Seed World

CSGA Honours 8 Major Influencers

For the first time in two years, the Canadian Seed Growers’ Association has honoured eight members who’ve had a big influence on seed growers in Canada. The awards were announced at CSGA’s recent annual meeting.

Cathy Breadner (Lindsay, Ont.) / Honourary Life Award

Breadner started her career at Maple Leaf Mills in Oakwood, Ont., where she trained to be a seed analyst. She then established Canadian Seed Lab and spent 32 years managing daily operations, training future analysts and graders, and advocating for the industry. Breadner has also worked a certified auditor across Canada with the Canadian Seed Institute (CSI). Retired in 2021, she runs a family sheep farm with her husband Jim, son Isaac and daughter-in-law Heather.

Helen Booker (Guelph, Ont.) / Honourary Life Award

Booker is an associate professor and plant breeder who leads the wheat program at the University of Guelph focusing on improved winter wheat production in Ontario. This includes large field-scale experiments and evaluation of breeding lines. Previously an associate professor and flax breeder at the Crop Development Centre at the University of Saskatchewan, she co-developed six flax cultivars and was sole breeder of two new flax cultivars for production in Canada. She has published 31 peer-reviewed publications, seven cultivar descriptions, and authored or co-authored three book chapters.

Joe Hickson (Lindsay, Ont.) / Robertson Associate Award

Becoming a seed grower 35 years ago, Hickson started with Maple Arrow soybeans. He continues to produce pedigreed soybean seed with his brother and has branched out into both spring and winter cereals for seed production. He sits on many boards, including as a Grain Farmers of Ontario Director, the Ontario Seed Growers’ Association and Farm & Food Care Ontario.

Alireza (Ali) Navabi (Guelph, Ont.) / Clark-Newman-Clayton Award (Posthumous)

Navabi was a dedicated plant breeder, researcher, educator and an extremely active member within the ag sector. He began his career as a research officer in central Iran after graduating from Shiraz University with a Bachelor of Science in agronomy and plant breeding. With a Master of Science in plant breeding, he moved to Edmonton, and in 1998 started his PhD focusing his research on genetic resistance to rust diseases of wheat. In 2016 he was inducted as a fellow of the Canadian Society of Agronomy and recognized as a seed champion by the Ontario Seed Growers’ Association in 2018. He published 65 peer reviewed papers, 30 variety disclosures and gave over 100 conference presentations both nationally and internationally. Navabi passed away on March 10, 2019. His dedication to his work and his devotion to those around him will always be remembered.

Istvan Rajcan (Guelph, Ont.) / Honourary Life Award

Born and raised in Novi Sad, Serbia, Rajcan graduated from the University of Novi Sad. He began his career a research assistant in sunflower breeding. Moving to Canada in 1991, he is a professor in the Department of Plant Agriculture at the University of Guelph. He holds a PhD in canola breeding and genetics and has developed more than 70 soybean cultivars. He leads a soybean breeding and genetics program, and his research explores genetic variation for yield and disease resistance traits. Istvan has trained 46 graduate students at the masters or PhD level. He has received several awards including the 2022 Canadian Plant Breeding and Genetics Award. He has co-edited two books, published 10 book chapters and more than 100 peer-reviewed journal articles.

Kevin Runnalls (New Liskeard, Ont.) / Robertson Associate Award

In 1980, Runnalls and his wife purchased their first farm on the land his great grandfather established in 1902. He began as a contract grower and became a seed producer in 1989. He and his sons now manage 6,000 acres of crop production. He’s sat on the Ontario Seed Growers Board, the Canada Seed Institute Board, and the CSGA board. He was CSGA president from 2016 to 2018. Today, Runnalls represents CSGA on the Canadian Federation of Agriculture board.

Doug Stirling (Chatham-Kent, Ont.) / Honourary Life Award

Stirling began working for the Department of Agriculture as a summer student sampling seed and fertilizer and crop inspections in 1973. After graduating from the University of Guelph, he earned an inspector-officer position with AAFC, working there for almost 35 years. During his career, he helped shape and change Ontario and Canada programs and policies. He was a major contributor to the certification program for pedigreed seed crop inspectors, setting a nation-wide standard.

Peter Szentimrey (Branchton, Ont.) / Robertson Associate Award

Szentimrey is involved in almost every aspect of seed production, seed processing and registration. He prides himself on the hard work and dedication that goes into each bag of Szentimrey Seeds. He also runs a commercial grain elevator and seed processing plant. A second-generation seed grower, he received his Variety Maintainer status in 2014. He was active on various boards, including Golden Horseshoe Soil and Crop, Brant Soil and Crop, and recently completing his term of past-president with the Ontario Seed Growers’ Association.

—with files from CSGA