United States
The Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute (CAPI) and the Canada Institute of the Wilson Center are pleased to co-publish a short piece on approaches to food safety co-operation in Canada and the United States.

With NAFTA renegotiation talks in full swing, it is a critical time for a conversation on protecting and improving our shared food supply chain. As think tanks and think networks, CAPI and the Wilson Center know the importance of good debate and a robust marketplace for ideas. This short piece, written by Rory McAlpine and Mike Robach, encourages just such debate.

"The contents of the piece represent an opportunity for our two organizations to present to our respective stakeholders on the frontlines of Canada-US economic policy some new thinking on important food safety issues," said Don Buckingham, President & CEO of CAPI. "Food safety is not just about consumer protection, it's about enhancing the competitiveness of the Canada-US agri-food supply chain around the world. A well-functioning food safety regime helps to increase global demand for safe and wholesome North American food products."

Laura Dawson, Director of the Canada Institute of the Wilson Center added: "During a period of trade upheaval and fractured supply chains, it is particularly important to bring practical suggestions to the table that will build trade, increase competitiveness and safeguard the protection of consumers."

The short piece is available here: Risk and Reward: Food Safety and NAFTA 2.0
Published in World Outlook
Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan Inc. and Agrium Inc. announced that the Canadian Competition Bureau ("CCB") has granted unconditional regulatory approval for the proposed merger of equals by issuing a no-action letter dated September 11, 2017.

The CCB concluded that the proposed transaction is not likely to lead to a substantial lessening or prevention of competition with respect to potash fertilizer, phosphate fertilizers and nitric acid.

The CCB found that global prices of potash are correlated with prices in Canada and that customers can source potash from multiple suppliers. The issuance of the no-action letter satisfies the Canadian regulatory condition of closing of the proposed merger of equals transaction.

The companies previously received unconditional clearance for the merger in both Brazil and Russia. The regulatory review and approval process continues in the U.S., China and India and the parties expect to close the transaction by the end of the fourth quarter of 2017.

Upon closing the merger transaction, the new company will be named Nutrien. As the largest global provider of crop inputs and services, Nutrien will play a critical role in "Feeding the Future" by helping growers to increase food production in a sustainable manner.

Additional information on the merger between Agrium and PotashCorp can be found at the following website http://www.worldclasscropinputsupplier.com/

Information about Agrium and PotashCorp can be found under their respective corporate profiles on SEDAR at www.sedar.comor on EDGAR at www.sec.gov, respective websites at www.agrium.com and www.potashcorp.com
Published in Corporate News
The U.S. environmental agency is considering banning sprayings of the agricultural herbicide dicamba after a set deadline next year, according to state officials advising the agency on its response to crop damage linked to the weed killer.

Setting a cut-off date, possibly sometime in the first half of 2018, would aim to protect plants vulnerable to dicamba, after growers across the U.S. farm belt reported the chemical drifted from where it was sprayed this summer, damaging millions of acres of soybeans and other crops.

A ban could hurt sales by Monsanto Co (MON.N) and DuPont which sell dicamba weed killers and soybean seeds with Monsanto’s dicamba-tolerant Xtend trait. BASF (BASFn.DE) also sells a dicamba herbicide.

It is not yet known how damage attributed to the herbicides, used on Xtend soybeans and cotton, will affect yields of soybeans unable to withstand dicamba because the crops have not been harvested.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) discussed a deadline for next year’s sprayings on a call with state officials last month that addressed steps the agency could take to prevent a repeat of the damage, four participants on the call told Reuters.

It was the latest of at least three conference calls the EPA has held with state regulators and experts since late July dedicated to dicamba-related crop damage and the first to focus on how to respond to the problem, participants said.

A cut-off date for usage in spring or early summer could protect vulnerable plants by only allowing farmers to spray fields before soybeans emerge from the ground, according to weed and pesticide specialists.

Monsanto spokeswoman Christi Dixon told Reuters on Aug. 23, the day of the last EPA call, that the agency had not indicated it planned to prohibit sprayings of dicamba herbicides on soybeans that had emerged. That action “would not be warranted,” she said.

The EPA had no immediate comment.

EPA officials on the last call made clear that it would be unacceptable to see the same extent of crop damage again next year, according to Andrew Thostenson, a pesticide specialist for North Dakota State University who participated in the call.

They said “there needed to be some significant changes for the use rules if we’re going to maintain it in 2018,” he said about dicamba usage.

State regulators and university specialists from Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Iowa and North Dakota are pressuring the EPA to decide soon on rules guiding usage because farmers will make planting decisions for next spring over the next several months.

Tighter usage limits could discourage cash-strapped growers from buying Monsanto’s more expensive dicamba-resistant Xtend soybean seeds. Dicamba-tolerant soybeans cost about $64 a bag, compared with about $28 a bag for Monsanto’s Roundup Ready soybeans and about $50 a bag for soybeans resistant to Bayer’s Liberty herbicide.

Already, a task force in Arkansas has advised the state to bar dicamba sprayings after April 15 next year, which would prevent most farmers there from using dicamba on Xtend soybeans after they emerge.

Arkansas previously blocked sales of Monsanto’s dicamba herbicide, XtendiMax with VaporGrip, in the state.

“If the EPA imposed a April 15 cut-off date for dicamba spraying, that would be catastrophic for Xtend - it invalidates the entire point of planting it,” said Jonas Oxgaard, analyst for investment management firm Bernstein.

Monsanto has projected its Xtend crop system would return a $5 to $10 premium per acre over soybeans with glyphosate resistance alone, creating a $400-$800 million opportunity for the company once the seeds are planted on an expected 80 million acres in the United States, according to Oxgaard.

By 2019, Monsanto predicts U.S. farmers will plant Xtend soybeans on 55 million acres, or more than 60 percent of the total planted this year. READ MORE 
Published in Herbicides
Deere & Company has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Blue River Technology, which is based in Sunnyvale, California and is a leader in applying machine learning to agriculture.

"We welcome the opportunity to work with a Blue River Technology team that is highly skilled and intensely dedicated to rapidly advancing the implementation of machine learning in agriculture," said John May, President, Agricultural Solutions, and Chief Information Officer at Deere. "As a leader in precision agriculture, John Deere recognizes the importance of technology to our customers. Machine learning is an important capability for Deere's future."

As an innovation leader, Blue River Technology has successfully applied machine learning to agricultural spraying equipment and Deere is confident that similar technology can be used in the future on a wider range of products, May said.

Blue River has designed and integrated computer vision and machine learning technology that will enable growers to reduce the use of herbicides by spraying only where weeds are present, optimizing the use of inputs in farming – a key objective of precision agriculture.

"Blue River is advancing precision agriculture by moving farm management decisions from the field level to the plant level," said Jorge Heraud, co-founder and CEO of Blue River Technology. "We are using computer vision, robotics, and machine learning to help smart machines detect, identify, and make management decisions about every single plant in the field."

Already in 2017, Blue River Technology has been listed among Inc. Magazine's 25 Most Disruptive Companies, Fast Company's Most Innovative Companies, CB Insights 100 Most Promising Artificial Intelligence Companies in the World, and the Top 50 Agricultural Innovations by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers.

Deere said it will invest $305 million to fully acquire Blue River Technology. Deere plans to have the 60-person firm remain in Sunnyvale with an objective to continue its rapid growth and innovation with the same entrepreneurial spirit that has led to its success. The transaction is expected to close in September.

May said the investment in Blue River Technology is similar to Deere's acquisition of NavCom Technology in 1999 that established Deere as a leader in the use of GPS technology for agriculture and accelerated machine connectivity and optimization.
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
The Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA), the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) and Consejo Nacional Agropecuario (CNA) have sent a joint letter to Canadian, American and Mexican government officials, reiterating their calls that re-negotiations of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) should aim to modernize the agreement, rather than dismantle it.
Published in Business & Policy
The Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC) recently held an AgriWorkforce Roundtable to discuss challenges and possible solutions to address the critical agricultural labour shortage in Canada.
Published in Business Management
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
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