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New agricultural research programs, funding announced

By David Goodwillie, Information Officer, Communications Branch

In January, the Governments of Canada and Saskatchewan announced the investment of $17.5 million in various crop and livestock research projects through the Agriculture Development Fund (ADF) as well as the new Strategic Field Program and Strategic Research Initiative.

Forty-four crop research projects are sharing $12 million in government funding, and the remaining $5.5 million is split among 34 livestock or forage research projects. In addition to the government funding, the crop projects are receiving $3.6 million and the livestock projects an extra $320,000 from a variety of producer associations and research foundations, including the Western Grains Research Foundation, the Prairie Oat Growers Association, the Saskatchewan Pork Development Board and Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association.

“Our ultimate goal is to fund applied research projects that help farmers and ranchers be successful,” said Shawn Gibson, Executive Director of the Agriculture Research Branch. “Research outcomes are often years in the making and require project support at various points in the research continuum, from basic research to the type of research that puts something tangible in the ground.”

A number of ground-breaking, highly innovative projects are being funded this year, including ones that will:

  • Explore whether feeding garlic to cattle will improve the growth, feed-use efficiency and health of calves by warding off flies;
  • Determine the greenhouse gas emissions from cattle excrement in grazed pastures;
  • Develop varieties of triticale that have baking qualities similar to spring wheat;
  • Introduce wild chickpea traits into commercial chickpea varieties to improve their adaptation and yield in less-than-optimal environments;
  • Determine whether sex-chromosome-specific genes can be used to accurately predict the sex of a calf while still in the womb;
  • Identify wheat genes that are associated with fusarium head blight resistance;
  • Develop solid-stem red spring wheat cultivars by introducing genes from tall wheatgrass;
  • Identify recently evolved races of the stripe rust pathogen and improve resistance to them;
  • Develop a spring wheat line with hairy glumes to reduce the damage done by wheat midge feeding; and
  • Monitor the spread of Johne’s Disease in the beef industry and develop an internet-based tool to compare control options.

The Strategic Research Initiative is a new program starting this year with the goal of providing targeted funding to advance strategic priorities within the industry.  Projects are expected to go beyond the scope and scale of work normally undertaken in ADF, pursuing innovative research that will address complex challenges facing the industry. This year, funding has been awarded to a project that will increase the quantity and quality of protein in the smooth yellow pea while advancing crop breeding technologies.

The Strategic Field Program (SFP) is another new initiative, which is intended to bridge the gap between the high-level discovery research conducted by universities and institutions and funded by ADF, and the small-scale demonstration projects funded under the Agriculture Demonstration of Practices and Technologies (ADOPT) program. Under the SFP, Ministry extension staff request funding to support projects that they have identified as being important to the industry and which fit with the Ministry’s objectives. Each proposal goes through a two-stage evaluation and approval process.

Producers turn to the Ministry’s specialists for unbiased information on the agronomic challenges they are facing. Specialists know what their clients’ concerns are, and they know whether or not they have the information to address those concerns. What they have not had—prior to the SFP—are the financial resources to undertake field projects that would address those concerns or fill those knowledge gaps.

“By virtue of their roles, provincial and regional specialists are well-placed to identify the research and demonstration needs of the producer-clients they interact with on a regular basis,” explained Jeff Braidek, the Agriculture Research Branch’s Senior Research Specialist in Saskatoon.

Once funding for an SFP project is in place, the Ministry will hire contractors to undertake the field work. A contractor could be a single producer, an Agri-ARM site, a university researcher or any individual or organization with the capacity to deliver the required service.

Ministry staff will be actively engaged throughout the entire lifespan of a project, designing it, ensuring methodologies are followed, reviewing the data and, finally, creating any resulting extension material.

The initial project supported under the SFP will be confirming guidelines for beef cattle consumption of sulphates in drinking water. The research is being conducted at the Livestock and Forage Centre of Excellence.

“This project is exactly the type of work the Livestock and Forage Centre of Excellence is designed to support – tackling the challenges of the agriculture sector,” University of Saskatchewan Livestock and Forage Centre of Excellence Director Kris Ringwall said.  “The research will provide clear and meaningful results that are science-based.  Livestock producers, by incorporating the new guidelines into their operations, will be expanding their management options and, in turn, increasing the livestock sector’s revenue.”

For more about this water quality project, see pages 8 and 9 of the April 2019 issue of Agriview.

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