SARDA summer field school covers variety of subjects

one of several crops being grown at a SARDA site south of Donnelly.

Mac Olsen

The Falher-based SARDA Ag Research organization held their summer field school south of Donnelly on July 13.

Twenty-five people from all over the region attended the event, which included several speakers offering their insights into current issues.

Robyne Bowness, the Pulse Research Scientist with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, spoke about faba beans. As per the Alberta Pulse Growers website, Bowness is conducting “a three-year project (which) aims to bring data and clarity to issues like herbicide residue, desiccation, disease management and crop nutrition.

“In 2015, when Alberta farmers grew 100,000 acres’ worth of faba beans, some wondered if this was just the start of even bigger things. By 2016, the market changed, prices dropped and faba bean acreage was cut in half.
“Before acres get too carried away, faba beans is a crop we need to know more about.
“The problem with faba beans,” Bowness said, “is that we haven’t done a lot of research on this crop over the past 20 years. There’s some basic research that we still need to do.”

In 2016, with funding from Alberta Pulse Growers, Bowness began a three-year project to address key issues around faba bean production. The work is taking place at locations in four different soil zones: Falher, Lacombe, Barrhead and Lethbridge.”

Ralph Cartar discussed native pollinators. As per the SARDA summer field school background booklet, Cartar has studied the ecology of bees in British Columbia and Alberta, which includes doctoral research at Simon Fraser University. Cartar currently teaches at the University of Calgary and he and his students have investigated the behaviour of bumble bees across a range of natural and human landscapes.

Jan Slaski spoke about industrial hemp. Slaski is a senior researcher and a leader of crop development and the management team with Ecosystems and Plant Sciences of InnoTech Alberta, in Vegreville.

As per the SARDA booklet, Slaski has been leading research aimed at the introduction and breeding of hemp varieties that suit the needs of the fibre and food industries of the prairies. He has also been conducting studies focused on the development of best management practices permitting sustainable hemp production under changing environmental conditions.

Slaski is also a director for the Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance.

Jack Wyne was another speaker and he discussed hail projects he’s involved with. Wyne worked for Agricultural Financial Services Corporation for 11 years, for on farm inspections (OFI). He also spent 20 years working for a grain company. Lil Trudeau, who works for AFSC in Falher, gave a presentation about insurance claims.

SARDA Ag Research has field locations south of Donnelly, west of High Prairie, and near Rycroft. As per the SARDA booklet, the organization was created in 1986 to address local agricultural issues. Among its objectives are:

. To achieve sustainable agricultural production and profit for producers.

. To stimulate and conduct applied research and demonstration to provide a basis for recommendations and a transfer of information and technology between research institutions, industry and local producers.

. To distribute information through publications of annual reports, newsletters, newspaper articles, trade shows, seminars, demonstrations and other available mediums.

. To be aware of the changing needs of producers in our community and adjust our programs and mandate accordingly.

. To promote diversification into other agriculture sectors (livestock production, horticulture and value added).

. To provide an opportunity for other organizations to plan and conduct applied research, demonstration and extension activities in the area.

For more information, go to their website at

Ralph Cartar discussed native pollinators at one of the SARDA sites south of Donnelly. Cartar was one of four speakers to address the SARDA Ag Research Summer Field School at that site on July 13.

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