The wheat midge forecast for 2017 shows an overall lower level of wheat midge across Alberta. There has been a slight bounce back from the collapse of the extreme populations in the eastern Peace region. Although wheat midge has not followed our forecasts very well in the Peace region it is important to note that there are likely sufficient populations of midge in the eastern Peace to fuel a resurgence if conditions are in the insects favor (specifically delayed crops and higher than normal rainfall). Central Alberta has some areas of east of Edmonton with high numbers of wheat midge. The population has remained low in much of southern Alberta with the exception of some irrigated fields. Producers should pay attention to midge downgrading in their wheat samples and use this as a further indication of midge risk in their fields. Over the past several years the field to field variation has been very considerable throughout the province, especially in those areas with higher counts. Individual fields throughout Alberta may still have economic levels of midge. Each producer also needs to assess their risk based on indicators specific to their farm. | READ MORE
Improving fertilizer use efficiency, reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and carbon footprints, thereby improving sustainability is becoming increasingly important to the agriculture industry and its markets. For agriculture, nitrous oxide (N2O) is a very powerful GHG, so reducing losses and intensity not only improves the GHG footprint of cropping systems, but also benefits growers directly by improving economics and efficiency.
Pulse crops in rotation provide a range of ongoing benefits to subsequent crops, such as reducing fertilizer costs, providing a break in pest cycles and increasing yield. Estimating the nitrogen (N) benefits or credits to the system can be challenging, and researchers continue to improve methods that provide a more accurate assessment of N and carbon (C) in cropping systems.
Try this exercise. Take five $20 bills, scatter them on the ground, then light one on fire and watch it go up in smoke. That’s what researchers at Montana State University (MSU) found could happen if you broadcast urea fertilizer in the late fall or winter without incorporation. Previously, it was commonly thought that broadcast urea on cold soils would not result in very large urea losses.
Peter Johnson has a theory: if you don’t invest dollars in spring barley breeding, you won’t get the results you want.
As recently as four to five years ago, Ontario corn producers were still applying 85 per cent of their nitrogen (N) fertilizer pre-plant, according to Ian McDonald, the crop innovations specialist with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA). But natural pools of nitrogen have plenty to offer, and McDonald believes if producers don’t wait to soil test or judge the impact of weather on the crop’s early development, they might be missing an opportunity for improved N management. Back in 2001, McDonald and OMAFRA’s then-corn specialist Greg Stewart decided to evaluate levels of organic N across Ontario’s soil zones. “Most N went down as urea or urea ammonium nitrate (UAN) applied on bare ground before the corn was planted. We wanted to raise awareness of how much organic N was available from the natural pool across Ontario,” he says. OMAFRA’s corn N soil survey was born, in which Stewart and colleagues annually sampled between 75 and 100 different sites, evaluating available organic N in natural pools by soil type, geography and cropping history. “We did that on an annual basis in the hopes of better understanding how the natural pool was mineralized, and to give people other options than throwing all the N up front. Pre-plant N application works from a time perspective but doesn’t give producers much opportunity to use management thinking to customize the rates based on a sound knowledge of the year’s yield potential,” McDonald says. In 2016, the survey morphed into the “N Sentinel Project,” a three-year Grain Farmers of Ontario and Growing Forward 2 sponsored effort designed to improve current tools for estimating N fertilizer requirements. Instead of visiting dozens of sites the team focused their analyses on 23 dedicated sites across clay-loam, loam and sandy soil zones. “In the past, we were just haphazardly going out and sampling fields across the province and it wasn’t a very organized or targeted process,” McDonald says. “It was a one shot-in-the-dark per year analysis, and we felt that although it was giving us generalities, it wasn’t able to answer the important questions that needed to be answered on an annual basis.” What are those questions? The researchers are mostly interested in discovering the impact of weather patterns on the mineralization of the natural N pool each year, as well as the effects of previous cropping practices, temperature, moisture and soil type on background N levels.Targeted analysisThree sites are located in eastern Ontario, two in central Ontario, and eight between London and Guelph; the rest are scattered to the west, with the furthest located at Dresden. Eight of the sites are maintained by the University of Guelph as part of a number of the Ontario Corn Performance Trials. The other sites are maintained by farmer co-operators. Sites are established with zero N (max 30 pounds of N per acre) in a starter band and a full-rate non-yield limiting commercial N rate. Each site is sampled four times per year between May 1 and July 1, and has its own weather station installed by Weather Innovations Network, which processes local weather data and hosts results on a dedicated website.  All sites, McDonald says, will have two replicates of the zero and full N treatments harvested for yield at maturity. “This will allow a calculation of the delta yield for each location that measures yield response to N rate,” he says. “This will also provide a [maximum economic rate of nitrogen] MERN for each site and a calibration of the [pre-sidedress nitrogen test] PSNT taken at the mid-June sample timing.”  In the previous soil N survey, he notes, there was no correlation to crop yield and thus no way of determining whether the PSNT taken to generate the survey was in the ballpark of predicting what the crop needed for economic yield. “We know more of the background on these sites — previous management, previous rotations, etcetera, that might influence soil nitrogen levels,” says Ben Rosser, OMAFRA’s corn specialist. “We have more info being generated on each site than in the past,” McDonald agrees. In 2015, the corn survey generated surprising results: soil N levels were “considerably higher” than previous years’ data, due to an unusually dry spring. “The higher-than-usual average soil nitrate levels observed in this year’s survey suggest that fertilizer N requirements in 2015 may be less than the rates generally needed in most years,” the team’s field crop report suggested, while cautioning that producers should confirm fertilizer N requirements on a field-by-field basis. “In 2016, the results were closer to normal, or maybe just above,” Rosser says. While the season began with cooler than normal temperatures, it warmed up by June. “With an overall average of 11.2 [parts per million] ppm in 2016, soil nitrate levels tended to be average or slightly above average relative to the five previous survey years (2011-2015), while slightly lower than 2015 values, which were well above normal,” states the team’s 2016 field crop report, before recommending normal N application practices. But recommendations should never be taken as holy writ, the authors again caution: “Soil nitrate values are highly influenced by the environment and agronomic practices. For instance, if you are in an area which has received significantly more rainfall than other parts of the province, you may have also experienced more loss than is reflected in these results.  “The only way to know soil nitrate concentrations on your own farm is to pull soil nitrates from your own fields.” McDonald believes producers are beginning to realize the value of managing N application more tightly, thanks to their use of Internet and social media resources promoting the practice — and the genetics they’re employing. “The biggest change that’s occurred is that the genetic potential of new hybrids has really increased, and with that, producers are understanding how important nitrogen management is to achieving that yield potential,” he says.A previous version of this article originally appeared in the October 2016 edition of Top Crop Manager East.
Researchers in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences have received a $7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, or ARPA-E, to design a low-cost, integrated system that can identify and screen for high-yielding, deeper-rooted crops. The interdisciplinary team, led by Jonathan Lynch, distinguished professor of plant nutrition, will combine a suite of technologies designed to identify phenotypes and genes related to desirable root traits, with the goal of enhancing the breeding of crop varieties better adapted for nitrogen and water acquisition and carbon sequestration. The project is part of ARPA-E's Rhizosphere Observations Optimizing Terrestrial Sequestration, or ROOTS, program, which is aimed at developing crops that enable a 50 percent increase in carbon deposition depth and accumulation, while also reducing nitrous oxide emissions by 50 percent and increasing water productivity by 25 percent. The ROOTS program website explains that while advances in technology have resulted in a tenfold increase in crop productivity over the past century, soil quality has declined, leading to a soil carbon debt equivalent to 65 parts per million of atmospheric carbon dioxide. This soil carbon debt increases the need for costly nitrogen fertilizer, which has become the primary source of emissions of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas. The soil carbon debt also impacts crop water use, increasing susceptibility to drought stress, which threatens future productivity. Given the scale of domestic and global agriculture, there is tremendous potential to reverse these trends by harnessing the photosynthetic bridge between atmospheric carbon, plants, microbes and soil. Advanced root systems that increase soil organic matter can improve soil structure, fertilizer use efficiency, water productivity, crop yield and climate resilience, while mitigating topsoil erosion – all of which provide near-term and sustained economic value. | READ MORE
New genes – showing resistance to the yield-robbing blackleg in canola crops – have been identified in trials. New South Wales (Australia) Department of Primary Industries senior principal research scientist, Harsh Raman, said the study has unlocked the genetic make-up of canola to characterize major and minor genes resistant to the fungal pathogen Leptosphaeria maculans, which causes blackleg disease. “Finding new sources of resistance, particularly resistance which is controlled by minor genes, is extremely important to the canola industry,” Dr Raman said. “Blackleg disease can cause up to 80 per cent yield loss in canola - in Australia, France and Canada resistance has been broken down in some canola varieties due to the emergence of new races of the blackleg pathogen.” | READ MORE
When Meghan Moran, the canola and edible bean specialist for the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), is out at an event, soybean growers usually outnumber edible bean growers. “Sometimes the soybean growers will ask if small seeded dry beans, or edible beans, are more profitable,” she says. “And the truth is that they are!” 
Stephanie Kowalski, an independent agronomist for Agronomy Advantage, says that because of the drought this past growing season, many agronomists had to help their customers mitigate further stress in soybeans, whether that was from pests, fungus-related diseases or building base fertility. Kowalski recently spoke at the 2017 Southwest Ag Conference in Ridgetown, Ont., where she was asked to share her three key lessons from 2016. Besides the lack of rain in Ontario, one of the major players for soybean stress was the presence of spider mites. The most important factor to keep in mind for mites is to scout for them, since drought-stress holes can look very similar to spider mite damage. Once farmers notice stippling and discoloured patches, it’s important to take care of them as soon as possible. “Spider mites are not an aphid pest, where you would wait for the threshold to build and then you take action,” Kowalski says. “You have to continually assess it and make an action decision because they won’t go away.” She also says many agronomists thought aphids would be the big problem for growers due to the hot and dry year, which just goes to show that it can be difficult to predict pest problems from year to year. With spider mites, Kowalski says it’s important to spray a dimethoate like Cygon or Lagon, and avoid a pyrethroid (like Matador) since it will also take out the predatory mites, increasing the spider mite pressure. The second factor that came into soybean management this year had to do with fungicides. “Weather is only one factor of the fungicide decision,” Kowalski says. “Just because it’s a dry year, I wouldn’t write out a fungicide [prescription].” Growers and agronomists should be looking at history (of white mould for example), row spacing and emergent population. Again, getting out and seeing what’s already in the field is important, since every year brings a different challenge. “Proactively scouting and managing the crop throughout the growing season is never a bad idea,” Kowalski says. “Even if the growing conditions are ideal, scouting can be a very useful tool to identify ways to maximize yields economically.” Don’t forget about the disease history of your fields either: If a field had soybeans or even canola previously, there is a likelihood that sclerotinia (the hard black bodies created by the white mould fungi) will be present following a diseased year and cause infection in that subsequent soybean crop. Base fertility and soil health also play a role in mitigating stress in soybeans, especially in a drought year. The more soil organic matter available, the better the water retention, which helps limit drought stress due to the availability of moisture to those crops. Good fertility also means strong early season root growth and adequate nutrient levels in the root zones, resulting in more efficient water use, better nutrient uptake and less of a chance of deficiencies and stress. Early data shows managing phosphorous (P) and potassium (K) levels in soil at higher background levels has led to a good response in crops versus the current recommendations (sufficiency approach) that were established more than 30 years ago, when yields were lower. Every year brings a different challenge for soybeans and other crops: 2014 was a terrible white mould year, 2015 had significant spring frost events and aphids and 2016 was a droughty year, so proactively scouting and managing the crop throughout the growing season is never a bad idea, Kowalski says. “Even if the growing conditions are ideal, scouting can be a very useful tool to identify ways to maximize yields economically.”
What would the late John Harapiak think of this: Nitrogen (N) losses with banded N that are greater than broadcast N. Harapiak championed deep banding N as a way to improve N-use efficiency and crop yield back in the late 1970s and 1980s, based on many years of research at Western Co-operative Fertilizers (later Westco), the former fertilizer arm of the three Wheat Pool grain companies. His “Fertilizer Forums” promoted the benefits of deep banding over broadcast N. However, new research is starting to show shallow banding less than two inches deep may incur some volatilization loss.
Soybean breeders continue to focus on early maturing soybean hybrids and bring myriad stacked traits to Western Canadian growers. Seed companies have supplied Top Crop Manager with the following information on the new soybean hybrids for 2017. Growers are advised to check local performance trials to help with their variety selections. Listing is by crop heat unit (CHU)/maturity rating.
Nitrogen inhibitors can dramatically improve productivity and injection is by far the best way to incorporate nitrogen into the soil while minimizing nitrogen loss.
Growers in Western Canada now have new options for controlling the most damaging diseases with the registration of Hornet fungicide and label updates for INTEGO Solo seed treatment from Nufarm Agriculture Inc.
A University of Queensland team has made a discovery that could help conquer the greatest threat to global food security: pests and diseases in plants. Research leader Professor Neena Mitter said BioClay – an environmentally sustainable alternative to chemicals and pesticides – could be a game-changer for crop protection. “Our disruptive research involves a spray of nano-sized degradable clay used to release double-stranded RNA, that protects plants from specific disease-causing pathogens,” she says. The research, by scientists from the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI) and UQ’s Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN) is published in Nature Plants. Professor Mitter said the technology reduced the use of pesticides without altering the genome of the plants. Once BioClay is applied, the plant ‘thinks’ it is being attacked by a disease or pest insect and responds by protecting itself from the targeted pest or disease. “A single spray of BioClay protects the plant and then degrades, reducing the risk to the environment or human health.” She said BioClay met consumer demands for sustainable crop protection and residue-free produce.
Canadian growers are under increasing pressure to operate efficiently with the profound change in farming today. Larger operations with more acreage to cover, the pressure of lower crop prices and higher input costs, and demands for environmental efficiency mean every dollar and agronomic practice must be used as effectively as possible.
Wet weather last fall capped a challenging season for western Canada growers who had dealt with drought until excessive rains delayed harvest. These less-than-ideal conditions hindered fertilizer application, meaning growers may feel the need to rush 2017 applications.
Scientists at the Conneticut Agricultural Experiment Station are using nanoparticle technology to apply copper to the shoots of plants. Based on preliminary findings in the research, these nanoparticles are better at helping deliver the necessary nutrients to the plants and keep them healthy despite the presence of Fusarium in the soil. | READ MORE
A dose of microbes can let plants better withstand drought conditions by growing more leaves and roots and using less water, research shows.
Agnition announced today that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has granted registration for two products in Canada, Generate for crops and Commence for wheat seed treatment. Both products will be available to Canadian farmers for the 2017 growing season.
FMC of Canada has announced a new expanded label for Authority 480 herbicide. The new label features more registered weeds and additional crops, according to a press release. The weeds include eastern black nightshade, a particularly troublesome weed for identity preserved (IP) soybeans, and common waterhemp – the newest glyphosate-resistant weed in Eastern Canada. There are 13 weeds on the new expanded label, such as red root pigweed, lamb’s-quarters, wild buckwheat, eastern black nightshade, common waterhemp, yellow woodsorrel, common groundsel, cleavers (suppression), Powell pigweed and common purslane.Authority offers a new group 14 weed control option for group 2 and glyphosate resistant weeds. Several new specialty horticulture crops have also been added to the Authority herbicide label, including chickpeas, field pea, flax and sunflowers. 
As part of the regular review process, Health Canada has completed its re-evaluation of imidacloprid, and has published its draft risk assessment for public comment. The assessment proposes current use of imidacloprid is not sustainable, and the levels of this pesticide that are being found in waterways and aquatic environments are harmful to aquatic insects, such as mayflies and midges, which are important food sources for fish, birds and other animals.
Bayer has launched ILeVO seed treatment, the first soybean seed treatment registered for Sudden Death Syndrome (SDS) in Canada.  SDS is caused by Fusarium virguliforme. This fungal pathogen overwinters on crop residue and is occurring more frequently in fields across Ontario. Difficult to identify and often misdiagnosed, the disease results in average annual yield loss of about 20 per cent, but can cause losses of up to 60 per cent in a growing season, according to a press release from Bayer. To date, there have been no seed treatment solutions available for SDS in Canada.  ILeVO has activity on the Fusarium virguliforme fungus. The company says the effectiveness of the product has been demonstrated through field trials in the U.S. and Canada over the past five years, including third-party trials with OMAFRA and the University of Guelph.  A feature unique to ILeVO which signals a successful application is the “halo effect,” which is often visible on the edges of the cotyledons of a treated plant.  For more information regarding ILeVO, growers are encouraged to talk to their local seed companies and retailers or visit cropscience.bayer.ca/ILeVO. 
DuPont and Monsanto will offer DuPont Lumivia insecticide seed treatment under the Acceleron brand in Eastern Canada for the 2017 sales season. Lumivia insecticide seed treatment, part of the DuPont Lumigen seed sense portfolio, is the first insecticide seed treatment technology in Canada using chlorantraniliprole, a reduced-risk active ingredient that will give growers a tool to help control damage caused by a broad spectrum of pests.Lumivia is a premium insecticide seed treatment that works systemically to translocate the active ingredient from the seed to the roots and developing stalk and leaves throughout seedling development. It delivers protection against key early season pests including wireworm, seed corn maggot (suppression only), black cutworms and armyworm that can cause devastating damage to a corn crop. According to DuPont, Lumivia insecticide seed treatment provides immediate and long-lasting protection of corn seeds and seedlings, which translates to uniform, healthy stands and increased yield potential through improved early season vigor. Lumivia is available on DEKALB brand corn seed for the 2017 growing season as part of the Acceleron Seed Applied Solutions offerings in Eastern Canada.
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.
The Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance (CAFTA) is applauding the Government of Canada for signing the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with the European Union.
After a recent meeting in Saskatoon with federal Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAuley and federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau, several farm groups feel their concerns were heard, and are waiting to hear about a long-term plan for grain transportation in Canada. Global News reports. | READ MORE
The U.S. will capture a higher share of the global wheat market this season as poor weather that’s hurt French and Canadian crops helps the second-largest exporter step up shipments from a 44-year low last season, according to Bloomberg.com. | READ MORE
Nominations are now open for the title of Ontario’s Outstanding Young Farmer. The Outstanding Young Farmers (OYF) Program is a unique program designed to recognize farmers and farm couples who exemplify excellence in their profession. Any organization or any person can nominate a young farmer or couple for the regional recognition award as long as the nominee meets the following program eligibility requirements: •    must be between the ages of 18 and 39, •    must be farm operators, and •    must derive a minimum of two-thirds of their income from farming.Each region across the country holds an event where five or six nominees are judged on the following criteria:  •    progress in agriculture career •    extent of soil, water and energy conservation practices •    crop and/or livestock production history •    management practices, and •    contribution to the well-being of the community, province and nation.The Ontario Region OYF will be holding their next annual event in September 2017 in London, in conjunction with Canada's Outdoor Farm Show. The regional winners will represent Ontario at the annual national event where they compete to be named Canada's Outstanding Young Farmers. Nominations for the 2017 award are now being accepted by Dianna Forth, regional co-ordinator via email at  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . More information and nomination forms can be found on the website. Nominations close on January 15, 2017. 
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.
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
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.”
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.

Subscription Centre

 
New Subscription
 
Already a Subscriber
 
Customer Service
 
View Digital Magazine Renew

Most Popular

Latest Events

FCC Ag Knowledge Exchange
Tue Jan 24, 2017 @10:00am - 03:00pm
FCC Ag Knowledge Exchange
Wed Jan 25, 2017 @10:00am - 03:00pm

Marketplace