Alfred Slinkard, a key builder of Canada’s half-billion-dollar pulse crop industry, was born in Rockford, Washington, on April 5, 1931. He obtained his Bachelor and Master of Science degrees at Washington State University and his PhD at the University of Minnesota. He was recruited from the University of Idaho to the newly created Crop Development Centre of the University of Saskatchewan in 1972. As plant breeder of new lentil crops, he developed the varieties Laird in 1978 and Eston in 1980. By 1990, Canada had overtaken both Turkey and the United States as a major supplier of green lentils to Latin America and the Mediterranean. Over the past twenty-eight years, Slinkard has advised pulse growers in virtually every municipality in Saskatchewan and has authored over 300 books, journals, and extension publications. Since 1984 he has been advisor to the Saskatchewan Pulse Growers Board, and from 1986 to 1992 he was chairman of the board of Newfield Seeds. During the 1990s he developed improved varieties of chickpeas and field beans suitable to prairie conditions. In 2000, there were 128 pulse crop processors in Saskatchewan processing Slinkard’s lentil and pea varieties.
Since retiring in 1998, Slinkard has been active in developing spice crops for Saskatchewan. During his career he obtained numerous recognition awards, including fellowships in the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Society of Agronomy, and the Agricultural Institute of Canada. He received the Canadian Seed Trade Association Scientific Achievement Award, the Canadian Society of Agronomy Outstanding Researcher Award, the Western Co-operative Fertilizers Agronomy Merit Award, and honorary life memberships in the Saskatchewan and Canadian Seed Growers Associations and the Saskatchewan Pulse Crop Growers Association. In 2000 Slinkard was inducted into the Saskatchewan Agricultural Hall of Fame, and in 2004 into the Canadian Agricultural Hall of Fame.