Top Crop Manager

Top Crop Manager
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.

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

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.

video
Honey Bee AirFLEX...
video
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.

Business & Policy

Collection of soil samples below snow cover Soil microbes remain active in winter

Research from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) shows soil microbes remain active at temperatures much lower than previously thought. Although biological processes slow down in winter, there is still a significant amount of nitrification and denitrification taking place in the soil, says Martin Chantigny, a researcher with AAFC in Quebec City who has been spearheading research that aims to quantify the amount of nitrogen lost following liquid manure application. Nitrification is the key process leading to nitrate leaching into drainage water while denitrification results in greenhouse gas emissions, he explains. He says researchers were surprised to discover 20 to 70 per cent of total annual nitrogen losses were occurring through leaching and denitrification during the non-growing season. The amount of nitrogen lost varied depending on factors such as temperature and snowfall. In the past, it was thought that biological processes in the soil were negligible below 5 C, explains Chantigny. However, his research has shown that soil bacteria continue to be active down to soil temperatures as low as -2 C in sandy soils. Even more surprising, in clay soils, denitrification didn’t stop until soil temperature dipped to -6 C. “Microbial processes are slower but it is a long time without a crop growing, five to six months, so there is still time for transformations to occur,” Chantigny says. “This is a problem for the farmer as well as the environment. We want the nitrogen to stay in the soil for the next crop.” To determine if the effect occurred in other areas of Canada, similar experiments were conducted at several different sites across the country. Although the patterns were slightly different, the research showed that overall nitrogen losses were similar regardless of the location.    The next step in the research is to determine management practices that would prevent nitrogen losses. Chantigny is currently studying the effects of manure application timing and nitrification inhibitors. Nitrification inhibitors have been used successfully in spring and summer so Chantigny is hopeful they will be effective for fall application but admits it’s too early in his research for him to draw any conclusions. Cover crops could also be used to capture nitrogen during the non-growing season in annual cropping systems. “If a producer can establish a cover crop, that is probably the best way to collect the residual nitrogen…in the organic matter of the crop,” Chantigny says. The challenge is to be able to establish a cover crop following corn and soybeans. However, Chantigny points to a growing number of Quebec producers who have successfully established an inter-row cover crop of rye grass in corn which flourishes once the corn is harvested. Timing the application of nitrogen more closely to when the growing crop can use it is another approach for reducing nitrogen losses. A spring or in-crop application would result in less nitrogen loss, Chantigny says. As a result of this research, farmers in Quebec may apply no more than a third of the liquid manure to be applied annually in the fall. The remainder must be applied in spring and summer. Looking to the future, the researchers wanted to determine how climate change would impact the loss of nitrogen during the non-growing season. Climate change models predict there will be less snow cover, which would result in colder soils since snow acts as an insulating blanket, explains Claudia Goyer with AAFC in Fredericton, N.B. Goyer set up a trial to compare nitrous oxide emissions under different snow cover conditions. Nitrous oxide is a greenhouse gas produced by the denitrifying bacteria in the soil that is 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Emissions from the breakdown of manure and fertilizer in the soil are the major sources of nitrous oxide from human activities. A snow fence was used to capture more snow on one set of plots while snow was removed from the “no snow” plots. Natural or “ambient” snowfall made up the third treatment. As expected, where the researchers removed the snow, the soil was colder. They also found that the amount of snow cover impacted both the quantity and timing of the release of nitrous oxide. In the plots with no snow, there was more nitrous oxide released when soils froze compared to the other plots. There was also another flux of nitrous oxide earlier in the spring compared to the other plots. These results suggest that in the plots where the snow was removed, the soil was frozen more deeply, which resulted in a release of nutrients from the breaking of soil aggregates, says Goyer. This increase in nutrients stimulates the cold-adapted denitrifier bacterial communities, which, in turn, increases nitrous oxide emissions. This research is continuing to further explore a variety of agricultural practices that could help reduce nutrient losses over the winter.

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