Variable-rate planting

Variable-rate planting

As corn hybrids are being developed to respond better to higher seed populations, interest is growing in variable-rate seeding.

"2,000 bull project" targets cattle traits

ARS geneticist Warren Snelling has identified genetic markers that make it easier to pinpoint cattle that have the hard-tomeasure trait of meat tenderness.

EFC awarded Crystal Egg Award by International Egg Commission

EFC awarded Crystal Egg Award by International Egg Commission

The Egg Farmers of Canada is the 2014 recipient of the Crystal Egg Award for outstanding commitment to corporate and social responsibility by the IEC

Storage rots: a potential problem in wet seasons

Storage rots: a potential problem in wet seasons

Usually wet seasons favour crop development, but incidence of storage rots is a concern, especially if rainfall occurs late in the growing season.

Canadian certified organic IMTA kelps hit market

Canadian certified organic IMTA kelps hit market

Cultivated kelps raised on a farm in the Bay of Fundy have been certified to the Canadian Organic Aquaculture Standard and will soon be making their way into the marketplace.

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North American Manure Expo comes to Canada...
For the first time ever, the North American Manure Expo is being hosted within a Canadian province. The annual show is being held August 20 and 21, 2013, at the University of Guelph’s Arkell Research Station, located near Guelph, Ontario. So, what's a Manure Expo and why should you attend? This video will provide all the dirt.
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Expert Dr. Susan Watkins discusses Water Sanitatio...
Expert Dr. Susan Watkins discusses Water Sanitation
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The population explosion...
With the world's population increasing exponentially and farmland staying the same, BASF took to the streets to ask consumers if this trend is sustainable.
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Lily Tamburic...
Lily Tamburic

Energy

Biogas roadmap will foster innovation, revenue for dairy farms Biogas roadmap will foster innovation, revenue for dairy farms

  The White House recently released a Biogas Opportunities Roadmap highlighting the economic and environmental benefits and potential for biogas systems in the U.S. According to the roadmap, biogas systems offer a wide range of potential revenue streams, growing jobs and boosting economic development for communities, businesses and dairy farms. The systems work by recycling organic material — including cow manure and food waste — into valuable co-products such as renewable energy, fertilizer, separated nutrients and cow bedding. To develop the roadmap, The White House worked with the dairy industry through the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, which was established under the leadership of dairy farmers, and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Department of Energy (DOE) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). According to the roadmap, the USDA, DOE and EPA will take these steps to promote the development of biogas systems: Fostering investment in biogas systems: To help overcome barriers to the widespread investment in biogas systems, USDA will lead efforts to better understand and track the performance of anaerobic digesters, seek opportunities to broaden financing options, and review Federal procurement guidelines. Strengthening markets for biogas systems and system products: The Roadmap identifies activities that could strengthen the market for biogas systems and system products including energy and other value-added products. For example, dairy farms of all sizes could enhance their revenues through nitrogen and phosphorus recovery. Improving communication and coordination: USDA will establish a Biogas Opportunities Roadmap Working Group, including the dairy industry, to implement the strategies in the Roadmap, with a goal to identify and prioritize policies and technology opportunities by August 2015. Promoting biogas use through existing agency programs: Leveraging existing programs will provide a way to enhance the use of biogas systems in the U.S. by ensuring existing criteria for technical and financial assistance considers the benefits of biogas system, leveraging research funding, and strengthening programs that support the use of biogas for clean energy, transportation fuel, and other biobased products. “On dairy farms, digesters can increasingly be part of the solution to manure management challenges and enhance our ability to sustain our farms for the next generation,” said Jim Werkhoven, a dairy farmer in Monroe, Washington, and chairman of Darigold, Inc. Biogas systems could help the dairy industry, which contributes approximately two percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, to further reduce its carbon footprint. In 2009, the dairy industry established a voluntary goal to reduce its carbon footprint by 25 percent by 2020. The Dairy Power project is one of a portfolio of projects to help achieve that goal; it focuses on harnessing the value of manure and realizing the potential of biogas systems for U.S. dairy farmers. “Dairy farmers are taking many steps to provide nourishing dairy foods and beverages that are responsibly produced,” said Tom Gallagher, chief executive officer of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy. “Biogas systems are one example of many technologies available to the industry today that help us continuously improve our stewardship and contribute to our communities.”      

Production

Egg Farmers of Canada is proud to be the 2014 recipient of the Crystal Egg Award for outstanding commitment to corporate and social responsibility EFC awarded Crystal Egg Award by International Egg Commission

  September 15, 2014 - The Egg Farmers of Canada is the 2014 recipient of the Crystal Egg Award for outstanding commitment to corporate and social responsibility.  It was presented to the organization by the International Egg Commission last week in Edinburgh, Scotland. The International Egg Commission, currently celebrating their 50th anniversary, made the announcement at their annual Gala where hundreds of delegates from across the world gathered to share best practices, discuss global trends and emerging opportunities in the international egg industry. "Social responsibility has been a pillar at Egg Farmers of Canada for many years. Through sponsorships and partnerships, donations and awareness campaigns, our farmers make it a priority to give back to their community", said Peter Clarke, Chairman of Egg Farmers of Canada in a release. "This award goes to all of our farmers and our dedicated staff who work hard every day and who live up to this mission". Egg Farmers of Canada is working with many national organisations, such as Breakfast Club of Canada and Food Banks Canada to promote healthy living at home and in the classroom. They also sponsor events such as the Forum for Young Canadians, who welcomes students from across the country in the nation's capital and teach them the roots of Canadian politics. "We sponsor many events through the year that are close to our farmer's heart," said Clarke.  EFC is also the Official Nutritional Partner of the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation CIBC Run for the Cure on October 5th.  Among many initiatives, Egg Farmers of Canada recently took part in a Heart and Stroke Foundation fundraising activity, gives staff time to volunteer and became a partner of BullFrog Power, a step taken under EFC's Office Green Initiative that aims to reduce the company's environmental impact. "At the end of the day, we know responsibility, integrity and community involvement are an important part of egg farmers' businesses and lives and it is important for us to live up to these principles and incorporate them into all aspects of our organization", concluded Clarke.  

Protection

High levels of phosphorus in ponds and lakes can lead to algae blooms. Phosphorus: on the land, not in the water

On a farm field, phosphorus is an essential crop nutrient. But in water bodies, too much phosphorus can cause serious problems, including increased algae growth. Algae blooms can result in oxygen depletion, leading to fish kills, and blue-green algae can release toxins into the water. So a project is underway to develop a field-scale tool to help farmers keep phosphorus on the land. “There has been a lot of talk in the news recently about more algae blooms in Lake Erie. After it had been cleaned up in the 1990s, it’s getting worse again. Lake Winnipeg is having a lot of algae bloom problems. Lake Champlain’s Missisquoi Bay has blue-green algae problems. The culprit is excess phosphorus. And agriculture is in the crosshairs to some extent as being blamed for part of that excess phosphorus,” says Keith Reid, a soil scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) who is leading the project. He adds, “Excess phosphorus in the water doesn’t translate into a terribly large loss from land, but we want to try to reduce that loss to do agriculture’s part in keeping our lakes swimmable and fishable.” Called Project P, this research is funded by AAFC. The tool is being designed for conditions in eastern Canada, and Reid is working with several other AAFC research scientists in eastern Canada, as well as provincial government and university researchers in Ontario and Quebec. The tool aims to predict fields, or parts of fields, at high risk of phosphorus (P) loss. Reid explains, “If you’re going to ask a farmer to do something, let’s do it where it’s going to be effective, where it’s actually going to make a difference. This tool should identify where the high-risk areas are so farmers can focus their attention on those areas.” A next-generation phosphorus index“Essentially, we’re looking to improve the phosphorus index,” notes Reid. “The P index was developed as a tool to try to identify hot spots – areas with the greatest risk of phosphorus losses from agricultural land. An example would be a livestock operation that has a small land base with fields near a stream, and they’ve been putting their manure on those fields continually and building up the soil test phosphorus. So those fields have a lot of phosphorus that’s available for loss and easy transport into the water.” The idea of a phosphorus index was first proposed about two decades ago. Since then, various American states and several provinces, including Ontario, have adopted a P index and adapted it to their own conditions and needs. “[Ontario’s] current P index, on a large scale, accounts for most of the risk factors. But no one has taken the time to determine if the index’s predictions compare well with what is actually showing up in the water. The current index also misses some of the factors that are a big part of agriculture in Ontario, including tile drains,” says Reid. He stresses that Project P is not about creating a new index to replace P indexes that Ontario, Quebec or the Atlantic provinces already have. “Our aim is to provide the scientific background that the provinces can use when they adapt their P indexes.” Reid and his research team will be filling some of the information gaps in the current index to develop an improved model. Then they’ll test the prototype model in the field to make sure it works as expected. Developing and testing the prototypeThe researchers are already working on the prototype. “We have been gathering all the information we can out of the scientific literature, from studies in Ontario and in regions with similar climates, soils and cropping systems. We’re examining what those studies are finding, and we’re putting that together in a model,” Reid says. Predicting phosphorus loss from agricultural land is challenging because it is influenced by many factors, such as nutrient application rate, placement and timing, soil test P, erodibility of the soil surface, rainfall and snowmelt amounts and surface runoff and subsurface flow patterns, including connectivity with nearby water bodies. Some practices to reduce the risk of phosphorus loss are already clear. Reid notes, “For instance, we know we can reduce the risk by just getting a phosphorus application worked into the soil or subsurface placed, rather than leaving it on the surface. And we know we can reduce the risk by waiting until the ground is dried up in the spring before applying phosphorus.” But the effect of tile drainage on phosphorus loss is not so clear. “I’ve done comparisons of phosphorus indexes across U.S. states in particular, which have most of the information [on tile drainage considerations], and they treat tile drains as either all good or all bad,” says Reid.   “The one mindset is: tile drains divert what would be surface runoff into the tiles so you reduce soil erosion. Therefore, tile drains reduce the risk of phosphorus loss. The other mindset is: tile drains have more connectivity between the field and the water, so it is easier for phosphorus applied in the field to move off the field and into the water. Therefore, tile drainage increases the risk of phosphorus loss. But, in reality, both of those are happening simultaneously.” As well, he says phosphorus loss in tile drains varies with soil type and with the size of the area drained by the tiles. The researchers hope to have their prototype ready for field testing by the spring of 2015 and to finalize the tool in 2016. “[In our tool,] we’re trying to simplify many factors so the tool can be used on the farm. We don’t want a tool that requires a whole lot of very complex measurements and inputs before you can run it,” explains Reid. But those simplifications mean the model is being designed to predict general trends, not how many grams of phosphorus will be lost from a field. “So, in our field testing, if the model identifies an area as a high risk for phosphorus loss, then we would expect to see higher levels of phosphorus in the downstream water. And if it identifies a low-risk area, we would expect to see lower concentrations of phosphorus.” The researchers are in the process of looking for field sites where they can compare the model’s predictions with what is actually happening. The sites have to meet several criteria. “We need sites with water quality measurements at a fine-enough time-scale that they give a good picture of what is showing up in the water. And the measurements have to be for a small-enough area that we can make some conclusions about what the water quality data mean relative to the land area draining into that stream. For instance, if the water quality is being measured at the mouth of the large river like the Grand River, it won’t be very useful for our purposes; there’s just way too much going on in that watershed. So the field sites need to be up in smaller sub-watersheds,” explains Reid. “And then we have to combine [those criteria] with being able to get the information about the agricultural practices on the land. That will enable us to run the model and compare the results with the water quality data.” Turning the tool’s results into practical actionAccording to Reid, the main users of the tool will likely be nutrient management planners. “We would expect to see the tool incorporated into, for example, [Ontario’s] NMAN software, once we’re happy with the way the model is working.” He adds, “I would also hope the model is transparent enough that a farmer could use it, recognizing that some farmers will have an interest and some won’t because they’ve got a lot of other things on their minds.” Reid expects the results generated by the tool will be provided to users in a way that indicates why a certain area is identified as having a high risk of phosphorus loss; for example, whether the risk is mainly due to soil erosion or to phosphorus application factors. That type of information would point the user towards which types of best-management practices would be most effective in reducing phosphorus loss. He notes, “This project is working in the context of: how can we farm a little bit better to both keep the phosphorus on the land and keep the water clean, and also have a profitable cropping system?”

Equipment

Efficiency on wheels Efficiency on wheels

Nuhn Industries’ Lagoon Crawler is known by many names – the Batmobile, the F1 racecar, Hot Wheels. But to the custom manure applicators who are actually getting this bright red agitation boat manure-splattered, it has one important label – efficient. “It will do the job of four lagoon agitators in less time,” says George Lorenz of L&M Industries, based in Black Creek, Wisc. “With an agitator, you’re really only reaching the manure in a 50-foot diameter around it. You only wish it was doing as good a job as this crawler.” L&M Industries handles about 350-million gallons of dairy manure annually, mostly in Wisconsin. Of that volume, about 40 percent is sand-laden. And if there’s one thing the Lagoon Crawler appears to excel at, it’s mixing liquid manure and sand into suspension. “Sometimes, it does too good of a job,” admits Lorenz with a laugh. “We can mix for an hour and then we have to shut the machine down. The manure is so well-mixed, it can become too thick to pump.” Lorenz had his first glimpse of Nuhn’s creation in August 2013 during that year’s North American Manure Expo, held in Guelph, Ont. He had a second look at the machine during a farm show later that same year in Oshkosh, Wisc. When he discovered another custom manure applicator in Wisconsin had purchased one, he managed to wrestle a test drive. “We convinced them to rent it to us. We put 77 hours on it.” The brainchild of Ian Nuhn, a prototype of the amphibious lagoon agitator was designed and constructed by Nuhn Industries in 10 days so it could be displayed at the 2013 expo. The company worked from August 2013 to January 2014 perfecting the prototype before shipping the first unit in February 2014. “The idea came from our customers,” explained Nuhn. “We talked to our customers and dealers about what they needed, what they were looking for. They said it needed to have wheels to get in and out of the pit.” Besides hydraulic wheels, the Lagoon Crawler also features a 275 horsepower Cummins/John Deere motor, which can pump close to 10,000 gallons of manure per minute. It has a hydraulic lift undercarriage to help it maneuver in and out of lagoons and is remotely operated. There are currently 35 Lagoon Crawlers in use, mostly in Wisconsin and California. There are another 25 on order, including some heading to Russia, a country Nuhn described as “an untapped market.” Earlier this year, L&M Industries took delivery of its first lagoon crawler, which currently has 110 hours on its 275 horsepower engine. A second one is on order. “It’s great,” says Lorenz. “I like the fact that, so far, it hasn’t plugged up. If you get it stuck on a sand bar, you’re able to drive it right off. You can drive it out of the pit and around the yard. One person can load it.” That ease of handling was one of the features that struck a chord with custom manure applicator Jim Jolivette of Jolivette Hauling out of Taylor, Wisc. “The labor efficiency really struck me as something positive,” he said. “It really helps when you’re short on labor. It’s easy to manage and easy to run with one person. “And there’s the safety aspect, too. It’s handy to drive in and out. You don’t have to crane it in.” Jolivette Hauling handles between 90- and 100-million gallons of manure annually, almost all of it dairy with about 40 percent sand-laden. “It does a very good job agitating,” said Jolivette. “There’s getting to be more sand used as bedding in the area. It suspends the sand a lot better.” Jake Zutz of Braun Electric Inc. in St. Nazianz, Wisc., has experienced first-hand the time-saving aspects of the crawler. “We have a client who we usually end up leaving with about six-feet of sand remaining using pumps and props,” he said. “With this boat, he was left with six-inches [of sand] remaining in the entire concrete-lined lagoon. “It does an excellent job agitating and can do a way better job than a lagoon pump. You don’t need three tractors and three pumps. The boat makes you way more mobile.” Braun Electric, which handles 150- to 175-million gallons of manure annually – about 50 to 70 percent of which is sand laden – currently has two crawlers available for rent and custom work. “We have a couple hundred hours on ours,” said Zutz. “I’ve tried to get it stuck and I haven’t been able to. It’s just a great idea on wheels.” Custom manure applicators, farmers and other people involved in the manure handling industry had an opportunity to see Nuhn’s Lagoon Crawler in action during the 2014 North American Manure Expo, held in Springfield, Missouri. It was one of many lagoon boats showcased during a demonstration at Chapman Dairy, a pasture-based dairy located near Pierce City.      

Research

A new study is examining protein diversity in Ontario winter wheats so breeders can develop varieties targeted to specific end-uses. Protein form and function

Function follows form, when it comes to proteins in wheat. The different structures of various protein molecules are an essential factor in a wheat flour’s ability to produce a specific end-product, whether that’s a cookie, cake, yeast bread, pastry or other product. So a new project is underway to get a deeper understanding of the proteins in Ontario winter wheats. The resulting information will enable wheat breeders to develop varieties targeted to specific end products, meeting the needs of wheat processors and consumers, and providing Ontario wheat growers with varieties that are in high demand. The idea for the project emerged when Dr. Jayne Bock talked with several Ontario cereal industry companies to get a sense of the industry’s biggest challenges and issues. “Everything seemed to be coming back to wheat quality, especially the quality of the gluten proteins in the wheat,” says Bock, a food scientist at the University of Guelph and the principal investigator for the project. “We have been researching wheat quality and gluten proteins in wheat for more than 100 years. The problem is that we’ve primarily focused on hard [western spring] wheats and we have always used bread for the model system. But in Ontario, most of the wheat we produce is soft wheat, especially soft winter wheats. Soft winter wheats typically don’t go into bread products. They typically go into a broad range of products like cakes, crackers, cookies and pretzels,” explains Bock. “I realized that, from a scientific standpoint, we really didn’t have a good understanding of the gluten proteins and wheat quality for soft wheats. We’ve never taken the time to research what gluten looks like in Ontario hard winter wheats and Ontario soft winter wheats.” Gluten protein is formed when water is added to wheat flour. As the water is mixed in, the two main types of protein in wheat flour – gliadins and glutenins – start to interact and form bonds, called cross-links, with each other. The resulting cross-linked protein network is gluten. Glutenin helps give gluten its elasticity, while gliadin helps give gluten its extensibility (stretchability). With more mixing or kneading of the dough, more cross-links form, which further changes the structure of the protein network and affects the dough’s behaviour when made into a food product. “The goal of the project is to gain an understanding of the diversity in Ontario winter wheats right now, and then to use that diversity to understand the protein conformation and gluten quality in Ontario wheat,” notes Bock. Protein conformation refers to the three-dimensional structure of the proteins. “Typically, proteins have a specific structure to them. For example, the protein structure of hemoglobin in humans is very consistent for the most part,” Bock says. “But wheat is a very heterogeneous biological system and the protein structures in wheat, especially in wheat gluten, can vary quite dramatically because the genetics are so diverse and the types of processing we use to manipulate that structure are quite different.” Wheat types and varieties have differing protein characteristics. For instance, soft wheats tend to have a lower protein content, form weaker gluten, and have a higher proportion of gliadin, which allows cookie dough to spread. In comparison, hard wheats tend to have a higher protein content, form stronger gluten, and have a higher proportion of glutenin, so they have the elasticity needed for yeast breads. Bock’s four-year project involves soft red and hard red winter wheats, the two most commonly grown winter wheats in Ontario. It is being funded through the AgriInnovation Program under the Growing Forward 2 platform, with funds from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the Ontario Cereal Industry Research Council. The project has four objectives. The first is to assess the diversity of proteins that exists in Ontario wheats. Work on this objective is already under way.The second objective is to examine how the commercial flours made from Ontario wheats perform in various quality tests. Bock says, “Typically, research projects look at the flour from an individual variety of wheat. But from a commercial standpoint, multiple varieties are blended together before the wheat is milled into a flour. To keep this project as commercially relevant as possible, this objective is not to just look at the flour quality from a variety, but to look at the flour quality and behaviour during processing of commercial flour blends from these Ontario wheats.” The third objective is to develop a safer  alternative to chlorination of cake flour. “Chlorination has some significant personnel safety issues and some environmental safety issues associated with it. So chlorination is eventually going to be phased out,” explains Bock. “When that happens we need to be ready with a suitable alternative to give the same type of flour that we know and love for the cakes that we make.” According to Bock, chlorination interacts with the starch and the protein in flour and changes the way they behave. The result is a flour especially suited for making cakes. “Chlorination essentially oxidizes the starch granule and gives it some unique properties. It’s the starch granule when it gelatinizes during baking that will give the cake its structure,” she says. “And chlorination changes the gluten proteins in such a way that they can’t come together and form a network. People will often say ‘the proteins are rendered non-functional.’ But the proteins are still there, and they still provide thickening to a batter that keeps the starch granules from settling before you get it in the oven to bake it.” In this objective, Bock will be trying to recreate these starch and protein changes in a non-chlorinated flour. The project’s fourth objective is to examine wheat and flour aging. Aging affects various characteristics of wheat grain and flour, including the gluten, so adequate aging is important for flour quality and baking performance. This objective will focus on predicting and controlling aging so wheat processors will be able to more reliably get the quality they need. Bock says, “When wheat is harvested, it doesn’t stop changing – that’s really only the beginning of changes in the wheat grain and then the milled flour over time. That is not always very well understood and can cause some problems for processors.” Wheat needs to be stored for a time before milling, but the exact length of time can vary. “We call this period the sweating period. The wheat is changing substantially during that time. If you try to mill it during those weeks, it’s very difficult and you don’t get the same quality of flour out of it. The wheat grain has to mature to a certain extent to give consistent milling properties,” she notes. “Then, once you mill a grain, it is exposed to oxygen and the atmosphere, and the oxygen reacts with the proteins, causing changes in the protein fraction.” She adds, “Eventually the grain before milling and the flour after milling each reach a point where further changes are very minimal and the b ehaviour and the quality remain consistent for quite some time. However, [the flour] eventually drops out of that equilibrium phase. You reach a point when the flour’s behaviour is not consistent anymore. So you can’t reliably use it and expect to see the same product after it has aged for too long.” Value chain benefitsBock aims to tie together all the information resulting from the project’s four components to develop “a rough working model of what the gluten network and gluten behaviour looks like in Ontario winter wheats. We can use that model to guide our decisions about aiming specific varieties for specific types of processes and products.” “By looking at the diversity that is already in Ontario wheats and then coupling that with all the other activities, we aim to give wheat breeders an opportunity to see where is the diversity and how can you use that in a more targeted breeding strategy. Because ultimately, you want to breed wheat varieties with good disease resistance, good insect pest resistance, and good yields – and that end-users are going to value and use,” explains Bock. “We’re hoping that eventually certain varieties can be targeted for certain types of products. It’s not necessarily an identity-preserved type of system, but the end-users will see added value in those varieties that are most suitable for their product. With Ontario being one of the major soft wheat producing regions in North America, this will provide benefit and value to the entire market value chain from the breeders all the way through to the end-users.”