After my meeting with the EMR seed library I met with Matt Ball and Brad Barton, Agrologists with the Agriculture Branch. I was looking forward to my talk with them to see what opportunities for partnership there may be here in Yukon. Especially if there is opportunity to build on already existing projects and share funding and organizational tasks.
We covered a lot of ground in this talk so I’m not sure how much detail I will get into, but sometimes when I get going…
I guess a good start would be some basic Yukon growing info. Like Southern BC, Yukon was subject to receding glaciers around 12,000 years ago, dropping soil debris as they went. Much of the finer clay particles wash away in this process leaving sandier, rocky soils – often poor in quality. But soil quality varies greatly due to the diverse landscape, with many of the valleys housing good quality soil high in organic matter. There are not a lot of vegetable farms here in Yukon but there are several around Whitehorse who are making ago of it and a number of farms growing grain and forage crops.
There is a Government research station near Whitehorse where they are continually growing different crops to find cultivars suited to the northern climate. These often come from Manitoba and Saskatchewan. The climates in these provinces are somewhat similar, but have much hotter summers and colder winters. They also have very different light regimes. At summer solstice, day length in Whitehorse is 19:09 (and apparently it never really does get dark!). Compare this with Vancouver at 16:14, Regina at 16:27, and Winnipeg at 16:21.
Though maybe more interesting is winter day length (or lack of it) and mid-solstice/equinox day length/change:
- Whitehorse: 5:38
- Vancouver: 8:11
- Winnipeg: 8:05
And on November 15, 16:
- Whitehorse: 7:20, 7:15
- Vancouver: 9:03, 9:06
- Winnipeg: 8:59, 9:02
So what is most profound to me is the rate at which day length changes in the North. And, despite every region of Canada making such a claim, the variability in Weather here is also extreme. In driving to Dawson we experienced sun, then rain, then, sleet, then snow, then more sun, and more rain, then sun again. And while hiking up Grey Mountain in Whitehorse I had a similar experience. And a lot of the talk I have been hearing since arriving is about everyone pulling out their whole garden as the first hard frosts have come hard! Some folks here do use season extension (e.g., cloches) but most people do not (except farmers who make good use of greenhouses).
Anyway, back to my conversation with Matt and Brad from EMR Ag Branch (bet you forgot that was the subject of this blog!). We covered a lot of topics, but here are a four things we discussed beyond Yukon climate and soils that stood out for me:
- Of most interest to me is their interest in our variety trials project. This would be a great way to trial a bunch of cultivars of various crops to see what would work best in the Yukon climate. While they have limited staff resources they would have some funding available to pay for a Masters student to help manage the trials. This got me quite excited (though I did my best to not get all gitty). With a good framework and foundation built, and a point person here in the Yukon, we could potentially add a number of Yukon trials to the project without too much more expense. This project could be super beneficial to Yukon growers
- They had a real interest in potato seed production since many growers were already growing potatoes and with little disease pressure this could be a great area to grow potato seed.
- They have been doing various seed trials at their research station though most of this is with grains and forage crops. They now have both organic and conventional production areas with the organic areas being fairly new. So this could be a Mother site for Mother-Baby trials.
- The University of Alaska Fairbanks has done some research
So, in reflection, I see much opportunity for collaboration with growers in Yukon through the EMR as EMR can provide funding and other support for projects. That said, collaborating with community groups such as GoOFY or the AICBR may prove to be simpler for certain projects due to the bureaucratic processes that exist when working with government! But, in the end, the more collaborations we have, the greater the potential reach