Protecting grain crops from costly plant diseases under climate change and other factors is the main goal of a new $2-million gift to the University of Guelph from Grain Farmers of Ontario.  

The funding announced today will support a new Grain Farmers of Ontario Professorship in Field Crop Pathology at U of G’s Ridgetown Campus. A faculty member will be appointed this year in the Department of Plant Agriculture within U of G’s Ontario Agricultural College (OAC).  

“This funding support from Grain Farmers of Ontario is significant for farmers and farms across Ontario,” said Brett Shepherd, Ridgetown Campus director. “It’s critically important that we be proactive, not just reactive, in identifying and developing strategies against these pathogens.” 

Shepherd said the new position is intended to maintain U of G’s leading expertise in field crop research and teaching.  

“Expanding our understanding of diseases that affect agriculture is a vital component of safeguarding crops and building more sustainable food systems,” said U of G president Dr. Charlotte Yates.  

“We are grateful to the Grain Farmers of Ontario for investing in and partnering with our Ridgetown Campus through this new professorship that will support farmers and consumers through critical field crop pathology research.”   

Funding helps maintain U of G leadership in field crops

“We are so grateful to Grain Farmers of Ontario and its farmer members for their generous donation to establish this important professorship,” said Dr. Rene Van Acker, dean of OAC. “The organization continues to show its dedication to research and education in agriculture through real action.  

“Through this support, we can recruit a top-notch new faculty member to support the ever-evolving needs of Ontario’s farmers.”  

The new gift comes from the Grain Farmers of Ontario Legacy Fund, established in 2022.  

Brendan Byrne, Grain Farmers of Ontario chair, said, “Field crops are the foundation of every food system in the world, and ensuring a focus on excellence in field crop research is vital to farming and the food security enjoyed by Canadians. Grain Farmers of Ontario recognizes the need for this position and supports the University of Guelph’s ongoing commitment to understanding disease, crop resiliency and more.”  

Ontario grain crops generate about $4.1 billion a year and support 75,000 jobs across the province. Six million acres of grain crops, including corn, soybeans, wheat, barley and oats, are grown by 28,000 farmers across the province.  

Those grains are used for food, animal feed and numerous products sold across Canada and exported worldwide. 

The provincial organization has long supported U of G research and teaching, including co-funding the Grain Farmers of Ontario Professorship in Wheat Breeding and Genetics.   


Brett Shepherd 
Ridgetown Campus