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Agronomy – Year in Review

Our Agronomy program had a big year in 2021!

It was a busy year at Farming Smarter, everyone had a lot on their plate throughout 2021. The Agronomy program, headed by Research Coordinator Mike Gretzinger and Research Scientist Dr. Gurbir Singh Dhillon, kept busy with the 40 projects they had on the go this year!

Thankfully, we were able to wrap up some projects to and make room for some exciting upcoming projects. Some of the projects finished this year included our rotational study (which we were able to complete ahead of schedule!), our crop sequencing to control FHB study done in partnership with The University of Manitoba, and our hemp agronomy project!

Successes and Challenges of Agronomy

In a year as challenging as 2021, it feels great to say that it was an absolute success for us! Our Agronomy team faced off against disease (thankfully just in crops), pests, a biblical swarm of grasshoppers, and abnormally long drought conditions. Tremendously, they were able to overcome it all!

“Our biggest challenge this year was obviously the drought,” said Gretzinger. “We’ve made contingency plans. In certain trials, the drought is part of the testing. You do want some data to show the product, treatment, or methodology does or doesn’t work under these conditions.”

However, the drought wasn’t completely terrible for our research.

“A lot of the pests and disease we were on the lookout for weren’t as abundant as we predicted because of the long dry cycle we experienced,” added Gretzinger.

Accomplishments in Agronomy

While we’re proud of our research this year, we’re equally as proud of the research on the program’s horizon. Our Agronomy program had multiple proposals accepted, providing us with more work in the coming years.

“We had proposals accepted for winter crop adaptability, we’re going back to some of these fall-cropping and winter-cropping concepts. We’ll be looking at improving carbon sequestration and water-use efficiency in winter barley, oats, durum, lentils, and other crops,” said Gretzinger.

Along with the winter cropping study, our program will also be adapting a study our Custom Research finished this year. The rolling barley for silage study is being expanded and adapted to a full scientific study.

Farming Smarter was awarded $100,000 through the ACS Living Labs Phase 1 grant. Through this grant, we were able to build a Living Labs proposal and apply for Phase 2 of the program.

“It was a massive undertaking with multiple partners and a unique approach. This was accomplished through collaboration with the Farming Smarter team, federal scientists, other program partners, and the southern Alberta farmer community,” said Dhillon.

If successful, the Living Labs proposal would allow Farming Smarter & its Living Lab partners to development and implementation of farming practices that store carbon and reduce greenhouse gases in southern Alberta.

We’re also excited to announce that we had not one, but two studies published in the Canadian Journal of Plant Science! Read our Effects of simulated hail damage and our Effect of precision planting and seeding rates on canola papers.

Farming a Smarter Community

At Farming Smarter, our focus isn’t just on the research – we focus on the community as well. That’s why we were happy to hear from the producers in the area that have adopted practices we study.

“The biggest one is precision planters. There’s a lot of specialty crops in the area. A lot of producers have these planters and want to hear about our experience with them. We’ve had farmers in the area see that we’re doing it and kind of follow alongside us as well,” said Gretzinger.

This engagement with the community is what drives Farming Smarter.

“If we can take that risk of adoption away, we’ll see more producers adopt these practices rather quickly,” added Gretzinger.

Our Agronomy team has a lot of fun taking students from Lethbridge College into our fields and giving them a hands-on workshop. This year, we held a Hemp Agronomy 101 workshop with the students. We showed them about the varieties of industrial hemp and the differences between the male and female plants.

It’s not just the local community we’re happy to work with. Being able to work with collaborative partners across the province has helped evolve our projects.

Through our collaborative endeavours, we’ve gained access to technology, crops, and equipment we’ve never been able to utilize. This has allowed us to evolve some of our research projects and adapt them to the needs of different regions like those found in northern Alberta.

“The collaborative projects provide an opportunity to work with different people and get their unique insights and approaches to the problem at hand,” said Dhillon. “The teams that we had the opportunity to collaborate with are great to work with and have different areas of expertise. Collaborative projects are very enriching experiences most of the times.”

We’re excited to continue these endeavours, and for the new ones to come. We look forward to bringing you the latest in agronomy research in 2022.

If you want exclusive access to the latest research as it’s released and more, you can become an Agronomy Smarts subscriber today!