Agronomy

Recent rounds of wet weather over the past several years may contribute to an increase in salinity appearing in some areas of the Prairies. An increase in surface and subsurface soil water may bring dissolved salts into the rooting zone in concentrations high enough to impede crop establishment and growth. Traditionally, growers have planted salt-tolerant forages on the worst of their saline lands and barley on moderately saline soils.“Growers are looking for a salt-resistant, non-cereal grain option as an alternative to barley, which is not that economically attractive compared to a crop like canola,” says Bryan Nybo, manager of the Wheatland Conservation Area (WCA) at Swift Current, Sask.Growers concerned with soil degradation established WCA in 1983 with a special focus on salinity. It is now one of eight Agri-Arm research sites in Saskatchewan. Over the past several years, Nybo has been speaking to growers about research and completing demonstrations on using alternative crops on saline soils. One such demonstration was a 2012 Agricultural Demonstration of Practices and Technologies (ADOPT) trial conducted by Nybo. He demonstrated the option of growing canola in saline conditions.“This demonstration of newer canola varieties attempted to emulate in the field what has been shown in the AAFC’s Salt Testing Facility by Dr. Harold Steppuhn, where canola has shown tolerance similar to barley,” Nybo says.The Salt Lab opened at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) Swift Current in 1988, and has provided practical solutions for Prairie farmers, ranging from the development of salt-tolerant crops and varieties, to assessing crop tolerances to salinity. Steppuhn worked at the Salt Lab for almost 30 years alongside technician Ken Wall, both who are now retired from AAFC. The Salt Lab has since been converted to a service facility, accommodating the research needs and projects of scientists across AAFC’s science and technology branch as well as private industry.Steppuhn originally found hybrid canola had similar tolerance to saline soils as barley in controlled laboratory situations. He compared Harrington barley to Hyola 401 and InVigor 2573 canola. Emergence, stand density and plant maturity all decreased as saline levels increased, but at a similar rate for all varieties. In terms of relative grain yield, the two hybrid canola varieties actually performed slightly better compared to Harrington.Relative grain yield of hybrid canola and barley at different saline concentrationsSource: Harold Steppuhn, AAFCResearchers use arbitrary ratings set up at the U.S. Salinity Laboratory to rate soil salinity. They classified soils with electrical conductivity (ECe) (a measure used by soil test labs) between zero and two deci-Siemens per metre (dS/m) as non-saline, between two and four dS/m as slightly saline, four to eight dS/m as moderately saline and above eight dS/m as severely saline. This corresponds to an approximate rule of thumb where a grower can observe the occurrence of white surface salts that equate to the field’s ECe rating: rarely if ever seen (zero to two dS/m); infrequently seen (two to five dS/m); frequently seen (five to eight dS/m); and almost always seen (greater than eight dS/m).Recognizing that salinity is much more variable in the field, Nybo tried to replicate the Salt Lab trial with his ADOPT program. He developed a salinity contour map of the demo area using an EM 38 ground conductivity metre to measure soil conductivity. Two InVigor hybrids (5440 LL; L150), three Roundup Ready hybrids (45H29RR; DK73-75RR; VT 500), two Clearfield hybrids (BY5525 CL; 45H75 CL), a canola quality mustard (XCEED Oasis CL) and Harrington barley were seeded in strips down the saline gradient from non-saline to relatively high saline areas.Nybo used EM 38 measurements to provide ECe readings rated from non-saline to relatively high salinity:<80 EC non-saline80 to 100 low salinity100 to 130 low to moderate130 to 160 moderate to high>160 relatively high salinity“We found that hybrid canola was able to perform quite well against Harrington barley, especially the hybrid varieties DK73-75RR and BY 5525 CL,” Nybo says. “EXCEED juncea canola didn’t perform as well as barley.”Canola establishment at increasing levels of salinity (EM 38)Source: Wheatland Conservation Area. 2012While the ADOPT demonstration was able to show similar results as the Salt Lab in this trial, Nybo admits conducting agronomic work on salinity in the field is difficult because of soil and environmental variability. Salinity can vary from slight to severe within a short distance, making replicated trials difficult. That’s why the Salt Lab is so valuable to growers.Steppuhn also studied salinity tolerance of camelina compared to InVigor 9590 canola at the Salt Lab as part of the Canola Agronomic Research Program (CARP) project. He found camelina did not have the same tolerance to saline soils as the hybrid canola. His May 2012 final report indicated: “Overall, root-zone salinity affected both camelina and canola grain yields more than it affected seedling emergence, plant survival, seed-oil content, and oil composition. However, as salinity levels increased, the camelina was more affected than the canola in seedling emergence and early survival, plant heights, relative grain yield and oil percentages. The primary impact of this research shows a need for caution when selecting camelina for saline fields that previously produced adequate canola crops.”Nybo says the results of these demonstrations and research trials show hybrid canola may be an option where barley has traditionally been grown on moderately saline soils. He says because canola may be harder to establish, canola seeding rates may need to be increased. However, on soils higher in salinity, he cautions against growing an annual crop.“On high salinity soils, you would still want to grow a salt-tolerant perennial forage as the best option,” Nybo 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.
It is more important now than ever before to educate youth on how to feed a population of nine billion by 2050. Fertilizer Canada has partnered with the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum to create a new Soil Lab Discovery Zone. The lab aims to educate Ottawa's youth about the overlooked foundation of agriculture: soil. Launched on Earth Day on April 22, the Soil Lab has already been met with positive response from schools and museum visitors.The Canada Agriculture and Food Museum receives over 170,000 visitors annually – teaching them, with real soil science instruments, about the 13 essential nutrients found in soil, including the three most important to soil health and food production: nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. The Soil Lab also highlights the chemical, physical and biological properties of soil and explains how farmers manage their cropland through sustainable fertilizer use.Fertilizer is the primary source for replenishing essential plant nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in soil in order to keep fields sustainable and food on our tables. Plants absorb these nutrients as they grow, and therefore farmers must replenish the soil to keep it viable and avoid depleted fields for the future.
In parts of northeastern Saskatchewan, excess moisture and high water tables have prevented some growers from seeding certain fields in the Melfort area over the past few years. Water table levels have been monitored in the area since an observation well was installed in 1967, with the highest levels ever recorded in 2014. Water levels declined consistently from the mid-1970s until 2004, when they began to rise significantly through 2014. With the high cost of cropland, growers can't afford to not crop all of their acres.“In 2014, a local area grower with land adjacent to the Melfort Research Farm contacted us to look into the potential of tile drainage,” explains Stewart Brandt, research manager with the Northeast Agriculture Research Foundation (NARF). “This 40-acre parcel, affected by excess water and salinity, had the Melfort Creek running through the quarter section. With grower investment and some additional funding (supported by the Agricultural Demonstration of Practices and Technologies [ADOPT] initiative under the Canada-Saskatchewan Growing Forward 2 bi-lateral agreement), we initiated a three-year project in the fall of 2014.”As the first step before undertaking a tile drainage project, the landowner must contact the Saskatchewan Water Security Agency for approval. One of the most important factors is having a plan of where the water discharge from the tile drainage will be released, and to confirm that there is a viable outlet or point of adequate discharge, which means the amount of water being contributed from the tile drainage is insignificant compared with the amount of water flowing in the creek. For this project, the Melfort Creek provided the point of adequate discharge.“Tile drainage is a long-term investment and requires careful planning and consideration,” Brandt says. “Getting professional design and installation support is recommended and for this project we worked with Northern Plains Drainage Systems Ltd. from Manitoba, who provided the design, engineering and installation. In late October 2014, we held a half-day workshop followed by a half day in the field learning about tile drainage installation.”The costs for tile drainage vary depending on soil texture, design and installation requirements. On coarse textured soils, the tiles can be placed quite far apart, reducing costs, but in clay soils, the tiles need to be placed closer together at about 40 feet apart, which requires a lot more tile drainage material. For large areas or entire fields, usually the most efficient and cost-effective design is a parallel installation. In some situations, a targeted design can be installed for smaller problem areas where other parts of the field do not require drainage.One of the most important components of the installation is developing the initial field elevation map. “Recent advancements in GPS technology have reduced the costs of generating an elevation map substantially,” Brandt says. “Instead of having to have a survey crew out to develop the elevation map, good elevation maps are easily generated with GPS technology, which also improves the efficiency and accuracy at installation. The major cost of the project is actually for the amount of tile drainage materials required and the installation. Typically the materials have had to be imported from the U.S., but more recently, a Canadian supplier is offering the materials.”Regular monitoring of the tile drainage installation is part of the project and began as soon as the installation was completed in the fall of 2014. The water began to flow as soon as the tiles were installed and continued until freeze-up. It then started again in the spring of 2015. Except for a brief dry spell at the end of June 2015, the tile drain continued to run through the year. A large rainfall event at the end of July 2015 was successfully drained off the field and also reduced some of the salinity impacts at the same time. The rainwater flushed the salts down and out of the drain rather than allowing the salts to be pushed up through capillary action in the soil with excess water. “We monitored electrical conductivity [ECe] levels on the water coming out of the tiles in the fall of 2014, as well as the water in the creek. The initial ECe was 8,000 at the outlet and 9,000 in the creek, meaning the creek was more saline than the tile drains, which was a bit surprising. However, most of the creek flow in the fall is due to subsoil seep into the creek.”In 2015, half of the field was seeded to canola and the other half, which was badly affected by salinity, was left in the permanent forage stand. Although there isn't previous yield map data for comparison, the canola yields in 2015 appeared to show a good response to the tile drainage. The grower was pleased with the results and removed the remaining permanent forage in the fall of 2015. The entire 40 acres was seeded to barley in the spring of 2016.“By the end of June 2016, a fairly decent barley crop had been established and the productivity appears to be very good,” Brandt says. “We also have a reference area with two previous years of yield data outside the tile drained project that is badly affected by both salinity and excess moisture for comparison. The grower is very pleased with the results so far and is considering tile drainage installation on another 2,000 acres of cropland as time and investment allow.”Similar to previous findings in Manitoba, this project is showing several benefits to tile drainage, although some are difficult to quantify in terms of economics. “Removing the excess water not only improves the water use by the crop but it also creates temporary storage for water from rains and spring runoff in the field,” Brandt explains. “It doesn't decrease the total amount of water going into the stream, but it delays peak stream flow after a rain. Other benefits include more timely field operations, earlier start to seeding, less crop drowning out, less compaction and better access, timing and utilization of fertilizers and pesticides. All of these factors have a big impact in particular in areas like northeastern Saskatchewan where we tend to have a very narrow window for seeding and harvest and timeliness of operations is critical.”Brandt has received a lot of calls about this project and believes it has probably generated the most interest he has ever had on a project. There is lots of interest in tile drainage projects in the area and all along the east side of the province. Planning ahead, getting necessary approvals and being able to plan for installation after harvest if conditions allow are the key.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.
Aggregates (or peds) are those crumbly bits of soil that we find in woodlands and native prairies. Well-aggregated soil is highly productive even under adverse weather conditions. It has strength that resists water and wind erosion and compaction. It allows water infiltration and internal drainage. It has high levels of organic matter that contribute to moisture retention. Space between aggregates allows air for healthy root systems that can feed from a large volume of soil. Soil aggregates form when organic matter is bound to soil minerals by glomalin – a sticky exudate primarily from mycorrhizal fungi. These fungi are a type of microbe that thrive in native undisturbed soil. Glomalin accounts for nearly 30 per cent of the carbon found in healthy soil. These fungi form as nearly invisible threads that penetrate plant roots and extend, often several meters out into the soil where they collect nutrients, particularly phosphorus, and also some water, and bring this back to the plant in exchange for sugars and starches taken from the plant. Most of these fungi do not survive soil disturbance. As a result, tillage quickly results in lost soil structure (aggregation) that leads to increased water and wind erosion, slaking, compaction and water loss. The cropland manager can maintain or improve soil aggregation by eliminating full-surface tillage and planting in narrow strips of disturbed soil. When this is done continuously, mycorrhizal fungi and other soil biota can survive between these strips. Soil aggregation is enhanced when we further mimic nature by adding organic matter – by keeping crop residue on the land, by using carefully managed cover crops, and by applying manure and compost. This provides food for biota, including microbes (bacteria and fungi), earthworms and other soil life that in turn break down plant residue and improve aggregation. Soil microbes are most active in the top five centimeters of soil and populations rapidly decrease at greater depths. Even shallow and intermittent full-surface tillage practices are devastating for aggregate contributors. Many bacteria thrive when oxygen is introduced to the soil through tillage. This contributes to nutrient release from organic matter and results in increased crop growth. However, tillage-based crop production use-up organic matter and reduces water holding capacity unless large amounts of organic matter are added to the soil. Because tillage destroys mycorrhizal fungi, soil aggregates and stability are lost, regardless of organic matter levels. Thus, tillage-based crop production is not sustainable. On all landscapes, the development and maintenance of aggregates is critical to minimize soil degradation, particularly by very large storm events. On our flat clay plains, compaction, loss of organic matter and water runoff that carries phosphorus-laden sediment can only be overcome or decreased by using practices that increase and maintain soil aggregation. On complex topography, sheet and rill erosion by water can be controlled by practices that maintain aggregation but must be combined with check dams to manage concentrated water flow. While practices like direct seeding on the Canadian Prairie have maintained crop residue for soil surface protection from wind, if a high percentage of the soil surface under the residue is disturbed, then soil aggregate destruction and tillage erosion are serious issues. Precision crop production that uses full-surface tillage on complex topography causes eroded areas to constantly increase in size. Alternatively, soil care leaders are using precision yield and soil information to support landscape restoration – the movement of excess topsoil from depositional areas back to eroded upper slope positions. The result is less yield variability and higher average yield. The reported payback time is remarkably short – as little as two years in some cases. To keep soil in place and retain yield it is necessary to use management that maintains soil aggregation. We can easily see the benefits of soil aggregation when: ·       We see clean water flowing off well-aggregated soil into a stream or drainage ditch that carries silt-laden water from tilled cropland. ·       We crop over what has been undisturbed soil, such as an old fence row. This well aggregated soil produces dramatic crop growth and yield improvement compared to adjacent tilled soil. We do have good farmland managers who are improving and maintaining the aggregation of their soils. They are profiting from their good management and hard work. Aggregates are the ultimate measure of a healthy soil that will produce in a reliable, sustainable and environmentally friendly way. They are our lifeline to the future.
There was a time on the Prairies when heat and lack of moisture stress were more common than excess moisture and cool temperatures. Indeed, the movement to direct seeding and no-till was in response to droughts in the 1980s and early 2000s. Even though the last decade has seen more challenges with excess moisture than lack of moisture, for some growers the start of the growing season in 2016 was a reminder that dry conditions are never far off. With that in mind, a review of several research studies reinforces the value of surface residue on root heat stress and crop yield.
Send five soil test samples to five different labs and you’ll likely get five different recommendations. Understanding why will help you get the most out of your fertilizer dollars and optimize yields over the long term.
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.
Nesson Valley has been hosting an eight-year study that involves different cropping systems and tillage practices directed by Bart Stevens, a research agronomist in irrigated cropping systems stationed with the Sidney USDA-ARS unit. “Research has shown there is a five to 10-year transition period, during which the soil ecosystem adjusts to no-till management,” Stevens said. “During that time, no-till fields may require higher inputs and/or produce lower yields compared to conventional practices.” In the Nesson Valley study results, yields for corn, soybean, sugar beet and barley have not been substantially reduced by no-till systems so far, but some inputs like fertilizer and labor have been lowered. In the short-term, however, there is a learning curve and there are substantive management issues to sort out. | READ MORE
Does no-till increase the concentration of phosphorus in tile drainage water? That’s the question researchers set out to answer with plots on three farms in southern Ontario.Despite efforts to reduce phosphorus levels in freshwater lakes in North America, phosphorus loads to lakes such as Lake Erie are still increasing, resulting in harmful algal blooms. This has led to increased pressure to reduce phosphorus from non-point sources such as agriculture. While no-till has long been touted for its ability to reduce phosphorus (P) losses in field run-off by minimizing the amount of phosphorus leaving farm fields attached to soil particles, recent research raised concerns that phosphorus levels in tile drainage from no-till fields were higher than from conventionally tilled fields.A group of long-time no-till farmers, called the ANSWERS group, wanted to see if this was the case on their own farms under their management practices. The farmers approached the government and researchers in order to set up a scientific study. Funding came from Environment Canada’s Lake Simcoe Clean-Up Fund, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), the Agricultural Adaptation Council’s Farm Innovation Fund and the Grain Farmers of Ontario. “It was a collaboration between researchers, farmers and government,” says Merrin Macrae, a researcher from the University of Waterloo. Macrae was involved in the project, along with Ivan O’Halloran, University of Guelph (Ridgetown), and Mike English, Wilfrid Laurier University.The results were good news for farmers who have adopted no-till. There were no significant differences in the P losses between any of the tillage treatments, Macrae says. The multiple-site, multiple-year project took place from 2011 to 2014 on farm fields near St. Marys and Innisfil under a corn-soybean-wheat rotation. A modified no-till system had been in place at both locations for several years prior to the study. This system is a predominantly no-till system but with some shallow tillage at one point during the three-year crop rotation, for example, following winter wheat. This tillage system is referred to in the study as reduced till (RT); the other two tillage systems in the comparison were strict no-till (NT) and annual disk till (AT) treatments.Tile water was monitored for three years for each of the tillage treatments. The tile drains were intercepted at the field edge (below ground) to capture edge-of-field losses at each study plot. Discrete water samples were collected from each tile using automated water samplers triggered by tile run-off. The weather was also monitored.Tillage type did not affect either the dissolved reactive phosphorus (DRP) or total phosphorus (TP) concentrations or loads in tile drainage. Both run-off and phosphorus export were episodic across all plots and most annual losses occurred during a few key events under heavy precipitation and snow melt events during the fall, winter and early spring, Macrae explains. The study shows the importance of crop management practices, especially during the non-growing season, she says.Both tile drainage flow and phosphorus losses were lower than the researchers expected, Macrae says. Previous studies suggested about 40 per cent of precipitation leaves cropland in tile lines but in this study that proportion was significantly lower.Macrae admits the researchers were surprised there wasn’t more dissolved phosphorus in the tile drainage water from the NT and RT sites due to the increased presence of macropores and worm holes. However, she points out that these farmers also use best management practices (BMPs) for phosphorus application in addition to using a reduced tillage system. For example, the farmers apply only the amount of phosphorus that the crop will remove. The phosphorus fertilizer is also banded below the surface instead of being surface-applied. Macrae believes soil type also plays a role in the amount of dissolved phosphorus leaving farm fields in tile lines. “These sites were not on clay soils,” she says. “Clay soils are more prone to cracking, which could lead to higher phosphorus concentrations in tile lines.”The research highlights the importance of bundling BMPs, Macrae emphasizes. “It’s not just tillage. Farmers should adopt a 4R’s approach: right source, right rate, right time, right place.”Macrae also says farmers should do what they can to ensure nutrients stay in place, such as maintaining good soil health, using grassed waterways, riparian buffer strips and water and sediment control basins (WASCoBs) where needed, and carefully choosing when and how to apply nutrients. “Since most of the water movement occurred during the non-growing season, the study showed the importance of how fields are left in winter and why it is important to not spread manure in winter,” she says.The variability of rainfall intensity, duration and timing will also impact phosphorus losses, she adds.In future, Macrae hopes to study the impact of tillage on phosphorus losses from clay soils as well as the impact of other management practices such as manure application and cover crops.
Growing corn in Ontario comes with a special set of challenges. Most Ontario growers rely on conventional tillage to ensure timely planting in the spring, but the practice has left fields increasingly vulnerable to erosion.Ben Rosser, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) corn industry program lead, has a few ideas for changing that. Rosser just wrapped up a two-year project developing a simple one-pass spring strip-tillage system with the ultimate goal of maintaining corn yields while reducing erosion in Ontario fields.“Strip tillage offers a middle ground between conventional tillage and no-till,” he says. “Some guys don’t like no-till, because it might take too long to get out in the fields in a wet spring and plant. Strip tillage only works the part of the field that you’re going to plant. It leaves everything else untouched.”Some early commercial designs became available in the 1980s, but interest has been relatively limited in Ontario until lately.Rosser took over from former corn industry lead Greg Stewart last October. He says the project was a long-time interest of Stewart’s, who believed once a few barriers had been eliminated, more growers might be attracted to strip tillage.Modern technology has made strip tillage more attractive. With GPS guidance systems, the planter can stay on the strips, and with the potential to deliver full season nitrogen (N) fertility with newer, physically protected forms of N such as Environmentally Smart Nitrogen (ESN), strip tillage may increase efficiency relative to having to return to sidedress, Rosser says. The study utilized a six-row Dawn Pluribus Strip Tiller mounted to a Yetter caddy cart with a Gandy Orbit-Air dry fertilizer box. In 2014, fertilizer was mixed between the coulters, but in 2015 Rosser included side band tubes, which delivered one-third of the fertilizer in a band to the outside edge of the coulter.In 2015, six separate trials were performed at farms in Arthur, Belwood, Bornholm, Elora, Paris and Woodstock. A seventh looked at contour strip tillage near Belwood to develop guidance lines that would precisely follow the variations in the field.Rosser’s key research concerns were evaluating the yield response of strip tillage versus conventional tillage or zero tillage and the yield impact of moving phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) fertility treatments off the planter and on to the strip tiller. He also examined the safety of using urea or ESN blends through the strip tiller as a way to meet full-season N requirements. Benefits and drawbacksAfter two years the study showed strip tillage did not offer a yield benefit on any of the six sites, although data suggests there might be a yield benefit for medium to heavy soil types. But neither did the strip tillage yields show a decrease compared to those of no-till or conventional systems. The 2014 Field Crop Report for OMAFRA on the study offers an economical reading of the data from the trial, compared with conventional systems, which Rosser carried into the 2015 report. “One might argue that the elimination of other tillage practices is made possible ($35/acre); one broadcast application of fertilizer is eliminated ($12/acre), and a sidedress application of N may also be eliminated ($15/acre),” it reads. In addition, it continues, the planter does not require any special conservation tillage modifications and does not need to apply fertilizer, which could represent savings of $5/acre. The strip tillage operation, if applying fertilizer, can be estimated to cost $25/acre, so potential, overall cost reductions are estimated at $42/acre.But the biggest benefit, says Rosser, is the reduction in erosion — with strip tillage, only a third of the field is disturbed.Wes Hart, who grows corn, soy and wheat just north of Woodstock, was a farmer co-operator for both years of the study.“I joined the study because I’d been interested in strip tillage for a while, and I’d just come into running our farm,” he says. “One of the main things I was interested in with Ben’s system is that I wanted him to use my fertilizer in his strip till. We used my package in the strips, and we didn’t lose anything. The main difference is that there’s another pass on the field with a separate machine, but sometimes that’s worth it.”The chief benefit of the system, for Hart, was the ability to put fertilizer down through the strip tiller. “That’s one of the holdups of my current setup,” he says. Inspired by the study, Hart built a fertilizer banding rig that is “virtually a strip till piece of equipment.”Rosser says a key benefit for the producer of using a strip tillage system — beyond erosion control — is the reduced number of passes over the field. But strip tillage is still more management intensive than conventional tillage, he says, because producers have to carefully plan when to hit their strips. “You have to match up strip and planter pass closely,” he says. “If you wait too long to plant, the ground may get too hard. This means more management, which might hold a farmer back relative to costs.“If you feel you can manage that, our data suggests that strip tillage can be fairly competitive to conventional tillage.”
Is vertical tillage a good choice for managing your corn residues? A Manitoba project is generating new information that will help growers decide which corn residue management technologies and practices would be best for their own farm.Yvonne Lawley, a professor of agronomy and cropping systems at the University of Manitoba, is leading the project. She initiated this research in part because many growers have been asking about vertical tillage but very little research information is available on the technology under Prairie conditions.Another factor driving her interest in the project is the potential for expanding the corn acres in Manitoba. “A lot of the seed companies are actively working on early season corn,” she says. “I think residue management is one of the biggest challenges potentially hindering new adopters of corn. So it seemed very timely to have a project focused on the new tools available to manage corn residue in Manitoba.”Lawley describes some of the difficulties that Prairie growers can face in managing corn residues. “In a short-season area, farmers are concerned about colder [spring] soil temperatures and wetter soils when they have lots of residue covering the soil surface. Those concerns may not be unique to corn residue, but may be aggravated by the amount of residue that you get from corn. “Corn residue has a very high carbon to nitrogen ratio [so] it is very slow to decompose, and corn crops generate twice the amount of residue [compared to crops like soybean and wheat], especially with higher yielding corn varieties. Growers also have to deal with the shape and nature of the root balls that come with corn stalks.” She adds, “In Manitoba, corn is often harvested at a time of year when there could be snow in the fields. Then after harvest, there’s the work of incorporating that residue, when your field may be frozen and it will likely be wet. So there are all kinds of challenges to doing residue management at that time of the year.”According to Lawley, Manitoba growers commonly manage their corn residues using a double disc in the fall, with two or three passes to chop up and incorporate the residues. “That is expensive in terms of time and fuel. Given the very late window for corn harvest in Manitoba, time is probably more limiting than the fuel,” she says. “I think that everyone is looking for a residue management option where they can cover more land quickly, and that is the appeal of vertical tillage – you can drive the tillage equipment fast.” Comparing tillage treatmentsThe project, which started in fall 2014, is comparing four tillage treatments for managing corn residues: vertical till-low disturbance, vertical till-high disturbance, strip till and double discing, the conventional treatment as a control. The term vertical tillage can sometimes mean different things to different people. For the purposes of this project, Lawley defines a vertical tillage unit as: “tillage equipment that has cutting discs to create vertical cuts into the soil. Those discs can run perfectly vertical or they can be angled to create more disruptive tillage. Also, at the end of the unit, there’s a smoothing or finishing component, such as rolling baskets or heavier tines, that then smooths out the seedbed.” “In the project, we distinguish between two vertical till treatments,” explains Patrick Walther, Lawley’s graduate student who is working on this project. “In the vertical till-low disturbance treatment, the discs are at a zero-degree angle. In the vertical till-high disturbance treatment, the discs are at a slight angle, around six degrees, or we have used a unit with a slightly concave shape to the disc.” The high-disturbance treatment may also be known as a high-speed disc. The low-disturbance treatment leaves a lot of residue on the soil surface, so it offers soil conservation advantages. The high-disturbance treatment results in a black seedbed similar to that produced by a double disc. In Manitoba, high-disturbance vertical till is more common than low disturbance. Lawley says, “Very few Manitoba farmers are using vertical tillage in a soil conservation sense. Most people are using this equipment as a high-speed disc, as an alternative to a double disc, especially with corn residue.” The strip tillage treatment involves tilling only the strips where the seed rows will be planted. Walther notes, “With strip tillage, usually less than 30 per cent of the field gets worked, so about two-thirds of the field is undisturbed like no-till.” Although strip till is not widely used in Manitoba, he says it is common just south of the border in Minnesota and North Dakota.“The vertical tillage and double disc treatments are more similar to each other, while strip tillage is almost like an entirely different type of tillage system,” explains Lawley. “Many farmers think strip tillage is very slow. But I think strip tillage offers some interesting comparisons in terms of giving you the best of both worlds from a soil conservation standpoint. Much of the field is protected from erosion by the crop residue cover, but early in the season, the worked strip where you’ll be planting the seed will be blacker, fluffier, drier and warmer, and all those things we’re trying to do by working the entire field.”Equipment evaluationOne component of the project involves evaluating the performance of the tillage equipment used in the project. For this component, Lawley and Walther collaborated with the Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute (PAMI) in Portage la Prairie. They measured fuel consumption, horsepower requirements, draft force (the force required to pull the implement through the soil) and the time it takes to complete the tillage.A key factor in the comparison is the number of tillage passes that growers typically use. “For strip tillage, we’re assuming the strips are created in one pass. For the vertical till, most farmers that we’ve talked to are using two or even three passes. With the double disc, they are usually using two passes,” Lawley notes.For example, the tests showed that one pass with a vertical till unit takes much less time than one pass with a double disc or one pass with a strip tillage unit. However, when you consider a complete tillage operation, strip tillage takes the least amount of time because it involves only one pass. The next fastest is vertical tillage with two fast passes, and then the double disc with two slower passes. Similarly, strip tillage has the lowest fuel consumption. “If we look at a complete tillage system, then strip till uses about three times less fuel than a vertical till system, mainly because vertical till is a two-pass system and strip till is a one-pass system,” Walther says.Walther also took slow motion videos of the different pieces of equipment moving through a field. He and Lawley examined the videos to get a better understanding of how each tillage tool works.“In the vertical till-low disturbance, we don’t have a lot of incorporation of crop residue. It is mainly chopping up the residue into smaller pieces. In the vertical till-high disturbance, the soil gets thrown up and mixes with the residue. In the low disturbance, there’s limited horizontal soil movement,” explains Walther.  “The project’s strip till unit tends to push the residue away from the strip and then work the soil. So it doesn’t actually incorporate a whole lot of residue,” he notes. Lawley adds, “The strip tillage is really the most intensive tillage; it is just concentrated in a very small band.” The different tillage implements run at different soil depths. “Usually, for the vertical till-low disturbance treatment, we set the equipment to about 2.75 inches, or seven centimetres, deep. The vertical till-high disturbance unit would be about the same or a little shallower, maybe two to 2.5 inches [five or six centimetres], depending a bit on the farmer’s preferences,” says Walther. “The disc treatment is about four inches (10 centimetres) deep. For the strip till, it’s just one shank that goes into the soil, and it goes about seven to eight inches (or 20 centimetres) deep.” Field trials, results so farThe project’s other component involves on-farm field trials in Manitoba to assess how the tillage treatments affect the following soybean crop. In 2014-15, there were two sites, one at Winkler and the other at MacGregor. In 2015-16, one site is again at MacGregor, and one is at Haywood. The plots are field-length strips. The tillage treatments are carried out in the fall, if possible, or in the spring. Depending on the farmer’s preferences, the soybean plots may be land rolled. “Farmers in Manitoba are doing land rolling when they plant soybeans, usually just after planting, to aid in harvesting where they might have uneven ground or stones that could get caught in the combine at harvest,” Lawley says.Walther is collecting data on soybean emergence, timing of flowering, plant height, pod height and crop yield. He is also monitoring soil temperature and soil moisture at five and 30 centimetres deep in the soybean plots throughout the growing season. As well, he will be calculating the economic costs and benefits of the different treatments.Walther has already analyzed much of the data collected in the soybean plots in 2015. The results showed that factors like crop yield and emergence varied little between the different tillage treatments.The average soil temperatures were very similar for all the tillage treatments. However, the temperature range from day to night varied with the treatment; the strip till plots had the warmest daytime temperatures and the coldest night temperatures. But after the land rolling operation, that diurnal fluctuation was reduced. “We think that one of the reasons why strip till is able to warm the soil faster is due to the shape of the soil surface. A berm is created in that strip, and we think the rapid warming is driven by the ability of that berm to catch solar radiation. Then when we roll the strip, we flatten out that berm so less warming occurs,” Lawley says. Lawley and Walther are hoping to further evaluate the effect of land rolling during the project, but that will depend on whether any of the co-operating farmers decide to do land rolling.Walther is also collecting data for his economic analysis. He explains that an overall economic analysis will likely be challenging because there is not a lot of western Canadian data for vertical till units and strip till units regarding purchase costs, maintenance costs, depreciation and so on. Lawley adds, “People tell us that vertical till units are more expensive to maintain; the units just have a lot more bearings and moving parts.”   View the embedded image gallery online at: https://www.topcropmanager.com/index.php?option=com_k2&Itemid=10&lang=en&layout=latest&view=latest#sigProGalleriaf7ab85529e Better information for growersRather than trying to come up with one perfect system for managing corn residue, the project aims to provide data about equipment performance, crop growth, yield, soil temperature and soil moisture that will help growers make their own decisions about which tillage tool would be best for their own situation.“Tillage is very farm-specific; it comes down to things like how people want to spread their work loads, what kind of seedbed they want to create, what kind of planting equipment they have, and what crops are in their rotation. I think this project will help farmers in Manitoba because it will give them some data by which they can weigh their options,” explains Lawley.“Certainly the work we did with PAMI will help growers. I don’t think that type of data really exists [anywhere else] in Western Canada right now. The information about fuel consumption and travel time could help growers evaluate their own operations and different investments that they are thinking about making.” Given that the soybean yields in 2015 were about the same no matter which tillage treatment was applied, Walther speculates that the project might also generate information that would support reducing the number of tillage passes used to manage corn residues, as long as farmers have seeding equipment that can handle planting into residue. Fewer tillage passes would reduce the time and money spent on tillage, while improving soil conservation. He points out that Manitoba has had some serious incidents with blowing soil in recent years, especially in years with dry springs. This project is being funded by the Manitoba Corn Growers Association, Western Grains Research Foundation, and under Growing Forward 2, through Manitoba’s Agri-Food Research and Development Initiative. Lawley and Walther also thank the collaborating farmers: the Toews family at MacGregor and Haywood, Randy Froese in Winkler, and Brent Wiebe in MacGregor.Lawley and Walther are looking for more farmers to take part in the final year of the field trials, which starts in fall 2016. If you’re interested in participating, contact Walther ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ; 204-891-1649; or @Pat_Wath) for more information.
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! Sign up today for our E-newsletters and get the best of research-based info on field crops delivered staight to your inbox.
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.
As the acreage of soybeans continues to expand in Manitoba, increasing to 2.2 million acres in 2017, developing beneficial management practices for soybean cropping systems is a priority. One of the questions surrounds nutrient management strategies for soybean, and in particular, yield responses to phosphorus (P) fertilizer."We recently completed a research project to address this question and found that soybeans don't respond very much to fertilizer phosphate," explains Don Flaten, a professor in the department of soil science at the University of Manitoba. "Soybeans have an extraordinary capacity to feed on soil reserves, better than any other crop I've ever worked with, with little response to fertilizer P. These results highlight the importance for growers to develop a long-term rotational fertilization strategy for P in soybean cropping systems and not just focus on the soybean crop year."This three-year project was initiated in 2013 and conducted at 10 locations across southern Manitoba to assess soybean yield response to P fertilizer and the risk of reduced plant stand and seed yield due to seed-placed fertilizer. Flaten and his masters student, Gustavo Bardella, led the overall project, but most of the sites were managed by federal, provincial and regional collaborators. The treatments included different P fertilizer rates (20, 40 and 80 pounds of phosphorus pentoxide per acre, or lb P2O5/ac) applied in side-band, seed-placed or broadcast, plus a control that did not receive P fertilizer. Also, half of the sites had soil P test in the very low to low range of sufficiency (between zero and 10 parts per million, or ppm, Olsen P), in which many crops would have a high probability of response to P fertilizer."The key finding from the project is that soybeans show very little response to P fertilizer at any of the rates or treatment methods," Flaten says. "Phosphorus fertilization regardless of soil P level, P rate and P placement increased seed yield at only one of 28 site-years. Even in control plots with very low soil P levels (three ppm Olsen P), soybeans were usually able take up enough soil P to produce high yields similar to P fertilized plots, without responding to any P fertilizer rate and placement."However, in some trials seed placement of P fertilizer resulted in seed row toxicity. Although the risk of seed row toxicity wasn't as severe as expected based on information from elsewhere, there were still several trials where high rates of phosphate fertilizer in the seedrow caused stand reductions and in a few cases yield reductions as well. Flaten adds that although seedling toxicity was relatively rare, if there is a low probability of a response to P in soybeans, why risk seedling toxicity if there is no benefit.Develop a long-term rotational fertilizer strategy for P in cropping systems"Since there was only one positive response to P fertilizer in this study in the soybean crop year, the remaining question is how to develop a strategy to maintain P fertility in the soil for other crops in rotation that are more sensitive to P fertility, such as cereal crops," Flaten says. "Soybean and other crops, like canola, both create rotational challenges with P as both crops have a very high removal rate. For example, soybeans remove 0.84 pounds of P per bushel (lbs P/bu), which means a 40 bushel per acre (bu/ac) soybean crop removes 34 pounds of P per acre (lbs P/ac), and canola often removes more P than can be applied as fertilizer. Therefore, growers will need to develop a long-term rotational fertilizer strategy to ensure they maintain a balance of P in the soil that meets removal rates through the entire crop rotation."Growers are advised to apply large amounts of P fertilizer outside of the soybean phase of the rotation. A good strategy for direct seeding systems is to side-band higher rates of P to reduce the risk of seedrow toxicity. "We are also advocating periodic applications of manure to help build P levels in the soil," Flaten says. "Growers may also want to pre-plant band extra P fertilizer for cereals and some other crops. High rates of P can be placed in the seed row of a cereal crop with minimal risk, with up to 50 lbs P2O5/ac (100 lbs of 11-52-10 per acre) to help offset the depletion of P in a soybean year. Another option is to consider fall banding phosphate fertilizer and ammonium sulphate prior to a canola crop as a strategy for increasing the amount of P and S fertilizer without risking seed row toxicity."Flaten cautions growers to use best practices when applying P and avoid practices such as broadcasting P, which can result in nutrient losses and potential run-off into waterways, particularly in the fall. In the Prairies, 80 per cent of runoff in the spring is from snowmelt, making fall broadcast P applications a high risk for losses. Banding the P under the soil surface is the best placement for maximizing crop uptake and reducing the risk of runoff losses."We strongly recommend growers use the P balance worksheet posted on the Manitoba Pulse and Soybean Growers website in order to check the P balance in your specific crop rotation and determine if there is a surplus or a deficit of P," adds Flaten. The worksheet and a more detailed factsheet on P fertilization strategies for Manitoba cropping systems can be found here.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.
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.
Crop rotations are designed to maintain crop and soil health to ensure long-term sustainability. Crop sequences deal with the effects of previous crops on current crop choice. A successful crop rotation encompasses many farm management components, including economics, fertility, soil biology, insect, disease, weed and pesticide considerations. The following eight questions should be asked when planning crop rotations: 1. What crops should I include in my rotation? Diversity is key. Growing cereals, oilseeds and pulses in a long-term rotation has been shown to provide the best benefit to soils and to crop yields. Wheat grown in a rotation with oilseeds and pulses was 16 percent higher yielding than continuous wheat grown on the same land at Scott, Saskatchewan, from 1993 to 1999. Wheat yields following flax, pea, and canola were 16 percent, 11 percent, and eight percent higher, respectively, than after wheat (Manitoba Crop Insurance data, Bourgeois and Entz, 1996). 2. What are the nutrient levels in each field? Soil testing is important, particularly after dealing with excess moisture conditions. Nitrogen level variability will also be an issue in fields with flooding of depression areas. Knowing the soil nutrient levels through soil testing allows producers to balance nutrient levels in the field with crop nutrient requirements. Oilseeds such as canola have the highest nutrient requirements of the major Saskatchewan field crops, followed by cereals and then pulses. Pulses or legumes can fix up to 80 percent of the nitrogen they need from the air, which reduces the amount of nitrogen removed from the soil. For annual crops, fababean has the highest nitrogen-fixing capability and can fix amounts similar to perennial legumes such as alfalfa (Table 1).  Pulse or legume residue has a significant amount of nitrogen in it, which then will become available to future crops as it decomposes. Thus legumes increase the nitrogen supplying power of the soil and can reduce the requirement for nitrogen fertilizer for succeeding crops. A nitrogen credit is included in the soil test recommendation made by Saskatchewan soil-testing labs if you report your previous crop as a legume. 3. How much water is available and where are the nutrients? Rooting patterns, crop maturity and growth stage can influence nutrient uptake and water use. The deeper the roots, the more accessible they are to water and nutrients found farther down in the soil profile. Varying crops in a sequence allows you to take advantage of the different root patterns and growth habits to access water and nutrients at different levels and at different times of the year. Canola and mustard love water and nutrients, and are deeply rooted. Thus, canola and mustard are a good fit for wetter areas of the province as they can penetrate deep into the soil to reduce subsoil moisture and access nutrients that may have leached deeper into the soil profile. The deeper tap roots also help with improving soil aeration and drainage. Cereal crops are also deep rooted but tend to need the moisture earlier in the season and can withstand drier conditions better than canola. Pea and lentil are shallow rooted and have shorter maturities. This means that there will likely be more moisture left in pea or lentil stubble than cereal or canola stubble. 4. Are there soil biology considerations that may influence crop choice? Soil biology is also important. For example, mycorrhizal fungi in the soil form mutually beneficial relationships with most plants. The fungi penetrate the roots and extend hyphae (threads) into the soil where they can access more nutrients and water for the plant. Thus, they serve as highly effective transport systems. Pulses form strong associations with these mycorrhizal fungi, while cereals are less dependent, and canola and other Brassicas do not generally form these associations. It is suggested that highly mycorrhizal crops may fit best after a crop that is at least somewhat mycorrhizal; for example, planting peas on cereal stubble. This may somewhat explain why crops such as peas and flax tend to do better on cereal stubble than on canola stubble. 5. What disease issues did I have in the past and when was the last time I grew this crop? Crop rotations can be a significant management tool when it comes to residue and soilborne plant disease organisms. Leaving a rest period between certain crops can successfully reduce plant pathogen populations to a level where other disease control methods will work more effectively. Table 2 shows the risk associated with shortening the recommended crop rotation based on the disease of concern. The general recommendation for cereals is to plant no more than two years in a row and incorporate different cereal species and varieties into the rotation. With canola, blackleg spore numbers and viability of sclerotia (sclerotinia stem rot’s resting bodies) are significantly reduced after four years. Therefore, canola should only be planted once in a four-year rotation. Sclerotinia stem rot can also affect crops such as lentil and pea so it is good practice to avoid growing pulses on canola stubble and vice versa. In fact, the recommendation is to grow peas or lentils no more than once every four years in rotation with canola. Choose varieties that have disease resistance and consider fungicide use during the growing season. Fungicide products should be rotated (use different active ingredients in succession) to minimize development of resistant pathogen populations. 6. Are there weed issues to consider and is there potential for a high number of volunteers from the previous crop, or is the field fairly clean? When selecting a crop it is important to consider its weed control needs or limitations. Crops such as lentils, which are uncompetitive and have limited weed control options, should be seeded into the cleanest fields. Matching weedier fields with crops that are more competitive and have better herbicide options is important. It is not just the presence of weeds but potential volunteers from the previous crop that should be considered. Canola, for example, can be problematic as a volunteer, so having options in next year’s crops is key. Rotating cereals with broadleaf crops usually allows good control of volunteers. 7. Are there residual herbicide considerations?It is important to know the residual properties of the herbicides you are applying in order to avoid any unwanted cropping restrictions in your crop rotation. The length of time it takes herbicides to break down can vary and is dependent upon a number of factors, including soil organic matter, soil pH, rainfall and temperature. In saturated soil conditions, herbicides that rely on aerobic microbes requiring oxygen may take longer to deactivate. On the other hand, herbicides that rely on a process called chemical hydrolysis will break down equally well in aerobic or anaerobic conditions. Some basic guidelines to follow include: Herbicides with re-cropping restrictions under dry conditions will most likely have limitations under saturated conditions. Fields that were seeded but that were saturated for a significant part of the season are unlikely to have seen much herbicide breakdown. It is important for producers to check with herbicide manufacturers for recommended re-cropping options in fields that were recently saturated. Further information on soil residual herbicides and re-cropping restrictions can be found in the Weed Control Section of the current Guide to Crop Protection. 8. Does my crop selection allow me to rotate herbicides? Herbicide resistance has been increasing in frequency, particularly with Group 1 and Group 2 herbicides. Weeds that have developed resistance to particular herbicide groups in Saskatchewan include: cleavers, chickweed, green foxtail, kochia, wild mustard, Persian darnel, Russian thistle, stinkweed, wild buckwheat and wild oat. It is estimated that over 90 percent of kochia populations are now resistant to Group 2 herbicides. Rotating or mixing herbicides from different groups on each field (on your farm) is critical to preventing the development of resistance. This is the case with all pesticides, including fungicides, insecticides and herbicides. More information on herbicide groups can be found in the current Guide to Crop Protection, at the beginning of the Weed Control section. Planning crop rotations is complex. For more information, visit the governement of Saskatchewan's website or contact your Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture Regional Crop Specialist or the Agriculture Knowledge Centre at 1-866-457-2377.
Fababeans adapt well to cooler, wetter regions in Saskatchewan, and are proving to be a good option for growers who have been dealing with excess moisture and are looking for an alternative pulse option.
For the past few years, researchers and growers in southern Saskatchewan have been trialing intercropping. The first intercrops were with chickpea and flax, but this year some other intercrops are being investigated. The results so far from research trials and commercial grower field efforts have been positive and interest is growing.Lana Shaw, research manager at the South East Research Farm (SERF), in Redvers, Sask., explains the researchers began in 2013 with an initial project studying replicated trials. "Chickpeas are a high-value crop opportunity, but are also a crop with agronomic problems such as diseases, lodging and maturity considerations,” she says. “We wanted to investigate the possibility that the area of adaptation for chickpea could be increased potentially through intercropping strategies. We also wanted to investigate the effect on yield and disease incidence by using an intercrop."Flax and chickpea were selected as the first intercrop trials, with flax as a nurse crop for chickpea. These two crops are compatible for a few reasons: the herbicide Authority is registered pre-seed on both; both crops have low levels of shattering prior to harvest; and the crops are easily separated using a rotary seed cleaner. Both crops were grown as monocrops for comparison. One application of Proline fungicide was made per season at flowering timing."The flax holds the chickpea up and keeps it off the ground, maturity tends to be a bit shorter and quality is improved,” Shaw says. “Overall we are getting good, reliable yields of both flax and chickpea as compared to monocrops, and often the combined yields of flax and chickpea are higher overall than either crop on their own. The intercrop provides some reduced production risk in terms of disease and maturity and improved harvestability, plus no [nitrogen] N fertilizer is required and minimal pesticides are called for. A few growers have been growing large acres of intercrops commercially over the past couple of years and are pleased with the results they are getting so far."Field observations indicate significant differences in disease levels between trials, with levels in chickpea intercrops lower than in the monocrop when using one fungicide application per season. For example, in 2014 Ascochyta severity was estimated at 17 per cent for intercrops and 51 per cent for monocrop plots at Redvers. Although early indications are showing reduced disease, Shaw is hoping to expand the project to include a more detailed disease assessment process and perhaps seed disease testing to provide better comparisons between monocrops and intercrops.Chickpea quality was also improved in the intercrop plots when compared to monocrop trials. Shaw is collaborating with Bill May at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Indian Head, Sask., and he confirmed what has been observed in Redvers. "In the 2015 trials at Indian Head, the chickpeas from the intercrop plots had a lot less green seed and better quality at harvest than from the monocrop plots," Shaw says. "Improved quality means better prices and returns for growers, particularly when the cost of a colour separator is added in to separate green seeds out of the sample."Considerations when planning ahead for an intercropThe flax and chickpea can be seeded with an air-seeder at the same time, putting the chickpeas down the fertilizer shank and the flax down the seed chute. "We are using this method in our research plots and this would be an easy way for farmers to start," Shaw says. "Some farmers have been altering their drills to be able to seed chickpea and flax in alternating rows. Bill May and I are looking at another research project to compare seeding intercrops in the same row or alternate rows. If we find a big benefit to alternating rows, then it likely is a good idea to alter equipment. However, if there isn't a big benefit, then it likely isn't worth it."Field selection also matters. Cereal stubble is the best option for growing an intercrop of chickpea and flax. Avoid fields with volunteer canola or wild mustard pressure, as the options for controlling these weeds is poor. Authority herbicide is registered and helps with some weeds, and there are options for grassy weed control, but volunteer brassicas are a problem. One research plot had to be abandoned early in the project because too much volunteer canola emerged ahead of the intercrop.Planning ahead at harvest is required to set up for separation of the two crops. "There are numerous inexpensive separator options for separating these two crops because of the huge size difference," Shaw says. "One of the strategies that growers are using is to separate the two crops when they [are] hauled off the field. The load is dumped and augered into the separator, then two augers run the separated crops into individual bins. The advantage is, if the chickpea, for example, needs some extra drying, that can be done right away."Based on the experiences of the researchers and commercial growers, there is potential to use intercropping to add another pulse crop option across much of the southern grain belt in Saskatchewan. "Intercropping has the potential to expand the area adapted to chickpea and a way of increasing yield," Shaw says. "With the wet conditions in parts of southern Saskatchewan in the fall of 2016 causing harvesting challenges, growers may want to consider intercropping as a way to keep chickpeas up off the ground and make harvesting easier and faster."With the success of the chickpea and flax intercrop, researchers and growers are now trying other intercrops. Shaw has started doing some work on mustard and lentil intercrops. "Two of the options we are trying are lentil and mustard and pea and Clearfield juncea canola, both being trialed commercially by growers as well," Shaw says. "Another intercrop that is in the very early stages is fababean and carinata mustard, a crop being developed for biofuels. This intercrop did very well in the first year and we think has lots of potential. Fababean can be tricky to grow and is prone to weeds, while carinata tends to lodge easily. Both crops have limited weed control options. As an intercrop, the two crops hold each other up and there is much less weed pressure."Shaw hopes to get some funding in place to expand the research into these various intercrop options and provide good production information to interested growers.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.
For those farmers in Western Canada who grow InVigor hybrid canola, a research group from Bayer has been investigatging target plant populations in order to help optimize the yield potential of the hybrid. The Bayer Product Excellence team used plots 15 times the size of traditional plots and used equipment designed to replicate farm conditions as closely as possible. This research has been ongoing for three year.          Ariel view of Bayer’s Product Excellence trial plots High plant populations Sample of canola plants seeded at a high rate (15 seeds per ft2) Plant populations that are seeded above the optimum rate can act as a drain on available resources such as light, nutrients, space, and create unwanted competition between plants. The result of this is higher in-season plant mortality and a high percentage of plants utilizing precious resources without contributing to additional yield. Extremely dense plant stands result in canola with thin stalks and reduced root development, which often makes these plants more susceptible to stressful conditions such as high temperatures and low moisture. Another consideration for canola crops with high plant populations and weaker stems are increased lodging, which can trap moisture and reduce air flow through the canola canopy and lead to an increased incidence of disease such as Sclerotinia.Low Plant Populations Sample of canola plants seeded at a low rate (5 seeds per ft2) Plant populations seeded below an optimum rate, typically less than five plants per square foot, can also cause a number of challenges such as difficulty controlling weeds due to the reduced competition during early season growth and late canopy closure. Often this results in the need for a second herbicide application to control the weed escapes. Additionally, low plant populations often come with an uneven distribution of plants creating variable plant growth and flowering times. This can make targeting fungicide treatments more difficult and delay both flowering and maturity. Perhaps one of the more serious consequences of low plant population is under-utilization of the seed bed and resources, and the large gaps between the plants makes for inefficient use of placed nutrients and moisture.Optimal plant populations Sample of canola plants seeded at an optimal rate (10 seeds per ft2) The research recommends a targeted plant population of 5-7 plants/ft2. Based on a survivability rate of 50-70 per cent, that’s an average of 10 seeds planted per ft2. This population offers the ideal balance of seed bed utilization through efficient use of nutrients, moisture, light and space, while offering sufficient crop competition against weeds and maximizing InVigor yields. The recommended target of 5-7 plants/ft2 is not a bullet proof solution for canola plants to protect themselves against the environment or pests, however it will give your InVigor canola field the best chance for success.
Winter wheat can be a great crop to include in your rotation. Winter wheat will typically out yield spring wheat by 20 per cent or more, depending on growing conditions, and is normally harvested several weeks before spring wheat.
The 2016 harvest season was one some growers would like to forget. Unfortunately, the reminder was still there when the snow melted this spring uncovering thousands of unharvested acres that producers had to combine plus get a 2017 crop in the ground. But adversity leads to opportunity and the Western Winter Wheat Initiative (WWWI) encourages producers to seed winter wheat this fall as a way of dealing with unseeded acres that didn’t get planted this spring.Seeding winter wheat into chemfallow requires different planning than seeding into other stubble. Here are some tips that Janine Paly, WWWI agronomist for Alberta, has for producers to seed winter wheat successfully.Minimize stubble disturbance/maintain stubble: Standing stubble is a key practice to establish winter wheat as the trapped snow insulates the crop from winter elements. Year-old stubble will break apart easier than stubble from a freshly harvested crop; however, any stubble is better than summerfallow. Minimize traffic over the field to maintain stubble integrity by using the same tracks in spraying operations and avoid harrowing and cultivating if possible.Line up seed early: Before spring crops are harvested, take advantage of the less busy time and source seed. Plan to have the seed on farm and treated with a seed treatment before planting. Research conducted by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada indicates a seed treatment minimizes seedling disease and can help with winter survival.Fertility management: Selecting the right source and amount will help ensure your soil has a balanced supply of plant nutrients. It is important to perform a soil test to determine nutrient levels within the field. Winter wheat nitrogen management is different than spring wheat and determining the right timing of nitrogen application will vary depending on your operation. There are a few options: fall-applied, spring-applied or split application, but the method will vary depending on weather, soil moisture, and seeding equipment. Winter wheat has the ability to yield up to 40 per cent more than CWRS with adequate rates of nitrogen.Seed early: Seeding early is a key factor in establishing a successful winter wheat crop. Plants that enter the winter with three to four leaves have a well-develop crown tissue and a better chance of winter survival. The optimal seeding window across the Prairies is between September 1 and 15. The question that may arise is, “How early can I seed?” It is better to seed earlier than later as producers can get busy with harvest operations and forget to seed within the optimal window. Extra consideration when seeding too early is the risk of disease transfer of stripe rust or wheat streak mosaic virus. If these diseases are of concern, growers can seed a resistant variety, delay seeding (depending on region), or should avoid seeding into conditions with volunteer cereals, or adjacent to a green wheat crop.
When it comes to the economics of growing winter cereals such as winter wheat and hybrid fall rye, the numbers don’t tell the full story. Looking at the three provincial government crop planning guides published for Prairie producers in 2017, winter wheat and hybrid fall rye land somewhere between the fifth and 16th most profitable crops to be grown in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. But set aside the most profitable crops like pulses, canola, sunflower, corn and beans, and winter wheat profitability looks pretty good compared to spring wheat.
Many winter wheat growers in Western Canada are wondering if the seeding window can be extended. A multi-year, multi-site Prairie study is working towards a tool that will help growers answer that question for their own conditions.
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.
Swede midge first appeared in canola in Ontario in 2003, and recent extreme populations in northeastern Ontario resulted in the Ontario Canola Growers’ Association (OCGA) strongly recommending in 2015 that producers avoid growing canola for three years across the New Liskeard area in an attempt to suppress swede midge populations.
The number of bertha armyworm larvae on a farm last year is not a reliable indicator of what to expect this year. Bertha armyworm populations fluctuate widely from year to year.Provincial monitoring programs raise awareness of potential outbreaks, based on number of adult moths caught in pheromone traps. Adult counts in June and July can indicate the risk of larvae feeding in July and August. Begin larval monitoring after peak flowering or about two weeks after peak trap catches. Continue scouting until either the mean number of larvae per square foot exceeds the economic threshold (at which point the crop is sprayed) or until the time remaining until the crop is swathed no longer allows for application of a registered insecticide based on the allowed pre-harvest interval.Often bertha larvae aren't noticed until they move up the canopy and are easily visible during mid to late podding. At this point, chewing on the pods causes visible yield loss quickly. They will lower in canopy before that time, feeding on lower leaves. Assessing your crop early for telltale signs of leaf feeding and becoming aware of your forecast risk will give producers time to accurately assess and time an insecticide application, if needed.Scouting tips— Go out in early morning or late evening when larvae are mostly active.— Mark out an area a quarter-metre square (50 cm by 50 cm) and beat the plants growing within that area to dislodge the larvae. Count the larvae that have fallen to the ground and multiply by 4 to get the number per metre square. Larvae will hide under leaf litter and in cracks, so check closely.— Sample at least 5 locations (10-15 is recommended) a minimum of 50 metres apart. Do not sample headlands and areas within the crop that are not representative of the field. Use the average number of larvae at the sites surveyed to determine if the economic threshold has been exceeded.— Scout each field. Adjacent fields may have very different larval densities, depending on how attractive the crop was when the moths were laying their eggs. Adjacent fields may also have different-sized larvae, depending on when the eggs were laid.— For best results, apply an insecticide as soon as economic thresholds are reached. A single well-timed application of any registered insecticide is usually effective. Check provincial crop protection guides for registered insecticides.— Apply insecticides early in the morning or late evening when the larvae are actively feeding. Do not apply during warm afternoons.Click here to see a video of Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development's insect management specialist, Scott Meers, demonstrating how to scout for Bertha armyworm larvae in the field.
Globalization of the Arctic, emergence of invasive microbial pathogens, advances in genomic modification technology, and changing agricultural practices were judged to be among the 14 most significant issues potentially affecting how invasive species are studied and managed over the next two decades. | READ MORE
A Canola Agronomic Research Program (CARP) project on cutworms is now completed, resulting in "The Cutworm Booklet," which will help producers identify and control cutworm species, and give them a better understanding of the role of natural enemies in the control of the various cutworm species.
Researchers led by Ahmad Fakhoury, associate professor of plant pathology and fungal genetics at Southern Illinois University Carbondale analyzed soil samples from 45 soybean fields in Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota. They collected samples from symptomatic patches in fields and from adjacent areas where soybean sudden death syndrome (SDS) foliar symptoms did not develop. Fakhoury’s team compared microbial populations in the “healthy” and “diseased” soil to correlate the presence incidence and severity of SDS. 
Resistant soybean varieties have helped farmers manage soybean cyst nematodes (SCN) for decades. Almost all SCN-resistant soybean varieties possess the same resistance genes, from a soybean breeding line called PI88788.Recently, Iowa State researchers analyzed 25 years of data, from tens of thousands of four-row variety evaluation research plots, to look for long-term trends. The results, published in the scientific journal Plant Health Progress, showed a breakdown of resistance in SCN-resistant varieties.  “This is an alarming trend and sets the stage for even greater yield loss from SCN in the future,” Gred Tylka, Iowa State University nematologist said. | READ MORE
Wheat is an important crop in Canada, representing nine per cent of total farm cash receipts in 2015, and averaging 16 per cent of crop receipts in Canada from 2011 to 2015, according to Statistics Canada. And Fusarium head blight caused by Fusarium graminearum is the most important wheat disease. Fusarium head blight also infects barley and is a problem in malt barley production. With increasing corn acreage in Manitoba, there is a greater incidence of ear rot caused by F. graminearum as well.The first and worst epidemic in Manitoba was in 1993. Since then, Fusarium has slowly spread to new areas across the Prairies, and by 2008, it was commonly found in the Dark Brown and Black soil zones in all three Prairie provinces.There has been an emergence of new Fusarium populations and shifts in existing populations since 2000. A possible cause is the accidental introduction of isolates from one area to another, or one country to another.Fusarium head blight is a concern because of the mycotoxins that can be produced by the pathogens. Fusarium graminearum produces two toxicologically relevant groups of mycotoxins. These mycotoxins have major impacts on swine feeding, resulting in poor feed intake and poor growth. Swine feed intake is reduced 7.5 per cent for every one part per million (ppm) of deoxynivalenol (DON) found in the diet.The first mycotoxin group is the Trichothercens, which includes DON and the acetylated derivatives such as 15-ADON and 3-ADON. The DON mycotoxin is very stable during storage, milling, processing and cooking and doesn’t degrade at high temperatures. The other mycotoxin group in the Trichothercens is Nivalenol (NIV) caused by F. cerealis. It is not a virulent but is 10 times more toxic than DON. This group could become a concern and we don’t have a good monitoring system for NIV.The second major mycotoxin group is Zearalenone and its derivatives.The current issues with Fusarium mycotoxins in the Canadian feed supply is that Fusarium pressure in Canada is widespread and may be increasing because of wet seasons that promote the disease. There is also the additional risk of mycotoxin exposure from new feed ingredients such as distiller’s dried grains with solubles (DDGS) that are corn or wheat based. There is an increased risk in livestock feed with DDGS, since DON concentrates in in DDGS by approximately three times.There appears to be a shift in the pathogen population with 3-ADON becoming more prevalent. This is a concern since 3-ADON makes significantly more toxin that is also more toxic. The LD50 for swine with 15-ADON is 113 milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg) while it is 49 mg/kg for 3-ADON. Analysis conducted by Ward et al in 2008 found that 3-ADON was found in six per cent of Alberta samples tested, 11 per cent of Saskatchewan samples, and 39 per cent of Manitoba samples.We have looked at genetic chemotyping of DON isolates. On winter wheat, we found 3-ADON accounted for 82.4 per cent of F. graminearum isolates in Winnipeg and 84.6 per cent in Carman, Man. At Melfort, Sask., 3-ADON accounted for 100 per cent of the DON population. Canadian Grain Commission samples of CWRS wheat in 2015 indicated a shift to 3-ADON in the Black and Dark Brown soils zones.This shift to a greater prevalence of 3-ADON brings new issues in managing the disease because of the increased virulence of 3-ADON. And because of the higher toxin production, there will be new issues at the elevator, in DDGS feeding and at the trade level because of potential downgrading.The accidental discovery of NIV producing isolates in winter wheat at Carman by Chami Amarasinghe at the University of Manitoba is also a concern. Five of 132 Fusarium isolates were found to be NIV. In these isolates, 65 per cent were identified as 3-ADON, 31 per cent 15-ADON, and four per cent NIV. The presence of NIV is a concern, since it is 10 times more toxic to livestock than DON.The identification of NIV is a concern because F. cerealis and F. graminearum are very similar and difficult to distinguish from each other. Until 2012, NIV had only been detected in a few barley samples in Canadian grain. However, testing for NIV in Canada is not routinely conducted at grain mills or elevators.Amarasinghe also investigated the possibility of masked mycotoxins in our grains. These mycotoxins are masked because their structure has been changed in the plant. This process occurs when plants detoxify DON by converting it to DON-3-Glucosides (D3G). Masked mycotoxins are also known as modified mycotoxins and can’t be detected by conventional chemical analysis. However the danger is that gut microbes in livestock digestive systems may be able to convert D3G back to DON.Findings from Amarasinghe’s research showed Canadian spring wheat cultivars produced D3G upon Fusarium infection, and there were significant differences among wheat cultivars. The susceptible cultivars showed a lower D3G to DON ratio (less D3G content) compared to the moderately resistant/intermediate cultivars. She found the level of resistance might have an effect on the production of D3G during the infection.Looking into the future, Canadian wheat production may be at greater risk of Fusarium infections. An increase of 3-ADON, the potential for NIV to establish, and masked mycotoxins in our grain may be food safety issues. Additionally, with climate change, there is a possible threat of an increase in mycotoxins or having new mycotoxins such as the new NX-2 population establish.Historically, in Canada we have seen shifts in the past. In the Great Lakes area, we saw a shift from ZEN to DON in the mid-70s, similar to the shift from 15-ADON to 3-ADON on the Prairies in the 2000s.There are now some wheat varieties that have resistance to Fusarium in winter wheat and Canadian Spring wheat. Other classes also have varieties that are moderately resistant to Fusarium as well. These are important and should be considered as management tools.This article is a summary of the presentation "War of the titans: The battle for supremacy in wheat-fusarium interactions," delivered by Dr. Dilantha Fernando, University of Manitoba, at the Field Crop Disease Summit, Feb. 21-22 in Saskatoon. Click here to download the full presentation.Don't forget to subscribe to our email newsletters so you're the first to know about current research in crop management.Top Crop Manager's Hebricide Resistance Summit has been announced! Sign up today for early-bird pricing.
I work in Manitoba and we’ve been dealing with Fusarium head blight (FHB) for the last 25 years. In the 1990s, Manitoba started seeing severe infections. Those of you who are from Saskatchewan and Alberta, over the last two to three years, have definitely seen what it can be like when conditions are correct for Fusarium head blight infection.
Syama Chatterton discusses the incidence of Aphanomyces and Fusarium in Western Canada. Click here for the full summary of Chatterton's presentation.Don't forget to subscribe to our email newsletters so you're the first to know about current research in crop management.Top Crop Manager's Herbicide Resistance Summit has been announced! Sign up today for early-bird pricing: https://www.weedsummit.ca/event/registration
Mary Burrows discusses the emerging pulse crop diseases she has seen in her home state of Montana, and what this could mean for western Canadian growers. Burrows also discusses the important of seed treatment in fighting these diseases. Click here for the full summary of Burrows' presentation.Don't forget to subscribe to our email newsletters so you're the first to know about current research in crop management.Top Crop Manager's Herbicide Resistance Summit has been announced! Sign up today for early-bird pricing: https://www.weedsummit.ca/event/registration
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.
Multiple modes of action make a big difference when it comes to slowing down the development of herbicide-resistant weed populations. That’s the message echoed throughout Nufarm Agriculture’s field plot tour, held outside Saskatoon on July 5.The tour featured cereal, canola, soybean and pulse plots to demonstrate Nufarm’s line of herbicides for pre-emergent control in cereals, canola, soybeans and pulses, and in-crop weed control in cereals. The overriding focus was on strategies to reduce the risk of weeds developing resistance to herbicide groups.“Using multiple modes of action across multiple application timings helps to manage the selection pressure placed on weed populations by each individual mode of action, and can reduce the proliferation of resistance mechanisms through a weed population,” says Nufarm’s Technical Services Manager Graham Collier in a press release. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada research scientist Dr. Hugh Beckie updated attendees on the state of herbicide resistant weeds in Western Canada. Dr. Beckie, who worked on the very first case of herbicide resistance back in 1988, said the issue is growing in both complexity and severity. “In 2003 we were seeing 10 per cent of fields impacted, and as of last year we were seeing 57 per cent,” he said. Herbicide resistance hits farmers right in the pocket book, Dr. Beckie explained, citing a recent survey of 300 sites in Saskatchewan that found farmers reporting extra costs of $15-20 per acre to address herbicide resistance. Weed resistance is a growing challenge for all growers, but how likely resistance is to develop isn’t a mystery. Collier reviewed the key factors that impact herbicide resistance development. “Herbicide resistance can increase exponentially in a field, year by year, depending on the herbicide mode of action, the selection pressure applied to the population, the biology of the weed, and the number of times a specific mode of action is used,” says Collier. “For example, resistance will spread through a kochia population much faster than a wild oat population due to cross pollination, seed production and seed bank longevity. “Don't miss out on the 2018 Herbicide Resistance Summit! Register today for early-bird pricing.
Hard to identify and distinguish from one another, the annual grasses compete with winter wheat and fall rye because their growth habits are similar. Downy brome (Bromus tectorum) densities of 50 to 100 plants per square metre that emerge within three weeks of the crop can reduce winter wheat yields by 30 to 40 per cent. Both downy brome and Japanese brome (Bromus japonicas) are classified as noxious weeds in Alberta.  
Japanese brome (Bromus japonicas) exists as a winter annual or summer annual grass weed in the Canadian Prairies.
New herbicide technology, carefully applied and coupled with managing modes of action, is Ontario’s best hope for winning the war against what is arguably the worst broadleaf weed in Canada today.
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.  
Long, sausage-like rows of white grain bags have become common across the Prairies as not only a way to deal with bumper crops, but as a way to conveniently store grain in the field. However, little Canadian research has been done to look at the safety of storing canola at different moisture levels, and determining how long canola can be stored in the bags without losing grade. “Silo bag storage is probably a cost-effective method compared to other temporary storage systems, but there are some concerns over seed spoilage, insect and mould damage, moisture migration and quality losses,” says Digvir Jayas, project leader and grain storage expert in Biosystems Engineering at the University of Manitoba. In addition to Jayas, the team included Chelladurai Vellaichamy, a graduate student, and Fuji Jian, a research engineer, both in biosystems engineering at the University of Manitoba; and Noel White and Paul Fields of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada at Winnipeg. They conducted two studies looking at grain bag storage in canola. The results of these studies have been submitted as two papers (full versions are available from Jayas) to the Journal of Stored Products Research for publication. Canola best stored if dryThe research covered two periods. The first project looked at canola at three different moisture contents 8.9, 10.5 and 14.4 per cent (wet basis), representing dry, straight and damp grades, stored in silo bags for 40 weeks (from autumn 2010 to summer 2011) at Winnipeg, Man. For each moisture content, each bag was loaded with approximately 20 tonne canola seeds with greater than 90 per cent initial germination. Germination, free fatty acid value (FAV), and moisture content of canola seeds at seven locations of each silo bag were analyzed every two weeks along with carbon dioxide concentration of air and temperature between canola seeds. For dry grade canola, the germination was maintained above 90 per cent, and FAV also stayed at safe storage level during the 40-week storage. The germination of straight grade canola maintained its initial value in most parts of the silo bags except at top layer. Damp grade canola lost germination, dropping below 80 per cent, and FAV doubled within eight weeks of storage. Moisture migration was evident with the top layer showing significantly higher moisture content than the middle and bottom layers over the first 28 weeks of storage of dry canola. By the end of the storage period, the middle and bottom layers had higher moisture content than the top layer for dry and straight moisture bags. Damp moisture bags experienced larger moisture gradients, especially after 28 weeks of storage. “This trend shows the accumulation of moisture due to condensation at the periphery of bags caused by temperature and moisture gradients during autumn and winter seasons, and in the summer the top layer grain was dried due to the hot ambient temperature,” Jayas reports. Temperature and CO2 concentrations were also measured. Temperatures fluctuated depending on season, and sampling location. In dry and straight grade canola bags, the bottom layers had higher temperatures during autumn and winter. In the spring and summer, temperature was hotter near the top. Jayas says the temperature of the top layer of the seeds followed the ambient temperature changes. For damp canola, temperature gradients were completely different. “Hot spots developing inside the damp grade canola bags could be the reason for this change in temperature pattern. Even in mid-winter, the temperature of top layer of the damp grade canola bags stayed above freezing, and the middle layer of the canola seeds followed the ambient temperature during winter time,” Jayas says. High levels of CO2 concentration in damp grade canola seeds indicated higher amounts of biological activity in high moisture seeds. Localized hot spots were also observed in the high moisture bags. While the dry, straight and damp canola all graded Canada No. 1 when loading the bags at the start of the trial, there was degradation for the straight and damp canola after 40 weeks. The dry canola still graded No. 1, but small amounts of heated seeds in the top layer of straight canola bags reduced the grade to No. 2. After 40 weeks, the damp grade canola was caked and, because of the high moisture, the grain bag extractor could not unload the canola seeds from the bag. The damp canola graded Feed.    Refining storage time for damp canolaWhile the first project found that dry canola could be safely stored up to 40 weeks without loss of grade, the researchers wanted to find out if damp canola could be stored for shorter periods of time without losing grade. They conducted additional research for two storage years (2011-2012 and 2013-2014) to determine the changes in grain quality while storing 12.1 and 12.4 per cent moisture content canola in grain bags. The temperature during loading was 15.5 C and 16.2 C, respectively. Once again, canola was stored in grain bags in the fall, but in these years, the bags were unloaded at three different times at 20 weeks (middle of winter), 28 weeks, (end of winter) and 40 weeks (summer). Again, germination, FAV, moisture content, temperature and CO2 levels were monitored. The results of both storage years showed that there were significant changes in moisture content with an accumulation of moisture in the top layer of grain. In both the years the FAV values remained at safe levels until 20 weeks of storage, but increased at 28 weeks and was more than double at 40 weeks. This was an indication of quality loss. (See Fig. 1.) In 2011-2012, after 20 weeks of storage, the canola still graded No. 1. At 28 weeks, it had dropped to No. 2, and by 40 weeks was downgraded to Feed. In the second year, grade remained at No. 1 in the first two unloading periods, and dropped to No. 2 at 40 weeks. “Canola seeds with 12 per cent moisture content could be stored up to five months, into the late winter, without any quality deterioration under the western Canadian conditions,” Jayas says. The results of the two projects indicated that dry canola loaded into grain bags at ambient temperatures of around 15 C could be stored up to 40 weeks without loss of grade. Canola at 12 per cent might be safely stored up to 20 weeks. If canola is above 12 per cent moisture, growers should consider drying the grain first before storing in grain bags, or only use grain bags for temporary storage of a few weeks.  
Oct. 19, 2015 - Due to the speed at which damage can occur, producers need to watch for potential canola storage problems as fall transitions into early winter. "Canola seed's high oil content makes it very susceptible to deterioration in storage. As such, canola is stored at a lower seed moisture level to prevent spoilage," says Neil Whatley, crop specialist, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry. "Safe, long-term canola storage is at or below eight per cent moisture content and cooler than 15 degrees Celsius., Declining outside air temperatures also need to be properly dealt with to ensure safe storage." Canola respires or goes through a "sweat" period for up to six weeks after being binned. "Even if it's initially binned dry, canola should continue to be monitored. Respiring canola generates additional heat and moisture, creating an unstable condition. This instability can potentially result in hot spots or mould growth, and when mould begins to form, it creates more heat that accelerates the spread of more mould growth. Therefore, aerating stored canola during its respiration period is important. Spoilage can be eliminated if the canola is sufficiently conditioned to the point where the aeration cooling front moves entirely through to the top of the grain mass." Changing outside air temperatures in the spring and fall causes repeated moisture cycles in a bin, permitting moisture to concentrate in certain bin areas, and potentially leading to spoilage and heating. As outside air temperatures decline during October and November, the grain nearest to the outside bin edges cools first. This cooling system then migrates downward along the bin edge, and then upward through the central core. "As this cooling system migrates, it gathers moisture and warmth that creates a pocket of humid and warmer air at the top of the central grain core where spoilage and heating can begin," says Whatley. "So, as outside air temperatures decline, aeration fans should be operated again until canola at the top of the bin is cooled to the average daily temperature. Due to continuously declining outside air temperatures, it is wise to aerate repeatedly until the whole bin of canola is between zero and five degrees C. November is an important month to check canola bins again to see if they are stable going into winter as temperatures drop below zero degrees C and stay there." Producers may also consider turning one third of the canola bulk out of a full bin by truck in November. "This would be the method used if aeration is not possible, but may be an important task to complete in November even if aeration isn't used. Moving the grain disrupts the moisture cycle created by declining outside temperatures, cooling the grain mass and reducing the risk of spoilage. Even if bin temperature is being monitored with sensors, this may not provide a complete reading of the whole bin as problems may emerge in pockets away from the sensors. So, turning the grain ensures cooling as well as allowing producers to smell the grain as they are moving it to let them know if any grain is in the first stages of spoilage. If green counts, moisture, weeds or dockage are high, turning the whole bin may be safest." Extra caution is required in unique circumstances, adds Whatley. "Canola that was stored with a higher green seed count has higher moisture content than your average mature canola seed, potentially increasing spoilage risk. Such canola should be delivered as soon as possible to prevent spoilage, which could result in further price reduction. Extra attentiveness is also required when canola is stored in large bins, especially tall and narrow bin types that can reduce aeration air flow due to increased compaction."  
A recent study by the Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute (PAMI) found two relatively minor changes in soybean harvest – reducing combine speed and investing in an air reel – can bring significant economic benefit to producers.
Western bean cutworm (WBC) continues to be a concern for pollinating corn in areas with high trap counts. Peak moth flight has occurred in counties in the southwest but counties in Central and Eastern Ontario have not reached peak yet. Moths will now be looking for late planted corn that is still in the early tasseling stages or will focus on edible beans. Focus scouting efforts in those corn fields that do not have dried silks yet. Edible bean growers need to scout for pod feeding once pods are present. Edible bean fields that are adjacent to corn fields that reached WBC eggmass threshold this year are likely also at risk. It is best to control fields as soon as pod feeding is observed. The larvae are exposed to the insecticide when they make holes in the pods to get to the seed. For additional information on WBC thresholds as well as optimal scouting and insecticide application timing, click here. Information on product choices is available in the OMAFRA Field Crop Protection Guide.Post Wheat Harvest Manure ApplicationFor livestock producers and those using organic amendments, the post wheat harvest season is an excellent opportunity to apply manure for nutrients and organic matter. Spreading workload, reduced compaction and reduced risk of environmental losses from runoff and erosion, as well as the opportunity to combine the benefits of feeding cover crops with manure, are all benefits of manure applied during the growing season.Where manure or other organic amendments are applied to fields it is important to take a sample for analysis to help determine available nutrients and potential commercial fertilizer savings. Along with analysis for N, P and K in manure, additional tests will help determine nutrient availability. Testing for sulphur will provide an indication of elemental sulphur content which is released to a crop similar to organic nitrogen and can provide all or some of the sulphur needs, especially for wheat and forage crops. Testing for C:N (carbon to nitrogen) ratio for solid manure and amendments will help indicate if additional commercial N will be required for a corn crop. C:N ratios below 20:1 will have adequate nitrogen to help with the breakdown of carbon. Materials with C:N ratios over 30:1 (especially for spring applied materials) should determine with pre-side dress N test if addition N will be required. With liquid materials, testing the pH will help determine the potential for rapid ammonium N loss where manure is not injected or immediately incorporated. Liquid manure with high NH4-N levels combined with high pH (above 7.8) will lose the majority of the quickly available nitrogen in the first 24 hours, especially when combined with warm dry soils and/or high winds over bare soils.Often there is too little credit given to the nitrogen supplied by fall-applied manure. A general guideline with fall applied manure is to credit half the total nitrogen from the analysis. Cattle manure with heavy bedding and/or amendments with high carbon to nitrogen (C:N) ratio will have lower (30 to 40 per cent) nitrogen credit while broiler poultry manure will have higher N credits (50 – 60 per cent). Mild winter conditions will increase available N from solid manure but can reduce nitrogen contribution from liquid manure where ammonium N (NH4-N) is higher. An early warm period in spring also increases nitrogen contribution from manure to a crop, while a cool wet spring will slow down nutrient release; not able to meet the N needs of a rapid growing corn crop during the period ahead of pollination. Slow release nitrogen from manure will contribute to yield after pollination, especially in areas where frequent and heavy rain may have resulted in denitrification or leaching of commercial N sources. Tissue tests of fields with evidence of some N deficiency on lower corn leaves reveal that levels are still within the normal range. Where manure or other amendments were applied there should be adequate nitrogen to meet remaining crop needs.
Harvest weed seed control is a last-ditch line of defence against herbicide-resistant weeds in Australia and one many producers there would rather not have to deploy in the field.
Is it practical for farmers on the southern Canadian Prairies to harvest two crops on the same field in the same growing season? It’s an intriguing idea that Jamie Larsen thinks just might work – especially in warmer areas that have irrigation and if one of the two crops is a winter cereal that can be taken off for silage.
With the continued difficulties in getting the crop harvested this fall, an Alberta Agriculture and Forestry (AF) specialist is recommending producers get their crops any way they can, as long as it goes through the combine. “This year’s harvest has been a long, drawn out affair, filled with frustration and disappointment,” said Harry Brook, crop specialist, AF, in a press release. “Many producers still have crop left to be harvested or are taking it off wet, with grain being binned or bagged or piled at unheard of moisture levels. These crops cannot be left out in the cold for extended periods of time unattended.” Once the crop is harvested and in storage, the excess moisture must be dealt with as soon as possible. “If you don’t have ready access to a grain dryer or have aeration for your bins, you must closely monitor the grain or oilseed for signs of heating. If you see signs that there is heating, you will need to cool the grain by circulating the grain out of and back into the bin. Depending on bin or pile size, this may have to be done fairly frequently.” Brook has a caution for producers who are using grain bags for short term storage. “Remember that very damp or wet grain in a bag will start to mould. Some moulds will grow at cold temperatures and losses can be high. If bags are used for wet grain storage it should only be short term until crop drying occurs and close monitoring can again begin.” When drying grain, there are maximum temperatures that should be used on the various crops. “There are tables that outline the maximum temperatures to be used to dry grain. Don’t exceed those maximum drying temperatures to avoid quality losses. With a large amount of moisture to be removed or a big seed, multiple passes of drying and cooling will be needed. In large seed like fababeans, drying might take three or four cycles to bring it down to safe storage levels. The cooling is required to let the moisture content in the seed equalize.” If there is aeration, some supplemental heat can be used to help dry down the crop. However, Brook said, in this case smaller bins will be more useful than large bins. “To make this work, the fan has to have sufficient air flow to provide at least 0.5 cfm/bushel before adding the supplemental heat. Success will depend on the cleanliness of the grain and, even then, a load or two will have to be circulated out of the bin and back in to help equalize moistures and prevent dry and wet channels in the grain.” Brook recommends restricting the air temperature increase to 10 C or less as higher temperatures can reduce efficiency and increase the chances of over-drying. For every 10 C increase in air temperature, the relative humidity is halved. “If you have crop that is damp or wet, monitor it closely for signs of heating and, if it occurs, take the appropriate measures to retain the value of the crop. It is too costly to do otherwise.”
Unseasonably warm weather has given some Prairie farmers a second chance to finish a harvest that was delayed because of snow. Producers in Alberta and Saskatchewan are noting a big change from October, when fields were saturated and combines were halted across Saskatchewan and Alberta because of rain and snow. | READ MORE
By 2050, we will need to feed 2 billion more people on less land. Meanwhile, carbon dioxide levels are predicted to hit 600 parts per million –a 50 per cent increase over today’s levels – and 2050 temperatures are expected to frequently match the top 5 per cent hottest days from 1950-1979. In a three-year field study, researchers proved engineered soybeans yield more than conventional soybeans in 2050’s predicted climatic conditions.| READ MORE
Recent discoveries by researchers at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) are shedding new light on how genes are turned on and off. Switching genes on and off is critical for improving crop traits, so these research findings have exciting implications for crop advances in the future.
Sabine Banniza’s project on multiple resistance to three lentil diseases has a fun tagline: Can we score a hat trick? To take this hockey analogy a bit further, the project aims to get some top disease resistance genes from a wild lentil team to join the cultivated lentil team.
A new pea class may break new ground for growers and processors on the Prairies. The first varieties, Redbat 8 and Redbat 88, were developed by the Crop Development Centre at the University of Saskatchewan. Both have been released by the Saskatchewan Pulse Growers (SPG) to ILTA Grain through SPG’s Tender Release Program.
A new breakthrough in soybean breeding could be a game-changer for the industry, and it comes at a time when soybeans are on Canadian producers’ minds more than ever before.
A recently discovered group of endophytes – organisms that live within plants – is on the path to commercialization. Laboratory and field tests are showing the remarkable potential of these endophytes to provide diverse benefits, such as increased germination, greater tolerance of drought and higher yields, in many crops on the Prairies and around the world.
Benson Hill Biosystems, an agricultural technology company unlocking the genetic potential of plants through cloud biology, has announced a partnership with the University of Guelph to develop traits that increase canola yield as part of the Genome Canada Genomic Applications Partnership Program (GAPP). The GAPP, along with provincial co-funding from the Ontario Ministry of Research, Innovation and Science, will provide $2 million towards the $3.4 million project. The GAPP funds research and development projects that address industry opportunities in order to accelerate the application of genomics-derived solutions and sustainable innovations that are beneficial to Canadians. Canola is a major driver of the Canadian economy representing $7.4 billion in farm cash receipts and over $9 billion in exports, primarily to China, Japan, Mexico and the United States. Canola also serves a critical role in our global food system. Seeds are crushed into a cooking oil that is one of the lowest in saturated fats, making it a popular choice for food services seeking to lower trans fats in their products. The remaining canola meal provides a high protein livestock feed. Benson Hill, using its proprietary CropOS cognitive computational platform, has identified a portfolio of trait candidates demonstrated to improve photosynthesis, one of the most complex systems in plants that is responsible for all agriculture production. In collaboration with the University of Guelph, researchers will validate these and other trait candidates in canola for further testing and development. Benson Hill's platform combines vast datasets and biological knowledge with big data analytics and scalable cloud-based computing – an intersection of disciplines known as cloud biology – to predict biological outcomes for any target crop using any genomics tool, from breeding to gene editing to transgenics. The ability to more accurately predict gene targets that are linked to certain phenotypic outcomes with CropOS enables Benson Hill to accelerate identification of promising trait candidates, reducing product development costs and increasing speed to market.
Ag-West Bio, Saskatchewan’s bioscience industry association, has approved a $300,000 investment in Smart Earth Seeds, a vertically-integrated plant breeding company developing high-omega meal and oil products derived from its proprietary camelina genetics platform. Camelina offers special promise as a sustainable source of the essential fatty acid ALA (an omega 3 fatty acid) as well as an ideally balanced Omega3:Omega6 ratio. It’s also rich in vitamin E and natural antioxidants. Smart Earth Seeds has generated over $1 million from sales of its camelina products, including significant sales into the aquafeed industry. Smart Earth has sought and received approvals from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency for use of rich-Omega3 camelina meal as feed for broiler chickens and egg-laying hens. CFIA has recently approved camelina oil for use as a feed ingredient for salmon and trout. Exciting breakthrough markets for camelina products also include the equine and pet food industry as well as for cattle and dairy production. Smart Earth’s plant-breeding activities will provide traits that ensure maximum yield and profitability to benefit farmers. Soon-to-be released varieties will offer non-GMO herbicide resistance and a significantly larger seed size.
A coordinated effort to understand plant microbiomes could boost plant health and agricultural productivity, according to a new Perspective publishing March 28 in the open access journal PLOS Biology by Posy Busby of Oregon State University in Corvallis and colleagues at eight other research institutions. | READ MORE
Only three plant species -- rice, wheat, and maize -- account for most of the plant matter that humans consume, partly because of the mutations that made these crops the easiest to harvest. But with CRISPR technology, we don't have to wait for nature to help us domesticate plants, argue researchers.
A new analysis is raising questions about whether farmers in Canada and the United States have seen real benefits resulting from their widespread adoption of genetically modified crops. The Toronto Star reports. | READ MORE
A new, high-yield alfalfa variety developed in the Maritimes will go to market in February when Agriculture Agri-Food Canada puts the results of 28 years of research to tender. CBC News reports. | READ MORE
Leaving corn unharvested over winter poses a new set of problems. Photo courtesy of David Hooker.   There are years when it can be extremely difficult for farmers to harvest some of their corn acres. Excessive rainfall during the harvest period may result in fields that are too wet to be combined. In other years, cooler-than-normal weather during the growing season can result in high grain corn moisture levels and prohibitively high drying costs. In this case, farmers may opt to harvest the corn in spring, leaving it to dry down naturally to reduce drying costs. However, leaving the corn unharvested over winter comes with another set of challenges. There is an increased risk of lodging over winter, impacting crop harvestability and grain yield, explains David Hooker from the University of Guelph’s Ridgetown campus. Hooker and his associates set out to identify potential management strategies that farmers could use to improve crop yield and quality in spring-harvested corn. There has been limited research into how to manage corn with the explicit intent of overwintering for a spring harvest, Hooker says. One trial in Wisconsin during 2000 and 2001 comparing fall- and spring-harvested corn plots showed yield losses could vary considerably. For example, with heavy snow cover, losses were 38 to 65 per cent, compared to a winter with little snow when yield losses were only seven to 10 per cent. However, newer hybrids with the Bt trait and genetics for improved stalk strength may have the potential to improve standability over the winter, Hooker says. In southern Ontario, the standard management practices for corn production consist of planting at a relatively high plant population (80,000 plants per hectare), applying a foliar fungicide only if there is justifiable disease potential, harvesting in the autumn when grain moisture is approximately 25 per cent or less, and drying grain down to 15.5 per cent using on-farm grain dryers or through commercial elevators. A review of the literature revealed some possible strategies for reducing yield losses associated with overwintering corn. These included selecting a hybrid with superior stalk strength, selecting later maturing hybrids, planting at a reduced population (i.e. 60,000 plants per hectare or 24,000 plants per acre). Another possible management strategy is to apply a foliar fungicide around tasseling time, which has been shown to delay leaf senescence and improve stalk strength, which can contribute to improved standability. Field experiments were initiated to compare the effects of hybrid maturity, plant population, foliar fungicide application and harvest timing on grain yield and standability. Field experiments were initiated in 2009 and 2010 at five separate locations in southern Ontario near Belmont, Ridgetown and Lucan. Of the three locations, Lucan usually receives more snow because it is in the snowbelt region of southwestern Ontario, leeward of Lake Huron. Researchers compared spring versus fall harvest, plant populations (60,000 or 80,000 plants per hectare), with and without an application of Quilt foliar fungicide, and three corn hybrids with differing maturities. The parameters observed were stay-green in the autumn, lodging in spring, and grain yield, moisture and test weight of corn harvested in autumn and spring. The results point to an overwintering management strategy for corn, which consists of planting at a reduced plant population (24,000 plants per acre) and spraying the crop with a foliar fungicide around tasseling. This strategy minimized yield losses across all hybrids by between 3.5 per cent and 13.2 per cent at four out of five field locations through improvements in corn standability, compared to when the crop overwintered using a standard population and no fungicide application. While lower plant populations resulted in better standability, it was usually at the expense of some grain yield, Hooker says. An economic analysis of the yield data in this study would be of value to growers, he adds. Unfortunately, while the overwintering management strategy was an improvement over previous reports of yield losses, lodging was still at unacceptable levels at most locations. High winds, heavy snowfall and other adverse weather conditions can overwhelm any management strategy geared to help mitigate the risks associated with overwintering corn, Hooker says. “At the Lucan location, 100 per cent of the corn was lodged in the spring.” The study did not look at the effect of overwintering corn on grain vomitoxin levels. Hooker would like to see this addressed in future research. “Overwintering corn should be considered on a year- and field-specific basis,” he concludes. For example, overwintering may be considered if grain moisture is extremely high (greater than 34 per cent) in November, if drying costs are high, the corn is of inferior quality (the grade of corn can improve with a spring harvest) and if root and stalk strength are excellent. “The practice of harvesting corn in the spring carries significant risk, mainly due to root and stalk lodging and reduced harvestability,” Hooker says. In areas where the winters are typically harsh, overwintering corn is a risky practice regardless of the management strategy deployed, he cautions.   
Feb. 3, 2016 - Monsanto is commercializing its dicamba-tolerant Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans in Canada in time for the 2016 growing season, after the company received import approval from China's Ministry of Agriculture. Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans are the industry's first biotech-stacked trait in soybeans to combine the yield potential of the Genuity Roundup Ready 2 Yield soybean trait, along with tolerance to both glyphosate and dicamba. According to Monsanto, field trial results and large scale farmer demonstration trials have shown that the Roundup Ready 2 Xtend Crop System is an effective and sustainable weed management tool for tough-to-control and glyphosate-resistant weeds. To complement the Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybean trait launch in Canada, Monsanto is also launching XtendiMax herbicide with VaporGrip Technology, a low-volatility liquid dicamba formulation developed for use in the Roundup Ready Xtend Crop System. In the United States, the use of dicamba herbicide over the top of Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans remains in late stage of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) review and is not currently approved by the EPA. "Managing glyphosate-resistant weeds in soybeans is a growing challenge for many Canadian farmers, particularly in Eastern Canada and they have been looking forward to this important new tool," said Dan Wright, trait launch lead with Monsanto Canada. "The ability to use dicamba, in addition to glyphosate, provides multiple modes of action on every acre and is important to promote long-term sustainability on the farm." In Canada, Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans are expected to be available in more than 30 varieties, covering the key soybean growing regions of Southwest Ontario; Eastern Ontario and Quebec; and Western Canada. Growers who have not yet placed pre-orders for Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybean seed may still have that opportunity pending available supply and should check with their local seed retailer. For more information, farmers can contact their seed dealer or visit www.genuitytraits.ca.    
Jan. 28, 2016 - Canadian growers now have a new, improved version of herbicide, SOLO WG that has been used to help control tough grassy and broadleaf weeds in Clearfield crops. BASF Canada has received registration from the Pest Management Regulatory Agency for SOLO ADV herbicide for use on Clearfield lentils, Clearfield canola, Clearfield sunflowers and soybeans for the 2016 season. Post-emergence broadleaf and grass herbicide SOLO ADV offers maximum re-cropping flexibility and easy handling because of its unique liquid formulation with the adjuvant built in. SOLO ADV controls weeds growing at the time of application and offers exceptional follow-crop safety. In addition, SOLO ADV offers broad-spectrum weed control for Clearfield lentils and Clearfield sunflowers. The new SOLO ADV liquid formulation will replace the current SOLO WG dry formulation and will be available for sale in the 2016 season. READ MORE.  
Glyphosate-resistant weeds are not a new problem in Canada, but producers must be proactive to keep these weeds from getting out of control. There are now five glyphosate-resistant weeds found in Canada: giant ragweed, common ragweed, water-hemp, Canada fleabane and kochia (which is currently the only glyphosate-resistant weed not found in Ontario). Giant ragweed, the first glyphosate-resistant weed found in Canada, is an aggressive weed that can cause substantial yield losses in field crops if left unchecked. Although it’s not a new problem – giant ragweed was first discovered in Canada in 2008 in Essex County, at the tip of southwestern Ontario – it’s a growing issue, according to Peter Sikkema, a researcher at the University of Guelph’s Ridgetown Campus. He notes glyphosate-resistant giant ragweed has so far been confined to the six most southerly counties of the province. However, the weed is becoming increasingly prevalent in corn and soybean fields, and growers need to be vigilant in order to protect their fields. Sikkema warns that if no action is taken to control giant ragweed (Ambrosia trifida L.), the potential yield loss is very high. His research has shown yield losses in corn from giant ragweed ranged from 63 to 82 per cent, with an average of 72 per cent. In soybean, the yield losses ranged from 19 to 96 per cent, with an average of 73 per cent. In the past, giant ragweed was mainly found along roadsides and creeks, but a shift to no-till soybean production has allowed giant ragweed to gain a foothold in southwestern Ontario, according to Sikkema. The annual weed reproduces by seed and grows up to four metres in height. According to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture Publication 505: Weeds, “It is distinguished by its very tall stature, its large, lobed but not divided leaves, its long, slender spikes of pollen-producing flower heads and its large, angular seeds with spines around the upper shoulder.” For allergy sufferers, its pollen is a common allergen from August to September in southwestern Ontario. When it comes to controlling glyphosate-resistant giant ragweed in corn, soybean and winter wheat fields, Sikkema says farmers have options. The first line of defense is to use good crop husbandry practices that keep weed populations in check. Using a diverse crop rotation of three or more crops and using herbicides with multiple modes of action is fundamental, Sikkema advises. Other good practices include seeding a cover crop after winter wheat harvest and using practices that give the crop a competitive advantage, such as seeding at higher populations, using narrower row spacing, and controlling insects and diseases, he adds. Aggressive tillage in spring might be able to control giant ragweed, but Sikkema has doubts about this method of control, particularly the negative effects of aggressive tillage on soil structure and soil health. “I’m not sure that’s a practice that’s sustainable long-term,” he says. When it comes to control of glyphosate-resistant giant ragweed with alternate herbicides, the options vary by crop. “We have good solutions in corn,” Sikkema says. “Marksman, Banvel and Distinct can be used post-emergence in corn.” In winter wheat crops, 2,4-D, along with Target, Estaprop, Lontrel and Trophy give good control. In soybean crops, he has found Roundup plus 2,4-D tank-mixed applied pre-plant, seven days before seeding soybean, is very effective. “It’s important to have that seven-day interval to prevent injury to the soybean.” With soybean, Sikkema notes it’s important to control glyphosate-resistant giant ragweed before the soybean comes up. There are no herbicides applied post-emergent that provide acceptable control of glyphosate-resistant giant ragweed in soybean, he says. Giant ragweed seedlings initially emerge in early spring. They can be identified by their spatulate (spoon-shaped) cotyledons, which unfold from a hairless hypocotyl and an indentation at the base of the cotyledons. The first true leaves are entire and ovate with deep lobes. Farmers are doing a good job of managing glyphosate-resistant giant ragweed, Sikkema says. However, he cautions that some giant ragweed biotypes have multiple resistances to both glyphosate and Group 2 herbicides. In the future, Sikkema says the Roundup Ready Xtend soybean, which are resistant to both Roundup and dicamba, will give farmers another tool for managing glyphosate-resistant weeds.        
Nov. 27, 2015 - The Canadian Weed Science Society / Société canadienne de malherbologie (CWSS-SCM) honored several individuals for their extraordinary contributions to the field of weed science. The awards were presented during the organization's 69th annual meeting, held Nov 22-26, 2015 in Edmonton, Alta. Excellence in Weed Science Award (sponsored by Dow AgroSciences): CWSS-SCM honored Stephen Darbyshire, a research scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Ottawa, Ont. Stephen's research focuses on developing new information on the taxonomy, phylogeny, and distribution of weeds and invasive plants. He has collected approximately 10,000 specimens of plant, bryophyte, and fungal specimens, primarily from Canada. Darbyshire has served on the board of directors for CWSS-SCM and has held numerous leadership positions within the society, including publications director. He has published more than 95 peer-reviewed manuscripts, 50 monographs or book chapters, supervised and co-supervised several graduate students, and presented over 30 papers at scientific conferences. Excellence in Weed Extension Award (sponsored by Valent): CWSS-SCM honored Danielle Bernier, a weed scientist and extension specialist with the Ministry of Agriculture in the Province of Quebec. Bernier has developed great expertise locally, and is well known across the country for her tireless efforts in extending weed science to growers and industry personnel. Bernier has made dozens of presentations each year to producers and at scientific meetings, has produced over 65 extension bulletins for the province of Quebec, as well as serving in various capacities within the CWSS-SCM. Outstanding Industry Member Award (sponsored by CWSS-SCM): CWSS-SCM honored Mark Lawton, technology development lead with Monsanto, based in Guelph, Ont. Lawton is responsible for the team that provides technical support for current products and the development of new products within Monsanto. In addition to serving in this technical capacity, he has published 18 peer-reviewed manuscripts, given over 25 papers at scientific conferences, and has served on the committee of numerous graduate students at the University of Guelph. Meritorious Service Award (sponsored by CWSS-SCM): CWSS-SCM honoured Ken Sapsford, an independent consultant from Kaleden, BC. Sapsford was formerly a research assistant at the University of Saskatchewan. Sapsford has been very active within the CWSS-SCM, serving on three local arrangements committees, and as a member of the board of directors for six years. Beyond his dedication to the society, he has been very active in extension to agronomists and growers throughout his career. Sapsford's research contributions include authoring or co-authoring five peer-reviewed manuscripts, 66 conference and workshop proceedings, 20 technical reports to industry, 106 extensions presentations, and over 65 media interviews. Student Scholarships and Travel Awards 1st Place Award for a Ph.D. student (sponsored by Monsanto) was presented to Breanne Tidemann, from the University of Alberta. Tidemann's research focuses on the potential impact of collecting weed seeds at crop harvest on the contribution to subsequent populations. She is supervised by Drs. Linda Hall (University of Alberta) and K. Neil Harker (AAFC Lacombe, Alta.). 2nd Place Award for a Ph.D. student (sponsored by Syngenta) was presented to Charles Geddes from the University of Manitoba. Research by Geddes covers optimization methods to reduce populations of volunteer canola in subsequent soybean crops. He is supervised by Dr. Rob Gulden. 3rd Place Award for a Ph.D. student (sponsored by CWSS-SCM) was presented to Holly Byker from the University of Guelph. The work of Byker focuses on the biology and management of glyphosate-resistant common ragweed. Drs. Peter Sikkema and Darren Robinson are her supervisors. 1st Place Award for a M.Sc. student (sponsored by Monsanto) was presented to Katherine Stanley from the University of Saskatchewan. Stanley's work focuses on the potential of mechanical weed control in organic pulse crop production. She is supervised by Dr. Steve Shirtliffe. 2nd Place Award for a M.Sc. student (sponsored by Dow AgroSciences) was presented to Christopher Budd from the University of Guelph. Budd's work focuses on the control of glyphosate-resistant Canada fleabane in soybean. He is supervised by Dr. Peter Sikkema. 3rd Place Award for a M.Sc. student (sponsored by CWSS-SCM) was presented to Amy Mangin from the University of Alberta. The work of Mangin focuses on optimizing the efficacy of pyroxasulfone on wild oat. Dr. Linda Hall is her supervisor.  
New canola hybrids are being introduced in commercial quantities for the 2016 growing season. Photo by Janet Kanters. Top Crop Manager has assembled a list of new canola hybrids that are being introduced in commercial quantities for the 2016 growing season. The respective seed companies provide the information, and growers are encouraged to look at third party trials, such as the Canola Council of Canada’s Canola Performance Trials, for further performance and agronomic information. Talk to local seed suppliers to see how new varieties also performed in local trials. Bayer CropScienceInVigor L241C is the newest LibertyLink, clubroot-resistant hybrid with outstanding yield potential, strong standability and a mid maturity suited for all clubroot affected regions of Western Canada. InVigor L241C yielded two per cent higher than InVigor L135C and 102 per cent of the checks (InVigor 5440 and Pioneer 45H29) in 2012-2013 Western Canadian Canola/Rapeseed Recommending Committee (WCC/RRC) co-op trials. InVigor L157H is the newest LibertyLink, specialty oil hybrid in the InVigor Health hybrid offering. It matures a day earlier than InVigor L156H and offers growers higher yield potential plus the security of a contract premium. InVigor L157H yielded 97 per cent of the checks (InVigor 5440 and Pioneer 45H29) in 2013-2014 WCC/RRC co-op trials. BrettYoung6074 RR is the first of the next wave of high-yielding canola hybrids from BrettYoung. 6074RR was the highest yielding Genuity Roundup Ready hybrid in the 2014 Canola Performance trials (109 per cent of check overall). 6074 RR performed well in all zones but is best suited to the mid- and long-season canola zones. It matures 1.4 days later than the checks, is resistant to blackleg and has an excellent rating for harvestability. 6080 RR is BrettYoung’s newest Genuity Round Ready hybrid. In 2014 trials it was very similar to 6074 RR in yield (108 per cent of checks in co-op trials), harvestability and about one day earlier in maturity. 6080 RR is resistant to blackleg, matures 0.86 days later than the checks and is adapted to all canola production zones. 6076 CR is a new high yielding hybrid, resistant to clubroot (pathotypes 2, 3, 5, 6, 8) and has intermediate resistance to the 5X pathotype. Yields in 2014 were equal to the checks. It is a large plant with excellent harvestability. It is also resistant to blackleg, and matures 2.4 days later than the checks. Canterra SeedsCS2100 is a high yielding GENRR hybrid with multigenic blackleg resistance for the long season zone. CS2100 is off to a strong start, yielding 115.5 per cent of 74-44 BL at Etzikom, Alta. in its first trial in 2015. This full-season hybrid possesses multigenic resistance to blackleg that provides more durable defense making it less prone to breakdown by new races of the disease. CS2100 has also been observed to have a higher degree of pod shatter tolerance compared to checks, potentially making it a good straight cut option. CS2100 is available at Canterra Seeds shareholders businesses, independent crop input dealers and through UFA. CS2200 CL is a new high-yielding Clearfield hybrid with full season maturity, great standability and a solid resistant rating to blackleg. As a Clearfield, it could qualify for non-GMO crush programs. CS2200 CL is available at Canterra Seeds shareholders businesses, independent crop input dealers and through UFA. CargillVictory V12-3 Hybrid: High yields with clubroot resistance, Victory V12-3 is a Roundup Ready hybrid with a yield potential of 103 per cent of 45H29. Along with clubroot resistance, it has an industry-leading, multigenic blackleg resistance package delivering a resistant rating for blackleg and is also resistant for Fusarium wilt. V12-3 has very good early season vigour and great yield potential with excellent standability. V12-3 is part of the Cargill Specialty Canola Program delivering higher returns for growers. Dow AgroSciencesNexera 1020 RR: New generation of Nexera canola Roundup Ready hybrid offering improved disease resistance. 1020 RR is the first Nexera hybrid to offer clubroot resistance with a very strong resistant rating in recent public co-op trials. Maturity is one day earlier than 1012 RR and the hybrid has demonstrated strong yield in performance trials. This hybrid is suitable to the mid- and long-season growing zones in Western Canada. Nexera 1022 RR: New generation of Nexera canola Roundup Ready hybrid offering improved disease resistance. 1022 RR offers improved, multigene blackleg resistance with a very strong resistant rating in recent public co-op trials. 1022 RR matures one day earlier than 1012 RR and has demonstrated strong yield performance in trials. This hybrid fits well in the mid- and long-season growing zones in Western Canada. Nexera 2022 CL: New generation of Nexera canola CL hybrid offering improved disease resistance. 2022 CL offers improved, multigene blackleg resistance with a very strong resistant rating in recent public co-op trials. 2022 CL has similar maturity to 2012 CL and has demonstrated very strong yield in performance trials. This hybrid fits well in the mid- and long-season growing zones in Western Canada. DuPont Pioneer46M34 is the first Genuity Roundup Ready canola hybrid that contains the built-in Pioneer Protector HarvestMax trait with a yield potential of 103 per cent of Pioneer hybrid 45H29 in large-scale straight cutting trials across Western Canada in 2014. It has moderately resistant rating for Blackleg and a resistant rating for Fusarium wilt. Pioneer Protector HarvestMax 46M34 reduces the risk of harvest losses from pod shatter and pod drop. Available at all local Pioneer Hi-bred sales representatives across Western Canada. DuPont Pioneer is also launching the first Genuity Roundup Ready hybrid that contains both built-in Pioneer Protector clubroot resistance and sclerotinia resistance traits. The name has not yet been determined. It has a yield potential of 100 per cent of Pioneer hybrid 45H29 in DuPont Pioneer research trials across Western Canada in 2014 along with a resistant rating for blackleg and Fusarium wilt. This new canola hybrid with the Pioneer Protector Plus traits has excellent early growth, improved standability and high yield potential. Available at all local Pioneer Hi-bred sales representatives across Western Canada. DEKALB75-65 RR is a Genuity Roundup Ready hybrid that has a strong agronomic foundation and improved pod integrity that offers the option for straight cutting. It has a dark seed coat and is taller and slightly later maturing than 74-44 BL. Standability is comparable to 74-44 BL and it is rated resistant to both blackleg and Fusarium wilt. Yield potential is strong at 99 per cent of L252 and 103 per cent of 45S54 in Monsanto’s 2014 field scale trials (does not include straight cut trials). 75-65 RR fits broadly across Western Canada and should be a consideration for anyone interested in straight cutting. 75-45 RR is a Genuity Roundup Ready hybrid that offers a unique combination of early maturity and high yield potential. It is earlier than 74-44 BL with similar height and standability, and has a resistant rating to both blackleg and Fusarium wilt. Yield potential is very good at 100 per cent of L130 and 107 per cent of 45S54 in Monsanto’s 2014 breeding trials. 75-45 RR fits particularly well in the short season zones of Alberta and Saskatchewan, and more broadly as an early maturing complement to other products such as 75-65 RR and 74-44 BL to help spread out swathing and harvest operations. 75-57 CR is a Genuity Roundup Ready hybrid that offers clubroot protection as part of a well-rounded agronomic package. It is resistant to a broad range of clubroot pathotypes and has a resistant rating to both blackleg and Fusarium wilt. It is later maturing than 74-44 BL with similar height, good standability, and strong yield potential at 102 per cent of 74-54 RR in Monsanto’s 2014 breeding trials. 75-57 CR provides an excellent solution for growers concerned about clubroot, particularly in central Alberta. Proven SeedsPV 200 CL is the newest high-yielding Clearfield hybrid from Proven Seed and has the added benefit of a world-class standability rating. PV 200 CL offers strong resistance to blackleg and Fusarium wilt while bringing in high yields and profits for canola growers. Available exclusively at Crop Production Services. PV 533 G is a new, high-yielding mid-season Genuity Roundup Ready canola hybrid from the Proven Seed signature lineup, with a yield potential of 104 per cent of DEKALB 74-44 BL. PV 533 G provides growers excellent standability plus a blackleg resistance package that is exhibiting high resistance, even by resistant rating standards. Available exclusively at Crop Production Services. SyngentaSY4105 is the first Genuity, Roundup Ready canola hybrid from Syngenta to incorporate clubroot resistance, making it an exceptional seed choice in areas where clubroot is a major concern. SY4105 fits well across mid-season growing zones in Western Canada, and delivers excellent early-season vigour with strong yield performance. SY4105 is currently available for 2016 seeding and can be purchased through a Syngenta seed dealer. SY4166 is the latest Genuity Roundup Ready canola hybrid from Syngenta. This hybrid is best suited for the mid-to-long season growing zones in Western Canada and includes an excellent agronomic package with multigenic blackleg resistance, good early season vigour and high-end yield potential. SY4166 also boasts excellent standability, which will deliver time savings at swathing and harvest. In a series of 2014 small plot trials, SY4166 reached full maturity, on average, 1.5 days later than SY4135, and 1 to 1.5 days earlier than SY4157. SY4166 will be available for sale starting in fall 2015 for 2016 seeding, and can be purchased through a Syngenta seed dealer. Company NewsIn summer 2015, Cargill opened its new state-of-the-art canola processing facility in Camrose, Alta., which has the capacity to process over one million metric tonnes of canola per year, bringing the company’s total crush capacity to 2.5 million metric tonnes. Cargill said 100 jobs were created during the construction phase of the refinery, and 30 new permanent positions were created to operate the plant. Shortly after, Cargill opened its first canola refinery in Clavet, Sask. The new facility has the capacity to refine one billion pounds of canola oil annually, making it the largest Cargill refinery in North America. On Aug. 6, 2015, Cargill Specialty Seeds and Oils in Fort Collins, Colo. held a ribbon cutting ceremony showcasing their newly completed seed innovation facility while celebrating the 150th anniversary of Cargill.  
With the high risk of disease in very short crop rotations, many Prairie growers these days have questions about how to most effectively use fungicides and seed treatments. So Kelly Turkington, a plant pathologist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), is leading a project to help answer some of those questions for malting barley growers.The project is assessing the impact of seed treatments, plant growth regulators (PGRs) and/or fungicide timing on crop disease levels, grain yield, microbial populations on the grain, and malting quality.Turkington explains this project builds on past research and observations. One of his research interests is the role of seed treatments in cereal disease development. Back in the late 1990s, he did some preliminary work in the growth cabinet to see if seed treatments affected early-season leaf disease development. “We saw some activity of a product that is not registered any more in terms of protecting the second or third leaf of a seedling from barley scald.” Then in 2012, when Turkington was visiting some barley scald and stripe rust trials in Australia, he was intrigued to see that the plots with only a seed treatment had noticeably better leaf disease control than the untreated plots well into the growing season. So he wanted to explore that possibility under Canadian conditions.He adds, “We get lots of questions about early-season disease development in wheat and barley, especially in tight rotations like canola-wheat-canola-wheat, or canola-barley-canola-barley, or in continuous wheat or continuous barley, because the disease risk is high. So [in our current project] we wanted to look at strategies to try to address some of that early-season disease development.”Another longstanding area of interest for Turkington is the timing of fungicide applications. His previous research has shown herbicide timing is not a very good option for applying a fungicide because it won’t directly protect the upper canopy leaves, which are crucial for grain filling and yield. An application at the flag-leaf stage or at head emergence is much more effective. Now growers often ask whether it’s better to spray at flag-leaf or wait until head emergence.In his present project, Turkington wanted to determine if a seed treatment would provide enough leaf disease control to perhaps allow a grower to delay a fungicide application until head emergence. Also, he wanted to compare the effectiveness of a flag-leaf application alone, a head emergence application alone, and applications at both timings. He notes, “In more favourable and higher yielding environments, like New Zealand or perhaps the U.K. or Europe, often growers need to put on a fungicide at flag-leaf, or maybe slightly before that, and then again at head emergence to prolong the protection of that upper crop canopy and provide some suppression of Fusarium head blight.”Turkington included PGR treatments in the project for a couple of reasons. PGRs are used to shorten and stiffen plant stems as a way to reduce lodging, and could influence microbial growth. “If a crop is lodged extensively, the heads are down in the canopy, close to leaves that may be carrying the net blotch, scald or spot blotch pathogen. And they’re in a humid environment and may be more prone to have more extensive microbial growth on the developing head tissue and kernel tissue,” he explains. “One of the characteristics that maltsters and brewers look for in barley is a reduced risk of having a lot of microbial growth on the grain – they often refer to that as ‘microbial load.’ Microbial load can have implications in the malt house and the brew house.”Crop diseases, like this net blotch on an untreated check plot in the trial, may contribute to the microbial load on the grain. Photo courtesy of Kelly Turkington.Also, Turkington wondered if a reduction in plant height due to a PGR treatment might influence Fusarium head blight levels. He says, “In all the work that has been done on Fusarium head blight over about the last 25 to 50 years, one observation is that shorter statured varieties tend to have a bit more Fusarium head blight. So we wanted to see, if we address lodging via a PGR reducing the height, does that increase Fusarium head blight?”Turkington’s project (which started in 2013 and ends in 2018) is evaluating those four factors – seed treatment, PGR, flag-leaf stage fungicide application, and head emergence stage fungicide application – alone and in combination to see if there might be some synergies.The seed treatment used in the project is Insure (triticonazole, metalaxyl and pyraclostrobin), and the fungicides are Twinline (metconazole and pyraclostrobin) at flag-leaf, and Prosaro (tebuconozole and prothioconazole) at head emergence. The PGR is Ethrel (ethephon); it is currently registered for use on wheat, but not on barley.Turkington’s project team is collecting data on such factors as disease severity ratings, the level of lodging, grain yield, 1,000-kernel weight, bushel weight, plumps, thins, and so on. As well, harvested grain samples from the plots are analyzed to determine the microbial load on the grain and the malting quality. Tom Graefenhan, a mycologist at the Canadian Grain Commission (CGC), is leading the microbial analysis, and Marta Izydorczyk, a barley scientist at the CGC, is leading the malting quality research.The project’s sites are at AAFC research locations across the Prairie region, including Beaverlodge, Lacombe and Lethbridge in Alberta; Scott, Indian Head and Melfort in Saskatchewan, and Brandon, Man. The project also has a site at the AAFC research centre at Charlottetown. All the sites are using AC Metcalfe – a well-known malting variety.As part of the quality evaluation for the project, the barley samples are malted in a micromalting system at the Canadian Grain Commission. Photo courtesy of Marta Izydorczyk.Preliminary resultsTurkington highlights some of the key results from the first three years of the agronomic component of the project.The impact of the seed treatment on disease levels in the upper canopy and on yield has been variable. “We have seen some positive aspects of seed treatment but not at all sites. Where we’ve had some benefit perhaps has been where we’ve had a higher level of disease development, which was especially Melfort in 2013 and to a certain extent in 2015,” he notes. “However, we didn’t see a synergism between using a seed treatment and using either a flag-leaf stage or a head emergence stage fungicide application.”It’s possible the variability in these results reflects the fact that the project wasn’t able to get the particular seed treatment product that was used in the 2012 Australian trials. Turkington is hoping to test that product in some of his future work.“The key factor in terms of controlling leaf disease development in the upper canopy was either a flag-leaf stage application or a head emergence stage application,” he says. “Looking at the data over the last three years, the head emergence application tended to be somewhat better, but it wasn’t necessarily always statistically better than the flag.” Reduced disease levels from a fungicide treatment resulted in higher grain yields.He adds, “We haven’t seen a huge benefit of applying fungicides at both the flag-leaf and the head emergence stages, although there were some hints of it at sites that had really high disease pressure.”For the most part, the PGR treatments had an impact only at sites with a significant risk of lodging. “The best example of that was 2013 at Melfort. They had a moderate level of lodging, and applying Ethrel significantly reduced lodging and that translated into better yields. In other years and other sites where the risk of lodging was lower or nonexistent, we really didn’t see a huge impact of using a PGR,” Turkington notes. Overall, the PGR applications did not have a strong impact on disease levels on the leaf tissue. The results for the microbial levels on the grain are still to come.Analyzing microbial loadsGraefenhan explains the microbes found on barley kernels reflect the microbes in the environment surrounding the barley field. They usually include a wide range of bacteria, yeasts and fungi, including some plant pathogens. He says most, if not all, microbes on the grain are killed during the malting process, especially in the kilning stage when the grain is heated to a high temperature. However, some substances produced by the microbes do remain on the malted grain and may get transferred to the next stages in the beer-making process. For example, some fungi, such as Fusarium, produce proteins that can cause gushing (when beer gushes out of a beer bottle).To analyze the microbial communities on the barley grain, Graefenhan’s lab first washes off all the microbes sitting on the surface of the seed. Then they extract the DNA of all of those microbes. Next, instead of sequencing the entire genome of each microbe, they look at a segment of the DNA that encompasses the “genetic barcode,” a short sequence of the DNA that identifies the species of the microbe.“These genetic barcodes are unique for each of the microorganism species we’re dealing with. The barcodes are very accurate and specific. We match them against a reference database that has [the most well-known] fungi, bacteria and yeasts,” Graefenhan says.“The method is very sensitive, so just because we detect a particular microorganism, that doesn’t necessarily mean it was vigorously growing on the plant. There are a lot of ubiquitous organisms out there in the environment, in the air, on the trees surrounding the fields, on the grasses, and they do spread out onto the grain as well,” he notes.“In our study, we take subsamples of 15 to 25 grams of seeds. On those 25 grams that we extract DNA from, we have hundreds of different microorganisms.”Along with identifying the different species, the DNA analysis also provides an indication of the species populations in the sample. “It gives us a good hint of how many of each of these organisms are there, whether there was just a single cell or a single population, or whether there was a diverse, growing population on the seed. By the number of DNA sequences from each of the species, we can tell whether it was a predominant species or just a single event.”Although most of the microbial results are too preliminary to make any general statements, it does appear that the geographic location of the sites is an important factor. Graefenhan explains, “Geographic location is always tightly linked to precipitation. For example, in the Red River Valley in Manitoba, precipitation is almost twice as much as in parts of Alberta. That is also reflected in the microbial composition and load on the grain. In general, we find more microbes in areas where the precipitation is higher, like the eastern Prairies in Manitoba and Eastern Canada.”The malting quality analysis is evaluating properties that are important for malting and brewing. Turkington expects to get a clearer picture of the microbial load and malting quality results over the next year as those analyses continue. The project’s agronomic fieldwork will be completed this year.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.This project is funded through the Growing Forward 2 National Barley Cluster, with support from AAFC, Alberta Barley, Western Grains Research Foundation, Rahr Malting, and the Atlantic Grains Council. AAFC scientists and especially the technical staff at the field sites are helping with these trials.
Hybrid rye varieties have been grown on the Prairies for a couple of years now. They continue to live up to their initial promise, outshining open-pollinated (OP) rye varieties in key traits, and work is underway to help the hybrids capture a greater share of rye’s small marketplace.
Imagine yourself as a winter wheat kernel. You’re planted in the fall, germinate and grow a bit, then hibernate until spring when you start growing again. Meanwhile, fungus and insects are attacking your roots and shoots throughout the fall and spring. No wonder poor stand establishment is a major constraint for high-yielding winter wheat crops.  
Recent Alberta research shows that some wheat cultivars have a higher respose to more intensive agronomic management practices than others. This type of cultivar-specific information could help growers make more informed decisions on variety selection and management.
Not only are purple foods eye-catching, but the colour can indicate the presence of health-promoting dietary compounds called anthocyanins. AnthoGrain, a Canadian-bred purple wheat, has much higher levels of anthocyanins than regular wheat, plus it has the many other healthy compounds found in regular wheat. Now, a project involving two clinical studies is looking at just how beneficial AnthoGrain is for human health.
"Most of the barley varieties that we grow in Western Canada tend to be malt varieties; growers are hoping to get the extra premium if it makes malting grade. But only about 20 per cent of the acres sown to malting barley each year actually make malting grade,” says John O’Donovan, a semi-retired research scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC).
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).
Researchers in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences have received a $7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, or ARPA-E, to design a low-cost, integrated system that can identify and screen for high-yielding, deeper-rooted crops. The interdisciplinary team, led by Jonathan Lynch, distinguished professor of plant nutrition, will combine a suite of technologies designed to identify phenotypes and genes related to desirable root traits, with the goal of enhancing the breeding of crop varieties better adapted for nitrogen and water acquisition and carbon sequestration. The project is part of ARPA-E's Rhizosphere Observations Optimizing Terrestrial Sequestration, or ROOTS, program, which is aimed at developing crops that enable a 50 percent increase in carbon deposition depth and accumulation, while also reducing nitrous oxide emissions by 50 percent and increasing water productivity by 25 percent. The ROOTS program website explains that while advances in technology have resulted in a tenfold increase in crop productivity over the past century, soil quality has declined, leading to a soil carbon debt equivalent to 65 parts per million of atmospheric carbon dioxide. This soil carbon debt increases the need for costly nitrogen fertilizer, which has become the primary source of emissions of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas. The soil carbon debt also impacts crop water use, increasing susceptibility to drought stress, which threatens future productivity. Given the scale of domestic and global agriculture, there is tremendous potential to reverse these trends by harnessing the photosynthetic bridge between atmospheric carbon, plants, microbes and soil. Advanced root systems that increase soil organic matter can improve soil structure, fertilizer use efficiency, water productivity, crop yield and climate resilience, while mitigating topsoil erosion – all of which provide near-term and sustained economic value. | READ MORE
Douglas Cook at New York University and colleagues from the University of Nebraska are using special microphones to listen to corn plants in order to determine what leads to wind-induced corn stalk failure. It turns out, the sounds stalks make just before failure are very similar to the sounds made when breaking. "We now think that plant growth involves millions of tiny breakage events, and that these breakage events trigger the plant to rush to 'repair' the broken regions. By continuously breaking and repairing, the plant is able to grow taller and taller," says Cook. It's an idea that mimics the science behind how human muslces are built: Muscles are strengthened when tiny microtears are repaired after lifting weights. Although most of the work is still in the early stages, this marriage of mechanical engineering and plant science and the information gathered so far can help plant breeders design optimal, strong plants. | READ MORE 
Though soybeans are Ontario’s largest field crop, 2016 presented difficult conditions, with hot, dry weather continuing until August in many areas. As a result, soybean production was down overall, from 3,728,500 tonnes in 2015 to 3,374,700 tonnes in 2016, as reported by Statistics Canada.
According to panelists at the Canadian Global Crops Symposium, the Canadian soybean industry needs to improve its protein levels as well as the perception of its soybeans in the global marketplace. “Western Canada has gone from having not optimal to better protein levels over time and we’re getting very close to the average U.S. protein,” said Jim Everson, executive director, Soy Canada. “Unless we get protein levels up, we’re likely to take discounts on international markets.” | READ MORE
Breeders have identified soybean varieties with genetic resistance to the nematodes and have used them to create new resistant varieties. Resistant varieties yield more than susceptible ones when soybean cyst nematode (SCN) is in the soil, but until now, it wasn't clear whether that yield advantage held up at low SCN infestation rates. "In the last decade, the University of Illinois has collected data on agronomic performance, including yield, but also data on the resistance of the lines as well as on SCN pressure in the field. We've built up a massive dataset from these tests," says University of Illinois soybean breeder Brian Diers.By looking at 11 years of data from 408 sites around the Midwest, the researchers found that there was a yield advantage for SCN resistance even at low infestation levels--as low as 20 eggs per 100 cubic centimeters of soil. In environments with no SCN infestation, the team saw evidence of yield drag, where resistant varieties yielded slightly less than susceptible ones. "But most fields in the Midwest do have at least some infestation," Diers says. "So, in most cases, there's little justification in planting susceptible varieties to avoid that potential yield drag." | READ MORE
Soybean production has rapidly expanded in Manitoba in the past few years and there is increasing interest in Saskatchewan and Alberta. If you can successfully grow soybean, it is a great crop to include in your rotation and farm management program.
Stephanie Kowalski, an independent agronomist for Agronomy Advantage, says that because of the drought this past growing season, many agronomists had to help their customers mitigate further stress in soybeans, whether that was from pests, fungus-related diseases or building base fertility. Kowalski recently spoke at the 2017 Southwest Ag Conference in Ridgetown, Ont., where she was asked to share her three key lessons from 2016. Besides the lack of rain in Ontario, one of the major players for soybean stress was the presence of spider mites. The most important factor to keep in mind for mites is to scout for them, since drought-stress holes can look very similar to spider mite damage. Once farmers notice stippling and discoloured patches, it’s important to take care of them as soon as possible. “Spider mites are not an aphid pest, where you would wait for the threshold to build and then you take action,” Kowalski says. “You have to continually assess it and make an action decision because they won’t go away.” She also says many agronomists thought aphids would be the big problem for growers due to the hot and dry year, which just goes to show that it can be difficult to predict pest problems from year to year. With spider mites, Kowalski says it’s important to spray a dimethoate like Cygon or Lagon, and avoid a pyrethroid (like Matador) since it will also take out the predatory mites, increasing the spider mite pressure. The second factor that came into soybean management this year had to do with fungicides. “Weather is only one factor of the fungicide decision,” Kowalski says. “Just because it’s a dry year, I wouldn’t write out a fungicide [prescription].” Growers and agronomists should be looking at history (of white mould for example), row spacing and emergent population. Again, getting out and seeing what’s already in the field is important, since every year brings a different challenge. “Proactively scouting and managing the crop throughout the growing season is never a bad idea,” Kowalski says. “Even if the growing conditions are ideal, scouting can be a very useful tool to identify ways to maximize yields economically.” Don’t forget about the disease history of your fields either: If a field had soybeans or even canola previously, there is a likelihood that sclerotinia (the hard black bodies created by the white mould fungi) will be present following a diseased year and cause infection in that subsequent soybean crop. Base fertility and soil health also play a role in mitigating stress in soybeans, especially in a drought year. The more soil organic matter available, the better the water retention, which helps limit drought stress due to the availability of moisture to those crops. Good fertility also means strong early season root growth and adequate nutrient levels in the root zones, resulting in more efficient water use, better nutrient uptake and less of a chance of deficiencies and stress. Early data shows managing phosphorous (P) and potassium (K) levels in soil at higher background levels has led to a good response in crops versus the current recommendations (sufficiency approach) that were established more than 30 years ago, when yields were lower. Every year brings a different challenge for soybeans and other crops: 2014 was a terrible white mould year, 2015 had significant spring frost events and aphids and 2016 was a droughty year, so proactively scouting and managing the crop throughout the growing season is never a bad idea, Kowalski says. “Even if the growing conditions are ideal, scouting can be a very useful tool to identify ways to maximize yields economically.”
Soybean breeders continue to focus on early maturing soybean hybrids and bring myriad stacked traits to Western Canadian growers. Seed companies have supplied Top Crop Manager with the following information on the new soybean hybrids for 2017. Growers are advised to check local performance trials to help with their variety selections. Listing is by crop heat unit (CHU)/maturity rating.
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.
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.
Most eastern Canadian producers have considered whether tile drainage is right for their operations. According to Harold Rudy, executive officer of research and business development for the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association (OSCIA), more than 50 per cent of the agricultural land in southern Ontario is tile drained. In many areas of the province, tile drainage facilitates timely field operations and helps decrease the risk of crop damage during heavy rainfall events.
Tree-based intercropping – growing trees together with crops – is a historical agricultural practice. These days primarily smallholder farmers use it in tropical systems, but researchers are focused on potential applications in the temperate soils of southern Ontario and Quebec.
Winter wheatThe wheat crop continues to grow rapidly in the cool moist conditions and is 5-10 days ahead of normal in general. Following up on last week’s report, by the time sprayers are able to be back in the field, the weed stage and competition from the crop canopy will likely negate herbicide use in most situations.These weather conditions favour disease growth and although current disease levels remain low in most fields this can change quickly. Septoria leaf spot and powdery mildew are the most common diseases present currently and primarily still situated in the lower canopy. Last week leaf rust was found in Bruce County as well as wheat spindle streak mosaic virus was confirmed in Essex County. With the rapid growth of the crop and favourable weather conditions, it is important to continue scouting to determine if fungal disease infection is progressing up the plant (especially on susceptible varieties) and if a fungicide application is needed. With the rapid growth of the crop, scouting for effectively timing fungicide applications is critical. Crop growth stage, climatic conditions, variety susceptibility, presence of or anticipation of disease are all considerations that go into the decision if and whether a fungicide application is needed.Stripe rust at very low levels was found in one field in Essex County last week on a susceptible variety. The infection was mid canopy which considering the recent storm systems, would suggest spore movement into Ontario from the Midwest US and not overwintering. Unfortunately, weather conditions favor further stripe rust development and spread. As was seen last year, there are large differences in variety susceptibility to the disease. Check with your seed supplier and the Ontario OCCC performance trials for specific variety ratings. All wheat growers should be scouting for stripe rust and based on last years’ experience, a preventative fungicide applied to susceptible varieties was beneficial and a good integrated wheat disease management strategy. Fields planted with susceptible varieties should spray while those with tolerant or resistant varieties need to regularly assess fields from now until heading to assess stripe rust risk.CornVery little progress has been made in corn planting as wet weather continues to delay fieldwork. But the consequences of getting on fields too quickly can be significant. Everyone is fixated on the importance of early planting date. What is forgotten is the statement “given field conditions that are fit for planting” which should precede any mention of early planting date. The fitness of the soil for planting is always the most important consideration, and then planting date.Weather is the biggest factor and we can’t control it but we can to some degree manage around it. If you compromise the crop right from the start, its ability to buffer against other weather and stress extremes will be compromised. Plant by soil conditions, not the calendar.If there is only a small window to plant, it's best to plant first and apply nitrogen afterwards provided you have the means to do so.When planters start rolling, some may try and get ahead by speeding up planting. Unless your planter is setup for it and the field conditions can take it, you are likely not helping yourself. Cutting corners on planting pays no dividends. The continued cool forecast means we have not lost much heat with the seed still in the bag. Last week Wednesday to yesterday we achieved only 10-20 CHU across the province. It takes 180 CHUs from planning to emergence.SoybeansWhile a few acres of beans have been seeded, field conditions have not allowed for large scale seeding. Early planting is less critical to yield for soybeans than corn. Soybeans planted in mid-May often have the highest yield potential. Something to consider while waiting to get back in the field is seed size. Soybean seed size tends to be large this year and this has implications for planting equipment. Ensure that your equipment is set up to deliver whole seed effectively to the ground. A split seed will not survive. Soybean seed supply is tight in many zones so ensure you have your needs confirmed. Last year’s weather hurt seed quality resulting in a lower volume of high quality seed being available. Trying to switch corn acres to beans as the planting season condenses may be difficult.
Field scouting is an essential part of integrated pest management, used to examine all aspects of crop production to achieve optimum yield. Scouting is the process of monitoring crop development in each of your fields to evaluate crop concerns and economic risks from potential pests and diseases.
The relationship between bees and canola is strong, just ask any honey producer. But what benefits do canola growers receive from those colonies parked at the corner of a field? New research in Alberta is delving in to that sweet subject.
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.
A collaborative effort between Potato Growers of Alberta and the Oldman Watershed Council has produced three videos on watershed management and health. Click here to view the first of the three videos, highlighting the production history of the area.

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