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Saskatchewan River: Dream of Wheat

Prosperous farmers feed the world

More on the Saskatchewan River:
Saskatchewan River:
From glaciers to grasslands

Early Bird:
Beaked dinosaur is missing link to birds

Dry Bones:
Dinosours abound in Alberta’s badlands

Plains Speaking:
Pioneer in the fight for women’s rights

Last Stand:
The Northwest Rebellions ends Métis autonomy

End of Steel:
Canada's northernmost metropolis

Dirty Thirties:
Prairie life in the era of the Bennett Buggy

Unwild West:
Mounties keep order on the Prairies

Dream of Wheat:
Prosperous farmers feed the world

Wonder City:
Saskatoon sprouts from the Prairie

Wheat is Canada's most important crop. Flour from Canadian wheat is prized by French bakers as the best for baguettes. Italian gourmets demand it to knead, roll, and cut into strips of spaghetti, lasagna, and linguini. The main ingredient of the pasta purchased from food stores in North Battleford may well have made a return trip to Italy.

More than half of Canada's wheat grows in the grain belt of Saskatchewan which includes both the north and south branches of the Saskatchewan River. The region often is called, “breadbasket to the world.”

The success of wheat farming in the pioneering years was only intermittent and unreliable in the golden Prairies. Many European species of wheat were tried but none fared very well in the too-short Canadian growing season that usually ended abruptly, with a killing, autumn frost.

New strains of wheat suited to the prairie soils and unpredictable climate had to be bred before the industry could prosper on the Prairies.

Uneven rainfall from year to year is another challenge to prairie agriculture. After the devastating droughts of the 1930s, farmers were urged to excavate pools, called dugouts, to collect the spring runoff. The water is used later in the season to irrigate crops.

Since the 1940s, government research stations have been developing and testing new strains of wheat. Strong stems, the ability to withstand drought, disease, and insects such as the wheat-stem saw-fly, and a high yield of grain are the desired qualities.

Marquis wheat, first developed as a mixed variety, was superior because of its early maturing characteristic and its ability to withstand gale-force winds. Marquis wheat expanded the region where quality wheat could be grown.

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