From a single seed - Tracing the Marquis wheat success story in Canada to its roots in Ukraine (9 of 11)

Breeding High-Quality Wheat Varieties

From its earliest beginnings, wheat research at the Central Experimental Farm in Ottawa focused on the production of high-quality, early-maturing varieties. The greatest efforts were spent on combining the strengths of the Ukrainian Halychanka (Red Fife) with early-maturing varieties.

Throughout the whole program to improve existing varieties of wheat or produce new varieties through crossings, this wheat, with its rich hereditary genetics, stands out. The system for the selection of individual plants which had been practised before had not been very successful. From the very beginnings of the program there existed a desire to find certain methods that could demonstrate or estimate the grain quality of the selected plants. Such methods were unknown in the laboratories of the time. The Ukrainian farmer, however, has always had his own "laboratory" in his mouth, between his teeth. He knew how to give an approximate and sometimes even a very accurate assessment of the quality of any given wheat. He would take a small handful of spikes, rub them between the palms of his hands, blow away the dust and husks, and pop the grain into his mouth: a quick chew and a taste and he knew what the wheat was worth. This old method, tested and true, is probably as ancient as wheat.

We have noted already that it was also used by Charles Saunders. By merely chewing, he had been able to distinguish with considerable accuracy the qualities of wheat kernels from individual stalks in the crossings at the Central Experimental Farm. Indeed, he continued to use this "chewing method" for years before he acquired appropriate laboratory testing equipment.

The new laboratory was a great help in determining wheat quality. Its equipment could mill small samples of grain into flour, from which test breads could be baked. The future of Canada's wheat industry was forged there. The building housing the old Cereal Division now has heritage status because it was there that William Saunders, and later his sons, bred the world's best new wheat varieties. Their ancestor was the Ukrainian Halychanka, known as Red Fife in Canada.

Charles Saunders's notes and commentary affirm this variety as the best: it was the wheat against which he measured all the new hybrids. For example, in the following passage from his bulky personal notebook he writes: "[the new hybrid] Markham is not to be kept at all, unless it is earlier or stronger than Red Fife." (page 72, January 1905) In his 1907 report he describes the prerequisites for wheat research: "This requires a certain amount of patience and a fairly good set of teeth. These two attributes may be considered as essential to all wheat breeders." (Bulletin 57, page 9)

The Ottawa notebook sheds light on the early history of the wheat industry in Canada. Ottawa is also where the great "Registration Book" listing all the wheat crossings made with the Halychanka (Red Fife) variety is kept. Figure 5 shows the first few pages of both Saunders's notebook and the Registration Book, which have not been published before.

Further Development of Wheat Varieties in Canada

Ever-increasing numbers of immigrants flocked to Canada. Our economy and agriculture expanded. An increasing number of ploughs furrowed wide fields in the new land, which farmers sowed with the golden grain of Ukrainian wheat. The Canadian climate is not uniform however: its variations created differing needs that required different varieties of wheat. These were being created in large numbers at experimental farms from Ottawa to Vancouver.

What follows is the genealogy of these new varieties, all of them quickened by the genetic blood of Halychanka (Red Fife) wheat.

Image showing variety Marquis crossed to variety Kanred to produce the variety Canus which was crossed to RL-729 producing the variety Acadia. Credit to: University of Minnesota in 1918.

Image showing crossing of varieties Marquis and (H44-24 crossed to double Cross) to produce the variety F1which is crossed to Marquis producing the variety Apex. Credit to: University of Saskatchewan.

Image showing crossing of varieties Skorospilka (Ladoga) to Gehun to produce the variety Bishop. Credit to: Central Experimental Farm in 1891.

Bishop had been researched extensively since 1904 with very good results, especially in the Far North. It was not registered as a commercial variety because its grain was white.

Image showing crossing of varieties Marquis and Kanred to produce variety Canus. Credit to: University of Minnesota in 1918. Selected at the University of Alberta in 1929.


Description of the image follows.
Description – Cascade

Image showing a quality selection from variety Marquis was crossed to variety Pacific Blue Stem. The F1 hybrid from that combination was crossed to variety c26-59CD. The F1 from that combination was crossed to the variety ONAS for three consecutive times to produce the variety Cascade.

Developed by the Cereal Division, Central Experimental Farm, Ottawa, 1936

Image showing variety Marquis crossed to variety Kota to produce the variety Ceres. Credit to: North Dakota Experimental Station in 1918.

Ceres was introduced into Canada for research at the Experimental Farm in Brandon, Manitoba, in 1924. It was licensed in 1928.

It was a high-quality, Marquis-level variety which became popular very quickly among the farmers of Manitoba until 1935, when it was attacked by a severe rust disease and replaced by more rust-resistant varieties.

Image showing (Marquis crossed to Lummilo) crossed to (Marquis crossed to Kanred) producing the variety Thatcher which is crossed to variety S-615-11 producing the variety Chinook.

Image showing variety Pentad crossed to variety Marquis to produce the variety Coronation.

From a cross at the Dominion Laboratory of Cereal Breeding, Winnipeg.

A selection made by the Cereal Division, Ottawa Registered in 1943

Early Red Fife

Selection from Red Fife (made at the Cereal Division, Ottawa, 1903)

Early Triumph matures three days earlier than Halychanka (Red Fife).

Early Triumph
Image showing variety Bobs crossed to variety Early Red Fife to produce variety Early Triumph.


Description of this image follows.
Description - Garnet

Image showing variety Skorospilka (Ladoga) crossed to variety Red Fife producing variety Preston which becomes Prestona. Image also shows variety Skorospilka (Onega) crossed to variety Gehun producing variety Riga which than becomes variety Riga M. Prestona and Riga M were crossed to produce variety Garnet.

From cross by C.E. Saunders Central Experimental Farm, Ottawa, 1905.

Huron and Percy
Image showing variety White Fife crossed to variety Skorospilka (Ladoga) to produce varieties Huron and Percy. Credit to: Ottawa in 1888.


Selection from Marquis made by Seager Wheeler in Rosthern, Saskatchewan, 1911.

Image showing variety Regent crossed to variety Canus to produce variety Lake.

Pioneer, Preston, Stanley and Garnet

Description of this image follows.
Description – Pioneer, Preston, Stanley and Garnet

Image showing variety Skorospilka (Ladoga) crossed to variety Red Fife to produce variety Stanley and variety Preston Credit to: Ottawa in 1903. Then the image shows variety Riga crossed to variety Preston to produce variety Pioneer and variety Garnet.

Image showing variety Skorospilka (Ladoga) crossed to variety White Fife to produce variety Alpha which is crossed to variety Hard Red Calcutta to produce variety Fraser which is crossed to variety Downy Gehun finally producing variety Prelude.

Description of this image follows.
Description - Prospector

Image showing variety Spiti Valey crossed to variety Red Fife to produce variety Rideau which was crossed to variety Red Fife to produce variety Prospect. Image also showing variety Gehun crossed to variety Skorospilka (Onega) to produce Harold Pubescent which becomes Prospect. Prospect is than crossed to Prospect to produce variety Prospector.

This hybrid (Prospector) initially was known as Ottawa 444.

Spike, awnless; grain red, medium hard; straw not very strong. Baking quality and colour of flour very good (30, p. 8-9).

There are some inconsistencies in the literature on the origin of the Renfrew variety. The Handbook of Canadian Cereal Varieties states that this is a selection from Marquis. Another writer disagrees (31, page 10): "The history of the Renfrew variety is not known definitively, but is believed to originate from a crossing between Marquis and Red Fife."

Image showing variety Regent crossed to variety Canus to produce variety Redman. Credit to: Winnipeg in 1934.

Regent and Renown
Image showing variety R-44crossed to variety Reward to produce variety Regent and variety Renown. Credit to: Winnipeg in 1926.

The first (Regent) was still grown in Manitoba in 1953 (11%), the second (Renown) in 1950 (3%).

Image showing variety Kanred crossed to variety Marquis to produce variety Reliance.

Registered in Canada in 1932. Several thousand acres under cultivation near Alberta-Saskatchewan border.

From a cross made by the United States department of Agriculture in co-operation with Oregon, California, Montana, North Dakota and Minnesota Experimental Stations, 1917.


Description of this image follows.
Description - Reward

Image showing variety hard Red Calcutta crossed to variety red Fife to produce variety Marquis. Image also showing variety Skorospilka (Ladoga) crossed to variety White Fife to produce variety Alpha which was crossed to Hard Red Calcutta to produce variety Fraser which is crossed to variety Gehun to produce variety Prelude. Prelude is then crossed to variety Marquis to produce variety Reward.

(30, page 9)

Image showing variety C-26-447 crossed to variety Thatcher seven times in succession to produce variety Saunders.

Image showing variety McMurachy crossed to variety Exchange and progeny crossed to Redman three times in succession to produce variety Selkirk. Credit to: Winnipeg in 1939.

Type Io (Red Fife H)

This was a selection from Red Fife made at the Central Experimental Farm. It has the same milling and baking qualities as Marquis, although it matures somewhat later.

White Fife

White Fife was a selection from Red Fife made at the Central Experimental Farm in 1903.

White Russian

White Russian was a selection from Red Fife made at the Central Experimental Farm in 1889. It was grown at Indian Head in 1889. It differs from Red Fife mainly in that its straw is longer and its spike denser. This variety is also known under other names, such as Wellman Fife, and is perhaps the most noted. (8, page 95) It is very rarely grown on the Prairies but is more common in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island.

Image showing variety Red Fife crossed to variety Goose to produce variety Gatineau. Credit to: Charles Saunders, Ottawa.

There is considerable doubt about the origin of this variety. It is not distinctly defined in the literature. For example, in Clark (8, page 188) the Goose variety is said to be the same as the Ukrainian Arnautka wheat, while on page 198 it is said to be Polish wheat (Triticum polonicum).

Both of these varieties belong to the "durum" group of wheats, which have 28 chromosomes. The Red Fife variety, however, belongs to a group that has 42 chromosomes. It is not clear which variety was used here as the varietal parent. Moreover, crossings of two different chromosomal groups are fairly complicated. There are no analytical reports on this hybrid. A brief description of the Gatineau variety notes that: "It combines numerous good qualities of both parents; although not an early variety, it may show itself to be of value in a dry region where the season is quite long." (32, page 29)

Image showing variety Red Fife crossed to variety Rideau to produce variety Outlook.

White Fife

This selection differs very slightly from the White Fife variety. By all accounts it is practically identical to Red Fife, except for the yellow colour of its bran.

There are other Ukrainian wheats that have made a large contribution to the development of Canada's agriculture and economy. These include hard wheat (Triticum durum) and winter wheat.

Hard Wheat (Triticum durum)

This wheat belongs to the spring wheat group. It is tetraploid, with 28 chromosomes in its cell nucleus. Durum grows best in regions with a warm and dry climate, is particularly resistant to drought and very resistant to rusts and smuts (loose smut). Its grain is very hard (hence the name), almost transparent-amber, and either white or red in colour, depending on the variety. Because of its high gluten content, its flour is used for making various kinds of dough, mainly pastas, so that it is commonly known as macaroni wheat. Its grain is the hardest of all the wheats, always has a very short beard (or awn), and is elongated in shape, like rice. It has became important only in recent years (1960s).

Hard wheat requires hot, dry weather during maturation. In damp regions or when it matures in damp weather, its leaves are attacked by various fungal diseases, while the grain accumulates too much starch and its quality deteriorates significantly. Pastas, semolinas, and various kinds of cereals are made from hard wheat. Some varieties are suitable for baking bread; others are not.

The climate of southern Ukraine is excellent for the cultivation of hard wheat. In Western Europe, hard wheat from Ukraine has always commanded the highest price. All the commercial varieties of this wheat have an awned, very dense spike.

Ukrainian Hard Wheat Varieties in Canada

In 1907 the Dominion Cerealist's Report had presented the results (pages 220-221) of hard wheat experiments in Ottawa involving a number of Ukrainian varieties: Biloturka, Kubanka (number 5639), Goose, Harnivka, and Yellow Harnivka. Of these Charles Saunders wrote: "For many reasons, it appears that Biloturka and Kubanka (number 5639) are in fact the same variety. The bread made from Kubanka and Biloturka flour was excellent quality, bright, yellowish in colour. The bread made from the other varieties was of a decidedly lower quality, although the Goose and Harnivka products were of the same poor quality."

In his 1908 report he wrote: "The most promising varieties of spring (macaroni-class) wheat were milled and baked to test their bread-making qualities...the strongest wheats from these three groups are about equal in strength: for example, Kubanka, Red Fife, and Turkey Red. Similarly, the weakest have about the same level of weakness. Each class has varieties at all levels of flour strength."

In the 1909 report (page 211) he reiterated that the Kubanka and Biloturka varieties were identical and suitable for making pastas, semolinas, and cereals, as well as excellent bread of a rich yellow colour.

Another publication provides information on the origin of hard wheats on the North American continent: "Kubanka and Pelissier are direct introductions from Ukraine." (33, page 294) The authors do not shed light on the route these wheats took to get to the new continent. They were likely brought over by Ukrainian peasant immigrants, as well as Mennonites, who first settled in the United States where they cultivated them. From there the wheats would have made their way into Canada.

Kubanka variety, Ottawa 37 is a pure line, a selection from Kubanka, that came here from the United States (Washington, Number (No.) 5639).

A study on the Kubanka variety describes its agricultural characteristics in detail. Kubanka holds a very important place in southern Saskatchewan. Its suitability for dry soils and a dry climate has been demonstrated in both the United States and Canada. Its strongly developed awns and very strong root system easily withstand extreme heat. It is also very resistant to rusts. Kubanka is excellent for pastas and semolinas as well as puffing and various kinds of pastries. It has the best milling qualities of all the durum wheats. (34, pages 1-7)

Winter Wheat

Canada grows less winter wheat than spring wheat. The first commercial harvest of hard winter wheat in Canada was in 1902. It was grown on the Spring Coulee, Alberta farm of E. E. Thompson, who imported a whole carload of the Turkey Red (originally from southern Ukraine) and Nebraska varieties. Thompson's grain was widely propagated for seed. More than four million bushels (bu) of hard red winter wheat were produced in Alberta in 1908; all of it originated from that carload.

In 1907 the Lethbridge Experimental Farm, which had been set up for research on winter wheat, brought in several bushels of each of several leading varieties of winter wheat from the Kansas State College of Agriculture. One was called Kharkiv. It proved to be very suitable and became the most important variety in the district. The area sown with winter wheat expanded very quickly. By 1911 more than 300,000 acres had been sown with this wheat. Southern Alberta was the most important winter wheat growing area in the Prairie provinces. The best yields were produced in the southwestern corner of the province, from the foothills of the Rocky Mountains to about 40 miles east of Lethbridge and from the Montana border to about 60 miles north of Lethbridge. The high precipitation and snow cover in the western parts of this area provide more shelter and protection for the winter wheat, and perhaps allow it to be more successful than in the eastern parts.

In Bulletin No. 180 (page 2) of the Department of Agriculture the authors note the origin of Red Turkey winter wheat: it was a Ukrainian wheat which had been grown in the Crimea and therefore was called Krymka. It belonged to the group of Crimean hard winter wheats or Krymki [Ukr. pl. of Krymka]. As the cultivation of Krymka winter wheat increased in Canada over time, this Ukrainian wheat received various new names: Alberta Red, Winter, and Turkey Red.

The wheats known by these names were identical to the Ukrainian wheat variety known by the name of Kharkiv. Kharkiv wheat was introduced to the United States from the city of Kharkiv on two separate occasions in 1900 in the hope that this variety would be more resistant to frost. In Bulletin No. 180 (pages 3-4) this same variety of Ukrainian wheat is presented as Turkey Red, like the one introduced into the United States from Kharkiv in 1900 and sent from Kansas State College to Lethbridge in 1907. The Kharkiv variety is therefore the most widely cultivated one in Alberta. For many years it has been Canada's most frost-resistant variety.

The first annual report of the Lethbridge Experimental Farm indicates that Odessa, a Ukrainian variety of soft winter wheat, also grew there and had been grown in the Cardston and Pincher Creek districts for at least 20 years before 1907. Winter wheat cultivation grew steadily until 1913 when the great blight of root rot first made its appearance.


Description of this image follows.
Description - Yogo

Image showing variety Odessa crossed to variety Turkey to produce variety Minturkey, credit to: Minnesota in 1902. Minturkey is then crossed to Bilohlyna which is a selection from Turkey in 1919. This produced an F1 hybrid which is then crossed to variety Buffum to produce variety Yogo. Credit to: Kansas in 1919.

This variety received a Canadian licence in 1948 as Yogo K.A.N. 2502.

Yogo was created at the experimental farm in Manhattan, Kansas. At first it was grown on farms in Montana in the autumn of 1932; five years later it was introduced into Alberta where it is grown fairly widely. This wheat is the main variety in southeastern Saskatchewan.

Yogo is strongly resistant to numerous varieties of stinking smut and very resistant to frost. It also mills very well and produces a large amount of very high-quality flour of a cream colour. It is very easily differentiated from Turkey Red by its sparse spikelets and its new shape.

This very productive wheat is derived entirely from Ukrainian wheat (see chart), although over the course of its cultivation on this continent, American names were given to the derived selections and their hybrids.

Image showing variety Odessa crossed to variety Turkey to produce variety Minhardi.

This variety is a twin of the Minturkey variety because it originates from the same parents, although it is from a different selection. After a crossing of the two Ukrainian wheats, one selection had the technical number Min. No. 1505, which in 1920 was named Minhardi. The other selection, Min. No. 1507, had already been named Minturkey in 1919. The Minhardi variety is the most frost-resistant of all the wheats grown in the continental United States.

A 1945 report states that 20 different varieties of winter wheat were sown at seven experimental stations affiliated with the Lethbridge Experimental Farm. At the Whitla, Foremost, Pincher Creek, and Claresholm stations, at least 90% of all the varieties survived. In Craigmyle and Drumheller 100% of two lines of the Kharkiv variety survived, as did 90% of the Yogo and Minhardi; the rest survived at rates ranging from 0 to 90%. In the tests carried out in Acadia Valley, all of the varieties were completely destroyed by frost.

Image showing variety Dawson Golden Chaff crossed to variety Bulgaria to produce variety Dawbul Can 2489. Credit to: Agricultural College, Ontario

There are no data on the origin of the Dawson Golden Chaff variety. I suspect that it too may be a Ukrainian variety whose origin and true name have been lost. The parent known as Bulgarian is the Crimean winter wheat variety which was brought in from Ukraine.


Description of this image follows.
Description - Fairfield

Image showing variety Crimean which becomes variety Malakof and then crossed to Michigan Amber. This produces Purkof which is crossed to variety Fulhio producing variety Fairfield Can 2787. Credit to: Purdue University, Indiana 1926. Registered in Canada in 1926.

Fairfield grows in the southwestern parts of Ontario. One of its parents is Malakof, a selection from the Ukrainian Krymka variety.

Fulhio is a selection from the Fultz variety, which is a selection from the Lancaster variety. Lancaster is identical with the very widespread Mediterranean variety, which originated in Ukraine. These name changes have created a great deal of confusion. I believe that they were in fact of Ukrainian origin because of their high quality.

O.A.S. Variety 104 CAN 2392

According to Department of Agriculture publications, this variety has the same unknown origins as the Dawbul variety. However, there are differences in the description and morphology of the spike: the O.A.S. variety has a white raceme and its spike as it appears in the photograph has a sharply pointed tip.

Kharkiv M. S. 22 is a leading variety of hard red winter wheat from southern Alberta. (35, page 114)

Variety Kharkiv 22 MC crossed to variety Dawson’s Golden Chaff producing variety variety Rideau. Credit to: Ottawa in 1932.

This variety is decidedly more resistant to cold than Dawson. It has grown in eastern Ontario since1941.

The RIDIT CAN 2404 variety originates from the following crossing:

Image showing variety Turkey crossed to variety Florence to produce variety Ridit. Credit to: Pullman, Washington in 1915).

It was licensed in Canada in 1938 and is grown in British Columbia's Okanagan Valley.

Image showing variety Hussar crossed to variety Turkey (selection made in 1926) to produce variety Relief which is crossed to variety Ridit producing variety Wasach. Credit to: Utah Experimental Agricultural Station in 1928.

This variety is resistant to dwarf bunt. Designated for the North Okanagan region in British Columbia, it is a type of hard red winter wheat.

Crossings of Winter Wheat

Winter wheats in Canada have not undergone as extensive a development of new varieties as the spring wheats. In the annual reports, records of winter wheat crossings at the Central Experimental Farm are rare and they scarcely figure at all in the Prairie experimental farm annual reports. Thus it appears that Canada was completely satisfied with the old Ukrainian varieties and at some point introduced varieties from the United States. These were Ukrainian hybrids bred at experimental stations in the United States where they were produced to meet the broader American climatic needs as well as the professional interests of U.S. breeders.

Yield Comparisons between Winter and Spring Wheats

The yields of winter and spring wheats depend in large measure on the time when the rains fall in the spring and early summer. The most critical droughts occur late in June and at the beginning of July. Winter wheats grow more rapidly than spring wheats during the drought periods. Because of this they suffer less damage and produce a somewhat higher average yield over many years.

At the Lethbridge Experimental Farm, over a period of 18 years (1929-1946 inclusive), Kharkiv winter wheat yielded an average of 19.7 bushels per acre (bu/acre), as opposed to 18.1 bu/acre from Marquis spring wheat (Bulletin No. 180. page 11).

The yields of different winter wheats grown in southern Alberta show very little difference. Yield tests carried out on the dry fields at the Lethbridge Experimental Farm over a period of six years (1940-1946) produced the following average yields from four widely propagated varieties:

Kharkiv M.C. 22......................................35.3 bu/acre
Kharkiv (a line from Lethbridge).....................35.0 " "
Yogo.................................................35.0 " "
Jones Fife...........................................33.6 " "
(Bulletin No.180, page 11)


Description of this image follows.
Description - Kent

Image showing variety Yaroslav Emmer crossed to variety Marquis to produce variety Hope which was crossed to variety Hussar (a variety that is very similar to Turkey) to produce variety F1 which was crossed to variety Dawson to produce variety Kent. Image also showing variety Caldwell10 crossed to variety Dawson’s Golden Chaff to also produce variety Kent.

No. 295 grown at the Ministry of Agriculture, Ontario, Canada


Description of this image follows.
Description – Richmond

Image shows that the variety Fire was crossed to variety White Naples and the F1 backcrossed to White Naples to produce an F1 hybrid which was crossed to an F1 derived from a cross between Fife and Eden. The variety Florence was produced from this combination. Florence was crossed to the variety Turkey to produce the variety Ridit, which was crossed twice in succession to the variety Dawson to give the variety Richmond. Credit to: Cereal Crops Division, Ottawa.

Richmond is superior to the three main varieties (Genessee, Dawbul, and Cornell 595) in its resistance to cold and produces a fair quality of soft wheat flour. It has a high yield and, although susceptible to loose smut, is resistant to stinking smut.

The Kent variety possesses hereditary attributes of the Ukrainian spring wheat Halychanka and of Ukrainian winter wheat from the eastern parts of Ukraine. Thus it combines two very distant geographic areas of Ukraine as well as characteristics of both winter and spring wheats. Kent was the last winter wheat released for cultivation and is described in the 1958 Bulletin No. 295 a.

Growing winter wheat was a risky proposition in Western Canada because of the danger of frost -- in late autumn before the first snowfall, during the winter if the snow cover had been blown away, or worst of all in springtime after the snow had melted and the plant had already sprouted. For this reason winter wheats were grown in very small quantities in a few regions by very few growers. (7, page 42) It is perhaps unfortunate that breeders did not take advantage of Canada's harsh climate to develop the world's most frost-resistant winter wheat. Winter wheat has always been less important in Canada, however, because our spring varieties produce adequate wheat harvests.

Frost and rust are the two main enemies of wheat. Each can destroy the entire crop or seriously damage both its milling and baking qualities. Rust was more common in the damper climates of Manitoba and eastern Saskatchewan while frost was prevalent in the more northerly districts. To minimize these dangers, which often damaged the crop near the end of the growing season, it was necessary to select early-maturing varieties. Up till then only two varieties -- Red Fife and Marquis -- met these requirements in combination with high yields and excellent quality. Numerous other varieties were tested, some with great success, but none with the quality of the Halychanka (Red Fife) or its descendant Marquis.

How New Varieties Were Bred

Breeders at the Central Experimental Farm procured samples of many different wheat varieties from around the world. It is instructive to look at the program of crossings as a whole in the Reports of the Dominion Cerealist to see which varieties were selected to breed the new varieties that would meet the new agricultural requirements.

For example, the report for 1926 lists the following crossings (page 4):


All of the above 18 crossings clearly originate from Halychanka (Red Fife) wheat. Various combinations were made to select the best possible characteristics for future varieties of wheat. This persistent use of Ukrainian-sourced varieties for crossings again highlights their value.

The Garnet variety plays a key role seven times in these combinations. It matures five days earlier than Marquis, depending on the locality, and is especially suitable for regions where early frosts do not permit cultivation of either Marquis or Red Fife.

In the report for 1927 we see the following table:

Promising Crossings Presently Being Tested

  • CERES X 929 B MARQUIS X 929 B
  • GARNET X 929 B SUPREME X 928002-35
  • HARD FEDERATION X 928002-35

The above crossings were made to obtain a wheat variety with a high yield, good bread-baking quality, and a high resistance to various plant diseases.

Here are the crossings reported in 1928 (page 6):

  • 26-1542 X REWARD MARKILLO-26-15 X 928002-35

Winter Wheat


I believe the spring wheat varieties in all three reports are simply Ukrainian wheats with non-Ukrainian names. Their hereditary characteristics combine high yields with excellent milling and bread-baking qualities.

Other varieties that deserve mention include the generation produced by crossings between Marquis and Garnet, and also other crossings between Reward and Garnet.

The 1929 report lists more crossings (reciprocal crossings were also made) on page 12:

  • HOPE X 928 Z REWARD X 928 Z

Further on we read: "A broad number of selections from the crossings made in 1924 are being grown in field trials. Among them are several combinations from the Marquis X Garnet crossing, which display the desired combination of the early maturity of Garnet and certain attributes of Marquis. Some of the attributes of these selections and the question of which ones to choose, as well as how and where they should be grown commercially, are being studied at our experimental farms in Scott and Rosthern, Saskatchewan. The information on some lines there is very gratifying and promising."

Another group of selections showing considerable promise originated from the following crossings:


Yet another group of promising selections was derived from the following crossings:


The above list features some very interesting, early-maturing selections -- mainly originating from 482 B, the earliest variety yet grown in Ottawa. It was derived from the following crossing made several years earlier:


The parent known as 482 B is very valuable. I believe that it is in fact a local Ukrainian variety with a very early-maturing hereditary attribute, which the researcher attempted to transfer by means of crossings to a new hybrid to meet the needs of the Canadian climate.

The testing of the new wheat varieties that came from crossings with Halychanka (Red Fife) wheat became more and more extensive. In order to investigate the baking quality of the flour, a new laboratory with the most modern equipment was constructed in 1929. Some 600 samples of different wheat varieties were studied and analyzed there.

Additional comparative reviews and analyses of the Marquis, Garnet, and Reward varieties were obtained from Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta and were thoroughly studied. For example, numerous new rust-resistant lines originated from the hybrid combinations below:


These were sent to the Dominion Rust Laboratory in Winnipeg to test their rust resistance. Some of these samples also had excellent bread-baking qualities.

A large number of selections from the following four crossings made in Brandon, Manitoba, were investigated at the same experimental farm. The first three combinations produced varieties that had excellent milling and bread-baking qualities.


Evaluation of the Varieties and Selections

The creation of new varieties of wheat or the other grains is relatively easy, if done over an extended period of time. Verifying and establishing the agricultural value of a newly produced variety of grain, on the other hand, is fairly difficult. A new variety must be studied for a period of at least three years, in different local climates and on different soils. The technical procedures are also complex because they require suitable methods and skilled personnel. In general it takes several years and the exertion of highly developed powers of observation, curiosity, and persistence on the part of the investigator before the new variety is released for general cultivation. New problems might appear or new plants with valuable characteristics may be discovered and selected to parent new crossings.

Numerous tests have shown that the original Ukrainian wheats possess a valuable store of genetic material. Over many years of research in Canada these wheats, and the new hybrids derived from them, became the source material for the production of newer and better varieties of Canadian wheat. I believe that the success in breeding new varieties within the Experimental Farm system is based on the Halychanka (Red Fife) wheat, with its countless derived crossing generations. This is recognized, in passing, in the report for 1930-1933 (pages 10-11):

... " the Red Fife variety of wheat, the standard variety of Canada, is very well known and requires more than a passing reference.

"In the search for the 'perfect' early-maturing wheats, crossings were made not only between GARNET X REWARD but also between REWARD X BOBS, REWARD X CERES, REWARd X SUPREME, MARQUIS X GARNET, CROWN X PRELUDE, etc. Several similar crossings as well as a number of selections raised from Reward are included in the research that will be carried out in 1934 at the Experimental Farms in Scott, Lacombe, and Beaverlodge."

In the report for 1934-1937 we read: "Many of the crossings reported in the preceding reports were investigated and rejected for various reasons but some, which met the desired requirements, were kept. From these the following, which have been shown as further generations, are being investigated:

  • EARLY RED FIFE X REWARD for early maturation and yield -- 3 lines;
  • MARQUIS X GARNET for early maturation, yield, quality, and resistance to bunt -- 2 lines;
  • 482 B X REWARD for extraordinary early maturity and quality -- 9 lines;
  • REWARD X GARNET for early maturity and quality of yield -- 5 lines; and
  • BOBS X PRELUDE for early maturity and yield -- 1 line.

"In addition to these, numerous crossings were made in the following years, including

  • PRELUDE X CANUS for early maturity and yield;
  • REWARD X (GARNET X QUALITY) for quality, yield, and early maturity;
  • REWARD X (ALASKA X REWARD) for early maturity and quality; and
  • KANUS X REWARD for yield and early maturity."

The best of the early-maturing wheats were studied every year by the so-called "special early wheat group" in Ottawa; at Swift Current, Indian Head, Melfort, and Scott in Saskatchewan; at Lacombe and Beaverlodge in Alberta; and at the Experimental Farm in Vermilion at the Edmonton Agricultural School.

Soft Wheat Varieties

The Cereal Division in Ottawa established a research program to tackle a new problem area in the breeding of soft wheat for baking cakes and pastries. These varieties are low in protein (about 9 - 10%); the best have a soft grain, are starchy and principally white in colour. For the most part, the agronomic features of the typical soft varieties made them unsuitable for cultivation in the Canadian climate. After many long trials, however, a number of varieties with the desired characteristics were produced. These were used as parents for crossings with some of the best varieties. They are listed in the report for 1934-1937 (page 23):


To breed for resistance to rust in these soft wheats, one of the best Hope and Reward hybrids from Brandon was utilized most prominently.

Rust-Resistant Varieties

Although the bulk of the spring wheat breeding program was concentrated at the Rust Laboratory in Winnipeg, some of the work was researched at the Experimental Farm in Ottawa in order to breed rust-resistant varieties for conditions in Eastern Canada. The following crossings were made for this purpose, as recorded in the report for 1934-1937 (page 24):

  • CANUS X RL 729 CANUS X C-26-44.5
  • CANUS X C-26-59.2H CANUS X 19-975-D2
  • CANUS is a selection made at the University of Alberta in 1918 from a crossing of MARQUIS X KANRED.

Varieties Resistant to Stinking Smut, 
Drought, and the Hessian Fly

To breed resistance to stinking smut (it smells like rotten fish) or bunt, crossings were made with resistant varieties. For the first series of crossings, the Martin and Reward varieties were used. In this group (according to the report for 1934-1937) there were 17 lines in the trials. Most of them were as early maturing as Reward but were also resistant to bunt.

Another series of crossings featured seven lines that were very interesting in that they originated from crossings made in 1926 between Garnet and Reward. Not only were they resistant to bunt and as early-maturing as Reward, but in two cases they also had a higher yield.

Tests on numerous varieties and types of wheat over the course of many years have shown that some varieties can withstand drought better than others. These so-called "drought-resistant" types often surpassed others not only in yield but also in height. Straw height is a very important factor in Western Canada especially in dry years: the taller straw makes it possible to harvest with a combine harvester, which cuts the spikes above the often numerous weeds so that the grain is not choked with litter. The popularity of hard (durum) wheat in dry regions has contributed to the development of wheats with taller straw. A series of crossings to select such high-yield, drought-resistant varieties was done at the Experimental Farm in Ottawa in cooperation with the University of Alberta.

In some districts of Western Canada wheat cultivation has suffered a considerable amount of damage from the Hessian fly (Mayetiola destructor). Hard wheat is less affected by this pest than ordinary wheat. A program to breed a variety resistant to the Hessian fly was established at the Experimental Farm in Swift Current.

Hybrids Sent to the Experimental Farms

Some of the numerous crossings made at the Experimental Farm in Ottawa were sent out for further testing at the Experimental Farms in Morden, Manitoba; Swift Current, Saskatchewan; and others. Hybrids were made from crossings between the following varieties (report for 1934-1937, page 25):

  • (RELIANCE X 21-1001 A 28-2 X 21-1001 A 28-2
  • CANUS X C-26 44.7
  • R.L. 729 X RELIANCE
  • M.S. 9727 X R.L. 729

The drought of 1937 allowed the drought-resistant characteristics of the families and lines to be revealed on a very large scale.

To establish early-maturing varieties for different regions, the following crossings between early-maturing varieties were made:

Beaverlodge, Alberta

  • SUPREME X 928002-35(428 B X GARNET) X REWARD
  • CANUS X 59.2H F3

Indian Head, Saskatchewan

  • CANUS X 59.2H F3


  • CANUS X 59.2H F3
  • (RELIANCE X 21-1001 A 28-2) X 21-1001 A 28-2 F3

Nappan, Nova Scotia

  • R.L. 729 X RELIANCE in F6
  • R.L. 729 X REWARD in F5

From the above names and numbers it is impossible to know what the varieties were or where they originated. Some varietal names are given and the genealogy has already been set out earlier: but it is the crossing numbers that are new here. The 1934-1937 report lists the genealogy of these numbered varieties at the end as follows:

  • R.L. 729 = MARQUIS X
  • M.S. 9727 = MARQUIS
  • 21 - 1001 = REWARD X EARLY RED FIFE
  • C-26-59.2H = REWARD X HOPE
  • 975 D = BOBS X PRELUDE
  • R.L. 704 = H-44-24 X MARQUIS

The letters "R.L." before the numbers identify the Rust Laboratory in Winnipeg.

To make record-keeping easier, breeders usually do not use the full name of the parents but label new crossings with a number. These numbers are a sort of key that every breeder records in a notebook. In the Canadian literature, these numbers have been recorded quite accurately so that they can be compared when necessary.

The reports and publications on the history of wheat breeding in Canada document thousands of different crossings from which thousands of very valuable selected plants have been raised. As noted above, the breeders were selecting mainly for high yield, early maturity, and milling/bread-making quality. Almost nothing has been preserved from the thousands of crossings with deficient qualities. Only the best were kept.

Having traced the ancestry of these hybrids, I can say that there is not a single variety selected from these crossings that does not originate from Ukrainian Halychanka (Red Fife) wheat.

The reports for every year record the breeding work carried out. Every account of all of the best varieties or the crossings made from them confirms that they are derived from ancestors of Ukrainian Halychanka (Red Fife) wheat. A subsequent list of some of the hybrids mentioned above is published in the report for 1938-1948. (page 13, Table 3) All of the varieties listed in that report are bred from Ukrainian Halychanka (Red Fife) wheat as well. To these, the varieties bred from this wheat in the United States should be added.

Image showing crossing of varieties Marquis and Kanred to produce variety Canus. Credit to: University of Minnesota in 1918. Selected at the University of Alberta in 1929.

Image showing variety Hope crossed to variety Timestein to produce variety Lee. Credit to: University of Minnesota in 1939.

Image showing variety Kanred crossed to variety Marquis to produce variety Reliance.

From a cross made by the United States Department of Agriculture in co-operation with Oregon, California, Montana, North Dakota and Minnesota Experimental Stations, 1917.

There is a disagreement on the origin of the Reliance variety between the Handbook and Newman (42), who states that it is derived from Marquis X Kanred (page 4).


Description of this image follows.
Description - Thatcher

The image shows the F1 hybrid derived from the crossing varieties marquis and Lumillo being crossed to an F1 hybrid derived from crossing Marquis and Kanred (following three backcrosses to Kanred) to give the variety Thatcher. Credit to: Minnesota in 1921.

THATCHER is resistant to most forms of black stem rust in the field but is susceptible to covered smut and leaf rust. It is very resistant to loose smut.

Improving Winter Wheat

As noted above, the cultivation of winter wheat in Canada was concentrated mainly in Ontario, although in later years it expanded across a large area in Alberta and southwestern Saskatchewan (Progress Report of the Dominion Cerealist for1938-1948, page 16).

It was also planted in British Columbia, Quebec, and Nova Scotia at very small concentrated locations. Alberta growers cultivated Kharkiv and Yogo, the best known varieties there, while Yogo was grown also in Saskatchewan.

The area under cultivation in Ontario ranged from 546,100 acres in 1946 to 858,500 in 1948 with an average of about 700,000 acres for the 1938-1948 period. The yield per acre ranged from 22 bu in 1943 to 33.3 bu in 1944 and the average yield for this whole period of time was 28.3 bu per acre. The average annual yield was about 20 million bu of which some six million were used for the production of cake flour.

Productivity of the Winter Wheat Harvest in Eastern Ontario, 1938-1940

  • RIDEAU 39.9 bu per acre
  • KHARKIV 31.8 " "

One of the first tasks for the winter wheat breeding program in Ottawa was to produce a high-yield, frost-resistant wheat that could be grown in eastern Ontario and other parts of the province where the winters are more severe than in western Ontario. Many crossings were made between known varieties with a high frost resistance and more productive varieties.

There was an equally pressing need for varieties that were resistant to loose smut and bunt. Several crossings were made with the Ridit variety, which is resistant to loose smut. These crossings produced the following hybrids:

  • Ottawa 1968-18L = D.G.C. X RIDIT
  • Ottawa 2619 A = D.G.C.2 X RIDIT

The Kharkiv variety not only brought high-quality genes to Canadian wheat but contributed to the breeding of highly frost-resistant varieties. Just as the Ukrainian Halychanka (Red Fife) wheat contributes excellent flour and bread-baking qualities to Canada's spring wheats, the Kharkiv variety introduced its high resistance to frost into our winter wheats.

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