Field day on July 26 will high­light or­ganic re­search at Swift Cur­rent Re­search and Devel­op­ment Centre

Prairie Post (East Edition) - - NEWS - By Matthew Lieben­berg mlieben­[email protected]­

Pro­duc­ers have an op­por­tu­nity to visit the or­ganic field tri­als that are part of the or­ganic re­search pro­gram at the Agricultur­e and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) Swift Cur­rent Re­search and Devel­op­ment Centre.

The day-long or­ganic field walks on July 26 are hosted by AAFC in as­so­ci­a­tion with col­lab­o­ra­tors from the Univer­sity of Man­i­toba, Brandon Re­search and Devel­op­ment Centre, and Grain Millers.

Dr. Myr­iam Fer­nan­dez, a re­search sci­en­tist in or­ganic agricultur­e and crop pathol­ogy at the Swift Cur­rent Re­search and Devel­op­ment Centre, said field walk par­tic­i­pants will learn more about a num­ber of new or­ganic field tri­als dur­ing the walk.

“This is our an­nual field event where we show or­ganic pro­duc­ers and low-in­put pro­duc­ers what field ex­per­i­ments we have in the area of or­ganic pro­duc­tion,” she men­tioned. “A lot of the peo­ple that par­tic­i­pate in our field days have par­tic­i­pated in the past. So they’re more or less fa­mil­iar with the kind of re­search that we do, but this year we also have new tri­als. So it’s quite im­por­tant for us to show the kind of re­search that we’re do­ing, be­cause our or­ganic re­search pro­gram has been grow­ing sig­nif­i­cantly in the last few year.”

Or­ganic pro­duc­tion has in­creased sig­nif­i­cantly in re­cent years due to a grow­ing de­mand for or­ganic food, both in Canada and other coun­tries. “There are more or­ganic farms, and there’s more acreage and more pro­duc­tion,” she said. “That is the rea­son why there is so much in­ter­est from fund­ing agen­cies. We have sev­eral fund­ing agen­cies that are in­ter­ested in fund­ing our or­ganic projects and their in­ter­est have been grow­ing. With­out them we wouldn’t be able to do so much re­search. It’s be­cause of all the fun­ders that we’re able to have so many new tri­als.”

Last year’s or­ganic field day was at­tended by over 150 peo­ple, with pro­duc­ers even com­ing from Al­berta and Man­i­toba.

“The num­ber of peo­ple com­ing to our events has been in­creas­ing ex­po­nen­tially and we al­ready have lots of reg­is­tra­tions for this event,” she said. “So the re­sponse that we have been get­ting has been tremen­dous, which is great.”

The format of this year’s event will be dif­fer­ent from pre­vi­ous years. In the past the field tours took place dur­ing the morn­ing and there were in­door pre­sen­ta­tions in the af­ter­noon. This year the en­tire day will be used for field walks.

“We want peo­ple to be able to spend more time,” she ex­plained. “In the past we of­ten had to rush through when we only have one morn­ing to show all our tri­als. So this year we would like peo­ple to spend more time in the field and walk around and be­ing able to ask all kinds of ques­tions that they might have.”

In ad­di­tion to this year’s day-long field walks, the or­ganic re­search pro­gram at the Swift Cur­rent Re­search and Devel­op­ment Centre will host an or­ganic re­search work­shop on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1 to present the data gath­ered from their field tri­als over the last few years.

Field walk par­tic­i­pants will visit the ex­ist­ing field tri­als for in­ter­crop­ping and cover crop blends, and they will also see the new tri­als for in­ter­crop­ping and cover crops.

There are var­i­ous new com­bi­na­tions of two cash crops each or a cash crop with a liv­ing legume mulch, sub­ter­ranean clover, in the new in­ter­crop­ping trial.

“Through an­other project that we have, the cover crop blends, we de­ter­mined that one of the clover species that we tried, sub­ter­ranean clover, did well under the drought con­di­tions that we had in the last few years,” she said. “We de­cided to try it and see what hap­pens. There is a lot of in­ter­est from the for­age peo­ple in that one as well.”

The new trial for cover crop blends in­cludes five new com­bi­na­tions with grasses, bras­si­cas and legumes.

“We now have dif­fer­ent com­bi­na­tions of cover crops than we had in the past, and this is based on what we learned what grows well in this area,” she said. “Some of the rec­om­men­da­tions that we had got from peo­ple that were do­ing cover crop stud­ies in other ar­eas didn’t re­ally work well here, be­cause our drought con­di­tions in the last few years.”

There is a new trial on re­lay con­tin­u­ous crop­ping with di­verse crop types that are grown for grain or ma­nure.

“We also have spring and win­ter an­nu­als, bi­en­ni­als and an­nu­als, so dif­fer­ent com­bi­na­tions, but basically what we have is con­tin­u­ous crop­ping,” she said. “So the soil is never bare. There is quite a lot of in­ter­est in that for soil con­ser­va­tion and other is­sues as well.”

An­other new field trial at the Swift Cur­rent Re­search and Devel­op­ment Centre is part of the par­tic­i­pa­tory plant breed­ing pro­gram at the Univer­sity of Man­i­toba. Project co­or­di­na­tor Michelle Carkner said the pro­gram has been taking place since 2011 on a smaller scale, and it ex­panded from Man­i­toba to the rest of Canada in 2013.

“It all started by want­ing to start some sort of or­ganic breed­ing pro­gram for wheat and oats,” she said. “We wanted to take it a step fur­ther and part­nered the breed­ers with the farm­ers, and in this way the breed­ers are able to get their ge­netic ma­te­rial out to a wide range of en­vi­ron­ments, and to give all their lines a test drive. It also en­ables the farm­ers to select the wheat or the oats that do the best on their farms, ac­cord­ing to their pro­duc­tion sys­tem.”

The new trial at Swift Cur­rent is the only lo­ca­tion in the brown soil zone and re­sults on the per­for­mance of the dif­fer­ent wheat lines will add new data to this pro­gram.

“We do yield tri­als in Man­i­toba and I have an­other in Al­berta and an­other in Prince Ed­ward Is­land, but Swift Cur­rent is a unique en­vi­ron­ment be­cause it’s so much drier than Man­i­toba,” she ex­plained. “The soil is dif­fer­ent, the pre­cip­i­ta­tion pat­terns are dif­fer­ent, all those things, and so it’s a re­ally great op­por­tu­nity to test wheat lines in a com­pletely dif­fer­ent en­vi­ron­ment than Man­i­toba.”

A new oat va­ri­ety trial was started this year at the Swift Cur­rent Re­search and Devel­op­ment Centre af­ter Dr. Fer­nan­dez re­ceived ques­tions from pro­duc­ers at events about the per­for­mance of dif­fer­ent oat va­ri­eties.

The trial was cre­ated af­ter dis­cus­sions with Grain Millers and Dr. Jen­nifer Mitchell Fetch, a re­search sci­en­tist at the AAFC Brandon Re­search Centre. There are six oat va­ri­eties in this trial, in­clud­ing the reg­is­tered or­ganic oat va­ri­eties AAC Oravena and AAC Kong­sore.

Both these reg­is­tered va­ri­eties were de­vel­oped for or­ganic pro­duc­tion by Dr. Mitchell Fetch.

Grain Millers is fund­ing this trial and also pro­vides in-kind con­tri­bu­tions for a num­ber of other or­ganic field tri­als at the Swift Cur­rent Re­search and Devel­op­ment Centre. Grain Millers crop spe­cial­ist Laura Wein­ben­der said or­gan­ics is a huge in­dus­try for the com­pany, and want to stay in­volved. “We re­ally just want pro­duc­ers to have lots of op­tions,” she men­tioned. “So we try to help them out in any way we can and do­ing a trial like this is a good way to get pro­duc­ers think­ing about maybe try­ing new va­ri­eties. It’s also lots of informatio­n for us too.”

Pro­duc­ers pre­fer va­ri­eties that can cope with or­ganic con­di­tions. Weed control is a key concern for them, and these va­ri­eties there­fore have to be fast grow­ers.

“They just want some­thing that will grow well and have good dis­ease re­sis­tance and end up still hav­ing a good yield and qual­ity,” she said.

A good or­ganic oat va­ri­ety needs to be taller with lots of leaf biomass to be more com­pet­i­tive in the field com­pared to shorter va­ri­eties. From a milling point of view a va­ri­ety needs to have a good test weight and ker­nel qual­ity as well as nu­tri­tional value, while it is easy to work with and haul in the mill.

Field walk par­tic­i­pants will have an op­por­tu­nity to visit the B or­ganic oat yield trial (BORG) of Dr. Mitchell Fetch in the Wheat­land Con­ser­va­tion Area, which is across the road from the Swift Cur­rent Re­search and Devel­op­ment Centre’s or­ganic area.

She started the BORG trial in 2009, and the Wheat­land Con­ser­va­tion Area was one of nine or­gan­i­cally man­aged sites that be­came part of this trial in 2012.

“We’re eval­u­at­ing oats breed­ing lines that have been de­vel­oped under or­ganic man­age­ment sys­tems,” Dr. Mitchell Fetch said. “This trial is one of a group of tri­als that’s lo­cated around western Canada that are all or­gan­i­cally man­aged or man­aged under no pes­ti­cide in­puts or fer­til­izer in­puts. This al­lows us to eval­u­ate our breed­ing ma­te­rial for its per­for­mance under those man­age­ment types of sys­tems and en­vi­ron­ment. So it gives us a wider range of spe­cific en­vi­ron­ments and it al­lows us to re­ally see if the lines per­form well over all of those en­vi­ron­ments com­pared to the check va­ri­eties.”

Swift Cur­rent was se­lected as one of the sites due to its lo­ca­tion in a drier re­gion, which makes it pos­si­ble to eval­u­ate the per­for­mance of the breed­ing lines under challengin­g con­di­tions.

“We get fewer dis­eases and you get less crop growth be­cause of the drier con­di­tions,” she said. “It al­lows us to see if it per­forms well for pro­duc­ers in those ar­eas of Saskatchew­an. I also have tri­als near Ed­mon­ton, and in the Peace River re­gion and I have three tri­als in Man­i­toba, and there’s one at the Univer­sity of Saskatchew­an.” The in­ten­tion is to de­velop va­ri­eties that meet the re­quire­ments of pro­duc­ers for growth and the prop­er­ties that are im­por­tant to the milling in­dus­try.

“We do our best to pro­vide as op­ti­mum a va­ri­ety as we can,” she said. “There aren’t va­ri­eties that meet every or sur­pass every goal, but there are va­ri­eties that meet a lot of the spe­cific re­quire­ments. So it is pos­si­ble to pro­duce a cul­ti­var that every­body is pleased with, but there’s al­ways room for im­prove­ment.”

The July 26 or­ganic field day at the Swift Cur­rent Re­search and Devel­op­ment Centre will take place from 9:45 a.m. to 5 p.m. Ad­mis­sion is free, but reg­is­tra­tion is re­quired to as­sist or­ga­niz­ers with event prepa­ra­tions. Bring your own wa­ter bot­tle for the field, and lunch op­tions are avail­able at $15. The event will con­tinue if poor weather con­di­tions prevent vis­its to the field tri­als. In that case there will be in­door pre­sen­ta­tions with pho­tos and videos of the field tri­als.

For more informatio­n or to reg­is­ter, call 306-770-4459 or send an e-mail to or­gan­ics.swiftcur­[email protected] On­line reg­is­tra­tion can be done at https://www.even­­gan­ic­field-walks-tick­ets-6330127080­5

Photo by Am­ber Wall, WCA

The B or­ganic oat yield trial of Dr. Mitchell Fetch in the Wheat­land Con­ser­va­tion Area.

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