The governments of Canada and Manitoba are investing more than $366,000 in organic grain research at the University of Manitoba through Growing Forward 2.
DuPont Pioneer researchers have discovered a protein from a non-Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) bacterium source that exhibits promise as an alternative means for controlling corn rootworm in North America and Europe. Science Magazine published the finding this week.“This research represents a breakthrough for addressing a major challenge in agriculture,” said Neal Gutterson, vice-president of research and development for DuPont Pioneer, in a press release. “We have discovered a non-Bt protein that demonstrates insecticidal control of western corn rootworm with a new and different mode of action than Bt proteins currently used in transgenic products. This protein could be a critical component for managing corn rootworm disease in future corn seed product offerings. The work also suggests that bacteria other than Bt are alternative sources of insecticidal proteins for insect control trait development.”An extremely destructive corn pest, corn rootworm larvae and adults can cause significant economic loss for growers. The current biotech approach for insect control sources proteins from Bt soil bacteria. Field-evolved insect resistance to certain Bt proteins has been observed in some geographies.Another Pioneer study related to non-Bt insect control, recently published in Scientific Reports, shows how RNA interference (RNAi) can be applied to control corn rootworm feeding damage.RNAi is a biologically occurring process that happens in the cells of plants, animals and people. By employing the RNAi process, a plant can protect itself by carrying instructions that precisely target specific proteins in pests.
An international research team has identified two genes which could help protect barley against powdery mildew attack.Led by the University of Adelaide in Australia and the Leibniz-Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK) in Germany, the research will give plant-breeders new targets for developing lines of barley with resistance to powdery mildew.The two genes, HvGsl6 and HvCslD2, were shown to be associated with accumulation of callose and cellulose respectively. These two polysaccharides play an important role in blocking the penetration of the plant cell wall by the powdery mildew fungus.Published in two separate papers in the journal New Phytologist, the researchers showed that by "silencing" these genes, there was lower accumulation of callose and cellulose in the plant cell walls, and higher susceptibility of barley plants to the fungus. Conversely, over-expressing HvCslD2 enhanced the resistance in barley."Powdery mildew is a significant disease of barley wherever it is grown around the world, and resistance to the fungicide most commonly used to control it has been recently observed," said Alan Little, a senior research scientist at the University of Adelaide, with the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Cell Walls in the School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, in a press release."If we can develop barley with improved resistance to powdery mildew, it will help barley producers increase yields and maintain high quality."In the plant and pathogen co-evolutionary battleground, host plants have evolved a wide range of defence strategies against attacking pathogens.One of the earliest observed defence responses is the formation of cell-wall thickenings called papillae at the site of fungal infection. They physically block the fungus from penetrating the plant cells.In barley, the papillae contain callose and cellulose as well as other polysaccharides, but the genes involved in accumulation of these carbohydrates in the cell wall have not been identified."Our results show that these novel genes are interesting targets for improving cell-wall penetration resistance in barley and maybe other cereals against fungal intruders," said Patrick Schweizer, head of the Pathogen-Stress Genomics Laboratory at IPK."Now we can use these genes to identify molecular markers for breeding enhanced resistance into modern barley."The two papers can be read online here and here. 
As corn producers plan for harvest, they should be accessing their fields for stalk rot and ear moulds, reminds the OMAFRA Field Crop Team. The distribution and prevalence of these diseases vary from year to year but they are present every year, especially when the crop is under stress (water stress, insect feeding, etc.). It goes without saying that this year was very stressful and in many cases, corn plants had to endure not one stress but multiple stresses and we are observing ear mould infections (Gibberella and Fusarium primarily) in many fields across the province. They range from light to significant levels therefore, in order to manage and minimize the effects of these ear rot diseases, it is critical to assess fields before harvest. Growers should assess fields each year, because these pre-harvest assessments can alert them to potential problems and provide time for livestock producers for example, to segregate, obtain alternative grain, or hold onto stored corn from the previous year.Scouting practices are similar for all corn ear rots. Begin scouting fields at late dent stage to determine their presence and severity. When scouting, randomly select plants and pull back the husk to examine the entire ear. A quick method is to select 100 plants across the field (20 ears each from five different areas). For each ear, be sure to peel back the husks and examine the entire ear. Fields with 10 per cent of ears having significant mould growth should be harvested sooner than later. Leaving diseased grain in the field allows the ear rot fungi to keep growing, which will increase the risk of mouldy grain and mycotoxin contamination. Most ear rot fungi continue to grow (and, if applicable, produce mycotoxins) until the grain has less than 15 per cent moisture. In severely infected fields, it may be worthwhile to harvest grain at higher moisture and then dry it to less than 15 per cent to minimize further mycotoxin accumulation.Preventing ear rots and mould is difficult since weather conditions are critical to disease development. Although some tolerant hybrids are available, none have complete resistance. Crop rotation can reduce the incidence of Diplodia ear rot. Cultural practices have been shown to have limited success in preventing ear and kernel rots. Minimize these diseases through timely harvest and proper drying and storage. When ear rot is present, the following storage and feeding precautions are advisable: Harvest as early as possible. If bird damage is evident, harvest outside damaged rows separately. Keep and handle the grain from these rows separately. Adjust harvest equipment to minimize damage to corn. Clean corn thoroughly to remove pieces of cob, small kernels and red dog. Cool the grain after drying. Clean bins before storing new grain. Check stored grain often for temperature, wet spots, insects and mould growth. Control storage insects. Exercise caution in feeding mouldy corn to livestock, especially to hogs. Pink or reddish moulds are particularly harmful. Suspect samples should be tested for toxins. It is critical to identify ear rots in the field because many of the fungi responsible for these diseases produce toxic chemicals (known as mycotoxins), which can harm livestock and humans. Grain that has been contaminated with mycotoxins can be difficult to market and may be docked in price. Management begins with proper identification so how can a grower tell the difference between these ear moulds.Gibberella ear rot: The most common and important ear mould in Ontario is Gibberella zeae which is the sexual reproductive stage of Fusarium graminearium. This fungus not only infects corn, but also small grains such as wheat, and can survive on soybean roots. In most cases, Gibberella begins at the ear tip and works its way down the ear. Also, the husks from infected ears are often tightly adhered to the ear. Although the fungus can produce a white-coloured mould, which makes it difficult to tell apart from Fusarium kernel rot, the two can be distinguished easily when Gibberella produces its characteristic red or pink colour mould. Infection begins through the silk channel and thus, in most cases starts at the ear tip and works its way down the ear. In severe cases, most of the ear may be covered with mould growth. Corn silks are most susceptible two to 10 days after initiation. Warm and wet weather during this period is ideal for infection.Fusarium kernel rot: Unlike Gibberella, Fusarium infected kernels are often scattered around the cob amongst healthy looking kernels or on kernels that have been damaged by corn borer or bird feeding for example. Fusarium infection produces a white to pink or salmon-coloured mould. A "white streaking" or "star-bursting" can be seen on the infected kernel surface. Although many Fusarium species may be responsible for these symptoms, the primary species we are concerned about in Ontario is Fusarium verticillioides (formerly Fusarium moniliforme). Fusarium survives in corn debris. The significance of this fungus is that it produces a toxin called fumonisin that has been shown to cause cancer in humans. The environmental conditions that favour disease development are warm, wet weather, two to three weeks after silking.Diplodia ear rot: The characteristic ear symptom of Stenocarpella maydis and S. macrospora infection is a white mould that begins at the base of the ear and will eventually cover and rot the entire ear. Mould growth can also occur on the outer husk which has small black bumps (pycnidia) embedded in the mould. These reproductive structures are where new spores are produced. Pycnidia (the small, black, spore-producing structures of the fungus) overwinter on corn residue and are the source of infection for the subsequent corn crop. Dry weather before silking, immediately followed by wet conditions, favour Diplodia infection.Penicillium ear rot: Penicillium rot (Penicillium oxalicum) produces a light blue-green powdery mould which grows between the kernels and cob/husk surface. Infected kernels could become bleached or streaked. Penicillium ear rot can be a serious problem if corn is stored at high moisture levels (greater than 18 per cent).Table 1.  Common ear rots and moulds that occur in Ontario and the primary mycotoxins they produce. Ear Rot Mycotoxinproduced Favourable environment Signs and symptoms Aspergillus Aflatoxin Hot, dry Olive green spores on ear Fusarium Fumonisin Moderate to warm temperatures during silking,  wet periods prior to harvest White to purple mold, scattered across ear;Starburst pattern in kernels Gibberella Deoxynivalenol (vomitoxin) and zearalenone Cool, wet weather Pink to white mycelial growth Diplodia None currently known in U.S. and Canada Moderate temperatures and wet during silking White mycelial growth on ear and husk; black pycnidia in cob Penicillium Ochratoxin (only some species) Wet, humid conditions post grain-fill Blue-gray fungal spores Nigrospora None Damaged corn Black spores, grey mycelia, shredding cob Cladosporium None Wet weather near harvest Dark-green to black kernels Trichoderma T-2 (only some species) Damaged corn Blue-green spores growing in and on kernels; may cause sprouting More information can be found in OMAFRA’s Field Crop Agronomy Guide – Publication 811, or Crop Protection Network Publication “Corn Management Disease Series – Ear Rots” at CropProtectionNetwork.org.
According to new research from University of Virginia economist Federico Ciliberto, widespread adoption of genetically modified crops has decreased the use of insecticides, but increased the use of weed-killing herbicides as weeds become more resistant.
In late July, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry (AF) staff surveyed 42 canola sites in central Alberta and detected very low density swede midge larvae.
For years, scientists have bred clubroot resistant canola varieties to combat issues with the disease, but researchers have found some new virulent clubroot pathotypes that can overcome resistance. Swift Current Online reports. | READ MORE
North America’s huge durum harvest has weakened prices by one-quarter year over year, but industry officials say they are likely to climb again as supplies infected with Fusarium and contaminated with vomitoxin are harvested. Fortune reports. | READ MORE
The severe drought affecting parts of Nova Scotia may be causing more trouble than it would elsewhere in Canada because Nova Scotians aren't used to drought conditions. CBC News reports. | READ MORE
The production of spring wheat and barley at the national level is estimated to be higher in 2016 than in 2015, while that of soybeans and canola is expected to be relatively unchanged, according to Statistics Canada's model-based principal field crop estimates report for Aug. 31. Production of oats and corn for grain is expected to decline.Model-based principal field crop estimates, which provide yield and production estimates for Canada's principal field crops, are now available. In this release, data for Canada correspond to combined data from Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta.WheatAt the national level, spring wheat production is estimated to be 20.6 million tonnes in 2016, up 3.9 per cent from 2015, mainly as a result of a higher estimated average yield across the Prairies. The national average yield is anticipated to be 49.9 bushels per acre (bu/ac), up 13.4 per cent from 44 bushels per acre in 2015. Harvested acreage in 2016 is reported to have declined 8.3 per cent compared with 2015.Spring wheat production is expected to increase in Alberta (+13.5 per cent) and Manitoba (+2.6 per cent) in 2016, but to decrease in Saskatchewan (-2.8 per cent). Average yield in Saskatchewan is anticipated to be up 10.6 per cent compared with 2015 to 43.3 bu/ac. However, an anticipated decline (-12.1 per cent) in harvested area is expected to offset the higher yield anticipated in 2016. In Alberta, average yield is expected to rise 20.7 per cent from 2015 to 57 bu/ac.Durum wheat production at the national level is expected to be 7.3 million tonnes in 2016, up 35.7 per cent from 2015. This increase is due to a 4.4 per cent gain in acreage, combined with a 30 per cent rise in expected yield to 44.7 bu/ac.CanolaAt the national level, canola production is estimated to be 18.3 million tonnes in 2016, the same level as in 2015, as a result of an expected increase in average yield combined with an anticipated decline in harvested acreage. Estimated average yield for 2016 is up 4.2 per cent from 2015 to a record 41.1 bushels per acre. Estimated average yield is also up compared with the five-year average for Manitoba (+22.9 per cent), Saskatchewan (+16.7 per cent) and Alberta (+17.5 per cent). Harvested acreage is expected to be down four per cent to 19.6 million acres in 2016.SoybeansAt the national level, soybean production is estimated to be virtually unchanged compared with 2015, totalling six million tonnes in 2016. Hot and dry growing conditions in Ontario led to an expected three per cent decrease in soybean yield to 44.1 bushels per acre in 2016. Production within the province is expected to be down 10 per cent from 2015 to 3.2 million tonnes. However, soybean production in Manitoba is estimated to be up 24.7 per cent compared with 2015, because of an expected increase in harvested area (+16.3 per cent to 1.6 million acres) and average yield (+7.3 per cent to 39.7 bushels per acre) in 2016.Corn for grainAt the national level, corn for grain production is estimated to decrease 2.9 per cent from 2015 to 13 million tonnes in 2016.An expected decline in yield and a lower reported harvested acreage in 2016 could lead to decreased production in Ontario (-4.5 per cent to 8.4 million tonnes) and Quebec (-5.5 per cent to 3.6 million tonnes) compared with 2015. Although average yield in Manitoba is expected to decline 2.9 per cent from 2015 to 122.8 bushels per acre, production is anticipated to increase 26.8 per cent to one million tonnes in 2016, primarily as a result of an expected gain in harvested acreage (+30.6 per cent to 320,000 acres).Barley and oatsAt the national level, barley production is estimated to increase 4.4 per cent from 2015 to 8.4 million tonnes in 2016, because of a five per cent rise in expected average yield to 68.3 bushels per acre.At the national level, oat production is anticipated to decrease 13.4 per cent from 2015 to 2.9 million tonnes in 2016, as a result of a 12.5 per cent decline in reported harvested acres to 2.2 million acres. Average yield is expected to edge down to 84.8 bushels per acre.
Harvest continued across Manitoba, although wet weather, shorter days and heavy morning dews are impacting the number of acres harvested in any given day. Many crops are being harvested at tough or damp moisture levels, requiring aeration or artificial drying to achieve safe storage moisture levels. | READ MORE
In northeast Saskatchewan, as spring wheat growers push for higher yields and better protein levels, lodging can often be a challenge. Researchers and growers were interested in the potential of plant growth regulators (PGR) as an option to help reduce lodging and increase yield and also protein.PGRs are not new to agriculture and have been used extensively in other cereal growing regions. Some work was done with these products several years ago, but they have only recently been trialed again in Western Canada to see if there have been any improvements in products and how they may fit into production practices. A PGR application can cause various responses in wheat crops, including shorter plants (internodes), thicker stems, thicker stem cell walls, less lodging and potentially higher yields.Researchers at the Northeast Agriculture Research Foundation (NARF) in Melfort, Sask., began a three-year project in 2013 to demonstrate the plant growth regulator Manipulator (chlormequat chloride) at various application timings and fertility levels in spring wheat. “We initiated demonstration trials in collaboration with Engage Agro to determine the effects of Manipulator on yield, lodging and height in spring wheat,” explains Jessica Pratchler, field research agronomist with NARF. “The objective of applying the PGR was to help reduce lodging and increase yields. By reducing the height of the crop, more resources are available for seed filling instead of producing stem height. The crop should also be more uniform, improving application timing for inputs and harvest.”The trials were conducted using the spring wheat variety Shaw VB seeded at 275 plants/m2. Manipulator was applied at the label rate (1.87 L/ha) at three different timings, Zadoks 21 (Z21) or first tiller, Z31 or first node, and Z39 or flag leaf. Based on a soil test rate of 110 kg/ha of N and 25 kg/ha of P2O5, three fertility rates were used at 100, 125, and 150 per cent of the recommendation. For each trial, plant height, lodging and maturity ratings, yield and quality were measured. “Overall, the demonstration trials with Manipulator proved to be successful in northeast Saskatchewan over the last three years,” says Pratchler. “This product has shown to be highly useful in the northeast as it decreases height and lodging, as well as increases the yield in spring wheat. All three PGR application timings were able to reduce the severity or incidence of lodging, and resulted in shorter plants 94 per cent of the time. Application at Z31 produced the best yields.” The best results were produced when the product was applied at the Z21 and Z31 stages, however application at the Z31 stage produced the largest decrease in height. However, if growers also determine a fungicide application is warranted, they can plan to wait and apply the PGR then, which would reduce a field pass. At this stage, a reduction in height is not as significant, but still beneficial. The trial showed Manipulator in conjunction with high fertility rates can produce a crop with less lodging. In the trials, the fertility rate did not play a large role in the amount of lodging except for the 150 per cent rate with no PGR application, which had the highest lodging rating. In addition, yield, protein, and other grain quality factors were not changed by either PGR application or fertility rate. Overall, Manipulator application resulted in crop shortening and lodging reduction, regardless of fertility rate or PGR timing, while maintaining spring wheat yields. In 2015, Manipulator was registered for use on spring, winter and durum wheat in Canada. However, Engage Agro is still waiting for maximum residue limit (MRL) limits to be set by the United States government, which will hopefully be in place by the 2017 growing season. As with any new products, growers should talk to their grain buyer before applying the product to ensure there aren’t any market restrictions in place. “Although we have had a lot of interest from growers at our field days, most growers are waiting until the MRLs are in place before trying Manipulator,” adds Pratchler. “Once the MRLs are approved and in place, then NARF has plans to continue with additional research on the use of PGRs in conjunction with different seeding rates, as well as nitrogen levels. We don’t completely understand how PGRs will interact with the whole agronomic package, and therefore more research is needed.” NARF also has another project underway looking at two different PGRs and their effect on forage crops. They are also collaborating on another project led by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada researchers in Lethbridge looking at PGR in winter wheat and fall rye.
Sept. 9, 2016 - Central and northern Alberta farmers will once again have the opportunity to turn in their obsolete or unwanted agricultural pesticides and livestock/equine medications. “Farmers can drop off their obsolete materials at a designated collection site at no charge,” says Kim Timmer, CleanFARMS. “The products will then be transported to a high temperature incineration facility for safe disposal.” Collections will take place in northern Alberta from Sept. 21 to 23 and in central Alberta from Oct. 3 to 7. A listing of collection sites is available at www.cleanfarms.ca/obsoletepesticidelivestock_AB.html For more information, go to www.cleanfarms.ca
August 24, 2016 - Command, a herbicide from FMC, is now registered for control of cleavers in canola. Command is a Group 13 pre-emergent herbicide that will provide canola growers with residual control of cleavers and will be an integral part of an overall cleaver management program in canola.  It is a liquid formulation that can be tank-mixed with glyphosate for a one pass pre-seed application.  Command can be used with any canola herbicide system. 
In Saskatchewan, provincial guidelines recommend spraying fungicides on durum wheat at the flag leaf stage for leaf spots and the flowering stage for Fusarium head blight (FHB), if warranted. But others are also recommending fungicide applications at earlier growth stages on a preventative basis. Yet little evidence existed, until recently, on whether this was a viable practice. However tempting it is to throw some fungicide in with a herbicide application to save on application costs, Myriam Fernandez cautions it doesn’t help prevent disease and can even negatively impact quality. “Our results suggest that under variable environmental conditions in Saskatchewan, not always conducive to the development of high disease levels in wheat, early preventative fungicide application on durum wheat should not be recommended as a strategy to improve productivity, even when followed by a second application,” Fernandez says.   Fernandez is a research scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) at the Swift Current Research and Development Centre. Between 2004 and 2006, she led a study investigating single and double applications of foliar triazole fungicides at various growth stages, and the impact on FHB, deoxynivalenol (DON) concentration, dark kernel discoloration and grain traits in durum wheat. A second study was led by research scientist Bill May at AAFC’s Indian Head Research Farm between 2001 to 2003, which looked at the impact of single and double fungicide applications at flag leaf emergence and flowering stage on disease control and yield and quality of durum. Both studies were recently published in the Canadian Journal of Plant Science. In Fernandez’s research, plots were established at the South East Research Farm in southeast Saskatchewan, and the trial ran for three years. The previous crop was canola in each year. AC Avonlea durum was seeded using a no-till plot drill. Standard agronomic practices were used. Folicur was applied at the recommended rate in all years. Six fungicide treatments were conducted: unsprayed; at stem elongation (GS 31); when flag leaf was half emerged (GS 41); at early to mid-anthesis (flowering) (GS 62-65); at stem elongation and mid-anthesis; at flag leaf emergence and anthesis. Leaf spotting disease, FHB incidence, Fusarium kernel infection, DON concentration, grain yield and quality parameters were measured. Percentage leaf spotting severity on the flag leaves was evaluated in 2004 and 2005, but not in 2006 because of poor disease development. Fernandez says that in most cases, a fungicide application at stem elongation was not effective in reducing Fusarium diseases, nor in improving yield and grain characteristics. She explains that none of the early, single applications were consistently different from the unsprayed control. Fungicide application at flag leaf emergence was more effective in reducing disease levels later in the growing season or improving grain characteristics than an early application at stem elongation. An application at the flowering stage resulted in the most consistent reduction in Fusarium levels, leaf spotting and improvement in kernel size. This is consistent with fungicide application timing for FHB control. Saskatchewan Agriculture recommends fungicide application when at least 75 per cent of the wheat heads on the main stem are fully emerged to when 50 per cent of the heads on the main stem are in flower. The double fungicide applications at either stem elongation/flag leaf emergence and anthesis were no more effective than a single fungicide application at flowering, and would have resulted in increased fungicide and application costs. None of the fungicide treatments resulted in a significant grain yield increase. “We can conclude that fungicide application, single or double, might be profitable only in the presence of higher disease pressure levels, with more suitable growing conditions for disease development and plant growth,” Fernandez says. Grain downgrading might result from early and frequent fungicide applicationThe early fungicide applications also had a negative impact on dark kernel discoloration, a key quality parameter for durum wheat with tolerances for total smudge and black point at five per cent in No. 1 Canadian Western Amber Durum (CWAD) and 10 per cent for No. 2 CWAD. The discoloration would have resulted in downgrading for the early application treatments. Fernandez says the results also indicated potential for a consequent increase in kernel discoloration like black point and red smudge after early fungicide treatment, which was associated with greater kernel size. This effect has also been reported with other fungicides from other wheat growing regions of the world. The 2001-2003 study conducted in southeast Saskatchewan and southwest Manitoba led by May at Indian Head looked at the impact of single and double fungicide applications at flag leaf emergence and flowering stage on Fusarium-damaged kernels and other kernel diseases, leaf spotting, and resultant grain yield and quality of durum wheat. Disease levels averaged over all site years were high enough to result in an 8.5 per cent yield increase from the application of fungicides. However, application at either flag leaf elongation or flowering stage also increased black point by 49 per cent, from 0.38 per cent to 0.56 per cent, and red smudge by 17 per cent, from 0.54 per cent to 0.63 per cent. In addition, double fungicide application further increased red smudge to 0.85 per cent, a 57 per cent increase compared to no fungicides being applied. Effective August 2015, the Canadian Grain Commission changed the grading factors for CWAD. Red smudge is no longer a separate grading factor, but is still included under “smudge.” The maximum allowable level of smudge in CWAD is now 0.50 per cent for grade No. 1, and one per cent for grade No. 2 and grade No. 3. Prior to 2015, the tolerance level for red smudge in CWAD No. 1 was 0.30 per cent. In May’s research, the percentage smudge would have resulted in a downgrade to No. 2 CWAD. May says two theories have been put forward to explain the association of red smudge and fungicides. The first is that an early fungicide treatment could result in an increase in kernel size that would facilitate the opening of the protective husk (glume), making it easier for fungi to penetrate and infect the grain. An alternative explanation is that the fungicide might alter the microbiological community on the spikes before or during kernel development, modifying the fungal interactions in that environment. More research is required under western Canadian conditions to determine the exact cause. For foliar leaf disease control, Fernandez says the recommendation is still to apply a fungicide at the flag leaf stage, based on the level of disease infestation. This research found little benefit to applying fungicides for leaf spot diseases because the crop was not heavily infected. In other areas more conducive to disease, or years with high disease pressure, fungicide application at the flag leaf, or heading stage for leaf spotting disease could be profitable. The research also shows that current fungicide timing recommendations for FHB control at head emergence to 50 per cent flowering are still valid. Fernandez cautions when applying any fungicide at any growth stage the potential development of fungicide resistance in wheat pathogens should always be considered, and unnecessary fungicide application may increase the risk of resistance developing. May says faced with the recommendation of early fungicide application as a preventative measure regardless of disease pressure, farmers need to consider that early and frequent fungicide applications to durum wheat might reduce grain quality and result in downgrading and potential profit loss. “I would expect that a fungicide application for control of FHB in durum wheat would provide a yield increase much more often than it would improve the grade of the harvested crop.” May says.  
You may think weeds resistant to herbicides are a new phenomenon linked to the overuse of glyphosate in genetically engineered crops, but according to the Weed Science Society of America (WSSA) nothing could be further from the truth. This year marks only the 20th anniversary of glyphosate-resistant crops, while next year will mark the 60th anniversary of the first reports of herbicide-resistant weeds.The first known report of herbicide-resistance came in 1957 when a spreading dayflower (Commelina diffusa)growing in a Hawaiian sugarcane field was found to be resistant to a synthetic auxin herbicide. One biotype of spreading dayflower was able to withstand five times the normal treatment dosage. That same year wild carrot (Daucus carota) growing on roadsides in Ontario, Canada, was found to be resistant to some of the same synthetic auxin herbicides.Since then, 250 species of weeds have evolved resistance to 160 different herbicides that span 23 of the 26 known herbicide mechanisms of action. They are found in 86 crops in 66 countries, making herbicide resistance a truly global problem.“Given all the media attention paid to glyphosate, you would think it would have the greatest number of resistant weed species,” says David Shaw, PhD, a Mississippi State University weed scientist. “Though there are currently 35 weed species resistant to the amino acid synthesis inhibitor glyphosate, there are four times as many weed species resistant to ALS inhibitors and three times as many resistant to PS II inhibitors.”Scientists say what is unique about glyphosate resistance is the severity of selection pressure for resistance development. More than 90 per cent of soybean, corn, cotton and sugar beet acres in the U.S. are glyphosate tolerant and receive glyphosate treatments – often multiple times per year.“The sheer size of the crop acreage impacted by glyphosate-resistant weeds has made glyphosate the public face for the pervasive problem of resistance,” says Shaw. “But resistance issues are far broader than a single herbicide and were around long before glyphosate-resistant, genetically engineered crops were even introduced.”Research shows that resistant weeds can evolve whenever a single approach to weed management is used repeatedly to the exclusion of other chemical and cultural controls – making a diverse, integrated approach to weed management the first line of defense. Many growers have had great success fighting resistance by adopting a broader range of controls.One example is found in the experiences of U.S. cotton growers in the southern U.S. After years of relying on glyphosate for weed control, resistant Palmer amaranth (Amaranthus palmeri) began to overrun crops and caused yields to plummet. Today integrated weed management programs that use a diverse range of controls have become commonplace in cotton, despite the higher cost. Growers are using cover crops, hand-weeding, tillage, weed seed removal and herbicides with different mechanisms of action in order to keep Palmer amaranth at bay.There have been tradeoffs. Additional herbicides, labor and fuel have tripled the cost of weed control in cotton. In addition, increased tillage has raised concerns about soil erosion from water and wind.  But for now, the crop has been preserved.“Although diversification is critical to crop sustainability, it can be difficult to make a decision to spend more on integrated weed control strategies,” says Stanley Culpepper, PhD, a weed scientist at the University of Georgia. “As a result, many of the most successful diversification efforts can be found in crops like cotton where change became an imperative.”Culpepper says that in addition to costs, another barrier to adoption of integrated weed management is the belief by some that new types of herbicides will be invented to take the place of those no longer effective on resistant weeds. But the HPPD-inhibitors discovered in the late 1980s for use in corn crops are the last new mechanism of action to make its way out of the lab and into the market.“It would be naïve to think we are going to spray our way out of resistance problems,” Culpepper says. “Although herbicides are a critical component for large-scale weed management, it is paramount that we surround these herbicides with diverse weed control methods in order to preserve their usefulness – not sit back and wait for something better to come along.”
Weeds defend themselves from control measures in many ways, and can adapt to our cropping systems. A winter annual cleavers is avoiding herbicide control because it germinated in fall and will be too large and difficult to kill before an herbicide is applied in the spring. Buckwheat is naturally tolerant to glyphosate, although it is not resistant. Stork’s bill can be a winter annual but it is also morphologically plastic and keeps germinating all season long. Herbicide resistance is another way a plant defends itself.
Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency has approved Regalia Rx biofungicide for use on wheat and soybean in Canada.The Regalia product portfolio, with all formulations based on an extract of Giant Knotweed (Reynoutria sachalinensis), is a suite of preventative biofungicides for use on both conventional and organic crops. Regalia products prevent and fight diseases by triggering treated plants to produce disease-fighting biochemicals (induced systemic resistance), while simultaneously increasing leaf chlorophyll content to enhance plant health, crop yield and crop quality. Regalia Rx is not harmful to workers, food, beneficials and pollinators, according to a company press release, and can be sprayed right up to harvest to manage residues for export. Regalia Rx also has the minimum restricted-entry interval for workers to enter the field after spraying, increasing operational flexibility.The Regalia Rx label is for suppression of Septoria leaf spot on wheat and aerial web blight (Rhizoctonia solani), Alternaria leaf spot, frog-eye leaf spot (Cercospora sojina) and white mould (Sclerotinia sclerotiorum) on soybeans.Marrone Bio Innovations (MBI) has an agreement with Koch Agronomic Services to distribute Regalia Rx brands in the United States and Canada for large acre crops, such as wheat, soybeans, corn and alfalfa.
There are four glyphosate-resistant weeds in Ontario. Glyphosate-resistant giant ragweed was first found in 2008, and is now found in the six southwestern counties in Ontario – Essex, Kent, Lambton, Elgin, Middlesex and Huron – as well as Lennox and Addington county.
Environmental groups have launched a court challenge to federal permits for two common pesticides that some say are behind large die-offs in bee populations. | READ MORE
For me, the world’s greatest herbicide was – and I say that in the past tense, was – glyphosate. It’s unfortunate but in my geography it is a herbicide of the past on many driver weeds. For me Palmer amaranth is a driver weed. For you that may be kochia. That may be wild oat. That could be green foxtail.
The Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) in Canada has granted approval for registration of DuPont Lumivia insecticide seed treatment for corn growers in Ontario and Quebec  Lumivia is a new seed treatment product for corn that delivers broad spectrum pest protection and efficacy. It protects corn against early-season, below-ground insect pests such as wireworms and seed corn maggots, as well as foliage feeders including cutworms and armyworms, according to a company press release. Lumivia is expected to be commercially available for the 2017 growing season. In Canada, Lumivia is the first insecticide seed treatment technology containing DuPont's active ingredient DuPont Rynaxypyr, aGroup 28, anthranilic diamide insecticide, the press release adds. It is meant to support uniform, healthy stand establishment and early vigor for maximum yield potential. 
Ontario corn growers should be on the lookout for eyespot this season, warns Albert Tenuta. Photo courtesy of Krishan Jindal. It might not be Ontario’s flashiest foliar disease on corn, or even the most economically devastating – both those awards go to Northern corn leaf blight – but eyespot was on the rise in 2015, and may be a cause for concern for Ontario growers in 2016. According to Albert Tenuta, field crop pathologist for the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), eyespot is “one of those diseases that looks worse than it actually is – the impact on the corn is minimal.” But it’s certainly not negligible. Common in the northern regions of the corn belt, eyespot becomes a problem in fields with residue from previous crops, or in continuous corn cropping. Caused by the fungus Aureobasidium zeae, infection generally occurs in the spring under cool, wet conditions; if it spreads to the upper leaves of the plant, it can cause reduced yields. Tenuta is a member of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) and OMAFRA’s annual corn disease survey team. Each year, on average, 200 corn plots across Ontario and occasionally Quebec are tested for major corn disease severity. According to survey team member Krishan Jindal, a pathologist with AAFC’s Ottawa Research and Development Centre, the survey is a valuable tool for studying the distribution of Northern corn leaf blight and other foliar diseases, and identifying the pathogenic races moving through the province. In 2015, eyespot showed a surprising surge in Ontario cornfields, along with Northern corn leaf blight. “Both diseases were found in almost all fields visited in southern and western Ontario, with 40 per cent of the affected fields having incidence levels of greater than or equal to 30 per cent and one-fourth of the fields having a severity of greater than or equal to five (greater than 20 per cent of the leaf area affected),” reads the report. But Tenuta says eyespot doesn’t come as a shock to Ontario growers. “We’ve always had eyespot. We’re just seeing more of it,” Tenuta says. “Many of these diseases are residue-borne, so as we leave more residue we’ll see more disease.” What does this mean for growers? According to Tenuta, eyespot sometimes means a four to six bushels per acre yield loss, but in conjunction with other diseases, it can cause problematic stress on the plant. “Where eyespot could be an issue would be on seed corn, where you have a relatively susceptible seed corn inbred,” he says. If the variety is susceptible to other foliar leaf diseases as well, these plants can’t tolerate as much stress, so the impact will be more substantial. Variety, variety, varietyManagement for eyespot comes down to variety. “It doesn’t matter what disease we’re talking about – the first step is always effective resistant variety selection,” Tenuta says. “The most important decision a grower can make is which particular variety or hybrid they’ll select.” If a field has a history of eyespot, growers should choose good-yielding varieties with decent resistance. “The next thing is scouting to determine the amount of disease there: is it a threat? Is it down low in the canopy, or high up? If you’ve got eyespot, you have good conditions for other leaf diseases,” he says. If disease reaches threshold levels, fungicide application is necessary. When it comes to tillage, growers may have tough decisions to make when it comes to eyespot and other foliar leaf diseases, Tenuta says. Because eyespot relies on residues as a food source, removal of residues means the fungus can’t spread enough to trouble the next crop. “If they can’t feed, they can’t grow and they can’t infect,” he says. But growers need to assess whether periodic tillage is right for their operations on a case-by-case basis. “It’s an effective tool, but you have to consider some of the other benefits of conservation tillage in terms of soil erosion. And just because we work the ground doesn’t mean the risk is eliminated – you might be reducing your in-field inoculum, but in many cases we have enough spores moving in from other fields,” he says. As for the future? More eyespot resistant varieties may be on the way soon. Lana Reid, a research scientist at AAFC’s Ottawa Research and Development Centre, and her team are working on developing a number of inbreds with resistance to a variety of common foliar diseases, including CO450, a corn inbred line that is highly resistant to eyespot. It was made available to breeders in 2013. “This survey, I would say, is of great value – it gives direction to the research and to breeding projects,” Jindal says.   
June 20, 2016 - As the cereal crop's flag leaf stage approaches, many producers are wondering if a foliar fungicide application is worth their time and money. "Most farmers want to know if they will get a yield and economic benefit from a foliar fungicide application," says Dr. Sheri Strydhorst, agronomy research scientist, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, Barrhead. "Fungicide applications can be costly but, under the right conditions, can increase yields more than 30 per cent." Strydhorst is leading a province wide-research project to help producers make fungicide management decisions. She says that, based on field research data from 2014 and 2015, they have come up with some helpful findings. "Our 10 site years of data show that a foliar fungicide application on AC Foremost wheat significantly increases yields when there has been at least five inches of rain from the time of seeding to end of June." However, she cautions, it might not be that simple. "For foliar diseases to infect crops and cause yield reductions, we need three things. First, we need a susceptible host. Second, we need the pathogen. Third, we need environmental conditions suitable for disease development."Our detailed foliar fungicide work was done with AC Foremost. It is an old cultivar that does not have the best genetic resistance to foliar diseases. Without the genetic resistance, this cultivar needs extra help to battle disease pressure." However, not everyone is growing AC Foremost. In another study, Strydhorst found that Stettler wheat showed a yield increase with dual foliar fungicide applications in only one of nine site years; AC Foremost in seven of nine site years and AAC Penhold in four of nine site years. "Some cultivars are responding to fungicide applications while others are not." This certainly complicates the decision making process, she says. "Producers should check disease resistance ratings on the cultivar they are growing. For example, AC Foremost is rated as susceptible to stripe rust and moderately susceptible to leaf spot while AAC Penhold is rated as moderately resistant to stripe rust and intermediate to leaf spot." Dr. Kelly Turkington, research scientist at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Lacombe, says that, "in a continuous wheat rotation, residue-borne diseases such as tan spot and septoria are likely present, so it is reasonable to expect a fungicide response with a susceptible cultivar the majority of the time, especially when the weather is favourable." Strydhorst's research found yield increases with AC Foremost in response to fungicide applications when there was 1.9" of rain from seeding until the end of June. In this instance, winter wheat fields in the area were showing high levels of stripe rust. She says that with high levels of disease in the environment, fungicides can contribute to yield increases. Turkington says each disease has specific conditions that favour development. "Stripe rust does not necessarily need a lot of moisture. Heavy dew can be enough to promote stripe rust. More rainfall facilitates inoculum production, dispersal (in the case of rain splashed pathogens) and host infection." With the timely and frequent rainfall seen in much of the province, Strydhhorst suggests environmental conditions are right for tan spot and septoria pathogen growth. "Our research shows that the more rain we have had, the bigger the yield benefit from the fungicide. For example, with 10" of rain from seeding until the end of June we observed a 26 bu/ac yield increase. But with 7" of rain the yield increase was reduced to 20 bu/ac. We still have one more year of research to conduct, but our initial findings suggest that more frequent and timely rains lead to bigger benefits from fungicide applications." Turkington says stripe rust is a different pathogen and warm days with heavy dew resulting in several hours of leaf wetness per day can provide suitable environmental conditions for disease development in June. "However, rainfall and/or heavy dew in July can contribute to stripe rust development including on the head and peduncle also contributing to yield reductions." While Strydhorst's research aims to simplify decision making, she says, as we all know, nothing is ever simple. "At the end of the day, producers should assess: the disease rating of their cultivar, the presence of disease in their field and the environmental conditions. If you have poor genetic resistance, disease presence coupled with frequent, timely rains, it will likely be worthwhile to spray a foliar fungicide in 2016."  
Saskatchewan hemp growers and processors have been working to meet the exporting demand for the multi-use crop as the market expands in Europe and Asia. CBC News reports. | READ MORE
Sept 15, 2016 - Finding a better way to separate sticky hemp fibres and cut canola for maximum seed harvest are two of the projects that Prairie Agriculture Machinery Institute staff are working on. The federal and provincial governments recently announced a total of $400,000 in funding for Manitoba research projects. PAMI will receive $288,400 to help cover the costs of six projects."The economic benefits of our agricultural research are very impressive because the findings can be implemented by many agricultural producers in Manitoba," says PAMI CEO Dave Gullacher, in a news release.  "Recent studies show work such as this produces $15 to $20 in benefits for every dollar invested, which is essential for our industry.  We will be developing strong funding partnerships with industry and will work closely with a great number of agricultural producers to carry out this work." | READ MORE.
Sept. 15, 2016 - Canadian canola and wheat stockpiles were sharply lower in midsummer from a year earlier but bigger than expected, a Statistics Canada report shows. Statscan pegged the all-wheat stocks as of July 31, at 5.2 million tonnes, down 27 percent from a year ago but far exceeding the average trade expectation of 4.29 million tonnes. Canola supplies amounted to 2 million tonnes, down 21 percent but topping the average trade guess of 1.27 million tonnes. | READ MORE.
Sept. 15, 2016 - Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) is looking for interested individuals willing to spare 2-5 minutes per month filling out a survey on the agroclimatic conditions in their area to help inform the government about what is happening on-the-ground in agriculture across the country. Knowing the impact of weather provides important information that both levels of government need to make accurate assessments and policy/program decisions.How Agroclimate Impact Reporter worksMost of the data and information that feed the agroclimate impact reporter (AIR) application are provided by more than 300 volunteer reporters. Each reporter completes a 2-5 minute online survey every month of the growing season, and can enter additional information between surveys. Maps of all the input received are compiled at the end of each month and made available online for all to view and use.What's in it for producers?The AIR initiative lets producers tell AAFC about the weather and its impact on their operations. This information supports programs and policy development, particularly financial risk management programs for producers. For example, information collected from the AIR network in 2011 helped inform AgriRecovery programs, which provided more than $300 million in direct assistance to producers as a result of flooding and excess moisture in the Prairie region. Information from AIR is also used in the assessment of areas eligible for the Livestock Tax Deferral (LTD) provision, which compensates producers facing feed shortages resulting from drought or excess moisture. In 2015 or 2016, producers in all four western provinces received LTD payments.Click here to learn more about the survey.
Sept. 15, 2016 -  The Climate Corporation, a subsidiary of Monsanto Company, recently announced the introduction of the company's industry-leading Climate FieldView digital agriculture platform into Eastern Canada for the 2017 growing season. According to a news release, the platform will give Canadian farmers the ability to easily collect, visualize, and analyze their field data in one centralized platform and uncover personalized field insights to support the many crucial decisions they make each season to maximize crop productivity. "Similar to the launch of biotechnology in the 1990s, we are now experiencing the next revolution of global agriculture through transformative digital technologies that are helping farmers gain a much deeper understanding of their fields, optimize their resources and maximize their return on every acre," says Mike Stern, chief executive officer for The Climate Corporation. The Climate FieldView platform is said to combine data science with field science and on-farm data to take the complex, environmental interactions that happen in each unique field and turn them into customized insights farmers can use to make data-driven decisions with confidence. Officially launched in 2015, Climate FieldView is now on more than 92 million acres across the United States, with more than 100,000 farmers there actively engaging in Climate's digital tools. In less than two growing seasons, Climate FieldView has already become the most broadly connected platform in the industry and has continued to expand new, unique product features and geographic availability of its offerings. Climate FieldView features in Eastern Canada Data Connectivity - Farmers can experience simple data collection, storage and visualization through the Climate FieldView Drive, a device that provides seamless data connectivity by easily transferring field data from a farmer's equipment into their Climate FieldView account. Launched early this year in the United States, FieldView Drive captures key planting data including hybrid and planting population, as well as key harvest data such as yield, and digitally displays that data in a farmer's Climate FieldView account as the farmer passes through the field. This enables the ability for farmers to easily understand hybrid performance by field, and population with side-by-side views of as-planted and yield data. FieldView Drive will work with many tractors and combines in Eastern Canada. In addition to the FieldView Drive, farmers can connect their field data to their Climate FieldView account through Precision Planting's 20/20 monitors and John Deere's Wireless Data Server (WDS) technology. Climate FieldView also offers farmers the option of cloud-to-cloud connection with many other agricultural software systems, as well as manual file upload. Yield Analysis Tools - The Climate FieldView platform also provides seed performance analysis tools to help farmers evaluate the impact their agronomic decisions have on yield, so they can build the best plan to maximize profitability for the next season. Farmers can analyze seed performance by field and hybrid, and better understand their field variability by quickly and easily comparing digital field maps side-by-side. Advanced Satellite Imagery - With frequent and consistent high-quality field satellite imagery, farmers can find out what's happening beyond the end rows and identify issues early, prioritize scouting, and take action to protect yield. Climate's proprietary imagery process provides consistent imagery quality and frequency by using high-resolution imagery with vegetative data from multiple images, in addition to advanced cloud identification. Farmers can also drop geo-located scouting pins on field health images and navigate back to those spots for a closer look, or share with agronomic partners. Field-Level Weather - With field-level weather information and notifications, farmers can more efficiently prioritize and plan each day. Farmers can view historical, real-time and forecasted weather to decide which fields are workable based on average field precipitation and wind speed. AvailabilityThe Climate FieldView platform will be available for purchase in Eastern Canada in winter 2016, so that farmers can begin using it on their farms in time for the 2017 growing season. To experience the complete value of the platform throughout the entire season, farmers should sign up for Climate FieldView by Jan. 1, 2017. Farmers can try field-level weather insights, including notifications and scouting, as well as advanced satellite imagery for free on two trial fields. Pricing for the Climate FieldView offering in Canada will be available this fall. Fundamental to Climate's data privacy policy is the company's commitment to respect that farmers own their data, including the data they generate on their farming equipment. For more information about the Climate FieldView platform, contact support at 888-924-7475 or visit www.climate.com/canada.
German drug and farm chemical maker Bayer AG says it has agreed to acquire seed and weed-killer company Monsanto in an all-cash deal valued at $66 billion.Bayer says it is paying Monsanto shareholders $128 per share, which represents a 44 per cent premium over Monsanto's closing price on May 9, the day before a proposed deal was announced.The deal is subject to approval by Monsanto shareholders and anti-trust regulators. Bayer expects the deal to close by the end of 2017. | READ MORE
Sept. 13, 2016 - The provincial government is extending the time that free mandatory training will be available to help farmers comply with recent rules aimed at protecting insect pollinators. Farmers must undergo training if they wish to purchase and use neonicotinoid-treated corn and/or soybean seeds. The half-day course is available in English or French, online or in class in towns across Ontario and at the University of Guelph’s Ridgetown campus. To register, call 866-225-9020, or visit www.IPMcertified.ca.Ontario has taken action on pollinator health, working towards an 80 per cent reduction in the number of acres planted with neonicotinoid-treated corn and soybean seed by 2017. The free training is available until April 30th, 2017.
As of July 31, Statistics Canada reports that the country's total stock levels for wheat, canola and lentils are down from the same date a year earlier. Meanwhile, barley and oat stocks increased compared with July 31, 2015.Wheat Total stocks of wheat fell 26.8% from July 31, 2015, to 5.2 million tonnes as of July 31, 2016. This decline was the result of a 29.2 per cent drop in commercial stocks to 3.0 million tonnes and a 23.1 per cent decrease in stocks held on farms to 2.2 million tonnes. Alberta reported the largest decline of on-farm stocks, down 44.4 per cent to 495 000 tonnes. Saskatchewan also reported a decrease, down 14.7 per cent to 1.5 million tonnes. Canola At the national level, canola stocks fell 20.7 per cent to 2.0 million tonnes as of July 31, as a result of decreases in both on-farm stocks and commercial stocks. Meanwhile, canola crushing was at record levels for the crop year ending July 31, 2016. On-farm stocks, which are concentrated in Western Canada, declined 25.9 per cent compared with July 31, 2015, to 915 000 tonnes. Commercial stocks were 15.8 per cent lower compared with the same date in 2015 at 1.1 million tonnes. Barley Total barley stocks grew 18.6 per cent to 1.4 million tonnes as of July 31. Stocks held on farm, which accounted for nearly 90 per cent of total stocks, rose 23.3 per cent to 1.3 million tonnes. Meanwhile, commercial stocks fell 9.9 per cent to 155 000 tonnes. Oats As of July 31, total stocks of oats were up 38.2 per cent compared with July 31, 2015, to 930 000 tonnes. Increases in both on-farm (+30.5 per cent) and commercial (+59.5 per cent) stock levels led to an overall rise. Lentils Overall stocks of lentils fell 80.0 per cent from July 31, 2015, to 73 000 tonnes as of July 31, 2016. Commercial stocks were down 11.6 per cent to 38 000 tonnes. Meanwhile, stocks held on farms fell 89.1 per cent to 35 000 tonnes. These were the lowest on-farm and commercial stock levels since July 2010.
Sept. 8, 2016 - Canadians rely on a strong agriculture industry and innovation helps ensure its success. To that end, the Government of Canada has invested $35.3 million for infrastructure improvements at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's (AAFC) Swift Current Research and Development Centre. The centre is being renovated and new laboratories are being built, which are used extensively to support AAFC's wheat breeding program and other research on forages and cereals. Science and innovation play an important role in making Canada one of the world's top producers and exporters of agricultural products."Improvements to these facilities will help deliver new technologies to producers, which creates jobs, grows the middle class and supports Canadian farmers," says agriculture minister, Lawrence MacAulay.Researchers at the centre continue to play a key role in developing high-performance, high-quality wheat varieties. Today, those varieties are grown on about 50 per cent of the wheat acreage in Canada.The new space will offer modern laboratories and more energy efficient infrastructure; the new and renovated portions of the building will be LEED Silver certified - a mark of energy efficiency.
Sept. 7, 2916 - Canadian farmers are in a strong position to meet their financial obligations, despite plateauing farm incomes and slowing land appreciations, according to Farm Credit Canada's (FCC) 2016-2017 Outlook for Farm Assets and Debt Report.“This financial strength allows the industry to invest even more in the innovation and productivity it will need to feed an ever-growing world population,” says J.P. Gervais, FCC’s chief agricultural economist.In 2015, the debt-to-asset ratio on Canadian farms remained historically low at 15.5 per cent, compared to the previous five-year average of 15.9 per cent and the 15-year average of 16.7 per cent, according to the report.A low debt-to-asset ratio is generally considered better for business, since it provides financial flexibility and lowers risk for producers.FCC’s Outlook for Farm Assets and Debt Report provides an overview of the balance sheet of agriculture, focusing on the financial health of the sector. It also looks at the affordability of assets relative to farm income, with a special focus on farmland values.“After a prolonged period of strong growth in farm asset and land values, our projections indicate a deceleration in both increasing land values and farm debt levels,” Gervais says.The report analyzed three key indicators of the financial health of Canada’s agriculture sector: liquidity, solvency and profitability. It found that farm liquidity, which looks at the ability of producers to make short-term payments, and solvency – the proportion of total assets financed by debt – have remained consistently strong over the past five years.In 2015, farm profitability, calculated by comparing net income to total assets, was slightly below the five-year average due to strong farm asset appreciation, especially in farmland values.“Land is the most valuable asset a farmer owns and the most important input for agricultural production,” says Gervais, noting that land made up 67 per cent of the value of total farm assets in 2015, compared to 54 per cent in 1981.“As farming becomes more profitable, farmland becomes more expensive,” he said. “However, when asset values are increasing more quickly than net farm income, overall profitability begins to soften. This reflects the cyclical nature of the business.”From 2001 to 2011, the value of farmland and buildings appreciated on average 7.2 per cent per year, doubling over that timeframe. From 2012 to 2015, average annual appreciation was 11.7 per cent and total appreciation was 39.4 per cent.Gervais says a combination of low interest rates and strong crop receipts was the primary cause of the rapid rate of asset appreciation in recent years. He projects appreciation will slow down with the expectation of lower crop prices over the next two to three years.
Winter wheat is an important crop in many cropping systems, however poor stand establishment and winter survival continue to be challenges to crop expansion in Western Canada. Seed treatments and fall foliar fungicide applications in other growing areas show benefits of improved crop competitiveness and yield, however little research has been done in Western Canada.Researchers from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) conducted a three-year study across Western Canada from 2011 to 2013 to determine if seed treatments could improve crop competitiveness of winter wheat and whether or not there were differences in responses between active ingredients, which target a different spectrum of the pathogen/insect complex in the soil. They also wanted to assess if fall application of foliar fungicide improved crop health, vigour, and competitiveness, and yield alone or in combination with particular seed treatments. “We set out to identify alternative strategies that would help ensure good stand establishment and overwintering success of winter wheat crops across the Prairies,” explains Kelly Turkington, research scientist with AAFC at Lacombe, Alta. “We also wanted to look at options that would help manage disease development the following spring, such as stripe rust and leaf spot diseases like tan spot or septoria. Research from other areas, like Australia, shows that seed treatments with the right active ingredients can help slow down early rust development. We compared different seed treatments with different actives as a way to assess which factors were the most important. We also wanted to determine if a fall application of fungicide would provide any benefits for crop survival from one growing season to the next.” This direct-seeded study was conducted at nine sites across Western Canada over three growing seasons. The trials assessed the response of the winter wheat cultivar CDC Buteo to seed treatments and fall-applied fungicides. Five levels of seed treatment were compared: check–no seed treatment, tebuconazole, metalaxyl, imidacloprid and a dual fungicide/insecticidal seed treatment of tebuconazole + metalaxyl + imidacloprid. Two levels of fall-applied fungicide were compared, a check–no application or a foliar-applied prothioconazole performed in mid-October. Overall, the results showed a yield benefit by using seed treatments, with the dual fungicide/insecticide seed treatment providing the highest yield and net returns. The neonicotinoid seed treatment, imidicloprid, and the fungicide seed treatment, tebuconazole, generally provided intermediate grain yields and net returns, while the check and the fungicide seed treatment, metalaxyl, produced similar low grain yields and returns. Fungicide seed treatments have been effective in improving winter wheat stand establishment and yield when seed infection with Fusarium graminearum is a concern. “The study showed some benefit from the fall foliar fungicide treatment, however the increase was small and resulted in decreased net returns,” says Turkington. “In areas with confirmed stripe rust in the fall, the yields gains were a bit better, however the cost of application is prohibitive at this point compared to no application. For now, a timely spring foliar fungicide application focusing at either the flag leaf emergence stage for leaf spot management or a bit later at anthesis timing for managing Fusarium head blight and leaf spot disease is still recommended when there is a risk of disease. We need to do more research on fall foliar fungicide application alone or in combination with a spring application to see if there are economical benefits. We also need to do additional work on seed treatments to determine if early season leaf disease management can be improved in both winter and spring cereals.”   View the embedded image gallery online at: http://www.topcropmanager.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=latest&layout=latest&Itemid=1#sigProGalleriad221134b15 Another four-year study is underway in Western Canada comparing four winter wheat varieties of various levels of resistance with the timing of four different foliar fungicide treatments: check–no application, fall application only, spring application at flag leaf, and a dual fall and spring application. “The preliminary results after the first two years aren’t showing much of a benefit from the fall foliar fungicide application, similar to our recent study,” Turkington says. “Some of the results suggest a dual fall and spring application does not provide any additional benefit over a spring application in Western Canada.” Turkington adds that overall, when comparing the study data on stand establishment, overwintering and yields, one of the biggest factors was moisture at the various sites. If diseases are a concern, select a more resistant variety. Using higher seeding rates, good quality seed and seed treatments are recommended for good winter wheat stand establishment, overwintering and improved yields. “One of the other important factors is field selection, in particular with cereal stubble and the potential risk of a green bridge and transmission of the wheat streak mosaic virus in some areas,” says Turkington. “We have been getting a number of calls over this spring and summer about potential issues with wheat streak mosaic, which is caused by the wheat curl mite and for which there are limited control options. If volunteer wheat or other cereals and grassy weeds are not controlled before seeding a winter wheat crop, then there can be a transmission or vectoring of the virus from the spring crop into the volunteers and then into the winter wheat crop. Selecting non-cereal stubble and controlling volunteer cereals and grassy weeds to remove the potential for a green bridge is generally the best strategy for managing wheat streak mosaic virus.” Turkington and his colleagues are continuing their research into seed treatments, foliar fungicide applications and other alternative seeding and crop management practices to help improve stand establishment, overwintering and yield for winter wheat production in Western Canada. Researchers will continue to make their findings available through field days, extension events and publications.
Sept. 6, 2016 - It’s no secret that there’s a growing ethnic population of Canadians who have preferences for foods from their home countries. That fact brings with it unique opportunities for farmers to produce crops that haven't traditionally been grown locally. Okra is one such crop. Over six million kilograms of okra is imported into Canada every year and the demand climbs annually. India is the top producer of the world's okra, growing more than 70 per cent of the global crop. Other big producers are Nigeria, Sudan, Iraq and Pakistan. The United States is the 20th largest producer, accounting for only 0.1 per cent of the world’s production. In the U.S, okra is grown in southern states like Florida, Texas and Louisiana, where the vegetable is used in the popular gumbo dish. It’s a subtropical crop that thrives in a hot and dry environment, so Canada hasn't always been the most logical place for production. Dr. Viliam Zvalo is a research scientist in the area of vegetable production at Vineland Research and Innovation Centre (Vineland). A native of Slovakia, he joined the team in 2014 with a mandate to investigate opportunities for world crop production for Canadian farmers. The biggest challenges in growing okra in Canada are the shorter growing season and the labour requirements. During the harvest season, plants need to be harvested daily to give the immature pods time and space to grow, which requires a big staffing commitment. To help boost the crop's potential and maximize growing time, seeds are started in greenhouses and then transplanted into fields covered in black plastic mulch to increase heat to the plants. Spacing of the plants is critical - the further apart, the higher their yields. To date, crop trials have shown that three particular varieties - Lucky Green, Elisa and Jambalaya - do the best in Canada. Last year, 22 farmers grew small trials across Canada from Nova Scotia to British Columbia and have had similar results in all areas. This year the number will increase to about 30 growers. The crops are planted into fields in late May and bloom a month later. Peak production is between the middle of July and the end of September. Each plant (which can grow seven feet high) can generate 60 to 70 okra pods. Pods are light though - between seven and 10 grams each - so the entire harvest per plant is about 0.6 to 0.7 kilograms. Growers, researchers and retailers are all optimistic about the results to date and the work is garnering international attention. Recently, an Indian company contacted Zvalo to see about providing seeds from a late season variety for Vineland to test in Canada. "Attention like this will help us continue to look for better varieties,” Zvalo noted. "Okra's an interesting crop. It can be quite finicky but there's great potential," Zvalo said. He concluded, "It's a matter of finding the right varieties, the right location and the right buyers." The project is funded in part through Growing Forward 2 (GF2), a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. The Agricultural Adaptation Council assists in the delivery of GF2 in Ontario.
Are AgBots the way of the future for agriculture in Canada, or simply the latest in a long line of products marketed as must-haves for Canadian producers?Long used in the dairy industry for autonomous milking and herding, robotics technology is being applied in soil testing, data collection, fertilizer and pesticide application and many other areas of crop production.“Robotics and automation can play a significant role in society meeting 2050 agricultural production needs,” argues the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ Robotics and Automation Society on its website.  Farmers have a right to question the value of new technologies promising greater efficiency on the farm. But Paul Rocco, president of Ottawa-based Provectus Robotics Solutions, believes robotics offer a suite of potential new solutions for producers short on resources and averse to risk.“In a perfect world, farmers would have a machine that could perform soil sampling at night, deliver a report in the morning, and be sent out the following night to autonomously spray,” says Rocco. “We’re a ways away from that, but the technology is maturing and the capabilities exist already – it’s about putting it into the hands of farmers and making sure it’s affordable.”Provectus’ latest project involved problem solving for a banana plantation in Martinique, where human ATV operators are at risk of injury from chemical spray or even death due to unsafe driving conditions. The company recently developed a remotely operated ground vehicle that carries spray equipment and can be controlled by operators in a safe location.“We see applications in Canada,” says Rocco. “Why expose people to hazardous substances and conditions when you can have an unmanned system?”Robotics are not all bananas. For example, a Minneapolis-based company, Rowbot Systems, has developed an unmanned, self-driving, multi-use platform that can travel between corn rows – hence, “Rowbots” – to deliver fertilizer, seed cover crops, and collect data.RowBots are not yet commercially available, but CEO Kent Cavender-Bares says there’s already been interest from corn growers across the United States as well as Canada. As to whether the use of robotics is cost-effective for farmers, it’s almost too soon to say. But utility can be balanced against cost.“In terms of cost effectiveness from the farmer’s perspective, there’s a strong story already for driving yields higher while reducing production costs per bushel. Of course, we need to bring down the cost on our side to deliver services while making a profit,” says Cavender-Bares.He believes that as autonomy spreads within agriculture, there will be a trend toward smaller, robotic machines. “Not only will smaller machines be safer, but they’ll also compact soil less and enable more precision and greater diversity of crops,” he says.Case study: ‘BinBots’Closer to home, a group of University of Saskatchewan engineering students has designed a “BinBot,” an autonomous sensor built to crawl through grain bins and deliver moisture and temperature readings.The students were part of a 2015 Capstone 495 design course, in which groups of four students are matched with industry sponsors to tackle specific problems.Joy Agnew, a project manager with the Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute (PAMI)’s Agricultural Research Services, stepped forward with a challenge: could students develop an improved grain bin sensor for PAMI?“It came about from the first summer storage of canola project we did, and the data showing that in the grain at the top of the bin, the temperature stayed steady during the entire sampling period, but the temperature in the headspace grain was fluctuating wildly,” says Agnew. “We realized the power of grain insulating capacity – there was less than 15 centimetres between the grain that was changing and the grain that wasn’t. That made us think: the sensors are really only telling you the conditions in a one-foot radius around the sensor – less than one per cent of all the grain in the bin.”The problem she set to the students: can you design sensors with “higher resolution” sensing capabilities than currently available cables?“We were looking at some high-tech ideas of how we could do that with radio waves or imaging, and we thought we needed more mechanical systems,” says Luke McCreary, who has since graduated. “We ended up with a track system in the bin roof with a robot on a cable. The robot has a couple of augers on it so it can propel itself through the grain, taking temperature and humidity measurements as it goes and sending that data to a logging source to create a 3D map of the temperature, humidity and moisture in the bin,” he says.Once built, the robot will be six inches in diameter and 14 inches long, with the ability to move laterally, vertically and transversally.Agnew says PAMI is applying for funding to build the robot, and has already had some interest from manufacturers. She says the technology could reach farmers’ bins between five and 10 years from now.“We think this is the way of the future to avoid the risk of spoilage,” she says. “The technology is advancing, and costs are declining rapidly.”
Sept. 9, 2016 - Augers and the dangers associated with grain are well-known hazards during harvest. Protocol for safely working around these elements should be outlined and communicated with co-workers to minimize or eliminate the risk of injuries. When using an auger, one person should be designated as being in charge of the task, and be sure that the equipment is periodically inspected during operation. While the auger is running: Observe work area restrictions Keep all safety shields and devices in place Make certain everyone is clear before operating or moving the machine Keep hands, feet, hair and clothing away from moving parts Shut off and lock out power to adjust, service, or clean the equipment “Grain handling entrapments can happen very quickly,” says Nicole Hornett, farm safety coordinator, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry. “Flowing grain can draw a person down within seconds. High capacity equipment, such as wagons paired with large diameter augers, can be extremely efficient at unloading grain. Flowing grain can pull children and adults down quicker than one thinks they can react.” The best way to reduce the risk of grain entrapment is to eliminate the situation. Farm workers, however, are exposed to some risks. To reduce risk, follow these guidelines: Consider all alternate methods to free up grain before resorting to entering a wagon or bin. Bin entry should be the last resort. Lock out power to all types of grain handling equipment - disconnect power and place locks over operating switches Always use the buddy system when you are unloading or loading grain - quickly stopping an auger could mean the difference between an entrapment or a fatal engulfment Never enter a bin when grain is caked or spoiled - mouldy, wet grain clumps and, as it is unloaded, a large air pocket can form just below the surface creating a ‘grain bridge’ that can collapse at any time “Make this year’s harvest season one where everyone gets home safe and healthy at the end of each work day,” says Hornett. “Whether it is shift work with an extended team of farm hands or a few family members, make the plan work for safety. With all the potential hazards during fall work, it takes some discussion and planning to ensure everyone is on the same path to a safe and bountiful harvest.”
Sept. 6, 2016 - The Government of Canada has announced an investment of $1,825,000 to Clean Seed Agricultural Technologies Ltd. to support the commercialization, production and distribution of a new, high-precision seeder. With this funding from the AgriInnovation Program (part of the Growing Forward 2 agricultural policy framework), six seeders will be produced and field tested on farms, in addition to upgrades of the production line."This technology represents a new step forward in precision, no-till farming that will help farmers maximize their production and profits, while reducing their environmental footprint," says Terry Beech, parliamentary secretary to the minister of science.Precision seeding equipment uses sophisticated field/soil mapping technology which enables the farmer to apply precise amounts of seed, fertilizer and nutrients, at the right time, to maximize yields and reduce cost.
For growers considering direct-cut harvesting canola, there are many factors that play a role. Researchers in Saskatchewan are trying to provide growers with more information in a three-year project comparing the effectiveness of three different direct-cut header types (draper, rigid auger, and extended knife auger [Varifeed]) with windrowing treatments, focusing on header loss and performance.Initiated in 2014, preliminary results from the first two years of the project are showing similar trends, which researchers expect to be able to confirm at the end of the 2016 crop season. An economic analysis of the three-year project will also provide additional information to support decision-making.  The project includes three study locations – Indian Head, Swift Current and Humboldt – and uses the same protocols and headers at each location. Researchers have been able to refine their testing methods in the first two years, which will strengthen the information collected at the end of the project. The project also compared two types of canola varieties, a standard hybrid variety (InVigor L130) and two shatter resistant varieties (InVigor L140P and Dekalb 75-65 RR). Factors such as yield, header loss and loss location, environmental shatter loss and various quality components are measured.“The results from the first two years of the project are showing very similar trends,” explains Nathan Gregg, project manager with the Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute (PAMI). “Although all of the headers performed well, the Varifeed with the extendable cutter bar does show some marginal gains in loss retention. It seems to be able to retain more of the shatter loss that occurs with all of the headers.” Gregg adds that from the observations so far the extendable cutter bar allows it to go further forward, which in theory helps to retain losses from the reel. It also provides for smoother crop flow sideways to the centre of the header and then into the feeder house. This smoother crop flow means less violence and less shattering occurring in the conveyance process.“The Varifeed was also a bit more operator friendly and is a little easier to run. The extendable cutter bar is a bit more forgiving and can just go ahead/back to match the crop canopy conditions with the push of a button in the cab. Although the Varifeed provides some advantages, it doesn’t mean the other headers don’t work well. The draper does a good job, but it does take more attention to detail as far as reel position and reel speed to match to the crop canopy. However, the draper header with its ground-following floatation system performed a bit better under lodged crop conditions.” A key objective of the project is to try and identify the source and location of the header losses. In 2016, researchers increased the number of sample pans, which are placed in the crop across the width of the header and into the zone just beyond the header into the adjacent crop. “So far, the preliminary results show the higher proportion of losses are at the perimeter of the header, with another spike of losses at the centre of the feeder house,” says Gregg. “The pattern of losses is similar for all of the headers compared, although there are some differences in the degree of loss. These results are not surprising and are similar to research conducted elsewhere in Sweden and in other regions.” With the higher shatter losses concentrated at the perimeter of the header, researchers also wanted to compare losses of different dividers. Powered side cutters, including a vertical knife and a rotary knife were compared with regular passive end point dividers. Overall, the rotary knife had the highest losses of any configuration. The losses were not only higher but also higher for a wider zone (more than one foot at the point). The losses with the vertical knife were lower, with the regular passive divider showing some of the least loss. Researchers are not sure if the results are universal, but under the harvest conditions in the locations tested, the results from the divider losses were fairly consistent.   View the embedded image gallery online at: http://www.topcropmanager.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=latest&layout=latest&Itemid=1#sigProGalleria5d908e4050  “One caveat to the findings is the question of why power dividers are being used in the first place,” explains Gregg. “Generally, power dividers are used on swathers for example to allow forward progress without the crop balling up and catching on the crop divider. However, in a straight cut situation, if conditions are right and crop material is drier, power dividers may not be necessary for forward movement. Overall, the passive divider provided a smooth sleek transition and the potential for lower losses in the conditions we have seen so far. Therefore, a tip for growers who are straight cutting and trying to use the header they have, it may be worth some time investment to install cardboard and duct tape, or whatever, to help make the transition at the divider point and around the edge of the header smoother.”The preliminary results of the variety trial comparisons were similar after the first two years of the project. Researchers will be able to provide better details after the 2016 growing season results are in and an economic analysis is completed. “In conventional hybrid canola, the standard control swath and combine treatment actually yielded the highest,” Gregg says. “The losses in the straight cut treatments were a bit higher and there were some additional losses to wind. However, the shatter resistant varieties performed well across all treatments, with the straight cut treatments yielding the highest. We need to complete the economics, however, the results so far indicate that investing in some sort of shatter resistant canola variety would be a very good consideration for growers who are planning to straight cut.” “Although header choice plays a role in minimizing losses, other management decisions, choice of variety and harvest timing may hold more potential to impact yield than specific equipment,” adds Gregg. “As the practice of straight cutting canola gains traction, some growers will move to a specific header for the task, but in the meantime we are not seeing anything that suggests they need to rush out and do that immediately. There are several factors that come together at harvest and we are trying to look at some of those. We have another project underway looking at crop maturity and harvest timing and the potential of using desiccation for straight cutting, and the impact these may have on combine performance (settings, fuel use, productivity, etc). When straight cutting, growers need to be patient and wait for the crop to be ready. In the future desiccation may be one of the tools that becomes more important.” The project is jointly funded by SaskCanola, Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture and the Canada-Saskatchewan Growing Forward II Bilateral Agreement and the Western Grains Research Foundation.
Drones can provide a bird’s-eye view of a field to collect information and see field variability and patterns that you can’t readily detect from ground level. Photo by FotoliaAs farm acreage grows, it is virtually impossible to know every part of the field and to scout every acre. Remote sensing is simply defined as collecting field information remotely from a remote platform. Satellites, planes, UAVs/drones or equipment mounted platforms can provide a bird’s-eye view of the field to collect information and see field variability and patterns that you can’t readily detect as you walk across a field.
June 28, 2016 - Promising farm cash receipt projections suggest new farm equipment sales will slowly improve over the next two years, according to Farm Credit Canada’s (FCC) latest agriculture economics report.The report, Projecting 2016-17 Farm Receipts and Equipment Sales, forecasts a seven-per-cent recovery in total farm equipment sales for 2017, buoyed by projections of stronger cash receipts in coming years.“Farm equipment is among the most valuable assets for many farmers and is a great indicator for the state of the farm economy,” said J.P. Gervais, FCC’s chief agricultural economist. “While producers, manufacturers and dealers must exercise caution, strong demand for agricultural commodities, low interest rates and a stable Canadian dollar are all factors that should trigger improvement in the new farm equipment market.”Total new farm equipment sales fell by 13.8 per cent in 2015, due to uncertainty surrounding Canadian crop production and weaker commodity prices. Higher prices for new equipment in Canada– as a result of a weaker Canadian dollar – also contributed to a decreased demand for equipment.Strong new equipment sales prior to 2014 made 2015 sales appear low, even though they were in line with the 10-year average.“Equipment sales are usually a leading indicator of farm health,” Gervais said. “Tighter margins in recent years have led several farmers to choose leasing over buying their agricultural machinery. We’ve also seen new groups of producers in the market buying and sharing farm equipment.”New farm equipment sales for 2016 started off slow compared to 2015 sales levels, but are expected to turn the corner and should begin strengthening towards the end of 2016 and into 2017 thanks to an improved agriculture economic outlook, according to the FCC report.“The reason we are projecting a turn-around in new farm equipment sales is that cash receipts for various agriculture sectors are looking stronger,” Gervais said. “Nothing is written in stone, but the key indicators are looking pretty good.”The report projects crop receipts will increase 5.8 per cent in 2016, with a further 3.8-per-cent increase in 2017. These projections are highly influenced by strong prices in futures markets for major grains and oilseeds, as well as a Canadian dollar that is expected to remain below its five-year average.Gervais said low interest rates also have both short- and long-term effects on farm equipment sales. Continued low interest rates should boost sales, especially of larger equipment.
June 15, 2016 - Salford Group unveiled what it says is the largest pull-type pneumatic boom applicator on the planet. The whopping prototype is being shown for the first time in public at Canada's Farm Progress Show this week in Regina.
Mar. 16, 2016 - According to the Canadian Agricultural Injury Reporting (CAIR) program, 13 per cent of farm-related fatalities across Canada are traffic-related, and most involved tractors. During the busy spring season, farmers often travel long distances between fields, and this requires transporting equipment on public roads throughout rural Alberta. Farm equipment is oversized and slow compared to other vehicles using the roads and when certain procedures are not met, this can lead to collisions and other incidents. "Maintenance is a contributing factor to the safety of transporting farm equipment," says Kenda Lubeck, farm safety coordinator, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry (AF). "Poor maintenance of equipment such as brakes or tires can lead to loss of control of the vehicle." Check all tires for air pressure, cuts, bumps and tread wear. Always lock brake pedals together for highway travel as sudden braking at high speeds on only one wheel could put the tractor into a dangerous skid. Equip heavy wagons with their own independent brakes. The number one cause of farm-related fatalities in Canada is machinery roll overs. To minimize the risk of severe injury or death to the operator, all tractors need roll-over protective structures (ROPS)," says Lubeck. "In addition, operators should always wear a seatbelt as ROPS are ineffective in a roll over without this restraining device." To avoid traffic collisions between motorists and farm equipment, farmers should ensure their equipment is clearly visible and follows all regulated requirements for lighting and signage. This will ensure approaching traffic has time to react to a slow-moving vehicle. Use reflective tape and reflectors in the event that large equipment is required to travel in dim lighting conditions. In Canada, reflective material should be red and orange strips. You can purchase tape in kits or by the foot at local farm or hardware stores. Dust-covered signage and lights make farm machinery less visible to motorists and dust-covered machinery causes poor visibility for the operator, who may not see oncoming traffic. Be sure to clean farm equipment prior to transportation to minimize the risk of collision due to poor visibility. "It's important to note that regulated requirements for lighting and signage on public roadways include the use of a slow-moving vehicle (SMV) sign," explains Lubeck. "The SMV sign must be properly mounted, clean and not faded. It must be positioned on the rear of the tractor or towed implement and clearly visible. SMV signs must only be used on equipment travelling less than 40 km/hr." For more information on the safe transportation of farm equipment on public roads, see AF's Make it Safe, Make it Visible or go to www.agriculture.alberta.ca for more information on farm safety.  
By Jeanette Gaultier, Provincial Weed Specialist May 7, 2016 - Herbicides work best when weeds are small. Period. Exclamation mark. You get the gist... There's perhaps no better example of this than cleavers. Take a quick flip through the Guide to Field Crop Protection and you'll notice that most herbicides with activity on cleavers only guarantee control/suppression of this weed when applied between the 1 to 4 whorl stage. Although this staging is most common, application timing may be limited to as few as 2 whorls or extend up to the 8 whorl stage, depending on the product. There are also herbicides that are somewhat ambiguous as to cleavers staging but research and experience have shown that, when it comes to herbicide application to cleavers, the smaller the better. It makes sense then that a recent question on CropTalk Westman was: 'How do you stage cleavers?' Whorled leaves, one of cleavers most distinctive features, results in a herbicide application staging unique to this weed. Staging cleavers is similar to other weeds with a few simple tweaks: Find the main stem. Identifying the main stem is an important step in staging crops and weeds. But this is often easier said than done with cleavers because of its creeping habit and similar sized branches. If you can't find the main stem, just be sure to pick the stem with the highest number of whorls present. Don't count the cotyledons. Only the true leaves count when staging plants. The cotyledons of cleavers are oval to oblong with a notch at the tip and are easy to distinguish from the true leaves. Each whorl counts. Unlike most other weeds, cleavers have a whorled leaf arrangement, with each whorl having ~4 to 8 leaves (usually 6). In this case, simply count each whorl along the main stem rather than each leaf (see figure & example below).  
May 3, 2016, Ontario – With the recent warm weather, soil temperatures have reached 10 C, which means that now is great time to scout for wireworms and grubs. Wireworm baits will be most effective right now and grubs will also be feeding close the soil surface, according to Tracey Baute in her latest blog. | READ MORE
Apr. 21, 2016 - Deciding on the correct water application solution is vital to your center pivot's performance. Here are three questions you need to ask yourself before picking out a sprinkler package with your dealer. 1. What is your soil type and texture? Proper sprinkler design and selection helps reduce soil sealing with medium to heavy soils.2. What crops are you growing? A significant challenge with sprinkler head design is its ability to penetrate the crop canopy.3. What does your field's terrain look like? The slope of your field must be considered when choosing sprinklers to minimize runoff and ​to keep water where it does your crop the most good. By using your answers to these questions, you will be prepared to work with your dealership's water application experts to help determine how best to reduce energy cost, save water on your farm, and maximize your profitability. For more information on sprinkler packages and water application solutions, get your free eBook 8 Tips to Accurately Check Your Center Pivot Sprinklers.    
Henry Ford once said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Imagine the vision Henry Ford had for the automobile industry as he built the factories and components in 1908 that would become the vehicle assembly platform for the 20th century. Early automobiles were indeed “found on road dead” as the punchline of an old joke goes, and farmers would have been a segment of society that wanted to keep their horses. But the assembly line brought together the components and processes to create the future vehicles that people didn’t know they wanted. At the time, few people understood how to build an assembly line for automobiles. Today, few people understand the technical components of precision agriculture. Some people view precision agriculture as driving straighter with bigger or faster equipment, while others envision farms with driverless tractors and swarms of robots tending each plant. Agriculture is undergoing a period of technology convergence, and precision agriculture is the virtual assembly line of new tools and processes to enable more efficient operations and measurable results. Initially there were distinct segments, each providing services to agriculture such as manufacturing (equipment, seed, fertilizer, herbicide/fungicide), crop input retail, record keeping, grain merchants and consulting services. In the early days of tractors, there were hundreds of small manufacturers that consolidated into the dominant brands. The ongoing growth and mergers of companies has resulted in farm service providers that participate in numerous segments to provide a bundle of interrelated services beyond their core businesses. Competition is a wonderful motivator that is currently directing billions of dollars into agriculture, and specifically precision agriculture, to disrupt the status quo. New alliances and partnerships are forming as companies strive to share development costs and secure channel access to reach farmers. Now there are over 100 companies offering precision agriculture services, ranging from tech startups to Fortune 500 companies, all striving to create the virtual assembly line for precision agriculture. The platforms produced from this convergence are the apps, websites and cloud storage facilities that can utilize all the information and data collected by any sensor, device or equipment. Our imagination leaps to futuristic tools of The Jetsons or Star Trek, depending on your generation, but today’s technology is confusing because technology adoption takes time. Progress tends to be a series of challenges that are overcome by a series of small innovations and new ideas. Equipment sensors can collect “as applied” and yield data, and alert the operator to hundreds of possible equipment fault codes. There are about 1100 active satellites orbiting the Earth and the remote sensing satellites gather massive amounts of data that is valuable for agriculture. Improved cellular and Internet services have enabled data to be sent to powerful cloud computer servers with specialized software that are available to rent at a fraction of the cost of buying your own computers. You can now stand in any field on the planet and hold a tremendous amount of site-specific field data in your hands. Your smartphone or tablet may enable your great leap forward, but first you need to learn to navigate the platforms, websites and apps, just like you learned how to drive. I encourage you to try out the numerous websites and apps to see the features and options available. The ultimate precision agriculture platform hasn’t been created yet, as companies are still gathering the parts and building the assembly platforms. More fieldwork is required to determine the correct stacking sequence for the data layers and how many years and layers of data are required. How many in-season images, soil tests or weather stations are required to collect sufficient data is still being debated. New products and services are being developed, but unlike the Model T, precision agriculture can tailor the service levels or products to each specific farm. Prices, features and options will vary just like your vehicle choices today.  Technology convergence has the potential to fill the needs of many stakeholders because the resulting software platform doesn’t cost much to operate and deliver through the Internet. It is difficult to determine what the most popular precision agriculture platform will look like in 2020 and who will own it, but farmers will have the most advanced tools to monitor their operations, their crops and the environment. Farmers will continue to rely on their experiences to make decisions every day and the measurement tools will be better. Imagine if the “Internet of Things” was actually functioning on your farm to catalogue every action performed. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the network of devices, equipment and buildings that are connected with sensors and switches. Instead of wasting human time to record farm actions like when you seeded, changed rates and crop inputs, identified crop pests and updated field records, yield and moisture by area, the loads hauled and bins managed… what if the data was collected automatically by your tools? That information alone is just a record of what you did. But aggregated over years and compared to thousands of farms, it will display patterns and management choices that are the most valuable. History has examples of countries and societies that forgot how to farm. Perhaps the adoption of reduced tillage practices would not have taken decades if better data was available? Benchmarking the actions and results to validate best practices is an old concept, but aggregated data can make it a powerful tool again as we discuss climate change and environmental stewardship. The assembly line continues to be the most efficient method to produce most of the products in the world today. Imagine what we can produce with precision agriculture once we figure out how to operate its virtual assembly line efficiently.  
The equipment used to maintan Ontario's Bruce Trail (which runs from Niagara to Tobermory) leaves a significant environmental footprint. Enter Canada’s soybean farmers and renewable, green lubricant products made from plant-based oils. | READ MORE
 Wheat emergence in a no-till hairy vetch/oat mulch in Truro, N.S. Photo courtesy of Carolyn Marshall. Nobody is more familiar with the fight against weed pressure than organic farmers, but one weed control strategy that works in organic settings might be just as beneficial for conventional growers, according to a Laval University researcher. The secret is mulch. Caroline Halde, a professor in the department of plant science at Laval University in Quebec, says cover cropping for weed control is a proven strategy in organic studies. But she’s also had plenty of interest from conventional no-till growers in the use of cover cropping. “I’ve had no-till farmers come to me who are working with cover crops more and more, and now they are ‘almost organic’ because they use very little inputs in their cropping systems,” she says. “And now they want to make the switch because they’re almost organic but don’t get the premium.” But mulch-based weed control takes cover cropping one step further. In year one, a cover crop is planted as green manure. In year two, a cash crop is planted directly into the mulch, with the mulch serving as the grower’s only form of weed control. Halde, working under the supervision of Martin Entz, a professor of plant sciences at the University of Manitoba, completed a study investigating the use of mulches in an organic high-residue reduced tillage system near Carman, Man., in 2013. In the study, barley, hairy vetch, oilseed radish, sunflower and pea were used as cover crops, then planted with wheat. The best cover crop for weed control and cash crop yield was hairy vetch or a barley-hairy vetch mixture. “Green manure mulches with hairy vetch were effective at reducing weed biomass by 50 per cent to 90 per cent in the no-till spring wheat in 2011 and 2012, compared to other mulches,” Halde concluded. The method is not a magic bullet. Halde says high cover crop biomass is key to achieving good mulch that will effectively choke out weeds the following year. “First, you have to have a good establishment of your cover crop – that’s rule number one,” she says. Poor or excessively wet weather in the spring might hamper cover crop growth. “And another thing is to choose fields that have low weed seed banks, or at least for some particular weeds, particularly wild oats.” In Halde’s study, wild oats and perennial weeds, such as dandelion and Canada thistle, made for challenging conditions. Halde’s study relied on removing a field from production for one full year each cycle, but she says the payoffs can be rewarding. In Western Canada, the benefits of such a system involve water conservation as well as weed control. In Eastern Canada, removing herbicides from a field for a year would also be a major boon for growers nervous about herbicide resistance. “That would be a great advantage, because we see more and more herbicide-resistant weeds in Eastern Canada,” she says. But Halde is currently seeking funding for a study in Eastern Canada on the use of fall cover crops used as mulch in the spring and planted with short-season cash crops – a system which would keep fields in production, so growers do not have to lose a year each cycle. Biomass is keyCarolyn Marshall, a PhD student at Dalhousie University, is currently studying the impacts of no-till green manure management on soil health in organic grain rotations on two sites – at Carman, Man., under the supervision of Martin Entz, and at the Dalhousie Agricultural Campus in Truro, N.S., under the supervision of Derek Lynch. The project, which is funded by the Organic Science Cluster through Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), began in 2013 and will conclude this year. She says cover cropping shows enormous promise for weed control in both organic and conventional systems. “I would love to see more use of cover crops in all systems. I think they can solve all kinds of problems,” she says. Marshall’s project is focused on determining how green manure termination method affects soil health in organic grain rotations, with three tillage intensities applied on all plots: no-till, minimum tillage and spring and fall tillage. At Carman, Marshall’s team is employing a four-year rotation of hairy vetch-wheat-fall rye-soybean plus a red clover-red clover-wheat-soybean rotation. At Truro, the experiment is testing two green manures – pea/oat, and hairy vetch/barley, each followed by a wheat-fall rye-soybean rotation. In the first round at Truro, Marshall says, “We had really good growth of the green manure. Some plots got up to 10 tonnes per hectare of biomass, and it was really effective at stamping out the weeds.” When the experiment was repeated in 2014, a dry spring resulted in limited growth and very thin mulch. “The weeds went berserk in the no-till plots,” Marshall says. “Weed control seems to really depend on getting enough biomass to get a thick enough mulch, and that really depends on the weather.” Termination methods matter, too: when mulches were mowed in the fall at Truro, they decomposed, leaving too little mulch on the soil surface in the spring. When a roller crimper was used instead, the cover crops continued to grow until winterkilled, resulting in heavy mulch cover in the spring. “Researchers in North Dakota, Georgia and New England are also finding that if you don’t get enough biomass to suppress the weeds, they’ll take over your cash crop and cause a lot of problems in a very short time,” she says. It’s early days for this research, but both Halde and Marshall are enthusiastic about the potential for mulch-based weed control in organic and conventional systems alike. “In conventional systems you can use different crops to get more consistent mulch levels, which has a lot of potential to help with long-term control,” says Marshall.        
December 1, 2015 - Once considered a weed, camelina is gaining popularity in some parts of the country as a soil-protecting winter cover crop. Additionally, its seed contains high-quality oil for use in cooking and as biodiesel, offering a renewable alternative to imported petroleum. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists have been on the forefront of studies to make camelina and other novel oilseed crops more profitable for farmers to grow, easier for industry to process, and better performing as finished biofuels and other products. At the Soil Management Research Unit, operated in Morris, Minnesota, by USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS), scientists are evaluating the outcome of integrating camelina, canola, pennycress and other oilseeds with plantings of traditional Midwestern crops, such as corn and soybeans. In a recent study published in the April issue of Agronomy Journal, ARS scientists Russ Gesch and Jane Johnson examined the seasonal water use of double cropping and relay cropping-strategies that overlap the growth of winter camelina and soybean. Highlights of their findings are: Under natural rainfall conditions, relay cropping (in which the soybean crop is seeded between rows of growing camelina plants) used less water than double cropping (in which soybean seed is sown right after a camelina harvest, around mid to late June) and produced higher soybean yields.   Relay-cropped soybean yields were lower than those of full-season soybean crops; however, the total oil yield from the relay system (camelina plus soy) was 50 percent greater than the full-season soybean-only crop.   Net economic returns of relay cropping were competitive with those of full-season soybean, while adding the benefits of a cover crop. According to the researchers, the study demonstrates a sustainable way to grow crops for both food and fuel on the same parcel of land, which could potentially offer farmers a dual source of income in a single season. Read more about this research in the November issue of AgResearch.
Oct. 13, 2015, Hamilton, Ont. – G3 Canada Limited will construct a new lake terminal at the Port of Hamilton to originate grains and oilseeds out of Southern Ontario for export to global markets. The 50,000-metric tonne facility will be located at Pier 26 in the Port of Hamilton, just off Queen Elizabeth Way. Grains and oilseeds will be loaded on to vessels for transport to G3's facilities on the St. Lawrence River. From there, they will be shipped onwards to export markets around the world. Construction on the facility is already underway and is slated for completion prior to the 2017 harvest.
September 22, 2015 - A new vegetable oil-based multi-purpose lubricant for sale in Canada is about to become a bit more local.
Sept. 16, 2015 - Alberta Innovates Bio Solutions (AI Bio) has launched a new funding program - Alberta Bio Future, Research and Innovation - aimed at advancing knowledge that accelerates growth of new bioindustrial products or bioindustrial technologies for the benefit of Albertans. Discovery and developmental research are strategic priorities of Alberta Bio Future (ABF) – AI Bio's flagship bioindustrial program. Bioindustrial products from Alberta – derived from sustainable agricultural or forest biomass – are already being used in several sectors, including the personal care, chemical and energy industries, as well as construction and manufacturing. These bioproducts are helping to meet the world's growing demand for 'green' solutions; they have desirable qualities for the manufacture of goods and materials while also being environmentally friendly. "Alberta is a prime location for a thriving bioeconomy. We have abundant, renewable agriculture and forest resources, advanced infrastructure and highly qualified personnel," noted Steve Price, CEO of Alberta Innovates Bio Solutions. "But this is an emerging field into new areas of science. More investigation is required to increase basic knowledge, and to learn how to take concepts out of the lab and turn them into new industrial bioproducts and biotechnologies." The ABF Research and Innovation program has a total $4.5 million in available funding. Project funding amounts will be determined on a case-by-case basis, depending on the quality and scope of the project. In addition to funding, AI Bio assists researchers and companies with advice and connections. Researchers, companies or industry groups based in Alberta, and researchers conducting projects that benefit Alberta, are invited to apply by submitting a Letter of Intent. The deadline is Oct. 28, 2015 at 4 p.m. MT. Eligibility requirements and other important details are available here.  
Feb. 10, 2015 - The federal government is investing $3.7 million to help Integrated Grain Processors Cooperative (IGPC) Ethanol Inc. install a Fiber Separation Technology (FST) system to help boost production through operational efficiencies. According to a news release, the investment will enable IGPC Ethanol to have a higher output of ethanol, corn oil and distillers' grains, develop new higher value animal feed products and lower the plant's energy consumption. The introduction of FST at the IGPC plant allows for the early separation of fibre from corn prior to its fermentation, increasing the efficiency of the distillation process and producing a cleaner fibre product. The investment enables IGPC Ethanol to purchase approximately 18 million bushels (up from 16 million currently) of corn grain from local farmers for use as feedstock. Founded in 2002 by 780 farmers and agri-businesses, IGPC Ethanol is a division of IGPC Inc. and is one of Ontario's largest cooperatives. It employs 50 full-time staff at its plant in Aylmer, Ont. The plant began commercial operation in December 2008.    
Randy Duffy, research associate, University of Guelph’s Ridgetown Campus, sees potential for corn stover beyond bedding and feed.Photo by Janet Kanters. If green chemistry sounds more like an oxymoron than an opportunity, be prepared for some big surprises in the not-so-distant future.Innovators within the manufacturing industry are getting back to nature and the door is open for farmers to take part. While the production of biofuels remains a popular example of green chemistry, ethanol is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to industrial products that are being designed to include more renewable resources. As governments start to wean ethanol companies off of subsidies, Murray McLaughlin, the executive director of the Bioindustrial Innovation Centre in Sarnia, Ont., says farmers can expect to see some positive changes.“Biofuels are important, but the challenge with biofuels is slim margins,” explains McLaughlin. “On the chemical side of things, as long as oil stays above $80 per barrel, we can be competitive with any of the companies in that space and don’t need subsidies.”In the petroleum industry, it’s not uncommon for companies to direct 75 per cent of raw materials into fuel production, but these often account for only 25 per cent of annual revenue. The rest of their income is generated by higher-end products, such as succinic acid, and it has made these products major targets for green chemists. Succinic acid is a specialty chemical used to make automotive parts, coffee cup lids, disposable cutlery, construction materials, spandex, shoe soles and cosmetics. It is usually made with petroleum, but BioAmber, a company that hopes to finish building North America’s largest bio-based chemical plant in Sarnia next year, has found a way to make succinic acid using agricultural feedstocks. By using agricultural feedstocks instead of petroleum in its process, BioAmber produces a product that is not only more environmentally friendly but also, critically, costs less than petroleum-based succinic acid. In some applications, it performs even better than its petroleum-based competitors. Babette Pettersen, BioAmber’s chief commercial officer, explains how the new technology is outperforming its traditional competitors.“Succinic acid offers the highest yield on sugar among all the bio-based chemicals being developed because 25 per cent of the carbon is coming from CO2, which is much cheaper than sugar,” says Pettersen. Assuming $80 per barrel of oil and $6 per bushel of corn, BioAmber’s product pencils out at more than 40 per cent cheaper than succinic acid made from petroleum. “Our process can compete with oil as low as $35 per barrel,” Pettersen adds. The increased efficiency of the company’s process reduces the need for raw product, for example, from two kilograms of sugar to make one kilogram of ethanol to less than one kilogram of sugar to produce one kilogram of succinic acid.The new plant is projected to purchase an annual quantity of liquid dextrose from local wet mills, which is equivalent to approximately three million bushels of corn. BioAmber’s yeast, the organism that produces bio-based succinic acid, can utilize sugar from a variety of agricultural feedstocks (including cellulosic sugars that may be produced from agricultural residuals such as corn stover when this alternative becomes commercially available).Randy Duffy, research associate at the University of Guelph’s Ridgetown Campus, co-authored a recent study on the potential for a commercial scale biorefinery in Sarnia, Ont. The idea of producing sugars from agricultural residuals is attractive to companies like BioAmber, which faces public pressure against converting a potential food source into an industrial product, but also to farmers looking to convert excess field trash into cash. “We’re at the point where some fields probably have too much corn stover and this is an opportunity for farmers if they want to get rid of their stover,” says Duffy. “Some farmers are using it for bedding and feed, but there’s a lot of potential corn stover out there not being used or demanded right now.”In fact, the report estimated that more than 500,000 dry tonnes of corn stover are available in the four-county region of Lambton, Huron, Middlesex and Chatham-Kent, and the refinery could convert half of it into cellulosic sugar annually, at a relative base price for corn stover paid to the producer of $37 to $184 per dry tonne, depending on sugar prices and sugar yields. McLaughlin says that with more and more companies look into building facilities like biorefineries, the potential benefits for farmers multiply exponentially. At the Bioindustrial Innovation Centre alone, McLaughlin says, there are three green chemistry companies already working in pilot demonstration scale operations to produce ethanol from wood waste, butanol from fermented wheat straw or corn stover, and plastic pellets with hemp, flax, wheat straw or wood fibres in them. On a full-scale basis, any one of these has significant potential to help farmers penetrate entirely new markets.Although these green products are exciting, McLaughlin strongly believes green chemistry is not going to completely replace oil and he tries to impress this on others. “There are such large volumes of these chemicals produced from oil, I don’t think we ever will get to the point where we can displace these chemicals,” he says, “but we can complement them.” He says Woodbridge’s BioFoam, a soy-based foam used in automobile interiors as seat cushions, head rests and sunshades, is an excellent example of a hybrid product that uses green technology and petroleum technology. In order for the green chemistry industry in Ontario to realize its maximum potential, he believes everyone involved needs to consider the oil industry as a potential ally rather than the enemy. “The petroleum industry already knows the chemical markets and they’ve got the distribution,” he says, “so, who better to partner with?”   What, exactly, makes some chemistry ‘greener’?Green chemistry is a relatively new concept, but rather than simply claim to be more environmentally friendly, the philosophy is defined by structured principles. Put simply, these technologies, processes, and services are required to prove safer, more energy efficient and environmentally sustainable. In 1998, Anastas and Warner defined the 12 principles of green chemistry.Prevention – Avoid creating waste rather than treating or cleaning it up after the fact.Atom economy – Synthetic methods must maximize the incorporation of all materials.Less hazardous chemical syntheses – Design synthetic methods that are least toxic to human health and the environment.Designing safer chemicals – Chemical products should be designed to be effective but with minimal toxicity.Safer solvents and auxiliaries – Avoid the unnecessary use of auxiliary substances and render harmless when used.Design for energy efficiency – Energy requirements of processes should be minimized for their environmental and economical impact. Use of renewable feedstocks – Raw materials should be renewable whenever technically and economically practical.Reduce derivatives – Use of blocking groups, protection/deprotection, temporary modification of physical/chemical processes, etc., requiring additional reagents should be minimized or avoided if possible.Catalysis – Catalytic reagents are superior to stoichiometric reagents.Design for degradation – Environmental persistence of chemical products should be minimal.Real-time analysis for pollution prevention – Real-time monitoring and control of hazardous substances must be developed.Inherently safer chemistry for accident prevention – Substances used in a chemical process should be chosen to minimize the potential for accidents.
Turning lower-grade canola into biodiesel presents some challenges, but Prairie researchers are finding innovative ways to overcome those challenges. They’re developing new approaches that are more efficient, produce better biodiesel and valuable byproducts, and help improve the economics of biodiesel production from damaged canola seeds. “In the short term, we’re working with others to generate a market for low-quality canola. So if a grower has a bin that overheats or a canola field that gets caught under a snow bank, we can at least redeem some value for that material for them by having an industry that is receptive to frost-damaged, heated and field-damaged materials,” explains Dr. Martin Reaney, research chair of Lipid Quality and Utilization at the University of Saskatchewan. “In the longer run, we are identifying added value in the crop. In my experience, when somebody discovers an added value opportunity, it doesn’t typically result in a much higher price. But it does tend to stabilize the price. We’re introducing technology that may lead to a more stable price by adding another market to the meal and oil markets for the canola crop.” Reaney has been investigating opportunities for using damaged canola seed for many years, including research when he was at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and now at the University of Saskatchewan. He and his research team have tackled the topic from a number of angles. “When we first went into making canola into biofuels, [Canada] didn’t have the subsidies that were available in the United States and Europe. So we needed to take advantage of low-cost materials. For that purpose, we looked at seed that had been damaged either in the field or in storage,” he says. “First we studied how to get the oil out of the seed. A lot of damaged seed has lost its structure, and it is not efficiently pressed to recover oil. So we developed more efficient pressing and extraction technology.” Another early issue was that sources of damaged canola seed tend to be scattered all over the place, with amounts varying from year to year and place to place. Reaney says, “So we came up with the hub-and-spoke approach, to collect and bring the seed to some common locations for processing.” The researchers also improved the process of converting the oil into biodiesel. “Damaged seed produces quite low-quality oil with lots of different problems. So we had to figure out a very robust way of making biodiesel so that, no matter what, the biofuel would have good quality,” notes Reaney.Although canola biodiesel has advantages over biodiesel made from products like tallow and soybean oil, its properties are still somewhat different from petroleum-based diesel. So Reaney’s research group has developed processing technologies to improve such canola biodiesel properties as oxidative stability and low-temperature performance. He notes, “Low-temperature performance hasn’t turned out to be a big problem with canola mainly because when you blend it with other diesel fuel, like with a Canadian winter diesel fuel, it takes on the performance of that fuel.” One of the overarching themes of Reaney’s research is to develop techniques that are practical on the Prairies. “A lot of researchers will grab the latest technology, a ‘super-’ this or ‘ultra-’ that, and the equipment is very expensive. In my experience, western Canadian biofuel producers usually can’t use that kind of technology,” he explains. “So we look for the best biofuel properties – we can’t ever compromise on the properties of the material – that can be produced with rather conventional, simple, low-cost equipment.” Along with using damaged seed to reduce input costs, the researchers have been exploring other ways to improve the economics of biodiesel production. “[For example,] the catalyst for making biodiesel is actually quite expensive. We came up with a technology to lower the cost of that catalyst to about one-third of its original cost,” he says. They are also developing a novel approach that turns a biodiesel processing waste into a valuable byproduct. “We developed a special lithium-based catalyst for biodiesel production, and we’ve developed a method of converting the leftover catalyst into lithium grease [a heavy-duty, long-lasting grease],” says Reaney. “Lithium grease is broadly used all over the world – in heavy equipment, trains, planes, automobiles.” They are now scaling up the process for use at a commercial scale. Another current project involves making biofuels that are “drop-in” fuels. “Right now, biodiesel still has to be handled somewhat differently than [petroleum-based] diesel,” he explains. “But there are approaches to make it into a drop-in fuel. A drop-in fuel means it would have exactly the properties of diesel. You would be able to use it as is and it would require no special handling.” As well, the researchers are exploring motor oil technology that uses vegetable oils. “We have been working on trying to get the stability of these oils high enough for use in motor oil applications. We think we have some really good technology for this goal as well.”Reaney’s research on industrial uses for lower-grade canola has been supported by many agencies over the years such as Saskatchewan’s Agriculture Development Fund, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. His research also has received support from such agencies as GreenCentre Canada and from such companies as Milligan Biofuels Inc. (formerly Milligan Biotech).Opportunities and challengesThe Canadian biodiesel industry has encountered a number of hurdles and has not grown as quickly as some people had hoped it would. For instance, the industry is still working towards meeting the increased demand arising from the Canadian government’s requirement for a minimum of two per cent renewable fuel content in diesel fuel. This requirement came into effect in 2011. According to Reaney, one of several issues hampering the Canadian biofuel industry has been the contentious food-versus-fuel debate, about the issue of using farmland to produce biofuel feedstocks. Reaney’s group was ahead of the curve on this issue by focusing on the use of non-food grade canola to make biodiesel. But beyond that, his opinion is that food production and fuel production are not mutually exclusive. “It isn’t food versus fuel; it is food and fuel,” he says. “All these biofuel industries actually produce more food than would have been produced had they not entered the biofuel industry, because they are always producing a side stream that is edible. So I think that issue has been addressed by the biofuels industry, but I don’t know whether the public has caught up.”Milligan Biofuels, based at Foam Lake, Sask., is one of the companies managing to weather the ups and downs of the Canadian biodiesel industry. Along with making its own improvements to biodiesel production processes, the company has adopted some of the advances made by Reaney’s research group.“Their research proved the ability to produce consistent biodiesel from damaged seed, and that’s our business model,” says Len Anderson, director of sales and marketing for Milligan Biofuels. The company manufactures and sells biodiesel and biodiesel byproducts, and provides canola meal and feed oil to the animal feed sector. All of its products are made from non-food grade canola, including green, wet, heated or spring-threshed canola. “Milligan Biofuels is built in and by the ag community for the ag community,” notes Anderson. “That’s why it is where it’s at and why it’s doing what it’s doing.” He outlines how this type of market for damaged canola helps growers. “It’s giving them an opportunity for a local, reliable, year-round market. It creates a significant value for damaged canola because we aren’t just using it for cattle feed; we’re using the oil to produce biodiesel. So we’re probably on the higher end as far as value created for damaged seed. It creates value for what was once almost a waste product, is what it boils down to.”
The Alberta Biochar program is a recent addition to the work undertaken by Alberta Innovates Technology Futures (AITF) through a partnership with Lakeland College.“We have a saying that not all biochars are created equal,” says Anthony Anyia, lead scientist and manager, Bioresource Technologies with AITF. “Depending on what you want to use biochar for, the feedstock you are using for the biochar may have some other components that may not necessarily be good for the application you are looking at.”Biochar is the material created when biomass is combusted under low oxygen conditions, a process known as pyrolysis. It is a green platform technology with the potential to improve soil and reduce greenhouse gases. Alberta has yet to carry out any large-scale biochar studies, says Anyia, which limits the information available on biochar. Studies underway right now are examining biochar production, standards, quality and different end-use applications.Anyia is hoping that recent funding from Western Economic Diversification Canada, a number of provincial sources as well as industry partners will help provide answers.Producing biocharTwo biochar production units have been acquired for the Alberta Biochar program to demonstrate the biochar production process and produce biochar for different end-use pre-commercial testing. “With this now, we are in a position to make biochar from different feedstocks and we can now work with partners to evaluate the biochar,” says Anyia.Biochar can be made from a variety of materials, pulling on what is available in the area. A forest company could use wood and forest residue or pulp mill waste to make biochar, while a crop producer could use wheat or barley straw or residues from other crops. Biochar could be an important ally in fighting greenhouse gas emissions. While all biomass eventually breaks down, releasing carbon back into the atmosphere, if biomass is used in making biochar, biochar stabilizes that biomass, cutting in half the carbon that will eventually be released and allows the carbon to remain sequestered for longer periods. Unlike biofuel that is carbon neutral, biochar is carbon negative and can potentially reduce methane and nitrous oxide emissions from soil. AITF is working with partners, who are using biochar as a horticulture growth media for vegetable crops in greenhouses. Early indications show the same or higher yields achieved and the alleviation of herbicide toxicity. The demonstration phase is presently occurring in Brooks, Alberta, where Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development (AARD) has teamed up with a local commercial greenhouse facility and greenhouse growers. Work is also being carried out in British Columbia with a greenhouse company. That project is moving toward commercialization, says Anyia.Bonnie Drozdowski is the program leader for the reclamation group at AITF. Her work is with biochar as a soil amendment, which falls into two categories: land reclamation and marginal soil amelioration.Soil amendments to boost crop yieldThree field seasons of soil trials on a private producer’s field in the Bruce/Tofield area have netted “some really interesting results,” says Drozdowski.Drozdowski stresses that the plots used were small and that the focus was not on the mechanisms or the processes occurring within the soil, but to demonstrate crop response to biochar application into the Bnt horizon of solonetzic soils. The use of biochar was compared to a control treatment and to deep-trenching, and has resulted in improved productivity in the biochar treatments.“We’re really quite positive that these results give us inclination to continue a further scaled-up research program in respect to enhancing marginal solonetzic soils,” says Drozdowski. She notes the trials did not take into consideration operational values; and while the operational costs for using biochar would be the same as deep-trenching, there would be the additional cost of purchasing biochar.However, there would be long-term benefits in using biochar, which would include improving water and nutrient dynamics. “This is speculative because we haven’t done the actual science to prove out what is actually happening, but we believe it is occurring,” cautions Drozdowski.  Reclamation and remediationLand reclamation requirements in the 1980s and early ’90s were not as stringent as they are now and many abandoned oil and gas sites were left in poor condition. “So now when we’re going back to do the reclamation, it’s quite challenging to get the same level of productivity on the sites or even the same capability, which is how reclamation in the province is governed,” says Drozdowski.Coupled with that is the directive to not introduce new plant species or sources of weeds to the reclaimed sites. “Because biochar is an inert substance in nature but still has beneficial soil properties, it can enhance the productivity of soil without the subsequent issues that might be associated with a typical amendment application,” says Drozdowski.Trials for this use of biochar will get underway in 2013 with two wellsites located in the Peace Region. AITF will be partnering with novaNAIT’s Northern Boreal Research Institute in Peace River where biochar and mechanical pulp sludge will be evaluated against a control on two different soil types. And, work is being undertaken with a partner to determine if biochar can be used as a filtration media for processing affected water.Also, because biochar is a fine material that faces up to a 30 per cent loss when applied on an operational large scale, which limits its applications, research is underway to determine if it is feasible to create a higher value biochar product that is easier for large-scale applications.
Oct. 1, 2013, Guelph, Ont. – Great Lakes Biodiesel has begun production in Welland, Ont., creating a potential new market for Ontario soybeans.The facility will be Canada's largest biodiesel plant, producing 170 million litres of biodiesel annually, according to a press release from Grain Farmers of Ontario. The feedstock for this facility will be sourced primarily from processors who currently crush soybeans grown in the province of Ontario.Grain Farmers of Ontario and Soy 20/20 have worked together to complete research to encourage the Ontario government that a made-in-Ontario biodiesel mandate is good for the provincial economy and good for the environment. Nationally, Canada has a two per cent biodiesel mandate, and with the expansion of production in Ontario, Grain Farmers of Ontario hopes to see the implementation of a two per cent provincial biodiesel mandate.
At the scale of an atomic microscope it has become possible to package molecules that, in water, won’t clump up but will disperse evenly. What if that could be done with the active ingredients in weed control products?

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