Breanne Tidemann is a weed scientist in weed science and field agronomy with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) based in Lacombe, AB. While her original ambition was to be a dentist, partway through her degree she realized she did not enjoy working with teeth all that much. Instead, she spent a summer working with AAFC where she fell in love with agriculture research. She moved on to complete her master’s degree and PhD at the University of Alberta. Tidemann is currently on maternity leave, although you will still catch her online and in the field occasionally, and lives in Blackfalds, AB, with her husband and two little boys.
Where did you work before AAFC?
I started working with AAFC partway through finishing my PhD. I worked previously as a summer student for Dow AgroSciences and for Cargill as a crop scout, as well as my original summer in agriculture research with AAFC as a student.
What got you interested in this area of work?
During my summer position with AAFC I really became interested in weed science. I was working on the weed management crew at the Scott Research Farm. As I was working through the scientific method of asking questions and learning how things work, I realized the work we were doing like trying new herbicides was something my dad could use on the farm, or a specific weed was becoming problematic and we were looking for new ways of managing it. So, it was really that application of science that drew me in.
Tell us a bit about what you’re working on at AAFC?
Our program is focused on integrated weed management strategies and my research is focused around alternative weed management strategies in conventional cropping systems. We are trying to discover additional strategies to help farmers reduce reliance on herbicides and manage the selection and evolution of resistant weeds. For example, I’m doing a bit of work on harvest weed seed control (a strategy used in Australia) to discover its potential fit in Western Canada. I also collaborate closely with Charles Geddes and Shaun Sharpe on weed biology work.
Developing decision support tools for effective herbicide use in the face of herbicide resistance is quite a unique project in my program. It stemmed from a conference presentation I was giving at an agronomy update in Alberta a couple years ago. I was presenting on using effective tank mixes and multiple modes of action and discussing how sometimes our understanding (or the marketing) of effective modes of action makes us think that we’re doing the right thing when in fact we may not be. For example, we’ve got two actives in the tank as per marketing guidelines, but the actives might not both have activity, or perhaps we’ve got resistance to one or we’re not using the correct mix rate. All of these types of situations can easily occur and prevent farmers from getting the full benefits from the products. At the end of my presentation a colleague in the audience asked me if some type of decision support tool exists to help farmers work through some of this information. That was my “Aha!” moment and this project stemmed from there.
The project began in April last year (2021) when Christine Cock was hired as a term technician. She is currently building the database, collecting herbicide labels and their actives, including which weeds they are effective against. The goal of the project is to create a tool farmers can go into and say, “I’ve planted this crop, I want to spray this product, what other products could I add that would give me another effective mode of action? ”We’ve developed a prototype of the application and are testing to ensure the coding and crop/herbicide selections are working correctly. For now, the focus is on building the database so we can include selection in all the crops grown in Western Canada and all the weeds found here. The project is funded by Manitoba Crop Alliance, Alberta Wheat Commission and Saskatchewan Wheat Development Commission.
What can you say about the value of farmers providing funding and support to your organization?
Funding from farmers tells me that the research we are doing is something they can incorporate on their farm, and that we are working on issues that are important to them. The goal of all of our research is to help farmers.
How does that farmer funding and support directly benefit farmers?
Hopefully, we’re doing work that is useful to them and are providing results they can use on their farm. In this case, particularly, we hope to be able to hand farmers a tool that they can actively use when they are making herbicide decisions on their farms to help manage resistant weeds and prevent further resistance selection.
How do you spend your time outside of work?
I love to read! I am a very avid reader. I also crochet a little bit here and there and I play the violin.
How do you celebrate agriculture?
Teaching my boys about agriculture is certainly one way. We live in town now, but my oldest son (4 years old) sure knows what a combine does and what tractors are! I love my job and I love what I do, that’s why I still work while I am on maternity leave. It’s more of a day-to-day lifestyle than a big celebration. I certainly buy canola oil and Canadian-made products at the grocery store and try to ignore the non-GMO certified labels.
What gets you most excited about your work?
The potential to ask questions to everyone, not just the experts but to farmers and my peers. There’s always something new to look at or something interesting to stumble across in research. I think my technicians sometimes dread when I come out to the field to help them because I tend to squirrel off into seeing something off topic or get distracted by a weed. There is just so much to learn, and for me, it’s so much fun.
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