Research roundup

FIND OUT WHAT’S NEW IN THE WORLD OF RESEARCH

A new online tool for producers
Samantha Beattie
Social media sites and websites are emerging as effective outlets for producers to share their field crop expertise and for researchers to respond with timely posts and tweets about how to improve this year’s harvest.

Plant Agriculture Professor Francois Tardif and Weed Management Field Crops Program Lead Mike Cowbrough are part of this online trend. Together they have created the website Field Crop News (http://fieldcropnews.com/), which links Ontario corn, soybean and wheat producers with research conducted at the University of Guelph. 

Cowbrough says the website has been an important resource for producers dealing with crop issues such as pests, weeds, and other management problems. For example, in June 2012, when an armyworm outbreak occurred, Cowbrough and Tardif made sure Field Crop News provided management information necessary to help producers cope with the challenge.

“We can’t predict what issue will happen next, when people will be seeking information or what tools will be required, so we are continuing to develop the content on Field Crop News, so it remains a useful tool for producers now and in the future,” says Cowbrough. •

Inoculant testing expanding to new varieties
Karen Ball
New types of seeds coated with inoculants – microbes such as bacteria or fungi that provide specific benefits for plants – are emerging that can help reduce disease in corn, wheat and turfgrass, and add nutrients to the soil.

Inoculants have been used successfully in soybeans. Based in part on that success, University of Guelph researchers are developing specific types of inoculants that are more cost-effective and environmentally sustainable for other crops. 

Professor Manish Raizada from the Department of Plant Agriculture, with PhD students Hanan Shehata, Walaa Moatey and Robert Kerr, along with undergraduate Charles Shearer, are investigating three types of inoculants.

Two inoculant strains can help resist dollar spot disease in turfgrass while a few other strains can combat diseases in corn and wheat caused by Fusarium. These inoculants can each repel up to 17 different diseases across different crops, which means only one type of inoculant has the potential to control multiple problems.

“Currently there isn’t a very effective strategy for controlling Fusarium disease in corn, so we would offer a new sustainable, environmentally friendly and inexpensive technology for farmers,” says Raizada.

Raizada and his team also found two other classes of inoculants – one that may help plants acquire nutrients from the soil, while another has the potential to alter root growth by encouraging plants to grow strong roots, even in water-logged soil.

The objective is to develop inoculants that can be coated on seeds to minimize the frequency of fertilizer and pesticide applications each year.

“Inoculants hold promise for farmers as being a more inexpensive technology than chemical inputs,” says Raizada. “It doesn’t have to be re-added again, as opposed to a pure chemical where you have to reapply it every time you need it.”

This research is funded by the Ontario Turfgrass Research Foundation, the OMAF and MRA-U of G Partnership, OMAF and MRA New Directions, and the Ontario Research Fund.


Research Roundup is provided by members of SPARK (Students Promoting Awareness of Research Knowledge) at the University of Guelph’s Office of Research. For more information, contact a SPARK writer at 519-824-4120, ext. 52667.

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