Meghan Vankosky, research scientist, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Follow @vanbugsky on X.
Follow @vanbugsky on X.

Meghan Vankosky, a research scientist in field crop entomology with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), works at the Saskatoon Research and Development Centre (RDC). She holds both bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Alberta and completed her PhD at the University of Windsor. After completing her PhD, Vankosky spent a year in California on a postdoctoral project. She now lives in Saskatoon with her four-year-old standard poodle, Flurry.

Where did you work before AAFC?

Before AAFC, I worked at the University of California at Riverside. I was there one year as a postdoctoral researcher. While there, I collaborated on a release program for a parasitoid to control Asian citrus psyllid, which is an important pest of all kinds of citrus. Asian citrus psyllid, also known as ACP, vectors a disease that kills citrus trees – the disease has no cure and all infected trees eventually die. In California we were trying to slow down the spread of the insect (and the disease) by starting a biological control program.

What got you interested in this area of work?

Well, like many young people, I had no idea that being an entomologist was even a career option. When I started university, I had decided I was going to med school, but realized in my first year that I was not cut out for it.

In my second year I took a selection of courses. One of them was the introduction to entomology and it just went from there. Some fortuitous choices and some good luck and I ended up with an awesome co-mentor for my master’s program, Dr. Lloyd Dosdall, who sadly passed away a few years ago. I learned a lot from him and from other mentors in entomology.

Tell us a bit about what you are working on at AAFC.

Since I came to AAFC in Saskatoon, the biggest project I have been part of (and now co-lead with Jennifer Otani) is the Prairie Pest Monitoring Network (PPMN). Jennifer and I collaborate closely with the provincial entomologists in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, and we have funding support from nine different industry groups, including Manitoba Crop Alliance (MCA) and the Agriculture Development Fund.

One of the major activities of this project is to maintain and expand our records of the annual population densities and distribution of key pests of Prairie crops, including bertha armyworm, cabbage seedpod weevil, diamondback moth, grasshoppers, pea leaf weevil, wheat midge and wheat stem sawfly.

These are the major pests we monitor each year. The monitoring data is used to develop the annual risk maps available on the PPMN website. We aim to have the maps ready to share online in December or January, so that we can talk about them at winter outreach events and so that farmers can use them when planning for the next growing season. The maps can be used to estimate insect-related risk to crops going into the next growing season.

Through the PPMN and our current funding, we are also trying to do more lab research to understand better the biology and population dynamics of some of these insects. We are also partnering with Dr. Boyd Mori, University of Alberta, to better understand if there are any risks of resistance development in the insect populations we monitor. Insecticide resistance can affect how we manage insect pests, and we would like to try to add that as a layer to our mapping exercise.

There are a lot of moving parts and pieces to this project, and it is highly collaborative. We have a lot of people who help collect data and share information with us so that we can put the maps together and keep historical records. The historical records are valuable, as we can use them to build models that can help us to predict and understand how insects respond to changing climate. We hope that the PPMN is a helpful tool that farmers and agronomists use to find reliable information about insects in general and about what insects could be a problem in their crops.

What can you say about the value of farmers providing funding and support to your organization?

It gives us an advantage in terms of our ability to do work that is for the public good and that will have a direct benefit to farmers. I think a lot of the work we do at AAFC and in university agriculture programs is all beneficial to agriculture, but knowing that the funds are coming from farmers towards research that aligns with the problems they are facing helps close that loop a little bit faster and bring that information back to farmers.

It is valuable that organizations like MCA have farmer board members as it provides clearer communication in terms of research priorities. I can write my proposals geared to what the research priorities of the organizations are, which are based on what farmers need.

How does that farmer funding and support directly benefit farmers?

A big piece of all the work we are doing with this project through the PPMN is providing information to farmers on a regular basis through our weekly updates and our insect of the week articles, and at the end of every season with insect risk maps. The funding also helps get us, as researchers, to outreach events where we can talk about our research with farmers and agronomists. These conversations not only allow us to share new information but provide us with helpful feedback.

How do you spend your time outside of work?

Doing many different things! I learned all kinds of needle and handicrafts from my grandmothers and my mom growing up, so I do a bit of crocheting and cross stitching and I am learning how to embroider. I took up paint by numbers again during the pandemic, which is something I hadn’t done for years. I like to take my dog to obedience classes and learn how to teach him different things. Also, since the pandemic, I started building Lego again. Now that I am an adult and I have disposable income, my Lego collection is growing and growing. 

How do you celebrate agriculture?

I think by being an entomologist. I grew up on a cattle farm in west central Alberta. I am grateful that I grew up on a farm and had that experience, but I did not want to farm as an adult. I am very grateful that I can give back to agriculture and celebrate it by still working in agriculture by studying insects. I am glad that I can do research that I enjoy and that brings benefits to agriculture.

What gets you most excited about your work?

The insects and the people. The insects are very interesting, and we have a really great team of people here in Saskatoon. The entomology community across Canada is top notch. There are so many great people who work in this field who we collaborate with and learn from. That is what gets me excited about what we are doing.

Follow Meghan (@vanbugsky) on X.

Visit prairiepest.ca to find weekly updates and insect of the week articles during the growing season, and risk maps at the end of the season.

Monika Gorzelak, research scientist, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

WEB_headshot-Monika-Gorzelak-winter-deer

Monika Gorzelak is a soil microbial ecologist at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s (AAFC) Lethbridge Research and Development Centre (RDC). Gorzelak completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Guelph in microbiology and her PhD in forestry at the University of British Columbia (UBC). She lives in Lethbridge with her husband and their two daughters, ages two and six.

Where did you work before the Lethbridge RDC?

Before I joined AAFC, I was doing my PhD in forestry at UBC, looking at trees talking to each other. My PhD supervisor, Suzanne Simard, is an inspiration. She recently published a book called “Finding the Mother Tree,” has a popular TED Talk and was recently named one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world for 2024.

What got you interested in this area of work?

I’ve always liked the whole microbial world, even though it’s a small sliver of the ecology ecosystem. There are cases where plants help each other – where microbes leverage their relationships with other organisms for their own success and help crops and plants succeed. I’m quite interested in that kind of interspecies and ecological community-based interaction research, and I like to focus on less well understood and slightly understudied concepts in ecology.

Tell us a bit about what you are working on at Lethbridge RDC.

In the Understanding the interactions of N fertilizer technologies, fungicides, and the soil microbiome to optimize sustainable agriculture project funded partially by MCA, we are trying to understand what happens to the beneficial soil microbiome when enhanced efficiency fertilizers (EEFs) are used in cropping rotations.

We are doing that in three different ways. First, leveraging several years of small-plot-scale work by Brian Beres where they evaluated different EEFs in wheat. We sampled their plots and final year of research to compare soil microbiomes and get a grasp of the community composition and diversity of the bacteria and fungi in those soils.

Next, we are going to build on that information in the greenhouse. We are setting up our first greenhouse study to do a closer and more controlled experiment, looking at the impact of EEFs on the soil microbiome.

For the third part of this project, we are going to look at the impact of prior crop on spring wheat in the greenhouse. In summary, this project is looking at how to leverage beneficial soil microbes to help farmers be more productive; answering the question, “Can we do more with less inputs?”

What can you say about the value of farmers providing funding and support to your organization?

I couldn’t do this research without funding from farmers. I am fortunate to have a job that supports me to be able to ask what I think are important questions that are relevant to others. Getting this funding from farmers indicates that they are interested in the work that I am interested in, so it feels more meaningful.

How does that farmer funding and support directly benefit farmers?

The goal, of course, is to create more sustainable agriculture or to create information that farmers can use to make decisions, with the goal of having more sustainable systems at the end of the day.

How do you spend your time outside of work?

I’m a pretty sporty person and I like to be outside when I can. I also love cooking elaborate meals. My favourite thing to cook is always changing, usually whatever is seasonal.

What is the best part about your job?

I really like idea generation and designing experiments. Having an idea and looking at data to see if I’m wrong – because data usually doesn’t lie to you – or if the idea is supported. The whole process is very logical, but it’s also creative at the same time because you must come up with good questions and novel ways to answer those questions. It’s in the design and the uniqueness of experiments where I get excited.

I’ve also loved meeting farmers, especially the direct-to-consumer farmers. I get a lot of my produce locally because I know the folks I’ve worked with and who they are, and I can show up and get a rather large portion of my food locally. That feels awesome.

What are you excited about for the future of agriculture?

I think there are a lot of opportunities to create efficiencies that are going to benefit the environment and the farmer at the same time. Technology has really developed, as well as our understanding about the systems that are needed to help mitigate climate change, for example. There is a lot of opportunity for farmers to contribute, while continuing to produce and make money.

Let your name stand: MCA delegate nominations open July 1

Thinking about getting more involved in your industry?

Manitoba Crop Alliance’s (MCA) governance structure is unique among Manitoba commodity groups. MCA has four crop committees – corn, flax, sunflower, and wheat and barley – each composed of delegates who are elected from among farmer members who grow the respective crop. The committees range in size from eight delegates for corn, flax and sunflower, to 10 for wheat and barley.

MCA is governed by a board of 11 directors, each a delegate appointed by their respective crop committee. Delegates are nominated and elected every two years.

This election period there are four open positions on each of the corn, flax and sunflower committees, as well as five open positions on the wheat and barley committee. MCA will be accepting nominations from farmer members to serve as delegates on all four committees.

Delegate nominations open July 1 and close Oct. 1 at 4:30 p.m. CDT. The nomination period has been moved up one month compared with previous years to allow adequate time if an election is required.

MCA delegates work towards strengthening the mandate of research, agronomy, market development and access, and communication and advocacy initiatives within each of the four crop committees.

Scott Mowbray has been a delegate on the wheat and barley committee for one year and sat on similar boards at the community level. He is a delegate for the Keystone Agricultural Producers’ District 2 and sits on the transportation committee.

“Being a delegate is a great way to get involved,” he says. “It’s a small time commitment, with only a few meetings per year, as well as other learning opportunities such as CropConnect. Staff are always considerate of farming commitments when scheduling meetings.”

When asked why he wanted to be nominated, Mowbray says he saw it as a chance to stay connected to events in the industry and he appreciates being able to help guide research priorities.

Ryan Hueging joined the Manitoba Wheat and Barley Growers Association in 2019 prior to the amalgamation and is a delegate on MCA’s wheat and barley committee. He served on the MCA board of directors from 2021 through 2023.

“What I’ve learned so far as a delegate is that many industry stakeholders need to work together to shape the future of ag, whether it’s policy, plant breeding or marketing, for example,” he says. “What I’ve found most fascinating is the process of plant breeding and all the necessary steps involved.”

As a director, he has enjoyed the access MCA has within the ag industry. “When decisions are made at committee levels and forwarded to the board, I enjoy having the opportunity to see what happens across the entire organization, and to work to resolve issues involving other crop committees.”

Richard Dureault was originally a director for the Manitoba Corn Growers Association and joined MCA’s corn committee as a delegate after the amalgamation. This was his first experience in this type of role.

For Dureault, meeting and learning from others has been a highlight. “The delegates and staff are well spread out around the province and you can learn something from everyone,” he says. “We share ideas and have many opportunities to connect in person.”

Crop committee delegates play a unique role in the organization. “It’s growers’ money that goes into the organization and, as a delegate, you have a say where your money is going. On top of that, you don’t need any experience to join,” he says. “Kudos to the MCA staff for the easy transition into the role and the direction provided.”

Warren McCutcheon is a delegate on the corn committee and had sat on the Manitoba Corn Growers Association board of directors since 2019 prior to the amalgamation.

“I wanted to be a delegate to have a say in where my check-off dollars are going, and make sure there is value there for my – and other farmers’ – dollars,” he says.

One of the biggest takeaways for McCutcheon is the relationships and connections made, learning from each other and MCA’s unique operations.

“I would encourage other growers to get involved, as there is only one way to have a voice and make decisions on how farmer check-off dollars are spent,” he says. “Get involved!”

Gregg Fotheringham has served on many boards over the years locally, provincially and internationally, and was involved with the National Sunflower Association of Canada prior to the amalgamation. He is an MCA director and a delegate on the sunflower committee.

“The interests of the smaller crop types are certainly being heard and considered by the MCA board,” he says. “All crops are being looked at as a necessity for grain farming in Manitoba, and sunflower issues are being heard in a far better manner than ever before.”

Fotheringham says the biggest initiative of MCA is research at a reasonable cost, which has been happening since the amalgamation, but there are other important activities the average member is not aware of. “Our membership roles with Cereals Canada, Grain Growers of Canada and the Canadian Malt Barley Technical Centre, our liaisons with Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation, as well as keeping our provincial government abreast of our efforts and concerns, to name a few,” he says.

Leigh Smith joined the flax committee in 2023 and the MCA board of directors in 2024. Smith explains the role as “coming forward with an open mind, knowing that you are going to learn something, but also that you have something to offer and that you will be heard.”

Although flax is a smaller acreage crop, from an organizational standpoint it still gets its fair share of attention, he says. “Credit to committee members and management who bring forward good topics to discuss. I see all committees receiving the same amount of prep from management and I think as a group we are benefitting from being under the branch of MCA.”

Becoming a delegate with MCA provides personal growth opportunities, such as networking with fellow farmers, researchers and industry stakeholders; the chance to gain an in-depth understanding of the crop industries MCA represents; and the ability to attend educational and leadership-building workshops and seminars.

Participation on the crop committees also provides development opportunities for a potential future role on the board of directors. For more information on the roles and responsibilities of crop committee delegates and MCA directors, click here.

New Fusarium head blight mapping tool now available to farmers across the Prairies

May 15, 2024 New Prairie-wide Fusarium head blight (FHB) risk maps are now available to producers in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta. The tool provides assessment of Fusarium head blight index (FHBi), Fusarium-damaged kernels (FDK), and Deoxynivalenol (DON) risk levels in spring wheat, winter wheat, barley and durum based on weather conditions.

These risk maps were created as part of a three-year research project led by the University of Manitoba’s Dr. Paul Bullock, with collaborators from Alberta Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation, Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture, Manitoba Agriculture, Manitoba Crop Alliance (MCA), Saskatchewan Wheat Development Commission (Sask Wheat), Saskatchewan Barley Development Commission (SaskBarley) and Alberta Grains.

“The Faculty is very pleased to release this important risk management tool for the agriculture industry,” says Dr. Martin Scanlon, dean of the faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences at the University of Manitoba.

“The project is a great example of multi-institutional collaboration, where the combined skills and talents of both federal and provincial agricultural personnel, plus university collaborators, has facilitated research outcomes that could not have been achieved otherwise.”

The weather-based risk is calculated using real-time weather data from more than 500 stations operated by Environment and Climate Change Canada, the Manitoba AgWeather Program, Saskatchewan Public Safety, Alberta Climate Information System and Metos Canada. The risk algorithms are “homegrown” based on research data collected from 600 plot sites across 15 locations in Western Canada each year from 2019 through 2021 and tested in more than 300 producer fields on the Prairies during the same period. Previous FHB risk maps from each provincial agriculture ministry utilized imported FHB risk algorithms with limited accuracy testing and could not assess risk in barley or durum, nor for either FDK or DON. The risk mapping tool is publicly available and accessible using a smartphone, tablet or desktop computer.

The risk for disease severity varies considerably by location and year because of variable weather during the lead-up period prior to flowering. The tool has both financial and environmental benefits, since the need to apply fungicide for disease control at a given location also varies from one extreme to the other.

“We are proud to help provide Manitoba wheat and barley farmers with a powerful tool to combat FHB in their fields,” says MCA CEO Pam de Rocquigny. “These new risk maps are an excellent example of MCA’s vision in action – an investment that will make our farmer members more productive and sustainable.”

The project was funded through the Integrated Crop Agronomy Cluster with funding from the Canadian Agriculture Partnership, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Western Grains Research Foundation, MCA, Sask Wheat, Alberta Grains, Brewing and Malting Barley Research Institute and Prairie Oat Growers Association. The FHB risk mapping tool is available at prairiefhb.ca.

For more information on using and interpreting the maps check out our new joint extension document, here.

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For more information, please contact:

Cole Christensen
Communications Manager                
403-589-3529
cole@mbcropalliance.ca

Dr. Paul Bullock
Senior Scholar, Department of Soil Science
University of Manitoba
Paul.Bullock@umanitoba.ca

About Manitoba Crop Alliance:

Manitoba Crop Alliance is a non-profit organization established Aug. 1, 2020, representing more than 7,700 farmer members. Manitoba Crop Alliance puts their farmer members first and strives to continuously improve the competitiveness and profitability of all crops represented by the organization by focusing on four main areas: research, agronomy, market access and development, and communications. It is through investment in these key areas that Manitoba Crop Alliance can ensure wheat, barley, corn, sunflower and flax are sustainable production choices for Manitoba farmers. For more information, visit mbcropalliance.ca.

Reflecting on a milestone Grains Week

Article provided by Grain Growers of Canada

Grain Growers of Canada’s (GGC) annual Grains Week is a three-day event packed with back-to-back meetings with parliamentarians and decision-makers to advocate for agriculture policy solutions. Over 20 dedicated grain farmers from across Canada converged in Ottawa for a series of strategic meetings, including MCA directors Jonothan Hodson, who also sits on the GGC board of directors, and Sally Parsonage.

The week was filled with substantial discussions with nearly 30 key decision-makers in the agricultural sphere, including MPs, senators and top government officials. Discussions were held with prominent leaders, such as Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland, Leader of the Official Opposition Pierre Poilievre, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Lawrence MacAulay and Minister of Rural Economic Development Gudie Hutchings.

“Events like Grains Week offer farmers a chance to speak directly with parliamentarians and decision-makers about issues we are facing on the farm,” Parsonage says. “We also highlight the continuous progress farmers have made towards a sustainable and productive agriculture sector in Canada.”

Our conversations were focused, productive and centered around advancing 10 key policy recommendations crucial for the sustainable growth of agriculture in Canada.

The week also featured a memorable parliamentary reception the following evening where nearly 50 MPs and senators participated, engaging in robust dialogue and forming grassroot connections with the grain growing community. Minister MacAulay’s opening remarks also set the stage for an engaging evening, which was supported by Beer Canada and Spirits Canada. Their partnership beautifully demonstrated the journey of our grain from the fields to the reception tables, emphasizing how our hard-working growers cultivate the quality of the Canadian products we enjoy.

“Grains Week is important to Manitoba farmers because it is an opportunity for MCA and other GGC member organizations to highlight priorities for our grain farming community,” Hodson says.

“Many face-to-face meetings take place with MPs, senators and their staff, who are important contacts that allow for further dialogue on important policy objectives. As a producer representative, we are there to try and relate what effect policies may have on the producers we represent.”

Such meetings and events remain crucial for maintaining direct engagement with policymakers, ensuring the perspectives and needs of grain farmers are heard and make an impact. The positive feedback from our stakeholders in Ottawa stresses the importance of our continued advocacy and presence on Parliament Hill.

“Maintaining a steady presence in Ottawa is key and will ensure that when new policy or ag-related issues arise, decision-makers will have a direct connection with the producers they are impacting,” Parsonage says.

While Canadian agriculture advocacy efforts gain incredible strength from events like Grains Week, it’s important to note that its success was largely due to the dedicated grain farmers who journeyed to Ottawa. We deeply appreciate their participation, which was essential for the impactful meetings held, underscoring the crucial role they play in shaping our agricultural policies.

Let’s maintain this momentum for Grains Week 2025 and ensure our community remains at the forefront of agricultural innovation and policy development!

Photo Gallery

The Fence Post: Spring/Summer 2024

Download The Fence Post: Spring/Summer 2024 (pdf)

Table of Contents

 

  • Message from the Chair: Get involved
  • Message from the CEO: A strategy beyond “continuing”
  • What’s new at MCA 
  • Five Questions with Morgan Cott
  • Cover: The not-so-secret ingredient
  • Advocacy
  • Research & Production
  • Market Development
  • 2024 Annual Report Summary
  • Economic Impact of Our Crops

Afua Mante, assistant professor, University of Manitoba

Afua Mante is an assistant professor of soil physical processes in the Department of Soil Science at the University of Manitoba (UM). She was born and raised in Ghana, where she attained a bachelor’s degree in agricultural engineering and a master’s in water supply and environmental sanitation. In 2011, she moved to Canada as a graduate student at the UM, where she completed an additional master’s degree in mechanical engineering and a PhD in biosystems engineering.

Where did you work before your current role at the UM?

I worked at the Centre for Engineering Professional Practice and Engineering Education in the Price Faculty of Engineering at the UM as a post-doctoral fellow for two years (2018 to 2020) immediately after completing my PhD program. In that role, I was responsible for identifying, through consultation and collaboration with stakeholders, meaningful ways for genuine inclusion of Indigenous knowledges, perspectives and design principles, as well as principles of sustainable development and sustainable design, in engineering curricula. After that, I joined the land remediation group in the Department of Soil Science as a post-doctoral fellow, where I oversaw projects on the restoration of prime agricultural lands disturbed by industrial activities. I stayed in this role until January 2022 and then stepped into my current role in the same department as an assistant professor.

What got you interested in this area of work?

It all started when my uncle made what I had seen in junior high agricultural science textbooks become a reality. Use of agricultural machinery was a dream in my community. My uncle got a small tractor with one plow and one harrow. This set of machinery was “gold.” You could see the pride in my uncle’s face. You can bet he used all his savings on them. No financing opportunities. All he wanted was for the crops to meet the rains at the right time. This investment paid off. He saw an exponential increase in yield – his team was so proud to work with him and it provided my family with security.

More than that, I got the opportunity to see the equipment in action. I was mesmerized watching the whole show. My uncle said to me, with a smile on his face, “we have people who research into how these machines work.” That got me interested in pursuing the agriculture path.

I received opposition to that idea from some of my high school teachers. They had not experienced the magic of agriculture, or they were somewhat disconnected from how we need agriculture. To them and many, agriculture was a way to punish kids at school. It had a negative image. I was lucky to have experienced my uncle’s investment at work. My decision was solidified when I figured out that one of my mentors who had visited my high school to support our education was pursuing agricultural engineering (which I did not know existed at the time) at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. He enlightened me on career opportunities in agriculture and from then on, I never looked back.

Tell us a bit about what you are working on at the UM.

I teach the course “Soils and Landscapes in our Environment” at the undergraduate level, soil physics courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels, and the equity, diversity, inclusion and bias sections of the “Principles of Scientific Research and Communication” course at the graduate level.

I run the soil physics research program. In the program, I supervise both graduate and undergraduate students on various projects. We collaborate with stakeholders to identify opportunities and address challenges to advance the agriculture industry. With our projects, our main goal is to understand the complexity of the soil system and how to subject it to applications and interventions in a sustainable way to allow us to continue to enjoy the ecosystem services it lends to us. Currently, we are looking into a wide range of applications and interventions, including farm traffic systems, extreme moisture events, cropping systems, nutrient management, freezing and thawing processes, brine contamination, pipeline construction, and how they interact with the soil for sustainable crop production and a healthy environment. There is more room to expand our research, considering the complexity of the soil system.

I am currently collaborating with two researchers at the UM on a project, “Building resilient soils with cover crops in Manitoba,” funded through Manitoba Crop Alliance and the Sustainable Canadian Agricultural Partnership (Sustainable CAP). In recent years, we are seeing an increase in the number of farmers in Manitoba who are adopting cover crops to conserve the soil, for nutrient cycling or for improving soil health. In addition to these benefits that are associated with cover crops, we are exploring how cover crops can improve soil strength to support trafficability and reduce the risk of soil compaction and other soil deformation processes. Our focus is not just on the wet condition, but also on the dry condition, as that contributes to the deformation processes of the soil under our climate. This project is an opportunity to present a holistic view on the benefits of cover crops integrated into annual cropping systems by taking into account the agronomic and climatic conditions that prevail in Manitoba.

What can you say about the value of farmers providing funding and support to your organization?

As we know, producing food has many pieces to it. In our province, our climate and our wide range of soils make our challenges unique. To overcome these challenges in our community, we have to recognize that we all have a role to play. But here is the catch: it is one thing knowing you have a role to play and quite another having the resources to support your role.

Farmers’ financial contributions to our research programs make it possible for us as researchers to play our role. We are able to train highly qualified personnel (HQP) for the sector and secure resources we need to address current and emerging challenges in our community. This ongoing farmer support demonstrates a community where we all work together for continued success.

How does that farmer funding and support directly benefit farmers?

As I mentioned earlier, there are several pieces to producing food. When farmers provide the support, they set the priorities. They directly influence the sector. They tell us what their actual challenges are. Many times, what we may perceive as a problem is not seen as such by farmers. Also, how we may define a problem to provide solutions may not align with the reality of management. As key stakeholders, we consult and collaborate with them to create working solutions. Knowledge sharing through the life of a research project and after becomes integral to the research. It promotes accountability as well as (re)evaluation of the outcome. Also, with the plethora of challenges the community faces, we need all hands on deck. When we train HQP, we build the workforce needed to tackle the challenges. All these lead to fostering stronger relationships in the community.

Anything you want to add or any comments to our farmer members?

Farmers are our heroes. It is my hope that we all recognize that. They begin the story of the food on our plates. It is a very lengthy story. We may not always hear the story, but what we can all agree on is the excitement and the sense of renewal we have after treating ourselves to a wonderful meal. Thank you, farmers.

How do you spend your time outside of work?

I serve as the vice-chair of the Canadian Foodgrains Bank board of directors, where I offer my perspectives and leadership on the organization’s mission to end global hunger and shape Canada’s contribution to international aid and development. I also write songs and poems, which is a great outlet for me. The most fun thing I do is when my kids and I make up songs and sing them unending.

What is your favourite TV series right now?

Monk – a series on Netflix. The characters all have their unique strengths that they bring to accurately solving cases. What I have learned is that sometimes the strength of another may be frustrating when we are not used to it. It may be too slow or too detailed for us, and we think it could be easier to quickly jump ahead, but then it doesn’t lead us anywhere. When we begin to create the space to understand one another, we realize that we complement each other. To have an effective collective, we need to understand and accept the individuals within the collective.

What is the best part of your job?

The training of HQP. I have HQP from diverse disciplines. This requires me to be intentional about knowing them as individuals so that I can train the whole person. This leads to my HQP owning their training and accepting the challenge to be more. It is a joy to see such a development in them.

Connect with Afua on LinkedIn.

Ahmed Abdelmagid, research scientist, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Ahmed Abdelmagid is a research scientist specializing in oilseed crop pathology at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s (AAFC) Morden Research and Development Centre (RDC). Originally from Egypt, Abdelmagid completed his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in plant pathology from Assiut University in Asyut, Egypt. He received a scholarship to Oklahoma State University for his PhD, and then joined the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to do a post doctorate before moving to Canada in 2015. He joined the University of Guelph for a second post doctorate before moving to Winnipeg in 2017. He now lives in Morden with his wife and three kids, who are in Grades 11, nine and four.

Where did you work before AAFC?

I was a research associate at the University of Manitoba. I conducted research on soybean pathology and taught plant pathology to undergraduate and graduate students. After that, I worked in private industry for a year at Farmers Business Network and led the pathology research on canola diseases, specifically blackleg, verticillium stripe, Fusarium wilt and sclerotinia stem rot.

What is the best part about your job?

I really enjoy my new position. It gives me the freedom to choose the research I think is important for farmers. For example, what is more beneficial in terms of the pathology research or for the whole country because I also collaborate with researchers from Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta. We all focus on certain objectives that we think the outcomes will be beneficial to farmers across the Prairies.

What got you interested in this area of work?

When you study agriculture in Egypt the first two years are general, and you choose your major during the third and fourth years. At the time, I didn’t know which department I should join, and I had been warned that plant pathology would be difficult as most of the study would be in English due to the number of scientific pathogen names I would need to memorize.

I saw it as a challenge and looked at it from a different perspective. People get sick and go to the doctor for a bacterial or viral infection. They can speak about their symptoms, but with plants you have to see and study the symptoms to discover which disease it is. I found that to be truly interesting and we were a smaller group of students, which is how I got started into pathology.

Tell us a bit about what you’re working on at AAFC.

Our program focuses on the pathology or plant diseases affecting canola, sunflower, soybean and flax in Manitoba and Canada. I collaborate with breeders across the Prairies and Canada to find new sources of resistance against the most important diseases affecting these crops, and we look at best disease management strategies.

Last year, we began working on a sunflower disease survey funded by Manitoba Crop Alliance. This survey will be similar to what we do on other crops, but it will be very interesting because for many years there has been no verified information about the most important diseases that affect sunflowers in Manitoba and Canada.

We will be in the fields to see what the most important diseases affecting yield and quality of the heads are across Manitoba. We will collect samples of the roots, stems and heads and bring them to the lab to do isolation and identification. From there, we will report on what we saw during the growing season. It will be very beneficial to the industry to know what those diseases are, so the breeding programs can focus on them in the future.

What can you say about the value of farmers providing funding and support to your organization?

It is very valuable. Farmer support is crucial to make our research more practical and applied. We receive funds from other resources to investigate different research ideas, but the link between science and farmers is very important. It tells us as researchers what is important for farmers, what would be more beneficial for them in the future and what ideas or challenges we need to work to solve.

How does that farmer funding and support directly benefit farmers?

We are working on the problems that worry farmers and that they need solutions to, especially in the short term. We know they don’t want to see a solution in six or 10 years – they want to see something practical in the short term. We work to give them verified data and good results, and in some cases, we can recommend management strategies.

How do you spend your time outside of work?

Winter in Manitoba is too long, especially for someone like me from the desert. Although I’ve been here for several years, I still have a hard time enjoying outdoor activities in the winter. Time outdoors in the summer is very precious, and I enjoy it a lot.

What is your favourite food or favourite meal to cook?

Foul mudammas (Egyptian fava beans). In Egypt, fava beans are a main dish, especially for breakfast. It’s special, very simple and very healthy.

All you have to do is rinse a can of fava beans, put them in a deep pan with a little bit of oil of your choice. Cut tomato and green pepper, and put the mixture on medium heat. Cover it and leave it for about 7 to 10 minutes. Next add lemon, salt and cumin. Smash it together with a fork, and you can eat it with toast or pita bread. It’s delicious!

Connect with Ahmed on LinkedIn.

Study reveals Manitoba Crop Alliance crop types are major drivers of Manitoba economy

March 13, 2024 (Carman, MB) Today, Manitoba Crop Alliance (MCA) released data highlighting the significant contributions of its crop types to the Manitoba economy.

MCA contracted information services company GlobalData to conduct a study assessing the impact of Manitoba-grown wheat (excluding durum), barley, grain corn, sunflower and flax on the province’s economy.

Together, these five crop types account for a large part of Manitoba’s agriculture industry. Several of these crops are also the foundations for important food industries, both within the province and beyond.

GlobalData found that the total economic impact of MCA’s five crop types averaged roughly $6.9 billion over the past three years, including more than 28,000 Manitoba jobs and $2.5 billion in wages.

“This study shows the major role our crop types play in the economic well-being of the province and the country,” says MCA chair Robert Misko, who farms east of Roblin, MB.

“As farmers, we have long known our position in the system and how we contribute to the province’s success, but it is heartening to see those contributions laid out in a measurable way that anyone can understand.”

For a full breakdown of the study, including summary data and in-depth reports for each crop type, visit mbcropalliance.ca/economic-impact.

This economic assessment was modelled after work done last year by Cereals Canada on wheat, barley, durum and oats. Visit cerealscanada.ca/economic-impact for more information.

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For more information, please contact:

Cole Christensen
Communications Manager                
403-589-3529
cole@mbcropalliance.ca

About Manitoba Crop Alliance:

Manitoba Crop Alliance is a non-profit organization established Aug. 1, 2020, representing more than 7,700 farmer members. Manitoba Crop Alliance puts their farmer members first and strives to continuously improve the competitiveness and profitability of all crops represented by the organization by focusing on four main areas: research, agronomy, market access and development, and communications. It is through investment in these key areas that Manitoba Crop Alliance can ensure wheat, barley, corn, sunflower and flax are sustainable production choices for Manitoba farmers. For more information, visit mbcropalliance.ca.

Post-registration Assessment of Fusarium Head Blight Resistance in Spring Wheat, Barley and Winter Wheat 

By Anne Kirk and Chami Amarasinghe, Manitoba Agriculture 

The Manitoba Crop Variety Evaluation Team (MCVET) has been evaluating the effects of Fusarium Head Blight (FHB) on spring wheat, winter wheat and barley varieties under conditions of natural infection for a number of years. Varietal resistance ratings for FHB, as presented in Seed Manitoba, are determined through inoculated trials conducted during the period the variety is tested in the variety registration system. While this provides good information on resistance to FHB, the data generated provides limited comparisons with other registered varieties.

Post-registration FHB analysis provides an opportunity to compare fusarium damaged kernels (FDK) and deoxynivalenol (DON) accumulation among registered varieties over a number of locations in Manitoba. Fungicides are not applied to MCVET trials, and FHB infection is the result of natural infection. Due to variety turnover in MCVET trials, on-going analysis is required to evaluate the response of newly registered varieties. 

In 2023, DON accumulation was low at the majority of sites. At the spring wheat sites, mean DON accumulation was below the detection limit of 0.5 ppm at ten of the eleven sites tested; DON ranged from 0.5 to 1.2 ppm at the one site where DON was detected (Table 1). Mean DON accumulation at the barley sites was below detection limit at six of eleven sites, and ranged from 0.5 to 0.8 ppm at the remaining sites (Table 2). Mean DON accumulation in winter wheat was below detection limit at all sites tested (Table 3). Varieties with the highest FDK and DON levels were generally rated as susceptible (S), moderately susceptible (MS), or intermediate (I) for FHB resistance; however, there is variability in FDK and DON within each of the five resistance categories. 

FHB infection is highly influenced by environmental conditions; however, there are management options that should be used to mitigate the risk of FHB. The first step is to select varieties with improved resistance to FHB. Resistance ratings published in Seed Manitoba are a good first place to look for disease resistance information. Caution must be used with one year of data, as presented in these tables. Other management strategies include crop rotation and fungicide application. 

Thanks to Manitoba Crop Alliance for providing funding to conduct FDK and DON analysis and the Manitoba Crop Variety Evaluation Team and contractors who provided the harvested samples.

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