Farmer-driven research in Alberta

When it comes to activities, the Agricultural Research and Extension Council of Alberta (ARECA) runs the gamut.

“We do everything from annual crop research, to variety, fertility and silage trials,” said Janette McDonald, executive director of ARECA. “We then go into perennial crops and special crops. At least 50 to 60 per cent of our work is in forages and pasture management, forage establishment, rejuvenation of pastures, fencing systems, and winter grazing.”

Regional variety trials are also a key part of the council’s work, she said.

“Farmers are faced with so many new varieties these days,” said McDonald. “It’s a real advantage to be able to see how they perform in your local area. As such, we have sites across the province with many cereal, canola and pulse varieties being tested for the local conditions.”

Pest monitoring is another priority.

“It’s a huge program with over 120 sites across the province. Our local organizations do plant and larva counts in fields on a weekly or biweekly basis.”

ARECA also has some specific projects based around 2015 being the International Year of Soils. “We’re running a conference, and we’re bringing in speakers this summer for tours,” said McDonald. “We’re also going to be adding a soil health component to some of our existing trials.”

The research organizations that make up ARECA are all farmer based and farmer driven, she added.

“There’s a very strong local connection. These groups were created to be locally run and responsible to the local people. There’s a big emphasis on making sure that what is done can be used by the farmer herself and her neighbours.”

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