By Erika Mathieu
Sunny South News
Results Driven Agriculture Research (RDAR) has declared the first year distributing OFCAF funding to be a huge success.
Last month, Results Driven Agriculture Research (RDAR) announced the organization had distributed funding to over 1,200 projects on over one million acres of farm land since August 4, 2022.
In 2022, RDAR was selected as the distribution partner of $33 million in federal funding provided by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s (AAFC) On-Farm Climate Action Fund (OFCAF).
The OFCAF facilitates funding to farmers giving them the supports to adopt best management practices which are geared towards sustainability. Just under one third of the $33 million in funding ($10 million) was been awarded by RDAR in 2022, with an additional $18 million to be distributed in 2023 with the program.
While BMP’s (beneficial management practices) are often goals for producers, cost can be a barrier for farmers looking to adopt new techniques, especially in cases where the technique’s outcomes are not well-researched. OFCAF’s funding is intended to bridge that financial barrier and empower producers to implement and adopt BMPs.
In RDAR’s latest press release, federal minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lawrence MacAulay said OFCAF’s financial supports help give producers necessary resources to, “tackle climate change while building resiliency and a sustainable, competitive agriculture sector.”
“As leaders in livestock, forage and crop production, Alberta’s producers are embracing on-farm practices that benefit both their operations and the environment.”
As outlined in the RDAR release, RDAR CEO Mark Redmond said the program’s success in encouraging BMP adoption is evident in, “the strong demand for funding,” and shows, “Alberta farmers and ranchers are motivated to mitigate climate change while still growing revenues at the farm gate, protecting the environment, and producing food for the world.”
Located in Lethbridge County, Farming Smarter has received funding for two separate ongoing projects. A $175,000 investment by RDAR will support a project exploring the comparison of traditional crop inputs and bio-stimulants application on wheat, canola and peas in Alberta.
Farming Smarter also received $498,700 for an ongoing project on an automated, sensor-integrated open-source platform for up to date irrigation prescription maps for variable rate irrigation systems.
The University of Alberta was awarded $416,000 for an ongoing project headed by Dr. Stevan Dubljevic which will explore sensing, monitoring and operational improvements in the St. Mary River Irrigation District (SMRID) which hopes to achieve operational improvements for SMRID. This project began in September 2021, and is ongoing.
Several of the funded and ongoing projects specifically concern potato farming in southern Alberta, and include a $400,000 investment into a Lethbridge College/Potato Growers of Alberta project examining non-destructive quality testing of potatoes using NIR hyper-spectral imaging and machine learning. A $446,500 investment into Lethbridge College’s project on the effects of bedding preparation time, winter cover cropping and irrigation management on yield, soil erosion and GHG emissions in irrigated potato production in southern Alberta is also ongoing. A $210,000 investment has been committed to a project through the University of Lethbridge which will explore how using agronomy, biocontrol and outreach can reduce blackleg of potato.
Various other funded projects in southern Alberta will tackle everything from herbicide resistance to improving honey bee health.
The complete list of funded research can be found at https://rdar.ca/research/.
Earlier this year, the program demand prompted RDAR to temporarily pause accepting new applications in April prior to the application deadline on May 10 due to the high volume of submissions. Shortly after RDAR began accepting applications again in August, an update was posted to their website announcing, “thanks to overwhelming interest in the OFCAF program, RDAR’s OFCAF program has been fully subscribed for 2023. Details on further opportunities will be announced as we have information from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.”
The latest update from RDAR indicates that AAFC has advised that the distribution partnership of the OFCAF program is “tentatively planned to continue through March 2025,” with the remaining funding from the initial $33 million, “likely to continue” distribution into 2024.