Saskatoon, SK – Construction has started on a $3-million, unique-in-Canada pulse field research lab attached to the University of Saskatchewan crop science field laboratory. The university will manage the construction of the addition, as well as own and operate it. Occupancy is scheduled for the fall of 2005.
The expanded centre for pulse breeding and research will be used to advance the province’s position as a producer and researcher of pulse crops such as peas, lentils, chickpeas, and beans. The project was spearheaded and initiated by the Saskatchewan Pulse Growers.
“Research is the key to keeping Canada’s growing pulse industry profitable in the long term,” said Rick Holm, director of the U of S Crop Development Centre. “This world-class centre will advance development of new varieties, improved disease management and agronomy, and improvements in quality that will provide value to the industry.”
To date, $1.8 million has been raised toward the $3-million cost. The main supporter is the Canada-Saskatchewan Agri-Food Innovation Fund which has committed $1.5 million. Other contributors include Philom Bios, Nitragin, Bayer CropScience, Bourgault Industries, Bourgault Tillage Tools, Saskcan Pulse Trading, EI DuPont Canada, and Benson ADD Board.
In recent years, the university’s work in pulse crop research has provided the tools to build a successful Canadian pulse crop industry. Fewer than a dozen Saskatchewan farmers had tried farming lentils when Al Slinkard, now professor emeritus at the Crop Development Centre, established a breeding program at the university in the early 1970s. Prof Slinkard believed that Western Canada could not only diversify into pulse crops, but become a world leader. His programs yielded 19 different pulse varieties including Laird, the most widely recognized lentil variety in the world. Now Canada is the world’s largest exporter of peas and lentils and a major exporter of chickpeas and dry beans.