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Research and Knowledge Transfer Report

Angela Straathof

Provided by: Angela Straathof, Director of Research and Knowledge Transfer

In 2023, OSCIA responded to new programming opportunities, and internal capacity and skillsets, to form a new Department of Research and Knowledge Transfer. The creation of this department recognizes the significant growth at OSCIA in on-farm and applied research programming, our reputation as a leader in knowledge mobilization of research results, and our role in Ontario agriculture as a conduit between researchers, academia, farmers and industry stakeholders. Angela Straathof, with OSCIA since 2018, accepted the role of Director of Research and Knowledge Transfer. Angie brings experience from her previous career as a research scientist and a PhD in Soil Quality, along with the more recent experience managing cost-share and educational programs within OSCIA as Program Director from 2018-2023. The new department is also comprised of Madeline Rodrigue as Knowledge Mobilization Specialist, James Cober as Research Data Specialist (both analysts from the former Programs Delivery Department), Tracey Ryan as Applied Research Coordinator, and Chris van Esbroeck as Research Data Specialist. The whole team is thrilled by the prospects a department dedicated to these activities will bring to the membership, our partner organizations and researchers, and Ontario agriculture on the whole.  

In addition to facilitation of applied research programming, the department will also support the knowledge transfer and knowledge sharing components of several cost-share programs, in cooperation with the Operations Department, and hopes to collaborate more frequently in support of grassroots initiatives at the local and regional levels. The Department of Research and Knowledge Transfer is also looking forward to working closely with the OSCIA Research Committee to support the organization’s research priorities, and extending OSCIA’s research and industry partnerships on the agricultural landscape where leveraged opportunities are appropriate to pursue. Within our mandate to support Knowledge Transfer, we are also looking for new and innovative ways of engaging farmers with research results, including how results are relayed at demonstration events or presented on our website. We’d be pleased to hear of any new initiatives OSCIA members may have in the works, or for you to keep us in mind and connect with as opportunities present themselves. Among several other opportunities in development, there are currently five signed initiatives the department is spear-heading:

  1. Beta-testing of Mobile Application to Collect Field Photos of Residue
    Through the Agricultural Climate Solutions (ACS) fund, Agriculture and Agri-food Canada (AAFC) is investigating using satellite imagery methods to estimate the percentage of soil covered with crop residue measure adoption of practices that promote greater carbon storage in the soil, and reduction of GHG emissions from agricultural landscapes. OSCIA is supporting this project by recruiting and supporting “citizen-scientist” farmers to upload residue images from the surfaces of their field after various post-harvest activities, and reporting on various ways the app could be used by or improved upon for farmers.
  2. Living Lab – Ontario
    Living Lab – Ontario is an AAFC ACS project which will accelerate the sector’s response to climate change by bringing together producers, scientists, and other experts to co-develop, test, and evaluate and share on-farm beneficial management practices (BMPs) that will help store carbon and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions on Ontario farms. Forty farmer cooperators will be recruited to participate in the Living Lab – Ontario. The farmers will contribute their knowledge, ideas, and experience throughout the process as well as provide a real world context for the testing, analysis and demonstration of the BMP innovations. Led by OSCIA, this collaborative partnership reflects the diversity of agricultural commodities and production systems in Ontario. The partnership includes Beef Farmers of Ontario, Dairy Farmers of Ontario, Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario, Grain Farmers of Ontario, Ontario Federation of Agriculture, Ontario Pork, and Ontario Sheep Farmers, the County of Wellington, Greenbelt Foundation, Livestock Research Innovation Corporation, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, Soils at Guelph, University of British Columbia, and University of Guelph. BMP implementation and field measurements will begin in the 2024 growing season.
  3. On-Farm Applied Research and Monitoring (ONFARM)
    The ONFARM program is a long-term applied research initiative that began in 2019 which supports soil health and water quality research on farms across Ontario. ONFARM was developed by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) and delivered by OSCIA with the support from various organizations including Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, several Conservation Authorities and The Soil Resource Group. ONFARM is also supported by a network of farmer cooperators, who are essential to the success of this program. In 2023, it was announced that ONFARM would continue through to 2028 with support from the Sustainable Canadian Agricultural Partnership. Under the continuation of the program, edge-of-field water quality monitoring sites and soil health trial sites testing BMP implementation will continue to have indicators measured and agronomics monitored. But the program will also be enhanced to measure in-field soil-water dynamics as they are influenced by BMPs, and we are partnering with new industry stakeholders to offer drone-captured imagery and enhanced digital mapping as novel monitoring tools. You can learn more about ONFARM program objectives and findings by joining the ONFARM Virtual Research Forum on February 8, 2024!
  4. Operation Pollinator
    OSCIA has delivered Operation Pollinator in Ontario for Syngenta Canada since 2018. Operation Pollinator is an international biodiversity program from Syngenta Canada that helps restore pollinators in agricultural landscapes by creating essential habitats. The program provides participants with the opportunity to redirect land considered to be lower in productivity to the establishment of pollinator-friendly habitats for bees and other insects, and thereby offers a practical and meaningful way to increase and improve biodiversity on the farm. In 2022, Operation Pollinator began a constructive partnership with ONFARM to support ONFARM cooperator farmers in establishing pollinator habitat and providing knowledge transfer opportunities on the multitude of benefits these habitats offer agricultural landscapes. In 2023, it was agreed to continue this collaborative effort between Syngenta Canada and OSCIA by continuing to work with ONFARM cooperators, but also to explore partnerships with the Living Lab – Ontario program, with an emphasis on pollinator habitat site demonstration and resource development.
  5. The Grassroots Research Grants
    Grassroots Research Grants (formerly known as “Tier 2 Grants”) are available to regional associations to support farm-based, three-year applied research projects with $15,000/year. These projects are made possible through funding by the Sustainable Canadian Agricultural Partnership. A competitive, merit-based process for project approval will be employed by the OSCIA Research Committee to award the funding to nine projects with start dates in 2024 and 2025. The first call for Letters of Intent was held in fall 2023, and successful regions from this phase were invited to submit a full proposal. Proposed research projects must align with one of five themes: Soil Health, Sustainable Crop Production, Economic and Agronomics, Emission Reduction (Greenhouse gases and Carbon in cropping systems), or Innovative Cropping Practice. Regions successful at securing funding for a Spring 2024 project start date will be announced at the OSCIA AGM.