Specialty Production
Winter wheat is a low-input, low-yield crop. True or False?

There’s no market for winter wheat. True or False?

No varieties of winter wheat are suitable here. True or False?

False, to all of them, answers Ken Gross, agronomist at Brandon, Man., for the Western Winter Wheat Initiative (WWWI) and Ducks Unlimited Canada. Those are just three of many myths associated with the fall-seeded, high-potential wheat. Gross runs into myths frequently among growers and at meetings – and likes to bust them with facts. For the full story, click here
Published in Cereals
Marijuana, hemp's narcotic cousin, is the subject of federal plans for expanded legalization.

Degree and diploma aggies interested in producing commercial cannabis and/or hemp will be able to get college-certified starting next year.

Niagara College recently announced it will launch a graduate certificate program in commercial cannabis production in 2018, a program it bills as Canada’s “first post-secondary credential” in the crop’s production.

Niagara picked up approval this summer from Ontario’s Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development to offer the one-year post-graduate program, for students who already have either a diploma or degree from an accredited college or university in agribusiness, agricultural sciences, environmental science/resource studies, horticulture or natural sciences, or an “acceptable combination of education and experience.”

The program, running through the college’s School of Environment and Horticulture, is expected to prepare graduates to work in licensed production of cannabis, whether to produce licensed marijuana for the therapeutic drug market, hemp plants for fibre or hempseed for hemp oil.

“Driven by legislative changes in Canada and abroad, there is a growing labour market need, and education will be a key component of the success of this emerging industry,” Al Unwin, the School of Environmental and Horticulture’s associate dean, said in a release.

The program, he said, “will produce graduates who are skilled and knowledgeable greenhouse and controlled environment technicians who are also trained in all of the procedures, requirements, regulations and standards for this industry.”

Topics to be covered include plant nutrition, environment, lighting, climate control, pest control, plant pathology and cultivar selection as well as regulations and business software applications.

Niagara College said the program will conform to all regulations and requirements, including a “separate and highly secure learning environment/growing facility.” It’s also expected to include a field placement with a licensed producer in its second semester.

Applicants will have to be at least 19 years old by the start of classes, and will also have to undergo a police check “at minimum” to ensure their eligibility to apply for an Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR) license.

The program will run at the college’s Niagara-on-the-Lake campus, where it operates various other agribusiness programs, facilities and research projects.

Roger Ferreira, CEO of Hamilton-based Beleave, Inc., which operates licensed marijuana producer First Access Medical, hailed the college in its release for “having the vision to fill this knowledge gap,” citing “tremendous demand for knowledgeable, skilled workers in this highly technical industry.”
Published in Corporate News
A former potato chip plant is creating new market opportunities and lucrative new crops for the farmers of Prince Edward Island.

Earlier this year, New Leaf Essentials East took over facilities in Slemon Park previously used by Small Fry and Humpty Dumpty to produce potato chips. Now the plant specializes in processing "pulses" – high-protein legume plants like dried peas, beans, lentils, and chickpeas.

They are used in pulse products including starches, proteins, fiber and flour for human and pet food markets, including aquaculture feed. The company also serves export markets worldwide. To read the full story, click here.
Published in Corporate News
Researchers from Agriculture Canada have collected more than 50 samples of wild hops from across the Maritimes. Now they're putting them under the microscope to find which ones will make the best brew.

The team put out the call more than two years ago and the response was overwhelming. The research team is working to find out the exact origin of the hops, through genetic and chemical tests. READ MORE
Published in Cereals
In June of this year, Manitoba Pulse & Soybean Growers (MPSG) organized a seminar to deliver industry knowledge and expertise to groups interested in seeing a soybean crush facility built in Manitoba. This meeting brought together the Westman Group, agriculture consultant Mark Rowe and delegates from Manitoba Agriculture.

This recent burst of interest in local, value-added opportunities for soybean farmers from the private and public sectors is encouraging. It has pulled MPSG into a largely public conversation, drawing on the experience and expertise the association has developed from having worked on the soybean crush file since 2014, when it co-funded a feasibility study looking into the potential for such a plant in Manitoba.

In the interest of transparency surrounding the topic of such a facility, MPSG would like to inform its members that its involvement in these talks is solely focused on serving the best interests of the entire province’s soybean farmers.

“We represent farmers in western Manitoba, farmers in the east, farmers in the north and farmers in the south,” says MPSG Chair Jason Voth. “Soybean acres are increasing and prices are strong. The possibility of a crush plant is an encouraging topic and we’re working hard on the research and market development side to shed light on the correct path. MPSG is sitting at the soybean crush table to make sure the plant gets built in Manitoba. We are not here to choose a specific location or take sides. We are involved because we have a deep understanding of the subject matter and are happy to share it.”

MPSG’s mission is to provide research, production knowledge and market support to Manitoba pulse and soybean farmers. Discussions surrounding a soybean crush operation in Manitoba are important to MPSG. The association is taking them seriously, providing, as its mission states, market and industry-related expertise to the interested parties.

MPSG is neutral on the possible location for such a facility. The association acknowledges that for such a large, capital and capacity-heavy project to succeed, it must be built in the best place possible without any predetermination.

The hydro, wastewater and transportation demands of a successful soybean crush facility will be key factors for a company or group of investors to think about when considering the best possible site.

In the June meeting, Mr. Rowe provided the group with information on the costs of running such an operation, its energy demands and the high input and output volumes it would need to sustain in order to produce meal and oil on a profitable scale.

“Soybean acres have increased in Manitoba, and they are poised to keep increasing,” says MPSG’s Executive Director Francois Labelle. “Potential investors in such a facility have told us and others that they would need to see a high soybean acreage base sustained for three to five years before any decisions would be made. We’re not there yet, but we’re moving in the right direction.”

There are numerous policy issues, domestic and abroad, looming and actual, that are at play when determining the viability of a soy crush facility for Manitoba. MPSG is keeping an eye on these files and is working with others to make sure that Manitoba’s agricultural sector remains strong and competitive.

MPSG is optimistic about the possibility of a soybean crush plant coming up in Manitoba. And the association looks forward to its continued involvement in this process, conducting research, opening markets, delivering expertise and promoting ventures that will benefit all of Manitoba’s soybean and pulse farmers.
Published in Corporate News
On Canada’s fertile Prairies, dominated by the yellows and golds of canola and wheat, summers are too short to grow corn on a major scale.

But Monsanto Co. is working to develop what it hopes will be North America’s fastest-maturing corn, allowing farmers to grow more in Western Canada and other inhospitable climates, such as Ukraine.

The seed and chemical giant projects that western Canadian corn plantings could multiply 20 times to 10 million acres by 2025 - adding some 1.1 billion bushels, or nearly 3 percent to current global production. For the full story, click here.
Published in Plant Breeding
Dr. Anfu Hou is a leading plant breeder. He works at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Research and Development Centre in Morden, Man.

Hou was born in China and his research took him through several countries before he settled in Morden, which is located just north of the U.S. border. Geography is not insignificant here. Hou and his team develop crop varieties specifically suited to grow and grow well in the unique soil and weather conditions in Manitoba and Western Canada. For the full story, click here.
Published in Plant Breeding
The Oscar-winning Cameron appeared Monday in Vanscoy, a village southwest of Saskatoon, to say the couple have formed Verdient Foods to handle 160,000 tonnes of organic pea protein.

He said that, once operational, the plant will become the largest organic pea protein facility in North America. READ MORE
Published in Corporate News
What if we could design a landscape that would provide a variety of nutritious foods, high-quality habitat, and ecosystem services, while also delivering a healthy profit to the landowner? According to University of Illinois researchers, it is not only possible, it should be adopted more widely, now.

“We need to be on the road to figuring things out before we get to tipping points on climate change or food security, or we could be left way behind. In future environments, people might get paid for ecosystem services or carbon credits, or food might become more valuable. If so, these systems become much more attractive for landowners,” says Sarah Taylor Lovell, an agroecologist in the Department of Crop Sciences at U of I.

Lovell believes multifunctional woody polyculture is the way forward. She and several co-authors introduce the concept and discuss their experimental design in a recent paper published in Agroforestry Systems.

Essentially, the idea is to incorporate berry- and nut-bearing shrubs and trees in an alley cropping system with hay or other row crops. The combination is meant to mimic the habitat features, carbon storage, and nutrient-holding capacities of a natural system. “We wanted to capture that aspect, but we also wanted it to be commercially viable,” Lovell says. “The trees and shrubs need to fit in perfect linear rows 30 feet apart, so you can fit equipment. That was a much more practical agronomic consideration.”

Lovell and her colleagues are three years into what they hope will be a long-term experiment on the U of I campus. Their trial consists of seven combinations of species in commercial-scale plots, from simple combinations of two tree species to highly diverse combinations including multiple species of trees, shrubs, and forage crops. “We added increasingly diverse systems so we can get a sense of how much is too much diversity in terms of trying to manage everything in a feasible way,” she says.

The researchers will measure crop productivity, management strategies, and economic potential as the experiment gets established. “We’re keeping track of all the person-hours that go into each of these different combinations, so we’ll capture the labor involved and figure out whether it’s economically viable,” Lovell says.

Farmers accustomed to traditional row crops may be daunted by the long wait associated with nut crops. Lovell says chestnuts and hazelnuts don’t produce worthwhile harvests until 7 to 12 years after planting. But, she says, the other species can bring in profits while farmers wait. Hay or vegetable crops can be harvested from the alleys in year one. And shrubs could start bearing high-value fruit crops, such as currants or aronia berries, within a couple of years.

Lovell points out that the market for some nuts is growing. For example, Nutella lovers may recall headlines about an international hazelnut shortage a couple of years ago. “It would take a while to saturate that market,” she says. But she also points out that some nuts could be used more generically for their starchy or oily products.

Another barrier to adoption may be the cost of specialized equipment needed to harvest tree nuts, berries, and row crops. “There’s a tradeoff in terms of how complex to get and still be able to manage it in a reasonable way,” Lovell says. But she suggests the potential of farming cooperatives with shared equipment as a way to defray costs.

It will be several years before Lovell will have results to share, but other trials have shown that multifunctional woody polyculture could be both economically viable and environmentally beneficial. Lovell’s article details the outcomes of long-standing experimental sites in France and Missouri, but she says those two sites are the only large-scale examples in the temperate region. “That really shows just how little research there is on this so far,” she says. “We need to invest in this research now because it’s going to take so long to get to the solutions.”

The research team is working with regional farmers to replicate small- and large-scale versions of their experimental setup on-farm. Lovell knows it might take some convincing, but points out that many farmers are willing to set aside portions of their land into the Conservation Reserve Program. “If we can provide the same benefits in terms of water quality, habitat, biodiversity, and nutrient cycling as CRP but then also have this harvestable product, why wouldn’t you consider that?”
Published in Seeding/Planting
If flax gets off to a weak start, it seems to struggle all season long; it has a hard time competing with weeds, and maturity can be delayed,” says Chris Holzapfel, research manager for the Indian Head Agricultural Research Foundation (IHARF) in Saskatchewan. To find out which seeding practices give flax crops a better start and better yields, Holzapfel and his colleagues have been assessing the effects of different seeding rates, seeding dates, row spacings and seed treatments.
Published in Seeding/Planting
Gui DeSouza, an associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of Missouri, and colleagues and students in his Vision-Guided and Intelligent Robotics (ViGIR) Laboratory partnered with researchers such as Felix Fritschi, an associate professor of plant sciences in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (CAFNR) and Todd Mockler, a principal investigator with the Danforth Plant Science Center to study the effects of climate change on crops in Missouri. Using principles developed in the ViGIR lab, DeSouza is changing the way agriculturists collect data in the field.

“I’ve been working with CAFNR assisting them in experiments where we helped to create 3-D images of root growth in the laboratory,” DeSouza said. “Now, we’re creating robotics to assist in creating images of corn shoot growth out in the field.”

The engineering and plant science research team developed a combination, two-pronged approach using a mobile sensing tower as well as a robot vehicle equipped with three levels of sensors. The tower inspects a 60-foot radius of a given field to identify areas affected by environmental stresses, while the vehicle collects data on individual plants. The sensors have the ability to measure various heights of the corn plant in order to reconstruct the 3-D image.

“Measurements taken from the tower alert us if any of the plants are under stress, such as heat or drought,” DeSouza said. “The tower then signals the mobile robot, which we call the Vinobot, to go to a particular area of the field and perform data collection on the individual plants. The Vinobot has three sets of sensors and a robotic arm to collect temperature, humidity and light intensity at three different heights on the corn plant. This is called plant phenotyping, which assesses growth, development, yield and items such as tolerance and resistance to environmental stressors by correlating these to physiology and shape of the plants.”

While the tower covers only a relatively small area, it can easily be moved to cover an entire field. This cost-effective measure means it is less expensive to have more towers, stationed at various points in the field, operating simultaneously.

“The towers not only are inexpensive, they also are available throughout the day and night and can generate more data than any aerial vehicle could,” DeSouza said.

The team’s study, “Vinobot and Vinoculer: Two robotic platforms for high-throughput field phenotyping,” recently was published in Sensors.
Published in Corporate News
Diversified crop rotations are an important component of western Canadian cropping systems. Although crops like wheat and canola are the largest acreage crops, adding special crops into the rotation helps manage weed, disease and insect pest problems and potential resistance issues, improves soil health and maximizes profitability. However, determining which crop fits best in the cropping sequence remains a big question.
Published in Other Crops
The Cellulosic Sugar Producers Co-operative (CSPC) and its partners have almost finished putting all the pieces in place for a southern Ontario value chain to turn crop residues into sugars. Those pieces include a feasibility study, a technical-economic assessment and a collaboratively developed business plan. Some important steps still have to be completed, but they are aiming for processing to start in 2018.
Published in Biomass
To replant, or not to replant is often the question when a sugar beet stand has been severely damaged. Ultimately, a grower has to do one or the other, and making the right choice will increase net returns from the crop. A six-year study has evaluated replanting recommendations for southern Alberta in light of the switch from conventional to Roundup Ready sugar beets. As a result, growers now have updated recommendations backed by solid data.
Published in Irrigation
When Meghan Moran, the canola and edible bean specialist for the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), is out at an event, soybean growers usually outnumber edible bean growers. “Sometimes the soybean growers will ask if small seeded dry beans, or edible beans, are more profitable,” she says. “And the truth is that they are!” 
Published in Pulses
Guelph, ON – The Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association (OSCIA) has launched a new partnership through Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s (AAFC) AgriRisk Initiatives (ARI) program. The project, entitled “Controlled Tile Drainage – Calculate Your Benefits,” will partner OSCIA with scientists at the University of Ottawa to research the crop yield benefits of controlled tile drainage.

“The research indicates that there may be economic benefits to farmers under specific field conditions”, says Gord Green, President of OSCIA. “Under drought conditions, research has confirmed as high as a 25 per cent increase in corn yield where controlled drainage was used to retain water to better supply the growing crop.”

Research shows the benefits from controlled tile drainage vary depending on the crop, amount of rainfall, and timing of rainfall in relation to the stage of crop growth. Under the new partnership, a new tool will be developed to allow extension staff and farmers to better calculate the crop yield benefits of controlled tile drainage under varying conditions.

“With extremes in weather increasing due to climate change, every competitive edge counts”, says Dr. Michael Sawada, scientist at the University of Ottawa. “Additionally, controlled drainage can reduce the flow of phosphorus and other nutrients to help protect our water resources.”

The collaborative project runs until the winter of 2018.

Funding for the “Controlled Tile Drainage – Calculate Your Benefits” project is provided through Growing Forward 2, AgriRisk Initiatives, which supports the research and development, as well as the implementation and administration of new risk management tools for use in the agriculture sector.
Published in Corporate News
Canada Western Red Spring (CWRS) and Canada Western Amber Durum (CWAD) wheats have long been recognized as premium quality grains by the milling and pasta industries. Their quality is due primarily to the protein component of the grain.
Published in Agronomy
Saskatchewan hemp growers and processors have been working to meet the exporting demand for the multi-use crop as the market expands in Europe and Asia. CBC News reports. | READ MORE
Published in Imports/Exports
Sept. 6, 2016 - It’s no secret that there’s a growing ethnic population of Canadians who have preferences for foods from their home countries. That fact brings with it unique opportunities for farmers to produce crops that haven't traditionally been grown locally.

Okra is one such crop.

Over six million kilograms of okra is imported into Canada every year and the demand climbs annually. India is the top producer of the world's okra, growing more than 70 per cent of the global crop. Other big producers are Nigeria, Sudan, Iraq and Pakistan.

The United States is the 20th largest producer, accounting for only 0.1 per cent of the world’s production. In the U.S, okra is grown in southern states like Florida, Texas and Louisiana, where the vegetable is used in the popular gumbo dish. It’s a subtropical crop that thrives in a hot and dry environment, so Canada hasn't always been the most logical place for production.

Dr. Viliam Zvalo is a research scientist in the area of vegetable production at Vineland Research and Innovation Centre (Vineland). A native of Slovakia, he joined the team in 2014 with a mandate to investigate opportunities for world crop production for Canadian farmers.

The biggest challenges in growing okra in Canada are the shorter growing season and the labour requirements. During the harvest season, plants need to be harvested daily to give the immature pods time and space to grow, which requires a big staffing commitment.

To help boost the crop's potential and maximize growing time, seeds are started in greenhouses and then transplanted into fields covered in black plastic mulch to increase heat to the plants. Spacing of the plants is critical - the further apart, the higher their yields.

To date, crop trials have shown that three particular varieties - Lucky Green, Elisa and Jambalaya - do the best in Canada.

Last year, 22 farmers grew small trials across Canada from Nova Scotia to British Columbia and have had similar results in all areas. This year the number will increase to about 30 growers.

The crops are planted into fields in late May and bloom a month later. Peak production is between the middle of July and the end of September. Each plant (which can grow seven feet high) can generate 60 to 70 okra pods. Pods are light though - between seven and 10 grams each - so the entire harvest per plant is about 0.6 to 0.7 kilograms.

Growers, researchers and retailers are all optimistic about the results to date and the work is garnering international attention.

Recently, an Indian company contacted Zvalo to see about providing seeds from a late season variety for Vineland to test in Canada.

"Attention like this will help us continue to look for better varieties,” Zvalo noted.

"Okra's an interesting crop. It can be quite finicky but there's great potential," Zvalo said.

He concluded, "It's a matter of finding the right varieties, the right location and the right buyers."

The project is funded in part through Growing Forward 2 (GF2), a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. The Agricultural Adaptation Council assists in the delivery of GF2 in Ontario.
Published in Business Management

Canadian agriculture representatives today announced February 16, 2017 will be Canada’s Agriculture Day – a time to celebrate and draw a closer connection between Canadians, our food and the people who produce it.

Published in Corporate News
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