U of R researchers highlight ag research that hits home at this year’s Canadian Western Agribition

By University Advancement and Communications Posted: November 29, 2019 4:00 p.m.

Keith MacKenzie, a postdoctoral fellow in the biology department, leading an interactive demonstration at The Canadian Western Agribition.
Keith MacKenzie, a postdoctoral fellow in the biology department, leading an interactive demonstration at The Canadian Western Agribition. Kirsten Palmier

The Canadian Western Agribition is the largest livestock show in Canada. Last year, 126,972 people – including a number of visitors from around the world – walked through the gates of the agricultural extravaganza.

With such significant numbers, Agribition is a great place to connect with community. That’s why the University of Regina’s Faculty of Science has been hosting a table there all week.

“Students and faculty have been rotating through the booth, educating students, producers, and the public about agriculture-related research being conducted at the U of R,” says biology assistant professor Dr. Kerri Finlay.

Finlay says that she and other biology faculty members, including Drs. John Stavrinides, Chris Yost, and Andrew Cameron have been informing farmers about the results of research on topics such as water quality and greenhouse gases in small farm ponds (dugouts), the development of new microbial treatments for thistle control, nitrogen-fixing inoculants for pea plants, and anti-microbial resistance in the environment.

“Graduate students have also been speaking about the results of their projects, and have developed some exciting activities for kids, such as extracting DNA from strawberries,” Finlay says.

One of the activities that Keith MacKenzie demonstrated this week was created by Nicole Lerminiaux, a PhD student working with Dr. Andrew Cameron.

“Using pipe-cleaners and beads, I taught people about bacterial genetics by looking at plasmids, a type of DNA that is easily transferred between bacteria,” explains MacKenzie, a postdoctoral fellow in the biology department. “Plasmids are important in human and animal health because they can contain genes for antimicrobial resistance, and, as such, can contribute to the creation of antimicrobial resistant bacterial infections.”

MacKenzie says that University scholars are actively engaged in projects that positively impact the agriculture sector and that Agribition provides a great opportunity to showcase their work, with particular emphasis on University research into native bees, water quality on the prairies, infectious diseases that affect cattle and poultry, legume inoculants, and the development of organic herbicides.

“It is important that we engage with these stakeholders, because producers understand the importance of research and how it can greatly accelerate innovation within the agricultural sector,” says MacKenzie.

Finlay says talking about University research that is directly relevant to agriculture is important.

“With over 100,000 guests attending the event, from over 75 countries, this is a unique opportunity to reach a wide audience, all in our backyard,” says Finlay.

The Faculty of Science will have their booth on display at the Canadian Western Agribition until November 30 when the event concludes.