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The Frontline Worker; Agriculture Research Associations

If you’d like to see ‘bang for buck’ return on investment, look to applied research. We at Battle River Research Group, for example, currently run 58 separate research projects - each of which we’ve chosen because it is directly beneficial to farmers and applicable to Albertan crop acres – and run multiple formal and informal farmer extension activities. Our list of work is long, and it’s all achieved on a bare-bones budget and carried by just three full-time staff.

While the farmers we talk to enormously appreciate the support, resources and research value we provide, government and the general public definitely under-value the work we do. In large part that’s because we invest every available dollar and hour into the work itself, rather than marketing and advertising our work.

Alberta is home to 12 applied research organizations: organizations that conduct small plot and field-scale trials on everything from new varieties to new innovations to agronomics and management techniques. The work is top-notch, as each applied research organization boasts at least one PhD-qualified researcher (we’ve got two at BRRG), and all research is done to scientifically rigorous standards.

Working on behalf of farmers, applied research organizations’ exclusive role is to provide unbiased, timely, relevant information directly to farmers. We’re not in the business of trying to sell seed or some input. Unlike an academic institution, we’re not driven by conducting research for the primary purpose of publishing it. In the full spectrum of agricultural research, we are the only ones that truly and exclusively work for farmers’ best interests. We are the ones who bring research findings directly to farmers, and the ones who use real farmers’ in-field questions and concerns to direct future research.

Today, applied research organizations’ role has broadened substantially. When the Provincial Government moved from being a hands-on research body and extension agent to an arms-length funder, a critical gap grew in extension capacity. Though it wasn’t a gap applied research organizations intended to fulfill, direct, one-on-one support and information access are critical for farmers’ success and no one else was in a position to fill that need.

Today, Battle River Research Group and other applied research associations around the province have stepped up to provide countless free extension resources, from crop walks and field tours to phone- and email-based answers to individual farmers’ queries, to liaising between farmers and other experts.

But all this only can be sustained for the long run with the support of Albert’s producers, our municipalities, and our Board of Directors who spend volunteer their time for our advocacy. Please support your regional agriculture associations before they vanished due to lack of staff and unstable funding resources.


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