Blackleg is caused by two species of the pathogen.
Crop rotation and variety resistance are important tools for our first line of defence against disease.
In 2016, we conducted field surveys for root rot of pea and lentil in Alberta and Saskatchewan. In Alberta we surveyed 27 lentil and 89 pea fields during flowering, and 67 lentil and 68 pea fields in Saskatchewan.
Hybrid rye varieties have been grown on the Prairies for a couple of years now. They continue to live up to their initial promise, outshining open-pollinated (OP) rye varieties in key traits, and work is underway to help the hybrids capture a greater share of rye’s small marketplace.
Hard to identify and distinguish from one another, the annual grasses compete with winter wheat and fall rye because their growth habits are similar. Downy brome (Bromus tectorum) densities of 50 to 100 plants per square metre that emerge within three weeks of the crop can reduce winter wheat yields by 30 to 40 per cent. Both downy brome and Japanese brome (Bromus japonicas) are classified as noxious weeds in Alberta.
The 2016 harvest season was one some growers would like to forget. Unfortunately, the reminder was still there when the snow melted this spring uncovering thousands of unharvested acres that producers had to combine plus get a 2017 crop in the ground. But adversity leads to opportunity and the Western Winter Wheat Initiative (WWWI) encourages producers to seed winter wheat this fall as a way of dealing with unseeded acres that didn’t get planted this spring.Seeding winter wheat into chemfallow requires different planning than seeding into other stubble. Here are some tips that Janine Paly, WWWI agronomist for Alberta, has for producers to seed winter wheat successfully.Minimize stubble disturbance/maintain stubble: Standing stubble is a key practice to establish winter wheat as the trapped snow insulates the crop from winter elements. Year-old stubble will break apart easier than stubble from a freshly harvested crop; however, any stubble is better than summerfallow. Minimize traffic over the field to maintain stubble integrity by using the same tracks in spraying operations and avoid harrowing and cultivating if possible.Line up seed early: Before spring crops are harvested, take advantage of the less busy time and source seed. Plan to have the seed on farm and treated with a seed treatment before planting. Research conducted by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada indicates a seed treatment minimizes seedling disease and can help with winter survival.Fertility management: Selecting the right source and amount will help ensure your soil has a balanced supply of plant nutrients. It is important to perform a soil test to determine nutrient levels within the field. Winter wheat nitrogen management is different than spring wheat and determining the right timing of nitrogen application will vary depending on your operation. There are a few options: fall-applied, spring-applied or split application, but the method will vary depending on weather, soil moisture, and seeding equipment. Winter wheat has the ability to yield up to 40 per cent more than CWRS with adequate rates of nitrogen.Seed early: Seeding early is a key factor in establishing a successful winter wheat crop. Plants that enter the winter with three to four leaves have a well-develop crown tissue and a better chance of winter survival. The optimal seeding window across the Prairies is between September 1 and 15. The question that may arise is, “How early can I seed?” It is better to seed earlier than later as producers can get busy with harvest operations and forget to seed within the optimal window. Extra consideration when seeding too early is the risk of disease transfer of stripe rust or wheat streak mosaic virus. If these diseases are of concern, growers can seed a resistant variety, delay seeding (depending on region), or should avoid seeding into conditions with volunteer cereals, or adjacent to a green wheat crop.
Imagine yourself as a winter wheat kernel. You’re planted in the fall, germinate and grow a bit, then hibernate until spring when you start growing again. Meanwhile, fungus and insects are attacking your roots and shoots throughout the fall and spring. No wonder poor stand establishment is a major constraint for high-yielding winter wheat crops.
When it comes to the economics of growing winter cereals such as winter wheat and hybrid fall rye, the numbers don’t tell the full story. Looking at the three provincial government crop planning guides published for Prairie producers in 2017, winter wheat and hybrid fall rye land somewhere between the fifth and 16th most profitable crops to be grown in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. But set aside the most profitable crops like pulses, canola, sunflower, corn and beans, and winter wheat profitability looks pretty good compared to spring wheat.
Many winter wheat growers in Western Canada are wondering if the seeding window can be extended. A multi-year, multi-site Prairie study is working towards a tool that will help growers answer that question for their own conditions.
Canola stubble has traditionally been the preferred stubble for winter wheat plantings because it can capture snow to insulate the overwintering wheat crop, improving winter survivability. However, some high-yielding canola hybrids have later maturities, presenting a challenge for seeding winter wheat at the optimum time.
Winter wheat can be a great crop to include in your rotation. Winter wheat will typically out yield spring wheat by 20 per cent or more, depending on growing conditions, and is normally harvested several weeks before spring wheat.
Japanese brome (Bromus japonicas) exists as a winter annual or summer annual grass weed in the Canadian Prairies.
What I’d like to give you is a view from my previous careers working in Europe, New Zealand, and now Australia with regards to disease management. I’d like to give you a flavour of some of my impressions of disease management over the last 35 years with reference to getting the balance right with regard to the disease triangle and integrated disease management. Where are we in terms of integrated disease management (IDM)? What is IDM all about? Principally it’s about trying to make sure we use all the tools in the toolbox, integrating genetic resistance with chemical fungicides, cultural control and overall crop agronomy. When we sow the crop and how we look after it with nitrogen can profoundly affect how much disease pressure we’re under. Getting it just right is never going to be easy. What’s happened in Australia? Before 2002, there wasn’t a huge amount of fungicide usage because it’s a much less responsive environment. Then we had an “exotic incursion.” Stripe rust came in from North America, probably on a grower’s boots. That changed the pendulum, from a dependence on genetic resistance to a reliance on fungicides, because, overnight, a huge proportion of all of the germplasm in Australia became susceptible to stripe rust. Meanwhile in Europe, there was a totally different swing of the pendulum. It was inspired by a new set of varieties, in this case semi-dwarf varieties. With the new cultivars and more nitrogen, crops stayed greener for longer. Suddenly yields increased enormously in the ’70s. Higher yields and longer growing seasons in Europe drove growers to apply more and more fungicide. If you go to Europe now, it’s all about T1, T2 and T3 – Timing 1, Timing 2, Timing 3 with fungicides as a fixed part of crop agronomy. Up until 2005 in Europe, the pendulum had swung very much to the fungicide side of the IDM pendulum.However, that’s all changed. In Europe, the profound driver for change has been fungicide resistance. Fungicide resistance influences everything that a European grower now does with fungicides. If there’s one thing that I think is really important to take on, it is that fungicide resistance – if it’s not affecting you now, it will be shortly unless you can moderate your use of fungicides. What’s gradually happened over time is that we’ve got better products with greater activity, but at the same time fewer products based on limited modes of action. There are fewer products that are more and more environmentally benign, but at the same time at greater risk of resistance development. In other words, we’ve moved from multi-site fungicides that killed the fungus in many different ways to single-site fungicides that do less damage in the environment but actually are much more vulnerable to resistance. Fungicide insensitivity and resistance Fungicide insensitivity and resistance has occurred principally in two ways. In Europe in the late 1990s and early 2000s, strobilurins, such as pyraclostrobin and azoxystrobin, came along with the biggest media hype since glyphosate. However, after only three to four years, the pathogen causing powdery mildew and then Septoria tritici (now Zymoseptoria tritici) in wheat developed resistance to stobilurins, and that’s been a real challenge ever since. In two to three years, the strobilurins went from being the best products to control foliar diseases in broad acre cereals to products that wouldn’t work against Septoria, a disease that is widespread in northwest Europe. I think that’s when attitudes really changed and people started asking the question, “Is there a different way to control disease?”We’re in our infancy with fungicide resistance issues in Australia. We can see it in the field with powdery mildew in barley. Our triazole fungicides such as Tilt (propiconazole), Folicur (tebuconazole), Proline (prothioconazole), Prosaro (prothioconazole and tebuconazole co-formulated) don’t work as effectively to control powdery mildew. With Septoria, we’re not yet seeing reduced activity in the field, but the samples are showing insensitivity in the laboratory, so there is increasing threat that we will see resistance to fungicides in the field. Europe and triazole use What has happened in Europe with the triazoles over the last 20 years is that triazole fungicides have gradually become less effective against key diseases, firstly not working as effectively in the lab and then gradually being noted to be less effective in the field. That’s why with triazoles I think it’s important to talk about “fungicide insensitivity” and not “fungicide resistance.” For example, it’s taken 20 years of exposing the Septoria pathogen population to the triazoles for them to become less effective. They still have activity but are now only 60 to 70 per cent effective when it used to be 90 to 100 per cent. So in Europe the triazoles and the strobilurins become less effective and ineffective for key diseases in a similar time period, but the triazoles had been gradually degrading in their effectiveness over time. Therefore with the terminology we use, I think it’s important to recognize we really have three basic modes of action that we use in broad acre cereal disease control – triazoles, strobilurins, and the new SDHIs [succinate dehydrogenase inhibitors]. With the triazoles I think it is probably more appropriate to call it “insensitivity” rather than resistance, since if you say to a grower, “It’s resistant,” the tendency is to think that it won’t work when in reality it is still partially effective. With regard to the SDHIs, they’re not actually that new since the family of chemistry has been around for 40 years. But a new branch of SDHI chemistry is now taking Europe by storm, as the strobilurins now have less application because of resistance in key pathogens. But after only three years of commercial use with these new SDHIs, resistance is developing quickly in the net blotch and Septoria pathogens. It’s really important to recognize that fungicide resistance is changing the way in which growers and advisors elsewhere in the world manage their cereal crops. In Australia, growers and advisors are just beginning on that resistance journey. You’ve already had some exposure in Canada to the fact that the strobilurins are at high risk of resistance development in the pathogen. It begs the question, “What can you do about it?” Click here for part two: The importance of multiple modes of action and linking pathology with crop physiology.
Montana has seen a spike in pulse crop acres in the last 10 to 20 years. When I started 10 years ago, my crop responsibilities included spring wheat, winter wheat, durum, and maybe a little barley. Now wheat is becoming a rotational crop for pulse production.
There are both environmental and agronomic concerns surrounding the management of livestock manure. The major environmental concerns are: potential risk of nutrient accumulation in soil – particularly nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) – and risk of nutrient movement into surface or groundwater. Poor manure management can also cause accumulation of salts in soil, surface water or groundwater and pathogenic micro-organisms in surface water.
Research trials in the U.S., and more recently at the University of Saskatchewan, are proving what’s old is new again. In this case, the use of “old” herbicides such as Avadex, Fortress and Edge are making a comeback of sorts in a weed management system that’s been dubbed “herbicide layering.” According to Clark Brenzil, who coined the term, herbicide layering is simply utilizing two to three herbicides in sequence to tackle tough-to-control weeds and to stave off weed resistance.Indeed, herbicide tank mixtures and/or a program that utilizes a residual product in a sequential program are now the recommended practice for delayed herbicide resistance. “It’s a good management tool for controlling some of those weeds that may not necessarily be that responsive to one herbicide,” Brenzil notes. “Wild oats and cleavers are two great examples of this.” But even simply switching one herbicide out for another, ie. rotating herbicides, while perhaps delaying the onset of herbicide resistance, still results in selection pressure. Today, many in the industry are starting to stress the importance of using multiple modes of action and tank mixing. “The extension message is to use multiple modes of action together in weed control programs,” says Mike Grenier, Canadian development manager with Gowan. “But it’s not only using tank mixes – it’s using products in sequence, for instance to look at the soil residual herbicides as part of this management program.” The idea is simple: apply different modes of action within a season – layering – and rotate chemistries through the crop rotation. As it turns out, Avadex, Edge and Fortress herbicides fit very well into this strategy. “In our scenario, you would have Group 8, Avadex or Fortress, being soil applied either in the fall or in the early spring followed with a post-emergent program during the growing season,” Grenier notes. “So in this case of Group 1 or Group 2 product use, Avadex is the pre-emergent layer providing resistance management against wild oats.” In trials, Gowan maintains that Avadex and Fortress can provide about 90 per cent control of wild oat, while Edge (Group 3) provides 70 to 80 per cent suppression. “Then you have a post-emergent program working on a much lower level of [weed] population, so lower selection pressure. So now we have the control level approaching close to 100 per cent.” Studies find an added bonusLed by Christian Willenborg, weed scientists at the University of Saskatchewan (U of S) have been conducting research to determine if herbicide layering proves beneficial. “We have some good information in peas and some really good information in canola,” says Eric Johnson, U of S research assistant. “Graduate student Ian Epp’s research in canola showed some benefits, even with Roundup Ready canola, to be using clomazone pre-emergent to improve cleavers control.” In the studies on cleavers weed control in canola, the researchers used three different modes of action – applying clomazone pre-emergent, then followed by either Clearfield, Roundup or Liberty tank mixed with quinclorac. “Even with the Roundup system, which is already pretty effective on cleavers, we found that using three different modes of action provided weed control benefits, and some yield benefits which totally surprised us,” Johnson notes. (See Fig. 1.) The team also did studies on managing Group 2 resistant cleavers in field pea. “What we found was that if we put a pre-emergent down, that suppressed the cleavers somewhat. But then we came in and followed with a post-emergent, and we ended up with better than 80 per cent control.” (See Fig. 2.) Going forward, the U of S is starting some work on managing Group 2-resistant wild mustard and Group 2-resistant kochia in lentil. The big pictureBrenzil says herbicide layering has some merit for everyone. “What the U of S research has found is that if you have control taking place right at the point where the weed is germinating [with the pre-emergent], you’re going to get better yield response out of your crop, rather than waiting for the three- or four-leaf stage when there’s already been some competitive effect of that weed on that crop,” he notes. “By having a soil active, even if it’s not doing a fantastic job of controlling the weeds, it’s suppressing the influence of those weeds on that crop, and you’re getting a bit of a yield bump by having herbicide in the soil along with your foliar product that’s coming a little later.” An added bonus, Brenzil adds, is that by using a herbicide layering program, you’re making a pre-emptive strike against herbicide resistance. “It’s a good management tool for controlling some of those weeds that may not necessarily be that responsive to one herbicide for effective management, such as wild oats and cleavers.” At the Herbicide Resistance Summit held March 2 in Saskatoon, Jason Norsworthy made a comment about the “treadmill” of using one weed chemistry and the very real threat of developing herbicide resistance as a result. Brenzil explains: “If you use one chemistry to death and then you allow your weed populations to get very high again, then you’re just starting from square one to select for the next Group that you’ll overuse, and so on and so on, until you paint yourself into a corner and there are no herbicide options left. At this point, the only management option left will be seeding the field to a forage crop and cut for hay until the seedbank is exhausted.” With herbicide layering, “If you’ve got your soil active products on the ground, then you come in with your foliar and you’ve got a mix of two foliars that could still control that same weed – now you have three active in there of different families,” he adds. “You avoid that overuse and you don’t allow selection pressure to accumulate.” This story originally appeared in the June 2016 issue of Top Crop Manager West.
With the confirmation of glyphosate-resistant (Group 9) kochia across the Prairies, a renewed focus on best chemfallow management practices is needed.
Is there an interaction between seeding rate of pea and lentil, disease incidence, and fungicide effectiveness? This question was the driving force behind an Agricultural Demonstration of Practices and Technologies (ADOPT) Program project.
Using several herbicides with multiple modes of effective action are essential in combatting resistance, minimizing the weed seedbank and preparing fields for success. A planned herbicide program using multiple modes of action is the best strategy for these tough-to-control weeds. An herbicide that offers multiple modes of action to help manage a variety of broadleaf weeds that can also be used in various tank-mixes to control glyphosate-resistant species will help address the challenges of weed resistance in both the current and future growing seasons. For example, last year, a group of growers in Eastern Canada tested Armezon PRO, a new Group 15 and Group 27 herbicide. With a wide application window from early post-emergence to the eight-leaf stage in glyphosate-tolerant corn and the ability to easily tank-mix with additional products, growers were able to customize their weed management to meet their needs. When tank-mixed with atrazine in glyphosate-tolerant corn, Armezon PRO provides four modes of action. Customizing weed management strategies is especially useful when weather prevents getting into the field for a pre-emergent application. Managing problem weeds with multiple modes of action provides residual activity, reducing the weed seedbank and setting up fields for the next season.
With the 2017 growing season upon us, here’s a look at the latest seed treatments, foliar fungicides and label updates. Product information is provided to Top Crop Manager by the manufacturers.
Premier Tech, an international leader in active ingredients for sustainable agriculture and horticulture, will take the lead in the final steps to bring to full scale the manufacturing and commercialization of a selective bioherbicide. In January, the Horticulture and Agriculture Group signed a license agreement with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) to finalize the development and commercialization of a product formulated from an indigenous fungus (Phoma macrostoma). Over nearly ten years, the federal department invested millions of dollars in research on this fungus and its compounds (macrocidins), which can eliminate broadleaved weeds, particularly dandelions. This breakthrough discovery has been patented in several countries and is commercially registered in the U.S. and Canada.
The late harvest in fall 2016 created more than just delays in crop removal – fields were dirty with weed growth and there was limited time for fall herbicide application. As a result, many farmers are expecting weedier fields this spring and will need to be diligent in using the best weed control strategies including pre-seed herbicides and the best in-crop solutions. To assist farmers in what will likely be a more challenging spring battle with weeds, Dow AgroSciences has announced that the Diamond Rewards herbicide offer that was previously only available to Nexera customers will be open to all growers seeding any Roundup Ready and Clearfield canola varieties this spring. Effectively immediately, with a minimum purchase of 240 acres (6 cases) of Eclipse, any Roundup Ready canola grower can qualify for the $2.00 per acre rebate. Similarly, with a minimum purchase of 240 acres (6 cases) of Salute, any Clearfield canola grower can qualify for the $2.00 per acre rebate. Nexera canola growers will continue to receive the rebate with no minimum purchase requirement. Farmers must be registered for the Dow AgroSciences Diamond Rewards program and purchases must be made between December 1, 2016 and November 30, 2017 to qualify. Click for more information on Eclipse and Salute.
Industrial fertilizers help feed billions of people every year, but they remain beyond the reach of many of the world’s poorest farmers. Now, researchers have engineered microbes that, when added to soil, make fertilizer on demand, producing plants that grow 1.5 times larger than crops not exposed to the bugs or other synthetic fertilizers. | READ MORE
Just over 20 years ago, researchers initiated the first bioherbicide research and development program in the country at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) in Saskatoon. Led by Karen Bailey (who recently retired), the program has made significant advancements in bioherbicide development for horticulture and turf crops, and more recently, promising solutions for agriculture. Bioherbicide product development is a welcome addition to the integrated weed management toolbox for crop production. Biopesticides are classified as “reduced-risk” products by the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA).
Syngenta Canada Inc. has announced the launch of Aprovia Top fungicide, offering Canadian potato growers a new tool for foliar early blight control and brown spot suppression. Early blight, caused by the Alternaria solani fungus, is found in most potato growing regions. Foliar symptoms include small, brown, irregular or circular-shaped lesions that form on the potato plant’s lower leaves later in the season. The disease prefers warm, dry conditions to develop, and can be more severe in plants that are stressed and weakened. Brown spot, caused by the Alternaria alternata fungus, is closely related to early blight and is found wherever potatoes are grown. Unlike early blight, brown spot can occur at any point during the growing season, producing small, dark brown lesions on the leaf surface. Aprovia Top fungicide combines two modes of action with preventative and early curative activity on these two key diseases. Difenoconazole (Group 3) is absorbed rapidly by the leaf and moves from one side of the leaf to the other to protect both surfaces against disease. Solatenol (Group 7 SDHI) binds tightly to the leaf’s waxy layer and is gradually absorbed into the leaf tissue to provide long-lasting, residual protection. Aprovia Top is available now for use in 2017 production. In potatoes, one case will treat up to 40 acres.
Prairie farmers primarily use urea (46-0-0), anhydrous ammonia (82-0-0), or liquid urea-ammonium nitrate (UAN) (28-0-0) as their nitrogen (N) fertilizer sources. Nitrogen fertilizer can be lost due to volatilization, denitrification or leaching, depending on how the N is applied and the weather conditions after application.
Weed control challenges have grown steadily worse since the first glyphosate-resistant weeds were discovered in 2001. According to a 2016 Stratus Ag Research study, resistant and tough weeds currently infest more than 100 million acres of North American farmland. For additional weed control solutions, the Enlist weed control system was developed.
Local Liberal MP Francis Scarpaleggia and Jean-Claude Poissant, Parliamentary Secretary for the Minister of Agriculture, announced $2.9 million in funding at a press conference for two McGill projects aimed at mitigating greenhouse gas emissions caused by water and fertilizer use in agriculture.
Last month Statistics Canada released the results of the 2016 Census of Agriculture. Like many of you, I was eager to read up on the results and discover how our industry has changed in the five years since the last survey was conducted.
Team Alberta is warning the federal government of serious financial consequences to farmers if they lose the ability to use deferred cash tickets to manage wide variations in their income.The potential end of the cash ticket deferral system was included unexpectedly as part of the federal government’s Budget 2017. Team Alberta’s submission to the federal finance department’s consultation process summarizes the specific necessity and utility of this tool in farmers’ business planning strategies and tax management.“We believe that the government has overlooked the severe impact that farmers would face if this tool was no longer available,” said Kevin Auch, Alberta Wheat Commission Chair. “Farmers operate with a high degree of income volatility due to factors beyond our control and the cash ticket deferral mechanism allows us to manage risk and balance our income to ensure we can still remain profitable.”The government maintains that the cash ticket deferral mechanism is out-dated since the single desk was dismantled in 2012. But Team Alberta points out that farmers have been exposed to the same income volatility regardless of the Canadian Wheat Board’s (CWB) status, facing many of the same risks they did when the mechanism was first introduced in 1973. Data from the Western Grain Elevator Association (WGEA) indicates that the percentage of cash tickets deferred annually has remained fairly stable throughout and following the end of the CWB’s monopoly.Team Alberta further points out that removing this management tool could hamper Canada’s ability to increase agri-food exports from $55 to 75 billion per year by 2025 as outlined in the recent federal budget.“Canada’s agriculture industry is poised and ready to meet these targets,” said Jason Lenz, Alberta Barley Chair. “But we will only be able to meet them if the government works with farmers to eliminate barriers that impede growth.”Team Alberta’s submission provides examples from accounting firm MNP LLP that demonstrate impact on farm businesses – whether partnerships, sole proprietors, or corporate family farms. The information from MNP shows that removal of the deferral option will have a disproportionate and negative impact on farm operations relative to non-farm Canadian businesses of similar sizes.“The existing policy allowing for deferral of cash tickets is an important tool in ensuring that farm operations, whatever their business structure, are treated fairly relative to other Canadian businesses,” said Greg Sears, Alberta Canola Chair.D’Arcy Hilgartner, Alberta Pulse Growers Chair said: “We have a responsibility as a country to ensure that our farmers remain profitable and sustainable. The consequences of this proposed policy change would be dire for many Canadian farmers and severely limit the sector’s ability to meet growth objectives.”Team Alberta’s submission can be viewed online here.
Small planes have been flying over local farms and taking aerial photos for decades. Now, individual farmers are able to get an aerial view of a field using a small remote-controlled drone equipped with a camera. But Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) has been receiving information from a far more sophisticated data collection network for at least the past 30 years, according to Leander Campbell. Campbell, a geographer who specializes in geomatics, works as a remote sensing specialist with the Earth Observation team at AAFC. He says most of his work is on the AAFC Annual Space-Based Crop Inventory. He gets his data in the form of imagery from satellites and uses it to produce an accurate national crop map. “The crop map, the one I work on, is at a 30 metre resolution so each pixel is a 30 metre by 30 metre square. It covers all of Canada,” he explains. Campbell adds one of the crops mapped in year one of the crop inventory in 2009 was soybeans. Since then, the data has shown how the crop is spreading west and north on the Prairies.Campbell extracted only the soybean fields (in yellow) from Manitoba crop maps for the years 2009 and 2012.Photo courtesy of Leander Campbell, AAFC. The network Campbell gets his data from consists of several international satellites. The American satellite Landsat-8 provides optical data to create crop maps anyone can download. In addition to these data, Campbell’s team also uses microwave data from the Canadian RADARSAT-2 satellite. The combination of optical and microwave data has been shown to produce more accurate maps than maps created from either single source. These maps are created and validated using data collected by people in the field. For the Prairies, “we have agreements with the provincial crop insurance companies,” Campbell says. “It’s not a perfect system but we’re about 85 per cent and 90 per cent accurate and working to improve that.” Satellites don’t stay in orbit forever and Campbell says a backup is always an asset. Canada has plans to launch a constellation of three microwave satellites in 2018, the RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM), to gather data that’s even more detailed and precise than what’s available now. “There are more uses than I ever thought of,” Campbell says. For instance, crop placements, crop monitoring, research, commodity marketing, land use management and even flood forecasting in Manitoba. Microwave data collected by the European SMOS (Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity) satellite allows Campbell’s team to operationally measure soil moisture in the top five centimetres of soil. He says most people don’t realize the Earth naturally radiates very low-level microwave energy and a satellite in space can pick up the variations in waves. Water absorbs microwave energy. When the microwaves radiate out from the Earth and pass through the soil, some of them are captured by moisture in the soil. According to Campbell, in September 2015, Statistics Canada did not do a farmer survey, opting to use AAFC climate data to complete their crop yield forecast. Satellite data can describe how agriculture land is changing or evolving over the years, whether it’s farmland expanding by eliminating small woodlots or urban expansion covering agricultural land. These phenomena can be monitored year over year using the AAFC crop maps. Campbell has compiled maps that helped document the areas where clubroot is developing in canola. Scott Keller, a farmer from Camrose County in Alberta, contacted AAFC, asking Campbell if he could map Camrose County to determine how often canola was grown in particular fields. Keller wanted to determine which fields grew canola most often, either in a tight rotation over multiple years or in succession, in order to determine if there was a correlation between the escalation of clubroot and the rotation schedule.Map created by Campbell to monitor canola crop frequency in Camrose County, Alta. Photo courtesy of Leander Campbell, AAFC. That’s just one way satellite data can support crop management. Campbell says he’s confident that as computer technology and Internet costs come down, AAFC will be able to create more products from data because they can monitor specific areas once or several times over a growing season, or over years. Campbell and his six colleagues who create the crop maps, soil moisture reports and the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) reports have an international presence as well. “I know some of our maps are incorporated into more global crop assessments for global market information, especially the NDVI maps,” Campbell says. He explains that several nations around the world use satellite imagery to monitor their own crops. They meet on a monthly basis and compare data on major crops like corn, wheat, rice and soybeans through an organization called GEOGLAM. The group’s website states its vision is to “use coordinated, comprehensive and sustained Earth observations to inform decisions and actions in agriculture through a system of agricultural monitoring.” https://cropmonitor.org Canadian farmers can access existing maps and data products online from the AAFC website. Because these maps are highly detailed, producers may experience difficulty downloading them on devices while in the field, but they can still view them online. According to Campbell, that’s the sort feedback he needs to hear from farmers. “In our little world we have all these high-end computers and that works fine for us, but it may not be the most practical thing for others,” Campbell says. And, he’s looking forward to finding more ways to help farmers and make the website more user-friendly. As satellite mapping matures, both farmers and scientists will view agriculture in new ways and Campbell is enthusiastic about the possibilities. “It’s a really exciting time to be in our field,” Campbell says. This article originally appeared in the June 2016 issue of Top Crop Manager West
Timely information about drought conditions can help agricultural producers, agribusiness, government planners and policy-makers, emergency preparedness agencies and others to better plan for and proactively respond to drought. The Canadian Drought Monitor tracks a wide range of drought-related information and boils it all down to easy-to-understand, online monthly maps.“The Canadian Drought Monitor is kind of an early warning system. It provides a clear picture of what is occurring in near real-time. We’re tracking drought conditions continuously so that we know where we’re at and we can respond quicker to problems,” explains Trevor Hadwen, an agroclimate specialist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC). AAFC leads the Canadian Drought Monitor initiative, working in close collaboration with Environment Canada and Natural Resources Canada.He notes, “There is a very large process around developing the Drought Monitor maps that is unique to this particular product. It is not as simple as feeding climate data into a computer and having it spit out a map.” That’s because drought is difficult to measure. It can creep up on people as the cumulative effects of ongoing dry conditions gradually mount up. Its effects are often spread over broad areas. And different groups define drought conditions differently, depending on their interests and needs.So, the Canadian Drought Monitor draws together diverse information like precipitation amounts, water storage levels, and river flow amounts, as well as information about drought impacts on people. And it combines various drought indicators used by the agriculture, forestry and water management sectors into a single composite indicator.“All that information is put together to create one easy-to-read map product, with just five classes of drought or dryness. Users can get a very clear picture of the areal extent and severity of the drought with one look at the map,” Hadwen says.Drought classificationThe five drought classes are: D0, abnormally dry – an event that occurs once every three to five years; D1, moderate drought – an event that occurs every five to 10 years; D2, severe drought – an event that occurs every 10 to 20 years; D3, extreme drought – an event that occurs every 20 to 25 years; and D4, exceptional drought – an event that occurs every 50 years. The monthly maps are available in an interactive form that allows users to see the changes in drought location, extent and severity over time.The Canadian Drought Monitor provides useful information for people in many sectors. Hadwen gives some examples: “For agriculture, the information helps with things like where people might want to market grains, where there might be shortages, where there might be areas of good pasture, where livestock reductions might be taking place, all those types of things. The information is also very valuable outside of agriculture, in terms of water supplies, recreational use, forest fires – the list can go on for quite a while.”The Canadian Drought Monitor maps feed into the North American Drought Monitor maps. “The North American Drought Monitor initiative started about 12 years ago. The U.S. had been doing the U.S. Drought Monitor project for a number of years, and Mexico and Canada were interested in doing similar projects,” Hadwen notes. “So we joined forces to create a Drought Monitor for the continent.” All three countries use the same procedures to monitor, analyze and present drought-related information.The continent-wide collaboration provides a couple of big benefits. “Number one, drought doesn’t stop at the borders,” he says. The North American initiative provides an integrated view of drought conditions across the continent.“Also, the Drought Monitor is extremely powerful in terms of the partnerships that have developed and the linkages to some of the best scientists in North America. We share ideas and build off each other, developing better and more accurate ways of assessing drought. We can utilize some of the information generated from U.S. agencies, like NOAA [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] and the National Drought Mitigation Center, and agencies in Mexico. This collaboration effort helps increase the efficiency of the science and the technical aspect of drought monitoring.”According to Hadwen, the continental collaboration has been really helpful in building Canadian agroclimate monitoring capacity. “Over the last decade or so we have certainly matured a lot, and we’ve started to develop some really interesting tools and applications for Canadian producers and agricultural businesses to help deal with some of the climate threats to the farming industry, including droughts, floods, and everything else,” Hadwen says.AAFC’s Drought Watch website (agr.gc.ca/drought) provides access to the Canadian Drought Monitor maps and to other agroclimate tools such as maps showing current and past information on precipitation, temperature and various drought indices, and the Agroclimate Impact Reporter (scroll down for "When complaining about the weather makes a difference"). When complaining about the weather makes a differenceIf you love to talk about the weather's impacts on your farming operation, the Agroclimate Impact Reporter (AIR) could be for you. If you want your comments about these impacts to make a difference, then AIR is definitely for you. And if you want to find out how the weather is impacting agriculture in your rural municipality, your province, or anywhere in Canada, then AIR is also for you.AIR is a cool online tool developed by AAFC that grew out of a previous program to collect information on some drought impacts. "We have had a program in place to monitor forage production and farm water supplies in the Prairies for well over 15 years. Then about three years ago, we started to develop a tool to replace that program – a tool that would be national in scope and that could gather information on a whole range of agroclimate impacts," Hadwen explains.AIR taps into a volunteer network of producers, AAFC staff, agribusiness people and others. "We use crowd-source data for this, gathering information from a whole wide variety of people. Some of them we know through our registered network, and others have a subscription to our email box and provide comments to us on a monthly basis," he says."We're trying to gather as much information from as many people as possible on how weather is impacting their farming operations. We ask the participants to do a short [anonymous] monthly survey, usually about 25 quick multiple choice questions, to let us know how things are going."AIR is collecting impact information in several categories including: drought, excess moisture, heat stress, frost, and severe weather (like tornadoes and hail storms)."We plot that information and produce a whole bunch of individual maps showing very subject-specific information from each survey question," Hadwen notes. "We also have a searchable online geographic database. On a map of Canada, you can zoom in on different regions and see where we're getting reports of a large number of impacts or not as many impacts. You can even drill down into that map and see the exact comments that we are getting from [the different types of respondents, in each rural municipality]."The information collected through AIR provides important additional insights into the weather conditions and related issues and risks. He says, "Sometimes the data we have in Canada isn't as fulsome as we would like, and sometimes it doesn't tell the whole story. For instance, the data [from weather stations in a particular area] might show that it didn't rain for a very long period and the area is in a very bad drought, but the producers in the area are telling us that they got some timely rains through that dry period that helped their crops continue to grow. Or, the data might show that we received a lot of rain in a season – like we did in 2015, if you look at the overall trend – but the farmers are telling us that there were big problems in the spring. So, combining both those types of information certainly helps draw the whole story together a little better."AIR information feeds into the Canadian Drought Monitor to help in assessing the severity of drought conditions. As well, the AAFC's Agroclimate group incorporates AIR information into its regular updates to AAFC's Minister and senior policy people; it helps them to better understand what is happening on the land, and that knowledge can help in developing policies and targeting programs.Information from AIR is also valuable for businesses that work with producers, such as railroad companies wondering about regional crop yields and where to place their rail cars, and agricultural input companies wondering if they need to bring in extra feed or fertilizer.AAFC is in the process building AIR into a national program. "We want to collect agroclimate impact information from right across the country. We have a history in the Prairie region, so we have more Prairie producers providing information. We've made inroads into B.C., so we're getting some reports from there already," Hadwen says. "[Now] we're going out to Atlantic Canada and Ontario. And over the next couple of years, we'll be expanding AIR right across the country."If you are interested in becoming a volunteer AIR reporter, visit www.agr.gc.ca/air.This article originally appeared in the June 2016 issue of Top Crop Manager West.
Italy is proposing that pasta packaging show where the wheat was grown and milled. Canadian exporters and farmers fear the move would depress prices in Canada, the biggest global durum exporter, as it would require Italian pasta makers to segregate supplies by country. Italy’s move comes as a Canada-Europe free trade deal moves to final stages of approval. | READ MORE
Leaders from the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) strengthened their Canada-U.S. connections and underscored the benefits of NAFTA last week during meetings with American Farm Bureau representatives in several states. The five-day tour included visits to California, Kansas, Iowa and Wisconsin.“What we've learned from these discussions is that U.S. farmers depend on NAFTA as much as Canadian farmers do. No one wants to jeopardize the agreement for fear of losing the significant benefits accrued by all parties including well established markets for agriculture and agri-food products,” says CFA President Ron Bonnett.Bonnett said that the Wisconsin Farmers Union also supports NAFTA and were in agreement that the diafiltered milk issue was a scapegoat for the larger problem, which is the current worldwide glut of milk on the market."The key take-away from our U.S. meetings is that we now have a good chance to resolve some of the ongoing barriers to trade that stand apart from tariff rules. Farm groups in Canada and U.S. have long called for harmonized regulations," said Bonnett.The CFA will continue to work with its members and government officials to seek and implement actions that will modernize North American trade, leading to greater value for all NAFTA partners.
Urban sprawl has some Ontario farmers, agricultural organizations and even politicians looking to the north as the future for agriculture in the province. It is, after all, where producers can find cheaper land – typically priced between $1,000 to $1,500 per acre – and lots of it.
The Earth’s capacity to feed its growing population is limited – and unevenly distributed. An increase in cultivated land and the use of more efficient production technology are partly buffering the problem, but in many areas increasing food imports solves it. For the first time, researchers at Aalto University have been able to show a broad connection between resource scarcity, population pressure, and food imports, in a study published in Earth’s Future. “Although this has been a topic of global discussion for a long time, previous research has not been able to demonstrate a clear connection between resource scarcity and food imports. We performed a global analysis focusing on regions where water availability restricts production, and examined them from 1961 until 2009, evaluating the extent to which the growing population pressure was met by increasing food imports,” explains postdoctoral researcher Miina Porkka. The researchers’ work combined modelled data with FAO statistics and also took into consideration increases in production efficiency resulting from technological development. The analysis showed that in 75% of resource scarce regions, food imports began to rise as the region’s own production became insufficient. Even less wealthy regions relied on the import strategy – but not always successfully. According to the research, the food security of about 1.4 billion people has become dependent on imports and an additional 460 million people live in areas where increased imports are not enough to compensate for the lack of local production. Opportunities to sustainably improve food production The big issue, says co-author Dr Joseph Guillaume, is that people may not even be aware that they have chosen dependency on imports over further investment in local production or curbing demand. “It seems obvious to look elsewhere when local production is not sufficient, and our analysis clearly shows that is what happens. Perhaps that is the right choice, but it should not be taken for granted.” The international food system is sensitive and price and production shocks can spread widely and undermine food security – especially in poorer countries that are dependent on imports. As a result, further investments in raising production capacity could be a viable alternative. Especially in sub-Saharan Africa and India, there are opportunities to sustainably improve food production by, for example, more efficient use of nutrients and better irrigation systems. Miina Porkka emphasises that the solutions will ultimately require more than just increasing food production. “Keeping food demand in check is the key issue. Controlling population growth plays an essential role in this work, but it would also be important to enhance production chains by reducing food waste and meat consumption. Since one quarter of all the food produced in the world is wasted, reducing this would be really significant on a global level.”
While making the rounds at industry events this winter, I noticed one topic was sure to draw a crowd every time. It seems producers, suppliers and other industry stakeholders are eager to soak up whatever information they can on international markets and trade – and with good reason.
Grain conditioning is a widely used term that can be used to identify situations where either aeration or natural air drying is being utilized. Knowing the difference between aeration and natural air drying will aid in selecting aeration systems, equipment, and storage that will best suit your needs.
For the tractor-mounted sprayer market for 2017, John Deere introduces the Frontier LS11 Series 3-point Mounted Sprayers. These economical, efficient sprayers are ideal for making spray applications to pastures, small or large fields, road ditches, fence rows, specialty crops and for other types of crops and field uses.The LS11 Series Sprayers have many features of the larger pull-type sprayers, including breakaway booms, manual and automatic controls and optional foam marker systems, that help operators reduce skips and overlaps.The Frontier LS11 Series Sprayers come in four different boom-width models, from 25-ft. to 40-ft., that customers can select from based on their application needs. The LS11 Series Sprayers are available in two tank sizes, 250-gallon or 300-gallon; can be powered either hydraulically or by the rear power take-off (PTO); and are Category 2 or Category 3 quick-hitch compatible. For greater convenience, the heavy-duty poly tanks are specifically designed with a tear-drop shape to allow liquid to more completely drain from the sprayers.Additional standard features of the LS11 Series Sprayers include a handheld spray wand to reach small or hard-to-access areas; integrated parking stand and fork-lift pockets to make hook up, moving and loading the sprayer easier; and wet booms that extend the life of sprayer hardware. All models come with a single nozzle body; however, a triple nozzle body is available on the 40-ft. boom sprayer.For more information on the new Frontier LS11 Series 3-point Mounted Sprayers from John Deere, see your local John Deere dealer.
The most advanced grain harvesting technology from front to back is featured in the combines and headers John Deere is introducing for model year 2018 production. This includes four new S700 Combine models (S760, S770, S780 and S790) that offer producers significant improvements in “smart” technology, improved operator comfort and better data, along with the 700C/FC Series Corn Heads and 700D Drapers for more efficient grain harvesting.Building on the proven field performance of the S600 Combines introduced in 2012, the new S700 Combines incorporate the latest in automated harvesting technology. Many of these changes make it easier on the operator by allowing the combine to make needed adjustments automatically, on the go.To make it easier for operators to maximize the performance of their new S700 Combine, John Deere introduces the Combine Advisor package. Combine Advisor incorporates seven technologies to help operators set, optimize and automate the combine for the most effective harvesting performance based on their crop and field conditions.Auto Maintain is a function within Combine Advisor that is supported with ActiveVision cameras.Another addition to the S700 Combines is Active Yield technology that automatically calibrates the mass flow sensor. This saves time by eliminating the need for manual calibrations and ensures the best data is collected.The biggest physical difference customers will see in the S700 Combines compared to previous models is in the cab. This starts with a new state-of-the-art CommandCenter, providing a common user experience across Deere’s larger tractor and self-propelled sprayer lines, that emphasizes customization and operator comfort.Machine performance features of the CommandCenter include a Gen 4 interface and monitor with 4600 processer; CommandArm and multi-function control lever with greater ergonomic design and customizable buttons; premium activation with AutoTrac, RowSense and HarvestDoc; and Extended Monitor and mobile device features. In addition, operators will find set up and start up much quicker and easier, thanks to more intuitive harvest run and setup screens.The new cabs feature either leather or cloth seats that swivel 7.5 degrees left and 15 degrees right for improved visibility; enhanced seat ventilation for greater comfort; improved seat cushion with optional leather seat; and additional grain tank mirrors for improved visibility of the grain tank.New corn head and platform, tooAlong with the S700 Combines, John Deere is introducing the 700C/FC (folding corn head) Series Corn Heads with the RowMax row unit. The RowMax row unit provides up to a 50 percent increase in the life of the row unit gathering chains and features solid-alloy bushings that reduce pin and bushing wear.The 700C/FC Series Corn Heads are available in 6- to 18- row models, in 20-, 22- and 30-inch row widths. The StalkMaster stalk-chopping option is available on all models. Folding corn heads are available on 8- and 12-row units, which allow operators to spend more time harvesting and less time and hassle disconnecting, trailering and reconnecting heads when moving from field to field.For corn growers harvesting high moisture corn, there are several enhancements available specifically tailored to better handle this demanding crop. High moisture corn enhancements on the corn head include an auger floor insert to ease crop handling and a lower auger height to minimize crop damage.For small grains, Deere introduces the 700D Rigid Draper, which provides a 20 percent increase in capacity in tough harvesting conditions over the previous model. The 700D features a top crop auger that’s 50 percent larger in diameter (now 18 inches) with heavy-duty drives, high-performance gauge wheels, and a new center section seal kit that reduces center section grain losses by up to 45 percent in canola.For more information on the new S700 Combines, 700C/FC Corn Heads, 700D Rigid Draper and other harvesting solutions from John Deere, see your local John Deere dealer.
Producers looking for an affordable vertical tillage tool that sizes and buries residue in the fall or prepares smooth seedbeds in the spring have another option: The new Frontier VT17 Series Vertical Tillage Tool from John Deere.The VT17 Series offers fore and aft leveling adjustments that can quickly be made using a simple crank system. Gang angles on the implement can be adjusted from zero to 12 degrees for less or more aggressive tillage. Operators can fine-tune the machine’s operating depth from zero to three inches using a pin-and-clip adjustment.The VT17 comes with the choice of 20-inch straight or 22-inch concave blades. Each blade type is fluted for improved residue flow, sizing, and mixing, even with aggressive gang settings. The machine’s spring-adjustable rolling baskets run perpendicular to the blade direction to break up clods and improve field leveling and seedbed uniformity.Tandem dual wheels, standard equipment on all VT17 models, are mounted on a tubular carriage frame that’s hydraulically raised and lowered. As an option, an adjustable middle breaker can be mounted between the wheels on the center frame to disrupt soil in the center-line of travel that’s left open where the front and rear gangs do not overlap.Four sizes of VT17 Series Vertical Tillage Tools are available with working widths ranging from 10 to 15 feet. Tractor horsepower requirements range from 85 to 150 horsepower depending on the width of the model it’s paired with.Frontier equipment is available exclusively at your local John Deere dealer. For more information, click here.
New Holland Agriculture has set a new World Record by harvesting 16,157 bushels of soybeans in eight hours with the CR8.90 combine. The record-breaking performance, which took place in the Bahia State of Brazil, was certified by independent adjudicator RankBrasil. The performance On record setting day, harvesting started at 10:30 am and finished at 5:30 pm, having harvested approximately 222 acres (90 hectares). CR8.90’s average throughput was 2,020 bushels/hour in a crop yielding an average of 72.6 bushels/acre, and 17 per cent average moisture content. The record-setting performance and efficiency was achieved by harvesting 73.5 bu of soybean per gallon of fuel. The CR series The CR8.90 follows the footsteps of the range topping CR10.90, which proved it is the world’s highest capacity combine when it captured the World Record for harvesting an impressive 29,321 bushels of wheat in eight hours in 2014 – a title it holds to this day. For more information on the CR series, click here.
To serve a growing farm equipment market in Eastern Canada and the United States, Väderstad Sales Inc. has opened a new office and parts distribution warehouse in Cambridge, Ont. The Swedish farm equipment manufacturer offers unique and cost effective equipment to progressive farmers in 30 countries worldwide. The new Väderstad location signals a renewed focus on the North American farm equipment market. Manufactured in Sweden, all Väderstad farm equipment is built to create optimal field conditions. Väderstad’s North American equipment lineup includes drills, planters and cultivators. Equipment models available include: Drills: Spirit, Rapid and BioDrill (attachment to convert tillage equipment into cover crop drill) Cultivation equipment: Carrier, Carrier X, Carrier L, Carrier XL, Swift, Opus, TopDown and Cultus, ranging from 3.5 m to 12 m widths Planters: Tempo planters ranging from 4-16 rows with the most versatile precision high speed lineup in the market The new Väderstad parts warehouse supports all dealers and customers across North America, including 28 Eastern Canada dealer locations. Visit vaderstad.com/ca to find your local dealer or for more information about Väderstad’s innovative farm equipment design and lineup.
Safe storage of grain on farm is a key to successful farm management. Harvested grain may be put into bins at acceptable moisture contents, but is it safe? Knowing what temperature and moisture contents are acceptable is critical for the safe storage of grain. The following information sheds some light on what to watch for in stored grain during springtime conditions. More stored grain goes out of condition or spoils due to lack of temperature control than for any other reason. It cannot be emphasized enough that the control of temperature in a bin of stored grain is absolutely critical. Geographically in Western Canada, we are located in a region where we get North America’s most severe temperature fluctuations from one season to the next. The transition between these extremes can happen rapidly or gradually. It is during these transition periods when stored grain is most at risk, due to a phenomenon called moisture migration. Moisture migration happens inside the bin when the difference in grain temperature and the outside air is the most extreme. Properly drying and cooling your grain in the fall is crucial to preserving grain quality through the fall and winter months, and well into spring. If your grain was harvested in hot, dry conditions in the fall you must be careful to bring down the temperature of that grain to enable safe storage through the winter. Likewise, if due to weather conditions at harvest time you have put your grain in the bin at a higher moisture content than usual, you must also be careful to lower the temperature to a point where you can safely store the grain over the winter. As outside temperatures begin to rise in springtime, continued monitoring of your grain bins is required. In spring, as the ambient temperature of the air outside the bin starts to warm up the bin wall also tends to warm, which in turn warms the adjacent grain. This results in the air adjacent to the bin wall warming up as well. At this point the warm air creates a moisture current that moves upward through the grain on the outside perimeter of the grain mass. As this air warms up and starts to move, it will pick up moisture from the grain and carry it upwards. As the moistened air nears the top of the bin, it moves toward the center where it encounters cooler grain temperatures. This air cools down and starts to move down the center of the bin, laden with the moisture it accumulated during the upwards cycle along the bin wall. During this part of the cycle the air starts to release this moisture. The lower the air migrates in the bin, the more moisture it will give off. Therefore, high moisture due the condensation of the cooling air occurs at the bottom center of the bin. In and around this area of high moisture you can expect grain spoilage to occur. If grain is to be stored in the bin for any length of time it is important to bring the grain temperature up to a point that will prevent the abovementioned from happening. In order to accomplish this, it is recommended that the grain temperature in the bin be raised to approximately 10 C. It is important as a producer to consult safe storage charts that will show what length of time you can store the grain at its’ current moisture and temperature, continued monitoring is vital. Aeration (warming) at this point should be accomplished with .05 to .1 cfm/ bus, and only until the desired, uniform temperature is achieved throughout the bin. From this point forward going into warmer temperatures, the temperature of the grain should be monitored throughout the summer and controlled accordingly using aeration. By utilizing aeration inside of grain bins you are able to minimize the effects of moisture migration and maximize the benefits of temperature control within your bin. In circumstances where you need to warm grain to finish drying in springtime conditions, it is recommended that the temperature be brought back up gradually. This will help preserve the quality of the grain kernel. Once the grain has been successfully dried, it is recommended that when possible the grain be cooled again to be stored at approximately 10 C. In summary, monitoring moisture and temperature conditions in your bin, and having an aeration system in place to help regulate these conditions, is key to successful grain storage.
Spraying chemicals has expanded far beyond in-crop herbicides to include fungicides, pre-harvest, and other late season applications in many fields. Challenges arise as growers transition to spraying at different times of the year and into different crops, canopy heights and densities.
It may be a while before robots and drones are as common as tractors and combine harvesters on farms, but the high-tech tools may soon play a major role in helping feed the world's rapidly growing population.At the University of Georgia, a team of researchers is developing a robotic system of all-terrain rovers and unmanned aerial drones that can more quickly and accurately gather and analyze data on the physical characteristics of crops, including their growth patterns, stress tolerance and general health. This information is vital for scientists who are working to increase agricultural production in a time of rapid population growth.While scientists can gather data on plant characteristics now, the process is expensive and painstakingly slow, as researchers must manually record data one plant at a time. But the team of robots developed by Li and his collaborators will one day allow researchers to compile data on entire fields of crops throughout the growing season.The project addresses a major bottleneck that's holding up plant genetics research, said Andrew Paterson, a co-principal investigator. Paterson, a world leader in the mapping and sequencing of flowering-plant genomes, is a Regents Professor in UGA's College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and Franklin College of Arts and Sciences."The robots offer us not only the means to more efficiently do what we already do, but also the means to gain information that is presently beyond our reach," he said. "For example, by measuring plant height at weekly intervals instead of just once at the end of the season, we can learn about how different genotypes respond to specific environmental parameters, such as rainfall." | READ MORE
The Canadian pickup truck market caters to the multiple needs of those in need of a truck for either work or personal use. But pickups that serve both the workplace and family are becoming the norm. Trying to offer buyers an unbiased perspective is one of the reasons I started the Canadian Truck King Challenge 10 years ago. Each year, a group of journalist judges continue to fulfill that original mandate: testing pickup trucks and vans the same way owners use them.
If you leave your pivot exposed all through the winter, you’re going to be working on it a lot longer in the spring,” says Jeff Ewen, an irrigation agrologist with the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture in Outlook, Sask. To help producers prevent damage from winter’s storms and bone-chilling temperatures, Ewen offers a number of winterizing tips.
For growers considering direct-cut harvesting canola, there are many factors that play a role. Researchers in Saskatchewan are trying to provide growers with more information in a three-year project comparing the effectiveness of three different direct-cut header types (draper, rigid auger, and extended knife auger [Varifeed]) with windrowing treatments, focusing on header loss and performance.Initiated in 2014, preliminary results from the first two years of the project are showing similar trends, which researchers expect to be able to confirm at the end of the 2016 crop season. An economic analysis of the three-year project will also provide additional information to support decision-making. The project includes three study locations – Indian Head, Swift Current and Humboldt – and uses the same protocols and headers at each location. Researchers have been able to refine their testing methods in the first two years, which will strengthen the information collected at the end of the project. The project also compared two types of canola varieties, a standard hybrid variety (InVigor L130) and two shatter resistant varieties (InVigor L140P and Dekalb 75-65 RR). Factors such as yield, header loss and loss location, environmental shatter loss and various quality components are measured.“The results from the first two years of the project are showing very similar trends,” explains Nathan Gregg, project manager with the Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute (PAMI). “Although all of the headers performed well, the Varifeed with the extendable cutter bar does show some marginal gains in loss retention. It seems to be able to retain more of the shatter loss that occurs with all of the headers.” Gregg adds that from the observations so far the extendable cutter bar allows it to go further forward, which in theory helps to retain losses from the reel. It also provides for smoother crop flow sideways to the centre of the header and then into the feeder house. This smoother crop flow means less violence and less shattering occurring in the conveyance process.“The Varifeed was also a bit more operator friendly and is a little easier to run. The extendable cutter bar is a bit more forgiving and can just go ahead/back to match the crop canopy conditions with the push of a button in the cab. Although the Varifeed provides some advantages, it doesn’t mean the other headers don’t work well. The draper does a good job, but it does take more attention to detail as far as reel position and reel speed to match to the crop canopy. However, the draper header with its ground-following floatation system performed a bit better under lodged crop conditions.” A key objective of the project is to try and identify the source and location of the header losses. In 2016, researchers increased the number of sample pans, which are placed in the crop across the width of the header and into the zone just beyond the header into the adjacent crop. “So far, the preliminary results show the higher proportion of losses are at the perimeter of the header, with another spike of losses at the centre of the feeder house,” says Gregg. “The pattern of losses is similar for all of the headers compared, although there are some differences in the degree of loss. These results are not surprising and are similar to research conducted elsewhere in Sweden and in other regions.” With the higher shatter losses concentrated at the perimeter of the header, researchers also wanted to compare losses of different dividers. Powered side cutters, including a vertical knife and a rotary knife were compared with regular passive end point dividers. Overall, the rotary knife had the highest losses of any configuration. The losses were not only higher but also higher for a wider zone (more than one foot at the point). The losses with the vertical knife were lower, with the regular passive divider showing some of the least loss. Researchers are not sure if the results are universal, but under the harvest conditions in the locations tested, the results from the divider losses were fairly consistent. View the embedded image gallery online at: https://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.
The Cellulosic Sugar Producers Co-operative (CSPC) and its partners have almost finished putting all the pieces in place for a southern Ontario value chain to turn crop residues into sugars. Those pieces include a feasibility study, a technical-economic assessment and a collaboratively developed business plan. Some important steps still have to be completed, but they are aiming for processing to start in 2018.
Today many biofuel refineries operate for only seven months each year, turning freshly harvested crops into ethanol and biodiesel. When supplies run out, biorefineries shut down for the other five months. However, according to recent research, dual-purpose biofuel crops could produce both ethanol and biodiesel for nine months of the year – increasing profits by as much as 30 per cent. “Currently, sugarcane and sweet sorghum produce sugar that may be converted to ethanol,” said co-lead author Stephen Long, Gutgsell Endowed Professor of Plant Biology and Crop Sciences at the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology at the University of Illinois. “Our goal is to alter the plants' metabolism so that it converts this sugar in the stem to oil – raising the levels in current cultivars from 0.05 per cent oil, not enough to convert to biodiesel, to the theoretical maximum of 20 per cent oil. With 20 per cent oil, the plant's sugar stores used for ethanol production would be replaced with more valuable and energy dense oil used to produce biodiesel or jet fuel.” A paper published in Industrial Biotechnology simulated the profitability of Plants Engineered to Replace Oil in Sugarcane and Sweet Sorghum (PETROSS) with 0 per cent, 5 per cent, 10 per cent, and 20 per cent oil. They found that growing sorghum in addition to sugarcane could keep biorefineries running for an additional two months, increasing production and revenue by 20-30 per cent. | READ MORE
The president of a new farm co-op says it's working to sign up 200 to 300 members to supply corn stalks and leaves, also known as stover, as well as wheat stalks, to a proposed new plant in Sarnia, Ont., that will turn the biomass into sugar. The Sarnia Observer reports. | READ MORE
The equipment used to maintan Ontario's Bruce Trail (which runs from Niagara to Tobermory) leaves a significant environmental footprint. Enter Canada’s soybean farmers and renewable, green lubricant products made from plant-based oils. | READ MORE
Nobody is more familiar with the fight against weed pressure than organic farmers, but one weed control strategy that works in organic settings might be just as beneficial for conventional growers, according to a Laval University researcher. The secret is mulch. Caroline Halde, a professor in the department of plant science at Laval University in Quebec, says cover cropping for weed control is a proven strategy in organic studies. But she’s also had plenty of interest from conventional no-till growers in the use of cover cropping. “I’ve had no-till farmers come to me who are working with cover crops more and more, and now they are ‘almost organic’ because they use very little inputs in their cropping systems,” she says. “And now they want to make the switch because they’re almost organic but don’t get the premium.” But mulch-based weed control takes cover cropping one step further. In year one, a cover crop is planted as green manure. In year two, a cash crop is planted directly into the mulch, with the mulch serving as the grower’s only form of weed control. Halde, working under the supervision of Martin Entz, a professor of plant sciences at the University of Manitoba, completed a study investigating the use of mulches in an organic high-residue reduced tillage system near Carman, Man., in 2013. In the study, barley, hairy vetch, oilseed radish, sunflower and pea were used as cover crops, then planted with wheat. The best cover crop for weed control and cash crop yield was hairy vetch or a barley-hairy vetch mixture. “Green manure mulches with hairy vetch were effective at reducing weed biomass by 50 per cent to 90 per cent in the no-till spring wheat in 2011 and 2012, compared to other mulches,” Halde concluded. The method is not a magic bullet. Halde says high cover crop biomass is key to achieving good mulch that will effectively choke out weeds the following year. “First, you have to have a good establishment of your cover crop – that’s rule number one,” she says. Poor or excessively wet weather in the spring might hamper cover crop growth. “And another thing is to choose fields that have low weed seed banks, or at least for some particular weeds, particularly wild oats.” In Halde’s study, wild oats and perennial weeds, such as dandelion and Canada thistle, made for challenging conditions. Halde’s study relied on removing a field from production for one full year each cycle, but she says the payoffs can be rewarding. In Western Canada, the benefits of such a system involve water conservation as well as weed control. In Eastern Canada, removing herbicides from a field for a year would also be a major boon for growers nervous about herbicide resistance. “That would be a great advantage, because we see more and more herbicide-resistant weeds in Eastern Canada,” she says. But Halde is currently seeking funding for a study in Eastern Canada on the use of fall cover crops used as mulch in the spring and planted with short-season cash crops – a system which would keep fields in production, so growers do not have to lose a year each cycle. Biomass is keyCarolyn Marshall, a PhD student at Dalhousie University, is currently studying the impacts of no-till green manure management on soil health in organic grain rotations on two sites – at Carman, Man., under the supervision of Martin Entz, and at the Dalhousie Agricultural Campus in Truro, N.S., under the supervision of Derek Lynch. The project, which is funded by the Organic Science Cluster through Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), began in 2013 and will conclude this year. She says cover cropping shows enormous promise for weed control in both organic and conventional systems. “I would love to see more use of cover crops in all systems. I think they can solve all kinds of problems,” she says. Marshall’s project is focused on determining how green manure termination method affects soil health in organic grain rotations, with three tillage intensities applied on all plots: no-till, minimum tillage and spring and fall tillage. At Carman, Marshall’s team is employing a four-year rotation of hairy vetch-wheat-fall rye-soybean plus a red clover-red clover-wheat-soybean rotation. At Truro, the experiment is testing two green manures – pea/oat, and hairy vetch/barley, each followed by a wheat-fall rye-soybean rotation. In the first round at Truro, Marshall says, “We had really good growth of the green manure. Some plots got up to 10 tonnes per hectare of biomass, and it was really effective at stamping out the weeds.” When the experiment was repeated in 2014, a dry spring resulted in limited growth and very thin mulch. “The weeds went berserk in the no-till plots,” Marshall says. “Weed control seems to really depend on getting enough biomass to get a thick enough mulch, and that really depends on the weather.” Termination methods matter, too: when mulches were mowed in the fall at Truro, they decomposed, leaving too little mulch on the soil surface in the spring. When a roller crimper was used instead, the cover crops continued to grow until winterkilled, resulting in heavy mulch cover in the spring. “Researchers in North Dakota, Georgia and New England are also finding that if you don’t get enough biomass to suppress the weeds, they’ll take over your cash crop and cause a lot of problems in a very short time,” she says. It’s early days for this research, but both Halde and Marshall are enthusiastic about the potential for mulch-based weed control in organic and conventional systems alike. “In conventional systems you can use different crops to get more consistent mulch levels, which has a lot of potential to help with long-term control,” says Marshall.
December 1, 2015 - Once considered a weed, camelina is gaining popularity in some parts of the country as a soil-protecting winter cover crop. Additionally, its seed contains high-quality oil for use in cooking and as biodiesel, offering a renewable alternative to imported petroleum. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists have been on the forefront of studies to make camelina and other novel oilseed crops more profitable for farmers to grow, easier for industry to process, and better performing as finished biofuels and other products. At the Soil Management Research Unit, operated in Morris, Minnesota, by USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS), scientists are evaluating the outcome of integrating camelina, canola, pennycress and other oilseeds with plantings of traditional Midwestern crops, such as corn and soybeans. In a recent study published in the April issue of Agronomy Journal, ARS scientists Russ Gesch and Jane Johnson examined the seasonal water use of double cropping and relay cropping-strategies that overlap the growth of winter camelina and soybean. Highlights of their findings are: Under natural rainfall conditions, relay cropping (in which the soybean crop is seeded between rows of growing camelina plants) used less water than double cropping (in which soybean seed is sown right after a camelina harvest, around mid to late June) and produced higher soybean yields. Relay-cropped soybean yields were lower than those of full-season soybean crops; however, the total oil yield from the relay system (camelina plus soy) was 50 percent greater than the full-season soybean-only crop. Net economic returns of relay cropping were competitive with those of full-season soybean, while adding the benefits of a cover crop. According to the researchers, the study demonstrates a sustainable way to grow crops for both food and fuel on the same parcel of land, which could potentially offer farmers a dual source of income in a single season. Read more about this research in the November issue of AgResearch.
Oct. 13, 2015, Hamilton, Ont. – G3 Canada Limited will construct a new lake terminal at the Port of Hamilton to originate grains and oilseeds out of Southern Ontario for export to global markets. The 50,000-metric tonne facility will be located at Pier 26 in the Port of Hamilton, just off Queen Elizabeth Way. Grains and oilseeds will be loaded on to vessels for transport to G3's facilities on the St. Lawrence River. From there, they will be shipped onwards to export markets around the world. Construction on the facility is already underway and is slated for completion prior to the 2017 harvest.
September 22, 2015 - A new vegetable oil-based multi-purpose lubricant for sale in Canada is about to become a bit more local.
Sept. 16, 2015 - Alberta Innovates Bio Solutions (AI Bio) has launched a new funding program - Alberta Bio Future, Research and Innovation - aimed at advancing knowledge that accelerates growth of new bioindustrial products or bioindustrial technologies for the benefit of Albertans. Discovery and developmental research are strategic priorities of Alberta Bio Future (ABF) – AI Bio's flagship bioindustrial program. Bioindustrial products from Alberta – derived from sustainable agricultural or forest biomass – are already being used in several sectors, including the personal care, chemical and energy industries, as well as construction and manufacturing. These bioproducts are helping to meet the world's growing demand for 'green' solutions; they have desirable qualities for the manufacture of goods and materials while also being environmentally friendly. "Alberta is a prime location for a thriving bioeconomy. We have abundant, renewable agriculture and forest resources, advanced infrastructure and highly qualified personnel," noted Steve Price, CEO of Alberta Innovates Bio Solutions. "But this is an emerging field into new areas of science. More investigation is required to increase basic knowledge, and to learn how to take concepts out of the lab and turn them into new industrial bioproducts and biotechnologies." The ABF Research and Innovation program has a total $4.5 million in available funding. Project funding amounts will be determined on a case-by-case basis, depending on the quality and scope of the project. In addition to funding, AI Bio assists researchers and companies with advice and connections. Researchers, companies or industry groups based in Alberta, and researchers conducting projects that benefit Alberta, are invited to apply by submitting a Letter of Intent. The deadline is Oct. 28, 2015 at 4 p.m. MT. Eligibility requirements and other important details are available here.
Feb. 10, 2015 - The federal government is investing $3.7 million to help Integrated Grain Processors Cooperative (IGPC) Ethanol Inc. install a Fiber Separation Technology (FST) system to help boost production through operational efficiencies. According to a news release, the investment will enable IGPC Ethanol to have a higher output of ethanol, corn oil and distillers' grains, develop new higher value animal feed products and lower the plant's energy consumption. The introduction of FST at the IGPC plant allows for the early separation of fibre from corn prior to its fermentation, increasing the efficiency of the distillation process and producing a cleaner fibre product. The investment enables IGPC Ethanol to purchase approximately 18 million bushels (up from 16 million currently) of corn grain from local farmers for use as feedstock. Founded in 2002 by 780 farmers and agri-businesses, IGPC Ethanol is a division of IGPC Inc. and is one of Ontario's largest cooperatives. It employs 50 full-time staff at its plant in Aylmer, Ont. The plant began commercial operation in December 2008.
Randy Duffy, research associate, University of Guelph’s Ridgetown Campus, sees potential for corn stover beyond bedding and feed.Photo by Janet Kanters. If green chemistry sounds more like an oxymoron than an opportunity, be prepared for some big surprises in the not-so-distant future.Innovators within the manufacturing industry are getting back to nature and the door is open for farmers to take part. While the production of biofuels remains a popular example of green chemistry, ethanol is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to industrial products that are being designed to include more renewable resources. As governments start to wean ethanol companies off of subsidies, Murray McLaughlin, the executive director of the Bioindustrial Innovation Centre in Sarnia, Ont., says farmers can expect to see some positive changes.“Biofuels are important, but the challenge with biofuels is slim margins,” explains McLaughlin. “On the chemical side of things, as long as oil stays above $80 per barrel, we can be competitive with any of the companies in that space and don’t need subsidies.”In the petroleum industry, it’s not uncommon for companies to direct 75 per cent of raw materials into fuel production, but these often account for only 25 per cent of annual revenue. The rest of their income is generated by higher-end products, such as succinic acid, and it has made these products major targets for green chemists. Succinic acid is a specialty chemical used to make automotive parts, coffee cup lids, disposable cutlery, construction materials, spandex, shoe soles and cosmetics. It is usually made with petroleum, but BioAmber, a company that hopes to finish building North America’s largest bio-based chemical plant in Sarnia next year, has found a way to make succinic acid using agricultural feedstocks. By using agricultural feedstocks instead of petroleum in its process, BioAmber produces a product that is not only more environmentally friendly but also, critically, costs less than petroleum-based succinic acid. In some applications, it performs even better than its petroleum-based competitors. Babette Pettersen, BioAmber’s chief commercial officer, explains how the new technology is outperforming its traditional competitors.“Succinic acid offers the highest yield on sugar among all the bio-based chemicals being developed because 25 per cent of the carbon is coming from CO2, which is much cheaper than sugar,” says Pettersen. Assuming $80 per barrel of oil and $6 per bushel of corn, BioAmber’s product pencils out at more than 40 per cent cheaper than succinic acid made from petroleum. “Our process can compete with oil as low as $35 per barrel,” Pettersen adds. The increased efficiency of the company’s process reduces the need for raw product, for example, from two kilograms of sugar to make one kilogram of ethanol to less than one kilogram of sugar to produce one kilogram of succinic acid.The new plant is projected to purchase an annual quantity of liquid dextrose from local wet mills, which is equivalent to approximately three million bushels of corn. BioAmber’s yeast, the organism that produces bio-based succinic acid, can utilize sugar from a variety of agricultural feedstocks (including cellulosic sugars that may be produced from agricultural residuals such as corn stover when this alternative becomes commercially available).Randy Duffy, research associate at the University of Guelph’s Ridgetown Campus, co-authored a recent study on the potential for a commercial scale biorefinery in Sarnia, Ont. The idea of producing sugars from agricultural residuals is attractive to companies like BioAmber, which faces public pressure against converting a potential food source into an industrial product, but also to farmers looking to convert excess field trash into cash. “We’re at the point where some fields probably have too much corn stover and this is an opportunity for farmers if they want to get rid of their stover,” says Duffy. “Some farmers are using it for bedding and feed, but there’s a lot of potential corn stover out there not being used or demanded right now.”In fact, the report estimated that more than 500,000 dry tonnes of corn stover are available in the four-county region of Lambton, Huron, Middlesex and Chatham-Kent, and the refinery could convert half of it into cellulosic sugar annually, at a relative base price for corn stover paid to the producer of $37 to $184 per dry tonne, depending on sugar prices and sugar yields. McLaughlin says that with more and more companies look into building facilities like biorefineries, the potential benefits for farmers multiply exponentially. At the Bioindustrial Innovation Centre alone, McLaughlin says, there are three green chemistry companies already working in pilot demonstration scale operations to produce ethanol from wood waste, butanol from fermented wheat straw or corn stover, and plastic pellets with hemp, flax, wheat straw or wood fibres in them. On a full-scale basis, any one of these has significant potential to help farmers penetrate entirely new markets.Although these green products are exciting, McLaughlin strongly believes green chemistry is not going to completely replace oil and he tries to impress this on others. “There are such large volumes of these chemicals produced from oil, I don’t think we ever will get to the point where we can displace these chemicals,” he says, “but we can complement them.” He says Woodbridge’s BioFoam, a soy-based foam used in automobile interiors as seat cushions, head rests and sunshades, is an excellent example of a hybrid product that uses green technology and petroleum technology. In order for the green chemistry industry in Ontario to realize its maximum potential, he believes everyone involved needs to consider the oil industry as a potential ally rather than the enemy. “The petroleum industry already knows the chemical markets and they’ve got the distribution,” he says, “so, who better to partner with?” What, exactly, makes some chemistry ‘greener’?Green chemistry is a relatively new concept, but rather than simply claim to be more environmentally friendly, the philosophy is defined by structured principles. Put simply, these technologies, processes, and services are required to prove safer, more energy efficient and environmentally sustainable. In 1998, Anastas and Warner defined the 12 principles of green chemistry.Prevention – Avoid creating waste rather than treating or cleaning it up after the fact.Atom economy – Synthetic methods must maximize the incorporation of all materials.Less hazardous chemical syntheses – Design synthetic methods that are least toxic to human health and the environment.Designing safer chemicals – Chemical products should be designed to be effective but with minimal toxicity.Safer solvents and auxiliaries – Avoid the unnecessary use of auxiliary substances and render harmless when used.Design for energy efficiency – Energy requirements of processes should be minimized for their environmental and economical impact. Use of renewable feedstocks – Raw materials should be renewable whenever technically and economically practical.Reduce derivatives – Use of blocking groups, protection/deprotection, temporary modification of physical/chemical processes, etc., requiring additional reagents should be minimized or avoided if possible.Catalysis – Catalytic reagents are superior to stoichiometric reagents.Design for degradation – Environmental persistence of chemical products should be minimal.Real-time analysis for pollution prevention – Real-time monitoring and control of hazardous substances must be developed.Inherently safer chemistry for accident prevention – Substances used in a chemical process should be chosen to minimize the potential for accidents.
Turning lower-grade canola into biodiesel presents some challenges, but Prairie researchers are finding innovative ways to overcome those challenges. They’re developing new approaches that are more efficient, produce better biodiesel and valuable byproducts, and help improve the economics of biodiesel production from damaged canola seeds. “In the short term, we’re working with others to generate a market for low-quality canola. So if a grower has a bin that overheats or a canola field that gets caught under a snow bank, we can at least redeem some value for that material for them by having an industry that is receptive to frost-damaged, heated and field-damaged materials,” explains Dr. Martin Reaney, research chair of Lipid Quality and Utilization at the University of Saskatchewan. “In the longer run, we are identifying added value in the crop. In my experience, when somebody discovers an added value opportunity, it doesn’t typically result in a much higher price. But it does tend to stabilize the price. We’re introducing technology that may lead to a more stable price by adding another market to the meal and oil markets for the canola crop.” Reaney has been investigating opportunities for using damaged canola seed for many years, including research when he was at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and now at the University of Saskatchewan. He and his research team have tackled the topic from a number of angles. “When we first went into making canola into biofuels, [Canada] didn’t have the subsidies that were available in the United States and Europe. So we needed to take advantage of low-cost materials. For that purpose, we looked at seed that had been damaged either in the field or in storage,” he says. “First we studied how to get the oil out of the seed. A lot of damaged seed has lost its structure, and it is not efficiently pressed to recover oil. So we developed more efficient pressing and extraction technology.” Another early issue was that sources of damaged canola seed tend to be scattered all over the place, with amounts varying from year to year and place to place. Reaney says, “So we came up with the hub-and-spoke approach, to collect and bring the seed to some common locations for processing.” The researchers also improved the process of converting the oil into biodiesel. “Damaged seed produces quite low-quality oil with lots of different problems. So we had to figure out a very robust way of making biodiesel so that, no matter what, the biofuel would have good quality,” notes Reaney.Although canola biodiesel has advantages over biodiesel made from products like tallow and soybean oil, its properties are still somewhat different from petroleum-based diesel. So Reaney’s research group has developed processing technologies to improve such canola biodiesel properties as oxidative stability and low-temperature performance. He notes, “Low-temperature performance hasn’t turned out to be a big problem with canola mainly because when you blend it with other diesel fuel, like with a Canadian winter diesel fuel, it takes on the performance of that fuel.” One of the overarching themes of Reaney’s research is to develop techniques that are practical on the Prairies. “A lot of researchers will grab the latest technology, a ‘super-’ this or ‘ultra-’ that, and the equipment is very expensive. In my experience, western Canadian biofuel producers usually can’t use that kind of technology,” he explains. “So we look for the best biofuel properties – we can’t ever compromise on the properties of the material – that can be produced with rather conventional, simple, low-cost equipment.” Along with using damaged seed to reduce input costs, the researchers have been exploring other ways to improve the economics of biodiesel production. “[For example,] the catalyst for making biodiesel is actually quite expensive. We came up with a technology to lower the cost of that catalyst to about one-third of its original cost,” he says. They are also developing a novel approach that turns a biodiesel processing waste into a valuable byproduct. “We developed a special lithium-based catalyst for biodiesel production, and we’ve developed a method of converting the leftover catalyst into lithium grease [a heavy-duty, long-lasting grease],” says Reaney. “Lithium grease is broadly used all over the world – in heavy equipment, trains, planes, automobiles.” They are now scaling up the process for use at a commercial scale. Another current project involves making biofuels that are “drop-in” fuels. “Right now, biodiesel still has to be handled somewhat differently than [petroleum-based] diesel,” he explains. “But there are approaches to make it into a drop-in fuel. A drop-in fuel means it would have exactly the properties of diesel. You would be able to use it as is and it would require no special handling.” As well, the researchers are exploring motor oil technology that uses vegetable oils. “We have been working on trying to get the stability of these oils high enough for use in motor oil applications. We think we have some really good technology for this goal as well.”Reaney’s research on industrial uses for lower-grade canola has been supported by many agencies over the years such as Saskatchewan’s Agriculture Development Fund, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. His research also has received support from such agencies as GreenCentre Canada and from such companies as Milligan Biofuels Inc. (formerly Milligan Biotech).Opportunities and challengesThe Canadian biodiesel industry has encountered a number of hurdles and has not grown as quickly as some people had hoped it would. For instance, the industry is still working towards meeting the increased demand arising from the Canadian government’s requirement for a minimum of two per cent renewable fuel content in diesel fuel. This requirement came into effect in 2011. According to Reaney, one of several issues hampering the Canadian biofuel industry has been the contentious food-versus-fuel debate, about the issue of using farmland to produce biofuel feedstocks. Reaney’s group was ahead of the curve on this issue by focusing on the use of non-food grade canola to make biodiesel. But beyond that, his opinion is that food production and fuel production are not mutually exclusive. “It isn’t food versus fuel; it is food and fuel,” he says. “All these biofuel industries actually produce more food than would have been produced had they not entered the biofuel industry, because they are always producing a side stream that is edible. So I think that issue has been addressed by the biofuels industry, but I don’t know whether the public has caught up.”Milligan Biofuels, based at Foam Lake, Sask., is one of the companies managing to weather the ups and downs of the Canadian biodiesel industry. Along with making its own improvements to biodiesel production processes, the company has adopted some of the advances made by Reaney’s research group.“Their research proved the ability to produce consistent biodiesel from damaged seed, and that’s our business model,” says Len Anderson, director of sales and marketing for Milligan Biofuels. The company manufactures and sells biodiesel and biodiesel byproducts, and provides canola meal and feed oil to the animal feed sector. All of its products are made from non-food grade canola, including green, wet, heated or spring-threshed canola. “Milligan Biofuels is built in and by the ag community for the ag community,” notes Anderson. “That’s why it is where it’s at and why it’s doing what it’s doing.” He outlines how this type of market for damaged canola helps growers. “It’s giving them an opportunity for a local, reliable, year-round market. It creates a significant value for damaged canola because we aren’t just using it for cattle feed; we’re using the oil to produce biodiesel. So we’re probably on the higher end as far as value created for damaged seed. It creates value for what was once almost a waste product, is what it boils down to.”
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Canolapalooza ManitobaThu Jun 22, 2017
Canolapalooza AlbertaTue Jun 27, 2017
Swift Current Research and Development Centre Grazing and Forage Field DayTue Jun 27, 2017 @ 9:00AM - 04:00PM
Southwest Crop Diagnostic DaysWed Jul 05, 2017