Cattle ranchers paired up with researchers in mentorship program

Pair of Lethbridge scientists matched with cow-calf producers from Alberta

Two AgCanada researchers in Lethbridge — a soil microbial ecologist and an expert in greenhouse gas emissions — are among the six scientists selected for a mentorship program put on by the Beef Cattle Research Council.

The program pairs the researchers with innovative cattle producers and industry professionals — many from Alberta — for a one-year mentorship along with a travel budget to attend industry meetings, producer workshops, and farm tours. Among the goals of the program are to give the scientists a better understanding of, and connection to, the beef industry; encourage technology transfer; and help align research interests with the needs of the beef sector.

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Monika Gorzelak has “a passion for mycorrhizas” and is examining the role of microbiomes in improving soil health, soil carbon sequestration, and nutrient dynamics. The Lethbridge scientist uses modern molecular methods, stable isotopes, and classical microbiology to examine mycorrhizal networks, rhizosphere dynamics, and soil amendments.

Gorzelak has been paired with fourth-generation ranchers Lyle and Rylee Hewitt who have a commercial black Angus cow-calf operation north of Cowley. Her other mentor is Andy Hart who ranches near Claresholm. Hart and wife Ramona run 200 commercial cow-calf pairs on roughly 2,000 acres. Hart is past president of the Foothills Forage and Grazing Association.

The other scientist from the Lethbridge station is Trevor Coates, whose research interests are focused on better understanding the complexities of greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and on exploring new methodologies for quantifying mitigation efforts. His PhD studies focused on this area and looked at grazing cattle on Australia’s vast northern rangelands.

His mentors are Rich Smith, who recently retired as executive director of Alberta Beef Producers, and Acme-area producer Kendra Donnelly, who operates a ranch, farm and feedlot (operation with three locations) with her husband and family members.

Other researchers in this year’s program are Alexander Koiter, a soil and water conservation expert at Brandon University; bacteria and gut biome researcher Christine Liu; University of Saskatchewan plant ecologist Jonathan Bennett; and agroecosystems expert Marcos Coreiro from the University of Manitoba.

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