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Swedish students pay visit to Lake Diefenbaker region

Four international students were wowed by the agricultural practices of producers in the Diefenbaker district.
Swedish students Diana Bengtsson, Frank Botermans, Johanna Olsson, and Oskar Zedig had an eye-opening trip to the Lake Diefenbaker region of Saskatchewan. Photo: Derek Ruttle/The Outlook

LOREBURN - Lake Diefenbaker and the surrounding regional area get a lot of attention, and recently, what it attracted was a small handful of students hailing from the country of Sweden, who were eager to learn all they could about the cultivation of lentils and chickpeas, in addition to how the crops are scaled up.

Over the course of two days on Tuesday and Wednesday, May 16 & 17, Rob Hundeby, Melody Ector, and Carol Skelton played tour guides to Diana Bengtsson, Frank Botermans, Johanna Olsson, and Oskar Zedig as they toured crop facilities at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, as well as locations near Rosetown and Sovereign before taking in facilities in the Dinsmore area before winding up at Diefenbaker Spice & Pulse near Loreburn.

Olsson, a senior project manager at RISE (Research Institute of Sweden) since 2013, has expertise in sustainable cropping systems, with her work at RISE including research and studies in the areas of utilization of residual flows from agriculture and agricultural biorefineries. Olsson also has expertise in leading large and medium-sized projects within her fields, such as her current agricultural biorefinery project looking at the upscaling of cultivation of Swedish protein crops and the extraction of high-quality products from grass.

Zedig, who holds professional degrees in agriculture and rural management, works as a production manager at Kalmar Olands Tradgardsprodukter. In his role, he's responsible for the production of pulses and onions for human consumption, as well as for the development of new crops for their production.

Bengtsson, who has worked with practical farming before her examination in SLU, the Agricultural University of Sweden, now works at Lantmannen with breeding and trial management, and has taken a number of smaller courses in plant breeding and statistics. Her work at Lantmannen also sees her working as a pea and faba bean breeder, and she continues to work with new crops for Sweden.

Botermans, a 25-year old who lives on a farm in the southern part of the country, says that the farm where he lives and works is surrounded with both fields and forests. He chose an education in agriculture and farming from a young age, and his family took over operations on another farm. Today, his main working role is growing and maintaining crops and he grows 250 hectares of land. In addition, with a machine collaboration with two other farmers, the trio has approximately 1000 hectares of crops combined, growing wheat, barley, oats, rapeseed, and a small amount of timothy.

The students said the whole itinerary was nothing short of an eye-opening experience that they would take home.

"It's been very interesting and we've learned so much," said Johanna. "So it's been a real pleasure."

There were many things of which the students gained knowledge over the course of their intensive, hands-on, two-day learning experience, and Olsson says the enormity of such operations here in Canada is something that international residents have to get used to.

"Yes, very much so!" said Johanna. "Many things. We haven't had much time to reflect, but how large everything is is very interesting to us. There are so many sorts of things that we can learn now that you learn during your upscaling, like all of the diseases, and we can learn a lot about what has happened and when you should think about crop rotation, for example."

It's expected that with the things the students learned on their trip, they'll go home and perhaps try to apply some of the techniques they saw being utilized here in Western Canada, albeit on a modified scale.

"Yes, but I think in a different way," said Johanna. "We cannot think to produce in a large scale, and we have to produce more female lentils and chickpeas in a much smaller scale."