Federal government delivers hefty load of funding for grain research

  • National Newswatch

The $39.3 million from CAP will produce another $28.4 in industry funding from industry groups.Ottawa—Farm groups across the country welcomed an announcement of up to $39.3 million in funding from the Canadian Agriculture Partnership for crop research that will attract an additional $28.4 million in support from industry groups.The up to $67.7 million will be aimed at science clusters representing barley, wheat, soybeans, and other field crops. Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay said, “Demand for our field crops continues to grow and these investments in innovation and research will help position our farmers to grow top quality products sustainably, while meeting consumer demands at home and abroad for years to come.”Markus Haerle, Chairman of Grain Farmers of Ontario, said the research will produce the best varieties with durable disease resistance, increased yields and the highest quality and “help our farmers grow their businesses and enhance the global reputation of Ontario grains as high-quality, sustainably-produced, crops.”The Wheat Cluster, led by the Canadian Wheat Research Coalition, will receive $13.9 million to encourage higher-yielding varieties including the next generation of Fusarium Head Blight resistant varieties.The Diverse Field Crop Cluster, led by Ag-West Bio, will get $13.7 million to focus on variety development, crop protection, production agronomy and value added practices to support diverse crop growth.The Barley Cluster, led by the Barley Council of Canada, will receive $6.3 million to improve productivity in the science and technology of using barley for food and increase disease resistance.The Soybean Cluster, led by the Canadian Field Crop Research Alliance (CFCRA), will get $5.4 million for more resilient and productive varieties that increase the geographic range for growing crops and benefit the environment.GFO CEO Barry Senft said, “Grain farming in Ontario is the basis for 40,000 jobs in the province and we need new and innovative ways to meet the demands on our farmer-members for high quality and competitive yields in a global marketplace. Research is the key to meeting those objectives.”The CFCRA is a not-for-profit entity founded in 2010 with an interest in advancing the genetic capacity of field crops in Canada, particularly soybean, corn, wheat, barley, and oats. The CFCRA is comprised of provincial farm organizations and industry partners, including: Atlantic Grains Council, Grain Farmers of Ontario; Producteurs de grains du Québec; Manitoba Pulse & Soybean Growers; Manitoba Corn Growers Association; Saskatchewan Pulse Growers; Prairie Oat Growers Association; SeCan Association; and FP Genetics.Soy Canada Chair Ernie Sirski said the new funding will support 10 highly-valued research projects that “will greatly assist the soybean sector's 10-year objectives of increasing yield, improving quality, enhancing pest resistance, expanding into new production regions, and strengthening competitiveness and exports.”Soy Canada hopes to see a doubling of soybean production in the next decade after a 103 per cent increase during the past decade. Soybeans are now Canada's third most valuable field crop after canola and wheat and soybeans and soy products were exported to 71 countries in 2017.Terry Young, Chairman of the Canadian Wheat Research Coalition, said the funding will look for “will maintain the high quality of Canadian wheat and lead to new opportunities for producers. This collaboration between government, producers and industry will allow for greater innovation in variety development and agronomic practices that will keep wheat production strong across the country.”The research will aim for new varieties that could better resist Prairie heat and drought stress, new biotechnology tools that will strengthen wheat breeding, and an innovative winter wheat agronomic package aimed at improving sustainability on the Canadian prairies, among a host of other high value projects, he said.Serge Buy, Executive Director of the Agricultural Institute of Canada (AIC), said the money in the four crop clusters “enable research into agriculture to continue and get the sector to reach new goals.The AIC, which represents the agrifood research community, also wants to see increased collaboration among the different sectors, he said. “The hope is that that the funding enables clusters but does not create a silo mentality.”In hopes of boosting collaboration, AIC aims to hold a conference for the cluster researchers in Ottawa in May, he said.Alex Binkley is a freelance journalist and writes for domestic and international publications about agriculture, food and transportation issues. He's also the author of two science fiction novels with more in the works.