Lakeland College began small-plot crop research nearly 3 years ago. In year 1 (2016), the program launched by growing
300 plots for two partner organizations. By 2018 (year 3), the crop research program had grown to accommodate 1500 plots with more than ten partner organizations. The current research is a mixture of Lakeland-led pro-jects and collaborative projects with organizations such as the University of Alberta, Alberta Agriculture, producer organizations, and private industry.
The crop research program has reached capacity in every year of operation and continues to grow in personnel, equipment, and land use to meet the increasing demand for public and private commissioned small-plot research.
Having rigorous research representation in the Vermilion region is important for two reasons. Lakeland’s crop research scientist, Laurel Thompson, explains: “We know that agronomic and varietal performance really depends on environment. Growers in this region need to have pertinent data available on which to base high value on-farm decisions. They also need to have access to extension and learning events such as field days in their back yard”.
Dr. Sheri Strydhorst, research scientist with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, adds, “There is a huge collaborative benefit for work-ing together with Laurel. She is in an environment that has unique soil conditions, unique environ-mental conditions, and when we combine her research with ours we get a really good picture of what is happening in diverse environments”.
A pertinent example of regionally applicable research that the College is delivering is the Regional Variety Trials. These trials are performed by a network of research organizations across the province to provide farmers and industry with variety selection information, culminating in the annual Varieties of Cereal and Oilseed Crops for Alberta and Varieties of Pulse Crops for Alberta, both published by Alberta Agriculture and Forestry. The 2018 field season was the second year that the College grew these trials as part of the provincial network, which tests individual varieties of wheat, barley, oat, triticale, peas, faba beans, soybeans, and lentils. Over 100 varieties were trialed and shown to producers in the field, giving important representation of variety performance in the region.
Lakeland College is well positioned to respond to this need for agronomic and varietal crop research. In addition to filling a geographic void, the College is also well connected to a network of alumni who are now farming or working in the agriculture industry. As Thompson explains, “Our extension messages reach further and have a significant impact because the College is so connected at the farm- and industry-level through our students and alumni”.
The crop research program has focused on cereal and pulse crop research from 2016 to 2018. Future plans include expanding the program to include canola/oilseed and ag technology research.”