New research program focuses on agronomic practices

The Western Grains Research Foundation has launched a new research program aimed at increasing crop production and farm profitability through the promotion of improved agronomic practices.

The Systems Approach to Crop Sustainability program (SACS) will focus on crop risk management, crop rotations and soil fertility.

The five-year program has a budget of $4.32 million.

Participating researchers will be based at Agriculture Canada research facilities as well as Canadian universities, including the University of Saskatchewan, the University of Alberta, the University of British Columbia and the University of Guelph.

The research foundation spearheaded the program after consulting with producer organizations involved in promoting and producing cereal grains, oilseeds and pulse crops.

“Research in agronomy is vital to fully realize genetic gain and increase crop productivity,” said board chair Dave Sefton.

“The research activities involved in the SACS proposal will generate practical information that farmers can apply to their operations and increase profitability.”

Executive director Garth Patterson said the new program will include research in various areas of crop agronomy.

“It’s a chance to get some questions answered in areas of interest, such as the impact of high frequency canola rotations, the impact of micronutrients on crop fertility … soybean crop agronomy and so on,” he said.

Crop risk management will be a major theme with emphasis on fusarium management and the development of new agronomic strategies aimed at reducing disease-related crop losses.

Patterson said the foundation consulted with producer organizations that have first-hand knowledge of the agronomic challenges facing western Canadian farmers.

Funding will be split equally between the federal government and the foundation, whose share will come from its endowment fund.

Patterson said the SACS initiative is part of a larger WGRF effort to invest more money in agronomic research and ultimately to increases profits at the farm level.

The foundation has also commissioned a report aimed at assessing the current capacity for agronomic research.

It is expected to be complete in the next month or two and will be used to identify structural gaps in Western Canada’s agronomic research capacity, Patterson said.

“I think it’s well documented in research that productive potential of crops is impacted by a number of factors,” he said.

“The genetic potential (of crops) is one factor … the breeding is a factor and of course we all know that weather is a factor, but another factor is producer management that can be applied through agronomy. I think we’ve seen, over the years, a real decline in that type of research … for various reasons.”

Federal agriculture minister Gerry Ritz was in Saskatoon Oct. 17 to announce Ottawa’s support for the SACS initiative.

He said agronomic research into crop rotations, disease management, fungicide use and soil fertility will benefit producers and the environment.

“The future of Canadian agriculture depends on a solid foundation of scientific research and adoption of the best crop production methods,” Ritz said.

“Industry driven projects like this one help strengthen our crop sector and ensure that Canada remains a leaders in both crop production and agricultural innovation.”

Research contracts under the SACS program are being negotiated, and projects are expected to begin in the near future.

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