MCA calls for Whole Farm Research Program submissions

Letters of intent will allow group to select projects to begin next spring

MCA is hoping a whole-farm research approach will yield 
better results for farmers.

The Manitoba Crop Alliance has launched a major research initiative by calling for project proposals under its newly formed Whole Farm Research Program.

MCA is requesting letters of intent for wide-ranging cross-commodity research projects. The deadline for applications is April 15.

MCA already funds separate research projects for all of its five agricultural commodities: wheat, barley, corn, flax and sunflowers. But it is now asking for submissions which cut across commodity lines and entail research into issues common to all farmers, regardless of the crops they grow, said Lori-Ann Kaminski, MCA’s research program manager.

“This call for proposals is a call out to researchers to concentrate on cutting issues and to come forward with solution-oriented and actionable outcomes that producers can implement,” Kaminski said.

“It gives us a lot more scope to approach issues that are fundamental across crops.”

Priorities for the Whole Farm Research Program include crop rotation, soil health, organic matter, cover crops, intercropping, pest management and water.

Kaminski said letters of intent should include a four-page summary of an idea the researcher wants to work on that matches MCA’s priorities. It should describe what the project would do, what resources would be required and how long it would take to complete.

This spring, MCA board members will sort through the submissions, select ideas it wants to pursue and request full detailed proposals. Later this year, the board will meet again and make final decisions so approved projects can be funded and ready to roll early the following year.

“This is a process that will take us from this spring to full projects that are ready to start in the spring of 2022,” Kaminski said.

She said MCA will consider proposals lasting three to five years with a priority on improving profitability for growers.

The actual research will be carried out by professional scientists in universities, research institutions and agricultural companies in close collaboration with farmers, Kaminski said.

She said it’s possible projects might be cost shared with other institutions so MCA does not have to shoulder all the funding.

MCA was formed by a merger of five provincial commodity groups following five years of talks and consultations. It became fully operational on August 1, 2020 and began collecting levies from its member organizations after receiving formal designation from the Manitoba government.

MCA is funded through mandatory refundable checkoffs from all sales of wheat, barley, corn, sunflowers and flax. The checkoff amounts are the same as they were with the five commodity groups before they joined MCA under one umbrella.

MCA puts a high priority on research, devoting over 60 per cent of its annual budget to research pro­jects. All the research that was occurring with its five founding organizations will continue under MCA. But now that they are together under one roof, groups can expect more funding and benefits than they had before, organizers say.

Besides research and agronomy, MCA also puts an emphasis on market access and development, as well as communications.

Kaminski said she recognizes some of the research MCA funds may already be happening elsewhere. But MCA’s projects are specific to Manitoba conditions which other projects may not be, she said.

“Sometimes, even though it’s going on somewhere else, it is important to do it in a Manitoba situation because there may be a piece that’s significantly different for our growers than it is in other jurisdictions.”

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