Environment
Join us March 13, 2018, at 3:00 p.m. Eastern for an interactive webinar for updates on a special crop sequencing study in Saskatchewan.
Published in Webinars
Canadians looking for the real story about their food can now visit five additional farms and food processing facilities in virtual reality.

Using 360° cameras and virtual reality technology, the FarmFood360° website gives Canadians the chance to tour real, working farms and food processing plants, without having to put on workboots or biosecurity clothing. It’s the latest version of the highly successful Virtual Farm Tours initiative, which was first launched by Farm & Food Care in 2007.

Farm & Food Care teams in both Ontario and Saskatchewan partnered with Gray Ridge Eggs, CropLife Canada, Ontario Sheep Farmers and the Canada Mink Breeders Association to publish new virtual tours of a sheep farm, an enriched housing egg farm, an egg processing facility, a western Canadian grain farm and a mink farm. Visitors can access these tours on tablets and desktop computers, as well as through mobile phones and VR (Virtual Reality) viewers. Interviews with the farmers and plant employees have also been added.

“We know from experience that bringing Canadians to the farm is a highly effective way to connect people with their food and those who produce it. The same certainly goes for food processors. But unfortunately, many Canadians never have the chance to visit either a farm or a food processing facility. Utilizing this new camera technology helps us take this tried-and-true outreach method to a much wider audience,” says Kelly Daynard, executive director of Farm & Food Care Ontario. The website now gets almost a million visitors a year, enabling many more Canadians to visit farms from the comfort of their own home.

These new additions – as well as three dairy farm and food processing tours published earlier in 2017 – were launched as part of an interactive exhibit at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair. More tours will be filmed and added to the FarmFood360° library in 2018.

“So many Canadian farmers grow grain. Touring a Saskatchewan farm that grows crops like canola and wheat showcases the technology and innovation that farmers use every day on their farms,” says Nadine Sisk, vice-president of communications and member services for CropLife Canada. She added, “The videos also highlight the care that grain farmers put into their work, and the food they produce while at the same time ensuring that they take care of the environment.”

Farm & Food Care is a coalition of farmers, agriculture and food partners proactively working together to earn public trust and confidence in food and farming. Find out more at www.FarmFood360.ca or www.FarmFoodCare.org.
Published in Consumer Issues
Engineers at Rice University’s Nanotechnology Enabled Water Treatment (NEWT) Center have found a catalyst that cleans toxic nitrates from drinking water by converting them into air and water.

The research is available online in the American Chemical Society journal ACS Catalysis.

“Nitrates come mainly from agricultural runoff, which affects farming communities all over the world,” said Rice chemical engineer Michael Wong, the lead scientist on the study. “Nitrates are both an environmental problem and health problem because they’re toxic. There are ion-exchange filters that can remove them from water, but these need to be flushed every few months to reuse them, and when that happens, the flushed water just returns a concentrated dose of nitrates right back into the water supply.”

Wong’s lab specializes in developing nanoparticle-based catalysts, submicroscopic bits of metal that speed up chemical reactions. In 2013, his group showed that tiny gold spheres dotted with specks of palladium could break apart nitrites, the more toxic chemical cousins of nitrates.

“Nitrates are molecules that have one nitrogen atom and three oxygen atoms,” Wong explained. “Nitrates turn into nitrites if they lose an oxygen, but nitrites are even more toxic than nitrates, so you don’t want to stop with nitrites. Moreover, nitrates are the more prevalent problem.

“Ultimately, the best way to remove nitrates is a catalytic process that breaks them completely apart into nitrogen and oxygen, or in our case, nitrogen and water because we add a little hydrogen,” he said. “More than 75 percent of Earth’s atmosphere is gaseous nitrogen, so we’re really turning nitrates into air and water.”

Nitrates are toxic to infants and pregnant women and may also be carcinogenic. Nitrate pollution is common in agricultural communities, especially in the U.S. Corn Belt and California’s Central Valley, where fertilizers are heavily used, and some studies have shown that nitrate pollution is on the rise due to changing land-use patterns.

Both nitrates and nitrites are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency, which sets allowable limits for safe drinking water. In communities with polluted wells and lakes, that typically means pretreating drinking water with ion-exchange resins that trap and remove nitrates and nitrites without destroying them.

From their previous work, Wong’s team knew that gold-palladium nanoparticles were not good catalysts for breaking apart nitrates. Co-author Kim Heck, a research scientist in Wong’s lab, said a search of published scientific literature turned up another possibility: indium and palladium.

“We were able to optimize that, and we found that covering about 40 percent of a palladium sphere’s surface with indium gave us our most active catalyst,” Heck said. “It was about 50 percent more efficient than anything else we found in previously published studies. We could have stopped there, but we were really interested in understanding why it was better, and for that we had to explore the chemistry behind this reaction.”

In collaboration with chemical engineering colleagues Jeffrey Miller of Purdue University and Lars Grabow of the University of Houston, the Rice team found that the indium speeds up the breakdown of nitrates while the palladium apparently keeps the indium from being permanently oxidized.

“Indium likes to be oxidized,” Heck said. “From our in situ studies, we found that exposing the catalysts to solutions containing nitrate caused the indium to become oxidized. But when we added hydrogen-saturated water, the palladium prompted some of that oxygen to bond with the hydrogen and form water, and that resulted in the indium remaining in a reduced state where it’s free to break apart more nitrates.”

Wong said his team will work with industrial partners and other researchers to turn the process into a commercially viable water-treatment system.

“That’s where NEWT comes in,” he said. “NEWT is all about taking basic science discoveries and getting them deployed in real-world conditions. This is going to be an example within NEWT where we have the chemistry figured out, and the next step is to create a flow system to show proof of concept that the technology can be used in the field.”

NEWT is a multi-institutional engineering research center based at Rice that was established by the National Science Foundation in 2015 to develop compact, mobile, off-grid water-treatment systems that can provide clean water to millions of people and make U.S. energy production more sustainable and cost-effective. NEWT is expected to leverage more than $40 million in federal and industrial support by 2025 and is focused on applications for humanitarian emergency response, rural water systems and wastewater treatment and reuse at remote sites, including both onshore and offshore drilling platforms for oil and gas exploration.

Additional study co-authors include Sujin Guo, Huifeng Qian and Zhun Zhao, all of Rice, and Sashank Kasiraju of the University of Houston. The research was funded by the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy and the China Scholarship Council.
Published in Consumer Issues
A 20-year study of soil health on P.E.I. is showing an overall decline in organic matter. The study was launched by the provincial Department of Agriculture in 1998. Over the course of three-year cycles soil samples have been taken from 600 sites around the Island and compared over the years. READ MORE
Published in Corporate News
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
A new computer-generated hydrology model of the southern Saskatchewan River basin is giving researchers a better understanding of this unpredictable, and at times deadly, water system.

The model not only takes into account water movement through the river itself, but also how water drains through the surrounding landscape and moves from one point to another on its way to the river. The program can not only account for weather events, prevailing winds, but also evapo-transportation, the affects of prolonged drought and how the different kinds of soil or cropland, down to the bedrock level, create the flow of ground and surface water toward its eventual migration down to the river. For the full story, click here.
Published in Corporate News
Few agricultural technologies capture people’s imaginations as much as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), more commonly known as drones. Since the first day a UAV looked down on a crop field, farmers have dreamed up a million ways that a bird’s eye view and remote access could improve agricultural operations.
Published in Precision Ag
The federal government has proposed tighter restrictions around the two insecticides: clothianidin and thiamethoxam.

Under proposed changes, the product will be banned from some uses such as orchard trees or strawberry patches, and restrictions are on the way for other uses such as on berries and legumes. New measures will also require new labelling for seed treatments.

"Scientific evidence shows that with the proposed restrictions applied, the use of clothianidin and thiamethoxam does not present an unacceptable risk to bees," says Margherita Conti, an official with Health Canada's pest management regulatory agency. | READ MORE
Published in Seed Treatment
Overshadowed by variable rate nitrogen (N), variable rate phosphate (P) is coming to the forefront to help farmers get the biggest bang for the fertilizer dollar, as soils on the Prairies continue to decline in P fertility.
Flea beetles (Phyllotreta spp.) in canola and cutworms continued to be at economical levels in many areas of Manitoba in 2017. Aphids were at high levels and resulted in insecticide applications in small grain cereals, field peas and soybeans.

Diamondback moth (Plutella xylostella) were controlled in many canola fields. Bertha armyworm (Mamestra configurata) got to economic levels in some canola fields in Western Manitoba. Alfalfa weevil (Hypera postica) was at high levels in many alfalfa fields. Thistle caterpillars (Vanessa cardui) caused concern in some soybean and sunflower fields.

'Summary of Insects on Crops in Manitoba in 2017' is a report based on observations from John Gavloski, Ph.D., entomologist with Manitoba Agriculture, as well as his summer students, observations and reports from agronomists, farmers, farm production extension specialists, and extension co-ordinators. To read the full report, click here
Published in Insect Pests
Evidence of feeding in 2017 once again was over a wider range than in previous years. The range of pea leaf weevil activity has expanded dramatically in central Alberta since 2013.

The annual pea leaf weevil (Sitona lineatus L.) survey was carried out in late May and early June, 2017. The 2017 survey was based on damage ratings in 203 fields from 46 municipalities. Survey locations shown with black circles had no evidence of pea leaf weevil feeding on any of the plants assessed. For more information, click here

Related: Keeping an eye on fababean insect pests
Published in Insect Pests
"IDC [iron deficiency chlorosis] was much more of a concern [this year] than in previous years,” says Dennis Lange, pulse specialist with Manitoba Agriculture. Symptoms persisted for 14 to 21 days rather than 10 to 14 in typical years.
Published in Soybeans
Back for its third year, the Grassland Stewardship Program (GSP) will begin accepting applications in early January 2018.

The program supports on-farm conservation activities that benefit Bobolink and other grassland birds at risk, and is piloting the use of Conservation Agreements. GSP is delivered by the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association (OSCIA) and is funded by Environment and Climate Change Canada as part of their Species at Risk Partnerships on Agricultural Lands (SARPAL) initiative.

The Bobolink is a ground-nesting grassland bird that can be found in hay and pasture fields across Ontario. It has been designated as a species at risk both provincially and federally due to its rapidly declining population. “Farmers’ stewardship actions are critical to the survival of Bobolink, which depends to a great extent on farmland for habitat” said Andréa Dubé-Goss, Environmental Programs Manager at OSCIA. “GSP provides funding to support farmers’ efforts to protect and restore agricultural grassland habitat.”

GSP supports four best management practices that play a key role in maintaining Bobolink and other grassland bird habitat, which includes both tame and native hayfields and pastures. Supported practices include: Control of Encroaching Trees and Shrubs through Mowing, Grassland Restoration, Incorporating Delayed Grazing into Rotational Grazing Systems, and Forage Harvest Management (Delayed Haying).

The SARPAL initiative is piloting the use of Conservation Agreements as a mechanism for supporting species at risk recovery through habitat protection on private agricultural lands. Program participants are required to sign a Conservation Agreement with Environment and Climate Change Canada.

Producers who wish to participate can apply online or on paper during two application submission periods:
  • Intake 1: January 10 – February 1, 2018
  • Intake 2: April 9 – May 1, 2018
Projects must be carried out between January 1 and December 15, 2018. The maximum funding available through GSP is $20,000 per farm business. For full program details, please visit: www.ontariosoilcrop.org/oscia-programs/sarpal/gsp.
Published in Corporate News
Severe weather and hail events in field crops seem to be more prevalent over the past few years. In 2015 and 2016, The Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation (MASC) estimated crop-hail loss payments to Manitoba producers from all sources at $54.1 million and $77.7 million, respectively.
Published in Soybeans
The Herbicide Resistance Summit is a bi-annual conference brought to you by Top Crop Manager (TCM) and a group of generous sponsors that aims to facilitate a more unified understanding of herbicide resistance and promote awareness that all industry members have a role to play in managing the growing threat of herbicide resistance.
Published in Herbicides
A need for accurate, current weather data was the reason behind the development of a new weather system that gives farmers access to real-time information.

The AGGrower Daily Dashboard is powered by a network of 80 weather stations in southwestern Ontario that capture rain fall, relative humidity, and wind speed and direction data minute by minute and push it to a farmer-accessible website every 15 minutes.

Project collaborators AGRIS Co-operative, Wanstead Farmers’ Co-op and Haggerty Creek realized a need among their customers for a web-based, field-specific risk management tool based on real-time weather data.

“We talk about weather so much in agriculture – both the forecast and the weather that just occurred play into management decisions,” explains Dale Cowan, Senior Agronomist with AGRIS and Wanstead Cooperatives. “So we got together and decided to build this network to push real time weather data out to customers. We are trying to make extension advice real-time.”

The dashboard lets farmers plot individual fields and remotely access wind and rainfall data from each station to help make decisions about spraying and nutrient management, as well as establishing crop maturity and insect or disease pressure.

“There’s a lot of management advice that comes with the impacts of weather and the growth stages of the crop. We can predict when tasseling is going to occur, for example, and what management should be considered at that time for plant health and nutrition,” Cowan says.

Interest in the subscription-based system has been high, with uptake varied by what farmers want to know. Rain fall and wind data have been big in 2017. Precipitation has been extremely spotty and then very intense in some regions and wind has made spraying a challenge.

Dave Gillespie grows corn, soybeans and wheat in the Thamesville area. His home farm is a weather station host and he is an avid user of the dashboard. This year, it was particularly helpful in managing spraying.

“Often times I need data when I’m out in the field making minute by minute management decisions and now, instead of just seeing what the predicted wind speed and direction is, I can actually login and see what conditions are being logged on the specific fields,” he explains, adding this lets him react quickly to avoid unsuitable spraying conditions.

“We’ve always known there’s a difference in conditions from here to Ridgetown, but now we know exactly how much the difference can be between two spots that are only 10 to 15 km apart,” Gillespie says.

The collaborators accessed Growing Forward 2 funding for both phases of the project – an investigation into feasibility and execution, as well as the actual implementation, which included establishing the weather stations and working with participating farmers to connect them to the network and get them working with the available data.

“If we didn’t have the funding, we likely wouldn’t have started with this venture at all. It was a great tool for de-risking the venture by having assistance up front to help get it developed,” Cowan says.

This project was funded in part through Growing Forward 2 (GF2), a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. The Agricultural Adaptation Council assists in the delivery of GF2­ in Ontario.
Published in Precision Ag
In the Peace River region where production of creeping red fescue, alsike clover and red clover has been a mainstay for many farmers, tighter canola rotations have gradually displaced forage seed production. While this threatens the sustainability of the seed industry, more intense canola rotations may be costing farmers profit as well. That is the finding of a crop rotation study conducted by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) at Beaverlodge, Alta.  
Published in Other Crops
Alireza Navabi is amazed by the wide adaptability of wheat across the world.
Published in Cereals
James Fletcher was a self-educated naturalist who transformed Canada's approach to economic entomology. Over several decades he was able to help Canadian farmers, fruit growers and gardeners better understand the impacts of both beneficial and harmful insects to their crops and businesses.

In early November, Catherine McKenna, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, as well as the Member of Parliament for Ottawa-Centre, commemorated the importance of James Fletcher as a person of national historic significance.

Through his extensive travels across Canada, Fletcher collected plant and insect specimens for identification and established a national network of farmers and gardeners who reported on harmful weeds and insects in their region. For the full story, click here
Published in Corporate News
The initial fires may be out, but one farmer says it will take years for the land to recover from the wildfires that ripped through southwestern Saskatchewan last month.

The fires were fanned by winds measuring up to 130 kilometres per hour, and damaged about 34,000 hectares of land.

Ulrike Hardenbicker, an associate professor in the department of geography at the University of Regina, specializes in soil erosion. She said losing the stubble on one's field could certainly lead to erosion of the soil by water and wind, impacting the soil's quality. For the full story, click here.
Published in Corporate News
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