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

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.

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.

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.

Service crop management to maximize crop water supply and improve agroecosystem resilience: A review

Canola yield sensitivity to climate indicators and passive microwave-derived soil moisture estimates in Saskatchewan, Canada

Luxury vegetative nitrogen uptake in maize buffers grain yield under post-silking water and nitrogen stress: A mechanistic understanding

Impact of land composition and configuration on the functional trait assembly of forest communities in southern Ontario

A spatial network analysis of resource partitioning between bumblebees foraging on artificial flowers in a flight cage

Comparison of Pesticide Exposure in Honey Bees (Hymenoptera: Apidae) and Bumble Bees (Hymenoptera: Apidae): Implications for Risk Assessments

Toluene biodegradation in the vadose zone of a poplar phytoremediation system identified using metagenomics and toluene-specific stable carbon isotope analysis

Impact of soil moisture data characteristics on the sensitivity to crop yields under drought and excess moisture conditions

Pesticide Exposure Assessment Paradigm for Solitary Bees

Workshop on Pesticide Exposure Assessment Paradigm for Non-Apis Bees: Foundation and Summaries

Pesticide affects social behavior of bees

When too much isn’t enough: Does current food production meet global nutritional needs?

Spatial variability of microbial communities in a fractured sedimentary rock matrix impacted by a mixed organics plume

Precision conservation meets precision agriculture: A case study from southern Ontario

Estimating time-dependent vegetation biases in the SMAP soil moisture product

Enemy of my enemy: evidence for variable soil biota feedbacks of Vincetoxicum rossicum on native plants

Comparative persistence of Salmonella and Escherichia coli O157:H7 in loam or sandy loam soil amended with bovine or swine manure

An alternative to controversial pesticides still harms bumblebees

Global land use implications of dietary trends

Impacts of surface-applied residues on N-cycling soil microbial communities in miscanthus and switchgrass cropping systems

Characterization of the heavy, hydrolysable and non-hydrolysable fractions of soil organic carbon in conventional and no-tillage soils

Adoption of precision agriculture technologies in Ontario crop production

Dynamics of the Global Wheat Trade Network and Resilience to Shocks

Using a Mobile Device “App” and Proximal Remote Sensing Technologies to Assess Soil Cover Fractions on Agricultural Fields

Opportunities and Challenges for Big Data in Agricultural and Environmental Analysis