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FCDC’s Indoor Growth Facility

The Field Crop Development Centre (FCDC) at Lacombe boasts a one-of-a-kind 6,000 square foot indoor growth facility. In this facility, research trials are grown directly in the ground rather than on benches as in a typical greenhouse.

The indoor environment growing base consists of two feet of black soil that was hauled in from the Olds area in 1997 when the facility was built. The soil has water lines which control the soil temperature during the cold winter months. A soil analysis is completed before each growing season and amended with fertilizer if necessary. The facility also has computer-automated controls for heating/cooling, overhead watering, lighting schedules and soil temperature.

The FCDC indoor growth facility gives the plant breeders an opportunity to advance research trials by two generations over the fall and winter months (September to December and January to April). There are four growth rooms used during this time. Once seed is harvested in April, it will be planted outdoors in the spring. Plant breeding is a long-term process, but with the help of these growth rooms, FCDC has decreased the time to develop a new barley variety to seven to 10 years.


During the fall and winter months, the technical staff are busy processing seed including cleaning and determining physical seed characteristics like seed size, weight and plumpness. The seed then goes through near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) scanning to determine the quality of the new lines. NIRS is a secondary methodology which uses near infrared and visible light to predict quality using developed calibrations. 

Analysis through NIRS takes less than a minute per sample, and is also non-destructive so the seed can be planted afterwards. This allows the prediction of quality characteristics in early generation material where there might not be enough seed for wet chemistry analysis, or where there are large numbers of samples to be analyzed efficiently.  Over the course of four months, FCDC will typically process approximately 15,000 to 18,000 samples for feed, forage and malt quality allowing new lines to be assessed for quality characteristics required by the industry.

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