McGill University: $2.5 million for the creation of the Réseau québécois de recherche en agriculture durable

Today, the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Nature et technologies (FRQNT), along with its partner the ministère de l’Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l’Alimentation (MAPAQ) announced the creation of the Réseau québécois de recherche en agriculture durable (RQRAD), a flagship measure of the Plan d’agriculture durable 2020-2030 (PAD).

Coordinated by four co-holders with widely recognized expertise in sustainable agriculture—McGill Professor of Agricultural Economics Paul Thomassin, Jacques Brodeur of the Université de Montréal, Jean Caron of Université Laval, and Alain N Rousseau of the Institut national de la recherche scientifique—the creation of RQRAD is rooted in the government’s commitment to focus on agriculture to produce high quality food in an environmentally responsible manner. The RQRAD will make a key contribution to the work and efforts in this area. This grant of $2.5 million over five years follows a call for proposals issued last April.

“One of the important aspects of sustainable development is the financial sustainability of the sector and incorporating the environment into decision-making,” said Thomassin. “As a collaborative network of researchers, which includes economists, social scientists, and biophysical scientists, RQRAD will encourage inter-disciplinary thinking. The network hopes to suggest alternative practices that will ensure the sustainability of the agricultural sector. The development of these new practices and institutions is essential to address major global issues such as climate change.”

The RQRAD’s programming is based on four research axes that allow the pooling of forces committed to accelerating the development of knowledge related to soil health and conservation and the reduction of pesticide use in a context of climate change. Digital tools, precision agriculture and massive data as well as socio-economic aspects are also integral parts of the network’s programming.

“Agriculture is a major contributor to the economic engine of Quebec and to the vitality of its rural regions,” said Martha Crago, Vice-Principal, Research and Innovation. “McGill’s researchers are committed to the sustainable development of this essential sector for both the people of Québec and globally. Thanks to this significant investment from the FRQNT, the best researchers in the province will work together to identify solutions to the challenges of environmental degradation and food security. McGill is proud of Professor Paul Thomassin, Professor Joann Whalen, and the over 20 McGill researchers who will contribute their energy and expertise to this collaborative network.”

Bringing together over 200 researchers from 15 universities, five college technology transfer centers and several provincial and federal research centers, the RQRAD will ensure concerted and coordinated efforts in the area of sustainable agriculture in order to guarantee that the research produced is well aligned with the knowledge needs of the user communities concerned.

“The creation of this network, which stems from a flagship measure of the Sustainable Agriculture Plan, is to be commended, as it is designed to meet the needs of the agricultural sector and citizens,” said André Lamontagne, Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Minister responsible for the Centre-du-Québec Region and the Chaudière-Appalaches Region. “By bringing together all the players working to develop a viable and sustainable agricultural sector, the RQRAD will allow to deploy structured and independent research, to accelerate the adoption of agri-environmental practices and to achieve concrete and measurable results. The well-targeted lines of research will ensure gains in soil health and reduced pesticide use.”

In addition to contributing to the achievement of the PDA’s objectives, this unprecedented mobilization will undeniably ensure Québec’s strong leadership on the local, national and international scene in terms of sustainable agriculture, in terms of its economic, environmental and societal aspects.

“I extend my warmest congratulations to the co-holders and those involved in this new network,” said Janice Bailey, Scientific Director of FRQNT. “As the UN Decade of Action moves forward, it is imperative that we develop and implement sustainable methods of agricultural production. I am confident that the new leadership in research and innovation proposed by RQRAD will help protect the environment from climate change and improve Québec’s food self-sufficiency.”