The new plot combine is on site at Chinook Applied Research Association headquarters in Oyen, Alta., and more equipment will be ordered now that the applied research group has received $266,942 from the Western Grains Research Foundation.
In addition to the combine, CARA plans to buy a tractor, three-quarter-ton truck, GPS unit, cargo trailer and mower tractor.
The funds are welcome, said CARA manager Dianne Westerlund.
“Capital is an even bigger challenge in today’s world. Operating (funds) are a challenge but capital, in many grants that are available, capital is just not an allowed expense. So it was a very nice insertion of funds into CARA for sure,” she said.
“With the combine, for example, we do a lot of annual crop trials and if we don’t have confidence in our yield results, we’re not reporting back to producers with any kind of confidence.”
The small plot combine was on a rental to purchase agreement and has now been fully paid off. Plot equipment is expensive despite being so much smaller than its pricey field-scale counterparts.
“Because of the lack in access for capital purchases, we tend to hold onto equipment for a long time,” said Westerlund.
“Our vehicles, for example our trucks, we’re running 12- or 13-year-old vehicles for the most part so it’s time for an upgrade there so that we’re not wasting time with maintenance and repairs on older equipment.”
CARA is finalizing plans for research in the coming crop year, which will include trial work for some private companies, plots as part of Alberta’s regional variety testing program and a regional silage trial running in co-operation with several other applied research groups.
Trials specific to the region are also part of the mix, involving crop varieties and agronomics. Overall, about 3,500 test plots are planned for annual and perennial crops, agronomics, rotation studies and evaluation of crop and soil amendments.
Westerlund said advertisements have been posted for needed summer staff and although field work will continue as always, the jury is still out on in-person events including field days and crop walks. A soil mini-conference, usually held in February, will not take place this year but CARA is working with other associations on a soil health webinar series.
“CARA’s program of applied research, demonstration and extension provides an important link in the transfer of knowledge and technology between research and the producer,” said WGRF board chair Keith Degenhardt, in a Feb. 4 news release.
Funds to CARA are a portion of the $32 million capacity initiative by the WGRF. Twenty-four applications have been approved by the WGRF with future announcements pending.