DuPont Pioneer has been conducting research in Alberta for several years, mainly at the University of Alberta, but it now has its own home near here.
Canadian president Ian Grant was on hand for the recent official opening of the DuPont Pioneer Centre, along with staff, government officials and community members.
“This Edmonton facility is really a great example of our commitment to western Canadian agriculture. We’re expanding our business, growing our portfolio and investing heavily in research and development to create the best products we can for Canadian farmers,” Grant said.
Research at the centre focuses on the development of early- and mid-maturity canola hybrids, corn hybrids and some soybeans. The centre includes a computer-automated greenhouse which can grow multiple generations of canola-breeding maturity, and two labs. The entire facility is over 15,000 square feet and employs over 20 staff, depending on the season.
“It’s taken a long time to get this facility and our staff is very proud,” said Dave Charne, a breeder at the centre. “In any profession, it’s important to have a good place to do your work and the necessary tools to do the job well. That’s what this research centre provides to our researchers.”
The development process for a new variety of canola includes the growing of new material, to selections of genetics, to yield trials. The researchers can do quality analysis in labs on site. All varieties are screened for clubroot resistance and other disease resistance as part of the breeding process. It takes about eight years for a seed to go from crossing to registration.
“We’re one of three companies making a significant investment in developing canola and we would like to believe that we can get our rightful share of the market,” said Grant.
Corn hybrid development
The new research facility is also focused on early-maturing corn.
Tom Van Moorsel, corn specialist and agronomist for central and southern Alberta, was part of the team who introduced corn to the Red Deer area in 1998. “They called us crazy then but now it’s a general crop and many people have seen it and it’s taking on well,” he said.
Corn is doing well in the silage market, winning customers in the Alberta dairy industry. It’s more drought resistant than cereal crops, adds another rotation option, doesn’t lodge and can take up a lot of nutrients in manure, allowing livestock producers to spread it closer to home.
Silage corn has been grown in Alberta for some time, but until recently grain corn was restricted to the southern part of the province. Van Moorsel said shorter-season varieties are now grown around Lloydminster, Calmar and even High Level.
“Early on, it was a crop that was a hit and miss, but now it’s pretty successful,” said Van Moorsel. “We spent a lot of time developing good agronomy. We wanted people to come back to the crop year after year.” Van Moorsel expected acreage to increase as more producers buy equipment specifically designed for corn.
Since 2002, more producers, especially those in the north, have been grazing cattle on corn. “We have to help people to do it right so that they’re doing it year after year,” said Van Moorsel. The goal is currently at about a million or a million and a half acres of corn in Alberta. “There are a lot of people interested in it. The more that you throw at it in terms of inputs, the more you get back,” he said.