EARS touts projects at open house

Cameron Penney

The Emo Agricultural Research Station opened its doors to district residents last Thursday evening to showcase the last developments in the field.
Research technician Kim Jo Bliss noted the annual event allows the public to see what’s new in the farming industry.
“For us, it’s a good night to show off what we are actually growing at the research station,” she remarked, adding they also like to promote new crops that are in the works.
“It’s exciting times in Rainy River [District],” she enthused.
“There’s a lot going on and we’re kind of a bit of a secret.”
The open house usually is held in late July each year because it is an opportune time for farmers.
“The crops are usually in decent shape and it’s a little bit before harvest,” Bliss explained.
“We also kind of plan it when the farmers are maybe less busy.
“But this year that’s a challenge because we’ve had some pretty wet weather so everyone is making hay,” she conceded.
“But I’m still happy with the turnout,” Bliss added. “Everyone that comes is a bonus.
“There’s some new faces and we’re happy to have them.”
Bliss led visitors around the fields and showed off the research the station has been conducting, such as work with soybeans, oats, and wheat.
With a wide variety of projects on the go, Bliss noted each plant offers different reasons to be excited about it.
“Everything excites me because agriculture is just so awesome and such a great place to be,” she enthused.
“I’m pretty excited about the potential of dry beans,” Bliss added.
“And I’m excited because our crop numbers are growing. You’re seeing more soybeans, more corn, more canola so everything is exciting, to be honest.”
Bliss also highlighted another project coming to the research station that’s expected to take off next spring.
A hops trial is set to begin shortly to examine how it grows here, and potentially could lead to locally-grown hops being used at local micro-breweries.
“We are working in partnership with Rainy River Future Development Corp.,” Bliss noted. “They are managing a lot of this tile drainage project that you see in our district.
“They’re getting more tile put into the ground [and] they’re wanting to promote some more high-value crops,” she explained.
A title drainage system is used to remove excess water in the soil below the surface.
Bliss noted many plants can’t tolerate the excess water, which means removing it quickly becomes increasingly important.
“Most crops don’t tolerate wet feet—and we get these crazy six inch rains,” she said.
“The quicker you can get that water off your plot, the better it is and you’ll have better yields.
“You’re limited, and you have lower yields, when you don’t have good drainage,” she stressed.
Once the tile drainage system has been installed, a pole yard will be built so that in the spring, seeds can be planted and the vine plants will grow along the poles.
“There’s more and more of these craft micro-breweries and people are wanting to have access to local hops,” Bliss explained.
“We’re trying to get on board with these breweries and grow hops.
“And hopefully we’ll have a Rainy River beer,” she added. “Who knows?”
Assisting Bliss with the work around the research station are two university students gaining hands-on experience to further their careers.
“I really like working here,” said Kayla Stang, a University of Manitoba student.
“There’s a lot of variety of jobs to do so that makes it interesting.
“We started off doing a lot of seeding and planting, then we did some painting on our new fuel shed,” she recalled.
“We do the general upkeep like mowing the grass and weed-eating, too.”
Stang will be in the agronomy program at the U. of M. this fall and hopes to have a career studying the science behind agriculture.
“[The university students] are vital,” Bliss stressed. “It’s a busy station and I’m happy with the staff that we have.
“During planting season, it takes all of us to plant,” she noted. “I work in the field as much as I possibly can but I also have to do a lot of book work, too, so the students are very important.
“Agriculture is a very friendly, family-like career and you really see that when you work here, too,” Bliss added.