The scientists at the Lacombe Research Centre are busy working to improve Canada’s agriculture industry with their work on innovative technology and processing techniques.
There are between 70 and 80 professionals who contribute to the work of this institute.
Recently, studies have been on such topics as plant fertilizing techniques to reduce weed growth and revolutionary technology to analyze meat quality.
“What is interesting is the collaborative approach that the scientists have taken. In the same team, you’ll see a weeds specialist, a soil specialist, a classical economist, an entomologist – and they come up with recommendations,” said Dr. Francois Eudes, acting director for research development and technology with Agriculture and Agri-Foods Canada.
A recent example of the product of this collaboration is a new fertilizing technique that will allow desired products to grow without weeds having access to the fertilizers. The goal of this research is to help farmers yield better crops while using less pesticide and fertilizing crops more efficiently.
“For example, seeds of weeds that have shed on the surface of the soil capture fertilizers and start to grow aggressively. With fertilizer supplies, researchers realized they could apply less and put it right into the soil where the crop seed is seeded. That way, a plant is germinated and has a chance to grow and the weeds do not have access to the fertilizer,” said Eudes.
This practice will reduce the use of herbicides, which carries obvious environmental benefits.
However, there are also economic interests behind this practice.
By using less fertilizer and applying it directly to the desired seeds, crops can grow more quickly and better which results in a better yield and more product available for farmers.
“Researchers compared different management practices. They look at the seed density, the depth of seeding and the establishment of genotype effect so that essentially they can come up with the best practices that would reduce costs for farmers in managing their crops.”
The research done at the Lacombe facility is tested in a variety of growth environments so that farmers across Canada can utilize the data gathered at this facility.
Eudes explained that all of the research done at the Lacombe facility must align with provincial and federal priorities and, “Must consider the adoption of these types of sciences in the industry.” He also said that each project is extensively peer reviewed by scientists in universities, other federal research facilities and even scientists outside of Canada.
Eudes said that this practice helps ensure that the projects and research at the facility are worthwhile and generally considered by professionals to be helpful to the industry.
The Lacombe facility works on both crop and meat production studies.
The crop aspect of research includes topics such as environmentally-friendly farming techniques, soil and crop management services and developing grain varieties that have better resistance to disease.
The meat production and research focuses on issues such as reducing contamination, determining and maintaining quality levels, developing strategies to improve food storage, production and safety and finding new ways to raise livestock.
“This is the only federal centre looking at the meat quality and they do something I find very neat.
“Right now, if you look at the way livestock is processed going into a slaughterhouse there is no way to determine difference in quality until the meat is processed,” explained Eudes.
“There are questions about how we could rapidly identify and maybe differentiate between grades of cattle. These scientists are looking at infrared technology or non-invasive technology such as NIR, where there is no physical contact with the meat, which is important because you don’t want any contamination.”
This technology is not currently used and is still being researched, developed and constructed. What would happen is an indirect measurement would take place with the use of infrared technology that would assess meats based on things such as fat content, degree of marbling and maturity.
“They are making really great progress in the use of this technology for indirect measurement on the quality of the meat – especially when it comes to fat content. It would help in an effort to provide a differentiation between our beef and international market beef.”
Eudes said that the researchers at Lacombe are a crucial part of a network of scientists and professionals in the agriculture industry.
“I can assure you that all the personnel working at the Lacombe Research Centre are very proud of the work they do and their contribution to the industry,” he said.