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Federal cuts put greater onus for funding on grower groups

Corn and soybeans Commodity groups partner to purchase row crop seeder and harvester for research projects

Agriculture Canada cutbacks and university budget deficits have left less money for agriculture research.

The shortage has prompted the Manitoba Pulse Growers Association to dedicate more time and money to research that directly serves its members.

“There are cuts everywhere, from people to programs,” said executive director Roxanne Lewko.

“It’s falling on the grower groups to step up. If we want to see (research) done, we have to take a bigger role in making sure (it happens).”

The MPGA and the Manitoba Corn Growers Association recently announced that they will buy a row crop seeder and row crop harvester to use on corn and soybean plots in the province. The commodity groups will spend $100,000 each on the equipment, and the federal government will cover the remaining $242,000.

Lewko said buying research equipment is a first for the MPGA because it normally invests in research projects rather than machinery.

University of Manitoba scientists will be the primary users of the plot-sized equipment, which is suited for research on corn, soybeans and pulse crops.

The corn and pulse grower associations needed to commit cash for the machinery because the U of M cannot write a large cheque to a combine or seeder manufacturer.

“It seems like (universities) … their funding mechanisms for research equipment has basically disappeared,” Lewko said.

MPGA members are also participating in strip trials on soybean plant populations and inoculants.

Ron Tone, owner of Tone Ag Consulting in St. Pierre, Man., who co-ordinates the strip trials for the MPGA, said this kind of on-farm research offers necessary and timely answers to agronomic questions.

As an example, Manitoba soybean growers wanted to know this spring if they should apply a granular inoculant as well as rhizobia coated on the seed. If so, how much granular inoculant should they apply?

“I couldn’t answer them because there’s nothing out there except Ontario and North Dakota research,” Tone said.

To answer the question, Tone recruited 10 soybeans growers to conduct strip trials in their fields this summer.

He said convincing growers to participate can be a challenge because they aren’t paid for strip trials.

However, he said growers need to understand that their efforts can significantly affect the bottom line.

“Most guys are spending around the $10 mark (on inoculant), but some are spending as much as $20 an acre for the extra granular inoculant,” Tone said.

“If a guy has a 1,000 acres, even at $10 (per acre) that is $10,000.”

Tone said participating in strip trials also offers producers a window into data interpretation and variability of results.

For instance, the data might show there is a 20 percent chance of a yield benefit from applying both granular and seed coated inoculant. Growers can make an informed decision if they know the probabilities, the cost of inoculant and the price of soybeans.

“Then it’s in their hands to decide if this is worthwhile.”

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