Rice researchers in Earth science, economics and environmental engineering have determined that widespread use of biochar in agriculture could reduce health care costs, especially for those who live in urban areas close to farmland.
Biochar is ground charcoal produced from waste wood, manure or leaves. Added to soil, the porous carbon has been shown to boost crop yields, lessen the need for fertilizer and reduce pollutants by storing nitrogen that would otherwise be released to the atmosphere.
The study led by Ghasideh Pourhashem, a postdoctoral fellow at Rice’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, appears in the American Chemical Society journal Environmental Science and Technology.
Pourhashem worked with environmental engineering graduate student Quazi Rasool and postdoc Rui Zhang, Rice Earth scientist Caroline Masiello, energy economist Ken Medlock and environmental scientist Daniel Cohan to show that urban dwellers in the American Midwest and Southwest would gain the greatest benefits in air quality and health from greater use of biochar.
They said the U.S. counties that would stand to save the most in health care costs from reduced smog are Will, La Salle and Livingston counties in Illinois; San Joaquin, San Diego, Fresno and Riverside counties in California; Weld County in Colorado; Maricopa County in Arizona; and Fort Bend County in Texas.
“Our model projections show health care cost savings could be on the order of millions of dollars per year for some urban counties next to farmland,” Pourhashem said. “These results are now ready to be tested by measuring changes in air pollutants from specific agricultural regions.”
Pourhashem noted the key measurements needed are the rate of soil emission of nitric oxide (NO), which is a smog precursor, after biochar is applied to fields. Many studies have already shown that biochar reduces the emissions of a related compound, nitrous oxide, but few have measured NO.
“We know that biochar impacts the soil nitrogen cycle, and that’s how it reduces nitrous oxide,” said Masiello, a professor of Earth, environmental and planetary science. “It likely reduces NO in the same way. We think the local impact of biochar-driven NO reductions could be very important.”
The Rice team used data from three studies of NO emissions from soil in Indonesia and Zambia, Europe and China. The data revealed a wide range of NO emission curtailment — from 0 per cent to 67 per cent — depending on soil type, meteorological conditions and the chemical properties of biochar used.
Using the higher figure in their calculations, they determined that a 67 per cent reduction in NO emissions in the United States could reduce annual health impacts of agricultural air pollution by up to $660 million. Savings through the reduction of airborne particulate matter — to which NO contributes — could be 10 times larger than those from ozone reduction, they wrote.
“Agriculture rarely gets considered for air pollution control strategies,” said Cohan, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering. “Our work shows that modest changes to farming practices can benefit the air and soil too.”
Medlock is the James A. Baker III and Susan G. Baker Fellow in Energy and Resource Economics and senior director of the Center for Energy Studies at Rice’s Baker Institute for Public Policy and lecturer of economics.
The research was supported by the NASA Air Quality Applied Sciences Team, Rice’s Shell Center for Sustainability and the Baker Institute.
An Environmental Farm Plan (EFP) is a voluntary, whole-farm, self-assessment tool that helps farmers and ranchers identify and build on environmental strengths, as well as mitigate risks on their operations. A National EFP (NEFP) would not be a replacement program, but rather a harmonization effort across the existing EFP programs nation wide.
Building on an inaugural event held last year, summit attendees will further develop a national standard designed to connect environmentally sustainable practices at the farm level with global food buyers' growing need to source sustainable ingredients.
The NEFP program is well into development, led by a steering committee comprised of participants from across the agri-food value chain. Four sub-committees are working toward developing a national protocol as it relates to data collection, standards and verification, all of which will be supported through comprehensive communications and stakeholder outreach. Summit attendees will hear from each committee, along with subject matter experts, about the progress to-date - information that will further guide steps toward this national standard.
Learn more and register for the 2017 National EFP Summit by visiting nationalefp.ca. The NEFP is always seeking to add to its list of stakeholders involved in shaping this made-in-Canada solution. Interested organizations should contact co-chairs Drew Black or Paul Watson.
The BadgerWay Program provides funding opportunities for farmers in southwestern Ontario who wish to implement specific Best Management Practices (BMPs) that create new habitat or connect existing on farm habitat. Up to 75 per cent cost-share is available, to a maximum of $20,000 per farm business. The eligible BMPs are:
BMP 1: Establishment of perennial contour cropping or other in-field perennial grass strips
BMP 2: Tree and shrub planting
BMP 3: Native grassland restoration
For full program details or to apply, visit the OSCIA website.
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
September 1, 2015 - On-farm biosecurity usually brings to mind protecting animals from disease. But crops are just as vulnerable to pests that can devastate an entire year’s work in short order. That’s why assessing the ways insects, fungus, viruses, bacteria, weeds and other threats can get into, move around and leave your operation is a wise first step to securing your farm’s future.
“This is an essential step for good plant health - a healthy plant will be better able to fend off diseases,” says Bill Ungar, President and CEO of Ungar International and a certified crop adviser. “Nasty pests can wipe out entire crops, and biosecurity helps mitigate the transmission of those pests.”
Why biosecurity is important
An on-farm disease outbreak could affect not only you, but also your neighbours, your industry and potentially the country. That’s why the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is working with industry stakeholders, the provinces and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada to develop national biosecurity standards and producer guidelines.
There is a national farm-level biosecurity planning guide as well as standards and producer guidelines for specific commodities. These are already in place for grains and oilseeds and potatoes. They are being developed for greenhouse, nursery and floriculture sectors and for the fruit and tree nut industry.
Here’s what can happen with a pest infestation:
- Lower productivity and yields
- Higher production costs
- Lower farmland value
- Limited or closed markets
- Lower prices
- Decreased domestic sales
Where do pests come from?
Pests can come from many different sources, which is why assessing your whole farm is critical to developing a good biosecurity plan.
Here are some of the ways they can get onto your farm:
- Trucks, cars and tractors
- Sprayers, spreaders, and fertilizers
- Family, staff and visitors
- Water from irrigation
- Compost, manure, soil
- Animals, birds and insects
- Environmental conditions (e.g., wind)
What you can do
Assess, plan, implement. An honest, step-by-step assessment of the biosecurity risks on your property helps you identify areas that you may not have considered.
- How often do fertilizer, seed and other suppliers drive their trucks on the farm?
- Do you have a logbook for people to sign in and out so that if there’s a pest outbreak, you can better trace the source?
- Do you have separate entrances for incoming and outgoing traffic?
- Do your scouts have disposable booties or boots that can be scrubbed and disinfected?
- Does your custom applicator/harvester thoroughly clean their machines and equipment between farms?
- How do you handle your manure and cull stock to contain potential disease sources?
These are only a few of the things you may need to consider for your own operation. Every farmer will have different answers. The important thing is to think about, and respond to, the questions. Once the assessment is done, you can look at the gaps and figure out what needs fixing first, second and third. By prioritizing your needs you can make changes in a logical, efficient way.
The assessment also goes a long way to helping you complete your biosecurity plan, and once the plan is in place, you’re ready to implement it. This is something you can do yourself or work with a certified crop adviser.
Growing Forward 2 is there to help
Farmers and growers in Ontario are encouraged to take free biosecurity workshops from the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association (OSCIA) to learn the ins and outs of the process. Biosecurity workshops for different sectors are scheduled throughout the year. You must register through the Growing Forward 2 (GF2) Client Portal at www.ontarioprograms.net.
“The workshops really make you think about what you need – there are a lot of ‘what if’ scenarios and practical, hands-on training,” says Bill Ungar, who runs some of the workshops. Growing Forward 2 (GF2) funding is available for completing an assessment. Producers who take the workshop and complete an assessment, with their highest priority projects clearly identified, are in a better position to apply for up to 35 per cent cost-share funding available under GF2 to do improvements on the farm related to biosecurity.
There is one more GF2 cost-share application intake date for producers this year: November 16, 2015 to December 3, 2015.
For full details on GF2 funding for producers, visit www.ontariosoilcrop.org or contact John Laidlaw at 519-826-4218
Apr. 22, 2014 - New data indicates some forms of clubroot resistance are no longer functioning well against a possible new clubroot pathotype in the Edmonton region.
Dr. Stephen Strelkov at the University of Alberta has investigated samples collected from several fields and verified higher levels of infection than expected in some clubroot resistant varieties. Further studies are underway to verify the true virulence of these clubroot strains.
"Current research indicates that the concern is limited to very few fields and patches within those fields," says Curtis Rempel, vice president of crop production and innovation with the Canola Council of Canada (CCC). "Clubroot resistance is expected to be functional in the vast majority of acres this year, but attention needs to be paid to prevent this situation from expanding."
While it is too early to make specific variety recommendations, the CCC advises that canola growers and agronomists scout their clubroot resistant varieties this summer with extra effort and vigilance. "This is very important in light of the potential for a new pathotype capable of overcoming the excellent resistance currently available in Western Canada," says Rempel.
In order to protect this valuable genetic trait, the CCC will be working collaboratively throughout the canola value chain to learn more about this potential new pathotype and help prevent its buildup and movement. Factors that contribute to this risk are:
- Canola rotations with less than a two year break
- Fields that are known already to have high clubroot inoculum
- Fields that are not scouted for clubroot regularly
- Planting the same resistant canola variety in that rotation
- Any tillage that is more than zero till
- Operations that do not limit soil movement between fields. Keep your soil at home
Clubroot is a serious soil-borne disease caused by the pathogen Plasmodiophora brassicae. It lowers the bottom line for canola growers each year. The disease has been advancing through Alberta at a fairly steady 20 to 25 km per year, and has been detected at low levels in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Visit www.clubroot.ca to learn more about clubroot best management practices and stewardship of resistant varieties.
The Canola Council of Canada is a full value chain organization representing canola growers, value added processors, life science companies and exporters.
The Canadian Grain Commission reminds producers they can prevent treated seed contamination by following these precautions:
- When possible, store treated seed in separate bins.
- Clean all equipment and bins after seeding and before harvest.
- Visually inspect equipment and bins for treated seed:
- Before harvest
- Before transferring grain between bins
- Before transferring grain to a truck or railcar for delivery
Health Canada has set maximum residue limits for chemicals in Canadian grain. Any grain exceeding these limits can be condemned. This means that the grain cannot enter the food or feed system and is destroyed.
Under the Canada Grain Act, a licensed grain handling facility cannot receive grain that is contaminated and may refuse to accept delivery of any grain that is believed to be contaminated. As well, the Canada Grain Act prohibits delivery of grain that is contaminated.
If treated seed is found in a shipment at the terminal elevator, the shipment will be held until the Canadian Grain Commission completes a chemical analysis.
Any delays caused by treated seed can result in additional cost to grain handlers or producers. For example, if a producer car is contaminated, extra charges such as storage charges or costs related to potential contamination of other grain in the facility, resulting in loss of the grain's value, could be passed on to the producer.
June 28, 2013, Edmonton, AB - The International Clubroot Workshop was held in Edmonton June 20-21. Workshop organizers summarized the presentations and come up with a Top 10 tip list from the event:
10. Stick to known clubroot management steps. The following are NOT effective or cost effective for clubroot management: 1) fungicides 2) seed treatments 3) boron 4) liming soil 5) wood ash and/or calcium amendments 6) bait crops 7) tillage.
9. Know your municipal or county clubroot regulations.
8. People who walk fields as part of their job need to wear new booties or properly disinfected rubber boots for each field.
7. Follow clubroot management and prevention steps in all crops, not just canola. Moving soil spreads clubroot — even if the drill is going from a wheat field to a barley field. Brassica weeds also host clubroot, so control them in all crops. Tillage increases the likelihood of soil moving on tillage equipment, and soil moving by wind and water.
6. Reduce tillage to reduce soil movement. Anything that makes it easier for soil to move makes it easier for clubroot to move.
5. An average cultivator will have 75 pounds of soil on it after tilling a field and the tractor may have 200-300 pounds. Soil on equipment is the top vector for moving clubroot from field to field, farm to farm. Scraping and brushing off equipment before leaving a field removes 90% of soil. Pressure washing takes that up to 99%. Disinfectant handles the final 1%.
4. Clubroot-resistance varieties effectively manage the disease, but rotate varieties and follow longer canola rotations to preserve this resistant trait on your farm. Remember that while crop rotation can help reduce the disease, crop rotation will not prevent clubroot from arriving on farm, will not prevent clubroot from spreading to rest of farm, and will not eliminate the disease.
3. You can make a difference on your own farm, even if neighbours are not following clubroot management and prevention steps.
2. Identify clubroot early. That way you can slow it's spread throughout a field and throughout the farm.
1. Have a plan to manage clubroot. Don't wait until clubroot manages you. Whether you're a farmer, agronomist, county/municipal staff, extension, or from the oil & gas industry, you need a clubroot management plan. A plan should include answers to the following: How will you quarantine a field? How will you plan your field work? When will you sanitize your equipment? When will you use resistant varieties? Visit www.clubroot.ca for help with your plan.
The standard offers a consistent national approach to biosecurity and is applicable to bee operations of all types and sizes.
Federal agriculture minister Gerry Ritz said in a news release that protecting bee health is important to safeguarding the bee industry and the Canadian agricultural industries that depend on it.
"The value of the honey and bee products industry is substantial, and many other valuable crops are reliant on pollination by bees," says Ritz, adding approximately $2 billion in agricultural products rely on bees.
The National Farm-Level Bee Biosecurity Standard was developed through a partnership with the honey bee, bumblebee and alfalfa leafcutting bee industries and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). It was developed in collaboration with producers, industry associations, academia, and provincial governments.
Mar. 4, 2013, Ottawa, ON: Grains and oilseeds growers have a new tool to help protect crops, following the release of a national biosecurity standard on March 1.
The National Standard is a tool designed to help producers minimize and control the risk of pests and disease entering their farms, spreading within the farm or to neighbouring farms. It is applicable to farm-level operations of all types and sizes.
The standard is divided into four sections:
• Entry of pests to the farm
• Movement of pests within the farm
• Exit of pests from the farm
• Management process
The National Voluntary Farm-Level Biosecurity Standard for the Grains and Oilseeds Industry was developed over two years through a partnership between the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and the Canada Grains Council along with other stakeholders including the the Grain Growers of Canada, the Canadian Grains Commission, Canadian Canola Growers Association and provincial governments.
Oct. 3, 2012, Halifax, NS - The federal government recently announced an investment for the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) that will help to strengthen the organization’s food safety program, as members met for their general meeting in Halifax, NS.
This investment of more than $415,000 will help the CTA update its existing Trucking Food Safety Program to include the latest food safety standards, regulations, and practices, including the addition of a new audit and certification process and creating a user-friendly online system carriers can operate more easily.
It’s hoped these improvements will help to reduce the risk of food contamination beyond the farm gate and give food processors, distributors, and retailers more confidence that their products are handled properly during transportation. A strong food safety system also reassures Canadians of the safety of their food, which in turn helps to boost the bottom lines of farmers.
“Just about every food and beverage consumed by Canadians is carried on a truck at some point,” noted David Bradley, CEO of the CTA. "The alliance is proud of its Trucking Food Safety Program, but we know it can be made even better through improvements such as automation and enhanced audit protocols. This would not be possible without the financing provided by the Growing Forward program and is a good example of government and industry collaborating to enhance food safety transportation in Canada.”
Jul. 30, 2012, Washington, DC - President Barack Obama has named three agricultural scientists as winners of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the highest honor bestowed by the United States Government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers. They are Joseph E. Jakes, USDA, U.S. Forest Service; Ian Kaplan, Purdue University; and Christina L. Swaggerty, USDA, Agricultural Research Service (ARS).
Dr. Ian Kaplan's research on pests and beneficial insects in plant systems was funded by USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Kaplan was honored for his outstanding work on insect predator ecology and plant-insect interactions in specialty crops. Kaplan's research is significant because it may lead to the use of environmentally safe chemical compounds derived from plants. This proactive approach could enhance the impacts of biological control agents to manage crop pests. Kaplan's research was funded through NIFA's Agriculture and Food Research Initiative.
Dr. Joseph Jakes is a research materials engineer at the U.S. Forest Service Forest Products Laboratory and a University of Wisconsin graduate. His expertise is in the development and employment of methodology to understand material properties at the nanoscale. In forest products research, his efforts are leading to improved wood adhesives and the development of new high performance wood-based composite materials, including those utilizing nanocellulose. Ultimately, Jakes' goal is the development of new and improved forest products that lead to the efficient utilization and management of forest resources.
Dr. Christina L. Swaggerty, a member of the USDA ARS Food and Feed Safety Research Unit, College Station, Texas, conducts research to enhance the safety, security and wholesomeness of the U.S. food supply. Swaggerty's research has employed a functional genomics approach to identify key innate immune genes in chickens that are associated with increased resistance against Salmonella and Campylobacter, the two leading causes of foodborne enteritis in the world.
PECASE nominees are selected for their innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology. Nominees show exceptional potential to shape the future through intellectual and inspired leadership. Educational activities reflect a spirit of community service to help understand the nature and implications of scientific research.
Each day, the work of USDA scientists and researchers touches the lives of every American, from the farm field to the kitchen table, from the air we breathe to the energy that powers our nation. USDA science is on the cutting edge, helping protect, secure, and improve our food, agriculture and natural resources. No matter where you look, USDA science is on the cutting edge, helping improve American agriculture, providing insight into our health and nutrition, and protecting our natural resources. For over 100 years, USDA scientists and research funding have supported the farmers and ranchers who produce a safe and abundant food supply for our families.
For more information, visit www.usda.gov.
Jul. 16, 2012, Ottawa, ON - Canadians are confident in Canada's food safety system, according to results from a recent study commissioned by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). Ninety-three per cent of Canadians surveyed expressed a degree of confidence in Canada's food safety system. In fact, 68 per cent gave the system a favourable to strong confidence rating, remaining steady from last year. That is up from 60 per cent in 2008.
Results also indicate that Canadians hold a favourable opinion of the work done by the CFIA.
"Canadians trust this government to protect the safety of Canada's food supply and rightly so," said Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz. "We have experienced, highly-trained personnel at the front lines verifying that industry is following the rules and making safe food."
Economic Action Plan 2012 reaffirmed the Harper Government's strong commitment to food safety by committing $51.2 million over two years to strengthen the food safety system. Furthermore, the new Safe Food for Canadians Act, tabled in June, will simplify, modernize and strengthen food legislation to better protect Canadian families.
The study also found that a growing number of Canadians are recognizing that food recalls are an indication that the food safety system is working. Furthermore, Canadians acknowledge that everyone has a role to play in food safety, including farmers, industry, government, consumers, grocery stores and provincial governments.
Results from the study also show that Canadians have an increased appetite for more information on food safety, particularly food recalls. Consumers are encouraged to sign-up to receive email or twitter notifications of food recall and allergy alerts at www.inspection.gc.ca. In addition, smartphone users can download the Recalls and Safety Alerts Mobile Application. Details on how to download this app can be found at www.healthycanadians.gc.ca.
The final study Food Safety: Canadians' Awareness, Attitudes and Behaviours (POR 029-11) can be found on the Library and Archives Canada's website at:
The results from this study will be used to help the CFIA maximize the effectiveness of its communications and better meet the information needs of consumers.
June 5, 2012, Ottawa, ON - The Government of Canada announced that it is developing a stronger, more comprehensive inspection approach to further strengthen food safety in Canada. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is seeking input from stakeholders on ways that Canada's science-based inspection system can be enhanced.
"We already have a top-tier food safety system but our goal is to be the best," said Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz. "Simply put, we want Canadians to have the safest food in the world. That is why we are seeking input from consumers, inspectors, food safety experts, industry and everyone who has a role to play in food safety."
A discussion document called The Case for Change is now available for comment and stakeholders can submit feedback to the CFIA until July 31, 2012. This feedback will help the Agency draft an improved food inspection approach that will be the subject of continued stakeholder consultation throughout the year in order to refine the suggested approach.
This new, more comprehensive food inspection approach aims to include more consistent oversight and management of risk across all regulated food commodities-whether imported or produced domestically. It will also support the next-generation food inspector with new tools and training.
Currently, industry has to meet the multiple and different requirements of eight separate food commodity programs. Industry will benefit from a more consistent inspection approach across commodities that is adaptable to the size and complexity of their operations. Standardized processes will reduce the duplication and financial burden associated with overlapping requirements.
Enhancing inspection is one component of a larger effort aimed at better positioning the CFIA to manage current food safety challenges and opportunities. For example, the CFIA has also begun steps to prepare needed legislative and regulatory amendments. This initiative follows up on the recommendations made by the Independent Investigator Sheila Weatherill.
Enhancing the inspection system is part of the commitment made in Budget 2011, which provided the CFIA with $100 million over five years to modernize food safety inspection in Canada. In addition to designing an improved inspection approach, the CFIA is using this funding to provide better training and more modern tools to front line inspectors. These efforts are being driven by continued discussions with front-line staff across the country, industry and bargaining agents. To complement the CFIA's enhanced inspection capacity, investments are also being directed toward building additional capacity in CFIA's laboratories.
For more information on the CFIA's The Case for Change to modernize food inspection, visit the CFIA website at www.inspection.gc.ca.
May 4, 2012 - Current research by the USDA is exploring the concept of "DNA barcoding," which allows researchers to be able to identify a species by a specific part of its genome.
According to an article published on the USDA website, the research is exploring potential predators for insects that damage crops such as as wheat, barley and potatoes. The research at the Invasive Insect Biocontrol and Behavior Laboratory in Beltsville, Md., is specifically looking at solutions to the Colorado potato beetle, which is the single most damaging insect pest of potatoes in the Eastern United States.
By analyzing potato beetle remnants in predator guts, the researchers hope to identify the best predators to control the pervasive pest.
For more information, please see the complete article here.
Agriculture Bioscience International Conference Mon Sep 25, 2017 @ 8:00AM - 05:00PM
Third Global Minor Use SummitSun Oct 01, 2017
Canadian Agricultural Safety Association 23rd annual conference Tue Oct 03, 2017
Ontario Invasive Plant Council Invasive Plant Conference and AGMTue Oct 10, 2017
Global Fertilizer Day 2017Fri Oct 13, 2017
Farms.com Precision Agriculture ConferenceWed Oct 25, 2017