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APG launches plot to field agronomy research and extension (PCN Summer 2016) JUN 24 2016 | Consumers and Producers | Pulse Crop News

This article appeared in the Summer 2016 issue of Pulse Crop News.

The Alberta Pulse Growers’ board set in motion an ambitious new program last January focused on moving small plot research towards applicability on an individual farm basis.

As food production becomes increasingly sophisticated, information and the ability to be prescriptive to a land base, environmental conditions and specific weed/pest/soil biology becomes paramount. As a result, much on-farm “research” is undertaken on an annual basis in effort to create a recipe for each individual operation. Unfortunately, there are right ways and wrong ways to undertake conclusive research on an individual scale.

APG has long recognized the need to build a strong linkage between small-plot research performed by scientists at the direction of the farming community and what actually happens once the tested hypotheses are put into practice at a farm level. In November 2015, a business assessment study was undertaken to benchmark opportunities for partnership and the future of agronomic research for pulses in the province. The strength and growth of this industry specifically was clearly visible and pushed APG to continue the forward momentum and support our growers with the development of this new program.

The exact name of this initiative has been hotly debated, with a lot of opinions and less than stellar options put forward. At the end of the day, Plot to Field Agronomy Research and Extension has stuck. While long, the name encapsulates the intent and focus of the program.

Field scale research is not new. The Iowa Soybean Growers are active in field-scale research and, recently, the Manitoba Pulse and Soybean Growers have initiated a similar program. APG’s intent for this initiative is to build and test a set of protocols that could then be used by individuals, agronomists and others to extrapolate the work that has been done in the smaller, more controlled environment of the small-plot, making it relevant to their particular operation.

While the concept of this program is simple, its success requires a large network of producers, agronomists and scientists all working towards a common goal. We are exceptionally fortunate in this industry to have numerous individuals committed to and passionate about supporting agriculture.

The Plot to Field program is a five-year investment. At an initial meeting to introduce the concept to an invited audience in March, a timeline was built to identify key objectives and deliverables at each stage.

  • Year 1 (2016) – Building protocol and initial project
  • Year 2 (2017) – Field testing protocol
  • Year 3 (2018) – Evaluation of protocol; development of additional projects
  • Year 4 (2019) – Data collection and evaluation
  • Year 5 (2020) – Statistical analysis and evaluation of program

Each stage of the process requires participation of committed co-operators and, agronomists to oversee the protocol and scientific evaluation and oversight. For this program to truly be successful and of benefit to the greater farming population, it is imperative that we take the time to field-proof and standardize protocols. The opportunity for learning at every stage is overwhelming and we are fortunate to have a forward thinking organization that is committed to pursuing excellence.

The story of APG’s Plot to Field adventure is just beginning. We look forward to sharing the journey with our industry and to ultimately pass on a tool that is usable for the advancement of our food production efforts.

Alan Hall of Alberta Crop Industry Development Fund (ACIDF) was pleased to see the Plot to Field program get off the ground.

“It is a pleasure and a privilege to be involved,” he said. “This initiative will be a game changer in getting good practical research done at the grower level, at significantly less costs than station type research, and greatly accelerated grower uptake of research findings into the operations of their own farm. We need both station and grower levels of research activity as they will feed off each other for the benefit of the grower.”