August 22, 2016 - The work is gruelling, especially in the blistering heat of this particular summer. But University of Guelph (UofG) master’s student Meghan Grguric keeps going by reminding herself why she’s researching giant hogweed. Grguric was at a research site this summer with plant science undergrads, collecting hundreds of bags’ worth of the invasive weed to destroy. “It was 30 plus degrees and we’re all in Tyvek suits, our rubber boots and gloves with garbage bags, and we’re going around collecting the seed heads of all of the hogweed plants,” she says. Sporting an old scar on one arm and a fresh wound on her left calf from the plant’s toxic sap, she says, “I look at my burns and think, ‘Why am I doing this to myself?’ It’s all in the name of science.” Giant hogweed is found in Ontario and British Columbia. Up to 500 known populations grow in Ontario alone, and there are likely many more. Native to southern Russia, the plant appeared in Canada around 1940. Grguric says it was brought here as an ornamental plant because of its height and general impressive appearance. But its sap poses a health risk and its size - Grguric has seen plants as high as 13 feet, although it can grow taller - allows it to push out other plants. Giant hogweed thrives near water, has caused erosion near shorelines and is believed to have disrupted salmon spawning in British Columbia. “It really is a problem because people will ignore it,” says Grguric. “I’ve been to properties where they know it’s a concern but they don’t really tackle it. Or they try to, but they give up.” Each plant sets thousands of seeds, which can remain viable in soil for years. “Even if it doesn’t germinate the next year, it can germinate years after, so you have to keep on top of it.” Its sap can cause significant burns. The irritation begins as an itch that reddens and eventually becomes a blister. Pointing at her leg, Grguric says she figures her Tyvek suit rode up without her realizing it. “If you get some sap on you, the best thing to do is cover it, keep it away from sunlight, and wash it off with soap and water.” Grguric, who studied plant science and classical studies in her undergrad, hopes to find the best method to deal with giant hogweed. She was introduced to the invasive weed by plant agriculture professor Francois Tardif and Mike Cowbrough, with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. About four days a week during the summer, she travels between hogweed patches cultivated at UofG’s Woodstock Research Station and other sites throughout southern Ontario. Herbicides such as Roundup target individual flowering plants but don’t necessarily kill the weed. “Roundup doesn’t control the seedlings that pop up and, in general, doesn’t have any soil control, so there is no residual control,” says Grguric. “Basically, you spray it, you kill off what’s there, and new seedlings pop up a few months later.” She’s also looking at pruning control. Although other researchers have studied the effects of pruning the plant once, no one has looked at continuous cutting. She’s looking at how continuous pruning affects numbers and viability of seeds. Early summer is when giant hogweed does the most damage. The plants shed their seeds about now before dying off. Grguric will be back at it again next summer, with the marks on her limbs a reminder of the lengths she goes to for her research. “They’re my battle scars.”
August 22, 2016 - Much of the province received a badly needed rain this past week up to five inches in some areas. Crops that will benefit most are hay, pasture, longer day soybean varieties and emergency forage and cover crops seeded after winter wheat and spring cereal harvest. Accumulated crop heats units (CHUs) are close to the 30 year average in most areas.ForagesThis most recent rain will significantly help new growth on the alfalfa and grasses for hay and pasture. Forage plants once in the full flower stage (legumes) or in headed stage (grasses), should be cut to stimulate new growth. Note forages, including corn silage, harvested immediately after a rainfall following dry weather stress can be high in nitrates resulting in livestock poisoning and silo gas. This is particularly high risk during the five to seven days following a rain that ends a severe dry period.  Silo gas can be fatal to both humans and livestock.  Extra caution should be taken around silos, feed rooms, etc. and keep these areas well ventilated after silo filling. For more information, see the factsheet on potential nitrate poisoning and silo gas when using corn damaged by dry weather for silage, green chop or grazin at http://bit.ly/2aZKjlW. CerealsWinter wheat harvest is complete and most of the spring cereals have been harvested. Spring cereal yields have been average to mostly below average this year. Quality has been excellent for the most part, but lower protein levels in some of the spring wheat growing areas.CanolaOnly a few of the early planted fields have been harvested to date. Limited yields have been reported average to above average with grain moisture from 12 per cent to a low of six per cent moisture on the combine. Growers should be checking their field to avoid excessively low grain moisture.Edible BeansDisease pressure has been low due to dry weather in most regions. Harvest will start earlier than normal from the dry weather this growing season.SoybeansSome fields have started to turn colour, but flowering continues and pods continue to fill, so soybeans will benefit from this recent rain. As well, the recent rain should reduce the spider mite pressure. Disease pressure remains low.CornMany fields are under-developed and have incomplete pollination due to the dry weather (see Figure 1 at http://fieldcropnews.com). In some cases this has left a third of the cob unpollinated. Several growers are considering selling drought stressed corn as silage off the field to local livestock producers. Determining an equitable price can be difficult. Some factors to consider include potential grain content and removal of crop residue and fertility from the field in the form of the leaves, stalks and cobs in addition to the grain. It is also difficult to estimate silage yield and moisture. Often times the actual whole plant moisture is higher than would be assumed under dry weather conditions. Samples should be taken before harvesting the field to determine the whole plant moisture. For proper silage fermentation and storage, the recommended silage moisture content should be: conventional upright silos: 60-65 per cent horizontal silos: 60-70 per cent oxygen-limiting silos: 50-60 per cent bag silos: 60-70 per cent Yields are best determined by weighing a few loads as they come off the field and adjusting to standard moisture such as 65 per cent moisture.  For more information, take a look at pricing corn silage in 2016 at http://fieldcropnews.com/category/corn/Cover CropsThere is still time to seed some cover crops.  See this link http://bit.ly/OMAFRACoverCrops1 for some options. Keep in mind, many of the cover crops can be used as emergency forages such as oats and oat mixture, fall rye and red clover under-seeded in the winter wheat crop to name a few.OMAFRA Adverse WeatherFor more information see http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/crops/weather/adverseweather.html
August 22, 2016 - Manitoba's field report for the month of July has been released.  It states that insect pest concerns are currently low. Most canola crops are now past the stage where Lygus bugs would be of concern, and only trace levels of soybean aphids have been found so far. Grasshopper counts have so far generally been low.  With respect to plant pathogens, various diseases continue to be reported in field crops. | READ MORE.
August 16, 2016 - A United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) entomologist has found "green" alternatives to insecticides to control three native stink bugs that damage cotton, and the new methods are catching on with growers. The green stink bug (Chinavia hilaris), southern green stink bug (Nezara viridula), and brown stink bug (Euschistus servus) are a particular problem in the southeastern United States, because cotton is often grown alongside peanuts. Brown and southern green stink bugs develop in peanut fields and migrate into cotton. Green stink bugs move into cotton from nearby wooded areas. Glynn Tillman, with USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in Tifton, Ga., is studying the use of "trap crops," such as soybean and grain sorghum. Trap crops are planted in small strips alongside cotton so that the stink bugs will move into them instead. Another option is using pheromone-baited traps to capture and kill the bugs. Nectar-producing plants can be grown to attract native parasitoid wasps that attack stink bugs. Placing plastic barriers between cotton and peanut rows is yet another control method. In a recent study, Tillman and her colleagues grew cotton and peanuts side by side for two years. In the first year, they planted soybeans as a trap crop, with and without pheromone traps, between the cotton and peanut rows. In other areas, they placed 6-foot-high plastic barriers between the rows. In the second year of the study, they added nectar-producing buckwheat plants near the cotton. Each week during the May-to-October growing season, they counted the stink bugs and stink bug eggs killed by wasps, and documented the damage to cotton bolls. They found that physical barriers between peanut and cotton were the most effective tool and that the multi-pronged approach is an effective alternative if barriers are not feasible. They also found that soybeans were an effective trap crop and that buckwheat plants attracted beneficial wasps that reduced stink bug numbers.
August 15, 2016 - The 2016 Annual Peace Canola Survey was recently completed by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) staff based at Beaverlodge, Alta. and Saskatoon, Sask.Since 2003, this annual survey has been conducted with the main objectives of collecting insect pest data throughout the region and to detect the introduction of the cabbage seedpod weevil into the Peace River region. In 2016, a total of 156 commercial fields of Brassica napus (e.g., each field ≥80 acres in size) were surveyed and no B. rapa was encountered. Fields were spaced approximately 10km apart and surveying was performed through the main canola production areas of the Peace River region in both British Columbia and Alberta during early- to mid-flower stages. | READ MORE.
China is preparing to enact a rule as of Sept. 1 that would require the amount of extraneous plant material in canola-seed exports to make up less than one per cent of each shipment. The Chinese are a major customer for 43,000 farmers, mainly in Western Canada but also Ontario and Quebec, who export their product through grain handlers. Last year, China bought more than 40 per cent of all canola Canada sold abroad. | READ MORE
The government of Saskatchewan, along with grain producers and customers, are continuing discussions with transportation service providers to prepare for a large crop this season.
The Ontario Forage Council is reminding farmers the Ontario Hay Listing Service can help hay and straw producers connect with buyers across the province.
Northeastern Ontario farmers are hoping it will rain soon because the hot, dry summer is starting to take a toll of some of their crops.
With 99 per cent of the wheat crop in the bin, 2016 is expected to go into the books as the best crop farmers near London, Ont., have ever grown.
Farmers in northern Ontario have a short growing season. There’s little room for error, and every bit of data helps. That’s why for the past seven years, a research team has built a tool that gives both real-time and historic information that helps growers make more informed crop management decisions. AgInnovation Ontario reports. | READ MORE
Western bean cutworm (WBC) are active now in both corn and edible beans fields. While there is no action threshold specific for treatment of WBC in dry edible beans, farmers can scout nearby corn fields and consult the available resources. Field Crop News reports. | READ MORE
August 24, 2016 - Command, a herbicide from FMC, is now registered for control of cleavers in canola. Command is a Group 13 pre-emergent herbicide that will provide canola growers with residual control of cleavers and will be an integral part of an overall cleaver management program in canola.  It is a liquid formulation that can be tank-mixed with glyphosate for a one pass pre-seed application.  Command can be used with any canola herbicide system. 
In Saskatchewan, provincial guidelines recommend spraying fungicides on durum wheat at the flag leaf stage for leaf spots and the flowering stage for Fusarium head blight (FHB), if warranted. But others are also recommending fungicide applications at earlier growth stages on a preventative basis. Yet little evidence existed, until recently, on whether this was a viable practice. However tempting it is to throw some fungicide in with a herbicide application to save on application costs, Myriam Fernandez cautions it doesn’t help prevent disease and can even negatively impact quality. “Our results suggest that under variable environmental conditions in Saskatchewan, not always conducive to the development of high disease levels in wheat, early preventative fungicide application on durum wheat should not be recommended as a strategy to improve productivity, even when followed by a second application,” Fernandez says.   Fernandez is a research scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) at the Swift Current Research and Development Centre. Between 2004 and 2006, she led a study investigating single and double applications of foliar triazole fungicides at various growth stages, and the impact on FHB, deoxynivalenol (DON) concentration, dark kernel discoloration and grain traits in durum wheat. A second study was led by research scientist Bill May at AAFC’s Indian Head Research Farm between 2001 to 2003, which looked at the impact of single and double fungicide applications at flag leaf emergence and flowering stage on disease control and yield and quality of durum. Both studies were recently published in the Canadian Journal of Plant Science. In Fernandez’s research, plots were established at the South East Research Farm in southeast Saskatchewan, and the trial ran for three years. The previous crop was canola in each year. AC Avonlea durum was seeded using a no-till plot drill. Standard agronomic practices were used. Folicur was applied at the recommended rate in all years. Six fungicide treatments were conducted: unsprayed; at stem elongation (GS 31); when flag leaf was half emerged (GS 41); at early to mid-anthesis (flowering) (GS 62-65); at stem elongation and mid-anthesis; at flag leaf emergence and anthesis. Leaf spotting disease, FHB incidence, Fusarium kernel infection, DON concentration, grain yield and quality parameters were measured. Percentage leaf spotting severity on the flag leaves was evaluated in 2004 and 2005, but not in 2006 because of poor disease development. Fernandez says that in most cases, a fungicide application at stem elongation was not effective in reducing Fusarium diseases, nor in improving yield and grain characteristics. She explains that none of the early, single applications were consistently different from the unsprayed control. Fungicide application at flag leaf emergence was more effective in reducing disease levels later in the growing season or improving grain characteristics than an early application at stem elongation. An application at the flowering stage resulted in the most consistent reduction in Fusarium levels, leaf spotting and improvement in kernel size. This is consistent with fungicide application timing for FHB control. Saskatchewan Agriculture recommends fungicide application when at least 75 per cent of the wheat heads on the main stem are fully emerged to when 50 per cent of the heads on the main stem are in flower. The double fungicide applications at either stem elongation/flag leaf emergence and anthesis were no more effective than a single fungicide application at flowering, and would have resulted in increased fungicide and application costs. None of the fungicide treatments resulted in a significant grain yield increase. “We can conclude that fungicide application, single or double, might be profitable only in the presence of higher disease pressure levels, with more suitable growing conditions for disease development and plant growth,” Fernandez says. Grain downgrading might result from early and frequent fungicide applicationThe early fungicide applications also had a negative impact on dark kernel discoloration, a key quality parameter for durum wheat with tolerances for total smudge and black point at five per cent in No. 1 Canadian Western Amber Durum (CWAD) and 10 per cent for No. 2 CWAD. The discoloration would have resulted in downgrading for the early application treatments. Fernandez says the results also indicated potential for a consequent increase in kernel discoloration like black point and red smudge after early fungicide treatment, which was associated with greater kernel size. This effect has also been reported with other fungicides from other wheat growing regions of the world. The 2001-2003 study conducted in southeast Saskatchewan and southwest Manitoba led by May at Indian Head looked at the impact of single and double fungicide applications at flag leaf emergence and flowering stage on Fusarium-damaged kernels and other kernel diseases, leaf spotting, and resultant grain yield and quality of durum wheat. Disease levels averaged over all site years were high enough to result in an 8.5 per cent yield increase from the application of fungicides. However, application at either flag leaf elongation or flowering stage also increased black point by 49 per cent, from 0.38 per cent to 0.56 per cent, and red smudge by 17 per cent, from 0.54 per cent to 0.63 per cent. In addition, double fungicide application further increased red smudge to 0.85 per cent, a 57 per cent increase compared to no fungicides being applied. Effective August 2015, the Canadian Grain Commission changed the grading factors for CWAD. Red smudge is no longer a separate grading factor, but is still included under “smudge.” The maximum allowable level of smudge in CWAD is now 0.50 per cent for grade No. 1, and one per cent for grade No. 2 and grade No. 3. Prior to 2015, the tolerance level for red smudge in CWAD No. 1 was 0.30 per cent. In May’s research, the percentage smudge would have resulted in a downgrade to No. 2 CWAD. May says two theories have been put forward to explain the association of red smudge and fungicides. The first is that an early fungicide treatment could result in an increase in kernel size that would facilitate the opening of the protective husk (glume), making it easier for fungi to penetrate and infect the grain. An alternative explanation is that the fungicide might alter the microbiological community on the spikes before or during kernel development, modifying the fungal interactions in that environment. More research is required under western Canadian conditions to determine the exact cause. For foliar leaf disease control, Fernandez says the recommendation is still to apply a fungicide at the flag leaf stage, based on the level of disease infestation. This research found little benefit to applying fungicides for leaf spot diseases because the crop was not heavily infected. In other areas more conducive to disease, or years with high disease pressure, fungicide application at the flag leaf, or heading stage for leaf spotting disease could be profitable. The research also shows that current fungicide timing recommendations for FHB control at head emergence to 50 per cent flowering are still valid. Fernandez cautions when applying any fungicide at any growth stage the potential development of fungicide resistance in wheat pathogens should always be considered, and unnecessary fungicide application may increase the risk of resistance developing. May says faced with the recommendation of early fungicide application as a preventative measure regardless of disease pressure, farmers need to consider that early and frequent fungicide applications to durum wheat might reduce grain quality and result in downgrading and potential profit loss. “I would expect that a fungicide application for control of FHB in durum wheat would provide a yield increase much more often than it would improve the grade of the harvested crop.” May says.  
You may think weeds resistant to herbicides are a new phenomenon linked to the overuse of glyphosate in genetically engineered crops, but according to the Weed Science Society of America (WSSA) nothing could be further from the truth. This year marks only the 20th anniversary of glyphosate-resistant crops, while next year will mark the 60th anniversary of the first reports of herbicide-resistant weeds.The first known report of herbicide-resistance came in 1957 when a spreading dayflower (Commelina diffusa)growing in a Hawaiian sugarcane field was found to be resistant to a synthetic auxin herbicide. One biotype of spreading dayflower was able to withstand five times the normal treatment dosage. That same year wild carrot (Daucus carota) growing on roadsides in Ontario, Canada, was found to be resistant to some of the same synthetic auxin herbicides.Since then, 250 species of weeds have evolved resistance to 160 different herbicides that span 23 of the 26 known herbicide mechanisms of action. They are found in 86 crops in 66 countries, making herbicide resistance a truly global problem.“Given all the media attention paid to glyphosate, you would think it would have the greatest number of resistant weed species,” says David Shaw, PhD, a Mississippi State University weed scientist. “Though there are currently 35 weed species resistant to the amino acid synthesis inhibitor glyphosate, there are four times as many weed species resistant to ALS inhibitors and three times as many resistant to PS II inhibitors.”Scientists say what is unique about glyphosate resistance is the severity of selection pressure for resistance development. More than 90 per cent of soybean, corn, cotton and sugar beet acres in the U.S. are glyphosate tolerant and receive glyphosate treatments – often multiple times per year.“The sheer size of the crop acreage impacted by glyphosate-resistant weeds has made glyphosate the public face for the pervasive problem of resistance,” says Shaw. “But resistance issues are far broader than a single herbicide and were around long before glyphosate-resistant, genetically engineered crops were even introduced.”Research shows that resistant weeds can evolve whenever a single approach to weed management is used repeatedly to the exclusion of other chemical and cultural controls – making a diverse, integrated approach to weed management the first line of defense. Many growers have had great success fighting resistance by adopting a broader range of controls.One example is found in the experiences of U.S. cotton growers in the southern U.S. After years of relying on glyphosate for weed control, resistant Palmer amaranth (Amaranthus palmeri) began to overrun crops and caused yields to plummet. Today integrated weed management programs that use a diverse range of controls have become commonplace in cotton, despite the higher cost. Growers are using cover crops, hand-weeding, tillage, weed seed removal and herbicides with different mechanisms of action in order to keep Palmer amaranth at bay.There have been tradeoffs. Additional herbicides, labor and fuel have tripled the cost of weed control in cotton. In addition, increased tillage has raised concerns about soil erosion from water and wind.  But for now, the crop has been preserved.“Although diversification is critical to crop sustainability, it can be difficult to make a decision to spend more on integrated weed control strategies,” says Stanley Culpepper, PhD, a weed scientist at the University of Georgia. “As a result, many of the most successful diversification efforts can be found in crops like cotton where change became an imperative.”Culpepper says that in addition to costs, another barrier to adoption of integrated weed management is the belief by some that new types of herbicides will be invented to take the place of those no longer effective on resistant weeds. But the HPPD-inhibitors discovered in the late 1980s for use in corn crops are the last new mechanism of action to make its way out of the lab and into the market.“It would be naïve to think we are going to spray our way out of resistance problems,” Culpepper says. “Although herbicides are a critical component for large-scale weed management, it is paramount that we surround these herbicides with diverse weed control methods in order to preserve their usefulness – not sit back and wait for something better to come along.”
Weeds defend themselves from control measures in many ways, and can adapt to our cropping systems. A winter annual cleavers is avoiding herbicide control because it germinated in fall and will be too large and difficult to kill before an herbicide is applied in the spring. Buckwheat is naturally tolerant to glyphosate, although it is not resistant. Stork’s bill can be a winter annual but it is also morphologically plastic and keeps germinating all season long. Herbicide resistance is another way a plant defends itself.
Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency has approved Regalia Rx biofungicide for use on wheat and soybean in Canada.The Regalia product portfolio, with all formulations based on an extract of Giant Knotweed (Reynoutria sachalinensis), is a suite of preventative biofungicides for use on both conventional and organic crops. Regalia products prevent and fight diseases by triggering treated plants to produce disease-fighting biochemicals (induced systemic resistance), while simultaneously increasing leaf chlorophyll content to enhance plant health, crop yield and crop quality. Regalia Rx is not harmful to workers, food, beneficials and pollinators, according to a company press release, and can be sprayed right up to harvest to manage residues for export. Regalia Rx also has the minimum restricted-entry interval for workers to enter the field after spraying, increasing operational flexibility.The Regalia Rx label is for suppression of Septoria leaf spot on wheat and aerial web blight (Rhizoctonia solani), Alternaria leaf spot, frog-eye leaf spot (Cercospora sojina) and white mould (Sclerotinia sclerotiorum) on soybeans.Marrone Bio Innovations (MBI) has an agreement with Koch Agronomic Services to distribute Regalia Rx brands in the United States and Canada for large acre crops, such as wheat, soybeans, corn and alfalfa.
There are four glyphosate-resistant weeds in Ontario. Glyphosate-resistant giant ragweed was first found in 2008, and is now found in the six southwestern counties in Ontario – Essex, Kent, Lambton, Elgin, Middlesex and Huron – as well as Lennox and Addington county.
Environmental groups have launched a court challenge to federal permits for two common pesticides that some say are behind large die-offs in bee populations. | READ MORE
For me, the world’s greatest herbicide was – and I say that in the past tense, was – glyphosate. It’s unfortunate but in my geography it is a herbicide of the past on many driver weeds. For me Palmer amaranth is a driver weed. For you that may be kochia. That may be wild oat. That could be green foxtail.
The Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) in Canada has granted approval for registration of DuPont Lumivia insecticide seed treatment for corn growers in Ontario and Quebec  Lumivia is a new seed treatment product for corn that delivers broad spectrum pest protection and efficacy. It protects corn against early-season, below-ground insect pests such as wireworms and seed corn maggots, as well as foliage feeders including cutworms and armyworms, according to a company press release. Lumivia is expected to be commercially available for the 2017 growing season. In Canada, Lumivia is the first insecticide seed treatment technology containing DuPont's active ingredient DuPont Rynaxypyr, aGroup 28, anthranilic diamide insecticide, the press release adds. It is meant to support uniform, healthy stand establishment and early vigor for maximum yield potential. 
Ontario corn growers should be on the lookout for eyespot this season, warns Albert Tenuta. Photo courtesy of Krishan Jindal. It might not be Ontario’s flashiest foliar disease on corn, or even the most economically devastating – both those awards go to Northern corn leaf blight – but eyespot was on the rise in 2015, and may be a cause for concern for Ontario growers in 2016. According to Albert Tenuta, field crop pathologist for the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), eyespot is “one of those diseases that looks worse than it actually is – the impact on the corn is minimal.” But it’s certainly not negligible. Common in the northern regions of the corn belt, eyespot becomes a problem in fields with residue from previous crops, or in continuous corn cropping. Caused by the fungus Aureobasidium zeae, infection generally occurs in the spring under cool, wet conditions; if it spreads to the upper leaves of the plant, it can cause reduced yields. Tenuta is a member of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) and OMAFRA’s annual corn disease survey team. Each year, on average, 200 corn plots across Ontario and occasionally Quebec are tested for major corn disease severity. According to survey team member Krishan Jindal, a pathologist with AAFC’s Ottawa Research and Development Centre, the survey is a valuable tool for studying the distribution of Northern corn leaf blight and other foliar diseases, and identifying the pathogenic races moving through the province. In 2015, eyespot showed a surprising surge in Ontario cornfields, along with Northern corn leaf blight. “Both diseases were found in almost all fields visited in southern and western Ontario, with 40 per cent of the affected fields having incidence levels of greater than or equal to 30 per cent and one-fourth of the fields having a severity of greater than or equal to five (greater than 20 per cent of the leaf area affected),” reads the report. But Tenuta says eyespot doesn’t come as a shock to Ontario growers. “We’ve always had eyespot. We’re just seeing more of it,” Tenuta says. “Many of these diseases are residue-borne, so as we leave more residue we’ll see more disease.” What does this mean for growers? According to Tenuta, eyespot sometimes means a four to six bushels per acre yield loss, but in conjunction with other diseases, it can cause problematic stress on the plant. “Where eyespot could be an issue would be on seed corn, where you have a relatively susceptible seed corn inbred,” he says. If the variety is susceptible to other foliar leaf diseases as well, these plants can’t tolerate as much stress, so the impact will be more substantial. Variety, variety, varietyManagement for eyespot comes down to variety. “It doesn’t matter what disease we’re talking about – the first step is always effective resistant variety selection,” Tenuta says. “The most important decision a grower can make is which particular variety or hybrid they’ll select.” If a field has a history of eyespot, growers should choose good-yielding varieties with decent resistance. “The next thing is scouting to determine the amount of disease there: is it a threat? Is it down low in the canopy, or high up? If you’ve got eyespot, you have good conditions for other leaf diseases,” he says. If disease reaches threshold levels, fungicide application is necessary. When it comes to tillage, growers may have tough decisions to make when it comes to eyespot and other foliar leaf diseases, Tenuta says. Because eyespot relies on residues as a food source, removal of residues means the fungus can’t spread enough to trouble the next crop. “If they can’t feed, they can’t grow and they can’t infect,” he says. But growers need to assess whether periodic tillage is right for their operations on a case-by-case basis. “It’s an effective tool, but you have to consider some of the other benefits of conservation tillage in terms of soil erosion. And just because we work the ground doesn’t mean the risk is eliminated – you might be reducing your in-field inoculum, but in many cases we have enough spores moving in from other fields,” he says. As for the future? More eyespot resistant varieties may be on the way soon. Lana Reid, a research scientist at AAFC’s Ottawa Research and Development Centre, and her team are working on developing a number of inbreds with resistance to a variety of common foliar diseases, including CO450, a corn inbred line that is highly resistant to eyespot. It was made available to breeders in 2013. “This survey, I would say, is of great value – it gives direction to the research and to breeding projects,” Jindal says.   
June 20, 2016 - As the cereal crop's flag leaf stage approaches, many producers are wondering if a foliar fungicide application is worth their time and money. "Most farmers want to know if they will get a yield and economic benefit from a foliar fungicide application," says Dr. Sheri Strydhorst, agronomy research scientist, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, Barrhead. "Fungicide applications can be costly but, under the right conditions, can increase yields more than 30 per cent." Strydhorst is leading a province wide-research project to help producers make fungicide management decisions. She says that, based on field research data from 2014 and 2015, they have come up with some helpful findings. "Our 10 site years of data show that a foliar fungicide application on AC Foremost wheat significantly increases yields when there has been at least five inches of rain from the time of seeding to end of June." However, she cautions, it might not be that simple. "For foliar diseases to infect crops and cause yield reductions, we need three things. First, we need a susceptible host. Second, we need the pathogen. Third, we need environmental conditions suitable for disease development."Our detailed foliar fungicide work was done with AC Foremost. It is an old cultivar that does not have the best genetic resistance to foliar diseases. Without the genetic resistance, this cultivar needs extra help to battle disease pressure." However, not everyone is growing AC Foremost. In another study, Strydhorst found that Stettler wheat showed a yield increase with dual foliar fungicide applications in only one of nine site years; AC Foremost in seven of nine site years and AAC Penhold in four of nine site years. "Some cultivars are responding to fungicide applications while others are not." This certainly complicates the decision making process, she says. "Producers should check disease resistance ratings on the cultivar they are growing. For example, AC Foremost is rated as susceptible to stripe rust and moderately susceptible to leaf spot while AAC Penhold is rated as moderately resistant to stripe rust and intermediate to leaf spot." Dr. Kelly Turkington, research scientist at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Lacombe, says that, "in a continuous wheat rotation, residue-borne diseases such as tan spot and septoria are likely present, so it is reasonable to expect a fungicide response with a susceptible cultivar the majority of the time, especially when the weather is favourable." Strydhorst's research found yield increases with AC Foremost in response to fungicide applications when there was 1.9" of rain from seeding until the end of June. In this instance, winter wheat fields in the area were showing high levels of stripe rust. She says that with high levels of disease in the environment, fungicides can contribute to yield increases. Turkington says each disease has specific conditions that favour development. "Stripe rust does not necessarily need a lot of moisture. Heavy dew can be enough to promote stripe rust. More rainfall facilitates inoculum production, dispersal (in the case of rain splashed pathogens) and host infection." With the timely and frequent rainfall seen in much of the province, Strydhhorst suggests environmental conditions are right for tan spot and septoria pathogen growth. "Our research shows that the more rain we have had, the bigger the yield benefit from the fungicide. For example, with 10" of rain from seeding until the end of June we observed a 26 bu/ac yield increase. But with 7" of rain the yield increase was reduced to 20 bu/ac. We still have one more year of research to conduct, but our initial findings suggest that more frequent and timely rains lead to bigger benefits from fungicide applications." Turkington says stripe rust is a different pathogen and warm days with heavy dew resulting in several hours of leaf wetness per day can provide suitable environmental conditions for disease development in June. "However, rainfall and/or heavy dew in July can contribute to stripe rust development including on the head and peduncle also contributing to yield reductions." While Strydhorst's research aims to simplify decision making, she says, as we all know, nothing is ever simple. "At the end of the day, producers should assess: the disease rating of their cultivar, the presence of disease in their field and the environmental conditions. If you have poor genetic resistance, disease presence coupled with frequent, timely rains, it will likely be worthwhile to spray a foliar fungicide in 2016."  
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.  
August 23, 2016 - Canadian farmers expect production of wheat, barley and lentils to increase in 2016, while canola, soybean, corn for grain and oats are anticipated to decline. Extremely dry and wet weather conditions in different parts of the country have played a significant role in the production expectations reported in the July survey. Wheat Total wheat production is expected to reach 30.5 million tonnes in 2016, up 10.5 per cent compared with last year. This could mark the second time in 25 years that wheat production will exceed 30 million tonnes, the other being the bumper crop of 2013. The reported increase in total wheat production resulted from a projected higher average yield of 48.9 bushels per acre in 2016, up 14.3 per cent from 42.8 bushels per acre in 2015. In turn, harvested area declined 3.3 per cent to 22.9 million acres, the lowest level in five years. Farmers in Saskatchewan, Alberta and Ontario all expect total wheat production to rise in 2016. Farmers in Saskatchewan anticipate production to rise 5.1 per cent to 13.7 million tonnes, despite harvested area declining nearly a million acres to 11.9 million acres in 2016. The gain in total wheat production is buoyed by a 5.0 bushels per acre increase in average yield to 42.2 bushels per acre in 2016. Producers in Alberta expect a 15.4 per cent increase in total wheat production to 9.6 million tonnes, the result of a 15.6 per cent rise in average yield to 53.4 bushels per acre. Area harvested to all wheat is expected to be similar to 2015 levels at 6.6 million acres. In Ontario, where mostly winter wheat is grown, production of all wheat is anticipated to rise 66.7 per cent from a year earlier to 2.6 million tonnes. The overall increase reflects a higher reported harvest area of 1.1 million acres (+42.0 per cent), and an expected record average yield of 89.2 bushels per acre (+17.4 per cent). In contrast, Manitoba farmers reported a 2.9 per cent decrease in the wheat they expect to produce to 4.1 million tonnes in 2016. Harvested area is anticipated to decrease 4.4 per cent to 2.9 million acres, while yields are reported to have edged up 1.6 per cent from 2015 to 51.1 bushels per acre. Canola Canadian farmers anticipate producing 17.0 million tonnes of canola in 2016, down 1.2 per cent from 2015. While the national average yield is projected to remain at 38.0 bushels per acre, lower expected harvested areas in Alberta and Manitoba are contributing to the decline in national production. Canola production in Saskatchewan is expected to edge up 0.8 per cent from 2015 to 8.9 million tonnes in 2016. This is largely due to a 1.2 per cent increase in harvested area, with average yield similar to the 36.3 bushels per acre in 2015. In Alberta, canola production is anticipated to decline 1.0 per cent from 2015 to 5.4 million tonnes as a result of a 4.6 per cent drop in harvested acreage. Farmers anticipate average yields to increase 3.8 per cent to 41.2 bushels per acre, up from 39.7 bushels per acre reported in 2015. Manitoba farmers expect canola production to fall 7.8 per cent to 2.6 million tonnes. Canola harvested area is anticipated to be 80,000 acres lower (-2.6 per cent) than a year earlier, and average yield is expected to decline 5.5 per cent to 38.1 bushels per acre. Corn for grainCorn for grain production in Canada is expected to decline 8.9 per cent from 2015 to 12.3 million tonnes in 2016. The national record average yield of 164.7 bushels per acre in 2015 is expected to fall 9.4 per cent to 149.3 bushels per acre in 2016. Ontario is the major provincial producer of corn for grain, but dry weather conditions in many farm areas are tempering production expectations. As a result, Ontario farmers expect corn for grain production to fall 11.1 per cent to 7.9 million tonnes. This anticipated decline is tied to a projected decrease in average yield to 153.5 bushels per acre, down 10 per cent from 170.6 bushels per acre in 2015. Harvested acres are expected to decline slightly (-1.2 per cent). Quebec farmers expect their corn for grain production to decline 8.8 per cent from the previous year to 3.4 million tonnes. This is the result of a 1.9 per cent reduction in harvested area to 882,200 acres, combined with a 7 per cent decrease in average yield to 153.1 bushels per acre. Conversely, production of corn for grain in Manitoba is expected to increase 19 per cent from 2015 to 937 300 tonnes. This increase in production can be attributed to a 30.6 per cent gain in harvested area to 320,000 acres, as average yield is expected to fall 11.2 bushels per acre (-8.9 per cent) to 115.3 bushels per acre. Soybeans Nationally, soybean production is expected to be 5.8 million tonnes in 2016, down 6.5 per cent from 2015. Reported average yields were down for all major soybean producing provinces. Ontario, the largest soybean producer, is anticipating a 15 per cent decrease to 3.1 million tonnes in 2016. Harvested area is expected to fall 7.1 per cent to 2.7 million acres. At the same time, the average yield for the province is expected to decline from the 45.5 bushels per acre in 2015 to 41.6 bushels per acre in 2016. In Manitoba, farmers expect record soybean production for a fifth consecutive year, up 9.8 per cent from 2015 to 1.5 million tonnes in 2016, despite a 5.4 per cent decrease in average yield to 35.0 bushels per acre. The anticipated increase in soybean production is the result of a 16.3 per cent rise in harvested area to a provincial record 1.6 million acres. Quebec producers anticipate a 1 per cent decline in soybean production to 990 000 tonnes. Although a 3 per cent increase in harvested area to 800,600 acres was reported, average soybean yield in Quebec is expected to fall 4.0 per cent to 45.4 bushels per acre in 2016. Lentil Lentil production is expected to reach a record high in 2016, as farmers estimate output to increase 36.3 per cent from a year earlier to 3.2 million tonnes. The rise in lentil production is the result of a 36.9 per cent increase in harvest area to 5.4 million acres, as expected average yield was 0.5 per cent lower this year at 1,326 pounds per acre. The majority of national lentil production takes place in Saskatchewan, and farmers in the province are projecting 2.8 million tonnes for 2016. Anticipated average yield was reported at 1,283 pounds per acre, down 4.2 per cent from 2015. During the survey period in July, significant amounts of rain fell in much of the province, which influenced yield expectations. As rain continued into August, final average yield could be further compromised in regions experiencing excess moisture.Meanwhile, lentil production in Alberta is expected to increase 213.6 per cent to 432 700 tonnes, a record level for the province. Farmers in Alberta anticipate a 127.6 per cent increase in harvest area to 560,000 acres. Average yields are expected to rise 37.8 per cent from 2015 to 1,704 pounds per acre, but below the five-year average of 1,808 pounds per acre. Barley and oats Barley production is expected to rise 5.8 per cent to 8.7 million tonnes in 2016. This growth is attributable to a 6.5 per cent increase in average expected yield to 69.2 bushels per acre. Meanwhile, little change is expected in harvested area, reported at 5.8 million acres (-0.7 per cent) in 2016. Canadian farmers expect oat production to fall 11.9 per cent to 3.0 million tonnes. This decrease reflects a 12.1 per cent decline in expected harvested area to 2.3 million acres, as average yield is anticipated to remain basically unchanged from last year at 85.5 bushels per acre (+0.2 per cent).
The registration for the CDC Arras, Flanders and Somme flaxseed varieties will be cancelled effective Aug. 1, 2017. At that time, these varieties will be removed from the variety designation list for flaxseed and will only be eligible for the lowest grade.
Severe weather is taking a toll on some Alberta farmers this growing season, with insurance claims being dominated by hail damage.
Timely information about drought conditions can help agricultural producers, agribusiness, government planners and policy-makers, emergency preparedness agencies and others to better plan for and proactively respond to drought. The Canadian Drought Monitor tracks a wide range of drought-related information and boils it all down to easy-to-understand, online monthly maps.“The Canadian Drought Monitor is kind of an early warning system. It provides a clear picture of what is occurring in near real-time. We’re tracking drought conditions continuously so that we know where we’re at and we can respond quicker to problems,” explains Trevor Hadwen, an agroclimate specialist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC). AAFC leads the Canadian Drought Monitor initiative, working in close collaboration with Environment Canada and Natural Resources Canada.He notes, “There is a very large process around developing the Drought Monitor maps that is unique to this particular product. It is not as simple as feeding climate data into a computer and having it spit out a map.” That’s because drought is difficult to measure. It can creep up on people as the cumulative effects of ongoing dry conditions gradually mount up. Its effects are often spread over broad areas. And different groups define drought conditions differently, depending on their interests and needs.So, the Canadian Drought Monitor draws together diverse information like precipitation amounts, water storage levels, and river flow amounts, as well as information about drought impacts on people. And it combines various drought indicators used by the agriculture, forestry and water management sectors into a single composite indicator.“All that information is put together to create one easy-to-read map product, with just five classes of drought or dryness. Users can get a very clear picture of the areal extent and severity of the drought with one look at the map,” Hadwen says.The five drought classes are: D0, abnormally dry – an event that occurs once every three to five years; D1, moderate drought – an event that occurs every five to 10 years; D2, severe drought – an event that occurs every 10 to 20 years; D3, extreme drought – an event that occurs every 20 to 25 years; and D4, exceptional drought – an event that occurs every 50 years. The monthly maps are available in an interactive form that allows users to see the changes in drought location, extent and severity over time.The Canadian Drought Monitor provides useful information for people in many sectors. Hadwen gives some examples: “For agriculture, the information helps with things like where people might want to market grains, where there might be shortages, where there might be areas of good pasture, where livestock reductions might be taking place, all those types of things. The information is also very valuable outside of agriculture, in terms of water supplies, recreational use, forest fires – the list can go on for quite a while.”The Canadian Drought Monitor maps feed into the North American Drought Monitor maps. “The North American Drought Monitor initiative started about 12 years ago. The U.S. had been doing the U.S. Drought Monitor project for a number of years, and Mexico and Canada were interested in doing similar projects,” Hadwen notes. “So we joined forces to create a Drought Monitor for the continent.” All three countries use the same procedures to monitor, analyze and present drought-related information.The continent-wide collaboration provides a couple of big benefits. “Number one, drought doesn’t stop at the borders,” he says. The North American initiative provides an integrated view of drought conditions across the continent.“Also, the Drought Monitor is extremely powerful in terms of the partnerships that have developed and the linkages to some of the best scientists in North America. We share ideas and build off each other, developing better and more accurate ways of assessing drought. We can utilize some of the information generated from U.S. agencies, like NOAA [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] and the National Drought Mitigation Center, and agencies in Mexico. This collaboration effort helps increase the efficiency of the science and the technical aspect of drought monitoring.”According to Hadwen, the continental collaboration has been really helpful in building Canadian agroclimate monitoring capacity. “Over the last decade or so we have certainly matured a lot, and we’ve started to develop some really interesting tools and applications for Canadian producers and agricultural businesses to help deal with some of the climate threats to the farming industry, including droughts, floods, and everything else,” Hadwen says.AAFC’s Drought Watch website (agr.gc.ca/drought) provides access to the Canadian Drought Monitor maps and to other agroclimate tools such as maps showing current and past information on precipitation, temperature and various drought indices, and the Agroclimate Impact Reporter (scroll down to see sidebar). WHEN COMPLAINING ABOUT THE WEATHER MAKES A DIFFERENCEIf you love to talk about the weather's impacts on your farming operation, the Agroclimate Impact Reporter (AIR) could be for you. If you want your comments about these impacts to make a difference, then AIR is definitely for you. And if you want to find out how the weather is impacting agriculture in your rural municipality, your province, or anywhere in Canada, then AIR is also for you.AIR is a cool online tool developed by AAFC that grew out of a previous program to collect information on some drought impacts. "We have had a program in place to monitor forage production and farm water supplies in the Prairies for well over 15 years. Then about three years ago, we started to develop a tool to replace that program – a tool that would be national in scope and that could gather information on a whole range of agroclimate impacts," Hadwen explains.AIR taps into a volunteer network of producers, AAFC staff, agribusiness people and others. "We use crowd-source data for this, gathering information from a whole wide variety of people. Some of them we know through our registered network, and others have a subscription to our email box and provide comments to us on a monthly basis," he says."We're trying to gather as much information from as many people as possible on how weather is impacting their farming operations. We ask the participants to do a short [anonymous] monthly survey, usually about 25 quick multiple choice questions, to let us know how things are going."AIR is collecting impact information in several categories including: drought, excess moisture, heat stress, frost, and severe weather (like tornadoes and hail storms)."We plot that information and produce a whole bunch of individual maps showing very subject-specific information from each survey question," Hadwen notes. "We also have a searchable online geographic database. On a map of Canada, you can zoom in on different regions and see where we're getting reports of a large number of impacts or not as many impacts. You can even drill down into that map and see the exact comments that we are getting from [the different types of respondents, in each rural municipality]."The information collected through AIR provides important additional insights into the weather conditions and related issues and risks. He says, "Sometimes the data we have in Canada isn't as fulsome as we would like, and sometimes it doesn't tell the whole story. For instance, the data [from weather stations in a particular area] might show that it didn't rain for a very long period and the area is in a very bad drought, but the producers in the area are telling us that they got some timely rains through that dry period that helped their crops continue to grow. Or, the data might show that we received a lot of rain in a season – like we did in 2015, if you look at the overall trend – but the farmers are telling us that there were big problems in the spring. So, combining both those types of information certainly helps draw the whole story together a little better."AIR information feeds into the Canadian Drought Monitor to help in assessing the severity of drought conditions. As well, the AAFC's Agroclimate group incorporates AIR information into its regular updates to AAFC's Minister and senior policy people; it helps them to better understand what is happening on the land, and that knowledge can help in developing policies and targeting programs.Information from AIR is also valuable for businesses that work with producers, such as railroad companies wondering about regional crop yields and where to place their rail cars, and agricultural input companies wondering if they need to bring in extra feed or fertilizer.AAFC is in the process building AIR into a national program. "We want to collect agroclimate impact information from right across the country. We have a history in the Prairie region, so we have more Prairie producers providing information. We've made inroads into B.C., so we're getting some reports from there already," Hadwen says. "[Now] we're going out to Atlantic Canada and Ontario. And over the next couple of years, we'll be expanding AIR right across the country."If you are interested in becoming a volunteer AIR reporter, visit www.agr.gc.ca/air.
Youth competitors from across Alberta spoke in the first annual Alberta Young Speakers for Agriculture competition last week at the Calgary Stampede. The competition hosted more than 20 Albertan youth ages 11 to 24 who presented a prepared speech on an agricultural topic. The senior winner, Emily Ritchie of Turner Valley, Alta., spoke on the topic of how to explain a GMO to a non-farmer. Junior winner Aleri Swalwell of Strathmore, Alta., spoke on how we can improve the media's perception of Canadian agriculture. Both winners will represent Alberta in Toronto at the Royal Winter Fair in the Canadian Young Speakers for Agriculture in November.Competitors in Alberta Young Speakers for Agriculture spoke on the following topics: - What is the impact of public opinion on Canadian farmers?- How would you explain a GMO to a non-farmer?- What does the next generation of agriculture bring to the table?- How can we improve the media’s perception of Canadian agriculture?- Old MacDonald had a farm … But what about Mrs. MacDonald?
Do you know anyone worthy of being nominated for the Canadian Forage and Grassland Association (CFGA) Leadership Award?  The winner will participate at the CFGA Annual Meeting in Winnipeg from Nov. 14 to 17, 2016. The winner will also have the opportunity to present a keynote address or report the results of their special communications project at the 2017 CFGA Annual Meeting. Please see the nomination form (pdf). CFGA Leadership Award_Nomination Form_ 2016
A paradigm is a set of concepts, practices or thought patterns that create a framework to define our way of looking at something. Your age will influence your paradigms as you transition from the optimism of youth to the caution of old age. If dad told you there was no future in farming, you were likely to believe him, but his ideas were formed by his own disappointments. The future is unknown but it is our paradigms that will influence our expectations; where one person may see a challenge, another will see an opportunity. Is the future bright or is it cloudy?Our common experiences, beliefs and values create a dominant paradigm that is held across segments of society at a given time. The organic food debate is a good example of the different paradigms about food and the connection that people want to have with their food production. A commercial farm’s paradigm is to produce a safe and abundant food supply as efficiently as possible using the best available tools. The urban consumer has a paradigm that is centred on their experience with food. An organic shopper wants fresh food that is produced “naturally” to fit their food paradigm.The beliefs within a paradigm can be difficult to define as we attempt to draw the lines between the different ideas. For example, how to define a chemical can be debated when different groups analyze the same data and see different trends and results based on their paradigms. This is why the GMO debate continues 20 years after GMO crops were introduced.A paradigm shift occurs when our views change in response to the accumulation of theories or evidence. Consider that farmers once had a reverence for worked ground and the smell of the earth following the plow. But over time, our paradigms shifted to value minimum tillage for the benefits it provided.Precision agriculture contains a paradigm shift in how we approach farming. Each of us can look at farm fields and have different perspectives and judgments as to the merits of what we see. My farmland has rolling hills and a range of soil organic matter that produces a range of yield results from the uniform crop input applications. To me, it always seemed odd to apply the same rate of fertilizer to good areas and poor areas of the field, but my older equipment wasn’t capable of varying the rates automatically.I remember looking at the combine yield monitor for the first time and seeing the near-infrared (NIR) images of crop vegetation, which reinforced what I knew about my fields and their natural variability. But now with precision agriculture, I had a framework to do something about it. I could see the layers of data to better understand crop variability across the fields and could take action to manage it.Many of the components of precision agriculture, which monitor and measure the soils, vegetation, water and yields, are now in place. The equipment is capable and there are precision agronomists and technicians ready to meet the farmer demand for precision agriculture services. Crop inputs are used across millions of acres and we generally understand how they work and are expected to perform. But when a farmer is facing a stressed crop, he doesn’t care what the normal or average results are on millions of acres. He wants to understand his unique field situation.Research and product development strive to identify regional differences in product performance, potential crop injury and rotational carry-over for specific soils. We know that landscape and soils determine the variability of the vegetation and that specific weather will affect the crop in predictable ways. How we look at fields will determine what you can see. When you ride a horse across a field, drive by in a car or gaze down from the air, you see different things. As more farmers and researchers get access to satellite imagery and UAV-drone imagery to see the fields in new ways, such as NIR, which human eyes can’t see, it will change how we see agriculture and provide the tools to understand things that may have been difficult to explain in the past.Are you ready for a paradigm shift in agriculture? The next time you are at the coffee shop, start a discussion about precision agriculture and try to identify the paradigms expressed in the dialogue. All farms are selecting crop inputs, making management decisions and measuring results in some way. Our paradigms define our present actions and also influence the future by dictating when and how new ideas are adopted.Rarely do we critique successful businesses or winning sports teams, but it is a reasonable response to critique the results in the face of challenges and hardships. Does agriculture have to experience tough times before the mass adoption of new technology? In any business, you will hear some potential customers say they can’t afford the new services while other customers say they are making good money, so they don’t require any new services. Some farms have the paradigm that hiring a crop consultant is like an admission they don’t understand farming, while other farms view crop scouting services as seasonal extensions of their farm labour.Growing a great crop is more complicated than filing the annual farm taxes, but most farms readily hire an accountant before they hire an agronomist. More farms are recognizing the value of crop consultants and trusted advisors with experience in the increasingly complex business of agriculture. Every farmer doesn’t need to become an expert in remote sensing because experienced precision agronomists can now use the tools to service hundreds of thousands of acres to identify production issues that were difficult to identify on the ground.Whether or not a farmer adopts precision agriculture may have less to do with the technology than their paradigm of how they evaluate technology to begin with. Changing the way we do things begins with changing the framework to define our way of looking at things as much as changing the tools we use.
Weather factors including moisture availability, temperature and solar radiation affect crop yield potential. Photo by Janet Kanters.Plants require a specific amount of heat and water to develop from one point in their life cycle to another. Unexpected events such as a late season spring frost, early fall frost, extended saturating rain and hail are just some of the weather factors farmers must frequently contend with.
July 5, 2016 - Farm & Food Care Saskatchewan (FFC SK) has announced a new award to shine a light on the people who work hard to promote Saskatchewan agriculture and help farmers build public trust in our food industry.The Food & Farm Champion Award is bestowed upon individuals, organizations or businesses who have taken the initiative to speak up about agriculture in our province. Nominees have used their skills to help engage consumers or correct misinformation about production practices, and have done a measureable job of promoting the agriculture sector.FFC SK is a non-profit organization that seeks to build confidence in Saskatchewan food production - to let consumers know that the food we produce is healthy, safe and responsibly grown; that farmers and ranchers are innovative, technologically advanced and care deeply about the animals and land they work with. With less than 2% of Canadians having a direct link to the farm, concerted consumer outreach is more important than ever."We need to share what we do, how we do it and why it matters to all of us in a language and in ways that consumers can understand and appreciate," says Adele Buettner, CEO of Farm & Food Care Saskatchewan.This award was designed to recognize those in our community who have helped FFC SK with their mission of enhancing public trust and confidence in food and farming. As the use of social media grows, and misinformation spreads, farmers and ranchers need to join the conversation to ensure that public perception is not swayed by too many people who know very little about food production."It's about making the connections between our food and the farmers who produce it," Buettner affirmed. "It's time to encourage the experts to give voice to what they do best to safeguard their futures and build public confidence."Nominations are to be submitted to the FFC SK office by September 30, 2016. The selection committee will choose a winner from the nominations and award winners will be honoured at the Farm & Food Care Saskatchewan Annual Conference on December 14 & 15 in Saskatoon. Those who are nominated but do not win in the current year will stay in the nomination pool for two more years with two more opportunities to receive recognition for their hard work.
Farm Management Canada (FMC) will host an Eastern Ontario Family Farm Safety Day in Douglas, Ont., on July 16. This event is supported by the FCC Ag Safety Fund administered by the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association (CASA) with funding from Farm Credit Canada (FCC).
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.  
Drones can provide a bird’s-eye view of a field to collect information and see field variability and patterns that you can’t readily detect from ground level. Photo by FotoliaAs farm acreage grows, it is virtually impossible to know every part of the field and to scout every acre. Remote sensing is simply defined as collecting field information remotely from a remote platform. Satellites, planes, UAVs/drones or equipment mounted platforms can provide a bird’s-eye view of the field to collect information and see field variability and patterns that you can’t readily detect as you walk across a field.
June 28, 2016 - Promising farm cash receipt projections suggest new farm equipment sales will slowly improve over the next two years, according to Farm Credit Canada’s (FCC) latest agriculture economics report.The report, Projecting 2016-17 Farm Receipts and Equipment Sales, forecasts a seven-per-cent recovery in total farm equipment sales for 2017, buoyed by projections of stronger cash receipts in coming years.“Farm equipment is among the most valuable assets for many farmers and is a great indicator for the state of the farm economy,” said J.P. Gervais, FCC’s chief agricultural economist. “While producers, manufacturers and dealers must exercise caution, strong demand for agricultural commodities, low interest rates and a stable Canadian dollar are all factors that should trigger improvement in the new farm equipment market.”Total new farm equipment sales fell by 13.8 per cent in 2015, due to uncertainty surrounding Canadian crop production and weaker commodity prices. Higher prices for new equipment in Canada– as a result of a weaker Canadian dollar – also contributed to a decreased demand for equipment.Strong new equipment sales prior to 2014 made 2015 sales appear low, even though they were in line with the 10-year average.“Equipment sales are usually a leading indicator of farm health,” Gervais said. “Tighter margins in recent years have led several farmers to choose leasing over buying their agricultural machinery. We’ve also seen new groups of producers in the market buying and sharing farm equipment.”New farm equipment sales for 2016 started off slow compared to 2015 sales levels, but are expected to turn the corner and should begin strengthening towards the end of 2016 and into 2017 thanks to an improved agriculture economic outlook, according to the FCC report.“The reason we are projecting a turn-around in new farm equipment sales is that cash receipts for various agriculture sectors are looking stronger,” Gervais said. “Nothing is written in stone, but the key indicators are looking pretty good.”The report projects crop receipts will increase 5.8 per cent in 2016, with a further 3.8-per-cent increase in 2017. These projections are highly influenced by strong prices in futures markets for major grains and oilseeds, as well as a Canadian dollar that is expected to remain below its five-year average.Gervais said low interest rates also have both short- and long-term effects on farm equipment sales. Continued low interest rates should boost sales, especially of larger equipment.
June 15, 2016 - Salford Group unveiled what it says is the largest pull-type pneumatic boom applicator on the planet. The whopping prototype is being shown for the first time in public at Canada's Farm Progress Show this week in Regina.
Mar. 16, 2016 - According to the Canadian Agricultural Injury Reporting (CAIR) program, 13 per cent of farm-related fatalities across Canada are traffic-related, and most involved tractors. During the busy spring season, farmers often travel long distances between fields, and this requires transporting equipment on public roads throughout rural Alberta. Farm equipment is oversized and slow compared to other vehicles using the roads and when certain procedures are not met, this can lead to collisions and other incidents. "Maintenance is a contributing factor to the safety of transporting farm equipment," says Kenda Lubeck, farm safety coordinator, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry (AF). "Poor maintenance of equipment such as brakes or tires can lead to loss of control of the vehicle." Check all tires for air pressure, cuts, bumps and tread wear. Always lock brake pedals together for highway travel as sudden braking at high speeds on only one wheel could put the tractor into a dangerous skid. Equip heavy wagons with their own independent brakes. The number one cause of farm-related fatalities in Canada is machinery roll overs. To minimize the risk of severe injury or death to the operator, all tractors need roll-over protective structures (ROPS)," says Lubeck. "In addition, operators should always wear a seatbelt as ROPS are ineffective in a roll over without this restraining device." To avoid traffic collisions between motorists and farm equipment, farmers should ensure their equipment is clearly visible and follows all regulated requirements for lighting and signage. This will ensure approaching traffic has time to react to a slow-moving vehicle. Use reflective tape and reflectors in the event that large equipment is required to travel in dim lighting conditions. In Canada, reflective material should be red and orange strips. You can purchase tape in kits or by the foot at local farm or hardware stores. Dust-covered signage and lights make farm machinery less visible to motorists and dust-covered machinery causes poor visibility for the operator, who may not see oncoming traffic. Be sure to clean farm equipment prior to transportation to minimize the risk of collision due to poor visibility. "It's important to note that regulated requirements for lighting and signage on public roadways include the use of a slow-moving vehicle (SMV) sign," explains Lubeck. "The SMV sign must be properly mounted, clean and not faded. It must be positioned on the rear of the tractor or towed implement and clearly visible. SMV signs must only be used on equipment travelling less than 40 km/hr." For more information on the safe transportation of farm equipment on public roads, see AF's Make it Safe, Make it Visible or go to www.agriculture.alberta.ca for more information on farm safety.  
By Jeanette Gaultier, Provincial Weed Specialist May 7, 2016 - Herbicides work best when weeds are small. Period. Exclamation mark. You get the gist... There's perhaps no better example of this than cleavers. Take a quick flip through the Guide to Field Crop Protection and you'll notice that most herbicides with activity on cleavers only guarantee control/suppression of this weed when applied between the 1 to 4 whorl stage. Although this staging is most common, application timing may be limited to as few as 2 whorls or extend up to the 8 whorl stage, depending on the product. There are also herbicides that are somewhat ambiguous as to cleavers staging but research and experience have shown that, when it comes to herbicide application to cleavers, the smaller the better. It makes sense then that a recent question on CropTalk Westman was: 'How do you stage cleavers?' Whorled leaves, one of cleavers most distinctive features, results in a herbicide application staging unique to this weed. Staging cleavers is similar to other weeds with a few simple tweaks: Find the main stem. Identifying the main stem is an important step in staging crops and weeds. But this is often easier said than done with cleavers because of its creeping habit and similar sized branches. If you can't find the main stem, just be sure to pick the stem with the highest number of whorls present. Don't count the cotyledons. Only the true leaves count when staging plants. The cotyledons of cleavers are oval to oblong with a notch at the tip and are easy to distinguish from the true leaves. Each whorl counts. Unlike most other weeds, cleavers have a whorled leaf arrangement, with each whorl having ~4 to 8 leaves (usually 6). In this case, simply count each whorl along the main stem rather than each leaf (see figure & example below).  
May 3, 2016, Ontario – With the recent warm weather, soil temperatures have reached 10 C, which means that now is great time to scout for wireworms and grubs. Wireworm baits will be most effective right now and grubs will also be feeding close the soil surface, according to Tracey Baute in her latest blog. | READ MORE
Apr. 21, 2016 - Deciding on the correct water application solution is vital to your center pivot's performance. Here are three questions you need to ask yourself before picking out a sprinkler package with your dealer. 1. What is your soil type and texture? Proper sprinkler design and selection helps reduce soil sealing with medium to heavy soils.2. What crops are you growing? A significant challenge with sprinkler head design is its ability to penetrate the crop canopy.3. What does your field's terrain look like? The slope of your field must be considered when choosing sprinklers to minimize runoff and ​to keep water where it does your crop the most good. By using your answers to these questions, you will be prepared to work with your dealership's water application experts to help determine how best to reduce energy cost, save water on your farm, and maximize your profitability. For more information on sprinkler packages and water application solutions, get your free eBook 8 Tips to Accurately Check Your Center Pivot Sprinklers.    
Henry Ford once said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Imagine the vision Henry Ford had for the automobile industry as he built the factories and components in 1908 that would become the vehicle assembly platform for the 20th century. Early automobiles were indeed “found on road dead” as the punchline of an old joke goes, and farmers would have been a segment of society that wanted to keep their horses. But the assembly line brought together the components and processes to create the future vehicles that people didn’t know they wanted. At the time, few people understood how to build an assembly line for automobiles. Today, few people understand the technical components of precision agriculture. Some people view precision agriculture as driving straighter with bigger or faster equipment, while others envision farms with driverless tractors and swarms of robots tending each plant. Agriculture is undergoing a period of technology convergence, and precision agriculture is the virtual assembly line of new tools and processes to enable more efficient operations and measurable results. Initially there were distinct segments, each providing services to agriculture such as manufacturing (equipment, seed, fertilizer, herbicide/fungicide), crop input retail, record keeping, grain merchants and consulting services. In the early days of tractors, there were hundreds of small manufacturers that consolidated into the dominant brands. The ongoing growth and mergers of companies has resulted in farm service providers that participate in numerous segments to provide a bundle of interrelated services beyond their core businesses. Competition is a wonderful motivator that is currently directing billions of dollars into agriculture, and specifically precision agriculture, to disrupt the status quo. New alliances and partnerships are forming as companies strive to share development costs and secure channel access to reach farmers. Now there are over 100 companies offering precision agriculture services, ranging from tech startups to Fortune 500 companies, all striving to create the virtual assembly line for precision agriculture. The platforms produced from this convergence are the apps, websites and cloud storage facilities that can utilize all the information and data collected by any sensor, device or equipment. Our imagination leaps to futuristic tools of The Jetsons or Star Trek, depending on your generation, but today’s technology is confusing because technology adoption takes time. Progress tends to be a series of challenges that are overcome by a series of small innovations and new ideas. Equipment sensors can collect “as applied” and yield data, and alert the operator to hundreds of possible equipment fault codes. There are about 1100 active satellites orbiting the Earth and the remote sensing satellites gather massive amounts of data that is valuable for agriculture. Improved cellular and Internet services have enabled data to be sent to powerful cloud computer servers with specialized software that are available to rent at a fraction of the cost of buying your own computers. You can now stand in any field on the planet and hold a tremendous amount of site-specific field data in your hands. Your smartphone or tablet may enable your great leap forward, but first you need to learn to navigate the platforms, websites and apps, just like you learned how to drive. I encourage you to try out the numerous websites and apps to see the features and options available. The ultimate precision agriculture platform hasn’t been created yet, as companies are still gathering the parts and building the assembly platforms. More fieldwork is required to determine the correct stacking sequence for the data layers and how many years and layers of data are required. How many in-season images, soil tests or weather stations are required to collect sufficient data is still being debated. New products and services are being developed, but unlike the Model T, precision agriculture can tailor the service levels or products to each specific farm. Prices, features and options will vary just like your vehicle choices today.  Technology convergence has the potential to fill the needs of many stakeholders because the resulting software platform doesn’t cost much to operate and deliver through the Internet. It is difficult to determine what the most popular precision agriculture platform will look like in 2020 and who will own it, but farmers will have the most advanced tools to monitor their operations, their crops and the environment. Farmers will continue to rely on their experiences to make decisions every day and the measurement tools will be better. Imagine if the “Internet of Things” was actually functioning on your farm to catalogue every action performed. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the network of devices, equipment and buildings that are connected with sensors and switches. Instead of wasting human time to record farm actions like when you seeded, changed rates and crop inputs, identified crop pests and updated field records, yield and moisture by area, the loads hauled and bins managed… what if the data was collected automatically by your tools? That information alone is just a record of what you did. But aggregated over years and compared to thousands of farms, it will display patterns and management choices that are the most valuable. History has examples of countries and societies that forgot how to farm. Perhaps the adoption of reduced tillage practices would not have taken decades if better data was available? Benchmarking the actions and results to validate best practices is an old concept, but aggregated data can make it a powerful tool again as we discuss climate change and environmental stewardship. The assembly line continues to be the most efficient method to produce most of the products in the world today. Imagine what we can produce with precision agriculture once we figure out how to operate its virtual assembly line efficiently.  
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.   
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?

Subscription Centre

 
New Subscription
 
Already a Subscriber
 
Customer Service
 
View Digital Magazine Renew

Most Popular