AIC Notes    Top Issue 2011-26       July 21, 2011 
In This Issue
Enhanced Data on North American Agriculture Now Available
Agriculture Expected to Help Reduce Canada's Greenhouse Gas Emissions
CWB Working on Open-Market Model
Grain Farmers Explore Future Bio-Fuels, Products
Powering Up Canada's Energy Advantage for the 21st Century
Traceability to Enhance Industry Competitiveness
National Parks Combine Conservation, Agriculture
New Wheat Genome Research Earns Public Dough
Remote Crop Monitoring Equals Less Irrigation
How Dairy Farms Contribute to Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Coming Events

Enhanced Data on North American Agriculture Now Available


The U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) announced the availability of enhanced data on North American agriculture. Published online, the information is a result of a project sponsored by the North American Tripartite Committee on Agricultural Statistics (NATCAS).

"Working together with our statistical counterparts in Canada and Mexico, NASS has promoted the sharing of published data among the three countries," said Joseph Prusacki, NASS Statistics Division director. "Now with a single, convenient place to compare the agriculture industry throughout North America, farmers and industry experts can use this resource as a new decision tool for analyzing the markets and strategizing on domestic and overseas trade."

The enhanced information available on the website includes detailed data on people, production, international trade and the horticulture industries in the United States, Canada and Mexico. Website visitors also have access to maps and tables comparing selected data from each country's census of agriculture, including the most recent U.S. Census of Agriculture.

"This source of information on North American agriculture will help researchers, analysts and government leaders evaluate trends in agricultural production, efficiency, profitability and viability of farm operations and rural communities," added Prusacki.

NATCAS is a joint taskforce among agricultural statistics agencies in the United States, Canada and Mexico. The committee works to promote the sharing of information and the standardization of data among the three countries and their various agencies in order to make agricultural statistics more efficient and easily accessible to the public.

Member agencies of the committee include Statistics Canada Agriculture Division; the Agricultural and Fisheries Information Service of the Mexican Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food; the Mexican National Institute of Statistics, Geography and Informatics; and NASS, representing the United States.

The data tables, maps and other information are now available online at, July 19, 2011


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Agriculture Expected to Help Reduce Canada's Greenhouse Gas Emissions


Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada is confident agriculture has a key role to play in helping Canada meet its international greenhouse gas reduction commitments.


As part of its commitment as a founding member of the Global Research Alliance to develop best management practices for mitigating agricultural greenhouse gas emissions, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada has approved funding for the University of Manitoba's Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences to evaluate greenhouse gas emissions from livestock and cropping systems, and the impact of converting from perennial to annual grassland systems.


Dr. Vern Baron, the senior science advisor with the cropping systems section of the Agricultural Greenhouse Gas program, says by looking at the management of methane and nitrous oxide from livestock in combination with the carbon that can be sequestered through cropping systems, we can come up with a net number for greenhouse gas emissions.

Clip-Dr. Vern Baron-Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada:
Agriculture produces really only about eight per cent of the total greenhouse gas emitted by the country itself, and that would include the transportation industry.

Of course, we know that vehicles emit a large percentage of the greenhouse gasses in Canada.

But within that eight per cent, livestock emits a very large percentage of methane and nitrous oxide.

On the other hand, the land base that the livestock occupies, particularly the cow-calf industry, is largely perennial in nature--in other words, range and pasture and hay--and we know that one of the largest carbon stores in agriculture is under that grassland, so there's sort of the one side with emission, and the other side that includes the sequestration of carbon, which offsets our emissions.

So those are the kinds of things that we're interested in about this project.

Dr. Baron says, although agriculture contributes a small amount, everyone needs to do their part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and helping Canada meet its international commitments.


Bruce Cochrane, University News, University of Manitoba Faculty of Agricultural & Food Sciences, July 19, 2011


CWB Working on Open-Market Model


The Canadian Wheat Board is already working on a model for converting the single-desk seller of western barley and wheat into an open-market grain company, the Manitoba Co-operator reports. 


But for this "new entity" to survive the federal government must make major concessions, including assuming CWB employees' pension liability, CWB chair Allen Oberg said in the farm newspaper's July 14 issue.


"It's our view that it's the government's responsibility to pick up that tab and it will be in the hundreds of millions of dollars," said Oberg, ahead of a planning session on the matter next week.


"There's no way that farmers should be responsible for that."


The issue has been raised with Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz's staff, so the minister himself should be aware of it, Oberg said.


"Those things need to be dealt with whether the organization is just wound down completely or if it's transitioned into something else because all those costs will come to bear," Oberg said.


"If those costs were transferred to the new organization that would be a recipe for disaster. It will have enough disadvantages as it is."


One of those disadvantages is not owning any country or port grain-handling facilities. The CWB has no retained earnings because all revenue, after expenses, is returned to farmers, therefore the federal government must provide it with working capital or give it regulated access to Canada's grain pipeline, said Oberg.


Grain companies say a revamped CWB will be a new competitor, and shouldn't get special treatment. But the Grain Growers of Canada, an open-market advocate, says the board needs government help to get established if an open market is created. Ritz has said he's willing to provide limited support.


Fleshing out an open-market model will take up much of the CWB's planning session next week, Oberg told the Co-operator.


"It will just be advice," he said. "This is a change that they have initiated. They're the ones who have been promising a strong and viable new organization. Clearly that responsibility rests with them.


"We'd be quite willing to offer our advice and suggestions as to what a new organization would need."


Under the right conditions, he said, a revamped CWB could succeed as a grain company or broker in an open market, but it isn't clear whether such an organization will return any more value to farmers than any other private company.  


It's also unclear who would own the CWB. There's talk of turning it into a farmer-owned co-operative, but nobody knows how many farmers want that or the financial risk that will come with it. 


Allan Dawson, Manitoba Co-operator, July 14, 2011


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Grain Farmers Explore Future Bio-Fuels, Products


Seeds planted during Wednesday's visit by members of the Grain Farmers of Ontario board could lead to a valuable economic harvest for Sarnia-Lambton.

The day-long tour by board members included a stop at the University of Western Ontario Research Park and its Bioindustrial Innovation Centre to hear about its work on finding ways for industry to use renewable feed stocks, including plants.

"These 15 directors make the decisions on research and the money we spend," said Kevin Marriott, a Enniskillen Township farmer and Lambton County's director on the board.

The organization representing Ontario's 28,000 corn, soybean and wheat farmers spends $1 million a year on research, Marriott said, adding that amount "is leveraged" with at least $4 million in matching funding from government

"Even if we can get part of that to keep the ball rolling for Sarnia," Marriott said, "then hopefully we'll have more new industries using our crops and providing jobs for the Sarnia area."

Murray McLaughlin, executive director of the bioindustrial innovation centre, said they gave the grain farmers' board a presentation on efforts to encourage companies to set up production facilities locally after carrying out research and pilot projects at the Sarnia centre.

"A lot of this will be using agricultural-based materials," he said.

The tour visited test plots where staff at the research park are growing alternative crops, like switch grass, that could be used as bio-mass in the generating of energy, McLaughlin said.

"This would be future crops for farmers to be growing, as well."

The centre will be testing crops grown in the plots to see what types of oils and other high-value compounds can be recovered from them.

That could help determine if there is enough value in alternative crops to justify their being grown by farmers, McLaughlin said.

The potential uses for corn and soybeans in emerging bio-industries being studied at the research park will "help us, as well as help industry grow in Sarnia-Lambton," Marriott said.

The delegation also visited Lanxess and Sarnia's grain elevators before heading into rural Lambton for a tour of the historic oil fields and lunch at Marriott's farm.

The grain farmers organization was created 19 months ago by combining separate provincial commodity groups for corn, soybeans and wheat.

"Our first year in existence we had record prices and record yields, which isn't a bad time to launch an organization," said Barry Senft, chief executive officer.

"A lot of what we hear from our farmer members is that it has exceeded their expectations."


The Sarnia Observer, in AgriLink, July 18, 2011


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Powering Up Canada's Energy Advantage for the 21st Century


The New Economy Alliance is calling on federal, provincial and territorial governments to act now and develop a comprehensive energy strategy that builds on Canada's global advantage in agricultural, oil and gas, mineral and forest resources.


The Alliance is for the first time bringing together associations representing forestry, chemicals, agriculture, renewable fuels and biotechnology to promote innovation in new technologies that would add value to Canada's vast natural resources. Producing these new bio-fuels, bio-chemicals and bio-materials would maintain and create jobs, generate economic growth, enhance Canada's competitiveness and be environmentally beneficial.


As its initial step, the group is challenging energy ministers now meeting in Kananaskis to develop a national energy vision that would include clean, renewable bio-energy from a broad range of natural resources.


"Canada's forestry industry has emerged as an environmental leader. Making full use of the biomass waste stream from the forest industry could produce the equivalent energy output of nine nuclear reactors," says Avrim Lazar, President and CEO of the Forest Products Association of Canada. "Producing clean energy from trees presents a remarkable opportunity for Canada."


The Alliance recognizes that governments in Canada have taken initial steps to help industry contribute to the emerging new economy. However much more must be done to take advantage of the multi-billion dollar opportunities in the bio-economy and turn Canada into a world leader in new value-added products.


"Canada is uniquely positioned with sustainably harvested agricultural and forest resources to produce clean and renewable bio-fuels," says Doug Hooper of the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association.


"Renewable fuels are recognized as the most effective and immediate carbon action strategy to lower greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector."


"Not only do we need to add value to our biomass resource, we also need to add value to our oil, gas and mining resource," says Fiona Cook of the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada. "We've got to be about more than the extraction and export of resources."


The New Economy Alliance will be working with governments to advance the bio-economy across the agriculture, forestry, chemical, manufacturing and energy sectors. Integrating new bio-processing technologies within established industrial plants will deliver a vast array of renewable, value-added alternatives, such as solvents, plastics, paints, adhesives, insulation, textiles, and consumer products.


Members of the New Economy Alliance include BIOTECanada, Canadian Federation of Agriculture, Canadian Renewable Fuels Association, Chemistry Industry Association of Canada, CropLife Canada, Forest Products Association of Canada, and the Sustainable Chemistry Alliance.


New Economy Alliance Press Release, July 18, 2011 


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Traceability to Enhance Industry Competitiveness 


The Governments of Canada and Ontario announced today, July 19, 2011, that they are investing a combined $21.5 million for the Traceability Foundation Initiative.  This investment comes from the $500-million Agriculture Flexibility fund for projects that reduce production costs.

The Traceability Foundations Initiative will help to support the sharing of information, enhance industry competitiveness and improve the speed in which Ontario will be able to respond to a food product recall in the future (in a worst case scenario).

There are three key pillars to ensuring full traceability in the agriculture and agri-food sector:
1.    Premise identification
2.    Product identification
3.    Movement recording

The program was announced today in Cambridge, Ontario, by Pierre Lemieux, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and Maria Van Bommel, Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural affairs.

Participation in the traceability system will be voluntary, but Van Bommel, who comes from a poultry background, believes that traceability will help producers who participate, to be in the top percentile of their industry.  "We are proud to be investing in resources that will grow our traceability systems, increase the value of food products, and continue to provide safe, healthy and fresh food for Ontario families.

"It's about more than safe food, it's about the agriculture and agrifood industries becoming more competitive and being able to compete in the global marketplace, to meet consumer demand, and in a worst case scenario to utilize traceability to protect the national herd," said Lemieux.

OMAFRA Press Release, July 19, 2011


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National Parks Combine Conservation, Agriculture


National and provincial parks bordering Canada's most populous cities are making an innovative addition to the list of activities allowed on protected land: farming.


Once elbowed off the land by ecologists bent on locking up massive tracts for the restoration of waterways, woodlands and wildlife habitats, farmers are now being invited back by conservation agencies that have come to view growing food as key to their sustainability. Momentum is particularly strong among parks near urban regions with strong local-food economies.


"We see, in the city region, a different kind of farming bubbling up. It's small-scale, high-intensity growing of vegetables. It's chickens, it's goats," said Gary Wilkins, a watershed specialist with the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA). "We have thousands of acres of some of the best farmland in all the country here. Yes, we have been planting trees on it. But we recognize ... perhaps we should be looking more seriously at agriculture."


Farmers are happy to be eyed for the job. As appetites for local food have grown, so has the economic viability of small-scale farm operations. That is especially true near populous regions where market opportunities are plentiful enough to keep transportation costs low.


In the Greater Toronto Area, for example, some vegetable farmers can grow intensively enough on small plots during the summer - selling to nearby restaurants, market customers and small distributors - that they don't have to take off-farm jobs in winter. Instead, they concentrate on building up their market base.


But that kind of success hinges on one crucial factor: access to land. Finding affordable farm space amid sprawling urban hubs is a nightmare.


"There's no way a new farmer would buy land in a near-urban area to farm. You could never get that kind of capital to lay out," said Christie Young, executive director of a non-profit organization that trains new farmers and supports their enterprises, most of which are designed for near-urban compatibility.

"We're not talking about ... 300-acre farms," Ms. Young said. "Fruits and vegetables that are better off fresh-picked and brought to market on the same day - that's what we should be doing."


Conservation authorities and land conservancies have the perfect portfolios to enable that. Many inherited farms over the course of accumulating their property. And while some struck short-term agreements with farmers to continue, many farms were decommissioned. Now, the quest is on to repopulate some of them with earth- and community-friendly models.


"They won't be big commercial family farms or large commodity farms," said Wendell Joyce, Greenbelt portfolio officer for the National Capital Commission, which has 5,400 hectares of agricultural land near Ottawa and 50 farm leases slated to expire over the next five years.


Rouge Par, the proposed national park northeast of Toronto that stretches 4,700 hectares - the park's size and proximity to urban density makes it a North American anomaly - recently joined the movement by adopting an agriculture strategy. Alan Wells, chair of the Rouge Park Alliance, said 1,000 hectares have been earmarked for farm arrangements. A significant portion of those will involve innovative partnerships that provide access to farmland for community gardens and small growing operations designed to feed local markets.


The alliance is also in talks with Ms. Young's group, FarmStart. In 2008, the group signed an innovative lease with the conservation authority to work what is now the incubator farm, a 20-hectare plot of protected land bordering a subdivision in Brampton, Ont., that now hosts 21 growers. They learn to farm without the use of harsh pesticides, heavy chemical fertilizers or destructive practices. Farmers in the program can remain on the land for five years before going out on their own.


For many, leasing conservation lands is an attractive possibility.


"Farmers don't need to own their land to be able to steward it properly," Ms. Young said. But they do need long-term leases to safeguard investment in the property and provide an incentive to take care in building up soil quality. One U.S. national park in Ohio is offering farmers 60-year leases, but Canada's more innovative programs offer terms that hover around five years.


Hanna Jacobs, co-owner of Matchbox Garden & Seed Co., moved off the McVean farm early because of an opportunity for a five-year lease on conservation property in Woodbridge, Ont.


"The existing insect and bird populations help immensely in controlling pest infestations, and the surrounding forest assists in preventing airborne plant diseases and migrating pest insects from affecting our fields," she said.


Aside from allowing the company to grow more than 100 varieties of vegetables, the plot, connected to a conservation learning centre, also allows Ms. Jacobs to educate children and other visitors on sustainable food and farming.


"Those of us that are just coming into farming, we have a different approach. We do want to be in the public more," she said. "We're not just farmers."


Jessica Leeder, Globe and Mail, July 15, 2011


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New Wheat Genome Research Earns Public Dough


Canada's role in a research program aimed at further cracking wheat's complex genetic code, opening the door for faster development of new varieties, has now picked up the bulk of its funding.


The federal and Saskatchewan governments on Friday announced $4.102 million and $1.534 million respectively for an $8.507 million project dubbed Canadian Triticum Advancement through Genomics (CTAG), marking Canada's contribution to the International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium (IWGSC).


"This investment in research will undoubtedly strengthen and advance cereal breeding programs across Western Canada," Western Grains Research Foundation chairman Keith Degenhardt said in the governments' joint release Friday.


"With the potential to accelerate the crop breeding cycle and speed the release of improved varieties to the market, this project is a worthwhile and powerful investment that will provide a great return for crop producers," he said. The WGRF will put up $1.127 million for the project.


The three-year CTAG project aims to help geneticists and breeders to characterize wheat's genes at the "most fundamental level," meaning the plant's DNA sequence, the governments said.


Wheat's DNA sequence "holds the key to genetic improvements, allowing growers to meet the increasing demands for high-quality food and feed produced in an environmentally sensitive, sustainable and profitable manner."


The DNA of other crops such as corn, soy and rice has been sequenced in recent years for significant trait development. Wheat's relatively complex genome -- which scientists have said is five times larger than the human genome -- has held back such development, leaving wheat breeders with relatively few tools to select at the genetic level for the breeding traits they need.


The IWGSC has said its goal for this worldwide research is a "high-quality reference sequence" of the wheat genome, which would yield "high-resolution links" between wheat traits and variations in the DNA of different wheat varieties.


"Stress issues"


"Up till now, cereal crops like wheat have been getting less and less competitive to grow each year; wheat is becoming a crop I have to grow for rotations instead of a crop I want to grow," Stephen Vandervalk, a farmer at Fort Macleod, Alta. and president of Grain Growers of Canada, said in a separate release Friday.


"It is imperative that increased investment dollars continue to focus on improving wheat and our Canadian cereal crops to build better wheat strains suited to our climate, helping our farmers deal with unique stress issues" by developing traits such as cold hardiness, drought tolerance, and resistance to crop diseases and insects, he said.


The federal $4.1 million for CTAG will flow through Genome Canada's 2010 Large Scale Applied Research Project Competition, which was announced in March this year as part of $60 million in federal funding for applied genomics research projects meant to help "improve key sectors of the Canadian economy."


Saskatchewan's $1.5 million will come through the province's Agriculture Development Fund. CTAG research in the province will be led by Curtis Pozniak and Pierre Hucl at the Crop Development Centre at the University of Saskatchewan.


Other CTAG funding partners include India's National Agri-Food Biotechnology Institute ($999,999), Viterra ($120,578), Genome Alberta ($207,779), the Alberta Crop Industry Development Fund ($295,636) and France's National Institute for Agricultural Research ($120,000).


"We need to see more of this type of public/private research collaboration," Gerrid Gust, a farmer at Davidson, Sask. and chair of the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association, said in a separate release Friday. "Collaboration and the sharing of knowledge will put improved varieties into the hands of farmers faster."


"High utility"


Scientists at Britain's University of Liverpool said last August they had "decoded" the wheat genome, but the IWGSC said in September that the British team's claims were "premature."


The sequence readings that the British team produced "could be viewed as similar to having an unordered string of all of the letters from a set of encyclopedia volumes," the consortium said at the time.


The consortium was then quoted as saying the Liverpool team's claim could well have jeopardized international efforts to "truly achieve a genome sequence with high utility for wheat in the next five years."


Wheat production today contributes about $4 billion a year to the Canadian ag industry, making up over 20 per cent of Canadian farm crop income during the years 2005 to 2009, with a total value of about $11 billion when factoring in value-added food processing, the federal government said Friday.


Manitoba Co-operator, July 15, 2011


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Remote Crop Monitoring Equals Less Irrigation


Growers in Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island are now monitoring the soil moisture of their crops without being anywhere near them. To do this, they are using web-based soil moisture monitoring systems as part of a pilot project started in 2010 by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's Agri Environment Services Branch.


Scott Anderson, an Atlantic region water resources engineer with AESB, says the branch has been working with producers for a number of years to educate them about soil moisture monitoring and irrigation scheduling as a tool for water conservation.


"We demonstrate the different types of equipment that do that," says Anderson. "We buy it and put it on farms to show them the equipment and the concept of moisture monitoring."


Paul Lomond, the owner of Lomond Farms in Steady Brook, Nfld., is one of the producers they've worked with. Lomond grows a variety of crops, including cranberries, which, because of their growing conditions in coarse sand, means traditional soil moisture monitoring systems do not work as well.


The AESB searched for technology that might work for these conditions and discovered a soil tension based irrigation management system developed in Quebec specifically for cranberry production.


"The system is internet-based, so the information is transmitted to a server in Quebec and the grower can access it on their computer or phone," says Anderson, explaining that the grower has access to a map of their property where there are different sensors set up to measure moisture and temperature levels.


The temperature probes are important since cranberries are very sensitive to frost and producers often have to run their irrigation systems to protect their berries from frost. With this system, when the air temperature drops below two degrees Celsius and frost is a possibility, the producer is notified by an alarm on his or her phone or computer. The alarm is also set to warn producers when the soil is too dry.


During his first year of using the system, Lomond indicated to AESB that he irrigated less, which is a water conservation goal for the branch. Less irrigating translates into cost savings for the producer "because it costs money to run the pumps to water the crops," Anderson says.


FCC Express, July 15, 2011


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How Dairy Farms Contribute to Greenhouse Gas Emissions


U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists have produced the first detailed data on how large-scale dairy facilities contribute to the emission of greenhouse gases. This research was conducted by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists at the ARS Northwest Irrigation and Soils Research Laboratory in Kimberly, Idaho.


ARS is USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency, and these studies support the USDA priority of responding to climate change.


ARS soil scientist April Leytem led the year-long project, which involved monitoring the emissions of ammonia, carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide from a commercial dairy with 10,000 milk cows in southern Idaho. The facility had 20 open-lot pens, two milking parlors, a hospital barn, a maternity barn, a manure solid separator, a 25-acre wastewater storage pond and a 25-acre compost yard.


Concentration data was collected continuously for two to three days each month, along with air temperature, barometric pressure, wind direction and wind speed. After this data was collected, Leytem's team calculated the average daily emissions for each source area for each month.


The results indicated that, on average, the facility generated 3,575 pounds of ammonia, 33,092 pounds of methane and 409 pounds of nitrous oxide every day. The open lot areas generated 78 percent of the facility's ammonia, 57 percent of its nitrous oxide and 74 percent of the facility's methane emissions during the spring.


In general, the emission of ammonia and nitrous oxide from the open lots were lower during the late evening and early morning, and then increased throughout the day to peak late in the day. These daily fluctuations paralleled patterns in wind speed, air temperature and livestock activity, all of which generally increased during the day. Emissions of ammonia and methane from the wastewater pond and the compost were also lower in the late evening and early morning and increased during the day.


Results from the study were published in the Journal of Environmental Quality.


Read more about this work in the July 2011 issue of Agricultural Research magazine at:

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by USDA/Agricultural Research Service. The original article was written by Ann Perry.

USDA/Agricultural Research Service (2011, July 19). How dairy farms contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 21, 2011, from­ /releases/2011/07/110719111708.htm


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Coming Events


Canadian Society of Soil Science and Soil Science Society of America joint conference, Fundamental for Life: Soil, Crop, & Environmental Sciences, San Antonio, Texas, October 16-20, 2011


Feeding a Hungry World: A Summit for Animal Agriculture, Ottawa, Ontario, October 17-18, 2011 


Catalyst Canada Honours Celebrating Champions of Women in Business, Toronto, Ontario, October 18, 2011


Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance, National Hemp Convention, Winnipeg, Manitoba, November 22-23, 2011 


Canadian Organic Science Conference, February 21-23, 2012, Winnipeg, Manitoba 




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Frances Rodenburg, Editor