The Saskatchewan Wheat Development Commission, or Sask Wheat, has a new chair and vice-chair. On Tuesday, it was announced the commission's board of directors had elected two southeast producers into the positions. Jake Leguee, who farms near Fillmore, was voted in as the chair, while Jocelyn Velestuk, who farms near Broadview, was elected vice chair.
Leguee is in his seventh year as a director with Sask Wheat, first being elected in 2017, and re-elected in 2021.
"I'm very familiar with the organization, been with it a long time," Leguee said. "I have a bit of experience with sharing with the CWRC (Canadian Wheat Research Coalition) and the research committee, so I feel comfortable stepping into this role at this point."
Noting that it is humbling to be given the role of chair, Leguee added that it feels great the other directors have put their confidence and their faith in him to lead the organization.
Leguee is taking over the role with several recent developments for Sask Wheat. One of those has been the amalgamation with the Saskatchewan Winter Cereal Development Commission, a process that started in 2022, and wrapped up on August 1st of last year.
"Winter Cereals, for a long time, it struggled to keep a consistent amount of acres going in every year to generate enough checkoff dollars to fund research into better winter wheat varieties, improved agronomy practices, post-production stuff," Leguee said of the amalgamation. "It was very difficult for them to fund all that because they still needed administration. They still needed that type of work to get done, and that was dominating a good chunk of their budget, so by us being able to take that part of it on, we can get a lot more dollars going towards winter wheat research, and in all honesty, a lot of research that goes into spring wheat projects often has a winter wheat component, and it just makes sense for those two to be funded together."
Then, the day after the announcement of the new chair, Sask Wheat announced $1.8 million in funding for 17 research projects. Leguee noted every year they collaborate with many organizations to fund research, with a focus on wheat in terms of variety, development, agronomy, and post-production. The funding for these projects comes through the Agriculture Development Fund, and getting to see these projects early on is, for Leguee, a highlight of the job.
He noted there were a few that were of particular interest to him right now.
"There's a project identifying newly emerging and mass mycotoxins in cereal grains," he said. "There's an artificial intelligence project to detect sprout damage and there's a lot of work being done to enhance the Sm1 wheat midge resistance trait."
Leguee explained the trait is a single source of resistance, so if the wheat midge were to ever overcome it, and become resistant to the trait, they would lose it and never get it back.
"It's really important that we steward it, but also that we find new ways to combat wheat midge."
Overall, the funding Sask Wheat has provided for research since 2014 has totalled just under $19 million, which Leguee said is a lot of money going towards improving wheat varieties and wheat agronomy for Saskatchewan producers.