Canada announces major funding of $8.1mn for crop diversification research

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On May 30, 2024, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada took a significant step toward strengthening the resilience and profitability of the agricultural sector by supporting enhanced crop diversity research. Minister Lawrence MacAulay announced a substantial funding allocation of up to $8,124,319 to Ag-West Bio Inc., to be disbursed through the AgriScience Program’s Clusters Component under the Sustainable Canadian Agricultural Partnership.

Ag-West Bio will oversee the Diverse Field Crops Cluster, a collective of organizations focused on small acreage crops such as camelina, carinata, flax, mustard, and sunflower. These crops are noted for their resilience to challenging conditions like drought and nutrient-poor soils, making them ideal for enhancing the sustainability of Canadian crop production.

The Cluster aims to expand the acreage of these diverse crops and improve their genetic resilience, yield, and disease resistance. Key research objectives include benchmarking the greenhouse gas emissions of these crops, particularly in relation to nitrogen fertilizer use, and developing new oilseed varieties better suited to less fertile lands.

Minister MacAulay emphasized the urgency of the initiative, stating, “Our farmers are among the first to feel the impacts of climate change, which is why we are backing this crucial research to increase the yield and profitability of diverse field crops, thereby enhancing the sector’s overall resilience.”

Supporting the initiative, the Honourable Dan Vandal, Minister responsible for PrairiesCan, highlighted the broader benefits: “This project leverages the extensive agricultural expertise of the Prairies, creating new sources of value and jobs in rural areas. It embodies our commitment to transitioning towards a stronger, sustainable economic future together.”

Karen Churchill, President and CEO of Ag-West Bio, expressed gratitude for the ongoing support, noting that the project offers farmers valuable alternatives for their crop rotations, promoting a more profitable and climate-resilient agricultural ecosystem.

This funding initiative is part of a broader effort to support the Green Prairie Economy, involving multiple government departments and stakeholders across the Prairie provinces. It reflects a principled approach to investment that respects provincial jurisdictions and advances economic reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples, all while fostering innovation and sustainability in Canadian agriculture.

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