Biosecurity
Last year, Ontario had its first-ever detection of clubroot symptoms in canola. On the heels of that discovery came an even more unsettling surprise – a survey found the pathogen scattered across the province’s main canola-growing areas and this year, the symptoms are showing up in more fields.
Published in Canola
Two of the most commonly used insecticides around the world are imidacloprid (neonicotinoid) and chlorpyrifos (organophosphate). In a new paper, published in the journal Scientific Reports, they have been found to be toxic to seed-eating songbirds, even affecting their migration. 

University of Saskatchewan biology professor Christy Morrissey stated in a press release, “Studies on the risks of neonicotinoids have often focused on bees that have been experiencing population declines. However, it is not just bees that are being affected by these insecticides.” | READ MORE
Published in Insecticides
It doesn’t matter how you look at it, clubroot is an ugly threat to the Canadian canola industry.

The disease does unsightly things to the plant, producing galls and deformities that will effectively choke it to death.

The effect of clubroot on yield is just plain nasty — yields can be reduced to zero.

Plus, the fact that the only effective control is abstinence from growing canola, which is typically one of the biggest cash earners on Prairie farms, is causing some ugly confrontations between farmers and their local governments. For the full story, click here
Published in Diseases
When learning from agronomists and farmers about their experience with managing glyphosate resistant Canada fleabane, there is consensus that multiple strategies are needed and that simply tank-mixing another mode of action will not be a good long-term approach. Since 2016 we have evaluated different management tactics for Canada fleabane. READ MORE
Published in Weeds
In 2016 the milder winter conditions resulted in early leaf and stripe rust infections in Tennessee and Kentucky. This resulted in rust spores being blown into Ontario earlier than we typically see. By mid-May 2016, stripe rust was prevalent in most areas of southwestern Ontario.

Growers who selected tolerant varieties or applied a foliar fungicide were able to keep the disease at bay. However, growers that selected susceptible varieties and did not apply a foliar fungicide saw significant yield reductions where the disease was present.

In 2017, stripe rust again arrived early in southwestern Ontario and was found in one field in Essex County the first week of May. Although we have not historically seen stripe rust at significant levels in Ontario in the past, it is important to have a plan in place in 2018 for managing this disease. For the full story, click here
Published in Diseases
Invasive plant species can pose a serious problem for farmers. The lack of native competitors or predator species often allows invaders to spread virtually unchecked, so a minor challenge can quickly become a major problem facing farmers across a large area. With a lot of time, effort and resources, the spread of some invasive plants can be checked and in some instances, the plants can be entirely eradicated from an area.
Published in Weeds
Blackleg levels on the Prairies have been going up, but research information on blackleg races and cultivar resistance, plus a new cultivar labelling system and a new diagnostic test, can help bring those disease levels back down.
Published in Diseases
Biochar from recycled waste may both enhance crop growth and save health costs by helping clear the air of pollutants, according to Rice University researchers.

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.
Published in Corporate News
Agri-food stakeholders from across the value chain are invited to attend the second annual National Environmental Farm Plan (NEFP) Summit in Ottawa, November 1-2, 2017. As Co-Chair of the NEFP steering committee, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) encourages producers and farm groups to be part of this initiative that seeks to harmonize the many different environmental farm plan programs in Canada.

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.
Published in Business Management
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.
Published in Weeds
OSCIA has announced the return of the BadgerWay Program for 2017, with applications now being accepted for eligible projects initiated on or after April 1, 2017. BadgerWay is part of the Species at Risk Partnerships on Agricultural Lands (SARPAL) initiative funded by Environment and Climate Change Canada, and supports farm habitat for the American badger, a species at risk in Ontario.

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.
Published in Corporate News
Results from a flurry of studies over the past decade indicate certain plant-associated bacteria and other biological particles can play a part in ice formation in clouds, leading to precipitation. One possible implication is that in the future, farmers might grow specific crops to produce those particles in order to increase rainfall in drought-affected areas – although many questions would need to be answered before this could become a reality.
Published in Corporate News
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
Published in Corporate News
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.
Published in Harvesting
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.
Published in Soil

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:

  • Seeds/transplants
  • 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. 

For example:

  • 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
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Published in Seeding/Planting

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.

 

Published in Diseases
Sept. 13, 2013 - Western Canadian grain producers are harvesting their crops, and some are planting winter wheat. Because producers may be handling seed and harvested grain at the same time, there is a risk that treated seed may contaminate harvested grain intended for delivery.

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
Limits and restrictions in grain handling
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.

Published in Storage

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.

 

Published in Diseases
May 9, 2013, Ottawa, ON - The federal government has released a national biosecurity standard designed to protect bees from pests and disease.

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.

Published in Corporate News
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