Like his hero Henry Ford, Vermilion-area farmer, entrepreneur and self-taught mechanical engineer Danny Farkash aspires to reinvent existing machines and make them better. This past spring, GrainsWest visited the sprawling farmyard where he operates the thriving ironworks division of Noralta Farms and works on numerous side projects such as a portable sawmill operation and biodiesel factory.
Of all the variables in agriculture, from prices and pests to supplies and sun, water is perhaps the most difficult to manage. Most Alberta farmers may prefer to forget the 2021 season, which illustrated just how damaging a lack of it can be. In southern Alberta, drought can be mitigated by irrigation, and local scientists are at work to improve the practice.
A research project now underway at the Field Crop Development Centre at Olds College employs next-generation genotyping technologies to accelerate the improvement of feed and forage barley varieties and triticale forages. The work will also produce a genetic database that will be used in future breeding work.
Amanda Hardman believes the amount of plastic packaging used in the produce aisles of her local grocery store is unsustainable. As a solution, the second-year sustainable agriculture student at the University of Alberta developed a prototype clamshell package made of sugarcane fibre and intended to transport lettuce. Initially a 4-H Canada Science Fair project, it earned her a spot at the Bayer Youth Ag Summit 2021. “People are looking for packaging options other than plastics as it has either been banned in some places or discouraged in others,” said Hardman.
Using high-tech chemical analysis tools, Canadian Grain Commission researchers are examining wheat at the molecular level to better understand how gluten proteins vary from one variety to the next. Their aim is to reveal how these previously hidden variations affect dough and baking qualities.
With the use of new biotechnology processes known as gene editing, a revolution in plant breeding technology is now underway. Methods such as CRISPR/Cas9, the best-known gene editing process, can carry out targeted changes within crop and livestock genes. Naturally, there is fear within the farm and agri-food sectors that foods produced via this technology will face public resistance as GMO crops once did.
At first glance, the farmer’s role in helping Canada reach its ambitious goal of net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050 appears simple: lower emissions and adopt technology and alternative management practices that boost soil carbon sequestration. Many believe addressing the carbon equation offers economic advantages, too. Farmers who cut back on inputs subject to the carbon tax save money, and those who adopt so-called regenerative practices may participate in the growing carbon economy by collecting and selling carbon credits. While this sounds straightforward, it is anything but.