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Apr 19

Applied Research Associations bringing value to wheat and barley growers

Posted on Apr 19 By: Alan Hall, Executive Director | Agricultural Research and Extension Council of Alberta

Applied Research Associations will have a busy summer with wheat and barley projects. These associations are led by farmer directed boards, so focusing on applied research projects that are valuable to growers is a slam dunk!

These associations are located throughout Alberta from Fort Vermilion in the north, to Lethbridge in the south, and from the Rockies to the Saskatchewan border.

In 2020, seven of these associations are moving into the second year of work in demonstrating ultra-early seeded wheat. Wheat with cold-tolerant genetics is seeded early. If successful and profitable, ultra-early wheat will provide growers the option of wider seeding and harvest windows. This is of great interest in the Peace region and is being demonstrated by the Smokey Applied Research and Demonstration Association (SARDA) and the Mackenzie Applied Research Association (MARA). Interest would also be high in central and east central Alberta.   

Sticking on the variety front, ten of the associations conduct the regional variety trials in wheat, barley, pulses, flax and cereal silage. Many farmers use the Alberta Seed Guide. Data and observations from these trials form much of what is behind the recommendations in the guide.

Gateway Research Organization (GRO) takes things a step further. In addition to the regional variety trials, they also run trials comparing the popular varieties growers use north of Edmonton, with the new varieties included in the regional trials. This leads to head to head comparisons that spark some great discussion on field days and in the winter when you stop in at the seed cleaning plant coffee pot to talk with other growers

Several of the associations are conducting trials in various crop rotations and to optimize fertilizer rates, blends and timing. Rotations are critical to disease and pest control, and crop inputs like fertilizer are expensive. These trials help to find the sweet spots given all the variables involved. 

Farming Smarter, in southern Alberta has a twist on some of this work. They are working with scientists looking at a range of crop rotations involving nine different crops to determine if there are rotations that are most helpful in reducing fusarium head blight. Make sure you take in their field days this summer to see and hear and dig into details.

Associations have various trials on use of plant growth regulators, optimizing the mix of plant growth regulators and fertility rates and practices on a number of varieties of wheat. For example, Battle River Research Group (BRRG) and Lakeland College are working on nitrogen management on numerous barley varieties for malt and feed. The focus is on yield and quality. Lakeland Applied Research Association (LARA) is fine tuning the use of ESN on wheat and barley. They are taking nitrogen a step further in the work they are doing in top dressing to get the desired protein content in both wheat and barley come harvest and marketing time.

All of the associations have various agronomy trials under way in 2020. Some are continuing and some are new for this year. For example, Farming Smarter is using a precision planter in irrigation of durum wheat.  Can the use of precision planters coupled with seeding rates, fungicide rates, growth regulators, fertility options help to break the yield barrier that durum wheat growers keep running into?

All associations are doing projects with farm input companies, seed companies, equipment companies etc. The collaboration of companies and associations is helping to bring new technologies and agronomy management practices to local growers.  It is good to test these concepts on a trial basis to work out the kinks as it improves the odds of these working well for growers the first time they try them.

Alberta Wheat and Barley Commissions have been critical partners in many of these projects. Their guidance on issues growers are wrestling with, helping to finance solutions, and getting results into growers’ hands is so important. On behalf of the associations, a heartfelt kudos to the commissions. 

Commissions and associations coupled with the new farmer led research initiative that Minister Dreeshen and farmers are working out, spell a bright future for crop research bringing solutions to production, quality and risk mitigation.  We need both the big science, and the adapting research results at the regional, local and individual farm levels. What works at Oyen may not work so well at Rycroft.

Associations are busy finding solutions and bringing them to you for issues that you run up against. Get to know them, visit them, raid their coffee pot. You are always welcome!

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