Daryl Domitruk, PhD, PAg, Executive Director, MPSG – Fall/Winter (December) Pulse Beat 2021
In our constant effort to optimize the transfer of research results to farmers, MPSG will be expanding the breadth and depth of research reporting. An expanded suite of results from the On-Farm Network alone begs broader and deeper exposure. The usual videos, tweets, apps and special posts will be accompanied by a modified version of Pulse Beat: The Science Edition magazine. We’re eager to see what can be done with the treasure of knowledge MPSG has accumulated.
Coming out of 2021, we are somewhat surprised by how normal the field activity numbers look. Of course, there was nothing normal about 2021. Behind the numbers are extensive efforts by MPSG staff and our research partners to keep the research ship righted when the forces of nature and human folly were trying to run it aground.
On-Farm Network Program
Results of the 2021 On-Farm Network program have been distributed to participants. General distribution will occur in early 2022. We are expending more effort on each trial and not necessarily pursuing more trials. This year we targeted 70 trials. Having reached that goal, drought pushed us back to 54 trials covering 16 topics. Most fungicide trials were abandoned for obvious reasons. A reminder that on-farm tests are easy to do on your own. MPSG staff are happy to advise on trial setup and data analysis.
Regional Variety Testing Program
The regional variety testing program continues to be one of our more successful and long-running programs. A total of 48 trials were conducted throughout Manitoba in 2021. Across those trials, a total of 196 varieties of soybeans (herbicide-tolerant and conventional), dry beans (narrow-row, wide-row, and all major classes), peas and faba beans were tested for yield and maturity. A new site near Holland worked great. Results are published in the MPSG Pulse and Soybean Variety Guide bundled with this issue of Pulse Beat, as well as in Seed Manitoba. We’re continuing to assess protein content in soybean varieties grown in these trials, given the ongoing interest in protein levels. These results will be available online in February.
Field surveillance was especially interesting in 2021. Staff walked over 200 fields across the province. Of course, drought impacts were abundant and we learned a lot about crop responses to drought. Most of this information was distributed in-season via the Bean Report. While we again conducted surveys for crop disease this year, it proceeded a little quicker. Currently, our attention is focused on nipping the soybean cyst nematode in the bud. Surveillance is turning up more cases. We’re planning a training session for agronomists and extension on preventative measures.
New Research Programs
Being in Manitoba means we’re in a bit of a lull for new research projects. That’s because the provincial matching program ends two seasons prior to the sunset of the Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP). We’ve asked the province to finally correct this gap because we’re losing research to other provinces that run seamless programs. There was, however, a provincial funding competition for equipment and short turn-around projects. MPSG was awarded funds to purchase a near infrared (NIR) protein measuring device, which we will install at AAFC–Morden. Ten years ago, MPSG purchased a similar machine. The new NIRs main purpose is to study soybean protein and dry bean quality. Funding was also awarded to MPSG to assist in the design and building of an autonomous plot cart that will carry cameras to scan for genetic variants of soybean that display drought tolerance traits. This is in the emerging field of machine learning. Finally, we received funding to retain Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute (PAMI) to conduct an analysis of opportunities to tighten up on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions around the farm. Knowing the cost:benefit of various technologies (e-vehicles, low temperature grain drying, etc.) will help when we lobby for a return of carbon tax to pay for these improvements.
Agronomist-in Residence Program
The Agronomist-in-Residence program was slated to end, but we’ve extended the agreement with U of M for the program to continue until April 2023. Project results are rolling in and will be featured in the Pulse Beat: The Science Edition and other communication platforms for the next couple of years. Discussions are underway regarding the future of this program.
Science Cluster Program
Discussions with our sister pulse and soybean organizations are underway to prepare proposals for the next Science Cluster program expected to be part of the Next Policy Framework in 2023. Projects suited for the federally funded Science Cluster program tend to be more complex and require teams of researchers across Canada. We’ve been reserving research funds for the last few years in anticipation of committing about $1 million to science cluster projects. Top of mind is the improvement of drought tolerance in soybeans. We’re connected with researchers at AAFC–Ottawa who have identified early maturing lines that maintain nitrogen fixation and, hence, yield and protein under drought (page 41). Since there is a gap in provincial funding, we will solely fund the testing of these lines in Manitoba before orchestrating a multi-year science cluster project.
Other projects currently on the shortlist for the next science cluster include root rot resistance in peas, beans and soybeans, coaxing dry beans to fix their own nitrogen and conservation tillage systems for dry beans and soybeans.
National Research Strategy
By the time this magazine goes to print, pulse grower groups across Canada should have released a new national research strategy. The strategy seeks to emphasize topics that have gained prominence in the last five years, such as root rot, pesticide resistance and the contribution of pulses to Canada’s climate change goals. The strategy will help us create interprovincial projects to improve yield and quality while reducing the cost of production. Manitoba is a natural to lead projects on dry beans.
While a decline in acres led to a smaller than anticipated research budget over the last few years, MPSG is holding its own and continuing a very successful run attracting funds from public and private sources. The Manitoba CAP program has been instrumental in this regard, and we are very appreciative of the government’s contributions. It is critical government maintain and even increase funding programs going forward.