Thunder Bay ag research station gets stay

TBARS director Dr. Tarlok Singh Sahota shows off a test plot of black barley in this 2014 file photo.

More time has been bought for a northern Ontario agricultural research station on the brink of closing to come up with a new operating plan.

The Ontario government on Monday announced $350,000 in bridge funding for the not-for-profit Thunder Bay Agricultural Research Association, operator of the Thunder Bay Agricultural Research Station (TBARS), to “develop a sustainable, co-ordinated, long-term plan for agricultural research in the north.”

The province said its funding will give the association an opportunity to work on its plan with the Northern Ontario Farm Innovation Alliance and “other northern agricultural and research stakeholders.”

Set up by the provincial ag department in 1991, TBARS in recent years has seen most of its research funding flow through the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC). The most recent agreement between NOFHC and the association wrapped up at the end of March 2015.

NOHFC last February pledged a nine-month extension on its agreement, which would keep TBARS operating until the end of December.

The extension was expected to allow TBARS the time to use any unspent research funds and conduct its provincially-backed long-range feasibility study.

Agriculture Minister Jeff Leal on Monday said the funds would allow TBARS to “develop a long-term plan to ensure they continue their tradition of important contributions to our agricultural sector’s research needs.”

Natural Resources Minister Bill Mauro, the local MPP for Thunder Bay, said Monday he “remain(s) in discussions with the board of TBARS and other potential partners to find a permanent solution that will see TBARS remain a significant component of our agriculture community.”

The University of Guelph’s Kemptville College managed TBARS from 1996 to 2002, after which the association, with NOHFC funding, took over its operations.

Northern Development Minister Michael Gravelle said TBARS’ research “has contributed to the discovery of new crops that can be grown in our region and promoted economic development for the agricultural sector here in (Ontario’s) Northwest.”

The province in the past has credited TBARS with screening and evaluating cereal and pulse varieties and cover crops for use in the region and studying fertilizer management practices, and boosting the number of canola growers in the area.

The station’s winter wheat research data was also credited with allowing Agricorp, the provincial ag funding agency, to introduce crop insurance coverage for winter wheat acres around communities such as Thunder Bay, Sudbury and Kenora. — Network

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