Environment
As swede midge populations continue to rise in Quebec, canola growers are looking for better ways to manage the pest. Entomologist Geneviève Labrie is leading a two-year research project to help advance integrated management strategies for swede midge.
Published in Insect Pests
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
Bees can provide a helping hand to farmers with a new green technology to fight against major fungal diseases such as sunflower head rot and grey mould.
Published in Diseases
Most experts agree food production will need to double by the time Earth’s population grows to nine billion people by 2050. This is a challenge that motivates scientists the world over and Australian crop scientist and plant nutritionist Peter Kopittke is no exception.

The young scientist spent a few days this past summer in the heart of Canada’s wheat belt working on the problem of aluminum toxicity in acidic soil. It’s a problem that affects wheat growers in many parts of the world although not in Saskatchewan, home to the CLS, where Kopittke spent an intense 36 hours earlier this year.

Globally, it is estimated that acid soils result in more than US$129 billion in lost production annually. In Western Australia, farmers lose A$1.5 billion annually because the aluminum in the soil destroys the root system, killing the plant. For the full story, click here
Published in Soil
Soil characteristics like organic matter content and moisture play a vital role in helping plants flourish. It turns out that soil temperature is just as important. Every plant needs a certain soil temperature to thrive. If the temperature changes too quickly, plants won’t do well. Their seeds won’t germinate or their roots will die.

“Most plants are sensitive to extreme changes in soil temperature,” said Samuel Haruna, a researcher at Middle Tennessee State University. “You don’t want it to change too quickly because the plants can’t cope with it.”

Many factors influence the ability of soil to buffer against temperature changes. For example, when soil is compacted the soil temperature can change quickly. That’s because soil particles transfer temperatures much faster when they are squished together. When farmers drag heavy machinery over the soil, the soil particles compact. Soil temperature is also affected by moisture: more moisture keeps soils from heating too quickly.

Research has shown that both cover crops and perennial biofuel crops can relieve soil compaction. Cover crops are generally planted between cash crops such as corn and soybeans to protect the bare soil. They shade the soil and help reduce soil water evaporation. Their roots also add organic matter to the soil and prevent soil erosion. This also keeps the soil spongy, helping it retain water.

But Haruna wanted to know if perennial biofuel and cover crops could also help soils protect themselves from fluctuating temperatures. Haruna and a team of researchers grew several types of cover and perennial biofuel crops in the field. Afterwards, they tested the soils in the lab for their ability to regulate temperature.

“I was amazed at the results,” Haruna said. He found both perennial biofuel and cover crops help soils shield against extreme temperatures. They do this by slowing down how quickly temperatures spread through the soil. Their roots break up the soil, preventing soil molecules from clumping together and heating or cooling quickly. The roots of both crops also add organic matter to the soil, which helps regulate temperature.

Additionally, perennial biofuel and cover crops help the soil retain moisture. “Water generally has a high ability to buffer against temperature changes,” said Haruna. “So if soil has a high water content it has a greater ability to protect the soil.”

Although Haruna advocates for more use of cover crops, he said it’s not always easy to incorporate them into farms. “These crops require more work, more financial investment, and more knowledge,” he said. “But they can do much for soil health.” Including, as Haruna’s research shows, shielding plants from extreme temperature changes.

“Climate change can cause temperature fluctuations, and if not curtailed, may affect crop productivity in the future,” he said. “And we need to buffer against these extreme changes within the soil.”

Haruna hopes to take his research from the lab and into the field. He says a field experiment will help him and his team collect more data and flesh out his findings

Read more about Haruna’s research in Soil Science Society of America Journal. A USDA-NIFA grant funded this research (Cropping Systems Coordinated Agricultural Project: Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation in Corn-based Cropping Systems).
Published in Seeding/Planting
Eric Kaiser has spent a lifetime transforming 14 former Loyalist settlement properties into a large, productive egg and field crop farm business – and always with a singular focus on the environment and innovative, sustainable soil conservation practices.

His efforts have earned him the 2017 Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association (OSCIA) Soil Champion Award, which is handed out annually to recognize leaders in sustainable soil management.

“There is no one practice that defines conservation farming, it’s a management system and every component has a part to play,” says Kaiser, who has a civil engineering degree from the Royal Military College. “Sustainability has many components, but the preservation of top soil must be the final result.”

Kaiser bought his first 300 acres in 1969; today, the now-1,300 acre Kaiser Lake Farms is owned by his youngest son Max. It’s on the shores of the Bay of Quinte and Hay Bay recreational area that is also the drinking water source for the Kaisers and their non-farming neighbors.

The farm’s heavy soils don’t drain water well naturally, so Kaiser has spent decades minimizing soil erosion by installing diversion berms, dams and surface inlets to control surface water and direct it into the underground tile system. Using a map he keeps track of all the agronomic information he’s gathered on the farm since 1986, including soil tests, and pH, organic matter and phosphorous levels.

“We’re egg farmers so we have manure to spread, which comes with big soil compaction concerns if we travel on fields with heavy equipment,” Kaiser says, adding that’s why he built laneways and grass waterways throughout the farm long before this became a recommended Best Management Practice.

Kaiser farmed conventionally until the mid-1980s, which meant regularly working the soil, but became an early Ontario adopter of no-till production to reduce erosion risk and maintain soil health – seeding his crops directly into the stubble of last year’s plants without plowing the soil.

He has also experimented with many different cover crop varieties for more than 30 years, ultimately settling on a few that do well on their land, like barley, sorghum, tillage radish, oats, peas and sunflowers. Cover crops improve soil health by boosting its organic matter and nitrogen levels.

Constant change, too, is part of Kaiser’s approach to farming; for example, there’s not a single piece of equipment on the farm that hasn’t been modified and improved somehow to be better suited to the unique needs of their land.

“We never do the same thing every year, but we do the things we think are important for this farm,” says Kaiser. “We hope to keep this place sustainable in the future; we need to be more productive so we need to be more sustainable.”
Published in Corporate News
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
OMAFRA recently released 'New Horizons: Ontario's Draft Agricultural Soil Health and Conservation Strategy' for public input.

Soil is a vital natural resource and the foundation of agricultural production. The many benefits of a healthy soil are important - underpinning the long-term sustainability of the farm operation, our agri-food sector and our environment.

What is a healthy agricultural soil? Essentially it refers to a soil's ability to support crop growth without becoming degraded or otherwise harming the environment.

While a soil can be degraded through particular practices, the good news is that many best management practices (BMPs) can build back and safeguard soil health.

The draft strategy builds on the vision, goals, objectives and concepts presented in the 2016 'Sustaining Ontario's Agricultural Soils: Towards a Shared Vision' discussion document.

It also builds on the extensive soil health efforts of agricultural organizations and OMAFRA. It was developed in collaboration with the agricultural sector, and it reflects feedback received during public engagement on the discussion document, from farmers, Indigenous participants and other interested groups and individuals.

OMAFRA would like to hear your thoughts and feedback on the draft strategy. Your input will help guide the development of a final Soil Health and Conservation Strategy for Ontario which will be released in spring 2018.

For more information, click here
Published in Soil
Birds, butterflies and especially bees have found a welcoming home at Antony John's farm near Guelph, Ontario, named "Soiled Reputation". John's dedication to biodiversity and creating habitats for pollinators can be seen in every aspect of his farm, and the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA), the Canadian Forage and Grassland Association (CFGA) and Pollinator Partnership are happy to announce that he is the winner of the 2017 Canadian Farmer-Rancher Pollinator Conservation Award.

The award recognizes the contributions of Canadian farmers in protecting and creating environments where pollinators can thrive.

John has also been active in spreading awareness of pollinator health and encouraging practices to support biodiversity. He hosts both private and public farm tours, and also hosted a television show on the FoodTV channel for several years. In addition to carrots and leeks, his fields and greenhouses yield at least 50 different organic vegetables used primarily for gourmet salad mixes. The farm supplies produce to restaurants, markets and homes, both locally and in the Greater Toronto Area.

It is difficult to single out a single project that earned the award for John, as the entire Soiled Reputation farm is based around one main crop, which he would tell you is "biodiversity". Aspects of the farm that help attract pollinators include:
  • Huge flower gardens and plantings interspersed through crops to provide pollen and nectar
  • 30-foot buffer strips seeded with legumes that are allowed to flower around a 40-acre field
  • A two-acre meadow that is home to over 20 beehives
"Pollinators are an essential component to any farming ecosystem," said CFA president Ron Bonnett. "The innovation that Antony John has shown is an inspiration for many growers looking to enhance pollinator habitats. His projects are incredible examples of how farmers can work to both improve their business and their land's biodiversity."

Over $2 billion of Canadian produce sold annually is reliant on pollinators, including staples like apples, berries, squash, melons and much more. These species are integral to the continued health of both the environment and agriculture sector, and Canadian farmers like Antony John are integral to ensuring that our environment will be healthy for generations to come.
Published in Corporate News
Prairie potholes are usually small in size, but when farmed, these perennially wet spots on the landscape can have outsize implications for the environment and farm profitability.

The Prairie Pothole Region extends from Canada south and east, and through parts of Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa. In Iowa, many potholes are found in the Des Moines Lobe, an area that spans the north-central part of the state, ending around the Polk-Story county line and the vast majority of them are farmed.

These areas in crop fields habitually yield poorly and drag field yield averages down, and they are prone to nutrient loss and leaching, raising questions about the benefits of continuing to grow corn and soybeans in them. For the full story, click here
Published in Seeding/Planting
The Climate Corporation, a subsidiary of Monsanto Company, recently announced at the Farms.com Precision Agriculture Conference, the launch of the Climate FieldView digital agriculture platform into Western Canada for the 2018 growing season.

With Climate’s analytics-based digital tools, more Canadian farmers will be able to harness their data in one connected platform to identify and more efficiently manage variability in their fields, tailoring crop inputs to optimize yield and maximize their return on every acre.

In September 2016, the company first announced the introduction of the Climate FieldView platform in Eastern Canada, where hundreds of farmers across nearly one million acres have been experiencing the value of data-driven, digital tools on their operations.

Now, farmers in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta will have the ability to use the Climate FieldView platform to uncover personalized field insights to support the many crucial decisions they make each season to enhance crop productivity.

“The Climate FieldView platform is a one-stop shop for simple field data management, helping Canadian farmers get the most out of every acre,” said Denise Hockaday, Canada business lead for The Climate Corporation. “Through the delivery of the platform’s powerful data analytics and customized field insights, farmers across Canada have the power to tailor their agronomic practices more precisely than ever before, fine tuning their action plans for the best outcome at the end of the season.”

Over the past year, the Climate FieldView platform had a strong testing effort across many farm operations in Western Canada, enabling the Climate team to further develop the platform’s compatibility with all types of farm equipment and crops, including canola and wheat, to collect and analyze field data from multiple sources.

“Part of the challenge with data is managing all of the numbers and having an adequate cloud system to store and effectively analyze the information,” said farmer D’Arcy Hilgartner of Alberta, who participated in testing the Climate FieldView platform on his operation this season. “The Climate FieldView platform instantly transfers the field data gathered from my farm equipment into my Climate FieldView account, which is especially useful during harvest season because I’m able to see where various crop inputs were used and analyze the corresponding yield. I’ve really enjoyed having this digital platform at my disposal, and I’m excited to see the positive impacts on my business this coming year.”

As Climate continues to expand its digital technologies to help more farmers access advanced agronomic insights, additional new data layers will feed the company’s unmatched R&D engine, ultimately enabling the development of valuable new features for farmers in the Climate FieldView platform.

In August 2017, the company announced the acceleration of R&D advancements through the company’s robust innovation pipeline, along with new product features and enhancements to help farmers manage their field variability more precisely than ever before.

Launched in 2015, the Climate FieldView platform is on more than 120 million acres with more than 100,000 users across the United States, Canada and Brazil. It has quickly become the most broadly connected platform in the industry and continues to expand into new global regions.

Climate FieldView Platform Offering in Western Canada

  • Data Connectivity - Farmers can collect, store and visualize their field data in one easy-to-use digital platform through the Climate FieldView Drive, a device that easily streams field data directly into the Climate FieldView platform. FieldView Drive works with many tractors and combines across Canada, in addition to anhydrous applicators and air seeders, helping farmers easily collect field data for the agronomic inputs they manage throughout the season. Recently, The Climate Corporation announced a new data connectivity agreement with AGCO, providing more farmers even more options to connect their equipment to the Climate FieldView platform. In addition to the FieldView Drive, farmers can connect their field data to their Climate FieldView account through Precision Planting LLC's monitors, cloud-to-cloud connection with other agricultural software systems such as the John Deere Operations Center, and through manual file upload.
  • Yield Analysis Tools - With Climate’s seed performance and analysis tools, farmers can see what worked and what didn’t at the field level or by field zone, and apply those insights to better understand field variability by quickly and easily comparing digital field maps side-by-side. Farmers can save regions of their fields in a yield-by-region report and can also save and record a field region report through enhanced drawing and note taking tools, retrieving the report at a later date for easy analysis on any portion of their field to better understand how their crops are performing.
  • Advanced Field Health Imagery - Through frequent and consistent, high-quality satellite imagery, farmers can instantly visualize and analyze crop performance, helping them identify issues early, prioritize scouting and take action early to protect yield. Climate's proprietary imagery process provides consistent imagery quality and frequency by using high-resolution imagery with vegetative data from multiple images, in addition to advanced cloud identification. Farmers can also drop geo-located scouting pins on field health images and navigate back to those spots for a closer look, or share with agronomic partners.
  • Seeding and Fertility Scripting - Farmers can manage their inputs to optimize yield in every part of their field with manual variable rate seed and fertility scripting tools. Through Climate’s manual seed scripting tools, farmers can easily create detailed planting plans for their fields to build a hybrid specific prescription tailored to their unique goals, saving time and improving productivity. Additionally, Climate offers a manual fertility scripting tool, enabling farmers the ability to optimize their inputs with a customized management plan for nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and lime tailored to their unique goals.

2018 Availability and Pricing

The Climate FieldView platform is currently available for purchase in Western Canada on a per-acre basis so that farmers can begin using it on their farms in time for the 2018 growing season. To experience the complete value of the platform throughout the entire growing season, farmers should sign up for a Climate FieldView account by Jan. 1, 2018. For more information about the Climate FieldView platform and pricing, contact Climate Support at 1.888.924.7475 or visit www.climatefieldview.ca.
Published in Precision Ag
The harvest of 2016 left many fields deeply rutted from combines and grain carts running over wet land. Many farmers had little choice but to till those direct-seeded fields in an attempt to fill in the ruts and smooth out the ground. But where it was once heresy to till a long-term no-till field, a few tillage passes won’t necessarily result in disastrous consequences.
Published in Tillage
Agriculture Canada scientist Jeff Skevington, who works with the Canadian National Collection of Insects, says the country has lost a significant amount of its insect biodiversity in recent years based on the results of annual collection samples.

That means a lot of the insects at the bottom of our food chain are dying out, which could have an unexpected, but noticeable impact on the lives of humans. READ MORE
Published in Corporate News
Soil phosphorus (P) occurs in many inorganic and organic forms. Only a very small portion of inorganic soil P is available for plant uptake, with none of the organic forms taken up directly by plant roots. Phosphorus is the most challenging of all the plant nutrients to understand, as it can occur in numerous inorganic and organic forms, and its availability is strongly influenced by various soil chemical and physical factors.
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
Weeks of heavy rain and snow at harvest last fall left western Canadian farmers carrying a devastating 2.5 million acres of field crops unable to be harvested. Though that scenario is an extreme, climate change means anomalous weather may be our new normal. Successful farmers expect the unexpected and know planning in advance for adverse conditions can make a huge difference in ultimate crop returns. With excessively wet weather the reality throughout much of the season for many Ontario producers, at least some growers are already asking how they might minimize moisture-induced harvest losses if the wet weather continues.
Published in Harvesting
Nitrogen can present a dilemma for farmers and land managers.

On one hand, it is an essential nutrient for crops.

However, excess nitrogen in fertilizers can enter groundwater and pollute aquatic systems. This nitrogen, usually in the form of nitrate, can cause algal blooms. Microbes that decompose these algae can ultimately remove oxygen from water bodies, causing dead zones and fish kills.

In a new study, researchers have identified nitrate removal hotspots in landscapes around agricultural streams.

“Understanding where nitrate removal is highest can inform management of agricultural streams,” says Molly Welsh, lead author of the study. “This information can help us improve water quality more effectively.”

Welsh is a graduate student at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry. She studied four streams in northwestern North Carolina. The streams showed a range of degradation and restoration activity. One of the streams had been restored. Two others were next to agricultural lands. The fourth site had agricultural activity in an upstream area.

The researchers analyzed water and sediment samples from the streams. They also analyzed soil samples from buffer zones next to the streams. Buffer zones are strips of land between an agricultural field and the stream. They often include native plants. Previous research showed they are particularly effective at absorbing and removing nitrate.

Welsh’s research confirmed previous findings: Nitrate removal in buffer zones was significantly higher than in stream sediments. “If nitrate removal is the goal of stream restoration, it is vital that we conserve existing buffer zones and reconnect streams to buffer zones,” says Welsh.

Within these buffer zones, nitrate removal hotspots occurred in low-lying areas. These hotspots had fine-textured soils, abundant soil organic matter, and lots of moisture. The same was true in streams. Nitrate removal was highest in pools where water collected for long times. These pools tended to have fine sediments and high levels of organic matter. However, pools created during stream restoration by installing channel-spanning rocks did not show high levels of nitrate removal. Creating pools using woody debris from trees may be more effective than rock structures for in-stream nitrogen removal.

The researchers also tested simple statistical models to understand which factors promote nitrate removal. Bank slope and height, vegetation and soil type, and time of year explained 40% of the buffer zone’s nitrate removal. Similar to the hotspots identified in the field experiment, fine sediment textures, organic matter, and dissolved carbon content were key to removing nitrates in streams.

“Our results show that it may be possible to develop simple models to guide nitrogen management,” says Welsh. “However, more work is needed in terms of gathering and evaluating data. Then we can find the best parameters to include in these models.”

Welsh continues to study how stream restoration influences the movement of water and nitrate removal. She is also examining how steps to increase nitrate removal influence other aspects of landscape management.

Read more about Welsh’s work in Journal of Environmental Quality.

Funding was provided by the United States Department of Agriculture - National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative and the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship.
Precision mapping technology is increasingly user-friendly. In fact, Aaron Breimer, general manager of precision agriculture consulting firm Veritas Farm Business Management, says some precision map-writing software is so simple a producer can segment zones or draw a boundary around a field with little more than the click of a mouse. The challenge is that the maps are only as accurate as the information used to create them.
Published in Precision Ag
Soybean harvest is nearing as most, if not all, soybeans have turned color or dropped leaves.

Fall time is the best time of year to sample and test the soil for soybean cyst nematode, the number one silent yield robber of soybean.

Soybean cyst nematode is estimated to cause over $1 billion annually in the U.S. soybean crop. As of 2017, SCN has been detected in 30 counties in South Dakota.

Some fields have been found to have very high SCN population densities (>60,000 eggs per 100 cc of soil) and therefore the yield loss caused by SCN in such fields is high. READ MORE
Published in Soybeans
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