Helm, Dr. James H.

2001 Winner: Innovation in Agricultural Sciences

Dr. James Helm of Lacombe has made significant inroads in developing new cereal varieties and innovative technologies required for plant breeding. He is a pioneer and leader in the application of Near Infrared Reflectance Spectroscopy (NIRS) technology to the agriculture industry.

Modern Analysis

NIRS technology measures feed and malting qualities of grain. Traditionally, quality analysis was often time-consuming and expensive, thereby limiting the number of samples for evaluation. Traditional methods could also involve the use of hazardous chemicals or digestibility trials using live animals. Dr. Helm’s research and development of the NIRS technology changed all that.

His interest and work in NIRS began in 1975. In a joint project with the University of Alberta and later, the Field Crop Development Centre (FCDC), Dr. Helm continued developing the technology. Today, NIRS provides rapid, non-destructive analysis of whole grain samples, using a relatively small sample size. It cost-effectively predicts feed quality and uses no chemicals, making it environmentally friendly.

Agricultural Impact

Dr. Helm came to Alberta in 1973 and established the first developmental research program at the Alberta Department of Agriculture. He manages the Alberta/Canada Barley Development Program, a research program partnering the federal and provincial governments with various industry representatives. He has worked closely with universities in California and Oregon, and many researchers around the world, including the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre in Mexico. Dr. Helm has had a major impact on agriculture research in Western Canada and around the world. In recognition of his many contributions, the J.H. Helm Cereal Research Centre was completed in 1998.