January 6, 2023 By University of Guelph
Protecting grain crops from costly plant diseases under climate change and other factors is the main goal of a new $2-million gift to the University of Guelph from Grain Farmers of Ontario (GFO).
The funding, announced at the Ontario Agriculture Conference on Jan. 5, will support a new GFO Professorship in Field Crop Pathology at the University of Guelph’s Ridgetown Campus. A faculty member will be appointed this year in the Department of Plant Agriculture within the university’s Ontario Agricultural College (OAC).
“This funding support from Grain Farmers of Ontario is significant for farmers and farms across Ontario,” said Brett Shepherd, Ridgetown Campus director. “It’s critically important that we be proactive, not just reactive, in identifying and developing strategies against these pathogens.”
Shepherd said the new position is intended to maintain the University of Guelph’s leading expertise in field crop research and teaching.
“Expanding our understanding of diseases that affect agriculture is a vital component of safeguarding crops and building more sustainable food systems,” said university president Charlotte Yates.
“We are grateful to the Grain Farmers of Ontario for investing in and partnering with our Ridgetown Campus through this new professorship that will support farmers and consumers through critical field crop pathology research.”
The new gift comes from the Grain Farmers of Ontario Legacy Fund, established in 2022.
“Field crops are the foundation of every food system in the world, and ensuring a focus on excellence in field crop research is vital to farming and the food security enjoyed by Canadians. Grain Farmers of Ontario recognizes the need for this position and supports the University of Guelph’s ongoing commitment to understanding disease, crop resiliency and more,” said Brendan Byrne, GFO chair.
Ontario grain crops generate about $4.1 billion a year and support 75,000 jobs across the province. Six million acres of grain crops, including corn, soybeans, wheat, barley and oats, are grown by 28,000 farmers across the province.
Those grains are used for food, animal feed and numerous products sold across Canada and exported worldwide.
The provincial organization has long supported research and teaching at the University of Guelph, including co-funding the GFO Professorship in Wheat Breeding and Genetics.