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Ontario Crops Research Centre in New Liskeard provides insight on crops to help area producers

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Agricultural studies are constantly occurring in the lab at the Ontario Crops Research Centre in New Liskeard.

For example, technicians use machines to calculate the protein matter, moisture and test weight of crop samples.

"As a representation of this area, the fact that we can run these trials becomes critically helpful to growers,” said research centre assistant technician Melinda Drummond.

The research centre is owned by the Agricultural Research Institute of Ontario (ARIO) and operated and managed by the University of Guelph through the Ontario Agri-Food Innovation Alliance, a partnership between the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, ARIO and the university.

It manages 140 acres of land in and near New Liskeard. It focuses on adapter crop species such as wheat, barley and oats, dry beans, soybeans and corn.

Data is collected and shared with the university, the province and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, among other clients. In turn, the information helps local agricultural producers know which crops grows more efficiently in the area, its soil and climate.

"With the data that's grown here, it gives the farmer a lot more opportunities to choose, depending on what area they're in, and what characteristics they're looking for in their crop," said senior cropping systems technician Nathan Mountain.

Researchers and technicians examine the mixtures of individual crops, their biomass, the tillage and contribution of the cover crop to the following season.

Research trials study soil fertility, nutrient management, impact on the environment and pest management, to name a few projects.

“We do weed species that grow around it or insects that are in the same niche or habitat with that type of crop. We look at nitrogen applications or fertilizer in general," said Mountain.

University of Guelph Department of Plant Agriculture professor Dr. Josh Nasielski has a few research projects underway at the facility.

One of them consists of assessing oats to find ways to make them more profitable, have higher quality and higher yielding.

“Northern Ontario, especially the New Liskeard area, is very well known for its oats. It’s very high quality,” he said.

“Buyers recognise the farmers in New Liskeard grow really high quality oats.”

The research is meant to help oat producers to find solutions to the lodging problem. This is when the crop falls flat on the ground and do not return to a standing position. This makes harvesting extremely difficult.

Lodging makes the harvest season more expensive and reduces the quality of the grains.

Through his research at the facility, Nasielski said he’s found a solution to the problem.

"We’ve looked at five different strategies and we found a couple that seem to work,” he said.

“If you're in an area that consistently lodges, reducing oats seeding rates seems to work. The other one would be using a plant growth regulator, which is a product new to market and relatively new to Ontario."

Research will continue for years to come in hopes of making farming easier and to get the best quality crops to dinner tables for meals.

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