By Danielle Stephens, M.Sc, PAg, Research Specialist, Agriculture Research Branch
Saskatchewan has a large and geographically diverse agricultural area and a strong community supporting agriculture research. To meet the needs of field crop, forage and horticulture producers, we have local agriculture research and demonstration sites through the Agriculture-Applied Research Management (Agri-ARM) network.
In Saskatchewan, there are eight independently operated Agri-ARM sites distributed across the province, run by producer-directed boards. This broad distribution ensures the sites represent different soil zones and geographies. The focus of each site is to provide local, unbiased research results to area producers. Some of the sites are also co-located with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) research stations.
The eight locations are:
- Western Applied Research Corporation at Scott;
- Conservation Learning Centre at Prince Albert;
- Northeast Agricultural Research Foundation at Melfort;
- Irrigation Crop Diversification Corporation at Outlook;
- East Central Research Foundation at Yorkton;
- Wheatland Conservation Association at Swift Current;
- Indian Head Agricultural Research Foundation at Indian Head; and
- South East Agricultural Research Foundation at Redvers.
Partly funded through the Canadian Agriculture Partnership, the sites take advantage of project funding through the Agriculture Demonstration of Practices and Technologies (ADOPT) program. ADOPT provides funding to demonstrate new practices and technologies to producers. In addition, the sites also conduct research funded by commodity groups, industry, the Strategic Field Program and the Agriculture Development Fund program.
Although the Agri-ARM sites run independently, researchers manage some of the same projects at several locations so that results can be compared across the province. Past and present trials include row spacing, plant populations, seeding dates, nutrient management and fungicide programs for various crops. Studies also feature new or emerging crops so producers can see how they perform in their area before they consider growing them. Researchers at Agri-ARM sites participate in regional variety trials for crops such as canola, flax, soybeans and cereals.
For producers and agronomists, the highlight of each year is the local Agri-ARM site field day. During these days, producers and agronomists are invited to come witness demonstrations of the crop and management options the site has been researching. Field days provide a chance for the dissemination and simulation of ideas and an opportunity to provide a valuable forum for discussion.
"Last year was the first time we couldn't have a large annual tour of the research plots," said Mike Hall, site manager at the East Central Research Foundation in Yorkton. "We did do a virtual tour but it wasn't the same. It is good to have a venue where people can come together to exchange ideas freely in an open environment."
Hall is hopeful Saskatchewan will see the return of in person field days in 2021 and the Agri-ARM site will be able to welcome producers and the public to view the research trials first-hand.
The South East Agriculture Research Foundation (SERF) at Redvers wasn't able to have their annual field day, but they had already prepared to be the site to host the annual Crop Diagnostic School.
"It is a challenge to make the extension program sound interesting when there weren't any boots on the ground," says Lana Shaw, SERF's manager. "However, in the case of Crop Diagnostic school, the upside of the online delivery was that it was more accessible to everyone who wanted to learn more."
Those attending the free virtual event tuned in from across the western Canadian provinces and from some regions in the United States, reaching a far wider audience than in a regular year.
Looking forward to 2021, it is important to recognize research has continued throughout the pandemic. Data continues to be gathered from trials and made available through reports available online at Agri-ARM and on individual site pages. We are fortunate to have the Agri-ARM sites as partners in producing relevant, local Saskatchewan-based research.