Top Crop Manager

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INTRODUCTION:The value of research

Canada has researched more field crops than any other country


November 12, 2007
By Peter Darbishire

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4aI recently sat in on the proceedings of the 5th Canadian Pulse Research Workshop
at which some 120 of the brightest minds in plant breeding reviewed their progress
in developing new strains of these important crops. Producers who are concerned
about whether production check-off or money spent on seed technology goes to
a good cause should spend a few minutes at a conference of this type to put
their minds at rest. Not that you have to understand the details, but it was
certainly noticeable that every scientist has the goal of developing something
that will directly or indirectly enhance the value of the crop, either to the
end-user or to the grower.

While some of their findings are a long way from commercialization in new varieties,
some of the basic work being done will bring new traits such as frost tolerance,
disease resistance and weed control options to market. It has been reckoned
that for every dollar spent on this type of research, the Canadian economy gains
by seven: a good investment, indeed!

Another recent announcement illustrates how well Canada is doing in this regard:
C. Ford Runge, director of the University of Minnesota's Center for International
Food and Agricultural Policy, and distinguished McKnight University professor
of Applied Economics and Law in the US, says “Canada has researched more
field crops than any other country. With its well-regarded research and regulatory
institutions, Canada will continue to build on its success in producing and
developing better crops for farmers around the world.”

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The food and trade policy analyst's study, entitled The Global Diffusion
of Plant Biotechnology: International Adoption and Research in 2004
, says
the global commercial value of biotech crops grown in 2004 was US$44 billion,
with 98 percent of that value produced in five countries: the US ($27.5 billion),
Argentina ($8.9 billion), China ($3.9 billion), Canada ($2 billion) and Brazil
($1.6 billion). Canada's $2 billion in commercial value came from growing biotech
enhanced canola, corn and soybeans. In addition, 10 biotech crops were field
tested in 2003, 13 field tested in 2002 and 15 tested in both 2001 and 2000,
according to the study.

“Canada clearly has the R&D infrastructure in place to continue as a biotech
leader, both through publicly funded institutions such as Agriculture and Agri-Food
Canada, Genome Canada and the Plant Biotechnology Institute as well as at its
leading research institutions such as the University of Guelph, University of
Saskatchewan and Laval University,” says Runge. While North America is
the epicentre for plant biotechnology production and research, biotech crops
are now being grown in 18 countries and research and development is being conducted
in another 45. And those numbers are expected to grow.

Every issue of Top Crop Manager carries stories that shed light on just
a small amount of the work that is going on in the research facilities across
the country and there are several of them in this issue, along with features
on applied research and a focus on corn production.