Environment Protection
A seed treatment is a vital and effective product, so long as it stays on the seeds where it can do its work. When it is released into the surrounding environment, however, it can cause significant political and environmental concern.
Published in Seed Treatment
The Government of Saskatchewan recently approved a new recycling program for agricultural grain bags. The program, set to launch this month, provides a responsible option for producers to return these large, heavy bags for recycling and to prevent environmental harm from open burning or improper disposal.

The recycling program will be operated by Cleanfarms, a non-profit environmental stewardship organization, and regulated by The Agricultural Packaging Product Waste Stewardship Regulations, which came into effect in July 2016.

With the assistance of funding from the Ministry of Agriculture, Cleanfarms will establish 20 grain bag collection sites in 2018, with more sites planned for 2019.

The Ministry of Agriculture funded a grain bag recycling pilot program from 2011 to 2017, operated by Simply Agriculture Solutions. Through the program, 4,209 metric tonnes of material was shipped to recyclers – equivalent to approximately 28,000 grain bags.

The new program will include an environmental handling fee of $0.25 per kilogram, which will be paid at the point of purchase effective November 1, 2018.
Published in Storage & Transport
More than 75 people gathered to honour fifth generation farmers, Brooks & Jen White of Borderland Agriculture of Pierson, Man., as Manitoba’s Outstanding Young Farmers for 2018. The winners were announced at the Manitoba regional event held at the Fort Garry in Winnipeg on March 3.

Brooks and Jen White were proud to take over the family grain farm and bison ranch in 2012 located in SW Manitoba. Their farm name, Borderland Agriculture, represents the boundaries of their farmland with the southern edge resting on the US border and the western side creeping into Saskatchewan.

By implementing their vision statement of “Regenerate”, they have taken an approach towards regenerative agriculture. They focus on regenerating their soil by promoting environmental growth, through their regenerative production system. They also regenerate their business by following their business plans while continuing their education to improve their operation. Finally, they regenerate agriculture by contributing back to the agricultural community through industry groups as well as their local community wherever they can.

Brooks and Jen’s goal for the future is growth in terms of integration and profitability rather than size. They feel there is value to be found in multiple profit centres from the same acres so they are integrating their bison herd more with their crop land. This improves their soil health while at the same time growing better crops and healthier, more productive bison with their main goal being grazing bison for 365 days a year.

The Manitoba Region of Canada’s Outstanding Young Farmers Program welcomed Minister of Agriculture Ralph Eichler and Deputy Minister of Agriculture Dori Gingera in attendance to honour two couples at their 2018 Regional Event. The couples recognized were:

Amy & Jamie Bell- Birtle, Man.
And winners Brooks & Jen White-Pierson, Man.

About Outstanding Young Farmers' program
Celebrating 38 years, Canada’s Outstanding Young Farmers’ program is an annual competition to recognize farmers that exemplify excellence in their profession and promote the tremendous contribution of agriculture. Open to participants 18 to 39 years of age, making the majority of income from on-farm sources, participants are selected from seven regions across Canada, with two national winners chosen each year. The program is sponsored nationally by CIBC, John Deere, Bayer, and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada through Growing Forward 2, a federal, provincial, territorial initiative. The national media sponsor is Annex Business Media, and the program is supported nationally by AdFarm, BDO and Farm Management Canada.

Canada’s Outstanding Young Farmers for 2018 will be chosen at the National Event in Winnipeg, MB from November 29 – December 3, 2018.
Published in Corporate News
For Dan Breen, soil is a living, active bio-system that needs protecting. It’s like the “skin” of the earth, he believes, and much like people cover their bare skin when going outside in the winter, fields too need covering to protect them from the elements.

The third generation Middlesex County dairy farmer, who farms with his wife, daughter and son-in-law near Putnam, has been named the 2018 Soil Champion by the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association (OSCIA). The award is handed out annually to recognize leaders in sustainable soil management.

Breen had just bought the 100-acre family farm from his parents in late 1989 when he faced a major decision: replace the operation’s worn-out tillage equipment or come up with a different strategy.

A chance encounter introduced him to an emerging new cropping system—and in spring 1990, Breen made his first attempt at no-till, planting 40 acres of corn with a used two-row planter he’d modified. He’s been gradually growing his farming business ever since, today farming 300 owned and 500 rented acres.

“I treat the rented acres like the ones I own and that’s crucial. It’s all about stewardship so whether you own or rent, you have the responsibility to do the best things you can,” he says. “Nature is in balance and we mess up that balance with excessive tillage, taking out too many nutrients, or not providing biodiversity, so we need to provide a stable environment as we go about our farming practices.”

His typical rotation involves corn, soybeans, wheat, and cover crops, which he started planting 12 years ago. About 100 acres are rotated through alfalfa and manure is spread between crops when favourable soil and weather conditions allow.

“The only acreage that doesn’t have year-round living and growing crop is grain corn ground. I try to keep everything green and growing all the time and never have bare ground,” he says, following the motto, keep it covered, keep it green, keep it growing.

According to Breen, no single activity will result in healthy soil and there’s no set recipe for farmers to follow due to the variability of soil type, topography and climate. Instead, it’s important to consider what crop is being grown, what it needs, and what the nutrient levels and biological activity of the soil are.

“A true no-till system is more than just not tilling, it is biodiversity, water retention, and nutrient cycling,” he says. “When I first started no-till, it was just to eliminate tillage, now it is to build a whole nutrient system—cover crops weren’t even on the radar when I started farming.”

One of the pillars of his soil success over the years has been a willingness to try new things—as long as they support the goal of building stronger, more stable soil—and adapting to what a growing season brings.

To other farmers considering a switch to no-till, Breen recommends perseverance to keep going when success looks doubtful, strength to resist naysayers, and starting the transition gradually, such as with no-till soybeans after corn, and then no-till wheat after soybeans.

“It’s a considerable honour and it’s humbling to win this award. It’s not something I was looking to achieve—I do what I do because I love it,” he says. “As a farmer, I’ve had an opportunity to be a caretaker of this land, but I only have tenure for a blip in history. I hope I leave it in better shape than when I found it—and I hope my daughter and son-in-law will do the same thing.”
Published in Soil
The Manitoba government has launched a consultation focused on agricultural Crown lands, to ensure upcoming policy changes reflect the views of the livestock industry while improving fairness and transparency in the system, Agriculture Minister Ralph Eichler has announced.

A consultation document released today highlights a number of areas to provide input on including:
• possible limits on how much agricultural Crown land a person or farm entity can hold under a lease or permit,
• what additional eligibility criteria should be considered to hold a lease or permit,
• design considerations of a forage tendering process, and
• appropriate terms for the length of forage leases and renewable permits.

The public consultation document is available online at gov.mb.ca/agriculture under Surveys and Consultations. The deadline to submit comments is April 6.

The new Agricultural Crown Lands Leases and Permits Regulation was introduced in December 2017 and deals with forage leases, hay and grazing permits, and cropping leases. As of Jan. 1, agricultural Crown lands for grazing and haying will be made available through a tendering system, consistent with how these lands are accessed for other uses such as growing crops.

The minister noted the system will ensure prices paid by producers for these leases and permits will more accurately reflect their market value. He added the shift to a tendering system for all agricultural Crown lands is expected to be in place for fall 2018.
Published in Corporate News
PartnerRe Ltd. today announced an innovative deal with Farmers Edge, a global leader in decision agriculture, that will help insurers to close the insurance gap among farmers across all continents.

This exclusive, four-year agreement between Farmers Edge and PartnerRe brings together precision farming technology and agriculture insurance in a landmark deal that will fundamentally advance the $5 trillion global food and agriculture industry.

Under the terms of the agreement, PartnerRe and Farmers Edge will jointly develop new agriculture insurance products in main crop growing areas worldwide, aimed at addressing the specific needs and challenges of farmers.

For farmers, the insurance product with integrated precision-farming capabilities will improve the efficiency and sustainability of their operations, and will enable them to obtain insurance, which is customized to their individual needs and parameters. Insurers will also benefit from a more efficient loss adjustment process.

The Farmers Edge platform is a comprehensive turnkey system that includes: variable rate technology, soil sampling and analysis, field-centric weather monitoring, in-field telematics and data transfer, daily satellite imagery, data analytics, predictive modelling, access to integrated farm management platform and real boots on the ground. Leading the development and application of new technologies on the farm, Farmers Edge allows farmers to collect, store and transfer data, enabling them to make advanced management decisions and measure results.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
The rate of degradation of soils in Canada has slowed, but it still is happening at a significant rate and there is still a lot to learn.

There are no soil-perfect systems yet for crop production, attendees at the Summit on Canadian Soil Health held recently in Guelph heard repeatedly.

No-till farming has declined in Ontario, creating more chance for soil erosion and degradation, mostly because it is difficult to consistently and easily get similar yields from no-till compared to fields that have some tillage. For the full story, click here
Published in Soil
A group of international scientists is meeting in the national capital to try to convince parliamentarians there is no longer any doubt that common agricultural pesticides are proving toxic to ordinary honey bees.

Jean-Marc Bonmatin of the French National Centre for Scientific Research, represents a task force on pesticides within the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which in 2015 released a comprehensive review of more than 1,100 peer-reviewed research studies on neonicotinoids. READ MORE
Published in Insecticides
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