Universities and private companies continue the develop and research crops, but they are dealing with the imperative to conduct the research apart to assure farmer and co-operator safety.
Why it matters: Plant research is an essential service. Trying to continue the research for the agriculture sector while maintaining safety of those involved is important.
At the University of Guelph:
Safe research plans have to be approved by the Ontario Agriculture College and the Office of Research.
Most laboratory research has been shut down as it is very difficult to maintain social distancing in a laboratory.
Timelines for many projects will have to change as even those that can continue will proceed at a slower pace.
“Not absolutely everything (will be affected), but it will affect many projects. We may have to extend timelines in some projects, some projects that were newly funded might be postponed until next season,” says OAC Dean Rene Van Acker.
“Everybody wants to be flexible and to make things work and recognizing that it’s a completely extraordinary situation,” says Van Acker.
Products at still on the same timeline for release, but that could change depending on how long the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
Products on track for closest release are being prioritized.
Workers in areas like the greenhouse, lab or seed packaging are working split shifts or rotating schedules to ensure social distancing and proper disinfection.
“Our approach has been to prioritize the near term of the product development pipeline and to ensure that this work gets done. (This includes) the new seed products which could be in the marketplace within the next one to three years,” says Steven King, Canadian plant breeding lead with Corteva Agriscience.
“With continued restrictions we expect over the next couple months, some of these projects may fall off the timeline. But because we are at least four years away from the marketplace, we’ve got time to adjust and to ensure that they get back on track,” says King.
“Our first priority is making sure our employees keep safe and healthy and that has required us to change how we operate a little bit,” says King.