Cluster focuses on agronomy

Federal Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay, left, talks with Garth Patterson and Keith Degenhardt of the Western Grain Research Foundation July 12 about a new research cluster focused on agronomy.  |  William DeKay photo

A new research cluster is expected to provide a much-needed cohesive approach to multi-crop issues, say industry and government officials.

The Integrated Crop Agronomy Cluster will receive as much as $9 million over five years under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership’s AgriScience program.

The federal government is investing $6.3 million in funding to the Western Grains Research Foundation, while industry is contributing another $2.7 million.

“In the past, the multi-crop approach to work on these issues didn’t exist in a cluster form. That’s what is unique about this — it’s a new approach,” said Garth Patterson, executive director of WGRF.

Within the cluster, eight research activities will be done, which range from soil health to herbicide resistance and climate change adaptation.

Keith Degenhardt, a director at the WGRF, said this latest cluster will take a whole-farm approach to research that will communicate results to producers, agronomists and scientists.

He said farmers face agronomic challenges that cut across multiple crops, and there are gaps in multi-crop and systems approaches to agronomic issues.

Some of these include soil health, crop rotations, adapting to climate change and dealing with threats such as weeds, insects and disease.

Co-ordination between various commodity organizations is also what makes this particular cluster unique.

Other funding agencies include Alberta Pulse Growers, the Alberta Wheat Commission, the Brewing and Malting Barley Research Institute, the Manitoba Canola Growers Association, Manitoba Pulse and Soybean Growers, the Manitoba Wheat and Barley Growers Association, the Prairie Oat Growers Association, the Saskatchewan Canola Development Commission, the Saskatchewan Wheat Development Commission and Saskatchewan Pulse Growers.

“There are some really good, focused, single-crop research done by commodity organizations, but some of these affect all crops and the whole farm. So that was the motivation and that’s why we have so much support from the crop commissions because it affects all farmers,” said Patterson.

Federal Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay, who is on a nation-wide tour, was in Saskatoon to help announce the investment.

He said the investment is important in helping the government achieve its goal of exporting $75 billion worth of agriculture and agri-food products by 2025.

The new research cluster will also help deliver solutions to boost crop yields while helping farmers manage the effects of climate change.

“Without a question, now we’re working on the area of environment and also to make sure that dealing with the environment we’re also making sure we’re increasing production,” he said.

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