Research Forum–Laurentian University

Northeastern Ontario Agricultural Forum – Minutes

 Hosted by the Northeastern Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association and MIRARCO

March 25, 2010

 Meeting Attendance

Gerald Beaudry, West Nipissing SCIA

Peter Beckett, Laurentian University

Brian Bell, OMAFRA

Nick Betts, Outreach Coordinator, SCIA

Kelly Bird, NEOSCIA

Pascal Brovin, Université du Québec

Murray Cochrane, Algoma SCIA

Normand Delorme, President West Nipissing

Denise Deschamps, FedNor

Mack Emiry, Provincial director of NEOSCIA

Jim Found, President SDOSCIA OFA

Jennifer Hargreaves, MIRARCO

Joe Hoogenhoud Cochrane SCIA

Becky Hughes, University of Guelph

John Kovak, Nipissing University

Bob Landis, Cochrane SCIA

Alan Lock, MIRARCO

Ross MacLeod, Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre

Mary-Ellen Norry Car, OMAFRA

Sean Ohagan, Nipissing University

Janet Parsons, President of NEOSCIA

Terry Philips, Ontario canola Assoication and Co-operative Regionale du Nipissing and Sudbury

Pierre Rivard, Université du Québec

John Rowsell, University of Guelph

Mike Soenens, Producer

Graeme Spiers, Laurentian University/MIRARCO

Adrain Struyk, Cochrane SCIA

Margaret Struyk, Cochrane SCIA

Neil Tarlton, Ontario Federation of Agriculture

Daniel Tassé, OMAFRA

David Thompson, NORDIK

Jonathan Waddell, MIRARCO/Laurentian University

Dan Walters, Nipissing University



  1. 1.      For agricultural researchers who work within northeastern Ontario to share information about their programs, projects, and resources.
  2. 2.      To facilitate interaction which may lead to cooperation and collaboration.
  3. 3.      To consider needs, issues, advantages, and opportunities.

Research Presentations

 Pascal Drouin, Université du Québec, Abitibi-Témiscamingue

  • Research orientation include forage, pasture production and conservation; animal production; environment; animal nutrition, management, health and meal quality
  • Silage research topics include: fermentation process, microbial quality, molds and mycotoxins, inoculation levels and preparation
  • Soluble sugars research: factors affects sugars concentrations = species, maturity, N, collection; degradation and roles of genes, gene regulation, enzymes activities
  • Nutrition, management, and animal health = productivity, milk consumption, vitamin B12, essential oils
  • Pasture research includes under used forage species, turnip, foraging alfalfa, Kura clover; findings include old pasture regenerates with legumes
  • Meat research involves fat concentrations and fat type ratios and comparison with other commercially available meats
  • Anaerobic digestion research involves: adaptation of rumen microbes, pathogens, two phase digestion, microbial diversity, and effect of types of litters on efficiency
  • New projects: comparison between grass and corn-fed beefs; wintering enclosures, conception of a two phase anaerobic digesters, genetic diversity, life cycle assessments, rhizobium inoculants, grass and legumes mixtures for pasture
  • Facilities include analytical chemistry (soluble sugars, organic acids and fats, mycotoxins), genetic diversity, fermentation, and anaerobic digestion, and plant and soil microbiology


Ross MacLeod, Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre

  • The Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre (SSMIC): not-for-profit; encourages economic growth through commercialization of science and technology; Support local businesses (Algoma) by helping with initial planning and background research; Facilitate partnerships, networking and information sharing
  • SSMIC and the Bio-economy: biomass/bio-fiber; bio-products; bio-fuels; NOARIN
  • Biomass/Bio-fibre: Short Rotation Coppice (SRC): alder and willow studies, inventory, BTU testing and analysis; Agricultural residues: feedstock testing, BUT testing and analysis, industrial hemp, flax, reed canary grass, crop trials; Woodlots/Crown forests: inventory studies, supply vs. demand, management practices, opportunities
  • Bio-products: Bio-composites; Insulation, fibre glass, hempcrete; Pellets; Bedding; Straw, shavings, pelletized material; Fibreboard; Tested feedstock for suitability
  • Bio-fuels: Pellets: preliminary work, feedstock testing; Hog fuel: feedstock testing, local inventory; Bio-diesel: oilseed and fibre feasibility study, Oilseed crop trials: Algoma bio-fuel co-operative (local organization draws from ultiple interest groups, in business development stage)
  • NOARIN: A concept of a northern, agricultural research network, linking all interest groups in a collaborative effort; Coordinating and sharing agricultural research across the north; Broken down into a collection of regional networks, Regional Agricultural Innovation Networks (RAIN’s)
  • NOARIN – Conceptual Framework: members include: provincial and external coordination/liason; capital infrastructure; research and technology transfer; functions; marketing and promotion; human resources; regional agri-innovation networks (RAINs); and non profit structure = research coordination, technical, marketing, capital and human resource capacity and business development assistance to agriuctlural producers seeking to enter into ventures that add value to commodities or products they produce
  • Current Activites:  Speckled Alder Study:  effects of harvest methods on feral stands and viability of alder as a plantation crop; Oilseed Crop Trails: Camelina, short season (low heat unit) soybeans; St. Marys Paper Bio-solids: land application trials, organic certification, fertilizer certification; Algoma Bio-fuels Co-operative: crop trial/feedstock testing, business planning, organization and coordination
  • Summary: SSMIC is working towards economic development in the agricultural community, They have completed a number of projects tied to the bio-economy and are pursuing new projects based on our past research and local interest


David Thompson, NORDIK

  • Food Security and Community-based Research at Algoma University through the Northern Ontario Research, Development, Ideas and Knowledge (NORDIK) Institute (
  • NORDIK Institute: Collaboration between community groups and researchers; Creating knowledge or understanding about practical community issues to bring about change; Community members participate in all aspects of the research process.
  • Principles: Build community capacity to conduct research; Holistic – economic, social, political, cultural; Inclusionary and participatory; Strengths-based; Sustainable; Process more important than outcomes
  • Participatory Action Research: circular interaction between: Planning, Action, Observing, Evaluating and Reflection
  • Algoma District – the past: Geographic diversity; Traditionally dairy & cattle farming; Well known for Maple Syrup; Shift from local consumption to shipping cattle
  • Reflection – the present: Political, economic, social, and technological environment:  lack of profit, decline of the family farm, competition with dominant model, lack of infrastructure/value chain, who has the time for marketing?, lessening political influence
  • Reflection – Distance travelled by commodity beef = 1420 km (from scattered acres farms, Huron Shores – Feedlot in Kitchner – Government Inspected Processing Plant in Kitchener – Sault Ste. Marie Grocery Store/Butcher Shop – Your plate)
  • Reflection – the future: A sustainable future?: Employment / economic benefit, Protecting the environment, Food safety, Energy conservation, Control over food security, Meet consumer preferences
  • Planning: Make a profit/create jobs, Devise alternatives to the dominant model, Make agriculture attractive for young people, Get infrastructure in place, Find innovative ways to market/utilize partnerships
  • Planning: Penokean Hills Farms: Eight local cattle farmers, Buy Local Beef Marketing Study, Business Planning for PHF, Business Planning for local abattoir Northern Quality Meats; Algoma Food Network: Retailers, producers, farmer’s markets, gardeners, and
    social service organizations (public health / school board / emergency food services), Conduct strategic and marketing plans
  • Penokean Hills Farms: 2005: five cattle farmers joined to market their beef locally; Aided by NORDIK who carried out feasibility study, “Buy Local Beef Marketing Study”; 2007: Penokean Hills Farms incorporated as a business with nine farmers;  2007-2009: NORDIK worked with farmers to created and helped implement business and marketing plans.
  • Penokean Hills Farms: Mission Statement: To produce the highest standard of tasty, nutritious beef while enhancing the environment and supporting the local community.”
  • Penokean Hills Farms will reduce total distance traveled by beef to 80 km
  • Evaluate back to reflection: What hinders the action?: Governance issues, Scheduling and policy, Abattoir issues needs to be addressed, Quality Control
  • Algoma Food Network: Began with Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) groups; NORDIK and Algoma U provided space and facilitated strategic plan; Networking and building partners in the community for a sustainable food system; Positive outcomes: events, food charter, food directory, and information sharing (
  • The People’s Garden: The Algoma U Student Garden is supporting Algoma U’s food bank creating knowledge among students
  • ASOPRICOR – International Development connecting youth with agriculture
  • Key Learnings: A lot of local knowledge about Agriculture has been lost; Research builds community capacity to respond to consumer demand; Policy must be responsive to the rural and remote communities; The solution to youth out-migration is elusive


Graeme Spiers, Laurentian University and MIRARCO

  • MIRARCO is Monitoring (Mining), Innovation, Rehabilitation and Applied Research Corporation
  • Three departments: GRC (Geohazard, Assessment and Risk Mitigation); E2VO (Energy Ventilation and Optimizaton; CEM (Centre for Environmental Monitoring)
  • Does the CEM crew have anything to offer Northern Ontario Agricultural Industry ? YES – Examples to be highlighted: Agricultural adaptation to climate change education; Development of alternate uses for ‘abandoned’ mining lands; Investigation of productivity gains from soil amendments; Regional soil genesis and fertility ‘mapping’;

Understanding of industrial impacts on regional soils; Analytical support for researchers and producers

  • Also looking at climate change and agriculture in Ontario, “Towards an Adaptation Roadmap for Canada”
  • Impacts of climate change on agriculture: Warmer temperatures and longer growing season could increase the production and northward expansion of crops such as fruit, corn, sorghum, soybeans, maize and some forage crops; Opportunities vineyards have been established in the more northern regions of Southern Ontario including Ottawa, Collingwood, Owen Sound, Prince Edward County and Manitoulin Island; Changes in drought frequency and severity, shifts in the timing of precipitation and changes in storm intensity present risks to production, income and support programs; When factors such as the frequency and timing of threshold events (e.g. fall and spring freeze dates) are considered, it appears that farming in the south region of Ontario will remain vulnerable to springtime cold injury; In the case of the grape and wine industry, warmer winter temperatures and less snow cover could also have adverse impacts on icewine production, depending on the timing and frequency of the cold spells that are required for harvesting; Climate change also indirectly impacts agricultural productivity by affecting the viability of pests, invasive species, weeds and disease, which could negatively impact crop production..; Increases in heat stress are expected to result in lower weight gains in beef cattle, lower milk production in dairy cattle, and lower conception rates and substantial losses in poultry production
  • Also hosts climate change workshops across Ontario
  • How producers use sustainable agriculture practices to manage climate  and weather risks: Diversify Crops; Diversify enterprises within one farming operation; Land Resource Management; Water Resource Management; Livestock management
  • Communication workshops keypoints: Who adapts? – producers, institutions, government, associations…ALL ABOARD; Share climate expertise; Seek input from others (CA’s); Impacts are local therefore make adaptation local – what works  here may not work there; Mainstream climate change into new policies and plans; Demonstrate the cost/benefit outcomes of adaptation.
  • WasteLand to Biofuel Source: Innovative waste exploitation, growing crops on mine tailings using organic materials; Monitoring and microclimatology include weather (temperature, precipitation, solar radiation, and wind speed and direction) parameters; biosolids cover vapour probes and temperature and moisture content down profile into tailings; also requires specialty equipment testing and is ultimately new productive agricultural land
  • Organic soil amendments project: dwarf corn trials (with experts rating yield)
  • Industrial impacts on regional soil project: looking at metal movement through a regional soil profile
  • The Soil Process Study: experimental pedology using column leaching trials in the laboratory
  • Metal bioavailability from agricultural dusts project: looking at soil weathering of industrial aerosol particles
  • Also investigating the regional impact of modern transportation infrastructure
  • Analytical support for agricultural research includes routine analyses of pH, carbon and nitrogen, bioavailable nutrients, CEC, total nutrients, metals, protein


John Kovacs, Nipissing University

  • Designing a web-based decision support tool for agricultural applications in northeastern Ontario including: satellite imagery (radar and optical); environmental monitoring (precipitation, temperature, relative humidity, leaf wetness, soil moisture, and PAR); and collaboration (decision support needs, interviews, workshops, software training)
  • Participating members expertise:

Dr. April James Canadian Research Chair, Department of Geography

  • Catchment/landscape/environmental monitoring capabilities: Weather station, streamflow monitoring and sampling, shallow groundwater monitoring and water sampling, soil moisture monitoring and sampling, soil hydrologic characterization
  • Stable Isotope Analysis of water (δ18O and δD) research applications: study of streamflow generation and terrestrial flowpaths of water, studies in ecohydrology (e.g. plant use of different sources of water), study of groundwater-surface water interactions, study of water balance of lakes
  • Equipment: pressure transducers, auto-samplers, temperature probes. piezometers, capacitance rods. soil moisture probes, dataloggers, lysimeters, Guelph permeameter, Picarro Isotope Liquid Water System for analysis of gas and liquid phase H20.

Dr. Sean O’Hagan Associate Professor, Department of Geography

  • Research Interests: Single industry towns in a knowledge economy, Migration patterns and northern Ontario; Knowledge transfer and corporate control of the largest firms in Canada and the United States
  • Research Applications: Changing relationship between ‘local community’ and the ‘farming community’ in northeastern Ontario; Restructuring of the agricultural commodity chain in northeastern Ontario, Knowledge creation or accumulation in relation to farming in northeastern Ontario over time

Dr. Mark Wachowiak Assistant Professor, Department of Computer Science

  • Geospatial databases and infomatics: Database management system and visualization; Image storage, archiving, analysis, and retrieval; Distributed databases integration (imaging, sensor input, weblogs, visualization, geographical data, real-time data acquisition)
  • Research applications: Integration of decision support algorithms; advanced queries for analysis; dynamic integration of real-time sensor data acquisition

Dr. Dan Walters Assistant Professor, Department of Geography

  • Research Interests: His expertise is in the use spatial decision support system applications in agriculture, and First Nations drinking water quality. The research on First Nations drinking water issues is SSHRC funded since 2006.
  • Research Applications: Organizing collaboration with the farmers for the purpose of indentifying decision support needs, and determine the value of the decision support tool.

Dr. Jacek Malczewski Professor, Department of Geography, UWO

  • Research Interests: Multicriteria decision analysis, GIS and spatial decision support systems; In addition to his numerous academic articles he has written two books on these subjects. He has also recently received a SSHRC grant for his project “Web-based Multicriteria Spatial Decision Support Systems for Land Use Planning: Ontology and Human-computer Interaction.”

Dr. John M. Kovacs Professor, Department of Geography

  • Research Interests: His research on “Alternative approaches for mangrove forest monitoring” is NSERC funded since 2002
  • Technical expertise and field data acquisition: Sensors- multi-spectral, hyperspectral, SAR (radar), biophysical estimation & mapping- stem density, basal area, height, LAI, chlorophyll, carotenoids, nitrogen
  • Existing Collaborations- University of Singapore, East Tennessee State University, University of Mexico, Environnement Illimité Inc. (Rio-Tinto, SNC Lavalin)

Dr. Heather McNairn Senior Scientist, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

  • Research Interest: Previously 10 yrs at CCRS, lead their agriculture research projects (1997-2003) involving biophysical estimation & mapping-surface soil moisture, residue cover, tillage activities, crop type, LAI, crop cover fraction, canopy water, chlorophyll
  • Collaborations- USDA, Mexico & China; has been a member of 16 national & international Earth observation committees
  • Dr. Jiali Shang Research Scientist, Agriculture and Agri-Foods Canada
  • Research Expertise: Multi-spectral, hyperspectral data,
  • SAR Projects: crop inventory & crop productivity monitoring
  • Key project components: Field-based monitoring: data acquisition from weather stations and soil moisture; Satellite image analysis: data acquisition from optical images and radar images; Integration/Modelling: develop multi-criteria decision support applications; Web-based geo-spatial decision support tool: design web interface; Collaboration: data acquisition from interviews and workshops and training
  • Climate related information:
  • Earth Observation Facilities: Nipissing earth Observation Laboratory (NEOL) and AAFC-Remote Sensing Applications Development Research Branch
  • Remote Sensing Software: Optical-PCI Geomatica, ITT ENVI, Definiens; Radar-PCI SAR Polarimetric Workstation
  • Optical Satellites: Landsat, SPOT, IKONOS, QuickBird, GeoEye, etc…
  • Crop classification maps: operational implementation using AWiFS Optical Satellitee and Estimating Residue Cover with Multispectral Data and Spectral Unmixing
  • Applications for Radar: Multi-frequency SAR for Crop Classification
    Ottawa 2006; Detecting Harvesting of Corn Using Co-Polarized Phase Difference and SAR Decomposition RADARSAT-2 Fine-Quad Data October 10 2008; Detecting Tillage and Crop Emergence Using SAR Decomposition RADARSAT-2 Fine-Quad Data (Ottawa, Canada); Detecting Tillage Occurrence Using TerraSAR-X Ottawa; Geo-spatial Autocorrelation of Soil Moisture
  • Acknowledgement: Farming Organizations : North Eastern Ontario Soil Crop Improvement Association; Temiskaming Crops Coalition; Co-operative Regional Nipissing-Sudbury Ltd.; Businesses: Brownlee Equipment; Grant Farm Corp.; Koch Farms; Government:

Agriculture and Agri-Foods Canada – Remote Sensing Applications Development Research Branch; Ontario Ministry of Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs; University: University of Guelph-New Liskeard Agricultural Research Station and Laurentian University-MIRARCO

John Rowsell, New Liskeard Research Station, University of Guelph

  • Main program areas: Beef: Genomics- Miller, Swanson and Mandell ; Meat tenderness; Feed efficiency; Meat (fat) Composition – Mandell ; Legume vs grass; Stored feed vs pasture; Manure on Pasture- Rowsell
  • Resources Associated With Beef at NLARS: Base herd 150cows plus replacements and calves; About 600 acres-pasture and hay; 3 barns in 2 locations; Individual feed intake; 2 technicians, 2 Agricultural Workers
  • Opportunities Associated with Having Beef Animals: Manure studies: Application, composting; Pasture and forage studies: Establishment/Regeneration/New Species, Grazing pressure; Associated riparian and non-crop areas: Buffer zones, stabilization, Wildlife/Agriculture
  • 1652 cereal plots; 4120 forage plots and 900 other crops plots
  • Agronomy research includes: Performance Evaluation (Adaptation and Registration Testing): spring wheat, winter wheat, oat, barley, canola (grain and straw)soybean, alfalfa, trefoil, white clover, orchard grass, smooth bromegrass, meadow bromegrass, reed canarygrass, tall fescue; Selection: most effort on oat, barley, spring wheat,  hemp

New Crop Adaptation: perennial forages for biomass (switchgrass, prairie cord grass, big bluestem, miscanthus, reed canary, other), forage legume (galega, kura clover), woody biomass (hybrid poplar)

  • Other agronomy research involves: Crop Management: soil fertility and crop response (N, B, S), harvest and quality (soluble carbohydrates, hulless trait), integrated  weed management (canola), nutrient requirements for perennial grasses for biomass, nutrient and carbon cycling- perennials for biomass, spring cereal differentiation under ICM, slow-release N (PCU, ESN)
  • Resources: 0.3 Researcher (Rowsell), 0.9 Technical (Kobler); Managed plot locations in northeast:  New Liskeard, Verner; Connections to other managed sites: Emo, Thunder Bay, UofG, AAFC, Private (e.g. C&M, Hyland); Plot equipment, Laboratory equipment, ability to network with the University of Guelph and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
  • Opportunities: they do plot work, others do lab work; Extensive experience with wide range of crops, some they don’t do; Expanded geographical coverage
  • Current partners: OMAFRA; UofG-Kemptville, Ridgetown; AAFC; TBARS; UQAT; PGR; OCCC; GFO; WNSCIA; Lakehead U; Canola Council


Becky Hughes, New Liskeard Research Station, University of Guelph

  • Horticultural research at NLARS: Objectives: Identify new crops, cultivars and production systems for horticultural crops through field trials and lab and greenhouse trials
  • Vegetable crops: Past Research = Cool season vegetables, Warm season vegetables and mulches, etc, Parthenocarpic cucumbers
  • Berry crops: Short day or June-bearing strawberry cultivar/selection trails and raspberry cultivar trials
  • Dayneutral strawberry trials: flower and fruit all growing season provided the temperatures are below 25°C
  • Dayneutral strawberry trials: Seed-propagated F1 hybrid strawberries:  breeding and plant production; Production Trials: cultivars, planting dates, plant types, blossom removal, mulch types, mulch vs planting date
  • Lab and greenhouse research: nuclear minituber production and clean seed garlic
  • Also: seed potato and berry plant propagation programs
  • Partners: Dept of Plant Agriculture, Simcoe, UoG ; Ridgetown Campus, UoG; University of Florida; Manitoba Strawberry Growers Association; AAFC – NS, PQ, BC; Funding – AAC, OBGA


Next Steps

The group discussed future directions and identified steps required to initiate agricultural focused research.  Priorities and recommended actions discussion points fell into one of five categories: Network Creation; Network Resources; Project Development; Funding Opportunities; and Representation on Provinical Funding Boards.  The main priorities and actions required identified by the group are listed below for each category.

Network Creation 

  • Formation of North-Eastern Ontario Agricultural Research Consortium (NEOARC) integral to research development and funding success and initiate active communication and form partnerships between institutions and grass roots
  • Must be a strong partnership between primary industry, researchers and marketers
  • The consortium should create a website listing and linking members
  • Communication with consumers, the public and other network, such as the Thunder Bay Food Security Research Network, will help drive initiatives 
  • The consortium is also interested in working with other provinces, such as Québec, to identify regional differences
    •  Similar to NOARIN – the Sault Ste. Marie concept to initiate a research consortium

Network Resources

  • Create a formal list of the research communities’ strengths in terms of infrastructure, equipment, laboratory capacities and expertise
  • List of resources and services that can be shared with the network

Project Development

  • Project planning should start with the producers who can identify gaps in the research
  • Projects that are problem based need to be developed but also innovative ideas should be explored including wish list items listed by producers
  •  An example of a problem based project would be a social study investigating land use decisions in Algoma specifically the choice of non-agricultural based land use on fertile soils
  • Crop research priorities need to be identified and ideas should be pushed through provincial organization’s templates such as that of the Ontario cereal crop committee.
  • Economic viability should be included in project development
  • Students can help on shorter spanned projects but longer projects pose difficulty because of the length of student degree programs
  • Opportunities exist in Cochrane

Funding Opportunities

  • Increase funding for practical research, often driven by industry, researchers should look for problems to address that are unique to the north to take advantage of funding opportunites targeted for northern research include the following funding agencies: CFDC, FedNor, NOHFC
  • Seed monies required to launch research ideas, investigate community based organizations in districts (not necessarily agricultural in nature)
  • Identify industry, public and private funding opportunities
  • Forward planning required to obtain funding through academia
  • Identify opportunities and barriers (SWOT)

Representation on Provinical Funding Boards

  • NEOSCIA needs to get a seat on OMAFRA Research Advisory Network (ORAN) and the Agricultural Research Institute of Ontario (ARIO) to remind these organizations of North-Eastern Ontario problems and needs
  • Research projects devised by NEOARC need to be manipulated to fit ORAN priorities which is partially directed by OMAFRA and the University of Guelph
  • Include partnerships with University of Guelph (NL) to get projects under the Guelph contract with OMAFRA


A work team was created to help develop a plan to initiate communication among members of the consortium:

Mack Emiry

Murray Cochrane

Errol Caldwell

Jonathan Waddell

John Kovac


John Rowsell

Nick Betts



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