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Crops Research

Bean variety mixture trial at Elora Research Station

Bean variety mixture trial at Elora Research Station

Agricultural crops are a major component of the agriculture sector in Canada and around the world. As consumer preferences shift toward more fruits, vegetables and plant-based protein food sources, the way we produce crops to feed a growing population will be increasingly important for our planet’s health.

Food from Thought scientists are conducting cutting-edge research that enables the intensification of agricultural production, while protecting ecosystem services. Research in this area explores how to enhance plant, soil and landscape biodiversity to intensify agricultural productivity without reducing ecosystem services.

Crops research spans the micro level with cellular and genetic research; the field level with economics, soil health, cover crops, management zones, and nitrogen use efficiency; and the landscape level with landscape management, pollinator health, advanced applications, and satellite imagery.

VIDEO: Plant Communication

Prof. Clarence Swanton discusses the implications of plant communication for improved agricultural yield.

Researchers are measuring the effects of modifying conventional production systems to increase diversity by understanding mechanisms of plant competition in order to enhance crop tolerance to weeds and cover crops. Projects are examining the impacts on yield of inter-seeding cover crops, identifying and fallowing unprofitable or low producing zones within fields, planting pollinator strips in field margins, planting crop variety mixtures, and increasing symbiotic associations between crops and plants in order to enhance nitrogen fixation. From a management perspective, our researchers are looking at how crop management influences ecosystem services, including pollination and soil health. Researchers are also developing and testing new approaches and applications for precision agriculture and precision conservation using high resolution and high temporal frequency data.


Arrell Food Institute Scholar Sabrina, left, counts flowers while Research Assistant Kyra, right, records data.

Food from Thought 2018 Research Assistant Kyra and 2018 Arrell Food Institute Scholar Sabrina count flowers in a measured area. They're looking at the relationship between amounts and types of flowers in an agricultural setting, and how that correlates with pollinator communities in the area.

This work will ultimately provide farmers with evidence-based information to make informed decisions on how to manage their fields and crops, including whether to set aside agricultural lands for ecosystem services, and how to increase yields on the most productive lands while ensuring the long-term health of soils.

Meet our crops research experts

Explore our crops research projects

Agricultural Hydrology And Modelling

Cropping Systems: White Bean Diversity And Nitrogen Efficiency

Corn Nitrogen (N) Decision Support System That Incorporates Soil Moisture Interactions

Enhancement Of Cover Crop And Weed Stress Tolerance In Corn And Soybean

Enhancing Biodiversity Of The Agro-Ecosystem

Modelling And Monitoring Agro-Ecological Mosaic Ecosystem Sustainability

Pollinator Biodiversity Monitoring And Pollinator Seed Mix Assessment

The Digital Revolution And Sustainable Agriculture

The Soil Microbiome: Linking Soil Biodiversity To Soil Health And Ecosystem Services