EARS begins planting for year

Sam Odrowski

Knowing which crop varieties grow best in northwestern Ontario can be difficult to gauge without the proper agricultural resources.

To help producers and farmers know which crops grow best and can produce the highest yields, the Emo Agricultural Research Station (EARS) runs a series of crop trials through the year and shares the data they collect.

Two summer students from Carleton University and Confederation College have been keeping busy at the research station since late April and research technician, Kim Jo Bliss said they’ve already started planting many of this year’s crops.

“We look at new cropping practices and variety and species selection, for the district but we also work with the Dryden and Kenora folks as well,” Bliss noted.

“We try to find the best practices and then transfer that over to a farm in hopes that it will bring more dollars into their pockets or grain into their bins.

“We have a pretty strong agriculture community and there’s a lot of money floating around the district in agriculture so lets try to put it to good use.”

One goal at EARS is to stay on top of what’s becoming popular within the fields of agriculture and discover varieties of crops that may turn the biggest profit for producers in the district.

Local breweries and the craft industry is peaking across the country, so EARS is trying to help farmers benefit from the boom by growing hops locally.

The research station held hops trials last year which went well and the station’s staff will soon have to start stringing the hops they have growing this year.

Bliss said she’s working with one farmer to get a hops yard established on his property and hopes others will follow suit across the district.

Meanwhile, many different cereal trials are well underway at EARS mostly consisting of barley, wheat, or oat.

The staff at EARS last Wednesday planted a bean trial where the beans are grown conventionally.

“Most everybody nowadays is growing Roundup-ready beans, but these are conventional so you don’t use roundup on them,” Bliss noted. “There’s some interest in that.”

Dry beans are also an area of focus at EARS as it is a high value crop but because all of the frost must be gone before growing, staff at the research station will wait a few more weeks before it’s planted in their fields.

“We haven’t been overly warm yet, but things are slowly coming along, so I’m looking forward to it,” Bliss enthused.

Much of the work done at the research station is weather dependent, so they never really know which crops will grow best.

“It all depends on when the rain comes and when it doesn’t come, so it’s tough predicting things like that because it’s all in the hands of mother nature,” Bliss explained.

The work being conducted at EARS is done in hopes of creating data for the agricultural community to review when looking at what to plant each season.

In the spring, many farmers come and talk about soil sampling, crop plans, and best places to access seeds.

The station hosts open houses every year and people are encouraged to come by for a tour or ask questions and learn about what’s going on at EARS.

“You can actually look at what we’re doing here and we can walk out and show you what a certain plant or new variety looks like,” Bliss said.

The station will close in late December and reopens in mid-March.