Environment Protection
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
While the benefits of cover crops for soil health have long been touted by extension staff, it’s been difficult for researchers to determine how exactly cover crops affect the soil. That is until now. In 2016, an elaborate soil health monitoring system – the first of its kind in North America – was installed at the Elora Research Station, near Guelph, Ont.
Published in Soil
The U.S. environmental agency is considering banning sprayings of the agricultural herbicide dicamba after a set deadline next year, according to state officials advising the agency on its response to crop damage linked to the weed killer.

Setting a cut-off date, possibly sometime in the first half of 2018, would aim to protect plants vulnerable to dicamba, after growers across the U.S. farm belt reported the chemical drifted from where it was sprayed this summer, damaging millions of acres of soybeans and other crops.

A ban could hurt sales by Monsanto Co (MON.N) and DuPont which sell dicamba weed killers and soybean seeds with Monsanto’s dicamba-tolerant Xtend trait. BASF (BASFn.DE) also sells a dicamba herbicide.

It is not yet known how damage attributed to the herbicides, used on Xtend soybeans and cotton, will affect yields of soybeans unable to withstand dicamba because the crops have not been harvested.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) discussed a deadline for next year’s sprayings on a call with state officials last month that addressed steps the agency could take to prevent a repeat of the damage, four participants on the call told Reuters.

It was the latest of at least three conference calls the EPA has held with state regulators and experts since late July dedicated to dicamba-related crop damage and the first to focus on how to respond to the problem, participants said.

A cut-off date for usage in spring or early summer could protect vulnerable plants by only allowing farmers to spray fields before soybeans emerge from the ground, according to weed and pesticide specialists.

Monsanto spokeswoman Christi Dixon told Reuters on Aug. 23, the day of the last EPA call, that the agency had not indicated it planned to prohibit sprayings of dicamba herbicides on soybeans that had emerged. That action “would not be warranted,” she said.

The EPA had no immediate comment.

EPA officials on the last call made clear that it would be unacceptable to see the same extent of crop damage again next year, according to Andrew Thostenson, a pesticide specialist for North Dakota State University who participated in the call.

They said “there needed to be some significant changes for the use rules if we’re going to maintain it in 2018,” he said about dicamba usage.

State regulators and university specialists from Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Iowa and North Dakota are pressuring the EPA to decide soon on rules guiding usage because farmers will make planting decisions for next spring over the next several months.

Tighter usage limits could discourage cash-strapped growers from buying Monsanto’s more expensive dicamba-resistant Xtend soybean seeds. Dicamba-tolerant soybeans cost about $64 a bag, compared with about $28 a bag for Monsanto’s Roundup Ready soybeans and about $50 a bag for soybeans resistant to Bayer’s Liberty herbicide.

Already, a task force in Arkansas has advised the state to bar dicamba sprayings after April 15 next year, which would prevent most farmers there from using dicamba on Xtend soybeans after they emerge.

Arkansas previously blocked sales of Monsanto’s dicamba herbicide, XtendiMax with VaporGrip, in the state.

“If the EPA imposed a April 15 cut-off date for dicamba spraying, that would be catastrophic for Xtend - it invalidates the entire point of planting it,” said Jonas Oxgaard, analyst for investment management firm Bernstein.

Monsanto has projected its Xtend crop system would return a $5 to $10 premium per acre over soybeans with glyphosate resistance alone, creating a $400-$800 million opportunity for the company once the seeds are planted on an expected 80 million acres in the United States, according to Oxgaard.

By 2019, Monsanto predicts U.S. farmers will plant Xtend soybeans on 55 million acres, or more than 60 percent of the total planted this year. READ MORE 
Published in Herbicides
Farmers in Alberta are being given the tools to take charge against climate change by adopting on-farm best management practices that are scientifically proven to limit the impacts of agriculture on natural resources like air, water and soil.

Fertilizer Canada is proud to announce the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with the Agricultural Research & Extension Council of Alberta (ARECA) that includes integration of 4R Nutrient Stewardship (Right Source @ Right Rate, Right Time, Right Place®) into the province's Environmental Farm Plan (EFP). This agreement marks a significant milestone on Fertilizer Canada's journey to create truly sustainable and climate-smart agriculture in Canada.

"We are pleased that ARECA has officially recognized 4R Nutrient Stewardship as a best practice for nutrient management on Alberta farms," said Garth Whyte, President and CEO of Fertilizer Canada. "By encouraging farmers across the province to use fertilizer effectively, Alberta is joining the front lines in the fight against climate change and ensuring their place among the world's leaders in sustainable agriculture."

"ARECA is a long-time supporter and promoter of 4R Nutrient Stewardship," said Janette McDonald, Executive Director. "There is no doubt this formalized partnership with Fertilizer Canada will aid us in expanding awareness of the program as a best practice for nutrient management planning."

4R Nutrient Stewardship is a science-based nutrient management system that is universally applicable yet locally focused. By applying the right source of fertilizer at the right rate, the right time and the right place, farmers can ensure nutrients are efficiently taken up by their crops and are not lost to air, water or soil. This increases crop productivity and reduces unwanted environmental impacts.

Managed by ARECA, the province's EFP self-assessment process encourages producers to assess and identify environmental risks on their farms and take action to improve their practices.

"While Alberta's EFPs already include a section on nutrient risks, adding information about the positive long-term benefits of 4R Nutrient Stewardship will expand awareness among the province's farmers," said Paul Watson, EFP Director at ARECA.

As growers in Alberta adopt 4R Nutrient Stewardship under the Alberta EFP, the acres they manage will be counted under Fertilizer Canada's 4R Designation program, which tracks the amount of Canadian farmland using 4R Nutrient Stewardship to boost productivity and conserve resources. Fertilizer Canada aims to capture 20 million 4R acres by 2020 – representing 25 per cent of Canadian farmland – to demonstrate to the world the commitment Canada's agriculture sector has made to adopt climate-smart and sustainable farm practices.

To learn more about 4R Nutrient Stewardship and the benefits it offers, visit www.fertilizercanada.ca

Learn more about the Alberta Environmental Farm Plan and the benefits it offers by visiting www.AlbertaEFP.com
Published in Corporate News
Farm Credit Canada (FCC) is offering support to customers in parts of eastern Ontario and western Quebec facing financial hardship as a result of excessive moisture during this year’s growing season.

Many producers in that area are facing a cash shortfall since they were unable to seed or were forced to replant due to extreme rainfall, while others face additional costs from having to purchase feed as a result of reduced yields of corn, soybeans and hay.

“Agriculture is the only industry we serve, so we have a deep understanding of the challenges that come with the business,” said Michael Hoffort, FCC president and CEO, in announcing the Customer Support Program.

“Excessive rainfall has certainly impacted the growing season in parts of Eastern Canada and, in some cases, caused financial challenges for farm operations, as well as personal hardship and stress,” he said. “We want our customers to know we stand by them and will show flexibility to help them through challenging times.”

FCC will work with customers to come up with solutions for their operation to reduce the financial pressure caused by excessive moisture.

Although FCC customer support is being offered in specific locations, Canada’s leading agriculture lender offers flexibility to all customers through challenging business cycles and unpredictable circumstances on a case-by-case basis.

Customers in Ontario and western Quebec are encouraged to contact their FCC relationship manager or the FCC Customer Service Centre at 1-888-332-3301 to discuss their individual situation and options.
Published in Corporate News
After the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Centre kicked off its shelterbelt program in 1903, the Indian Head Research Station sent out more than one billion free trees to western Canadian producers.
Published in Corporate News
Bumblebees are less able to start colonies when exposed to a common neonicotinoid pesticide, according to a new University of Guelph study.
Published in Insecticides
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