Flavio Capettini and the FCDC: Keeping Canadian Barley Competitive
Flavio Capettini looks off into a barley field during FCDC’s Field Day in Lacombe. Photo credit – Field Crop Development Centre.
For 42 years, the Field Crop Development Centre (FCDC) in Lacombe has been breeding new and innovative barley, triticale and wheat varieties for Canadian farmers.
As the head of research at the FCDC, Flavio Capettini currently oversees all of the research and testing that takes place.
Capettini fell into this line of work naturally. He started working on plant breeding in 1988 and specialized in barley breeding when he worked as the head of the malting barley-breeding program in Uruguay.
Since joining the FCDC team in 2013, Capettini has utilized this wealth of experience to help maintain the quality and competitiveness of Canadian barley.
After all, says Capettini, the ultimate goal of the FCDC is to produce better varieties.
“We are always looking for something better so that the growers have more stability and the general public can be offered better products,” Capettini explains.
The research conducted here is supported by the Albertan government, and since the ‘70s, the FCDC has produced 40 varieties of barley, spring triticale, winter triticale and winter wheat.
According to Capettini, there’s not one singular quality trait that is more desirable than others when breeding new barley varieties. It depends on what the barley is used for. Right now, Alberta’s barley has four main end-uses: animal feed, forage, malt and human consumption. The main traits that Capettini regards as essential in breeding are yield, crop appearance, final product quality and, for food barley, better flavour and nutritional values.
“Disease resistance is another trait and that is very important,” says Capettini. “This makes barley more sustainable as pesticides aren’t needed.”
At the moment, testing and producing a new variety of barley takes between 12 and 14 years, says Capettini, adding, “But we’re working to shorten that process to eight or nine years.”
To ensure the barley is the best quality that it can be, the FCDC test varieties from everywhere in the world.
“We use our gene bank as a source of good traits and we combine all those good traits together in a new variety,” says Capettini.
It’s difficult to say where barley breeding will go in the future, but Capettini is confident that, regardless of where the industry is headed, barley breeding will be needed.
“We don’t have a crystal ball,” he adds, laughing. “But we do know that we will always need food and growers will always need new varieties to offer better products.”
According to Capettini, breeding crops has been essential for more than 10,000 years. In 10 to 15 years, barley breeding can ensure more and better food is produced to feed the increasing world population.