When fertilizer prices hit all-time highs and availability became a serious concern this past growing season, it naturally forced farmers to question whether they apply their primary input as efficiently as possible.
The Port of Prince Rupert is a remote but critical link in the Canadian crop export chain. Located in Prince Rupert Harbour just south of the Alaska Panhandle on British Columbia’s rugged Pacific coastline, its facilities are strung along a 20-kilometre stretch of Kaien Island, adjacent to the Prince Rupert townsite.
On a drive from Brooks to Lethbridge in mid-May, retired provincial agronomy researcher Ross McKenzie was literally stopped in his tracks by dust clouds. Carried by high winds across drought-stricken fields, the dirt was so thick it obscured the road ahead. Disappointed, he snapped a few photos and posted them on Twitter with a desperate plea for rain. McKenzie isn’t alone in his observations. Across the province, but especially in southern Alberta, farmers have noticed the return of this agricultural scourge once thought resolved.
Carbon credits, competition with China and AgriStability may have been the hot topics at a roundtable discussion between Peace Country farmers and Chrystia Freeland back in January 2020, but it was the childcare concerns raised by Fairview area agronomist Josefine Bartlett that seemed to leave the biggest impression on the deputy prime minister.
In her words, Shelly McElroy is attracted to a good Alberta story like a magpie after a shiny object. As the curator of the Pioneer Acres Museum in Irricana, her focus is lesser-known stories from Alberta’s agricultural history. This past March through September, McElroy was given the position of historian-in-residence at the Calgary Public Library, and Heritage Calgary, a charitable organization whose mandate is to “identify, preserve and promote” all things to do with the city’s heritage. Splitting time with her regular job, she dived into the Glenbow Library and Archive Western Research Centre at the University of Calgary, the Calgary Public Library Collection and resources held by Heritage Calgary to uncover farm tales of yesteryear.
Karen Tanino, a University of Saskatchewan plant sciences professor, and master’s student Ariana Forand, investigate how plants withstand multiple stresses such as heat, drought, cold and disease. The results of a study they recently completed could be used to help plants better withstand stresses caused by climate change and disease.
University of Missouri plant scientist Ron Mittler has discovered a new way to measure stress in plants using signalling molecules called reactive oxygen species (ROS). His work is especially timely given the challenges farmers face due to variable climates and extreme weather events. The results of Mittler’s work could be used to increase plant resilience in the face of environmental stress.