Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada scientist Louis-Pierre Comeau is sifting his way through New Brunswick soil in search of answers to one of the biggest issues facing local farmers: the loss of soil organic matter and the decrease of soil health in farm fields.
Tile drainage is more affordable and more attractive than ever in Western Canada, but it is still a major investment with many implications that should be considered before calling for tenders.
This is important information for irrigation farmers to decide when to irrigate, but it’s equally important for dryland farmers to understand their soil moisture conditions when deciding on crop input requirements.
The Ontario Soil Network (OSN), is a one-year pilot project that aimed to support farmers who are improving soil health by implementing beneficial practices, like no-till and cover crops.
For Dan Breen, soil is a living, active bio-system that needs protecting. It’s like the “skin” of the earth, he believes, and much like people cover their bare skin when going outside in the winter, fields too need covering to protect them from the elements.The third generation Middlesex County dairy farmer, who farms with his wife, daughter and son-in-law near Putnam, has been named the 2018 Soil Champion by the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association (OSCIA). The award is handed out annually to recognize leaders in sustainable soil management.Breen had just bought the 100-acre family farm from his parents in late 1989 when he faced a major decision: replace the operation’s worn-out tillage equipment or come up with a different strategy.A chance encounter introduced him to an emerging new cropping system—and in spring 1990, Breen made his first attempt at no-till, planting 40 acres of corn with a used two-row planter he’d modified. He’s been gradually growing his farming business ever since, today farming 300 owned and 500 rented acres.“I treat the rented acres like the ones I own and that’s crucial. It’s all about stewardship so whether you own or rent, you have the responsibility to do the best things you can,” he says. “Nature is in balance and we mess up that balance with excessive tillage, taking out too many nutrients, or not providing biodiversity, so we need to provide a stable environment as we go about our farming practices.”His typical rotation involves corn, soybeans, wheat, and cover crops, which he started planting 12 years ago. About 100 acres are rotated through alfalfa and manure is spread between crops when favourable soil and weather conditions allow.“The only acreage that doesn’t have year-round living and growing crop is grain corn ground. I try to keep everything green and growing all the time and never have bare ground,” he says, following the motto, keep it covered, keep it green, keep it growing.According to Breen, no single activity will result in healthy soil and there’s no set recipe for farmers to follow due to the variability of soil type, topography and climate. Instead, it’s important to consider what crop is being grown, what it needs, and what the nutrient levels and biological activity of the soil are.“A true no-till system is more than just not tilling, it is biodiversity, water retention, and nutrient cycling,” he says. “When I first started no-till, it was just to eliminate tillage, now it is to build a whole nutrient system—cover crops weren’t even on the radar when I started farming.”One of the pillars of his soil success over the years has been a willingness to try new things—as long as they support the goal of building stronger, more stable soil—and adapting to what a growing season brings.To other farmers considering a switch to no-till, Breen recommends perseverance to keep going when success looks doubtful, strength to resist naysayers, and starting the transition gradually, such as with no-till soybeans after corn, and then no-till wheat after soybeans.“It’s a considerable honour and it’s humbling to win this award. It’s not something I was looking to achieve—I do what I do because I love it,” he says. “As a farmer, I’ve had an opportunity to be a caretaker of this land, but I only have tenure for a blip in history. I hope I leave it in better shape than when I found it—and I hope my daughter and son-in-law will do the same thing.”
Most experts agree food production will need to double by the time Earth’s population grows to nine billion people by 2050. This is a challenge that motivates scientists the world over and Australian crop scientist and plant nutritionist Peter Kopittke is no exception.The young scientist spent a few days this past summer in the heart of Canada’s wheat belt working on the problem of aluminum toxicity in acidic soil. It’s a problem that affects wheat growers in many parts of the world although not in Saskatchewan, home to the CLS, where Kopittke spent an intense 36 hours earlier this year.Globally, it is estimated that acid soils result in more than US$129 billion in lost production annually. In Western Australia, farmers lose A$1.5 billion annually because the aluminum in the soil destroys the root system, killing the plant. For the full story, click here.
A research project in southwestern Ontario exploring the benefits of strip tilling is showing promising results in better managing fertilizer and improving crop yields by ensuring the fertilizer stays where it is most needed – with the plant.
More farmers are showing interest in and using an approach called bio strip-till, where specific cover crops are planted in individual strips after the harvest of an early season crop.Goals for using this approach typically include a combination of creating a dark strip in the field with residue to simulate strip till, opening up the soil for cash crop root growth, to keep competitive winter annual species like cereal rye out of the cash crop planting row, and residue management to keep problematic residue out of the planting strip.For the full story and a few examples of bio strip-till being used by farmers in North Dakota, click here.Related: Strip tilling for higher yields
The harvest of 2016 left many fields deeply rutted from combines and grain carts running over wet land. Many farmers had little choice but to till those direct-seeded fields in an attempt to fill in the ruts and smooth out the ground. But where it was once heresy to till a long-term no-till field, a few tillage passes won’t necessarily result in disastrous consequences.
Jeff Schoenau, a soil scientist with the University of Saskatchewan was involved in a research study conducted in the mid-2000s that compared four tillage treatments that were imposed on no-till fields (longer than 10 years) at Rosthern (Black soil), Tisdale (Gray soil) and Central Butte (Brown soil), Sask.
All agronomy recommendations are generalized. They can be specific to a region, but every farm is different,” says Chad Anderson, Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association (OSCIA) director for the St. Clair Region. “I have a lot of livestock and use a lot of manure, so my [nitrogen] rates are different than a farm that doesn’t use a lot of manure. The thing about doing your own testing is that it gets away from that generalization.”
"A lot of Manitoba soybean growers are using tillage to try to extend their growing season by warming up and drying out their soils earlier in the spring. They want to be able to plant earlier so their soybeans will have a good chance of maturing before a fall frost arrives,” says Yvonne Lawley, a professor of agronomy and cropping systems at the University of Manitoba.
Fertilize in fall or spring? That’s the question winter wheat growers face every year at seeding time. The Western Winter Wheat Initiative gives suggestions and inputs. | READ MORE
Fertilizer is a costly input needed to optimize crop production. Understanding how fertilizer reacts in soil is important to optimize use and efficiency to grow high yielding crops. It is also important for farmers to understand the short and long-term effects fertilizers can have on soil chemical and biological properties.
Corn is a heavy user of phosphorus (P) and is sensitive to zinc (Zn) deficiencies. In northern corn growing areas typical of the Canadian Prairies, early season cold soils may limit P availability, especially on soils with high residue cover. Additionally, corn following canola, which does not host arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF), might also have early season P and Zn deficiencies.
Some Prairie farmers were fortunate enough to have good moisture conditions to band anhydrous ammonia or urea last fall to get a jump on spring seeding. But for the majority of farmers, dry conditions in many parts of the Prairies may mean adjustments to nitrogen (N) applications.
Nitrogen loss is real. University of Minnesota researcher Fabian Fernandez says growers could seriously shave the fertilizer budget by taking a different approach to nitrogen (N) applications.
Over the long-term, crop rotation, fertilizer strategies and management practices impact field productivity, nitrogen cycling and balance, and soil properties. These long-term practices also have an impact on greenhouse gas emissions such as nitrous oxide (N2O) and provide opportunities to reduce environmental Nitrogen (N) losses.
Delayed seasonal spring conditions may hinder a timely start to Prairie seeding operations, which could force farmers to make changes to what they plant. | READ MORE
Producers will find greener pastures and more green in their bank accounts thanks to the return of a popular forage seed program offered by Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) and Crop Production Services (CPS).Under the program, Alberta producers receive a $100 rebate on every 50 lb. bag of Proven Seed forage varieties purchased at CPS retail locations. While the program is best suited to producers in the parkland and prairie regions, farmers located close to DUC habitat priority boundaries may also be eligible.The growing need for more pastureland is expected to make this year's program especially attractive, says Craig Bishop, lead of DUC's regional forage program. It also has the potential to cover approximately 40 to 50 per cent of a producer's seed investment.The benefits of more seeded forage acres and increased perennial cover include decreased soil erosion, retained nutrient values and better waterfowl nesting habitat. It also helps other conservation efforts like wetland restoration.Last year in Alberta, 12,905 cultivated acres were seeded to grass under the DUC/CPS forage program. A similar program offering in Saskatchewan and Manitoba brought the total number of seeded forage acres up to 20,768 acres across the Canadian prairies.For more information about the program, visit any CPS retail location or area DUC conservation specialist, or call the Forage Help Desk at 1 800 661 3334.
A Saskatchewan researcher is encouraging farmers to try intercropping. The practice would see farmers plant chickpeas within a flax field, for example. Farmers are intercropping about 45,000 acres of cropland in the province. | READ MORE
Soil characteristics like organic matter content and moisture play a vital role in helping plants flourish. It turns out that soil temperature is just as important. Every plant needs a certain soil temperature to thrive. If the temperature changes too quickly, plants won’t do well. Their seeds won’t germinate or their roots will die.“Most plants are sensitive to extreme changes in soil temperature,” said Samuel Haruna, a researcher at Middle Tennessee State University. “You don’t want it to change too quickly because the plants can’t cope with it.”Many factors influence the ability of soil to buffer against temperature changes. For example, when soil is compacted the soil temperature can change quickly. That’s because soil particles transfer temperatures much faster when they are squished together. When farmers drag heavy machinery over the soil, the soil particles compact. Soil temperature is also affected by moisture: more moisture keeps soils from heating too quickly.Research has shown that both cover crops and perennial biofuel crops can relieve soil compaction. Cover crops are generally planted between cash crops such as corn and soybeans to protect the bare soil. They shade the soil and help reduce soil water evaporation. Their roots also add organic matter to the soil and prevent soil erosion. This also keeps the soil spongy, helping it retain water.But Haruna wanted to know if perennial biofuel and cover crops could also help soils protect themselves from fluctuating temperatures. Haruna and a team of researchers grew several types of cover and perennial biofuel crops in the field. Afterwards, they tested the soils in the lab for their ability to regulate temperature.“I was amazed at the results,” Haruna said. He found both perennial biofuel and cover crops help soils shield against extreme temperatures. They do this by slowing down how quickly temperatures spread through the soil. Their roots break up the soil, preventing soil molecules from clumping together and heating or cooling quickly. The roots of both crops also add organic matter to the soil, which helps regulate temperature.Additionally, perennial biofuel and cover crops help the soil retain moisture. “Water generally has a high ability to buffer against temperature changes,” said Haruna. “So if soil has a high water content it has a greater ability to protect the soil.”Although Haruna advocates for more use of cover crops, he said it’s not always easy to incorporate them into farms. “These crops require more work, more financial investment, and more knowledge,” he said. “But they can do much for soil health.” Including, as Haruna’s research shows, shielding plants from extreme temperature changes.“Climate change can cause temperature fluctuations, and if not curtailed, may affect crop productivity in the future,” he said. “And we need to buffer against these extreme changes within the soil.”Haruna hopes to take his research from the lab and into the field. He says a field experiment will help him and his team collect more data and flesh out his findingsRead more about Haruna’s research in Soil Science Society of America Journal. A USDA-NIFA grant funded this research (Cropping Systems Coordinated Agricultural Project: Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation in Corn-based Cropping Systems).
Prairie potholes are usually small in size, but when farmed, these perennially wet spots on the landscape can have outsize implications for the environment and farm profitability.The Prairie Pothole Region extends from Canada south and east, and through parts of Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa. In Iowa, many potholes are found in the Des Moines Lobe, an area that spans the north-central part of the state, ending around the Polk-Story county line and the vast majority of them are farmed.These areas in crop fields habitually yield poorly and drag field yield averages down, and they are prone to nutrient loss and leaching, raising questions about the benefits of continuing to grow corn and soybeans in them. For the full story, click here.
A local company focused on robotic cutting solutions is experimenting with an ultra-high pressure no-till system. A-Cubed (Advanced Agriculture Applications) is using fluid jets in place of coulters on standard, commercially available seeding equipment they’ve modified.The goal, according to Agricultural Business Development Manager Jeff Martel, is for farmers using no-till (planting without tilling the soil) to cut cleanly through heavy residues and cover crops using water – either on its own or potentially supplemented with inputs like lime or fertilizer, for example.Leading development of the technology has been the South Australia No-Till Farmers Association (SANTFA) – and a connection between SANTFA and Martel brought the idea to Canada, where Martel’s employer I-Cubed Industry Innovators is now launching A-Cubed to move the technology forward.Initial plot trials by the company last year produced intriguing results. Fluid jet-planted corn had a 20 per cent higher yield by weight than the same corn planted conventionally in the next rows. And each fluid jet-planted soybean plant held more pods than the conventionally planted soybeans and had significantly bigger and longer root systems. Germination time was a day sooner on average for the fluid jet-planted plants too.This year, employees Matt Popper and Will Whitwell, who are also both farmers, modified a six-row John Deer planter with the technology and used that planter to successfully plant corn into hay and soybeans into corn stubble.“The more we know, the more we don’t know and the more we need to find out about the agronomics, the chemistry, etc.,” said Martel. “What if we want to use fertilizer instead of water? We know we can inject liquid and granular fertilizer, but how do we know it’s beneficial, how do we monitor and measure?”According to Martel, the planter and pump are available to Ontario farmers or researchers interested in working with A-Cubed to investigate some of these questions, and he’s been reaching out to North American agronomists to showcase some of their early results and seek advice. Research on the technology is underway in Australia and in China, too.The company’s immediate goal is to develop a small liquid jet no-till system designed for research purposes that could “open the door in a thousand directions for research.” He also envisions a retrofit kit for farmers to use on existing equipment, as well as a commercially available planter equipped with water jets.The technology could be most beneficial in moderate to high rainfall areas where the ground underneath the cover is softer and it’s harder to cut through residue.“This doesn’t care whether it’s wet or dry. You don’t have to wait for dew to dry off, you can plant around the clock,” Popper said, adding that because the technology is cutting so cleanly into the ground, another benefit could be a reduction in tractor horsepower needed.
Cabbage seedpod weevil is an invasive insect pest of canola. Originally found in Europe, the insect proliferated in the United States and was first confirmed in Alberta in the mid-1990s.
A midge by any other name is still a midge – but it’s not swede midge. That’s the finding of scientists with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), University of Guelph and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). Swede midge had been confirmed by CFIA in 2007, but what had previously been thought of as the swede midge in northeast Saskatchewan since 2007, and in research projects by AAFC starting in 2012, has been confirmed to be a new species of midge.
Cutworms are present across the Prairies, and in some years some species of cutworms can reach levels that are of economic concern in field crops. The focus of a five-year project conducted across the Prairies resulted in the development of better identification tools, a better understanding of cutworm biology and their natural enemies, and a management guide to improve cutworm monitoring and control in different crops.
Cutworms are a complex of several pest species that affect multiple crops grown in Canada. A few species can cause economic damage in cereal and oilseed field crops. Researchers are working to find efficient monitoring tools that can determine distribution of cutworms and alert growers to impending outbreaks, while excluding bee pollinators.
Figuring out how to fight a fairly new pest, like the western bean cutworm (WBC), is a bit like preparing to face off against a new sports opponent. “If you’re going to compete in a sport, the best thing to do is study your opponent’s strengths and weaknesses, and then try and play to their weaknesses,” says Jeremy McNeil, a biology professor at the University of Western Ontario.
Although oats are less susceptible than other cereals to Fusarium head blight (FHB), this disease can impact oat yield and quality when conditions strongly favour the disease – as they did on the Prairies in 2016. So, researchers are working to better understand FHB in oat, to develop oat varieties with even stronger FHB resistance, and to help ensure the grain remains safe for humans and livestock.
The fungal disease Verticillium longisporum was first detected in Canada in a canola field on a farm in Manitoba in 2014. The results of a subsequent national survey led by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and released in 2016, detected the presence of the pathogen V. longisporum in varying levels in six provinces in Canada: British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec.
Aphanomyces disease in peas and lentils is a widespread and serious problem across Western Canada. In 2017, even with dry conditions in many areas, the disease remained a significant problem in peas, with crop and yield losses in infected fields remaining high. In lentils, the incidence and severity was reduced under the drier conditions, however the inoculum is still likely present. Currently the only control option in fields with Aphanomyces is extended rotations away from peas and lentils for at least six to eight years.
Multiple parts of Saskatchewan saw clubroot infections in 2017, and now the Ministry of Agriculture is trying to tackle the problem before it escalates by promoting best-management practices. | READ MORE
A team of researchers led by University of Guelph plant scientist and professor, Karl Peter Pauls, recently completed a three-year research project to tackle one of Ontario’s most costly bean diseases: anthracnose.
Blackleg levels on the Prairies have been going up, but research information on blackleg races and cultivar resistance, plus a new cultivar labelling system and a new diagnostic test, can help bring those disease levels back down.
In 2016, a survey conducted by the University of Guelph’s Ridgetown Campus found that producers believe lamb’s-quarters to be their “worst weed” overall across Ontario.
Herbicides have become very important for weed control. However, frequent and repeated use of the same herbicide groups has gradually resulted in development of herbicide-resistant weeds to the point that resistance has become a very serious problem for many Prairie farmers. When herbicide resistance is a relatively minor problem, growers tend to pay less attention to managing it than they should. Once resistance starts affecting a major weed or a major herbicide used on the farm, then growers pay more attention to the herbicide group number on the label.
In Western Canada, wild oat continues to be one of the most problematic weeds. As part of an integrated weed management strategy, researchers continue to look for additional options and different lifecycle timings to reduce populations, frequencies and herbicide resistant populations.
Weed control is one of the main challenges for flax growers, and is even more challenging under organic production systems. Because flax is a poor competitor with weeds, yield losses can be significant when weeds are present. Cultural and mechanical control options can be effective techniques for weed suppression and control in flax.
Grows more than two inches per day. Produces over one million seeds per plant. Grows 10 feet tall. Resistant to at least four different herbicide groups in the U.S. No wonder 200 American weed scientists in 2017 ranked Palmer amaranth the most troublesome weed in broadleaf crops, fruits and vegetables.
Last April, Real Agriculture agronomist Peter Johnson tweeted a photo of winter wheat seedlings surrounded by a tangle of chickweed. “Chickweed in wheat needs to be controlled in fall! Shepherds purse, stinkweed same. Too much spring competition!” he wrote.
Some fungi such as Fusarium and Penicillium can infect the grain of corn, wheat and other cereals and may produce toxins under certain conditions. Preventing or minimizing the accumulation of these toxins is very important for ensuring food and feed safety and for maintaining the grain’s value in the marketplace. A recent study shows that ultraviolet (UV) light might offer another way to decrease fungi and fungal toxins in harvested cereals.
About a decade ago, Kyle Folk was at his parents’ grain farm helping his dad load up a semi of canola to meet a contract when the two made an unpleasant discovery.
One of the first research questions was to determine what we expected aeration to do and what the main objectives were,” says Ron Palmer, IHARF research engineer. “The first reason was to remove some of the moisture from the grain, especially if it is tough.
With industry meetings and conferences in full swing across the country, many producers have taken the winter months to seek out information and networking opportunities. As I recently navigated my way through a number of sessions at the SouthWest Agricultural Conference (held in early January at the University of Guelph Ridgetown campus), the turnout painted an obvious picture.
Farmers keep a close eye on the yield monitor as their combines roll across the field. GSI (Grain Systems, Inc.) recommends that growers also monitor their grain storage system during harvest and rate its performance once the season’s over.“Evaluating how well their grain system handled the harvest season, and what improvements may be needed, is one of the most important steps farmers can take to help prepare for next year,” says Gary Woodruff, GSI conditioning applications manager.Woodruff suggests farmers keep track of any grain handling, drying or storage issues, and then give their grain system a post-harvest “report card” based on the following considerations: Material handling – How well did grain handing equipment – dump pits, grain legs and other conveyors – perform in loading and unloading of grain? If bottlenecks were experienced, consider adding faster, higher-capacity handling equipment for next season. Dryer capacity – Ideally, grain should be dried the same day it is harvested. If wet grain remained in a hopper tank longer than one day, plan to add drying capacity next season to protect grain quality. Grain storage capacity – Did grain bins have adequate storage for the bushels harvested? If not, and it was necessary to transport more grain than expected to an elevator, expanded storage may be a wise investment for 2018. Hauling grain to an elevator not only entails storage costs, but may also can take time away from harvest for transportation. Safety – Post-harvest is also a good time to consider possible system enhancements, such as improving safety. This can include installing roof stairs or peak platforms on bins, checking to see if bin safety cages are secure, and making sure all safety shields on motor drives and dump points are in good condition. Maintenance – Grain bins and dryers should be thoroughly cleaned of debris as soon as they are empty and the entire storage system inspected, so that all equipment will be ready for next season. Common maintenance needs can include repairing and/or replacing worn motors and belts, damaged down spouts, noisy gear boxes, worn flights on augers and oil leaks. “The off-season is a much better time to address these issues, rather than waiting until the busy spring or summer periods, when dealers are booked and required parts may be difficult to find in time for harvest,” Woodruff notes. “Farmers know the importance of inspecting and cleaning their combine following the harvest season,” says Woodruff. “It’s just as important to evaluate their grain system to be sure it will efficiently meet their storage needs for next season.”For more information, farmers can contact their GSI dealer or visit www.grainsystems.com.
A crop related research project will look at how to better manage the production of oats in Saskatchewan.Northeast Agriculture Research Foundation (NARF), located at Melfort, received $80,255 in funding from the province’s Agriculture Development Fund (ADF) for the three-year study that will start this spring. Western Saskatchewan Oat Development Commission and Saskatchewan Oat Development Commission are also dedicating a combined $110,255 to the project.Research manager Jessica Pratchler said specifically she will look at not just relying on fungicides for disease control in oats. For the full story, click here.
The grain industry is adopting innovation from motor racing specialists when it comes to new technology and materials designed to reduce the risk of fires in headers. READ MORE
Harvest timing can have a huge impact on soybean shatter losses, according to North Dakota State University Extension Service agricultural engineer Ken Hellevang.Because harvest losses increase dramatically when the moisture content is below 11 per cent, harvesting during high humidity such as early morning or late evening or damp conditions may reduce shatter loss, Hellevang notes.Many times, the discount for delivering beans with a moisture content in excess of 13 per cent may be less than the discount for shatter losses from harvesting overly dry soybeans. For the full story, click here. Related: PAMI uncovers keys to higher returns on soybeans
Weeks of heavy rain and snow at harvest last fall left western Canadian farmers carrying a devastating 2.5 million acres of field crops unable to be harvested. Though that scenario is an extreme, climate change means anomalous weather may be our new normal. Successful farmers expect the unexpected and know planning in advance for adverse conditions can make a huge difference in ultimate crop returns. With excessively wet weather the reality throughout much of the season for many Ontario producers, at least some growers are already asking how they might minimize moisture-induced harvest losses if the wet weather continues.
Ontario producers planted 2.2 million acres of corn this spring, up by more than 200,000 acres over each of the past three years. The huge acreage places corn second only to soybeans in total planted area and often first in total farm value in Ontario. Though these statistics prove corn is key to Ontario’s agriculture sector, producers are not yet capturing the crop’s per acre potential. Every corn grower should brush up on their pre-harvest and harvest-time best management practices in order to get the most from their crop.
In Canada, the Global Institute for Food Security (GIFS) at the University of Saskatchewan conducts research into transformative innovations in agriculture in both the developed and the developing world.
While putting his issue together, I was reminded just how intricate (and complicated) disease is. Let’s look at Fusarium head blight (FHB) and its many forms as an example.
Wanted: farmer plant breeders. In a pilot project initiated by Martin Entz with the University of Manitoba’s plant science department, and Stephen Fox of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), organic wheat farmers participated in the selection of organic wheat lines to see how farmer-selected wheat populations compared with conventionally developed registered varieties.
A three-year research project with the goal of streamlining dry bean breeding projects shows promising developments that could lead to significant increases in yield for dry bean crops.
Together, Cargill and Precision BioSciences are using Precision’s ARCUS genome-editing technology to further reduce saturated fat in canola oil.
A new Montana State University-developed spring wheat that's already attracting attention because of its potential for excellent yields and superior bread-making qualities is making its way through the pipeline toward Montana growers. Lanning has higher grain protein and stronger gluten than Vida, the most widely grown spring wheat in Montana from 2010 to 2015. It is a hollow-stemmed wheat and has a grain yield that's equivalent to Vida, according to the Journal of Plant Registrations. READ MORE
Kansas State University researchers have discovered how weeds develop resistance to the popular herbicide glyphosate, a finding that could have broad future implications in agriculture and many other industries.Their work is detailed in an article that appears in the March 12 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).“Herbicide resistance in weeds has been a huge problem, not only in Kansas and the U.S. but many parts of the world,” said Mithila Jugulam, a K-State weed scientist and co-author of the PNAS article.“What we found that was new was how these weeds have evolved resistance to glyphosate in such a short time. If you look at the evolution of glyphosate resistance in Palmer amaranth, based on our research, it appears to have occurred very rapidly.”Palmer amaranth and common waterhemp are the two troublesome pigweeds in Kansas agricultural fields, as well as other parts of the United States. Glyphosate – the key ingredient in the popular Roundup brand – is the herbicide that is widely used for controlling many weeds. But Jugulam notes that glyphosate resistance is becoming more prevalent in many states.“We found that glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth plants carry the glyphosate target gene in hundreds of copies,” Jugulam said. “Therefore, even if you applied an amount much higher than the recommended dose of glyphosate, the plants would not be killed.”Bikram Gill, director of Kansas State University’s Wheat Genetics Resource Center who has worked in plant genetics for nearly 50 years, said the researchers knew pretty quickly that the genetic makeup of resistant weeds was different.“Normally, the genetic material in all organisms – including humans – is found in long, linear DNA molecules, called chromosomes,” said Gill, another co-author of the study. “But when (K-State researchers) Dal-Hoe Koo and Bernd Friebe, the chromosome experts on the team, looked at these glyphosate-resistant weeds, the glyphosate target gene, along with other genes actually escaped from the chromosomes and formed a separate, self-replicating circular DNA structure.”Scientists refer to this structure as extra-chromosomal circular DNA (eccDNA). Each eccDNA has one copy of the gene that produces an enzyme that is the target for glyphosate.“Because of the presence of hundreds of eccDNAs in each cell, the amount of the enzyme is also abundant,” Gill said. “Therefore, the plant is not affected by glyphosate application and the weed is resistant to the herbicide.”Gill said the indications are that once a weed has acquired eccDNA, the resistance may evolve as quickly as in one generation.“We think that the resistance via eccDNA is transitory: It can be passed to the weed’s offspring and other related weed species,” he said. “We have somehow caught it in between becoming permanently resistant. Eventually, we think that these eccDNAs can be incorporated into the linear chromosome. If that happens, then they will become resistant forever.”The same K-State group recently published research on common waterhemp in the scientific journal, Plant Physiology, reporting that “a portion of the linear chromosome containing the target gene broke to form a ring chromosome carrying several copies of the glyphosate target gene,” according to Jugulam.Armed with their new knowledge, the researchers can begin work on developing strategies to negate resistance in weeds.
New research has identified genes that control vitamin E content in maize grain, a finding that could lead to improving the nutritional profile of this staple crop.Cornell University scientists and colleagues from other institutions combined different types of genetic association analyses to identify 14 genes across the genome that were involved in the synthesis of vitamin E. Six genes were newly discovered to encode proteins that contribute to a class of antioxidant compounds called tocochromanols, collectively known as vitamin E. Along with antioxidant properties, tocochromanols have been associated with good heart health in humans and proper functioning in plants. READ MORE
Real-time DNA sequencing, anywhere, anytime, is one step closer to making the jump from science fiction to science fact, according to researchers at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. A recent paper published in Scientific Reports outlined how the team used a MinION portable DNA sequencer to analyze plant species in the field.
Australian researchers at the University of Adelaide have identified a naturally occurring wheat gene that, when turned off, eliminates self-pollination but still allows cross-pollination - opening the way for breeding high-yielding hybrid wheats.Published in the journal Nature Communications, and in collaboration with U.S.-based plant genetics company DuPont Pioneer, the researchers say this discovery and the associated breeding technology have the potential to radically change the way wheat is bred in Australia and internationally. To read the full story, click here.
Scientists from the International Barley Hub have discovered a genetic pathway to improved barley grain size and uniformity, a finding which may help breeders develop future varieties suited to the needs of growers and distillers.Cereal genetics researchers working with professor Robbie Waugh and Dr. Sarah McKim, at the James Hutton Institute and the University of Dundee’s Division of Plant Sciences, published work examining the genetic control of grain formation in barley, specifically the role of a gene called VRS3. Researchers found that a mutation in this gene improved grain uniformity in six-rowed barley. To read the full story, click here.
People forced to avoid gluten could soon have their bread (and cake) and eat it. Now there are strains of wheat that do not produce the forms of gluten that trigger a dangerous immune reaction in as many as one in 100 people.Because the new strains still contain some kinds of gluten, though, the wheat can still be used to bake bread. “It’s regarded as being pretty good, certainly better than anything on the gluten-free shelves,” says Jan Chojecki of PBL-Ventures in the UK, who is working with investors in North America to market products made with this wheat. READ MORE
Leaving corn unharvested over winter poses a new set of problems. Photo courtesy of David Hooker. There are years when it can be extremely difficult for farmers to harvest some of their corn acres. Excessive rainfall during the harvest period may result in fields that are too wet to be combined. In other years, cooler-than-normal weather during the growing season can result in high grain corn moisture levels and prohibitively high drying costs. In this case, farmers may opt to harvest the corn in spring, leaving it to dry down naturally to reduce drying costs. However, leaving the corn unharvested over winter comes with another set of challenges. There is an increased risk of lodging over winter, impacting crop harvestability and grain yield, explains David Hooker from the University of Guelph’s Ridgetown campus. Hooker and his associates set out to identify potential management strategies that farmers could use to improve crop yield and quality in spring-harvested corn. There has been limited research into how to manage corn with the explicit intent of overwintering for a spring harvest, Hooker says. One trial in Wisconsin during 2000 and 2001 comparing fall- and spring-harvested corn plots showed yield losses could vary considerably. For example, with heavy snow cover, losses were 38 to 65 per cent, compared to a winter with little snow when yield losses were only seven to 10 per cent. However, newer hybrids with the Bt trait and genetics for improved stalk strength may have the potential to improve standability over the winter, Hooker says. In southern Ontario, the standard management practices for corn production consist of planting at a relatively high plant population (80,000 plants per hectare), applying a foliar fungicide only if there is justifiable disease potential, harvesting in the autumn when grain moisture is approximately 25 per cent or less, and drying grain down to 15.5 per cent using on-farm grain dryers or through commercial elevators. A review of the literature revealed some possible strategies for reducing yield losses associated with overwintering corn. These included selecting a hybrid with superior stalk strength, selecting later maturing hybrids, planting at a reduced population (i.e. 60,000 plants per hectare or 24,000 plants per acre). Another possible management strategy is to apply a foliar fungicide around tasseling time, which has been shown to delay leaf senescence and improve stalk strength, which can contribute to improved standability. Field experiments were initiated to compare the effects of hybrid maturity, plant population, foliar fungicide application and harvest timing on grain yield and standability. Field experiments were initiated in 2009 and 2010 at five separate locations in southern Ontario near Belmont, Ridgetown and Lucan. Of the three locations, Lucan usually receives more snow because it is in the snowbelt region of southwestern Ontario, leeward of Lake Huron. Researchers compared spring versus fall harvest, plant populations (60,000 or 80,000 plants per hectare), with and without an application of Quilt foliar fungicide, and three corn hybrids with differing maturities. The parameters observed were stay-green in the autumn, lodging in spring, and grain yield, moisture and test weight of corn harvested in autumn and spring. The results point to an overwintering management strategy for corn, which consists of planting at a reduced plant population (24,000 plants per acre) and spraying the crop with a foliar fungicide around tasseling. This strategy minimized yield losses across all hybrids by between 3.5 per cent and 13.2 per cent at four out of five field locations through improvements in corn standability, compared to when the crop overwintered using a standard population and no fungicide application. While lower plant populations resulted in better standability, it was usually at the expense of some grain yield, Hooker says. An economic analysis of the yield data in this study would be of value to growers, he adds. Unfortunately, while the overwintering management strategy was an improvement over previous reports of yield losses, lodging was still at unacceptable levels at most locations. High winds, heavy snowfall and other adverse weather conditions can overwhelm any management strategy geared to help mitigate the risks associated with overwintering corn, Hooker says. “At the Lucan location, 100 per cent of the corn was lodged in the spring.” The study did not look at the effect of overwintering corn on grain vomitoxin levels. Hooker would like to see this addressed in future research. “Overwintering corn should be considered on a year- and field-specific basis,” he concludes. For example, overwintering may be considered if grain moisture is extremely high (greater than 34 per cent) in November, if drying costs are high, the corn is of inferior quality (the grade of corn can improve with a spring harvest) and if root and stalk strength are excellent. “The practice of harvesting corn in the spring carries significant risk, mainly due to root and stalk lodging and reduced harvestability,” Hooker says. In areas where the winters are typically harsh, overwintering corn is a risky practice regardless of the management strategy deployed, he cautions.
Feb. 3, 2016 - Monsanto is commercializing its dicamba-tolerant Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans in Canada in time for the 2016 growing season, after the company received import approval from China's Ministry of Agriculture. Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans are the industry's first biotech-stacked trait in soybeans to combine the yield potential of the Genuity Roundup Ready 2 Yield soybean trait, along with tolerance to both glyphosate and dicamba. According to Monsanto, field trial results and large scale farmer demonstration trials have shown that the Roundup Ready 2 Xtend Crop System is an effective and sustainable weed management tool for tough-to-control and glyphosate-resistant weeds. To complement the Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybean trait launch in Canada, Monsanto is also launching XtendiMax herbicide with VaporGrip Technology, a low-volatility liquid dicamba formulation developed for use in the Roundup Ready Xtend Crop System. In the United States, the use of dicamba herbicide over the top of Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans remains in late stage of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) review and is not currently approved by the EPA. "Managing glyphosate-resistant weeds in soybeans is a growing challenge for many Canadian farmers, particularly in Eastern Canada and they have been looking forward to this important new tool," said Dan Wright, trait launch lead with Monsanto Canada. "The ability to use dicamba, in addition to glyphosate, provides multiple modes of action on every acre and is important to promote long-term sustainability on the farm." In Canada, Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans are expected to be available in more than 30 varieties, covering the key soybean growing regions of Southwest Ontario; Eastern Ontario and Quebec; and Western Canada. Growers who have not yet placed pre-orders for Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybean seed may still have that opportunity pending available supply and should check with their local seed retailer. For more information, farmers can contact their seed dealer or visit www.genuitytraits.ca.
Jan. 28, 2016 - Canadian growers now have a new, improved version of herbicide, SOLO WG that has been used to help control tough grassy and broadleaf weeds in Clearfield crops. BASF Canada has received registration from the Pest Management Regulatory Agency for SOLO ADV herbicide for use on Clearfield lentils, Clearfield canola, Clearfield sunflowers and soybeans for the 2016 season. Post-emergence broadleaf and grass herbicide SOLO ADV offers maximum re-cropping flexibility and easy handling because of its unique liquid formulation with the adjuvant built in. SOLO ADV controls weeds growing at the time of application and offers exceptional follow-crop safety. In addition, SOLO ADV offers broad-spectrum weed control for Clearfield lentils and Clearfield sunflowers. The new SOLO ADV liquid formulation will replace the current SOLO WG dry formulation and will be available for sale in the 2016 season. READ MORE.
Glyphosate-resistant weeds are not a new problem in Canada, but producers must be proactive to keep these weeds from getting out of control. There are now five glyphosate-resistant weeds found in Canada: giant ragweed, common ragweed, water-hemp, Canada fleabane and kochia (which is currently the only glyphosate-resistant weed not found in Ontario). Giant ragweed, the first glyphosate-resistant weed found in Canada, is an aggressive weed that can cause substantial yield losses in field crops if left unchecked. Although it’s not a new problem – giant ragweed was first discovered in Canada in 2008 in Essex County, at the tip of southwestern Ontario – it’s a growing issue, according to Peter Sikkema, a researcher at the University of Guelph’s Ridgetown Campus. He notes glyphosate-resistant giant ragweed has so far been confined to the six most southerly counties of the province. However, the weed is becoming increasingly prevalent in corn and soybean fields, and growers need to be vigilant in order to protect their fields. Sikkema warns that if no action is taken to control giant ragweed (Ambrosia trifida L.), the potential yield loss is very high. His research has shown yield losses in corn from giant ragweed ranged from 63 to 82 per cent, with an average of 72 per cent. In soybean, the yield losses ranged from 19 to 96 per cent, with an average of 73 per cent. In the past, giant ragweed was mainly found along roadsides and creeks, but a shift to no-till soybean production has allowed giant ragweed to gain a foothold in southwestern Ontario, according to Sikkema. The annual weed reproduces by seed and grows up to four metres in height. According to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture Publication 505: Weeds, “It is distinguished by its very tall stature, its large, lobed but not divided leaves, its long, slender spikes of pollen-producing flower heads and its large, angular seeds with spines around the upper shoulder.” For allergy sufferers, its pollen is a common allergen from August to September in southwestern Ontario. When it comes to controlling glyphosate-resistant giant ragweed in corn, soybean and winter wheat fields, Sikkema says farmers have options. The first line of defense is to use good crop husbandry practices that keep weed populations in check. Using a diverse crop rotation of three or more crops and using herbicides with multiple modes of action is fundamental, Sikkema advises. Other good practices include seeding a cover crop after winter wheat harvest and using practices that give the crop a competitive advantage, such as seeding at higher populations, using narrower row spacing, and controlling insects and diseases, he adds. Aggressive tillage in spring might be able to control giant ragweed, but Sikkema has doubts about this method of control, particularly the negative effects of aggressive tillage on soil structure and soil health. “I’m not sure that’s a practice that’s sustainable long-term,” he says. When it comes to control of glyphosate-resistant giant ragweed with alternate herbicides, the options vary by crop. “We have good solutions in corn,” Sikkema says. “Marksman, Banvel and Distinct can be used post-emergence in corn.” In winter wheat crops, 2,4-D, along with Target, Estaprop, Lontrel and Trophy give good control. In soybean crops, he has found Roundup plus 2,4-D tank-mixed applied pre-plant, seven days before seeding soybean, is very effective. “It’s important to have that seven-day interval to prevent injury to the soybean.” With soybean, Sikkema notes it’s important to control glyphosate-resistant giant ragweed before the soybean comes up. There are no herbicides applied post-emergent that provide acceptable control of glyphosate-resistant giant ragweed in soybean, he says. Giant ragweed seedlings initially emerge in early spring. They can be identified by their spatulate (spoon-shaped) cotyledons, which unfold from a hairless hypocotyl and an indentation at the base of the cotyledons. The first true leaves are entire and ovate with deep lobes. Farmers are doing a good job of managing glyphosate-resistant giant ragweed, Sikkema says. However, he cautions that some giant ragweed biotypes have multiple resistances to both glyphosate and Group 2 herbicides. In the future, Sikkema says the Roundup Ready Xtend soybean, which are resistant to both Roundup and dicamba, will give farmers another tool for managing glyphosate-resistant weeds.
Nov. 27, 2015 - The Canadian Weed Science Society / Société canadienne de malherbologie (CWSS-SCM) honored several individuals for their extraordinary contributions to the field of weed science. The awards were presented during the organization's 69th annual meeting, held Nov 22-26, 2015 in Edmonton, Alta. Excellence in Weed Science Award (sponsored by Dow AgroSciences): CWSS-SCM honored Stephen Darbyshire, a research scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Ottawa, Ont. Stephen's research focuses on developing new information on the taxonomy, phylogeny, and distribution of weeds and invasive plants. He has collected approximately 10,000 specimens of plant, bryophyte, and fungal specimens, primarily from Canada. Darbyshire has served on the board of directors for CWSS-SCM and has held numerous leadership positions within the society, including publications director. He has published more than 95 peer-reviewed manuscripts, 50 monographs or book chapters, supervised and co-supervised several graduate students, and presented over 30 papers at scientific conferences. Excellence in Weed Extension Award (sponsored by Valent): CWSS-SCM honored Danielle Bernier, a weed scientist and extension specialist with the Ministry of Agriculture in the Province of Quebec. Bernier has developed great expertise locally, and is well known across the country for her tireless efforts in extending weed science to growers and industry personnel. Bernier has made dozens of presentations each year to producers and at scientific meetings, has produced over 65 extension bulletins for the province of Quebec, as well as serving in various capacities within the CWSS-SCM. Outstanding Industry Member Award (sponsored by CWSS-SCM): CWSS-SCM honored Mark Lawton, technology development lead with Monsanto, based in Guelph, Ont. Lawton is responsible for the team that provides technical support for current products and the development of new products within Monsanto. In addition to serving in this technical capacity, he has published 18 peer-reviewed manuscripts, given over 25 papers at scientific conferences, and has served on the committee of numerous graduate students at the University of Guelph. Meritorious Service Award (sponsored by CWSS-SCM): CWSS-SCM honoured Ken Sapsford, an independent consultant from Kaleden, BC. Sapsford was formerly a research assistant at the University of Saskatchewan. Sapsford has been very active within the CWSS-SCM, serving on three local arrangements committees, and as a member of the board of directors for six years. Beyond his dedication to the society, he has been very active in extension to agronomists and growers throughout his career. Sapsford's research contributions include authoring or co-authoring five peer-reviewed manuscripts, 66 conference and workshop proceedings, 20 technical reports to industry, 106 extensions presentations, and over 65 media interviews. Student Scholarships and Travel Awards 1st Place Award for a Ph.D. student (sponsored by Monsanto) was presented to Breanne Tidemann, from the University of Alberta. Tidemann's research focuses on the potential impact of collecting weed seeds at crop harvest on the contribution to subsequent populations. She is supervised by Drs. Linda Hall (University of Alberta) and K. Neil Harker (AAFC Lacombe, Alta.). 2nd Place Award for a Ph.D. student (sponsored by Syngenta) was presented to Charles Geddes from the University of Manitoba. Research by Geddes covers optimization methods to reduce populations of volunteer canola in subsequent soybean crops. He is supervised by Dr. Rob Gulden. 3rd Place Award for a Ph.D. student (sponsored by CWSS-SCM) was presented to Holly Byker from the University of Guelph. The work of Byker focuses on the biology and management of glyphosate-resistant common ragweed. Drs. Peter Sikkema and Darren Robinson are her supervisors. 1st Place Award for a M.Sc. student (sponsored by Monsanto) was presented to Katherine Stanley from the University of Saskatchewan. Stanley's work focuses on the potential of mechanical weed control in organic pulse crop production. She is supervised by Dr. Steve Shirtliffe. 2nd Place Award for a M.Sc. student (sponsored by Dow AgroSciences) was presented to Christopher Budd from the University of Guelph. Budd's work focuses on the control of glyphosate-resistant Canada fleabane in soybean. He is supervised by Dr. Peter Sikkema. 3rd Place Award for a M.Sc. student (sponsored by CWSS-SCM) was presented to Amy Mangin from the University of Alberta. The work of Mangin focuses on optimizing the efficacy of pyroxasulfone on wild oat. Dr. Linda Hall is her supervisor.
New canola hybrids are being introduced in commercial quantities for the 2016 growing season. Photo by Janet Kanters. Top Crop Manager has assembled a list of new canola hybrids that are being introduced in commercial quantities for the 2016 growing season. The respective seed companies provide the information, and growers are encouraged to look at third party trials, such as the Canola Council of Canada’s Canola Performance Trials, for further performance and agronomic information. Talk to local seed suppliers to see how new varieties also performed in local trials. Bayer CropScienceInVigor L241C is the newest LibertyLink, clubroot-resistant hybrid with outstanding yield potential, strong standability and a mid maturity suited for all clubroot affected regions of Western Canada. InVigor L241C yielded two per cent higher than InVigor L135C and 102 per cent of the checks (InVigor 5440 and Pioneer 45H29) in 2012-2013 Western Canadian Canola/Rapeseed Recommending Committee (WCC/RRC) co-op trials. InVigor L157H is the newest LibertyLink, specialty oil hybrid in the InVigor Health hybrid offering. It matures a day earlier than InVigor L156H and offers growers higher yield potential plus the security of a contract premium. InVigor L157H yielded 97 per cent of the checks (InVigor 5440 and Pioneer 45H29) in 2013-2014 WCC/RRC co-op trials. BrettYoung6074 RR is the first of the next wave of high-yielding canola hybrids from BrettYoung. 6074RR was the highest yielding Genuity Roundup Ready hybrid in the 2014 Canola Performance trials (109 per cent of check overall). 6074 RR performed well in all zones but is best suited to the mid- and long-season canola zones. It matures 1.4 days later than the checks, is resistant to blackleg and has an excellent rating for harvestability. 6080 RR is BrettYoung’s newest Genuity Round Ready hybrid. In 2014 trials it was very similar to 6074 RR in yield (108 per cent of checks in co-op trials), harvestability and about one day earlier in maturity. 6080 RR is resistant to blackleg, matures 0.86 days later than the checks and is adapted to all canola production zones. 6076 CR is a new high yielding hybrid, resistant to clubroot (pathotypes 2, 3, 5, 6, 8) and has intermediate resistance to the 5X pathotype. Yields in 2014 were equal to the checks. It is a large plant with excellent harvestability. It is also resistant to blackleg, and matures 2.4 days later than the checks. Canterra SeedsCS2100 is a high yielding GENRR hybrid with multigenic blackleg resistance for the long season zone. CS2100 is off to a strong start, yielding 115.5 per cent of 74-44 BL at Etzikom, Alta. in its first trial in 2015. This full-season hybrid possesses multigenic resistance to blackleg that provides more durable defense making it less prone to breakdown by new races of the disease. CS2100 has also been observed to have a higher degree of pod shatter tolerance compared to checks, potentially making it a good straight cut option. CS2100 is available at Canterra Seeds shareholders businesses, independent crop input dealers and through UFA. CS2200 CL is a new high-yielding Clearfield hybrid with full season maturity, great standability and a solid resistant rating to blackleg. As a Clearfield, it could qualify for non-GMO crush programs. CS2200 CL is available at Canterra Seeds shareholders businesses, independent crop input dealers and through UFA. CargillVictory V12-3 Hybrid: High yields with clubroot resistance, Victory V12-3 is a Roundup Ready hybrid with a yield potential of 103 per cent of 45H29. Along with clubroot resistance, it has an industry-leading, multigenic blackleg resistance package delivering a resistant rating for blackleg and is also resistant for Fusarium wilt. V12-3 has very good early season vigour and great yield potential with excellent standability. V12-3 is part of the Cargill Specialty Canola Program delivering higher returns for growers. Dow AgroSciencesNexera 1020 RR: New generation of Nexera canola Roundup Ready hybrid offering improved disease resistance. 1020 RR is the first Nexera hybrid to offer clubroot resistance with a very strong resistant rating in recent public co-op trials. Maturity is one day earlier than 1012 RR and the hybrid has demonstrated strong yield in performance trials. This hybrid is suitable to the mid- and long-season growing zones in Western Canada. Nexera 1022 RR: New generation of Nexera canola Roundup Ready hybrid offering improved disease resistance. 1022 RR offers improved, multigene blackleg resistance with a very strong resistant rating in recent public co-op trials. 1022 RR matures one day earlier than 1012 RR and has demonstrated strong yield performance in trials. This hybrid fits well in the mid- and long-season growing zones in Western Canada. Nexera 2022 CL: New generation of Nexera canola CL hybrid offering improved disease resistance. 2022 CL offers improved, multigene blackleg resistance with a very strong resistant rating in recent public co-op trials. 2022 CL has similar maturity to 2012 CL and has demonstrated very strong yield in performance trials. This hybrid fits well in the mid- and long-season growing zones in Western Canada. DuPont Pioneer46M34 is the first Genuity Roundup Ready canola hybrid that contains the built-in Pioneer Protector HarvestMax trait with a yield potential of 103 per cent of Pioneer hybrid 45H29 in large-scale straight cutting trials across Western Canada in 2014. It has moderately resistant rating for Blackleg and a resistant rating for Fusarium wilt. Pioneer Protector HarvestMax 46M34 reduces the risk of harvest losses from pod shatter and pod drop. Available at all local Pioneer Hi-bred sales representatives across Western Canada. DuPont Pioneer is also launching the first Genuity Roundup Ready hybrid that contains both built-in Pioneer Protector clubroot resistance and sclerotinia resistance traits. The name has not yet been determined. It has a yield potential of 100 per cent of Pioneer hybrid 45H29 in DuPont Pioneer research trials across Western Canada in 2014 along with a resistant rating for blackleg and Fusarium wilt. This new canola hybrid with the Pioneer Protector Plus traits has excellent early growth, improved standability and high yield potential. Available at all local Pioneer Hi-bred sales representatives across Western Canada. DEKALB75-65 RR is a Genuity Roundup Ready hybrid that has a strong agronomic foundation and improved pod integrity that offers the option for straight cutting. It has a dark seed coat and is taller and slightly later maturing than 74-44 BL. Standability is comparable to 74-44 BL and it is rated resistant to both blackleg and Fusarium wilt. Yield potential is strong at 99 per cent of L252 and 103 per cent of 45S54 in Monsanto’s 2014 field scale trials (does not include straight cut trials). 75-65 RR fits broadly across Western Canada and should be a consideration for anyone interested in straight cutting. 75-45 RR is a Genuity Roundup Ready hybrid that offers a unique combination of early maturity and high yield potential. It is earlier than 74-44 BL with similar height and standability, and has a resistant rating to both blackleg and Fusarium wilt. Yield potential is very good at 100 per cent of L130 and 107 per cent of 45S54 in Monsanto’s 2014 breeding trials. 75-45 RR fits particularly well in the short season zones of Alberta and Saskatchewan, and more broadly as an early maturing complement to other products such as 75-65 RR and 74-44 BL to help spread out swathing and harvest operations. 75-57 CR is a Genuity Roundup Ready hybrid that offers clubroot protection as part of a well-rounded agronomic package. It is resistant to a broad range of clubroot pathotypes and has a resistant rating to both blackleg and Fusarium wilt. It is later maturing than 74-44 BL with similar height, good standability, and strong yield potential at 102 per cent of 74-54 RR in Monsanto’s 2014 breeding trials. 75-57 CR provides an excellent solution for growers concerned about clubroot, particularly in central Alberta. Proven SeedsPV 200 CL is the newest high-yielding Clearfield hybrid from Proven Seed and has the added benefit of a world-class standability rating. PV 200 CL offers strong resistance to blackleg and Fusarium wilt while bringing in high yields and profits for canola growers. Available exclusively at Crop Production Services. PV 533 G is a new, high-yielding mid-season Genuity Roundup Ready canola hybrid from the Proven Seed signature lineup, with a yield potential of 104 per cent of DEKALB 74-44 BL. PV 533 G provides growers excellent standability plus a blackleg resistance package that is exhibiting high resistance, even by resistant rating standards. Available exclusively at Crop Production Services. SyngentaSY4105 is the first Genuity, Roundup Ready canola hybrid from Syngenta to incorporate clubroot resistance, making it an exceptional seed choice in areas where clubroot is a major concern. SY4105 fits well across mid-season growing zones in Western Canada, and delivers excellent early-season vigour with strong yield performance. SY4105 is currently available for 2016 seeding and can be purchased through a Syngenta seed dealer. SY4166 is the latest Genuity Roundup Ready canola hybrid from Syngenta. This hybrid is best suited for the mid-to-long season growing zones in Western Canada and includes an excellent agronomic package with multigenic blackleg resistance, good early season vigour and high-end yield potential. SY4166 also boasts excellent standability, which will deliver time savings at swathing and harvest. In a series of 2014 small plot trials, SY4166 reached full maturity, on average, 1.5 days later than SY4135, and 1 to 1.5 days earlier than SY4157. SY4166 will be available for sale starting in fall 2015 for 2016 seeding, and can be purchased through a Syngenta seed dealer. Company NewsIn summer 2015, Cargill opened its new state-of-the-art canola processing facility in Camrose, Alta., which has the capacity to process over one million metric tonnes of canola per year, bringing the company’s total crush capacity to 2.5 million metric tonnes. Cargill said 100 jobs were created during the construction phase of the refinery, and 30 new permanent positions were created to operate the plant. Shortly after, Cargill opened its first canola refinery in Clavet, Sask. The new facility has the capacity to refine one billion pounds of canola oil annually, making it the largest Cargill refinery in North America. On Aug. 6, 2015, Cargill Specialty Seeds and Oils in Fort Collins, Colo. held a ribbon cutting ceremony showcasing their newly completed seed innovation facility while celebrating the 150th anniversary of Cargill.
The Canadian Grain Commission has determined that five varieties of Canada Western Red Spring wheat will be reassigned to the Canada Northern Hard Red wheat class. Scientific trials showed that gluten strength in these varieties was too low to meet the expectations of customers of Canadian wheat, and was reducing the overall quality of the Canada Western Red Spring wheat class.
Winter wheat can often be found to survive short freeze thaw events throughout the winter. However with the recent dips in temperatures with little to no snow cover, there are some concerns about crop damage and survivability. There is also some concern that more cycles of day-night freeze-thaw cycles in 2018 may be causing more frost heaving and unthrifty or dead plants once growth resumes. Joanna Follings and Dave Hooker provide tips for assessing your winter wheat crop on FieldCropNews.com | READ MORE
Despite recent weather, spring is almost here. Now is the best time to assess how successfully winter wheat has survived. To test for winter survival in early spring, remove a few plants from the field on a warm day. Choose plants at random from various areas of the field. Place the crowns in a moist, warm environment where they get exposed to light for at least part of the day. Don’t let the crowns dry out. Severely damaged crowns will turn brown while healthy tissue remains white. At room temperature, healthy crowns should produce new, white roots and green leaves in a few days. Don’t be too hasty to write off a crop that looks thin; some plants take longer to start growing in the spring. A thin, even stand may still out-produce a reseeded crop. The true sign of winter survivability is new root grown from the crown. For more information about assessing this year’s crop, contact the Alberta Ag-Info Centre at 310-FARM (3276).
In high yielding cereal crops, lodging is a common cause of yield loss. Under the right conditions, plant growth regulators (PGRs) can reduce plant height and reduce lodging. Plant growth regulators are synthetic compounds that can beneficially modify plant growth and development. Research continues to help address the many questions around PGRs, including responsive cultivars, appropriate timing, optimal conditions and other factors.
The outlook for hard white wheat production in Western Canada nudged upward this past winter for the first time in approximately six years.
Making more money on the same amount of land – it’s a mantra for today’s farmers, and one that’s increasingly relevant as land prices and production costs continue to rise.A Sarnia refining company is helping local farmers expand their return per acre by providing a market for an otherwise low-value material: the corn stalks and wheat stubble left over after harvest.With planning for a new facility well underway, Comet Biorefining is expanding its partnership with Ontario farmers who are members of the Cellulosic Sugar Producers’ Cooperative – a partnership that started in 2014 – to turn an additional 60,000 tonnes of crop residue into 30,000 tonnes of cellulosic dextrose, or industrial processing sugar, each year.The facility will also produce 30,000 tonnes of hemicellulose and lignin or organic compounds found in plant cells that can be used in many industrial applications.“Dextrose is used in everything from food products and animal feed to a wide range of industrial processes. Generating that dextrose from crop residues means farmers are increasing the value they get from every acre,” says Comet CEO Rich Troyer.With support from BioIndustrial Innovation Canada and Sustainable Development Technology Canada, both non-profit organizations that work to promote the development and adoption of clean technologies and markets, construction of the new Sarnia refining facility is to begin this spring.Troyer says the total North American market for dextrose is about six million tonnes every year and growing.“There’s a very significant market opportunity here; we’re actually adding capacity at a much slower rate than market growth,” he says.According to Cellulosic Sugar Producers’ Cooperative general manager Brian Cofell, farmers interested in participating are asked to contribute a membership fee of $500, and an initial investment of $200 for each acre they wish to commit to harvesting crop residues for the new refinery.Yearly returns for that investment begin with a preferred dividend of $50 per acre for the first five years, then continue at $30 per acre each year after that. However, Cofell says they anticipate a return of $100 per acre by 2029, due in part to steady demand for dextrose and the capacity of the new Comet facility.The price farmers will receive for their corn stover and wheat straw is added on top of that dividend, and is locked in at $25 and $40 per dry metric tonne respectively.As of this past December the cooperative was supported by 80 farmer members, though Cofell says that number is steadily increasing.While the new facility is under construction, Coffell says the immediate goal for the cooperative is to continue expanding its member base, while planning for an initial harvest in fall 2018. The new facility will reach full production in 2019.“The cooperative will own 27.5 per cent of Comet Biorefining’s new plant. It’s an opportunity for the growers themselves to be part of creating a final product,” he says.
A look at some of the new corn varieties available to growers for the 2018 planting season.
The highest recorded corn yield is 532 bushels per acre set by David Hula at Charles City, Virginia in 2015 in an annual contest conducted by the National Corn Growers Association in the United States. By comparison, the highest yield in 2016 in Manitoba Corn Growers Association’s annual yield contest was 274 bushels per acre (bu/ac) set by the Baker Colony at MacGregor, Man. Both impressive yields indeed, given growing conditions at those locations. But how can new corn growers reach those yields?
Researchers have discovered a way to boost the nutritional value of corn—the world’s largest commodity crop—by modifying the plant with a bacterial gene that causes it to produce methionine, a key nutrient.The discovery could benefit millions of people in developing countries, such as in South America and Africa, who depend on corn as a staple. It could also significantly reduce worldwide animal feed costs. READ MORE
With a later than normal planting window and a summer growing season seemingly short on summer weather, some growers have been monitoring their corn growth stages and asking about gauging the risks associated with corn maturity and frost, particularly those who planted very late or have longer maturity hybrids. While there are still several weeks left to the growing season, a few things growers trying to gauge their crop stage for frost risk may want to consider include:Crop Staging Clearly, the closer to maturity (black layer) the crop is, the less impact a frost event will have on the crop. For quick review:The emergence of silks is the R1 stage. As a rough guideline, once pollination occurs, it takes about 60 more days for the crop to reach physiological maturity. Thus, silk timing can give a bit of an indication of when maturity of the corn crop may be expected – a crop that pollinated around July 25th may be expected to reach maturity or black layer sometime around September 25th. While there can be some small differences across hybrid maturities, hybrid maturity ratings have a much more significant impact on the length of time in vegetative stages than reproductive stages.The R2 blister stage occurs following pollination when fertilized kernels are just beginning to develop, while the R3 milk stage occurs when kernels are turning yellow and are beginning to fill with an opaque milky fluid. Grain fill is rapid by the R3 stage, and maturity under normal conditions would be 5-6 weeks away.The R4 dough stage occurs when the milk solution turns pasty as starch continues to form, with some kernels beginning to dent as dough begins to turn to hard starch at the dent ends of kernels. Under normal conditions, the dough stage may be generally 3-5 weeks from maturity.The R5 dent stage occurs when the majority of kernels have dented, and the milk line, which separates the hard starch phase from the soft dough phase, progresses from the dent end towards the cob. The dent stage may last approximately 3 weeks.The R6 maturity or black layer stage marks physiological maturity. This occurs when a small layer of cells at the base of the kernel near where the kernel connects to the cob die and turn black, which marks the end of grain fill from the cob into the developing kernel. Maximum dry matter accumulation has occurred, so any frost or stress event after this stage will have little impact on yield unless harvestability is compromised. Black layer normally forms once milk line has reach the base of the kernel, although significant stress events (extended period of very cool average temperatures, significant defoliation) can result in black layer formation before the milk line has reached the base of the kernel.Frost Severity In regards to frost severity, a light frost (ie. 0°C) may damage or kill leaves, but not be cold enough, or last long enough to actually penetrate into the stem and kill the plant. While premature leaf death limits further grain fill from photosynthesis, a living stem can still translocate dry matter to the developing grain to continue to provide some grain fill after a light frost event.In the event where temperatures are low enough (ie. -2°C), or last long enough to penetrate and kill the entire plant, there is no ability of the plant to continue filling grain, and yield at that point has been fixed.Any frost event during the blister or milk stage would result in significant grain yield losses as significant grain fill is still yet to occur at these stages.A light frost event at the dough stage may reduce yields by 35% while a killing frost may reduce yields by 55% (Lauer, 2004).Yield loss in the dent stage depends on the relative time left to mature. A light frost at the beginning of dent stage may reduce yields by 25% while a killing frost may reduce yields by 40%. During the mid-dent stage, significant dry matter accumulation has occurred, and light and killing frosts may reduce yields around 5% and 10% respectively.Estimating Time to Maturity Time required to reach maturity can be estimated by knowing the approximate Crop Heat Units (CHU) required for each reproductive corn stage. A general approximation of CHU required to complete the various R growth stages in corn is presented in Table 1. Scouting corn for the crop stages described above and referring to Table 1 will give an indication of how many CHU are required for the corn crop to reach maturity. Table 1 Table 1 Table 2 Table 2 View the embedded image gallery online at: https://www.topcropmanager.com/index.php?option=com_k2&Itemid=10&lang=en&layout=latest&view=latest#sigProGalleria279aaa4a46 Comparing the estimated CHU required from Table 2 to an estimated number of CHU available until typical first frost date gives an idea of how much CHU would be available in an “average” year, and how close to maturity the crop may be for the average expected first frost date. Typical first killing frost dates based on 30 year climate normal across a selection of locations in the Province are presented in Table 2, while CHU values can be estimated through calculation tables in the Field Scouting chapter of Pub 811 Agronomy Guide for Field Crops, or through other weather information providers such as Farmzone.com or WeatherCentral.ca. This Report includes data from WIN and Environment Canada
It took a lot of work, but one young Manitoba grower and entrepreneur finally has the answers the customers of his short-line machinery business have been looking for.Darren Faurschou has a diploma in agriculture and operates a family farm in the Edwin area, west of Portage la Prairie, Man. He also serves as president of the Faurschou Ag Center, which opened in April 2015 and retails air drills, precision planters and a line of independent corn headers that adapt to row spacing. Many customers question the benefits of planting corn with an air drill versus a planter, so last year Faurschou contracted with the University of Manitoba’s department of biosystems engineering to use his 125-acre field and his own machinery for an independent evaluation of row spacing and seeding systems for corn yield and rate of emergence.Row spacing had four variations: 7.5-inch, 15-inch, 30-inch and paired-row (7.5-inch pairs, 30 inches on centre). Two seeders were used: a twin-row Monosem planter and a Salford 522 air drill.There were eight treatments on the field; each treatment was repeated five times in the randomized experiment. The seeding equipment was adjusted to have a uniform two-inch seeding depth. Most plots were planted on May 8 and 9, 2016.To produce the 15-inch and 7.5-inch plots, the planter drove over the field twice. The planter’s 7.5-inch plots were seeded on May 10 and 11, 2016, due to rain and time constraints.Craig Heppner, a recent graduate from the University of Manitoba’s bachelor of science in biosystems engineering program took on the challenge of managing the 40 plots, recording data and processing the results as part of his undergrad thesis. Faurschou provided machinery, set up the field, supplied seed (Pioneer 7332) and was responsible for applications to protect the crop from weeds and disease.“I went with the big field for plots because size is important,” Faurschou says. “If you’re out a point on a big plot, the impact is less. You are more accurate in your detail. Real machines – commercial equipment – do all the work in real-life scenarios. Things like dry spots and wet spots average out at the end of the day.”To be sure the results were impartial, Faurschou asked the university to handle the data collection.ResultsFaurschou had expectations about the results, and some were proven. For instance, it’s tradition in southern Manitoba to plant corn in 30-inch rows with 7.5-inches between plants in the row. For decades, planters and harvest headers have been built for that 30-inch row spacing.“I thought the paired-row on the [Monosem] planter would do the best overall. There’s a lot of research to show that, and it did beat the 30-inch single row,” Faurschou says.The Monosem planter twin rows are 30 inches on centre; each seed row is four inches off centre.But in each row-spacing comparison, the 30-inch row option had the lowest yield.“I thought the 7.5-inch would be the best for the air drill, on the theory of narrow rows using more sunlight. What I found was, for the paired row, the 15-inch and the 7.5-inch trials almost filled the rows at the same time. The 30-inch never really did completely fill in,” he says.Overall, the 15-inch spacing had the highest yield for both the air drill and for the planter.“It ended up doing the best. I was really surprised by that,” Faurschou says.Heppner’s detailed analysis, converted from metric, comes to this conclusion on corn yield: “When comparing effects of the seeders, average yield for the planter was 173 [bushels/acre] bu/ac compared to 161 bu/ac for the air drill. This translated to a 5.5 per cent difference in yield.”“When comparing effects of spacing only, yield was found to be the highest for 15-inch plots at 173 bu/ac. The 7.5-inch plots were not statistically different than this at 168 bu/ac. The 30-inch and paired row plots were significantly lower at 162 bu/ac and 164 bu/ac, respectively.”Heppner also notes the planter was much more uniform in seeding depth, as expected, and that the average seeding depth under the planter was about a quarter-inch shallower than under the drill. The rate of emergence for planter-placed corn also was faster.Heppner concludes, “The planter provided more consistent seeding depth than the air drill, leading to faster speed of emergence, which induced a higher yielding crop. Also, 15-inch and 7.5-inch spacing produced higher yields than 30-inch and paired rows.“The best-case spacing and seeder for south-central Manitoba in a year with similar environmental conditions would be a planter spaced at 15 inches.”Answers and adviceThe work required to run the 40 site trials on 125 acres was more than Faurschou expected. He estimates the time commitment was four to five times as much as he would have needed to plant and harvest a conventional field of corn.However, now he has answers and advice based on science rather than experience and educated guesswork.“There’s been a lot of discussion about planting corn with an air drill versus a planter. As for a replicated comparison in row spacing, with results for a planter versus air drill, I’ve never heard of that,” Faurschou says. “My theory was that there are benefits for an air drill in narrow spacing and benefits for a planter in wider row spacing, but there’s not a lot [of research] done on row spacing in corn in this part of the world.”Now, according to Heppner, there is proven evidence that a planter will return more corn than an air drill and that row spacing returns more corn at 15 or 7.5 inches than it does at 30 inches.Due to the explosion of soybean acres in Manitoba, many farms now have a 15-inch row crop planter in addition to an air drill. It was assumed – but not proven – that lifting every second seed run on the soybean planter would be the best practice for planting corn.Still, many farms are equipped with only an air drill. Faurschou’s trials show that if the farm has an air drill with 7.5-inch spacing, simply putting a seed block on every second run can convert it for seeding 15-inch corn rows.One caution with this, he notes, is that the Salford air drill used in these trials is a double-disc opener. Most air drills probably have only a single disc opener.“With a single disc, you may not have the same depth control, so the results might be different,” he says.After studying his results, Faurschou believes the evidence points to Manitoba corn being “happiest” on 15-inch spacing between rows and between plants. In this set of trials, that spacing allowed for the optimum use of available sunlight, moisture and nutrients and consistently produced the highest dry bushel yield.The results give Faurschou some pretty clear-cut answers for anyone with questions about row spacing.“For my customers, if they are going to plant corn with an air drill, I’m going to recommend 15 inches. If they’re going to buy a planter to use for corn and soybeans, I’m going to recommend that they buy a 15-inch planter for both,” he says.There’s also an economy-of-scale factor. On 15-inch rows, Darren says the average yield advantage was 6.6 bu/ac in favour of the planter; the least difference was four bushels an acre.Using the conservative numbers, Faurschou suggests the four-bushel yield advantage on $4 corn is almost enough to justify buying a planter if it’s time to replace or upgrade an air drill.But, there’s more to consider.“If you’re growing just a quarter of corn and you have an air drill that can do 15-inch spacing, that’s probably the way you should go,” he says. “If you have 1,000 acres of corn, then it would almost justify buying a planter.”In all this, caution remains a good idea. Another trial conducted in another year and under different growing conditions might produce different results.Don't miss out on our other web exclusive content! 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Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Agriculture will be conducting a more extensive clubroot survey this year to try and get ahead of the soil-borne disease. Penny McCall, executive director of the ministry’s crops and irrigation branch says they will be surveying 1,800 fields across the province’s northern and eastern crop districts. | READ MORE
Farmers can count on 20 to 50 per cent of the moisture from snow-melt to enter the soil. This variability depends a lot on surface soil moisture conditions. A North Dakota study (Willis and Haas) concluded that 50 per cent of snow-melt moisture runs off or evaporates when surface soils (top 30 to 40 centimetres) are dry and up to 80 per cent runs off when surface soils are wet, according to an article on CanolaWatch.org. | READ MORE
Spring canola yields have been strong in Ontario in the past two years, but are we meeting our yield potential? Are there ways to profitably increase yields?
Reducing natural habitats in order to create more acres of farmland may become a regretful practice with negative consequences – including reducing the yield potential of canola and other oilseeds, says Melanie Dubois, research scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) from the Brandon, Man., Research and Development Centre. Dubois recently finished her second field season of a three-year project.
Bayer's Product Excellence Team, which is unique to Canada, consists of researchers dedicated to optimization – improving the yield and agronomic performance of InVigor canola.
The Canola Council of Canada has just released an educational video highlighting blackleg in canola and the management tools available for producers. Give it a watch and check out a couple of our research articles here, here and here. Sign up for our newsletters to get more information on canola research and the status of blackleg in canola.
The Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) in Canada has granted approval for the registration of Lumiderm insecticide seed treatment from Corteva (the agriculture division of DowDuPont) for soybeans for control of bean leaf beetle and soybean aphid. Lumiderm will be commercially available for 2019 spring planting. Lumiderm seed treatment provides soybean seedlings with extended protection against bean leaf beetle and soybean aphid. Protecting vulnerable seedlings from these two damaging insects leads to more uniform and healthier plant stands, allowing the crop to achieve its maximum yield potential at harvest. Lumiderm contains a unique Group 28 insecticide that helps growers manage the threat of resistance, and has a favourable environmental profile, according to a press release.
From humble beginnings, soybean acreage hit 2.3 million seeded acres in Manitoba in 2017. Can those acres be sustained? The answer lies with managing glyphosate resistance.
Soybean is rich in protein, which is great for the humans and animals eating it. But this high protein content comes at a cost.
Soybean breeding targeted to Canadian needs has been essential to the growth of soybean production in this country. We asked soybean growers, breeders and others to share their thoughts on what the future might hold for soybean traits.
Know the enemy. That’s the goal of a project now underway in Ontario. In this case, the enemy is soybean disease – a continually changing foe, with new pathogen species spreading into different growing areas and new strains evolving to overcome control measures.
"IDC [iron deficiency chlorosis] was much more of a concern [this year] than in previous years,” says Dennis Lange, pulse specialist with Manitoba Agriculture. Symptoms persisted for 14 to 21 days rather than 10 to 14 in typical years.
As the interest in fababean production continues to grow, so does the need for more up-to-date agronomic information. Researchers and the industry in general have several efforts underway – however, much of the current agronomic information available to Saskatchewan producers is either unavailable, outdated, or sourced from other growing regions. Various research projects are focused on developing Saskatchewan-based agronomic information and updating work initially done back in the 1970s.
The fababean crop has been growing in popularity in Western Canada. In Saskatchewan in particular, it is promoted as the pulse to grow in the northern and eastern areas of the province that are not ideal for lentils or chickpeas. However, while export markets are currently limited for Western Canada’s fababeans, a recent study looking at potential markets the crop reveals opportunities closer to home that producers can tap into.
Legume crops are unique in that they can fix much of their own nitrogen (N) requirements from the air to reduce or eliminate the need for N fertilizer. Legume crops include, alfalfa, clover, soybean, dry pea, bean, lentil, fababean and chickpea.
Marrowfat pea is a very large-seeded, green-coloured pea with a blocky shape and a unique taste that makes it the pea of choice for certain specialty markets. Depending on the marketplace, this pea can command a premium price, but it has some challenges.
The rotational benefits of pulse crops in a cereal and pulse rotation are well known. Including pulses in rotation is shown to increase soil available nitrogen (N), improve soil moisture reserves in deeper soil depths, enhance soil microbiology and soil health, and increase yield of a subsequent cereal crop. However, research had not measured to what extent residual soil N and soil moisture contribute to those higher yields.
According to Canada's agriculture ministry, pea plantings will probably decline to a seven-year low this spring, while lentil acreage drops by 27 per cent. Sowings will decline as farmers swap land for wheat and canola.
Many fields across Ontario may be at risk of alfalfa winterkill this year. Christine O'Reilly shares how to determine whether your fields were at risk, if damage occurred, and what to consider for next steps on FieldCropNews.com. | READ MORE
Over the past several years, interest in cover cropping has increased in Ontario, says Laura Van Eerd, an associate professor in the School of Environmental Sciences at University of Guelph’s Ridgetown Campus.
Saskatchewan's industrial hemp industry is on the cusp of major growth, according to a provincial crop specialist.Dale Risula, crop specialist with the provincial government, said there is a revived interest in hemp because of the impending legalization of marijuana. Regulations surrounding hemp production are also set for change like allowing for the sale of the leaves and flowers.Saskatchewan led the way last year for the provinces with the highest number of industrial hemp licenses and registrations at 518. Saskatchewan also boasted the most hectarage for cultivation of industrial hemp at 22,654.41. The next closest was Alberta with 18,083.01 and Manitoba with 11,716.99. | READ MOREJoin Top Crop Manager Feb. 27 and 28 in Saskatoon, Sask., for the 2018 Herbicide Resistance Summit - Register now!
Quinoa, the ancient South American grain that’s been touted as a gluten-free superfood, is gaining popularity with Canadian farmers, but in commercial terms, it remains a small niche crop in this country.
In the Peace River region where production of creeping red fescue, alsike clover and red clover has been a mainstay for many farmers, tighter canola rotations have gradually displaced forage seed production. While this threatens the sustainability of the seed industry, more intense canola rotations may be costing farmers profit as well. That is the finding of a crop rotation study conducted by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) at Beaverlodge, Alta.
Domesticating plants to grow as crops can turn out to be a double-edged scythe.On one hand, selecting specific desirable traits, such as high yields, can increase crop productivity. But other important traits, like resistance to pests, can be lost. That can make crops vulnerable to different stresses, such as diseases and pests, or the effects of climate change.To reduce these vulnerabilities, researchers often turn to the wild relatives of crops. These wild relatives continue to evolve in nature, often under adverse conditions. They possess several useful genes for desirable traits. These traits include high levels of resistance to diseases and tolerance to environmental stresses.In a new study, scientists report significant strides in transferring disease- and stress-resistance traits from wild relatives of several legumes to their domesticated varieties. This research was conducted at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in Patancheru, India.Legumes, such as chickpea, pigeonpea, and groundnut, are among the few crops that grow well in the scant rainfall and marginal soils of the semi-arid tropics. But they are facing significant challenges, says Shivali Sharma, lead author.“Legume crops are hit hard by diseases, insect-pests, drought, heat stress, and salinity,” says Sharma. “Also, semi-arid regions are highly vulnerable to climate change.” These factors limit legume crops. There are several wild relatives of these crops that are resistant to pests and diseases. “There is an urgent need to find and introduce these useful genes from wild relatives into crop cultivars,” says Sharma. That would improve the resilience of domestic legume varieties and sustain agriculture in these regions.It can be highly challenging – and often impossible – to directly breed domesticated crops with their wild relatives. For example, of the eight wild annual species of chickpea, only one is readily crossable with cultivated chickpea and yields fertile offspring.Similarly, wild varieties of groundnut are resistant to fungal infections. But direct crossing of wild and domesticated groundnut is challenging because of differences in how the DNA in their cells is packaged. Additionally, these species do not cross well with cultivars.Most wild varieties of groundnut are diploid: their DNA is organized in two sets of chromosomes per cell, much like in humans. During reproduction, one set comes from the male parent and the other set from the female parent.Domesticated groundnut plants, on the other hand, are tetraploid. Their cells contain four sets of chromosomes. The sets of chromosomes in each cell, called ploidy, makes it difficult to directly interbreed wild and domestic varieties of groundnut.“It takes a lot of time and resources to overcome challenges like these,” says Sharma. “That often makes breeders reluctant to directly use wild species in breeding programs.”Pre-breeding programs, such as the one at ICRISAT, invest their time and skill in the wild crop relatives. Sharma and her colleagues bred wild groundnut varieties whose cells have four sets of chromosomes. Then they identified which of these tetraploid wild varieties were also resistant to fungal infections. These were then crossed with cultivated groundnut varieties to develop new breeding lines with good resistance and yields. Plant breeders can now directly cross these fungal-resistant lines with domesticated groundnut to create new varieties.“Crop wild relatives are the reservoir of many useful genes and traits,” says Sharma. “It is our responsibility to use this hidden treasure for future generations.”It’s especially important in the context of legumes because they provide a bevy of benefits. For instance, bacteria in their root nodules pull in valuable atmospheric nitrogen. That increases soil fertility and reduces the need for fertilizers.Legumes are also vital for food security in the semi-arid tropics and other parts of the world. They are an important source of protein and micronutrients. Combined with cereals, they are a sustaining diet for people across the world.And “pre-breeding programs are the first step to improve the nutrition and resilience of modern legume varieties,” says Sharma.Read more about this research in Crop Science.
The goal of irrigation scheduling is to ensure the crop is never under water-induced stress that would limit yield potential. It involves determining the correct amount of irrigation water to apply to a crop at the right times to achieve optimum yield.
Pivot irrigation is by far the most common method of irrigating crops in Western Canada. Over 80 per cent of the 1.7 million acres of Alberta’s irrigated land uses pivot systems. Low pressure pivots with drop tubes and spray nozzles have become the most common form of pivot irrigation due to water application and energy efficiency.
Researchers at the University of Guelph are finding that Ontario crops can benefit from subsurface drip irrigation. The technology (which is relatively new to the province) is a low-pressure, high-efficiency system that uses buried polyethylene drip lines to meet crop water needs by applying water below the soil surface using micro-irrigation emitters.
Conservation management practices can increase sugar beet yields over time – that’s one of the key messages from a 12-year irrigated cropping study that compared conservation and conventional management.
Soybean production is spreading across the Prairies. In 2016, Manitoba had nearly 1.64 million acres seeded to the crop, and Saskatchewan seeded 240,000 acres. In Alberta, production is still relatively low at around 15,000 acres, according to industry estimates. But with early and very early maturing varieties becoming more common and with the expanding soybean crushing capacity in the province, more Alberta growers are considering this crop. Now, two collaborating soybean projects with agronomic, economic and varietal studies are nearing completion. The results will help create a solid foundation for soybean as a profitable crop option on irrigated land in southern Alberta. Manjula Bandara, a special crop research scientist with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry (AAF), is leading one of the projects, and Frank Larney, a research scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), is leading the other.Photo courtesy of Andrew Olson. Bandara has been working on soybeans since about 2004, when he started conducting variety trials in southern Alberta as part of the Western Soybean Adaptation Trials. Bandara’s group tested Roundup Ready and conventional varieties under both rain-fed and supplementary irrigation conditions. In the first few years of the trials, soybean yields ranged from about 267 to 3,703 kilograms per hectare (kg/ha). Over time, as breeders developed improved early maturing varieties, the yields in these trials rose to around 3,000 to 4,000 kg/ha (45 to 60 bushels per acre, or bu/ac). Most Alberta soybean production is on irrigated land. In Bandara’s trials, some varieties gave reasonable yields under rain-fed conditions, but supplementary irrigation improved their yields. For instance, one variety yielded 3,185 kg/ha under rain-fed conditions and 3,646 kg/ha with supplementary irrigation. Other varieties and lines really responded to irrigation. For example, one line more than doubled its yield, going from 2,038 kg/ha when rain-fed to 4,581 kg/ha under supplementary irrigation. “With these results, we were convinced that we could grow soybean under supplementary irrigation conditions in southern Alberta,” Bandara says. “Then I talked to several growers and Patrick Fabian [of Fabian Seed Farms in Tilley, Alta.], who has been conducting some soybean research himself, encouraged me to submit a research proposal on soybean.” That led to Bandara’s current four-year research project on irrigated soybean production, which runs from 2014 to 2017. The project has four components. The first is evaluating new soybean varieties and lines. The second is assessing various production practices, such as seeding density, row spacing, root nodulation, and irrigation scheduling. The third is comparing the benefits of soybean versus dry bean production and the final one is testing the most promising agronomic treatments from the small-plot experiments under field-scale production. Variety evaluations The variety trials in Bandara’s current project are taking place under supplementary irrigation in Brooks, Medicine Hat, Bow Island and Lethbridge, Alta. Each year, his team is testing 16 to 18 Roundup Ready varieties and three conventional varieties. The seed companies participating in the trials select which of their latest varieties/lines they would like to include in the testing. The conventional varieties are all older varieties. Bandara’s team is collecting data on such traits as pod clearance, yield, days to maturity, and heat units to identify which varieties/lines have the best traits for commercial production in southern Alberta. Pod clearance refers to the height above the ground of the lowest pod on a plant. “Soybean plants produce their heaviest seed in their lowest pods. To be able to harvest those good, heavy seeds, the varieties need high pod clearance. I would say the lowest pod on the plant should be at least six centimetres above the ground,” he notes. As well, the varieties must be high yielding. Bandara explains that if soybean is going to find a place within irrigated rotations in southern Alberta, it has to be at least as profitable as well-established irrigated crops like corn, dry bean and sugar beet. The project is targeting soybean varieties that yield more than 4,000 kg/ha (60 bu/ac) in the small-plot trials; under farm field production, the actual yields would be somewhat lower. A few of the varieties in the trials are meeting that target and Bandara has heard some irrigation farmers in southern Alberta are getting close to 60 bu/ac with certain varieties. Early maturity is also essential. Soybean maturity can be described in various ways including: maturity group (a rating based mainly on day length, but also influenced by temperature); the number of crop heat units (CHU) needed to take the variety to maturity; and the number of frost-free days needed for maturity. Most of the soybeans in Bandara’s trials are in the 00 maturity group, which includes early- and mid-season varieties for the Prairies. One of the interesting findings from this work is that not only are the total CHUs important, but when those CHUs occur is also key. “We broke down the heat unit requirement based on the crop’s phenological stages [growth stages]. We found that heat units received during flowering, pod set and post-flowering are critical for higher seed yields,” Bandara explains. “We have to determine when a variety is flowering and what heat units it will be receiving. So it is not just the variety itself, but how it matches with the local growing conditions.” AAF plant pathologist Mike Harding is monitoring the varieties for disease, but very little has occurred in the trials. Bandara’s results so far show that, when soybeans are seeded in the second or third week of May, the varieties that mature within 116 to 121 days under southern Alberta conditions will be the highest yielding, good quality varieties for the region. Seeding density, row spacing “Soybean is such a new crop for Alberta that little information is available on agronomic questions that new growers would be asking about,” Larney says. His project aims to find answers to some of those questions. Larney is collaborating on the project with Bandara and Doon Pauly, an agronomy research scientist with AAF. Tram Thai, a master’s student at the University of Lethbridge, is also working on the project under the supervision of Larney and James Thomas with the university’s department of biological sciences. One of the studies in Larney’s project took place at Bow Island and Lethbridge from 2014 to 2016. It compared two row spacings (17.5 and 35 centimetres) and three seeding densities (30, 50 and 80 seeds per square metre, or seeds/m2) for the Roundup Ready soybean varieties NSC Tilston and Co-op F045R. Bandara chose the soybean varieties, picking two that had done well in his variety trials. Larney’s team collected data on characteristics such as emergence, days to flowering, plant height at flowering, days to maturity, plant height at maturity, and pod clearance. They also measured yield components like pods per plant, seeds per plant, thousand seed weight, and seed yield, analyzed nitrogen uptake in the plants and estimated the amount of nitrogen returned to the soil from the aboveground crop residues. Data analysis is partially completed; Larney highlights some of the initial results from the 2014 and 2015 growing seasons. “The main effect was with the seeding density. When we averaged the data for both sites and both years, we saw a yield increase as the seeding density increased. At 30 seeds/m2, yields were between 2,200 and 2,400 kg/ha. At 50, we had 2,600 kg/ha and at 80 seeds/m2, we had almost 3,000 kg/ha, do there is a difference of about 600 to 800 kg/ha in yield response from the lowest to the highest seeding density.” He adds, “However, there is a trade-off between the yield from the extra seed and the cost of the extra seed.” The team is planning to do an economic analysis to find the economically optimum seeding density. Higher seeding densities also resulted in taller soybean plants with higher pod clearance. “Averaged over the two years at both sites, at 30 seeds/m2, the lowest pod height is five centimetres; at 50 seeds/m2, it is six centimetres; and at 80 seeds/m2, it is seven centimetres.” As well, higher seeding densities were associated with slightly earlier maturity and higher nitrogen levels in the grain and straw. Soybean disease wasn’t an issue, even in the denser plantings. The wider row spacing treatments had taller plants at flowering, better pod clearance, and slightly earlier maturity than the narrower treatments. Row spacing didn’t have a significant effect on yield. The Bow Island site had slightly higher heat units and about 10 fewer days to maturity than the Lethbridge site. However, the yields at Lethbridge were just as good as those at Bow Island. Soybean versus dry bean Larney’s and Bandara’s projects each have a study comparing soybean and dry bean production. Larney’s study, which is taking place at Bow Island and Lethbridge, looks at the nitrogen benefits of the two crops. “The current legume of choice under irrigation in Alberta is dry bean. The question is: would soybean acres be replacing dry bean acres? And, if so, what is the comparison between dry bean and soybean in terms of nitrogen carryover credits to the following crop in the rotation?” Larney says. This study’s fieldwork started in 2014 and will be completed in 2017. He explains, “In year 1 [in 2014, 2015, 2016], we plant soybean, dry bean and barley. In year 2 [in 2015, 2016, 2017], we plant wheat in those plots. We apply six different nitrogen rates on the wheat and look at the yield response.” The wheat crop’s nitrogen uptake is used as a measure of the nitrogen credit from the previous soybean and dry bean crops, with barley as a non-legume check crop. In addition, the project team is collecting other nitrogen-related data such as the spring and fall soil nitrate-nitrogen levels and the nitrogen uptake by the different crops in year 1. “I had always been told that, compared to other legumes, dry bean doesn’t fix that much nitrogen that is carried over to the subsequent crop, so I had thought soybean would be better than dry bean,” Larney notes. For example, Jeff Schoenau from the University of Saskatchewan has reported that, in Western Canada, soybeans fix 40 to 140 pounds of nitrogen per acre (45 to 155 kg/ha), while dry beans fix five to 70 pounds (six to 78 kg) and alfalfa fixes 100 to 250 pounds (112 to 280 kg). Surprisingly, in Larney’s study, dry bean produced more nitrogen credits than soybean. “For example, in 2015, the nitrogen credits from dry bean were about two, to two and a half times greater than those from soybean. We had about 45 kg/ha of nitrogen from dry bean and about 20 kg/ha from soybean, averaged over Lethbridge and Bow Island. The results from 2016 also showed the nitrogen credits were higher for dry bean than soybean,” he says. Larney’s team is planning to determine the nitrogen budgets for the different treatments to get a better handle on how much is being fixed and how much is being carried over. Bandara’s study compares the profitability of soybean versus dry bean production. Once the field data collection is completed, Ron Gietz with AAF will do this economic analysis. Irrigation scheduling Another element of Bandara’s project is an irrigation scheduling study conducted at Brooks by Ted Harms, an AAF soil and water specialist. The study involved a Roundup Ready soybean variety and six different irrigation treatments: no irrigation (rain-fed); irrigation from flowering to pod set; irrigation from flowering to harvest; irrigation from pod set to harvest; irrigation from seeding to pod set; and fully irrigated, with irrigation from seeding to harvest. The study developed a cost-effective irrigation schedule. Bandara says, “When we looked at how the different treatments affected yield, we found that early irrigation doesn’t have much impact. The most important period for irrigation is at flowering and after flowering. If you provide good moisture after flowering, then you can have yields of 3,300 kg/ha, compared to 3,500 kg/ha when fully irrigated.” Field-scale trial and more Bandara’s team is currently working with Fabian on a field-scale irrigation and seeding density study. On Fabian’s farm, they are testing the most promising treatments from the small-plot studies to see if any adjustments might be needed when using the practices on farms. Once all the studies in Bandara’s and Larney’s projects are completed, the researchers will prepare a production manual for supplementary irrigated soybean. “At the end of the projects, we will be able to provide good insight into soybean production under supplementary irrigation in southern Alberta,” Bandara says. Bandara’s project is primarily funded through Alberta’s Agriculture Funding Consortium; the contributing agencies include the Alberta Pulse Growers, Alberta Innovates Bio Solutions, Alberta Crop Industry Development Fund, and Country Commodities Ltd., a soybean meal processing company in Lethbridge. The main funders for Bandara’s variety evaluation work are the seed companies that provide the varieties for testing. Funding for Larney’s project is from AAFC’s Pulse Science Cluster with matching funds provided by the Manitoba Pulse and Soybean Growers, and from Growing Forward 2. Bandara is hoping to continue the soybean variety evaluation work after 2017, provided funding support from the seed companies is available. As well, he hopes to tackle some other soybean research topics. He notes that Alberta soybean growers are asking for research on white mould (Sclerotinia), which is likely to be a threat to soybean crops, especially under irrigation, and for research on rain-fed soybean production in the Dark Brown soil zone using newly available 000 very early maturing soybean varieties.
Variable rate irrigation (VRI) is a great idea, but many practical questions remain. Researchers are working to answer these questions so Prairie irrigation farmers and agricultural service providers will be able to more easily and effectively adopt VRI.
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Canadian Association of Farm Advisors Farm Management UpdateTue Jun 19, 2018
Saskatchewan canolaPALOOZAMon Jun 25, 2018 @ 8:00AM - 05:00PM
CanolaPalooza AlbertaWed Jun 27, 2018 @ 9:30AM - 03:30PM
Ag in Motion Tue Jul 17, 2018
Manitoba crops-a-PALOOZAWed Jul 25, 2018 @ 8:00AM - 05:00PM