Wheat and barley commissions highlight importance of continuing research activities during pandemic

The Canadian Wheat Research Coalition (CWRC) and the Canadian Barley Research Coalition (CBRC) are urging Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) to continue important wheat and barley research activities at AAFC’s western Canadian research stations in 2020.

The commissions are saying urgent action is required to save the 2020 AAFC field, lab, and greenhouse activities for wheat and barley research projects. This research, which is funded by farmers, is critical to the competitiveness of Canada’s agriculture industry, and cancelling project activities cause a cascade of problems, as many of the current projects are multi-year, multi-site, and multi-cooperator endeavours.

Given the complexity of the situation, it is necessary to evaluate the level of risk and develop safety protocols on a regional basis, the groups say. Prairie universities have established plans that will allow them to safely continue their research activities in 2020. Private research institutions have also put plans in place to conduct field research this year with appropriate measures to ensure employee safety.

“We are facing an unprecedented situation with respect to the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic and the safety of researchers and other staff is our top priority,” says CWRC chair Jason Lenz. “The universities and private plant breeders have found safe options to conduct their research. We’re confident AAFC can also create a plan to continue critical research and provide clarity to western Canadian farmers.”

“As funders and partners in research, with a goal to support the agriculture industry, we will assist researchers wherever we can,” says CBRC interim-chair Jason Skotheim. “We are requesting that AAFC consult our member organizations to explore opportunities, communicate contingency plans and discuss any potential required adjustments in contract terms and conditions as soon as possible.”

Going forward, both the CWRC and CBRC will remain committed to minimizing the impact of the pandemic on the current and future success of the industry while maintaining appropriate measures to ensure health and safety.

The CWRC is a collaboration of the Saskatchewan Wheat Development Commission, the Alberta Wheat Commission, and the Manitoba Wheat and Barley Growers Association. The CBRC is a collaboration of the Saskatchewan Barley Development Commission, the Alberta Barley Commission and Manitoba Wheat and Barley Growers Association.

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