Environment Protection
When farmers spray their fields with pesticides or other treatments, only two per cent of the spray sticks to the plants. A significant portion of it typically bounces right off the plants, lands on the ground, and becomes part of the runoff that flows to streams and rivers, often causing serious pollution. But a team of MIT researchers aims to fix that.

By using a clever combination of two inexpensive additives to the spray, the researchers found they can drastically cut down on the amount of liquid that bounces off. The findings appear in the journal Nature Communications, in a paper by associate professor of mechanical engineering Kripa Varanasi, graduate student Maher Damak, research scientist Seyed Reza Mahmoudi, and former postdoc Md Nasim Hyder.

Previous attempts to reduce this droplet bounce rate have relied on additives such as surfactants, soaplike chemicals that reduce the surface tension of the droplets and cause them to spread more. But tests have shown that this provides only a small improvement; the speedy droplets bounce off while the surface tension is still changing, and the surfactants cause the spray to form smaller droplets that are more easily blown away. | READ MORE
Published in Corporate News
A popular fertilizer for farmers is urea, a nitrogen-rich organic compound found in human urine. Urea is water soluble and volatile, which means that irrigation or a heavy rains often sweeps it away in surface run-off or it escapes as a gas before it can be absorbed by plants.
Published in Fertilizer
Douglas Cook at New York University and colleagues from the University of Nebraska are using special microphones to listen to corn plants in order to determine what leads to wind-induced corn stalk failure. It turns out, the sounds stalks make just before failure are very similar to the sounds made when breaking. "We now think that plant growth involves millions of tiny breakage events, and that these breakage events trigger the plant to rush to 'repair' the broken regions. By continuously breaking and repairing, the plant is able to grow taller and taller," says Cook. It's an idea that mimics the science behind how human muslces are built: Muscles are strengthened when tiny microtears are repaired after lifting weights. Although most of the work is still in the early stages, this marriage of mechanical engineering and plant science and the information gathered so far can help plant breeders design optimal, strong plants. | READ MORE 
Published in Corn
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.
Published in Soil
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.
Published in Insecticides
With increasing frequency and vehemence, fingers are being pointed at farmers over the issue of nutrient runoff into key bodies of water, like Lake Ontario and Lake Erie.

Until now, the gap between agricultural producers and those who blame those producers for eutrophication has seemed unbridgeable. Farmers argue they have a right to earn a livelihood from their land. Environmentalists – and, increasingly, politicians and laypeople too – argue water quality and the good of all must override farmers’ land use needs. Now, plant breeders are working on developing new perennial cereal crops that may meet the requirements of both sides.

“There are limited options for a cash crop grower who is concerned about nutrient runoff into watersheds. They might think about planting something like grass for a considerable distance around a water body, but that might mean that they give up a considerable amount of revenue,” says Jamie Larsen, a researcher with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Lethbridge, Alta., and lead plant breeder on a new perennial rye study. “In the future, an option would be to plant a perennial grain crop that would [be] productive, but also provide significant environmental benefits.”  

“Perennial grains require a change in mentality about how cropping is done. They’re different, no doubt about it. But times have changed. Perennial grains offer the potential for economic benefit, while also considering sustainability priorities,” adds Doug Cattani, a researcher at the University of Manitoba who is currently developing a perennial wheatgrass to suit Canadian growing conditions.

Though cereal grains have been treated as annuals for decades, many cereals are willing to function as perennials if given the chance. Rye, for example, is a robust and surprisingly hard to kill plant. Each plant in some varieties of rye can produce productively for three or four years. Other cereals are even longer-lived: Cattani says intermediate wheatgrass can live at least eight to 10 years, and may produce grain productively beyond the four years he has tested them for.

In addition to producing a harvestable cereal crop each year, perennial cereals also offer grazeable forage each fall, erosion control and the absence of yearly seeding-time pressure on the producer. Most importantly for those concerned about healthy water systems, perennial cereals have the potential to slow nutrient runoff in a host of ways.

“If you can have something in the ground all year round and actively growing every day of the growing season, you’ll have much less nutrient runoff than if you plant a seed in spring and pull that plant out of the ground 95 or 100 days later,” Cattani says.

First and most obviously, perennial plants capture and remove nutrients from the soil each and every day of their growing season.

In addition to the number of days they are able to capture nutrients each year, perennials also easily surpass annuals regarding the depth of soil from which they can capture nutrients and the total volume of nutrient capture. At between two and three metres in length, perennial cereal roots reach twice as deeply into the soil as do annual cereals. The longer, denser root biomass serves to capture nutrients more efficiently and more deeply in the soil, decreasing nutrient movement through the soil and limiting the need for additional fertilizer application.

Actively growing perennial cereals also help to use up water that would otherwise sit on the land in early spring, decreasing the likelihood of leaching.  

And there’s more: perennial crops’ strong roots, taller plant height and early spring start mean they are more competitive than their annual counterparts. As such, they often require far less weed management. Wheatgrass’ many tillers take competitive advantage a step forward, forming a tight, almost sod-like layer that is highly effective at limiting weeds.

Perennials excel on the disease resistance front too. The fact that they are long-lived typically means they have accrued a superior disease resistance profile that allows them to survive, resulting in fewer fungicide requirements.  

Larsen’s perennial rye study has barely begun, but already he is hopeful perennials may have a real place in tomorrow’s agricultural reality.

“The more I work with perennial grains, the more applications I see for them, from the perspective of limiting nutrient runoff to conserving soil, to saving producers input dollars and planting time. This is the next step in cropping efficiency,” he says.

For all of perennial cereals’ benefits, one fairly serious drawback remains: because a perennial plant must put some energy into its root reserves, it cannot yield as much as its annual cousin. Currently, perennial cereal crop yields are significantly lower than annual cereal crops. Cattani’s intermediate wheatgrass, for example, yields between 10 and 20 bushels per acre.
That said, breeders are already making significant leaps forward in perennials’ yield potential. And, because there is increasing market demand for more sustainable agriculture, farmers might capture better prices for perennial grains compared to conventional annual grains.

“Perennial grains are not going to be as productive as annual cereals. That’s the truth. But it could be a high-value grain that some companies might be willing to pay a little extra for. That’s the potential,” Larsen says.

“There is certainly interest in perennial grains. Quite a number of producers would probably be willing to grow a perennial cereal if we could provide them with a variety that is adapted to their growth area, that offers good yield potential for at least three or four years, and that has a good agronomic package ready when we release the variety,” Cattani says.

Cattani expects perennial cereals are likely still a good number of years from commercialization.

“I’m excited. I see the potential,” he says. “But having said that, I think we’re 10 to 15 years away from releasing an intermediate wheatgrass for our regions. We can’t say ‘plant it’ when we don’t yet know how best to grow it. I think perennial cereals are an area of research you’ll see explored relatively significantly over the next 10 years.

For naysayers who are pessimistic about the potential for a lower-yield crop to find success in Canada, Cattani says: “Before we had canola as a major human-use oil, a lot of people said it had too many issues. But canola is a good example of what is possible when we apply resources to a potential crop to help solve key issues.  

“What makes the concept of perennial cereals interesting is – even as it is now – it is a much more productive option than simply planting a forage grass, and it’s really sustainable. It has the potential to make a lot of people with conflicting priorities happy.”
Published in Cereals
Does no-till increase the concentration of phosphorus in tile drainage water? That’s the question researchers set out to answer with plots on three farms in southern Ontario.

Despite efforts to reduce phosphorus levels in freshwater lakes in North America, phosphorus loads to lakes such as Lake Erie are still increasing, resulting in harmful algal blooms. This has led to increased pressure to reduce phosphorus from non-point sources such as agriculture.

While no-till has long been touted for its ability to reduce phosphorus (P) losses in field run-off by minimizing the amount of phosphorus leaving farm fields attached to soil particles, recent research raised concerns that phosphorus levels in tile drainage from no-till fields were higher than from conventionally tilled fields.
A group of long-time no-till farmers, called the ANSWERS group, wanted to see if this was the case on their own farms under their management practices. The farmers approached the government and researchers in order to set up a scientific study.

Funding came from Environment Canada’s Lake Simcoe Clean-Up Fund, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), the Agricultural Adaptation Council’s Farm Innovation Fund and the Grain Farmers of Ontario. “It was a collaboration between researchers, farmers and government,” says Merrin Macrae, a researcher from the University of Waterloo. Macrae was involved in the project, along with Ivan O’Halloran, University of Guelph (Ridgetown), and Mike English, Wilfrid Laurier University.

The results were good news for farmers who have adopted no-till. There were no significant differences in the P losses between any of the tillage treatments, Macrae says.

The multiple-site, multiple-year project took place from 2011 to 2014 on farm fields near St. Marys and Innisfil under a corn-soybean-wheat rotation. A modified no-till system had been in place at both locations for several years prior to the study. This system is a predominantly no-till system but with some shallow tillage at one point during the three-year crop rotation, for example, following winter wheat. This tillage system is referred to in the study as reduced till (RT); the other two tillage systems in the comparison were strict no-till (NT) and annual disk till (AT) treatments.

Tile water was monitored for three years for each of the tillage treatments. The tile drains were intercepted at the field edge (below ground) to capture edge-of-field losses at each study plot. Discrete water samples were collected from each tile using automated water samplers triggered by tile run-off. The weather was also monitored.

Tillage type did not affect either the dissolved reactive phosphorus (DRP) or total phosphorus (TP) concentrations or loads in tile drainage. Both run-off and phosphorus export were episodic across all plots and most annual losses occurred during a few key events under heavy precipitation and snow melt events during the fall, winter and early spring, Macrae explains. The study shows the importance of crop management practices, especially during the non-growing season, she says.

Both tile drainage flow and phosphorus losses were lower than the researchers expected, Macrae says. Previous studies suggested about 40 per cent of precipitation leaves cropland in tile lines but in this study that proportion was significantly lower.

Macrae admits the researchers were surprised there wasn’t more dissolved phosphorus in the tile drainage water from the NT and RT sites due to the increased presence of macropores and worm holes. However, she points out that these farmers also use best management practices (BMPs) for phosphorus application in addition to using a reduced tillage system. For example, the farmers apply only the amount of phosphorus that the crop will remove. The phosphorus fertilizer is also banded below the surface instead of being surface-applied.

Macrae believes soil type also plays a role in the amount of dissolved phosphorus leaving farm fields in tile lines. “These sites were not on clay soils,” she says. “Clay soils are more prone to cracking, which could lead to higher phosphorus concentrations in tile lines.”

The research highlights the importance of bundling BMPs, Macrae emphasizes. “It’s not just tillage. Farmers should adopt a 4R’s approach: right source, right rate, right time, right place.”
Macrae also says farmers should do what they can to ensure nutrients stay in place, such as maintaining good soil health, using grassed waterways, riparian buffer strips and water and sediment control basins (WASCoBs) where needed, and carefully choosing when and how to apply nutrients.

“Since most of the water movement occurred during the non-growing season, the study showed the importance of how fields are left in winter and why it is important to not spread manure in winter,” she says.

The variability of rainfall intensity, duration and timing will also impact phosphorus losses, she adds.

In future, Macrae hopes to study the impact of tillage on phosphorus losses from clay soils as well as the impact of other management practices such as manure application and cover crops.
Published in Tillage
Researchers at Rice University in Houston are leading an effort to build tools that can detect, quantify and track the dispersal of genetically modified crops and animals, as well as their byproducts, in the environment.
Published in Genetics/Traits
Sept. 15, 2016 - This summer’s drought crisis and how it’s having a serious affect on crop yields was the focus of a round-table discussion between local farmers and Ontario’s Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs last week.

Agriculture minister, Jeff Leal, met with about 30 farmers at Reynolds Bros. Farms in Prince Edward County for a discussion arranged by Mayor Robert Quaiff, to hear firsthand how 60 days without solid rainfall is producing burnt and premature crops forcing them to again seek claims from the province’s insurance program as many did during severe drought conditions in 2012. | READ MORE.
Published in Soil
Sept. 15, 2016 - Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) is looking for interested individuals willing to spare 2-5 minutes per month filling out a survey on the agroclimatic conditions in their area to help inform the government about what is happening on-the-ground in agriculture across the country. Knowing the impact of weather provides important information that both levels of government need to make accurate assessments and policy/program decisions.

How Agroclimate Impact Reporter works
Most of the data and information that feed the agroclimate impact reporter (AIR) application are provided by more than 300 volunteer reporters. Each reporter completes a 2-5 minute online survey every month of the growing season, and can enter additional information between surveys. Maps of all the input received are compiled at the end of each month and made available online for all to view and use.

What's in it for producers?
The AIR initiative lets producers tell AAFC about the weather and its impact on their operations. This information supports programs and policy development, particularly financial risk management programs for producers. For example, information collected from the AIR network in 2011 helped inform AgriRecovery programs, which provided more than $300 million in direct assistance to producers as a result of flooding and excess moisture in the Prairie region.

Information from AIR is also used in the assessment of areas eligible for the Livestock Tax Deferral (LTD) provision, which compensates producers facing feed shortages resulting from drought or excess moisture. In 2015 or 2016, producers in all four western provinces received LTD payments.

Click here to learn more about the survey.
Published in Business & Policy
Sept. 15, 2016 - An eight-year study of soybeans grown outdoors in a carbon dioxide-rich atmosphere like that expected by 2050 has yielded a new and worrisome finding: Higher atmospheric CO2 concentrations will boost plant growth under ideal growing conditions, but drought – expected to worsen as the climate warms and rainfall patterns change – will outweigh those benefits and cause yield losses much sooner than anticipated.

The new discovery, reported in the journal Nature Plants, contradicts a widely accepted hypothesis about how climate change will affect food production, said University of Illinois plant biology professor Andrew Leakey, who led the new research.

“If you read the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports and if you read the scientific literature on the subject for the last 30 years, the concluding statement is nearly always that elevated carbon dioxide will ameliorate drought stress in crops,” Leakey says. | READ MORE.
Published in Soybeans
Sept. 13, 2016 - Plans for the first National Environmental Farm Plan (EFP) Summit are underway in response to growing consumer-driven demand for sustainably-sourced food. Provincial and territorial EFP organizations aim to create a national program that will build a stronger link between the agriculture industry’s commitment to sustainable food production and the ever-increasing trend for global food companies to implement sustainable sourcing programs.

The National EFP Summit will connect stakeholders throughout the Canadian agri-food value chain to create a national program that meets the needs of producers who farm and ranch in a wide variety of agricultural climates, while at the same time ensuring consistency for buyers, regardless of where in Canada they source their product.

“The provincial and territorial EFP programs each have their own unique strengths that have already attracted several major buyers and have since been implemented as the environmental component within their sustainable sourcing programs,” says Paul Watson, Alberta EFP program director. “However, we recognize that a challenge still exists for buyers who are sourcing products from multiple Canadian regions. A national program will address this gap by ensuring consistency for sourcing sustainable products across Canada.”

National EFP Summit attendees will learn more about how the EFP operates at the provincial and territorial levels, and how it is currently being used as the environmental component in sector-specific sustainability programs such as the Dairy Farmers of Canada proAction Initiative, Verified Sustainable Beef and the North American Potato Sustainability Initiative. This will inform a path forward where stakeholders can lay the groundwork for a national program as it relates to the needs of buyers in Canada and around the world. It will also examine potential delivery models and engage stakeholders from farm to fork to further develop this producer-driven, made-in-Canada solution.

“We would encourage companies from across the value chain to register for the National EFP Summit to ensure they have the opportunity to be part of this important step forward. On behalf of my counterparts delivering the provincial and territorial EFP programs, we look forward to starting the dialogue to shape a national program that makes consistent, environmentally sustainable sourcing more accessible for buyers across Canada.

The National EFP Summit will be held Nov. 1-2, 2016, in Ottawa. Companies of all sizes across the agri-food value chain are encouraged to attend.

More information including event registration and sponsorship opportunities can be found at www.nationalefp.ca.
Published in Corporate News
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
Published in Insecticides
Sept. 8, 2016 - In this free, one-day commodity-specific workshop, an experienced veterinarian or certified crop advisor will show you the benefits of having an on-farm biosecurity program, and identify key practices, which will help you improve biosecurity on your farm.

The workshop is open to new and established producers, and is a requirement to apply to the Animal and Plant Health Focus Area, under the Growing Forward 2 cost-share program for producers.

Bee Biosecurity
Oct. 15      Chelmsford        10:00a.m. – 3:00p.m.
Nov. 17      Kanata              10:00a.m. - 3:00p.m.

Beef Biosecurity
Oct. 25      Clinton              10:00p.m. - 3:00p.m.

Crop & Horticulture Biosecurity
Sept. 20      Leamington     1:00p.m. - 5:00p.m.
Oct. 28      Brodhagen       10:00p.m. - 3:00p.m.

Dairy Biosecurity
Oct. 14      Woodstock      10:00p.m. - 3:00p.m.
Oct. 19      Elora              10:00a.m. - 3:00p.m.

Generic Livestock Biosecurity (beef, sheep, goat)
Sept. 14   Kars                6:30p.m. - 9:30p.m
Oct. 4      Brighton          6:30pm - 9:30p.m
Oct. 6      Powassan        10:00a.m. - 3:00p.m
Oct. 7      Verner            10:00a.m - 3:00p.m
Oct. 13    Casselman       10:00a.m - 3:00p.m *FRENCH
Nov. 1     Port Perry        6:30pm -9:30p.m
Nov. 1     Mount Forest    10:00a.m -3:00p.m
Nov. 2     Earlton             10:00a.m - 3:00p.m

Poultry Biosecurity
Oct. 27    Markdale  10:00a.m. - 3:00pm

To register, click here.
Published in Corporate News
August 2, 2016 - Photographers have two months to capture that ‘winning’ shot of on-farm wildlife habitat. The Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association (OSCIA) has launched a province wide photo contest, with $2,000 in prizes up for grabs.

Farms are patchwork landscapes that provide valuable plant, fish and wildlife habitat. The Habitat in Focus Farm Photography Contest aims to highlight and promote habitat for species at risk (SAR) created, protected or enhanced by farms across Ontario.

While SAR may be elusive to capture on camera, their habitat is not. Grasslands, pastures, retired fields, stream banks, wetlands, shorelines and woodlands are important environmentally sensitive areas that serve as habitat to SAR on farms.Photos must have been taken on a farm, be digital and be submitted electronically. There is a limit of three photos per category, and there are three categories: tree habitat, water habitat and grasslands habitat.

The first place winner will receive a Canon EOS 70D DSLR Camera and EF-S lens kit (valued at $1,700). Second prize is a GoPro Hero3 Waterproof HD Sports and Helmet Camera (valued at $300), and third prize is a $150 Henry's gift card.

Judging will consist of three rounds of evaluation based on creativity, photographic quality and overall subject matter relevance to the contest.

Looking for photo ideas and inspiration?
The contest is modeled after the Species at Risk Farm Incentive Program (SARFIP). The Best Management Practices (BMPs) supported through SARFIP, as outlined in the Program Guide are a good reference for subject matter ideas in this contest.

The contest will be open until September 30th, 2016. Contestants can visit http://www.ontariosoilcrop.org/habitat-in-focus/ for complete contest rules and regulations, and to submit their photographs.
Published in Corporate News
July 7, 2016 - Ontario represents over 12 million acres of Canada's most viable and productive farmland and Ontario's agriculture industry has been a leader in nutrient management planning for crop production using 4R Nutrient Stewardship (Right Source at the Right Rate, Right Time, and Right Place) as a method to improve the health of Ontario's watersheds.

To date, more than 113,000 acres of farmland in Ontario can be attributed to 4R Nutrient Stewardship, with roughly 67 per cent of farms applied some form of this nutrient planning and management method. 

"Introducing subtle changes to the way a crop is fertilized using 4R Nutrient Stewardship can not only produce higher yields, but also takes measurable steps to benefit Ontario watersheds, including the great lakes," says Henry Denotter, an Ontario 4R demonstration farm participant.

As the leading international standard for on-farm nutrient application, farmers and agri-retailers alike are embracing 4R Nutrient Stewardship.

"Ontario's agri-retailers are committed to sustainable agriculture.  4R Nutrient Stewardship allows agri-retailers to adopt a science-based framework that can benefit both the environment and crop production systems," says Dave Buttenham, CEO of the Ontario Agri Business Association (OABA). "This practical tool considers not only the agronomic aspects of soil and crop nutrition but also helps to accomplish enhanced farm profitability and accountability." 

As a result of the Ontario Memorandum of Cooperation, formalized in 2015 the province has:

  • Successfully implemented 20 4R demonstration farms, with four currently in practice
  • Reached more than 115 Ontario growers through 4R Nutrient Stewardship workshops
  • Enrolled 21 agri-retailers in OABA's voluntary 4R "Designated Acres" pilot program; and
  • Launched the Ontario Certified Crop Advisor (CCA) 4R Nutrient Management Specialty Certification (65 of Ontario's CCAs are registered to write the certification exam in August 2016)
"The strength of this relationship lies in the shared-value partnership approach. Collectively, each organization brings expertise which helps the province of Ontario meet its environmental goals while enhancing the economic benefits for farmers in these highly productive farming zones. Together, we are a part of the solution," says Garth Whyte, president & CEO of Fertilizer Canada.

Ontario has embraced 4R Nutrient Stewardship as a valuable tool for meeting agricultural and environmental goals and is recognized as a part of the Ontario Government's strategy to restore, protect and conserve water quality and ecosystem health. 

"Sustainable water quality and land use are a priority for Ontarians," says Jeff Leal, Ontario's agriculture minister. "The agriculture industry understands how important a healthy Great Lakes system is to maintain agriculture now and in the future. The Government of Ontario has embraced 4R Nutrient Stewardship as a tool to support the province's agricultural and environmental goals. This support is amplified by partners in the agriculture industry, who have undertaken efforts to adopt and promote 4R Nutrient Stewardship in Ontario."

Progress on 4R Nutrient Stewardship in Ontario will be shared at the upcoming 4R Demonstration Tour Field Days departing from Chatham, Ont. on July 27th and July 28th 2016. For more information about the tour days in Ontario and about implementing 4R Nutrient Stewardship in Ontario, visit fertilizercanada.ca.
Published in Corporate News
Environmental groups have launched a court challenge to federal permits for two common pesticides that some say are behind large die-offs in bee populations. | READ MORE
Published in Insecticides

June 14, 2016 - A community group in the Bruce Peninsula knows poop just doesn’t run downhill, it flows downstream too. That’s why local farmers have been working alongside the Bruce Peninsula Biosphere Association (BPBA) to provide new watering systems for cattle on pastures, removing the animals from drinking and walking in waterways.

With the goal to improve water quality for themselves and their neighbours downstream, the BPBA’s Six Streams Initiative focuses on addressing three sources of water pollution in their area – cattle drinking in waterways, soil erosion, and under-performing septic systems.

“We’ve had tremendous success working with local farmers on this project, but cattle aren’t the only concern. That’s why water quality is measured regularly to check for improvements,” says Elizabeth Thorn, BPBA Chair.

The project began as a result of a visit from Ted Briggs and Greg Mayne, representatives of the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change and Environment Canada respectively, who, as part of the Lake Huron Georgian Bay Framework for Community Action, were looking for a locally based group who wanted to work on improving water quality in Lake Huron.

As a result, the Six Streams Initiative, founded in 2012, is funded jointly between the federal and provincial governments, and aimed at improving water quality in local freshwater streams of the Bruce Peninsula that flow into Georgian Bay and Lake Huron.

Clean water

Situated between Georgian Bay and Lake Huron, the Bruce Peninsula is the very top of the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Reserve, a unique geographical area that includes wetland complexes, cliff faces, slopes and aquatic ecosystems.  

Established in 2000, the BPBA became the first community group formed within the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Reserve specifically to implement the concepts of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Biosphere Reserves.

Since 2013, the BPBA, through the Six Streams Initiative, has worked with local farmers to install 47 alternative watering systems for cattle, build 7.4 km of fencing along water courses and prevent 3,340 cattle from drinking in waterways.

Thorn says annual phosphorus levels have already been reduced by three quarters of a tonne, based on a formula developed by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

She explains that excess phosphorus in waterways and lakes cause algae growth, which creates problems with aquatic habitat. Phosphorus, often found in soil, enters water ways through soil erosion from fields and soil disturbed by cattle along waterways.

Excess soil in waterways also causes turbidity, clouding the water and affecting aquatic life by blocking sunlight and covering spawning beds. Nitrates from soil, fertilizers and manure can also enter ground water directly, creating a potential health hazard.

John Rodgers, a BPBA director and local farmer, says cleaning up the waterways benefits everyone, including cattle.

“Farmers who have fenced their cattle from waterways and are now using the alternative watering systems are reporting healthier animals,” says Rodgers, who attributes animal health to cleaner water from the watering systems.

Rodgers works closely with Neils Munk, the innovative Six Streams Initiative project manager, who has been instrumental in designing the new solar-powered watering systems to provide cattle with clean, fresh water on demand. Neils was recognized by the Bruce County Federation of Agriculture for his efforts.

“We work closely with each farmer to improve the watering systems, making them beneficial for everyone,” says Rodgers.

Community effort

“Fencing cattle from waterways eliminates many obvious causes of water pollution,” says Thorn, noting other projects are underway to reduce soil erosion from fields and testing monitors water quality.

“Through this program farmers and cottagers have been able to work together to address the water quality problems and find solutions,” says Thorn, explaining one of the new water tests is for the presence of caffeine in waterways. “Cattle don’t drink coffee, so we know that caffeine in our waterways points to under-performing septic systems.”

The Six Streams Initiative has brought community members of all backgrounds and ages together. Volunteers, including high school students, have been trained to become certified water quality data collectors. And project work has stimulated the local economy through job creation and sourcing supplies.

“This project is a win for everyone,” says Thorn.

Funding for BPBA and the Six Streams Initiative has been provided in part by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, Environment Canada’s EcoAction Community Funding Program, the Ontario Trillium Foundation, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, and the Lake Huron Georgian Bay Framework for Community Action.

Published in Corporate News

This year farmers have two opportunities to win the Robert L. Ross Memorial Scholarship to attend the Canadian Total Excellence in Agricultural Management (CTEAM) program.

Published in Corporate News

May 17, 2016 – The Species at Risk Farm Incentive Program is back for 2016. The Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association (OSCIA), with support from Environment Canada and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, is pleased to support producers who are enhancing farm habitat for species at risk across the province. With streamlined funding levels and new bundled application forms – and up to $20,000 available per farm business – it’s easy to benefit more with SARFIP.

Farm businesses in Ontario can access cost-share dollars for on-farm projects that implement a variety of Best Management Practices. With a diversity of project opportunities, eligible BMPs encompass activities around croplands, grasslands, shorelines, stream banks, wetlands and woodlands. Many opportunities are available to support critical habitat through SARFIP, including cross fencing for rotational grazing, watering systems for livestock, native tree planting, improved stream crossings, native grassland plantings, invasive species removal and erosion control structures, among others.

SARFIP 2016 is open to all agricultural landowners in the province. Projects that provide indirect benefits to species at risk are eligible for 50 per cent cost-share, and projects that directly benefit species at risk are eligible for 65 per cent. An additional bonus of 10 per cent cost-share is available for direct benefit projects if the producer is interested in enrolling in SAR-Watch, a monitoring program that measures the impact of SARFIP projects on the ground for species at risk.

To find out if SARFIP is a good fit with your farm, consult the program brochure for complete and detailed program information. All program materials, including the brochure and application forms can be found on the OSCIA website. To be eligible to participate in SARFIP, Ontario farm businesses must have a completed 3rd or 4th Edition Environmental Farm Plan (EFP) workbook and Action Plan that has been verified and completed within the last five years.

Applications are now being accepted, and funding will be allocated to projects in the order in which they are received until fully allocated. Funding for this program is limited; if you have a project idea that fits, get your application submitted as soon as possible. Projects initiated on or after April 1, 2016 may be eligible.

For more information on eligibility criteria, the application process, and program deadlines, or to sign up to an upcoming EFP workshop in your area, visit the SARFIP page on the OSCIA website at www.ontariosoilcrop.org/oscia-programs/sarfip/ or contact OSCIA directly at 519-826-3035 or  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Published in Corporate News
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