As drought ravaged crops across the Prairies this past summer, it was once again made abundantly clear farmers can’t control the weather. On the Prairies, crop losses in dry years can range from 30 to more than 50 per cent of average yield.
Grain companies and certain industry groups would like to see Canadian Grain Commission’s (CGC) outward inspection practice halted. They insist it is a duplicate service, as these companies typically hire independent firms to complete grain inspections. Is it a matter of “double trouble” or “twice is nice?” It depends whom you ask.
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.
The farming industry is taking the COVID-19 pandemic seriously. Obviously, there’s a lot riding on the continued good health of the farm community and the uninterrupted production of food.
Knowledge is everything in controlling a difficult pest such as wireworm. “You’ve got to know your enemy,” said Haley Catton, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) research scientist. With funding from the Alberta Wheat Commission and the Western Grains Research Foundation, she has led a three-year project that will produce a huge amount of wireworm data and contribute to integrated management approaches.
With early snowfalls having impacted harvests in recent years, the time couldn’t be better for Dean Spaner’s wheat breeding program to hit its stride. A University of Alberta professor and plant breeder, Spaner focuses on bringing high-yielding but early-maturing wheat varieties to market. It’s a natural fit for the northernmost wheat breeding program on the continent.
Research plots dot the Prairie landscape and provide farmers a glimpse of what may come from new crop varieties in yield, disease resistance, standability and more. About the size of a pickup truck and just as numerous across Alberta, these plots are an inescapable component of agricultural research. However, dimensions and conditions continually leave something to be desired. Highly manicured and cared for by research scientists in specialized environments, the plots don’t simulate real life and that’s a real problem for farmers who farm sections, not square centimetres.
The world’s food demand is increasing, but its supply of agricultural land is not. The challenge faced by the farming industry is to increase productivity, improve food security and boost farm income on a land base that is fixed, or in some cases, shrinking. One of the best strategies to address all these related demands is to encourage innovative scientific research.