Canadian Beef Industry Award winner, Dr. Surya Acharya, sets his sights on sustainable innovations to help tackle beef industry challenges
Every year the Beef Cattle Research Council recognizes a researcher or scientist whose work has contributed to advancements in the competitiveness and sustainability of the Canadian beef industry. This year, the BCRC awarded ABP nominee Dr. Surya Acharya with the 2021 Canadian Beef Industry Award for Outstanding Research and Innovation.
Over the course of his career, Dr. Acharya has trained numerous graduate students, authored over 180 peer-reviewed publications, written and contributed to multiple books, and produced over 25 commercially released varieties of perennial and native forages.
ABP sat down with Dr. Acharya to chat about how his research is tackling the challenges that face Alberta producers.
A seasoned producer knows that with proper management, grazing cattle on alfalfa is possible, but it comes with risk. Dr. Acharya is working to get to the bottom of the cause of alfalfa bloat, and ultimately breed forage legume varieties without that risk. This could allow more producers to take advantage of the nutritive value of alfalfa, something that may be especially important in years of drought.
Another facet of Dr. Acharya’s research is tackling greenhouse gas emissions at the source, by increasing the lipid content of forages grown for cattle. So far, Dr. Acharya’s research using alfalfa and sainfoin has successfully increased the oil content of the plant by five percent. This has the potential to decrease the emissions produced by the cattle grazing on these crops.
Changing a field over to a different crop slows productivity and is usually an arduous task. Dr. Acharya is currently working on developing genetically improved varieties that can be sown directly into existing pastures – tackling the challenge of productivity, especially during dry years, while also providing a cost-effective solution. With the results of productivity studies coming in from this year, Dr. Acharya says he hopes to have varieties that stand up to our harsh Alberta winter ready for market soon.
“Although I’ve done much for improving forage varieties, none of my research would be possible without my collaborators. As a crop guy through and through, I wanted to make sure that I was working with producers and listening to them when it came to testing my research and gaining feedback on how the results could have a demonstrable impact.”
With retirement on the horizon for Acharya, he hopes to look back on work that truly helped producers. Dr. Acharya also wants to ensure that his collaborators such as Drs. Tim McAllister, Alan Iwaasa, Bill Biligetu (to name a few) are recognized for their contributions.
It takes a community to push forward innovations like Dr. Acharya’s, and these projects will help the industry thrive into the future.