American Society of Agronomy honours retired Alberta crop research scientist

An Alberta based internationally renowned cereal breeder and research scientist has been honoured by the American Society of Agronomy.

Dr. Jim Helm who worked as the Head of Research at the Field Crop Development Centre in Lacombe, Alberta for over four decades has been honoured with the American Society of Agronomy Distinguished Service award.

Helm speaks with pride when he talks about the humble beginnings of the FCDC and its transformation into a world class cereal breeding facility, which happened under his watchful eye.

It now has 10 scientists and over 30 staff working in pathology, biotechnology, quality and breeding labs.

The research, which first started out on feed barley has also grown to include malt barley, spring and winter triticale and wheat.

He says he is humbled to win this award and see what he has built.

“That I was able to build something from scratch.  I also basically put together an absolute great team,” says Helm.

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Dr. Helm oversaw the release of 42 cereal cultivars bred specifically for conditions in Alberta and western Canada, including 32 barley varieties, nine triticale varieties and one winter wheat variety.

Helm says he has always prided himself on being a practical scientist for the practical farmer.

“I have always felt that I was working for the farmer and so I have always kept them in touch with what we were doing and why and needing their input.”

The award is handed out to nominees who have made a transformational contribution to the agronomy profession.

Helm retired from the FCDC in 2014.

Dr. Helm has also received the Canadian Society of Agronomy’s Distinguished Agronomist award, the Alberta Centennial Medal for outstanding service to the people and province of Alberta, the Alberta Science and Technology Award for Innovation in Agricultural Science, and was inducted into the Alberta Agricultural Hall of Fame in 2002.