Top Crop Manager

Top Crop Manager
Natural air drying simpler, cheaper

Natural air drying simpler, cheaper

An option for natural air drying other than continuous fan operation is being put forward by Ron Palmer

Taking the temperature of water-thirsty plants

Taking the temperature of water-thirsty plants

A U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) engineer in Fort Collins, Colorado, is making it easier for growers to determine if their crops are water-stressed.

Fencing and watering system protects species at risk

Fencing and watering system protects species at risk

A Northumberland County farmer is converting a former cash crop farm back to pasture and grassland, creating habitat for at risk wildlife species in the area.

Controlled traffic farming

Controlled traffic farming

A group of intrepid farmers and researchers are working on what could be the next evolution in conservation tillage.

Conservation tillage through the decades

Conservation tillage through the decades

Forty-five years ago, conservation tillage was unknown, save for a few forward-thinking research scientists and concerned farmers.

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Honey Bee AirFLEX...
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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.

Seed/Chemical

The effect of concentrations on the efficacy of CL0-1, a  wettable powder formulation of  ACM941 (C. rosea) in controlling  Fusarium head blight.  Plants here are shown 14 days after  inoculation and treatments, in greenhouse trials in 2009. Biofungicide for Fusarium head blight of wheat made in Canada

When Allen Xue from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Eastern Cereal and Oilseed Research Centre (AAFC-ECORC) in Ottawa isolated the fungal strain Clonostachys rosea from a pea plant in 1994, he began the process of developing the first bio-fungicide for controlling Fusarium head blight. Reducing grain yield and quality, as well as posing a risk to animal health and the safety of human food (since infected kernels are contaminated with a toxic substance called deoxynivalenol), Fusarium head blight (FHB) has become an increasing problem for small grain cereal producers. It is particularly epidemic in Eastern and Western Canada during years when wet weather coincides with wheat during its flowering stage, and is estimated to cost Canada’s agriculture sector over $100 million annually. Crop rotation and tillage to reduce the risk have had limited success. The use of chemical fungicides is the most effective solution to date, but is costly and has environmental concerns attached to it. Creating genetically resistant cultivars is one of the most practical and environmentally safe measures to control FHB, but while considerable research has been done in this field, complete resistance has proven elusive. As a result, researchers began to look for a more environmentally acceptable alternative to the use of chemical treatments, namely the biological control of plant pathogens by microorganisms. It was during such research to test a range of potential bio-control agents to see their impact on soil- and seed-borne pathogens of cereal crops, including FHB, that Xue identified the  C. rosea strain ACM941. “It showed activity as a foliar spray,” Xue says. “But its activity in suppressing  G. zeae in crop residues really caught our attention because of how this might be exploited against Fusarium head blight.” From 2005 to 2012, Xue led two collaborative projects. These included a series of greenhouse experiments and field trials on CLO-1, an experimental wettable powder formulation of ACM941. To use CLO-1 in diverse environments in Canada, Xue collaborated with Jeannie Gilbert from AAFC’s Cereal Research Centre in Winnipeg, Yves Dion and Sylvie Roux from the Centre de Recherche sur les Grains in Quebec, and Harvey Voldeng, George Fedak and Marc Savard from AAFC-ECORC. “Our research demonstrated that at concentrations above 106 cfu mL-1, the bio-fungicide provided consistent and significant effects, with disease suppression generally equivalent to that achieved with the fungicide terbuconazole when applied as a foliar spray,” Xue says. “Effects were most pronounced in combination with moderately resistant cultivars.” He adds that when applied to crop residues, CLO-1 was more effective than the fungicide at reducing the production of perithecia, the pathogen fruiting bodies that form in crop residues and produce ascospores. These are the initial source of disease inoculum and responsible for generating the epidemics of FHB. “The impact was achieved whether it was applied before or after the substrate was infected with Fusarium head blight, and in field trials applied in either autumn or spring,” Xue says. He  explains that when it was applied to wheat residues in the field in spring, it delayed the appearance of perithecia by seven to 10 days and reduced quantities of ascospores. Having patented ACM941 in 1999, AAFC signed a 10-year licensing agreement with the Canadian bio-pesticide company, Adjuvants Plus Inc., in August 2014, to develop the technology and gain regulatory approval. With a provisional two-year window to bring it to market, Adjuvants Plus developed DONguard, which is expected to be commercially available in Canada in 2016. It is exciting news because CLO-1 will provide an extra tool for producers to use in an integrated FHB management strategy that will reduce initial inoculum load and the risks of epidemics. It should also work in tandem with the most resistant wheat cultivars currently available, reducing the need for fungicide applications against FHB for both conventional and organic producers. Representing a major breakthrough in FHB management in Canada and in the world, this is hopefully just the first bio-fungicide for controlling FHB. Xue has already worked collaboratively with Cornell University’s bio-fungicide expert, Gary Harman, to develop and evaluate new and improved commercial formulations of ACM941. Researchers also continue to look into more effective and efficient ways to apply the bio-fungicide as well as its potential with other economically important diseases of field, horticultural and vegetable crops.

Agronomy

Graduate student Aidoo is part of the research team carrying out a project to assess practices to optimize oat yield, quality and standability. Optimizing oat production

Oat is a competitive crop that is suited to central and northern Alberta growing conditions, but oat agronomic research has been lacking in Alberta in recent years. “When I found out about the high yield potential of oat, I was fascinated by its potential to be a high-value crop for growers,” says Linda Hall, a weed scientist and agronomist at the University of Alberta. Her excitement about oat’s potential inspired Hall to initiate a three-year project on optimizing production of food-grade (milling) oats in Alberta. She is working with Sheri Strydhorst, an agronomy research scientist at Alberta Agriculture and Forestry; Bill May, a crop management agronomist with Agriculture in Agri-Food Canada in Indian Head, Sask.; and Joseph Aidoo, a graduate student at the University of Alberta. Based on Statistics Canada data, the average oat yield for Alberta for the past five years was 82.7 bushels per acre (3120 kilograms per hectare). This low average yield may be due in part because oat is often grown for hay and forage, rather than for grain, but also because oat is sometimes planted as a default grain crop when it’s too late to seed crops like wheat or canola. Results from variety trials and other sources show oat grain yields on the Prairies can be around 120 to 155 bushels. According to Hall, oat’s yield potential could be over 200 bushels under the cool, moist growing conditions preferred by the crop and using agronomic practices aimed at high yields. “Although oat can be high yielding, the common variety grown in Alberta is not the best for high-value milling oats,” Hall notes. “So one objective of our project is to compare the yield of some newer high beta-glucan oat varieties. This may provide a new marketing opportunity for Alberta growers.” Food processors are interested in beta-glucan because this dietary fibre has important health benefits, such as lowering cholesterol. “The most reasonable way to increase oat yield is to plant early and increase nitrogen fertilizer. Unfortunately, higher nitrogen tends to result in thinner seeds, which is not as good for the milling market, which prefers plump seeds with a high test weight,” she says. “So we need to find a balance – how do we maximize yield and yet still retain quality?” Another effect of high nitrogen rates is a greater risk of lodging. Hall says, “Particularly in northern Alberta where moisture levels are usually good, when growers use higher rates of nitrogen, the crop tends to lodge, which causes harvesting problems and reduces yields. So our second objective is to determine if new plant growth regulators can improve the harvestability and standability of oat varieties.” Plant growth regulators are synthetic compounds that modify plant growth; their effects on cereals may include shorter, stronger stems, reduced lodging and/or higher yields. Little research has been done on the use of growth regulators on oat in Canada, so Hall’s project could provide valuable insights. The project, which started in 2014, involves two field experiments. Experiment 1 aims to evaluate the effects of nitrogen rate and oat variety on yield, lodging and beta-glucan content. In this experiment, nitrogen in the form of urea is banded at seeding. The treatments are 5, 50, 100 and 150 kg N/ha, with the amounts of the urea applications adjusted for the soil type and the amount of soil nitrogen. The experiment compares five oat varieties: AC Morgan (four to five per cent beta-glucan); OT3066 (four to five per cent beta-glucan); Stride (5.5 to six per cent beta-glucan); CDC Seabiscuit (5.5 to six per cent beta-glucan); and CDC Morrison (six to 6.5 per cent beta-glucan). In 2014, Experiment 1 was conducted at Edmonton and Barrhead, which are both in Alberta’s prime oat growing region. Experiment 2’s objective is to assess the effects of four rates of a plant growth regulator on Stride, under the same four nitrogen treatments as in Experiment 1. The growth regulator is under development and not yet registered for use on oat in Western Canada. The researchers chose Stride for this experiment because it showed lodging tendencies at higher nitrogen rates. In 2014, this experiment was carried out at Edmonton, Indian Head and Barrhead. First year resultsIn Experiment 1 in 2014, oat yield increased as the nitrogen level increased, as expected. Hall says, “Our best yielding variety was AC Morgan, the variety used by most Alberta growers. But unfortunately Morgan had the lowest beta-glucan content of the varieties in our trial. CDC Morrison, the highest beta-glucan variety, was the lowest yielding.” The optimal nitrogen rate for maximum oat yields varied depending on the oat variety and the location. For example, CDC Morrison’s yields were highest at the 150-kilogram rate at both locations, while AC Morgan’s yields were greatest at 50 kilograms at Edmonton and 100 kilograms at Barrhead. Higher nitrogen levels tended to decrease 1000-kernel weights and increase the percentage of thins. Also, plant height and lodging tended to increase as nitrogen increased, although there was minimal lodging at the sites in 2014. Height and lodging were variety dependent, with Stride lodging more than the other varieties. In Experiment 2, at two of the three sites, the plant growth regulator reduced plant height and lodging. “As we increased the nitrogen, the height of Stride increased, and as we applied more plant growth regulator, we saw a reduction in height. So, by using a plant growth regulator, we were successful in counteracting the increase in height from the nitrogen,” Hall explains. In 2014, the plant growth regulator did not affect oat yield. Hall notes, “Accurate timing is very critical for a plant growth regulator to be effective. In auxiliary experiments, we found that the growth regulator had to be applied at early stem elongation, after the herbicide application window and before fungicides are applied. To be effective, the plant growth regulator would have to be applied as a separate treatment.” Once the project is completed, the researchers will be able to share up-to-date information on food-grade oat production with central and northern Alberta growers.  

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