Two longtime Canola Council of Canada agronomists have moved on while another who specializes in cereals has joined Alberta Wheat and Alberta Barley.
Dan Orchard, who covered agronomy in Wetaskiwin, is now consulting in the same region, and Greg Sekulic, who was responsible for the Peace Country is joining Croplife Australia.
“Nobody was cut, nobody was let go,” said canola council president Jim Everson. “We went down by people moving on to other opportunities.”
The organization will be hiring a new agronomy specialist in the Peace, who will join Autumn Barnes, the agronomy specialist for southern Alberta, and Innisfail-based Keith Gabert. Lloydminster-based Clinton Jurke is the council’s agronomy director.
The agronomists specialize in specific areas, said Everson.
“The highest priority is that we have an agronomy specialist who is really focused with mitigating clubroot, someone who is working on blackleg and someone working on stand establishment,” he said.
In all, the council has nine agronomy specialists and all work on a Prairie-wide basis, said Everson.
“They are not fixed to particular provinces. We have a team of agronomists who are specializing in canola who work together to support all other agronomists and producers working in canola,” he said.
Another crop expert on the move is Sheri Strydhorst, who left the University of Alberta to become an agronomy research specialist with Alberta Barley and Alberta Wheat. A specialist in cereal agronomy, Strydhorst only joined the university last summer when the province transferred several research programs, including her’s, to universities and colleges. She joins research extension agronomist Jeremy Boychyn, who was hired in October 2018 — a first for the two crop commissions.
Meanwhile, there were more layoffs at Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, with another 19 people recently losing their jobs. At least 13 of them were with the barley-breeding program at Lacombe, said Ross McKenzie, a former provincial research scientist who has been critical of the government cuts at his former ministry.
McKenzie said he’s heard the barley-breeding program will largely be transferred to Olds College.
“They have no experience of crop breeding,” he said. “I don’t know how that is going to work.”
About 30 provincial ag staff have been transferred to Olds, Lakeland College, and the universities of Alberta and Lethbridge.
McKenzie estimates about 325 people have been let go from Alberta Agriculture since the cuts began in 2019.