Field Crop Development Centre - History

Subscribe to our free E-Newsletter, "Agri-News" (formerly RTW This Week)Agri-News
This Week
 In 1972, the Western Hog Producers, with the support of the Alberta Pork Producers Marketing Board, successfully convinced the Provincial Minister of Agriculture to fund a 'Feed Barley Breeding' research program with special emphasis on protein quality and quantity. The two producer organizations assisted the program by providing funds to purchase research equipment.

The original focus of the program was to develop high lysine barley, however, this was changed to the 'Feed Grain Development Program', recognizing the need for diversification as well as the potential value of cereals for forage production. Dr. J. Helm was hired in 1973 and seconded to the University of Alberta, Plant Science Department to head the research program. The breeding program objectives were high yielding, high feed-value cereal grains to enhance the livestock feeding industry. This also included utilization of cereal crops for silage, grazing, and high-moisture grain. The research was carried out at the University under a contract between Alberta Agriculture and the University of Alberta until 1978.

In 1978, the Field Crops Branch of Alberta Agriculture, together with the Feed Grain Development Program, was moved to Lacombe. Approximately 250 acres of bare land was purchased south of Lacombe for the research farm, bordering on the Agriculture Canada Lacombe Research Station. Today, the land base consists of approximately 390 acres (158 ha) that have been developed for field plot research. The research farm has a field service center, seed dryers, seed cleaning facilities, field laboratory and seed storage, equipment storage and growth facilities.

To diversify cereal production in Alberta, the Dr. D. Salmon was hired in 1980 to lead the development of spring and winter triticale and winter wheat varieties.

Dr. P.E. Juskiw joined the program in 1988, initially as a research agronomist and now works on breeding two-rowed feed and malt barley.

In November 1992, the research scientists and office staff were moved from the AAFC site to a new building in downtown Lacombe that was built to house offices, a seed quality laboratory, and temperature controlled seed storage facilities. The official opening occurred in January 1993. At this time the name was changed to the Field Crop Development Centre (FCDC).

On January 1, 1993, Alberta Agriculture, Food & Rural Development (AAFRD) and Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) formed a joint Alberta/Canada Barley Development Agreement at Lacombe to serve Alberta and the Peace River area of British Columbia. The AAFC barley breeding projects at Beaverlodge and Lethbridge were discontinued and Dr. R.I. Wolfe moved to Lacombe to integrate his breeding material with the Alberta Agriculture Program. With these changes came a new project for the development of 2-row malting barley varieties for Alberta, with the first specific crosses for malting quality made in 1992. A program of single seed descent has been utilized with the first malting potential lines entered into yield trials in 1995.

The responsibility of plant pathology research in support of the Barley Development Project is assigned to Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada, under the direction of Dr. T.K. Turkington. In 1996, Dr. K. Xi was hired by Alberta Agriculture as a plant pathologist to enhance the plant pathology program. Dr. G. Clayton (AAFC) took on the responsibility of barley agronomy research in 1996 in preparation for the retirement of Dr. R.I. Wolfe, while Dr. K.N. Harker (AAFC) also conducted weed science research as part of the integrated crop management research undertaken by Dr. Clayton (AAFC). In 2007, Dr. J.T. O’Donovan (AAFC) took over responsibility for the agronomy research component from Dr. G. Clayton.

In 1997, the J.H. Helm Cereal Research Centre was opened at the research farm, providing growth facilities and laboratories. Dr. J. Zantinge, a molecular biologist, joined the FCDC team in 1999 and a new Cereal Biotechnology Laboratory was opened in 2000 at the AAFC Lacombe Research Centre.

Dr. J.M. Nyachiro, a cereal breeder, joined the FCDC team in 2001 and is responsible for breeding six-rowed and hulless barley. In 2003, Dr. Krishan Kumar joined the pathology group to help expand the disease research, primarily FHB and stripe rust.

The Field Crop Development Centre first started using Near Infrared Spectroscopy (NIRS) technology in 1985. The NIRS lab was expanded in 1993, when Lori Oatway joined the FCDC. In 2004, the NIRS lab was expanded again to include feed quality evaluations.

Dr. Yadeta Anbessa Kabeta joined the FCDC team in 2008 to expand research in the area of nitrogen use efficiency.

Dr. Flavio Capettini replaced Dr. Jim Helm as Head of Research in 2013, with Dr. Helm retiring in 2014.

Today, the FCDC is recognized as a world-class research facility that is focusing on producing new barley, triticale, and wheat varieties, as well as maintaining a vast source of germplasm. The researchers continue to focus on improved disease resistance, improved yield, superior feed and food quality characteristics, as well as nitrogen and water-use efficiency. The plant breeders employ both traditional plant breeding techniques as well as double haploid and single seed descent to advance lines at a faster rate and with more specific selections made possible through NIRS and marker assisted selection techniques.


Other Documents in the Series

  Field Crop Development Centre
Field Crop Development Centre - Lacombe Field Day
Field Crop Development Centre - Varieties Released
Field Crop Development Centre - Publications
Field Crop Development Centre - Contact us
Field Crop Development Centre - Mission Statement
Field Crop Development Centre - History - Current Document
Share via
For more information about the content of this document, contact Lori Oatway.
This document is maintained by Erin Collier.
This information published to the web on August 8, 2002.
Last Reviewed/Revised on May 23, 2017.