Hedgerows, hillsides too steep for tractors to climb and even grassy margins along fencelines serve as havens for beneficial insects and birds that play a pivotal role in pest control. Since the dust bowl days of the 1930s, shelterbelts composed of trees and mixed vegetation have mitigated soil erosion by wind and water. More recently, research has been carried out to assess the additional benefits such uncropped land may provide.
Over the past two years, University of Calgary plant breeder Marcus Samuel has demonstrated impressive drought-tolerant proof-of-concept improvements in wheat using an innovative, non-GMO breeding technique. The project has received $398,000 in funding from the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture, Results Driven Agricultural Research, the Alberta Wheat and Barley Commissions, SaskWheat and the Manitoba Crop Alliance. Samuel hopes to bring these same drought tolerance gains to elite wheat varieties nearing commercialization.
Established in February of this year, the Simpson Centre for Agricultural and Food Innovation and Public Education has already caught the attention of ag industry policy makers. Housed at The School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary, the new entity was established in partnership with the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine. The centre has been tasked with the mandate to build intellectual infrastructure for applied policy research in agri-food and agri-business.