AAFC to maintain research work at Que. farm

Research work will continue at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Normandin, Que. research farm after its lead researcher retires in 2011, the federal government pledged Friday.

Federal revenue minister and local MP Jean-Pierre Blackburn announced Friday that AAFC’s contract with Normandin crop researcher Raynald Drapeau would be extended for two more years, up to his retirement in October 2011.

The farm “has been central to agriculture in this area since 1936 and employs 16 people in a context where, now more than ever, every job counts,” Blackburn said Friday in Jonquiere, about 135 km southeast of Normandin.

Once Drapeau has retired, another professional is to be assigned to Normandin and is expected to ensure maintenance of the scientific research capacity on forage plants and small fruits, the government said.

“Experimentation in new management methods for forage, grain and other large crops takes place” at Normandin, Blackburn said., and “the studies conducted there help us understand agriculture in the Saguenay Lac-Saint-Jean region.

As well, he said, “these studies help to support agricultural progress in a northern region and to adapt our continuously improving farming methods here where the climate, environment and soils are different from those in other parts of the country.”

Normandin is operated by AAFC’s Soils and Crops Research and Development Centre, on the goal of developing “innovative technologies” and devising integrated soil and field crop management approaches that help to preserve the quality of soil, water and air resources.

The centre, which also operates the Chapais Research Farm at Levis, also develops various plant varieties that have increased resistance to disease and tolerance against environmental stress.

The centre’s researchers also carry out plant genetics work to develop cultivars with “superior nutritional and health characteristics as well as enhanced disease resistance and environmental stress tolerance, which can supply industry’s needs for feedstock for bioproducts.”

The soils and crops centre has been instrumental in the development of a large number of forage plant and cereal varieties grown in Quebec, AAFC said.

But AAFC, Blackburn said Friday, is “currently exploring options in order to conduct research activities that will more adequately support agriculture in remote and northern regions.”

The purpose of such an approach to research work is to “accelerate the pace of innovation and stimulate economic competitiveness in the agricultural and agri-food sector across the country,” the government said.

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