History

At the end of the discussion it was ‘moved that this conference recommend to the National Research Council that they proceed with a programme of research with reference to the destruction of weeds.’ The motion was carried. The word ‘chemical’ was purposely left out of the motion. A further motion asked ‘that the National Research Council be requested to appoint an Associate Committee on Weed Control.’ This motion also was carried. The Associate Committee was duly appointed, with Dr. Robert Newton (University of Alberta) as chairman. The other fourteen members were Mr. G. Batho (Manitoba Agriculture), Dr. A.W. Henry ((University of Alberta), Mr. E. S. Hopkins (Canada Agriculture, Ottawa), Dr. L.E. Kirk (University of Saskatchewan), Mr. F.E. Lathe (National Research Council), Mr. J.M. McKay (CPR, Manitoba), Dr. R.E. Neidig (Consolidated Mining and Smelting, British Columbia), Dr. J.W. Shipley (University of Manitoba), Dr. F.T. Shutt (Canada Agriculture, Ottawa), Mr. W.G. Smith (Alberta Agriculture), Mr. H.G.L. Strange (Canadian Seed Growers Association), Mr. S.H. Vigor (Saskatchewan Agriculture), Dr. G.S. Whitby (National Research Council), Dr. H.M. Tory (National Research Council, ex officio). The last page of the proceedings lists the people as one from British Columbia, four from Alberta, two from Saskatchewan, three from Manitoba, five from Ottawa.

A few months later, on 30 December 1929, Robert Newton sat in Edmonton as chairman of the first day-long meeting of the newly formed Associate Committee. Many tasks were assigned at the end of the day’s deliberations, and the committee ‘expressed the hope that the Federal Department of Agriculture, the Provincial Departments of Agriculture, and the Provincial Universities would cooperate with them in carrying out the programme of investigations outlined.’ A subcommittee of three was appointed to plan field plot experiments with chemicals. Chemicals suggested included sodium chlorate, sodium chloride, sulfuric acid, iron sulfate, calcium cyanamide, creosote. In addition, a long list of cropping and tillage practices was drawn up, ‘which it was felt should be included in the investigations.’ The seven worst weeds to be included in ‘chemical’ experiments in the prairie provinces were perennial sow thistle, Canada thistle, wild oats, couchgrass, wild mustard, stinkweed, povertyweed.

The subcommittee of three soon was expanded to a formal Subcommittee on Chemical Experiments. This five-member group (L.E. Kirk, J.W. Shipley, W.G. Smith, J.M. Manson, G.L. Godel) had its first meeting on 24-25 February 1930 in Saskatoon, as an early version of what many years later became known as the Research Planning Committee. Three months later, on 30 March 1930, the four-member Executive of the Associate Committee on Weed Control met in Ottawa, again under the chairmanship of Robert Newton. Mr. J.M. Manson was to be engaged ‘to give his full time to the work of the committee’, at a salary of $2700. They decided to try and borrow a car somewhere. If that did not work, Newton was authorized to buy a Ford or Chevrolet from the committee’s funds.

The Proceedings of the Second Meeting of the Associate Committee on Weed Control, held 9-10 January 1931 in Edmonton (attendance 20) make up 18 pages, followed by 338 pages of appendices, consisting mostly of weed survey and research reports. Appendix C by J. Manson reads like a mini-textbook on weed distribution, and consists of some 75 pages of data from weed and weed seed distribution survey work done. Manson’s next (and last) weed survey report, presented in 1932, contains distribution maps for perennial sow thistle, Canada thistle, wild oats, wild mustard, stinkweed, couchgrass, and povertyweed, the same seven weeds that were declared ‘the worst’ in December 1929.

The Committee at this point seemed to function largely as a research coordinating group that received and discussed reports on weed control research from its members and some others and, in addition, served as a granting agency that responded to applications for funds to support weed research, especially from university personnel.

In 1935, there suddenly were two ‘sections’ of the committee, eastern and western. It is not clear how or by whom that was decided. The main reasons apparently were the difficulty of getting the entire membership together at one time, and also the differences in climatic conditions and farming practices between the eastern provinces and the prairies. The first meeting of what was called the Western Division was held in Saskatoon on 19 July 1935; the Eastern Division held its first full-fledged meeting on 3-4 July 1936 in Ottawa. Manson’s name no longer appeared. A report on weed control legislation from British Columbia was included in the proceedings from the Western Division-apparently the only time someone from that province was involved in the early years.

Sponsorship of the Committee also had changed, and the cover of the meeting’s proceedings says ‘Dominion Department of Agriculture and National Research Council’. The records provide no explanation for the change, and no information as to how it came about. During the deliberations, the name of the committee was changed slightly by dropping the word ‘control’. According to Robert Newton, the use of the word might infringe on provincial prerogative.

The proceedings include a report on Thomas Pavlychenko’s extensive work at the University of Saskatchewan, including the information that several of his mounted washed root systems were on display during the conference.

The Executive met in April 1939 and, among other things, recommended to the Deputy Minister of Agriculture that the Associate Committee on Weeds become a subcommittee of the National Advisory Committee on Agricultural Services. The recommendation was based on the premise that such a nation-wide weed committee could do a better job than what was being accomplished by the existing organization. The change occurred promptly, Robert Newton continued as chairman, and the committee was renamed the National Committee on Weeds, later shortened to the National Weed Committee. The composition of the committee changed a bit also, with conflicting reports about the details. According to one report, there were ten representatives from universities and provincial governments, and seven from the federal government. According to another report the numbers were fifteen and eight, respectively. There was no one from industry, no one from the railway companies, and no one from the seed growers organization.