United States
While making the rounds at industry events this winter, I noticed one topic was sure to draw a crowd every time. It seems producers, suppliers and other industry stakeholders are eager to soak up whatever information they can on international markets and trade – and with good reason.
Published in Imports/Exports
Premier Brad Wall is travelling to Washington D.C. next week to raise awareness of the importance of Canada-U.S. trade and the benefits of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

“With a new administration in place in Washington, it is vital that we highlight the value of free trade and the risks associated with protectionism.  Saskatchewan is a trade dependent province.  We need to do everything we can to ensure our exporters have access to our most important market,” says Wall in a press release.

The visit will last from April 3 to April 6, where Wall will meet with Senators, members of the House of Representatives, and senior administration officials.

On April 5 Wall will deliver a keynote address at the Heritage Foundation, where he will also participate in a round table discussion on trade, energy and economic policy.

The United States is Saskatchewan’s largest customer, accounting for about half of the province’s total exports, shipments valued at $12.9 billion in 2016.  Last year, the value of Saskatchewan’s exports to just two states – Minnesota and Illinois – surpassed what the province exported to China.  Meanwhile, the U.S. was the source of 83 per cent of Saskatchewan imports in 2016.

Last year, the U.S. had a trade surplus with Canada, the only trade surplus it posted among its five largest customers.

In addition to promoting the importance of trade, Wall will tell the Saskatchewan story, emphasizing the province’s role as one of the world’s top producers of energy, food and fertilizer and its status as a research leader in energy, carbon capture and storage and biosciences.
Published in Imports/Exports
Change is never easy. But when it comes to adopting new agricultural practices, some farmers are easier to convince than others.

A group of researchers at the University of Illinois wanted to know which farmers are most likely to adopt multifunctional perennial cropping (MPC) systems – trees, shrubs, or grasses that simultaneously benefit the environment and generate high-value products that can be harvested for a profit.

"We surveyed farmers in the Upper Sangamon River Watershed in Illinois to learn their attitudes about growing MPCs on marginal land. We then looked at their demographic data to classify people into different categories related to their adoption potential," says University of Illinois agroecologist Sarah Taylor Lovell.

Using statistical clustering techniques, the team discovered that survey respondents fell into six categories. The "educated networkers" and "young innovators" were most likely to adopt MPCs. On the other end of the spectrum, survey respondents classified as "money motivated" and "hands-off" were least likely to adopt the new cropping systems.

The goal of categorizing farmers was to tailor strategies for each group, given their general attitudes. "If they're very unlikely to adopt at all, we probably wouldn't spend a lot of time worrying about those groups," Lovell explains.

However, Lovell thinks some low-likelihood adopters could be swayed. "One of the groups--the one we called "money motivated" – was really connected with GPS in their yield monitoring, so we thought we could target that. We could review high-resolution maps of their farms to point out the areas that are unproductive for corn and soybeans. We'd try to make the case that alternative perennial systems could bring in profits," Lovell says.

High-likelihood adopters were motivated by environmental concerns, and were especially interested in converting marginal land to bioenergy crop, hay, or nut production systems. "Farmers were probably most familiar with bioenergy grasses and hay," Lovell explains. But it was important to them that an existing market was in place for MPCs products.

Another major factor was land tenancy. Considering that most MPC crops don't mature for years after planting, rental contracts would need to account for the long-term investment.

"The person leasing the land might be really interested in agroforestry or perennial cropping systems," Lovell says. "The lease arrangement has to be long enough that the farmer will get back their investment in that period. For example, some of the nut crops take a long time to mature. But if you integrate some of the fruit shrubs, they'll become productive in maybe 3-4 years. You could get an earlier return on investment in those cases."

Lovell's graduate students – housed in the crop sciences department at U of I – are now following up with several of the farmers who were interested in MPCs and offering custom designs to establish the new cropping systems on their land.

"That was part of the overall goal for this study. We wondered if the barrier to adoption is a lack of information about design options and the economic potential," Lovell says. "If we overcome that barrier by developing good planting plans, projecting the market economics, and providing them with that information, will that help them implement the change?"
Published in Corporate News
Scientists at the Conneticut Agricultural Experiment Station are using nanoparticle technology to apply copper to the shoots of plants. Based on preliminary findings in the research, these nanoparticles are better at helping deliver the necessary nutrients to the plants and keep them healthy despite the presence of Fusarium in the soil. | READ MORE
Published in Fertilizer
A team of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and university scientists has developed a sensitive new assay method for detecting the fungus that causes wheat blast, a disease of wheat in South America and, most recently, Bangladesh.
Published in Diseases
President-elect Donald Trump discussed agriculture very little during his campaign, but the promises he made on free trade pose significant threats to Canada’s agriculture industry, writes Helen Metella for the University of Alberta. | READ MORE
Published in Corporate News
A new analysis is raising questions about whether farmers in Canada and the United States have seen real benefits resulting from their widespread adoption of genetically modified crops. The Toronto Star reports. | READ MORE
Published in Genetics/Traits
Wet fields in Western Canada are turning what was supposed to be a stellar crop of durum wheat into a soggy mess. The Calgary Herald reports. | READ MORE
Published in Harvesting
The U.S. will capture a higher share of the global wheat market this season as poor weather that’s hurt French and Canadian crops helps the second-largest exporter step up shipments from a 44-year low last season, according to Bloomberg.com. | READ MORE
Published in Markets
If parasites want to get to soybeans, they'll have to go through Kansas State University researchers first.
Published in Insect Pests
Researchers at Rice University in Houston are leading an effort to build tools that can detect, quantify and track the dispersal of genetically modified crops and animals, as well as their byproducts, in the environment.
Published in Genetics/Traits
According to new research from University of Virginia economist Federico Ciliberto, widespread adoption of genetically modified crops has decreased the use of insecticides, but increased the use of weed-killing herbicides as weeds become more resistant.
Published in Genetics/Traits
German drug and farm chemical maker Bayer AG says it has agreed to acquire seed and weed-killer company Monsanto in an all-cash deal valued at $66 billion.

Bayer says it is paying Monsanto shareholders $128 per share, which represents a 44 per cent premium over Monsanto's closing price on May 9, the day before a proposed deal was announced.

The deal is subject to approval by Monsanto shareholders and anti-trust regulators. Bayer expects the deal to close by the end of 2017. | READ MORE
Published in Business & Policy
August 16, 2016 - A United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) entomologist has found "green" alternatives to insecticides to control three native stink bugs that damage cotton, and the new methods are catching on with growers. The green stink bug (Chinavia hilaris), southern green stink bug (Nezara viridula), and brown stink bug (Euschistus servus) are a particular problem in the southeastern United States, because cotton is often grown alongside peanuts. Brown and southern green stink bugs develop in peanut fields and migrate into cotton. Green stink bugs move into cotton from nearby wooded areas.

Glynn Tillman, with USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in Tifton, Ga., is studying the use of "trap crops," such as soybean and grain sorghum. Trap crops are planted in small strips alongside cotton so that the stink bugs will move into them instead.

Another option is using pheromone-baited traps to capture and kill the bugs. Nectar-producing plants can be grown to attract native parasitoid wasps that attack stink bugs. Placing plastic barriers between cotton and peanut rows is yet another control method.

In a recent study, Tillman and her colleagues grew cotton and peanuts side by side for two years. In the first year, they planted soybeans as a trap crop, with and without pheromone traps, between the cotton and peanut rows. In other areas, they placed 6-foot-high plastic barriers between the rows. In the second year of the study, they added nectar-producing buckwheat plants near the cotton. Each week during the May-to-October growing season, they counted the stink bugs and stink bug eggs killed by wasps, and documented the damage to cotton bolls.

They found that physical barriers between peanut and cotton were the most effective tool and that the multi-pronged approach is an effective alternative if barriers are not feasible. They also found that soybeans were an effective trap crop and that buckwheat plants attracted beneficial wasps that reduced stink bug numbers.
Published in Insect Pests
You may think weeds resistant to herbicides are a new phenomenon linked to the overuse of glyphosate in genetically engineered crops, but according to the Weed Science Society of America (WSSA) nothing could be further from the truth. This year marks only the 20th anniversary of glyphosate-resistant crops, while next year will mark the 60th anniversary of the first reports of herbicide-resistant weeds.

The first known report of herbicide-resistance came in 1957 when a spreading dayflower (Commelina diffusa)growing in a Hawaiian sugarcane field was found to be resistant to a synthetic auxin herbicide. One biotype of spreading dayflower was able to withstand five times the normal treatment dosage. That same year wild carrot (Daucus carota) growing on roadsides in Ontario, Canada, was found to be resistant to some of the same synthetic auxin herbicides.

Since then, 250 species of weeds have evolved resistance to 160 different herbicides that span 23 of the 26 known herbicide mechanisms of action. They are found in 86 crops in 66 countries, making herbicide resistance a truly global problem.

“Given all the media attention paid to glyphosate, you would think it would have the greatest number of resistant weed species,” says David Shaw, PhD, a Mississippi State University weed scientist. “Though there are currently 35 weed species resistant to the amino acid synthesis inhibitor glyphosate, there are four times as many weed species resistant to ALS inhibitors and three times as many resistant to PS II inhibitors.”

Scientists say what is unique about glyphosate resistance is the severity of selection pressure for resistance development. More than 90 per cent of soybean, corn, cotton and sugar beet acres in the U.S. are glyphosate tolerant and receive glyphosate treatments – often multiple times per year.

“The sheer size of the crop acreage impacted by glyphosate-resistant weeds has made glyphosate the public face for the pervasive problem of resistance,” says Shaw. “But resistance issues are far broader than a single herbicide and were around long before glyphosate-resistant, genetically engineered crops were even introduced.”

Research shows that resistant weeds can evolve whenever a single approach to weed management is used repeatedly to the exclusion of other chemical and cultural controls – making a diverse, integrated approach to weed management the first line of defense. Many growers have had great success fighting resistance by adopting a broader range of controls.

One example is found in the experiences of U.S. cotton growers in the southern U.S. After years of relying on glyphosate for weed control, resistant Palmer amaranth (Amaranthus palmeri) began to overrun crops and caused yields to plummet. Today integrated weed management programs that use a diverse range of controls have become commonplace in cotton, despite the higher cost. Growers are using cover crops, hand-weeding, tillage, weed seed removal and herbicides with different mechanisms of action in order to keep Palmer amaranth at bay.

There have been tradeoffs. Additional herbicides, labor and fuel have tripled the cost of weed control in cotton. In addition, increased tillage has raised concerns about soil erosion from water and wind.  But for now, the crop has been preserved.

“Although diversification is critical to crop sustainability, it can be difficult to make a decision to spend more on integrated weed control strategies,” says Stanley Culpepper, PhD, a weed scientist at the University of Georgia. “As a result, many of the most successful diversification efforts can be found in crops like cotton where change became an imperative.”

Culpepper says that in addition to costs, another barrier to adoption of integrated weed management is the belief by some that new types of herbicides will be invented to take the place of those no longer effective on resistant weeds. But the HPPD-inhibitors discovered in the late 1980s for use in corn crops are the last new mechanism of action to make its way out of the lab and into the market.

“It would be naïve to think we are going to spray our way out of resistance problems,” Culpepper says. “Although herbicides are a critical component for large-scale weed management, it is paramount that we surround these herbicides with diverse weed control methods in order to preserve their usefulness – not sit back and wait for something better to come along.”
Published in Herbicides

For me, the world’s greatest herbicide was – and I say that in the past tense, was – glyphosate. It’s unfortunate but in my geography it is a herbicide of the past on many driver weeds. For me Palmer amaranth is a driver weed. For you that may be kochia. That may be wild oat. That could be green foxtail.

Published in Herbicides

May 18, 2016 - Genetically engineered (GE) crops and conventionally bred crops have no difference in terms of causing risks to human health and the environment, according to the report Genetically Engineered Crops: Experiences and Prospects released by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

The report is based on the results of an extensive study that was conducted by over 50 scientists for two years. The study includes data from 900 researches on biotech crops since it was commercialized in 1996.

The key points of the report include:

  • Studies with animals and research on the chemical composition of GE foods currently on the market reveal no differences that would implicate a higher risk to human health and safety than from eating their non-GE counterparts.
  • The use of insect resistant or herbicide tolerant crops did not reduce the overall diversity of plant and insect life on farms, and sometimes insect resistant crops resulted in increased insect diversity.
  • Commercially available biotech crops had favorable economic outcomes for farmers who adopted these crops.
  • Insect resistant crops have had benefits to human health by reducing insecticide poisonings.
  • Several GE crops are in development that are designed to benefit human health, such as rice with increased beta-carotene content to help prevent blindness and death caused by vitamin A deficiencies in some developing nations.

The research committee established a website to enable the general public to know more details of the report and submit comments about the results.

The research was funded by Burroughs Wellcome Fund, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the New Venture Fund, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, with additional support from the National Academy of Sciences.

Read the news release from National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

 

Published in Corporate News

May 17, 2016, Ontario – An almost entirely accidental discovery by University of Guelph researchers could transform food and biofuel production and increase carbon capture on farmland.

By tweaking a plant’s genetic profile, the researchers doubled the plant’s growth and increased seed production by more than 400 per cent.

The findings were published in the March 2016 issue of Plant Biotechnology Journal.

The team studied Arabidopsis, a small flowering plant often used in lab studies because of its ease of use and its similarity to some common farm crops. They found that inserting a particular corn enzyme caused the plant’s growth rate to skyrocket.

“Even if the effects in a field-grown crop were less, such as only a tenth of what we’ve seen in the lab, that would still represent an increase in yield of 40 to 50 per cent, compared with the average one to two per cent a year that most breeding programs deliver,” says Michael Emes, a professor in the department of molecular and cellular biology (MCB).

He said the team’s finding could boost yields of important oilseed crops such as canola and soybean, as well as crops such as camelina, increasingly grown for biofuels.

Larger plants would capture more atmospheric carbon dioxide without increasing the amount of farmland, Emes says. ”Farmers and consumers would benefit significantly in terms of food production, green energy and the environment. The ramifications are enormous.”

The finding came almost by chance.

Studying the enzyme’s effect on starch, the researchers noticed that their genetically engineered plants looked different and much larger in photos taken by lead author Fushan Liu, a former post-doctoral MCB researcher.

“That’s when we realized that we were looking at something potentially much more important,” says Ian Tetlow, an MCB professor and study co-author.

Although genetic engineering led to more flowers and pods containing seeds, it left the seed composition unchanged.

“The seeds are where we would get the oil from, and consistent composition is important so that the function and use of the oil isn’t changed,” Tetlow says.

The researchers plan to test canola and other crops. Field tests and analysis with industry and government will likely take several years.

“This could have enormous implications for agriculture, carbon capture, food production, animal feedstocks and biodiesel,” Emes says.

“These findings are without parallel, and we came to them almost by accident. The reason we started the work was to test some ideas in basic science. It just goes to show that you never know where that science will take you.”

Published in Corporate News

Apr. 26, 2016 - Honey bee colonies in the United States are in decline, due in part to the ill effects of voracious mites, fungal gut parasites and a wide variety of debilitating viruses. Researchers from the University of Maryland (UMD) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently completed the first comprehensive, multi-year study of honey bee parasites and disease as part of the National Honey Bee Disease Survey. The findings reveal some alarming patterns, but provide at least a few pieces of good news as well.

The results, published online in the journal Apidologie on April 20, 2016, provide an important five-year baseline against which to track future trends. Key findings show that the varroa mite, a major honey bee pest, is far more abundant than previous estimates indicated and is closely linked to several damaging viruses. Also, the results show that the previously rare Chronic Bee Paralysis Virus has skyrocketed in prevalence since it was first detected by the survey in 2010.

The good news, however, is that three potentially damaging exotic species have not yet been introduced into the United States: the parasitic tropilaelaps mite, the Asian honey bee Apis cerana and slow bee paralysis virus.

"Poor honey bee health has gained a lot of attention from scientists and the media alike in recent years. However, our study is the first systematic survey to establish disease baselines, so that we can track changes in disease prevalence over time," said Kirsten Traynor, a postdoctoral researcher in entomology at UMD and lead author on the study. "It highlights some troubling trends and indicates that parasites strongly influence viral prevalence."

The results, based on a survey of beekeepers and samples from bee colonies in 41 states and two territories (Puerto Rico and Guam), span five seasons from 2009 through 2014. The study looked at two major parasites that affect honey bees: the varroa mite and nosema, a fungal parasite that disrupts a bee's digestive system. The study found clear annual trends in the prevalence of both parasites, with varroa infestations peaking in late summer or early fall and nosema peaking in late winter.

The study also found notable differences in the prevalence of varroa and nosema between migratory and stationary beehives. Migratory beekeepers -- those who truck their hives across the country every summer to pollinate a variety of crops -- reported lower levels of varroa compared with stationary beekeepers, whose hives stay put year-round. However, the reverse was true for nosema, with a lower relative incidence of nosema infection reported by stationary beekeepers.

Additionally, more than 50 per cent of all beekeeping operations sampled had high levels of varroa infestation at the beginning of winter -- a crucial time when colonies are producing long-lived winter bees that must survive on stored pollen and honey.

"Our biggest surprise was the high level of varroa, especially in fall, and in well-managed colonies cared for by beekeepers who have taken steps to control the mites," said study co-author Dennis vanEngelsdorp, an assistant professor of entomology at UMD. "We knew that varroa was a problem, but it seems to be an even bigger problem than we first thought. Moreover, varroa's ability to spread viruses presents a more dire situation than we suspected."

For years, evidence has pointed to varroa mites as a culprit in the spread of viruses, vanEngelsdorp noted. Until now, however, much of this evidence came from lab-based studies. The current study provides crucial field-based validation of the link between varroa and viruses.

"We know that varroa acts as a vector for viruses. The mites are basically dirty hypodermic needles," Traynor said. "The main diet for the mites is blood from the developing bee larva. When the bee emerges, the mites move on to the nearest larval cell, bringing viruses with them. Varroa can also spread viruses between colonies. When a bee feeds on a flower, mites can jump from one bee to another and infect a whole new colony."

Nosema, the fungal gut parasite, appears to have a more nuanced relationship with honey bee viruses. Nosema infection strongly correlates to the prevalence of Lake Sinai Virus 2, first identified in 2013, and also raises the risk for Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus. However, the researchers found an inverse relationship between nosema and Deformed Wing Virus.

Some viruses do not appear to be associated with varroa or nosema at all. One example is Chronic Bee Paralysis Virus, which causes loss of motor control and can kill individual bees within days. This virus was first detected by the survey in the U.S. in 2010. At that time, less than one per cent of all samples submitted for study tested positive for the virus. Since then, the virus' prevalence roughly doubled every year, reaching 16 per cent in 2014.

"Prior to this national survey, we lacked the epidemiological baselines of disease prevalence in honey bees. Similar information has been available for years for the cattle, pork and chicken industries," Traynor said. "I think people who get into beekeeping need to know that it requires maintenance. You wouldn't get a dog and not take it to the vet, for example. People need to know what is going on with the livestock they're managing."

While parasites and disease are huge factors in declining honey bee health, there are other contributors as well. Pesticides, for example, have been implicated in the decline of bee colonies across the country.

"Our next step is to provide a similar baseline assessment for the effects of pesticides," vanEngelsdorp said. "We have multiple years of data and as soon as we've finished the analyses, we'll be ready to tell that part of the story as well."

 

 

Published in Emerging Trends

Apr. 18 2016 - A lower Canadian dollar is often good for agriculture on both sides of the border. Grain and cattle industries are the usual beneficiaries but now the used equipment industry is getting in on the action. With our neighbours to the south having a little more buying power than what has been seen in recent years, there is a much greater opportunity for Canadian farmers to upgrade their equipment or add to their cash flow by selling their used equipment.

The asking prices for the Canadian equipment can stay relatively the same, while the stronger U.S. dollar means a bigger benefit to the American customer. They can either upgrade to a newer, more efficient machine or they can just save a little more in the purchase price due to the exchange rate. Part of the shift is farmers being more and more comfortable sourcing and selling online.

"U.S. customers are extremely pleased with getting such great prices on equipment that they need and our Canadian customers are equally happy to move their equipment more quickly," says Kirk Frankish, one of the founders of EquipLinx. "It's really great to see farmers on both sides of the border having more dollars in their pockets because they are either buying or selling used equipment."

By opening up options to include the larger U.S. market, a seller can reach buyers looking for equipment sooner. In March of this year, EquipLinx had 70 per cent of its views from the United States. Approximately 30 per cent of the company's final sales are south of the border, but with their expanding market there, they expect that to increase in the coming months.

While there are many benefits to selling across border, there are a few considerations that can make the process a lot easier. Frankish has a few tips for people interested in potentially selling their equipment to an international audience:

  • Understand that there are regional differences in how equipment is used in the United States just like there are differences across Canada. Some machines will be of interest to the entire continent while some types of equipment will only see interest from a certain region.
  • The season is soon in full swing, so with a busy schedule, arranging for shipment of the equipment rather than delivering or picking it up yourself will likely be part of the process. The distance between the buyer and seller will be important to consider. This should be something that needs to be considered in addition to the selling price.
  • Finding your customer through a reputable network is key to managing risk. Whether you are buying or selling online it can create doubts for both parties. Buying or selling through a system that has safeguards in place can take additional stress out of the equation. This helps with making sure that payments are done in a timely fashion and that equipment is released as per the contract.
  • Although not common, customs can delay the arrival of the equipment at its destination. Make sure to give yourself or your buyer enough of a window to account for any normal delays.
  • If you're working through a broker, have a good understanding of what their fees are. Make sure that there will be still making enough of a profit once any commissions are finalized.

While it may not be a solution for everyone, selling equipment into the United States is a new option that changing technology has afforded the industry. For those wanting to take advantage of the right opportunity at the right time it may be a perfect moment to try something new.

 

Published in Corporate News
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