While the nation expects agriculture to contribute to long-range carbon emissions reductions targets, agriculture has made huge gains in sustainability since the early 1990s. Naturally, farmers are frustrated by the lack of recognition for these positive developments.
In 2016, Rosthern, SK, barley farmer Matt Enns escaped the Prairie deep freeze to relax in the Florida sun for the winter. More than a mere getaway, he intended to use this time to formulate his next career move after having expanded his stake in the family farm. As fate would have it, while he calculated his agricultural future, he joined a craft beer club near Orlando for the duration of his holiday. Its enthusiastic young members hosted tasting events where they sampled new and unique local brews produced by Florida’s vibrant craft brewing industry. His time with the club inspired Enns to launch Maker’s Malt, a micro-maltster venture. Established in 2018, the business would in turn help inspire those in Saskatchewan’s fledgling craft beer industry to take flight.
Bacterial leaf streak (BLS) is a subtle intruder, but given the right conditions, it can cause significant yield loss and affect future crops in wheat and barley. Most commonly transmitted through contaminated seed, the disease has the cereal industry pushing on all fronts to break the chain of transmission, starting with the development of an effective seed test to help farmers manage the risk and prevent it from spreading.
Two research projects funded by the Alberta Wheat Commission (AWC) have made significant advances in cereal crop genetics. Overseen by Pierre Hucl of the Crop Development Centre (CDC) at the University of Saskatchewan, the first of these examined the viability of a new dwarfing gene in bread wheat. Secondly, Nora Foroud of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) developed new wheat and barley lines with improved resistance to Fusarium head blight (FHB).
Launched by the Wheat Initiative, an international research organization, the 10+ Wheat Genome Project has unlocked the genetic code of 15 wheat varieties. Curtis Pozniak, USask professor and director of the institution’s Crop Development Centre, led the project, which was funded by numerous organizations including the Alberta Wheat Commission and carried out by scientists in several countries.
Crop breeders test thousands of plant lines every year in small, individual test plots. Assessing these plants involves both quantitative and qualitative analysis, but new software aims to substantially refine the process. PlotVision is a new software service that collects data using unmanned aerial imagery (UAI) captured by drones. The data may help researchers predict harvest yield and assess disease resistance, accelerate the plant breeding process and the production of new crop varieties.
If you thought being the new kid in school was a lot of pressure, try being the new research chair at a place of higher learning. With the support of industry groups, three agricultural chairs recently appointed by western educational institutions are tasked with prioritizing and planning research efforts. As they take a seat at the farm research table, they aim to contribute to the betterment of the Prairie grain industry.