Environment Research
The Alberta Environmental Farm Plan launched a new updated design for its online tool, the Webbook, which allows producers to complete an environmental farm plan online.
Published in Corporate News
A new publication out of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s (AAFC) Harrow Research Station shows that use of solid manure reduces particulate and total phosphorus (P) loss on tile-drained soil over time, compared to liquid manure and chemical fertilizer.
Published in Fertilizer
Data collected from the Innovative Farmer Association of Ontario's Compaction Action day has been compiled and summarized, and OMAFRA's Ian McDonald explains some of the results in his latest post on FieldCropNews.com. | READ MORE
Published in Soil
Wanted: farmer plant breeders. In a pilot project initiated by Martin Entz with the University of Manitoba’s plant science department, and Stephen Fox of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), organic wheat farmers participated in the selection of organic wheat lines to see how farmer-selected wheat populations compared with conventionally developed registered varieties.  
Published in Plant Breeding
Reducing natural habitats in order to create more acres of farmland may become a regretful practice with negative consequences – including reducing the yield potential of canola and other oilseeds, says Melanie Dubois, research scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) from the Brandon, Man., Research and Development Centre. Dubois recently finished her second field season of a three-year project.
Published in Canola
The rotational benefits of pulse crops in a cereal and pulse rotation are well known. Including pulses in rotation is shown to increase soil available nitrogen (N), improve soil moisture reserves in deeper soil depths, enhance soil microbiology and soil health, and increase yield of a subsequent cereal crop. However, research had not measured to what extent residual soil N and soil moisture contribute to those higher yields.
Published in Pulses
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
What started as a move back to the Ontario family farm for Norm Lamothe turned into a big move forward in crop scouting technology for Canadian farmers.

Lamothe left a 10-year career in the aviation industry to return to be the sixth generation on the family farm near Peterborough. At the encouragement of a neighbouring farmer, Lamothe bought his first unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) or drone in 2015. He had a small group of area farmers already signed up to have a block of acres viewed by the new technology and help share the investment risk.

"We quickly identified the opportunity for farmers to save money and increase their crop yields by mapping their fields to identify areas of stress," says Lamothe.

Word spread and Lamothe was soon looking to expand across Ontario when a chance meeting with David MacMillan took his fledgling UAV imagery business to much higher heights. MacMillan was with a mining company called Deveron, looking to expand into the drone business.

The two created Deveron UAS, a new Ontario-based company dedicated to UAV imagery in the agriculture sector across North America. With 15 pilots and their UAVs, the company is providing aerial crop scouting to farmers from Alberta to the Maritimes, and some parts of the U.S.

For the first time, growers can make in-season decisions about their crop by using UAV imaging.

"We can scout 100 acres in 20 minutes, providing more accurate information than just walking the rows because we see the entire field," says Lamothe. "We measure plant stress using multispectral imaging and are able to see things we just can't see with the naked eye."

Information from the UAV images arms on-the-ground agronomists and scouts to zero in on areas of higher plant stress to make recommendations and adjustments on fertility, pest and decision pressure, or even water usage.

The technology lends itself to variable rate fertilizer application, and that's where Lamothe says customers are seeing the biggest return on investment in corn and wheat.

"We fly a field, take an image and a prescription is written based on the images captured," he says.

The grower then applies nitrogen to fit just what's required for various areas of the field. In high value vegetable crops, the return on investment is similar for fertility, as well as detecting pest and disease infestations.

"The technology is proving its worth through increased yield and decreased input costs - because inputs are matched and used optimally to match the stresses in the field," says Lamothe.

Deveron has recently partnered with The Climate Corp to provide growers with a new option for how and where they store on-farm data generated by UAV imagery.

"Efficiency is going to be a necessity on farms as they get larger and personnel is more difficult to find and retain," says Lamothe. "UAV technology has a big role to play, providing insights to make decisions that will help us grow more food on less acres."



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Published in Precision Ag
Vast amounts of data are being collected on Canada's farms through the advent of precision agriculture technology and the Internet of Things (IOT).

Many types of tools, equipment and devices gather data on everything from crop yields to how many steps an animal takes in a day. However, much of that data is underutilized because it's collected by systems that don't or can't communicate with each other.

The need for better decision-making on farms through better data use resulted in Ontario Precision Agri-Food (OPAF), a partnership of agricultural organizations led by Ontario Agri-Food Technologies (OAFT) that's developing an open agri-food innovation platform to connect and share data.

The goal, according to lead director Dr. Karen Hand of Precision Strategic Solutions, is getting data, wherever it exists (both data repositories in industry or government and data generated by countless sensors) so it can be used to help advance important food production issues like food safety, traceability and plant and animal disease surveillance.

For example, information about the prevalence and control of insect pests like cutworms that damage soybean crops lies with many different people and organizations, including university and government researchers, crop advisors, input suppliers and farmers.

"There is no single spot where all of the information about a particular pest can be accessed in a robust, science-based system and used in decision-making and that's where OPAF's platform will help," Hand says.

Pilot projects are underway with Ontario's grain, dairy and poultry producers to identify their needs in areas like crop protection, sustainability and food safety and how OPAF can provide data-driven solutions to benefit farmers.

"We sit down with farmers, advisors, associations, government and researchers to find out what data they have, where they exist and if we were able to connect them, what value or benefit that would offer participants - either specific to the commodity they are producing or on larger food-related issues such as food safety or impact on trade," she explains.

And OPAF's efforts are gaining global recognition. Earlier this year, Internet of Food and Farm 2020, a large project in the European Union exploring the potential of IOT technologies of European food and farming, recognized OPAF as one of three global projects to collaborate with.

"This is going to be changing the face of data enablement in Canada and contributing globally," says Tyler Whale of Ontario Agri-Food Technologies (OAFT). "We are creating a platform that is the base of something new, and although we are piloting this in Ontario, it will be available nationwide to those who want to use it."

OPAF partners include OAFT, University of Guelph, University of Waterloo, Niagara College, Vineland Research and Innovation Centre, Livestock Research Innovation Corporation, Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, Grain Farmers of Ontario, Ontario Federation of Agriculture, Farm Credit Canada, Ontario Agri-Business Association, Bioindustrial Innovation Canada, and Golden Horseshoe Farm and Food Alliance.

This project was funded by Growing Forward 2, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. The Agricultural Adaptation Council assists with GF2 delivery in Ontario.
Published in Precision Ag
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
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
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
Two innovative research centres at the University of Saskatchewan will bolster their expertise in water security and agricultural technologies thanks to an investment of over $2.7 million from the Government of Canada.

The Global Institute for Water Security will receive more than $1.3 million to establish the Smart Water Systems Laboratory to deliver transformative technological capabilities for water-related observation and data collection. 

The Global Institute for Food Security will receive more than $1.3 million for the creation of the Omics and Precision Agriculture Laboratory (OPAL), which supports state-of-the-art precision agriculture using high-throughput digital phenotyping of crops integrated with genomics data and analysis expertise. For the full story, click here
Published in Corporate News
Researchers at the University of Guelph are finding that Ontario crops can benefit from subsurface drip irrigation. The technology (which is relatively new to the province) is a low-pressure, high-efficiency system that uses buried polyethylene drip lines to meet crop water needs by applying water below the soil surface using micro-irrigation emitters.
Published in Irrigation
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