Charles Geddes is a research scientist in weed ecology and cropping systems at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s (AAFC) Lethbridge Research and Development Centre. Charles grew up on a farm in southern Manitoba and moved to Winnipeg after high school, where he earned his bachelor of science in agroecology and his Ph.D. in plant science at the University of Manitoba. He currently lives in Lethbridge with his wife, Crystal, and their two kids, Olivia and Adam.
What is the best part about your job?
To me, one of the most important things about this job is that I can contribute to some adoption of applied solutions at the farm level. In my position, I have the ability to design research projects that can have a direct impact on the farm. I think that is really important and one of the biggest benefits of the job.
What got you interested in this area of work?
My initial interest came from my days on the family farm. Around the start of university, during the summer I was farming with my dad and we took over a field that was rented for several years previous. We didn’t have a good history on that field and it turned out to be infested with wild oats that had multiple resistance, and it was just a devastating crop year. I like to think that experience is what made me dedicate my career toward helping farmers manage herbicide-resistant weeds.
Tell us a bit about what you’re working on at AAFC Lethbridge.
The big focus of our research program at AAFC is herbicide resistance. The program takes an approach where we are focused on the discovery of new herbicide-resistant weed biotypes that exist on the Prairies. We monitor for those biotypes across the Prairies to determine the impact of that herbicide resistance, and we develop integrated management strategies specifically targeting those biotypes.
The “Next generation of prairie herbicide-resistant weed surveys and surveillance” project leads the herbicide resistance surveillance for Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. In this project, we survey 800 fields across the Prairies over the course of four years and look at the status of herbicide resistance in essentially all field crops across the Prairies and many of the weeds that are present in crops after post-emergence herbicide application. The “Glyphosate resistance kochia survey” is a post-harvest survey looking at the status of herbicide resistance in kochia, specifically, with the difference being the timing of the survey because kochia seed isn’t viable when the previous survey takes place. These projects are a monitoring component, looking at the status of herbicide resistance across the Prairies and how it’s changing over time. Then we try and link the status of resistance to grower management practices using a management questionnaire.
The other two related projects are “Management of glyphosate-resistant kochia in western Canadian cropping systems,” co-funded through the Integrated Crop Agronomy Cluster, and “Understanding auxinic herbicide resistance in kochia and staying ahead of what’s next.” In general, we know that herbicide resistance in kochia is a growing issue across the southern Canadian Prairies. These projects are specifically trying to develop new and integrated management strategies targeting herbicide resistant kochia. Anything from looking at further understanding resistance in kochia, to looking for types of resistance that aren’t out there to our knowledge but are on our radar – as we think they might be selected for next in kochia – and also looking at integrated management in the field.
We are looking at things like:
- How crop rotation diversity impacts the management of herbicide resistant kochia through alternating crop life cycles
- Swapping out summer annuals in a crop rotation for winter annuals like winter wheat, or perennials
- How row spacing and seeding rates affect the ability of crops to compete with kochia
- Developing management strategies based on the biology of kochia
What can you say about the value of farmers providing funding and support to your organization?
Farmer-based and farmer-led funding makes up the majority of our research program and is extremely important to us. Almost all our work is funded by farmers and grower groups. When we go through these different proposal and review processes, I really appreciate that a lot of the boards that are making decisions are made up of farmers who are dealing with some of these issues. I like to think that my link back to the family farm and a bit of applied experience in farming helps me relate to some of those issues and communicate what we’re trying to do in a way that makes sense at the farm level.
How does that farmer funding and support directly benefit farmers?
Several of our projects that are farmer funded tend to be more applied in nature, so the results tend to be directly applicable on the farm. Basically, the money that farmers are investing in research is trying to come up with new tools or strategies to manage these herbicide-resistant weeds we are dealing with on the Prairies. With that, I think they can see a more immediate return on investment.
How do you spend your time outside of work?
In the summertime we really like to go camping, and there are a lot of excellent camping spots in southern Alberta. I also like to play music. I play the violin and guitar – both electric and acoustic, although I don’t get to play as often as I’d like to!
And what are you excited about for the future of agriculture?
I think the future in agriculture is bright and I’m really fortunate to work in this discipline. I think we are also aware of challenges that are coming down the road, specifically related to our research. We know herbicide resistance is an issue that’s growing, and it’s going to be at the forefront of a lot of our agronomic decisions moving forward and in the future. I’m excited to have a contribution to some of those decisions.
What is your favourite food/meal to cook?
I really like turkey dinner. As for cooking, although this probably isn’t considered cooking, I like to brew beer completely from natural ingredients. What I mean by that is I like to go from grain brewing all the way to beer, rather than using home-brew kits. I actually have a hop variety experiment going on in my back yard. We’re growing nine different varieties of hops and that’s what I am using in the brewing process.
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