Celebrating a leader in research

AGRICULTURAL EXTENSION AWARD RECOGNIZES PROVINCIAL SOYBEAN SPECIALIST

the ontario soybean industry has grown by leaps and bounds over the past few decades. There is no doubt that the sector has benefited from a number of influential leaders. Ontario soybean growers can attribute much of their success to researchers, for instance, who help them make sound production decisions, provide timely agronomic information and offer ongoing support.

With that in mind, celebrating the evolution of soybeans in Ontario was less about bushels and more about people at the GFO March Classic last month. Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) soybean specialist Horst Bohner was recognized for his work in soybean research and presented with the T.R. Hilliard Distinguished Agricultural Extension Award.

“Horst’s dedication to his field of expertise has benefited many of our area associations and his work ethic, organization of research trials and devotion to agriculture are excellent,” says nominator John Poel – president of the Heartland Regional Soil & Crop Improvement Association.

The prestigious T.R. Hilliard Distinguished Agricultural Extension Award – named in memory of former Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Food T.R. (Dick) Hilliard – honours people who have made significant contributions in agricultural extension in Ontario. It is presented annually by the Ontario Agricultural College Alumni Foundation.

Recognizing the importance of Bohner’s contributions to the soybean industry, his nomination was put forth by the Heartland Regional Soil & Crop Improvement Association and the Ontario Soybean Growers organization, prior to the GFO amalgamation.

commitment to research
Bohner began his career conducting pesticide research for an agricultural chemical company after obtaining a crop biology degree from the University of Waterloo in 1998. He then moved to a field trial manager position with a research organization before joining OMAFRA’s field crop unit in 2001.

His role of provincial soybean specialist involves working with growers, agricultural companies, exporters and policymakers to develop, execute and analyze various research projects.

sharing knowledge
In addition to steering research initiatives, providing research extension services is a major component of Bohner’s responsibly. He regularly submits radio reports and written articles to agricultural media and spends much of his time speaking at producer meetings.

Bohner’s nominators say it’s his extension work that has quickly transitioned him from being a recent graduate working in the field to a recognized and respected name among Ontario soybean growers. “He has made quite a name for himself over the past ten years,” says Don Kenny, GFO chair. “With the number of presentations he gives and articles he writes, growers think Horst when they think soybeans.”

But for Bohner, supporting growers is in the job description. “Working in research is really about answering producer concerns,” he explains. “If there is a question, we look for the information necessary to provide a good practical answer.”

embracing change
The Ontario soybean sector has experienced many changes over the last decade and according to his nominators, Bohner’s work has been instrumental to the industry’s successful adaptation. When the introduction of genetically modified beans and the IP system demanded the adoption of new production methods, research trials helped reduce the learning curve for many producers.

“Horst is very aware of the issues facing the soybean industry and goes above and beyond the call of duty to help growers take advantage of new technologies whenever possible,” says Kenny.

looking to the future
Many of Bohner’s projects are focused on areas of grower interest and concern – improving economic yield and fertility. With future plans to launch new research initiatives in addition to continuing existing projects to answer these concerns, he shows no sign of slowing down. And for Ontario soybean growers, that’s something to celebrate. “The commitment that Horst has shown has helped to increase soybean yields and make us more competitive and we hope that continues in the future,” says Kenny.

Despite Bohner’s humility when he says that he is “just a very small part of” the big picture that is the success of Ontario soybeans, there is no doubt that his work in research and extension has significantly impacted Ontario agriculture. As Poel says, “the industry is fortunate to have an ambassador like Horst and he is very deserving of this award.” •