Monthly Archives: May 2014

Agronomy Geeks West — Ep. 14: Spread the (Variety) Love, Not the Clubroot

clubroot canola

Do you know when to scout for the tell-tale clubroot galls?

I promise at some point to jump off this Rotation Bandwagon and start talking about something else agronomy-related, but for now, humour me while I beat this ailing-but-still-alive-but-just-barely horse.

Where was I? Oh, yes. Rotation. In my last podcast, featuring Randy Kutcher, we learned many things about plant pathology — how genetic resistance to a disease works, its weaknesses and why careful management of genetic resistance is necessary to preserve the usefulness of the trait.

To build off of that discussion, I’m joined in this Agronomy Geeks episode by Arvel Lawson, DEKALB agronomist for east central Alberta. For this episode, we decided to drill down to talk clubroot only — its spread, how to prevent it and, most importantly, what to consider when choosing a clubroot-resistant variety. Lawson offers several great tips, including a nod to carefully selecting for maturity, and stresses the need for longer canola rotations, proper scouting techniques, soil movement management and proper harvest management.

Have a listen!

If you cannot see the embedded player, click here.

Want to hear more? Click here for more Agronomy Geeks West podcast episodes!

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Saskatchewan’s Grain Bag and Twine Recycling Pilot Project Continues

Saskatchewan’s Grain Bag and Twine Recycling Pilot Project began in March of 2011 and has diverted a total of 730,500 lb of plastic out of landfills. Last month, federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz and Saskatchewan Agriculture Minister Lyle Stewart announced the project would receive an additional $100,000 for 2014.

Grain bag and twine collection sites.

Grain bag and twine collection sites.

“We are pleased to extend the Grain Bag Recycling Pilot Project until a permanent program is implemented,” Stewart said.  “With increasing use of grain bags to store the record crop from last year’s harvest, we want farmers to continue to have an option to responsibly dispose of their bags.”

Meanwhile, the Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment is working on regulations for a permanent recycling program, hoped to begin in 2015.

Grain bags are accepted rolled, which eases the transportation burden and helps clean the bags. Rollers are mounted on a trailer, transported by the producer and are free of charge. Twine only needs to be collected in clear plastic bags (available at the collection sites pictured, or click here), dry and free of debris.

The Grain Bag Recycling Pilot Project is administered by Simply Agriculture Solutions Inc. (formerly the Provincial Council of Agriculture Development and Diversification Boards) with funding through Growing Forward 2 framework. Though grain bags and twine are all that is being accepted now, Simply Agriculture Solutions Inc. is currently identifying methods to collect net wrap and silage plastic.

For more information, visit or call Simply Agriculture at 1-866-298-7222 ext 204

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Corn & Wheat Prices Dip as Soybeans Make a Run at Highs — This Week in Markets

Good planting conditions and favourable weather in the U.S. has led to corn prices dipping slightly over the last week. Corn joins wheat prices on the downtrend all thanks to a bearish global picture. Old crop soybean prices have popped recently, hitting 11-month highs as crush margins and meat prices in China are improving while the balance sheet in the U.S. is still fairly tight. Domestic Chinese prices for soymeal, corn, wheat, and pork have all rallied in the last month, with pork prices leading the way and up 20 per cent.

With this move to the upside in soybeans and to the downside in corn the last few days, it is thought that more acres that have yet to be planted (AKA swing acres) could be seeded with soybeans instead of corn. However, there’s still a two dollar spread between July and September contracts (and a $2.50 spread to November from July!). The main reason for the large difference is the expectations for a huge U.S. crop coming off in three to four months. Still, at these prices, some producers are getting a better margin than planting corn. The soybean market seems to have little effect on the canola trade currently though as the Canadian oilseed staple is slightly lower and relatively quiet amidst seeding.

The canola trade did see a little push to the upside, though, on thoughts of delayed seeding in the Canadian Prairies and a new crusher in Quebec demanding 500,000 tonnes a year. However, it’s speculated that there’s still a fair amount of the oilseed available in Western Canada and more analysts are expecting a record E.U. rapeseed crop this year.

Ultimately, things are starting to warm up (finally) and crops are getting into the ground offsetting negative thoughts about a late start. All in all, some good sunshine and warmer temperatures are forecast for most of Western Canada over the next week or so, and that should certainly increase seeding completion percentages. That being said, there’s more than a few producers are saying that the extra shot of moisture is good for the soil but I would say there are a few areas (i.e. Southeastern Saskatchewan & Southwestern Manitoba) who are hoping for some sunshine in order to dry out fields from last year! We’ll get the crop in but it’s worth the precaution to have tow straps on standby.

Moving across the Atlantic, there’s increasing concerns that the southern region of Russia could see poorer yields this year due to dry, hot conditions. On the political front, Russian president Vladimir Putin says that he will respect “the will of the Ukrainian people” following the Ukrainian presidential election on Sunday May 25th and will work with whomever is elected. Nonetheless, the country is seemingly closer to civil war than ever before as clashes between Ukrainian soldiers & pro-Russian separatists in eastern regions seem to be intensifying.

It’s been in negotiations for the last decade, but China and Russia have appeared to have finally become best friends and agreed to a natural gas deal worth nearly $400 billion over 30 years. While this is nothing short of a landmark agreement, the interesting piece is that the deal won’t rely on western banking for financing as both countries look to veer away from doing business in U.S. dollars.

This in mind, is this an opportunity lost by the Canadian energy sector? Quite possibly. With all the nit-picking over TransCanada’s XL pipeline, the company is now considering to ship crude by rail from Hardisty, Alta., to the main storage site in Steele City, Nebraska (and you thought this year’s rail movement of oil over grain was bad…).

Nonetheless, it appears that Ceres Global Ag Corp.’s Northgate, Sask., rail hub will begin operations later this year and has befriended the BNSF network, a big plus as it connects to 28 different states, multiple Gulf and Pacific ports, and Mexico. Certainly, the open market is creating new opportunities, but one should consider hedging price risk proactively — it’s easier to make sales when you can, not when you have to.

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Canterra Seeds Announces Major Expansion of R&D

Winnipeg-based Canterra Seeds has announced a major increase in its internal research and product development (R&PD) program.

“We are set for some dramatic changes in our research program, in both scope and depth. In 2014, we will be testing five times as many potential varieties as in 2013, including a significant amount of material from the very early stages of variety development,” says Canterra Seeds director of research and product development, Dr. Erin Armstrong, in a company press release.

The company will run its own variety registration trials for the first time this year, in addition to entering lines into the publicly coordinated trials. Armstrong noted that cereals continue to make up the majority of the varieties evaluated, especially spring and winter wheat.

Armstrong also paid tribute to the company’s ongoing exclusive agreement, signed in 2012, with Limagrain — the fourth largest seed company in the world — to test and commercialize Limagrain products in Western Canada.

“The number of potential varieties we’re testing each year has increased by over 20 times since 2012,” says Armstrong.  She adds that the first of these products could be seen by farmers in the spring of 2016.

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This Week on RealAg: Health & Safety, Poor Weather & Poorer Tractor Etiquette

If you can’t see the embedded player above, click here to hear this interview.

It’s that time again — when Lyndsey Smith and Debra Murphy finally remember to do a wrap up of the week that was on Real Agriculture!

Lucky listeners are in for a serious treat this week, as Smith and Murphy spend an entire 20 minutes talking about the weather.

Oh, if only. Instead, this two-thirds of the western editorial team discusses (in no particular order): tractor driving safety (in light of #TractorGate on the Ontario campaign trail), the weather, freckles, slip-n-slides made of grain bags, what Debra does all day and why that matters now more than ever, how many Google+ members are in the Canadian Agriculture community, and, yes, even genomics.

And, in case you thought we were joking, you really CAN roll up grain bags with a baler:



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Saik’s Agri-Treks: Touring Brazil’s Favelas

In the last episode of Saik’s Agri-Treks, we toured Carnaval celebrations in São Paulo and Rio De Jainero and the statue “Christ the Redeemer.” We also learned of Carnaval’s significance to the favelas, where many of the samba schools are formed.

Favelas are areas typically located on the periphery of large cities in Brazil, where those who could not afford housing within the city formed residences of their own. Some of the most well-known favelas exist on the outskirts of Rio, formed in the late nineteenth century with the abolition of slavery and the demise of a rebellion in Brazil’s northeast. The favelas continued to grow in the twentieth century, largely due to urbanization and a lack of affordable housing.

In recent years, the favelas have seen incredible change, as cities and government continue to extend services. For Rio, this means providing higher security and support to roughly 20% of its population.

In this video, Rob Saik, host of Agri-Treks and founder of Agri-Trend, takes us through Rio’s favelas, sharing history, exploring the marketplaces and describing some of the recent changes.

See more episodes of Saik’s Agri-Treks here!

If you cannot view the embedded video, click here.

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High Caliber Diets for High Caliber Animals — The Role of Animal Nutrition in Human Health

Owen RobertsWhen it comes to nutrition, it’s safe to say modern farmers are diet conscious about their animals.

Farm animals have a whole industry looking after their best interests. Professionals such as animal nutritionists make sure livestock don’t make bad nutrition decisions. How many humans can say the same?

Granted, that option’s mostly taken away from farm animals through production agriculture, with prescribed diets. But where else on earth is a collection of species – beef and dairy cattle, chickens and pigs, among them — so closely observed and cared for?

Humans’ poor nutritional choices are driving some of the significant advances in animal nutrition that have taken place as a result of research at the University of Guelph and elsewhere.  We are a world of animal protein eaters, and there are more of us all the time.  Along with eating animal protein, we unfortunately also eat to excess and overly indulge our cravings for fat, salt and sugar. That leaves us vulnerable to nutritional shortcomings and disease.

That vulnerability has helped usher in a new age of animal nutrition — distinguished by research that makes humans, as well as animals, the best they can be.

In Canada, Guelph is the overwhelming leader in this field. Almost every senior nutritionist at every major animal feed company here is an animal nutrition graduate from the University of Guelph.  That’s a result of the training they receive from one of the world’s most concentrated core of animal nutrition scientists and associated faculty, as well as from support from the animal feed industry and from the partnership with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food and the Ministry of Rural Affairs.

Guelph faculty members ushered in change. They saw how nutrition must go hand in hand with other animal health matters – housing, welfare, behaviour and disease prevention, among others – to make an animal top of the line.

For example, Guelph researchers have led the way in figuring out the essential role of vitamin E and selenium in superior muscle development and health in livestock.

They broke ground internationally by discovering how to incorporate omega 3 fatty acids into eggs and into cow’s milk, which led to enriched eggs and to the popular Dairy Oh! line of milk products.

They are leading the world in finding ways to develop what’s called co-products – such as the left-over protein and minerals from grain used as a feedstock to create ethanol – for sustainable animal feed, so traditional staples such as corn and soybeans can be used to feed humans instead.

They are regularly called on to help balance the nutritional needs of exotic animals in captivity.

They find new and nasty levels of mycotoxins that are increasingly prevalent in feed stocks as climate changes.

And they’ve turned heads by observing how cancerous tumours shrink when lab animals were fed selenium-enriched feed. Could the same thing happen in humans if they drank milk from cows fed beneficial levels of selenium?

They also work with the pet food and aquaculture industries to help develop scientifically sound diets. Where does the basic science in the diet come from? The University of Guelph.

The new direction and interest in enhanced food has animal nutritionists all fired up. Last week, 185 members of the Animal Nutrition Association of Canada came together at the University of Guelph for the 50th annual animal nutrition conference – which coincides with the university’s 50th anniversary.

Says Guelph graduate and conference chair Kathleen Shore, ruminant nutritionist for New-Life Mills in Cambridge: “Things have changed and the public sees how animal nutrition affects them too. It’s really energized the profession.

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