Industry reels from canola production chief’s death

Canada’s canola industry is mourning the loss of an acclaimed Prairie weed researcher tasked with encouraging Canada’s canola growers toward ambitious crop production targets.

Denise Maurice, vice-president of crop production for the Canola Council of Canada, died suddenly on Wednesday in Winnipeg, the council announced on its website. No other details, including any plans for memorial services, were available Thursday night.

"Denise was a good friend to so many of us, and a very respected professional," the council said on a memorial web page it set up for remembrances Thursday.

"Her enthusiasm, energy and commitment to her life and work made her one-of-a-kind. Her presence and leadership will be sadly missed."

Maurice, a past president of the Canadian Weed Science Society (CWSS), had specialized in that field of plant science while earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Manitoba, supervised there by the late Ian Morrison.

By 1982 she was in Edmonton as the weed research supervisor for Alberta’s provincial agriculture and rural development department, where she’s credited with helping establish the province’s herbicide resistance action plan and the first Alberta Weed Resistance Survey.

Maurice joined fertilizer firm Westco in 1995, setting up that company’s agronomy extension program and developing the Certified Crop Advisor training program for integrated pest management.

Her work on that program included the development of AgroManager on Weeds, Insects and Diseases, an informational software series advising growers and extension workers on economic thresholds and scouting techniques against crop pests in Western Canada.

"Passion for answers"

Maurice then joined Agricore United as the Winnipeg grain company’s technical development manager for crop protection, serving also as its technical advisor to trade merchants on the implications of pesticide use on international grain markets.

Maurice worked at AU through its 2007 merger into Viterra, and was prominent at that time in the CWSS, serving as its president in 2005. She also received the Outstanding Industry Award from the Weed Science Society of America (WSSA) at that organization’s 2007 conference in Texas.

"The agriculture industry has definitely benefited from Denise’s passion for answers and solutions," AU vice-president Harold Schmaltz said in a release at that time.

"In particular, our customers’ bottom lines are benefiting from the work Denise has initiated throughout her career, and her dedication to keeping farmers informed about changes and breakthroughs in weed sciences."

Maurice joined the Winnipeg-based Canola Council in 2009 as its VP for crop production, in charge of the canola industry group’s agronomy team and industry issues related to production.

Council president JoAnne Buth, announcing the new hire in 2009, also noted Maurice’s stature in the industry due to "her agronomic expertise, her dynamic presentations, and her ability to create innovative production resources for growers."

Maurice said at the time she was "confident" in the industry reaching its target of 15 million tonnes of sustainable canola production by 2015.

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