David MacTaggart is a MSc student studying Plant Sciences. (Photo: Laura MacTaggart)
David MacTaggart is a MSc student studying Plant Sciences. (Photo: Laura MacTaggart)

USask student finds home between agriculture research and community

Communicating research to the public is one of David MacTaggart’s strengths — and it’s a skill he’s honed during his master’s degree.

MacTaggart is a student in the Crop Development Centre in the College of Agriculture and Bioresources (AgBio) at the University of Saskatchewan (USask). His master’s research is focused on improving the forage legume Cicer milkvetch for stockpile grazing. This is the practice of growing forage to be grazed in the fall and winter.

MacTaggart started his graduate program in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. While this limited his ability to present his research in person, he started a social media series “Forays into Forage” to share forage-related content to a larger audience.

“That's been something that I think has been an interesting component: learning what are effective strategies to communicate research and what resonates with people,” MacTaggart said.

MacTaggart grew up on a hobby farm near Lacombe, Alta, where he developed his appreciation for mixed crop and livestock operations. Part of his passion for stockpiling forage comes from his interest to help producers reduce the cost of winter feed, which tends to be the most expensive part of cow-calf production.

“I liked that (forage research) helps to look at agricultural systems differently, and how we can merge the different components of it from animal production and crop production. Because we've had a period in Western Canada where we've separated those two components, and I think there's great strengths in combining (them).”

MacTaggart completed a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture (BSA) majoring in crop science at USask in the spring of 2020 and then started his master’s in May of that year. He originally chose USask because of the agricultural expertise at the Crop Development Centre (CDC), and it only felt natural to continue with his graduate studies in the College of AgBio.

“I've gotten to deepen my connections in the college as a master’s student, and I haven't regretted it at all.”

“I think there's great things to be learned within this space of the college, and its people have been very kind to me and given me a lot of opportunities. And for that, I'll be really grateful for a long time.”

MacTaggart’s supervisor is Dr. Bill Biligetu (PhD), who holds the Ministry of Agriculture Strategic Research Program Chair in Forage Crop Breeding and is an associate professor in the Department of Plant Sciences at USask.

While MacTaggart enjoys crop research, he has found himself gravitating more towards educational outreach and working with producers in local communities.

In January 2022, MacTaggart moved to Melfort, Sask., to work for an agriculture company while he completes the final stages of his thesis research. In addition to working and studying, he serves on the board of directors for the Saskatchewan Forage Council.

What MacTaggart appreciates the most is working and sharing knowledge with other people. His current plan after graduation is to work in the public sector, either in government or for a non-profit.

“I like to work directly with people. I find that that's where I get a lot of my energy and excitement about agriculture from. “Over time I've been drawn more to work at the grassroots level, more in local community.”

To learn more about how to apply for graduate student opportunities with the Crop Development Centre, please visit the Plant Sciences graduate studies webpage.
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