Canadian Grain Commission
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Canadian wheat

Western Canadian wheat classes

Canada Western Red Spring (CWRS) Wheat

CWRS is the largest class of wheat grown in western Canada with an annual average production of about 15 million metric tons (MT). The availability of three milling grades, several guaranteed protein content levels, and carefully defined processing characteristics, give it the flexibility to be exported to over 60 markets annually. Major uses of CWRS are pan bread, hearth bread and as a strong blending wheat. It also finds use for noodles, pasta and flat breads in some markets.

The strength range among CWRS varieties is kept relatively narrow in order to maintain uniformity of strength within and between cargoes (Preston et al. 1988 and 2001). The most widely grown CWRS variety at present (2003) is AC Barrie. Physical dough properties of Neepawa, AC Barrie and Laura are shown in Table 3 to illustrate the range of strength deemed acceptable for CWRS varieties.

Table 3. Physical dough properties and baking quality of some CWRS varieties. ¹
Property Neepawa AC Barrie Laura
¹ Source: Western Bread Wheat Trials of the Prairie Regional Recommending Committee for Grain (1999). Test methods as described in Canadian Grain Commission (2003b)
Absorption, % 65.9 63.8 64.9
Development time, min 4 ¾ 6 ¼ 8 ¼
Stability, min 8 10 ½ 21 ½
Length, mm 21 21 21
Maximum height, BU 410 705 815
Area, cm2 125 200 225
Short process bread
Absorption, % 68 68 69
Mixing time, min 7.0 10.6 9.8
Loaf volume, cc 1105 1060 1130
Sponge and dough bread
Absorption 66 66 67
Mixing time, min 8.0 11.2 8.2
Loaf volume, cc 1225 1210 1240

Many CWRS target markets use physical dough parameters as specifications. The variety Neepawa exhibits the minimum physical dough strength required of CWRS varieties. Varieties with less strength are not suited to markets that use rigorous long fermentation baking processes. Adequate strength is also required to satisfy markets that blend high protein CWRS with lower quality wheat to improve baking quality. Laura is representative of varieties that exhibit the maximum limit of physical dough strength permitted for CWRS. Cultivars that are stronger have extended mixing times, making them poorly suited to short mechanical development baking processes. The three varieties produce bread of equivalent quality whether baked by a short mechanical development process similar to that used by many Canadian bakeries, or by a sponge-and-dough process, which has a 4 hr sponge fermentation time. This assures marketing flexibility. In the case of short process baking, the mixing requirements of all three varieties are short enough to ensure adequate dough development within the mixing time constraints for maximum throughput of commercial short process bakeries.

Other quality attributes required of CWRS varieties are high test weight, high protein content, resistance to preharvest sprouting (i.e. high Falling Number) and good milling performance. Milling performance is judged on the basis of flour yield and flour refinement (ash content and brightness). High water absorption is also a requirement. High water absorption is associated with longer bread shelf life, and also assures bakers a high yield of bread per unit of flour. Dexter (1993) has reviewed the quality requirements of CWRS in detail.

There are three milling grades of CWRS. No 1 and No 2 CWRS are routinely marketed at guaranteed protein levels. The most frequent protein guarantee is 13.5% (13.5% moisture basis) because the long-term average protein content of CWRS is 13.6%. Processing characteristics of No 1 CWRS from the 2003 CGC harvest survey are shown at three protein levels in Table 4.

Table 4. Quality of No 1 CWRS from the 2003 western Canadian harvest. ¹ ²
Property No 1 CWRS-14.5 No 1 CWRS-13.5 No 1 CWRS-12.5
¹ Source: Quality of 2003 western Canadian wheat (CGC 2003b).
² Data reported on a 13.5% moisture basis for wheat and a 14.0% moisture basis for flour.
Test weight, kg/hL 82.2 82.4 82.7
Protein content, % 14.8 13.8 12.8
Falling Number, s 420 395 405
Flour yield, % 75.4 75.7 75.5
Protein content, % 14.3 13.3 12.2
Ash content 0.48 0.46 0.48
Absorption, % 66.3 65.7 65.3
Development time, min 6 ½ 5 ¾ 4 ½
Stability, min 10 11 9 ½
Length, cm 22 21 22
Maximum height, BU 715 690 670
Area, cm2 205 190 195
Short process bread
Absorption, % 68 69 68
Mixing time, min 7.0 9.8 10.3
Loaf volume, cc 1105 1130 1075

Canada Western Amber Durum (CWAD) Wheat

CWAD is the second largest class of western Canadian wheat, with average annual production near 5 million MT. Recently the quality model for CWAD wheat has undergone revision in response to changing market requirements (Dexter and Marchylo 2000). As mentioned earlier, the variety Hercules is the foundation for international acceptance of CWAD wheat. Since then advances in drying cycles and press technology have improved pasta color. As a result, there is more emphasis on pasta color in many markets. Also, increasing use of gluten strength measurements such as the SDS sedimentation test, gluten index and alveograph has made durum wheat processors more aware of gluten strength, and has increased the demand for varieties with stronger gluten.

In response to these changing market demands, Canada released several new CWAD varieties with better color and stronger gluten than Hercules. In 1999 two varieties with very strong gluten, AC Pathfinder and AC Navigator, were granted interim registration for test marketing as Extra-Strong (ES) CWAD. AC Navigator was well accepted, and it now has full registration. AC Navigator is marketed identity preserved from other CWAD varieties to take full advantage of market demand for strong gluten durum, and also to maintain uniform gluten strength within regular CWAD shipments.

Table 5. Quality data for some Canadian amber durum wheat cultivars. [1] [2]
Variety WPR % SDS ML GI % APL AW J x 10-4 70b* 90b* 70CS units 90CS units
¹ Source: Amber Durum Wheat Trials of the Prairie Regional Recommending Committee for Grain (1999). Wheat analytical data expressed on 13.5% mb; flour analytical data expressed on 14% mb. Test methods as described in CGC (2003b).
² WPR = wheat protein content;
SDS = SDS-sedimentation volume;
GI = gluten index;
APL = alveograph P/L;
AW = alveograph W;
70b* and 90b* = b* of spaghetti dried at 70°C and 90°C;
70CS and 90CS = cooking score of spaghetti dried at 70°C and 90°C, respectively;
IS = intermediate strength;
ES = extra strong.
Hercules Model
Hercules 14.0 55 40 0.19 109 66.1 67.9 28 43
Kyle 13.8 43 22 0.31 90 68.2 68.3 29 48
AC Avonlea 14.5 50 40 0.34 114 69.4 69.0 45 57
IS Model
AC Morse 14.4 60 62 0.48 177 67.9 69.0 40 58
AC Napoleon 14.1 55 62 0.39 140 72.8 72.8 40 53
ES Model
AC Pathfinder 13.6 74 93 0.67 260 68.0 69.1 39 49
AC Navigator 13.7 63 86 0.71 192 74.1 74.2 45 52

The direction of the Canadian durum wheat breeding program is apparent from quality data of breeding lines from the 1999 Amber Durum Wheat C-Test (Table 5). Kyle, registered in 1984 and still accounting for nearly 50% of CWAD production in 2003, is comparable in gluten strength to Hercules, as measured by sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS) sedimentation, gluten index (GI), and alveograph P/L (APL) and W (AW) values. AC Avonlea, registered in 1997, has Hercules-type strength, but improved wheat protein content, and has consistently exhibited superior pasta cooking quality. AC Avonlea also has improved pasta yellowness as indicated by higher b* values for spaghetti dried at 70°C and 90°C. AC Morse, registered in 1996, and AC Napoleon, registered in 1999, are typical of the new CWAD quality model that all future CWAD varieties must meet. AC Napoleon exhibits improved pasta yellowness. AC Morse and AC Napoleon both exhibit significantly stronger gluten properties than the Hercules model. Another durum wheat line with improved quality, DT 712, was supported for registration in 2003.

AC Navigator and AC Pathfinder, the ES-CWAD varieties, exhibit a further incremental increase in gluten strength, as evident from much higher SDS, GI, APL and AW. Test marketing of the ES-CWAD varieties met with positive response by some customers of CWAD, whereas other customers expressed preference for more conventional CWAD strength. For example, dough extensibility is required for production of fresh pasta, which is usually sheeted. In markets that expressed preference for ES-CWAD, AC Navigator met with greater acceptance than AC Pathfinder due to superior pasta yellowness. This underscores the emerging importance of pasta yellowness in the international marketplace.

As seen in Table 5, when used on their own, the extra-strength of the new CWAD and ES-CWAD varieties does not seem to offer much of a cooking quality advantage over less strong varieties. However, an advantage of the extra strength of AC Pathfinder and AC Navigator, is that when they are blended with weak low protein varieties, gluten strength and pasta texture of the blends are improved more than when weak low protein varieties are blended with less strong durum varieties (Dexter et al. 2001).

All CWAD varieties must have high test weight to assure high semolina yield. Semolina refinement is equally important – semolina millers must meet maximum ash and/or minimum brightness specifications, so CWAD varieties must produce bright semolina with of low ash content. Protein content must be high because it is the primary factor associated with pasta texture. Not only must pasta be intensely yellow (high b*), but it must show no evidence of browning (high L* and low a*) because of the importance of color in marketing premium pasta.

Table 6. Quality of No 1 CWAD and AC Navigator from the 2003 western Canadian harvest. ¹ ²
Property No 1 CWAD No 1 AC Navigator
¹ Source: For CWAD: Quality of 2003 western Canadian wheat (CGC 2003b).
² Data reported on a 13.5% moisture basis for wheat and a 14.0% moisture basis for flour.
Test weight, kg/hL 82.3 82.5
Protein content, % 13.6 13.4
Falling Number, s 420 440
Semolina yield, % 65.4 66.7
Milling yield, % 74.1 76.2
Protein content, % 12.5 12.4
Gluten index, % 21 59
Ash content 0.62 0.63
Agtron color, % 86 82
P (height X 1.1), mm 47 67
Length (L), mm 106 104
P/L 0.4 0.6
W, X 10-4 J 106 202
Spaghetti dried at 70C
L* 77.8 76.4
a* 2.5 4.5
b* 68.6 74.4
Cooked firmness, g-cm 1012 1064

There are four milling grades of CWAD. If requested, the top two grades of CWAD are marketed on a guaranteed protein content basis. Quality of both No 1 CWAD and No 1 AC Navigator from the 2003 western Canadian harvest are shown in Table 6. The future direction of the CWAD breeding program will be determined by dialog with users of Canadian durum wheat.

Minor Classes of Western Canadian Wheat

There are five other established classes of common wheat in western Canada: Canada Western Extra Strong (CWES), Canada Western Red Winter (CWRW) Canada Prairie Spring Red (CPSR), Canada Prairie Spring White (CPSW) and Canada Western Soft White Spring (CWSWS). A hard white spring wheat class was established in 2002, and is undergoing test marketing. There are two milling grades for CWES, CPSR and CPSW, and three milling grades for CWRW and CWSWS, but because of relatively small quantities, these classes usually are exported under the grade designation ‘No 2 or better’. Typical quality for 2002 export cargoes for CWES, CWRW, CPSR and CPSW are shown in Table 7. CWSWS has not been exported in significant quantities in recent years.

Table 7. Quality of No 2 CWES, No 2 CWRW, No 2 CPS-R and No 2 CPSW export cargoes. ¹ ²
Property No 2 CWES No 2 CWRW No 2 CPSR No 2 CPSW
¹ Source: Quality of western Canadian wheat exports. February 1 to July 31, 2002 (CGC 2002a). Test methods as described in CGC (2003b).
² Data reported on a 13.5% moisture basis for wheat and a 14.0% moisture basis for flour. BU = Brabender units.
³ Farinograph data for CWES determined at 90 rpm because CWES is too strong to develop at normal farinograph speed of 63 rpm.
Test weight, kg/hL 80.9 80.1 82.0 81.5
Protein content, % 13.3 11.0 11.5 11.8
Falling Number, s 310 365 340 360
Flour yield, % 75.3 75.7 75.0 75.3
Protein content, % 12.8 10.0 10.9 11.0
Ash content 0.56 0.46 0.50 0.53
Absorption, % 63.2³ 54.9 61.9 63.2
Development time, min 3 ¼ 5 ¼ 4
Stability, min -- 6 ½ 5 5
Length, cm 24 22 21 20
Maximum height, BU 715 450 535 380
Area, cm2 240 140 155 110

Canada Western Extra Strong (CWES) Wheat

CWES wheat is a hard red spring wheat with extraordinarily strong gluten. Annual production of CWES averages about 500 thousand MT, although in 2002 and 2003 production declined, partly due to drought, but also due to less market demand. There are two milling grades of CWES. CWES is intended as a dough strength ‘correctional’, or blending wheat. The very strong gluten allows millers to strengthen dough properties by adding relatively small amounts of CWES flour.

Canada Western Red Winter (CWRW) Wheat

CWRW is a hard red winter wheat class. Annual production averages less than one-half million MT, but has been increasing recently. Formerly, CWRW was grown primarily in southern Alberta where winters are milder than the rest of western Canada, but production has moved east into Saskatchewan and Manitoba with the development of varieties with improved winter hardiness. A major goal of the CWRW breeding program is to increase protein content, which typically is about 2% less than for CWRS, and to increase flour water absorption. CWRW can be blended with higher protein wheat and milled for high volume pan breads. On its own it is suited for hearth bread, flat bread and some types of Asian noodles.

Canada Prairie Spring Red (CPS-R) Wheat

Despite intensive efforts to breed high quality hard red winter for western Canada, combining sufficient winter hardiness with satisfactory processing quality has been very difficult. The CPSR class was introduced in 1985 as a hard red spring wheat substitute for hard red winter wheat. CPSR is intended for markets that require good milling and baking quality, but do not require the high protein content associated with CWRS wheat. CPSR wheat varieties are about 1.5 to 2% lower in intrinsic protein content than CWRS varieties, which makes CPSR lower in price per MT than CWRS. Producers of CPSR are compensated for that difference by the significantly higher yield potential of CPSR compared to CWRS.

It takes over ten years from the time a cross is made to the time a new variety is registered. Therefore, it is to the credit of Canadian wheat breeders that in 1996, just eleven years after the CPSR class was launched, AC Crystal, a CPSR variety with much improved dough strength and better flour water absorption compared to previous CPSR varieties, was released. AC Crystal has received very favorable response during subsequent test marketing. Two other CPSR varieties, PR 5700, registered in 2001, and PR 5701, registered in 2002, with even stronger dough than Crystal, are undergoing test marketing. They promise to impart further improvement in milling quality, dough strength and baking quality for the class.

Annual production of CPSR is approximately 1.5 million MT. CPSR is widely used domestically in the Canadian feed industry because of its high yield. CPSR has proven itself in diverse markets where it has been used to produce high quality hearth bread, flat bread and Asian noodles. As AC Crystal, PR 5700 and PR 5701 replace previously released varieties, thereby improving the quality of the class, the amount exported should increase.

Canada Prairie Spring White (CPSW) Wheat

The Canada Prairie Spring White (CPSW) wheat class was launched in 1990. The goal of the CPSW breeding program is to develop a class of hard white spring wheat that will find acceptance in high quality Asian noodle markets and Middle East flat bread markets, where white wheat is preferred. As with CPSR, intrinsic protein content is 1.5 to 2% lower than for CWRS, but producers are compensated for lower price by higher yields.

Quality of the class has been substantially improved with the registration of AC Vista in 1996, and AC2000, which was supported for registration in 2001. However, production is well below one-half million MT, and in decline. The recent development of high quality hard white spring wheat of higher protein content, which is discussed later, has made the future of the CPSW class uncertain.

Canada Western Soft White Spring (CWSWS) Wheat

CWSWS wheat is a lower protein, soft wheat with weak dough properties. Flour milled from this class is best suited for confectionary products (cookies, cakes and biscuits). It also has been used for crackers, flat bread, steamed bread and some types of Asian noodles. Most CWSWS wheat is grown under irrigation to minimize protein content for the domestic confectionary industry. In recent years production of this class has been less than ten thousand MT making none available for export.

High Protein Hard White Spring Wheat

The newest wheat class in western Canada is high protein hard white spring wheat. In February, 2000, BW 263 (now AC Kanata) and BW 264 (now AC Snowbird), hard white spring (HWS) wheat lines that have comparable protein content and dough strength to CWRS wheat, were recommended for interim registration in western Canada for test marketing. The Canadian Wheat Board has promoted increase of these varieties through contract programs, and sufficient quantities for international test marketing became available following the 2003 wheat harvest.

Tables 8 and 9 show quality data from field trails of AC Kanata and AC Snowbird, compared to the most widely grown CWRS variety, AC Barrie. The HWS cultivars match the milling performance of AC Barrie at traditional western flour extraction rates. Ambalamaatil et al. (2002) showed that when milled to high extraction (> 80%) the HWS cultivars give an increasing flour color advantage over hard red spring wheat as flour extraction rate increases.

Table 8. Milling and baking quality of the CWRS variety AC Barrie compared to the high protein hard white wheat varieties AC Kanata and AC Snowbird. ¹
Property AC Barrie AC Kanata AC Snowbird
¹ Source: Central Bread Wheat Trials of the Prairie Regional Recommending Committee for Grain (2000). Wheat analytical data expressed on 13.5% mb; flour analytical data expressed on 14% mb. Test methods as described in CGC (2003b).
Test weight, kg/hL 82.0 80.9 81.1
Falling Number, s 405 425 415
Protein content, % 14.2 14.5 14.2
Flour yield, % 75.8 75.7 74.8
Protein content, % 13.4 13.7 13.6
Ash content, % 0.44 0.42 0.42
Absorption, % 64.8 66.3 67.3
Development time, min 5 ½ 5 ¾ 5 ½
Stability, min 8 ½ 9 ½ 7 ½
Short process bread
Absorption, % 70 70 71
Mixing time, min 10.2 13.4 10.9
Loaf volume, cc 1135 1105 1125
Table 9. Yellow alkaline noodle properties of the CWRS variety AC Barrie compared to the high protein hard white wheat varieties AC Kanata and AC Snowbird. ¹
Property AC Barrie AC Kanata AC Snowbird
¹ Source: Central Bread Wheat Trials of the Prairie Regional Recommending Committee for Grain (2000). Test methods as described in CGC (2003b). Noodle specks determined as described by Hatcher and Symons (2000).
Color and appearance:
L* 77.8 78.1 78.2
a* 0.66 0.29 -0.03
b* 27.0 25.3 26.4
Visible specks 199 41 30
Texture: %
Firmness, g/mm 28.8 28.1 27.8
Recovery, % 33.9 35.6 36.0

AC Kanata and AC Snowbird are doubled haploid lines developed from a cross between the CWRS variety AC Domain and a white seeded derivative of an elite hard red spring wheat breeding line. Therefore, as might be expected, the HWS cultivars exhibit high water absorption, strong, well balanced dough properties and high loaf volume, similar to CWRS, and are fully interchangeable with CWRS with, at most, minimal milling and baking adjustments.

In Asian noodle markets HWS is intended as multi-purpose wheat for production of high quality bread and noodles, particularly yellow alkaline noodles which are made from high protein flour. A major advantage of HWS wheat over red seed coated wheat like CWRS is much improved yellow alkaline noodle appearance, as evident from far fewer visible bran specks compared to AC Barrie (Table 9). Yellow alkaline noodle brightness (L*), redness (a*) and yellowness (b*) values are also excellent. Yellow alkaline noodle texture is equal to or better than CWRS.