Success in Agriculture
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
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
Farm Credit Canada (FCC) is offering support to customers in parts of eastern Ontario and western Quebec facing financial hardship as a result of excessive moisture during this year’s growing season.

Many producers in that area are facing a cash shortfall since they were unable to seed or were forced to replant due to extreme rainfall, while others face additional costs from having to purchase feed as a result of reduced yields of corn, soybeans and hay.

“Agriculture is the only industry we serve, so we have a deep understanding of the challenges that come with the business,” said Michael Hoffort, FCC president and CEO, in announcing the Customer Support Program.

“Excessive rainfall has certainly impacted the growing season in parts of Eastern Canada and, in some cases, caused financial challenges for farm operations, as well as personal hardship and stress,” he said. “We want our customers to know we stand by them and will show flexibility to help them through challenging times.”

FCC will work with customers to come up with solutions for their operation to reduce the financial pressure caused by excessive moisture.

Although FCC customer support is being offered in specific locations, Canada’s leading agriculture lender offers flexibility to all customers through challenging business cycles and unpredictable circumstances on a case-by-case basis.

Customers in Ontario and western Quebec are encouraged to contact their FCC relationship manager or the FCC Customer Service Centre at 1-888-332-3301 to discuss their individual situation and options.
Published in Corporate News
From planting and digging potatoes to observing insects feeding on plants to learning about coloured spuds, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s (AAFC) Fredericton Research and Development Centre opened its doors and wowed visitors with plenty to see and do. Despite the rain, AAFC staff welcomed nearly 400 people for an open house held on August 19th in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the department. Curious visitors spent time touring research plots, visiting labs and learning about the science that goes into developing better potatoes.

AAFC’s researchers shared their knowledge of genetics, entomology, agronomy, hydrology and measuring carbon dioxide. Josée Owen, associate director of research, development and technology transfer at the centre, says there’s a lot of new science emerging in potato research and the open house was a great opportunity to show the public the diversity of the work that goes into creating a more resilient crop. Disciplines such as bioinformatics computing and agr-environmental resilience are areas the centre is focusing on to develop potatoes that are more efficient, adaptable and environmentally-friendly. Owen said she was “very pleased to see such enthusiasm from the public in learning about the science that goes into potato research and how scientists are addressing industry challenges."
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
4-H Canada has announced the recipients of the 2017 TD 4-H Agriculture Scholarships. Twelve 4-H members were selected from across Canada, and each are to receive $2,500 to pursue their post-secondary studies in the field of agriculture, agricultural science or agricultural business beginning in the fall of 2017.

The delivery of these programs would not be possible without the ongoing and long-term partnerships with organizations like TD that share this vision and recognize the importance of advancing positive youth development in Canada.

List of recipients: 

Matthew McGillivray (British Columbia)
Cole Chesterman (Alberta)
Emma Van Steekelenburg (Alberta)
Amanda Mitchell (Saskatchewan)
Naomi Best (Manitoba)
Derrick Knill (Ontario)
Ryan McKerrall (Ontario)
Devin Keenan (Quebec)
Brooke Boonstoppel (New Brunswick)
Thian Carman (Nova Scotia)
Robert Larsen (Prince Edward Island)
Tayler Williams (Newfoundland)

Please visit 4-h-canada.ca for more information on 4-H Canada scholarship programs, and to watch for information and application details on future scholarship opportunities.
Published in Corporate News
At the annual Federal/Provincial Agriculture Minister’s talks (FPT) in St. John’s Newfoundland, Canada’s agriculture ministers reached an agreement on a new five-year investment for the agri-food industry with the recent announcement of the Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP). The program officially begins on April 1, 2018 and involves a $3 billion investment to strengthen the agri-food sector in Canada.

A key component of the new partnership – that picks up where the last agricultural policy framework Growing Forward 2 wraps up – is a continuation of Business Risk Management (BRM) programs. It is great news for Ontario agriculture that there was consensus among provincial ag ministers on the need for a comprehensive review of the suite of BRM programs. For several months OFA, along with industry partners, have advocated for a review and we’re very pleased to see that this is going to happen as part of the CAP announcement. We commend Minister Leal for his hard work to gain support and agreement with his provincial colleagues to make this happen.

While the review of BRM programming is applauded, another part of the CAP announcement is not good news for farmers. OFA shares the disappointment of other groups, including the Grain Farmers of Ontario, at the unilateral decision by Lawrence MacAuley, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food that a cutback will be made to the annual contribution limit of the AgriInvest program – a key component of the BRM programs. Announcing this change prior to doing the BRM review serves to be counter-productive to the previous announcement. Farming today can be a very unpredictable occupation. As such, farmers need an effective support system that can serve the needs of Canadian farmers’ ability to manage risk, beyond disaster relief funding. We await more details on how much this dollar-matching investment program will be impacted and will be working with Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) and industry partners to remind the federal government that collaborative decisions, not unilateral ones, will serve the best interest of the industry as a whole.

OFA will continue to work closely with Minister Leal and staff, along with industry partners, to ensure the needs of our members are heard and met through the BRM review.

More details on the new Canadian Agricultural Partnership are posted at ofa.on.ca.
Published in Corporate News
The agriculture and agri-food sector is a key growth industry in Canada, contributing over $100 billion annually to the economy and employing 2.3 million Canadians.

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

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

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

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

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

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

This year’s Annual Meeting of Federal, Provincial and Territorial Ministers of Agriculture focused on important initiatives touching the agriculture and agri-food sector including the status of trade negotiations and market access initiatives in key export markets. To this effect, FPT Ministers reiterated their support for supply management. Ministers agreed to the approach for optimizing the Pan-Canadian Regulatory Framework and endorsed the Plant and Animal Health Strategy for Canada. Indigenous agriculture in Canada and the development of a Food Policy for Canada were also addressed. A summary of items discussed at the meeting is available at Summary of items from the 2017 Annual Meeting of Federal, Provincial and Territorial Ministers of Agriculture. The next annual FPT Ministers' meeting will be held in Vancouver, British Columbia, in July 2018.
Published in Corporate News
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
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
Timely information about drought conditions can help agricultural producers, agribusiness, government planners and policy-makers, emergency preparedness agencies and others to better plan for and proactively respond to drought. The Canadian Drought Monitor tracks a wide range of drought-related information and boils it all down to easy-to-understand, online monthly maps.

“The Canadian Drought Monitor is kind of an early warning system. It provides a clear picture of what is occurring in near real-time. We’re tracking drought conditions continuously so that we know where we’re at and we can respond quicker to problems,” explains Trevor Hadwen, an agroclimate specialist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC). AAFC leads the Canadian Drought Monitor initiative, working in close collaboration with Environment Canada and Natural Resources Canada.

He notes, “There is a very large process around developing the Drought Monitor maps that is unique to this particular product. It is not as simple as feeding climate data into a computer and having it spit out a map.” That’s because drought is difficult to measure. It can creep up on people as the cumulative effects of ongoing dry conditions gradually mount up. Its effects are often spread over broad areas. And different groups define drought conditions differently, depending on their interests and needs.

So, the Canadian Drought Monitor draws together diverse information like precipitation amounts, water storage levels, and river flow amounts, as well as information about drought impacts on people. And it combines various drought indicators used by the agriculture, forestry and water management sectors into a single composite indicator.

“All that information is put together to create one easy-to-read map product, with just five classes of drought or dryness. Users can get a very clear picture of the areal extent and severity of the drought with one look at the map,” Hadwen says.

Drought classification
The five drought classes are: D0, abnormally dry – an event that occurs once every three to five years; D1, moderate drought – an event that occurs every five to 10 years; D2, severe drought – an event that occurs every 10 to 20 years; D3, extreme drought – an event that occurs every 20 to 25 years; and D4, exceptional drought – an event that occurs every 50 years. The monthly maps are available in an interactive form that allows users to see the changes in drought location, extent and severity over time.

The Canadian Drought Monitor provides useful information for people in many sectors. Hadwen gives some examples: “For agriculture, the information helps with things like where people might want to market grains, where there might be shortages, where there might be areas of good pasture, where livestock reductions might be taking place, all those types of things. The information is also very valuable outside of agriculture, in terms of water supplies, recreational use, forest fires – the list can go on for quite a while.”

The Canadian Drought Monitor maps feed into the North American Drought Monitor maps. “The North American Drought Monitor initiative started about 12 years ago. The U.S. had been doing the U.S. Drought Monitor project for a number of years, and Mexico and Canada were interested in doing similar projects,” Hadwen notes. “So we joined forces to create a Drought Monitor for the continent.” All three countries use the same procedures to monitor, analyze and present drought-related information.

The continent-wide collaboration provides a couple of big benefits. “Number one, drought doesn’t stop at the borders,” he says. The North American initiative provides an integrated view of drought conditions across the continent.

“Also, the Drought Monitor is extremely powerful in terms of the partnerships that have developed and the linkages to some of the best scientists in North America. We share ideas and build off each other, developing better and more accurate ways of assessing drought. We can utilize some of the information generated from U.S. agencies, like NOAA [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] and the National Drought Mitigation Center, and agencies in Mexico. This collaboration effort helps increase the efficiency of the science and the technical aspect of drought monitoring.”

According to Hadwen, the continental collaboration has been really helpful in building Canadian agroclimate monitoring capacity. “Over the last decade or so we have certainly matured a lot, and we’ve started to develop some really interesting tools and applications for Canadian producers and agricultural businesses to help deal with some of the climate threats to the farming industry, including droughts, floods, and everything else,” Hadwen says.

AAFC’s Drought Watch website (agr.gc.ca/drought) provides access to the Canadian Drought Monitor maps and to 
other agroclimate tools such as maps showing current and past information on precipitation, temperature and various drought indices, and the Agroclimate Impact Reporter (scroll down for "When complaining about the weather makes a difference").

 WTCJune16 drought

When complaining about the weather makes a difference
If you love to talk about the weather's impacts on your farming operation, the Agroclimate Impact Reporter (AIR) could be for you. If you want your comments about these impacts to make a difference, then AIR is definitely for you. And if you want to find out how the weather is impacting agriculture in your rural municipality, your province, or anywhere in Canada, then AIR is also for you.

AIR is a cool online tool developed by AAFC that grew out of a previous program to collect information on some drought impacts. "We have had a program in place to monitor forage production and farm water supplies in the Prairies for well over 15 years. Then about three years ago, we started to develop a tool to replace that program – a tool that would be national in scope and that could gather information on a whole range of agroclimate impacts," Hadwen explains.

AIR taps into a volunteer network of producers, AAFC staff, agribusiness people and others. "We use crowd-source data for this, gathering information from a whole wide variety of people. Some of them we know through our registered network, and others have a subscription to our email box and provide comments to us on a monthly basis," he says.

"We're trying to gather as much information from as many people as possible on how weather is impacting their farming operations. We ask the participants to do a short [anonymous] monthly survey, usually about 25 quick multiple choice questions, to let us know how things are going."

AIR is collecting impact information in several categories including: drought, excess moisture, heat stress, frost, and severe weather (like tornadoes and hail storms).

"We plot that information and produce a whole bunch of individual maps showing very subject-specific information from each survey question," Hadwen notes. "We also have a searchable online geographic database. On a map of Canada, you can zoom in on different regions and see where we're getting reports of a large number of impacts or not as many impacts. You can even drill down into that map and see the exact comments that we are getting from [the different types of respondents, in each rural municipality]."

The information collected through AIR provides important additional insights into the weather conditions and related issues and risks. He says, "Sometimes the data we have in Canada isn't as fulsome as we would like, and sometimes it doesn't tell the whole story. For instance, the data [from weather stations in a particular area] might show that it didn't rain for a very long period and the area is in a very bad drought, but the producers in the area are telling us that they got some timely rains through that dry period that helped their crops continue to grow. Or, the data might show that we received a lot of rain in a season – like we did in 2015, if you look at the overall trend – but the farmers are telling us that there were big problems in the spring. So, combining both those types of information certainly helps draw the whole story together a little better."

AIR information feeds into the Canadian Drought Monitor to help in assessing the severity of drought conditions. As well, the AAFC's Agroclimate group incorporates AIR information into its regular updates to AAFC's Minister and senior policy people; it helps them to better understand what is happening on the land, and that knowledge can help in developing policies and targeting programs.

Information from AIR is also valuable for businesses that work with producers, such as railroad companies wondering about regional crop yields and where to place their rail cars, and agricultural input companies wondering if they need to bring in extra feed or fertilizer.

AAFC is in the process building AIR into a national program. "We want to collect agroclimate impact information from right across the country. We have a history in the Prairie region, so we have more Prairie producers providing information. We've made inroads into B.C., so we're getting some reports from there already," Hadwen says. "[Now] we're going out to Atlantic Canada and Ontario. And over the next couple of years, we'll be expanding AIR right across the country."

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer AIR reporter, visit www.agr.gc.ca/air.


This article originally appeared in the June 2016 issue of
Top Crop Manager West.
Published in Business Management
A wheat leaf rust resistance gene that’s been overcome by virulent pathogens is called a “defeated gene,” according to Brent McCallum, a pathologist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. But its counterparts – resistance genes that still prove effective against pathogens in the field – are not called “victorious genes.” They’re known as “durable genes” that can be depended on for good control, year after year.
Published in Diseases
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
Wood scientist Solace Sam-Brew envisions a future where Canadian homes are furnished with products from flax and hemp.

“Both flax and hemp are widely available in Canada, especially in the West,” said Sam-Brew, a recent PhD graduate from the University of British Columbia’s faculty of forestry. “It’s worth considering their viability as alternative raw materials to wood for particleboard production.”

Particleboards are used in products like countertops, shelves and flat-packed furniture. For her PhD, supervised by professor Gregory Smith, Sam-Brew evaluated the characteristics of flax and hemp residues. She determined their physical and mechanical board properties by soaking and breaking hundreds of particleboards to test their strength and durability.

While Sam-Brew found flax and hemp residues were technically better, she hit one snag. The current economics of manufacturing flax and hemp particleboards in Canada are too high for it to flourish as a competitive material.

“The resin, or glue, needed to produce flax and hemp particleboard is a financial barrier,” she said. Resin holds the particles in the board together and flax and hemp products use expensive resin, called pMDI, as the substitute for cheap urea-formaldehyde.

Sam-Brew was able to show in her PhD research that the amount of resin needed for flax and hemp particleboards could be reduced, which would help lower the cost. Substituting lignin, a plant binder, for a portion of the pMDI resin, could also reduce the cost.

According to Sam-Brew, a burgeoning niche market for flax and hemp particleboards exists in Europe. Decades of flax and hemp processing there and the number of companies in business have led to more competitive pricing.

Sam-Brew said the business case for a similar industry in Canada lies in a facility willing to take a chance on the sustainable alternative considering the growing competition for wood residue. Wood residue is wood waste from sawmills and joinery manufacturers, like wood chips, shavings, sawdust and trims, all highly sought after for use by multiple industries, including biofuel, pellet, pulp and paper.

“They’re all fighting over one resource, which can sometimes be in short supply,” said Sam-Brew. “If a company has to travel long distances to collect the wood waste they need to make their products, that costs them money. The particleboard industry could benefit from using non-wood resources if the price is right.”

For now, flax and hemp particleboard production is at a standstill in Canada. But Sam-Brew remains optimistic.

“Flax and hemp particleboards are lighter than wood,” she said. “The downstream impacts of making a lighter product could mean faster production rates and significant energy and transportation savings.”

“The economics don’t look good now, but they could later.”
Published in Corporate News
The government has announced a new trade agreement. The Canadian Free Trade Agreement (CFTA) will take effect on July 1st, Canada's 150th anniversary, and will replace the existing Agreement on Internal Trade, which has been in place since 1995.

Currently, trade within Canada represents about one-fifth of Canada's GDP, or $385 billion annually. It also accounts for nearly 40 percent of all provincial and territorial exports.

Overall, the CFTA aims to improve the flow of goods, services and investments across all borders by reducing the jumble of rules and regulations, giving consumers lower prices and more choices of Canadian goods. For example, beer, wine and spirits will have a process in place to enhance trade among the provinces and territories.

The agreement also allows licensed professionals with Canadian credentials to work in different parts of the country. It also enables Canadian companies that operate in regulated professions like engineering and architecture, to compete for opportunities to governments across the country.

Rules in the Canadian Free Trade Agreement will automatically apply to all of the country's economic activity unless something is specifically excluded.

The Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) is specifically looking forward to getting more details about the newly announced Regulatory Reconciliation and Cooperation Table, a body that will be established to coordinate processes for resolving trade barriers when they are identified by provinces and territories, with input from stakeholders.

In its advocacy work over the last year, CFA noted several areas in which farmers face difficulties in interprovincial trade. Some examples include trucking transportation regulations and differing requirements between federally- and provincially-regulated meat processing plants.
Published in Corporate News
A new travelling exhibition designed by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum will be stopping across the county until 2020. The exhibit, titled “Space to Spoon” will use videos and interactive experiences so visitors see how farmers use satellites, like the data from RADARSAT-2, which offers precision ground monitoring. Farmers can use this satellite's data to improve risk management and crop quality. Visitors will also learn how this data supports the development of sustainable agriculture practices and what impact they have on the food we eat.

Next year, the CSA will launch the RADARSAT Constellation Mission, which will improve data quality and availability. This constellation of satellites will have a significant advantage over its predecessor, making it possible to monitor Canada's entire landmass on a daily basis.

The exhibition will first be available at Resurgo Place (Moncton, N.B.) until May 21, 2017.
Published in Corporate News
Corn producers shouldn’t worry about new disease threats before they strike, advises Albert Tenuta, field crop pathologist for the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA).
Published in Diseases
The Canadian agriculture industry rallied in support of the Canadian Agri-Business Education Foundation (CABEF) raising $98,338 in 2016.

CABEF awards six $2,500 scholarships annually to students enrolling in an agricultural university or college in Canada. Fundraising efforts in conjunction with Best of CAMA (Canadian Agri-Marketing Association) raised $42,642 from live and silent auctions, and the Wall of Wine raffle for 24 bottles of wine. Other donations were made in cash, auction items and donated advertising space to promote the CABEF scholarship application deadline and the announcement of the scholarship recipients.


The 2017 scholarship application deadline is April 30, 2017.  Application information is located at cabef.org.
Published in Corporate News
On-farm research networks provide an innovative opportunity for growers to conduct applied research to test products and practices on their farms. The Manitoba Pulse and Soybean Growers (MPSG) formed an on-farm research network in 2011 to address new challenges and help answer questions for growers. There were less than one million acres of soybeans at that time, but acreage keeps expanding with expectations of up to two million acres to be seeded in 2017.  
Published in Corporate News
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