Farmers reap research rewards

·3 min read

THUNDER BAY, ONT. — There hasn’t been too much rain this summer, but that doesn’t mean the Lakehead University Agricultural Research Station isn’t producing results.

The experimental farm to enhance farmers and their crops — which has been around in some form since 1991 — gave farm owners, their families and LU students a tour of their work Tuesday, showing off different varieties of wheat, barley, hops, oats, flax, canola and alfalfa amongst others which are being grown with environmentally-friendly fertilizers such as anvol and super urea.

Later in the day, the crew visited Jaspers Dairy Farm on Boundary Drive in Neebing to analyze two different strains of canola and how corn would stand up to being cloaked in biodegradable plastic and what it was like using none of the pliable material.

The mastermind behind the research facility is director Tarlok Singh Sahota. His relationship with the farms and the farmers — you might say — has grown quite nicely over the years.

“We believe seeing is believing,” said Sahota, who deals with approximately 50 farms in and around Thunder Bay. “If (farmers) see something happening here, they will try to apply that to their farms. . . . We keep in close contact with the farmers. I keep advising them, keep talking to them. We also consult with them, send them a list of the projects we’re doing and I’ll send them a list if they want to do anything else other than what we are proposing.”

The key to keeping the research facility around is funding. Currently, the Agricultural Research Institute of Ontario (ARIO) anted up more than $2.5 million in 2018 in a five-year plan that ends next year.

Sahota is hoping the funding continues to keep the agricultural-based research going.

“We had very strong public support,” said Sahota at the Little Norway Road facility. “People immediately (contacted) ministers, wrote letters . . . It was originally called Thunder Bay Agricultural Research Station (TBARS) and (the Ontario ministry of agriculture) gave us stop-gap funding of $200,000. Then (ARIO) gave $2.65 million for five years for the university (in 2018) to take over the research station.

“This is our last funding year. It will end in March 2023 and we hope we will get other funding . . . because we do good work and that good work shows because we supply the farms.

“My wish is that the research station continues to get funding. . . . The level of change for farmers in Thunder Bay, it’s hard to match elsewhere. Not only in Ontario, but Canada.”

Thunder Bay Soil and Crop Improvement Association chairman Andrew Brekveld is a believer. While his group studies LUARS research thoroughly each year, the Brekveld farm — Woodstar Farm in Murillo — has taken advantage of the knowledge provided by the research facility.

“Our affiliation with (LUARS) is that they are doing these trials, they’re doing these experiments and we would take them further,” said Brekveld. “We get excited when we can try them on our own fields.

“The last two years, (Woodstar Farm) actually grew a wheat variety that was a top-yielding variety recommended by Sahota. We found in our field that it was the highest yield we’ve ever had on wheat.”

In recent years, Sahota has been releasing the detailed LUARS annual report in late November or early December.

John Nagy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle-Journal

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