Governments of Canada and Saskatchewan invest $9.8 million into crop research

January 26, 2021, 2:11 pm
Rob Paul, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

$9.8 million in funding has been announced for 39 crop related research projects through Saskatchewan’s Agriculture Development Fund (ADF).

Last week Canada’s Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Marie-Claude Bibeau and Saskatchewan’s Premier Scott Moe announced $9.8 million in funding for 39 crop-related research projects through Saskatchewan’s Agriculture Development Fund (ADF).

“Despite challenges caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, Canada’s crop sector has continued to work hard to ensure Canadians and families around the world have access to high-quality products,” Bibeau said. “Investing in research helps producers grow the food the world needs in the most efficient and sustainable way possible. These applied research projects will help producers innovate and create growth.”

“Saskatchewan’s agriculture sector has incredible growth potential and this targeted investment will help our producers and agri-businesses innovate to continue to deliver what the world needs,” Moe said. “This investment supports the bold goals in the Saskatchewan Growth Plan that will see our crop production increase to 45 million tonnes, agriculture exports increase to $20 billion and value-added revenue increase to $10 billion.”

Support for ADF projects is awarded on a competitive basis to researchers looking to examine areas of importance to Saskatchewan producers.

Agriculture Development Fund Crops Project for 2021:

• 15 crop related projects with $2,589,464 in total funding.

• 11 pulse projects with $4,488,812 in total funding.

• Six cereal projects with $1,357,903 in total funding.

• Three oilseed projects with $864,674 in total funding.

• Three alternative crop projects with $404,490 in total funding.

• One forage project with $94,996 in total funding.

The four projects that received the most funding were all from the University of Saskatchewan. Two of the projects are led by Dr. Kristin Bett and focus on enhancing the value of lentil variations for ecosystem survival ($825,000) and dry bean breeding ($609,552.80).

The USask project that received the most funding ($981,150) focuses on pea breeding in Western Canada, it’s led by Dr. Tom Warkentin. The fourth USask project is led by Dr. Bunyamin Tar’an and focuses on breeding chickpea cultivars for Western Canada ($730,317).

In addition to funding provided by the federal and provincial governments, the following industry partners have contributed a total of more than $3.1 million in funding to these projects: Western Grains Research Foundation, Saskatchewan Alfalfa Seed Producers, Saskatchewan Barley Development Commission, Saskatchewan Canola Development Commission, Saskatchewan Oat Development Commission, Saskatchewan Pulse Growers, Saskatchewan Wheat Development Commission, Alberta Wheat Commission and Manitoba Crop Alliance.

“Sask Wheat has invested $12.9 million of producer funding through the ADF process since 2015,” Sask Wheat Chair Brett Halstead said. “The program provides opportunities for quality, innovative projects that will benefit Saskatchewan grain producers. The ADF funding process allows us to collaborate with other Prairie crop commissions, connect with researchers and fund projects that are developing crop varieties with greater yield potentials and resistance to common pests and environmental stressors. The benefits of farmer-funded research goes beyond farm gate, increasing market opportunities for Canadian crops and leading to a stronger agriculture sector and provincial economy.”

The ADF is supported through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, a five-year, $3 billion investment by federal, provincial and territorial governments to strengthen the agriculture and agri-food sector. This includes $2 billion in federal, provincial and territorial cost-shared strategic initiatives, and $1 billion for federal activities and programs—there’s a $388 million investment in strategic initiatives for Saskatchewan agriculture.

The cost-shared programs are funded 60 per cent by the federal government and 40 per cent by the provincial and territorial governments and support region specific agriculture programs and services. While the federal government contributes to the funding for these cost-shared programs, the provincial/territorial ministry is responsible for reviewing and approving project applications received under their respective cost-shared programs.

The Canadian Agricultural Partnership will focus on three key areas:

• Growing trade and expanding markets ($297 million)- Providing core industry services, such as timely market information and sector expertise to help improve the sector’s competitiveness, growth and adaptability. Advancing and defending international trade interests, as well as improving market development and market access activities to address emerging needs of the sector, and of small and medium enterprises (SME). This will help expand markets and trading opportunities for the sector.

• Innovative and sustainable growth of the sector ($690 million)- Enhancing the competitiveness of the sector through research, science and innovation, and adoption of innovative products and practices, with an emphasis on the environment and clean growth. The Government will help support the resiliency and sustainability of the sector, helping farmers adapt to climate change, conserve water and soil resources, and grow their businesses sustainably to meet increasing global food demand.   

• Supporting diversity and a dynamic, evolving sector ($166.5 million)- Strengthening the sector by better reflecting the diversity of Canadian communities, enhancing collaboration across different jurisdictions through a new Regional Collaborative Partnerships Program, securing and supporting public trust in the sector, and improving client services.

The three key areas include $686.5 million over five years in federal programs and $467 million of federally funded activities that benefit producers and processors and address priorities identified by the agricultural sector during consultations in the development of the plan.

The process of awarding funding from the ADF is through an application process with the Ministry of Agriculture and from there they decide what best fits the parameters of what they want to see in crop research.

“The Agriculture Development Fund awards funding on a competitive basis,” said a spokesperson for the Ministry of Agriculture. “We review applications and select projects most relevant to Saskatchewan agriculture to help producers remain competitive. Through the Agriculture Development Fund, crop producers benefit from new knowledge and discoveries into disease resistance, herbicide resistance, increased yields, new varieties, improvements in value-added processing and much more. This year’s projects will expand the growth potential of the industry by exploring topics such as value-added processing, variety improvement, improved crop yields and reducing production risks.

“We have a set research budget each year, and take into consideration research commitments from previous years as well as the budget available for new work to benefit the sector,” they said.
“All submitted research applications are reviewed by members of the Agriculture Development Fund Advisory Committee, which makes a recommendation to the Minister. The committee is made up of producers and leaders in the agriculture industry.

We select research projects that align with the ministry’s strategic goals to increase production, farm cash receipts, value-added production and agricultural exports. We also consider industry needs and which projects will have the greatest impact for producers. Co-funding from industry partners illustrates the extent to which the ministry collaborates with industry to provide funding for projects of strategic importance.”

Projects funded by the ADF are focussed on all aspects of crop research with an emphasis on improving the efficiency and quality of products produced in Saskatchewan.

“The funding we provide for research addresses short, medium and long-term needs of the agriculture industry,” they said. “We’re focused on projects that explore new ideas and will have the biggest impact on the industry. For example, a project at the University of Saskatchewan will gather soil fertility data from cropping lands using near-infrared mapping technologies already available, with the goal of predicting crop yields. Another example is a project that explores how to enhance the value of lentil variations for ecosystem survival. This work aims to improve visual, nutritional and processing qualities of lentils using the latest genomics and molecular resources which will lead Canada to capture emerging market opportunities.”

The Government of Saskatchewan has invested millions of dollars into different areas of crop research to help the province continue to be a leader in the Ag industry.

“Research and innovation are priorities for the Saskatchewan government,” they said. “The ministry has a research budget of $32.9 million in 2020-21, a $1 million increase from 2019-20, to support development in these areas. 

“It is invested according to the ministry’s research priorities which include support for: research and development institutions, research scientists, research and development projects, and commercialization and technology transfer.

“Investments in research help make Saskatchewan producers more profitable and more productive while increasing the competitiveness of our industry,” they said. “Ultimately, research will help our producers meet the Saskatchewan Growth Plan objectives of increasing crop production to 45 million tonnes, increasing agriculture exports to $20 billion and increasing value-added revenue to $10 billion.”