Sustainability Projects

A critical and underexplored area of knowledge is best management practices that increase grower sustainability with minimal impact on the environment. Researchers are shedding light on our environmental footprint using appropriate indicators such as biodiversity, energy use, and greenhouse gas emissions – always with an eye to the continued profitability of the crop.

Projects underway

Determining arthropod biodiversity in canola cropping systems as a key to improved sustainability of production
Economic profitability and sustainability of canola production systems in Western Canada
The environmental footprint of canola and canola-based products
Evaluation of adaptability and ecological performance of Brassica juncea canola in diverse growing environments
Exploring the ecological impact of canola-inclusive cropping systems in Western Canada
Consistent and environmentally sound canola production
Canola biodiesel sustainability
Detection, surveillance and management of weed, insect and disease pests that threaten the economic viability of crop production and the environmental health of prairie agro-ecosystems
'Top Canola Grower’ survey

Determining arthropod biodiversity in canola cropping systems as a key to improved sustainability of production

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Objective: This project will develop strategic foundation information on the biodiversity of arthropods in canola agro-ecosystems. The ultimate goal is to develop a new database of information on arthropod biodiversity in genetically modified and conventional cropping systems that can assist other realms of canola integrated crop management research for improving sustainability of canola cropping systems.

To determine the species composition of beneficial arthropods (carabid beetles; pollinators other than honey bees like thrips, syrphid flies; parasitic wasps and flies, etc.) inhabiting canola in different ecoregions of Western Canada through literature reviews and new studies that sample insect populations in canola. To use baseline knowledge of species compositions to determine the role of selected species in ecosystem functioning.

Research team: Dr. Lloyd Dosdall (University of Alberta) – Principal Investigator; Dr. Hector Carcamo (AAFC, Lethbridge); Dr. John Spence (University of Alberta); Dr. Jim Broatch (AARD, Lacombe)

Funded through the Canola/Flax Canadian Agri-Science Cluster, a joint initiative of AAFC and Canola Council of Canada

Economic profitability and sustainability of canola production systems in Western Canada

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Objective: The objective of the proposed economic analyses is to evaluate canola production systems, primarily at the farm-level, to determine profitability of systems, economic trade-offs within the systems, and associated financial risk. Three studies will include: input study (initiate 2010), frequency of canola in rotation (initiate 2010), and canola emergence (initiate 2011). The analyses will integrate physical production factors with profitability, providing producers and the industry with economic information on which to make better production decisions and increase profitability.

Research team: Dr. Elwin Smith (AAFC, Lethbridge) – Principal Investigator; Dr. Scott Jeffrey (University of Alberta); Dr. Danny LeRoy (University of Lethbridge); Dr. Neil Harker and John O’Donovan (AAFC, Lacombe); Dr. Stewart Brandt and Eric Johnson (AAFC, Scott); Dr. Bob Blackshaw (AAFC, Lethbridge); Dr. Randy Kutcher (AAFC, Melfort)

Funded through the Canola/Flax Canadian Agri-Science Cluster, a joint initiative of AAFC and Canola Council of Canada

The environmental footprint of canola and canola-based products

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Objective: To determine the GHG emissions of primary canola production through intensive field measurements and use of survey data of canola production practices and marketing. To calculate the GHG life-cycle of canola seed and key canola based products of canola meal, canola oil, and biodiesel from canola. To develop relative assessments of environmental impact of canola-based products with respect to potentially competing products.

Research team: Dr. Vern Baron (AAFC, Lacombe) – Principal Investigator; Dr. Neil Harker (AAFC, Lacombe); Dr. Brian McConkey (AAFC, Swift Current); Dr. Reynald Lemke (AAFC, Saskatoon)

Funded through the Canola/Flax Canadian Agri-Science Cluster, a joint initiative of AAFC and Canola Council of Canada

Evaluation of adaptability and ecological performance of Brassica juncea canola in diverse growing environments

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Objective: To evaluate the adaptability of Brassica juncea canola in various environments across Western Canada, ranging from the drier, hotter areas of southwest Saskatchewan and southeast Alberta to more humid, central prairies, and expand to high-yielding areas of south Manitoba. To determine whether this new canola species performs equally or better than hybrid and open-pollinatednapus species ecologically and to quantify the harvest ability between juncea and napus cultivars across various growing environments.

Research team: Dr. Yantai Gan (AAFC, Swift Current) – Principal Investigator; Dr. Eric Johnson (AAFC, Scott); Dr. Cecil Vera (AAFC, Melfort); Drs. Bill May and Guy Lafond (AAFC, Indian Head); Dr. Bob Blackshaw (AAFC, Lethbridge)

Funded through the Canola/Flax Canadian Agri-Science Cluster, a joint initiative of AAFC and Canola Council of Canada

Exploring the ecological impact of canola-inclusive cropping systems in Western Canada

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Objective: To identify weed species associated with canola production and determine if shifts in species abundance and community composition have occurred over time in farmer fields. To evaluate the effects of management practices on weed species richness and diversity. To assess the impact of increased rotational frequency of canola on weed community composition and population shifts.

Research team: Dr. Christian Willenborg (University of Alberta) – Principal Investigator; Julia Leeson (AAFC, Saskatoon); Dr. Neil Harker (AAFC, Lacombe); Dr. Bob Blackshaw (AAFC, Lethbridge); Dr. Eric Johnson (AAFC, Scott)

Funded through the Canola/Flax Canadian Agri-Science Cluster, a joint initiative of AAFC and Canola Council of Canada

Consistent and environmentally sound canola production

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Objective: To determine best management practices for consistent and environmentally sound production of high quality canola for the oil and meal markets.

Research team: Dr. Bob Blackshaw (AAFC, Lethbridge) – Principal Investigator; Dr. Neil Harker (AAFC, Lacombe); Drs. Hector Carcamo, Newton Lupwayi, Xiying Hao, Elwin Smith and Bernie Hill (AAFC, Lethbridge); Drs. John O’Donovan and Kelly Turkington (AAFC, Lacombe); Drs. Eric Johnson and Stewart Brandt (AAFC, Scott); Dr. Kevin Falk (AAFC, Saskatoon); Dr. Randy Kutcher (AAFC, Melfort)

Funded through the Canola/Flax Canadian Agri-Science Cluster, a joint initiative of AAFC and Canola Council of Canada

Canola biodiesel sustainability

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Objective: To enhance on-going biodiesel studies (ABIP) and conduct more detailed oil profile and biodiesel sample analyses in long-term canola rotation studies.

Research team: Dr. Neil Harker (AAFC, Lacombe) – Principal Investigator; Drs. John O’Donovan and Kelly Turkington (AAFC, Lacombe); Drs. Bob Blackshaw, Newton Lupwayi and Elwin Smith (AAFC, Lethbridge); Dr. Eric Johnson (AAFC, Scott); Dr. Byron Irvine (AAFC, Brandon); Dr. Yantal Gan (AAFC, Swift Current); Dr. Randy Kutcher (AAFC, Melfort)

Funded through the Canola/Flax Canadian Agri-Science Cluster, a joint initiative of AAFC and Canola Council of Canada

Detection, surveillance and management of weed, insect and disease pests that threaten the economic viability of crop production and the environmental health of prairie agro-ecosystems

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Objective: To develop & implement field surveillance technologies and laboratory assays for weeds, insects and plant diseases. To develop novel forecast & risk assessment technologies. To determine ecological, biological, climatological and crop management relationships that influence pest status. To develop new alternative integrated control and mitigation tactics.

Research team: Dr. Owen Olfert (AAFC, Saskatoon) – Principal Investigator; Dr. Hector Carcamo (AAFC, Lethbridge); Dr. Kelly Turkington (AAFC, Lacombe); Jennifer Otani (AAFC, Beaverlodge); Dr. Bob Elliott, Dr. Julie Soroka, Dr. Chrystel Olivier and Julia Leeson (AAFC, Saskatoon); Dr. Randy Kutcher (AAFC, Melfort); Dr. Debbie McLaren (AAFC, Brandon)

Funded through the Canola/Flax Canadian Agri-Science Cluster, a joint initiative of AAFC and Canola Council of Canada

‘Top Canola Grower’ survey

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Objective: To measure the impact of the Canola/Flax Agri-Science Cluster research projects and communication efforts on growers’ crop production practices, behaviours and knowledge. The initial assessment will be used as the baseline measure and provide insight into the specific messages that the Canola Council of Canada needs to communicate to canola growers. Follow-up measurement would then determine the extent to which production practices have improved as a result of the Canola Council’s research projects and extension efforts. To establish the production practices that result in top yields and characterize a ‘Top Canola Grower.’

Research team: Dr. Elwin Smith (AAFC, Lethbridge) – Principal Investigator; Dr. Richard Carew (AAFC, Summerland)

Funded through the Canola/Flax Canadian Agri-Science Cluster, a joint initiative of AAFC and Canola Council of Canada