MARA’s Current Projects (2020)

MARA conducts unbiased, innovative, applied and scientifically sound agriculture and environmental research to support the agriculture industry in Alberta, with focus on the largest County in the province, Mackenzie County. The list below is current (2020) projects. The list excludes contract research or any privately funded research. For more information about MARA’s current and past projects, please contact us using the contact form available on this website.

AGRONOMY, AND INSECT AND PEST MANAGEMENT

1. Cultural Management of Flea Beetle on Canola

Flea beetles (Phyllotetra spp.) are among the most serious and widespread pests of canola on the Canadian prairies. Seed-coated insecticides and subsequent applications of foliar sprays are used to reduce flea beetle populations. However, the time frame at which the insecticide is effective is narrow, meaning that the insecticide is unable to protect canola stands throughout all its developmental stages. Chemical applications, therefore, need to be accompanied by cultural methods to reduce flea beetle populations and hence reduce the extent of the damage. With the support of Alberta Canola Producers (ACPC), MARA together with NPARA and SARDA are evaluating the impact of seeding date, seed size, and seeding rate on flea beetle leaf damage and flea beetle population. Flea beetle damage and population will be quantified using sticky traps and leaf damage per plot. In this way, treatments with average values of lower numbers of flea beetles
and lower rates of flea beetle leaf damage will be considered the best-integrated pest management strategies to reduce flea beetles in canola stands.

2. Split Nitrogen Application and Irrigation on Spring Wheat

Split application of nitrogen to meet crop needs is gaining widespread popularity among western Canadian producers. Nitrogen is the most limiting nutrient for wheat production that affects growth, grain yield and quality. By placing all the nitrogen requirements at seeding, a producer must rely on adequate rainfall during the growing season so the crop can efficiently utilize the nitrogen. Split application is the process of matching nitrogen supply for a pre-established target yield and a given level of soil moisture, and then supplying the
remaining nitrogen as moisture conditions improve.

By providing nitrogen to meet the changing demands of a growing crop, producers can potentially increase nitrogen use efficiency.
With the support of the Alberta Wheat Commission, MARA aims to investigate the effects of irrigation, different rate and split application of nitrogen
on the nitrogen use efficiency, yield and nutritive value of spring wheat in Northern Alberta

 

 

 

3. “Ultra Early” and Normal Seeding of Spring wheat

MARA in collaborations with other ARA’s and support from Alberta Wheat Commission, this trial was developed.

The trial is focusing on two wheat varieties:
AAC Connery and AAC Brandon.
AAC Connery is considered an early maturing variety while AAC Brandon, although earlier maturing than some varieties, is later maturing than AAC Connery. The goal is to assess the difference
(stand, protein, yield and grade) between these two varieties at two planting dates:

1. Ultra-Early: when the ground is first able to carry equipment and soil temperatures are between 2—6 degrees Celsius.
2. Normal: seeded at least 10-14 days later or when ‘normal’ seeding window occurs for the area.

4. Cereals Regional Variety Trials (RVT)

The Cereals Regional Variety Trial (RVT) is conducted throughout the province and in Northern BC. MARA is participating in CWPS, CPSR, CWSWS, CWHWS,
CNHR and CWRS wheat, two & six row barley, Oats and triticale. One of the goals of the RVT is to help researchers and producers identify cereal varieties that are suitable
for each particular environment. Data from the Cereal RVTs are published in the Alberta Seed Guide. The Cereal RVTs are sponsored by the Alberta government and the cereal
seeds industry.

5. Pulses and Soybean Regional Variety Testing

The Pulse Regional Variety testing program includes green and yellow peas. One of the goals of the RVT is to help researchers and producers identify pulses and soybean varieties that are suitable
for each particular environment. This program will provide data on yield, maturity and other important traits
which helps farmers select the best varieties for their operations. This program is supported by Alberta Pulse Growers, Ag Call, provincial and federal government and private industry.

6. Flax Variety Testing

Similar to the RVT cereals and pulses, MARA is evaluating the field performance of 11 flax cultivars in northern Alberta. Variables to be analyzed include stand percentage, height, days to flowering, days to maturity, disease rating and yield. The data is used in the publication of the Alberta Seed Guide.

7. Industrial Hemp Fertility Trial

MARA will be testing the effects of Varying N and P fertilizers on 6 industrial hemp cultivars. The 6 hemp cultivars will be seeded to evaluate their suitability for grain and fibre qualities in Northern Alberta.

8. Intercropping

Weeds are one of the greatest limiting factors to efficient crop production. Conventionally, organic farmers have used tillage practice to control weeds, but this method has been shown to cause soil erosion and lead to poor soil structure. One of the most important replacement methods used instead of chemical herbicide (prohibited in certified organic production) and conventional tillage is cover and companion crops’ application which is a major factor in regenerative agriculture.

9. Field Peas Inoculation Trials

Field peas can fix atmospheric nitrogen (N2) through a symbiotic relationship with Rhizobium leguminosarum. This bacterium is native to prairie soils, yet farmers typically inoculate peas.   A field pea inoculation trial was conducted to compare inoculant treatments to a control. This trial is funded by Alberta Pulse Growers

10. Phosphorus Rate on Field peas

Phosphorus is an important plant nutrient for pulse crops. Phosphorus promotes the development of extensive root systems and vigorous seedlings. However, pulse crops are sensitive
to seed-placed phosphorous fertilizer. This trial aims to examine which rate of phosphorus (MAP) is safe for field peas and effects on yield and quality. This trial is funded by Alberta Pulse Growers. MARA is conducting both small plot and field scale.

11. Provincial Pest Survey:

MARA is actively participating in the provincial pest survey: collect population data on Diamondback moth, Bertha armyworm, alfalfa weevils, lygus, and wheat midge.

 

ORGANIC TRIALS

12. Organic Pulses Regional Variety Trial in 2020 (first in Alberta)

MARA in collaboration with Alberta Pulse Growers designed this variety trial program. Plant breeders have suggested that the varieties that perform best on organic farms may not be the same as
on conventional farms, and those organic farmers may benefit from using varieties bred specifically for organic systems. Variety trials can help growers identify alternative varieties with similar or superior qualities to dropped standard varieties by seed catalogs. In addition, variety trials as part of your annual farm plan can help to identify varieties well-suited to the agro-climatic conditions of Mackenzie County.

13. Participatory Organic Oats and Wheat Breeding Project

MARA in collaboration with the University of Manitoba, Prairie Organic Grain Initiative (POGI) and Organic Alberta, and local producers, MARA is leading local producers to participate in organic oat and wheat breeding. The project is spread throughout the Mackenzie County involves 4 organic producers plus a site at MARA. The objective is to develop cultivars relevant to farmers need by conducting selection in the farm environment. The project is supported by Grain Millers.

14. Organic Oats variety testing

MARA is evaluating the growth, yield, and yield quality of 25 oat cultivars (3 replications) under organic conditions. This is a federal government program and MARA is only responsible for the fieldwork and data collection.

15. Specialty Crops:

MARA in collaboration with Organic Alberta developed this research trial. The objective is to provide crop rotation diversification. Crop rotation diversification provides agronomic benefits, reduces production risks, and provides resiliency to the organic system. The specialty crops include Sunflower, Buckwheat, Spelt, Einkorn, Khorasan, Emmer, Red Fife

16. Soil Amendment (Lime & Gypsum)

MARA in collaboration with Organic Alberta developed this research trial. Agriculture lime and gypsum are the most two common soil amendment that can be used to improve soil conditions. Liming tends to be the most popular practice to ameliorate acidic soils for crop production. The objective of this trial is to determine the optimal liming rate and provide a comparison with gypsum.

 

FORAGES AND LIVESTOCK

17. Perennial forage project:

This project features perennial grasses, legumes and legume-grass mixtures. Producers are increasingly interested in perennial forage varieties and mixtures. While some yield and agronomic data may be available on these varieties from seed companies, regional data specific to soil type and growing conditions have been limited due to very little participation in the Western Forage Variety Testing System in recent years.
The objectives of this study are (i) Provide unbiased, current and comprehensive regional data regarding the establishment, winter survival, yield, quality, and economics of specific species and varieties of perennial forage crops; (ii) To identify perennial crop species and varieties that demonstrate superior establishment, hardiness,
forage yield and nutritional quality characteristics in different eco-regions of Alberta.

18. Stockpiled Forages

Evaluate annual and perennial forage species for their potential as stockpiled forages for overwintered beef cattle

19. Cover Crops and Cocktail:

From a Beef Nutritionist viewpoint, the forage cocktail provides cattle with a diet that is nutritionally diverse. A mix may include species such as clover, a forage Brassica (i.e. turnip, radish), plantain, chicory etc. Each plant species may reach maturity at slightly different times, therefore providing green forage continuously through the growing season. The objective is to provide green forage during the “summer slump” when conventional forages are mature and quality is declining.

20. Regional Silage Variety Testing

MARA has been participating in the province-wide silage variety program since 2016. We are assessing agronomic performance and nutritional qualities of different forage barley, triticale, and their mixture with forage peas.

 

SOIL HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENT

21. Carbon Sequestration

Good rangeland management can enhance soil carbon sequestration and reduce the likelihood of the release of greenhouse gases. These management practices impose a significant impact on rangeland by altering water and nutrient cycles through defoliation and trampling. The aim is to work with producers to obtain detailed information on soil and site conditions, historical management practice and carbon information on the rangeland

22. Soil Health Benchmark

Healthy soil is the basis for both sustainable farms and healthy ecosystems. Yet the majority of farms in the prairies are losing soil organic matter, are at risk of erosion, and have low year-round soil cover. We’re measuring a comprehensive array of physical, biological, and chemical attributes of soil, including aggregate stability, compaction, infiltration, organic matter, microbial respiration, and nutrient levels. We’re also putting these soil attributes into the context of field management technique s, including tillage frequency and intensity, cover cropping, and organic matter inputs.

 

 



MARA conducts applied agriculture and environmental research to support the agriculture industry in Alberta, with focus on the largest County in the province, Mackenzie County. The list below is current (2016) projects. The list excludes contract research or any privately funded research. For more information about MARA’s current and past projects, please contact us using the contact form available on this website.

Aerial view of research plots

Aerial view of MARA research plots

Canola and wheat irrigation trial
Project objective: With the support of Alberta Canola Producers (ACPC) and Alberta Wheat Commission (AWC), MARA is examining the effects of irrigation on canola and wheat. The method of application is drip. The number of replications is 4

Wheat and canola nutrition research
Nitrogen is the most important nutrient element required by plants. The unit cost of nitrogen is generally higher than that of other nutrient elements. Some of the nitrogen applied is however lost through leaching or volatilization. The use of enhanced N fertilizers may however minimize N losses.
Project objective: This trial will assess the impact of different nitrogen-fertilizer types on wheat and canola yield, plant biomass, nitrogen movement within the soil and grain quality. The N fertilizers are Urea, Agrotain (banded & broadcast), ESN and Super U (banded and broadcast). The canola component of the project (supported by ACPC) is in the third year while 2016 marks the first year for wheat (supported by AWC). Additional support for this project is provided by Koch Agronomic Inc. and Agrium Inc. This is a five-year project.

Cereals Regional Variety (RVT) trials
The Cereals Regional Variety Trial (RVT) is conducted throughout the province and in Northern BC. In 2016, MARA is participating in CWPS, CPSR and CWRS wheat, two & six row barley, Oats and triticale. The objective of the trial is to evaluate the performance of the different cultivars of the various species across the province. Data from the Cereal RVTs are published in the Alberta Seed Guide. The Cereal RVTs are sponsored by the Alberta government and the cereal industry.

Green and Yellow Peas variety testing
The green and yellow peas are part of the Pulse Regional Variety testing program which is supported by the Alberta and federal government and private industry. MARA is assessing the growth and yield of different green and yellow peas cultivars.

Regional variety trials field peas

Green peas at early flowing stage

Flax variety testing
Similar to the RVT cereals and pulses, MARA is evaluating the field performance of 11 flax cultivars in northern Alberta. Variables to be analyzed include stand percentage, height, days to flowering, days to maturity, disease rating and yield. The data is used in the publication of the Alberta Seed Guide.

Peace Region Grain & Silage corn variety testing
MARA is evaluating the suitability of 23 corn varieties for their grain and silage potential in the Peace Region. The same trial is also being carried out by Peace Country Beef and Forage Association (PCBFA-Fairview) and North Peace Applied Research Association (NPARA). The project features conventional, Liberty Link and Roundup Ready cultivars. Different growth parameters, silage nutritional quality and grain yield would be assessed.
 
Evaluating the suitability of different corn varieties for grain and silage
MARA started a medium term (5 years) corn variety trial in 2014. We are in the third year of the project. There are 25 corn varieties in the project and 4 replications. Seed for this project is provided by DuPont Pioneer, Brett Young, PickSeed. All the varieties have corn heat unit of 2400 or less. Based on the 2014 and 2015 results, the top 5 varieties (based on silage qualities and maturity) are being irrigated through drip.

Participatory Organic Oats and wheat breeding project

Organic farming in northern Alberta

Participatory organic oats and wheat breeding trial

 In collaboration with University of Manitoba, Prairie Organic Grain Initiative (POGI) and Organic Alberta, and local producers, MARA is leading local producers to participate in organic oat and wheat breeding. The project is spread throughout the Mackenzie County involves 4 organic producers plus a site at MARA. The objective is to develop cultivars relevant to farmers needs by conducting selection in the farm environment. The project is supported by Grain Millers. 

Regional Silage Variety Testing
MARA is participating in the province-wide silage variety program for the first time in 2016. We are assessing agronomic performance and nutritional qualities of different forage barley, triticale, and their mixture with forage peas.

Organic Oats variety testing
MARA is evaluating the growth, yield and yield quality of 25 oat cultivars (3 replications) under organic conditions. This is a federal government program and MARA is only responsible for the field work and data collection.

Organic farming in northern Alberta

BORG-Federal organic oats breeding project

Effects of seeding date on different industrial hemp
In 2015, MARA tested the effects of seeding rate and seeding date on 6 industrial hemp cultivars. Currently (2016), 8 hemp cultivars are seeded to evaluate their suitability for grain and fibre qualities in Northern Alberta. Alberta Innovates Technology Futures is supporting this project.

Effects of tillage radish as preceding crop on organic oats and wheat
Tillage radish was seeded at three seeding dates in 2015 under organic conditions. In 2016, MARA is evaluating the effects of tillage radish as preceding crop on the yield of wheat and oats under organic conditions.

Tracking changes in soil conditions and organic crop yield on a nearly cleared boreal forest There is some conversion of forest to agriculture useIn the Mackenzie County. MARA is working with a producer to track the changes that is occurring: changes in soil properties, crop growth and yield. Flax, soybean, fababean, and oats are the crops grown in 2016. This is a long term project. Partners, particularly, educational institutions are welcome to join MARA on this project.

Other MARA projects

  • Cover Crops: the use of faba beans, red clover, sweet clover, and crimson clover and tillage raddish as cover crops.
  • Perennial forage project: This project features perennial grasses, legumes and legume-grass mixtures
  • Evaluating agronomic qualities of different soybean cultivars
  • Sainfoin/Alfalfa Trials: To compare yield and feed quality of AC Mountainview sainfoin, Nova sainfoin, and sainfoin/alfalfa mixtures.
  • Effects of stimulated grazing on organic tillage radish regrowth and below ground biomass
  • Field scale effects of different fungicide on wheat and barley
  • Assessing the effects of Quickroots, Jumpstart and their combination on field scale wheat roots, growth and yield
  • Provincial Pest Survey: MARA is actively participating in the provincial pest survey: collect population data on Diamondback month, Bertha army worm, alfalfa weevils and wheat midge. We are also actively scouting fields for different diseases including blackleg in canola.