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Shifting pulse variety development landscape will see royalty-free options decrease in the coming years

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January 12, 2022

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The 20-year pulse breeding agreement between the Saskatchewan Pulse Growers’ Association (SPG) and the Crop Development Centre is changing, and that has many farmers asking what happens next.

Previously, varieties that came out of the SPG/CDC agreement were released royalty-free for producers. Before the expiry of the agreement, the CDC notified SPG of their intentions to pursue multiple funding partners to release varieties with royalties.

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“After we were notified of that, initially our hope was that we’d continue in a similar fashion,” says Shaun Dyrland, chair of SPG and farmer at Kyle, Sask.

What happens to the varieties that were developed through the CDC under the prior agreement? Dyrland says they will remain royalty-free, depending on where the variety was in the development cycle prior to the end of the agreement in 2020.

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“There will be varieties that will be released that will be royalty-free this year, and continuing for some time that they’ll be royalty-free,” he says.

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“We’re going to take an investor mindset going forward with our breeding partnership,” says Dyrland, on SPG’s principle going into any agreement with future breeding partners. Dyrland adds that there has to be a benefit for producers and if the breeding partner wants to put royalties on the variety, there has to be a return on the investment or a portion of return to royalty stream to further advance pulse breeding and market development for producers.

SPG wants to minimize high costs associated with seed — the value of what’s been invested in a crop is often captured in the cost of seed. The organization doesn’t have anything exclusive with one breeding partner, says Dyrland, and that they’ll be pursuing multiple partners.

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It’s a big shift to go from no royalties and one seed breeder, and Dyrland says the feedback from their producers has been all over the board.

For consistency’s sake, the CDC is still on the list of potential breeding partners, pending new terms.

“There’s a long way to go in breeding and there’s definitely some challenging things to work on,” says Dyrland. The pressure will be on the new breeding partners to deliver on some of the challenges with pulse crops.