|Jan Slaski (white shirt) briefs a group on the benefits and challenges associated with growing industrial hemp.|
| Rod Werezuk (L) shows Field School participants a simple yet effective
way of simulating the effects of hail on crops by beating plants with a
chain. AITF is conducting multi-year research with Farming Smarter on
crop damage caused by hail.
Three representatives of Alberta Innovates – Technology Futures’ Food & Fibre sector team took part in the 2015 Farming Smarter Field School near Lethbridge in late June, where they shared their agricultural technology ‘know-how’ with approximately 300 participants.
The field schools, which have occurred annually since 2010 at Farming Smarter’s research and development site, provide farmers from across southern Alberta with current and unbiased information from a bevy of experts.
The group’s 60-acre R&D site is dedicated to small-scale research and agricultural displays. Representatives from progressive farms, agricultural companies, grower groups, government and research organizations take part in the three-day program, which is focused on developing more productive, efficient and environmentally beneficial farming practices.
This year, AITF researchers Ralph Lange, Jan Slaski and Rod Werezuk took part in the Field School. Every day for three days, about 100 participants from across southern Alberta descended on the R&D site where they learned about the latest ‘hot’ topics in provincial agronomy. Ralph and Rod gave presentations on hail damage, while Jan focused his presentations on industrial hemp. The researchers are involved in collaborative multi-year research projects with Farming Smarter on hail and hemp.
“There’s a lot of talk about whether or not hail causes disease or contributes to it,” said Rod, who has been involved in hail damage research for four years. “Most people like to talk about ‘rescue attempts,’ but they don’t know what’s going to work. Although hail damage has been simulated in research for a couple of decades now, we’re still left with unanswered questions.”
Meanwhile, industrial hemp continues to gain popularity with Alberta farmers, especially in the province’s hotter and drier southern region.
“Alberta’s hemp industry has been growing rapidly over the last five or six years, with 20 to 30 per cent increases annually,” said Jan. “Last year, we exceeded 100,000 licensed acres.”
Through its annual Field School, Farming Smarter is turning hundreds of Alberta farmers on to better, more sustainable farming technologies and practices. That fact sits well with this year’s AITF participants.
“We’re happy to have an opportunity like this to share our knowledge and expertise with so many farmers in such a short period of time,” said Ralph. “It’s totally aligned with AITF’s mandate, which is to contribute to the economic and social well-being of Albertans through innovation, technology and commercialization.”