Arborg, Man., located 103 kilometres north of Winnipeg, has a population of around 1,250. PHOTO: Laura Nilsson

New oat variety named after Manitoba farming community in honour of seed industry veteran Ron Weik.

The town of Arborg has something to be proud of. A new oat set to hit the market in 2020 is being named after this quiet little Manitoba farming community, and it’s all because of its very own Ron Weik.

Weik, a seed industry veteran who serves as seed portfolio manager for FP Genetics, has been honoured by the Crop Development Centre (CDC) at the University of Saskatchewan for his seed industry contributions with the naming of this newly registered oat variety — CDC Arborg.

“I never really thought about receiving this type of honour. It is emotionally humbling to be recognized in this way,” Weik says.

Weik has dedicated much of his time to the seed industry and over the past 15 years has served on the Intellectual Property, Western Cereals and Oilseeds, and the External Relations Committees with the Canadian Seed Trade Association. He also recently attended his 25th Prairie Grain Development Committee (PGDC) Variety Recommending Committee meeting. He has served 14 years on the Quality Committee for Wheat, Rye and Triticale.

Aaron Beattie, oat and barley breeder at the Crop Development Centre where CDC Arborg was developed, says that Weik’s contributions to the seed industry made him more than deserving of the honour.

“Ron has been a good promoter of our oat varieties over the years, ensuring they are exposed to producers and the North American oat milling industry,” Beattie says.

Ron Weik

For example, the placement of CDC Ruffian in 2016 on the Grain Millers Preferred Variety list, and the concurrent use of a certified seed contracting program with Grain Millers, provides a lot of value to the CDC.

“[Ron] provides an honest and knowledgeable opinion on variety potential with growers and end-users, which has been much appreciated.”

Kofi Agblor, managing director of the CDC, says that plant breeders rely on seed industry representatives like Weik to responsibly move varieties out to commercial success.

“Consider that a few hundred kilograms of breeder seed leaves the breeders’ hands and in three years, a few thousand tonnes of certified seed is released for commercial production — all done under protocols that maintain genetic purity and seed quality.”

Oats in Arborg

The history of oats and the town of Arborg are intertwined, notes Lorne Floyd, founder and owner of the Arborg-based Floyd Seed & Oat Processors.

“Oats have been grown here for 120 years, first as feed for horses, and in more recent years for human consumption as people have recognized the crop’s nutritional benefits,” Floyd says. He remembers going to school with Weik in Arborg in the 1960s. “It’s quite an honour to have an oat named after us.”

Randy Sigurdson, the mayor of Arborg, agrees. He, too, went to school with Weik all those decades ago.

“We’re a small town, and it’s great to be recognized like this,” he says.

Oats have a long history in Arborg.

Arborg, located 103 kilometres north of Winnipeg, has a population of around 1,250. Weik attended Arborg’s Homer School, which was one of the last rural one-room schoolhouses in Manitoba. He then completed high school in Arborg. He graduated from the University of Manitoba with a degree in agricultural economics in 1968.

After a few years working for an ag consulting company in Winnipeg, he moved to Regina in 1971. There, he worked for the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool in various roles until 2003, when he retired from his first career.

Shortly after that, Weik started his second career in the seed business with Quality Assured Seeds and later moved to his current position with FP Genetics. He has spent his entire second career as seed portfolio manager, where he is responsible for selecting new seed varieties and then acquiring licenses for those varieties for FP Genetics.

At FP Genetics, Weik has been responsible for the success of several key crop varieties, including the very successful AC Harvest and CDC Utmost, which have both been the most popular wheat varieties in Western Canada. He has also been responsible for the success of several oat varieties such as AC Summit and CDC Minstrel. Weik is also proud of the new rye hybrids that were licensed from KWS for use in Canada.

CDC Arborg combines excellent yield potential and very good lodging resistance with a very good nutritional profile, good milling yield, and high kernel plumpness. Weik will keenly track the success of CDC Arborg as farmers and oat processors adopt it when it comes to market in 2020, he says.

“This isn’t something you do on your own. You have to work collaboratively with all stakeholders, and have the support of your family and the seed companies I have worked with,” Weik says of receiving the honour.

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