David Rourke standing in front of a wall with photos, looking at the camera.

David Rourke BSc, MScAg-Adjunct

Biography

David Rourke is an Adjunct Professor for the Russ Edwards School of Agriculture & Environment at Assiniboine College. He has consistently chosen the path less traveled, forging new frontiers in farming. David's curiosity led him to pursue a Master's degree in Agricultural Plant Science. In 1980, he and his wife embarked on a venture, leasing 300 acres of farmland. From this beginning, the Rourke family farms now spans 6000 acres, nestled just south of Brandon, Manitoba.

Throughout his career, David Rourke has made many contributions to the agricultural landscape. His commitment to progress and sustainability is evident through his active participation on numerous esteemed boards. From the Manitoba North Dakota Zero Tillage Farmer's Association to the Manitoba Wheat and Barley Growers Association, Cereals Canada, Keystone Agriculture Producers-Environment Committee, and the Canadian Agri Food Policy Institute, David's expertise and influence have left an indelible mark.

In the early 1990s, David founded the Conservation Tillage Productivity Centre, an initiative that aimed to support the adoption of zero till farming. Moreover, in 1983, he established an agricultural contract research company, which has since flourished, expanding its footprint to five locations across Western Canada.

In recent years, David Rourke has shifted his focus to prioritize farming and explore innovative practices that are profitable, environmentally sustainable, and reduce reliance on fossil fuels.

Research Focus
  • Farm-based research
  • Climate change mitigation

Most Significant Contributions:

  • Western Feed Grain Development Coop (WFGDC).
    • Founding Director 2006 to 2018. WFGDC was created in 2005 so members could grow unregistered feed wheats within a closed-loop framework. The co-operative bred new feed grains, with a particular emphasis on spring wheat. The co-op received funding support from the Manitoba Rural Adaptation Council, Landmark Feeds, Manitoba Pork and government agencies such as the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC).
  • Patent US5943850A (1998)/ WO1999034661A1 (1999).
    • An apparatus and method for use in harvesting crops of the Brassica (canola): a crop pusher assembly that pushes the crop pushing surface through a plurality of standing crop stems of the above type; engaging the pushing surface with the standing crop so as to push the standing crop from a standing position to a lodged position against the ground; the pushing being effected by bending the crop stems without cutting and substantially without breaking the crop stems; preventing shattering of the crop by maintaining the crop in the lodged position; causing the crop to continue to mature by maintaining the stems without cutting and substantially without breaking; and after the crop has matured, cutting the lodged crop with a header of a combine harvester and harvesting the crop. The patent was licenced to Ag Shield from Benito Manitoba. This device was very useful for its’ time before many of the pod shatter varieties were developed.
  • Manitoba-North Dakota Zero Till Farmer’s Association-Board of Director (1990-1992); Chairman of Program Committee (1991); Chairman of Zero Till Production Manual (1991-1992); Founder and Director- ManDak Conservation Tillage productivity Centre (1990-1994).
    • ManDak’s purpose was to facilitate the exchange of ideas, encourage zero tillage research, and disseminate zero tillage information. ManDak accelerated the spread of the zero till movement across Western Canada. The focus of the association was to preserve agricultural soil for future generations by promoting a system of crop production which drastically reduces soil erosion and builds up organic matter. No-till has fundamentally changed the way that Western Canada farms, preserving our most valuable asset, our soils.
  • Established Ag-Quest, Inc. in 1983 with one research assistant to provide contract agricultural field research services.
    • Ag-Quest now has five research farms across Western Canada, with a total of 45 full time staff including 26 research associates. In the summer of 2022, Ag-Quest hired approximately 70 summer students who gain experience in field crop research and build collaborative relationships with industry. Ag-Quest uses established Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to ensure efficiency, consistency and high quality data on the over 1000 trials the company conducts every year. Ag-Quest assist clients design trials to ensure scientific validity and federal and provincial regulatory compliance.
Projects

Ongoing Projects:

  • Greenhouse gas emission reduction in primary agriculture.
  • Reduction of synthetic fertilizer use.
  • Year-round cropping to improve soil health.

Applications:

  • David Rourke (Research Team - Principal Investigator), Bugs in a Jug-testing asymbiotic nitrogen fixing microbes for efficacy on MB crops (2023).
    • Increasing the nitrogen (N) fixation ability of crops is a potential method to reduce synthetic N fertilizer use, increase plant nutrient content and improve soil health. Commercially available asymbiotic/non-symbiotic biological products (based on species of bacteria) have been developed to reduce the amount of synthetic N required, while still achieving the same or better crop yields. This project will test several commercially available N fixing products for use in MB soils.
  • David Rourke (Research Team - Principal Investigator), Evaluation of the application of regenerative ag principles for net-positive carbon grain farming (2023).
    • Regenerative agriculture focuses on improving soil health and productivity. Zero tillage (ZT) increases microbial growth, when combined with planting cover crops. There is limited published research examining the effects of combining separate regenerative agriculture crop production methodologies. This study will examine merging ZT farming, use of a diversified full season cash/cover crop system and application of biological soil amendments on soil health and crop productivity in Manitoba.
  • David Rourke (Research Team - Principal Investigator), Developing a process for one-pass seeding of cash and cover crops using delayed germination seed technology-DGST (2023).
    • Cover crops maintain soil quality and productivity. Typically, cover crops are fall planted, but labor, time and equipment are limited due to fall cash crop harvest needs. This project will test different seed coating options to identify which can reliably delay the germination of a spring seeded cover crop for up to 80 days. DGST would allow one pass cash and cover crop seeding, providing a positive economic impact for producers and improved cover crop establishment and growth.
  • David Rourke (Research Team - Principal Investigator), Evaluation of the application of multi species cash/cover cropping for regenerative ag and net-positive carbon grain farming (2023).
    • Using cover cropping production practices has been shown to increase soil fertility and quality, prevent soil erosion, improve water retention, reduce weeds, pests and diseases and increase biodiversity. Cover crops can be used as a forage feed or serve as a soil mulch. However, one cover crop cannot deliver all the benefits which the production practice has been shown to provide so this study will evaluate the impact of using multiple-species cover cropping, as opposed to single cover cropping.
Recent Publications

Books

Journal Publications

  • H. S. Xie, D. R. S. Rourke, and A. P. Hargrave. 1998. Effect of row spacing and seed/fertilizer placement on agronomic performance of wheat and canola in zero tillage systems. Canadian Journal of Plant Science. 78 (3): 389-394. https://doi.org/10.4141/P97-063
  • Stobbe, E.H. & Rourke, David & Iverson, A. (1986). Agronomic evaluation of zero-tillage drills. Soil & Tillage Research – Soil Tillage Res 8. 338-338. 10.1016/0167-1987(86)90376-4.

Conference Papers

  • Winter Wheat Planting Methodology David Rourke 1982 4th Manitoba North Dakota Zero Till Workshop Minot ND Jan 21-22, 1982 pages 10-19
  • Economics of Zero Till Winter Wheat Production in Manitoba David Rourke 4th Annual Manitoba North Dakota Zero Till Workshop Minto ND 1982 page 46-48
  • Conservation Tillage Productivity Center Report David Rourke 1992 14th Annual Zero Tillage Workshop Minot ND Jan 27-29 1992 pages 141-164
  • Conservation Tillage Productivity Center Report David Rourke 1994 16th Annual Zero Tillage Workshop Minot ND Jan 31- Feb 2 1994 pages 73-84
  • Wide Row Spacing: Is it Really Possible with No-Till - The Canadian Prairie Experience. Guy Lafond, Byron Irvine, George Clayton, Douglas Derksen, Eric Johnson, Adrian Johnston, Brian McConkey, Perry Miller and David Rourke. 1999 Northwest Direct Seed Cropping Systems Conference. January 5-7, 1999. Spokane Washington.

Farmer Production Guides

  • Zero Tillage Production Manual; Resby Coutts and Keith Smith author-advisory committee David Rourke (Chair), Garth Butcher, Robert Stevenson and Bob Bradley 1992
  • Risk Management Guide for Wheat Production-Canada Grains Council 1988
  • Intensive Wheat Management-Canada Grains Council 1986
Research Grants

2022-2027: Co-applicant: Developing a Net-Positive Network (NPN) for Education and Outreach to Build Healthier Soil Ecosystems in Western Canada. Awarded to Assiniboine Community College. Weston Family Soil Health Initiative.

Memberships
  • Canadian Seed Growers Association, 1985-Present
  • Select Grower, 1989-Present
  • Manitoba Institute of Agrology, 1983-Present
  • Weed Science Society of America, 1984-Present
  • Director: Canadian Agri food Policy Institute 2015-2020
  • Director: Western Feed Grain Development Co-op Ltd. 2006-2018
  • National Alliance of Independent Crop Consultants 1999-2012
  • Chairman of the Minto Economic Development Steering Committee 2008
  • Manitoba-North Dakota Zero Till Farmer’s Association
    • Board of Director 1990-1992
    • Chairman of Program Committee 1991
    • Chairman of Zero Till Production Manual 1991-1992
    • Founder and Lead of the Conservation Tillage Productivity Centre 1990 -1994
  • Representative of Board to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Agriculture - Sustainable Agriculture 1992
  • Crop Management Sub-Committee - M.A.S.C.C. 1982 to 1990
Awards & Honours
  • Outstanding Young Agrologist - Agriculture Institute of Canada: 1995
  • Farmer of the Year - Manitoba-North Dakota Zero Till Farmer’s Association: 1993
  • NSERC Student Fellowship: 1979
  • University of Manitoba Graduate Student Fellowship: 1978

CONTACT INFO:

Russ Edwards School of Agriculture and Environment
Assiniboine College
1430 Victoria Ave E,
Brandon, MB
R7A 2A9
rourkedr@assiniboine.net
204-534-7531

View CV