Research foundation identifies need for agronomy work

Western Canadian review Western Grains Research Foundation assessing the capacity of public institutions to address needs of industry

The Western Grains Research Foundation plans to review agronomic research capacity in Western Canada.

The WGRF announced Jan. 10 that it is seeking outside proposals to assess the capacity for agronomic research across the West.

The foundation has set aside $100,000 to pay for the review, which it wants to complete by May.

The process was launched in collaboration with the western Canadian farm and commodity organizations that form the WGRF’s membership.

Executive director Garth Patterson said outside organizations with an interest in agronomy research are also invited to contact the WGRF to see if they can participate in the process.

“Through our membership, we’ve really been hearing concerns that in the public sector, agronomy research capacity is not keeping pace with the growth in our industry,” Patterson said.

“If we have check-off dollars, for example, to invest and support public researchers, will the public researchers physically be in place and will they have access to the infrastructure that they need to carry out research that’s important to farmers? We want to get an assessment from a western Canadian perspective of what’s out there and what’s needed.”

Patterson said the assessment will measure agronomic research capacity in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia’s Peace River region.

It will examine capacity at research facilities run by the federal government, provincial governments, universities and private contractors as well as producer operated facilities.

It is also expected to provide a basis for future WGRF investments in agronomic research capacity covering crop management, fertility management, pest management and harvest practices.

“(The review) will allow us to begin having discussions with other farm groups about what we want to do about meeting any capacity needs that (are) … identified in the report,” Patterson said.

Industry responses to the assessment could include increasing investments in physical infrastructure such as research equipment, research facilities and land.

The process might also result in additional funding to support initiatives such as establishing new research chairs at western Canadian universities.

The WGRF’s focus on agronomy research comes at a time when newly created provincial cereal commissions are expected to play an increasingly important role in managing farmer check-off money.

Provincial wheat and barley commission in Western Canada are expected to collect tens of millions of dollars a year through mandatory refundable producer levies on wheat and barley production.

Much of the money is likely to be spent developing new crop varieties, a research function that has historically garnered considerable support from the WGRF.

The WGRF is expected to respond by focusing on other areas of agricultural research where gaps have been identified, particularly agronomic and production related research.

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