The Canadian Grain Commission reminds the grain industry and producers about a grain grading change that comes into effect on July 1, 2016 in eastern Canada. Poor colour has been added to the definition for degree of soundness for Oats, No. 4 Canada Eastern. The Official Grain Grading Guide as of July 1, 2016, will be posted shortly before the start of the new crop year. A new moisture table for Great Northern White Beans will take effect, July 1, 2016, as well as a new moisture estimation calculator for Yellow Beans.
June 29, 2016 - Reports of cutworm infestations have continued into the third week of June in Saskatchewa.According to Scott Hartley, provincial specialist, insect/vertebrate pest management, several of the reports have been of red-backed cutworms, which can continue feeding into late June. However, all significant feeding should be coming to an end as the cutworms move into the pupation stage of their life cycle.READ MORE.
June 29, 2016 - Alfalfa weevil is still at high levels in some alfalfa fields, according to the most recent Manitoba Insect and Disease Update. Some alfalfa hay fields are being cut early as a result.Meanwhile, pea aphid levels are near or above economic threshold in some pea fields, although levels are sporadic as other fields have quite low levels.READ MORE.
A Canola Agronomic Research Program (CARP) project on cutworms is entering the final stages of completion, resulting in an information book that will be ready later this year. The Cutworm Booklet will help producers identify and control cutworm species, and give them a better understanding of the role of natural enemies in the control of the various cutworm species.
Canadian farmers reported seeding more land to lentils again this year, continuing the strong upward trend observed over the past four years. Seeding of soybeans and corn for grain increased, while canola was relatively unchanged from 2015. Meanwhile, the areas seeded to spring wheat, oats and barley fell in 2016.Seeding of most crops was nearly completed in early June, ahead of the five-year average. Sowing conditions were generally positive this spring, with only a few localized areas reporting too little or too much moisture. Total crop land lying fallow in 2016 was at an all-time low.WheatCanadian farmers reported an overall decrease in the area sown to wheat this year, down 3.9 per cent to 23.2 million acres. The decline was the result of a 9.2 per cent drop in area seeded to spring wheat, which fell to 15.4 million acres in 2016. In contrast, the area seeded to durum wheat rose 4.8 per cent to 6.1 million acres.Provincially, Saskatchewan farmers reported that total area seeded to all wheat decreased 7.1 per cent in 2016 to 12.1 million acres. Durum wheat seeded area, however, was constant year over year at five million acres. Total area seeded to spring wheat dropped 11.9 per cent to 6.9 million acres, a third consecutive decline for the province.Alberta producers reported that their total wheat acreage fell 2.7 per cent from 2015 to 6.6 million acres. A drop in spring wheat acreage accounted for the decline, down 8.5 per cent to 5.4 million acres. However, durum wheat seeded area increased 34.1 per cent to 1.1 million acres in 2016, matching the record acreage seeded to durum in 2002.Farmers in Manitoba reported seeding 2.8 million acres of spring wheat, down 3.8 per cent from 2015.CanolaCanadian farmers reported seeding 20 million acres of canola in 2016, down slightly (-0.4 per cent) from the 20.1 million acres reported in 2015.The overall decline in canola area was attributable to reduced seeded areas in Alberta (-4.3 per cent) and Manitoba (-1.6 per cent). Saskatchewan farmers reported a 2.1 per cent increase from the previous year, seeding 10.9 million acres of canola in 2016. In comparison, farmers in Alberta reported seeding 5.8 million acres, while farmers in Manitoba planted 3.1 million acres. Collectively, these three provinces accounted for nearly all of the canola seeded area in Canada.LentilsTotal area seeded to lentils reached a record high of 5.8 million acres in 2016, up 47.8 per cent from the record set in 2015.Lentil area in Saskatchewan, which accounted for 90 per cent of total acreage in Canada, rose 42.6 per cent from last year to 5.3 million acres.In addition, Alberta farmers more than doubled their planted acres of lentils this year, up 126 per cent to 565,000 acres.SoybeansIn 2016, the total area seeded to soybeans grew one per cent to 5.5 million acres. This increase was the result of a rise in soybean acreage in Manitoba, which set a new record for the province this year.In Ontario, the largest soybean producer in Canada, farmers seeded 2.7 million acres in 2016, down 6.4 per cent from last year. Ontario farmers reported using genetically modified seed for almost two-thirds of this area.Manitoba farmers seeded a record high of 1.6 million acres in 2016, up 17.3 per cent from 2015. This was the ninth straight increase.In Quebec, the area planted to soybeans was up 3.2 per cent from the previous year to 803,100 acres; genetically modified seed accounted for 63 per cent of this area.Barley and oatsNationally, the total area seeded to barley fell 2.2 per cent from 2015 to 6.4 million acres. Alberta and Saskatchewan represented almost 90 per cent of the total barley seeded area in 2016.The total acreage seeded to oats dropped 14.3 per cent from 2015 to 2.9 million acres in 2016. Alberta was the only province where farmers reported an increase from the previous year in area seeded to oats.Corn for grainCanadian farmers reported planting 3.3 million acres of corn for grain in 2016, a 1.7 per cent increase from 2015.In Ontario, farmers planted 2.1 million acres of corn for grain in 2016, an area similar to that of last year. The area seeded to corn for grain in Quebec edged down 1.4 per cent compared with last year to 889,600 acres. Farmers in Ontario reported that genetically modified seed made up 83 per cent of their total planted areas of corn for grain, while for Quebec farmers, it accounted for 86 per cent.Meanwhile, farmers in Manitoba planted 325,000 acres of corn for grain in 2016, a 30 per cent increase compared with last year.
June 23, 2016 - The later hail occurs, the higher the chance of yield loss in canola, given that the plants have less time to recover. Plants with a broken main stem will likely die. Plants at the 6-leaf stage that lose most of the leaf area on the main stem can still live, but these leaves will not regrow. The plant will be delayed, and more of the yield potential — which will be lower than before the hail — will come from side branches.Steps to consider:Fertilizer top up. If a lot of leaf mass has been knocked off the plant, the nutrients in these leaves are unlikely to mineralize this crop year. So if crop recovery is strong, an in-crop nitrogen application can replace the nitrogen already taken up in this lost leaf mass. Results will be better if nitrogen supply was already low to moderate. Keep in mind that added nitrogen can also extend maturity, so consider the calendar date and crop stage with an eye on fall frost risk.Fungicide if blackleg risk is high. Canola hailed at the 4- to 6-leaf stage can get more blackleg infection through damaged tissue. Fungicide might help, but only if you were considering using it in the first place. If the field was already at high risk of blackleg, hail damage increases that risk. If blackleg was not a major risk, fungicide probably won’t help much. NOTE that the ideal time to apply fungicide for blackleg is at the 2- to 4-leaf stage. Read more on blackleg risks and the spray decision.As with any “new to you” in-crop application, leave a check strip or better yet leave a few untreated check strips. This will allow you to assess the benefit of your rescue treatment at harvest time.An important step with hail damage at any time of the season is to call your hail insurance provider and keep them in the loop.
Facing the driest start to the growing season in more than a decade, farmers are already seeing yield losses on their wheat crops and corn is about to hit the stage where moisture will be critical. | READ MORE
June 22, 2016 - Over the past week, widespread thunderstorm activity has provided adequate moisture to most of Alberta, although some western parts of south and central regions have received less than 60 mm of moisture since the start of growing season. While these areas have received enough moisture to sustain growth in recent days, they are still in need of more moisture.Provincially, crop growing conditions across the province improved by two per cent and are now 82 per cent good to excellent, compared with the five-year average (2011-2015) of 73 per cent. About 83 per cent of spring wheat, 79 per cent of barley, 90 per cent of oats, 82 per cent of canola and 81 per cent of dry peas are in good to excellent condition. In terms of crop development, most cereals across the province are in the stem elongation stage.READ MORE.
June 27, 2016 - Wheat streak mosaic virus (WSMV) has been reported in North Dakota, Montana, and Alberta in 2016.“Early symptoms of WSMV include yellow streaks,” says Shelley Barkley, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, Brooks. “The initial leaf symptoms of wheat streak virus infection are yellow streaks or yellow-green mosaic patterns that run parallel to the veins.”Early symptoms of stripe rust can appear similar to WSMV, says Barkley. “However, within a few days, stripe rust infections will produce pustules with orange-colored spores while WSMV infections won’t produce these orange pustules. If you don’t see orange pustules occurring with the chlorotic stripes, then it’s not stripe rust.”As stripe rust is caused by a fungus, disease pressure in a crop can be altered can be prevented with fungicide. “However, WSMV is caused by a virus and will not respond to fungicides. Application of fungicides should only be done to prevent fungal diseases. There are no in-crop pesticide treatments that have proven to be consistently effective for management of WSMV”.More information about wheat streak mosaic virus and stripe rust.
Soil organic matter (SOM) is the single most important soil property that you have influence over through your management. Higher soil organic matter levels translate into better water holding capacity, which is critical in a season like the one we are having so far. It also results in higher and more consistent yields in the long run. Many of the key management practices that help build SOM are well known and effective. What’s keeping you from getting started? In this article, I will highlight some of the latest understanding of soil organic matter and how to restore and maintain it. What role does crop rotation play in that % organic matter value you get back on your soil test? Where do organic amendments fit into the operation? Finally, can cover crops help build soil organic matter on your farm? The role of soil microbes in soil organic matterSoil microbes and larger soil organisms play an important role in cycling organic matter in soil. Microbes decompose plant residue and, in doing so, release carbon as carbon dioxide (CO2). They also use a portion of the carbon for their bodies, which are themselves part of the “soil organic matter pool.” It has recently been found, however, that soil microbes also influence SOM cycling because dead and dormant microbial cells and by-products can be a significant component of soil organic matter itself. An example of a microbial by-product is a carbon-rich substance called glomalin, which is produced by mycorrhizal fungi, typically stays around for 10-50 years in soil, and can account for almost one third of the total carbon in some soils. Given that soil microbes themselves are such important contributors to SOM, but also play an important role in decomposition, how do you manage your soil so that you’re balancing the two?The importance of residue qualityDr. Lisa Tiemann, a soil microbial ecologist from Michigan State University and 2016 Southwest Agricultural Conference presenter, argues that nitrogen is at the heart of the explanation. On average, soil microbes contain 8 parts of carbon for every 1 part of nitrogen (their C: N ratio). As microbes consume plant residue, around two thirds of the carbon is lost as CO2 and one third is taken into their biomass. This makes the C: N ratio of 24:1 critical (since one third of 24 is 8). Residues below 24:1 are broken down quickly and stimulate microbial growth since they provide easily available nitrogen. On the other hand, residues above 24:1 contain more carbon relative to nitrogen than the microbes require. This means that existing microbial populations need to find nitrogen from other sources, such as existing SOM.   Table 1. C:N Ratios. Available soon on the Field Crop News website. Two main groups of microbes are important when it comes to soil organic matter. Fast-growing microbes reproduce rapidly, thrive on low C: N residue, and are generally inefficient (gain a relatively small amount of energy per amount of carbon consumed). Slow-growers, on the other hand, reproduce slowly, feed on high C: N residue (think wheat straw), but are energy efficient.  Dr. Tiemann stated that the best way to build and maintain organic matter is to strike a healthy balance between the two types of microbes. She offered the following advice for doing so: •    Wake up soil microbes by growing cover crops and applying organic amendments •    Provide a mixed quality of amendments over a rotation – both high C: N and low C: N residues and manures •    Diversify your crop rotation – more diverse rotations in general have higher SOM and more active and diverse microbesOntario research shows that adding winter wheat to a rotation increases soil carbon over time. When red clover is included as a cover crop, it likely contributes to soil organic matter not only due to its biomass, but also because it provides a high nitrogen residue that balances the high carbon residue of wheat and corn.Roots vs. shoots Often the success of a cover crop is judged by its aboveground growth. However, what’s going on belowground may be even more important if it is SOM you’re after. Research has consistently found that carbon from roots is more stable in soil than aboveground residues. In other words, carbon from roots sticks around in soil longer than carbon from shoots. So, if you’re looking to build soil organic matter, achieving consistently good root systems makes a difference. Figure 1. Root growth on a fall-seeded cover crop. Roots play a very important role in contributing to soil organic matter. Available soonon the Field Crop News website. What does this mean? •    Better soil structure and better crop root growth translates into higher yields, and also contributes more to long-term organic matter as those roots break down •    Maximize root growth with fibrous rooted crops, such as wheat, as well as cover crops •    Don’t judge a cover crop entirely by its aboveground looks – do a little digging
June 20, 2016 - Crops are advancing quickly in Manitoba. According to the most recent Manitoba crop report, over the weekend, many areas saw thunderstorms with heavy rainfall, strong winds, and hail. Assessments of crop damage are on-going. The wet conditions continue to impact crops as symptoms of excess moisture stress, including yellowing and slowed crop development are evident in areas of Manitoba receiving higher amounts of rainfall. Herbicide applications continue as field conditions allow. Fungicide applications are also on-going, largely in winter wheat and spring wheat crops for management of leaf diseases and Fusarium head blight. READ MORE.  
June 16, 2016 - Rust diseases in cereal crops and sunflower have been observed in Manitoba. Root rots in soybeans have also been reported from various locations in Manitoba. Scouting and monitoring progression of disease symptoms in the field will help in making fungicide application decisions. READ MORE.  
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."  
June 17, 2016 - It's hard to find a herbicide like glyphosate. It's cheap, highly effective, and is generally regarded as one of the safest and most environmentally benign herbicides ever discovered. But a report last year that glyphosate could cause cancer has thrown its future into jeopardy. Now the European Union faces a 30 June deadline to reapprove its use, or glyphosate will not be allowed for sale. Here's a quick explanation of the issues. Erik Stokstad with Science magazine looks at the issue. READ MORE.  
June 16, 2016 - Lentil growers realize that under most growing conditions, long-season lentil varieties seldom mature naturally. Lentils can mature unevenly, which can result in shatter losses as some pods become over-dry while others are still green. To help dry down the crop quickly and evenly, a grower has two options: they can desiccate with a harvest aid, or swath. Harvest aids provide a number of benefits to lentil growers to help speed up harvest and dry down weeds. This makes early and efficient harvesting possible, and helps to make the harvest season more manageable. Red lentil growers now have the option to use Heat LQ as a harvest aid, because BASF supports the use of the herbicide for pre-harvest applications on red lentils. Heat LQ is a Group 14 herbicide that is available in a convenient liquid formulation to help growers uniformly dry down crops. When tank-mixed with glyphosate, Heat LQ also manages tough weeds for the following season. Calvin Watson, a grower from Avonlea, Saskatchewan, uses Heat LQ to dry down his lentils. "We've used glyphosate in the past to desiccate our lentils, but we've started using Heat LQ. It burns down the crop faster and brings it in so we can get out there and harvest faster. When we top it with glyphosate, Heat LQ also burns down the weeds better, so we can combine more easily," he said. "Heat LQ when applied pre-harvest can help growers manage the workload during the busy harvest season by speeding up their harvest and controlling weeds to ensure a quality crop," said Danielle Eastman, Brand Manager, Western Herbicides and Clearfield at BASF Canada. Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs) are established in most key markets. BASF is still in the process of establishing a MRL within the European Union. Until the MRL for that market is established, growers should check with grain handlers before using Heat LQ for pre-harvest applications on red lentils. When using Heat LQ for pre-harvest applications, BASF recommends that growers follow the product label rates and timing recommendations in order to maximize their herbicide use. Heat LQ is supported for pre-harvest use on red lentil varieties only, and is not recommended on green lentils. For more information on Heat LQ on red lentils, visit agsolutions.ca.  
June 16, 2016 - Cabbage seedpod weevils are attracted to the buds on early canola plants. While they will feed on these buds and destroy some of them, spraying is rarely recommended before 10 per cent bloom.
June 15, 2016 - Fusarium head blight (FHB) continues to prove a growing trend throughout Western Canada, plaguing cereal growers with the potential for serious losses in yield, quality and grade. "Fusarium remains a cause for concern for cereal growers across Western Canada, causing reduced yields and grade quality," said Glen Forster, technical marketing specialist, fungicides, BASF Canada. "It can be a hard hit for many growers when it comes to their bottom lines." Traditionally found in black soil zones, FHB can be spread through wind, rainsplash and infected grain and straw. It is also responsible for the development of mycotoxins, affecting the baking and milling quality of wheat, malting barley and livestock feed, and can affect human and animal health if it enters the food chain. Fusarium graminearum is only one of many species of the Fusarium disease, but considered one of the most important because of the impact that it has on yield and grain quality, and its ability to produce several toxins. In fact, a recent report by Alberta Agriculture and Food noted that Fusarium graminearum has cost Alberta producers between three and eight million dollars annually, due to reduced yields and downgrading caused by the disease. According to a study recently released by the Canadian Grain Commission on the frequency and severity of Fusarium damaged kernels throughout Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, from 2003 to 2015, the damage and severity of the disease shows a consistent increase. Signs and symptoms of Fusarium infection include shrivelled, lightweight, white or pink "tombstone" kernels. To take preventative action against the disease, Forster recommends using a fungicide to provide a line of defence against FHB and protect cereal yield and grade quality. "Caramba fungicide is designed specifically to help manage Fusarium in cereals," said Forster. "The fungicide helps reduce the impact of the disease and can help growers preserve quality and protect the yield potential of their cereal crop. However, growers need to be vigilant when it comes to timing of application, as it is critical to ensure disease protection and best return on investment." For fungicide application, Forster recommends when 75 to 100 per cent of stem heads are fully emerged in wheat, oats and rye crops and when 20 to 50 per cent are flowering. On barley, he recommends immediately after head emergence up to three days after full emergence to be effective. Martin Prince farms in Delmas, Saskatchewan and has noticed an emergence of FHB in his farming area the last couple of years. "In the past, Fusarium hasn't been a factor in our farming area, but we did notice it in 2014, and our neighbours did witness some. We have been using fungicides for over 10 years on our farm and we believe that it does bring a benefit to our farm. It is an insurance policy. A heading timing of a fungicide like Caramba will prevent Fusarium." For more information visit agsolutions.ca.  
Top Crop Manager’s 2016 Herbicide Resistance Summit, held March 2 in Saskatoon, brought together experts from across North America and the world to facilitate a more unified understanding of herbicide resistance issues across Canada and around the world. In this video, Niche TV host Tamar Atik has exclusive coverage from the day, including interviews with presenters Peter Sikkema, Michael Walsh and Hugh Beckie.
Which glyphosate-resistant weed is most problematic to Ontario growers? Peter Sikkema answers this question and provides control and management strategies for dealing with glyphosate resistance in this exclusive interview from the 2016 Herbicide Resistance Summit.
How can farmers preserve the herbicides they are so dependant on? Neil Harker, a weed scientist at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Lacombe, Alta., suggests strategies to help slow down herbicide resistance in this week’s exclusive video from the 2016 Herbicide Resistance Summit.
Jason Norsworthy, a professor in the department of crop, soil and environmental sciences at the University of Arkansas, spoke at the 2016 Herbicide Resistance Summit about the status of herbicide resistance in the United States. In this exclusive video, Norsworthy offers insight on the future of herbicide resistance, and suggestions for best management practices.
Harvest weed seed control is a management practice that has seen great success in Australia. In this week’s exclusive video from the 2016 Herbicide Resistance Summit, Breanne Tidemann and Michael Walsh discuss the potential for adapting this strategy to Canada, and the benefits and challenges of harvest weed seed control.
June 27, 2016 - Alberta Agriculture and Forestry (AF) has revised its Land Classification for Irrigation in Alberta factsheet.“Land classification for irrigation in Alberta is a multi-faceted process,” says Ravinder Pannu, soil and water specialist, AF, Lethbridge. “It begins with the systematic examination, description, appraisal, and grouping of land. Grouping is based on the physical and chemical characteristics affecting its suitability for sustained production under irrigated agriculture Land selection for irrigation also involves predicting how land will respond after development and the application of irrigation water.”The factsheet includes sections on standards for classification, irrigation factors, land classes and topography classification.“Land classification for irrigation is now completed by a professional consulting agrologist,” says Pannu. “A list of land classification consultants is available on AF‘s webpage.”
June 21, 2016 - The Harrington research farm in Harringon, P.E.I., is breaking new ground, becoming the first Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada facility in the country to have part of its operation certified organic. The organic block is just 10 of the facility's approximately 400 hectares, but has been getting good reviews from organic growers in the region. READ MORE.  
June 16, 2016 - Alberta Barley, Alberta Canola Producers Commission (ACPC), Alberta Wheat Commission (AWC) and Alberta Pulse Growers (APG) invite producers to a grading workshop following last year's successful event. This year's Making the Grade workshop will take place July 26 at Lakeland College in Vermilion and will include sessions from experienced industry speakers on barley, wheat and canola, and new for this year is the addition of pulse grading. "Last year's Making the Grade proved to be a valuable tool in addressing knowledge gaps in grain grading," said Terry Young, AWC and ACPC director and member of the Western Grain Standards Committee's wheat subcommittee. "Understanding grain grading and factors affecting quality is important for all crop producers as it affects their bottom line." Producers will participate in hands-on grading workshops for barley, canola, wheat and pulses. Speakers representing organizations such as the Canadian Grains Commission (CGC) and the Canadian International Grains Institute (Cigi) will guide participants through the details of grading parameters and practices. Space is limited and early registration is encouraged. Early bird registration is $75 until July 14, and $100 from July 15 until tickets are sold out. Complete registration information and details are available on each host commission's website or at www.making-the-grade-2016.eventbrite.ca.  
June 13, 2016 - The AgCoalition will host three meetings across Alberta this month to engage farmers, ranchers and their employees on farm and ranch safety-related subject matter. The meetings are intended to gather input and strengthen the producer voice in preparation for the Government of Alberta's consultation sessions. The AgCoalition's producer representation, known as the Industry Leadership Advisory Committee (ILAC), will host the meetings. ILAC representatives will invite producer peers and their employees to join them as meeting participants. Agriculture groups external to the AgCoalition will also be invited to send farmer and rancher representatives to further broaden industry consultation. "This legislation will have its greatest effect on farmers, ranchers and their employees," said Page Stuart, AgCoalition co-chair. "Our intent is to ensure that this community has an opportunity to be part of the process and support our industry's representation at the consultation tables." Meeting participants will collaboratively determine priority issues for each topic and will develop consensus-based positions that will work best for farmers, ranchers and their employees. Input garnered from the meetings will in-turn be communicated to producer nominees participating in the government consultation sessions. Where required, the meetings will follow the same format as the consultation sessions with one working table per topic. "We look forward to working together as a sector to develop key positions to ensure our consultation nominees are fully equipped to represent their industry," said Kent Erickson, AgCoalition co-chair. Meetings will take place in Lethbridge on June 22nd, Leduc on June 27th and Grande Prairie on June 30th. An independent third party will facilitate the meetings. The AgCoalition will compile the producer input to develop briefing notes for producer nominees at the Governments consultation sessions.  
May 16, 2016 - The Prairie Organic Grain Initiative has launched a new toll-free telephone number to provide advice to organic, transitioning and interested grain and field crop producers across the Prairie provinces. The resident organic experts are available to answer producer questions on organic grain and field crop production, certification and transitioning to organic production, agronomy and marketing as well as post-harvest handling. Call 1-800-245-8341 or email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it to talk to an organic specialist. Leave a detailed voice message or email with your question and include your name, number and location. An organic specialist will connect with each request within one to three business days. More information and resources may be found at www.pivotandgrow.com.  
Apr. 26, 2016 - Honey bee colonies in the United States are in decline, due in part to the ill effects of voracious mites, fungal gut parasites and a wide variety of debilitating viruses. Researchers from the University of Maryland (UMD) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently completed the first comprehensive, multi-year study of honey bee parasites and disease as part of the National Honey Bee Disease Survey. The findings reveal some alarming patterns, but provide at least a few pieces of good news as well. The results, published online in the journal Apidologie on April 20, 2016, provide an important five-year baseline against which to track future trends. Key findings show that the varroa mite, a major honey bee pest, is far more abundant than previous estimates indicated and is closely linked to several damaging viruses. Also, the results show that the previously rare Chronic Bee Paralysis Virus has skyrocketed in prevalence since it was first detected by the survey in 2010. The good news, however, is that three potentially damaging exotic species have not yet been introduced into the United States: the parasitic tropilaelaps mite, the Asian honey bee Apis cerana and slow bee paralysis virus. "Poor honey bee health has gained a lot of attention from scientists and the media alike in recent years. However, our study is the first systematic survey to establish disease baselines, so that we can track changes in disease prevalence over time," said Kirsten Traynor, a postdoctoral researcher in entomology at UMD and lead author on the study. "It highlights some troubling trends and indicates that parasites strongly influence viral prevalence." The results, based on a survey of beekeepers and samples from bee colonies in 41 states and two territories (Puerto Rico and Guam), span five seasons from 2009 through 2014. The study looked at two major parasites that affect honey bees: the varroa mite and nosema, a fungal parasite that disrupts a bee's digestive system. The study found clear annual trends in the prevalence of both parasites, with varroa infestations peaking in late summer or early fall and nosema peaking in late winter. The study also found notable differences in the prevalence of varroa and nosema between migratory and stationary beehives. Migratory beekeepers -- those who truck their hives across the country every summer to pollinate a variety of crops -- reported lower levels of varroa compared with stationary beekeepers, whose hives stay put year-round. However, the reverse was true for nosema, with a lower relative incidence of nosema infection reported by stationary beekeepers. Additionally, more than 50 per cent of all beekeeping operations sampled had high levels of varroa infestation at the beginning of winter -- a crucial time when colonies are producing long-lived winter bees that must survive on stored pollen and honey. "Our biggest surprise was the high level of varroa, especially in fall, and in well-managed colonies cared for by beekeepers who have taken steps to control the mites," said study co-author Dennis vanEngelsdorp, an assistant professor of entomology at UMD. "We knew that varroa was a problem, but it seems to be an even bigger problem than we first thought. Moreover, varroa's ability to spread viruses presents a more dire situation than we suspected." For years, evidence has pointed to varroa mites as a culprit in the spread of viruses, vanEngelsdorp noted. Until now, however, much of this evidence came from lab-based studies. The current study provides crucial field-based validation of the link between varroa and viruses. "We know that varroa acts as a vector for viruses. The mites are basically dirty hypodermic needles," Traynor said. "The main diet for the mites is blood from the developing bee larva. When the bee emerges, the mites move on to the nearest larval cell, bringing viruses with them. Varroa can also spread viruses between colonies. When a bee feeds on a flower, mites can jump from one bee to another and infect a whole new colony." Nosema, the fungal gut parasite, appears to have a more nuanced relationship with honey bee viruses. Nosema infection strongly correlates to the prevalence of Lake Sinai Virus 2, first identified in 2013, and also raises the risk for Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus. However, the researchers found an inverse relationship between nosema and Deformed Wing Virus. Some viruses do not appear to be associated with varroa or nosema at all. One example is Chronic Bee Paralysis Virus, which causes loss of motor control and can kill individual bees within days. This virus was first detected by the survey in the U.S. in 2010. At that time, less than one per cent of all samples submitted for study tested positive for the virus. Since then, the virus' prevalence roughly doubled every year, reaching 16 per cent in 2014. "Prior to this national survey, we lacked the epidemiological baselines of disease prevalence in honey bees. Similar information has been available for years for the cattle, pork and chicken industries," Traynor said. "I think people who get into beekeeping need to know that it requires maintenance. You wouldn't get a dog and not take it to the vet, for example. People need to know what is going on with the livestock they're managing." While parasites and disease are huge factors in declining honey bee health, there are other contributors as well. Pesticides, for example, have been implicated in the decline of bee colonies across the country. "Our next step is to provide a similar baseline assessment for the effects of pesticides," vanEngelsdorp said. "We have multiple years of data and as soon as we've finished the analyses, we'll be ready to tell that part of the story as well."    
Apr. 18, 2016 - Alberta Agriculture and Forestry has released a short video on Fusarium to help producers understand more about the disease. Fusarium graminearum is a hazardous and infectious disease that costs Alberta producers between $3 and $8.7 million annually due to reduced yields and downgrading. "The effects of Fusarium graminearum on cereal crops in Alberta are devastating," says Michael Harding, research scientist with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry (AF). "So a short video was created outlining how to manage it, in an effort to bring awareness about this important fungal disease." The short video, "Stop Fusarium Before it Stops You," depicts the fusarium spores as little cartoon monsters running amok in Alberta. The video briefly outlines the causes and symptoms of the pest, and speaks to management practices to help stop Fusarium at the farmgate: "This is everything from selecting healthy seed that has been tested and proven to be free of Fursarium, to utilizing fungicidal seed treatments, to rotating crops, to employing in-crop fungicides, to irrigating at the right time," says Harding. In 1999, Fusiarum graminearum was added as a declared pest under Alberta's Agricultural Pests Act. View Stop Fusarium Before it Stops You.  
Apr. 18, 2016 - The federal government is providing a one-year investment of up to $1.9 million for the Agricultural Youth Green Jobs Initiative to attract youth to green jobs within the agriculture and agri-food sector. The Agricultural Youth Green Jobs Initiative will help fund internships for post-secondary graduates working in the agriculture industry. These internships would include activities or projects that benefit the environment. Under the initiative, support is available to fund internships both on the farm, and with organizations engaged in the agriculture and agri-food sector to help attract youth to green jobs. The Agricultural Youth Green Jobs Initiative falls under the Youth Employment Strategy (YES), a government-wide initiative to help young people, particularly those facing barriers to employment, get the information and gain the skills, work experience and abilities they need to make a successful transition into the labour market. More information is available here.  
Apr. 13, 2016 - Today, the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA) released its annual report detailing the adoption of biotech crops, 20th Anniversary of the Global Commercialization of Biotech Crops (1996-2015) and Biotech Crop Highlights in 2015, showcasing the global increase in biotech hectarage from 1.7 million hectares in 1996 to 179.7 million hectares in 2015. This 100-fold increase in just 20 years makes biotechnology the fastest adopted crop technology in recent times, reflecting farmer satisfaction with biotech crops. Since 1996, 2 billon hectares of arable land – a massive area more than twice the landmass of China or the United States – have been planted with biotech crops. Additionally, it is estimated that farmers in up to 28 countries have reaped more than US$150 billion in benefits from biotech crops since 1996. This has helped alleviate poverty for up to 16.5 million small farmers and their families annually totaling about 65 million people, who are some of the poorest people in the world. "More farmers are planting biotech crops in developing countries precisely because biotech crops are a rigorously-tested option for improving crop yields," said Clive James, founder and emeritus chair of ISAAA, who has authored the ISAAA report for the past two decades. "Despite claims from opponents that biotechnology only benefits farmers in industrialized countries, the continued adoption of the technology in developing countries disproves that" James added. For the fourth consecutive year, developing countries planted more biotech crops (14.5 million hectares) than industrialized countries. In 2015, Latin American, Asian and African farmers grew biotech crops on 54 percent of global biotech hectarage (97.1 million hectares of 179.7 million biotech hectares) and of the 28 countries that planted biotech crops, 20 were developing nations. Annually, up to 18 million farmers, 90 percent of whom were small, resource-poor growers in developing countries, benefited from planting biotech crops from 1996 to 2015. "China is just one example of biotechnology's benefits for farmers in developing countries. Between 1997 and 2014, biotech cotton varieties brought an estimated $17.5 billion worth of benefits to Chinese cotton farmers, and they realized $1.3 billion in 2014 alone," explained ISAAA Global Coordinator, Randy Hautea. Also in 2015, India became the leading cotton producer in the world with much of its growth attributed to biotech Bt cotton. India is the largest biotech cotton country in the world with 11.6 million hectares planted in 2015 by 7.7 million small farmers. In 2014 and 2015, an impressive 95 percent of India's cotton crop was planted with biotech seed; China's adoption in 2015 was 96 percent. "Farmers, who are traditionally risk-averse, recognize the value of biotech crops, which offer benefits to farmers and consumers alike, including drought tolerance, insect and disease resistance, herbicide tolerance, and increased nutrition and food quality," Hautea added. "Moreover, biotech crops contribute to more sustainable crop production systems that address concerns regarding climate change and global food security." Following a remarkable run of 19 years of consecutive growth from 1996 to 2014, with 12 years of double-digit growth, the global hectarage of biotech crops peaked at 181.5 million hectares in 2014, compared with 179.7 million hectares in 2015, equivalent to a net marginal decrease of 1 percent. This change is principally due to an overall decrease in total crop hectarage, associated with low prices for commodity crops in 2015. ISAAA anticipates that total crop hectarage will increase when crop prices improve. For example, Canada has projected that canola hectarage in 2016 will revert to the higher level of 2014. Other factors affecting biotech hectarage in 2015 include the devastating drought in South Africa, which led to a massive 23 percent decrease of 700,000 hectares in intended plantings in 2015. The drought in eastern and southern Africa in 2015/2016 puts up to 15 to 20 million poor people at risk for food insecurity and compels South Africa, usually a maize exporter, to rely on maize imports. Additional highlights from ISAAA's 2015 report include: New biotech crops were approved and/or commercialized in several countries including the United States, Brazil, Argentina, Canada and Myanmar. The United States saw a number of firsts including the commercialization of new products such as: Innate Generation 1 potatoes, with lower levels of acrylamide, a potential carcinogen, and resistance to bruising. InnateTM Generation 2, approved in 2015, also has late blight resistance. It is noteworthy that the potato is the fourth most important food crop in the world. Arctic apples that do not brown when sliced. The first non-transgenic genome-edited crop to be commercialized globally, SU Canola, was planted in the United States. The first-time approval of a GM animal food product, GM salmon, for human consumption. Biotech crops with multiple traits, often called "stacked traits," were planted on 58.5 million hectares, representing 33 percent of all biotech hectares planted and a 14 percent year-over-year increase. Vietnam planted a stacked-trait biotech Bt and herbicide-tolerant maize as its first biotech crop. Biotech DroughtGard maize, first planted in the United States in 2013, increased 15-fold from 50,000 hectares in 2013 to 810,000 hectares reflecting high farmer acceptance. Sudan increased Bt cotton hectarage by 30 percent to 120,000 hectares, while various factors precluded a higher hectarage in Burkina Faso. Eight African countries field-tested, pro-poor, priority African crops, the penultimate step prior to approval. Looking ahead to the future of biotechnology in agriculture, ISAAA has identified three key opportunities to realize continued growth in adoption of biotech crops, which are as follows: High rates of adoption (90 percent to 100 percent) in current major biotech markets leave little room for expansion. However, there is a significant potential in other "new" countries for selected products, such as biotech maize, which has a potential of approximately 100 million more hectares globally, 60 million hectares in Asia, of which 35 million is in China alone, plus 35 million hectares in Africa. More than 85 potential new products in the pipeline are now being field-tested; including a biotech drought tolerant maize from the WEMA project (Water Efficient Maize for Africa) expected to be released in Africa in 2017, Golden Rice in Asia, and fortified bananas and pest-resistant cowpea in Africa. CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspersed Short Palindromic Repeats) a new powerful genome editing technology has significant comparative advantages over conventional and GM crops in four domains: precision, speed, cost and regulation. When combined with other advances in crop sciences, CRISPR could increase crop productivity in a "sustainable intensification" mode on the 1.5 billion hectares of global arable land, and make a vital contribution to global food security. For more information or the executive summary of the report, visit www.isaaa.org.  
April 11, 2016, Ontario – The Ontario Hay and Forage Co-operative, working in collaboration with the Ontario Forage Council, has received Growing Forward 2 funding approval from the Agricultural Adaptation Council for a comprehensive feasibility study and business plan for its double-compaction hay processing facility. The Growing Forward 2 funding of $81,116 will enable the co-operative to build a strong business case for its plan to build a facility capable of processing up to 100,000 tonnes of premium quality Ontario hay annually. The recently formed co-operative is aiming to tap into export markets for superior forages to support growing dairy, equine, and livestock markets, particularly in Asia and the Middle East. The co-operative’s goal is to increase returns for producers by enabling them to obtain higher prices for their hay.  By working with producers to establish on-farm hay-drying facilities, and building a facility to compact their hay into compressed square bales for overseas shipment, the co-operative intends to offer a premium product to buyers in the livestock and equine sectors.  The Ontario Hay and Forage Co-operative has been structured as a “new generation co-operative” which means that producers will be both entitled and obligated to deliver hay to the co-operative. Members will invest in the co-operative in proportion to the volume of hay they commit to deliver to the co-operative. Profits from the venture will be shared among members based on the volume of hay they ship to the co-operative. An incentive structure will be developed to reward member producers for premium quality hay. Producers interested in joining the co-operative can get more information on the co-operative’s website (www.ontariohay.ca). This project was 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.
April 5, 2016 - On March 15, 2016, the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC) released preliminary findings from their Labour Market Information research – and it was not a rosy picture. There is currently a labour shortage of 59,000 agriculture employees across Canada and that is expected to rise to 114,000 by 2025. The three main factors attributed to the labour shortage are that the work is seasonal; the wages are relatively low compared to other sectors; and it's difficult to get people to live in rural areas. On the operator side of the labour force equation, the aging demographic of Canadian farmers have them retiring at a rate far greater than new farmers are getting into the business. According to Theresa Whalen with the CAHRC, when farmers were asked what impact the labour shortage was having on their farms, they said it means losses of opportunity and therefore money. The research indicated that one in five operators has reduced their interest or ability to invest in business growth due to chronic labour shortages. That losses in business opportunities added up to $1.5B per year or three per cent of the agricultural industry's total value in sales and production. "This figure only takes into account primary production as food and fibre processing were not part of the research," noted Whalen. "Further, the situation also negatively affects the export potential of Canada's entire agri-food industry." CAHRC will be rolling out more new Labour Market Information this spring with specifics broken down by province and commodity. As part of the rollout, CAHRC is offering "sneak peek" webinars to commodity associations and provincial ministries to assist them in understanding the research results and what it means to them specifically. The webinars offer an opportunity to ask questions and understand what the data is saying so more meaningful communications materials can be prepared, such as news releases, and have them vetted by CAHRC for accuracy prior to release. Ultimately, the "sneak peek" offers commodities a "no surprises" path forward from the research. "It is imperative that we align our research with the needs of farmers," explains Portia MacDonald-Dewhirst, executive director of the CAHRC. "So far we have done webinars with the Canadian Federation of Agriculture and the Canadian Cattlemen's Association. Both found it very valuable to ask questions of the research team to clarify the current state of labour in the industry. The Council will continue working with them to help find solutions. This labour shortage issue will not be resolved easily – we are all going to have to work together to find the solutions." The Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council works with industry leaders, governments and educational stakeholders to research, develop and communicate solutions to the challenges in employment and skills development in primary agriculture. The Council now leads collaborative implementation efforts in support of the national Workforce Action Plan for the agriculture and agri-food sector. For more information visit www.cahrc-ccrha.ca.  
by Tom Lutey Apr. 2, 2016 - With falling grain prices, Montana farmers say they'll plant a million fewer acres of wheat this season than they did two years ago, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The slide from 5.9 million wheat acres in 2014 to 4.9 million acres in the 2016 prospective plantings report, is the sharpest decline in several years. Since 2014, wheat prices have fallen nearly 30 per cent, enough to strip the profit from some farms. Wheat is still Montana's largest crop. The state would rank fourth nationally for wheat acres in 2016, the report indicated. Nationally, production is expected to be down nine per cent. "Some people are getting $3.90 a bushel for wheat. That's pretty serious business," said George Haynes, Montana State University economist, noting that the price drop would be too much for some farms. Those former wheat acres are going into other things, namely lentils, which are at 500,000 acres this spring, a nearly fourfold increase in the past two years. Lentils are a niche crop that is doing well as a result of global demand and challenging weather conditions in 2015 that cut supplies. Lentils averaged almost $28 per hundredweight at the end of 2015, according to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service. The Montana Department of Agriculture has promoted lentil production for several years and the state now is the nation's largest lentil producer. "The continued growth of pulse crops, including lentils is reflective of the diversification by Montana farmers," said Ron DeYong, Montana Department of Agriculture director. "Prices for lentils have been strong. We expect demand to continue to grow as we develop more trade opportunities and consumers learn about their benefits during the International Year of Pulses." Other big gains in acreage went to dry beans, which have more than doubled in two years to 80,000 acres. Barley crossed the million-acre mark for the first time in three years, up 80,000 acres from 2014. Garbanzo beans have more than doubled in acres in the last two years to 68,000 acres. Sugar beet acres were expected to be at 42,000, a slight decline. Some of the alternatives to wheat come with contracts guaranteeing the firm price before the seeds are even in the ground. Lola Raska, of the Montana Grain Growers Association, said malt barley is an attractive option to farmers because of an early contract, which protects farmers from market swings during the season. Malt barley must have low levels of protein, otherwise it makes for cloudy beer. The protein is kept in check by pouring the water on during the growing season. If the protein levels are low, the contract price is honoured. There's a possibility, Raska said, that farmers will take note of the declining acres in spring wheat and decided to go against the trend. High protein, hard red spring wheat is niche crop primarily in Montana and North Dakota. North Dakota farmers indicate they will plant a million fewer acres this year than they did last year. Montana farmers expected to cut spring wheat plantings by 450,000 acres. Cuts like that could drive up the Spring wheat price for those who plant, Raska said. Farming and livestock sales contribute roughly $4 billion to Montana's economy annually.  
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.  
Many crop growers know about the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, for activities like crop scouting. But UAVs are also a great tool for detecting and tracking airborne spores, bacteria and other microorganisms that cause crop disease. The resulting information can have such practical applications as helping in on-farm disease management decisions, contributing to early warning systems for major diseases, evaluating the effectiveness of disease eradication efforts, and tracking down the sources of disease outbreaks. “The field of aerobiology, which is the study of the flow of life in the atmosphere, has lacked appropriate tools to get after organisms that are flying high in the sky. UAVs have really become an important tool in that arena,” David Schmale, an associate professor at Virginia Tech, says. According to Schmale, the use of UAVs in aerobiology got off the ground through the work of United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) plant pathologist Tim Gottwald back in the 1980s. Schmale notes, “Tim Gottwald stuck a little rotating spore trap underneath the wings of a biplane, along with some little insect nets that he could remotely swing open, and he started buzzing peach and pecan orchards. His work was the pioneering work to get unmanned systems to track the movement of plant pathogens and also insects in the atmosphere. So he is the godfather and the real motivation behind all that we do.” The Schmale Laboratory has been working on the use of UAVs in aerobiology for over a decade, making important strides forward in both the technical aspects of how to conduct this type of research and in discoveries about plant pathogens and their transport tens to hundreds of metres above farm fields, across thousands of kilometres. Depending on their study objectives, they can sample the entire microbial community along the UAV’s sampling path or they can tailor the sampler to selectively collect certain species. They can sample at a single altitude or multiple altitudes to find out where and how the microbes are moving. And they can sample at different times of the day and the year to learn about the timing of pathogen transport and deposition. A key early advance at the lab was their development of a fixed-wing UAV (a UAV that looks like a little airplane) with its own onboard computer system. “Although technologies like autonomous systems are readily available today on most unmanned systems platforms, they were in their infancy about 10 years ago,” Schmale says. “In this case, we had a small autopilot computer about the size of a cell phone that had been integrated into a UAV and allowed the UAV to follow prescribed paths through the atmosphere at really tight altitudes. That was really an important milestone for us in terms of engineering.” And this engineering advance enabled important discoveries about pathogen movement. Some of those discoveries involve Fusarium pathogens. “The genus Fusarium contains some very nasty plant and animal pathogens, and many of them produce mycotoxins. We have a really good selective medium for Fusarium that we can take for a ride on one of our aircraft, and we’ve collected all sorts of different Fusarium species,” Schmale explains. “The first discovery was about a very important plant pathogen of wheat, barley and corn, Fusarium graminearum. We were able to show that isolates we had collected upwards of 40 to 300-odd metres above the surface of the earth were able to cause disease and produce mycotoxins. “And one of the isolates produced a really unique toxin that we hadn’t discovered in any of our ground-based populations in Virginia. So this unique isolate was buzzing through the atmosphere over Virginia, perhaps from somewhere pretty far away, which was really exciting and had important implications for biosecurity efforts.” These findings confirmed the long-distance spread of Fusarium graminearum spores and the potential for this type of transport to contribute to increased disease risk and to changes in Fusarium populations that could affect human health. Surprisingly, the UAV samples from this research include many previously unknown Fusarium species. Schmale says, “One of the more striking aspects of that work is that about half of any given population that we’ve collected appears to represent new or understudied species. So, at least in terms of Fusarium, quite a bit remains to be discovered in the air. Many of these potentially new species could also be important pathogens that just haven’t yet been studied or uncovered in some agricultural system.” A big part of the lab’s current work relates to the use of UAV sampling data to understand atmospheric dynamics and to help predict the regional-scale movement of airborne crop pathogens. One of Schmale’s engineering colleagues at Virginia Tech, Shane Ross, is modelling atmospheric features called Lagrangian coherent structures, or LCSs, which are like waves in the atmosphere. Schmale and Ross came up with the idea of using Fusarium sampling to track what the LCSs are doing as a way to confirm the modelling work. He notes, “We were the first to show that LCSs shuffle along Fusarium populations and modulate their movement over long distances in the atmosphere.” The Schmale Lab is also studying the trajectories of airborne pathogens, seeking to identify their sources and destinations. As part of this, the researchers are doing release-recapture experiments, where they release identifiable spores in a field and find out where those spores land to determine pathogen movement patterns. Monitoring fungicide resistance in QuebecA new Canadian project will soon be using UAV sampling to monitor for fungicide resistance in Botrytis, an onion pathogen, in southern Quebec. “We want to monitor if resistance is building up in the pathogen’s population in the region. We’ll use this information to provide the growers with information about which types of fungicide are no longer efficacious,” Bernard Panneton, who is leading the project, says. He is a research scientist at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu Research and Development Centre, a horticultural research facility that specializes in field vegetable crops. “In our research centre, there is a huge expertise in using ground-based samplers to monitor diseases in horticultural fields. During the last three years we had a project using ground samplers, placed about one metre above the ground and on towers up to 10 metres high, to monitor how spores from fungal diseases are emitted from a field and dispersed over the area and eventually go higher in the air and move away. We found that even at 10 metres above the ground, we can collect quite large samples if you do the sampling at the right time and in the right way,” he says. To monitor for fungicide resistance, the researchers need information on what is happening at a regional level, so they want samples from higher than 10 metres. “With spore sampling, the higher up you are, the further back you see – the spores come from a longer distance,” Panneton notes. Plus they will need to sample large volumes of air. “When you are at some distance above the ground, above 40 or 50 metres, the density of spores is pretty low. So you have to sample for a long time with an efficient sampler to collect some spores on your sampler.” UAV sampling can meet these needs – a UAV sampler can sample a much larger volume of air than a ground-based sampler, and it can sample the air at specific altitudes high above the ground. Panneton’s research team will be using an octocopter, a little helicopter-like UAV with eight rotors. It has a small onboard computer with GPS, so the researchers can upload its flight path. “This technology is getting fairly cheap, and it is a bit easier to use than a fixed-wing UAV. With the fixed-wing type, you need a place to take off and land. With the octocopter, you don’t need a landing strip. And the electric motors are fairly easy to service.” The project’s first step will be to develop the necessary technologies to conduct the Botrytis sampling. For example, the little octocopter is limited in terms of how much weight it can carry, so the researchers will have to develop a lightweight sensor. They’ll also need to develop a way to plan the UAV’s flight paths to collect samples that will be representative of the region. Panneton says, “We will use a map showing where the onion fields are in the region plus forecasts of meteorological conditions to see where the wind is coming from. From this information, we will have to find a way to design a proper flight path so we increase the probability of collecting spores. We are hoping to detect fungicide resistance when the resistant proportion of the population is fairly low, about 10 per cent of the population. So we will need a fair amount of the spores to do that.” Panneton plans to conduct the sampling in August when spore emission from the onion fields is at a maximum. “We think we can achieve a good sampling program with perhaps two flights at two different dates.” The sky’s the limitLooking ahead, Schmale and Panneton see intriguing possibilities for UAV sampling. Panneton is excited by the ability of UAVs to work at different altitudes and scales. “I think there is a future for a multi-scale approach where first you look at a larger region to get an understanding of the overall pathogen situation. If you see that something is happening and it seems to be coming from a particular area, then you can fly right there and take a point sample to confirm your hypothesis. And this approach can also work for weed [pollen], insect pests and other things we can find in the air.” On-the-go pathogen reporting is another potentially important possibility. The Schmale Laboratory has been experimenting with a portable biosensor to do this. “We were interested in being able to collect and analyze a sample in the atmosphere while the drone was flying and to communicate that analysis down to a ground control station, which is essentially a computer on the ground that is talking with the aircraft while it’s flying,” Schmale notes. Unfortunately, the sensor they’re using costs about $30,000 so it’s not a practical option for most agricultural uses at present. “However, those sensor technologies will continue to decrease in size and hopefully cost,” he says. “For the future, it opens up many exciting applications like being able to do source tracking while you’re in the air, so essentially sniffing out the plume of an agent, and continuing to follow the concentration gradient until you find the source of that agent.” Another potential application of UAV sampling is for on-farm disease monitoring. Schmale says, “Imagine you’re a potato grower with thousands of acres of potatoes and you are really worried about a particular pathogen that might be blowing into your potato fields from somewhere else. UAV sampling can do something that a ground sampler can’t do – it can sample a very, very large volume of air. So you can essentially sniff over your entire farm, collect a very large volume of air and determine whether or not a disease agent is there.” At the Schmale Laboratory, the latest UAV research ventures are heading in a new direction: bioprecipitation. “Some of our recently funded work is focused on a rather narrow group of microorganisms [called microbial ice nucleators]. Some of these microbes reside in clouds, while others live on leaf surfaces and in the soil and become airborne. They express interesting proteins that allow water to freeze at higher temperatures and have been associated with global precipitation events,” Schmale explains. “The idea that a microorganism can be determining whether or not it is going to rain, hail or snow is pretty exciting.” His research on these microbes could eventually lead to improved precipitation predictions, and perhaps even contribute to approaches to weather modification. For instance, some researchers are proposing the idea of planting crops that are hosts to these microbes as a way to increase precipitation in arid areas. “Potentially we could do things on our land surface to change the weather, which is an interesting concept and likely to be very important in the coming decades.”  
Mar. 31, 2016 - Much of the tracks-versus-wheels debate on farms has focused on compaction and the ability to drive in wet conditions, but what about differences in fuel consumption? Testing done in southern Manitoba in 2015 confirmed long-standing research showing tracks require less energy to move in field conditions, dispelling a lingering misconception that implements on tracks require more horsepower to pull than wheeled units. Research conducted near Altona — the home of track-maker Elmer's Manufacturing — found fuel savings of 11 to 15 percent when pulling a grain cart on tracks instead of wheels. "We used a grain cart and compared wheels to tracks at the same weights. We tested on fresh tilled ground, tilled and then dried for a few days, untilled canola ground, and concrete for a reference." explains Mike Friesen, general manager and lead engineer at Elmer's. While wheels pulled easier than tracks on concrete, there was less resistance pulling tracks in all three field scenarios. That's because tracks "float" or stay higher on top of the soil, reducing what engineers describe as "rolling resistance." Since tires generally create deeper ruts, they have a greater rolling resistance than tracks on soft soil, as explained by researchers AJ Koolen and H Kuipers in Agricultural Soil Mechanics back in 1983. "In plain English, the tracks don't have to continuously try to get out of the rut they are digging like the wheel does," explains Friesen. Hartney, Manitoba farmer Tim Morden's experience pulling large capacity Bourgault cart on Elmer's TransferTracks supports the findings. "When we had duals on the back of the cart, dirt would build up in front of the wheels and slow it down, making it hard to pull," he says. "This didn't happen with tracks." Morden explains the biggest difference he's noticed with switching to tracks is the reduced compaction and rutting, especially in wet conditions. "The number one fact is it doesn't really leave a rut at any time, unless it's really wet, but it's significantly less than tires," he says. "We have much more confidence on the field with the track." The study also compared energy required to pull Elmer's large tracks versus Elmer's smaller TransferTracks, which concluded that, while both tracks pulled easier than wheels, the TransferTracks required less horsepower at weights below 35,000 lbs per wheel making it the ideal candidate for use with an air-seeder cart, small grain cart or a rolling water/fertilizer tank. The reduced energy requirement not only results in improved fuel efficiency, but it could also allow a grower to optimize their existing horsepower in other ways, such as driving faster or pulling a wider drill with the same tractor during seeding.  
As 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. PicturesWatching kids grow up, you don’t notice the subtle changes each week, but looking back over a few years of family pictures enables you to see dramatic changes. Pictures are also useful in agriculture to capture the moment and review the history. Your farm actually has a tremendous imagery archive, although you probably have never seen it. Airplanes and satellites have been collecting imagery of your fields for years. In Alberta, air photos are available back to 1949 for most farmland. Landsat satellites started collecting multi-spectral imagery in 1972 and Landsat 8 continues building that 44-year archive. Google Earth was available in 2005 with a collection of true colour images of the Earth. The RapidEye satellite network was launched in 2009 with field detail and re-visit dates more suited to agriculture. Lethbridge based Ventus Geospatial was established as one of the first UAV/drone service providers in 2012, well ahead of the emerging U.S. market. Technology advances have improved the camera and sensors to deliver amazing field detail every week of the growing season. Satellites and UAV/drone images can show excellent field detail. As a chemical rep, I took a lot of field pictures before the new smartphone apps could locate, store and share those important areas of interest. Now you can see layers of information on your tablet as you walk across the field to assess field areas with GPS precision. Remote sensing is a broad discipline and I encourage you to build your background knowledge using Internet searches. For agriculture, you want to know some basic information when viewing imagery of your fields. Vegetation can be measured with different wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum that our eyes can’t see. Near-infrared (NIR) and normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) values are accepted measurements of vegetation that contain much more information than true colour pictures. Ask: What is the resolution or pixel size? What platform collected the image using what sensors? What is the image date and relative crop stage? What type of image processing was used? Orthorectification ensures the image scale is correct for the field, just as most fishermen know that the tilt and background references can make their fish look much larger in pictures. I find most farmers are skeptical about remote sensing, field variability and vegetation differences until they see their own fields with NIR vegetation detail from the RapidEye satellites or UAV/drones. Each image platform has pros and cons pertaining to the resolution and cost of collecting this field information. High resolution UAV/drone imagery can become terabytes of data that require good software to stitch together multiple images and GPS coordinates to quantify the data and the clouds that limit satellite image capture. Even now, lack of farmer access to multi-spectral crop imagery remains a barrier, but as precision agriculture acres have grown, imagery costs have been reduced dramatically. RapidEye satellite imagery access can start at $0.50/acre and UAV/drone imagery is approaching $3 to $4 per acre. Satshot provides access to the imagery from numerous satellite networks along with information and imagery processing options. AgronomyA picture is worth a thousand words. One picture can identify issues in the growing season, but the power of imagery is it enables change detection on a massive scale. If nature and crop growth were predictable, we could just seed, spray and harvest on the same calendar dates each year. But farming isn’t that simple. The primary function of crop scouting is to determine anything unusual or different from the norm and adjust the timing of management actions to the crop growth. Remote sensing can assist with change detection by providing multiple images in the growing season and multiple years of images to compare a field. Change detection with remote sensing can identify crop issues or differences in vegetation much faster and better than traditional methods. When crop issues are identified, it leads to questions: What is the field evidence telling me? What caused it? Was it seeding depth, germination issues, wireworms, cutworms, nutrient issues, drainage issues, irrigation issues or a combination of factors? Can we fix the problem? What actions are required? Will it pay off? What is the yield difference? Knowledge always has a cost and it can’t all come from a book. Imagery provides the base knowledge to add layers of information for soils, topography, fertility, vegetation and yield. Precision agronomists have traditional agronomy skills and remote sensing knowledge to use precision agriculture tools. I encourage you to continue learning about precision agriculture technology and seek out good people to assist your farm decisions.   
Researchers used polyethylene tanks meant for fish, at Simpson, Sask. Note the grass growth on top and the drip line. Photo by Larry Braul, AAFC. Thank the Swedes for this idea: “biobeds” that promise to protect water quality for generations to come. The concept represents a low cost, environmentally friendly way to deal with the rinse water flushed out of agricultural field sprayers. According to Larry Braul, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada water quality engineer in Regina, the biobed is an organic filter for pesticides, using conventional low value material. The use of biobeds has become an accepted practice in Europe in the past 15 years. Braul and Claudia Sheedy, research scientist with AAFC at Lethbridge, Alta., are co-leading the project to develop a biobed model to support Canadian farmers. Starting with one biobed at Outlook, Sask. in 2014, AAFC expanded the project in 2015 to sites at Simpson, Sask., and Grande Prairie and Vegreville, Alta. An additional biobed was constructed in fall of 2015 and will be monitored in 2016 at Lethbridge. “At the end of 2016, we expect to have enough data to produce a construction, operation and maintenance manual for biobeds,” Braul notes. Initial results promising“The first year at Outlook, it was highly effective. It removed more than 98 per cent and up to 100 per cent of the pesticides it received. That was very positive, and the results we just got back for 2015 are very similar,” Braul says. “Our climate is much colder than Europe and we have more intense rainfall events. We are working to address those issues with designs revised for the Prairies,” he adds. In principle, a biobed is relatively inexpensive, easy to use and significantly accelerates the natural breakdown processes for pesticides. The most challenging aspect at this point is in finding or developing an inexpensive method to easily collect the sprayer rinse water. On most farms when rinsing, the sprayer arms are fully extended while water is pumped through the system. As a result, a catch basin for that spray would need to be up to 120 feet long by about 20 feet wide and would need to drain the spray to a point where it can be collected. Biobed ingredientsThe contained biobed for the rinse water uses a mixture of topsoil, compost and straw. It provides an ideal habitat for microbes to break down the pesticides carried in the rinse water, to the point they pose no threat to the environment. In the project’s first year, Braul and Sheedy discovered the biobed at Outlook was still frozen a few inches below the surface in May, when they hoped to use it. It needed to be warmed to about 10 C, so that microbes could process the rinse water. They resolved that issue for 2015. Braul says, “Microorganisms like warm conditions. In a new biobed, we put heat tape at the bottom. We can get them up to almost 30 C at the end of May, so they can really start breaking down the pesticides. With a little heat application at the right time, we are probably doubling the decomposition rate they’re getting in Europe.” European research found that half and up to 90 per cent of pesticide contamination in groundwater could be traced to the places where sprayers were rinsed, Braul says. Two factors go into that: there’s a concentration of pesticides in one place, and a lot of water washing it down. It’s too much for the microorganisms to process. Often the topsoil is stripped off and replaced with gravel at the site where the farm sprayer is rinsed. This removes the organic matter that absorbs pesticides and allows the pesticide to leach through the soil zone.  Often, it’s fairly close to the well that supplies the water. “That’s the worst situation for managing the site,” Braul says. “It becomes quite a significant source of contamination. Instead, if we capture that rinsate, contain it and treat it, we can make a significant impact on the contamination problem.” The Swedes were first to address the problem. They collected rinsate and applied it to the top of a simple hole in the ground filled with the biomix material. “The Swedes applied the rinsate to the top of the biomix and let it seep through into the ground. It was the standard for six or seven years. It was a heck of a lot better than putting it on gravel, because it absorbed a lot of the pesticide. Now, with more sensitive instruments, we know that model doesn’t remove all the pesticides,” Braul says. Current practice is to build a contained biobed up to a metre deep. In the UK, that would be lined at the bottom with clay or plastic, and drained with weeping tile. For their first project, Braul and Sheedy built a wood frame structure. On later projects they also used open polyethylene tanks meant for fish. Plans call for putting the biomix into big tote bags already used for storing granular fertilizer or pesticide. “Really, you can use anything as a container for the biomix,” Braul says. The biomix material needs three basic components: topsoil (from a field is best, because it will already have microbes adapted to degrading pesticides); woodchips or straw (to provide the lignin for microbial food and structure); and, compost or peat (to provide the organic matter that absorbs the pesticides). Among design variations tried in 2015, the most efficient was a two-cell system about a half-metre deep. Each cell has a six-inch layer of crushed rock at the bottom. A sump pump collects leachate from below the crushed rock in the first cell and pumps it to the surface of the second cell. “Two cells remove a much higher percentage of the pesticide than single cell biobeds,” Braul notes. Although literature from the European experience suggests that nearly all the microbial activity happens in the top six inches of the biobed, most beds are one metre thick to provide additional absorption capacity. At the University of Regina, microbiologist Chris Yost is using DNA testing to determine the type and number of microbes at various depths. Yost hopes to determine the region of greatest microbial activity. At Outlook, a two-cell biobed only a half-metre deep worked better than expected, Braul says. In practice, degradation of pesticides in the biomix can take three to six months, he adds. There’s still a need to deal with the reasonably clean leachate coming from the bottom of the biomix, and a need for eventual disposal of the biomix itself. “Effluent has an extremely low level of remaining pesticide. We recommend spraying it on an area that has some organic matter and lots of microorganisms, and allow nature to do its work. One option is to put it into a tank and spray it someplace, or you can sprinkle it safely on grass or drip it along a row of trees. The little amount of remaining pesticide will be degraded in the topsoil,” he says. Setting up a collection pad for the sprayer rinsate would be the biggest single cost. It can be constructed from heavy plastic but a concrete pad is ideal. “If you want to collect everything you rinse out, you have a fairly large concrete pad. Depending on where you are, it probably could cost $5,000 to $10,000. That’s a big challenge – but some inexpensive creative options are possible,” Braul says.   
  Every 15 minutes, 685 kilometres out in space, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) satellite known as SMAP (Soil Moisture Active Passive) records the earth’s soil moisture and temperature. NASA then uses that data to produce the most accurate maps of global soil moisture, temperature and freeze-thaw states ever created with data from space. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), Environment Canada and university scientists are assisting NASA in validating SMAP soil maps. AAFC is also producing higher resolution soil moisture maps from the Canadian RADARSAT-2 satellite. The maps from SMAP and RADARSAT-2 are valuable tools that help improve people’s understanding of the processes affecting weather and climate. This, in turn, can help agricultural production. “Soil moisture is an important variable in the development of extreme events,” says Heather McNairn, the AAFC team lead and a research scientist for geomatics and remote sensing in Ottawa. “If we don’t have enough water in the soil, drought can develop; if we have extended periods of wet soils, it puts us at risk of flooding.” This is where the information from SMAP and RADARSAT-2 comes in. It reveals how much moisture is in the soil so scientists – and producers – can understand the risks for drought or flooding. “Knowing how much water is available in the soil can help us understand drought risk, where drought might be developing and how severe the drought might be,” McNairn says. “If we can measure how much water is in the soil, we can determine if the soils have enough reserve space to absorb spring snow melt and rainfall. If the soils are saturated, they are unable to accommodate additional water and this tells us the risk of flooding is high.” From an agricultural perspective, monitoring soil moisture will enable the sector to better mitigate agricultural risks regionally and nationally. It will also help Canadian producers make informed decisions for their farm operations based on changing weather, water and climate conditions. For example, producers could use the data to determine their variable rate irrigation needs. Environment Canada will use data from SMAP for improved weather forecasting since the amount of water in the soil significantly affects temperature and rainfall forecasts. “We don’t currently have good data on soil moisture across Canada,” McNairn says. The data will also help researchers outside of Canada, such as in Chile where agronomists are looking at variable rate irrigation. “Producers don’t know how to variably apply water because they don’t know where the moisture is in their fields,” McNairn says. She is assisting researchers in Chile to integrate soil moisture maps from SMAP and RADARSAT-2 into their variable rate irrigation practices. While NASA launched SMAP in January 2015, AAFC began working with the space agency three years earlier. That’s when an AAFC team from Ottawa and Winnipeg took part in SMAPVEX12, a six-week field-testing campaign that involved government and university scientists collecting soil and plant measurements in southern Manitoba while NASA flew two aircraft equipped with the same sensors as the SMAP satellite. The measurements from that mission were then used to calibrate and validate the processing models NASA was planning to use with SMAP. During the SMAP mission, which is expected to run at least three years, AAFC will provide NASA with data from its network of 12 soil monitoring stations in Manitoba and five in Ontario, all installed at private farm sites. The SMAP team will use this data to assess the accuracy of SMAP’s soil moisture products. The 2012 SMAPVEX experiment used data from NASA aircraft to simulate what soil moisture maps from SMAP would look like. Now that SMAP is launched, NASA is returning to Manitoba this year for a second experiment. SMAPVEX16 will validate actual data from the satellite, and NASA will use what is learned during SMAPVEX16 to improve its models and SMAP’s global soil moisture maps. Canada also collects data from its own satellite, RADARSAT-2, to produce soil moisture maps at resolutions higher than those produced by SMAP. These methods will be carried forward and used with Canada’s next generation of satellites, the RADARSAT-Constella­tion scheduled to launch in 2018. With this Constellation, data for use in soil moisture mapping would be available from three satellites. “SMAP and RADARSAT-2 can work together to provide a range of soil moisture products,” McNairn says. The SMAP sensor provides very coarse resolution images covering approximately 1,000 kilometres, which are very good for large scale forecasting of weather and floods, but not detailed enough for field scale mapping. This is where higher resolution data from RADARSAT-2 can help. Scientists are validating the maps from SMAP and also tackling how to downscale SMAP data to improve the resolution of soil moisture maps from this NASA satellite. Downscaled SMAP soil moisture products would provide producers with better data for use in variable rate irrigation and determining the disease risk at the field level. For example, “the risk of some crop diseases increases if the soil is wet for many days,” she explains. “The temporal persistence of wetness tells about risks and if we can determine this risk, this information will help producers make decisions in managing this risk.” For now, it’s exciting that NASA is providing soil moisture maps for the whole world every three days, McNairn says. “We couldn’t do that without satellites.”  
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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