New equipment improves quality and quantity at Oyen research farm

Western Grains Research Foundation

A new line of plot equipment has made a world of difference for the Chinook Applied Research Association (CARA) in Oyen, Alberta. Crop researchers now have more capacity to study and present innovative and profitable practices to local farmers and ranchers.

CARA received a $267,000 investment from the Western Grains Research Foundation (WGRF) Capacity Initiative, which made it possible for a plot combine, tractor, pickup truck, GPS unit, cargo trailer and a mower tractor to be purchased.

“The equipment has improved the overall efficiency and quality of our small plot adaptive research trials,” says CARA manager and forage agronomist Dianne Westerlund. “The equipment funding also freed up some budget so we have the flexibility to add more technicians and take on more trials.”

The CARA team has recently grown by 1.5 field technicians and two to three summer technicians. The volume of plot work has increased by 25 per cent in the last five years, which Westerlund says is largely due to having newer equipment.

The combine allows researchers to harvest a greater quantity of trials in a timely manner. Dedicating the new tractor to seeding equipment and using the previously owned tractor exclusively for spraying has also improved operational efficiency.

Braeden Peers, CARA crop agronomist, says the truck and trailer have also played a role in improving efficiency as both equipment and people can be moved twice as fast as in the past.

For Peers, having modern research equipment is directly related to collecting better quality data for the agricultural community.

“A lot of the equipment that we were running was getting to be out of date and worn out so I think it was necessary to get newer research equipment in the area,” he says. “When farmers are rotating out their equipment every five to 10 years and CARA isn’t, our data becomes a lot less relevant.”

Westerlund adds that the equipment upgrades have boosted the confidence among the researcher team because they are collecting and analyzing higher quality data. 

She explains that the purpose of the association is to research agricultural technologies and adapt them to the unique growing conditions presented by a semi-arid area with problem soils.

“We take varieties and agronomic practices that have been developed in a research situation and evaluate them in the conditions of east central Alberta, and then adapt the technology so that it adds value to local producers.”

The current CARA program is focused on variety trials in cereals, pulses and forages as well as private industry product trials related to soil health. The team shares data through extension activities such as tours, field days and newsletters.

CARA is a producer-directed society dedicated to expanding agricultural research activity in the Special Areas and MD of Acadia. For more information, visit chinookappliedresearch.ca or find CARA on Facebook or Twitter.

The WGRF is a farmer-funded and farmer-directed non-profit organization investing in agricultural research that benefits western Canadian producers. To date, more than $229 million has been invested to support diverse crop research projects.

The WGRF has committed $32 million to the Accelerating Capacity Initiative to expand crop research capacity.