The Canadian Seed Trade Association (CSTA) celebrates Canada’s first national Agriculture Day (February 16th, 2017) with the launch of its Better Seed, Better Life program.

Seed is the start of it all, the entire agriculture and agri-food value chain. Through Better Seed, Better Life, CSTA plans to engage with Canadians on the role of seed as the foundation for the foods and drinks we enjoy, the clothes we wear and the fuel in our cars. This program is based on materials created by the American Seed Trade Association and is a collaborative effort between the two associations. 

CSTA’s Better Seed, Better Life program starts with the launch of the fact sheet, “The A to Z of Garden Seeds.” This is the first of a series of fact sheets to be released over the next months, connecting the seeds produced by CSTA members and the crops grown from those seeds to the products used in everyday life. The fact sheets are available at Profiles of CSTA members and a video will be added over the year to complement the fact sheets.
Generally researchers try to stay ahead of farming practices, but lately they find themselves chasing an explanation for an emerging one.

One of the key challenges for winter canola production is very basic: crop survival into the spring. So a project with multiple sites in Eastern Canada has been evaluating the overwintering success of today’s winter canola cultivars, as well as testing several factors that might improve the crop’s survival and yield.

“I knew researchers had worked on winter canola in the past and found that it could work but didn’t work often enough. I wanted to see if there had been improvement enough in the genotypes that we might be looking at a better situation now,” says Don Smith, a professor in the plant science department at McGill University, who is leading the study.

The project started in 2013 and ran through two winters at five sites, for a total of 10 site years. All analyses and reporting are now nearly completed. The project is part of the canola and soybean research being conducted under the Eastern Canada Oilseeds Development Alliance (ECODA), jointly funded by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) and industry. Smith is the scientific director of ECODA’s research network, involving more than 20 research agencies across Eastern Canada. His winter canola project was funded through AAFC’s Growing Forward 1 and Growing Forward 2 programs.

“A number of things came together in terms of increased interest in spring and winter canola in Eastern Canada,” Smith says. “The cash value of some of the small grain cereals that producers grow sometimes has been pretty low, so they were looking for cash crops that might pay better and they were interested in canola. Also, a few years ago a major oilseed crushing plant opened at Becancour, Que., providing easier access of oilseeds produced in Quebec and the Maritimes to crushing facilities; before that, the nearest crushing facilities were in southern Ontario. Also the St. Lawrence River at Becancour doesn’t freeze so you can bring in oilseeds by boat year-round, which is much less expensive. So that changed the economic landscape for oilseed production around here.”

ECODA focuses mainly on spring canola, with only a small amount of research on winter canola. “Winter canola is always a higher risk, with Canadian winters being what they are,” Smith explains.

Although winter canola is not as winter-hardy as crops like winter wheat, it does have some potential benefits for growers. “When winter canola survives the winter, it can yield quite well. Also, it provides ground cover through fall, winter and spring, protecting the soil from erosion,” Smith notes. “And winter canola starts to grow much earlier in the season [than spring-seeded canola].” Earlier growth means earlier maturity, which can be an advantage, for example, if fall frosts come very early or if the summer turns hot. He says, “Canola is a temperate zone crop so when temperatures get above about 25 C, the crop starts to get into problems caused by heat stress, such as floral abortion.”

One component of Smith’s winter canola project compared four varieties to see which ones performed best at each site. The five sites included one in Ontario (Ottawa), two in Quebec (west end of Montreal Island and south-east of Montreal), one in Prince Edward Island (Charlottetown) and one in Nova Scotia (Truro). Researchers in the ECODA initiative managed the sites.

There were small differences in variety performance from site to site, but no variety was dramatically better than another. “We found that we don’t yet have the genotypes that can survive our winters very well. We had survival in about one year in three or four, which is just not enough,” Smith says.

“We only had good winter survival when there was enough snow cover. A good snow cover will insulate the plant against the more extreme weather conditions in the atmosphere. So you could have plunging air temperatures of -25 C or -30 C, and – although it depends [on the snow pack’s characteristics] – the temperature might only be a few degrees below 0 C at the soil surface under a thick covering of snow. Without a snow cover, it can be much colder for the plant and that can be a challenge.”

He adds, “Winter survival can be tough, but spring survival can also be difficult. With the transition from winter to spring, you get transitions back and forth across 0 C. So you get melting snow and pooling of water in low spots because the water can’t trickle down into the frozen soil, and then the puddles freeze into ice. That is very hard on the plants.”

The project’s sites included a range of conditions, so overwintering success varied from site to site and from year to year. The site at McGill’s Agronomy Research Centre near Montreal had some of the best winter survival. Smith explains, “At the McGill site, the winter canola plots were in a small field ringed by fairly tall trees so the snow catch was generally good. The message that comes out of this is that it’s about snow catch.”

All of the five sites used conventional tillage systems. So a possible next step in this research would be to try no-till canola because the standing stubble from the previous crop has the potential to increase snow trapping.

The project’s results also confirmed that winter survival is affected by seeding date. Seeding has to be early enough for the plants to become sufficiently established before the first killing frost. The recommendation from Ontario’s agriculture department is that winter canola plants should have about four to six leaves and a root system large enough to withstand some frost heaving and drying winds. If you seed too late, then the plant might be too small to make it through the winter. However, if you seed too early, the plant might bolt in the fall and would not survive the winter.

For the study sites in Smith’s project, seeding dates in the first 10 or 15 days of September were usually the best. He notes, “That can vary, of course, from year to year. In 2015, warm weather persisted and persisted, so in a year like that you might be able to plant into the first week of October and it would still be okay.”

The project also compared several fertilizer treatments, including different rates and timings for sulphur and different rates for boron. Smith explains that canola has higher requirements for these two nutrients than many other commonly grown field crops. However, none of the fertilizer treatments produced clear differences in winter canola performance.

Another component of the project assessed the suitability of winter-seeded spring canola. Smith explains, “You can seed spring canola just before freeze-up in the fall or just before spring melt so the seeds don’t germinate immediately because the weather is too cold. When the snow melts in the spring, they’ll germinate right away. So the crop starts growing much earlier than spring-seeded canola.” So, like winter canola, winter-seeded spring canola would have potential advantages over spring-seeded canola due to earlier maturity.

“However, in our trials, very late seeded or very early seeded (onto frozen soil in both cases) spring canola had reasonable survival one year of the two when it was evaluated, which is not really good enough,” he says. Canola’s growing point is at or above the soil surface as the plant emerges, which makes it very vulnerable to early spring frost damage if the plant starts to grow during a warm spell and then gets hit by a cold snap. Cereals like wheat and barley protect their growing points by keeping them below the soil surface during their early growth stages.

Smith also experimented with applying microbial compounds to winter canola to see whether these compounds would help the plants survive winter stresses. In previous research, Smith found that these compounds promote growth in several other crop species; in particular, the compounds can help plants withstand various stress conditions. But with winter canola, the benefits weren’t as strong. Smith says, “Across years, when the plants were treated with these compounds, survival was numerically higher most of the time but not statistically higher most of the time.”

Overall, Smith concludes, “We’ve learned that winter survival of winter canola is not there yet. But I think sooner or later breeders will develop winter canola varieties that have the right stuff and we’ll get there.” 


July 4, 2016 - The month of June saw highly variable amounts of precipitation fall in Alberta, from near excessive amounts of 150-250 per cent of normal in the Peace region, to above average quantities of 100-200 per cent in the northwest to below average of 50-100 per cent in the northeast, and dry conditions to the central and south regions at 35-50 per cent of normal.

According to the June 28 Alberta Crop report, regional crop condition ratings reflect these moisture differences. Crop ratings declined in the south and central regions due to the continuing dry conditions, were unchanged in the northeast, and are reflecting the effects of the wet soil conditions on growth in the northwest and Peace regions.

As at June 28, crops provincially are rated 79 per cent in good or excellent condition, compared to last year at 30 per cent, the five year average of 73 per cent and the long term average of 70 per cent.

July 4, 2016 - Warmer and drier weather conditions were welcomed by Manitoba producers over the past week. According to the Manitoba crop report, all crop types, particularly the warm season crops including grain corn and soybeans, are benefiting from the warmer weather.

The more favourable weather conditions are allowing some acres impacted by excess moisture to recover. However, continuing wet field conditions and symptoms of excess moisture continue to be noted across most regions. As fields continue to dry, the impact of the excessive moisture to yield potentials become more evident.

June 22, 2016 - Over the past week, widespread thunderstorm activity has provided adequate moisture to most of Alberta, although some western parts of south and central regions have received less than 60 mm of moisture since the start of growing season. While these areas have received enough moisture to sustain growth in recent days, they are still in need of more moisture.

Provincially, crop growing conditions across the province improved by two per cent and are now 82 per cent good to excellent, compared with the five-year average (2011-2015) of 73 per cent. About 83 per cent of spring wheat, 79 per cent of barley, 90 per cent of oats, 82 per cent of canola and 81 per cent of dry peas are in good to excellent condition. In terms of crop development, most cereals across the province are in the stem elongation stage.


June 16, 2016 - Seeding in Saskatchewan is expected to be completed this week, according to Saskatchewan Agriculture's weekly Crop Report. While there are few fields of oats and flax, as well as some greenfeed and silage, being seeded at this time, 99.5 per cent of the crop is in the ground. The five-year (2011-2015) average for this time of year is 94 per cent seeded.



June 9, 2016 - Seeding has essentially wrapped up in Saskatchewan with 98 per cent of the 2016 crop in the ground, according to Saskatchewan Agriculture's weekly Crop Report. The five-year (2011-2015) average for this time of year is 89 per cent seeded. Many producers have completed seeding operations and are working on in-crop herbicide applications.



June 13, 2016, Mapleton, N.D. — To meet growing demand from customers, Horsch LLC has introduced the Joker RT40, a 40-foot-wide version of its popular RT Joker Series. The new model features a five-section design with adjustable down pressure to closely follow ground contours and evenly distribute the machine's weight for ensuring precise tillage depths. It also folds to a transport width of 15 feet, 8 inches for transport down narrow roads and for easy maneuverability.

The RT40 offers the same agronomic benefits as other RT Joker models for residue management and seedbed preparation, as well as incorporating chemicals, fertilizer and manure. Its 20-inch notched blades provide precise soil engagement and residue sizing, while optimal spacing between the front and rear ranks allows for maximum soil and residue throughput. Additionally, the RollFlex Finishing System consolidates the soil to accelerate residue decomposition, create a firm seedbed and retain moisture for rapid and even crop emergence.

"Our engineering team has done an amazing job to develop a 40-foot Joker that maintains the same proven agronomic principles of our current Joker RT models and have it in narrow transport width," said Jeremy Hughes, product manager at Horsch LLC. "The new five-fold design gives customers a wider working width along with terrain following attributes without sacrificing any performance. That's something competitive 40-foot units can't say."

Other standard features on the RT40 include heavy-duty walking tandem caster gauge wheels, easy depth control adjustment, a hydraulic hitch jack and a RollFlex accumulator system. The unit requires tractor horsepower ratings of 500 or more to operate.

Visit for more information.



June 7, 2016, Ontario – Farmers in Eastern Ontario say they're in dire need of rain in the next week to 10 days, or they risk losing up to 40 per cent of their crop. | READ MORE

June 6, 2016 - Seeding operations are wrapping up for the 2016 season in Manitoba with progress estimated at 99 per cent complete. Crop types remaining to be seeded include canola and cereal crops for greenfeed and silage.

Many areas of Manitoba received precipitation, with the Manitoba Agriculture's Ag-Weather Program showing accumulations ranging from 4 to 74 mm.

Crop injury due to excessive moisture conditions is being assessed, as well as impact to crop emergence and plant stands. Portions of fields are showing symptoms of excess moisture stress, including yellowing.



June 6, 2016 - This is the time of year when canola producers are evaluating their crop to decide whether or not to reseed.

"Before the recent rains came, we did have some poor looking canola crops," says Murray Hartman, provincial oilseed specialist, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry. "The dry conditions in April and early May resulted in poor germination and low stand densities."

In some cases, seeding was done deep to moisture which resulted in thin stands when the seedlings didn't have enough energy to get out of the ground or got infected by seedling blights. In others, seeding was done shallow and the seedlings ended up stranded in the dry soil. Both cases looked poor until the rain came. "In addition, we had some stand thinning on the plants that did emerge due to frosts, flea beetle pressure and cutworms."

Now that the rain has come Hartman says many stands will recover. "Any of the seeds that were stranded in dry soil should have now germinated and emerged. These stands should fill in and be fine."

However, Hartman says if the thin stands were a result of deep seeding, or due to frost or insects, they are probably going to stay thin. "If the seeds died, there is nothing to come out even after the rain. These are the fields that really need to be checked, either to ensure there is adequate density or to reseed."

He says that, at this time of year one, to two plants per square foot is acceptable, as compared to similar or even lowered yields that will usually result from late seeding.

If reseeding is required, it should be done by June 10-14. "Typically, we've probably already lost 25 per cent of the yield potential by the start of June. By waiting until the middle of June, it goes down more and brings a higher risk of poor quality from fall frost."

He says there are also other options to just reseeding canola. "The dry conditions have also impacted forage resources. If you have a mixed operation with cattle, or your neighbours do, and there is a need for pasture or greenfeed, going with that may be a better option than just trying to reseed canola."

Bottom line, says Hartman, is to get out there and see what you have. "Don't just assume that if was bad two weeks ago, it will still be bad. If it was seeded in dry soil, it may be fine. But if was seeded deep, or affected by frost or insects, you had better judge the numbers carefully."


May 3, 2016 - Alberta producers enter the 2016 crop production season with many of the same questions and concerns as last year and maybe more so. Precipitation last fall provided some soil moisture replenishment following the dry conditions of 2015 but amounts were generally insufficient to recharge the subsoil layer. A warm, dry winter resulted in little snow cover to seal the soil and provide some early moisture for the crop to use. The snow was quick to leave in March providing the opportunity for an early start to seeding for those who could take advantage.

According to the most recent Alberta Crop Report, seeding in the province is off to another faster than average start with 21 per cent of the province seeded versus 27 per cent last year. The 5 year average for this date is nine per cent and the long term average is 15 per cent.



June 6, 2016, Ontario – Corn is progressing well and soybean emergence is generally good across the province, according to the latest field crop report from OMAFRA.

Depending on planting date, corn is at the spike to 5 leaf stage and progressing well with the warm weather. Most corn acres received adequate rainfall for good emergence and an acceptable stand. However, dry conditions have prevented activation of pre-emergence herbicides on many acres. The high heat in the past week has caused weeds to grow quickly, so scouting to stay on top of weeds is important at this time.

In areas of the Niagara Peninsula with clay soils, patches of corn fields are leafing out underground. Planting occurred when the soil was dry on top but “gummy” underneath, and was followed by cold rain and cool temperatures. Many of these acres have low organic matter and are fields that had been in soybeans for a few years. If there is enough moisture to do so, replanting should occur on these fields if warranted.

When making decisions on replanting corn, consult the Ontario Corn Replant Decision Aid, an Excel file that can be downloaded from the “Interactive Tools” section of the homepage.

Figure 1:  Corn leafing out underground will soon be available at

Soybean planting is essentially complete, and while emergence is generally good there are some imperfect stands. Similar to last year, lack of rain in recent weeks is causing poor emergence and some acres are being replanted. Some fields planted just before the cold rain on May 13 -14 especially on lighter soils and worked ground have suffered from reduced emergence.  When assessing a questionable plant stand it’s important to wait for all the seedlings to emerge. Do not rush when making a replant decision. Soybeans have the ability to adapt to thin stands. If there are 100,000 plants per acre the field should be left alone (120,000 on heavy clay). If plant stands are very thin the best approach is to seed right on top of the existing stand. The final population should not exceed 225,000 plants per acre as a maximum so a supplemental seeding rate of 125,000 seeds per acre is usually adequate. Use the same variety if possible; this will reduce maturity differences in the fall.   

Applying a fungicide at heading for Fusarium head blight control will provide control of stripe rust and mitigate the yield impact of that disease. Without an application of fungicide, stripe rust could cause a 30 to 50 per cent yield loss depending on time of infection and variety susceptibility.

The first cut of alfalfa started last weekend and continues through this week. The heat over the past week has quickly brought on biomass on what had been looking like a short crop. Alfalfa weevil is being detected, in the Niagara area as well as Chatham-Kent and the southern parts of Middlesex. Some producers are taking the first cut a bit early to avoid spraying for the pest, while others are spraying for control. New growth should be scouted for the pest. East of the 400 highway, dry conditions are causing stress to show on knolls. 

Winter wheat
Wheat is beginning to head out across the province and although it may be a bit short in stature, plants are bushy with a lot of tillers. There are reports of stripe rust in some areas of the province, particularly on fields that did not receive a fungicide application. Applying a fungicide at heading for Fusarium head blight control will provide control of stripe rust and mitigate the yield impact of that disease. Without an application of fungicide, stripe rust could cause a 30 to 50 per cent yield loss, depending on time of infection. Although there has been a lack of rain, there is still a lot of moisture in the wheat canopy and therefore high potential for disease development. Much of the fungicide application for Fusarium control will happen in the coming week. There are also some minor reports of wheat streak mosaic and spindle streak mosaic virus, which looks similar to stripe rust. If those symptoms exist but you cannot rub rust pustules off the leaf, it is likely the virus and it cannot be controlled by fungicide. 

Cereal leaf beetle has been detected at threshold levels in traditional problem areas such as Alliston. The pest is appearing a bit earlier than expected. 

Canola planting is wrapping up, with just the Cochrane area left to plant. Acreage is up by about 20 per cent over last year. Some fields are moving beyond the 3 leaf stage now and have received herbicide, with nitrogen and sulphur top-dressing to come in the next week. Later planted fields should continue to be watched for flea beetle and all fields should be monitored for swede midge using pheromone traps. Threshold levels have been reached in fields in the New Liskeard area, and swede midge has been detected at lower levels in Renfrew, Elora, and across Grey County. 

Edible beans
White beans and other small seeded edible beans have been planted over the past week or more, with earlier planted beans already emerged. While planting is now in full swing, in some areas producers are waiting for moisture.

May 18, 2016 - A joint FAO/WHO Meeting on Pesticide Residues (JMPR) concluded that glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans from exposure through the diet. The report states that glyphosate has been extensively tested for genotoxic effects using a variety of tests in a wide range of organisms.

A summary report was released on May 16, 2016, after the Joint Meeting of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Panel of Experts on Pesticide Residues in Food and the Environment and the World Health Organization (WHO) Core Assessment Group on Pesticide Residues held at the WHO Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, from May 9-13, 2016.

The overall weight of evidence indicates that administration of glyphosate and its formulation products at doses as high as 2000 mg/kg body weight by the oral route, which is the most relevant to human dietary exposure, was not associated with genotoxic effects in an overwhelming majority of studies conducted in mammals, a model considered to be appropriate for assessing genotoxic risks to humans.

Diazinon, glyphosate, and malathion were placed on the agenda by the JMPR Secretariat, based on the recommendation of the last session of JMPR to re-evaluate these compounds given the number of new studies that had become available since their last full assessments.

A copy of the full report is available for download from the WHO website.


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