Kurtis Pilkington

Role: HQP Scholar

Degree: M.Sc.

Program: Physiological Analysis of Lodging and Yield Response to Plant Growth Regulators in Winter Wheat

Department: Department of Plant Agriculture (OAC)

What inspired you to pursue your current degree? 

Through my undergrad in Honour’s Agriculture and related summer jobs, I discovered my interest in agronomy and cropping systems. An undergraduate research project allowed me to experience agriculture research first-hand. Combining the two into a management focused Masters project with real-world implications seemed exciting!

What about your research area excites you? 

My project focuses on Plant Growth Regulators in winter wheat; something that hasn’t been studied much in Ontario and is particularly relevant after the heavy lodging events seen in the 2021 growing season. I’m excited to see how this tool can aid farmers in improving yields and enhancing crop rotations.

What challenges do you find in your research, and how do you try to overcome them? 

Working with a crop with a shorter growing season like the winter wheat, much of my research is compacted into a narrow timeframe-making for some long days! The excellent team at my research station has been a huge help with all the dirty work and getting through the season in general.

How would you describe your research and the implications of your project?

First for a little background. Winter wheat is a crop that is excellent for improving soil health but is limited by its low yields and can be prone to lodging (falling over during to stormy weather) which further reduces yields. Plant Growth Regulators (PGRs) are a tool that farmers can use to reduce lodging and allow them to apply additional fertilizer, increasing yields. My research focus is comparing several of these plant growth regulators for the first time in Ontario and taking in-depth mechanical measurements on the wheat plants to try and better understand what makes some wheat more prone to lodging and how these PGRs work to prevent it. The goal of the project is to understand effective PGR management practices so that farmers can incorporate this tool into their own management to increase wheat yields. Hopefully, better wheat crops can encourage more farmers to grow wheat, improving soil health and agroecosystems across Ontario.

What are three of your favourite activities outside the lab? 

I love camping and being outside in general. I also really enjoy golfing and spending time with friends and family.

What is one important thing you have learned during the pandemic? 

Stay positive!