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OSC Subproject B: Grains

Integrated grain-based cropping systems

Grain production has long been the foundation of the organic sector in Canada. This production involves the largest proportion of organic farmers, and the largest land area in production. Much of the grain that is grown is exported to U.S., European and Japanese markets while some is used for Canadian milling and processing. While human consumption of grains is of primary importance, organic feed grain production is also essential for the growth of the organic livestock and dairy sectors. Shortages of grain supply and related  high prices have limited opportunity for growth in the organic livestock sector (with the possible exception of dairy).

In a research needs process, organic producers emphasized the need for integrated approaches to organic research that address problems associated with weed control and soil fertility. It emphasized a need to understand the ecology of crop production in order to optimize management for sustainability and profitability.

The integrated approach requires tools including high quality grain cultivars suited to organic management and reduced tillage systems for weed management and soil building. Long term evaluation of rotations is a necessity due to the complexity of interactions in the soil and management practices.

The science activities in this project will result in a better understanding of the ecological interactions under organic management, develop new cultivars of wheat and oats specifically suited for organic production, and bring a low-tillage technique for terminating cover crops a step closer to commercialization. This combination of knowledge development and innovation will lead organic grain producers to higher competitiveness and profitability in the international market.

The research activities that make up this subproject are:

  • Activity B.1: Changing weed populations under long-term organic crop production
  • Activity B.2: Organic cereal crop breeding
  • Activity B.4: Low-tillage grain production systems that suppress weeds and minimize tillage
  • Activity B.6: Integrated grain-based cropping systems for biological and economic sustainability