SARDA Ag Research - Responding to producers’ needs

 

SARDA has a busy year planned! We’re expanding our public events and research trials so that we can better communicate with the community and help producers. To that end, we’ve also introduced new trials; SARVTs, which compare the varieties of wheat and peas commonly grown in our area to new varieties likely to perform better. These trials will aid producers to make informed decisions on varietal selection. 

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Some of our events this year are already familiar to you. Our Footprints program returns again this summer, though our trial site locations have changed. If you want to see our results for yourself, we’ll have directions to our trial sites in our Back Forty summer edition in June, and each site will have its own green mailbox with a handy booklet full of maps and details about the trials. If you can gather at least five people to join you, then call 780-837-2900 to arrange a time for a guided tour.

Our Summer Field School returns as well on July 13th. We have fabulous speakers lined up this year: Robyne Bowness will discuss faba beans; Ralph Cartar will share his studies on native pollinators; Jan Slaski will talk about the industrial hemp trials; and Lil Trudeau and Jack Wyne will be speaking about the hail trials. The school also includes a hot lunch and guided tours of other trials. Registration is $75, and you can register online at www.sarda.ca or by phone at 780-837-2900. We hope to see you there!

Our participation in the Classroom Agriculture Program will help grade four students at Eaglesham and St. Stephen’s schools learn about the importance of agriculture in our lives.

On June 13, we will also be hosting a presentation on a Land Suitability Rating System by Pierre-Yves Gasser and Michael Bock. They will be presenting results from research assessing potential future climate change’s impact on land suitability for agriculture in the Peace Region. It is a similar system to the Canada Land Inventory. The session will take place in the AFSC conference room in Falher. There is no charge to attend but we do ask you to preregister through the website, www.sarda.ca.  Check in starts at 9 a.m. In the afternoon we will also be hosting a crop seedling ID session to help municipal staff identify crops grown in the Peace Region.

There’s plenty of other events that we’ll be bringing to you, like crop walks and shelterbelt tours. Be sure to keep checking our website, www.sarda.ca, and subscribe to our news notifications to get the details as they become available.

New this year, are the SARDA Ag Research Variety Trials (SARVTs) Empowered for Farmers. These trials will compare new varieties of peas or wheat against varieties currently grown in the area. Comparing currently grown varieties against the new varieties tested in RVTs allows farmers to see the difference with their own eyes and use that information to do what’s best for their farm. We have three sites of SARVTs running this year on two crops: wheat and peas. These trials are located in Smoky River, Spirit River, and Big Lakes locations. We’ll be comparing seven pea varieties and twenty wheat varieties. 

Hail trials will be returning for Year 2, in collaboration with Farming Smarter, InnoTech Alberta and AFSC. These trials simulate hail damage at different growth stages of the crop and evaluate what practices, such as fungicide and nutrient application, can best help the recovery and yield of the crop. Smoky River weather is unpredictable at the best of times (as anyone who’s had to give up their 2016 crops to snow could tell you), and the best we can do is learn how to adapt to the whims of hail and the damage it brings.

Our 2016 hail canola trial found that hail had a relatively minor effect at the 3-leaf and 7 days after flowering stages. Interestingly, damage at the first flower stage in tended to show a moderately negative hit to yield when exposed to severe hail. Damage at 21 days after flowering tended to show the most impact from hail, with even mild hail reducing yield to 30% of our un-hit check, and the most severe hail reducing yields to a mere 3%.

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Fungicide application seemed to help with the recovery of peas damaged by hail, with yields increasing across almost all timings and levels of hail compared to the yields of damaged peas without applications. The nutrient blend seemed to have no effect on yield.

The application of a nutrient blend to wheat damaged by hail tended to increase yield when compared to the yield of untreated wheat hit by hail.  Hail still decimated wheat in the later stages of its growth. While a nutrient blend may help increase yield compared to untreated wheat, those yields are still nowhere near the yield of wheat not damaged by hail.

While these results are interesting, they are far from being confirmed. These are the results after one year of trials at one location. Similar trials are being conducted at Vegreville and Lethbridge that may produce different results. Our current results may contain uncontrollable factors such as weather or moisture, and by conducting the trial again we can get results generalizable over different weather patterns.

Our perennial forages trials are now in their first year of data collection. These trials on legumes and grasses are meant to provide farmers and ranchers with information on how these varieties perform by analyzing yield, winter survivability, and nutritional quality. This study is spread throughout Alberta, testing 31 species across 9 different regions.

We still have our regional variety trials (RVTs) running, along with multiple industry trials and pulse trials. More complete information on our trials will be available online at www.sarda.ca very soon. The 2016 Annual Report will be published soon and uploaded to our website, so be sure to subscribe to our news notifications to know when it’s up.

SARDA is always seeking new ideas to better accomplish our mission of facilitating the transfer of unbiased information between research institutions, industry, and agriculture producers. We hope that you will continue to support and guide us for the years to come.

We would like to thank our current sponsors and collaborators who make this all possible: our municipal sponsors MD of Smoky River, MD of Greenview, Northern Sunrise County, County of Grande Prairie, and Big Lakes County; our commission sponsors Alberta Wheat Commission, Alberta Barley Commission, Alberta Pulse Growers, Alberta Canola Producers Commission, Canola Council of Canada, and Alberta Conservation Association; government agencies Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, InnoTech Alberta, and Alberta Agriculture and Forestry; and our collaborators Mighty Peace Watershed Alliance, Lesser Slave Watershed Council, Farming Smarter, Peace Region Forage Seed Association, and Agriculture Financial Services Corporation (AFSC). 

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