Each year, the province’s wheat and barley farmers invest heavily in research and innovation. In fact, the Alberta Wheat Commission (AWC) and Alberta Barley reserve the largest part of their respective budgets for this programming area—between $4.5 and $5 million annually combined. And while farmers set the priorities and make funding decisions, the commissions’ research team makes sure they get the maximum return on investment from every dollar.
On coffee farms across Central and South America, a vicious invader called coffee rust has devastated the livelihoods of farmers and forced them off their land. In Colombia, a long-feared nightmare known as Panama disease, which destroyed banana production in Asia and then the Middle East in the 1990s, now threatens to end global banana production as we know it. Closer to home, a whole list of epidemic diseases from wheat stem rust to potato and tomato late blight have spread through cropland and have bitten into yield.
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.
Pests are a top concern for farmers, especially those with limited management options. Wireworms are one pervasive example. A misnomer, they are not actually worms but rather the larval form of click beetles. These sneaky creatures can wreak havoc on fields as they hollow out seeds and shred stems in cereal crops. Hard to identify and even harder to manage, these small but mighty pests can devastate entire fields.
Nearly 38 years after he entered the industry, George Clayton remains fully enamoured with agriculture. From his first position in which he studied soil conservation and no-till to later research on integrated crop management with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Clayton simply loved his work. Even after retirement, leaving the world of crops and soil behind wasn’t an option. He traded one kind of field work for another, and now spends his days, and nights, chasing down the best Alberta farm scenes with a camera. What started as a hobby Clayton practiced in his spare time has turned into a second career as he captures the beauty of Prairie farms.
Agricultural research facilities are critical to the forward momentum of Peace Country farming. Established in 1917, the Beaverlodge Research Farm is the most northerly Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada research centre. The wide scope of its programming reflects the sheer size of the region. This encompasses research on forage production and integrated crop management as well as disease and pest management and honey bee pathology.
Farmers across Canada are encouraged to hit the books and go back to school this off-season with MNP and Farm Management Canada. The two organizations have teamed up to help farmers increase their financial literacy by offering free online courses designed to explain important concepts specific to agriculture.
The cover story of our upcoming fall issue, “The Peace process” encompasses a discussion as wide as the Peace itself. It may be literally located in the backwoods, but the Peace is full of farmers who are forward thinking, quick on their feet and always on the lookout for new ways to outplay local climate extremes and build business opportunities.
The United Nations (UN) announced its global Food Systems Summit will be held in October. As I write this, it is unclear whether the Summit will be an in-person, virtual or hybrid event. Whatever the case, the event will encompass a spectrum of topics related to the production, processing, transportation, marketing and consumption of food. It will build on earlier summits held in 1996, 2002 and 2009 with the goal to reduce global hunger.