Production
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
Gone are the days when weather forecasting meant predicting the weather. These days, it’s about so much more: meteorologists can calculate temperature and relative humidity, soil temperature, wind speed and direction, solar radiation, rainfall and lightning risk right at the farm level – or the field level, if you prefer.

“Weather costs a lot of money to a farmer in a given year,” says Guy Ash, chief meteorologist and chief operating officer of Precision Weather Solutions, a Winnipeg-based company. “Weather technology integrates into every aspect of what goes on on the farm. If I can improve my management based on very localized weather tools, those translate into savings, or increased yield and quality.”

Ash has collaborated with Masasah Mkhabela, a research associate at the University of Manitoba’s Department of Soil Science, on a project evaluating thermal time models for forecasting spring wheat development.

“Thermal time refers to the temperature time for the development of a particular crop. We used a number of thermal indexes to look at how well they performed in spring wheat field trials,” says Ash. “There are a host of thermal models, which are typically called ‘growth stage models’ – the growth stage of the crop is what you’re trying to predict.”

The team used site data to evaluate how accurate each model was at predicting crop development.

Ultimately, the growing-degree-day base-temperature zero model (GDD) performed best in the study, over other, more complex models. This research will contribute to the development of ever-more precise tools for forecasting.

Why does this matter in the field? The concept of growth stages is important for producers to know, Ash explains, because crop stage dictates their management scheme for fertilizer, pesticides and irrigation.

Ash says public weather services are no longer adequate to meet the needs of large-scale farming operations, which can spread over many kilometers and land types. Ash says the government’s job, when it comes to weather, is to provide watches and alerts for extreme weather events. But this doesn’t help farm-level management.

“The biggest issue in Canada has been the lack of information at a field level to make management decisions. If you’re relying on data from a few kilometres away that doesn’t really help you,” he says.

Precision Weather Solutions works with producers to perform climatological and meteorological data processing on their farms, turning all of that data into information they can use to schedule farm management tasks. “Whether it’s disease pressure or development of the crop, we’re providing technology and solutions that allows you to do that at a much finer resolution than what’s been available in the past,” he says.

Personalized weather data
In practical terms, what this means is that producers can hire companies like Precision Weather Solutions to install (sometimes multiple) weather stations on the farm – at $2,500 to $3,500 each, depending on the package. Data from the station is immediately available to the farmer, but can also be shared with agronomists.

Farmers Edge, the precision agriculture and independent data management firm that patented Variable Rate (VR) Technology, also offers “personalized weather data” to individual growers, as part of its FarmCommand integrated farm management platform.

“A key principle at Farmers Edge is our focus on field-centric data – the right data to drive precision agriculture going forward, and the weather component is pretty critical to that,” says Patrick Crampton, chief operating officer at Farmers Edge.

In fall 2015, Farmers Edge announced a partnership with The Weather Company (TWC), an IBM business and the world’s largest weather company, which provides Farmers Edge forecasts. “By combining TWC's Forecasts on Demand (FoD) weather forecasting engine with Farmers Edge on-farm weather stations, customers can access hyper local forecasts including 48-hour hourly forecasts and 10 days of daily forecasts, as well as historical weather data to support decisions surrounding their field operations,” says Crampton.

According to Farmers Edge, there is typically a nearly 48 per cent reduction in accuracy of weather stations when they are 20 kilometres away.

“For our Smart Solution services we deploy an advanced weather station on every 2,500 acres of a client’s farm. That provides the density of the weather network to capture critical data to input into the models.”

The FarmCommand platform also performs “passive data collection” via CanPlug telematics installed on field equipment (sprayers, combines, etc.) – including fuel usage, speed, and sometimes live yield data.

The Smart Solution complete data package comes to farmers at the cost of $1.95 per acre on a whole farm basis, says Crampton – available at the touch of a smartphone screen.

The most pressing question, as ever, comes back to actual value on the farm: is it worth it?

Crampton says it is. “Every one of our customers will have one or more stations in 10 years,” he says. “I believe when you look at the integration opportunities of soil information, rainfall modeling, etcetera, the ability to get into predictive yield products is only going to increase the value of the weather station on your farm.”

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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
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
In 2013, two University of Guelph weed scientists began collaborating on alternatives to herbicides for weed control. The report, by Francois Tardif and Mike Cowbrough, was released in 2016.
Published in Weeds
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

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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Published in Corporate News
I work in Manitoba and we’ve been dealing with Fusarium head blight (FHB) for the last 25 years. In the 1990s, Manitoba started seeing severe infections. Those of you who are from Saskatchewan and Alberta, over the last two to three years, have definitely seen what it can be like when conditions are correct for Fusarium head blight infection.
Published in Diseases
The torrential rains that have pelted down in June are putting crops in jeopardy in the Holland Marsh.
Published in Corporate News
Mary Burrows discusses the emerging pulse crop diseases she has seen in her home state of Montana, and what this could mean for western Canadian growers. Burrows also discusses the important of seed treatment in fighting these diseases. 

Click here for the full summary of Burrows' presentation.

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Published in Diseases
In 2016, we conducted field surveys for root rot of pea and lentil in Alberta and Saskatchewan. In Alberta we surveyed 27 lentil and 89 pea fields during flowering, and 67 lentil and 68 pea fields in Saskatchewan.
Published in Diseases
Most soybean and canola acres have been planted across the province, the majority of corn acres are in the V3 to V5 range, and much of the winter wheat crop has progressed beyond the post-flowering stage, according to the latest field report from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. Here's the breakdown by crop, below. 

Cereals

A large majority of the winter wheat crop has progressed beyond the post-flowering stage, and spraying for Fusarium head blight protection has been completed in many regions. Stripe rust is reported to be advancing in some areas in fields that did not receive a fungicide application. Significant yield loss can occur in cases where disease pressure is very high. Fields that received a T1 or T2 herbicide application are reported to be still holding disease pressure back well. True armyworm has been observed in some fields, but not at levels that have required control. Growers are encouraged to watch for head clipping feeding. Clover stands in winter wheat look excellent.

Corn
A large majority of the crop ranges from the V3-V5 stages. In general, growers and agronomists in many areas report that plant stands and crops look great. The exception is some localized, heavier textured soil regions where planting conditions of earlier planted corn may have been pushed, and replanting is occurring. Sidedressing has started or is well underway in many areas. OMAFRA recently completed it’s annual PSNT measurement survey from June 5-6. Average soil nitrate concentrations were 8.0 ppm which is lower than the 11-12 ppm range that has been observed over the past 5 years, suggesting N mineralization may be delayed from the cooler spring. The last year when PSNT survey values were in this range was 2011. With the recent warm weather, growers and applicators are reminded to check corn herbicide labels for maximum temperature restrictions. Of particular note, spraying of hormonal herbicides (ie. dicamba) should be avoided when temperatures are expected to be above 25 C during or after application.

Soybeans
With the exception of a few localized pockets where wet conditions have prevailed and planting continues, the majority of the soybean crop has been planted. The majority of the crop is in the 1-2 trifoliate stage. While stands look reasonable in many cases, some replanting continues in areas which received heavy rainfalls after planting where crusting was evident (particularly on fine textured soils), as well as areas where seedcorn maggot pressure was high and reduced populations. A uniform population as low as 100,000 plants per acre is still considered to provide good yield potential. Planting conditions have been reported to be good for late planted or replanted soybeans. Bean leaf beetles and soybean aphids have been observed in some fields, but at very low populations where control is not warranted. If soybeans are to be rolled after planting, rolling should occur at the 1st to 2nd trifoliate stage where plants are no longer brittle and susceptible to snapping, and ideally in the heat of the day when plants are flaccid. High stand losses can occur when plants are crisp and susceptible to snapping between the emergence and the 1st trifoliate stage. When in doubt, check plants after starting to roll and evaluate the stand for snapped plants which will no longer be viable.

Forages
Growers are reporting excellent yields for first cut hay. First cut hay timed for higher quality has neared completion in many regions. In general, there has been a good weather window for first cut in most parts of the province for both haylage/silage and dry hay, and harvest progressed quickly as a result.

Canola
While a small amount of canola planting was still being reported in some areas up until the end of last week, most planting is complete and the majority of crop across most growing regions is in the 3-4 leaf stage. Swede midge emergence was being reported as early as late May, and was occurring prior to Canola emergence in some fields. Growers are encouraged to place and monitor Swede Midge traps. The control threshold is 20 adults across all traps in a field, and has been met in some fields this spring. Flea beetle pressure has been apparent in some fields, with some control being warranted. As the crop progresses beyond the 3-4 leaf stage, Canola is generally able to keep ahead of feeding. While Cabbage Seed Pod weevil has been observed in some fields, it is not typically an issue until pod set starts.

Edible Beans
Edible bean planting is reported to be nearly complete with an estimated 95 per cent of intended acres planted. Planting progressed very quickly once started, with a large amount of crop planted in a relatively narrow window. Planting conditions have been reported to be good.
Published in Corporate News
The 2016 harvest season was one some growers would like to forget. Unfortunately, the reminder was still there when the snow melted this spring uncovering thousands of unharvested acres that producers had to combine plus get a 2017 crop in the ground. But adversity leads to opportunity and the Western Winter Wheat Initiative (WWWI) encourages producers to seed winter wheat this fall as a way of dealing with unseeded acres that didn’t get planted this spring.

Seeding winter wheat into chemfallow requires different planning than seeding into other stubble. Here are some tips that Janine Paly, WWWI agronomist for Alberta, has for producers to seed winter wheat successfully.

Minimize stubble disturbance/maintain stubble: Standing stubble is a key practice to establish winter wheat as the trapped snow insulates the crop from winter elements. Year-old stubble will break apart easier than stubble from a freshly harvested crop; however, any stubble is better than summerfallow. Minimize traffic over the field to maintain stubble integrity by using the same tracks in spraying operations and avoid harrowing and cultivating if possible.

Line up seed early: Before spring crops are harvested, take advantage of the less busy time and source seed. Plan to have the seed on farm and treated with a seed treatment before planting. Research conducted by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada indicates a seed treatment minimizes seedling disease and can help with winter survival.

Fertility management: Selecting the right source and amount will help ensure your soil has a balanced supply of plant nutrients. It is important to perform a soil test to determine nutrient levels within the field. Winter wheat nitrogen management is different than spring wheat and determining the right timing of nitrogen application will vary depending on your operation. There are a few options: fall-applied, spring-applied or split application, but the method will vary depending on weather, soil moisture, and seeding equipment. Winter wheat has the ability to yield up to 40 per cent more than CWRS with adequate rates of nitrogen.

Seed early: Seeding early is a key factor in establishing a successful winter wheat crop. Plants that enter the winter with three to four leaves have a well-develop crown tissue and a better chance of winter survival. The optimal seeding window across the Prairies is between September 1 and 15. The question that may arise is, “How early can I seed?” It is better to seed earlier than later as producers can get busy with harvest operations and forget to seed within the optimal window. Extra consideration when seeding too early is the risk of disease transfer of stripe rust or wheat streak mosaic virus. If these diseases are of concern, growers can seed a resistant variety, delay seeding (depending on region), or should avoid seeding into conditions with volunteer cereals, or adjacent to a green wheat crop.
Published in Seeding/Planting
When it comes to the economics of growing winter cereals such as winter wheat and hybrid fall rye, the numbers don’t tell the full story. Looking at the three provincial government crop planning guides published for Prairie producers in 2017, winter wheat and hybrid fall rye land somewhere between the fifth and 16th most profitable crops to be grown in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. But set aside the most profitable crops like pulses, canola, sunflower, corn and beans, and winter wheat profitability looks pretty good compared to spring wheat.
Published in Seeding/Planting
Canola stubble has traditionally been the preferred stubble for winter wheat plantings because it can capture snow to insulate the overwintering wheat crop, improving winter survivability. However, some high-yielding canola hybrids have later maturities, presenting a challenge for seeding winter wheat at the optimum time.  
Published in Seeding/Planting
There are both environmental and agronomic concerns surrounding the management of livestock manure. The major environmental concerns are: potential risk of nutrient accumulation in soil – particularly nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) – and risk of nutrient movement into surface or groundwater. Poor manure management can also cause accumulation of salts in soil, surface water or groundwater and pathogenic micro-organisms in surface water.
Published in Fertilizer
What I’d like to give you is a view from my previous careers working in Europe, New Zealand, and now Australia with regards to disease management. I’d like to give you a flavour of some of my impressions of disease management over the last 35 years with reference to getting the balance right with regard to the disease triangle and integrated disease management. 

Where are we in terms of integrated disease management (IDM)? What is IDM all about? Principally it’s about trying to make sure we use all the tools in the toolbox, integrating genetic resistance with chemical fungicides, cultural control and overall crop agronomy. When we sow the crop and how we look after it with nitrogen can profoundly affect how much disease pressure we’re under.

Getting it just right is never going to be easy. What’s happened in Australia? Before 2002, there wasn’t a huge amount of fungicide usage because it’s a much less responsive environment. Then we had an “exotic incursion.” Stripe rust came in from North America, probably on a grower’s boots. That changed the pendulum, from a dependence on genetic resistance to a reliance on fungicides, because, overnight, a huge proportion of all of the germplasm in Australia became susceptible to stripe rust.

Meanwhile in Europe, there was a totally different swing of the pendulum. It was inspired by a new set of varieties, in this case semi-dwarf varieties. With the new cultivars and more nitrogen, crops stayed greener for longer. Suddenly yields increased enormously in the ’70s. Higher yields and longer growing seasons in Europe drove growers to apply more and more fungicide. If you go to Europe now, it’s all about T1, T2 and T3 – Timing 1, Timing 2, Timing 3 with fungicides as a fixed part of crop agronomy. Up until 2005 in Europe, the pendulum had swung very much to the fungicide side of the IDM pendulum.

Slide 6
However, that’s all changed. In Europe, the profound driver for change has been fungicide resistance. Fungicide resistance influences everything that a European grower now does with fungicides. If there’s one thing that I think is really important to take on, it is that fungicide resistance – if it’s not affecting you now, it will be shortly unless you can moderate your use of fungicides.

What’s gradually happened over time is that we’ve got better products with greater activity, but at the same time fewer products based on limited modes of action. There are fewer products that are more and more environmentally benign, but at the same time at greater risk of resistance development. In other words, we’ve moved from multi-site fungicides that killed the fungus in many different ways to single-site fungicides that do less damage in the environment but actually are much more vulnerable to resistance.

Fungicide insensitivity and resistance
Fungicide insensitivity and resistance has occurred principally in two ways. In Europe in the late 1990s and early 2000s, strobilurins, such as pyraclostrobin and azoxystrobin, came along with the biggest media hype since glyphosate. However, after only three to four years, the pathogen causing powdery mildew and then Septoria tritici (now Zymoseptoria tritici) in wheat developed resistance to stobilurins, and that’s been a real challenge ever since. In two to three years, the strobilurins went from being the best products to control foliar diseases in broad acre cereals to products that wouldn’t work against Septoria, a disease that is widespread in northwest Europe. I think that’s when attitudes really changed and people started asking the question, “Is there a different way to control disease?”

Slide 16
We’re in our infancy with fungicide resistance issues in Australia. We can see it in the field with powdery mildew in barley. Our triazole fungicides such as Tilt (propiconazole), Folicur (tebuconazole), Proline (prothioconazole), Prosaro (prothioconazole and tebuconazole co-formulated) don’t work as effectively to control powdery mildew. With Septoria, we’re not yet seeing reduced activity in the field, but the samples are showing insensitivity in the laboratory, so there is increasing threat that we will see resistance to fungicides in the field. 

Europe and triazole use
What has happened in Europe with the triazoles over the last 20 years is that triazole fungicides have gradually become less effective against key diseases, firstly not working as effectively in the lab and then gradually being noted to be less effective in the field. That’s why with triazoles I think it’s important to talk about “fungicide insensitivity” and not “fungicide resistance.”

For example, it’s taken 20 years of exposing the Septoria pathogen population to the triazoles for them to become less effective. They still have activity but are now only 60 to 70 per cent effective when it used to be 90 to 100 per cent. So in Europe the triazoles and the strobilurins become less effective and ineffective for key diseases in a similar time period, but the triazoles had been gradually degrading in their effectiveness over time. 

Therefore with the terminology we use, I think it’s important to recognize we really have three basic modes of action that we use in broad acre cereal disease control – triazoles, strobilurins, and the new SDHIs [succinate dehydrogenase inhibitors].

With the triazoles I think it is probably more appropriate to call it “insensitivity” rather than resistance, since if you say to a grower, “It’s resistant,” the tendency is to think that it won’t work when in reality it is still partially effective.

With regard to the SDHIs, they’re not actually that new since the family of chemistry has been around for 40 years. But a new branch of SDHI chemistry is now taking Europe by storm, as the strobilurins now have less application because of resistance in key pathogens. But after only three years of commercial use with these new SDHIs, resistance is developing quickly in the net blotch and Septoria pathogens.

It’s really important to recognize that fungicide resistance is changing the way in which growers and advisors elsewhere in the world manage their cereal crops. In Australia, growers and advisors are just beginning on that resistance journey. You’ve already had some exposure in Canada to the fact that the strobilurins are at high risk of resistance development in the pathogen.  It begs the question, “What can you do about it?”

Click here for part two: The importance of multiple modes of action and linking pathology with crop physiology.
Published in Diseases
Benson Hill Biosystems, an agricultural technology company unlocking the genetic potential of plants through cloud biology, has announced a partnership with the University of Guelph to develop traits that increase canola yield as part of the Genome Canada Genomic Applications Partnership Program (GAPP). The GAPP, along with provincial co-funding from the Ontario Ministry of Research, Innovation and Science, will provide $2 million towards the $3.4 million project.

The GAPP funds research and development projects that address industry opportunities in order to accelerate the application of genomics-derived solutions and sustainable innovations that are beneficial to Canadians. Canola is a major driver of the Canadian economy representing $7.4 billion in farm cash receipts and over $9 billion in exports, primarily to China, Japan, Mexico and the United States. Canola also serves a critical role in our global food system. Seeds are crushed into a cooking oil that is one of the lowest in saturated fats, making it a popular choice for food services seeking to lower trans fats in their products. The remaining canola meal provides a high protein livestock feed.

Benson Hill, using its proprietary CropOS cognitive computational platform, has identified a portfolio of trait candidates demonstrated to improve photosynthesis, one of the most complex systems in plants that is responsible for all agriculture production. In collaboration with the University of Guelph, researchers will validate these and other trait candidates in canola for further testing and development.

Benson Hill's platform combines vast datasets and biological knowledge with big data analytics and scalable cloud-based computing – an intersection of disciplines known as cloud biology – to predict biological outcomes for any target crop using any genomics tool, from breeding to gene editing to transgenics. The ability to more accurately predict gene targets that are linked to certain phenotypic outcomes with CropOS enables Benson Hill to accelerate identification of promising trait candidates, reducing product development costs and increasing speed to market.
Published in Genetics/Traits
Team Alberta is warning the federal government of serious financial consequences to farmers if they lose the ability to use deferred cash tickets to manage wide variations in their income.

The potential end of the cash ticket deferral system was included unexpectedly as part of the federal government’s Budget 2017. Team Alberta’s submission to the federal finance department’s consultation process summarizes the specific necessity and utility of this tool in farmers’ business planning strategies and tax management.

“We believe that the government has overlooked the severe impact that farmers would face if this tool was no longer available,” said Kevin Auch, Alberta Wheat Commission Chair. “Farmers operate with a high degree of income volatility due to factors beyond our control and the cash ticket deferral mechanism allows us to manage risk and balance our income to ensure we can still remain profitable.”

The government maintains that the cash ticket deferral mechanism is out-dated since the single desk was dismantled in 2012. But Team Alberta points out that farmers have been exposed to the same income volatility regardless of the Canadian Wheat Board’s (CWB) status, facing many of the same risks they did when the mechanism was first introduced in 1973. Data from the Western Grain Elevator Association (WGEA) indicates that the percentage of cash tickets deferred annually has remained fairly stable throughout and following the end of the CWB’s monopoly.

Team Alberta further points out that removing this management tool could hamper Canada’s ability to increase agri-food exports from $55 to 75 billion per year by 2025 as outlined in the recent federal budget.

“Canada’s agriculture industry is poised and ready to meet these targets,” said Jason Lenz, Alberta Barley Chair. “But we will only be able to meet them if the government works with farmers to eliminate barriers that impede growth.”

Team Alberta’s submission provides examples from accounting firm MNP LLP that demonstrate impact on farm businesses – whether partnerships, sole proprietors, or corporate family farms. The information from MNP shows that removal of the deferral option will have a disproportionate and negative impact on farm operations relative to non-farm Canadian businesses of similar sizes.

“The existing policy allowing for deferral of cash tickets is an important tool in ensuring that farm operations, whatever their business structure, are treated fairly relative to other Canadian businesses,” said Greg Sears, Alberta Canola Chair.
D’Arcy Hilgartner, Alberta Pulse Growers Chair said: “We have a responsibility as a country to ensure that our farmers remain profitable and sustainable. The consequences of this proposed policy change would be dire for many Canadian farmers and severely limit the sector’s ability to meet growth objectives.”

Team Alberta’s submission can be viewed online here.
Published in Business Management
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