New researcher advancing soybeans and pulses in Manitoba


New soybean and pulse research agronomist aiming to produce quick and practical results

 Kristen Podolsky MacMillan, new applied
soybean and pulse research agronomist
When is the best time to plant soybeans? Which crop inputs are profitable? How does hail damage affect soybeans? Those questions and others are the premise for the new applied soybean and pulse research agronomist position at the University of Manitoba. Kristen Podolsky MacMillan, formerly of Manitoba Pulse and Soybean Growers (MPSG), has stepped into the five-year position with the aim to perform research of immediate importance to Manitoba pulse and soybean producers.
Applied research means practical research
“With the expansion of soybeans in the province over the past five years there has come a suite of questions from farmers and industry on basic and advanced production practices,” says Podolsky MacMillan. “My primary mandate is to establish applied research throughout the province on both soybeans and pulse crops.”
She explained that her research will answer questions of current practical relevance to farms today. She hopes that her findings will improve production practices and profitability in the next few years by looking at areas such as optimum planting practices in crop management and crop input evaluations.
“There is also an immense amount of knowledge being generated at the university that I hope to help bridge to the pulse and soybean industry,” says Podolsky MacMillan.
Staying connected with the industry
Podolsky MacMillan’s first tasks involve building the capacity of the program as well as collaborating with other researchers and research organizations.
"I’ll be meeting with the crop diversification centres in Arborg, Melita, Portage and Roblin to see what their capacity is to collaborate and I will also explore the opportunity to collaborate with industry,” she says. “Being at the university allows me to be in the company of other researchers to see where our common research interests are, which will lead to further collaboration.”
Apart from the connections she will maintain from her former position as a production specialist at MPSG, she intends to attend field days, industry events and farm meetings. By keeping in close contact with producers and agronomists, she hopes to focus her research in the most relevant areas.
"I always encourage farmers to ask questions," she says. "I'll use their questions as a basis for my research projects. In the end, my goal is to advance producers' productivity and profitability with knowledge developed in Manitoba."
She also pointed out that the agronomist position’s link to the University of Manitoba will allow her to have a hand in training the young farmers and agronomists about to enter the industry.
Real research for an expanding industry
Dennis Lange, industry development specialist - pulses in the Crop Industry Branch at Manitoba Agriculture says with the expansion of soybeans in the past 10 years, Manitoba-based research is needed to ensure producers know the best growing practices for their specific region.
“We’ve changed a lot since we first started growing soybeans in the early 2000s,” says Lange. “We had 18,000 acres of soybeans in Manitoba at that time and this year we had just over 1.6 million acres.”
He explained much has changed in areas such as variety selection, plant populations and inoculants. Producers are beginning to have challenges with herbicide resistance and crop rotation.
“Going into 2017, we can potentially see two million acres of soybeans,” says Lange. “We want to be ahead of the curve. Over the years, the soybean industry has grown so quickly that it takes a bit to get caught up on what growers need. Producers are growing the crop and being successful with it but maybe there’s a way to address potential issues.”
Connecting researchers, agronomists and farmers
Patti Rothenburger, manager of research at Manitoba Agriculture says a major benefit of the applied soybean and pulse research agronomist position will be to co-ordinate research being done within the province.
“The new applied research specialist will increase soybean and pulse research productivity and competitiveness by assisting in the transfer of knowledge and technology from researchers to producers and other members of the agriculture industry,” says Rothenburger.
She explained that Podolsky MacMillan will be a direct link between producers and researchers at the University of Manitoba. She’ll be able to identify important research areas to benefit both parties. Her position will also enable her to maintain all important links to the pulse and soybean research programs at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada both in Manitoba and across Canada.
“The program is designed to focus on testing that produces quick results,” she says. “New technology and best agricultural practices can move quickly from the research program to practical application on the farm.”
The research project is funded through the Grain Innovation Hub, which was announced by the Canada and Manitoba governments in May 2014. Its goal is to leverage $33 million in government and industry funding to ensure Manitoba remains a leader in grain research, production and processing. Manitoba Pulse and Soybean Growers also contributed funding and will provide leadership.
Podolsky MacMillan will communicate her results through publications, social media, news networks and presentations.