In terms of agricultural crop research there are really two different types, both holding their own level of importance.
There is the research carried out by seed and chemical companies and public researchers, the sort of work which leads to the development of new crop varieties and agricultural products.
Obviously the work at the base level is critical because it is the work which pushes yields higher, and develops varieties resistant to disease and insect pressures which arise at the farm level.
But not every new variety, not every crop, not every farm practice is a one-size fits all thing.
What will grow well, and turn a profit in the process, on the Prairies south of Regina, may well not work in the Parkland of Yorkton, or the forest fringe around Nipawin and Carrot River.
It is, of course unreasonable to expect a university researcher, or even a larger seed breeding company, to run trials in every distinct area across the Prairies.
Such localized research has to be carried out though to provide producers some guidelines to follow in terms of what might work best on their farm.
As an example, soybeans are garnering more Canadian Prairie interest. A crop once thought impossible to grow here managed to cross the 49th parallel and fit into southern Manitoba farms years ago. Since that time varieties with shorter growing seasons and less reliance on heat units have expanded the crops’ traditional growing area.
But a variety that grows well at Moosomin, SK., might not do as well at Yorkton, or Kamsack.
The date to seed soybeans in Moosomin might also differ from the best case scenario of another area.
That is where groups such as the East Central Research Foundation have such importance.
The ECRF is one of eight producer-directed research and demonstration groups in Saskatchewan making up the Agriculture – Applied Research Management (Agri-ARM) network. As part of the network the groups often share research ideas, and replicate projects to provide more broadly-based results for relevance over a larger area of the province.
In the case of the ECRF they have forged some rather interesting partnerships in order to carry out their research efforts having signed a memorandum of understanding in 2013 with Parkland College. Working with the college opens the doors to new funding sources, and in turn provides the college with a sort of living classroom (the research plots) for students.
Interesting, the plots are located on land owned by the City of Yorkton, which suggests a good understanding by the City of the importance of agriculture to the local economy.
Researchers involved with the ECRF and PC are testing soybean varieties by seeding date, canary seed fertility, oat varieties by nitrogen rate, wheat and canola with Environmentally Smart Nitrogen technology, wheat fungicide timing and cereal forage. It is such research with direct relevance to farmers growing the crops locally which makes the work so important.
The results should be something farmers can use in making decisions which directly impact what they do on their farms, hopefully helping them make the right crop choices to ensure a profit.
It is to be hoped localized research is always part of the process to help farmers be successful.
Calvin Daniels is Assistant Editor with Yorkton This Week.