Ontario grants $3.5M to Brock University research farm

Ontario grants $3.5M to Brock University research farm

Source: The Standard
The Ontario government has granted Brock University $3.5 million for a national sustainable agricultural project that aims to parlay the university’s grape and wine research into the broader agriculture sector.

Funding from the Ontario Research Fund – Large Infrastructure Fund program supports the three-part Clean Agriculture for Sustainable Production (CASP) Field Infrastructure project. The project is centered around a research farm where scientists from Brock, other institutions and industry will develop and test agricultural innovations.

The initiative is being co-led by principal scientist Sudarsana Poojari and assistant professor of biological sciences Jim Willwerth, who both work with Brock University Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI).

A ceremony to celebrate the funding, announced in March by Colleges and Universities Minister Jill Dunlop, was held April 26 at the site of the future farm on Merrittville Highway south of the main campus.

In a news release, Niagara West MPP Sam Oosterhoff said the grape and wine industry in Ontario is critical to the economic development of Niagara and beyond.

“This provincial funding for Brock University through the Ontario Research Fund will help support sustainable local farm practices and establish a home for Canada’s first Clean Plant Program for grapevines at the university’s new research farm,” he said.

The research farm project has three parts. As described on the Brock website, the phases include:

Clean Plant Program: This will help Ontario’s grape and wine industry protect against viral disease by identifying virus-free grapevine material, developing production processes for clean plants, adapting next generation diagnostic tools and maintaining a national germplasm repository.

Precision agriculture and ecological interactions: This phase aims to improve crop yield and resilience while reducing costs and environmental impact by studying how clean grapevines interact with other plants and organisms and farming methods that use a range of technologies to grow crops more efficiently.

Urban applications: This phase examines how clean plants and new knowledge on landscape approaches to sustainable agriculture development can be integrated into the greening of urban ecosystems.

In the release, Willwerth said a large part of Ontario’s horticulture sector includes grape and tender fruit.

“We are focusing on clean grapevines, but our research outputs pertaining to sustainable agriculture will be applicable to many other crops grown in Ontario,” he said.

“This will help build Ontario’s food security, resiliency to threats like climate change, pests and diseases while increasing biodiversity in our agroecosystems.”

More information about the project is available at brocku.ca/sustainable-agriculture.

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