New chair position aims to improve crop yield and quality

Innovative research and training part of the plan moving forward

Sarah Pratt - 01 February 2019

Western Canadian farmers face agronomic challenges that cut across multiple crops. The what, when and how of growing crops and the health of the soil are crucial to crop success.

A new chair position in the University of Alberta's Faculty of Agricultural, Life & Environmental Sciences will provide a dedicated scientist to work on farm-level management systems. The Western Grains Research Foundation (WGRF) recently announced a commitment of $3 million for a research chair in cropping systems. The chair will study interactions between plants, soils, crop management and the environment.

"We are grateful for this new investment by WGRF to support hiring a new chair in our faculty," said dean Stan Blade. "We appreciate the willingness of WGRF leadership and producers across Western Canada to invest in the future of our sector. The new chair will develop a program that will create new ideas through innovative research and will train the next generation of people needed by the industry."

Some of the areas the chair will focus on include inter-disciplinary considerations of crop, water and input-use efficiency, soil management, economic benefits and control of pests (weeds, insects and diseases). The chair may also provide innovation related to whole-farm sustainability from economic, social and environmental perspectives.

"This position will provide much needed expertise in the area of cropping systems," said Terry Young, WGRF board chair. "Farmers don't just grow one crop. Focusing research on a systems approach will help lead to innovative farming practices and technologies that boost yield and crop quality while controlling crop diseases and insects, and improving profitability and sustainability."

The WGRF is a farmer-funded and farmer-directed non-profit organization investing in agricultural research that benefits Western Canadian farmers. WGRF is the largest producer funder of field crop research in Canada. Since 1981, WGRF has funded more than $185 million of research in field crops of interest to Western Canadian farmers.

"WGRF is focused on taking a whole-farm approach to research. Strategic investments to increase agronomy research capacity in Western Canada is one of many approaches we are using," said Garth Patterson, WGRF executive director. "We are very excited about having a research chair in cropping systems at the University of Alberta. This research chair will create incremental field crop research capacity in Western Canada, while providing the U of A the ability to advance its academic mission and catalyze new research initiatives in agronomy."