There is no doubt about it: this is seed money.
Glengarry-Prescott-Russell MP Francis Drouin was at Chicken Little Farm in St-Isidore on Wednesday to announce $4.1 million in new federal funding for the Canadian Field Crop Research Alliance (CFCRA) for research to improve oat and corn crops across the country. The CFCRA is composed of grain-growing and research organizations in each province.
Drouin, who made the announcement on behalf of Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Lawrence MacAulay, also repeated the minister’s January 15 pledge of $5.4 million for soybean research.
The soybean project will focus on increasing crop yields, the geographic areas where soybeans can be grown, and improving sustainability.
Jeff Reid, General Manager of SeCan, a national organization devoted to improving seed quality, said they want to increase soybean production in Canada in areas where it has not normally been prominent due to climactic conditions. Those include Northern Ontario, the Lac St-Jean region of Québec, the Maritimes, and the Prairies.
Climate change also plays a role, according to Reid. He said increased stress on crops due to drought and extreme heat events is making it a challenge for them to grow in certain regions.
“We’re trying to push some crops into cooler areas,” Reid said.
The funding for oat research will focus on developing new varieties of oats, enhance seed breeding efforts, and recommend new policies for productivity, stable yields, and quality.
The corn research is aimed at developing a germplasm—or cells used in plant breeding that is disease-resistant and adaptable to cooler growing regions, and to improve productivity.
Markus Haerle, owner of Chicken Little Farms and Chair of the Grain Farmers of Ontario, said the research funding is good for farmers like him, and for the industry because of growing demand in Canada, and around the world for higher quality grain products.
“We need to feed those people,” said Haerle.
For grain farmers in eastern Ontario and in Québec, oat varieties that grow well in this part of the country, and corn that grows better in cooler climates are important. Having those things improves their crop yields and economic benefits.
“It all comes down to dollars,” Haerle said.
He added that his objective is to grow crops at the lowest cost possible, which includes keeping the need for inputs like fertilizer at a minimum.
Guy Sabourin, who represents grain farmers of the Outaouais and Laurentides on the council of the Producteurs de grains du Québec said the research is necessary in order to get better results from crops.
Boosting grain exports, especially Asian countries, is a major priority for the federal government. Drouin referred to Canada joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement which opened more markets for grains grown in Canada.
CFCRA President Salah Zoghlami said purchasers of grain have high quality standards that need to be met when exporting products to other countries.