Why is research critical to Canadian growers? Think of how far canola has come since 1991 when SaskCanola was formed and all the innovations that you have adopted on your farm. This includes major resistance genes to diseases that had the potential to wipe out canola production, herbicide tolerance traits, fertilizer recommendations, crop rotations, agronomic best management practices, and a near doubling of average yields – to name just a few. Where would we be without all the research investments over the last 30 years and the decades of oilseed innovation before that?
Research was essential to create the first double low varieties with low glucosinolates and low erucic acid – the very definition of “canola”.
Every organization in the canola value chain has a role to play in funding the various canola development stages, and each stage from basic and applied research, to incorporation of new traits into commercial variety development, to expansion into new use markets, all have costs and associated risks. Where the major benefits and risks lie for each stage is where the primary research funds should be coming from. For example, where research is attempting to solve issues that benefit growers directly, such as yield improvement, sustainable farming practices, or greater farm profitability, growers should primarily fund these types of projects. Whereas, when research is required for the benefit of companies that will develop and market new products made from canola, the benefits will mostly be seen by those companies, with a smaller direct benefit for growers due to expanded markets for their commodities. In those cases, a greater investment from private industry should be expected. Additionally, society in general benefits from increased economic activity and food security, so it is reasonable that governments also invest in research for our future prosperity.
For more information about SaskCanola’s research investments, visit saskcanola.com
SaskCanola works hard to ensure that levy dollars are invested in only the best potential research. It also leverages funds by partnering with other commodity groups, research institutions, and funding agencies at local, provincial, federal and international levels. This ensures that research projects have the greatest expertise and cooperation while reducing investment risk to each organization.
Valuable research outcomes for growers include topics such as: independent evaluation of varieties in canola performance trials, independent evaluation of fertilizer products to support optimal rate recommendations, identification of disease resistance traits and cooperation with canola breeders to bring these traits to new varieties, best practices for seeding depth and seeding density for better and uniform emergence leading to higher yields, continual improvement of disease resistance genetics for major diseases of canola as well as stewardship recommendations to make these genetics more durable, proper storage and monitoring of canola in the bin and grain bags, and integrated pest management with threshold recommendations.
Research is critical to combat challenges from newly emerging and rapidly evolving diseases in Canada such as clubroot and verticillium stripe, as well as staying ahead of perpetual problems like blackleg and sclerotinia.
SaskCanola’s research funding process
In order to be funded by SaskCanola, research proposals must show short- and/or long-term value to canola growers either through research outcomes with direct relevance to improve their production profitability or sustainability, or creation of research tools and resources that will enable these goals.
SaskCanola has three main streams to intake annual research proposals:
- Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture – Agriculture Development Fund (ADF)
- Canola Council of Canada – Canola Agronomy Research Program (CARP)
- SaskCanola – internal funding calls, including:
- Morris Sebulsky Endowment Fund
- Other high priority opportunities
SaskCanola is always looking for ways to extend research spending by leveraging the funding of projects with other co-funders.
In addition to the above, these include:
- Canadian Agricultural Partnership (Canola AgriScience Cluster)
- This funding opportunity has run in five-year cycles (previously Growing Forward and Growing Forward 2), and we are now in the middle of the third cycle.
- Significant funding contributions are made annually to important canola research in this program, which is funded by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the canola industry and the provincial canola organizations and administered by the Canola Council of Canada.
- National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC)
- Genome Canada/Genome Prairie
- SaskCanola often co-funds research with provincial commodity organizations, including Western Grains Research Foundation, Alberta Canola, Manitoba Canola Growers, Sask Wheat, Sask Pulse Growers, SaskFlax and others.
Funding competitions generally make a call for Letters of Intent (LOI) from researchers. In these letters, researchers give an overview of the research they are requesting funds for. At this point, the SaskCanola research manager reviews the set of LOIs from each competition with an eye for relevance to growers. Some research may be very interesting to do but will have no benefit to growers in the near to mid-term, so they would be better funded by other sources. The best LOIs, including those with potential for other co-funders to contribute to, are selected to go to the full proposal stage. This is the chance for the researcher to provide more in-depth context of the problem that they are going to solve, the budget that is required, and develop key measurable milestones so that SaskCanola can ensure that good progress is being made each year from the investment into the research.
Once the set of full proposals comes in from a research competition, SaskCanola also requests external experts to critically evaluate each one based on their area of expertise. This provides a thorough review to help ensure that we are not funding duplicative research projects that are on-going or completed elsewhere in Canada.
The SaskCanola Research Committee, made up of four directors and the research staff, then meets with the external advisors to engage in thorough discussion of the merits and any potential issues of each full proposal.
Discussions include the expertise of the research team that will perform the work, the amount of requested budget, past experience with previous projects funded for the same research group and relevance of the research to growers.
The majority of projects funded fall under one of three main categories: agronomy, trait development and utilization. This is mirrored by the SaskCanola research priorities listed on our website at saskcanola.com.
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