Future Planning
Researchers have made a significant breakthrough that could make barley more tolerant to waterlogging and wet conditions.

The Western Barley Genetics Alliance announced it had identified new molecular markers to target waterlogging-tolerant genes in barley, while field trials in Western Australia last year showed promising yield results.

The Alliance is a partnership between Western Australia’s Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Murdoch University, University of Tasmania and the Zhejiang and Yangzhou universities in China.

Alliance director Chengdao Li said they worked with two universities in China, which were both located in regions prone to flooding and waterlogging. READ MORE
Published in Genetics/Traits
World demand for food is growing and innovation will help Canadian farmers and food processors meet that demand. The Government is supporting science and innovation in key growth industries, including agriculture, to secure Canada's competitive edge in global markets, increase returns for Canadian farmers, and strengthen Canada's middle class.

On behalf of the entire value chain, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) and Cereals Canada released the 2017 Canadian Wheat Research Priorities Report.

Wheat research priorities were developed through a national collaboration of farmers, federal and provincial governments, private development companies, public research institutions, exporters, and processors to identify the priority areas of research that public, private and producer groups should focus on for the next five years in order to ensure the strength and growth of the wheat industry in Canada.

The research priorities focus on improving wheat yield and reliability, increasing sustainability, and improving food safety such as reducing mycotoxins.

Research will also increase the ability to respond to consumer needs by developing a way to capture consumer preferences and provide this information directly to researchers and purchasers.

"Canada is one of the world's top five wheat exporters with an average of $7B exported annually. This report is a great example of how collaboration between the Government of Canada, Cereals Canada and the sector can be used to identify wheat research priorities that will help respond to the evolving business needs of producers, increase agricultural sustainability and ensure top-quality products for consumers at home and abroad," said Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food.
Published in Cereals
Soil health is the basis of successful crop production. This is why more and more growers are doing the groundwork to preserve and improve this vital part of their operations. Some, however, still avoid it because they perceive it as an economic issue – soil improvement costs money, it doesn’t make money. Not so, say Ontario soil specialists. Crop rotation trials prove if growers take a longer-term view of their operation, there will be economic rewards, yield bumps and an improved crop production environment.
Published in Soil
With a shared passion for the future of Ontario’s agriculture industry, AgScape and 4-H Ontario will co-host Your Future in Agriculture to launch a new leadership certificate course and career competition for Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) students in Ontario.

The October 26, 2017 event at the Mount Forest Sports Complex marks a new partnership between the two organizations to collaborate and share resources and networks to deliver engaging, fact-based information about the agri-food industry to Ontario students.

“There is a natural synergy between 4-H and what we are working towards every day to ensure future consumers are informed and aware of all the opportunities in the agri-food industry,” says AgScape Executive Director Colleen Smith. “Our organizations have been working together for many months to uncover new opportunities to bring ag literacy to more students across the province, and Your Future in Agriculture is the start of a great partnership.”

Your Future in Agriculture is the official launch of 4-H Ontario’s new SHSM Leadership Certificate curriculum specifically designed for SHSM students. AgScape is collaborating to deliver another SHSM component bringing real world, experiential opportunities to explore a variety of agri-food careers. SHSM students from a number of school boards have been invited to participate in the event, with the day split between getting a sample of the 4-H leadership certificate course curriculum and AgScape’s career competition.

Your Future in Agriculture is designed to meet two of the five elements of the SHSM program: sector-recognized certification and experiential learning. Both activities will feature hands-on opportunities to explore aspects of leadership and agriculture industry careers.

“This event is a new way for youth to learn and practice leadership skills in a fun environment”, says 4-H Ontario Executive Director Debra Brown. “Every night, in communities across Ontario, 4-H volunteers run clubs where youth build leadership and life skills. We are pleased to be able to bring this experience to students during a school day.”
Published in Corporate News
The Canada and Manitoba governments have invested more than $880,000 in environmentally-focused projects to improve and protect Manitoba's landscape in partnership with conservation districts and farmers, Federal Agriculture Minister, Lawrence MacAulay, and Manitoba Agriculture Minister, Ralph Eichler, announced today.

A total of 23 projects will receive funding from Growing Forward 2's Growing Assurance – Ecological Goods and Services (EG&S) to enhance riparian areas, build water retention structures, protect sensitive lands with perennial cover and establish grassed waterway buffers. Funding is provided to Manitoba's conservation districts, which then work with local agricultural producers to complete the projects.

Manitoba Agriculture estimates every dollar spent on environmental projects creates a $3 economic spin-off through material purchases, use of local contractors, skilled labour and tax revenues.

"The Government of Canada is proud to partner with Manitoba Agriculture, conservation districts and farmers to support environmental practices to increase productivity and profitability in the agriculture sector and reduce negative impacts on the environment. Investments in initiatives like these not only support long-term prosperity for our farmers, but help improve the health of our ecosystems for future generations," said Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food.
Published in Business & Policy
The Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute (CAPI) and the Canada Institute of the Wilson Center are pleased to co-publish a short piece on approaches to food safety co-operation in Canada and the United States.

With NAFTA renegotiation talks in full swing, it is a critical time for a conversation on protecting and improving our shared food supply chain. As think tanks and think networks, CAPI and the Wilson Center know the importance of good debate and a robust marketplace for ideas. This short piece, written by Rory McAlpine and Mike Robach, encourages just such debate.

"The contents of the piece represent an opportunity for our two organizations to present to our respective stakeholders on the frontlines of Canada-US economic policy some new thinking on important food safety issues," said Don Buckingham, President & CEO of CAPI. "Food safety is not just about consumer protection, it's about enhancing the competitiveness of the Canada-US agri-food supply chain around the world. A well-functioning food safety regime helps to increase global demand for safe and wholesome North American food products."

Laura Dawson, Director of the Canada Institute of the Wilson Center added: "During a period of trade upheaval and fractured supply chains, it is particularly important to bring practical suggestions to the table that will build trade, increase competitiveness and safeguard the protection of consumers."

The short piece is available here: Risk and Reward: Food Safety and NAFTA 2.0
Published in World Outlook
A strong and competitive agriculture sector is vital to Canada's prosperity; creating good jobs, growing the middle class, and bringing high-quality products to the tables of Canadian consumers.

Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities and Member of Parliament for Calgary Centre, Kent Hehr, on behalf of the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lawrence MacAulay, was in Calgary earlier this week to announce our Government is investing $4.4 million to help farmers stay on the cutting edge of innovation, expand markets and manage their business risk.

As part of this investment, our Government has committed $2.2 million to projects that will help support the world-class cattle industry in Alberta and across Canada.

Projects include:
  • $839,485 for the Canadian Cattlemen's Association to explore the use of remote sensing as a tool to insure forage crops.
  • $901,240 to help the Alberta Beef Producers develop satellite data to help improve forage insurance.
  • $255,000 to help the Canadian Angus Association develop tools that will improve better breeding cattle.
  • $205,500 for the National Cattle Feeders Association to develop and implement a national feedlot animal care assessment program.
  • The remaining funds, just over $2.2 million, will support a number of innovative projects that will help market development, emergency planning, competitive pricing, animal care assessments and farm software development.
  • These investments are part of our Government's plan to grow the economy in a way that works for the middle class and those working hard to join it.
"Pasture is the lifeblood of the beef cattle industry and when things go wrong, rapid response and alternatives for feeding the cow herd must be timely. Using satellite measurements on a very localized scale, predictions of pasture productivity field by field, week by week, will be a significant tool for producers' risk management on a yearly basis," said Rob McNabb, Canadian Cattlemen's Association General Manager.
Published in Corporate News
It’s a good time to be entering Ontario’s agriculture and food industry because there are jobs galore.

In fact, there are currently four jobs for every graduate of the University of Guelph’s Ontario Agricultural College (OAC), according to a new report.

“It’s a sector that has to grow no matter what, because people have to eat,” said OAC dean Rene Van Acker. “But it’s also a sector that has a chronic challenge in attracting people.”

Commissioned by OAC, the employment study titled Planning for Tomorrow 2.0 reveals that the agriculture and food industry is thriving but there aren’t enough qualified people to fill all the jobs.

Based on a survey of 123 Ontario employers in the sector, the report provides a snapshot of hiring trends and demands in agriculture and food. The new survey updates a report from five years earlier that found there were three jobs for every graduate of an OAC undergraduate program.

As a national and international leader in agriculture and food, U of G provides a majority of the graduates for this sector in the province, said Van Acker.

He said OAC wanted to update its survey to accurately gauge job demand and see where to focus recruitment efforts and enhance programs.

“It’s great news for students entering and coming out of the programs because of the tremendous demand for their skills and the many opportunities for them. On the other side, it remains a challenge for us at the University to help the sector find the people they need to grow.”

Not only did the report reveal an increase from three to four jobs available for every graduate, but it also found employers predicting even more jobs over the next five years.

With job availability on the rise, OAC is putting more aggressive strategies in place to meet demand. Enrollment in OAC’s programs has grown each year over the past seven years, but not fast enough, said Van Acker.

“We have work to do among potential students to let them know that this sector has great career opportunities, and that employers are looking specifically for people coming out of our programs.”

The college is pursuing new initiatives to inform students about growth prospects in the high-tech food and agriculture sector, said Van Acker.

“You don’t have to grow up on a farm to work in agriculture. There are all sorts of careers in the sector, and with many of them you can work in urban centres and live an urban lifestyle.”

Ippolito Group, one of North America’s leading produce companies based in Burlington, Ont., is exploring automated food processing approaches that require significant technical expertise, said Robert March, chief operating officer.

“We recently utilized U of G people for a project that involved incorporating cutting-edge technology into our production line, and we will be looking to U of G graduates for future projects as well,” said March. “U of G is where we will be sourcing our brainpower.”

Food processors and growers, input suppliers, financial institutions and government agencies were among those surveyed in the report funded by the OAC Dean’s Office, OAC Alumni Foundation, Farm Credit Canada and RBC Royal Bank.

In an effort to promote and grow its programs, OAC plans to strengthen liaison efforts with schools and connect with food companies to create programs geared to the industry, said Van Acker.

“We are so excited about this sector because we know it and understand it. We want to transplant that excitement into young people who are looking for opportunities because there is so much opportunity here.”

Among the survey’s specific findings:
  • 44 per cent of food employers and 56 per cent of agriculture employers project a general increase in the average number of new hires over the next five years.
  • 77 per cent of food employers and 79 per cent of agriculture employers state a preference for formal training in food and agriculture graduates.
  • 50 per cent of food employers and 57 per cent of agriculture employers state that more than half of their employees require or have post-secondary education.
  • 51 per cent of food employers and 67 per cent of agriculture employers report difficulties in finding recruits.
More details on the findings can be found on the OAC website: http://www.uoguelph.ca/oac/about/planning-tomorrow-20
Published in Corporate News
In a presentation to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, the Alberta Wheat Commission (AWC) urged the quick passage of Bill C-49 – historic federal legislation that promises to provide long-term solutions to Canada’s grain transportation issues which have plagued the industry for decades.

AWC’s presentation also recommended amendments to the legislation that would improve the effectiveness of long haul interswitching as a tool to improve railway competition. As currently proposed, AWC believes the new interswitching provisions may be less effective than those enacted under the former Bill C-30.

Overall, AWC is pleased with measures in Bill C-49 – the Transportation Modernization Act, that will help correct the imbalance between the market power of railways and shippers and ensure that the cost of system failures are not passed down the supply chain to farmers.

“AWC appreciates the federal government’s commitment to legislation that will improve railway competition and accountability in Canada,” said Kevin Auch, AWC Chair. “AWC has been pressing for rail reform since our organization began in 2012 and we saw the invitation to speak today as another opportunity to ensure the farmer voice is truly represented as this legislation is developed.”

As a member of the Crop Logistics Working Group (CLWG), AWC also supports a series of suggested amendments that deal with more timely reporting of railway service data and requirements that the railways provide more detailed volume forecasts and operational plans to the Minister at the beginning of each crop year. The CLWG is a regular forum for grain industry stakeholders to identify supply chain challenges and commercial solutions aimed at enhancing the transparency and effectiveness of the grain handling transportation system.

“We see our membership with the CLWG as an excellent opportunity to pass producer feedback directly to Minister MacAulay as it relates to grain movement by rail,” said Auch. “In providing these amendments, we hope to see long-awaited legislation that fosters growth of the agriculture sector and supports Canada’s reputation as a reliable supplier of grain to our international customers.”

AWC encourages the federal government to continue the conversation with Canada’s agriculture sector as it works to develop the regulations to support the spirit and the intention of this legislation that seeks to create a more responsive, competitive and accountable rail system in Canada.
Published in Storage & Transport
A Food Policy for Canada will set a long-term vision for the country's health, environmental, social, and economic goals related to food, while also identifying actions that can be taken in the short-term to improve Canada's food system.

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources, Kim Rudd, along with the Member of Parliament for Guelph, Lloyd Longfield, participated in a regional engagement session in Guelph, Ontario, as part of the ongoing consultations regarding the development of A Food Policy for Canada.

Stakeholders, Indigenous representatives, experts, and key policy makers were invited to join this session, part of a series being held across the country. The sessions began in August in Charlottetown and Saint-Hyacinthe, continuing in September in Vancouver, Yellowknife, and today's session in Guelph, and will conclude at the end of the month in Winnipeg.

Public consultations on A Food Policy for Canada were launched on May 29, 2017, with an online survey that asked Canadians for their input on food issues related to:
  • increasing access to affordable food;
  • improving health and food safety;
  • conserving our soil, water, and air; and
  • growing more high-quality food.
Response to the survey from across the country was strong, with more than 40,000 responses received before it closed on August 31, 2017.

"As Canadians, we know that having a reliable supply of affordable, nutritious, and safe food also depends on maintaining our country's natural resources. As a government, we must support growth and access while conserving the land. That is why I am so pleased to participate in today's A Food Policy for Canada engagement session – taking part in conversations like the one we are having today ensures that we build a Food Policy that reflects what is most important to Canadians when it comes to our food," said Kim Rudd, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources.
Published in Corporate News
Innovative research is shedding new light on grain filling in oat, including the oft-overlooked occurrence of unfilled kernels. The research has overturned some common assumptions about oat grain filling and is opening the way to faster development of higher yielding and better quality oat varieties.
Published in Plant Breeding
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
In response to the Federal Provincial and Territorial (FPT) Agricultural Ministers' commitment to a comprehensive review of Business Risk Management (BRM) programs over the coming year, several agricultural organizations have formalized their structure and plans as the AgGrowth Coalition. The Coalition has committed to advocacy efforts and policy research to position industry as a trusted, authoritative partner in this critical review process.

At a recent meeting in Toronto the Coalition discussed and agreed to a strategy for the path forward in ensuring meaningful participation of industry in the BRM review. Members committed time and resources to guarantee that agriculture has a significant voice in shaping the next generation of farming policy and programs.

To that end, the AgGrowth Coalition is pleased to announce the coalition's Chair, Mark Brock and Vice Chair, Jeff Nielsen. Mark Brock is Chair of Grain Farmers of Ontario and an active corn, soybean, and wheat farmer. Jeff Nielsen is President of Grain Growers of Canada and grows canola, wheat and barley in Central Alberta.

Additionally, the AgGrowth Coalition is undertaking an independent research and policy process – it is the expectation that this will be done in partnership with FPT governments.

"Modern farming is a smart global business supporting strong communities across the country with sustainable practices. It's time to modernize our agriculture programs, reflect the risks that are part of this reality and support the opportunities in front of us," says Mark Brock, Chair of AgGrowth. "This is a rare opportunity to improve agriculture policy and programs to enhance the economic, environmental, and social contributions of farming in Canada."

In cooperation with the Canadian Cattlemen's Association and the Canadian Pork Council, AgGrowth is committed to undertake research and policy development to actively support the BRM review process.

"The AgGrowth coalition has created an industry business risk management committee to conduct research and analysis, develop policy positions and ultimately present options for improvement from a farmer perspective," said vice-Chair Jeff Nielsen. "We would like to do this in partnership with government."
Published in Corporate News
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
To stay viable and competitive despite steadily increasing input costs, farmers need to optimize every input. In the future, most farmers will likely use variable rate input application as one of the key tools to achieve that optimization.
Published in Seeding/Planting
Collaboration, communication and co-ordination are front and centre as Canadian Pacific prepares to deliver best-in-class service in the 2017-18 crop year.
Published in Imports/Exports
Choosing a successor is no easy task. While various family members may have ideas about who’s entitled to inherit the farm, the current owners may have very different ideas about who has the skills to keep the farm going in the long run. 

Throw blended families and in-laws into the mix and the question of succession may not have any clear-cut answers. And, in some instances, the best successor may come from outside the family. How does one decide? | READ MORE

Published in Corporate News
The federal government is encouraging Canadians to share their input to help shape A Food Policy for Canada – a move it calls an "important step in tackling the opportunities and challenges of Canada’s food system."
Published in Corporate News

Small planes have been flying over local farms and taking aerial photos for decades. Now, individual farmers are able to get an aerial view of a field using a small remote-controlled drone equipped with a camera.

But Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) has been receiving information from a far more sophisticated data collection network for at least the past 30 years, according to Leander Campbell.

Campbell, a geographer who specializes in geomatics, works as a remote sensing specialist with the Earth Observation team at AAFC. He says most of his work is on the AAFC Annual Space-Based Crop Inventory. He gets his data in the form of imagery from satellites and uses it to produce an accurate national crop map.

“The crop map, the one I work on, is at a 30 metre resolution so each pixel is a 30 metre by 30 metre square. It covers all of Canada,” he explains. Campbell adds one of the crops mapped in year one of the crop inventory in 2009 was soybeans. Since then, the data has shown how the crop is spreading west and north on the Prairies.
WTCM30.1 MB soybean 2009 2012
Campbell extracted only the soybean fields (in yellow) from Manitoba crop maps for the years 2009 and 2012.
Photo courtesy of Leander Campbell, AAFC.

The network Campbell gets his data from consists of several international satellites. The American satellite Landsat-8 provides optical data to create crop maps anyone can download. In addition to these data, Campbell’s team also uses microwave data from the Canadian RADARSAT-2 satellite.

The combination of optical and microwave data has been shown to produce more accurate maps than maps created from either single source. These maps are created and validated using data collected by people in the field. For the Prairies, “we have agreements with the provincial crop insurance companies,” Campbell says. “It’s not a perfect system but we’re about 85 per cent and 90 per cent accurate and working to improve that.”

Satellites don’t stay in orbit forever and Campbell says a backup is always an asset. Canada has plans to launch a constellation of three microwave satellites in 2018, the RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM), to gather data that’s even more detailed and precise than what’s available now.

“There are more uses than I ever thought of,” Campbell says. For instance, crop placements, crop monitoring, research, commodity marketing, land use management and even flood forecasting in Manitoba.

Microwave data collected by the European SMOS (Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity) satellite allows Campbell’s team to operationally measure soil moisture in the top five centimetres of soil. He says most people don’t realize the Earth naturally radiates very low-level microwave energy and a satellite in space can pick up the variations in waves. Water absorbs microwave energy. When the microwaves radiate out from the Earth and pass through the soil, some of them are captured by moisture in the soil. 

According to Campbell, in September 2015, Statistics Canada did not do a farmer survey, opting to use AAFC climate data to complete their crop yield forecast. Satellite data can describe how agriculture land is changing or evolving over the years, whether it’s farmland expanding by eliminating small woodlots or urban expansion covering agricultural land. These phenomena can be monitored year over year using the AAFC crop maps.

Campbell has compiled maps that helped document the areas where clubroot is developing in canola. Scott Keller, a farmer from Camrose County in Alberta, contacted AAFC, asking Campbell if he could map Camrose County to determine how often canola was grown in particular fields. Keller wanted to determine which fields grew canola most often, either in a tight rotation over multiple years or in succession, in order to determine if there was a correlation between the escalation of clubroot and the rotation schedule.
Canola crop
Map created by Campbell to monitor canola crop frequency in Camrose County, Alta. 
Photo courtesy of Leander Campbell, AAFC.

That’s just one way satellite data can support crop management. Campbell says he’s confident that as computer technology and Internet costs come down, AAFC will be able to create more products from data because they can monitor specific areas once or several times over a growing season, or over years.

Campbell and his six colleagues who create the crop maps, soil moisture reports and the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) reports have an international presence as well. “I know some of our maps are incorporated into more global crop assessments for global market information, especially the NDVI maps,” Campbell says.

He explains that several nations around the world use satellite imagery to monitor their own crops. They meet on a monthly basis and compare data on major crops like corn, wheat, rice and soybeans through an organization called GEOGLAM. The group’s website states its vision is to “use coordinated, comprehensive and sustained Earth observations to inform decisions and actions in agriculture through a system of agricultural monitoring.” https://cropmonitor.org

Canadian farmers can access existing maps and data products online from the AAFC website. Because these maps are highly detailed, producers may experience difficulty downloading them on devices while in the field, but they can still view them online. According to Campbell, that’s the sort feedback he needs to hear from farmers.

“In our little world we have all these high-end computers and that works fine for us, but it may not be the most practical thing for others,” Campbell says. And, he’s looking forward to finding more ways to help farmers and make the website more user-friendly.

As satellite mapping matures, both farmers and scientists will view agriculture in new ways and Campbell is enthusiastic about the possibilities. “It’s a really exciting time to be in our field,” Campbell says.


This article originally appeared in the June 2016 issue of Top Crop Manager West

Published in Emerging Trends
Farmers are notoriously keen meteorologists, but the weather information readily available to them isn’t always the most precise. That can be a bit nerve-wracking when your livelihood depends on conditions at the beanstalk level.  

In an effort to make weather information more practical for individual farmers, Agris Cooperative Ltd., together with Wanstead Farmer’s Cooperative and Haggerty Creek Ltd. launched the AGGrower Daily Dashboard.

This lets them offer an up-to-the-minute rainfall and temperature data service using 80 automated and 200 manual weather stations.

Wirelessly connected and distributed at 10 kilometre intervals between Essex, Sarnia, Mount Brydges, and the northern shore of Lake Erie, the stations measure rainfall and temperature in their immediate area.

Gathered data is then fed back to a central database, which farmers can access through their computer or mobile device. The difference, though, is that those measurements can be taken by the metrerather than the kilometre.

Dale Cowan, a senior agronomist and sales manager with Agris and Wanstead Farmers Cooperatives, described AgGrower Dashboard as a “precipitation weather data network” that makes very specific weather information “available to farmers in real-time.”

Such information, he said, helps farmers make immediate management decisions that reflect the needs of each individual field.

“No one wants to get information from a paper three weeks after they could have used it,” Cowan said. “The Dashboard lets you make growing decisions when it matters, with notifications coming right to your phone or tablet.”

The Dashboard is designed to help all aspects of crop production. Farmers can adjust planting schedules to take advantage of drier parts of their farm during damp conditions, adjust pesticide applications based on what stage of growth the plants are in, or time fertilizer application more precisely to ensure nutrients stay where they are needed – something particularly important for farms near Lake Erie and its issues with algae.

It’s another way, according to Cowan, that farmers can develop an effective, multi-faceted nutrient and pest management plan, and generally manage resources in a more economical and environmentally sustainable way.   

This is the first year AGGrower Dashboard is operational, with each of the 80 weather stations installed in the summer of 2016. Farmers looking to access the database have to register and log onto the AGGrower Dashboard website, and there is a $250 per year charge for access.

Cowan said once they are in, though, farmers simply plot their fields, or request the company to transfer their field boundaries from the database and they can start receiving personalized data and notifications to help them plan their individual growing schedules.

The AGGrower Dashboard project is supported by Growing Forward 2 (GF2), a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. The Agricultural Adaptation Council assists with GF2 delivery in Ontario.
Published in Corporate News
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