Comparing nutrient content and release of soybean, pea and lentil residues

Comparing nutrient content and release of soybean, pea and lentil residues

Pulse crops play an important role in many cropping systems.

Stover and straw for sugar-based biochemicals

Stover and straw for sugar-based biochemicals

The Cellulosic Sugar Producers Co-operative (CSPC)

Optimizing pesticide efficiency: A study of spray deposition into canopies

Optimizing pesticide efficiency: A study of spray deposition into canopies

Spraying chemicals has expanded far beyond in-crop herbicides

Searching for drought-tolerant wheat

Searching for drought-tolerant wheat

Drought-tolerant wheat may exist on some mountaintop in Nepal

The relationship between bees and canola is strong, just ask any honey producer. But what benefits do canola growers receive from those colonies parked at the corner of a field? New research in Alberta is delving in to that sweet subject.
Row spacing for various field crops on the Prairies, particularly in no-till and higher residue cropping systems, continues to be a big area of focus for researchers and growers. Understanding how wide is reasonable, what the benefits and drawbacks are and associated risks remain top priorities.
Moving to wider row spacing for no-till wheat can make it easier to direct seed in between rows and can create better seedbed conditions. Generally, narrow row spacing is expected to give the greatest potential grain yields for the majority of crops, however narrow row spacing requires more openers, more draft, more energy, more cost, more maintenance and more residue clearance.
I call them my second herd,” says Brian Slenders, an alfalfa and canola seed and livestock producer near Scandia, Alta., and president of the Alfalfa Seed Commission of Alberta.
Diversified crop rotations are an important component of western Canadian cropping systems. Although crops like wheat and canola are the largest acreage crops, adding special crops into the rotation helps manage weed, disease and insect pest problems and potential resistance issues, improves soil health and maximizes profitability. However, determining which crop fits best in the cropping sequence remains a big question.
Fertigation is quite common in southern Alberta, but very, very little research has been done on it in replicated plots,” says Doon Pauly, an agronomy research scientist with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry. His recently completed study took up the challenge of assessing the effectiveness of fertigation in wheat and canola.
Tree-based intercropping – growing trees together with crops – is a historical agricultural practice. These days primarily smallholder farmers use it in tropical systems, but researchers are focused on potential applications in the temperate soils of southern Ontario and Quebec.
Sabine Banniza’s project on multiple resistance to three lentil diseases has a fun tagline: Can we score a hat trick? To take this hockey analogy a bit further, the project aims to get some top disease resistance genes from a wild lentil team to join the cultivated lentil team.
Originally from Asia, woolly cupgrass has been in the United States since about the 1950s and has caused problems in field crops across the corn belt. This annual grassy weed was first found in Canada in 2000, when it was discovered in Quebec. Since then, government agencies and producers have been working to prevent the weed from getting out of hand, and researchers have been learning about the weed and its management under Canadian conditions.
Send five soil test samples to five different labs and you’ll likely get five different recommendations. Understanding why will help you get the most out of your fertilizer dollars and optimize yields over the long term.
Glyphosate-resistant (GR) waterhemp was first found in Ontario in 2014, but it already has a foothold in three counties in the southwest of the province. Fortunately, Peter Sikkema’s research group at the University of Guelph’s Ridgetown Campus has made a good start on finding effective options for controlling this challenging weed.
Pulse crops play an important role in many cropping systems. Along with field pea and lentil, growers are increasingly adding short-season soybeans into their crop rotations. Because soybeans are relatively new in Saskatchewan, growers and researchers are interested in how they compare in rotation to other pulse crops.
Gowan Canada has added volunteer canola to the Permit WG Herbicide label in time for spring 2017. Permit is registered for pre-emergent and post-emergent use in dry beans, and post-emergent use only in corn. Data generated by independent contract researchers has consistently shown high levels of extended residual control of volunteer canola from both pre and post-emergent applications. For more information on Permit for volunteer canola, growers are urged to contact their local retailer.
With positive 2016 field results, the Environmental Protection Agency has approved registration for a new product for turf, as well as other possible applications. The abamectin-based nematicide product, code-named “VCP-11” is approved for use on turfgrass including greens, tees and fairways. VCP-11 uses Vive’s proprietary delivery system (Allosperse) to help the nematicide penetrate the thatch and control parasitic nematodes below the soil surface. In field trials conducted in Florida, Louisiana, and Australia, VCP-11 increased turf quality over leading competitors. VCP-11 will be available for turf application this year, and is being tested in crops that are also susceptible to nematodes such as soybeans and potatoes in 2017. Field results The field results from 2016 show Vive’s products are delivering on their promises. “Corn yields in 2015 and 2016 saw an average increase of over six bushels per acre. About 80 percent of the 24 fields in the program had a yield bump with in-furrow AZteroid FC application,” says Darren Anderson, co-founder of Vive Crop Protection. Several growers were also able to skip expensive applications at tassel due to reduced disease pressure and increased plant health. “The Allosperse delivery system in AZteroid FC is the key; it allows the fungicide to be compatible with salty liquid fertilizers. Most in-furrow pesticides are not compatible with starter fertilizers and can separate in the tank or plug the application equipment. Allosperse has solved this problem,” says Anderson. The tank mix has a one-pass application, it survives delays due to weather and doesn’t require special equipment.  The first two products developed by Vive using the Allosperse technology are the fungicide AZteroid FC and the insecticide Bifender FC. Both mix uniformly with liquid fertilizers to be applied at planting. Both are approved for key crops in the U.S. Midwest including corn, soybeans and potatoes. AZteroid FC is also approved for use on sugar beet, cotton and peanut crops. “For sugar beets, control of Rhizoctonia is a key issue. The best solution is azoxystrobin in-furrow with a starter fertilizer – which is what we offer with AZteroid FC. In a sugar beet trial conducted at North Dakota State University, when AZteroid FC was applied with starter fertilizer, crops out-yielded fungicide seed treatment by 1.5 tons per acre. AZteroid FC in-furrow, on top of seed treatment with an early-season banded application, out-yielded seed treatment alone by 4.5 tons per acre,” says Anderson. AZteroid FC in seven potato trials saw increases of 24 cwt/acre on average.
New herbicide product registrations and label updates continue to bring more choice to farmers, with multiple modes of action to manage weed infestations and herbicide resistance. The following product information has been provided to Top Crop Manager by the manufacturers.
Mississauga, ON – Corn growers in Eastern Canada now have a new tool for fast and hassle-free weed control. DuPont Crop Protection announced that approval has been granted for registration of DuPont Destra IS herbicide. Destra IS is a post-emergence corn herbicide with one-pass broad-spectrum knockdown and residual control, and adds two additional modes-of-action to a glyphosate tolerant system – there’s also residual control and multiple modes of action. The herbicide will allow growers to control hard-to-kill broadleaf and grassy weeds and to keep corn weed-free during the critical weed-free period. Destra IS has a wide window of application, allowing growers to apply up to the eight-leaf stage, with excellent crop safety and a broader geography, including short season areas. It offers a smaller, easy-to-handle package and compact dry formulation, and is the only dry mesotrione formulation on the market. It offers a faster pour and bottle cleanout. Fore more information visit Dupont.ca
Guelph, ON – Bayer has announced the launch of Trilex EverGol SHIELD fungicide and insecticide seed treatment, in a convenient package that offers complete disease and insect protection against the expanding presence of pea leaf weevil and wireworms for pulse growers in Western Canada. Trilex EverGol SHIELD is ideal for on-farm treating or for smaller batches towards the end of the treating season, and combines penflufen (Group 7), trifloxystrobin (Group 11) and metalaxyl (Group 4) with Stress Shield insecticide seed treatment (Group 4) that together provide exceptional seed- and soilborne disease protection against Rhizoctonia, Ascochyta, Pythium, Fusarium and Botrytis. Trilex EverGol SHIELD offers exceptional germination when compared to untreated seed, helping to promote a high-performing root system that supports optimal access to water and nutrients in the development phase. The concentrated formulation allows growers the flexibility to decrease water volume when adding Stress Shield, micronutrients and/or inoculants. This extra control allows for an optimized application volume and uniform coverage, which helps prevent product overload, allows for low seed moisture content and makes for easier flow through equipment. For more information visit cropscience.bayer.ca/TrilexEverGolSHIELD.
Guelph, ON – Bayer has announced that their ILeVO seed treatment is now approved for use in soybeans with the additional label claim of nematode suppression. Originally released as the first seed treatment available for soybean growers to protect against sudden death syndrome (SDS), the expansion provides growers with another valuable tool in suppressing soybean cyst nematodes (SCN) and root lesion nematodes. SCN in particular is difficult to see and diagnose, and can reduce soybean yields up to 30 per cent even without visual symptoms. Populations of SCN are on the rise, and even resistant varieties of soybeans are becoming more susceptible. In Ontario, where SCN is more widespread, estimated losses due to SCN range from $10-30 million annually. In 2015 and 2016, Ontario field trials demonstrated that ILeVO offered an average yield benefit of 3.6 bu/acre in nematode pressure areas. This is further supported by 338 variety locations run by universities from 2011-2016 in the United States and Canada, which showed a yield benefit of 4.7 bu/acre over non ILeVO treatments. For more information visit cropscience.bayer.ca/ILeVO.
SASKATOON – Western Canadian corn growers now have a new tool to remove early season weed pressure to help maximize yield and profits in corn. DuPont Crop Protection has announced that approval has been granted for registration of DuPont Sortan IS herbicide. DuPont Sortan IS herbicide will allow growers to control tough, yield robbing weeds, such as volunteer Roundup Ready canola, wild buckwheat, redroot pigweed (including triazine-resistant biotypes), lamb's-quarters, green foxtail, barnyard grass, and quackgrass, to keep corn weed-free to maximize yield and profits. An additional mode of action to glyphosate, Sortan IS offers application flexibility – it can be applied pre-emergent or post-emergent, and provides extended control throughout the critical weed free period. For optimum weed control, it is recommended that Sortan IS be tank-mixed with glyphosate herbicide at 900 g ai/ha for control of additional weeds. Sortan IS will be available at local retailers in Western Canada for the 2017 season.For more information, visit dupont.ca
Most lentil producers in Western Canada use pre-harvest desiccants in lentil for two reasons: to speed up crop dry down, which helps with ease and efficiency of harvest, and to achieve perennial weed control going into the next growing season.
Syngenta Canada has introduced Roundup Ready 2 Xtendtrait technology in its soybean varieties. The trait provides tolerance to both glyphosate (Group 9) and dicamba (Group 4) herbicides, allowing growers to use multiple modes of action to help manage tough to control weeds including glyphosate-resistant giant ragweed, common ragweed and Canada fleabane. The company also plans to launch several new Roundup Ready 2 Xtend varities in fall 2017 for the 2018 planting season and will also be transitioning existing varieties from the Genuity Roundup Ready 2 Yield platform to the Xtend platform. 
Lentil and canola growers in Western Canada have new options for burndown weed control with new herbicide updates from Nufarm Agriculture Inc. Valtera is now approved for a fall application prior to seeding lentils (large green and small red types). Valtera (Group 14) is a distinct mode of action that can be used as part of a fall burndown program for residual weed control where lentils will be planted the following crop season. Valtera controls a range of broadleaf weeds including pigweed, lamb’s-quarters, seedling dandelion, kochia and chickweed, and suppression of green foxtail and volunteer canola. Valtera re-activates with moisture to deliver residual control that lasts for four to six weeks in the spring. Valtera is also registered for spring or fall pre-seed burndown and residual control in chickpeas, field peas, soybeans and spring wheat. Visit nufarm.ca for more info.
Syngenta Canada has announced the new Trivapro fungicide to barley growers across Western Canada, providing broad-spectrum leaf disease control. Trivapro is the first foliar fungicide on the market to combine three powerful active ingredients and three modes-of-action. The product contains propiconazole (Group 3), a curative fungicide that acts on already-present disease to halt further infection, azoxystrobin (Group 11), a preventative fungicide that provides disease protection by moving into new growth, and Solatenol, a powerful Group 7 succinate deyhydrogenase inhibitor (SDHI) fungicide. The unique chemistry in Solatenol allows it to bind to the waxy layer of the entire leaf, where it is absorbed slowly over time to provide long-lasting residual protection. Syngenta research trials show Trivapro to be highly effective on key cereal diseases, including barley scald, tan spot and net and spot blotch, while providing improvement in yield potential.  Trivapro also demonstrates superior performance on major rusts, including leaf rust (Puccinia hordei), stem rust (P. graminis) and stripe rust (P. striiformis). The Trivapro co-pack should be applied once at early flag leaf timing. Growers should consult the Trivapro product label for additional information. In addition to being registered on barley, wheat and oats, Trivapro is also registered for use in corn and soybeans to protect against several foliar diseases, including Northern corn leaf blight and grey leaf spot in corn, and Septoria brown spot and frogeye leaf spot in soybeans. Trivapro fungicide will be available in spring 2017 as a 40-acre co-pack or 400-acre bulk co-pack.Visit syngenta.ca to learn more. 
Axter Agroscience has improved the performance of CropBooster with the addition of specific organic acids and micronutrients to create CropBooster 2.0. These modifications generate a significant yield increase. CropBooster 2.0 in the herbicide tank mix produced an average yield increase of 3.3 bushels of wheat per acre in multiple field trials. In these same experiments, CropBooster 2.0 performed better than the original CropBooster with a higher yield increase. By allowing crop plants to restart growth or to continue growing more quickly, CropBooster 2.0 is also proven to increase yields without reducing weed control. Click here for more information.
Farmers of all types, from dairy to fruit to livestock, contribute to the economy and to the healthy lives of Canadians. The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) wants to help make filing your income tax and benefit return easier so you can save your time and energy for the harvest. Claiming expenses Farmers can generally deduct any reasonable current expense from farming income, including interest on loans and losses, and the cost of fertilizer, feed, veterinary fees, and materials to pack and ship goods. Other eligible expenses are machinery rental, electricity, insurance, and motor vehicle expenses. To find out more, go to cra.gc.ca/smallbusiness and click on “Report business or professional income and expenses.” When it’s time to harvest your crops, you may need a helping hand (or two) out in the field and if you do hire someone, the cost may be claimed as an expense. If the person you hire is a qualified Red Seal trade apprentice, like an agricultural equipment technician, you may also be able to claim the apprenticeship job creation tax credit. This non-refundable investment tax credit is 10 per cent of the apprentice’s salary or wages. The maximum credit an employer can claim is $2,000 per year for each eligible apprentice. For more information about the apprenticeship job creation tax credit, go to cra.gc.ca/smallbusiness and click on “Investment tax credit (line 412),” and then on “Apprenticeship Job Creation Tax Credit (AJCTC).” Reporting income or loss As with any business, not every year will be profitable. When your farming business expenses are more than your farming business income in a year, you have a net loss. You can transfer a farm loss amount back to any of the preceding three years or forward to any of the next 20 years to deduct the loss from income for another year. For more information on farm losses and how to calculate and apply them, see Chapter 6 of CRA Guide T4003, Farming and Fishing Income. Eligible farmers who dispose of breeding livestock in a tax year because of drought or flood can exclude part of the sale proceeds from their income until the next tax year, under the livestock tax deferral provision. This provision also covers breeding horses over 12 months of age and certain breeding bees. For more information, see Chapter 2 of Guide T4003. To avoid the stress of ploughing through countless invoices and receipts, stay on top of your record keeping during the year. Records of your business-related expenses will support your claims. These records need the same constant and conscientious care as your crops. Without supporting documents, the CRA may not allow a credit or deduction. To learn more, go to cra.gc.ca/records. Completing your return The legislated deadline for most Canadians to file their income tax and benefit return is April 30. Since that date is a Sunday in 2017, the CRA will consider your return as filed on time and your payment to be made if the CRA receives your submission or it is postmarked no later than May 1. Self-employed individuals and their spouses or common-law partners have until June 15 to file their returns. However, if those persons have a balance owing to the CRA, that amount is due no later than May 1. If you’re facing cash flow problems and can’t pay your tax balance owing in full, you may be able to pay off your tax debt in more than one payment. You can set up a pre-authorized debit payment agreement through the CRA’s My Business Account or My Account service or by calling 1-888-863-8657. To learn more about your payment options, go to cra.gc.ca/payments. The CRA has a list of certified tax preparation software on its website, including some software that is free. Last year, more than 84 per cent of individuals filed their tax return online. File online, so you can spend less time working on your return and more time doing the things you love. To find out more, go to cra.gc.ca/netfile. When filing online, you can save valuable time by using the CRA’s auto-fill my return feature. This feature automatically fills in parts of your return. For more information, go to cra.gc.ca/auto-fill. If you sign up for online mail, you can find out the status of your return immediately after you file your return and receive your notice of assessment the next day. For more information, go to cra.gc.ca/express-noa. Protect yourself When it comes time to file your return, don’t risk your reputation and your business by intentionally underreporting your income. If you get caught evading tax, you may face fines, penalties, or even jail time. It’s not worth the risk. Don’t participate in the underground economy. For more information, go to cra.gc.ca/undergroundeconomy. If you make a mistake or omission, the CRA offers you a chance to set things right under the Voluntary Disclosures Program. If you make a valid disclosure before you know about compliance action taken against you by the CRA, you may only have to pay the tax owing plus interest. You can get more information about the program at cra-arc.gc.ca/voluntarydisclosures. Stay on top of the latest CRA news and tax tips by following @CanRevAgency on Twitter.
The Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance (CAFTA) has released a report that outlines the potential for expanding trade in China: a market that accounted for $5.6 billion in Canadian agri-food and agri-food exports last year. China is Canada’s second-largest two-way trading partner (after the U.S.) and is projected to be the world’s largest agri-food importer by 2021. The report, entitled “Chasing China - Expanding Canada’s Agri-Food Exports to China,” describes the growing opportunity in the country for Canada’s agri-food exports. Currently, agri-food exports to China are already significant – China demands one third of Canada’s canola exports and represents an important market for soybeans, pulses, wheat, barley, beef and pork. Despite the large and growing demand for Canadian agri-food products in China, the report points out that Canadian exporters continue to face serious barriers that are hampering growth. For example, tariffs and non-tariff barriers reduce the range of products that can be exported and raise uncertainty for exporting businesses. While overcoming the barriers will be tough for many agri-food commodities and value-added food products Chinese production can’t keep up with demand and there are opportunities to improve trade. Tariff elimination and tariff quota expansion for wheat, barley, pulses, soybean, canola as well as sugar and sugar-containing products would provide opportunity for the Canadian industry. In some cases, Canada faces a significant trade imbalance with China, particularly in value-added prepared foods and is at a competitive disadvantage compared to other countries like Australia who have signed free trade agreements. The full report can be found here.
The European Union has voted to ratify the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) while asking the Canadian government to address important outstanding issues.“Getting the CETA through the European Parliament is a tremendous step forward the farm and food sector that is growing through exports – it’s good news for trade and speaks to the Canadian government’s efforts so far,” said Brian Innes, president of the Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance (CAFTA). “But we need to make sure that the agreement delivers on its promises. Non-tariff barriers will prevent a large part of the agri-food sector from using the agreement if they are not resolved.”The agreement holds huge potential for growth and has been supported by CAFTA since negotiations began eight years ago. It will eliminate EU tariffs on 94 per cent of Canada’s agri- food products, and could drive additional exports of up to $1.5 billion, including $600 million in beef, $400 million in pork, $100 million in grains and oilseeds, $100 million in sugar-containing products and a further $300 million in processed foods, fruits and vegetables.Sticking points remain, related to EU treatment of crop input products, such as biotechnology, which need to be addressed before the agreement comes into force. In addition, CAFTA wants the government to commit to a strong advocacy strategy and a comprehensive implementation plan for agriculture and agri-food exporters that will deliver real access for Canadian companies once the trade doors are opened.
The Prairie Pest Monitoring Network (PPMN), now in its 20th year, continues to provide timely crop insect pest risk and forecasting tools for growers and the industry across Western Canada. As technology and forecasting tools advance, so does the ability of the network to provide relevant insect pest information related to scouting, identification and monitoring tools and information, plus links to provincial monitoring and support relevant to the Canadian Prairies.
While North American farmers are in the process of wrapping up a fourth-straight bumper harvest, according to the BMO 2016 North American Agriculture Report, foreign exchange developments have yielded very different experiences for producers in Canada and the United States. "In the United States, the lofty greenback, which has gained 20 per cent on a trade-weighted basis since the start of 2014, has been yet another bearish factor for crop prices and revenue," said Aaron Goertzen, Senior Economist, BMO Capital Markets. "Canadian producers, in contrast, have benefitted from a drop in the loonie, which is down 17 per cent against the U.S. dollar since the start of 2014 and has provided a like-sized lift to crop prices north of the border." Mr. Goertzen added that as a result of the weaker loonie, domestic crop prices in Canada are 18 per cent below all-time highs – compared to nearly 30 per cent in the United States – and have risen five per cent from their recent low in mid-2014. The lower loonie has been a particularly fortunate development given the country's mediocre crop yields over the past few years. Canadian Outlook In Canada, composite crop yields, which consist of corn, soybeans, wheat and canola, picked up modestly on last year's subpar result. However, they remained on-trend overall as a near-record crop of canola on the prairies was offset by a decrease in corn and soybean yields in Ontario. "Canadian producers have undoubtedly been supported by the weaker loonie," said Adam Vervoort, Head of Agriculture Banking, BMO Financial Group. "This means now, with extra capital available, is an ideal time to invest in technology, which is driving the current string of bumper crops we've seen on a North American scale." He added, "Those producers who have adopted modern agricultural practices, particularly in the corn space, have grown trend crop yields substantially. There's still room for autonomous, satellite-informed equipment to be refined and used, as the innovation trend shows no sign of slowing down." Producers in Canada's Western regions, namely Alberta and Saskatchewan, have experienced a more difficult season impacted by weather challenges since October that have delayed their harvest timeline. However, the prairies remain on track for a near-record crop of canola. Mr. Vervoort affirmed that producers in the West could have potentially seen stronger results weather permitting, but have managed to still sustain a decent crop turnaround. "The harvest conditions have not been ideal, but we continue to work with farmers negatively impacted by adverse weather." While Canadian producers benefitted from a timely fall in the loonie that lifted crop prices north of the border, it also raised the cost of internationally-priced inputs like energy and fertilizer. Most producers face a wide variety of Canadian dollar-dominated expenses though, so margins have ultimately benefitted on balance. From mid-2014 to early this year, the weaker Canadian dollar also caused food prices to inflate four per cent yearly. Consumers have been somewhat relieved as a result of the partial bounce-back of the dollar in the latter half of the year and a decrease in livestock prices.
The government of Canada has announced that the four-year cumulative duration rule (also known as the "four-in, four-out" rule) will no longer apply to temporary foreign workers, effective immediately. The decision was announced yesterday (Dec. 13, 2016), with the goal to improve the Temporary Foreign Worker Program for workers, employers and for the Canadian economy. The four-year rule was put in place in April of 2011 and limited work for some TFWs to four years, meaning they were no longer able to work in the country for the next four years. This is good news for the agriculture sector, as research from the national Labour Market Information (LMI) shows a huge gap in the demand and supply of workers in the agricultural sector: Primary agriculture has the highest industry job vacancy rate at seven per cent and TFWs can help bridge the gap. More changes for immigration and the TFWP to come in the new year. Read the government of Canada's full announcement here.
Labour shortages in Canada’s agriculture sector have doubled over the last decade and are projected to double again to 113,800 positions before 2025, according to a new Conference Board of Canada report.
Analysts say wet weather is behind the movement of some grains into feed markets in Canada, according to FeedNavigator.com. | READ MORE
Pulse Canada and the Canadian Special Crops Association (CSCA) have voiced support for the Government of Canada's long-term vision of a transportation system that is based on higher growth, increased competitiveness and better service.
A global ban on genetically modified crops would raise food prices and add the equivalent of nearly a billion tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, a study by researchers from Purdue University shows.
Farm Credit Canada (FCC) is offering support to customers in parts of the Prairies facing financial hardship as a result of widespread excessive moisture that has impacted the growing season, delayed harvest and reduced the quality of this year’s crop.
On Oct. 30, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, and Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, signed the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between the European Union (EU) and Canada.
Spraying chemicals has expanded far beyond in-crop herbicides to include fungicides, pre-harvest, and other late season applications in many fields. Challenges arise as growers transition to spraying at different times of the year and into different crops, canopy heights and densities.
It may be a while before robots and drones are as common as tractors and combine harvesters on farms, but the high-tech tools may soon play a major role in helping feed the world's rapidly growing population.At the University of Georgia, a team of researchers is developing a robotic system of all-terrain rovers and unmanned aerial drones that can more quickly and accurately gather and analyze data on the physical characteristics of crops, including their growth patterns, stress tolerance and general health. This information is vital for scientists who are working to increase agricultural production in a time of rapid population growth.While scientists can gather data on plant characteristics now, the process is expensive and painstakingly slow, as researchers must manually record data one plant at a time. But the team of robots developed by Li and his collaborators will one day allow researchers to compile data on entire fields of crops throughout the growing season.The project addresses a major bottleneck that's holding up plant genetics research, said Andrew Paterson, a co-principal investigator. Paterson, a world leader in the mapping and sequencing of flowering-plant genomes, is a Regents Professor in UGA's College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and Franklin College of Arts and Sciences."The robots offer us not only the means to more efficiently do what we already do, but also the means to gain information that is presently beyond our reach," he said. "For example, by measuring plant height at weekly intervals instead of just once at the end of the season, we can learn about how different genotypes respond to specific environmental parameters, such as rainfall." | READ MORE
The Canadian pickup truck market caters to the multiple needs of those in need of a truck for either work or personal use. But pickups that serve both the workplace and family are becoming the norm. Trying to offer buyers an unbiased perspective is one of the reasons I started the Canadian Truck King Challenge 10 years ago. Each year, a group of journalist judges continue to fulfill that original mandate: testing pickup trucks and vans the same way owners use them.
If you leave your pivot exposed all through the winter, you’re going to be working on it a lot longer in the spring,” says Jeff Ewen, an irrigation agrologist with the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture in Outlook, Sask. To help producers prevent damage from winter’s storms and bone-chilling temperatures, Ewen offers a number of winterizing tips.
For growers considering direct-cut harvesting canola, there are many factors that play a role. Researchers in Saskatchewan are trying to provide growers with more information in a three-year project comparing the effectiveness of three different direct-cut header types (draper, rigid auger, and extended knife auger [Varifeed]) with windrowing treatments, focusing on header loss and performance.Initiated in 2014, preliminary results from the first two years of the project are showing similar trends, which researchers expect to be able to confirm at the end of the 2016 crop season. An economic analysis of the three-year project will also provide additional information to support decision-making.  The project includes three study locations – Indian Head, Swift Current and Humboldt – and uses the same protocols and headers at each location. Researchers have been able to refine their testing methods in the first two years, which will strengthen the information collected at the end of the project. The project also compared two types of canola varieties, a standard hybrid variety (InVigor L130) and two shatter resistant varieties (InVigor L140P and Dekalb 75-65 RR). Factors such as yield, header loss and loss location, environmental shatter loss and various quality components are measured.“The results from the first two years of the project are showing very similar trends,” explains Nathan Gregg, project manager with the Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute (PAMI). “Although all of the headers performed well, the Varifeed with the extendable cutter bar does show some marginal gains in loss retention. It seems to be able to retain more of the shatter loss that occurs with all of the headers.” Gregg adds that from the observations so far the extendable cutter bar allows it to go further forward, which in theory helps to retain losses from the reel. It also provides for smoother crop flow sideways to the centre of the header and then into the feeder house. This smoother crop flow means less violence and less shattering occurring in the conveyance process.“The Varifeed was also a bit more operator friendly and is a little easier to run. The extendable cutter bar is a bit more forgiving and can just go ahead/back to match the crop canopy conditions with the push of a button in the cab. Although the Varifeed provides some advantages, it doesn’t mean the other headers don’t work well. The draper does a good job, but it does take more attention to detail as far as reel position and reel speed to match to the crop canopy. However, the draper header with its ground-following floatation system performed a bit better under lodged crop conditions.” A key objective of the project is to try and identify the source and location of the header losses. In 2016, researchers increased the number of sample pans, which are placed in the crop across the width of the header and into the zone just beyond the header into the adjacent crop. “So far, the preliminary results show the higher proportion of losses are at the perimeter of the header, with another spike of losses at the centre of the feeder house,” says Gregg. “The pattern of losses is similar for all of the headers compared, although there are some differences in the degree of loss. These results are not surprising and are similar to research conducted elsewhere in Sweden and in other regions.” With the higher shatter losses concentrated at the perimeter of the header, researchers also wanted to compare losses of different dividers. Powered side cutters, including a vertical knife and a rotary knife were compared with regular passive end point dividers. Overall, the rotary knife had the highest losses of any configuration. The losses were not only higher but also higher for a wider zone (more than one foot at the point). The losses with the vertical knife were lower, with the regular passive divider showing some of the least loss. Researchers are not sure if the results are universal, but under the harvest conditions in the locations tested, the results from the divider losses were fairly consistent.   View the embedded image gallery online at: http://www.topcropmanager.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=latest&layout=latest&Itemid=1#sigProGalleria5d908e4050  “One caveat to the findings is the question of why power dividers are being used in the first place,” explains Gregg. “Generally, power dividers are used on swathers for example to allow forward progress without the crop balling up and catching on the crop divider. However, in a straight cut situation, if conditions are right and crop material is drier, power dividers may not be necessary for forward movement. Overall, the passive divider provided a smooth sleek transition and the potential for lower losses in the conditions we have seen so far. Therefore, a tip for growers who are straight cutting and trying to use the header they have, it may be worth some time investment to install cardboard and duct tape, or whatever, to help make the transition at the divider point and around the edge of the header smoother.”The preliminary results of the variety trial comparisons were similar after the first two years of the project. Researchers will be able to provide better details after the 2016 growing season results are in and an economic analysis is completed. “In conventional hybrid canola, the standard control swath and combine treatment actually yielded the highest,” Gregg says. “The losses in the straight cut treatments were a bit higher and there were some additional losses to wind. However, the shatter resistant varieties performed well across all treatments, with the straight cut treatments yielding the highest. We need to complete the economics, however, the results so far indicate that investing in some sort of shatter resistant canola variety would be a very good consideration for growers who are planning to straight cut.” “Although header choice plays a role in minimizing losses, other management decisions, choice of variety and harvest timing may hold more potential to impact yield than specific equipment,” adds Gregg. “As the practice of straight cutting canola gains traction, some growers will move to a specific header for the task, but in the meantime we are not seeing anything that suggests they need to rush out and do that immediately. There are several factors that come together at harvest and we are trying to look at some of those. We have another project underway looking at crop maturity and harvest timing and the potential of using desiccation for straight cutting, and the impact these may have on combine performance (settings, fuel use, productivity, etc). When straight cutting, growers need to be patient and wait for the crop to be ready. In the future desiccation may be one of the tools that becomes more important.” The project is jointly funded by SaskCanola, Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture and the Canada-Saskatchewan Growing Forward II Bilateral Agreement and the Western Grains Research Foundation.
Variable rate (VR) technology has been around long enough that VR fertilizer application is common. But what about VR seeding rates? Like VR fertilizer, VR seeding seeks to smooth out field variability so crop establishment is more uniform.
Are AgBots the way of the future for agriculture in Canada, or simply the latest in a long line of products marketed as must-haves for Canadian producers?Long used in the dairy industry for autonomous milking and herding, robotics technology is being applied in soil testing, data collection, fertilizer and pesticide application and many other areas of crop production.“Robotics and automation can play a significant role in society meeting 2050 agricultural production needs,” argues the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ Robotics and Automation Society on its website.  Farmers have a right to question the value of new technologies promising greater efficiency on the farm. But Paul Rocco, president of Ottawa-based Provectus Robotics Solutions, believes robotics offer a suite of potential new solutions for producers short on resources and averse to risk.“In a perfect world, farmers would have a machine that could perform soil sampling at night, deliver a report in the morning, and be sent out the following night to autonomously spray,” says Rocco. “We’re a ways away from that, but the technology is maturing and the capabilities exist already – it’s about putting it into the hands of farmers and making sure it’s affordable.”Provectus’ latest project involved problem solving for a banana plantation in Martinique, where human ATV operators are at risk of injury from chemical spray or even death due to unsafe driving conditions. The company recently developed a remotely operated ground vehicle that carries spray equipment and can be controlled by operators in a safe location.“We see applications in Canada,” says Rocco. “Why expose people to hazardous substances and conditions when you can have an unmanned system?”Robotics are not all bananas. For example, a Minneapolis-based company, Rowbot Systems, has developed an unmanned, self-driving, multi-use platform that can travel between corn rows – hence, “Rowbots” – to deliver fertilizer, seed cover crops, and collect data.RowBots are not yet commercially available, but CEO Kent Cavender-Bares says there’s already been interest from corn growers across the United States as well as Canada. As to whether the use of robotics is cost-effective for farmers, it’s almost too soon to say. But utility can be balanced against cost.“In terms of cost effectiveness from the farmer’s perspective, there’s a strong story already for driving yields higher while reducing production costs per bushel. Of course, we need to bring down the cost on our side to deliver services while making a profit,” says Cavender-Bares.He believes that as autonomy spreads within agriculture, there will be a trend toward smaller, robotic machines. “Not only will smaller machines be safer, but they’ll also compact soil less and enable more precision and greater diversity of crops,” he says.Case study: ‘BinBots’Closer to home, a group of University of Saskatchewan engineering students has designed a “BinBot,” an autonomous sensor built to crawl through grain bins and deliver moisture and temperature readings.The students were part of a 2015 Capstone 495 design course, in which groups of four students are matched with industry sponsors to tackle specific problems.Joy Agnew, a project manager with the Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute (PAMI)’s Agricultural Research Services, stepped forward with a challenge: could students develop an improved grain bin sensor for PAMI?“It came about from the first summer storage of canola project we did, and the data showing that in the grain at the top of the bin, the temperature stayed steady during the entire sampling period, but the temperature in the headspace grain was fluctuating wildly,” says Agnew. “We realized the power of grain insulating capacity – there was less than 15 centimetres between the grain that was changing and the grain that wasn’t. That made us think: the sensors are really only telling you the conditions in a one-foot radius around the sensor – less than one per cent of all the grain in the bin.”The problem she set to the students: can you design sensors with “higher resolution” sensing capabilities than currently available cables?“We were looking at some high-tech ideas of how we could do that with radio waves or imaging, and we thought we needed more mechanical systems,” says Luke McCreary, who has since graduated. “We ended up with a track system in the bin roof with a robot on a cable. The robot has a couple of augers on it so it can propel itself through the grain, taking temperature and humidity measurements as it goes and sending that data to a logging source to create a 3D map of the temperature, humidity and moisture in the bin,” he says.Once built, the robot will be six inches in diameter and 14 inches long, with the ability to move laterally, vertically and transversally.Agnew says PAMI is applying for funding to build the robot, and has already had some interest from manufacturers. She says the technology could reach farmers’ bins between five and 10 years from now.“We think this is the way of the future to avoid the risk of spoilage,” she says. “The technology is advancing, and costs are declining rapidly.”
Sept. 9, 2016 - Augers and the dangers associated with grain are well-known hazards during harvest. Protocol for safely working around these elements should be outlined and communicated with co-workers to minimize or eliminate the risk of injuries. When using an auger, one person should be designated as being in charge of the task, and be sure that the equipment is periodically inspected during operation. While the auger is running: Observe work area restrictions Keep all safety shields and devices in place Make certain everyone is clear before operating or moving the machine Keep hands, feet, hair and clothing away from moving parts Shut off and lock out power to adjust, service, or clean the equipment “Grain handling entrapments can happen very quickly,” says Nicole Hornett, farm safety coordinator, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry. “Flowing grain can draw a person down within seconds. High capacity equipment, such as wagons paired with large diameter augers, can be extremely efficient at unloading grain. Flowing grain can pull children and adults down quicker than one thinks they can react.” The best way to reduce the risk of grain entrapment is to eliminate the situation. Farm workers, however, are exposed to some risks. To reduce risk, follow these guidelines: Consider all alternate methods to free up grain before resorting to entering a wagon or bin. Bin entry should be the last resort. Lock out power to all types of grain handling equipment - disconnect power and place locks over operating switches Always use the buddy system when you are unloading or loading grain - quickly stopping an auger could mean the difference between an entrapment or a fatal engulfment Never enter a bin when grain is caked or spoiled - mouldy, wet grain clumps and, as it is unloaded, a large air pocket can form just below the surface creating a ‘grain bridge’ that can collapse at any time “Make this year’s harvest season one where everyone gets home safe and healthy at the end of each work day,” says Hornett. “Whether it is shift work with an extended team of farm hands or a few family members, make the plan work for safety. With all the potential hazards during fall work, it takes some discussion and planning to ensure everyone is on the same path to a safe and bountiful harvest.”
Sept. 6, 2016 - The Government of Canada has announced an investment of $1,825,000 to Clean Seed Agricultural Technologies Ltd. to support the commercialization, production and distribution of a new, high-precision seeder. With this funding from the AgriInnovation Program (part of the Growing Forward 2 agricultural policy framework), six seeders will be produced and field tested on farms, in addition to upgrades of the production line."This technology represents a new step forward in precision, no-till farming that will help farmers maximize their production and profits, while reducing their environmental footprint," says Terry Beech, parliamentary secretary to the minister of science.Precision seeding equipment uses sophisticated field/soil mapping technology which enables the farmer to apply precise amounts of seed, fertilizer and nutrients, at the right time, to maximize yields and reduce cost.
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.
The Cellulosic Sugar Producers Co-operative (CSPC) and its partners have almost finished putting all the pieces in place for a southern Ontario value chain to turn crop residues into sugars. Those pieces include a feasibility study, a technical-economic assessment and a collaboratively developed business plan. Some important steps still have to be completed, but they are aiming for processing to start in 2018.
Today many biofuel refineries operate for only seven months each year, turning freshly harvested crops into ethanol and biodiesel. When supplies run out, biorefineries shut down for the other five months. However, according to recent research, dual-purpose biofuel crops could produce both ethanol and biodiesel for nine months of the year – increasing profits by as much as 30 per cent. “Currently, sugarcane and sweet sorghum produce sugar that may be converted to ethanol,” said co-lead author Stephen Long, Gutgsell Endowed Professor of Plant Biology and Crop Sciences at the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology at the University of Illinois. “Our goal is to alter the plants' metabolism so that it converts this sugar in the stem to oil – raising the levels in current cultivars from 0.05 per cent oil, not enough to convert to biodiesel, to the theoretical maximum of 20 per cent oil. With 20 per cent oil, the plant's sugar stores used for ethanol production would be replaced with more valuable and energy dense oil used to produce biodiesel or jet fuel.” A paper published in Industrial Biotechnology simulated the profitability of Plants Engineered to Replace Oil in Sugarcane and Sweet Sorghum (PETROSS) with 0 per cent, 5 per cent, 10 per cent, and 20 per cent oil. They found that growing sorghum in addition to sugarcane could keep biorefineries running for an additional two months, increasing production and revenue by 20-30 per cent. | READ MORE
The president of a new farm co-op says it's working to sign up 200 to 300 members to supply corn stalks and leaves, also known as stover, as well as wheat stalks, to a proposed new plant in Sarnia, Ont., that will turn the biomass into sugar. The Sarnia Observer reports. | READ MORE
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
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.”

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