Catherine Seidle (top left), Will Short (top right),   Kennedy Choo-Foo (centre),  Jeremy Irvine (bottom left) and  Laura Carruthers (bottom right). Photos submitted.
Catherine Seidle (top left), Will Short (top right), Kennedy Choo-Foo (centre), Jeremy Irvine (bottom left) and Laura Carruthers (bottom right). Photos submitted.

USask graduate students receive nationally funded scholarships to support agricultural research

Five graduate students in the College of Agriculture and Bioresources at the University of Saskatchewan (USask) have been awarded scholarships from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC).

Laura Caruthers, Kennedy Choo-Foo, Jeremy Irvine and Catherine Seidle were awarded Canada Graduate Scholarships ($17,500 for one year) while Will Short was awarded a Postgraduate Scholarship ($21,000 per year for three years). Jeremy Irvine also received an Indigenous Scholar Award ($5,000).

The Canada Graduate Scholarships – master’s program aims to develop research skills and assist in the training of highly qualified personnel by supporting students who demonstrate a high standard of achievement in undergraduate and early graduate studies.

The NSERC Postgraduate Scholarships – doctoral program provides financial support to high-calibre students engaged in a doctoral program in natural sciences or engineering.

The financial support from both scholarships allows scholars to fully concentrate on their studies in their chosen fields.


Laura Carruthers 

Program: Plant Sciences, MSc
Supervisor: Dr. Kate Congreves (PhD) 


Potato plants have high nutrient requirements relative to other crops, but unfortunately they have low nutrient use efficiency, only taking up 40-60 per cent of fertilizer nutrients applied. This leaves large amounts of fertilizer tied up in the soil or potentially lost to the environment and causing water contamination and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Understanding the minimum fertilizer rates that will allow for yield to improve or remain the same is essential for producers. Identifying potato cultivars with higher nutrient use efficiency would allow for decreases in fertilizer rates and potential reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Carruthers’ study looks at nutrient use efficiency of six potato cultivars grown in Saskatchewan under various nitrogen and phosphorous application rates, while also monitoring GHG emissions. This research aims to lower input costs for producers and make the production system more environmentally sustainable.

This research is also funded by the Agriculture Development Fund, Saskatchewan Seed Potato Growers Association, the University of Saskatchewan, and the College of Agriculture and Bioresources.


Kennedy Choo-Foo 

Program: Soil Science, MSc
Supervisor: Dr. Diane Knight (PhD) 


Intercropping—growing multiple crops together—can utilize available resources more efficiently to produce similar or higher yields than monoculture systems. Specifically, growing legume and non-legume crops together shows great potential because of the legume’s ability to access nitrogen in the atmosphere, rather than relying on fertilizers. Choo-Foo is looking to determine if pea in pea-oat and pea-canola intercrops can fix more atmospheric nitrogen than monoculture pea systems.

Three reduced fertilizer rates will be applied to the intercrops to determine if similar yields as the fully fertilized monocrops (pea, oat and canola) can be produced. The study will also determine which of the three fertilizer rates derived the most nitrogen from the atmosphere and produced the highest yields. The following year, Choo-Foo will observe how much nitrogen the intercrops and monocrops' crop residue provided to a subsequent wheat crop and identify differences between treatments.

This research is also funded by the Agriculture Development Fund, SaskOats, and General Mills. 

Jeremy Irvine

Program: Plant Sciences, MSc
Supervisor: Dr. Sean Prager (PhD) 


Red Clover seed production in the Canadian Prairies is greatly affected by the lesser clover leaf weevil (LCLW) due to their ability to severely damage developing crops and negatively impact yield. LCLW is traditionally controlled using insecticides which are damaging to non-target insect species, notably bees, which are important pollinators for red clover seed production.

The goal of Irvine’s thesis research is to develop economic thresholds so that producers know when the cost of crop damage by LCLW outweighs the cost of therapeutic insecticide treatment. This ensures that insecticide materials are only applied when necessary, reducing a producer’s input costs and the threat of environmental damage. LCLW development in varying weather conditions will be researched to incorporate seasonal development into the economic thresholds. A sequential sampling plan will also be generated, providing producers with a valuable tool to simplify the decision-making process regarding insecticide applications. 

The research project is also funded by the Saskatchewan Forage Seed Development Commission and the Agriculture Development Fund.


 Catherine Seidle

Program: Animal Science, MSc
Supervisor: Dr. Greg Penner (PhD) 


Catherine Seidle is investigating strategies to deal with variable kernel size barley as a feed for beef cattle. Variable kernel size creates challenges when barley grain is processed for animal feed.  Specifically, large kernels are often over processed and small kernels are under processed. Over processing increases risk for digestive disorders, and under processing results in starch passing through the animal and therefore, being unavailable for digestion.

Seidle’s research is a multidisciplinary project covering beef cattle management and nutrition and meat science. The first study evaluates whether water addition to rations can minimize feed sorting behaviour and stabilize rumen fermentation. The second study will explore the same treatments to understand productivity of beef cattle and whether treatments influence carcass attributes.

This research project is also funded by SaskBarley.


Will Short 

Program: Plant Sciences, PhD
Supervisor: Dr. Karen Tanino (PhD) 


Unpredictable late-spring frost can cause severe damage to plants as they are in their early stages of growth and are not adapted to sudden temperature drops. Short’s research project is investigating both short- and long-term strategies to avoid damage from spring frost in canola.

Plants with cuticles covered with hydrophobic wax crystals can avoid frost damage by repelling ice away from the sensitive tissues. Short will be screening 20 different sprays as well as altering genes that produce wax crystals on the leaf surface. The strategies aim to reduce ice penetration which causes damage to plant tissue. The study will also evaluate these strategies for the ability to reflect sunlight and reduce heat stress in the summer.

This research is also funded by the Agriculture Development Fund, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and SaskCanola.


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