Sustainability
Farm Management Canada (FMC) and the Canadian Association of Diploma in Agriculture Programs (CADAP) have announced the selection of the winners of the 2016-2017 Excellence Award for Ag Students Competition. 

FMC and CADAP collected submissions from agricultural students across Canada and selected three winners who will receive scholarships towards furthering their education in agriculture. 

The award is designed to help students develop their communication skills by having the opportunity to voice their opinion on a on a subject related to farm management.

Students were asked to submit a multimedia presentation, a video, a Twitter chat, a blog or a Wiki, responding to the following question:

Certain segments of the general public question the way food is produced, and have misgivings about the use of new technology. What concrete steps would you, as a future member of the agricultural industry, propose to bridge the information and awareness gap?

This year's winners are:

Shanthanu Krishna Kumar
University of Guelph, Ont.

Jasmin Bautz
University of Saskatchewan, Sask.

William Lacasse
Institut de Technologie Agroalimentaire, campus de La Pocatière, Que.

Visit fmc-gac.com for more details on the winners and their competition entries.
Published in Corporate News
As a response to declining Bobolink and Eastern Meadowlark populations across the province, the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association (OSCIA) has teamed up with researchers to launch a platform for farmers to record sightings of these two species at risk. GrassLander, a web-based map, gives Ontario farmers the ability to easily collect data on grassland bird behaviour. The data will contribute to a better scientific understanding of population trends that can help to inform science-based decision-making.

GrassLander is designed to be accessible to farmers, whether they’re out in the field or sitting at the kitchen table; the platform is optimized for computer, tablet or smart phone. Completely free, an online tutorial is available to take registrants through the steps of how to use GrassLander. All the information collected through GrassLander is secure; and to protect the privacy of GrassLander participants, the data is aggregated and only you are able to see your individual information.

GrassLander is ideal for producers who work agricultural land that includes pastures, meadows, native grasslands, restored grasslands, hayfields, or any other agricultural grassland spaces. Ontario producers and OSCIA have contributed to grassland bird conservation across the province in a variety of ways, including cost-share programs, research, education, and awareness initiatives; GrassLander is the latest addition to these valuable conservation efforts.

For more information on GrassLander or to get involved and start recording your sightings, visit ontariograsslander.ca.
Published in Corporate News
Local Liberal MP Francis Scarpaleggia and Jean-Claude Poissant, Parliamentary Secretary for the Minister of Agriculture, announced $2.9 million in funding at a press conference for two McGill projects aimed at mitigating greenhouse gas emissions caused by water and fertilizer use in agriculture.
Published in Emerging Trends
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
The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs is rolling out a total of 21 new soil health publications. These publications provide best management practices to help you preserve and conserve soil while improving soil health and crop production.

The first five titles include: 
  • Adding Organic Amendments
  • Erosion Control Structures
  • Cropland Retirement
  • Soil Health in Ontario
  • Field Windbreaks

You can find these, and more titles as they are added, here.
Published in Corporate News
Blackleg is caused by two species of the pathogen. The major one is called Leptosphaeria maculans. The other one is a much less virulent species called Leptosphaeria biglobosa. For control of the disease, pathologists look at some of the weak links where we can apply most of the impact on the disease. The pathogen only survives on residues. If you don’t have a residue, it doesn’t survive well in the soil. That’s why rotation is important.

The pathogen produces a fruiting body in the spring called a pseudothecium or another type called a pycnidium. They produce spores that land on the cotyledons of canola. If you have insect damage from pests like flea beetles, the infection can be worse. With wounding, the pathogen can get into the cotyledon tissue even without moisture. From there the infection develops and you see the cankers at the base of the stem later on in the growing season.
Slide 4
Photo courtesy of Gary Peng.

There are three important things that can lead to an infection:
·      there’s residue to harbour the pathogen inoculum
·      you need to have early infection to get into the stem
·      insect damage may help the infection to occur more severely. 

The disease was very prevalent in the late ’80s, early ’90s. Then we introduced some resistant varieties in the early ’90s, which brought down the occurrence for many years. Partially that was resistance bred into varieties, but we also had three- or four-year rotations. That was a big part of the whole management effectiveness.

In the last five to six years, the disease incidence has been creeping back up to 20 to 25 per cent in Alberta and Manitoba, and about 10 per cent in Saskatchewan. However, the average severity remained below level 1 (light). Research by Sheau-Fang Hwang in Alberta indicates that in most years, this level of severity could result in a yield loss of about two to eight per cent on a susceptible variety. But from a trade perspective, our trading partners want to see the disease level trend going down.

Why the upward trend?
The first reason for an increase in blackleg incidence is likely the change of the pathogen population, which is adapting to the resistant varieties. The pathogen population may be becoming more virulent or with a greater proportion of virulent isolates in it. 

Plant breeders have used major gene resistance to control the disease. The resistant gene blocks the infection by the pathogen carrying the corresponding avirulence gene. For example, an Rlm3 resistant gene would block the pathogen with avirulence AvrLm3 gene (abbreviated to Av3). It might be like a lock-and-key, but for some reason, over time, the Av gene may change and the resistant gene may not be able to recognize it.

My colleague, Randy Kutcher, looked at the change in pathogen populations in 2007 when he looked at the avirulent gene prevalence on the Prairies. In his work looking at 800 isolates of L. maculans, the percentage of Av2 and Av6 genes were very high in the population, and the others at more moderate to low levels. Further work in 2010 and 2011 with Dilantha Fernando at the University of Manitoba found the picture had changed quite a bit. The presence of the Av3 and Av9 genes had decreased quite a bit, but at the same time Av7 seemed to be increasing quite a bit. That means the Rlm3 gene would be less likely to be effective across the Prairies because the Av3 gene had changed mostly to the virulent type. The Rlm3 gene was first introduced back in early 1990s and has been used for over 20 years.

Other research in Fernando’s lab also looked at what resistant genes are present in 206 varieties/breeding lines in Western Canada. The resistance gene that was predominantly found was Rlm3 in around 70 per cent of the varieties/breeding lines. There was also a bit of Rlm1 detected as well. Overall, the diversity of R genes is still quite limited in the germplasm tested. The important message is that Rlm3 is not going to remain effective on the Prairies because the corresponding Av3 gene is already fairly low in the pathogen population. 

However, when we looked at field data in Alberta and Manitoba, while the occurrence of other Av genes was high, disease levels ranged widely. This told us there was something else going on, which we called non-specific resistance in our varieties, although the effect was definitely less than the major gene resistance.

We further investigated this non-specific resistance in our varieties. We tested commercial varieties with a pathogen without a corresponding Av gene so any resistance observed would be due to non-specific gene resistance. Almost all the varieties had a slightly smaller amount of the disease on inoculated cotyledons than the susceptible Westar. At the same time, it’s a totally different kind of resistance reaction as opposed to the major gene resistance. It would not stop the infection completely – it just slowed it down a little bit, and on some varieties, substantially.

A further look at three of those varieties found the progress of plant mortality originated from cotyledon or petiole inoculation was somehow reduced, but varied between the varieties. Using a fluorescent protein gene labeled isolate, photography was able to show the reduced spread of the pathogen in the cotyledon compared to the susceptible Westar variety.

If you can slow down the movement from the cotyledon via the petiole into the stem, there may not be enough of the pathogen getting into the stem before the cotyledons drop off. This is one of the reasons that non-race-specific resistance works in some of those varieties we have.
SLIDE 22
Photo courtesy of Gary Peng.
Click here for part two: management strategies

This article is a summary of the presentation “Managing blackleg of canola in Western Canada,” delivered by Dr. Gary Peng, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Saskatoon, at the Field Crop Disease Summit, Feb. 21-22, 2017. Click here to download the full presentation.

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Published in Diseases
Landscape characteristics including crop diversity or field size have less of an effect on the amount of insecticide used than the kind of crop a new study shows.

Over the past half century, food production has intensified to meet the growing demand. And as agricultural fields have become ever larger, more pesticides are required to enhance yield. | READ MORE
Published in Corporate News
World demand for food is growing and research and innovation will help Canadian farmers and food processors meet that demand. The Government of Canada is supporting science and innovation with key global partners to build the capacity necessary to take advantage of growth opportunities and create good, well-paying jobs.

As part of this effort, the Honourable Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, today joined the Honourable Christian Schmidt, German Federal Minister for Food and Agriculture, in Prince Edward Island to announce that Canada and Germany will work closer together in four areas of agricultural research:
  • Sustainable agriculture and climate change, particularly in the areas of protecting soil and water and breeding crops that are more resistant to the effects of climate change;
  • Agri-food, including crop breeding for nutrition and health and reducing food waste and loss;
  • Sharing best management practices for knowledge and technology transfer to farmers and industry; and
  • Personnel exchange, including exchanges of scientists and students between Canada and Germany to build on opportunities for collaboration.
Canada and Germany enjoy close and friendly relations, reflected in their active cooperation on the international stage as well as their healthy economic and investment partnership. Germany has been a strong science partner with AAFC for over a decade, especially in the areas of crop development and animal health.

The Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) will give Canadian farmers, processors and exporters duty-free access to more than half a billion consumers across the EU, the world's largest import market for agriculture and agri-food. This agreement will help generate jobs and grow the middle-class.

Germany continues to be a significant trading partner for Canada and is growing in importance both as an export destination and as a source of imports.
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
Tree-based intercropping – growing trees together with crops – is a historical agricultural practice. These days primarily smallholder farmers use it in tropical systems, but researchers are focused on potential applications in the temperate soils of southern Ontario and Quebec.
Published in Other Crops
By 2050, we will need to feed 2 billion more people on less land. Meanwhile, carbon dioxide levels are predicted to hit 600 parts per million –a 50 per cent increase over today’s levels – and 2050 temperatures are expected to frequently match the top 5 per cent hottest days from 1950-1979. In a three-year field study, researchers proved engineered soybeans yield more than conventional soybeans in 2050’s predicted climatic conditions.| READ MORE
Published in Plant Breeding
Largely overlooked and previously not studied a lot in Canada, weed seed predation provides the second-largest loss of weed seeds from the seed bank, second only to germination. Although research has been almost exclusively carried out in Europe and the United States, recent research at the University of Saskatchewan proves weed seed predation is occurring in western Canadian cropping systems and can be measured.
Published in Weeds
There was a time on the Prairies when heat and lack of moisture stress were more common than excess moisture and cool temperatures. Indeed, the movement to direct seeding and no-till was in response to droughts in the 1980s and early 2000s. Even though the last decade has seen more challenges with excess moisture than lack of moisture, for some growers the start of the growing season in 2016 was a reminder that dry conditions are never far off. With that in mind, a review of several research studies reinforces the value of surface residue on root heat stress and crop yield.
Published in Soil
I call them my second herd,” says Brian Slenders, an alfalfa and canola seed and livestock producer near Scandia, Alta., and president of the Alfalfa Seed Commission of Alberta.
Published in Other Crops
Send five soil test samples to five different labs and you’ll likely get five different recommendations. Understanding why will help you get the most out of your fertilizer dollars and optimize yields over the long term.
Published in Soil

Annually, diseases, weeds, and insects are estimated to cause more than $1.3 billion in losses for sunflower growers. To combat this, researchers are preserving the genetic diversity of wild sunflowers. Wild plants retain the genes needed to resist pests and survive in different environments.

| READ MORE

Published in Corporate News
Many consumers think organic is better for humans and the planet, but a new UBC study published today in Science Advances finds that might not always be the case.

“Organic is often proposed a holy grail solution to current environmental and food scarcity problems, but we found that the costs and benefits will vary heavily depending on the context,” said Verena Seufert, a researcher at the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability (IRES).

In their study, Seufert and her co-author Navin Ramankutty, Canada Research Chair in Global Environmental Change and Food Security at UBC, analyzed organic crop farming across 17 criteria such as yield, impact on climate change, farmer livelihood and consumer health.

It is the first study to systematically review the scientific literature on the environmental and socioeconomic performance of organic farming, not only assessing where previous studies agree and disagree, but also identifying the conditions leading to good or bad performance of organic agriculture. [Explore their findings in-depth in this image]

Take two factors that are top of mind for many consumers: synthetic pesticide use and nutritional benefits of organic. Seufert and Ramankutty argue that in countries like Canada where pesticide regulations are stringent and diets are rich in micronutrients, the health benefits of choosing organic may be marginal.

“But in a developing country where pesticide use is not carefully regulated and people are micronutrient deficient, we think that the benefits for consumer and farm worker health may be much higher,” said Ramankutty, professor at IRES and the Liu Institute for Global Issues at UBC.

Another important measure of the sustainability of farming systems is the yield of a crop. To date, most studies have compared the costs and benefits of organic and conventional farms of the same size, which does not account for differences in yield.

Previous research has shown that on average, the yield of an organic crop is 19 to 25 per cent lower than under conventional management, and Seufert and Ramankutty find that many of the environmental benefits of organic agriculture diminish once lower yields are accounted for.

“While an organic farm may be better for things like biodiversity, farmers will need more land to grow the same amount of food,” said Seufert. “And land conversion for agriculture is the leading contributor to habitat loss and climate change.”

While their findings suggest that organic alone cannot create a sustainable food future, they conclude that it still has an important role to play. Buying organic is one way that consumers have control over and knowledge of how their food is produced since it is the only farming system regulated in law.

“We need to stop thinking of organic and conventional agriculture as two ends of the spectrum. Instead, consumers should demand better practices for both so that we can achieve the world’s food needs in a sustainable way,” said Seufert.


Published in Corporate News
For potato growers in Western Canada who are nervously watching the progress of potato psyllids (Bactericera cockerelli) moving in from the northwest United States, there’s good news: none of the potato psyllids found in Western Canada are carrying the zebra chip pathogen, Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum (Lso). The Lso pathogen is transmitted by the potato psyllid, and zebra chip has caused severe damage in potatoes in the western United States, Mexico, Central America and New Zealand.
Published in Insect Pests
Manitoba's forages, grasslands and cover crops and the healthy soils they grow in is a sure thing for any made in Manitoba carbon plan according to Manitoba Forage and Grassland Association (MFGA). The MFGA fast-tracked the organization's carbon position and a suite of seven key recommendations out to leaders and decision-makers this week.  

MFGA's timing bodes well given last week's call by Sustainable Development Minister Cathy Cox for input into a Manitoba Climate and Green Plan for Manitobans to have their say on the carbon pricing plan being imposed by the federal government. The key takeaway point of the MFGA position is the MFGA's advocacy for the plants above the soil and the microbial activity below, looping forages, grasslands, cover crops and annual crops as positives on the carbon front. 

The MFGA recommends that the following needs should be addressed with regards to understanding and promoting carbon sequestration in grasslands, forages, cover crops and annual crops and the soils they grow in: 

1. As a producer-led group, MFGA should be involved in all policy and partnership discussions around carbon sequestration and other ecosystem services provided by well-managed forage and grasslands, cover crops and annual crop production. 

2. Soil carbon benchmarking and monitoring should be done across the Manitoba agricultural lands and the potential benefits of increased soil carbon on a landscape scale should be modelled. 

3. Research and testing for Manitoba producers needs to be conducted within Manitoba to quantify the amount of carbon sequestered across a variety of landscapes using forage and grasslands as well as cover crops and perennial stages in crop rotation. 

4. Reward or compensation should be provided for producers who are able to retain or restore forages and grasslands and/or manage their soils to store and sequester carbon via incentive programs such as Alternative Land Use Services. This also applies to any other ecosystem services (water retention, flood prevention, biodiversity, etc.) that forages, grasslands and soils provide to society from Manitoba's agricultural lands. 

5. The MFGA Aquanty Project Model for the Assiniboine River Basin should be used to run simulations for demonstrating the role that organic carbon stored under forages and grasslands plays in flood and drought mitigation. The MFGA Aquanty Project is on schedule for completion March 2018.

6. Rotational grazing, cover crops and zero-till farming practices for soil health should continue to be supported and promoted by government and industry. 

7. An emphasis needs to be placed, in policy and public communications, on the positive linkages of livestock production, well-managed grasslands and sustainably-managed crop lands to soil health, carbon sequestration and other ecosystem services. 
Published in Corporate News
"Food production must double by 2050 to feed the world's growing population." This has become widely accepted among academics, policymakers and farmers, but now researchers are challenging this assertion and suggesting a new vision for the future of agriculture.

Research published in Bioscience suggests that production likely will need to increase between 25 percent and 70 percent to meet 2050 food demand. The assertion that we need to double global crop and animal production by 2050 is not supported by the data, argues Mitch Hunter, doctoral student in agronomy, in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences. He says the analysis shows that production needs to keep increasing, but not as fast as many have claimed. | READ MORE
Published in Corporate News
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