Wheat originated in the Middle East thousands of years ago. In Canada wheat cultivation commenced around 1605 near Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia.[i] It is believed that Selkirk settlers from Scotland were the first to successfully harvest wheat in Western Canada, near present day Manitoba, in the early 1800’s.[ii] [iii] However, Mennonites who came from Russia to southern Manitoba were the first to produce wheat in the open prairies in 1874[iv]. Since then wheat has been the “economic fairy to the industrial and commercial life of Canada having built the whole economic structure of the Prairie Provinces.”[v]
The development of wheat variety Marquis, as a globally premium valued wheat successfully grown by farmers is considered as one of the most important Canadian innovations of the 20th century.[vi] At present wheat is grown throughout Canada, and mostly throughout the Canadian Prairies – with Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan being the three major growing provinces.
Canada has one of the most strict variety registration and quality control system in the world. Canadian scientists and wheat breeders use the latest scientific innovations to develop new field ready cultivars to meet the changing needs of customers.[vii]
In Canada, from 2010 – 2012, wheat has been seeded to 8.2 to 9.3 million hectares producing about 23.1 to 26.1 million metric tonnes. Today, Canada is one of the largest agricultural producers and exporters in the world with close to 70 per cent of produced wheat exported, earning valuable foreign exchange and adding to Canadian economy.[viii]
[i] Campbell, A.B. and Shebeski, L. 1986. Wheat in Canada – Past and present. Pages 1 – 14 in A. E. Slinkard and D.B. Fowler (eds.) Wheat production in Canada: A review. Proceedings of the Canadian wheat production symposium 1986, Saskatoon, SK, Canada.
[ii] Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. Early History of Wheat Growing in Canada. http://www4.agr.gc.ca/AAFC-AAC/display-afficher.do?id=1181305178350
[iii] Buller, A.H. R. 1919. Essays on wheat. The Macmillan Company, New York, USA.
[iv]Ellis, J.H. 1970. The Ministry of Agriculture of Manitoba, 1870 – 1970. Manitoba Department of Agriculture, Winnipeg, MB.
[v]Newman, L.H. 1928. The history and present status of wheat production in Canada. Dominion of Canada, Department of Agriculture Pamphlet No. 89.
[vi]Rawlinson, H.G. and Granatstein, J.L. 1997. The Canadian One Hundred: the 100 influential Canadians of the twentieth century. Pages 15-18. McArthur & Company, Toronto, ON, Canada.
[vii]DePauw, R.M. 2011. History of Canada Western Hard Red Spring Wheat Improvement in Canada. In Chibbar, R.N. and Dexter, J.E. (eds.) Wheat Science Dynamics: Challenges and opportunities AACCInternational Inc. St Paul MN, USA. Pp 47-58.
[viii]Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. Canada: Outlook for Principal Field Crops. Market Analysis Group/Grains and Oilseeds Division. Sector Development and Analysis Directorate/Market and Industry Services Branch. Dated October 18, 2021