Extension agronomist aims to bridge gap between research and producers

The two crop commissions want their investment in research to be put to use on Alberta farms

Alberta’s wheat and barley commissions are determined to get their research into the hands of producers.

They’ve hired a research extension agronomist to make sure that happens.

“I don’t know if there’s anyone who has a similar role to me at this point,” said Jeremy Boychyn, who started his new job in October.

The two cereal commissions have invested about $3 million into research since 2014 and with several concluding, they wanted to “deliver some of this funded research back to producers,” he said.

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“If this research doesn’t go back to the producers, there’s no real point because they are the people using it,” said Boychyn, who grew up on a farm near Toronto and has a master’s degree in plant physiology. “They are the ones who are using it, they are the ones it’s most beneficial for, and they are the ones who are paying for it.”

That view is echoed by Janine Paly, an Alberta Wheat director who farms near Thorhild and is chair of its research and extension committee.

“Often the results or the information from research projects that we do fund are never read by producers, and they’re never seen by producers,” said Paly, a former agronomist with Ducks Unlimited Canada. “We’re hoping that Jeremy is able to close that gap and allow Alberta farmers and agronomists to make sound, sustainable management practices.”

Since being hired, Boychyn has spent a great deal of time travelling the province, talking to producers and learning about their challenges. He is now working on a number of production manuals featuring Alberta Wheat and Alberta Barley research.

“We’re developing a spring wheat production manual and working with researchers across Alberta to make sure it is filled with the most up-to-date and relevant information for producers,” he said.

The two commissions are also developing an agronomy-based website called ‘The Growing Point’ to showcase the information in the manuals. Boychyn will also write a monthly agronomy-focused newsletter, produce podcasts and video interviews with researchers, and collaborate with the province’s applied research associations to make sure field plots and demonstrations are relevant to Alberta producers.

“My goal is to continuously put myself out there so producers are aware of me so they can contact me,” said Boychyn, who tweets @BoychynJeremy and can be reached at [email protected]

“I’m trying to encourage producers to reach out to me if they have any questions or concerns. That keeps me more abreast of what agronomic issues could be coming up as we move through the season.”

He’s looking to develop relationships with producers across all regions of the province.

“From a farmer’s perspective, having an agronomist on staff will be a tremendous benefit to producers,” said Paly. “Research provides benefits to farmers and agronomists. Advanced agronomic practices help us to have high-yield varieties and improve sustainability and reduce on-farm challenges that producers face all the time.”

Boychyn’s attention is focused on some of the biggest agronomy issues affecting producers, including herbicide-resistant weeds such as kochia and wild oats.

“Those are things that we’re putting a lot of money towards,” he said. “We can mitigate through research there.”

Producers are also interested in new variety development.

All of the information that Boychyn disseminates will be based on research done in Alberta.

“We’re trying to make it as local as possible,” he said. “That’s why we work with the research associations across Alberta and sometimes even independent agronomists.”

Results may vary across the regions of the province, and it’s important to convey that to producers, he added.

“Growing crops in Magrath is completely different than what you see in Grande Prairie,” he said. “Having those regional trials is very important.”

Checkoff-funded research is a major focus of the wheat and barley commissions, added Paly.

“There’s a lot of research here that we don’t hear about,” she said. “With Jeremy in the role, he will be able to demonstrate to the growers that there is a lot of valuable research out there and filter it to us in some media format.”

While Boychyn’s position is unique among Alberta crop commissions in the province, the Canola Council of Canada has agronomists based in Alberta (their positions are partially funded by the Alberta Canola Producers Commission). Manitoba Corn Growers Association, Manitoba Pulse & Soybean Growers, and SaskPulse, also have their own agronomists.

About the author

Reporter

Alexis Kienlen lives in Edmonton and has been writing for Alberta Farmer since 2008. Originally from Saskatoon, she has also published two collections of poetry and a biography about a Sikh civil rights activist. Her freelance work has appeared in numerous publications across Canada.

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