Lakehead University Agricultural Research Station (LUARS) Thunder Bay
A brief history:
LUARS was known as TBARS (Thunder Bay Agricultural Research Station) before it
was taken over by LU in April 2018.
TBARS was opened by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs
(OMAFRA) on 1 st August 1990; though the first plots were laid out in 1991.
OMAFRA transferred the TBARS to the University of Guelph in 1996.
University of Guelph closed TBARS in October 2002.
Area farmers resented closure of TBARS, organized themselves into Thunder Bay
Agricultural Research Association (TBARA), a not for profit corporation.
TBARA opened TBARS in April 2003 with one million dollars funding from the
Northern Ontario Heritage Funds Corporation (NOHFC) with the condition that 75 %
funding will be provided by NOHFC and 25 % will be contributed by TBARA, either in
kind or in cash.
TBARA didn’t retain the Researcher at TBARS, though retained the two Technicians.
Position for the researcher was advertised in 2003, some 80 candidates applied but no one
was selected. TBARA readvertised Research and Business Manager’s position in October
2003, interviews were held in December 2003 and Dr. Tarlok Singh Sahota, current
Director LUARS, was hired.
Dr. Sahota took over TBARS in January 2004 and was promoted to Director of Research
and Business in 2008. Dr. Sahota was able to obtain funding for two terms of three years
each from the NOHFC. NOHFC became strict for in cash contributions with each
funding term. TBARS had always had carry over funds at the end of each funding term
due to earned research dollars by Dr. Sahota through collaborative research projects and
In 2015, NOHFC demanded 50 % cash contribution from TBARA for further funding to
TBARS. It wasn’t possible for TBARA to raise 50 % cash funding at its own and the
situation came to closure of TBARS.
Dr. Sahota met Dr. Andrew Dean, VPRI, LU quite a few times in 2015 asking Dr. Dean
to take over TBARS.
With Public pressure on politicians for continuity of TBARS, OMAFRA gave $200,000
funding to TBARS for its operations in 2016 and 2017 and later in fall 2017 OMAFRA
announced $1.65 million funding to LU for taking over and operating TBARS for 5
LU took over TBARS in April 2018, renamed it LUARS and kept the staff at that time
including Dr. Sahota Director LUARS and two Technicians.
LUARS has completed first funding term from OMAFRA in March 2023 and has signed
an agreement with OMAFRA for the same amount of funding this summer.
LUARS is committed to the establishment, operation, promotion and transfer of agricultural
research for the further development and diversification of the agricultural industry.
LUARS Staff: Please see at: https://www.lakeheadu.ca/centre/luars/who
LUARS Research Partners: Please see at: https://www.lakeheadu.ca/centre/luars/funding-
Topics of Research: LUARS has been doing research and extension broadly on the following
Evaluation and introduction of new crops for diversification of the farming systems
Evaluation and introduction of new high yielding, disease(s) and lodging resistant crop(s)
Better Nutrient Management Practices for increased yields and quality of produce, and
minimizing environmental impacts.
Evaluation of new agricultural products including nutrients sources, Plant Growth
Regulators, bio-stimulants and other bioproducts for improved yields and soil health.
Other Agronomic practices.
A short video on LUARS could be seen at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l6h4A5PhQ1o
Main Contributions of LUARS:
Identification and remediation of sulphur, zinc and boron deficiencies.
Diversification of cropping systems: LUARS introduced several crops (winter cereals –
wheat, rye and triticale, Hard Red spring wheat, durum wheat, malting barley, canola,
flax, sorghum Sudangrass and Galega) in the area.
Based on winter wheat data from LUARS, Agricorp included winter wheat in the list of
crops for Crop Insurance.
Development and introduction of alternate tillage systems that reduced fuel and time
consumption by 30-40 %.
LUARS has about 20 years data on straw production from different crops/crop varieties.
Straw is used as a bedding material for the cattle.
LUARS introduced dozens of crop varieties. Every year farmers have been changing or
adding new crop varieties to their crop mix.
Introduction of new fertilizers such as ESN and Ammonium Sulphate; LUARS was the
first in ON to initiate research on ESN in field crops in 2006.
Better nutrient management practices such as applying nitrogen (N) from multiple N
sources (urea, ESN and ammonium sulphate) rather than a single source of N (the
practice is followed all over ON) and seed row placement of ESN. The practice(s) not
only improved crop yields (up to 0.4 MT/acre in canola) but also the protein content,
especially in alfalfa/grasses lowering the need for supplemental feed.
Due to addition of high yielding varieties and better nutrient management practices, crop
yields consistently improved over the years. For example, cereal crops grain yield rose
from 1-1.5 MT/acre in 2004 to 2.5-3.0 MT/acre in 2022. Canola seed yield has been
averaging ~1.5 MT/acre; 0.5 MT/acre higher than the Provincial average.
Since there is no OMAFRA Specialist in the area, Director LUARS who is also a
Certified Crop Advisor is the only expert in the area available to farmers for taking
LUARS has provided other researchers from LU to conduct their research at LUARS.
Training/guiding of Students – during the past 5 years:
-16 MSc students from the Faculty of NRM completed their Summer Internship at
LUARS who were trained in small plots research.
-4 MSc students and one PhD student worked at LUARS/and farmers field for their
theses. Two MSc and one PhD student have completed their degrees. Director LUARS
was a co-supervisor with Brian McLaren for all these students.
Awards/Honours obtained by Dr. Sahota, Director LUARS in the recent past:
Canadian Society of Agronomy (CSA) Fellow 2018
Distinguished Agronomist Award 2021
Induction to the Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame 2022-2023. Dr. Sahota was the first
one to be inducted into this program from Thunder Bay, since 1980.
Tarlok Singh Sahota PhD CCA