Corporate News
A novel method to quantify soil health in contrasting land uses has the potential to deepen our understanding of how to manage and predict the impacts of land-use conversion.

The new approach describes and interprets the complex and over-arching patterns of soil aggregation and moisture availability, using that information as key aspects of soil health.

In this method, the sizes of soil aggregates follow a hierarchical array for which fractal mass models can be quantified and tested. Recent advancements in laser technology have now enabled accurate, rapid measurement of such fractal aggregation which was previously unfeasible. Validation results showed close agreement with soil carbon and water retention, collectively leading to robust metrics of land sustainability.

The study, co-authored by several students and professors of the Departments of Renewable Resources and Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science, shows how physical soil quality varies in the mixed-grass and aspen parkland natural sub-regions of the Canadian prairies.

The study evaluated soil physical properties in three land use systems — native grasslands, introduced pastures and annual croplands — at seven sites across south-central Alberta, Canada.

It found that native grassland ecosystems consistently displayed superior soil health relative to introduced pasture, while recurrently cultivated croplands have the lowest soil health.

The study, Soil physical quality varies among contrasting land uses in Northern Prairie regions, is published by the journal Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment.
The newly combined Western Canada Conference on Soil Health and the Western Canadian Grazing Conference is featured on a new website: absoilgrazing.com.

The combined conferences will take place on December 5, 6 and 7th 2017 at the Radisson Hotel Edmonton South, with the theme “Profit Above and Wealth Below”. Gabe Brown, Dr. Richard Teague, Ray Archuleta and other soil health researchers and practitioners are confirmed for the conference.

Farming and ranching for soil health supports biodiversity and increases biological activity, both of which are absent in current production technology. In both cases integrating plant diversity, keeping the soil covered, maintaining living roots as long as possible, and minimal soil disturbance leads to reduced crop inputs, greater infiltration and water holding capacity, and a myriad of environmental and social benefits. Soil health is greatly enhanced when practiced in conjunction with animal agriculture.

Attendees will have the opportunity to attend two great conferences in one. Registration information, the conference agenda and the lineup of presenters are being finalized and will be announced in the coming weeks. Current information is available at the new website.
Manitoba Forage and Grassland Association (MFGA)'s Green Gold program is seeking more producer involvement to help maximize the program's benefits to producers. MFGA is specifically looking for more alfalfa fields, particularly in the western, central and interlake areas of Manitoba. 

Now entering it’s 22nd year, MFGA's Green Gold program is led by MFGA hay and extension lead John McGregor who coordinates a team of producers and Manitoba Agriculture staff to submit twice-weekly clippings from fields in various regions of the province to be tested at Winnipeg's Central Testing Laboratories for RFV values. RFV is widely considered the best measurement for declaring the energy values that livestock will receive from the feed. 

Last year, MFGA added the birds-eye view of drones operated by program sponsor M3 Aerial. They will return again this year, offering Green Gold co-relation optics of on-the-ground clips and drone-based infrared readings. 

This year, MFGA is looking at expanding the number of fields to better help forage producers identify the best cut date on their fields. Producers who want to sign up for the program can contact John McGregor, MFGA Extension Lead: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or 204-396-9217.
Operation Pollinator is expanding its footprint in Western Canada through a multi-year partnership with the Soil Conservation Council of Canada (SCCC). This Syngenta-based program is focused on research and partnerships to promote the health and well-being of bees and other pollinators.

Farmers in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta can sign-up to establish Operation Pollinator sites on their farms. SCCC is collaborating with three provincial partners to deliver the program in each of the Prairie provinces – the Agriculture Research and Extension Council of Alberta (ARECA), Manitoba Conservation Districts Association (MCDA) and the Saskatchewan Soil Conservation Association (SSCA).

How to enroll? Producers agree to convert one-to-two acres of lower-productivity land to establish a dedicated Operation Pollinator site. In exchange for dedicating the land, participating producers receive a provision of high-quality, pollinator-friendly wildflower seed, agronomic advice, and assistance to help offset site establishment costs.

What gets planted? Participating farmers will receive a provision of high-quality commercial seed, free of noxious weeds and invasive species, developed in collaboration with a third-party research partner. It includes a diverse range of native species that are well-suited to the Canadian environment. Most of the plants included in the mix are known to bloom for lengthy periods, producing an ongoing source of pollen and nectar for pollinators. The goal of the program is to establish and maintain new pollinator-friendly habitat over the long term, study and learn from these sites, and enhance biodiversity for the benefit of the larger Prairie ecosystem.

What are the program benefits? The program delivers a number of benefits to pollinators, participants and the landscape. It’s an opportunity for growers to improve biodiversity on their farms by converting a portion of land into essential habitat and food sources for a range of native bees and pollinating insects.

Farmers wishing to sign up can visit the SCCC website soilcc.ca where they will find details regarding participation in the program.
Winter Wheat
The winter wheat crop looks excellent throughout much of the province. There is lots of growth with excellent yield potential. This lush growth will increase the risk of foliar leaf diseases like powdery mildew and Septoria especially in susceptible varieties; regular scouting will detect early infection and allow for effective management. It is estimated that Nitrogen (N) has been applied to 25-30 per cent of the total acreage, and a good stretch of weather would see significant progress being made on this field activity. Several producers are opting to include sulphur (typically at 10 lbs of sulpher per acre) with their N applications to mitigate the appearance of sulphur deficiency symptoms, which were prevalent last spring. In 2016, stripe rust was common in winter wheat fields in the southwestern portion of the province by mid-May. Stripe rust infected plants have already been found in many areas of the Midwest including Kentucky, Tennessee, Illinois and Wisconsin. Movement of spores into Ontario from these locations will be dependent on weather systems. As we observed last year there are large differences in variety susceptibility to stripe rust so check the Ontario Wheat Performance Trials or your dealer for specific variety information. If detected on susceptible varieties, do not delay applying a fungicide to control this disease as it will progress very quickly and can cause significant yield losses, which in 2016 ranged from 10-40 bushels.

Spring Cereals
Seeding of spring wheat and barley began during the week of the 18th and will ramp up quickly as soil conditions improve.

Corn
A small acreage of corn has been planted but provincially there would be less than 1 per cent of total acreage planted. Most of the planting that occurred was to test out planting equipment or for test plots. Planting depth should be around 5 cm (2”) as shallow planting (less than 3 cm or 1.25 in. deep), even into moisture, may lead to less favourable positioning of the growing point and first nodal roots. This may lead to rootless corn syndrome. Coarse-textured soils that dry rapidly at the surface will also be more prone to poor root establishment with shallow plantings. To minimize yield losses from weed competition the corn crop should be kept weed-free from emergence until the 6 leaf over stage. If the goal is to minimize weed seed return, a farmer would extend that weed-free period until the 8 leaf over stage.

Soybean
Planting date is an important management tool to maximize yield potential. The highest yields of soybeans are obtained from early plantings, generally the first 10 days of May. Soybeans are more sensitive to soil temperature than corn. However, if soil temperature and moisture conditions are suitable for planting corn, they are generally also suitable for soybeans. A hard spring frost can kill early-planted soybeans, since the growing point of the emerged seedling is above the soil surface. However, soybean plants can withstand temperatures as low as -2.8 C for a short period of time, while corn experiences tissue damage at -2 C. Many winter annual and perennial weeds are growing rapidly. Applying a pre-plant burndown to control these weeds as soon as possible will provide a clean seedbed in no-till and minimum till production systems. Ideally a burndown is applied 10-14 days prior to planting so that all undesirable plants are dead and easy to plant through. To minimize yield losses from weed competition the soybean crop should be kept weed-free from emergence until the second trifoliate stage. If the goal is to minimize weed seed return, a farmer would extend that weed-free period up until the third trifoliate stage.
Canada’s agri-food leaders want Prime Minister Trudeau to create an Agri-Food Growth Council to focus on actions that will unleash growth in the industry, according to the Canada as an Agri-Food Powerhouse report, released by the Public Policy Forum (PPF) and the Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute (CAPI).

The report is a summary of roundtable discussions held in March 2017 with more than 150 agri-food stakeholders across Canada. It builds on the February 2017 report issued by the Minister of Finance’s Advisory Council on Economic Growth which emphasized the potential for Canada to become “the trusted global leader in safe, nutritious and sustainable food for the 21st century.”

The report also calls for the creation of an inter-departmental agri-food task force, to improve alignment within government and resolve priority regulatory obstacles. Following are some of the most common comments from stakeholders during the roundtable meetings:
  • The aspirational vision – being the trusted global food leader – should be the lens through which all relevant policies and strategies are assessed.
  • The responsiveness of our regulatory system should be made a comparative advantage that ensures both consumer protection and a nimbler, modernized regulatory environment. This would help encourage investment, innovation and competitiveness.
  • While export growth must be prioritized, there are also opportunities to drive significant growth domestically, particularly among small and medium enterprises. This requires swift action on internal trade barriers.
  • Delivering co-benefits – enhancing health and natural capital – is crucial to building public trust and strengthening our global food brand.
Canada as an Agri-Food Powerhouse
In February 2017, the Advisory Council on Economic Growth, established by the Minister of Finance, released its second wave of recommendations, which emphasized the potential for Canada to become “the trusted global leader in safe, nutritious and sustainable food for the 21st century.” Using the Advisory Council’s report as a starting point for discussion, the PPF and CAPI partnered on a coast-to-coast consultation convening roundtables in Charlottetown, Montreal, Ottawa, Guelph, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Calgary and Vancouver to hear from more than 150 sector leaders and stakeholders. This report is a summary of those discussions.
The Farm & Food Care Canada board of directors has evaluated its mission, vision and organizational structure and made the decision to transition to the Canadian Centre for Food Integrity (CCFI).

The CCFI, with its research, training and consumer support services, is well equipped to provide valuable expertise and support to the entire food system in order to build public trust and align resources.

The CCFI is funded by partners and individuals from across the food system and from across the country. The Farm & Food Care Canada board will serve as the transition board for the new CCFI until the new board and advisory council is in place in the next few months.

You can learn more and be part of the progress along with farm and food system leaders from coast to coast and across all sectors at the CCFI Public Trust Summit: “Tackling Transparency – the truth about trust.” Program highlights include the release of the 2017 public trust in food and farming research and a live millennial consumer panel. Register now for the CCFI Public Trust Summit in Calgary, September 18-20 at foodintegrity.ca

Farm & Food Care Canada was created in 2010 as a charity with the mandate to build public trust in Canadian food and farming.  The new Canadian Centre for Food Integrity was launched in 2016 as a program of Farm & Food Care Canada, and an affiliate of The Center for Food Integrity, created in the United States in 2007.
Measuring how efficiently water is used in agriculture, particularly in water-scarce countries, is going high-tech with the help of a new tool developed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 

The WaPOR open-access database has gone live, tapping satellite data to help farmers achieve more reliable agricultural yields and allowing for the optimization of irrigation systems. | READ MORE
Cover crops long have been touted for their ability to reduce erosion, fix atmospheric nitrogen, reduce nitrogen leaching and improve soil health, but they also may play an important role in mitigating the effects of climate change on agriculture, according to a Penn State researcher.

Cover crops comparable to no-till
Climate-change mitigation and adaptation may be additional, important ecosystem services provided by cover crops, said Jason Kaye, professor of soil biogeochemistry in the College of Agricultural Sciences at Penn State. He suggested that the climate-change mitigation potential of cover crops is significant, comparable to other practices, such as no-till.

"Many people have been promoting no-till as a climate-mitigation tool, so finding that cover crops are comparable to no-till means there is another valuable tool in the toolbox for agricultural climate mitigation," he said.

In a recent issue of Agronomy for Sustainable Development, Kaye contends that cover cropping can be an adaptive management tool to maintain yields and minimize nitrogen losses as the climate warms.

Collaborating with Miguel Quemada in the Department of Agriculture Production at the Technical University of Madrid in Spain, Kaye reviewed cover-cropping initiatives in Pennsylvania and central Spain. He said that lessons learned from cover cropping in those contrasting regions show that the strategy has merit in a warming world.

Conclusions
The researchers concluded that cover-crop effects on greenhouse-gas fluxes typically mitigate warming by 100-150 grams of carbon per square meter per year, which is comparable to, and perhaps higher than, mitigation from transitioning to no-till. The key ways that cover crops mitigate climate change from greenhouse-gas fluxes are by increasing soil carbon sequestration and reducing fertilizer use after legume cover crops.

"Perhaps most significant, the surface albedo change (the proportion of energy from sunlight reflecting off of farm fields due to cover cropping) calculated for the first time in our review using case-study sites in central Spain and Pennsylvania, may mitigate 12 to 46 grams of carbon per square meter per year over a 100-year time horizon," Kaye wrote.

"Cover crop management also can enable climate-change adaptation at these case-study sites, especially through reduced vulnerability to erosion from extreme rain events, increased soil-water management options during droughts or periods of soil saturation, and retention of nitrogen mineralized due to warming," he said.

Not a primary management practice
Despite the benefits, Kaye is not necessarily advocating that cover crops be planted primarily for the purposes of climate-change mitigation or adaptation. Instead, he thinks the most important conclusion from his analysis is that there appear to be few compromises between traditional benefits of cover cropping and the benefits for climate change.

"Farmers and policymakers can expect cover cropping simultaneously to benefit soil quality, water quality and climate-change adaptation and mitigation," he wrote.

"Overall, we found very few tradeoffs between cover cropping and climate-change mitigation and adaptation, suggesting that ecosystem services that are traditionally expected from cover cropping can be promoted synergistically with services related to climate change."
Nematodes are a huge threat to agriculture since they parasitize important crops such as wheat, soybean, and banana; but plants can defend themselves. Researchers at Bonn University, together with collaborators from the Sainsbury Laboratory in Norwich, identified a protein that allows plants to recognize a chemical signal from the worm and initiate immune responses against the invaders. This discovery will help to develop crop plants that feature enhanced protection against this type of parasites. The work is published in the current issue of PLoS Pathogens.

Plant-parasitic nematodes are microscopic worms that parasitize their host plants to withdraw water and nutrients. The feeding process seriously damages the host plant. Nematode infection distorts root and shoot structure, compromises the plant´s ability to absorb nutrients from soil, and eventually reduces crop yield. Yearly losses exceed ten percent in important crops such as wheat, soybean, and banana. In addition to causing direct damage, nematode infection also provides an opportunity for other pathogens to invade and attack the host plants.

Until now, near to nothing was known about the general innate immune response of plants against nematodes. A team of researchers at the University of Bonn, in cooperation with scientists from the Sainsbury Laboratory in Norwich, has now identified a gene in thale cress (Arabidopsis thaliana), called NILR1, that helps plants sense nematodes. “The NILR1 is the genetic code for a receptor protein that is localized to the surface of plant cells and is able to bind and recognize other molecules,” says Prof. Florian Grundler, chair at the Department of Molecular Phytomedicine at the University of Bonn. “NILR1 most probably recognizes a molecule from nematodes, upon which, it becomes activated and immune responses of plants are unleashed.”

NILR1 recognizes a broad spectrum of nematodes

Although a few receptors, so-called resistance genes, providing protection against specific types of plant-parasitic nematodes have already been identified, NILR1 recognizes rather a broader spectrum of nematodes. “The nice thing about NILR1 is that it seems to be conserved among various crop plants and that it provides protection against many nematode species,” says group leader Dr. Shahid Siddique. “The discovery of NILR1 also raises questions about the nematode derived molecule, whose recognition is thought to be integral to this process.” Now that an important receptor is discovered, the scientists are working to find the molecule which binds to NILR1 to switch on the immune responses. The two first authors, PhD students at the department share tasks in the project. Whereas Mary Wang´ombe focuses on the receptor protein and its function, Badou Mendy concentrates on isolating the signal molecule released by the nematodes.

New options for breeding resistant crop plants

The findings of the University Bonn Scientists open new perspectives in making crops more resistant against nematodes. They could already show that important crop plants such as tomato and sugar beet also possess a functional homologue of NILR1 – an excellent basis for further specific breeding. Once the nematode signal is characterized, a new generation of natural compounds will be available that is able to induce defense responses in plants thus paving the way for safe and sustainable nematode control.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has found traces of the controversial herbicide glyphosate in nearly 30 per cent of about 3,200 food products it tested, and residue levels above the acceptable limits in 1.3 per cent of the samples. | READ MORE
A task force charged with reducing levels of toxic algae suspected of killing several dogs that swam in Quamichan Lake is hoping barley will do the trick.

According to North Cowichan Mayor Jon Lefebure, when mixed into the lake, the bacterial properties of barley consumes the phosphorus that blue-green algae thrive on. | READ MORE
WorkHorse, an online hub to simplify labour management for the agriculture industry, has launched its new platform. With an innovative online platform, WorkHorse aims to help agriculture grow and prosper by providing a real solution to connecting people with the right jobs at the right time.

Agriculture contributes significantly to the economy and can diversify and contribute more, but farmers need access to skilled labour in order to grow and survive. WorkHorse promises to provide access to skilled labour by matching employees to qualified jobs. Based on the innovative technology of the platform, WorkHorse matches employers to the top people for the job.

WorkHorse is farmer-designed and built to address the issue of farm labour shortages across the industry. The power of the platform puts complete control in the hands of the farmer and creates a community for the best local ag jobs with the power of global access.

For more information on WorkHorse or to sign up/subscribe and start building your profile, visit workhorsehub.ca.
Jocelyn Beaudette will be appointed as the new Chief Operating Officer of the Canadian Grain Commission as of June 19, 2017, reporting to Chief Commissioner, Patti Miller. The current Chief Operating Officer, Gord Miles, retires at the end of June.

During her 26 years with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Beaudette has acquired a wide range of skills and experience working with the agriculture industry in the areas of marketing and trade, strategic policy and program delivery. She has formed and enhanced strong collaborative partnerships with various levels of government and industry stakeholders.

Most recently, as Director General of Farm Income Programs Directorate, Beaudette managed the delivery of national programs from a regional base, including the recent Canadian Wheat Board Transition Costs Program.
Wood scientist Solace Sam-Brew envisions a future where Canadian homes are furnished with products from flax and hemp.

“Both flax and hemp are widely available in Canada, especially in the West,” said Sam-Brew, a recent PhD graduate from the University of British Columbia’s faculty of forestry. “It’s worth considering their viability as alternative raw materials to wood for particleboard production.”

Particleboards are used in products like countertops, shelves and flat-packed furniture. For her PhD, supervised by professor Gregory Smith, Sam-Brew evaluated the characteristics of flax and hemp residues. She determined their physical and mechanical board properties by soaking and breaking hundreds of particleboards to test their strength and durability.

While Sam-Brew found flax and hemp residues were technically better, she hit one snag. The current economics of manufacturing flax and hemp particleboards in Canada are too high for it to flourish as a competitive material.

“The resin, or glue, needed to produce flax and hemp particleboard is a financial barrier,” she said. Resin holds the particles in the board together and flax and hemp products use expensive resin, called pMDI, as the substitute for cheap urea-formaldehyde.

Sam-Brew was able to show in her PhD research that the amount of resin needed for flax and hemp particleboards could be reduced, which would help lower the cost. Substituting lignin, a plant binder, for a portion of the pMDI resin, could also reduce the cost.

According to Sam-Brew, a burgeoning niche market for flax and hemp particleboards exists in Europe. Decades of flax and hemp processing there and the number of companies in business have led to more competitive pricing.

Sam-Brew said the business case for a similar industry in Canada lies in a facility willing to take a chance on the sustainable alternative considering the growing competition for wood residue. Wood residue is wood waste from sawmills and joinery manufacturers, like wood chips, shavings, sawdust and trims, all highly sought after for use by multiple industries, including biofuel, pellet, pulp and paper.

“They’re all fighting over one resource, which can sometimes be in short supply,” said Sam-Brew. “If a company has to travel long distances to collect the wood waste they need to make their products, that costs them money. The particleboard industry could benefit from using non-wood resources if the price is right.”

For now, flax and hemp particleboard production is at a standstill in Canada. But Sam-Brew remains optimistic.

“Flax and hemp particleboards are lighter than wood,” she said. “The downstream impacts of making a lighter product could mean faster production rates and significant energy and transportation savings.”

“The economics don’t look good now, but they could later.”
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