Busy season for Emo research station

While the growing season is all but over, the tabulations, tests, and result summaries are just beginning for staff at the Emo Research Station.
After a summer of desolate crops due to the wrong weather hitting at the wrong time, research station manager Kim Jo Bliss is sorting through the yields to determine what, precisely, the effects on crops have been.
“Clearly seed yields are really low,” she said. “We debated whether to [harvest] it at all but it does show how things grow in this weather.”
At the station, chick peas, field peas, and some bean varieties did not survive at all while other seed crops showed very poor yields.
Experimental turnips, which were too wet last summer to produce a good yield, suffered from a mid-summer dry spell during their seeding this year
The turnips were an exception as most trial crops at the research station suffered from too much rain. “Everything was pretty much crying for sun. We were inside more than we were outside,” said Bliss.
Meanwhile, grass trials at the station produced varying yields. But as farmers have been noting across the district, though the volume may be satisfactory, the wet weather may have reduced the quality of this year’s pastures.
“The yields are really good but . . . how good it is,” said Bliss. “A lot of farmers said their beef isn’t gaining as much so it may be because of the moisture there.”
One successful crop has been fibre flax trials–a new project taken on by the research station to study whether that product, used by country’s such as China for most of their clothing material, can be grown in Ontario.
“They need more land so we want to see if we can grow flax for them,” noted Bliss.
The research station, owned and funded by the University of Guelph, has been taking on more products for studies that are not necessarily a priority for local agriculture in order to receive financial support from the private sector.
“We’re all beef people here so we’re mostly interested in growing grass but we have to make money,” Bliss reasoned.
Varieties of flax from France, Holland, and Germany produced healthy yields in Emo, and currently are being harvested and dried. They will be studied at various stages of “retting.”
In fact, the wet year has proven to be a boon for the flax trials. “This is our first year so we have nothing to compare to,” said Bliss.
“This is Rainy River, you hardly ever need irrigation,” she joked.
Another project–hybrid poplars geared to grow to a size large enough to benefit the wood industry in just 10-15 years–also continues to take priority at the Emo research station.
The trees usually take at least 40 years to grow to a useful size in natural conditions.
With a small plot of the trees growing successfully now, another 10-acre plot is expected to be added, with others to be planted throughout the district with funding from Abitibi-Consolidated and Voyageur Panel.
“It’s going to be very time-consuming and I assume they’re going to have to hire another student, if not another person,” said Bliss. “It’s really good for the district. If it takes 15 years and we don’t get any results for 15 years, people are going to need trees.
“[This project] is almost too big because I’m used to small plots,” she laughed.