A team of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and university scientists has developed a sensitive new assay method for detecting the fungus that causes wheat blast, a disease of wheat in South America and, most recently, Bangladesh.
With the continued difficulties in getting the crop harvested this fall, an Alberta Agriculture and Forestry (AF) specialist is recommending producers get their crops any way they can, as long as it goes through the combine. “This year’s harvest has been a long, drawn out affair, filled with frustration and disappointment,” said Harry Brook, crop specialist, AF, in a press release. “Many producers still have crop left to be harvested or are taking it off wet, with grain being binned or bagged or piled at unheard of moisture levels. These crops cannot be left out in the cold for extended periods of time unattended.” Once the crop is harvested and in storage, the excess moisture must be dealt with as soon as possible. “If you don’t have ready access to a grain dryer or have aeration for your bins, you must closely monitor the grain or oilseed for signs of heating. If you see signs that there is heating, you will need to cool the grain by circulating the grain out of and back into the bin. Depending on bin or pile size, this may have to be done fairly frequently.” Brook has a caution for producers who are using grain bags for short term storage. “Remember that very damp or wet grain in a bag will start to mould. Some moulds will grow at cold temperatures and losses can be high. If bags are used for wet grain storage it should only be short term until crop drying occurs and close monitoring can again begin.” When drying grain, there are maximum temperatures that should be used on the various crops. “There are tables that outline the maximum temperatures to be used to dry grain. Don’t exceed those maximum drying temperatures to avoid quality losses. With a large amount of moisture to be removed or a big seed, multiple passes of drying and cooling will be needed. In large seed like fababeans, drying might take three or four cycles to bring it down to safe storage levels. The cooling is required to let the moisture content in the seed equalize.” If there is aeration, some supplemental heat can be used to help dry down the crop. However, Brook said, in this case smaller bins will be more useful than large bins. “To make this work, the fan has to have sufficient air flow to provide at least 0.5 cfm/bushel before adding the supplemental heat. Success will depend on the cleanliness of the grain and, even then, a load or two will have to be circulated out of the bin and back in to help equalize moistures and prevent dry and wet channels in the grain.” Brook recommends restricting the air temperature increase to 10 C or less as higher temperatures can reduce efficiency and increase the chances of over-drying. For every 10 C increase in air temperature, the relative humidity is halved. “If you have crop that is damp or wet, monitor it closely for signs of heating and, if it occurs, take the appropriate measures to retain the value of the crop. It is too costly to do otherwise.”
Canadian farmers reported increased production of wheat, canola, barley, soybean and lentils in 2016, while corn for grain and oats production were lower than in 2015, according to Statistics Canada's latest report.Significant amounts of snow in early October delayed harvest in some northern regions of Alberta and Saskatchewan. As a result, combining was not complete at the end of the survey period in these areas. Still, farmers in the affected areas were asked to provide their best estimates for their total crop production.WheatTotal wheat production is expected to increase 15 per cent from a year earlier to 31.7 million tonnes in 2016. This marks the second time in five years that wheat production exceeded 30 million tonnes, with the other being the bumper crop of 37.5 million tonnes in 2013.The reported increase in total wheat production resulted from a higher average yield of 53.2 bushels per acre in 2016, up 24.3 per cent from 42.8 bushels per acre in 2015. In contrast, the harvested area declined 7.3 per cent to 21.9 million acres, the lowest level in five years.Alberta farmers reported a 19.4 per cent increase in total wheat production to 9.9 million tonnes. This was the result of a 25.5 per cent rise in average yield to 58 bushels per acre, while there was a 4.6 per cent decrease in harvested acres from 2015 to 6.3 million acres.Similarly, farmers in Saskatchewan reported an 11.5% increase to 14.5 million tonnes, despite the fact harvested area declined by 1.6 million acres from 2015 to 11.3 million acres. The gain in total wheat production was the result of a 27.2 per cent increase in average yield to 47.3 bushels per acre.Manitoba farmers reported 4.2 million tonnes of wheat production in 2016, virtually unchanged from 2015 levels.In Ontario, overall wheat production was reported at 2.5 million tonnes, mainly driven by a 56 per cent increase in winter wheat harvested area over 2015, as well as a record high average yield of 90.9 bushels per acre, up 15.9 per cent over 2015.CanolaCanadian farmers reported producing 18.4 million tonnes of canola in 2016, virtually unchanged from 2015. This was a result of a record high average yield of 42.3 bushels per acre, surpassing the previous high mark of 40.6 bushels per acre during the 2013 bumper crop. This was offset, however, by a 6.6 per cent decline in harvested acres to 19.2 million acres.Canola production in Saskatchewan was up 2.3 per cent from 2015 to a record high 9.7 million tonnes in 2016. This was due to a record high yield of 41.2 bushels per acre (+8.7 per cent), as harvested acreage decreased 5.9 per cent from 2015 to 10.4 million acres.Alberta farmers reported a 1.2 per cent decline in canola production from 2015 to 5.8 million tonnes. This was the result of an 11 per cent drop in harvested acreage, as average yield also reached a record high 46.4 bushels per acre, almost seven bushels more than the five-year average.In Manitoba, farmers reported that canola production fell 4.0% to 2.7 million tonnes. The harvested area reported was similar (-0.8 per cent) to a year earlier, but the average yield declined 3.2 per cent to 39 bushels per acre.Corn for grainCorn for grain production in Canada declined 2.7 per cent from 2015 to 13.2 million tonnes, mainly as a result of a 3.6 per cent decline in average yield to 158.7 bushels per acre. The yield, however, was well above the five-year average of 151.2 bushels per acre.Ontario farmers reported an 8.9 per cent drop in corn for grain production to eight million tonnes. This was the result of a 7.1 per cent decrease in average yield from 2015 to 158.5 bushels per acre, as the harvested area was relatively stable compared with last year.In Quebec, farmers reported that corn for grain production was virtually unchanged from 2015 at 3.8 million tonnes. This was the result of a 1.4 per cent reduction in harvested area to 887,100 acres, combined with a 2.2 per cent increase in average yield to a record high 168.2 bushels per acre.SoybeansNationally, soybean farmers reported record high production for an eighth consecutive year in 2016, up 1.4 per cent from 2015 to 6.5 million tonnes.Manitoba farmers led the way with soybean production up 27.2 per cent from a year earlier to 1.8 million tonnes. This was the result of record levels in both harvested acres (+14.1 per cent to 1.6 million acres) and average yield (+11.6 per cent to 41.3 bushels per acre).Ontario soybean growers reported that production was down 9.5 per cent to 3.4 million tonnes in 2016. The harvested area fell 7.8 per cent to 2.7 million acres. A lower average yield of 45.9 bushels per acre, down 1.9 per cent compared with 2015, also contributed to the overall production decrease.LentilsLentil production reached a record high in 2016, with output up 27.9 per cent from a year earlier to 3.2 million tonnes. The increase in lentil production was the result of a 42.5 per cent gain in harvested area to 5.7 million acres, as the average yield was 10.3 per cent lower than last year at 1,248 pounds per acre.The majority of national lentil production originates in Saskatchewan, where growers reported producing 2.7 million tonnes in 2016. The harvested area was 5.2 million acres in this province, while the average yield declined 16.2 per cent from 2015 to 1,167 pounds per acre.Barley and oatsBarley production rose 6.8 per cent to 8.8 million tonnes in 2016. This growth was attributable to a 12.9 per cent increase in average yield to a record high 73.4 bushels per acre, as the harvested area decreased 5.6 per centover 2015 levels to 5.5 million acres.Conversely, Canadian oat farmers reported that production fell 8.2 per cent from 2015 to 3.1 million tonnes. Despite a record high yield of 92.3 bushels per acre (up 8.2 per cent from 2015), the production drop was due to a 15.1 per cent decline in harvested area to 2.2 million acres.
The federal government will reopen the Frelighsburg Experimental Farm in Quebec, expanding research efforts to strengthen the agriculture sector's ability to adapt to climate change.
Optimal fall planting conditions in 2015 resulted in approximately 1 million acres of winter wheat being seeded.  Excellent weather conditions through to November provided an opportunity for wheat to be well tillered before winter.
The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs reports dry edible bean acres were lower in 2016 than they were in 2015.
Members of the Canadian 4R Research Network gathered in Ottawa on Dec. 1 to share important agronomic data that may assist the federal government in meeting sustainable development goals and greenhouse gas mitigation targets.
Delivery points report a spike in heated canola, and the Canola Council of Canada is advising growers to check all canola bins as soon as possible. | READ MORE
The Ontario Corn Committee has released results from the 2016 Hybrid Corn Performance Trials. | READ MORE
"Ug99” might not mean much to the world outside agriculture, but few wheat diseases have so much potential to devastate production – and ultimately, consumer access to a basic staple – around the world.
Small plot data from the 2016 Canola Performance Trials (CPT) are now available in the searchable database on the CPT website and in the 2016 CPT small plot data booklet. 
The Ontario Soybean and Canola Committee has released results from the 2016 Ontario Soybean Variety Trials. | READ MORE
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.
What doesn’t kill a bug sometimes makes it stronger…or bigger, or longer lived, or able to lay lots and lots of eggs. This biological phenomenon is called “hormesis.” It is an area of growing interest for entomologists, including those who study the effects of insecticides on insects. And it has important implications for agriculture. Hormesis refers to an organism’s response to a stressor, where a low dose of the stressor causes a stimulating effect, like increased reproduction, and a high dose is very damaging or lethal. In the case of an insect, stressors could include things like insecticides, temperatures outside of the insect’s comfort range, insufficient food, and insufficient oxygen. But hormetic responses are not limited to insects. They have been observed in many, many organisms, ranging from microbes and plants to humans. How hormesis actually works isn’t completely understood. “Probably the most commonly cited general theory is the idea of overcompensation. Systems that affect growth and reproduction [in insects and other organisms] are self-regulating and work on feedback mechanisms. So any sort of disturbance to those processes can result in the system trying to correct and overcompensate for it,” explains Chris Cutler, an associate professor with the department of environmental sciences in Dalhousie University’s faculty of agriculture.  For instance, let’s say an insect is exposed to a low dose of a poison that causes its reproductive system to go slightly out of whack. According to the overcompensation theory, its reproductive system will attempt to counteract the problem but will temporarily overshoot its response, leading to higher reproduction. “In a general sense, I think that is kind of how hormesis operates, but we still have a lot of the nuts and bolts to figure out,” Cutler says.  He explains that hormetic responses have evolved over millions of years as mechanisms for organisms to deal with low amounts of stress. So hormesis has always been around. However, it’s only recently that scientists have been identifying such responses as an actual phenomenon. “I think in the past, researchers would often look at [a hormetic] result and say ‘that’s weird’ or ‘that’s an outlier,’ and not really have a word to describe it. Those types of papers have gotten lost in the literature decades ago, but you can find them if you look hard enough,” he notes. “We’ve documented incidents of hormesis in all sorts of insects, dozens of species across many different families and orders of insects, exposed to many different types of stress, whether it’s an insecticide stress, nutritional stress, temperature stress, radiation stress. So hormesis occurs widely and the concept is now pretty well accepted by researchers, and people are really starting to catch on to the idea.”  Cutler began his research on hormesis completely by accident. “I did my PhD research at the University of Guelph and was working with the Colorado potato beetle. In one of my experiments with an insect growth regulator, which is a more selective or more friendly type of insecticide, I was exposing eggs to the insecticide. I was expecting deleterious effects, like smaller eggs, eggs that wouldn’t hatch, and that type of thing. But in one experiment, I saw that at the low dose the survival and weight of the larvae were higher than in the control. At first I thought I’d got the concentrations mixed up or something. So I repeated the experiment a couple of times and got the same result. And I stumbled on this idea of hormesis, which at that time [about a decade ago] had not garnered much attention at all in insect circles.”  At present, the hormesis research at Cutler’s lab focuses mainly on insecticide-induced responses of various insects to various insecticides. “We’ve been using green peach aphid as a model. It is a widespread insect pest occurring all over the world, attacking lots of different crops, and insecticide resistance is a big problem in that insect,” he notes. For example, he and his lab have been looking at how this aphid responds to imidacloprid, a commonly used neonicotinoid sold under various trade names, such as Admire. Their research shows that when the aphid is exposed to low doses of imidacloprid, the aphid’s reproductive output goes way up. Cutler says, “We’ve shown this in laboratory and greenhouse experiments where, after a few weeks, the population of the aphids on a plant can double due to exposure to the insecticide that is supposed to kill them.”  In a field situation, many different factors can lead to less-than-lethal doses of insecticide. “Insecticides break down over time. Sunlight will break them down. They are subject to microbial degradation. They are subject to wash-off by the rain. Also, drift can occur, so you may be trying to apply a high dose but the wind takes it so you get a low dose on the plant. And you have canopy effects when you spray so you don’t get as high a dose under the leaves or further down the plant,” Cutler explains.  “So inevitably you’re going to get insects that are exposed to these sublethal doses. And some of these low doses could be hormetic.” Cutler sees many possible implications of hormesis for agriculture. One obvious one is that insecticide-induced hormesis could make a pest problem even worse by causing pest resurgences and secondary pest outbreaks. Pest resurgence is when the population of an insecticide-treated pest increases rapidly to even higher numbers than before the insecticide was applied. A secondary pest outbreak refers to a rapid population increase in a pest species that had been less important than the target species until the insecticide was applied. Pest resurgences and outbreaks are often assumed to be due to the harmful effects of the insecticide on the pest’s natural enemies (the predators and parasitoids that attack it). But that assumption isn’t necessarily correct in all cases. Cutler explains, “There have been experiments that have excluded that possibility and shown the outbreak in the field – whether it’s due to aphids or thrips or leafhoppers – is directly due to stimulation from the insecticide.”  The degree to which insecticide-induced hormesis is contributing to pest resurgences and outbreaks in agricultural fields is not yet known. However, it has been documented in many field situations. Insecticide-induced pest resurgences and outbreaks could clearly have serious impacts on susceptible crops, and could prompt farmers to apply more insecticides, raising their input costs and increasing the risks of insecticide resistance and negative impacts on the environment. On the other hand, hormesis has positive implications for businesses that rear insects. “Insect rearing is a billion-dollar industry. Insects are reared for a lot of different purposes – for use in research, food for pets, food for people. Honeybees are reared for honey and pollination,” Cutler notes. “I think we can probably harness some of these hormetic principles for rearing these beneficial insects. It has been shown, for instance, that when you are rearing insects like Caribbean fruit flies for sterile insect release (SIR) programs, if you deprive them of oxygen for an hour, that mild stress can prime them to become better at finding mates, become better at emerging, have lower mortality and longer life spans. So this type of preconditioning hormesis can improve the performance of those insects later in life.” In his current research, Cutler is delving into a number of different aspects of insecticide-induced hormesis, with the help of funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.  “One of the things we’re doing is looking at this idea of priming, so can mild exposure to one stress condition the insect to deal [more effectively] with subsequent stresses later in life or in subsequent generations? We’re looking at that in aphids.”  Cutler and his lab are also examining the possibility that hormesis may be contributing to insecticide resistance. “We’re looking at a couple of different angles there. We want to see if exposures to low doses of insecticide that may cause hormesis also induce the insect to produce more detoxification enzymes. When you and I or insects are exposed to poisons, we have enzymes that break down those poisons. So, if the insect is exposed to mild doses of insecticide, do we see more of those enzymes?” he says.   “[Another insecticide resistance angle] we’re looking at is whether exposure to mild doses of insecticide can increase mutations in insects. One of the main causes for mutations in organisms is stress. So we want to see if, for instance, hormetic stress that can cause increases in reproduction can also cause increases in mutations in insects such as aphids, and can some of these mutations be for insecticide resistance?” Cutler is also investigating insecticide-induced hormesis in bees. He does a lot of research on bees and pesticides, so he’s well aware that pesticides are an important risk factor for bees. But he wondered whether insecticide-induced hormesis might occur in bees since it has been found in so many other insects. He recently published a paper identifying evidence in the literature that low doses of insecticide stimulate longevity, learning and memory of bees. Now he’ll be pursuing that idea in his own experiments. What you can doAlthough there is still much to learn about hormesis, especially under field conditions, Cutler offers a few suggestions for practices that could help reduce the risk of insecticide-induced hormesis on your farm.  One practice is to keep an eye on the pest population after pesticide applications. “I suspect that rapidly reproducing pests like aphids, leafhoppers and mites are more prone to outbreaks and resurgences from hormesis, although this has yet to be tested. This might be particularly true for insecticides that degrade to sublethal concentrations more quickly or for systemic insecticides (seed treatments) that work against early season pests but will be at sublethal amounts for most insects after a few weeks.” Second, minimize drift and ensure good plant coverage when spraying insecticides. “This will minimize exposure of the pests to sublethal concentrations that might induce hormetic responses to stimulate their population growth.” And third, avoid cutting insecticide rates below those recommended on the label. “As many growers will know, cutting rates is usually problematic because it can ‘encourage’ development of insecticide resistance while increasing the chances of suboptimal pest control. At the same time, exposure to these lower sublethal concentrations could stimulate reproduction of certain pests, possibly creating a double-whammy for the grower.”
Sept. 9, 2016 - Central and northern Alberta farmers will once again have the opportunity to turn in their obsolete or unwanted agricultural pesticides and livestock/equine medications. “Farmers can drop off their obsolete materials at a designated collection site at no charge,” says Kim Timmer, CleanFARMS. “The products will then be transported to a high temperature incineration facility for safe disposal.” Collections will take place in northern Alberta from Sept. 21 to 23 and in central Alberta from Oct. 3 to 7. A listing of collection sites is available at www.cleanfarms.ca/obsoletepesticidelivestock_AB.html For more information, go to www.cleanfarms.ca
August 24, 2016 - Command, a herbicide from FMC, is now registered for control of cleavers in canola. Command is a Group 13 pre-emergent herbicide that will provide canola growers with residual control of cleavers and will be an integral part of an overall cleaver management program in canola.  It is a liquid formulation that can be tank-mixed with glyphosate for a one pass pre-seed application.  Command can be used with any canola herbicide system. 
In Saskatchewan, provincial guidelines recommend spraying fungicides on durum wheat at the flag leaf stage for leaf spots and the flowering stage for Fusarium head blight (FHB), if warranted. But others are also recommending fungicide applications at earlier growth stages on a preventative basis. Yet little evidence existed, until recently, on whether this was a viable practice. However tempting it is to throw some fungicide in with a herbicide application to save on application costs, Myriam Fernandez cautions it doesn’t help prevent disease and can even negatively impact quality. “Our results suggest that under variable environmental conditions in Saskatchewan, not always conducive to the development of high disease levels in wheat, early preventative fungicide application on durum wheat should not be recommended as a strategy to improve productivity, even when followed by a second application,” Fernandez says.   Fernandez is a research scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) at the Swift Current Research and Development Centre. Between 2004 and 2006, she led a study investigating single and double applications of foliar triazole fungicides at various growth stages, and the impact on FHB, deoxynivalenol (DON) concentration, dark kernel discoloration and grain traits in durum wheat. A second study was led by research scientist Bill May at AAFC’s Indian Head Research Farm between 2001 to 2003, which looked at the impact of single and double fungicide applications at flag leaf emergence and flowering stage on disease control and yield and quality of durum. Both studies were recently published in the Canadian Journal of Plant Science. In Fernandez’s research, plots were established at the South East Research Farm in southeast Saskatchewan, and the trial ran for three years. The previous crop was canola in each year. AC Avonlea durum was seeded using a no-till plot drill. Standard agronomic practices were used. Folicur was applied at the recommended rate in all years. Six fungicide treatments were conducted: unsprayed; at stem elongation (GS 31); when flag leaf was half emerged (GS 41); at early to mid-anthesis (flowering) (GS 62-65); at stem elongation and mid-anthesis; at flag leaf emergence and anthesis. Leaf spotting disease, FHB incidence, Fusarium kernel infection, DON concentration, grain yield and quality parameters were measured. Percentage leaf spotting severity on the flag leaves was evaluated in 2004 and 2005, but not in 2006 because of poor disease development. Fernandez says that in most cases, a fungicide application at stem elongation was not effective in reducing Fusarium diseases, nor in improving yield and grain characteristics. She explains that none of the early, single applications were consistently different from the unsprayed control. Fungicide application at flag leaf emergence was more effective in reducing disease levels later in the growing season or improving grain characteristics than an early application at stem elongation. An application at the flowering stage resulted in the most consistent reduction in Fusarium levels, leaf spotting and improvement in kernel size. This is consistent with fungicide application timing for FHB control. Saskatchewan Agriculture recommends fungicide application when at least 75 per cent of the wheat heads on the main stem are fully emerged to when 50 per cent of the heads on the main stem are in flower. The double fungicide applications at either stem elongation/flag leaf emergence and anthesis were no more effective than a single fungicide application at flowering, and would have resulted in increased fungicide and application costs. None of the fungicide treatments resulted in a significant grain yield increase. “We can conclude that fungicide application, single or double, might be profitable only in the presence of higher disease pressure levels, with more suitable growing conditions for disease development and plant growth,” Fernandez says. Grain downgrading might result from early and frequent fungicide applicationThe early fungicide applications also had a negative impact on dark kernel discoloration, a key quality parameter for durum wheat with tolerances for total smudge and black point at five per cent in No. 1 Canadian Western Amber Durum (CWAD) and 10 per cent for No. 2 CWAD. The discoloration would have resulted in downgrading for the early application treatments. Fernandez says the results also indicated potential for a consequent increase in kernel discoloration like black point and red smudge after early fungicide treatment, which was associated with greater kernel size. This effect has also been reported with other fungicides from other wheat growing regions of the world. The 2001-2003 study conducted in southeast Saskatchewan and southwest Manitoba led by May at Indian Head looked at the impact of single and double fungicide applications at flag leaf emergence and flowering stage on Fusarium-damaged kernels and other kernel diseases, leaf spotting, and resultant grain yield and quality of durum wheat. Disease levels averaged over all site years were high enough to result in an 8.5 per cent yield increase from the application of fungicides. However, application at either flag leaf elongation or flowering stage also increased black point by 49 per cent, from 0.38 per cent to 0.56 per cent, and red smudge by 17 per cent, from 0.54 per cent to 0.63 per cent. In addition, double fungicide application further increased red smudge to 0.85 per cent, a 57 per cent increase compared to no fungicides being applied. Effective August 2015, the Canadian Grain Commission changed the grading factors for CWAD. Red smudge is no longer a separate grading factor, but is still included under “smudge.” The maximum allowable level of smudge in CWAD is now 0.50 per cent for grade No. 1, and one per cent for grade No. 2 and grade No. 3. Prior to 2015, the tolerance level for red smudge in CWAD No. 1 was 0.30 per cent. In May’s research, the percentage smudge would have resulted in a downgrade to No. 2 CWAD. May says two theories have been put forward to explain the association of red smudge and fungicides. The first is that an early fungicide treatment could result in an increase in kernel size that would facilitate the opening of the protective husk (glume), making it easier for fungi to penetrate and infect the grain. An alternative explanation is that the fungicide might alter the microbiological community on the spikes before or during kernel development, modifying the fungal interactions in that environment. More research is required under western Canadian conditions to determine the exact cause. For foliar leaf disease control, Fernandez says the recommendation is still to apply a fungicide at the flag leaf stage, based on the level of disease infestation. This research found little benefit to applying fungicides for leaf spot diseases because the crop was not heavily infected. In other areas more conducive to disease, or years with high disease pressure, fungicide application at the flag leaf, or heading stage for leaf spotting disease could be profitable. The research also shows that current fungicide timing recommendations for FHB control at head emergence to 50 per cent flowering are still valid. Fernandez cautions when applying any fungicide at any growth stage the potential development of fungicide resistance in wheat pathogens should always be considered, and unnecessary fungicide application may increase the risk of resistance developing. May says faced with the recommendation of early fungicide application as a preventative measure regardless of disease pressure, farmers need to consider that early and frequent fungicide applications to durum wheat might reduce grain quality and result in downgrading and potential profit loss. “I would expect that a fungicide application for control of FHB in durum wheat would provide a yield increase much more often than it would improve the grade of the harvested crop.” May says.  
You may think weeds resistant to herbicides are a new phenomenon linked to the overuse of glyphosate in genetically engineered crops, but according to the Weed Science Society of America (WSSA) nothing could be further from the truth. This year marks only the 20th anniversary of glyphosate-resistant crops, while next year will mark the 60th anniversary of the first reports of herbicide-resistant weeds.The first known report of herbicide-resistance came in 1957 when a spreading dayflower (Commelina diffusa)growing in a Hawaiian sugarcane field was found to be resistant to a synthetic auxin herbicide. One biotype of spreading dayflower was able to withstand five times the normal treatment dosage. That same year wild carrot (Daucus carota) growing on roadsides in Ontario, Canada, was found to be resistant to some of the same synthetic auxin herbicides.Since then, 250 species of weeds have evolved resistance to 160 different herbicides that span 23 of the 26 known herbicide mechanisms of action. They are found in 86 crops in 66 countries, making herbicide resistance a truly global problem.“Given all the media attention paid to glyphosate, you would think it would have the greatest number of resistant weed species,” says David Shaw, PhD, a Mississippi State University weed scientist. “Though there are currently 35 weed species resistant to the amino acid synthesis inhibitor glyphosate, there are four times as many weed species resistant to ALS inhibitors and three times as many resistant to PS II inhibitors.”Scientists say what is unique about glyphosate resistance is the severity of selection pressure for resistance development. More than 90 per cent of soybean, corn, cotton and sugar beet acres in the U.S. are glyphosate tolerant and receive glyphosate treatments – often multiple times per year.“The sheer size of the crop acreage impacted by glyphosate-resistant weeds has made glyphosate the public face for the pervasive problem of resistance,” says Shaw. “But resistance issues are far broader than a single herbicide and were around long before glyphosate-resistant, genetically engineered crops were even introduced.”Research shows that resistant weeds can evolve whenever a single approach to weed management is used repeatedly to the exclusion of other chemical and cultural controls – making a diverse, integrated approach to weed management the first line of defense. Many growers have had great success fighting resistance by adopting a broader range of controls.One example is found in the experiences of U.S. cotton growers in the southern U.S. After years of relying on glyphosate for weed control, resistant Palmer amaranth (Amaranthus palmeri) began to overrun crops and caused yields to plummet. Today integrated weed management programs that use a diverse range of controls have become commonplace in cotton, despite the higher cost. Growers are using cover crops, hand-weeding, tillage, weed seed removal and herbicides with different mechanisms of action in order to keep Palmer amaranth at bay.There have been tradeoffs. Additional herbicides, labor and fuel have tripled the cost of weed control in cotton. In addition, increased tillage has raised concerns about soil erosion from water and wind.  But for now, the crop has been preserved.“Although diversification is critical to crop sustainability, it can be difficult to make a decision to spend more on integrated weed control strategies,” says Stanley Culpepper, PhD, a weed scientist at the University of Georgia. “As a result, many of the most successful diversification efforts can be found in crops like cotton where change became an imperative.”Culpepper says that in addition to costs, another barrier to adoption of integrated weed management is the belief by some that new types of herbicides will be invented to take the place of those no longer effective on resistant weeds. But the HPPD-inhibitors discovered in the late 1980s for use in corn crops are the last new mechanism of action to make its way out of the lab and into the market.“It would be naïve to think we are going to spray our way out of resistance problems,” Culpepper says. “Although herbicides are a critical component for large-scale weed management, it is paramount that we surround these herbicides with diverse weed control methods in order to preserve their usefulness – not sit back and wait for something better to come along.”
Weeds defend themselves from control measures in many ways, and can adapt to our cropping systems. A winter annual cleavers is avoiding herbicide control because it germinated in fall and will be too large and difficult to kill before an herbicide is applied in the spring. Buckwheat is naturally tolerant to glyphosate, although it is not resistant. Stork’s bill can be a winter annual but it is also morphologically plastic and keeps germinating all season long. Herbicide resistance is another way a plant defends itself.
Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency has approved Regalia Rx biofungicide for use on wheat and soybean in Canada.The Regalia product portfolio, with all formulations based on an extract of Giant Knotweed (Reynoutria sachalinensis), is a suite of preventative biofungicides for use on both conventional and organic crops. Regalia products prevent and fight diseases by triggering treated plants to produce disease-fighting biochemicals (induced systemic resistance), while simultaneously increasing leaf chlorophyll content to enhance plant health, crop yield and crop quality. Regalia Rx is not harmful to workers, food, beneficials and pollinators, according to a company press release, and can be sprayed right up to harvest to manage residues for export. Regalia Rx also has the minimum restricted-entry interval for workers to enter the field after spraying, increasing operational flexibility.The Regalia Rx label is for suppression of Septoria leaf spot on wheat and aerial web blight (Rhizoctonia solani), Alternaria leaf spot, frog-eye leaf spot (Cercospora sojina) and white mould (Sclerotinia sclerotiorum) on soybeans.Marrone Bio Innovations (MBI) has an agreement with Koch Agronomic Services to distribute Regalia Rx brands in the United States and Canada for large acre crops, such as wheat, soybeans, corn and alfalfa.
There are four glyphosate-resistant weeds in Ontario. Glyphosate-resistant giant ragweed was first found in 2008, and is now found in the six southwestern counties in Ontario – Essex, Kent, Lambton, Elgin, Middlesex and Huron – as well as Lennox and Addington county.
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. 
Canada's carbon price may weaken the farm sector in one of the world's biggest grain-shipping countries, raising farmers' costs and discouraging investment in fertilizer production, industry groups say. CBC News reports. | READ MORE
Farming is a unique type of business that causes financial planning to take on dimensions not often seen in other industries. This is reflected in the Income Tax Act, which has numerous provisions for things like farm income, tax deductions, various subsidies and more.
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
Apr. 21, 2016 - Deciding on the correct water application solution is vital to your center pivot's performance. Here are three questions you need to ask yourself before picking out a sprinkler package with your dealer. 1. What is your soil type and texture? Proper sprinkler design and selection helps reduce soil sealing with medium to heavy soils.2. What crops are you growing? A significant challenge with sprinkler head design is its ability to penetrate the crop canopy.3. What does your field's terrain look like? The slope of your field must be considered when choosing sprinklers to minimize runoff and ​to keep water where it does your crop the most good. By using your answers to these questions, you will be prepared to work with your dealership's water application experts to help determine how best to reduce energy cost, save water on your farm, and maximize your profitability. For more information on sprinkler packages and water application solutions, get your free eBook 8 Tips to Accurately Check Your Center Pivot Sprinklers.    
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
 Wheat emergence in a no-till hairy vetch/oat mulch in Truro, N.S. Photo courtesy of Carolyn Marshall. Nobody is more familiar with the fight against weed pressure than organic farmers, but one weed control strategy that works in organic settings might be just as beneficial for conventional growers, according to a Laval University researcher. The secret is mulch. Caroline Halde, a professor in the department of plant science at Laval University in Quebec, says cover cropping for weed control is a proven strategy in organic studies. But she’s also had plenty of interest from conventional no-till growers in the use of cover cropping. “I’ve had no-till farmers come to me who are working with cover crops more and more, and now they are ‘almost organic’ because they use very little inputs in their cropping systems,” she says. “And now they want to make the switch because they’re almost organic but don’t get the premium.” But mulch-based weed control takes cover cropping one step further. In year one, a cover crop is planted as green manure. In year two, a cash crop is planted directly into the mulch, with the mulch serving as the grower’s only form of weed control. Halde, working under the supervision of Martin Entz, a professor of plant sciences at the University of Manitoba, completed a study investigating the use of mulches in an organic high-residue reduced tillage system near Carman, Man., in 2013. In the study, barley, hairy vetch, oilseed radish, sunflower and pea were used as cover crops, then planted with wheat. The best cover crop for weed control and cash crop yield was hairy vetch or a barley-hairy vetch mixture. “Green manure mulches with hairy vetch were effective at reducing weed biomass by 50 per cent to 90 per cent in the no-till spring wheat in 2011 and 2012, compared to other mulches,” Halde concluded. The method is not a magic bullet. Halde says high cover crop biomass is key to achieving good mulch that will effectively choke out weeds the following year. “First, you have to have a good establishment of your cover crop – that’s rule number one,” she says. Poor or excessively wet weather in the spring might hamper cover crop growth. “And another thing is to choose fields that have low weed seed banks, or at least for some particular weeds, particularly wild oats.” In Halde’s study, wild oats and perennial weeds, such as dandelion and Canada thistle, made for challenging conditions. Halde’s study relied on removing a field from production for one full year each cycle, but she says the payoffs can be rewarding. In Western Canada, the benefits of such a system involve water conservation as well as weed control. In Eastern Canada, removing herbicides from a field for a year would also be a major boon for growers nervous about herbicide resistance. “That would be a great advantage, because we see more and more herbicide-resistant weeds in Eastern Canada,” she says. But Halde is currently seeking funding for a study in Eastern Canada on the use of fall cover crops used as mulch in the spring and planted with short-season cash crops – a system which would keep fields in production, so growers do not have to lose a year each cycle. Biomass is keyCarolyn Marshall, a PhD student at Dalhousie University, is currently studying the impacts of no-till green manure management on soil health in organic grain rotations on two sites – at Carman, Man., under the supervision of Martin Entz, and at the Dalhousie Agricultural Campus in Truro, N.S., under the supervision of Derek Lynch. The project, which is funded by the Organic Science Cluster through Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), began in 2013 and will conclude this year. She says cover cropping shows enormous promise for weed control in both organic and conventional systems. “I would love to see more use of cover crops in all systems. I think they can solve all kinds of problems,” she says. Marshall’s project is focused on determining how green manure termination method affects soil health in organic grain rotations, with three tillage intensities applied on all plots: no-till, minimum tillage and spring and fall tillage. At Carman, Marshall’s team is employing a four-year rotation of hairy vetch-wheat-fall rye-soybean plus a red clover-red clover-wheat-soybean rotation. At Truro, the experiment is testing two green manures – pea/oat, and hairy vetch/barley, each followed by a wheat-fall rye-soybean rotation. In the first round at Truro, Marshall says, “We had really good growth of the green manure. Some plots got up to 10 tonnes per hectare of biomass, and it was really effective at stamping out the weeds.” When the experiment was repeated in 2014, a dry spring resulted in limited growth and very thin mulch. “The weeds went berserk in the no-till plots,” Marshall says. “Weed control seems to really depend on getting enough biomass to get a thick enough mulch, and that really depends on the weather.” Termination methods matter, too: when mulches were mowed in the fall at Truro, they decomposed, leaving too little mulch on the soil surface in the spring. When a roller crimper was used instead, the cover crops continued to grow until winterkilled, resulting in heavy mulch cover in the spring. “Researchers in North Dakota, Georgia and New England are also finding that if you don’t get enough biomass to suppress the weeds, they’ll take over your cash crop and cause a lot of problems in a very short time,” she says. It’s early days for this research, but both Halde and Marshall are enthusiastic about the potential for mulch-based weed control in organic and conventional systems alike. “In conventional systems you can use different crops to get more consistent mulch levels, which has a lot of potential to help with long-term control,” says Marshall.        
December 1, 2015 - Once considered a weed, camelina is gaining popularity in some parts of the country as a soil-protecting winter cover crop. Additionally, its seed contains high-quality oil for use in cooking and as biodiesel, offering a renewable alternative to imported petroleum. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists have been on the forefront of studies to make camelina and other novel oilseed crops more profitable for farmers to grow, easier for industry to process, and better performing as finished biofuels and other products. At the Soil Management Research Unit, operated in Morris, Minnesota, by USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS), scientists are evaluating the outcome of integrating camelina, canola, pennycress and other oilseeds with plantings of traditional Midwestern crops, such as corn and soybeans. In a recent study published in the April issue of Agronomy Journal, ARS scientists Russ Gesch and Jane Johnson examined the seasonal water use of double cropping and relay cropping-strategies that overlap the growth of winter camelina and soybean. Highlights of their findings are: Under natural rainfall conditions, relay cropping (in which the soybean crop is seeded between rows of growing camelina plants) used less water than double cropping (in which soybean seed is sown right after a camelina harvest, around mid to late June) and produced higher soybean yields.   Relay-cropped soybean yields were lower than those of full-season soybean crops; however, the total oil yield from the relay system (camelina plus soy) was 50 percent greater than the full-season soybean-only crop.   Net economic returns of relay cropping were competitive with those of full-season soybean, while adding the benefits of a cover crop. According to the researchers, the study demonstrates a sustainable way to grow crops for both food and fuel on the same parcel of land, which could potentially offer farmers a dual source of income in a single season. Read more about this research in the November issue of AgResearch.
Oct. 13, 2015, Hamilton, Ont. – G3 Canada Limited will construct a new lake terminal at the Port of Hamilton to originate grains and oilseeds out of Southern Ontario for export to global markets. The 50,000-metric tonne facility will be located at Pier 26 in the Port of Hamilton, just off Queen Elizabeth Way. Grains and oilseeds will be loaded on to vessels for transport to G3's facilities on the St. Lawrence River. From there, they will be shipped onwards to export markets around the world. Construction on the facility is already underway and is slated for completion prior to the 2017 harvest.
September 22, 2015 - A new vegetable oil-based multi-purpose lubricant for sale in Canada is about to become a bit more local.
Sept. 16, 2015 - Alberta Innovates Bio Solutions (AI Bio) has launched a new funding program - Alberta Bio Future, Research and Innovation - aimed at advancing knowledge that accelerates growth of new bioindustrial products or bioindustrial technologies for the benefit of Albertans. Discovery and developmental research are strategic priorities of Alberta Bio Future (ABF) – AI Bio's flagship bioindustrial program. Bioindustrial products from Alberta – derived from sustainable agricultural or forest biomass – are already being used in several sectors, including the personal care, chemical and energy industries, as well as construction and manufacturing. These bioproducts are helping to meet the world's growing demand for 'green' solutions; they have desirable qualities for the manufacture of goods and materials while also being environmentally friendly. "Alberta is a prime location for a thriving bioeconomy. We have abundant, renewable agriculture and forest resources, advanced infrastructure and highly qualified personnel," noted Steve Price, CEO of Alberta Innovates Bio Solutions. "But this is an emerging field into new areas of science. More investigation is required to increase basic knowledge, and to learn how to take concepts out of the lab and turn them into new industrial bioproducts and biotechnologies." The ABF Research and Innovation program has a total $4.5 million in available funding. Project funding amounts will be determined on a case-by-case basis, depending on the quality and scope of the project. In addition to funding, AI Bio assists researchers and companies with advice and connections. Researchers, companies or industry groups based in Alberta, and researchers conducting projects that benefit Alberta, are invited to apply by submitting a Letter of Intent. The deadline is Oct. 28, 2015 at 4 p.m. MT. Eligibility requirements and other important details are available here.  
Feb. 10, 2015 - The federal government is investing $3.7 million to help Integrated Grain Processors Cooperative (IGPC) Ethanol Inc. install a Fiber Separation Technology (FST) system to help boost production through operational efficiencies. According to a news release, the investment will enable IGPC Ethanol to have a higher output of ethanol, corn oil and distillers' grains, develop new higher value animal feed products and lower the plant's energy consumption. The introduction of FST at the IGPC plant allows for the early separation of fibre from corn prior to its fermentation, increasing the efficiency of the distillation process and producing a cleaner fibre product. The investment enables IGPC Ethanol to purchase approximately 18 million bushels (up from 16 million currently) of corn grain from local farmers for use as feedstock. Founded in 2002 by 780 farmers and agri-businesses, IGPC Ethanol is a division of IGPC Inc. and is one of Ontario's largest cooperatives. It employs 50 full-time staff at its plant in Aylmer, Ont. The plant began commercial operation in December 2008.    
Randy Duffy, research associate, University of Guelph’s Ridgetown Campus, sees potential for corn stover beyond bedding and feed.Photo by Janet Kanters. If green chemistry sounds more like an oxymoron than an opportunity, be prepared for some big surprises in the not-so-distant future.Innovators within the manufacturing industry are getting back to nature and the door is open for farmers to take part. While the production of biofuels remains a popular example of green chemistry, ethanol is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to industrial products that are being designed to include more renewable resources. As governments start to wean ethanol companies off of subsidies, Murray McLaughlin, the executive director of the Bioindustrial Innovation Centre in Sarnia, Ont., says farmers can expect to see some positive changes.“Biofuels are important, but the challenge with biofuels is slim margins,” explains McLaughlin. “On the chemical side of things, as long as oil stays above $80 per barrel, we can be competitive with any of the companies in that space and don’t need subsidies.”In the petroleum industry, it’s not uncommon for companies to direct 75 per cent of raw materials into fuel production, but these often account for only 25 per cent of annual revenue. The rest of their income is generated by higher-end products, such as succinic acid, and it has made these products major targets for green chemists. Succinic acid is a specialty chemical used to make automotive parts, coffee cup lids, disposable cutlery, construction materials, spandex, shoe soles and cosmetics. It is usually made with petroleum, but BioAmber, a company that hopes to finish building North America’s largest bio-based chemical plant in Sarnia next year, has found a way to make succinic acid using agricultural feedstocks. By using agricultural feedstocks instead of petroleum in its process, BioAmber produces a product that is not only more environmentally friendly but also, critically, costs less than petroleum-based succinic acid. In some applications, it performs even better than its petroleum-based competitors. Babette Pettersen, BioAmber’s chief commercial officer, explains how the new technology is outperforming its traditional competitors.“Succinic acid offers the highest yield on sugar among all the bio-based chemicals being developed because 25 per cent of the carbon is coming from CO2, which is much cheaper than sugar,” says Pettersen. Assuming $80 per barrel of oil and $6 per bushel of corn, BioAmber’s product pencils out at more than 40 per cent cheaper than succinic acid made from petroleum. “Our process can compete with oil as low as $35 per barrel,” Pettersen adds. The increased efficiency of the company’s process reduces the need for raw product, for example, from two kilograms of sugar to make one kilogram of ethanol to less than one kilogram of sugar to produce one kilogram of succinic acid.The new plant is projected to purchase an annual quantity of liquid dextrose from local wet mills, which is equivalent to approximately three million bushels of corn. BioAmber’s yeast, the organism that produces bio-based succinic acid, can utilize sugar from a variety of agricultural feedstocks (including cellulosic sugars that may be produced from agricultural residuals such as corn stover when this alternative becomes commercially available).Randy Duffy, research associate at the University of Guelph’s Ridgetown Campus, co-authored a recent study on the potential for a commercial scale biorefinery in Sarnia, Ont. The idea of producing sugars from agricultural residuals is attractive to companies like BioAmber, which faces public pressure against converting a potential food source into an industrial product, but also to farmers looking to convert excess field trash into cash. “We’re at the point where some fields probably have too much corn stover and this is an opportunity for farmers if they want to get rid of their stover,” says Duffy. “Some farmers are using it for bedding and feed, but there’s a lot of potential corn stover out there not being used or demanded right now.”In fact, the report estimated that more than 500,000 dry tonnes of corn stover are available in the four-county region of Lambton, Huron, Middlesex and Chatham-Kent, and the refinery could convert half of it into cellulosic sugar annually, at a relative base price for corn stover paid to the producer of $37 to $184 per dry tonne, depending on sugar prices and sugar yields. McLaughlin says that with more and more companies look into building facilities like biorefineries, the potential benefits for farmers multiply exponentially. At the Bioindustrial Innovation Centre alone, McLaughlin says, there are three green chemistry companies already working in pilot demonstration scale operations to produce ethanol from wood waste, butanol from fermented wheat straw or corn stover, and plastic pellets with hemp, flax, wheat straw or wood fibres in them. On a full-scale basis, any one of these has significant potential to help farmers penetrate entirely new markets.Although these green products are exciting, McLaughlin strongly believes green chemistry is not going to completely replace oil and he tries to impress this on others. “There are such large volumes of these chemicals produced from oil, I don’t think we ever will get to the point where we can displace these chemicals,” he says, “but we can complement them.” He says Woodbridge’s BioFoam, a soy-based foam used in automobile interiors as seat cushions, head rests and sunshades, is an excellent example of a hybrid product that uses green technology and petroleum technology. In order for the green chemistry industry in Ontario to realize its maximum potential, he believes everyone involved needs to consider the oil industry as a potential ally rather than the enemy. “The petroleum industry already knows the chemical markets and they’ve got the distribution,” he says, “so, who better to partner with?”   What, exactly, makes some chemistry ‘greener’?Green chemistry is a relatively new concept, but rather than simply claim to be more environmentally friendly, the philosophy is defined by structured principles. Put simply, these technologies, processes, and services are required to prove safer, more energy efficient and environmentally sustainable. In 1998, Anastas and Warner defined the 12 principles of green chemistry.Prevention – Avoid creating waste rather than treating or cleaning it up after the fact.Atom economy – Synthetic methods must maximize the incorporation of all materials.Less hazardous chemical syntheses – Design synthetic methods that are least toxic to human health and the environment.Designing safer chemicals – Chemical products should be designed to be effective but with minimal toxicity.Safer solvents and auxiliaries – Avoid the unnecessary use of auxiliary substances and render harmless when used.Design for energy efficiency – Energy requirements of processes should be minimized for their environmental and economical impact. Use of renewable feedstocks – Raw materials should be renewable whenever technically and economically practical.Reduce derivatives – Use of blocking groups, protection/deprotection, temporary modification of physical/chemical processes, etc., requiring additional reagents should be minimized or avoided if possible.Catalysis – Catalytic reagents are superior to stoichiometric reagents.Design for degradation – Environmental persistence of chemical products should be minimal.Real-time analysis for pollution prevention – Real-time monitoring and control of hazardous substances must be developed.Inherently safer chemistry for accident prevention – Substances used in a chemical process should be chosen to minimize the potential for accidents.
Turning lower-grade canola into biodiesel presents some challenges, but Prairie researchers are finding innovative ways to overcome those challenges. They’re developing new approaches that are more efficient, produce better biodiesel and valuable byproducts, and help improve the economics of biodiesel production from damaged canola seeds. “In the short term, we’re working with others to generate a market for low-quality canola. So if a grower has a bin that overheats or a canola field that gets caught under a snow bank, we can at least redeem some value for that material for them by having an industry that is receptive to frost-damaged, heated and field-damaged materials,” explains Dr. Martin Reaney, research chair of Lipid Quality and Utilization at the University of Saskatchewan. “In the longer run, we are identifying added value in the crop. In my experience, when somebody discovers an added value opportunity, it doesn’t typically result in a much higher price. But it does tend to stabilize the price. We’re introducing technology that may lead to a more stable price by adding another market to the meal and oil markets for the canola crop.” Reaney has been investigating opportunities for using damaged canola seed for many years, including research when he was at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and now at the University of Saskatchewan. He and his research team have tackled the topic from a number of angles. “When we first went into making canola into biofuels, [Canada] didn’t have the subsidies that were available in the United States and Europe. So we needed to take advantage of low-cost materials. For that purpose, we looked at seed that had been damaged either in the field or in storage,” he says. “First we studied how to get the oil out of the seed. A lot of damaged seed has lost its structure, and it is not efficiently pressed to recover oil. So we developed more efficient pressing and extraction technology.” Another early issue was that sources of damaged canola seed tend to be scattered all over the place, with amounts varying from year to year and place to place. Reaney says, “So we came up with the hub-and-spoke approach, to collect and bring the seed to some common locations for processing.” The researchers also improved the process of converting the oil into biodiesel. “Damaged seed produces quite low-quality oil with lots of different problems. So we had to figure out a very robust way of making biodiesel so that, no matter what, the biofuel would have good quality,” notes Reaney.Although canola biodiesel has advantages over biodiesel made from products like tallow and soybean oil, its properties are still somewhat different from petroleum-based diesel. So Reaney’s research group has developed processing technologies to improve such canola biodiesel properties as oxidative stability and low-temperature performance. He notes, “Low-temperature performance hasn’t turned out to be a big problem with canola mainly because when you blend it with other diesel fuel, like with a Canadian winter diesel fuel, it takes on the performance of that fuel.” One of the overarching themes of Reaney’s research is to develop techniques that are practical on the Prairies. “A lot of researchers will grab the latest technology, a ‘super-’ this or ‘ultra-’ that, and the equipment is very expensive. In my experience, western Canadian biofuel producers usually can’t use that kind of technology,” he explains. “So we look for the best biofuel properties – we can’t ever compromise on the properties of the material – that can be produced with rather conventional, simple, low-cost equipment.” Along with using damaged seed to reduce input costs, the researchers have been exploring other ways to improve the economics of biodiesel production. “[For example,] the catalyst for making biodiesel is actually quite expensive. We came up with a technology to lower the cost of that catalyst to about one-third of its original cost,” he says. They are also developing a novel approach that turns a biodiesel processing waste into a valuable byproduct. “We developed a special lithium-based catalyst for biodiesel production, and we’ve developed a method of converting the leftover catalyst into lithium grease [a heavy-duty, long-lasting grease],” says Reaney. “Lithium grease is broadly used all over the world – in heavy equipment, trains, planes, automobiles.” They are now scaling up the process for use at a commercial scale. Another current project involves making biofuels that are “drop-in” fuels. “Right now, biodiesel still has to be handled somewhat differently than [petroleum-based] diesel,” he explains. “But there are approaches to make it into a drop-in fuel. A drop-in fuel means it would have exactly the properties of diesel. You would be able to use it as is and it would require no special handling.” As well, the researchers are exploring motor oil technology that uses vegetable oils. “We have been working on trying to get the stability of these oils high enough for use in motor oil applications. We think we have some really good technology for this goal as well.”Reaney’s research on industrial uses for lower-grade canola has been supported by many agencies over the years such as Saskatchewan’s Agriculture Development Fund, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. His research also has received support from such agencies as GreenCentre Canada and from such companies as Milligan Biofuels Inc. (formerly Milligan Biotech).Opportunities and challengesThe Canadian biodiesel industry has encountered a number of hurdles and has not grown as quickly as some people had hoped it would. For instance, the industry is still working towards meeting the increased demand arising from the Canadian government’s requirement for a minimum of two per cent renewable fuel content in diesel fuel. This requirement came into effect in 2011. According to Reaney, one of several issues hampering the Canadian biofuel industry has been the contentious food-versus-fuel debate, about the issue of using farmland to produce biofuel feedstocks. Reaney’s group was ahead of the curve on this issue by focusing on the use of non-food grade canola to make biodiesel. But beyond that, his opinion is that food production and fuel production are not mutually exclusive. “It isn’t food versus fuel; it is food and fuel,” he says. “All these biofuel industries actually produce more food than would have been produced had they not entered the biofuel industry, because they are always producing a side stream that is edible. So I think that issue has been addressed by the biofuels industry, but I don’t know whether the public has caught up.”Milligan Biofuels, based at Foam Lake, Sask., is one of the companies managing to weather the ups and downs of the Canadian biodiesel industry. Along with making its own improvements to biodiesel production processes, the company has adopted some of the advances made by Reaney’s research group.“Their research proved the ability to produce consistent biodiesel from damaged seed, and that’s our business model,” says Len Anderson, director of sales and marketing for Milligan Biofuels. The company manufactures and sells biodiesel and biodiesel byproducts, and provides canola meal and feed oil to the animal feed sector. All of its products are made from non-food grade canola, including green, wet, heated or spring-threshed canola. “Milligan Biofuels is built in and by the ag community for the ag community,” notes Anderson. “That’s why it is where it’s at and why it’s doing what it’s doing.” He outlines how this type of market for damaged canola helps growers. “It’s giving them an opportunity for a local, reliable, year-round market. It creates a significant value for damaged canola because we aren’t just using it for cattle feed; we’re using the oil to produce biodiesel. So we’re probably on the higher end as far as value created for damaged seed. It creates value for what was once almost a waste product, is what it boils down to.”
The Alberta Biochar program is a recent addition to the work undertaken by Alberta Innovates Technology Futures (AITF) through a partnership with Lakeland College.“We have a saying that not all biochars are created equal,” says Anthony Anyia, lead scientist and manager, Bioresource Technologies with AITF. “Depending on what you want to use biochar for, the feedstock you are using for the biochar may have some other components that may not necessarily be good for the application you are looking at.”Biochar is the material created when biomass is combusted under low oxygen conditions, a process known as pyrolysis. It is a green platform technology with the potential to improve soil and reduce greenhouse gases. Alberta has yet to carry out any large-scale biochar studies, says Anyia, which limits the information available on biochar. Studies underway right now are examining biochar production, standards, quality and different end-use applications.Anyia is hoping that recent funding from Western Economic Diversification Canada, a number of provincial sources as well as industry partners will help provide answers.Producing biocharTwo biochar production units have been acquired for the Alberta Biochar program to demonstrate the biochar production process and produce biochar for different end-use pre-commercial testing. “With this now, we are in a position to make biochar from different feedstocks and we can now work with partners to evaluate the biochar,” says Anyia.Biochar can be made from a variety of materials, pulling on what is available in the area. A forest company could use wood and forest residue or pulp mill waste to make biochar, while a crop producer could use wheat or barley straw or residues from other crops. Biochar could be an important ally in fighting greenhouse gas emissions. While all biomass eventually breaks down, releasing carbon back into the atmosphere, if biomass is used in making biochar, biochar stabilizes that biomass, cutting in half the carbon that will eventually be released and allows the carbon to remain sequestered for longer periods. Unlike biofuel that is carbon neutral, biochar is carbon negative and can potentially reduce methane and nitrous oxide emissions from soil. AITF is working with partners, who are using biochar as a horticulture growth media for vegetable crops in greenhouses. Early indications show the same or higher yields achieved and the alleviation of herbicide toxicity. The demonstration phase is presently occurring in Brooks, Alberta, where Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development (AARD) has teamed up with a local commercial greenhouse facility and greenhouse growers. Work is also being carried out in British Columbia with a greenhouse company. That project is moving toward commercialization, says Anyia.Bonnie Drozdowski is the program leader for the reclamation group at AITF. Her work is with biochar as a soil amendment, which falls into two categories: land reclamation and marginal soil amelioration.Soil amendments to boost crop yieldThree field seasons of soil trials on a private producer’s field in the Bruce/Tofield area have netted “some really interesting results,” says Drozdowski.Drozdowski stresses that the plots used were small and that the focus was not on the mechanisms or the processes occurring within the soil, but to demonstrate crop response to biochar application into the Bnt horizon of solonetzic soils. The use of biochar was compared to a control treatment and to deep-trenching, and has resulted in improved productivity in the biochar treatments.“We’re really quite positive that these results give us inclination to continue a further scaled-up research program in respect to enhancing marginal solonetzic soils,” says Drozdowski. She notes the trials did not take into consideration operational values; and while the operational costs for using biochar would be the same as deep-trenching, there would be the additional cost of purchasing biochar.However, there would be long-term benefits in using biochar, which would include improving water and nutrient dynamics. “This is speculative because we haven’t done the actual science to prove out what is actually happening, but we believe it is occurring,” cautions Drozdowski.  Reclamation and remediationLand reclamation requirements in the 1980s and early ’90s were not as stringent as they are now and many abandoned oil and gas sites were left in poor condition. “So now when we’re going back to do the reclamation, it’s quite challenging to get the same level of productivity on the sites or even the same capability, which is how reclamation in the province is governed,” says Drozdowski.Coupled with that is the directive to not introduce new plant species or sources of weeds to the reclaimed sites. “Because biochar is an inert substance in nature but still has beneficial soil properties, it can enhance the productivity of soil without the subsequent issues that might be associated with a typical amendment application,” says Drozdowski.Trials for this use of biochar will get underway in 2013 with two wellsites located in the Peace Region. AITF will be partnering with novaNAIT’s Northern Boreal Research Institute in Peace River where biochar and mechanical pulp sludge will be evaluated against a control on two different soil types. And, work is being undertaken with a partner to determine if biochar can be used as a filtration media for processing affected water.Also, because biochar is a fine material that faces up to a 30 per cent loss when applied on an operational large scale, which limits its applications, research is underway to determine if it is feasible to create a higher value biochar product that is easier for large-scale applications.
Oct. 1, 2013, Guelph, Ont. – Great Lakes Biodiesel has begun production in Welland, Ont., creating a potential new market for Ontario soybeans.The facility will be Canada's largest biodiesel plant, producing 170 million litres of biodiesel annually, according to a press release from Grain Farmers of Ontario. The feedstock for this facility will be sourced primarily from processors who currently crush soybeans grown in the province of Ontario.Grain Farmers of Ontario and Soy 20/20 have worked together to complete research to encourage the Ontario government that a made-in-Ontario biodiesel mandate is good for the provincial economy and good for the environment. Nationally, Canada has a two per cent biodiesel mandate, and with the expansion of production in Ontario, Grain Farmers of Ontario hopes to see the implementation of a two per cent provincial biodiesel mandate.

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