2018 New Directions Research Program Priorities

Research Priority Areas

Priorities for this program can shift annually and reflect key opportunities and challenges facing the agri-food sector and rural communities. Priorities for the 2018-19 call are:

Innovation for Ontario's Agricultural Systems and Soils to Reduce Phosphorus Loss

Research is needed to foster continued innovation in agricultural systems and soil management in Ontario, and in particular to improve capacity to understand and measure the effectiveness of agricultural actions towards achieving the Lake Erie phosphorus reduction targets. These research efforts will contribute to informing evidence-based policy development, program design, and farmer decisions (i.e. support for the Agricultural Soil Health and Conservation Strategy as well to inform adaptive management approaches being taken under the Canada Ontario Lake Erie Action Plan). Research must address one of the following two priorities:

  1. Understand and quantify the relationship between soil health, soil phosphorus (P) chemistry, and return on investment to inform on-farm management decision making. Research under this priority should focus on one of the following areas:
    1. The impact of soil health elements on the uptake of P in oilseed, grain and/or horticulture crops and the resulting yield response and reduced P loss.
    2. The role of legacy P mobilization on crop yield and/or reduced inputs (ie. How low can a soil test P go before compromising crop yield?)
    3. Analytical processes to understand inorganic and organic phosphorus chemistry in Ontario soils and its link to crop P availability to inform improved ways to make P fertilizer recommendations.

    Preference for projects that:

    • Document soil test phosphorus, consider multiple soil types, and consider multiple Ontario relevant production system
    • Measure soil health elements such as basic soil fertility measurements, soil organic matter(SOC), aggregate stability, water infiltration and holding ability, soil compaction measurements, newer soil health tests such as Solvita
  1. Understand the relationship between soil health and water quality Best Management Practices (BMPs) to measure BMP effectiveness and inform BMP selection/targeting. Research under this priority should focus on one of the following areas:
    1. Determining the impact of compaction and its mitigation/correction strategies on soil health elements, edge of field phosphorus loss, and return on investment (yield/quality losses/reduced nutrient input) in tile drained systems.

      Preference for projects that:

      • Consider the following compaction mitigation/corrective strategies: controlled traffic farming, cover crops, tillage, delayed planting, tire characteristics, tracks vs tires, inflation/deflation systems, new technologies including autonomous machinery
      • Explore the relationship between spatial variability, soil health, natural soil features, degree of compaction, tile drainage, and economic performance.
      • Explore the relationship between equipment (total mass + ground pressure + tire volume (contact patch), soil moisture, and soil health and how it results in a compaction impact of varying degrees at varying places and times in the landscape.
      • Measure soil health elements such as basic soil fertility measurements, soil organic matter(SOC), aggregate stability, water infiltration and holding ability, soil compaction measurements, newer soil health tests such as Solvita
      • Measure Total Phosphorus (TP), Total Suspended Sediment (TSS) and Dissolved Reactive Phosphorus (DRP) loss
      • Use baselines (ex. soil health, phosphorus loss, etc) and similar comparators
      • Collect data during typical and extreme weather events, over the course of the entire year
      • Include a range of Ontario representative soil types and production systems
      • Are in the Lake Erie Basin; However, projects in the Lake Huron/Erie Corridor, along the Southern shore of Lake Huron or on sites with results transferable to Lake Erie will be considered
    2. Quantifying the impact of soil health elements on the effectiveness of water quality BMPs to reduce edge of field phosphorus loss (i.e. if you have good soil health, does it make a water quality BMP more/less effective and vice versa).

      Preference for projects that:

      • Analyze suites of water quality improving BMPs including crop rotation, cover crops, conservation tillage, 4R Nutrient Stewardship (fertilizer timing and application methods), and reduced compaction
      • Measure Total Phosphorus (TP), Total Suspended Sediment (TSS) and Dissolved Reactive Phosphorus (DRP) loss
      • Measure Soil health elements such as basic soil fertility measurements, soil organic matter(SOC), aggregate stability, water infiltration and holding ability, soil compaction measurements, newer soil health tests such as Solvita
      • Measure against baseline/average/typical comparators
      • Collect basic agronomic management, surface biomass or residue cover data
      • Collect data during typical and extreme weather events, over the course of the entire year
      • Include a range of Ontario representative soil types and production systems
      • Are in the Lake Erie Basin; However, projects in the Lake Huron/Erie Corridor, along the Southern shore of Lake Huron or on sites with results transferable to Lake Erie will be considered
      • Are new or incremental to existing work

Sustainable Livestock Production Using Precision Technologies to Support Compliance and Assurance Systems

Precision management technologies are emerging in the livestock sector for various reasons, including for animal and barn environment management. Ontario’s livestock industry is currently relying on subjective approaches to demonstrate compliance with national assurance programs, such as farm audits on livestock farms (such as dairy cattle farms). These traditional on-farm approaches can be labour-intensive and subject to human error and auditor-to auditor variance. Other jurisdictions are investigating more objective, costeffective and real-time monitoring of animals and their environment through digital means. These technologies have the potential to enhance market opportunities and improve the speed of business.

Research would explore the potential for leveraging existing and/or commercially available animal or in-barn digital technologies to support automation of data collection (from farm to processor/end user) to demonstrate compliance with assurance programs within the value chain and support industry sustainability (economic, social licence and environmental).

Research must address the following priority:

  • Investigate the potential use of precision technologies to document and demonstrate animal well-being or in-barn environmental conditions (e.g. temperature, humidity, air quality) compliance and assurance for food processors, retailers or other end users.

The strongest proposals :

  • Will take a value chain approach and will be a collaborative effort between researchers, technology suppliers, data aggregators, primary producers, industry associations, and end users. The involvement of a food processor, retailer and/or other end user is a requirement.
  • Will focus on data aggregation and exploring new and innovative ways of using on-farm precision technologies for assurance monitoring by the sector.
  • Will be scalable and be applicable to more than one commodity or sector.

The goal of this research is to demonstrate the utility of objective, digital-based precision technologies using real-time data to provide information on animal well-being or in-barn environmental conditions. The utility of this information would support the reduction of labour-intensive approaches to assurance programs that have a subjective component to auditing and compliance. Projects will provide validated, evidence-based information for real-time assurance programs that span the assurance needs from farm to processor and may include the retail level. Results of the research will provide valuable information to address questions about information needs for each segment of the value chain and a process to action the information obtained. Projects will develop lessons learned that can be applied across livestock commodities for sectors where these technologies are not yet developed or implemented.

Please note: The development and/or validation new animal-based or environmental monitoring technology engineering is out of scope. Projects should be based on existing and validated technology. Traceability is also out of scope for this call. Projects must focus on the aggregation and integration of data along the value chain for the purpose of supporting compliance and assurance.

Disruptive Technologies

In the 2017 Budget, the government announced significant investments in core disruptive technologies, including: 5G technologies ($130 million), advanced computing, artificial intelligence ($50 million), quantum technology, autonomous vehicles and cybersecurity. These new technologies can improve how we produce goods and deliver services, and ensure Ontario continues to be innovative and competitive in a fast-evolving global economy. Extending these types of technologies into the agri-food sector can provide new opportunities that need to be explored. From genetic advancements (e.g. DNA mapping) to novel food ingredients (e.g. cultured meat) to platform technologies (e.g. blockchain) to big data analytics (e.g. precision agriculture and the Internet of Things (IoT)) and labour saving devices (e.g. automation), the impacts of adopting these technologies in agri-food is just beginning to be understood. It is anticipated that government support for the development, adoption and diffusion of these disruptive technologies across the agri-food sector can be expected for some time to come. As a result, research must address at least one of the following priorities:

  • Assess the breadth and scope of emerging agri-food technologies that could add economic value and/or potentially disrupt traditional production practices and/or value chain processes in Ontario. This can include evaluating the impacts, risks, benefits and vulnerabilities associated with these technologies.
  • Assess the policy and regulatory adaptations needed, timeframes for these disruptive industries to arrive, and potential for their economic scale in order for government to be supportive of these emerging industries.
  • Evaluate the approaches undertaken in other jurisdictions to support and encourage the development of disruptive technologies, including policy and regulatory responses, with particular interest in their applicability to the Ontario agri-food context.

Research results are intended to help OMAFRA identify potential economic development opportunities and better understand disruptive technologies related to agriculture and food, their potential impact on the sector, and the policy and regulatory responses that may be needed to respond to and support them.

Please note: Research regarding the development of a disruptive technology is out of scope for this call.

Questions

For questions about the program contact:

Stacy Favrin (stacy.favrin@ontario.ca) 519-826-5178

For questions about the Research Management System contact:

RMS Administrator
Email: RMS@ontario.ca

Recommended for you


For more information:
E-mail: research.omafra@ontario.ca
Author: Daphne Tot, Research Analsyst/RIB
Creation Date: 10 December 2013
Last Reviewed: April 12, 2018