2001 Winner: Innovation In Agricultural Science Sponsored By Dow AgroSciences Canada Inc.
Research Into Crop Production System Has Lasting Impact For Alberta Farmers
When drought hit western Canada in 2000 and 2001, the worst since the 1930’s, its impacts on the agricultural community were lessened thanks to the adoption of direct seeding, a farming method advocated by Dr. George Clayton. For more than a decade, Dr. Clayton has led the development of economically and environmentally sustainable cropping systems for Alberta and western Canada.
Effects of the System
Direct seeding, like no-till, is a cropping system which aims to improve soil and soil moisture conservation. In direct seeding, soil is not tilled in the spring before planting. This is to conserve soil moisture in the seedbed. Any fall tillage must leave the soil surface compact and level to preserve soil moisture.
This farming method is just one area of research for Dr. Clayton, an integrated crop management specialist who was recently promoted to the position of National Program Director, Sustainable Production Systems with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.
Dr. Clayton attended the University of Manitoba and received a B.S.A in Plant Science in 1977 and an M.Sc. in Agronomy in 1982. In 1991, he received his PhD in Agronomy from the University of Saskatchewan.
Over the years, Dr. Clayton’s research program on sustainable crop production systems has helped growers reduce their risks and improve profit margins during a period when financial pressures, due to low commodity prices, have been severe. He pioneered a networked, multidisciplinary approach to crop production research by assembling a team of exceptional scientists with expertise in weed science, entomology, plant pathology, soil science and crop breeding.
His research has shown that simple and relatively inexpensive management practices can improve yields. For example, diversification of crop types, crop varieties, seeding dates and pesticides can prevent the outbreak of weed, insect and disease populations, and help maintain crop and soil health, while providing economic stability for producers.
Dr. Clatyon presents his research findings at grower meetings, conferences and through field tours helping growers and other researchers in the field. His notable contributions have included research in sustainable canola production and ways to influence crop performance by ‘pyramiding’ best technologies, including early spring-seeding and weed-removal techniques.
He has also explored best management practices for pulse crops which have been increasingly important on the prairies because they diversify cropping systems, and for barley which is an important crop in Alberta for the livestock industry. In addition, his research into genetically modified wheat has helped provide Canada with a database which can be used as a decision-making tool.