Canola Council research project promotion illuminates strained relationships over land use

An announced joint research project led by the University of Calgary has unleashed anger from many farmers in Western Canada.

On Sunday, a tweet posted by the Canola Council of Canada referred to a joint research project entitled “Surveillance networks for beneficial insects II: Quantifying the canola yield effect of wetlands, shelterbelts and other insect reservoir habitats.” In the tweet, the Council tagged Ducks Unlimited Canada as a supporter of the project.

The project is focused on insects and their habitat, including wetlands. For its part, Ducks Unlimited Canada is listed as an “in-kind” contributor of $20,000 over four years. The in-kind contribution is almost entirely made up of access and insect collection from established monitoring sites.

Farmers were quick to jump on the tweet, laying bare the often adversarial relationship between Ducks Unlimited and farmers.

The Council and its agronomy team responded to farmers’ questions, working to clarify both the project’s goals and DUCs’ involvement in it; however, shortly after several farmers began threatening to pull check-off funding, SaskCanola went so far as to publicly call for the Council to put the project on hold.

 

The three-part research project in question builds on a previous project. The first part looks at the presence of insect species in canola fields; the second study looks at the relationship between natural habitats, canola yield, and the presence of beneficial insects, to provide specific advice to producers about the contributions of natural habitats to yield, how to manage these non-farmed spaces, and the relative importance of beneficial insects and arthropods for yields. To achieve this, the study must look for yield and beneficial arthropod hotspots within fields using precision yield data and intensive sampling, and then relate these findings to nearby natural habitats (italics added for emphasis). The third part of the study will expand the surveillance network across Manitoba and Saskatchewan to explore how the availability of beneficial arthropods in natural habitats may vary throughout western Canada. Our goal is to provide regionally-appropriate advice to canola producers for managing natural habitat to promote beneficial arthropods.

The Canola Council of Canada has since published an update clarifying the tweet and the details surrounding the project. You can read that here.

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