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2023 Update: Field Crop Development Centre

The Lacombe Field Crop Development Centre (FCDC) finished planting in mid-May with the growing season starting extremely hot and dry. Although there was little subsurface moisture as a result of a previous dry year, plant emergence at the FCDC locations were reasonable. FCDC was fortunate to have more moisture this season and received average rainfall through the summer — although most of it came in a condensed period in June with minimal moisture from mid-July onward. FCDC also escaped the most severe storms with little hail damage. Overall, FCDC had below average rainfall for the season, but enough to provide average yields and good results from trials. Additional moisture is needed during the fall and winter to rebuild soil reserves.

FCDC also held its annual Lacombe Field Day in conjunction with AgSmart 2023 at Olds College campus. It was an outstanding event with lots of conversations and interactions. FCDC’s three breeding pipelines — feed and forage barley, malting barley and triticale — were planted into three separate blocks of crop plots at the AgSmart site in Olds. Each block contained 20 plots 1.2 m x 9.1 m in size. The crop plots included advanced breeding lines alongside checks chosen for their industry popularity or other specific traits.


In addition to the crop plots, a Field Day tent showcased interactive displays from FCDC’s science groups: Biotechnology, Pathology and Quality. The Olds College Brewery program was also in the FCDC tent with a display and samples. The two beer samples were both made by the Olds College Brewery using varieties developed by FCDC.

FCDC gave presentations at the crop plots as well as hosted a panel discussion on the ‘Importance of Plant Breeding and Seed Value Chain for Agriculture Sustainability’. The panel was moderated by Marc Zienkiewicz of Seed World Group and included Jeff Jackson, General Manager of SeedNet; Greg Stamp, producer at Stamp Seeds; Sheri Strydhorst, principal of Sheri’s Ag Consulting; and Chelsea Tomlinson, producer at True North Seeds. The panel discussion was filmed and will be available through Seed World Group on its germination platform.

During the summer, FCDC also hosts numerous tours and visits with many industry groups, researchers and commercial seed companies interested in the work happening at FCDC and the new varieties coming into the market.

During August and September, FCDC is busy ensuring the plots are harvested. There are approximately 10,000 plots, and thousands of individual rows and hundreds of lines that have heads to be picked. The indoor growth facility at Lacombe is also prepared and planted in September with material from all of the programs. This allows FCDC to speed up the breeding process and make new crosses during the winter season. The weather conditions this year were favorable for disease evaluations. The Pathology team was busy at the beginning of August with disease ratings and field surveys. It's important to continually track and monitor the effectiveness of different varieties in addition to monitoring changes in the pathogens that cause disease in Alberta crops. Many infected leaf samples were taken back to the FCDC lab for pathogen identification and detecting changes in their population.

Once FCDC completes harvest, the team will switch into winter activities where all of the data collected during the season is compiled and analyzed.