Field Crops
Biochar from recycled waste may both enhance crop growth and save health costs by helping clear the air of pollutants, according to Rice University researchers.

Rice researchers in Earth science, economics and environmental engineering have determined that widespread use of biochar in agriculture could reduce health care costs, especially for those who live in urban areas close to farmland.

Biochar is ground charcoal produced from waste wood, manure or leaves. Added to soil, the porous carbon has been shown to boost crop yields, lessen the need for fertilizer and reduce pollutants by storing nitrogen that would otherwise be released to the atmosphere.

The study led by Ghasideh Pourhashem, a postdoctoral fellow at Rice’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, appears in the American Chemical Society journal Environmental Science and Technology.

Pourhashem worked with environmental engineering graduate student Quazi Rasool and postdoc Rui Zhang, Rice Earth scientist Caroline Masiello, energy economist Ken Medlock and environmental scientist Daniel Cohan to show that urban dwellers in the American Midwest and Southwest would gain the greatest benefits in air quality and health from greater use of biochar.

They said the U.S. counties that would stand to save the most in health care costs from reduced smog are Will, La Salle and Livingston counties in Illinois; San Joaquin, San Diego, Fresno and Riverside counties in California; Weld County in Colorado; Maricopa County in Arizona; and Fort Bend County in Texas.

“Our model projections show health care cost savings could be on the order of millions of dollars per year for some urban counties next to farmland,” Pourhashem said. “These results are now ready to be tested by measuring changes in air pollutants from specific agricultural regions.”

Pourhashem noted the key measurements needed are the rate of soil emission of nitric oxide (NO), which is a smog precursor, after biochar is applied to fields. Many studies have already shown that biochar reduces the emissions of a related compound, nitrous oxide, but few have measured NO.

“We know that biochar impacts the soil nitrogen cycle, and that’s how it reduces nitrous oxide,” said Masiello, a professor of Earth, environmental and planetary science. “It likely reduces NO in the same way. We think the local impact of biochar-driven NO reductions could be very important.”

The Rice team used data from three studies of NO emissions from soil in Indonesia and Zambia, Europe and China. The data revealed a wide range of NO emission curtailment — from 0 per cent to 67 per cent — depending on soil type, meteorological conditions and the chemical properties of biochar used.

Using the higher figure in their calculations, they determined that a 67 per cent reduction in NO emissions in the United States could reduce annual health impacts of agricultural air pollution by up to $660 million. Savings through the reduction of airborne particulate matter — to which NO contributes — could be 10 times larger than those from ozone reduction, they wrote.

“Agriculture rarely gets considered for air pollution control strategies,” said Cohan, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering. “Our work shows that modest changes to farming practices can benefit the air and soil too.”

Medlock is the James A. Baker III and Susan G. Baker Fellow in Energy and Resource Economics and senior director of the Center for Energy Studies at Rice’s Baker Institute for Public Policy and lecturer of economics.

The research was supported by the NASA Air Quality Applied Sciences Team, Rice’s Shell Center for Sustainability and the Baker Institute.
Published in Corporate News
All soils are not equal. Rich loams support the world's most productive agricultural regions, including swaths of the American Midwest. But in some parts of the Midwest, including areas in Missouri and Illinois, claypan soils dominate. And where claypans reign, problems for producers abound. New research from the University of Missouri could help claypan farmers improve yields while saving costs. | READ MORE
Published in Fertilizer
Winter wheat can be a great crop to include in your rotation. Winter wheat will typically out yield spring wheat by 20 per cent or more, depending on growing conditions, and is normally harvested several weeks before spring wheat.
Published in Seeding/Planting
The agriculture and agri-food sector is a key growth industry in Canada, contributing over $100 billion annually to the economy and employing 2.3 million Canadians.

Ministers of Agriculture reached agreement today on the key elements of a new federal, provincial, territorial (FPT) agricultural policy framework during the Annual Meeting of Federal, Provincial and Territorial Ministers of Agriculture held in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, from July 19-21.

The Canadian Agricultural Partnership, a five-year, $3 billion investment, will come into effect on April 1, 2018. It will strengthen the agriculture, agri-food and agri-based products sector, ensuring continued innovation, growth and prosperity. In addition, producers will continue to have access to a robust suite of Business Risk Management (BRM) programs.

The Canadian Agricultural Partnership will focus on six priority areas:
  • Science, Research, and Innovation – Helping industry adopt practices to improve resiliency and productivity through research and innovation in key areas.
  • Markets and Trade – Opening new markets and helping farmers and food processors improve their competitiveness through skills development, improved export capacity, underpinned by a strong and efficient regulatory system.
  • Environmental Sustainability and Climate Change – Building sector capacity to mitigate agricultural greenhouse gas emissions, protect the environment and adapt to climate change by enhancing sustainable growth, while increasing production.
  • Value-added Agriculture and Agri-food Processing – Supporting the continued growth of the value-added agriculture and agri-food processing sector.
  • Public Trust – Building a firm foundation for public trust in the sector through improved assurance systems in food safety and plant and animal health, stronger traceability and effective regulations.
  • Risk Management – Enabling proactive and effective risk management, mitigation and adaptation to facilitate a resilient sector by working to ensure programs are comprehensive, responsive and accessible.

Under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, BRM programs will continue to help producers manage significant risks that threaten the viability of their farm and are beyond their capacity to manage. Governments responded to industry concerns regarding eligible coverage under AgriStability, ensuring a more equitable level of support for all producers. Highlights of upcoming BRM changes are available at Canadian Agricultural Partnership - Business Risk Management Programs.

Governments further committed to engaging in a review that explores options to improve BRM programming. The review will recognize the important role played by all programs (AgriStability, AgriInvest, AgriInsurance) in the risk management plans of producers given the diversity of the sector. The review will also directly involve producers and have an early focus on market risk, including as it relates to AgriStability addressing concerns regarding timeliness, simplicity and predictability. Ministers will be presented with options in July 2018 for consideration based on early findings of the review.

The agreement reached by ministers today sets the stage for FPT governments to conclude bilateral agreements by April 1, 2018. It is a priority for ministers to implement a seamless transition from the current policy framework to the Canadian Agricultural Partnership. Extensive consultations with industry and Canadians informed the development of the new agreement, which builds on the success of previous FPT agricultural frameworks. Governments will continue to work closely with the sector as Canadian Agricultural Partnership programs are developed and implemented, to reflect the diverse needs across Canada, including the North.

This year’s Annual Meeting of Federal, Provincial and Territorial Ministers of Agriculture focused on important initiatives touching the agriculture and agri-food sector including the status of trade negotiations and market access initiatives in key export markets. To this effect, FPT Ministers reiterated their support for supply management. Ministers agreed to the approach for optimizing the Pan-Canadian Regulatory Framework and endorsed the Plant and Animal Health Strategy for Canada. Indigenous agriculture in Canada and the development of a Food Policy for Canada were also addressed. A summary of items discussed at the meeting is available at Summary of items from the 2017 Annual Meeting of Federal, Provincial and Territorial Ministers of Agriculture. The next annual FPT Ministers' meeting will be held in Vancouver, British Columbia, in July 2018.
Published in Corporate News
It's time to scout for western bean cutworm, especially as moth flight activity climbs in Ontario. Although there are no significant reports of soybean aphids, growers are still urged to scout by OMAFRA. Winter wheat harvest is underway, while growers are reminded to plant cover crops after wheat harvest to minimize the amount of annual weeds going to seed. 

Cereals
Winter wheat harvest has begun throughout southwest Ontario but intermittent rainfall has caused delays. Some farmers in Essex County have finished harvest and initial word is that the quality and yield of the crop has been good. Harvest progress is likely seven to 10 days behind what was observed in 2016, but comparable to the 2015 season.

Post-harvest weed management
A significant amount of annual weed seeds can be produced and dispersed after wheat harvest if the ground is left fallow. In some years, annual weed seed can mature in as little as four weeks after harvest. Planting a cover crop (i.e. oats) after wheat harvest can do a nice job of minimizing the amount of annual weeds going to seed and then allows for an opportunity in the fall to terminate the cover crop and deal with perennial weeds at the same time. If it is not desirable to plant a cover crop, shallow tillage can also reduce the amount of weeds setting seed and will allow the perennial weeds to re-grow so that they can be managed in the fall.

If red clover was inter-seeded into the wheat crop there are a couple of ways that you can knock back annual weed growth so that you can let the clover grow as much as possible and maximize its nitrogen credit. The tried and true method, but most labour intensive, is to “clip” or trim the top of the red clover which will ‘chop off’ the weed seed heads at the same time. More recently OMAFRA and the University of Guelph have experimented with the application of MCPA as a way to manage broadleaf weeds in a red clover cover crop. There are three key learnings from this work:

1) The ester formulation of MCPA causes significantly less plant damage than the amine formulation.
2) Red clover biomass is initially stunted during the first week after application but does recover within two to three weeks.
3) Targeting broadleaf weeds when they are smaller will result in better control. If annual grassy weeds are predominant then the application of MCPA Ester will be insufficient and clipping is a better option to minimize weed seed dispersal.

Corn
Western bean cutworm moths have been found in traps throughout southwestern Ontario. An interactive map of trapping numbers can be found at cornpest.ca. Moth flight activity has indicated that it’s a good time to scout fields for egg masses which have become visible in several fields with some approaching or are above the action threshold of five egg mass per 100 corn plants. Peak flight has not occurred yet in Ontario so to provide the most protection with one application, time the application once threshold has been reached and when there is an ear developing with fresh silks. Download the pestmanager app (pestmanager.ca) to have access to management options for this pest.

Soybeans
There have been no significant reports of soybean aphids, although regular scouting should be done from now until the R6 (full seed) stage of soybean to minimize any yield loss with this pest. The action threshold is 250 aphids per plant, and with actively increasing populations on 80 per cent of those plants when the crop is in the R1 stage until end of R5 stage.

Edible beans
Monitor traps to determine western bean cutworm (WBC) presence in your area and be aware of what WBC infestations are like in adjacent corn fields. Bean fields should be scouted as soon as a pod is developing to spot any pod feeding by WBC. Refer to the moth trapping maps at cornpest.ca to identify areas where moths are actively being trapped.
Published in Corporate News
In parts of northeastern Saskatchewan, excess moisture and high water tables have prevented some growers from seeding certain fields in the Melfort area over the past few years. Water table levels have been monitored in the area since an observation well was installed in 1967, with the highest levels ever recorded in 2014. Water levels declined consistently from the mid-1970s until 2004, when they began to rise significantly through 2014. With the high cost of cropland, growers can't afford to not crop all of their acres.

“In 2014, a local area grower with land adjacent to the Melfort Research Farm contacted us to look into the potential of tile drainage,” explains Stewart Brandt, research manager with the Northeast Agriculture Research Foundation (NARF). “This 40-acre parcel, affected by excess water and salinity, had the Melfort Creek running through the quarter section. With grower investment and some additional funding (supported by the Agricultural Demonstration of Practices and Technologies [ADOPT] initiative under the Canada-Saskatchewan Growing Forward 2 bi-lateral agreement), we initiated a three-year project in the fall of 2014.”

As the first step before undertaking a tile drainage project, the landowner must contact the Saskatchewan Water Security Agency for approval. One of the most important factors is having a plan of where the water discharge from the tile drainage will be released, and to confirm that there is a viable outlet or point of adequate discharge, which means the amount of water being contributed from the tile drainage is insignificant compared with the amount of water flowing in the creek. For this project, the Melfort Creek provided the point of adequate discharge.

“Tile drainage is a long-term investment and requires careful planning and consideration,” Brandt says. “Getting professional design and installation support is recommended and for this project we worked with Northern Plains Drainage Systems Ltd. from Manitoba, who provided the design, engineering and installation. In late October 2014, we held a half-day workshop followed by a half day in the field learning about tile drainage installation.”

The costs for tile drainage vary depending on soil texture, design and installation requirements. On coarse textured soils, the tiles can be placed quite far apart, reducing costs, but in clay soils, the tiles need to be placed closer together at about 40 feet apart, which requires a lot more tile drainage material. For large areas or entire fields, usually the most efficient and cost-effective design is a parallel installation. In some situations, a targeted design can be installed for smaller problem areas where other parts of the field do not require drainage.

One of the most important components of the installation is developing the initial field elevation map. “Recent advancements in GPS technology have reduced the costs of generating an elevation map substantially,” Brandt says. “Instead of having to have a survey crew out to develop the elevation map, good elevation maps are easily generated with GPS technology, which also improves the efficiency and accuracy at installation. The major cost of the project is actually for the amount of tile drainage materials required and the installation. Typically the materials have had to be imported from the U.S., but more recently, a Canadian supplier is offering the materials.”

Regular monitoring of the tile drainage installation is part of the project and began as soon as the installation was completed in the fall of 2014. The water began to flow as soon as the tiles were installed and continued until freeze-up. It then started again in the spring of 2015. Except for a brief dry spell at the end of June 2015, the tile drain continued to run through the year. A large rainfall event at the end of July 2015 was successfully drained off the field and also reduced some of the salinity impacts at the same time. The rainwater flushed the salts down and out of the drain rather than allowing the salts to be pushed up through capillary action in the soil with excess water. “We monitored electrical conductivity [ECe] levels on the water coming out of the tiles in the fall of 2014, as well as the water in the creek. The initial ECe was 8,000 at the outlet and 9,000 in the creek, meaning the creek was more saline than the tile drains, which was a bit surprising. However, most of the creek flow in the fall is due to subsoil seep into the creek.”

In 2015, half of the field was seeded to canola and the other half, which was badly affected by salinity, was left in the permanent forage stand. Although there isn't previous yield map data for comparison, the canola yields in 2015 appeared to show a good response to the tile drainage. The grower was pleased with the results and removed the remaining permanent forage in the fall of 2015. The entire 40 acres was seeded to barley in the spring of 2016.

“By the end of June 2016, a fairly decent barley crop had been established and the productivity appears to be very good,” Brandt says. “We also have a reference area with two previous years of yield data outside the tile drained project that is badly affected by both salinity and excess moisture for comparison. The grower is very pleased with the results so far and is considering tile drainage installation on another 2,000 acres of cropland as time and investment allow.”

Similar to previous findings in Manitoba, this project is showing several benefits to tile drainage, although some are difficult to quantify in terms of economics. “Removing the excess water not only improves the water use by the crop but it also creates temporary storage for water from rains and spring runoff in the field,” Brandt explains. “It doesn't decrease the total amount of water going into the stream, but it delays peak stream flow after a rain. Other benefits include more timely field operations, earlier start to seeding, less crop drowning out, less compaction and better access, timing and utilization of fertilizers and pesticides. All of these factors have a big impact in particular in areas like northeastern Saskatchewan where we tend to have a very narrow window for seeding and harvest and timeliness of operations is critical.”

Brandt has received a lot of calls about this project and believes it has probably generated the most interest he has ever had on a project. There is lots of interest in tile drainage projects in the area and all along the east side of the province. Planning ahead, getting necessary approvals and being able to plan for installation after harvest if conditions allow are the key.

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Published in Soil
Just like you inoculate legume seeds with a rhizobial inoculant, one day you might inoculate canola seeds with a plant-growth-promoting fungus. Greenhouse experiments in Alberta are showing that a fungus called Piriformospora indica can boost canola performance, providing benefits like increased yields, reduced fertilizer needs, and increased tolerance to cold and drought. Now the research team is testing this promising inoculant in the field.

Piriformospora indica was discovered relatively recently in northwest India, and since then has been found in other parts of the world,” notes Janusz Zwiazek, a professor of plant physiology at the University of Alberta, who is leading the research. Since Piriformospora indica’s discovery about two decades ago, researchers have been learning more and more about this interesting fungus. Zwiazek expects it will likely be classified as a type of mycorrhizal fungi.

He explains that Mycorrhizal fungi are a group of fungi that colonize plant roots, forming mutually beneficial relationships with their hosts. “Mycorrhizal fungi are very common. Probably more than 90 per cent of plant species are associated with mycorrhizal fungi in nature. Especially in soils that are poor in nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen, these fungi can mobilize these nutrients in the soil and make them available to plants. Mycorrhizal fungi can also protect plants against different environmental stresses such as drought, pathogens, and so on,” says Zwiazek.

“But the exception is the family of Brassicaceae, the cabbage family of plants, to which canola belongs. Cabbage family plants typically don’t form mycorrhizal associations. So they don’t have the added benefit that many other plants receive from having these helpful fungi that can do so much good.”

Luckily for canola growers, Piriformospora indica is a bit different from the average mycorrhizal fungus in a couple of ways.

“Researchers have discovered that Piriformospora indica is capable of forming associations with the roots of a number of cabbage family species,” notes Zwiazek.

Also, most mycorrhizal fungi have to be cultured in a plant host, but Piriformospora indica can be grown in a pure culture without a plant host, so it is easier to grow for commercial production of inoculants. And previous research has shown that Piriformospora indica has the ability to provide multiple benefits to host plant species, such as improving nutrient uptake, increasing stress tolerance, improving disease resistance, and enhancing plant performance.

With all those things going for Piriformospora indica, Zwiazek was keen to see how it might work with canola.

The first phase of the project was done in growth rooms where all the environmental conditions, such as temperature, light and moisture, were strictly controlled. The experiments were done under sterile conditions to exclude the possible effects of any other microbes.

“We inoculated canola plants with a fungal culture of Piriformospora indica, and we studied the effects on plant growth under different environmental conditions, which we controlled in the growth rooms,” he says. Zwiazek’s team evaluated the effects of such things as temperature stress, low nitrogen and phosphorus levels, drought and flooding stress, and salinity stress on canola growth characteristics and yields, with and without the fungus.

The biggest challenge in the project’s first phase was to develop a practical way to inoculate canola plants with the living fungus. Zwiazek explains, “In many cases, [commercial] mycorrhizal associations and mycorrhizal technology have failed because it is very difficult to inoculate the plants on a large scale, to maintain the inoculum alive long enough and develop the conditions which could be used on a commercial level and applied in practice.”

After testing various Piriformospora indica inocula and procedures, the project team has developed an innovative inoculum and protocol that are practical for applying the fungus to seeds in commercial operations. They are currently applying for a patent for this technology.

The project’s first phase is largely completed, and the results are very promising.

“The most important findings are that the fungus can colonize canola plants quite easily and quite effectively, and it can be quite effective in increasing the growth and yield of canola, especially under lower phosphorus levels,” says Zwiazek. “Also, the fungus makes the plants more resistant to low soil temperatures and low air temperatures, and to drought stress conditions.”

Now the next step is to see how well Piriformospora indica works under field conditions. So in 2016 the project team started testing the inoculant in field trials.

In these trials, Zwiazek’s team will be looking at the effects of different soil amendments (including different soil organic matter and growth-promoting bacteria) on canola growth and yield, with and without the inoculant. As well, they are doing some tests in collaboration with Mary Ruth McDonald from the University of Guelph and Habibur Rahman from the University of Alberta to see how the fungus affects the canola plant’s ability to resist clubroot and possibly other canola pathogens.

“The results of the greenhouse studies are very exciting. But everything has to be really tested in the field – this is the ultimate test. Hopefully in two or three years we’ll have a pretty good idea of how the fungus performs under field conditions, and how much farmers can actually benefit from it.”

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Funders for this research include the Agriculture Funding Consortium (AFC), Alberta and Saskatchewan canola producer groups, Alberta Innovates – Bio Solutions, and Western Grains Research Foundation.
Published in Other Crops
Leaf yellowing and slow growth is evident in many fields of Ontario soybean. Stressful growing conditions will amplify nutrient deficiency symptoms, insect feeding, and disease symptoms. When plants are already stressed, it’s even more important to manage deficiencies wherever possible. Fortunately, weather conditions over the next four to six weeks are more crucial to seed development than the first half of the growing season. Conditions from now on will play a bigger role in final yield than May or June.

Potassium (K)
K deficient leaves turn yellow along the leaf margins and may cup downward. Lower leaves are affected first. Factors that limit root growth such as dry conditions and sidewall compaction will reduce K uptake. Under dry conditions roots are less able to take up K from the soil even if soil K levels are sufficient. Water logged soils will also inhibit uptake. A soil test is the only reliable way to know if a field is truly low in K or only showing stress-induced potassium deficiencies. It’s also important to note that K deficiency symptoms may indicate soybean cyst nematode (SCN) feeding on the roots. When taking soil samples ask the lab to also test for SCN. It’s difficult to alleviate K deficiency now since foliar products cannot supply enough potassium through the leaf to rectify the problem. A dry application of potash may still be warranted in severe cases. Yield response will depend on the amount of rainfall after application. Generally, fertilizing low testing fields can result in a yield increase of 3 to 5 bu/ac.

Manganese (Mn)
Symptoms of Mn deficiency are interveinal chlorosis (yellowing). Mn is immobile in the plant so symptoms will generally appear on the younger leaves first. One of the most significant factors affecting the availability of Mn is soil pH. As soil pH increases, Mn availability decreases. Deficiencies can also appear on eroded knolls where the pH is higher than the rest of the field. The deficiency is most common on poorly-drained soils, especially clays and silt loams. High organic matter also ties up Mn. Manganese is less soluble in well-aerated soils. This is why compacted areas (wheel tracks) are dark green while the rest of the field goes yellow. A foliar application of Mn works well to rectify the deficiency and can provide a 5 bu/ac yield response in severe cases.

Nitrogen (N)
Nitrogen deficiency in soybeans is usually evident early in the season before N fixation can occur. Soybeans naturally go through a period when leaves turn light green or even pale yellow. This is the period just before the nodules start to supply adequate nitrogen. Once the nodules have established and start providing enough nitrogen, the leaves will turn a dark green colour. If no nodules are present because it’s a first time soybean field and there has been a nodulation failure, an application of urea is warranted.

Phosphorus (P)
Recent trials have demonstrated surprising yield responses to P in soybeans. Traditional thinking was that soybeans do not show a significant yield response to P fertilizer unless soil test values are very low. Visual P deficiency symptoms are rare and difficult to identify even when present. The plants are slow to grow, spindly, and the leaves remain smaller and lighter in colour. However, these symptoms are subtle and usually overlooked. Soil compaction limiting root growth will cause weather induced deficiency. Ontario trials conducted over the last 5 years have shown that when soil tests are less than 20 ppm for P (Olsen) and less than 120 ppm for K, the application of potash by itself only raised yields by 1 bu/ac. When both P and K were applied yields increased by 4 bu/ac. When P soil test levels were less than 20 ppm but soil test levels for K were greater than 120 ppm, the application of P increased yields by 3 bu/ac across in this study. This is strong evidence that phosphorus is a critical component to high yielding soybeans. If soil tests are adequate for either P or K additional fertilizer does not increase yields.
Published in Corporate News
Most eastern Canadian producers have considered whether tile drainage is right for their operations. According to Harold Rudy, executive officer of research and business development for the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association (OSCIA), more than 50 per cent of the agricultural land in southern Ontario is tile drained. In many areas of the province, tile drainage facilitates timely field operations and helps decrease the risk of crop damage during heavy rainfall events.
Published in Other Crops
The majority of crops across the province are developing normally, according to Saskatchewan Agriculture’s Weekly Crop Report. Fifty-six per cent of fall cereals, 64 per cent of spring cereals, 62 per cent of oilseeds and 75 per cent of pulse crops are at their normal stages of development for this time of year. Crop conditions vary greatly across the province and have deteriorated over the past few weeks due to hot temperatures and a lack of rain.

Livestock producers now have 24 per cent of the hay crop cut and 39 per cent baled or put into silage. Hay quality is rated as 17 per cent excellent, 59 per cent good, 22 per cent fair and two per cent poor. Many hay swaths are significantly smaller than normal and pasture growth has been limited.

Although some areas received moisture this past week, many areas still need significant rainfall to help crops develop and replenish the topsoil. Rainfall ranged from negligible amounts in most areas to 80 mm in the Kelvington area. Across the province, topsoil moisture on cropland is rated as two per cent surplus, 41 per cent adequate, 46 per cent short and 11 per cent very short. Hay land and pasture topsoil moisture is rated as three per cent surplus, 32 per cent adequate, 49 per cent short and 16 per cent very short.

High temperatures and a lack of rain continue to damage crops in the province. Many southern and central areas have received less than 100 mm of moisture since April 1; some crops in these areas are short, thin and heading out and/or flowering earlier than normal due to heat stress. Significant rain is needed to help crops fill and hay and pasture to grow.

Other sources of crop damage this week include hail, localized flooding, wind and insects such as alfalfa weevils, painted lady caterpillars and wheat midge. Leaf spot diseases and root rot are also causing some damage.
Producers are haying, scouting for disease and insects, applying fungicides and hauling grain.
Published in Corporate News
Agri-food stakeholders from across the value chain are invited to attend the second annual National Environmental Farm Plan (NEFP) Summit in Ottawa, November 1-2, 2017. As Co-Chair of the NEFP steering committee, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) encourages producers and farm groups to be part of this initiative that seeks to harmonize the many different environmental farm plan programs in Canada.

An Environmental Farm Plan (EFP) is a voluntary, whole-farm, self-assessment tool that helps farmers and ranchers identify and build on environmental strengths, as well as mitigate risks on their operations. A National EFP (NEFP) would not be a replacement program, but rather a harmonization effort across the existing EFP programs nation wide.

Building on an inaugural event held last year, summit attendees will further develop a national standard designed to connect environmentally sustainable practices at the farm level with global food buyers' growing need to source sustainable ingredients.

The NEFP program is well into development, led by a steering committee comprised of participants from across the agri-food value chain. Four sub-committees are working toward developing a national protocol as it relates to data collection, standards and verification, all of which will be supported through comprehensive communications and stakeholder outreach. Summit attendees will hear from each committee, along with subject matter experts, about the progress to-date - information that will further guide steps toward this national standard.

Learn more and register for the 2017 National EFP Summit by visiting nationalefp.ca. The NEFP is always seeking to add to its list of stakeholders involved in shaping this made-in-Canada solution. Interested organizations should contact co-chairs Drew Black or Paul Watson.
Published in Business Management
Anita Brûlé-Babel discusses the economic losses associated with Fusarium, how resistance ratings are developed for seed guides and utilizing risk maps. 

Click here for the full summary of Brûlé-Babel's presentation.

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Top Crop Manager's Herbicide Resistance Summit has been announced! Sign up today for early-bird pricing: https://www.weedsummit.ca/event/registration
Published in Corporate News
The majority of the province received very little rain this past week, ranging from negligible amounts in most areas to 78 mm in the Nipawin area. Many areas remain dry and producers are hoping for rainfall to boost crop development and hay and pasture growth.

Across the province, topsoil moisture on cropland is rated as five per cent surplus, 49 per cent adequate, 37 per cent short and nine per cent very short. Hay land and pasture topsoil moisture is rated as five per cent surplus, 40 per cent adequate, 38 per cent short and 17 per cent very short.

Overall, crops are at their normal stages of development for this time of year; however, there are some crops that are behind due to moisture issues. Twenty-six per cent of fall cereals are in the dough stage while nine per cent of spring cereals are in the heading stage. Two per cent of flax, 30 per cent of canola and mustard and 37 per cent of pulse crops are flowering.

Haying is progressing in the province as livestock producers now have 19 per cent of the hay crop cut and 10 per cent baled or put into silage, according to Saskatchewan Agriculture’s Weekly Crop Report. Hay quality is rated as eight per cent excellent, 54 per cent good, 29 per cent fair and nine per cent poor. Pasture conditions are rated as six per cent excellent, 38 per cent good, 41 per cent fair, 13 per cent poor and two per cent very poor.

Producers are wrapping up in-crop herbicide applications in most areas and starting to apply fungicides. While dry conditions are causing crop stress in most areas, particularly in the south, some areas in the north have issues with wet conditions. Crop damage this week was attributed to dry conditions, wind, insects, localized flooding and hail.
Published in Corporate News
New PowerCore from Dow AgroSciences offers control of a number of key, above-ground corn insect pests Canadian corn growers battle, including black cutworm.
Published in Corporate News

Tractors delivered participants to more than 10 sites at the 23rd annual Southwest Crop Diagnostic Day. The event, which took place July 5 and 6, saw agronomists, producers and industry professionals visiting stations across the University of Guelph’s Ridgetown campus to learn about new research and the implications for crops in Ontario.

Here’s a sampling of some of the topics covered.

Albert Tenuta [Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA)] and Dave Hooker [University of Guelph – Ridgetown (UGR)] took producers through a few different plot sites and discussed planting corn and soybeans in a cover crop. Although cover crops help with soil organic matter, erosion and moisture control, it’s often best to terminate a cover crop in a dry year.

Peter Sikkema and Darren Robinson (both from UGR) tested participants on herbicide injury in both corn and soybean, respectively. Producers saw first-hand the symptoms caused by new and common herbicides.
IMG 1390Peter Sikkema holding a corn plant injured by herbicides.

Chris Brown (OMAFRA) and Doug Young (UGR) did a smoke bomb demo to highlight soil pores and offered tips for managing water movement through soil. Producers were reminded that soil pores (which include macropores, mesopores and micropores) are impacted by different issues such as soil properties (texture, pH), cultivation (tile drainage, crop rotations), external loads (tillage and compaction) and natural processes (biological activity, frost).

Joanna Follings and Anne Verhallen (both from OMAFRA) talked cover crop seeding rates and options for growers. They highlighted research that indicates underseeding red clover into winter wheat leads to an increase of 10 bushels per acre (bu/ac) for corn and five bu/ac in soybean.
Best clover density plotOne of the plots of red clover planted at UGR.

There’s also a nitrogen credit of 85 pounds per acre. Follings offered tips for seeding, since the biggest challenge with red clover is establishment. (A uniform stand of three to four plants per square foot is the minimum number to be considered a good stand.)

Another session offered an overview of trapping technology, scouting tips and management strategies for Western bean cutworm presented by Christina DiFonzo (Michigan State University), Tracey Baute (OMAFRA) and Art Schaafsma (UGR).
IMG 1521The Z Trap is one of the newest Western bean cutworm traps on the market. 

When scouting, DiFonzo says to look at 100 plants (10 plants in 10 different areas, or 20 plants in five areas) every five days when crop is in the pre- to full tassel stages. The threshold to spray is an accumulation of five per cent of plants with Western bean cutworm egg masses or small larvae over a two to three week period.

Dave Bilyea (UGR) covered some lesser-known but potentially problematic weeds for Ontario agriculture. Some of the weeds highlighted include annual bluegrass (which competes with young plants and is tolerant to glyphosate) and dog strangling vine. There aren’t many reports of this vine yet, but it’s very competitive and is toxic to insects and animals, affecting ecology. Another weed to watch is wild parsnip, which makes skin UV-sensitive and results in burns similar to those caused by giant hogweed. With scouring rush (also known as snakegrass), part of the challenge is that the plant has no leaves for contact with any herbicides producers might spray.
IMG 1488Dave Bilyea explains the similarities between Northern willowherb and goldenrod.

Bilyea reminded growers that they can send in weeds for herbicide-resistance testing free of charge. 

Jake Munroe and Horst Bohner (both of OMAFRA) focused on fertilizing soybeans: deficiency symptoms, strategies and new research demonstrating the importance of phosphorus in soybean. 4R nutrient stewardship was also highlighted using the Phosphorus Loss Assessment Tool for Ontario (PLATO).

Ben Rosser (OMAFRA) and Peter Johnson from Real Agriculture had participants digging up corn plants from a variety of plots to discuss the effects of planting dates, depth and staging.
Screen Shot 2017 07 06 at 3.43.48 PMPeter Johnson from Real Agriculture discussing the stages of corn development. 

Hail damage in corn was also discussed using the example of a corn plant damaged just a couple of weeks ago. Although the farmer growing the corn in question thought he should plant something else, there was still new growth in the corn and so he was advised to leave the crop; he would likely only suffer a five per cent yield loss from the hail damage.

Jason Deveau and Mike Cowbrough (both of OMAFRA) highlighted the importance of sprayer clean out and compared two different systems: triple rinsing and continuous rinsing.
IMG 1497Deveau and Cowbrough explaining how a continuous rinse system works.

Growers walked through soybean and tomato plots and saw the level of injury caused when equipment isn’t properly rinsed between spray applications. Although triple rinsing is effective, it takes three times longer to do; the continuous rinse system is not only faster, but also limits operator exposure. The current challenge is adding the pump on the sprayer equipment due to challenges with the computer operating systems.

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Wheat is an important crop in Canada, representing nine per cent of total farm cash receipts in 2015, and averaging 16 per cent of crop receipts in Canada from 2011 to 2015, according to Statistics Canada. And Fusarium head blight caused by Fusarium graminearum is the most important wheat disease. Fusarium head blight also infects barley and is a problem in malt barley production. With increasing corn acreage in Manitoba, there is a greater incidence of ear rot caused by F. graminearum as well.

The first and worst epidemic in Manitoba was in 1993. Since then, Fusarium has slowly spread to new areas across the Prairies, and by 2008, it was commonly found in the Dark Brown and Black soil zones in all three Prairie provinces.

There has been an emergence of new Fusarium populations and shifts in existing populations since 2000. A possible cause is the accidental introduction of isolates from one area to another, or one country to another.

Fusarium head blight is a concern because of the mycotoxins that can be produced by the pathogens. Fusarium graminearum produces two toxicologically relevant groups of mycotoxins. These mycotoxins have major impacts on swine feeding, resulting in poor feed intake and poor growth. Swine feed intake is reduced 7.5 per cent for every one part per million (ppm) of deoxynivalenol (DON) found in the diet.

The first mycotoxin group is the Trichothercens, which includes DON and the acetylated derivatives such as 15-ADON and 3-ADON. The DON mycotoxin is very stable during storage, milling, processing and cooking and doesn’t degrade at high temperatures. The other mycotoxin group in the Trichothercens is Nivalenol (NIV) caused by F. cerealis. It is not a virulent but is 10 times more toxic than DON. This group could become a concern and we don’t have a good monitoring system for NIV.

The second major mycotoxin group is Zearalenone and its derivatives.

The current issues with Fusarium mycotoxins in the Canadian feed supply is that Fusarium pressure in Canada is widespread and may be increasing because of wet seasons that promote the disease. There is also the additional risk of mycotoxin exposure from new feed ingredients such as distiller’s dried grains with solubles (DDGS) that are corn or wheat based. There is an increased risk in livestock feed with DDGS, since DON concentrates in in DDGS by approximately three times.

There appears to be a shift in the pathogen population with 3-ADON becoming more prevalent. This is a concern since 3-ADON makes significantly more toxin that is also more toxic. The LD50 for swine with 15-ADON is 113 milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg) while it is 49 mg/kg for 3-ADON. Analysis conducted by Ward et al in 2008 found that 3-ADON was found in six per cent of Alberta samples tested, 11 per cent of Saskatchewan samples, and 39 per cent of Manitoba samples.

We have looked at genetic chemotyping of DON isolates. On winter wheat, we found 3-ADON accounted for 82.4 per cent of F. graminearum isolates in Winnipeg and 84.6 per cent in Carman, Man. At Melfort, Sask., 3-ADON accounted for 100 per cent of the DON population. Canadian Grain Commission samples of CWRS wheat in 2015 indicated a shift to 3-ADON in the Black and Dark Brown soils zones.

This shift to a greater prevalence of 3-ADON brings new issues in managing the disease because of the increased virulence of 3-ADON. And because of the higher toxin production, there will be new issues at the elevator, in DDGS feeding and at the trade level because of potential downgrading.

The accidental discovery of NIV producing isolates in winter wheat at Carman by Chami Amarasinghe at the University of Manitoba is also a concern. Five of 132 Fusarium isolates were found to be NIV. In these isolates, 65 per cent were identified as 3-ADON, 31 per cent 15-ADON, and four per cent NIV. The presence of NIV is a concern, since it is 10 times more toxic to livestock than DON.

The identification of NIV is a concern because F. cerealis and F. graminearum are very similar and difficult to distinguish from each other. Until 2012, NIV had only been detected in a few barley samples in Canadian grain. However, testing for NIV in Canada is not routinely conducted at grain mills or elevators.

Amarasinghe also investigated the possibility of masked mycotoxins in our grains. These mycotoxins are masked because their structure has been changed in the plant. This process occurs when plants detoxify DON by converting it to DON-3-Glucosides (D3G). Masked mycotoxins are also known as modified mycotoxins and can’t be detected by conventional chemical analysis. However the danger is that gut microbes in livestock digestive systems may be able to convert D3G back to DON.

Findings from Amarasinghe’s research showed Canadian spring wheat cultivars produced D3G upon Fusarium infection, and there were significant differences among wheat cultivars. The susceptible cultivars showed a lower D3G to DON ratio (less D3G content) compared to the moderately resistant/intermediate cultivars. She found the level of resistance might have an effect on the production of D3G during the infection.

Looking into the future, Canadian wheat production may be at greater risk of Fusarium infections. An increase of 3-ADON, the potential for NIV to establish, and masked mycotoxins in our grain may be food safety issues. Additionally, with climate change, there is a possible threat of an increase in mycotoxins or having new mycotoxins such as the new NX-2 population establish.

Historically, in Canada we have seen shifts in the past. In the Great Lakes area, we saw a shift from ZEN to DON in the mid-70s, similar to the shift from 15-ADON to 3-ADON on the Prairies in the 2000s.

There are now some wheat varieties that have resistance to Fusarium in winter wheat and Canadian Spring wheat. Other classes also have varieties that are moderately resistant to Fusarium as well. These are important and should be considered as management tools.

This article is a summary of the presentation "War of the titans: The battle for supremacy in wheat-fusarium interactions," delivered by Dr. Dilantha Fernando, University of Manitoba, at the Field Crop Disease Summit, Feb. 21-22 in Saskatoon. Click here to download the full presentation.

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Published in Diseases
Purdue University scientists released research findings that indicate corn management processes contributing to optimal levels of plant nitrogen (N) uptake could result in fewer nitrous oxide emissions, long identified as one of the most potent greenhouse gases.
Published in Corporate News
Worker and queen honeybees exposed to field realistic levels of neonicotinoids die sooner, reducing the health of the entire colony, a new study led by York University (Your U) biologists has found.
Published in Corporate News
Fertilizer Canada and the federal and provincial governments, through the Growing Forward 2 (GF2) framework, have awarded contributions of $24,000 and $100,000 (respectively) to eight producer-led Agriculture-Applied Research Management (Agri-ARM) sites in the province of Saskatchewan. The sites will implement 4R Nutrient Stewardship (Right Source, Right Rate, Right Time, Right Place) demonstration projects in order to increase awareness and adoption of the program among local producers.

Project concepts were submitted to the GF2-funded ADOPT (Agriculture Demonstration of Practices and Technologies) program which supports local demonstration projects to provide Saskatchewan producers and ranchers the opportunity to evaluate new practices and technologies under local conditions. Funding for GF2 is provided on a 60/40 basis through the federal and provincial governments.

4R Nutrient Stewardship is a science-based system that tailors the use of fertilizer products – essential plant nutrients like nitrogen, phosphate, potash and sulphur – from farm field to farm field to create optimal soil nutrient conditions for growing specific crops. By applying the right source of fertilizer at the right rate, the right time and at the right place, the system is proven to improve and protect soil quality, increase crop yields and reduce unwanted nutrient losses to the environment.

Last year, Fertilizer Canada and the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture signed a Memorandum of Cooperation (MOC) to solidify both parties' shared commitment to protecting and conserving the province's soils, improving nutrient management and supporting sustainable agriculture. This MOC was a catalyst for creating opportunities to host 4R demonstration projects in the province.

Agri-ARM's sites enable producers to enhance their knowledge and pilot innovative and sustainable Best Management Practices (BMPs) through 4R Nutrient Stewardship demonstration projects. Each of the eight sites will host three or four demonstration projects, including field tours and outreach to local producers, under three main theme categories: Demonstrating 4R Phosphorus Principles in Canola, Demonstrating 4R Nitrogen Principles in Canola, and Demonstrating 4R Nitrogen Principles in Wheat.

Implementing these 4R demonstration projects in Saskatchewan is another positive step toward Fertilizer Canada's goal of obtaining 20 million 4R acres – acres of farmland managed by 4R Nutrient Stewardship – by 2020.
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The torrential rains that have pelted down in June are putting crops in jeopardy in the Holland Marsh.
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