Since the last email we flew out of Edinburgh and arrived here at Saskatoon about 22 hours later. We're getting used to flights and long stays at airports but we are coping surprisingly well.
Yesterday we met our hosts for the 3 days we are here, Joe Olesko from Novozymes who has generously given up his time to show us the most amazing innovations in technology here.
We spent a couple of hours at the Uni of Saskatchewan where Royal Hunter showed us around their synchrotron (a large particle accelerator) about the size of a football stadium that passes these particles and beams of light through objects to look at the detail (from the size of a cell or bacterium to a horse). It acts like a giant microscope. They are investigating it in Italy to replace mamograms - much more detail without the pain of squashing the breast which can be so painful! As well as medical applications there are benefits in mining (e.g. determining if the tailings are actually toxic or not), cleaning up contaminated sites, developing new drugs, understanding the make up of fossils without destroying them, as well as agriculture (such as renewable fuel, recycling ag by-products, increasing crop productivity and drought resistant crops). Amazingly they can study in real time the interaction of the root and soil bacteria, which is exciting research all around. As Ray said we were amazed that farmers from Australia were priviledged enough to see through this site.
Later we went to Monsanto where the gave up their time to show us their field trials and to give us lunch. Surprisingly their business goals to double yields from between 2010 to 2030 in corn, canola, soybeans and cotton and by using less inputs as well as improving farmers' lives. They showed us plots of examples of canola crops grown in 1978 (25.5bu/ac) needing 26 million acres, 2000 (27 bu/ac) needing 25 million acres and 2010 (31.1 bu/ac) needing 21 million acres of farming land in Canada. By 2020 they are aiming for 53 bu/ac so only needing 12.5 million acres to supply the needs of Canada. Sorry about the bu/ac but I think 30 bu/ac is roughly 2t/ha. All food for thought. Interestingly, they are also playing around with bacteria (Bacillus subtillus) in a seed treatment along with an insecticide and fungicide. It gives very quick emergence.
After that we visited the Cargill canola oil crushing plant where Bill Hagerty also gave up his time to show us the largest crushing plant in the world. We saw where the trucks were delivering the canola and how it is assessed, where it was crushed and taken away by trains.
If you would like to read more of the blogs from other members of our trip please go to http://grdc.wordpress.com/
Anne and Ray Williams