Research – it’s all in the delivery
By Jay Whetter
Patti Miller has been president of the Canola Council of Canada for almost a year – and what a year to start. “The season began with record seeded acreage and high hopes that we would make an initial breakthrough on our 2015 target of 15 million tonnes of sustainable production. But by the time the crop was harvested, nature had thrown us a number of challenges,” says Miller. “The year reminded us that we’ll always have work to do in understanding the challenges of growing canola, and lessons to learn about how to overcome them.”
Overcoming challenges often depends on research. Miller was at the helm as Canola Council of Canada (CCC) staff worked through data from 39 Canola/Flax Agri-Science Cluster research projects, while at the same time completing a colossal application for another round of research funded through the government of Canada’s Growing Forward 2 program.
The current science cluster is a $20.2 million partnership between Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) and the CCC, which funded 31 canola production projects, five human health studies, and three meal studies. “Results are coming in, and we already have profit-improving results on the canola production side,” notes Miller. “We learned that seeding shallow is more important to emergence than seeding speed, that full herbicides rates still pay off even for highly competitive hybrid seed, that canola can do as well on pulse stubble as it can on cereal stubble, and that mistreated land can recover to full yields after just two years of full inputs.”
And that’s just the beginning. “Through Growing Forward 2, we trust that the government of Canada will continue its partnership with the CCC to fund more research and innovation projects, and help the Council with market development and market access around the world,” she says.
Deliver the goods
Doing the research is only step one. “We also need to get these results to growers and agronomists so they can use this information to continue to improve yields and profitability,” says Miller.
The CCC has a few new delivery tools coming in 2013, led by the online Canola Encyclopedia. The complete rewrite of the old Canola Growers Manual is updated with new research discoveries from the past decade. Being online, it will be easy to search, will be multimedia, and will be easy to update as new research findings, new techniques and new pests come along.
The CCC also has a new Canola Diagnostic Tool that will tap into the encyclopedia. “The diagnostic tool works with mobile devices. Through a series of yes-no questions, growers and agronomists can determine probable causes for any problem encountered in the canola field,” says Miller. “It will then link to the Canola Encyclopedia for more information and management tips.”
For each of the 31 agronomy research projects wrapping up this year, the CCC plans to do a video interview with the lead researcher, write factsheets and articles, and do webinars and live presentations, all with the purpose of transferring the latest technology to growers.
Canola Watch, the free e-mail newsletter and online resource, compiles all this work. This year, Canola Watch will continue to improve, providing links to the Canola Encyclopedia and researcher videos. Finally, CCC agronomists are getting more active with Twitter, which gives them a quick and direct way to reach growers and agronomists with new research, well-established tips, and links to Canola Watch articles and, soon, encyclopedia chapters.
Results for growers and customers
Science cluster research wrapping up this year also includes five studies on canola oil and its benefits for human health, and three studies on how canola meal can be used to better advantage in animal nutrition. “The ultimate goal with this research is to identify human and animal health benefits that we can use to expand canola markets and usage around the world,” says Miller.
Market development and market access work are huge parts of Miller’s job. In the past year, she met several key customers around the world, making sure the benefits of canola are well known, and continuing to build relationships in order to better understand customers’ needs.
The government of Canada often sponsors these trade missions. “This support is invaluable,” says Miller. “Our government partners can help us open doors, and keep them open, for the mutual benefit of our industry and our customers.
“What really impressed me in my first year with the CCC is its attention to all parts of the value chain, from growers to researchers, life science companies, grain companies, processors and customers – the people who buy canola and keep this whole system working,” she adds. “It’s that teamwork that will push us over 15 million tonnes of production and sales by 2015.”
Jay Whetter is communication manager for the Canola Council of Canada.