December 2020 eNewsletter
Register now for our 2021 Annual General Meeting!
Registration is now open for the SaskBarley 2021 AGM, Tuesday, January 12 at 10:30AM.
The other CropSphere host groups will have the same AGMs that day and we have been working for months to make it as easy as possible for you to attend one or all of these meetings, as a registered producer or simply an observer.
Tuesday, January 12, 2021
- 8:30 am to 9:30 am – Market outlook: canola, wheat, and barley
- 9:30 am to 10:30 am – Saskatchewan Canola Development Commission AGM
- 10:30 am to 11:15 am – Saskatchewan Barley Development Commission AGM
- 11:15 am to 12: 15 pm – Saskatchewan Wheat Development Commission AGM
- 12:45 pm to 1:30 pm – Market outlook: flax and oats
- 1:30 pm to 2:15 pm – Saskatchewan Flax Development Commission AGM
- 2:15 pm to 3:00 pm – Saskatchewan Oat Development Commission AGM
- 3:00 pm to 4:00 pm – Market outlook: pulses
- 4:00 pm to 5:00 pm – Saskatchewan Pulse Growers AGM
Your input needed to help define “sustainability” in Canadian agriculture
The Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Crops is currently leading the “Responsible Grain” project, to develop a voluntary Code of Practice for the production of cereals, oilseeds and special crops in Canada.
The science-based Code of Practice will aim to:
- enhance Canada’s reputation as a provider of high-quality food that is environmentally, socially and economically sustainable.
- address grain buyer and customer priorities
- provide practical solutions that support farms in continual improvement.
- helps farmers respond to consumers and grain buyers who value sustainability
Farmer input is now being gathered for this project. If you are a grain farmer and would like to review the Code of Practice and provide input, visit: https://responsiblegrain.ca/contact/
Down to the core
An in-depth look at core breeding agreements and what they mean for farmers
Earlier this fall, we announced that we had signed another core breeding agreement (CBA), on behalf of the Canadian Barley Research Coalition, to invest $2.7 million over five years in the University of Saskatchewan’s Crop Development Centre (CDC).
We decided it might be helpful to provide some background information about CBAs, including what they are, why we use them, and what they mean for farmers.
So we talked to Dr. Aaron Beattie, head barley breeder at the CDC, for more information.
How long have CBAs been a part of the agricultural research world?
Core funding programs started in the 1990s, after the inception of the Western Grains Research Federation (in 1981). The WGRF has since been facilitating CBAs for more than 25 years, including with us at the CDC.
In your world, what does CBA mean?
For us it’s core support on which we can run the basic aspects of our breeding program. CBAs are also a way to attract funders who may not have as much money to contribute, but realize when they do contribute, they will get a lot of bang for their buck.
What are the benefits of a core funding program?
Stability is a big one. As most people know, breeding is a long-term process. We think in long time frames and having funding for those periods of time allows us to plan and be quite confident we can get to wherever we need to be over the next five years.
It also helps us focus on our intended job – breeding! — and not spend our time chasing one-to-two-year funding agreements (even signing off on one of those can take a fair bit of time.)
CBAs allow us to hire staff. People are often on short term contracts in the research world, which doesn’t work well for breeding programs. The amount of training we put into getting staff up to speed is wasted effort if they leave after two to three years.
Core funding also tends to be more flexible. We let the funders know a general idea of how we intend to use the money but in a year like this one, when unexpected events throw a lot of our plans out the window, we’re able to use core funding to pay for unexpected expense, such as finding alternative testing sites for our breeding lines. Other funding arrangements are pretty strict – they wouldn’t have given us the ability to do that.
Finally, CBAs really allow us to be flexible in terms of our research and adapt to evolving market demands. Lots of research doesn’t get interesting until the second or third year, when you’ve done initial work and you want to explore what you’ve discovered. For example, the glycosidic-nitrile (GN) trait, which is relevant to the distilling industry [high levels of GN in malt is problematic for distillers] is something we hadn’t initially planned on working on, but we felt it had value so we brought it into the program. The craft brewing industry is growing in importance and CBA funding allows us to adapt our focus in the program to accommodate what we’re hearing from that industry.
What are some of the most notable things to come out of core funding agreements for barley with the CDC?
New varieties is really the number one thing our program is about. We are always aiming to develop varieties that yield better and stand really well. We’ve made some progress recently in that area but there’s still room for improvement.
On the disease side we are still focusing pretty hard on fusarium head blight, trying to push varieties into the moderately resistant category.
We’re also still trying to develop for various malt categories, such as a lower enzyme package for the craft industry, the low-lox trait and of course the low GN trait, which is of interest to distillers and the companies that sell to them. We are really trying to bring all these things together into one variety that would have really widespread usage and appeal.
Finally, we also have money devoted to feed barley, which is pretty straightforward — we are looking for big yields, good lodging resistance and shorter straw.
Meet our new Research & Extension Manager
Get to know Mitchell Japp and his vision for the new role
What is your vision for the new role at SaskBarley?
My focus in this role will be on connecting growers with research in barley. I’m looking forward to connecting with barley growers across Saskatchewan to talk with them about challenges and potential solutions. This will lead to development of new research and demonstration projects that can address some of those challenges and test the solutions. Working on these projects, and communications about these projects, along with research from others is what I’m most looking forward to.
What are the greatest opportunities you see for barley in the short and longer term and how can these be exploited/addressed through research and agronomy?
I think we are at or are very close to a significant transition in the barley industry. Varieties like AC Metcalfe and CDC Copeland have been dominant for nearly 20 years. There are several newer varieties that are superior agronomically, in terms of yield, disease resistance, lodging resistance and malt profiles. Transitions like these have been rare in malt barley production on the prairies.
Right now there is an opportunity to capitalize on the transition to these newer, higher yielding varieties. These varieties have the potential to drive yields further with higher fertility and more intensive management than past varieties that may have lodged or resulted in too high of protein for malt. Compounding the potential of new varieties and advanced agronomics, there is a lot to look forward to in barley.
What are the greatest threats you see for barley in the short and longer term and how can we prepare for these through research and agronomy?
The long-term cycling of varieties has been a significant threat to barley profitability. We saw it with Harrington and are seeing the tail end of it (hopefully) with AC Metcalfe and CDC Copeland. It’s not that these weren’t great varieties. They were, but innovation is critical in agriculture. Growers need to be able to continually improve production, because input costs increase and grain prices stay similar. Getting new and improved varieties in the hands of growers is a part of that solution.
Another threat facing barley is fusarium head blight (FHB). Although less susceptible than wheat or durum, there is very low tolerance for the mycotoxin deoxynivalenol (DON) in malt barley. Varietal resistance is part of the management, but there is room to improve agronomic management for FHB in barley. There are some research gaps in prevention as well as fungicide application and timing.