Agronomy

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.
Scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have pinpointed a key genetic switch that helps soil bacteria living on and inside a plant’s roots harvest a vital nutrient with limited global supply. The nutrient, phosphate, makes it to the plant’s roots, helping the plant increase its yield. The work, published in the March 15 issue of Nature, raises the possibility of probiotic, microbe treatments for plants to increase their efficient use of phosphate. The form of phosphate plants can use is in danger of reaching its peak – when supply fails to keep up with demand – in just 30 years, potentially decreasing the rate of crop yield as the world population continues to climb and global warming stresses crop yields, which could have damaging effects on the global food supply. “We show precisely how a key ‘switch protein’, PHR1, controls the response to low levels of phosphate, a big stress for the plant, and also controls the plant immune system,” said Jeff Dangl, John N. Couch Distinguished Professor and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator. “When the plant is stressed for this important nutrient, it turns down its immune system so it can focus on harvesting phosphate from the soil. Essentially, the plant sets its priorities on the cellular level.” Dangl, who worked with lead authors, postdoctoral researchers Gabriel Castrillo and Paulo José Pereira Lima Teixeira, graduate student Sur Herrera Paredes and research analyst Theresa F. Law, found evidence that soil bacteria can make use of this tradeoff between nutrient-seeking and immune defense, potentially to help establish symbiotic relationships with plants. Bacteria seem to enhance this phosphate stress response, in part simply by competing for phosphate but also by actively ‘telling’ the plant to turn on its phosphate stress response. In recent plant biology studies, there have been hints of a relationship between plant phosphate levels and immune system activity – a relationship that some microbes can manipulate. In the new study, Dangl and colleagues delved more deeply into this relationship, using mutant versions of Arabidopsis thaliana, a weed that has long been the standard “lab rat” of plant biology research. In one experiment, Dangl’s team found that Arabidopsis plants with mutant versions of the PHR1 gene not only had impaired phosphate stress responses, but also developed different communities of microbes in and around their roots when grown in a local native North Carolina soil. This was the case even in an environment of plentiful phosphate – where phosphate competition wouldn’t have been a factor – hinting that something else was happening in the plants to trigger the growth of different microbial communities. The researchers found similar results studying PHL1, a protein closely related to PHR1 with similar but weaker functions. In another experiment, in lab-dish conditions, the researchers colonized roots of sterile-grown normal Arabidopsis plants with a set of 35 bacterial species isolated from roots of plants grown previously in the same native soil. In these re-colonized plants, the phosphate stress response increased when exposed to a low-phosphate condition. Investigating further, the team showed that PHR1 – and probably to a lesser extent PHL1 – not only activates the phosphate stress response but also triggers a pattern of gene expression that reduces immune activity, and thus makes it easier for resident microbes to survive. The findings suggest that soil-dwelling microbes have figured out how to get along with their plant hosts, at least in part by activating PHR1/PHL1 to suppress immune responses to them. Dangl’s team also thinks these microbes may even be necessary for plants to respond normally to low-phosphate conditions. It could be possible, then, to harness this relationship – via probiotic or related crop treatments – to enable plants to make do with less phosphate. “Phosphate is a limited resource and we don’t use it very efficiently,” said Dangl, who is also an adjunct professor of microbiology and immunology at the UNC School of Medicine. “As part of fertilizer, phosphate runs off into waterways where it can adversely affect river and marine ecosystems. It would be better if we could use phosphate in a way that’s more efficient.”
Modern crop production has a lesson or two to learn from the ancient Amazonians, including the benefits of using biochar to enrich infertile agricultural soils.
Brenda Shanahan, Member of Parliament for Châteauguay—Lacolle, on behalf of Minister of Agriculture and Agri Food Lawrence MacAulay, has announced a repayable contribution of $470,000 to help a Quebec company, Logiag Inc., commercialize a laser-based soil analysis system that replaces the more traditional chemical analyses.This funding will allow the company to introduce to the market laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS), a technology that allows for faster and more accurate data at lower cost. The goal is to provide producers with the exact amount of fertilizer needed and thereby avoid the overuse of chemicals.The technology was developed by Logiag in 2015, in collaboration with the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) and the support of its Industrial Research Assistance Program. This investment from the AgriInnovation program, a $698-million initiative under the policy framework, will help Logiag create 45 jobs over five years.
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.
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.
There’s good news for flax producers: if your soil has reasonable nitrogen (N) fertility, you can save on fertilizer costs because pushing the N rate seldom results in increased yield. The bad news is that flax, unlike canola or cereals, is not very responsive to N application, so yields are hard to push higher. Researchers are trying to find the compromise where N application rates provide optimum flax yield.
Pulse crops play an important role in many cropping systems. Along with field pea and lentil, growers are increasingly adding short-season soybeans into their crop rotations. Because soybeans are relatively new in Saskatchewan, growers and researchers are interested in how they compare in rotation to other pulse crops.
If you can’t measure something you can’t improve it. Since plant breeders want to develop improved crop varieties with bigger, healthier root systems to ensure the plants are well anchored in the soil and can take up plenty of water and nutrients, and agronomic researchers want to know whether different management practices improve crop root systems, they need to be able to measure the roots.
Three new early post emergent biologicals have been registered from XiteBio Technologies Inc: XiteBioYield+ for Canola; XiteBioYield+ for Corn, Wheat & Barley; and XiteBioYield+ for Legumes. These products are powered by the unique XiteBioYield+ platform based on patented phosphorus (P) solubilizing plant growth promoting rhizobacteria (PGPR). All these products can be applied at the 0-6 leaf stage tank mixed with select herbicides or applied in furrow at seeding.
In recent decades, Prairie producers have taken steps – such as using minimum tillage, improving water supplies for livestock, and storing extra feed – that enable them to survive short droughts. But the Prairie climate in the coming decades could include droughts that last five, 10 or more years, as well as extreme swings between really wet and really dry conditions. So Prairie people are starting to come together to plan and prepare for whatever the future might hold. Many people on the Prairies have experienced dramatic shifts between extremely dry and extremely wet periods in the last few years. “For instance, from April to June in 2015, Regina had 43 millimetres of rain. Normally it would see about 147. Looking at the records that go back to the 1880s, it turns out to be the third driest such period in 120 years. But the previous April to June was the wettest on record for Regina. That is the kind of weather whiplash that farmers are dealing with. The weather has a Jekyll and Hyde personality,” David Phillips, senior climatologist with Environment Canada, says. He adds, “Farmers build into their strategies dealing with things like too wet to seed and too dry to grow – those things happen when you’re in farming. But when you get back-to-back weather conditions you would expect to see only once in a career of 40 or 50 years of farming, how can you deal with that?” Looking at the period from 2009 to 2011, University of Manitoba atmospheric scientist John Hanesiak and his colleagues found that precipitation ranged “between record drought and unprecedented flooding.” In some instances, drought and very heavy rains occurred at the same time in different parts of the Prairies. And some locations experienced both weather extremes within those three years; for example, some southern Manitoba farmers had insurance claims for both flooding and drought in the 2009 growing season. This type of wild variability is predicted to be part of the future climate. “We are expecting to see greater variability from year to year, going from droughts to really wet periods. Even the older climate models were telling us 10 or 15 years ago to expect that kind of a pattern,” Hanesiak says. The current variability in the Prairie weather may be one indication that the predicted patterns in the atmosphere are starting to become a reality. “Recently some articles have suggested that we’re on the verge of seeing these things happening now, where the wave in the jet stream tends to meander a little more. That potentially could create a more stagnant pattern, where you get longer periods of drought and longer periods of wet, depending on where you are on that wave,” Hanesiak explains. Studies of past climate patterns show that such weather extremes are not new to the Prairies. Research by Dave Sauchyn of the University of Regina has found that multi-year and multi-decade Prairie droughts have occurred during the past 1,000 years. “We tend to get caught off-guard [by extreme weather] and we use the excuse that ‘we couldn’t have anticipated it because it has never happened before.’ We’re implying that it has never happened in our lifetime because we all think in terms of our own situation,” Sauchyn says. “But if you get outside your own local experience and look at the longer records, you find that it has happened over and over again.” Adapting as individuals and groupsSauchyn has been sharing the results of his climate research with Prairie people who need the information, and he has been learning from them about their drought adaptation strategies. For example, in October 2015, Sauchyn and his research group met in southwestern Saskatchewan with local people including farmers, ranchers and government officials. “They told us that much of what they have already done over the decades, and especially the last few decades, is putting them in good shape because, in general, agricultural practices are more sustainable than they were in the past. That is reflected in less soil erosion and more resilient agricultural ecosystems. In general, if you maintain a healthy and resilient agro-ecosystem and take proper care of pastures, crops, soil and water, then agriculture will be less vulnerable to the impacts of climate change,” he says. “But they also told us that individual farmers and ranchers can only do so much, especially if drought exceeds more than one or two years. They can store water for a couple of years. There is an extensive water storage and diversion infrastructure on the Prairies, especially in the drier parts, and it has been very effective in withstanding one- or two-year droughts. Beyond that, there is only so much water that can be stored. Similarly, feed can be stored for one or two years. But they tell us that after a couple of years of drought, the local options are pretty much exhausted.” At that stage, people turn to their social capital. Sauchyn explains, “We’re all familiar with concepts like ‘fiscal capital,’ money, and ‘natural capital,’ ecosystem goods; there is also ‘social capital,’ maintaining good relations among neighbours. Especially when people are faced with climate extremes like flooding and drought, they rely very much on that social capital.” He notes, “One of the most effective ways to adapt to a changing climate is to work collectively, with your neighbours within your watershed. Local organizations such as watershed stewardship groups are especially effective.” Preparing for extremeOne example of a Prairie watershed agency working to prepare for climate variability is the Battle River Watershed Alliance (BRWA). The Battle River has its origins in east-central Alberta and flows into Saskatchewan where it joins the North Saskatchewan River. The BRWA is an Alberta group created in 2006 and it operates in the Alberta portion of the Battle River and Sounding Creek watersheds. The BRWA describes itself as “an inclusive, collaborative and consensus-based community partnership that is working to guide, support and deliver actions to sustain or improve the health of the Battle River watershed.” BRWA research and stewardship coordinator Susanna Bruneau outlines how the Alliance is approaching climate variability. “At conferences, they talk about preparing for extremes, where you could get really wet events, like the flood in Calgary a couple of years ago, or a multi-year drought. We’ve been trying to work on things that can help in managing both those extremes, especially natural infrastructure like wetlands and riparian areas and even shelterbelts.” Those types of features can have benefits like reducing flood peaks, capturing water in case of drought, and protecting water quality. She notes, “Another part of how we approach things is trying to have our systems – whether it’s our social support systems, agriculture systems or water infrastructure systems – made in a way that can be adaptive to whatever comes our way.” She explains that the BRWA recognizes the complexity and uncertainty in these systems so it works to continually learn from experience and adjust its plans and actions to more effectively deal with emerging realities. If the BRWA finds that an approach is not working, then it evaluates the approach, asks stakeholders what should be done differently, and modifies the approach to make it work better. Drought planning a priorityIn a watershed-wide consultation process, local people identified drought planning as a top priority for the BRWA. So it developed drought guidelines and policies, which were released in 2012. These documents provide a framework to help agencies in the watershed when developing drought plans for their own area of responsibility. The guidelines relate to agriculture, social issues, natural areas, and water quantity and quality, and consider the social, economic and ecological impacts of drought. The BRWA’s drought guidelines cover both “drought adaptation,” preparation for future droughts, and “drought management,” responses during a drought. A few examples of the drought adaptation options for agriculture include: actions that research agencies could take, such as developing drought-tolerant crop varieties; actions that governments could take, such as monitoring water supplies, developing drought plans and policies and modifying crop insurance programs; and actions that producers could take, such as choosing crops adapted to drier conditions, developing drought farm plans, managing grazing rates, conserving wetlands and riparian areas and diversifying farm income. The drought management guidelines for agriculture include actions like implementing drought plans, and sharing drought monitoring information. Although people in the Battle River watershed are aware of the need for drought planning and preparedness, it is a challenge for local agencies to direct their limited human and financial resources towards this task. Bruneau doesn’t know of any agencies in the watershed that are currently using the BRWA’s guidelines to develop their own drought plans, but she’s hoping that will change. “Drought is part of the climate cycles here on the Prairies. Drought is going to happen, no matter what happens with climate change. There is a lot we can do to mitigate the impacts of drought if we plan and adapt before a drought happens,” Bruneau says. “Drought is not like a flood or an earthquake; it’s not a sudden crisis where you have to deal with things in the heat of the moment. Drought is sly and it sneaks up on you. Unless you are paying attention you’ll get caught. But we have opportunities to prepare for drought, and when we see drought coming or just less than normal precipitation, there are things we can do.”
There are 10 different lentil classes with many different seed sizes, yet still only one general recommendation for a seeding rate of 130 seeds per square metre (seeds/m2), or 13 plants per square foot (plants/ft2). But with lentil seed sizes varying widely, ranging from 70 grams per 1,000 seeds down to 29 grams per 1,000 seeds, does that recommendation hold up with today’s varieties? Research is trying to find the balance between seed cost, disease levels, yield and economics. Add in the relatively poor weed competition provided by lentils and it’s clear why optimum stand establishment is critical for high yields and economic returns.
Statistics Canada issued its first estimates of 2017 Canadian crop acreage of the season. The numbers suggest Canadian farmers expect to plant record acres of canola and soybeans, as well as more spring wheat and oats in 2017, but fewer acres of durum wheat and lentils, crops that were both at high levels in 2016. Nationally, here’s what’s expected: Canola ­– potential record-high of 22.4 million acres. Up over 9.9 per cent from last year. Soybeans – farmers intend to seed a record seven million acres of soybeans, up 27.2 per cent from last year. Wheat – 23.2 million acres of all varieties of wheat, relatively unchanged from 2016. Lentils – record 5.9 million acres of lentils were seeded last year. This will be trimmed by 25 per cent to 4.4 million this year. Barley ­– down eight per cent compared to 2016, plans for 5.9 million acres.
If flax gets off to a weak start, it seems to struggle all season long; it has a hard time competing with weeds, and maturity can be delayed,” says Chris Holzapfel, research manager for the Indian Head Agricultural Research Foundation (IHARF) in Saskatchewan. To find out which seeding practices give flax crops a better start and better yields, Holzapfel and his colleagues have been assessing the effects of different seeding rates, seeding dates, row spacings and seed treatments.
Favourable spring conditions are giving soybean and corn farmers in Southern Ontario hopes for another good year. Environment Canada forecasts an average spring which would be good for wheat, corn and soybeans, the most important crops in the region. Though the forecast says April will be warmer than normal, with temperatures already hitting 20  C compared to the seasonal average of 6.8 C, meterorologist Peter Kimbell says precipitation is expected to be around the usual 83 millimetres for the month. | READ MORE
Parts of Canada’s prairies will be wetter than normal in the last two weeks of April, costing farmers “significant” field work delays at the start of planting, says Joel Widenor, an agricultural meteorologist with Commodity Weather Group in Bethesda, Maryland. | READ MORE
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.
Set out a free smorgasbord and see who shows up. In the case of fababean, as acreage has risen, pea leaf weevil and lygus bug have been coming to dinner. For producers, the main concern with pea leaf weevil is feeding on nitrogen-fixing nodules, while for lygus bug, the economic impact is related to seed quality.
Cutworm management starts with identification – knowing what species is at work in your fields helps unlock information that improves cutworm scouting and management. Knowledge of cutworm biology, behaviour, preferred habitat, impacts of weather and interaction with its natural enemies will all improve scouting techniques and pest management decisions for growers. The Cutworm Pests of Crop on the Canadian Prairies - Identification and Management Field Guide describes the economically important cutworm pests in detail and provides the information needed to manage them.
The first Prairie-wide risk and forecast maps are now available from the Prairie Pest Monitoring Network blog. They can be veiwed and downloaded here. Maps are generated for bertha armywork, grasshoppers, wheat midge, cabbage seedpod weevil, pea leaf weevil, wheat stem sawfly, diamondback moth as well as average temperature, average precipitation and modeled soil moisture for the Canadian Prairies. 
When the cereal leaf beetle (CLB) was first spotted in Alberta in 2005, the then-regulated pest was met with consternation by western Canadian producers. CLB can cause significant damage to all crops in the grass family, even forages, and yield losses in affected areas of the United States have reached 50 per cent.
Dr. Gary Peng discusses the key management strategies for blackleg in canola and how farmers will benefit from the new resistant gene labelling.  Click here for the full summary of Dr. Peng'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
Blackleg is caused by two species of the pathogen. The major one is called Leptosphaeria maculans. The other one is a much less virulent species called Leptosphaeria biglobosa. For control of the disease, pathologists look at some of the weak links where we can apply most of the impact on the disease. The pathogen only survives on residues. If you don’t have a residue, it doesn’t survive well in the soil. That’s why rotation is important. The pathogen produces a fruiting body in the spring called a pseudothecium or another type called a pycnidium. They produce spores that land on the cotyledons of canola. If you have insect damage from pests like flea beetles, the infection can be worse. With wounding, the pathogen can get into the cotyledon tissue even without moisture. From there the infection develops and you see the cankers at the base of the stem later on in the growing season.Photo courtesy of Gary Peng. There are three important things that can lead to an infection: ·      there’s residue to harbour the pathogen inoculum ·      you need to have early infection to get into the stem ·      insect damage may help the infection to occur more severely.  The disease was very prevalent in the late ’80s, early ’90s. Then we introduced some resistant varieties in the early ’90s, which brought down the occurrence for many years. Partially that was resistance bred into varieties, but we also had three- or four-year rotations. That was a big part of the whole management effectiveness. In the last five to six years, the disease incidence has been creeping back up to 20 to 25 per cent in Alberta and Manitoba, and about 10 per cent in Saskatchewan. However, the average severity remained below level 1 (light). Research by Sheau-Fang Hwang in Alberta indicates that in most years, this level of severity could result in a yield loss of about two to eight per cent on a susceptible variety. But from a trade perspective, our trading partners want to see the disease level trend going down. Why the upward trend? The first reason for an increase in blackleg incidence is likely the change of the pathogen population, which is adapting to the resistant varieties. The pathogen population may be becoming more virulent or with a greater proportion of virulent isolates in it.  Plant breeders have used major gene resistance to control the disease. The resistant gene blocks the infection by the pathogen carrying the corresponding avirulence gene. For example, an Rlm3 resistant gene would block the pathogen with avirulence AvrLm3 gene (abbreviated to Av3). It might be like a lock-and-key, but for some reason, over time, the Av gene may change and the resistant gene may not be able to recognize it. My colleague, Randy Kutcher, looked at the change in pathogen populations in 2007 when he looked at the avirulent gene prevalence on the Prairies. In his work looking at 800 isolates of L. maculans, the percentage of Av2 and Av6 genes were very high in the population, and the others at more moderate to low levels. Further work in 2010 and 2011 with Dilantha Fernando at the University of Manitoba found the picture had changed quite a bit. The presence of the Av3 and Av9 genes had decreased quite a bit, but at the same time Av7 seemed to be increasing quite a bit. That means the Rlm3 gene would be less likely to be effective across the Prairies because the Av3 gene had changed mostly to the virulent type. The Rlm3 gene was first introduced back in early 1990s and has been used for over 20 years. Other research in Fernando’s lab also looked at what resistant genes are present in 206 varieties/breeding lines in Western Canada. The resistance gene that was predominantly found was Rlm3 in around 70 per cent of the varieties/breeding lines. There was also a bit of Rlm1 detected as well. Overall, the diversity of R genes is still quite limited in the germplasm tested. The important message is that Rlm3 is not going to remain effective on the Prairies because the corresponding Av3 gene is already fairly low in the pathogen population.  However, when we looked at field data in Alberta and Manitoba, while the occurrence of other Av genes was high, disease levels ranged widely. This told us there was something else going on, which we called non-specific resistance in our varieties, although the effect was definitely less than the major gene resistance. We further investigated this non-specific resistance in our varieties. We tested commercial varieties with a pathogen without a corresponding Av gene so any resistance observed would be due to non-specific gene resistance. Almost all the varieties had a slightly smaller amount of the disease on inoculated cotyledons than the susceptible Westar. At the same time, it’s a totally different kind of resistance reaction as opposed to the major gene resistance. It would not stop the infection completely – it just slowed it down a little bit, and on some varieties, substantially. A further look at three of those varieties found the progress of plant mortality originated from cotyledon or petiole inoculation was somehow reduced, but varied between the varieties. Using a fluorescent protein gene labeled isolate, photography was able to show the reduced spread of the pathogen in the cotyledon compared to the susceptible Westar variety. If you can slow down the movement from the cotyledon via the petiole into the stem, there may not be enough of the pathogen getting into the stem before the cotyledons drop off. This is one of the reasons that non-race-specific resistance works in some of those varieties we have.Photo courtesy of Gary Peng.Click here for part two: management strategiesThis article is a summary of the presentation “Managing blackleg of canola in Western Canada,” delivered by Dr. Gary Peng, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Saskatoon, at the Field Crop Disease Summit, Feb. 21-22, 2017. 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 Herbicide Resistance Summit has been announced! Sign up today for early-bird pricing: https://www.weedsummit.ca/event/registration
Management strategies The Canola Council of Canada is proposing a risk assessment chart. If you have a four-year rotation, likely your risk of having blackleg is very low. We know it’s effective, but I realize it isn’t always easy to implement. [Miss part one? Click here] Scouting is important because it gives you a sense of your risk situation. There is an easy procedure that can be used to assess risk. After swathing, pull 50 plants, cut the stems at the base of the plant where blackleg develops and assess the damage to the stem. Use the pictorial guide I developed to assess the level of disease. If you don’t have any disease or very light disease, your variety might still be holding fairly well as long as you continue with longer crop rotation. But if you have an R-rated variety with a much higher disease level than you expected, your variety may not be holding up. If you do want to switch varieties, try to rotate to another major resistance gene. We currently don’t have enough public information from seed companies to know what their resistance sources are. The Canola Council of Canada has proposed a new resistance labelling system to show the resistance gene labelling. It is voluntary and may start in 2018.   Photo courtesy of Gary Peng. If you don’t have any issues or major blackleg damage, there’s no urgency for you to switch between resistance groups right away, but it’s always a good practice to rotate them if you know the R genes. We understand 90 per cent of growers would rotate among the different varieties today mostly for weed management options. There is a similar principle in rotating varieties for disease management. I want to also stress that we have quite a diverse pathogen population on the Prairies. In reality, over 90 races have been detected. That means with every known resistance gene, there is a different virulent isolate out there that would be able to overcome the resistance right away. We really need to consider, if we have different R genes available, rotation of those R genes. And we also need to maintain the non-race-specific resistance, which has been serving us relatively well. What about fungicides? Research on various fungicide products and application timings has been conducted. One involved 17 station years across the Prairies. We used four fungicide products, mostly the strobilurins and a triazole, and a combination of both active ingredients. We looked at applications at the two- to four-leaf stage, the bolting stage, and an application at both stages.  We also compared a susceptible variety with a resistant and a moderately resistant variety. When we put all the data from 17 station years together, the early application of a strobilurin fungicide reduced the disease severity and also increased yield quite significantly compared to the non-treated check. The average disease severity was around about 1.5. The later application did not work, which makes sense because the key stage of infection is the cotyledon.  We further looked at the data and divided it into two scenarios: those fields with much lower disease levels of around a 0.5 severity rating, and those with a disease severity of about 2.5. In the fields with low disease severity, the fungicide application did not provide any yield benefit. Where disease severity was about 2.5, a fungicide application at the two- to four-leaf stage reduced the disease severity significantly and also increased yield by seven bushels per acre compared to the non-treated check.  However, these results were on Westar – a susceptible variety that was used to show the worst case when an R/MR variety is losing resistance. We looked at R/MR canola varieties at the 17 site years and found none of the fungicide applications were effective in providing a yield advantage (also indicating that the R/MR varieties have stronger tolerance to blackleg impact). That means if you have a certain level of resistance in your variety, in most cases the fungicide application would not provide a substantial yield benefit. Where a fungicide treatment might come in is if the varieties you have been using are starting to show signs of an increased amount of blackleg. You should scout crops and assess the level of disease development over time. Also consider the length of the crop rotation and other risk factors outlined by the Canola Council of Canada. If you feel you are at high risk, an early application at the two- to four-leaf stage may be warranted.This article is a summary of the presentation “Managing blackleg of canola in Western Canada,” delivered by Dr. Gary Peng, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Saskatoon, at the Field Crop Disease Summit, Feb. 21-22, 2017. 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 Herbicide Resistance Summit has been announced! Sign up today for early-bird pricing: https://www.weedsummit.ca/event/registration
Dr. Kelly Turkington discusses considerations to spray a fungicide, recommendations for Fusarium head blight in cereals and how to get the most out of your cereal fungicide applications.  Click here for the full summary of Dr. Turkington’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
Crop rotation is an important tool for our first line of defence in Western Canada. From a pathologist’s perspective, a wheat-canola-wheat-canola rotation – a single year between host crops – is not long enough to realize one of the benefits of rotation and allow decomposition of any infested crop residue.  Variety resistance is also an excellent tool. When you have a variety with good levels of resistance, you really don’t need to spray a fungicide. The problem is that in your field you’re facing a range of diseases and it’s been very difficult to get varieties that have good levels of resistance to absolutely every disease issue that you might have in that field. If you have a tight rotation, your variety may not have the package of resistance that you need and, as a consequence, you will start to rely on fungicides.  We like to use the disease triangle to express what a disease is all about. It’s the result of a susceptible host, a favourable environment and sufficient quantities of a virulent pathogen. The key thing to remember is that what you do in terms of crop management practices will impact the interaction of those three factors and ultimately, the risk of disease.  The disease triangle. Source: Dr. Kelly Turkington Interation of fungicides with variety resistanceAt a trial in Melfort, Sask., three barley varieties rated susceptible (Sundre), intermediate (Chigwell) and with a good resistance package (Vivar) against net-form net blotch were sprayed with Twinline (metconazole + pyraclostrobin) fungicide at the flag-leaf stage. With no fungicide application, Sundre had just under 20 per cent leaf area diseased on the penultimate leaf, but there was very little disease on Chigwell and Vivar with or without a fungicide. With a fungicide, there was a dramatic reduction in disease with Sundre. If we look at yield, Sundre went from around 115 bushels per acre (bu/ac) without a fungicide to 145 bu/ac with the fungicide application. Chigwell had a bit of a response to fungicide application, which may be because it has an intermediate level of resistance. Vivar’s response to fungicide was basically flat. So, if you’re using a resistant variety that is giving you the protection you need, you don’t need to worry about putting on a fungicide. General knowledge on application timing In terms of fungicide application timing in cereals for leaf disease, it is important to know where yield and grain fill comes from. The literature suggests the wheat ear (head) contributes about 22 per cent to yield, while the flag-leaf contributes about 40 to 45 per cent, and penultimate (leaf below the flag) contributes about 23 per cent. Those are the key plant tissues that you want to protect.  In barley, the flag-leaf is less important because it tends to be quite small in some varieties. The literature for barley suggests the head contributes around 13 per cent, the flag-leaf stem 25 per cent, the flag-leaf nine per cent and the penultimate about 20 per cent. Overall, if you’re looking at a target as far as protecting the plant tissues that are key for grain filling and yield, the upper canopy tissues in those cereal crops are going to be your target. Pathogen characteristics The characteristics of the pathogen can be very important when trying to improve your ability to manage plant diseases with a fungicide. A monocyclic pathogen has one cycle of spore production, host infection and disease development, so there’s a very specific target there. Fusarium head blight (FHB) is a monocyclic pathogen. Polycyclic pathogens cycle on the living crop more than once per growing season. These are diseases like stripe rust, tan spot, Septoria, net blotch and scald. This cycle may mean you can’t rely on a single application and may need several applications to get the level of control you desire, especially with highly susceptible varieties and under favourable weather conditions. Stripe rust is an example of a polycyclic pathogen. It can move from spring wheat onto winter wheat seedlings in the fall. If I were advising a producer, I would note the presence of stripe rust in the fall and then be out in the winter wheat field as soon as the crop started to re-grow in the spring to see if the stripe rust fungus had survived. The stripe rust pathogen can rapidly cycle on the wheat crop: spores released from pustules on infected leaves are carried by the wind to healthy leaf tissue where they germinate, produce hyphae, penetrate plant tissue and within seven to 14 days, you’ll have symptoms – including pustules that produce a new crop of spores. So, every seven to 14 days, stripe rust can cycle on the crop well before head emergence. Thus, later on, on those upper-canopy leaves, you may see symptoms of stripe rust that can cause significant concern, especially if the disease becomes established in the crop before flag-leaf to head emergence. Fungicide insensitivity What about pathogen adaptation to the active ingredients in fungicides? Pathogens with a high risk of adapting to the active ingredients in fungicides have the following characteristics: they have mixed reproduction, so they reproduce sexually as well as asexually; and they also have an outcrossing system of reproduction where with they have male and female isolates – or mating types, – so you need a male and female for sexual reproduction to occur. Sexual reproduction where different mating types are needed has the potential to create more genetic variability in the fungal pathogen, which can then be selected for when applying a fungicide. The other important thing is high genetic and pathogenic diversity in that pathogen, which increases the risk that a pathogen will adapt. An example of a pathogen at moderate to high risk of adaptation to either plant disease resistance or fungicide active ingredients is the net blotch pathogen. In a study funded by the Western Grains Research Foundation, Alireza Akhavan, a PhD student working at the University of Alberta, found high levels of genetic/pathogenic diversity in the net blotch pathogen. It also reproduced asexually as well as sexually and with mixed mating types. Using a laboratory assay, Alireza found a few isolates that were insensitive (resistant) to Tilt (propiconazole) and, in some cases, insensitive to Headline (pyraclostrobin). Randy Kutcher at the University of Saskatchewan is also looking at the tan spot fungus and potential insensitivity in the tan spot population. Shifts in the fungicide sensitivity of cereal pathogens have been recognized in Europe for some time now and there have also been reports of changes in North America. For example, in February 2015, Chris Mundt and colleagues at Oregon State University put out a disease update notice (Oregon State University, Disease Update, February 20, 2015, Chris Mundt, Mike Flowers, Nicole Anderson and Clare Sullivan), stating that, based on surveys from 2014, there were indications some fields had Septoria resistance to strobilurin (Group 11) fungicides. They also reported resistance to triazoles (Group 3) was starting to build. Their recommendation in that part of the Pacific Northwest was to only apply a fungicide for early-season leaf disease control when stripe rust was present, because the fungicides were still effective against stripe rust. They also recommended using a succinate dehydrogenase inhibitor (SDHI) fungicide (Group 7) once per year, and for growers who did so to combine it with either a strobilurin or perhaps a triazole. Click here to see part two: managing the tools available, including fungicide application timing trials. This article is a summary of the presentation “Getting the Most Out of Your Cereal Fungicide: A Western Canadian Perspective,” delivered by Dr. Kelly Turkington, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Lacombe, Alta., at the Field Crop Disease Summit, Feb. 21-22, 2017. 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 Herbicide Resistance Summit has been announced! Sign up today for early-bird pricing: https://www.weedsummit.ca/event/registration
Managing the tools available Given that fungicides are an important component of their leaf disease management programs, farmers need to manage the fungicides we have by using products with more than one active ingredient and/or rotating the products they use. [Miss part one? Click here.] When a susceptible variety is grown and weather conditions are very favourable, farmers may be concerned about early season leaf disease development. Rather than applying a fungicide with their herbicides, one option might be to look at a seed treatment and use xylem-mobile fungicides that will move from the seed up into the leaf tissue to provide some early season leaf protection. These fungicides are mixed with other fungicides that give us good activity on some of the root rots, whether it’s Fusarium or Rhizoctonia or Pythium and so on. Ideally, one may want to use a seed treatment with different active ingredients versus foliar fungicides that may be used later on in the season, with one application of a triazole to give us some suppression of FHB and late-season leaf disease management.  Using a seed treatment for early season leaf disease management is food for thought and may be a strategy to consider. Nature of a fungicide influences risk of resistance The nature of the fungicide also plays an important role in effectiveness. Some fungicides do very well in terms of particular plant pathogen groups versus other fungicides, so check the provincial crop protection guides to make sure you are choosing the right fungicide for the disease issues you are targeting.  The nature of the fungicide also influences the risk of fungicide resistance. Fungicides with a very specific individual target (single site activity) within the pathogen are typically at higher risk versus actives that have multiple targets (multi-site activity). Mobility within the plant also plays a role, as it influences the efficacy, persistence and period of activity. Mobility also influences application technology, so if the product is not systemic, it will be especially critical to use practices that ensure good coverage of the plant surface you are trying to protect. Fungicide timing and leaf spot diseases Fungicide application timing is important for cereal leaf spot management. From 2010 to 2012, we looked at the effect of fungicide timing on leaf spot diseases in barley at 13 sites. Specifically, we compared tank-mixing a fungicide with herbicide versus putting that fungicide on at the flag-leaf stage versus using a split application, a half rate earlier on and then coming in with either a half rate or a full rate of fungicide at flag-leaf emergence. Overall, our results indicated the best leaf disease control and the highest yields were achieved where we put a fungicide on at the flag-leaf stage and where we did not delay the herbicide application and, thus, had early weed removal.  Table 1: Yield and herbicide/fungicide treatmentTurkington et al. 2015. The impact of fungicide and herbicide timing on foliar disease severity, and barley productivity and quality.               Can. J. Plant Sci. 95: 525–537. Timing also a factor in stripe rust control Another trial, led by Kutcher and Brian Beres with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Lethbridge, Atla., and conducted in Lacombe, Alta., illustrated the importance of fungicide application timing for stripe rust control in winter wheat. The most effective application for AC Bellatrix, a susceptible variety, was in the spring at the flag-leaf stage. For Radiant, a variety with some resistance, there was no need for a fungicide. As mentioned previously, seed treatments may be an option for early- to mid-season leaf disease management. Recently, we did a set of experiments – including at Melfort – looking at the interaction of variety, seed treatment and fungicide on net blotch on barley. In 2013, we simply used a seed treatment without a fungicide and reduced the level of disease to less than 10 per cent of the leaf area affected from 30 per cent in the untreated control. If you looked at Twinline foliar fungicide applied with no seed treatment, there was very good control. Where we combined seed treatment with foliar treatment, it really didn’t improve control. Our best yield response was where we simply put Twinline on at the flag-leaf emergence stage, whether a seed treatment was used or not. Overall, if you look at work done by research groups across Western Canada, if you have the opportunity to choose a variety that has good levels of resistance to the disease spectrum you’re dealing with, that’s an excellent tool to manage disease and will help you to avoid a fungicide application.  However, the varieties you want grow may not have a complete package of resistance to the diseases of concern. Thus, it will be important to scout fields at or just prior to flag-leaf emergence to assess disease risk and its potential impact to determine if a foliar fungicide application is required to protect key upper plant canopy tissues.  FHB application timing Currently the recommendation for FHB fungicide application is to spray when you’ve got 75 per cent of the heads out of the boot – that’s when you can start – to about when you have 50 per cent of the head showing anthers in the middle part of that head. The problem with starting at 75 per cent head emergence is that 25 per cent of the heads are still in the boot. Thus, given the nature of the fungicides that we use for FHB, applications at 75 per cent head emergence will not provide much, if any, benefit for those heads not yet emerged. Recent research from the United States suggests we may have a wider window for application post head emergence to get the most out of that fungicide application.  Trials from the U.S. looked at fungicide timing and effect on FHB disease rating and DON content with applications at the start of anthesis (when you first see yellow anthers emerging from the middle part of the wheat head) and then either two, four or six days following the start of anthesis. Overall, results suggested that even at four and six days after anthesis, control was as good as applications at anthesis, and in some cases may actually be slightly better. The trend was similar with DON content. I think, in terms of getting the most out of our fungicide application for FHB, we need to look at revising our target. Maybe going a little later is something to consider so you provide protection for all heads within the crop. However, growers are cautioned that they need to follow label recommendations and the pre-harvest intervals for the products they use. Expectations for fungicides In terms of expectations for fungicides, it’s important to be realistic. Fungicides can certainly be effective tools for some diseases, but it’s important to use them prudently and to manage those fungicides so they remain effective tools for you over the next 10, 15, 20 years. Timing can have a huge impact. Fungicide application also doesn’t mean a completely disease-free crop and, thus, it is important to leave some check strips so that you can adequately judge fungicide performance. Overall, farmers are encouraged not to rely exclusively on fungicides as their only defence against plant disease. Try to use the other tools in the toolbox. The more tools you have, the broader your ability to control disease and other pest and crop management issues in your crop.  By using a range of tools, including crop rotations of at least two years between host crops, you’re going to prolong the effectiveness of tools such as disease resistance and fungicides into the future. This article is a summary of the presentation “Getting the Most Out of Your Cereal Fungicide: A Western Canadian Perspective,” delivered by Dr. Kelly Turkington, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Lacombe, Alta., at the Field Crop Disease Summit, Feb. 21-22, 2017. 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 Herbicide Resistance Summit has been announced! Sign up today for early-bird pricing: https://www.weedsummit.ca/event/registration
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.
Key cropping strategiesThere are a couple of key cropping strategies that can have a major impact on weed seed predators.Avoid indiscriminate use of insecticides: "[It's] discouraged, as applications can also kill beneficial insects, as can some herbicides,” says Chris Willenborg, assistant professor in the department of plant science at the University of Saskatchewan. “Trying to avoid insecticide applications where they are not necessary or critical can help protect carabid populations. Cover crops: very important for seed predators, which is often lacking in the fall across Western Canada. Cover crops become extremely important not just for building soil, but also for maintaining cover for seed predators because these insects are easily consumed by birds without adequate cover for concealment. Interseeding and relay-cropping practices help maintain that cover, as can perennial crops. In Europe and the U.S., field margins and buffer strips can be planted and maintained, which provide refuge for the carabid beetles to return to after dispersing to forage for weed seeds.”Reducing tillage: This is something that has already been done well in Western Canada. Strip tillage or ridge tillage, another strategy that is becoming more common in the U.S., creates a ridge or strip between crop rows, leaving weed seed predator habitat in that space. Shallow tillage is also less disruptive than deep tillage, which mixes both predators and their larvae deep into the soil. Mowing weeds: Doing this in the fall is another practice that could help improve habitat conditions for carabids. Mowing weeds or delaying tillage gives seed predators time to consume seeds before they are buried or their habitat is disturbed.
Largely overlooked and previously not studied a lot in Canada, weed seed predation provides the second-largest loss of weed seeds from the seed bank, second only to germination. Although research has been almost exclusively carried out in Europe and the United States, recent research at the University of Saskatchewan proves weed seed predation is occurring in western Canadian cropping systems and can be measured.
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.
Glyphosate-resistant (GR) waterhemp was first found in Ontario in 2014, but it already has a foothold in three counties in the southwest of the province. Fortunately, Peter Sikkema’s research group at the University of Guelph’s Ridgetown Campus has made a good start on finding effective options for controlling this challenging weed.
In wheat, in canola or in pea, the message is the same: control weeds early for highest yields. Those messages have been repeated in the past and now new research highlights the need to repeat that same message with respect to wheat crops.
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."  
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
After a disastrous season for farmers, Brazeau County, in Alberta, has declared a state of agricultural disaster for the second time in just over two years. CBC News reports. | READ MORE
Wet fields in Western Canada are turning what was supposed to be a stellar crop of durum wheat into a soggy mess. The Calgary Herald reports. | 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.
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
Researchers at Rice University in Houston are leading an effort to build tools that can detect, quantify and track the dispersal of genetically modified crops and animals, as well as their byproducts, in the environment.
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.  
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).
The Ontario Winter Wheat Performance Trials have always been designed to give growers useful information to help them make decisions, but the historical data is equally helpful because it shows how varieties perform over time under diverse conditions. The intensive management data introduced in 2013 proved invaluable in 2016 and could have an impact on growers’ choices in the future.
Optimal fall planting conditions in 2015 resulted in approximately 1 million acres of winter wheat being seeded.  Excellent weather conditions through to November provided an opportunity for wheat to be well tillered before winter.
According to Joanna Follings, cereals specialist for the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) based in Stratford, Ont., stand establishment problems in winter wheat tend to happen depending on the year.In 2015, Ontario producers saw excellent fall conditions for planting, and most got their crop in early, so plants were well established going into the winter.In 2014, producers weren’t so lucky: a wet fall meant delayed planting, and to make matters worse it was followed by a cold winter. Many producers experienced problems with winter survival.“It can be a challenge for growers to get out in to the field in a timely manner,” Follings says.Peter Johnson, an agronomist with Real Agriculture, is currently working on studies examining the impact of soil type, seeding rates and seeding dates on stand establishment.“Typically here in Ontario we get about 70 per cent stand establishment,” Johnson says. “We get higher levels if we seed earlier into excellent conditions. Last year we were getting fields with 85 per cent stand establishment, but typically we seed under less than ideal conditions.”There’s a growing body of research pointing to agronomic methods that can improve stand establishment in winter wheat even in bad years, Johnson says. This year, he and technician Shane McClure wrapped up a three-year “seeding rate by seeding date” interaction study, and the data should be available soon.But Johnson says it’s clear that the earlier producers seed, the lower their seeding rate can be. The later they seed, the higher the seeding rate should be in order to maximize sunlight interception.“We seed ultra early, two weeks prior to the recommended date, and at that stage we recommend decreasing seeding rate by 25 per cent,” Johnson says. “Our normal target is about 1.5 million seeds per acre, and when we seed two weeks ahead of optimum date, we can drop that to 1.2 million seeds quite easily, with no impact on yield.” On heavy clay soils, he recommends starting at 1.8 million seeds per acre and adjusting seeding rates according to date from there.“Once you’ve moved past optimum seeding date, my standard recommendation is to increase seeding populations 100,000 plants per acre for every five days past that optimum date.”In areas prone to heavy snow loads, snow mould infestations are much more severe with early seeding dates and high seeding rates. “Lodging concerns increase when growers seed heavy seeding rates early,” Johnson says. “But with highest wheat yields coming from early seeding dates, seeding early at lower seeding rates just makes sense.”Seed treatments?This year, Kelly Turkington, a pathologist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s (AAFC) Lacombe Research and Development Centre in Lacombe, Alta., and Brian Beres, an agronomist with AAFC’s Lethbridge Research and Development Centre in Lethbridge, Alta., published new research pointing to the effectiveness of seed treatments used in tandem with appropriate sowing density to overcome poor stand establishment in winter wheat.In one study, Beres and Turkington argue seed treatments are best used to offset weak, low-yielding systems.If producers are starting with high quality seed with good germination rates, good vigour and low levels of pathogen infection, and they’re putting seed into a system with good seed-to-soil contact and using appropriate seeding rates, Turkington says the impact of seed treatments will be limited.“Where we’ve seen seed treatments are a real benefit is when seed-borne disease, diseases that will impact germination, seedling growth or stand establishment, or diseases like smuts, are present in a field,” he says.Turkington’s work was all done in Western Canada, but Johnson says similar results have been seen in Eastern Canada. “If you’re seeding into ideal conditions from a stand establishment point of view with no disease pressure, you may not see the benefit of seed treatments,” he echoes. “But if you get bunt in your wheat crop, that’s 100 per cent crop loss. For $3 per acre of seed treatment, or even $5 per acre, whatever that premium is, we can’t afford to take that risk.”Johnson recommends every producer use a good fungicide seed treatment. Insecticide on the seed isn’t needed everywhere, but is more regionally isolated according to soil type and insect pressure. But he feels fungicide seed treatments are essential, even though they don’t always increase yield. “If I get dwarf bunt or common bunt in the crop, the grain comes out of the field smelling like rotten fish. The industry simply won’t accept it. That risk is simply too high,” he says.“In terms of stand establishment, we see a benefit in stand establishment if you apply a fungicidal seed treatment under adverse conditions.”
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 
Cool but dry conditions prevailed for the start of the corn growing season as May transitioned from a cooler than average April. May remained dry, with few precipitation events to delay planting. A few localized pockets in southern Ontario were the exception, which received regular rainfall during the first half of the month. Planting started in earnest in many areas during the middle to end of the first week of May and progressed quickly once started. Planting conditions were generally good, although some growers on heavier textured soils reported that slow drying of subsoils were holding off early planting until ground conditions were more fit. Planting was nearing completion in many areas by the end of the following week (May 14), but continued on some heavier textured soils as well as those areas that had been receiving rainfall. Statistics Canada estimated that 2.0 million acres of grain corn and 0.250 million acres of silage corn were planted in Ontario in 2016. While lingering cool soil temperatures slowed development of the earliest planted corn, emergence was generally good for most fields. With the lack of rainfall in May, corn that had been planted when parts of fields were not quite fit or had not been fully planted into moisture may have struggled to emerge or emerged late. While generally minor overall, this resulted in variability in some fields. Some growers on heavier soils reported emergence issues following the cool weather and rainfall of May 14-15th. A small amount of replanting was reported to have occurred. The annual OMAFRA Pre-Sidedress-Nitrate-Test (PSNT) survey was conducted at the V3-V4 stage on June 6-7th. With an overall average soil nitrate concentration of 11.2 ppm, levels were average to slightly higher than average. Given the lack of rainfall and low potential for soil saturation during May and June, nitrate losses from leaching or denitrification were unlikely. Below average precipitation in June maintained a wide window for weed control and sidedress nitrogen applications. With the exception of some moisture stress appearing on soils with poor water holding capacity in the drier parts of the province, the corn crop generally looked good and uniform through the end of June. While some parts of the province received rain in July, many areas continued to be below normal, particularly the Bruce-Grey, Niagara and Central Ontario regions. Fields or parts of fields in these regions were beginning to show signs of moisture stress as corn leaves would wrap. There were some concerns as corn entered the moisture-sensitive tassel and pollination stages during the hot and dry conditions around the week of July 18. Some localized areas received thunderstorm related precipitation around this period. During grain fill, there were reports of “tip-back” where several rows on the cob tips failed to pollinate and silks remained green. Warm temperatures continued to push crop development. As corn continued the grain filling process, significant rainfall events started to occur during August, with monthly precipitation totals ranging between 100-200 per cent of normal for large portions of the province. Despite this, leaf diseases, where present, typically remained at low levels. Between timely planting and above average heat unit accumulation, there were few concerns about crop maturity as August came to a close. Silage harvest started in earnest in many areas during the week of September 12, with the exception of some early harvesting of moisture stressed crops. September remained generally dry, which resulted in good silage harvest conditions. Some reported whole plant moisture being drier than what had been anticipated at the start of harvest. Yields were reported to be below average in areas with little rainfall and on soils with poor water holding capacity, while yields in other areas were reported to be average. Lab analysis results suggested vomitoxin levels in silage were higher than normal.  The annual OMAFRA grain corn vomitoxin survey was conducted from September 23 to 30th. The survey indicated elevated vomitoxin levels with 26 per cent of samples testing above two ppm. Long-term averages for this category run between five and 10 per cent, suggesting some extra monitoring for grain management and feeding may have been required in 2016. Risks may have been elevated from the wet and humid conditions that persisted from August to early September. Poorer pollination of ear tips which resulted in silks remaining green and husk tips that tended to remain tight may have also contributed to this. Western bean cutworm feeding that opened husks for mould establishment was prevalent in many areas as well. The incidence of samples testing higher for vomitoxin decreased east of Toronto. As the growing season came to a close, heat unit accumulation ranged from average to 100-200 Crop Heat Units (CHU) higher than normal. Coupled with dry weather, corn harvest started early with some combining beginning as early as the last week of September. Harvest started in earnest around October 15, and progressed quickly as dry conditions prevailed for most of the province, resulting in a wide harvest window. Most growers reported moisture levels lower than what was typical for the time of year, and excellent test weights. With the exception of some localized pockets where soybean harvest was delayed, harvest was wrapping up in most areas by the end of the first week of November. Many growers reported yields that were above expectations considering the hot, dry growing season, with the exception of those on soils with poor water holding capacity, or regions which received well below average precipitation. As of December 14, Agricorp corn yields have been reported on 78 per cent of insured acres with an average yield of 167 bu/ac. This compares well to the 10 year average yield of 167 bu/ac for those reported acres.
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.
Canola is a booming crop in Canada. Canola oil is the second most widely used oil (behind soybean oil) in North America’s food industry, and for good reason: it offers healthy omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, a high smoke point and neutral flavour. And for the past two decades, highly stable high-oleic canola oil has offered additional benefits – an even higher smoke point, as well as better stability for longer-term use in deep fryers. While acreage of canola is substantial in Canada’s Prairie provinces and fairly steady in Ontario, acreage of canola in the Maritimes has dropped in recent years. In 2013, there were 1,106 acres of canola grown in Prince Edward Island. This number has dropped to only 776 acres in 2014, with fewer than 700 acres estimated for 2015. However, Danny Doyle, a spokesperson for the Prince Edward Island Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, says there is canola research planned. He notes farmers in that province would like to see non-GMO varieties with good clubroot resistance and yield potentials of one metric ton per acre. New Brunswick’s canola acreage has also drastically dropped in recent years. In 2011, the province grew 10,000 acres of the crop; in 2012, that number dropped to 7,500, then to 6,000 in 2014, and in 2015, only 2,000 acres of canola were grown in New Brunswick. Peter Scott, a crop specialist in the New Brunswick Department of Agriculture, says acreage has shrunk because the forward contract price of canola has dropped off, and a fair amount of clubroot infection in 2014 caused farmers to pause. “It’s always a concern how canola fits a potato rotation,” he adds. “Some growers were producing hybrid canola seed from 2000 to 2005, but some saw potatoes following canola with reduced yields. The thinking is that nitrogen is being tied up to break down the canola residue, and this starves potatoes at a critical time.” As for Nova Scotia, commercial canola acreage is presently nothing, says Doug MacDonald, scientific officer for the Cereal and Oilseed Research Group in the faculty of agriculture at Dalhousie University in Halifax. “There is only a very small acreage grown by a handful of people,” he notes, “which is crushed in their own small presses for sale at farmers markets or for their own biodiesel.” However, a great deal of canola research is underway in Nova Scotia. Scientists in the province have been conducting Ontario spring canola variety tests since 2005 (winter canola tests were also done over several years but were discontinued due to limited interest). “The spring canola yields in our small plot tests have averaged approximately 2.7 tons per hectare over the past four seasons,” notes MacDonald. “Winter canola yields have been similar and occasionally better when winter survival is good, which varies greatly from year to year. Complete winterkill is common with the current genotypes available. There is also the concern, with spring or winter canola, of disease buildup – particularly sclerotinia, which can infect some crops used in rotation with canola such as soybeans and potatoes.”   There is also ongoing canola research headed by Prince Edward Island-based Eastern Canadian Oilseed Development Alliance (ECODA), a five-year, $6.7-million canola and soybean research project launched in 2013. It involves researchers in Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes and is funded through Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and industry partners. “One project involves winter canola variety evaluation, seeding dates and rates,” explains MacDonald. Jan Holmes, ECODA project manager, says early results showed the varieties of winter canola in the trial had a difficult time surviving, but there may be other varieties that can survive the eastern Canadian winters, and more evaluation is occurring. A second ECODA project is looking at canola nutrient management; particularly the response of various hybrids to nitrogen, nitrogen/sulphur and boron. MacDonald says the results will help scientists identify nutrient deficiency levels and develop improved guidelines for site-specific management. Preliminary results show at as N rates were increased, early flowering, plant biomass, height and leaf area all increased as well. “For all site-years, branch and seed numbers also increased with increasing N, sometimes significantly,” says Holmes, “but sidedressed N did not affect yield. Soil sulphur availability and sulphur mineralization potential must be considered for site-specific sulphur recommendations.” The development of effective integrated pest management (IPM) practices for swede midge is also in the works. So far, results show that early and middle pesticide applications are more effective than later ones, but the effect of applications was variable. IPM strategies for the control of other insect pests of canola (flea beetle, pollen beetle and cabbage seedpod weevil) are also being created. Yet another canola study is focusing on how such factors as crop rotation, nutrient management, planting date and plant density affect the incidence and severity of diseases like stem rot and blackleg. A different project involves determining the effect of fungicides, biological agents, marine bioproducts and combination treatments for the control of these diseases. Further experiments will show the effects of plant population on stress tolerance and seed quality of spring canola, and how canola can best be integrated in a potato cropping system. “We’re also conducting field trials with best formulations of signal compounds,” Holmes explains, “and have found so far that signal compounds LCO and thuricin at extremely low concentrations slightly increased yield in winter canola. Full study results have the potential to lead to the development of new products, which, in turn, will lead to increased yields.” Even though it will take more time for the full results of these studies to become available, Holmes believes canola is already economically competitive with small-grain cereals. “It’s a high-value crop that can be useful in rotation with potatoes, corn and soybean,” she says. “Canola is a viable crop option for Eastern Canadian growers, even Maritimes growers who must transport the seed to Quebec for crushing.”
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.
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.
Fertigation is quite common in southern Alberta, but very, very little research has been done on it in replicated plots,” says Doon Pauly, an agronomy research scientist with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry. His recently completed study took up the challenge of assessing the effectiveness of fertigation in wheat and canola.
So far, Alberta remains free of invasive mussels. Originally from Europe, zebra mussels and quagga mussels arrived in the Great Lakes in the 1980s. Since then, these two species have been spreading through North America’s waterways, clogging water-related infrastructure, damaging aquatic ecosystems and degrading recreational areas. In 2013, the mussels were found in Lake Winnipeg. In November 2016, they were discovered in a Montana reservoir.
Lodging can be a serious problem, especially in irrigated crops. Of course, variety selection and nutrient management are important tools for managing lodging. But producers may want to grow a crop variety with not-so-good standability because it has other important traits, and they may want to use higher nitrogen rates to capture a crop’s full yield potential, so four Alberta studies have investigated plant growth regulators (PGRs) as another tool for reducing the risk of lodging.
To replant, or not to replant is often the question when a sugar beet stand has been severely damaged. Ultimately, a grower has to do one or the other, and making the right choice will increase net returns from the crop. A six-year study has evaluated replanting recommendations for southern Alberta in light of the switch from conventional to Roundup Ready sugar beets. As a result, growers now have updated recommendations backed by solid data.
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.

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