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.
OMAFRA recently released 'New Horizons: Ontario's Draft Agricultural Soil Health and Conservation Strategy' for public input.Soil is a vital natural resource and the foundation of agricultural production. The many benefits of a healthy soil are important - underpinning the long-term sustainability of the farm operation, our agri-food sector and our environment.What is a healthy agricultural soil? Essentially it refers to a soil's ability to support crop growth without becoming degraded or otherwise harming the environment.While a soil can be degraded through particular practices, the good news is that many best management practices (BMPs) can build back and safeguard soil health.The draft strategy builds on the vision, goals, objectives and concepts presented in the 2016 'Sustaining Ontario's Agricultural Soils: Towards a Shared Vision' discussion document.It also builds on the extensive soil health efforts of agricultural organizations and OMAFRA. It was developed in collaboration with the agricultural sector, and it reflects feedback received during public engagement on the discussion document, from farmers, Indigenous participants and other interested groups and individuals.OMAFRA would like to hear your thoughts and feedback on the draft strategy. Your input will help guide the development of a final Soil Health and Conservation Strategy for Ontario which will be released in spring 2018.For more information, click here.
Soil health is the basis of successful crop production. This is why more and more growers are doing the groundwork to preserve and improve this vital part of their operations. Some, however, still avoid it because they perceive it as an economic issue – soil improvement costs money, it doesn’t make money. Not so, say Ontario soil specialists. Crop rotation trials prove if growers take a longer-term view of their operation, there will be economic rewards, yield bumps and an improved crop production environment.
OMAFRA has conducted a soft launch of the new online version of the Inspection of Soil Pest Assessment Forms (PARS) for the purchase of neonicotinoid treated corn and soybean seeds from Class 12 Vendors. The online version allows a producer or professional pest advisor to complete the form online, and email it directly to the Class 12 Vendor of choice. The vendor will be advised of the request and when accepted, a copy will automatically be sent to OMAFRA thus alleviating the need for the vendor to submit these online forms to OMAFRA by October 31st of each year. In addition, this version will assist the producer or professional pest advisor to complete and attach the required sketches via OMAFRA's AgMaps mapping tool.For more information, click here.
After the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Centre kicked off its shelterbelt program in 1903, the Indian Head Research Station sent out more than one billion free trees to western Canadian producers.
The rate of degradation of soils in Canada has slowed, but it still is happening at a significant rate and there is still a lot to learn.There are no soil-perfect systems yet for crop production, attendees at the Summit on Canadian Soil Health held recently in Guelph heard repeatedly.No-till farming has declined in Ontario, creating more chance for soil erosion and degradation, mostly because it is difficult to consistently and easily get similar yields from no-till compared to fields that have some tillage. For the full story, click here.
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.
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.
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.
Crop growth and yield are strongly affected by sunlight, temperature and growing season precipitation. From a farmer’s perspective, temperature and water availability are the two most important environmental factors that affect crop production.
Soil phosphorus (P) occurs in many inorganic and organic forms. Only a very small portion of inorganic soil P is available for plant uptake, with none of the organic forms taken up directly by plant roots. Phosphorus is the most challenging of all the plant nutrients to understand, as it can occur in numerous inorganic and organic forms, and its availability is strongly influenced by various soil chemical and physical factors.
Nitrogen can present a dilemma for farmers and land managers.On one hand, it is an essential nutrient for crops.However, excess nitrogen in fertilizers can enter groundwater and pollute aquatic systems. This nitrogen, usually in the form of nitrate, can cause algal blooms. Microbes that decompose these algae can ultimately remove oxygen from water bodies, causing dead zones and fish kills.In a new study, researchers have identified nitrate removal hotspots in landscapes around agricultural streams.“Understanding where nitrate removal is highest can inform management of agricultural streams,” says Molly Welsh, lead author of the study. “This information can help us improve water quality more effectively.”Welsh is a graduate student at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry. She studied four streams in northwestern North Carolina. The streams showed a range of degradation and restoration activity. One of the streams had been restored. Two others were next to agricultural lands. The fourth site had agricultural activity in an upstream area.The researchers analyzed water and sediment samples from the streams. They also analyzed soil samples from buffer zones next to the streams. Buffer zones are strips of land between an agricultural field and the stream. They often include native plants. Previous research showed they are particularly effective at absorbing and removing nitrate.Welsh’s research confirmed previous findings: Nitrate removal in buffer zones was significantly higher than in stream sediments. “If nitrate removal is the goal of stream restoration, it is vital that we conserve existing buffer zones and reconnect streams to buffer zones,” says Welsh.Within these buffer zones, nitrate removal hotspots occurred in low-lying areas. These hotspots had fine-textured soils, abundant soil organic matter, and lots of moisture. The same was true in streams. Nitrate removal was highest in pools where water collected for long times. These pools tended to have fine sediments and high levels of organic matter. However, pools created during stream restoration by installing channel-spanning rocks did not show high levels of nitrate removal. Creating pools using woody debris from trees may be more effective than rock structures for in-stream nitrogen removal.The researchers also tested simple statistical models to understand which factors promote nitrate removal. Bank slope and height, vegetation and soil type, and time of year explained 40% of the buffer zone’s nitrate removal. Similar to the hotspots identified in the field experiment, fine sediment textures, organic matter, and dissolved carbon content were key to removing nitrates in streams.“Our results show that it may be possible to develop simple models to guide nitrogen management,” says Welsh. “However, more work is needed in terms of gathering and evaluating data. Then we can find the best parameters to include in these models.”Welsh continues to study how stream restoration influences the movement of water and nitrate removal. She is also examining how steps to increase nitrate removal influence other aspects of landscape management.Read more about Welsh’s work in Journal of Environmental Quality.Funding was provided by the United States Department of Agriculture - National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative and the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship.
Sulphur fertilizer’s form, such as elemental sulphur, gypsum or ammonium sulphate, affects its behaviour in the soil and its availability to the plant. The best form depends on the situation. Factors such as soil and crop type, weather conditions and timing all come into play. A Saskatchewan study has evaluated the effectiveness of different sulphur fertilizer forms under various conditions, providing useful information for crop growers.Jeff Schoenau, a soil scientist at the University of Saskatchewan, led the research. He has conducted various studies on sulphur fertilizers over the years, but this latest study delved into the transformations the different forms of sulphur fertilizer undergo in the soil and how those transformations affect crop uptake and yield.“We need to consider the behaviour of different forms of sulphur following application if we’re going to do a good job of predicting when that sulphur is going to become available to the plant and how it relates to such factors as leaching,” he explains.The study involved growth chamber and field trials in 2013 and 2014, as well as some additional work in 2015. Both types of trials compared five sulphur fertilizer forms applied in the seed row with canola, wheat and yellow pea, in Brown Chernozem, Black Chernozem and Gray Luvisol soils.The five different sulphur formsThe five sulphur forms were: ammonium sulphate (a soluble form of sulphur); potassium sulphate (soluble); gypsum (calcium sulphate, slightly soluble); ammonium thiosulphate (liquid); and elemental sulphur (insoluble). These fertilizers were applied at a rate of 20 kilograms of sulphur per hectare, alone and in combination with monoammonium phosphate fertilizer (MAP) at 20 kilograms of phosphorus pentoxide (P2O5) per hectare. The researchers evaluated the effects of these fertilizer treatments on the amount of plant-available sulphate and phosphate found in the seed row, on crop uptake of these nutrients, and on crop yield.The three field sites were located in Star City (Gray Luvisol), Melfort (Black Chernozem), and Central Butte (Brown Chernozem), Sask. The soils tended to be marginally deficient in sulphur. “We wanted the soils in the study to be typical Saskatchewan field soils, so the sites did have a history of sulphur fertilization in the rotation and therefore were not highly sulphur-deficient,” Schoenau says. “It’s difficult these days to find a field with soil that is highly sulphur-deficient because most growers now apply sulphur fertilizers regularly in their crop rotations, especially for canola.” Soils from these three sites were also used for the growth chamber experiments.The research team used several methods to track the changes in sulphur forms from the time of fertilizer application to crop uptake, focusing mainly on sulphate because it is the plant-available form. They collected soil samples from the seed row at one, four and eight weeks after seeding, and determined the amount of sulphate in the samples through chemical tests. They also evaluated the sulphate supply rates using probes in the soil. As well, they used advanced spectroscopy technology to determine which sulphur forms were present in selected soil samples. At harvest, they determined the amount of sulphur and phosphorus in the grain and straw, and measured grain yield and crop biomass.Using spectroscopies to determine absorptionFor the spectroscopy work, the researchers used x-ray absorption near-edge spectroscopy, or XANES, at the Canadian Light Source synchrotron in Saskatoon. Schoenau explains XANES provided further insight into what was happening to the different sulphur fertilizer forms; those details would have been very difficult to determine using conventional chemical methods. For example, the researchers used XANES to document the oxidation of elemental sulphur – its conversion into plant-available forms by microbes – and some other microbial transformations.“The ability to track the oxidation of sulphur fertilizers like elemental sulphur into more oxidized forms and eventually into plant-available sulphate over time is of particular interest, as new fertilizer products become available to growers in Western Canada,” Schoenau adds.Take-home messagesAvailabilityThe uptake data showed the availability of sulphur from elemental sulphur in the season of application was significantly lower than from the sulphate sources. “You need to have microbial activity and give the microorganisms the time to oxidize elemental sulphur into sulphate for it to be usable by the plant,” he explains.As a result, elemental sulphur can’t be relied on as a short-term source of available sulphur. He adds, “The role of the elemental sulphur product is to supply sulphur slowly over a number of years because the oxidation is incomplete in the season of application.”The soluble sulphates (ammonium sulphate and potassium sulphate) and thiosulphate proved to be very effective in supplying available sulphur to the crop early in the growing season. “That early supply of sulphate appears to be important for plant uptake of sulphur and crop yield,” Schoenau says.“The slightly soluble sulphur form, gypsum, is also an effective source of plant-available sulphur, producing a good crop response,” he adds. The study showed gypsum performs especially well in rainy conditions when there is a high risk for sulphate loss through leaching; gypsum tends to remain in the seed row while the soluble forms are leached away.“Sulphur fertilizers that supply sulphate and/or acidify the soil may slightly enhance the supply of plant-available phosphorus from phosphorus fertilizer placed in the seed row with the sulphur,” Schoenau says. However, the effects tend to be small.Crop responseWheat, canola and pea took up most of the sulphur fertilizer from the seed row in the first month after seeding and fertilizer application.“Canola is more responsive to sulphur fertilizer than wheat or peas, reflecting the lower demand of cereals and pulse crops for sulphur and also perhaps a better ability of those crops to scavenge sulphur from the soil,” Schoenau explains.“For sensitive crops like canola and yellow pea, ammonium thiosulfate and ammonium sulphate can cause injury when placed close to the seed. They are best placed separate from the seed.”Soil zone effectsSoil type plays a role in sulphur fertilizer needs. “Growers have built up a capacity in many soils to supply available sulphur through mineralization. This was especially apparent in the Black Chernozem soil where a high mineralization potential, or ability to release available sulphur from the soil organic matter, was evident,” Shoenau says. Crop response to sulphur fertilizer was less in the soils with high mineralization potential.“Sometimes in the drier Brown soils, we have a reserve of subsoil sulphate deeper in the profile, maybe at a 12- to 24-inch depth. That can come into play as a supply of available sulphur later in the season. So soils with that subsoil sulphate reserve sometimes aren’t highly responsive to sulphur fertilization, and only need starter sulphur to supply the crop until the roots access the deeper sulphate,” he says.“However, under very wet conditions, as we had in 2014 at our Brown soil study site, the crops were responsive to sulphur fertilizer, despite the subsoil sulphates. The unusually high amount of growing season precipitation pushed the sulphate down and really restricted the ability of the crops to access the subsoil sulphate.”Sulphur deficiency can be more common in Gray Luvisol soils than in Black or Brown soils because Gray soils tend to have a lower mineralization capacity and they don’t usually have subsoil sulphates.A soil test will give a good indication of the availability of sulphur in a field. “But keep in mind that there is typically a high degree of variability in sulphur availability across a field,” Schoenau says. “So you really have to pay attention to careful soil sampling, taking lots of cores and staying out of the atypical areas like slough edges where sulphate salts may accumulate, in order to best represent the field in your sample and avoid skewing.”Don't miss out on our other web exclusive content! Sign up today for our E-newsletters and get the best of research-based info on field crops delivered staight to your inbox.Schoenau collaborated on this research with Derek Peak from the University of Saskatchewan and S.S. Malhi from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. The Saskatchewan Canola Development Commission, Saskatchewan Pulse Growers, Saskatchewan’s Agriculture Development Fund, and Western Grains Research Foundation funded the study.
Keeping a grass forage stand productive is difficult enough, but add in severely saline soils and the challenges are amplified. A three-year research trial at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) Swift Current Research and Development Centre in Saskatchewan is looking at how a one-time application of nitrogen fertilizer could boost productivity and reduce foxtail barley competition. Preliminary results show it is possible.“The field had very high salinity. Even though we had been trying for a long time to get something established on this site, the first time we seeded AC Saltlander in 2009, we got an excellent catch. We were absolutely thrilled with the establishment but were reluctant to break it up,” says Ken Wall, a former research technician with AAFC and now an agrologist with Pioneer Co-op in Swift Current.AC Saltlander is a green wheatgrass developed at AAFC Swift Current, and it has exceptional salinity tolerance. It was established on a severely to very severely saline field near Swift Current in the spring of 2009. Wall says excellent establishment was achieved, and considering the severity of the salinity, the forage yields in 2010 and 2011 were beyond expectations. By 2012, even though moisture continued to be above average, forage yields began to decline. In 2013, yields declined again by almost 50 per cent from the previous year, even though 152 millimetres of precipitation fell during April, May and June.Walls says because the condition of the forage stand was still rated good to excellent, and at least 90 per cent of the production was still coming from AC Saltlander, fertilization was considered as an option to try to bring productivity back to the stand.Two nitrogen (N) treatments were applied as urea at 50 kilogram per hectare (kg/ha) of actual N (44.5 pounds per acre, or lb/ac) and 150 kg/ha of actual N (133.5 lb/ac) to plots measuring six feet wide by 40 feet in length. These were compared to check plots that received no nitrogen. All plots received a broadcast application of 50 kg/ha (44.5 lb/ac) of 11-52-0 as a source of phosphate. Each treatment was replicated four times. All fertilizer was broadcast on May 22, 2014. Soil samples were taken prior to application of the fertilizer and also on April 16, 2015 and Oct. 28, 2015.“We considered banding the nitrogen, but decided against it because we had such a good stand. The site was previously pure foxtail barley, and we didn’t want to give it a foothold by disturbing the soil,” Wall says.In 2014, the plots were harvested on July 9. AC Saltlander and foxtail barley shoot biomass was separated and weighed. Growing conditions were generally favourable with 189 mm (7.6 inches) of precipitation recorded for April, May and June and total precipitation recorded at the AAFC Swift Current meteorological site for 2014 was 456 mm (18.25 in.). The urea applications significantly increased AC Saltlander yield over the control, although there wasn’t a significant difference between the 50 kg and 150 kg rates. Foxtail barley showed no differences in the treatments.In 2015, differences were noted between the treatments. Only 39 mm (1.5 in.) of rain fell in April, May and June, with most of this received in the last few days of June. Total yearly moisture received was 356 mm (14.25 in.). The trend showed increased AC Saltlander forage production but the only significant difference was between the 150 kg rate and the control.“We definitely noticed a trend to higher yields in 2015 with nitrogen application. It will be interesting to see what happens in 2016. Into the third year, the 50 kg treatment might be running out of gas since the nitrogen might have been used up in the previous two years,” Wall says.AC Saltlander and Foxtail Barley Shoot Biomass (g/m2)Source: Wall et al. AAFC 2015.The percentage of foxtail barley also increased in 2015. Wall says this wasn’t unexpected because foxtail barley does well in dry years. The percentage of foxtail barley in the stand ranged from 27.5 per cent for the control treatment, 18 per cent for the 50 kg/ha treatment and 14.9 per cent for the 150 kg/ha treatment. “Although not significant, we were still seeing a trend to lower foxtail barley with increasing fertilizer rates,” Wall says.Economic analysis guides decisionProfitability of nitrogen application comes down to the economics of the day. The cost of urea and price of forage varies year to year. Wall crunched the numbers and found commodity prices had a big impact on which rate to apply. Combining the returns from both seasons, the 50 kg/ha rate scored the highest with a return of $637.74/ha ($290/ac.), the 150 kg/ha application return was $626.73 ($285/ac.), while the control treatment returned $525.47/ha ($239/ac.).Average revenue in $ per hectare. Net revenue expressed as the revenue minus the cost of the nitrogen fertilizer. 2014 feed price price = $110/tonne, 2015 feed price = $154/tonne. Source: Wall et al. AAFC 2015.“A producer could look at the cost of urea and price of forage and decide on the rate he might want to apply. If urea was low, he might want to consider applying the 150 kg rate. But that is maybe a bit more risky. We’ll see after the third year but a strategy might be more like 50 kg every second year or so,” Wall says.The research will also conduct a feed analysis, and will assess the soil samples for nitrogen use efficiency. Wall admits that broadcast urea isn’t the best management practice as some nitrogen can be lost to volatilization. He says the urea application was timed with weather forecasts and was applied in anticipation of a significant rainfall that fell the next day.“We would like to see how a slow-release urea might work and hopefully that can be looked at down the line,” Wall says.He explains that from these preliminary results, it appears yields can be increased with the addition of nitrogen fertilizer, even on a severely saline site. Whether it is economical to pursue would depend on the price of the fertilizer and the price of the forage produced. If fertilizer prices are high and forage prices are low, it may not be economical to fertilize. On fields where the salinity is high, money for fertilizer may be better spent on a less saline site with the possibility of higher returns. However Wall says it appears the addition of the fertilizer seems to allow the forage to better compete with foxtail barley, which seems ever present on these saline soils.Don't miss out on our other web exclusive content! 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Like it or not (and believe in climate change or not), Canada has committed to greenhouse gas emission (GHG) reductions, and the implementation will affect farmers. Part of GHG mitigation will certainly revolve around reducing nitrogen (N) fertilizer losses.“Farmers already have production challenges with growing crops, and this will add another layer of complexity...We don’t know yet how it is going to impact at the farm level,” says Mario Tenuta, a soil scientist at the University of Manitoba.Tenuta says agriculture is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, and nitrous oxide is the big one for agriculture. The increase in agricultural emissions in Canada is largely related to an increase in nitrogen (N) fertilizer use. In Canada, N fertilizer use has risen five-fold since 1970. In 2009, agriculture in Manitoba, for example, was responsible for 35 per cent of total GHG emissions (excluding fuel and fertilizer production). Fifty per cent of nitrous oxide emissions came from fertilizer and crop residue, and another 27 per cent came from indirect emissions from the soil.In December 2015, the Manitoba government committed to reduce emissions from 2005 levels by one-third by 2030 and one-half by 2050. The province is committed to being emission neutral by 2080.“Nobody likes to be a target, but we are. It is happening so what are we going to do about it?” Tenuta says.4Rs and enhanced efficiency fertilizersThe “4R” nutrient stewardship program focuses on getting the best nutrient use efficiency by using the right source, rate, time of application, and placement of fertilizer. It aims to improve or maintain yield and profitability, while limiting fertilizer loss and providing water and air quality benefits. From a GHG emissions perspective, Tenuta says financial incentives could be used to encourage implementation of the 4Rs to reduce emissions. In 2015 at the Manitoba Agronomist Conference he reviewed current research and outlined how using the 4Rs could reduce GHG emissions.Two research projects in Manitoba showed how increasing the N fertilizer rate also increased nitrous oxide emissions. In a Carberry, Man., potato crop, nitrous oxide emissions increased linearly as the N rate increased from zero to 240 pounds per acre. The economic rate was about 60 pounds per acre. In another trial in Glenlea, Man., a similar increase in emissions occurred as N rates increased.“The simple way to reduce emissions was to match application rate to crop uptake,” Tenuta says.Crop rotation also affected emissions. Nitrogen fixing legumes such as fababean, alfalfa or soybean had little to no nitrous oxide emissions and were fixing N into the cropping system instead of emitting N. Other rate considerations to potentially reduce emissions include using variable rate N, soil testing every year, and better understanding differences in variety and hybrid N requirements.The second of the 4Rs, placement of fertilizer, also has an impact on emissions. Subsurface banding N fertilizer reduces nitrous oxide emissions, and when enhanced efficiency fertilizers such as environmentally smart nitrogen (ESN) or SuperU fertilizers are banded, reductions are even greater, at 26 per cent less than banded urea.“Good band closure and coverage of the band is important. We are also looking into band depth, because we are banding more shallow with crops like canola, and we don’t know enough about losses from shallow bands,” Tenuta says.Another key component of the 4Rs is application timing. Traditional yield estimates based on N application timing showed fall broadcast/incorporated to be 80 per cent of spring broadcast/incorporated, while fall banded was equal to spring broadcast/incorporated, and spring banded was 20 per cent better. However, Tenuta has found very late fall application just before freeze-up doesn’t increase nitrous oxide emissions when compared to spring banded N. Two years of his research comparing fall versus spring anhydrous ammonia application found the spring timing had much greater nitrous oxide emissions.“Lower emissions from fall application goes contrary to what people thought might happen. Because the soil temperature was very cool, the timing used nature to stabilize the N and freeze it in,” Tenuta says.Fertilizer source is the final of the 4Rs to take into consideration. With conventional sources of N fertilizer, scientists generally accept that anhydrous ammonia produces the highest emissions, followed by urea, ammonium and nitrate fertilizers. Nitrification – the conversion of ammonium to nitrates – is behind most nitrous oxide emissions from N fertilizer.The other choices in sources of N fertilizer come from enhanced efficiency fertilizers (EEF). These include stabilized, controlled release, slow release and nutrient blend N products. The goal of these products is to slow the conversion of N fertilizer into forms that are more easily lost through ammonium volatilization, nitrification or denitrification, and to more closely match N availability with crop uptake.Enhanced efficiency fertilizer mechanism of action. Source: Tenuta, University of Manitoba.“In the field, the research shows that these EEF products really do work. They tend to provide a larger benefit in wet years,” Tenuta says. “I recommend that you talk to the manufacturer representatives to make sure you are using the right product properly.”Another source of N that reduces nitrous oxide emissions is legume plowdown as an enhanced efficiency N source. Current research at the U of M has found that, compared to conventional cropping systems with N fertilizer, a legume plowdown results in very little emission.“You have to estimate if EEF are worth it for your system. For example, if you’re putting more N fertilizer on in the fall to compensate for winter losses, you might be able to put on a EEF in the fall at a reduced N rate and that might pay for the additional cost of the product,” Tenuta says.He adds that uses of the 4Rs and EEF N products are currently focused on improving yield and N use efficiency for higher profitability. But they can also play a role in reducing nitrous oxide emissions and helping to meet emission reduction targets. Ultimately, if farmers are contributing to emissions reductions, the hope is that they will be compensated for those practices.Best management practice recommendations to reduce nitrous oxide emissions• Use the 4Rs – right rate, time, source and placement.• Optimize N application rates through soil testing, understanding crop requirements and interactions with the other Rs.• Consider using lower emitting sources of N fertilizer.• Legume crops emit little nitrous oxide.• Green manuring limits nitrous oxide emissions.• Banding works.• Investigate ways of making EEF products work through reduced N application rates and improved N use efficiency.• Spring apply N fertilizer unless fall banding can be accomplished shortly before fall freeze-up.Don't miss out on our other web exclusive content! Sign up today for our E-newsletters and get the best of research-based info on field crops delivered staight to your inbox.
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.
A few growers in Saskatchewan are adopting intercropping systems as a way to improve yields and revenue over monocropping. Researchers at the South East Research Farm (SERF) in Redvers, Sask., are helping growers address some of their intercropping questions through small plot research and replicated trials, including demonstrations and evaluations of the potential of various crop combinations.
Ontario farmers who are thinking about growing a non-traditional crop have a valuable new tool to assess whether it’s a profitable idea. Making a Case for Growing New Crops is an online learning resource recently developed by the Agri-Food Management Institute (AMI) to help farmers engage in business planning before planting.“This resource will help you decide if that new crop is right for your farm at this time,” says Ashley Honsberger, Executive Director of AMI. According to Honsberger, farmers are increasingly looking at non-traditional crops to meet new customer preferences, realize higher value per acre, or for crop rotation and other environmental benefits.The resource was developed in partnership with the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA), who surveyed members earlier this year to gauge interest in growing new crops, as well as the best method of delivering information. “We know Ontario farmers are interested in growing new crops, and are looking for timely information on marketing a crop, finding buyers and locating processors,” says OFA President Keith Currie. “We appreciated providing AMI with industry input on a resource that will ultimately support farm business management and reduce the risk of expanding into a new crop.”Making a Case for Growing New Crops – the new free online resource available in the Resources for Farmers section of www.takeanewapproach.ca features five interactive modules that users work through on their own schedule to develop a business case for diversifying their farm. Through a series of videos and worksheets, users can determine whether the crop is an agronomic fit, identify customers and markets, analyze their cost of production and develop a budget. In the end, they will have a personalized and confidential report that includes a business model canvas (a one-page visual business plan) as well as an action plan to share with their team and use to communicate with their advisors and lenders.“Whatever the reason, taking time to build a business case for growing new crops makes sense,” says Honsberger. “While we encourage farmers to take a new approach, we also want them to really evaluate the opportunity and manage any potential risks associated with growing new crops.”Of the 402 farmers responding to the online survey about new crops – as part of the Making a Case for Growing News Crops project – about 20 per cent had tried a new crop in the past five years. The main reasons farmers chose to trying something new included: changing markets and emerging opportunities (29 per cent), crop rotation and environmental benefits (24 per cent), and reducing overall risk through diversification (24 per cent). And 27 per cent of farmers said they develop a business plan before beginning a new crop opportunity.For growers who had not introduced a new crop in the last five years, 7 per cent plan to in the next two years, 49 per cent do not plan to, and 44 per cent were undecided. These results suggest farmers are open to new crop opportunities, but are hesitant and unsure of how successful they may be.The survey findings also contributed to OFA’s submission for the Bring Home the World: Improving Access to Ontario’s World Foods consultationby the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
Gone are the days when canola growers dialled in a standard five pounds per acre seeding rate – or at least they should be. Today, with wide variations in seed size from three to six grams per 1,000 seeds or more, one size no longer fits all. Also, considering that many growers are cutting seeding rates to save on seed costs, hitting the Canola Council of Canada’s (CCC) recommended target plant stand may not be possible. Ian Epp, a CCC agronomist, says the long-term recommendation has been seven to 10 plants per square foot, but that recommendation is changing.
The wheat midge forecast for 2018 shows an overall lower level of wheat midge across Alberta. There is very little risk of midge in the Peace Region, with the lowest level of midge found in the survey since the outbreak in 2013. Individual fields or small pockets of wheat midge may still exist so it is important to remain vigilant.The midge population in central Alberta east of Edmonton appears to be lower but this may be in part due to increase in midge tolerant wheat. Wheat midge in that area in that area will remain a concern, especially if there is late seeding and higher than average rainfall in the spring. Areas west and south of Edmonton have seen individual fields with midge numbers at levels of concern as far south as Red Deer county.The population remains low in southern Alberta and the only midge found was associated with irrigated fields. For more information, click here.Related: Monitoring for wheat midge
As swede midge populations continue to rise in Quebec, canola growers are looking for better ways to manage the pest. Entomologist Geneviève Labrie is leading a two-year research project to help advance integrated management strategies for swede midge.
Earlier this summer (Week 14), true armyworm, Lepidoptera: Noctuidae: Mythimna unipuncta, was reported on the lower west coast and a summary was provided by Tracy Hueppelsheuser from the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture.Hueppeisheuser kindly provided an update to the situation.... The initial true armyworm damage reported earlier did not relent and a second generation of voracious larvae continued to cause damage in late August through to late September in southwestern British Columbia. READ MORE
Armyworms have arrived in the Fraser Valley. Common armyworm (or true armyworm) is the larval stage of the moth Mythimna unipuncta. The worms were first discovered in B.C. on Vancouver Island in the summer, but in recent weeks some farmers have found them in the Fraser Valley from Delta to Chilliwack. READ MORE
A groundbreaking new method for controlling flea beetle, the pest that causes at least $300 million in damage in North American canola every year, may hit growers’ fields early in the next decade.RNA interference, or RNAi – a process by which RNA molecules “silence” genes targeted as threats – has already been harnessed by public and private research and development programs against several agricultural pests, including Colorado potato beetle (CPB) and corn rootworm.According to Jim Baum, Monsanto’s insect control lead in chemistry, the use of RNAi technology against flea beetle “represents a sizable opportunity and need” for canola growers in the U.S. and Canada who have seen incomplete protection from neonicotinoid insecticides and other chemical products in recent years.Monsanto began work on an RNAi-based product for flea beetle control several years ago, Baum says, as part of a suite of RNAi projects aimed at controlling agricultural pests, including corn rootworm and CPB.Put simply, RNAi for flea beetle control works by “tricking” the beetle’s natural immune system to self-destruct. Beetles are fed double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) molecules that “turn down” expression of a critical gene in the flea beetle midgut, killing exposed insects within five days.There are two possible delivery methods for RNAi-based pest control in agriculture: plants can be genetically engineered to express dsRNA in their leaves, or dsRNA can be applied externally to plants as a topical spray. Monsanto has worked with both methods; its corn rootworm product is transgenic.But the company’s flea beetle project is currently focused on the development of a foliar insecticide that can be applied using its patented BioDirect platform.Monsanto advanced its CPB BioDirect product to Stage 2 in 2015, and Baum says the company’s experience in RNAi for CPB control has streamlined its approach to new RNAi products.The company has already run lab bioassays monitoring mortality in insects fed various dsRNAs, as well as seedling assays in which a set number of beetles are exposed to canola seedlings treated with dsRNA at a prescribed field rate.Last year, Baum says, Monsanto ran successful field trials for its flea beetle RNAi project, and this year the number of trials more than doubled. (The company could not comment on the location of the field trials).Next up, Monsanto will be analyzing effectiveness of various agronomic practices — basically, what works best in terms of rates and application timing, and how the product will work in combination with other products.“Compared to previously approved products’ timelines, we’re being conservative with this one, recognizing that topical is a new application of the technology,” Baum says. “But if the project is successful, we’re projecting commercialization sometime on the early side of the next decade.”Farmer and consumer outreachThough RNAi-based insect control products won’t reach farmers’ fields for several years, they need to know what’s coming, and farmer and consumer outreach will be more important than ever for companies looking to commercialize the technology.This is the view of Curtis Rempel, vice-president of crop production for the Canola Council of Canada.“RNAi provides a tool or a technology that takes us outside of the traditional chemistry realm, so it has the potential for much improved environmental outcomes, but along with new technologies come a new set of regulatory and efficacy evaluations,” he says.Just how safe is RNAi? According to Baum, RNAi has a built-in specificity that means once dsRNA is targeted to a specific insect pest, even closely related pest species are not harmed when they ingest it. “It’s hard to imagine a chemical insecticide, even Bt, that would be as specific as this RNAi product we’re talking about here,” he says.Rempel agrees but believes farmers and consumers alike need to feel that regulators and scientists have had the opportunity to evaluate RNAi technologies in terms of environmental and societal norms.Next year, the Canola Council hopes to include discussions around RNAi in its annual Canola Discovery Forum, and Rempel says the organization is working on developing “supporting material” to help communicate the role of RNAi in pest control to stakeholders – although he is quick to point out that communications outreach about RNAi requires the collaboration of all stakeholders.In Rempel’s estimate, only 10 per cent of farmers are familiar with RNAi and aware of projects in the pipeline, even though they are the ones who will benefit most from its use.But consumers shouldn’t be neglected either. After all, it’s consumers who implicitly afford farmers the “social license” to use technologies like RNAi, and they are the ones who will need to be assured of the products’ safety.“I think we have an opportunity to do a good job of looking at the questions we’re asking, reviewing regulatory procedures and communicating these to the layperson,” Rempel says.Don't miss out on our other web exclusive content! Sign up today for our E-newsletters and get the best of research-based info on field crops delivered staight to your inbox.
The yield potential of hybrid canola continues to push higher, begging the question of whether economic thresholds for lygus bug developed in the 1990s are still valid today. With more vigorously growing crops, higher yield and relatively high canola prices, new research has found the current economic threshold level of approximately one lygus bug per sweep to be too low.“Economic thresholds for the early pod stage were developed in Manitoba in the mid-1990s and were based on conventional canola varieties like Westar. However, since then a number of new hybrids, including herbicide-tolerant cultivars with superior agronomic traits, have entered the market and been adopted extensively,” says Héctor Cárcamo, a research scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) in Lethbridge, Alta.Cárcamo and colleagues at AAFC Lethbridge, Lacombe and Beaverlodge conducted several research studies from 2012 through 2015 to validate economic thresholds for lygus in southern and central Alberta using a hybrid cultivar. They compared the impact of lygus feeding on current hybrids of canola and a conventional cultivar, and obtained baseline information about lygus in fababeans. The research was funded by the Alberta Canola Producers Commission, Alberta Pulse Growers, Alberta Crop Industry Development Fund and AAFC’s Pest Management Centre.A multi-site cage study was completed near Lethbridge and Lacombe to assess how lygus affects yield in canola for current cultivars and to refine thresholds. The cultivar L150 was planted at both locations. One-meter square cages (1.2 and 1.5 m tall, at Lethbridge and Lacombe, respectively) were used to confine 75 plants. The treatments included an uncaged area, and caged densities of zero, four, 10, 20, 50 (40 in Lacombe) and 80 lygus. In year two in Lacombe, an extra treatment was added in each cultivar to compare two lygus species (L. keltoni and L. lineolaris) at a density of 20 bugs per cage. At Lethbridge, the treatments included additional treatments with seedpod weevils at 10, 20 and 40 per cage, as well as a combination of 10 lygus and 10 weevils per cage, to assess the joint effects of these two insects at moderate densities below threshold.Economic threshold increased to two to three lygus per sweepCárcamo says the insect additions were successful in establishing a gradient of different lygus densities, and allowed an assessment of yield impact and economic thresholds.“The outcome of the studies suggests that the current economic threshold of one lygus per sweep at the early pod stage is too low. For Lethbridge, the data suggested that canola yield losses to warrant control did not occur until lygus reached around three lygus per sweep. For the Lacombe region, the threshold was around two per sweep,” says Cárcamo.A second study was conducted at AAFC Beaverlodge from 2012 to 2015 to look at damage and yield comparisons in three canola varieties from bolting to maturity. InVigor and Roundup Ready hybrids were compared to Westar. Lygus adults were collected by sweep-net from local alfalfa fields and sorted by species. The dominant species of lygus was then used to stock cages at the late rosette stage with 20 adults.The results for Beaverlodge were less conclusive, but a comparable impact of lygus on canola was observed and a similar threshold could be applied for Lacombe. More site-year data are needed to relate weather to lygus damage, but for Lethbridge, the highest number of lygus per cage (more than 1,000) and extreme yield loss (40 per cent) occurred in July 2012, when temperatures were hot (mean of 20 C) and dry (lowest rainfall relative to other years). In a normal year with sufficient rain – meaning a normal mean temperature below 20 C in July and greater than 120 millimeters of rain in June and July – lygus bugs at low populations of one per sweep did not pose a yield risk.Cárcamo explains that in a field situation, the yield loss could also be lower because lygus in open fields are subjected to higher predation by natural enemies and also suffer more disturbances from rain and wind, unlike the situation in a cage. This means the estimates of lygus bug damage could be exaggerated and the thresholds could be even higher. Another four-year study funded by the Canola Council of Canada’s Canola Agronomic Research Program (CARP) is underway across the three Prairie provinces to attempt to validate these thresholds in actual commercial canola fields.Cárcamo says using a higher threshold, even if only slightly higher, may result in a large reduction in pesticide use in canola crops and produce significant cost savings for canola growers. Such a reduction may have other positive repercussions, such as increased activity by pollinators and other natural enemies, which provide beneficial ecosystem services.“On the other hand, if lygus reach or surpass three per sweep in the south, there are significant economic returns to be realized by spraying because our results, despite high local variability, showed that lygus can reduce canola yield by about 15 per cent in most years in southern Alberta and up to 20 per cent in central Alberta,” Cárcamo says.Fababean thresholds also evaluatedIn fababean there are concerns that lygus feeding can increase necrotic spots, reducing quality and marketability in addition to potential yield. At AAFC Lacombe and Vuaxhall, both in Alberta, a study was conducted to assess the species and crop damage that occurs on fababean from lygus bug feeding. In Lacombe, two to 10 fields of tannin cultivars and six to 11 fields of zero tannin fababeans were surveyed from 2013 through 2015 with sweep nets at the bud, flower and pod stages. In total, 43 fields were sampled. Lygus were identified by species and nymphal stage and total numbers were recorded.Field and plot studies showed a similar species composition of lygus and activity pattern compared to canola. In most fields, lygus were present at less than one per sweep and rarely two or more per sweep at any crop stage. Cárcamo says further studies are needed to make management recommendations, but as a guideline, farmers may take control action if there are more than two lygus per sweep. He adds farmers should attempt to mitigate any impacts on pollinators and natural enemies of lygus.“Fababean requires pollinators to improve yield, so it is crucial to mitigate insecticide impacts on them or the action could also affect yields negatively,” Cárcamo says. “Planting early is recommended to avoid the peak of damaging lygus populations that occur late in the growing season.”Top tip: Sweep net sampling for lygus bugTake 10 180-degree sweeps with a standard insect net measuring 38 centimeters (15 inches) in diameter, and aim to sweep the canola buds, flowers and pods while moving forward. Count the number of lygus in the net. Sampling several locations in the field and taking more sweeps will provide a better assessment of pest populations. Samples can be taken along or near the field margins. Sample the crop for lygus bugs on a sunny day when the temperature is above 20 C and the crop canopy is dry.Don't miss out on our other web exclusive content! Sign up today for our E-newsletters and get the best of research-based info on field crops delivered staight to your inbox.
Bees can provide a helping hand to farmers with a new green technology to fight against major fungal diseases such as sunflower head rot and grey mould.
It doesn’t matter how you look at it, clubroot is an ugly threat to the Canadian canola industry.The disease does unsightly things to the plant, producing galls and deformities that will effectively choke it to death.The effect of clubroot on yield is just plain nasty — yields can be reduced to zero.Plus, the fact that the only effective control is abstinence from growing canola, which is typically one of the biggest cash earners on Prairie farms, is causing some ugly confrontations between farmers and their local governments. For the full story, click here.
In 2016 the milder winter conditions resulted in early leaf and stripe rust infections in Tennessee and Kentucky. This resulted in rust spores being blown into Ontario earlier than we typically see. By mid-May 2016, stripe rust was prevalent in most areas of southwestern Ontario. Growers who selected tolerant varieties or applied a foliar fungicide were able to keep the disease at bay. However, growers that selected susceptible varieties and did not apply a foliar fungicide saw significant yield reductions where the disease was present. In 2017, stripe rust again arrived early in southwestern Ontario and was found in one field in Essex County the first week of May. Although we have not historically seen stripe rust at significant levels in Ontario in the past, it is important to have a plan in place in 2018 for managing this disease. For the full story, click here.
When it comes to fighting Fusarium graminearum, our crops may soon have some new tiny but powerful allies. Research by Manish Raizada at the University of Guelph is providing the foundation for commercializing some anti-Fusarium bacteria as biocontrol products. As well, a student in his lab discovered an amazing mechanism that a bacterial strain called M6 uses to stop the fungus dead in its tracks.
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.
As problems with Fusarium head blight (FHB) continue to increase on the Prairies, so does the need to deal with Fusarium-infested grain and screenings. Preliminary results from a Saskatchewan study are pointing to a possible way to extract value from these wastes while potentially reducing the risk of spreading the disease.FHB is a difficult to control fungal disease that affects cereal crops. It reduces crop yield and grade, but its most serious impact is the pathogen’s ability to produce mycotoxins that limit the grain’s use for food and livestock feed. Several Fusarium species can cause the disease; the most common one is Fusarium graminearum. Its mycotoxins include deoxynivalenol (DON), the most common mycotoxin associated with FHB.“The traditional use for Fusarium-damaged grain is to clean it and then, if possible, blend it with uncontaminated grain for animal feed. Although the limits for Fusarium levels in feed are set, there is some nervousness within the livestock industry that if livestock are continually at that maximum level for years and years, there could be some long-term detrimental effects to animal health. So the livestock industry has been pushing for another disposal option to minimize the risk of damage to the animals,” explains Joy Agnew with the Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute (PAMI), who led this research. “At present, if the mycotoxin content of the grain or the screenings is too high to be blended for feed, then usually the material is dumped in the bush, a slough, or a hole in a field. But there is a potential risk of spreading Fusarium with dumping.” She notes the amount of Fusarium-damaged grain has increased substantially in the last few years, adding: “The Canadian Grain Commission [CGC] estimates that a third of all red spring wheat was downgraded due to Fusarium damage in 2014.” And Fusarium levels were even worse in 2016, with downgrading of nearly half of the red spring wheat samples in the CGC’s harvest sample program. As a result, it is increasingly important to find alternatives to dumping and feed blending.“A lot of research is being done on preventing Fusarium head blight, but not much is being done on how you can extract value from heavily damaged grain and screenings if your crop gets the disease,” Agnew says. Finding ways to add value to these infested materials would help producers deal with some of the economic impacts of FHB, such as extra fungicide costs, poorer yields, higher seed cleaning costs, lower prices for the grain and limited marketing opportunities.So Agnew initiated a project to evaluate various disposal options to determine their potential for extracting value from the Fusarium-infested materials and for minimizing the spread of FHB. Saskatchewan’s Agriculture Development Fund, under the federal-provincial-territorial Growing Forward 2 program, funded the project. The CGC provided in-kind services.Seed cleaning optionsAgnew and her research team reviewed the literature on seed cleaning options and surveyed Saskatchewan seed cleaners about current practices. They discovered none of the seed-cleaning technologies currently used in Saskatchewan are ideal for dealing with Fusarium-infested grain. The survey found the most common way for the province’s seed cleaners to remove Fusarium-damaged kernels from grain was to use a gravity sorter as part of a mobile cleaning unit. “A gravity sorter separates seeds based on seed density, but research shows this technology misses some Fusarium-damaged kernels and discards a lot of healthy kernels. However, it’s a low-cost, fairly high capacity method. That is why it is so widely employed,” Agnew says.More sophisticated technologies like optical sorters or near-infrared transmittance (NIT) equipment were not common in Saskatchewan when Agnew’s group conducted the survey in 2016, but since then, she has heard of several more custom grain cleaners who are now offering these technologies.Agnew explains that optical sorters evaluate individual seeds and eject the ones that do not fall within a predetermined colour spectrum. However, Fusarium-damaged kernels vary in colour from whitish to black or pink, which complicates and slows the sorting process – especially if the grain is highly infested. NIT involves sending light through individual kernels and measuring the response to determine the chemical characteristics of the kernels, such as protein content, starch content and hardness. Research shows this technology can remove Fusarium-damaged kernels because it can detect their lower protein content and the presence of DON. Agnew’s survey found NIT technology was not readily available to Saskatchewan farmers. However, some seed cleaners were interested in adding the technology to their mobile seed-cleaning units once NIT becomes more economical and has a higher capacity for sorting large amounts of grain.Agnew expects the capacities of optical and NIT sorters will likely increase as these technologies advance. She notes a common approach at present is to first clean the grain with a gravity sorter and then use one of these other technologies to further sort the grain. However, this process increases the time and cost per bushel for cleaning the grain. Disposal optionsIn 2016, Agnew conducted trials to assess three disposal technologies – burning, composting and anaerobic digestion – in terms of their potential to provide an economic return and their effectiveness in killing the fungus.“We selected burning because, other than dumping, it is probably the most common way of disposing of Fusarium-infested grain. You can burn it in a grain-burning stove or you can pellet it and then burn it in a pellet stove,” she explains.“We looked at anaerobic digestion because some preliminary work in Europe indicated that digestion might deactivate the Fusarium spores, breaking them down in an oxygen-free environment. “And we looked at composting because it is a pretty standard method of disposing of organic waste and it is easy to incorporate on to the farm.” Although the CGC has well-established methods for measuring Fusarium graminearum concentrations in grain, it doesn’t have such methods for measuring mycotoxins in ash, compost and digestate. So, for this project, the CGC developed and validated a specialized method for measuring DON concentrations in these materials as an indicator of the Fusarium level.All the trials compared wheat samples with high versus low DON levels. In the burning trial, the two types of wheat samples were burned in a grain-burning stove. The CGC analyzed the DON concentrations in the ash. Also, the Alberta Innovates lab in Vegreville assessed the total energy content in the wheat samples. The anaerobic digestion trial involved 18 vessels, including: six vessels with a manure mixture that included high DON wheat; six vessels with a manure mixture that included low DON wheat; and six vessels with only a manure mixture. In three of the six vessels within each treatment, the liquid at the bottom of the vessel was re-circulated periodically for better contact between the microbes and the substrate. In anaerobic digestion, bacteria convert the carbon in manure and other organic materials into biogas, so biogas production was monitored during the trial. The CGC determined the DON levels in the digestate.The composting trial included six piles. Two piles had a 50/50 mixture by volume of cow manure and low DON wheat; two piles had a 50/50 mixture of cow manure and high DON wheat; and two control piles had only cow manure. The CGC analyzed the composted material for DON levels. Agnew’s team also conducted a preliminary economic analysis of the different disposal options. View the embedded image gallery online at: https://www.topcropmanager.com/index.php?option=com_k2&Itemid=10&lang=en&layout=latest&view=latest#sigProGalleria2d57cb0528 Surprising resultsBased on the results from these trials, anaerobic digestion was the least promising option. It decreased the DON concentration in the digestate, but didn’t eliminate it. On top of that, very little biogas was produced and anaerobic digestion requires special equipment. Overall, this technology does not appear to be practical for farm disposal of Fusarium-infested grain. In the burning trial, the temperature during burning was estimated to be between 150 C and 300 C. Burning reduced the concentration of DON in the ash but did not eliminate it. Agnew says, “So you can extract energy value from burning Fusarium-damaged grain, but you have to be careful about disposing of the ash because there is still potential for spreading the fungus in that ash.” Assuming the ash could be properly disposed of, the project’s economic analysis indicated that if highly damaged grain could be purchased for $1 to $3 per bushel, then burning the grain could be a cost-effective way of producing heat compared to traditional fuels. Composting turned out to be the most promising option. All of the compost samples had undetectable levels of DON, which surprised the researchers. “Composting usually promotes fungal growth. Since Fusarium is a fungus, we hadn’t expected much of an effect,” Agnew says. She notes, “Our hypothesis is that during the composting process, which heats the compost up to about 60 C to 70 C, it is wet heat and additional microbial activity is happening in the compost pile that somehow eliminates the DON.” Agnew explains that the cost/benefit of composting strongly depends on the availability of space, a tractor and mixing materials such as manure. “If all of that is available, then composting could be a low-cost option for disposing of Fusarium-infested grain, depending on the availability of a market for the compost and depending on evidence proving that the Fusarium fungus [and not just the DON] is gone from the compost.”The project’s results show promise for not only extracting value from heavily infested grain but also for minimizing the potential to spread FHB. If Agnew and her CGC colleagues are able to obtain funding to continue this research, the team plans to find a way to directly measure Fusarium levels in compost as part of the research. “This study revealed some pretty interesting things,” Agnew concludes. “The Canadian Grain Commission was really interested in the results. They are pushing for additional work and to publish the initial results, so we are working with them on that. And the results may also be presented at the World Mycotoxin Forum in 2018 because of the interest in this issue and the fact that no one else has really seen this effect due to composting.”Common disposal Options for Fusarium-damaged kernels Clean and blend - Traditional use is to clean and blend with uncontaminated grain for animal feed. Dumping - If toxin levels are too high, grain can be dumped in bush, slough or in a hole. Gravity sorter - Seeds are separated based on density. It’s a low-cost, fairly high-capacity method. Burning - The most common method of disposal. Grain can be burned in a grain-burning stove or can be pelleted and burned. Composting - This is a pretty standard method of disposing of organic waste and it is easy to incorporate on to the farm. Anaerobic digestion - Preliminary work in Europe indicated digestion might deactivate the spores, breaking them down in an oxygen-free environment. Near-infrared transmittance (NIT) - Sends light through individual kernels and measures the response to determine the chemical characteristics of the kernels.
When learning from agronomists and farmers about their experience with managing glyphosate resistant Canada fleabane, there is consensus that multiple strategies are needed and that simply tank-mixing another mode of action will not be a good long-term approach. Since 2016 we have evaluated different management tactics for Canada fleabane. READ MORE
Many farmers have witnessed the value in applying herbicides in the fall to perennial weeds, especially perennial sow-thistle and dandelion. Often they will see a reduction in their population the next year as well as a delay in their shoot emergence. This allows the planted crop to have a competitive advantage over those perennial weeds. Unfortunately weather conditions around the time of application can be quite variable and can influence a herbicide’s effectiveness. Click here to read more and for three top tips to make the most of this application window.
Invasive plant species can pose a serious problem for farmers. The lack of native competitors or predator species often allows invaders to spread virtually unchecked, so a minor challenge can quickly become a major problem facing farmers across a large area. With a lot of time, effort and resources, the spread of some invasive plants can be checked and in some instances, the plants can be entirely eradicated from an area.
A team of University of Guelph researchers at the cutting edge of discovering how plants communicate with one another has proven the stress of “seeing” weed competition causes a plant to significantly change growth patterns and drop yield.
In a study featured in the most recent edition of Weed Science, a team of researchers tilled four fields every two weeks during the growing season. They then monitored each site to quantify the density and species of seedlings that emerged from the weed seed bank six weeks after each till. They found that total weed density tended to be greatest when soil was tilled early in the growing season. More than 50 percent fewer weeds emerged after late-season tillage. | READ MORE
In 2013, two University of Guelph weed scientists began collaborating on alternatives to herbicides for weed control. The report, by Francois Tardif and Mike Cowbrough, was released in 2016.
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.
If you want to – or have to – store your grain into the summer, what are the best practices to prevent spoilage? Recently completed Prairie research gives a straightforward answer to that question.
August 31, 2016 - Harvest is underway, and storage bins are filling up fast. Keep these methods in mind to protect the quality of your stored grain from insect infestations and mould. Keep grain cool. Check your temperature probes every two weeks while grain is in storage. For best results, the temperature of grain should be less than 15 C. Aerating or turning grain helps keep grain cool and dry. Monitor moisture levels. Keep your grain at the appropriate moisture content to reduce the risk of spoilage. Moisture levels should be checked every two weeks. Spot and identify insects. When you check grain moisture and temperature, take samples from the core of your grain to monitor for insect populations. If you find insects, determine what type they are to find the best control method. Watch out for mould. Under warm, moist conditions, moulds can grow quickly and some fungi may produce poisonous mycotoxins, such as ochratoxin A. Mould may not be visible in dark grain bins or may form inside the grain bulk. A musty smell or grain clumping or caking may be signs of mould. Quick tips Clean away old debris to ensure bins and storage sites are clean and free from grain residues that can harbour insects Treat your empty storage bins with a registered contact insecticide such as malathion, pyrethrin or a diatomaceous earth-based product if required - make sure you treat floor-wall joints, aeration plenums or floors and access points thoroughly Do not use malathion in bins intended for canola storage Monitor stored grain regularly for hot spots and insect populations: insects are likely to be found in pockets of warm or moist grain. Sample the grain from the core at a depth of 30 to 50 centimetres (12 to 18 inches) from the surface. Sieve the samples or examine small portions carefully. Stored product insects are typically very small beetles (less than 3 millimetres or 1/8 inch) that may not be moving, so a magnifying glass can be helpful Identify insects in your grain to determine the right control method - insects in your grain could be grain feeders, fungal feeders, or predators of these insects For advice on controlling grain-feeding insects, visit the Canadian Grain Commission's website Associated links: Manage stored grain: maintain quality and manage insect infestations Moisture determination for Canadian grains Prevent ochratoxin A in stored grain
Dec. 7, 2015 - Alberta soils could store significantly more carbon if trees and grassland are integrated into cropland areas, new research from University of Alberta reveals. Scientists looked at the influence of shelterbelts, hedgerows and silvopastures to evaluate the role of trees and different land uses across the agricultural landscape in mitigating climate change, and to see which system is more conducive to carbon storage. They found that soils under trees stored 36 per cent more carbon. "Trees had the greatest benefit in raising soil carbon levels in agroforestry systems where they were combined with neighbouring annual cropland subject to cultivation, while perennial grassland maintained soil carbon levels similar to that of the natural forest," said Edward Bork, a rangeland researcher. READ MORE.
Aeration. Chilled aeration. Natural air drying. Near-ambient air drying. Low temperature air drying. High temperature air drying. Dryeration. When did using forced air through a grain bin become so complicated? Dr. Digvir Jayas, vice-president (research and international) and distinguished professor at the University of Manitoba, outlined how forced air ventilation can be used during a presentation made to the Brazilian Postharvest Conference in Maringa, Brazil in 2014. The results (Singh, C.B., D.S. Jayas and R. Larson. 2015. Assessment of fan control strategies for in-bin natural air drying of wheat in Western Canada. Canadian Biosystems Engineering, 56:3.25-3.36) are summarized here. “Considerable research related to cooling and/or drying of grains by forcing air through bulk grains has been reported and continues to be reported in published literature. Although the process is simple and works well when properly designed and implemented, this simplicity also leads to a lot of misunderstandings about the process,” Jayas says. “Therefore, many systems get designed to force less than optimum amounts of air to complete the task.” The definitionsAeration is the forcing of small amounts of air (1 to 3 L/s per m3 of grain) to typically cool grains after harvest using ambient air at temperatures below grain temperature during cooler hours of the day. The aeration can also be used to eliminate temperature gradients within bulk grains and thus to reduce moisture migration, remove spoilage odours from grains, remove fumigants from grains and remove small amounts of moisture from warm grains such as during dryeration (defined below). In colder climates such as in Canada, aeration could also be used to reduce grain temperature to below 10 C to reduce insect activity and population growth. Under Canadian conditions, aeration during winters (when temperatures are below -20 C) can be used to kill all life stages of insects in stored grain. Chilled aeration is the forcing of chilled air (1 to 5 L/s per m3 of grain), conditioned using a chilling device (air conditioning unit), through bulk grains. The purpose of chilled aeration is to reduce the temperature of the grain below 10 C for slowing insect activity and population growth. Chilled aeration can also be used to store wet grain without deterioration for two to three weeks during which it can be dried to safe moisture contents for storage. Natural air drying is the forcing of ambient air (10 to 25 L/s per m3 of grain) to decrease the moisture of grain to safe storage levels. The amount of air required increases if the initial moisture content or ambient relative humidity are high, or if ambient air temperature is low. The latter two are dependent on weather conditions following grain harvest. Near-ambient air drying is similar to natural air drying but air temperature is a few degrees (up to 5 C) above ambient conditions which can be caused by frictional losses from the fan motor assembly when air is pulled over these. Low-temperature air drying is similar to natural air drying but air temperature is 5 C to 10 C above ambient conditions which can be caused by adding supplemental heat from any source such as electricity, propane, natural gas, wood or solar panels. High-temperature air drying is the forcing of air (15 to 30 L/s per m3 of grain) at 50 C to 250 C to remove moisture content from grain to safe storage levels. The air temperature and amount of airflow depend on mechanisms of dryers (e.g., concurrent, countercurrent, cross and mixed flow) as well as the initial moisture content of grain and grain type. Dryeration, also known as combination drying, is the cooling of hot grain after high-temperature air drying by aeration and the removal of one to two percentage points of moisture. Thus, grain is dried to about two percentage points above desired safe moisture content using high-temperature drying, tempered for eight to 10 hours for redistribution of moisture within grain kernels and then cooled by aeration using ambient air. The main advantages of dryeration over high-temperature drying include increased drying capacity, use of higher air temperatures, energy savings, elimination of the cooling section in high-temperature dryers and reduced stress cracks in grains. The equipmentThe main components of the forced air systems are: a flat-bottom storage bin containing a deep layer (more than one metre deep) of grain, a plenum to introduce air into the grain bulk, a fan and duct arrangement to force air through the bulk grain, and vents to exhaust the air once it has passed through the grain. A plenum with a fully perforated floor over concrete (or solid) foundation and levelled grain surface provides most uniform airflow distribution in the grain mass. Thus, fully perforated floors are commonly used but several partially perforated floors are also used in flat-bottom bins. (See Fig. 1 below.) Many farms also have hopper-bottom bins, which are equipped with different configurations of perforated plenums to introduce air into the grain. The area of partially perforated flooring through which air can be introduced into the bulk grain should be sufficient to avoid formation of stagnant zones in the bulk grain. The size of perforations in the floors should be small enough to support the smallest-seeded grains to be stored in the bin and the number of perforations should be enough (equivalent to >10 per cent of the perforated floor area) to cause minimum pressure drop across the floor. The fan should be sized properly to ensure sufficient airflow through grain at its maximum depth and for a grain which offers maximum static pressure at that airflow rate while taking into consideration a thorough understanding of type of fan and its characteristics, i.e., relationship between the airflow rate (L/s) supplied by the fan against different static pressures. The amount of airflow from the fan decreases as the static pressure increases. Thus, a fan sized for shorter depth may not dry grain in the expected time if grain depth is increased. Similarly, a fan sized to provide a certain airflow rate, say for wheat, will not provide the same airflow rate for canola because pressure drop per unit length of canola is 2 to 2.5 times more than for wheat, and fan output would be lowered considerably at the increased pressure offered by grain for all fan types. The vents should be enough in number and size to avoid stagnation of air in the bin and thus cause minimal back-pressure to be overcome by the fan. The appropriate amount of airflow through grain ensures proper drying in the specified period. The excess amount of airflow will dry grain sooner but may also result in more non-uniformity in grain moisture content with continuous airflow. Grain mixed with fines (particles smaller in size than grains) offers more pressure drop per unit length than clean grain, and the moisture content of grain also affects pressure drop (Moses et al., 2013). Therefore, a good estimate of static pressure in order to properly size the fan should consider all of the factors that affect pressure drop across grain. Also, measured fan characteristics, if available, should be used in sizing the fans because at times the values reported by the manufacturers give higher air flow rates than the measured on-site values for the same static pressure. If the difference between measured and reported values is large, then a fan sized using manufacturer’s data will be undersized for actual drying conditions. Drying zonesIn a system with air moving vertically upwards, the bottom layer dries first while the top layer stays close to initial moisture content. As drying progresses, more layers from bottom to top dry, but sometimes re-wet if air relative humidity of incoming air is greater than the equilibrium relative humidity of grain moisture in the layer. Drying could be stopped based on many criteria, such as: top layer is at the target moisture content, but this may cause severe over-drying in the bottom layers; average grain moisture content is at the target moisture content but this may require grain mixing after drying is stopped; or, moisture in all layers is within certain percentage point of the target – producing the most uniform drying. These criteria could be applied using measured data or using mathematical models. Control strategiesThere are many control strategies which can be used for turning the fan on or off during drying, but the best strategy should be the one that requires the least energy for both the operation of fan and the supplemental energy if used; results in most uniform drying; minimizes over-drying and spoilage of grain; and, completes drying within the specified period. The examples of different fan control strategies are: Fan running during certain number of hours (e.g., six hours on and six hours off cycle, fan running during daytime only or fan running during night time only, fan running continuously) Fan on when temperature of ambient air is above certain set point (thermostat) Fan on when humidity is below certain set point (humdistat) Fan on when there is a set temperature difference between grain temperature and ambient temperature Fan on when there is a set relative humidity difference between grain equilibrium relative humidity and ambient relative humidity Fan on when there is a set difference between grain moisture content and equilibrium moisture content based on air conditions Fan on when plenum EMC (equilibrium moisture content) and temperature are within a set target range (natural air drying - NAD) Fan and/or heater on using self-adapting variable heat (SAVH) with NAD control The best strategy can be selected by running simulations using historical weather data for multiple years (> 25 years) for several locations based on different climatic zones of a region, with different initial harvest moisture contents, different harvest dates, different amounts of airflow rates through different grains, and for different control strategies. *Concepts are synthesized from many documents and authors of those documents (too numerous to mention by name) are gratefully acknowledged. This paper also summarizes the work of many graduate students who were supervised by Dr. Jayas and were supported by research grants held by him from many funding agencies including the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. Many students received funding as part of the University of Manitoba Graduate Fellowship.
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.
With many soybean fields across the countryside just starting to change colour, harvest is not likely to begin anytime soon. A cool, wet spring delayed soybean planting in much of the province and cooler temperatures in August and September have pushed harvest back this fall compared to the last two years. As a result, growers are wondering whether or not they will be able to get winter wheat planted at an optimum time. READ MORE
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
The record-high levels of Fusarium head blight (FHB) on the Prairies in 2014 and 2016 underline how crucial it is to have more wheat varieties with improved resistance to this major disease. Breeding for FHB resistance is notoriously difficult, in part because many different genes are involved. So researchers are applying diverse approaches to obtain new resistance genes. Some researchers in Saskatchewan are using advanced technologies to tap into the variability in traditional wheat varieties that were grown and selected by farmers over many generations.
Not many farmers can say they’ve had a hand in early-stage selection of the very crops they’re growing in their fields, but the University of Manitoba’s Participatory Plant Breeding Program is making this possible for producers coast-to-coast.
Some diet books have claimed modern wheat breeding has produced changes in wheat varieties that are causing harmful effects to human health. But University of Saskatchewan researchers have already determined that some key nutritional characteristics in wheat have actually changed very little from the varieties grown 150 years ago to today’s varieties. Now these researchers are teaming up with a University of Alberta colleague to delve into another important aspect of this issue: Have wheat gluten proteins changed over time?
On Canada’s fertile Prairies, dominated by the yellows and golds of canola and wheat, summers are too short to grow corn on a major scale.But Monsanto Co. is working to develop what it hopes will be North America’s fastest-maturing corn, allowing farmers to grow more in Western Canada and other inhospitable climates, such as Ukraine.The seed and chemical giant projects that western Canadian corn plantings could multiply 20 times to 10 million acres by 2025 - adding some 1.1 billion bushels, or nearly 3 percent to current global production. For the full story, click here.
Dr. Anfu Hou is a leading plant breeder. He works at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Research and Development Centre in Morden, Man.Hou was born in China and his research took him through several countries before he settled in Morden, which is located just north of the U.S. border. Geography is not insignificant here. Hou and his team develop crop varieties specifically suited to grow and grow well in the unique soil and weather conditions in Manitoba and Western Canada. For the full story, click here.
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
It’s been almost 15 years since the Human Genome Project was declared complete. The publicly funded research project was established in 1990, kicking off an international effort to identify and map all of the DNA sequences in the human genome by 2005.
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.
Alireza Navabi is amazed by the wide adaptability of wheat across the world.
Two years ago, an unusually warm, dry, long fall across much of Ontario meant that wheat grew unusually big before winter freeze-up. Strong fall growth brings with it both pros and cons. While vigorous early growth can ultimately produce high yields, it also leaves plants susceptible to lodging.
Winter wheat is a low-input, low-yield crop. True or False?There’s no market for winter wheat. True or False?No varieties of winter wheat are suitable here. True or False?False, to all of them, answers Ken Gross, agronomist at Brandon, Man., for the Western Winter Wheat Initiative (WWWI) and Ducks Unlimited Canada. Those are just three of many myths associated with the fall-seeded, high-potential wheat. Gross runs into myths frequently among growers and at meetings – and likes to bust them with facts. For the full story, click here.
The area seeded to barley in Ontario has been trending downwards over the past two decades, from 325,000 acres in 1998 to only 85,000 acres in 2017. That decline has happened despite the upsurge in the province’s craft brewing industry, which prefers locally grown ingredients. So, in a three-year project, University of Guelph researchers are using several strategies to develop improved malting and feed cultivars suited to the needs of producers in Ontario.
Cereal breeders continue to focus on improved yields, developing varieties that stand up to the pest and disease challenges producers face across the Prairies. Seed companies have supplied Top Crop Manager with the following information on new cereal varieties for 2018.
Researchers from Agriculture Canada have collected more than 50 samples of wild hops from across the Maritimes. Now they're putting them under the microscope to find which ones will make the best brew.The team put out the call more than two years ago and the response was overwhelming. The research team is working to find out the exact origin of the hops, through genetic and chemical tests. READ MORE
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! Sign up today for our E-newsletters and get the best of research-based info on field crops delivered staight to your inbox.
Figuring out precisely how much nitrogen fertilizer Ontario farmers should apply to their grain corn is tricky business. For starters, nitrate – the form of nitrogen (N) in the soil that is readily available to plants – is highly mobile and susceptible to being leached away by rainfall. Therefore, the spring soil nitrate test that’s standard in Western Canada is not always useful in Eastern Canada, where rainfall tends to be heavier.
David Morris is not only secretary to the Ontario Corn Committee (OCC), which conducts the province’s annual hybrid corn performance trials. He’s also the committee’s “corporate memory,” having been involved for about 40 years.
Breeders continue to focus on early maturing hybrids and bring a variety of stacked traits to western Canadian corn growers. Seed companies have supplied Top Crop Manager with the following information on the new corn hybrids for 2017. Growers are advised to check local performance trials to help in variety selection. The listing is by ascending crop heat units (CHU).
"If a drought occurs, you’re looking at more than 20 to 30 per cent losses in any crop. A drought-tolerant crop variety is almost like crop insurance. If you’re hit with a major drought every one out of three years, and you have drought tolerance as an added trait – along with the multiple traits in your elite canola variety – then that’s like insurance that will help protect you,” says Marcus Samuel, an associate professor at the University of Calgary.
Narrow row spacing is considered the accepted practice for maximizing grain yields for the majority of crops under most circumstances. However, wider row spacing offers advantages for dealing with heavier and taller crop residues, and reducing equipment costs and maintenance. But how wide is too wide before yield is compromised?
When researchers at the Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute (PAMI) heard that some producers were looking toward the practice of straight cutting shatter-resistant canola varieties, they set out to find the true post-harvest comparison of straight cut or swath.
Last year, Ontario had its first-ever detection of clubroot symptoms in canola. On the heels of that discovery came an even more unsettling surprise – a survey found the pathogen scattered across the province’s main canola-growing areas and this year, the symptoms are showing up in more fields.
Several efforts are underway to develop new tools and management strategies for blackleg disease in canola. Severe epidemics of blackleg can result in significant yield losses. Researchers have developed a new blackleg yield loss model for canola and an associated set of guidelines and recommendations for farmers and industry to help understand the economic impacts of this significant disease.
Canada's canola harvest may not turn out to have been as weak as currently estimated, officials said, even while raising their price forecast for the oilseed, as well as for barley.AAFC, Canada's farm ministry, acknowledged the weakened prospects for the domestic canola harvest revealed in a grower survey released late last month, which put the harvest at 18.2m tonnes - some 400,000 tonnes lower than previously expected, and down 1.4m tonnes year on year. READ MORE
With full global export approval, 2017 was a major breakthrough year for Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybean acreage in Canada. Approximately 700,000 acres were grown in Canada with about 250,000 acres grown in the West, mostly in Manitoba.
Severe weather and hail events in field crops seem to be more prevalent over the past few years. In 2015 and 2016, The Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation (MASC) estimated crop-hail loss payments to Manitoba producers from all sources at $54.1 million and $77.7 million, respectively.
Soybean acreage is continuing to expand west into Saskatchewan and Alberta. Many growers already grow glyphosate-resistant canola in rotation and are adding glyphosate-resistant soybeans as another crop in their system. However, managing glyphosate-resistant canola volunteers in glyphosate-resistant soybeans is a challenge.
Rye’s weed-fighting skills along with its cover crop benefits make it a particularly good companion crop for soybeans.“Soybeans and rye complement each other really well,” says Mike Ostlie, agronomist at the North Dakota State University’s Carrington Research Extension Center. “Rye adds a lot of things to soybeans that really complete a good production system. You can use rye as a weed-management tool because it suppresses weeds that are becoming increasingly resistant to glyphosate.” READ MORE Related: Cover crops in second-year soybeans
Several soybean farmers have contacted Michigan State University Extension regarding premature yellowing of soybeans. The symptoms observed were yellowing along leaf margins followed by scorching and dieback. Most of this damage was reported from areas that encountered some droughty conditions in 2017. Although these symptoms appeared to resemble that of potassium (K) deficiency at first glance, other factors such as herbicide injury, foliar diseases, compacted soil and root injury could cause similar symptoms to appear. READ MORE
Soybean harvest is nearing as most, if not all, soybeans have turned color or dropped leaves. Fall time is the best time of year to sample and test the soil for soybean cyst nematode, the number one silent yield robber of soybean. Soybean cyst nematode is estimated to cause over $1 billion annually in the U.S. soybean crop. As of 2017, SCN has been detected in 30 counties in South Dakota. Some fields have been found to have very high SCN population densities (>60,000 eggs per 100 cc of soil) and therefore the yield loss caused by SCN in such fields is high. READ MORE
CALGARY -- India has rejected a long-standing exemption on pest treatment for peas and lentils in a blow to Canada's top export market for the crops.Federal Agriculture Minister spokesman Guy Gallant confirmed the Indian government has not granted another six-month exemption that would have crops fumigated on arrival, rather than before export, as has been allowed for more than a decade.The decision puts Canada's pulse exports to the country, worth $1.1-billion in 2016 and $1.5-billion in 2015, in jeopardy because the required treatment of methyl bromide doesn't work in the cold and also is being phased out because it's damaging to the ozone layer. | READ MORE
Canada's producers of peas and lentils are preparing for the possibility that their largest market may soon shut down imports because of a purported problem with pests. For more than a decade, India has allowed Canada to treat pulse shipments for pests after shipping rather than before. But that may come to an end next month. The fumigation of pulse pests requires the use of methyl bromide, a pesticide that Canada is trying to phase out because of concerns it depletes the ozone layer. It also doesn't work well in Canada's colder temperatures, leaving pulse producers with few options. The stakes for the country's estimated 12,000 pulse farms are high. Canada shipped $1.5 billion worth of peas and lentils to India in 2015, accounting for about a third of all pulse exports. "That's why we're very concerned," said Gordon Bacon, CEO of Pulse Canada. Bacon said the federal government submitted documents to India in December pressing its case that the risks of Canadian pulse crops carrying pests is minimal because of the winter climate. "India's message has become much more firm in terms of what their intention is at the end of March, which is why we're much more concerned now," he said. Pulse producers are now eagerly waiting for a response, with an answer possibly coming in days. But shipments are already being disrupted, Bacon said, with at least one shipping firm refusing to take pulses this past Monday because of the uncertainty. "It's hugely problematic for the industry when there's no clarity on what the policy will be," said Bacon. The Indian government could not be reached for comment. But a notice issued by the India Pulses and Grains Association summarized a presentation that the Indian government made last month. According to the notice, an Indian government official said methyl bromide is the only effective treatment against pulse pests, Indian exporters follow requirements of other countries and importers should do the same, and India shouldn't bear the risks to the ozone layer alone. The association's notice said the government official also outlined potential alternatives, including the possibility of countries submitting data proving that other treatments are equally effective, a system-wide preventative approach assessed by Indian officials, or cargo pre-inspection. | READ MORE
Full registration of the imidazolinone-tolerant (IMI-tolerant) chickpea system with recommended chickpea varieties and registered Solo herbicide is imminent. Two IMI-tolerant chickpea varieties – CDC Alma (Kabuli-type) and CDC Cory (Desi-type) – have already been developed. The Prairie Pesticide Minor Use Consortium has submitted the application for Solo herbicide use on IMI-tolerant chickpea to the Pesticide Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) and registration could be received in early 2017.
There is nothing sweet about this disease. Chocolate spot has devastated fababean crops in Australia and Europe, but so far, western Canadian growers have managed to miss most of the damaging effects of the disease.
Biofortification is the process by which the nutritional profile of a given food crop is improved through plant breeding. In Canada, the biofortification of pulse crops to improve micronutrient content (or “trace elements”) is becoming a major focus of breeding programs.
Pulse crops in rotation provide a range of ongoing benefits to subsequent crops, such as reducing fertilizer costs, providing a break in pest cycles and increasing yield. Estimating the nitrogen (N) benefits or credits to the system can be challenging, and researchers continue to improve methods that provide a more accurate assessment of N and carbon (C) in cropping systems.
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.
Crowds, new ideas, research and equipment – something’s going on with cover crops in Ontario.
Though often abused and neglected, mixed forage stands can respond to fertilization. Still, some growers are hesitant to apply fertilizer to meet fertility needs, perhaps because forage yields tend to decline over time or because lack of spring rainfall can limit yield responses.
Just like you inoculate legume seeds with a rhizobial inoculant, one day you might inoculate canola seeds with a plant-growth-promoting fungus. Greenhouse experiments in Alberta are showing that a fungus called Piriformospora indica can boost canola performance, providing benefits like increased yields, reduced fertilizer needs, and increased tolerance to cold and drought. Now the research team is testing this promising inoculant in the field.“Piriformospora indica was discovered relatively recently in northwest India, and since then has been found in other parts of the world,” notes Janusz Zwiazek, a professor of plant physiology at the University of Alberta, who is leading the research. Since Piriformospora indica’s discovery about two decades ago, researchers have been learning more and more about this interesting fungus. Zwiazek expects it will likely be classified as a type of mycorrhizal fungi.He explains that Mycorrhizal fungi are a group of fungi that colonize plant roots, forming mutually beneficial relationships with their hosts. “Mycorrhizal fungi are very common. Probably more than 90 per cent of plant species are associated with mycorrhizal fungi in nature. Especially in soils that are poor in nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen, these fungi can mobilize these nutrients in the soil and make them available to plants. Mycorrhizal fungi can also protect plants against different environmental stresses such as drought, pathogens, and so on,” says Zwiazek.“But the exception is the family of Brassicaceae, the cabbage family of plants, to which canola belongs. Cabbage family plants typically don’t form mycorrhizal associations. So they don’t have the added benefit that many other plants receive from having these helpful fungi that can do so much good.”Luckily for canola growers, Piriformospora indica is a bit different from the average mycorrhizal fungus in a couple of ways.“Researchers have discovered that Piriformospora indica is capable of forming associations with the roots of a number of cabbage family species,” notes Zwiazek.Also, most mycorrhizal fungi have to be cultured in a plant host, but Piriformospora indica can be grown in a pure culture without a plant host, so it is easier to grow for commercial production of inoculants. And previous research has shown that Piriformospora indica has the ability to provide multiple benefits to host plant species, such as improving nutrient uptake, increasing stress tolerance, improving disease resistance, and enhancing plant performance.With all those things going for Piriformospora indica, Zwiazek was keen to see how it might work with canola.The first phase of the project was done in growth rooms where all the environmental conditions, such as temperature, light and moisture, were strictly controlled. The experiments were done under sterile conditions to exclude the possible effects of any other microbes.“We inoculated canola plants with a fungal culture of Piriformospora indica, and we studied the effects on plant growth under different environmental conditions, which we controlled in the growth rooms,” he says. Zwiazek’s team evaluated the effects of such things as temperature stress, low nitrogen and phosphorus levels, drought and flooding stress, and salinity stress on canola growth characteristics and yields, with and without the fungus.The biggest challenge in the project’s first phase was to develop a practical way to inoculate canola plants with the living fungus. Zwiazek explains, “In many cases, [commercial] mycorrhizal associations and mycorrhizal technology have failed because it is very difficult to inoculate the plants on a large scale, to maintain the inoculum alive long enough and develop the conditions which could be used on a commercial level and applied in practice.”After testing various Piriformospora indica inocula and procedures, the project team has developed an innovative inoculum and protocol that are practical for applying the fungus to seeds in commercial operations. They are currently applying for a patent for this technology.The project’s first phase is largely completed, and the results are very promising.“The most important findings are that the fungus can colonize canola plants quite easily and quite effectively, and it can be quite effective in increasing the growth and yield of canola, especially under lower phosphorus levels,” says Zwiazek. “Also, the fungus makes the plants more resistant to low soil temperatures and low air temperatures, and to drought stress conditions.”Now the next step is to see how well Piriformospora indica works under field conditions. So in 2016 the project team started testing the inoculant in field trials.In these trials, Zwiazek’s team will be looking at the effects of different soil amendments (including different soil organic matter and growth-promoting bacteria) on canola growth and yield, with and without the inoculant. As well, they are doing some tests in collaboration with Mary Ruth McDonald from the University of Guelph and Habibur Rahman from the University of Alberta to see how the fungus affects the canola plant’s ability to resist clubroot and possibly other canola pathogens.“The results of the greenhouse studies are very exciting. But everything has to be really tested in the field – this is the ultimate test. Hopefully in two or three years we’ll have a pretty good idea of how the fungus performs under field conditions, and how much farmers can actually benefit from it.”Don't miss out on our other web exclusive content! Sign up today for our E-newsletters and get the best of research-based info on field crops delivered staight to your inbox.Funders for this research include the Agriculture Funding Consortium (AFC), Alberta and Saskatchewan canola producer groups, Alberta Innovates – Bio Solutions, and Western Grains Research Foundation.
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.
Droughts are a part of the Prairie climate and severe, prolonged droughts can put a strain on irrigation water supplies. Improvements can increase energy-use efficiencies, improve crop yields, and enhance the sustainability of water resources. Some of these improvements are also eligible for current financial incentive programs.
It’s official: 2016 was the warmest year on record. The United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports the average global surface temperature reached 14.83 C – the warmest it’s been since modern temperature records began in 1880.
Ontario Seed Growers AGMTue Dec 12, 2017
Innovative Farmers Association of Ontario Marketing MeetingWed Dec 13, 2017 @ 9:00AM - 03:00PM
Fields on wheels conference Fri Dec 15, 2017
CropSphereTue Jan 09, 2018
Webinar: What we know about the new midge species on the PrairiesTue Jan 09, 2018 @ 3:00PM - 04:00PM
Ag Days Tue Jan 16, 2018