A group of researchers at the University of Illinois wanted to know which farmers are most likely to adopt multifunctional perennial cropping (MPC) systems – trees, shrubs, or grasses that simultaneously benefit the environment and generate high-value products that can be harvested for a profit.
"We surveyed farmers in the Upper Sangamon River Watershed in Illinois to learn their attitudes about growing MPCs on marginal land. We then looked at their demographic data to classify people into different categories related to their adoption potential," says University of Illinois agroecologist Sarah Taylor Lovell.
Using statistical clustering techniques, the team discovered that survey respondents fell into six categories. The "educated networkers" and "young innovators" were most likely to adopt MPCs. On the other end of the spectrum, survey respondents classified as "money motivated" and "hands-off" were least likely to adopt the new cropping systems.
The goal of categorizing farmers was to tailor strategies for each group, given their general attitudes. "If they're very unlikely to adopt at all, we probably wouldn't spend a lot of time worrying about those groups," Lovell explains.
However, Lovell thinks some low-likelihood adopters could be swayed. "One of the groups--the one we called "money motivated" – was really connected with GPS in their yield monitoring, so we thought we could target that. We could review high-resolution maps of their farms to point out the areas that are unproductive for corn and soybeans. We'd try to make the case that alternative perennial systems could bring in profits," Lovell says.
High-likelihood adopters were motivated by environmental concerns, and were especially interested in converting marginal land to bioenergy crop, hay, or nut production systems. "Farmers were probably most familiar with bioenergy grasses and hay," Lovell explains. But it was important to them that an existing market was in place for MPCs products.
Another major factor was land tenancy. Considering that most MPC crops don't mature for years after planting, rental contracts would need to account for the long-term investment.
"The person leasing the land might be really interested in agroforestry or perennial cropping systems," Lovell says. "The lease arrangement has to be long enough that the farmer will get back their investment in that period. For example, some of the nut crops take a long time to mature. But if you integrate some of the fruit shrubs, they'll become productive in maybe 3-4 years. You could get an earlier return on investment in those cases."
Lovell's graduate students – housed in the crop sciences department at U of I – are now following up with several of the farmers who were interested in MPCs and offering custom designs to establish the new cropping systems on their land.
"That was part of the overall goal for this study. We wondered if the barrier to adoption is a lack of information about design options and the economic potential," Lovell says. "If we overcome that barrier by developing good planting plans, projecting the market economics, and providing them with that information, will that help them implement the change?"
Bayer says it is paying Monsanto shareholders $128 per share, which represents a 44 per cent premium over Monsanto's closing price on May 9, the day before a proposed deal was announced.
The deal is subject to approval by Monsanto shareholders and anti-trust regulators. Bayer expects the deal to close by the end of 2017. | READ MORE
Glynn Tillman, with USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in Tifton, Ga., is studying the use of "trap crops," such as soybean and grain sorghum. Trap crops are planted in small strips alongside cotton so that the stink bugs will move into them instead.
Another option is using pheromone-baited traps to capture and kill the bugs. Nectar-producing plants can be grown to attract native parasitoid wasps that attack stink bugs. Placing plastic barriers between cotton and peanut rows is yet another control method.
In a recent study, Tillman and her colleagues grew cotton and peanuts side by side for two years. In the first year, they planted soybeans as a trap crop, with and without pheromone traps, between the cotton and peanut rows. In other areas, they placed 6-foot-high plastic barriers between the rows. In the second year of the study, they added nectar-producing buckwheat plants near the cotton. Each week during the May-to-October growing season, they counted the stink bugs and stink bug eggs killed by wasps, and documented the damage to cotton bolls.
They found that physical barriers between peanut and cotton were the most effective tool and that the multi-pronged approach is an effective alternative if barriers are not feasible. They also found that soybeans were an effective trap crop and that buckwheat plants attracted beneficial wasps that reduced stink bug numbers.
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.”
For me, the world’s greatest herbicide was – and I say that in the past tense, was – glyphosate. It’s unfortunate but in my geography it is a herbicide of the past on many driver weeds. For me Palmer amaranth is a driver weed. For you that may be kochia. That may be wild oat. That could be green foxtail.
May 18, 2016 - Genetically engineered (GE) crops and conventionally bred crops have no difference in terms of causing risks to human health and the environment, according to the report Genetically Engineered Crops: Experiences and Prospects released by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
The report is based on the results of an extensive study that was conducted by over 50 scientists for two years. The study includes data from 900 researches on biotech crops since it was commercialized in 1996.
The key points of the report include:
- Studies with animals and research on the chemical composition of GE foods currently on the market reveal no differences that would implicate a higher risk to human health and safety than from eating their non-GE counterparts.
- The use of insect resistant or herbicide tolerant crops did not reduce the overall diversity of plant and insect life on farms, and sometimes insect resistant crops resulted in increased insect diversity.
- Commercially available biotech crops had favorable economic outcomes for farmers who adopted these crops.
- Insect resistant crops have had benefits to human health by reducing insecticide poisonings.
- Several GE crops are in development that are designed to benefit human health, such as rice with increased beta-carotene content to help prevent blindness and death caused by vitamin A deficiencies in some developing nations.
The research committee established a website to enable the general public to know more details of the report and submit comments about the results.
The research was funded by Burroughs Wellcome Fund, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the New Venture Fund, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, with additional support from the National Academy of Sciences.
Read the news release from National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
May 17, 2016, Ontario – An almost entirely accidental discovery by University of Guelph researchers could transform food and biofuel production and increase carbon capture on farmland.
By tweaking a plant’s genetic profile, the researchers doubled the plant’s growth and increased seed production by more than 400 per cent.
The findings were published in the March 2016 issue of Plant Biotechnology Journal.
The team studied Arabidopsis, a small flowering plant often used in lab studies because of its ease of use and its similarity to some common farm crops. They found that inserting a particular corn enzyme caused the plant’s growth rate to skyrocket.
“Even if the effects in a field-grown crop were less, such as only a tenth of what we’ve seen in the lab, that would still represent an increase in yield of 40 to 50 per cent, compared with the average one to two per cent a year that most breeding programs deliver,” says Michael Emes, a professor in the department of molecular and cellular biology (MCB).
He said the team’s finding could boost yields of important oilseed crops such as canola and soybean, as well as crops such as camelina, increasingly grown for biofuels.
Larger plants would capture more atmospheric carbon dioxide without increasing the amount of farmland, Emes says. ”Farmers and consumers would benefit significantly in terms of food production, green energy and the environment. The ramifications are enormous.”
The finding came almost by chance.
Studying the enzyme’s effect on starch, the researchers noticed that their genetically engineered plants looked different and much larger in photos taken by lead author Fushan Liu, a former post-doctoral MCB researcher.
“That’s when we realized that we were looking at something potentially much more important,” says Ian Tetlow, an MCB professor and study co-author.
Although genetic engineering led to more flowers and pods containing seeds, it left the seed composition unchanged.
“The seeds are where we would get the oil from, and consistent composition is important so that the function and use of the oil isn’t changed,” Tetlow says.
The researchers plan to test canola and other crops. Field tests and analysis with industry and government will likely take several years.
“This could have enormous implications for agriculture, carbon capture, food production, animal feedstocks and biodiesel,” Emes says.
“These findings are without parallel, and we came to them almost by accident. The reason we started the work was to test some ideas in basic science. It just goes to show that you never know where that science will take you.”
Apr. 26, 2016 - Honey bee colonies in the United States are in decline, due in part to the ill effects of voracious mites, fungal gut parasites and a wide variety of debilitating viruses. Researchers from the University of Maryland (UMD) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently completed the first comprehensive, multi-year study of honey bee parasites and disease as part of the National Honey Bee Disease Survey. The findings reveal some alarming patterns, but provide at least a few pieces of good news as well.
The results, published online in the journal Apidologie on April 20, 2016, provide an important five-year baseline against which to track future trends. Key findings show that the varroa mite, a major honey bee pest, is far more abundant than previous estimates indicated and is closely linked to several damaging viruses. Also, the results show that the previously rare Chronic Bee Paralysis Virus has skyrocketed in prevalence since it was first detected by the survey in 2010.
The good news, however, is that three potentially damaging exotic species have not yet been introduced into the United States: the parasitic tropilaelaps mite, the Asian honey bee Apis cerana and slow bee paralysis virus.
"Poor honey bee health has gained a lot of attention from scientists and the media alike in recent years. However, our study is the first systematic survey to establish disease baselines, so that we can track changes in disease prevalence over time," said Kirsten Traynor, a postdoctoral researcher in entomology at UMD and lead author on the study. "It highlights some troubling trends and indicates that parasites strongly influence viral prevalence."
The results, based on a survey of beekeepers and samples from bee colonies in 41 states and two territories (Puerto Rico and Guam), span five seasons from 2009 through 2014. The study looked at two major parasites that affect honey bees: the varroa mite and nosema, a fungal parasite that disrupts a bee's digestive system. The study found clear annual trends in the prevalence of both parasites, with varroa infestations peaking in late summer or early fall and nosema peaking in late winter.
The study also found notable differences in the prevalence of varroa and nosema between migratory and stationary beehives. Migratory beekeepers -- those who truck their hives across the country every summer to pollinate a variety of crops -- reported lower levels of varroa compared with stationary beekeepers, whose hives stay put year-round. However, the reverse was true for nosema, with a lower relative incidence of nosema infection reported by stationary beekeepers.
Additionally, more than 50 per cent of all beekeeping operations sampled had high levels of varroa infestation at the beginning of winter -- a crucial time when colonies are producing long-lived winter bees that must survive on stored pollen and honey.
"Our biggest surprise was the high level of varroa, especially in fall, and in well-managed colonies cared for by beekeepers who have taken steps to control the mites," said study co-author Dennis vanEngelsdorp, an assistant professor of entomology at UMD. "We knew that varroa was a problem, but it seems to be an even bigger problem than we first thought. Moreover, varroa's ability to spread viruses presents a more dire situation than we suspected."
For years, evidence has pointed to varroa mites as a culprit in the spread of viruses, vanEngelsdorp noted. Until now, however, much of this evidence came from lab-based studies. The current study provides crucial field-based validation of the link between varroa and viruses.
"We know that varroa acts as a vector for viruses. The mites are basically dirty hypodermic needles," Traynor said. "The main diet for the mites is blood from the developing bee larva. When the bee emerges, the mites move on to the nearest larval cell, bringing viruses with them. Varroa can also spread viruses between colonies. When a bee feeds on a flower, mites can jump from one bee to another and infect a whole new colony."
Nosema, the fungal gut parasite, appears to have a more nuanced relationship with honey bee viruses. Nosema infection strongly correlates to the prevalence of Lake Sinai Virus 2, first identified in 2013, and also raises the risk for Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus. However, the researchers found an inverse relationship between nosema and Deformed Wing Virus.
Some viruses do not appear to be associated with varroa or nosema at all. One example is Chronic Bee Paralysis Virus, which causes loss of motor control and can kill individual bees within days. This virus was first detected by the survey in the U.S. in 2010. At that time, less than one per cent of all samples submitted for study tested positive for the virus. Since then, the virus' prevalence roughly doubled every year, reaching 16 per cent in 2014.
"Prior to this national survey, we lacked the epidemiological baselines of disease prevalence in honey bees. Similar information has been available for years for the cattle, pork and chicken industries," Traynor said. "I think people who get into beekeeping need to know that it requires maintenance. You wouldn't get a dog and not take it to the vet, for example. People need to know what is going on with the livestock they're managing."
While parasites and disease are huge factors in declining honey bee health, there are other contributors as well. Pesticides, for example, have been implicated in the decline of bee colonies across the country.
"Our next step is to provide a similar baseline assessment for the effects of pesticides," vanEngelsdorp said. "We have multiple years of data and as soon as we've finished the analyses, we'll be ready to tell that part of the story as well."
Apr. 18 2016 - A lower Canadian dollar is often good for agriculture on both sides of the border. Grain and cattle industries are the usual beneficiaries but now the used equipment industry is getting in on the action. With our neighbours to the south having a little more buying power than what has been seen in recent years, there is a much greater opportunity for Canadian farmers to upgrade their equipment or add to their cash flow by selling their used equipment.
The asking prices for the Canadian equipment can stay relatively the same, while the stronger U.S. dollar means a bigger benefit to the American customer. They can either upgrade to a newer, more efficient machine or they can just save a little more in the purchase price due to the exchange rate. Part of the shift is farmers being more and more comfortable sourcing and selling online.
"U.S. customers are extremely pleased with getting such great prices on equipment that they need and our Canadian customers are equally happy to move their equipment more quickly," says Kirk Frankish, one of the founders of EquipLinx. "It's really great to see farmers on both sides of the border having more dollars in their pockets because they are either buying or selling used equipment."
By opening up options to include the larger U.S. market, a seller can reach buyers looking for equipment sooner. In March of this year, EquipLinx had 70 per cent of its views from the United States. Approximately 30 per cent of the company's final sales are south of the border, but with their expanding market there, they expect that to increase in the coming months.
While there are many benefits to selling across border, there are a few considerations that can make the process a lot easier. Frankish has a few tips for people interested in potentially selling their equipment to an international audience:
- Understand that there are regional differences in how equipment is used in the United States just like there are differences across Canada. Some machines will be of interest to the entire continent while some types of equipment will only see interest from a certain region.
- The season is soon in full swing, so with a busy schedule, arranging for shipment of the equipment rather than delivering or picking it up yourself will likely be part of the process. The distance between the buyer and seller will be important to consider. This should be something that needs to be considered in addition to the selling price.
- Finding your customer through a reputable network is key to managing risk. Whether you are buying or selling online it can create doubts for both parties. Buying or selling through a system that has safeguards in place can take additional stress out of the equation. This helps with making sure that payments are done in a timely fashion and that equipment is released as per the contract.
- Although not common, customs can delay the arrival of the equipment at its destination. Make sure to give yourself or your buyer enough of a window to account for any normal delays.
- If you're working through a broker, have a good understanding of what their fees are. Make sure that there will be still making enough of a profit once any commissions are finalized.
While it may not be a solution for everyone, selling equipment into the United States is a new option that changing technology has afforded the industry. For those wanting to take advantage of the right opportunity at the right time it may be a perfect moment to try something new.
by Tom Lutey
Apr. 2, 2016 - With falling grain prices, Montana farmers say they'll plant a million fewer acres of wheat this season than they did two years ago, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
The slide from 5.9 million wheat acres in 2014 to 4.9 million acres in the 2016 prospective plantings report, is the sharpest decline in several years. Since 2014, wheat prices have fallen nearly 30 per cent, enough to strip the profit from some farms.Wheat is still Montana's largest crop. The state would rank fourth nationally for wheat acres in 2016, the report indicated. Nationally, production is expected to be down nine per cent.
"Some people are getting $3.90 a bushel for wheat. That's pretty serious business," said George Haynes, Montana State University economist, noting that the price drop would be too much for some farms.
Those former wheat acres are going into other things, namely lentils, which are at 500,000 acres this spring, a nearly fourfold increase in the past two years. Lentils are a niche crop that is doing well as a result of global demand and challenging weather conditions in 2015 that cut supplies. Lentils averaged almost $28 per hundredweight at the end of 2015, according to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service.
The Montana Department of Agriculture has promoted lentil production for several years and the state now is the nation's largest lentil producer.
"The continued growth of pulse crops, including lentils is reflective of the diversification by Montana farmers," said Ron DeYong, Montana Department of Agriculture director. "Prices for lentils have been strong. We expect demand to continue to grow as we develop more trade opportunities and consumers learn about their benefits during the International Year of Pulses."
Other big gains in acreage went to dry beans, which have more than doubled in two years to 80,000 acres. Barley crossed the million-acre mark for the first time in three years, up 80,000 acres from 2014.
Garbanzo beans have more than doubled in acres in the last two years to 68,000 acres.
Sugar beet acres were expected to be at 42,000, a slight decline.
Some of the alternatives to wheat come with contracts guaranteeing the firm price before the seeds are even in the ground. Lola Raska, of the Montana Grain Growers Association, said malt barley is an attractive option to farmers because of an early contract, which protects farmers from market swings during the season.
Malt barley must have low levels of protein, otherwise it makes for cloudy beer. The protein is kept in check by pouring the water on during the growing season. If the protein levels are low, the contract price is honoured.
There's a possibility, Raska said, that farmers will take note of the declining acres in spring wheat and decided to go against the trend. High protein, hard red spring wheat is niche crop primarily in Montana and North Dakota.
North Dakota farmers indicate they will plant a million fewer acres this year than they did last year. Montana farmers expected to cut spring wheat plantings by 450,000 acres. Cuts like that could drive up the Spring wheat price for those who plant, Raska said.
Farming and livestock sales contribute roughly $4 billion to Montana's economy annually.
Mar. 30, 2016 - Winnipeg-based Canterra Seeds and the University of Saskatchewan's Crop Development Centre (CDC), are pleased to announce the finalization of their agreement for the exclusive rights to produce and distribute CDC pea varieties in the United States. The pea varieties will be sold through Canterra Seeds' U.S. affiliate, Meridian Seeds.
After an open-bid competition, Canterra Seeds was awarded the rights in early 2015. Since that time, Canterra Seeds, Meridian Seeds, and the CDC have worked diligently to determine the varieties to include within the agreement, giving proper consideration to the needs of growers. The varieties included at the outset of the agreement are:
- CDC Amarillo
- CDC Meadow
- CDC Patrick
- CDC Raezer
- CDC Saffron
- CDC Treasure
Varieties will be added to the list as new varieties become available.
Similar to Canterra Seeds, Meridian Seeds is a network of seed-grower shareholders and licensees. The U.S. affiliate has doubled in size over the past three years and is represented in over 12 states.
"Growers have been eager to get their hands on these varieties here in the U.S.," said Andy Draeger, general manager of Meridian Seeds. "The CDC pea varieties have performed very well in U.S. trials, and we expect uptake to be swift this spring."
The CDC is a world-renowned field crop research organization that operates through the department of plant sciences at the University of Saskatchewan. Many of Canada's dominant pulse, cereal and flax varieties have been developed at the CDC. With its mandate to improve economic returns to farmers and the agriculture industry, the CDC has produced over 400 new crop varieties since its inception in 1971.
"We are pleased indeed to have concluded this agreement with Canterra Seeds and Meridian Seeds, ensuring high-performing CDC pea varieties will continue to be marketed to U.S. producers. We fully expect U.S. pea growers will continue to patronize CDC varieties, and are committed to reinvesting the resulting royalties into the development of even better pea varieties for growers," said Kofi Agblor, managing director Crop Development Centre.
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Royal Manitoba Winter FairMon Mar 27, 2017
Employee Selection WebinarMon Mar 27, 2017 @10:00am -
Cultivating the Great Clay Belt Agriculture SymposiumThu Mar 30, 2017
Hiring Employees WebinarMon Apr 03, 2017 @10:00am -
Spring Workshop on Organic ResearchFri Apr 07, 2017 @ 8:30am - 04:00pm