Pulse Beat Individual Articles

MPSG’s Expanding Research Portfolio

Daryl Domitruk, PhD, Executive Director, MPSG

In the spring of 2020, MPSG’s portfolio of research expanded by nine projects. These projects represent a $600,000 investment by your organization.

I want to begin by explaining how we prioritize work under Growing Market Demand, one of our four areas of focus. Within this focus, MPSG concentrates on projects that directly impact farm gate demand or value. This usually means optimizing the qualities of the crop coming off the field. We leave food manufacturing questions to the food manufacturers, retailing questions to the retailers, etc.

A great example of our approach is the question of soybean protein levels. Inside this issue of Pulse Beat, Charles Grant describes the problem of protein discounts (page 38). On the facing page (39), Jim House reports on early results from his investigation of elevated levels of essential amino acids in our soybeans. Together these demonstrate the problem, but also a potential solution. It is tantalizing to dream of Manitoba soybean meal having a natural amino acid advantage in the feed market. However, to convince the feed industry, we need more data on actual animal performance. Therefore, among the latest projects, the largest is an almost $500,000 trial at the University of Manitoba (U of M) to evaluate the feeding value of our soybeans for pigs and poultry.

Soil health is a focus area the research committee felt needed a boost. To that end, there are two new projects. Ivan Oreznik’s lab at the U of M continues to figure out how the frequency of soybean impacts the population of Bradyrhizobium and other members of the soil microbial community. An experiment led by Stephen Crittendon at AAFC–Brandon, conducted at sites across the province, looks at which indicators of soil health a grower can practically control and how important (or not) those indicators are to yield. We’ve co-invested with Manitoba Crop Alliance on this project.

Furthering our effort to reduce the cost of pest control, Bryan Cassone at Brandon University is developing diagnostic quick tests for root rots. Over at AAFC–Lethbridge, Manitoba-raised Charles Geddes is leading provincial surveys of herbicide-resistant weeds. See a summary of Charles’ webinar on page 45.

There’s nothing straightforward about the effect of crop rotation on the primary determinants of crop yield. An even less straight forward story is revealed when you look at the level of soil biology and chemistry. This Pulse Beat reflects on Yvonne Lawley’s thoughts on the matter. And in a new project, Kristen MacMillan the MPSG Agronomist-in-Residence, embarks on a multi-year study at the U of M to figure out just how long the interval between pea crops should be.

In addition to these new projects, the Research and Production program continues to refine its on-farm testing and field surveillance activities. In fact, these will be the focus in 2021 as the provincial research funding program comes to an end, lessening the time commitment on that front. A big question coming up is how MPSG approaches funding plant breeding. For pea breeding (see DJ Bing’s article on page 31), we’re in discussions with our sister pulse organizations regarding pan-prairie collaboration. We may take a lesson from the wheat organizations and strive for coordinated research and funding across the major pea breeding programs.