IT IS CUSTOMARY for the summer edition of Pulse Beat to carry a table summarizing MPSG-supported research projects. Two years into a five-year government funding cycle the list has grown substantially.
MPSG has been very successful in leveraging government funding for research projects. Under the current CAP programs 22 of 24 applications to the provincial Ag Action program were approved. As a result, we’ve initiated about $3.0 million worth of research with an investment to farmers of $1.5 million. Even sweeter has been the federal CAP AgriScience cluster program where MPSG’s $2.1 million commitment garnered over $25 million in research. With grower organizations across Canada pooling their funds, Ottawa covers up to 70% of project costs. From an up-front dollars and cents perspective, cost-shared research projects are a “good deal.”
While good deals on research are a passion at MPSG, leveraging check-off dollars is only a fraction of the value we seek to deliver to members. After all, research that is well-leveraged financially but leads nowhere agronomically would be a waste. So, then, how do we place a value on research? Often, it’s attractive to think in terms of a simple benefit/cost. Unfortunately, it is difficult to track farmer adoption of research results, let alone quantify the rewards farmers have realized as a result. We’re left without a reliable numerator in
the equation. True, studies show benefit/cost figures for ag research are a handsome 10:1 to 20:1 for Canada as a nation. However, these figures were derived to support policy development not as decision support tools for farmers.
At the end of the day what farmers should expect in return for their research investment (besides a tax credit), is information that is useful to them as farm business operators. Usefulness, then, is something we ought to be able to measure. Here, too, there are challenges because usefulness is in the eye of the beholder.
To get past the murkiness of these questions, MPSG has crafted its own value proposition for research. It goes something like this: investments in research need to be broad enough to serve farmers’ widely varying needs to simply stay in the game. On the other hand, investments must also be targeted to cost-saving and profit-generating ways for farmers to win. If the knowledge generated by MPSG- funded research is helping growers stay in the game and reliably deliver wins we’ve got a useful (and realistic) program.
In the table you’ll notice the area of soil health is lagging. In the interest of staying in the game and winning we need to achieve some balance. Soil health and sustainable, winning pulse and soybean crops go together like peas in a pod. The unique sensitivities of pulses and soybeans to soil biological, chemical and physical conditions means there is plenty of useful knowledge to be revealed through research. Several projects in this area are in the proposal stage. As we enter the second half of the five-year funding cycle, soil health will round out the program.
Click on the table below to view the full list of 2019 funding for research.Download 2019 Funding Approved for Research