Fungus spoiling P.E.I. wheat
There will be less milling wheat grown on P.E.I. next year, because too much of what is currently grown is being rejected at the grain elevators due to high levels of fusarium blight.
Melvin Ling, a central P.E.I. farmer, had all of his wheat rejected this year. Ling has already cut back how much he grows and he'll cut back again next year.
"A lot of people are not going to bother growing it at all, because the last number of years a lot of it hasn't made milling wheat," Ling told CBC News Thursday.
P.E.I.'s sometimes wet and humid weather is perfect for fusarium blight, which sometimes infects the plants. The blight causes a toxin that Health Canada says can be dangerous to humans.
Recently there was a change in how the wheat is tested at the grain elevator. For years the grains were examined by eye for any tell tale signs of disease. Now a more scientific test is being used. Previously close to 90 per cent of the crop brought to the elevator would make the grade for flour. This year only half the wheat was accepted.
The rejected grain goes to animal feed, at a much lower price for the farmer.
Climate change an issue
Michael Delaney of the P.E.I. Grain Elevator Corporation said while more stringent testing could be a factor in higher rejection rates, climate change is also having an impact in making the wheat more susceptible.
"Because it's just like a cold. This organism's out there and if the plant is in the mode where it's receptive to infection, and the weather aggravates it and it's stressed, it could come down with it," said Delaney.
Ling and others hope that research into new wheat varieties, more resistant to fusarium, could make milling wheat a viable crop on the Island. But that won't help next year.
"People that are into the plant breeding are working on varieties, but that takes a long time to come," he said.
A few years ago there was hope milling wheat would be a profitable crop for Island farmers, but it seems for now that dream has been dashed.