United States
Montana has seen a spike in pulse crop acres in the last 10 to 20 years. When I started 10 years ago, my crop responsibilities included spring wheat, winter wheat, durum, and maybe a little barley. Now wheat is becoming a rotational crop for pulse production.
Published in Diseases
Scientists with the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture have found that the overall health of honeybee hives actually improves in the presence of agricultural production.

The study, “Agricultural Landscape and Pesticide Effects on Honey Bee Biological Traits,” which was published in a recent issue of the Journal of Economic Entomology, evaluated the impacts of row-crop agriculture, including the traditional use of pesticides, on honeybee health. Results indicated that hive health was positively correlated to the presence of agriculture. According to the study, colonies in a non-agricultural area struggled to find adequate food resources and produced fewer offspring.

“We’re not saying that pesticides are not a factor in honeybee health. There were a few events during the season where insecticide applications caused the death of some foraging bees,” says Mohamed Alburaki, lead author and post-doctoral fellow with the University of Tennessee Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology (EPP). “However, our study suggests that the benefits of better nutrition sources and nectar yields found in agricultural areas outweigh the risks of exposure to agricultural pesticides.”

A​ccording to the study, hives located in areas with high to moderate agricultural vegetation grew faster and larger than those in low or non-agricultural areas. Researchers suggest the greater population sizes enabled better colony thermoregulation in these hives, as well.

Meanwhile, bees located in a non-agricultural environment were challenged to find food. Although fewer pesticide contaminants were reported in these areas, the landscape did not provide sustainable forage. In fact, during the observations, two colonies in the non-agricultural areas collapsed due to starvation.

Disruptions and fluctuations in brood rearing were also more notable in a non-agricultural environment. Interestingly, brood production was highest in the location that exhibited a more evenly distributed mix of agricultural production, forests and urban activity.

“One possible explanation for this finding could be the elevated urban activity in this location,” says Alburaki. “Ornamental plantings around homes or businesses, or backyard gardens are examples of urban activity that increase the diversity of pollen in an area. Greater pollen diversity has been credited with enhancing colony development.”

Researchers also evaluated trapped pollen from each colony for pesticide residues. Low concentrations of fungicides, herbicides and insecticides were identified, but at levels well below the lethal dose for honey bees. Imidacloprid was the only neonicotinoid detected, also at sub-lethal levels.

Agricultural pesticides, particularly neonicotinoids, are considered by some to be a key factor in declining honeybee populations. The UTIA study found that higher exposure to pesticides in agricultural environments did not result in measurable impacts on colony productivity.

This study was supported in part by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service Pest Management Program.
Published in Corporate News
Leaders from the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) strengthened their Canada-U.S. connections and underscored the benefits of NAFTA last week during meetings with American Farm Bureau representatives in several states. The five-day tour included visits to California, Kansas, Iowa and Wisconsin.

“What we've learned from these discussions is that U.S. farmers depend on NAFTA as much as Canadian farmers do. No one wants to jeopardize the agreement for fear of losing the significant benefits accrued by all parties including well established markets for agriculture and agri-food products,” says CFA President Ron Bonnett.

Bonnett said that the Wisconsin Farmers Union also supports NAFTA and were in agreement that the diafiltered milk issue was a scapegoat for the larger problem, which is the current worldwide glut of milk on the market.

"The key take-away from our U.S. meetings is that we now have a good chance to resolve some of the ongoing barriers to trade that stand apart from tariff rules. Farm groups in Canada and U.S. have long called for harmonized regulations," said Bonnett.

The CFA will continue to work with its members and government officials to seek and implement actions that will modernize North American trade, leading to greater value for all NAFTA partners.
Published in Imports/Exports
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
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