What We Do for Farmers
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada has a strong and proud history of working with farmers to grow food, fight pests and disease, and breed better crops that can flourish in Canada's diverse soils and withstand our harsh climate.
Our scientists also help farmers in other countries fight pests that could eventually threaten our productions.
Here are a few examples of projects our scientists have been working on:
- Vaccine for livestock keeps tick paralysis in check
- Tick paralysis has been an affliction spreading through the Prairie Provinces which affects cattle and sheep. In response to this issue, researchers at the Lethbridge Research Centre in Alberta have developed a vaccination method which allows livestock to build up immunity to the pest. This method does not present undesirable side effects and are long-lasting, assisting in preventing catastrophic outbreak from affecting Canadian cattle producers.
- Research establishes residue from the paper industry as an excellent source of nutritional elements and an organic amendment which can improve soil quality.
- A team of researchers from the Soils and Crops Research and Development Centre in Sainte-Foy, Quebec, has demonstrated that recovery of waste paper industry in agriculture is possible. These industrial wastes are an excellent source of nutrients for crops and an organic amendment to improve soil quality. The risk of contamination of air, soil and plants using these products is minimal after several consecutive years of contributions. The use of waste paper in agriculture presents a more attractive option than burial or cremation. Agronomic and environmental evaluations of these products by scientists will further facilitate the management of industrial by-products with a view to sustainable agriculture.
- New winter grazing method reduces costs of feeding cattle in winter
- Scientists from the Lacombe Research Centre in Alberta, the Brandon Research Centre in Manitoba, and the Nappan site of the Atlantic Food and Horticulture Research Centre in Nova Scotia along with the Western Beef Development Centre in Saskatchewan have discovered that the grazing season can be lengthened through swath grazing, bale grazing and stockpiled forages. Swath grazing occurs after cereal crops are planted late, and then swathed in September to remain in the field for animals to graze on during the winter months, even under snow. Traditionally, costs of winter feeding beef cows represents 60 to 65 per cent of the total cost of calf production. By extending the grazing season, costs associated with harvesting, handling, feeding and manure removal are reduced or eliminated - with a reduction in labour, feed and equipment costs by up to 38, 32 and 88 per cent respectively. The concept has been widely adopted across the prairies and is being evaluated in the Northern Great Plains in the United States. Team members received a Gold Harvest Award from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in 2008 in recognition of their exceptional and significant contributions.
- Soil nitrogen management studies reduce the potential for environmental pollution in intensively cultivated crops in south coastal British Columbia
- Field and laboratory studies conducted at the Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre in Agassiz, British Columbia helped gain fundamental knowledge about the dynamics of nitrogen in soils in response to the relatively unique weather conditions of south coastal British Columbia. This knowledge provided the basis for the development of management recommendations and soil tests to minimize environmental pollution of nitrate in surface and ground water. The application of management recommendations and soil tests has contributed to the decreased potential for nitrate pollution of water while maintaining optimum production of crops under the intensive cultivation practices necessary in a region with significant urban-agriculture competition for land. This work was recognized with a Sustainable Development Award in 2001 from Government of Canada 4NR (four natural resource departments) Science Leaders program.
- Production protocols developed for Newfoundland roseroot, European lingonberry and Russian cultivars of sea buckthorn and honeysuckle give growers new crop options for Newfoundland
- Soil mangement research by scientists at the Atlantic Cool Climate Research Centre in St. John's, Newfoundland determined that unproductive marginal lands could be converted to agricultural soils suitable for commercialization of over 20 high value crops requiring well-drained soils. Scientists first collected and analyzed varieties that could be grown in the region (Newfoundland roseroot, European lingonberry and Russian cultivars of sea buckthorn and edible honeysuckle), developed recommendations on how to grow them, and assessed the commercial feasibility of growing many of the crops. For example, the research determined that the introduced half-high blueberry crop could survive a berry crop under eastern Newfoundland climatic conditions, and production protocols were developed to prevent frost heaving of new transplants of European lingonberry.
- Software allows for the visualization of disease and insect predictions for various crops, taking climatic conditions and temperature into account
- A Horticulture Research and Development Centre researcher in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec created the CIPRA (Computer Centre for Agricultural Pest Forecasting) software, a user-friendly forecasting tool for 31 insects, 13 diseases, 2 physiological disorders and 8 phenological developments affecting 18 crops. This software provides farm advisers and producers with an additional tool for decision making and efficient management of phytosanitary interventions, making it possible to reduce the number of pesticide applications, while better protecting crops.
- New varieties of wheat, corn, soy and oats that withstand cooler temperatures are expanding the farming frontier in Ontario and Quebec
- Research conducted at the the Eastern Cereal and Oilseed Research Centre in Ottawa, Ontario is helping to expand the frontiers of farming in Canada. Here scientists have developed new lines of winter wheat, oat soybean, and inbred lines of grain corn that are able to withstand a cooler environment with a limited growing season. The new crops also have increased yield and quality and are more disease resistant. The winter wheat varieties are able to withstand ice encasement and harsh winters, while the milling oat varieties adapted to Ontario were an important factor in the re-opening of the Quaker oat processing plant in Peterborough, Ontario.
- Carrot foliage trimmer used in North American and European carrot fields to reduce losses from rot
- Researchers at the Crops and Livestock Research Centre in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island have developed a mechanical device which is attached to a farm tractor capable of tripping carrot tops in the field. This device trims the foliage, allowing for air flow and reducing opportunity for disease in the crop. Reduced air flow allows for the early on-set of sclerotina rot, a disease which is easily preventable but does not display symptoms until the product is in storage. Since 2008, yield losses due to sclerotina rot have been reduced by 80 per cent. This project received a Science Achievement Award from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's Research Branch in 2011 in recognition of their exceptional and significant contributions.
- New diagnostic tools improve nitrogen and phosphorus management and reduce the risk of environmental pollution for these elements
- A team of researchers from the Soils and Crops Research and Development Centre in Sainte-Foy, Quebec, has developed diagnostic tools to measure the levels of nitrogen and phosphorus nutrition during the growing season. The diagnostic tools rely on plant tissue analysis. They are based on whole-plant critical nitrogen and phosphorus content and make it possible to estimate nitrogen and phosphorus nutrition indexes for grain corn, bread wheat and timothy grass. The research team has also developed a simpler diagnostic approach using measurements (chlorophyll, nitrogen content) from a single part of the plant, the uppermost collared leaf. These diagnostic tools based on crop monitoring during the growing season are an additional and complementary tool for soil analysis. As a result, they make it possible to improve nitrogen and phosphorus management and reduce the risk of environmental pollution by these two elements.
- Small fruit breeding program provides growers and consumers with high quality strawberries, raspberries, blackberries
- Since its creation 1911 the Atlantic Food and Horticulture Research Centre in Kentville, Nova Scotia has played a key role in developing new fruit varieites for the region. Over the past 100 years, the research program has produce more than 50 different varieties of fruits, many still being grown in Canada and around the world. Plant breeders work closely with entomologists, pathologist, and plant physiologists to develop new varieties with improved fruit quality (including shipping quality) and resistance to diseases. Today the small fruit breeding program concentrates on developing new lines of straweberries, raspberries and blackberries with traits that appeal to both growers and consumers. Most of the strawberries grown in eastern Canada are from cultivars bred in Kentville, Nova Scotia.
- New lines of oats, barley, winter and spring wheat contributes to the economic sustainability of producers in the Atlantic Region and beyond
- The initial objective of the Soils and Crops Research and Development Centre's grain research program in Sainte-Foy, Quebec was to increase the effectiveness of grain production and to improve the quality of grains, especially barley and oats. The research teams first developed varieties more suited to the soils and climatic conditions, and then sought resistance traits. Over 12 new lines of barley, 4 new lines of winter wheat and 10 new lines of spring wheat have contributed over the past 25 years to the economic sustainability of producers in the Atlantic Region and beyond. In Quebec, Chapais barley and AC Rigodon oats have long been varieties of choice for growers.
- Patented and computerized fertigation system helps greenhouse industry reduce labour costs and improve crop yield and quality
- Crop management research at the Greenhouse and Processing Crops Research Centre in Harrow, Ontario helped the greenhouse vegetable industry switch to soilless - or hydroponic - growing systems in the mid-1980s and replace their weekly feeding schedule with a seasonal fertigation program where nutrients are adjusted according to crop growth and environmental conditions. The subsequent release of a computer-controlled fertigation system, the Harrow Fertigation ManagerTM, developed in collaboration with the National Research Council and industry, has allowed growers to automatically deliver the mixture of water and nutrients directly to plants. The automatic injection system can be programmed to meet the changing needs of crops for water and nutrients throughout the cropping cycle. The use of this program has reduced labour costs, and ensures that a much more reliable and accurate nutrient supply is provided to the plants. The system is currently in use in North America, Europe and Asia.
- Vitamin B12 and folic acid fed to dairy cows and breeding sows around the world to increase nutritional quality, milk production and fertility
- At the Dairy and Swine Research and Development Centre in Lennoxville, Quebec research on the feeding of dairy cows and breeder sows revealed that simply adding vitamin B12 and folic acid to the animals' daily intake improves the metabolism of the cows, which then produce more milk of a higher nutritional quality, and increases the fertility of the sows and the vigour of the piglets. These very simple changes produced an undeniable economic benefit for producers.
- Sterile Insect and Area Wide Control reduces pesticide use, controls codling moth in apple and pear orchards and enables new insect biocontrol options in British Columbia
- The codling moth is a pest that threatens apple and pear crops - pome fruits - in fruit-growing regions around the world, including those in British Columbia's Southern Interior. Based on thirty years of research by scientists at the Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre in Summerland, British Columbia a Sterile Insect Release Program involving the province, regional districts and fruit growers was launched in the region in 1992. This initiative has led to a significant reduction in the number of codling moths, the level of codling moth damage, and the amount of pesticides that would have otherwise been required to control moth infestations.
- New raspberry variety increases grower productivity and quickly dominates the field in British Columbia, Washington State and Oregon
- Scientists at the Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre in Agassiz, British Columbia have developed a new variety of raspberry, Chemanius, that in only a few years has become the dominant variety in British Columbia, Washington State and Oregon. Viruses and other diseases lead to reduced berry production and early destruction of the perennial plantings. This reduces the income of the growers and adds to the replanting and crop establishment costs. Chemanius is a productive raspberry variety with good machine harvesting characteristic with good disease resistance to the common viruses. It has good colour and flavour with excellent processing potential and can also be used for fresh market.
- New award-winning variety of lettuce is more tolerant to the diseases associated with heat stress and is better adapted to the expanding processing and export markets
- In the summer, it's hotter in Quebec than it is in California! For lettuce producers, who needed a heat-resistant head lettuce, Horticulture Research and Development Centre researchers in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec developed two new varieties of lettuce that are resistant to rib discolouration and to premature bolting. They are now available to producers, and Estival lettuce has already made its mark in Canada, accounting for nearly 30 per cent of head lettuce sales. In November 2010, it received the Seed of the Year award at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto.
- The use of light synchronizes the reproduction of sheep with the needs of the marketplace
- Market needs for lambs are mainly tied to specific times of the year. It is therefore important to be able to provide animals for these times of the year. Work done at the experimental farm in La Pocatière in Quebec, in association with the Centre d'expertise en production ovine du Québec has led to the development of easy and low-cost techniques for estrus synchronization. Use of light to synchronize ewes is now well-established. This makes it possible to match lamb production to market needs.