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Agronomy

MAKE IT WORK

The newly launchedIntegrated Agriculture Technology Centre (IATC) at Lethbridge College uses the school’s applied research expertise to advance innovative ag-tech ideas. Funded by a five-year, $1.75 million Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council grant received in April of 2020, it works with small- and medium-sized agribusinesses to take their products, processes and services to market. With this technology access centre [TAC] grant, the centre helps such entrepreneurs conduct research, test their products and boost productivity. In its first year of operation, the centre assisted 18 companies to secure more than $500,000 worth of external funding, which includes grants and cash from private investors.

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FARMERS TAKE PART IN RESPONSIBLE GRAIN CONSULTATION

The Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Crops (CRSC) released the results of its consultation on the Responsible Grain voluntary code of practice this month. The majority of participants do not support the draft as it is currently written. However, most provided constructive feedback the code development committee will use to improve and simplify the document.

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ATTACK OF THE LEGENDARY LOCUST

It defies imagination. A biblical-scale plague of locusts an estimated 500,000 square kilometres in size swept across the U.S. Midwest and into parts of Western Canada in 1875. The ravenous insects ate virtually everything in their path from crops to cloth. Described as a living eclipse of the sun, it is believed to have been the largest insect swarm in recorded history. Perhaps even more extraordinary, within 25 to 30 years of this legendary natural event, the Rocky Mountain locust (Melanoplus spretus) was declared extinct.

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GENETIC ADVANCES MULTIPLY

Two research projects funded by the Alberta Wheat Commission (AWC) have made significant advances in cereal crop genetics. Overseen by Pierre Hucl of the Crop Development Centre (CDC) at the University of Saskatchewan, the first of these examined the viability of a new dwarfing gene in bread wheat. Secondly, Nora Foroud of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) developed new wheat and barley lines with improved resistance to Fusarium head blight (FHB).

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THE 411 ON VAC

Canadian breeders have produced a promising suite of new malting barley varieties. Registered in recent years, varieties such as AAC Connect, CDC Bow and CDC Fraser are successors to older cultivars such as AC Metcalfe and CDC Copeland.

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COMEBACK CLASS

There was a time when Canadian Western Hard White Spring (CWHWS) wheat was touted as the next big minor class. Today, though, the class is virtually dead. Despite having lost its shine, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) wheat breeder Harpinder Randhawa believes CWHWS is poised to make a comeback thanks to a new, higher yielding variety he developed. While AAC Whitehead yields 21 per cent higher than previously established CWHWS varieties, industry experts believe it will take more than yield to revive the class. If the history of CWHWS has taught any lessons, it is that marketing, competition and quality all play a crucial role in determining the success of a wheat class. However, GrainsWest recently spoke with farmers and scientists who are cautiously optimistic about its return.

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BUGHOUSE FOR ENTOMOLOGY

One of the largest bug resources in the world is located right here in our backyard. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) maintains the Canadian National Collection (CNC) of Insects, Arachnids and Nematodes. Located at the Ottawa Research and Development Centre Central Experimental Farm in Ottawa, ON, the facility serves agricultural research in a number of key areas.

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POSSIBLE PEST OUTBREAK

Over the last several years, dry conditions have led to lower wheat midge levels in Western Canada, but spring rains in 2020 appear to have sparked a potential outbreak in various regions of the Prairies. Details and confirmation of these nascent flare-ups await release of data from the annual wheat midge survey. In the meantime, greater attention to midge management may well be required in the run-up to the incoming crop year.

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FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS

Beneficial insects are old news, at least to entomologists. However, their benefits, hence the name, are in the limelight once again. This is thanks to a recent promotional campaign and the reinforcement of the notion that positive alternatives beyond blanket spraying exist.

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