. For me, that is a special event and a way to celebrate agriculture. 

Who or what inspires you?

I’ve met some leaders in the agriculture sector, some students included, who really inspire me – some who have received awards of merit from the faculty here. These leaders come in to be celebrated and receive these awards, and we get to hear their stories and all about their great careers. It’s nice to hear how people have changed the Manitoba sector, and it’s really inspiring for our students.

Connect with Derek Brewin on LinkedIn.