AIC Notes    Top Issue 2011-28       August 4, 2011 
In This Issue
Cargill to Install Waste-to-Energy System in Canadian Beef Processing Facility
Manitoba's Flooded Acres Hit a Record High
Government of Canada Supports Apple Research in the Maritimes
New Canadian Beef Group Names Executives
Rosetta Green Receives Grant to Develop Enhanced Crops for Biofuel Production
Ag Sciences Key to U.S. Economic Growth
Versatile Compound Examined in Crops
Plant Biologists Dissect Genetic Mechanism Enabling Plants to Overcome Environmental Challenge
Coming Events

Cargill to Install Waste-to-Energy System in Canadian Beef Processing Facility


Cargill today announced it will invest about C$36 million ($38 million) in a waste-to-energy project at its High River, Alberta, beef processing facility that will increase to 80 percent the plant's ability to generate energy it uses to produce meat products.


The Canadian government, as part of its initiative to help meat processors reduce their environmental footprint, will provide about $10 million of the funds.


"Using existing technology, we will install specialized equipment that will make our High River beef processing facility the most sustainable and environmentally friendly beef processing facility in the world," stated John Keating, president of Cargill Beef. The project is the first of its type in North America and the largest single waste-to-energy project Cargill has undertaken on the continent.


Once it is in operation, the new system will eliminate 21,000 metric tons of fossil fuel emissions annually, in addition to mitigating the facility's electric energy requirements by producing 1.4 megawatts of power.


Combined with the facility's existing methane gas capture that prevents release of this greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, and its subsequent use as fuel for the plant, 75 percent to 80 percent of the facility's energy needs will come from renewable sources.


Cargill's High River beef processing facility employs approximately 2,000 people who harvest 4,000 beef cattle daily.


Rita Jane Gabbett,, July 29, 2011


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Manitoba's Flooded Acres Hit a Record High 


Nearly a third of Manitoba's seeded cropland went unplanted this year because of wet weather, according to the Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation.


MASC says 2.9 million of the nine million acres usually devoted to annual crops in the province either could not be seeded or were drowned out by heavy spring rains.


The provincial crop insurance agency expects to pay out close to $160 million in excess moisture insurance (EMI) claims as a result, says David Van Deynze, MASC's claims services manager.


This is by far the worst year in recent Manitoba history for crops lost to flooding. The previous record occurred in the wet year of 2005, when 1.4 million acres went unseeded.


MASC pays its contract holders $50 an acre in EMI for crops that cannot be seeded. Farmers may opt for a higher coverage of $65 an acre. The agency insures about 90 per cent of the crops grown annually in the province.


EMI has been a standard feature of MASC crop insurance contracts since 2000, the year after record rains prevented an estimated one million acres from being seeded in western Manitoba.

But EMI won't make up for the lost revenue resulting from unseeded crops, especially when commodity prices are generally strong, farmers say.


The projected shortfall in farm cash receipts this year could top $1 billion because of flooding, according to Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives Minister Stan Struthers.


Van Deynze says the southwestern region of Manitoba is the hardest hit. According to anecdotal reports, farmers in the southwest corner of the province managed to get in only 20 to 30 per cent of the crops they had planned. The northwest and Interlake regions are also badly affected.


Excessive farmland flooding has prompted the Manitoba government to promise a $194 million federal-provincial AgriRecovery package to help compensate for crop losses and flood-related damage.


The program announced June 30 by Struthers will pay farmers $15 an acre to grow green feed for livestock facing feed shortages this winter.


Producers who could not seed crops will receive $30 an acre, whether they hold EMI coverage or not.


Another component of the program promises $50 an acre to restore and replant flood-damaged tame hay and forage seed fields.


The program also promises unspecified infrastructure rehabilitation for damaged farm operations.


Ron Friesen, FCC Express, July 29, 2011  


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Federal Government Supports Apple Research in the Maritimes


Maritime apple growers will be able to better adapt to changing growing conditions and produce high-quality apples for consumers here and around the world, thanks to the latest investment in research by the Government of Canada. Scott Armstrong, MP for Cumberland-Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, on behalf of Agricultural Minister Gerry Ritz, announced today an investment of more than $226,000 to the Nova Scotia Fruit Growers Association for research focused on apple quality in the orchard.

"The Government of Canada is helping growers stay competitive and continue to deliver the high-quality apples they are known for and that are demanded by consumers here at home and around the world," said MP Armstrong. "We will continue to support science and innovation in the apple industry and across the entire agriculture industry so that our farmers and producers can continue to grow their top-quality products and help drive our economy."

The funding will make the Maritime apple industry more competitive and increase the profitability of farmers by studying fruit maturity and quality and helping growers adapt to changing weather patterns. Apples continue to be important to the Maritime economy. In 2010, the region produced 37,724 metric tonnes of apples worth $14.1 million at the farm gate.

"This is good news for the apple industry," said Michael Walsh, President Nova Scotia Fruit Growers' Association. "A main goal of this project is making the NS apple industry a better managed, more efficient and more profitable industry, and this investment makes that possible."

Over the next three years, researchers from the Nova Scotia Fruit Growers Association will work collaboratively with researchers at the Atlantic Food and Horticultural Research Centre in Kentville to study how weather impacts the maturity and quality of new high-value apple varieties.

"We are pleased to contribute to this project that supports and encourages innovation to increase the competitiveness and profitability of Nova Scotia's apple industry," said Charles Keddy, Vice Chair Agri-Futures Nova Scotia, which delivers adaptation funding in Nova Scotia.

This investment is from the Canadian Agricultural Adaptation Program (CAAP), a five-year (2009-2014), $163-million program that enables producers to seize opportunities, respond to new and emerging issues, and test solutions to new and ongoing issues. Agri-Futures Nova Scotia is responsible for delivering the CAAP program in Nova Scotia.

To learn more about the CAAP programs and Agri-Futures Nova Scotia visit their website at


AAFC Press Release, August 2, 2011


New Canadian Beef Group Names Executives


Canada Beef Inc. announced it has appointed Robert Meijer its president and elected Brad Wildeman its board chairman.


Canada Beef Inc. was established through the consolidation of the Canadian Beef Cattle Research, Market Development and Promotion Agency (National Check-off Agency), Canada Beef Export Federation and Beef Information Centre in June.


The Canada Beef Implementation Team and its Governance Committee appointed a 16-member Board of Directors of Canada Beef Inc. on July 4.


Meijer brings fourteen years of policy, regulatory, legislative, political and communications experience to Canada Beef Inc. In his position as Cargill director, Meijer has been responsible for Cargill's Canadian government/regulatory relations, communication, and community relation activities. He has also led and managed emerging issues, business risk and customer collaboration for 19 business units, including beef and animal nutrition.


Brad Wildeman elected board chair of Canada Beef Inc.


Wildeman is a feedlot operator from Lanigan, Saskatchewan, past president of the Canadian Cattlemen's Association and a co-chair of the Canada Beef Implementation Team who has been tasked with getting CBI up and running.


Also elected as officers of the 2011-2012 CBI Board were:

Dane Guignion (Manitoba Cattle Producers Association) as vice chair

Brian Read (XL Meats) as planning and priorities chair

Scott Ellerton (Sysco Canada Inc.) as finance/audit and program performance measurement chair

Mike Kennedy (Cargill Foods) as international beef trade access policy advisory chair and

Chuck MacLean (President, Alberta Beef Producers) as governance chair.


Rita Jane Gabbett,, August 3, 2011


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Rosetta Green Receives Grant to Develop Enhanced Crops for Biofuel Production


Rosetta Green Ltd., which develops improved crop traits for the agriculture and alternative fuels industries using unique genes called microRNAs, announced that it has received a grant totalling NIS 1.5 Million (CAD 407,000) for a period of three years from the Canada-Israel Industrial Research & Development Foundation (CIIRDF). The project relates to the development of enhanced non-food crops for biofuel production, including biojet fuel.


Through the project Rosetta Green will cooperate with Agrisoma Biosciences Inc., a Canadian company focused on developing energy feedstock crops with enhanced yield and high quality oil for biofuel production. The two companies will focus on developing Canola with improved traits, such as increased oil content. Rosetta Green will work to identify microRNA genes that could support these improved traits.


The total grant for the two companies is NIS 2.86 Million (CAD 800,000), paid in three installments over three years. Rosetta Green will receive the first payment of NIS 486,000 (CAD 135,700) upon signing the agreement, the second payment of NIS 486,000, after receipt and approval of the technical and fiscal reports for the first 18 month period, or after actual expenditures on the project have equalled or exceeded 50% of the approved budget, whichever is later and the third payment after receipt and approval of the final technical, fiscal and commercialization reports up to the total sum of the grant.


The two companies shall make royalty payments to the Foundation calculated on gross sales derived from the sale, until 100% of the grant and other sums has been repaid.


Steven Fabijanski, Agrisoma's President and CEO, said: "The aviation industry is demonstrating its desire for biojet fuel with the certification of biofuels on regular commercial flights expected next year. Agrisoma will use its leading edge technology to create new crop varieties engineered for high-value applications such as biojet fuel. Our technology provides a unique and powerful means to introduce, express and manage new genes in agriculture".


Amir Avniel, Rosetta Green's CEO, said: "Participation in this project validates the potential to use microRNAs in commercial areas of biofuels. We are very excited to take part in this project and work together with a world leading company such as Agrisoma".


Globe Newswire, August 2, 2011


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Ag Sciences Key to U.S. Economic Growth


A new report makes the case that agriculture and agricultural sciences are poised to drive economic growth and job creation to new heights - with the essential research and Extension support of land-grant universities like Iowa State University.

The report, "Power and Promise: Agbioscience in the North Central United States," was prepared for 12 north-central land-grant universities, including Iowa State University, by Battelle, the Columbus, Ohio-based independent research and development group. The report was released Aug. 1.

Agbiosciences, the report states, represent fields of science that generate widespread innovations, technologies and solutions to real-world needs in food security, human health, economic development and environmental sustainability.

Wendy Wintersteen, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Iowa State, said that world-class university-based agricultural experiment stations and extension services, coupled with the north-central region's world-leading agricultural productivity, are critical assets.

"The report makes it abundantly clear that land-grant universities are core institutions to address national and global needs in agricultural productivity, food security, human health and environmental quality," Wintersteen said.

The report emphasizes the "extreme relevance" of the land-grant university, experiment station and extension system in meeting the needs of a modern U.S. economy dependent on innovation, knowledge and technological advancement.

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey said, "This report confirms what I have been seeing around the state, that agriculture and agricultural sciences are a key economic driver in Iowa. It is vital that we have the education system in place so that we have the employees equipped to take advantage of the opportunities available."

Wintersteen said the report underscores the central message found in Iowa State's new strategic plan.

"Iowa State's strategic plan focuses on how we meet the challenges of the 21st century through creating, sharing and applying new knowledge," she said. "Research and extension are key to how we more sustainably produce food, energy and everyday materials, how we protect plant, animal and human health, and how we care for our environment."

The 12 states of the north-central region make up 21 percent of the nation's landmass, but represent:

An agricultural industry valued at $125 billion with more than 2.4 million jobs
45 percent of the nation's agricultural exports (Iowa is second nationally in ag exports, valued at more than $7 billion)
80 percent of U.S. soybean and feed grain production
45 percent of U.S. livestock exports
10 of the top 25 U.S. food manufacturers
90 percent of the nation's ethanol production
Several of the world's largest seed companies and ag equipment manufacturers


The economic development opportunities are immense, said Wintersteen.

"The issues addressed by agricultural sciences are strategic to the nation," she said. "That's why the report emphasizes expanded support for agbioscience research and extension at national and state levels. In challenging budget times, funding support is critical to maintaining and expanding U.S. leadership in agriculture and agricultural sciences."

The "Power and Promise: Agbioscience in the North Central United States" full report and executive summary can be found at


Iowa State University Press Release, in, August 3, 2011


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Versatile Compound Examined in Crops


Detergent-like compounds called saponins are best known for their cleansing properties, but U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists are studying these compounds' potential for helping protect plants from insect attack.


In studies at the National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research, operated in Peoria, Ill., by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), scientists Pat Dowd, Mark Berhow and Eric Johnson are "spiking" laboratory diets fed to corn earworms and fall armyworms with saponins from soybeans, switchgrass, yerba mate and other sources to determine exactly what effects the compounds have on the caterpillar pests' growth and survival. ARS is USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency.


The saponin experiments are part of a broader research effort at Peoria to identify novel sources of resistance that can be incorporated into corn. Ultimately, this could usher in new corn varieties that sustain less caterpillar feeding damage, are less prone to toxic molds or require fewer pesticide applications.


Most grain crops, including corn, don't have saponins in them, according to Dowd, with the center's Crop Bioprotection Research Unit. However, ongoing studies of switchgrass, a distant relative, may reveal dormant genes or biochemical pathways that could be activated in corn using plant breeding or genetic engineering methods.


One lead the Peoria researchers are investigating came from geneticist Ken Vogel and his colleagues at the ARS Grain, Forage and Bioenergy Research Unit in Lincoln, Neb. In studies there, Vogel's team identified two saponins in switchgrass a steroidal type called diosgenin, and a related form called protodioscin that they suspect helped several germplasm lines of the promising biofuel crop resist fall armyworms.


Dowd's team conducted follow-up experiments in which diosgenin and protodioscin were fed to the pests and compared to saponins from mate, soap bark tree and soybeans and other sources. Protodioscin, like the others, showed activity against fall armyworms, but the most effective ones seemed to be those containing a sugar molecule. Soyasaponin B, for example, reduced the growth of corn earworms by more than 50 percent. Smaller caterpillars, in turn, can mean less crop damage and easier pickings by predators.


Read more about this research in the August 2011 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.


Jan Suszkiw, ARS News Service, August 2, 2011


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Plant Biologists Dissect Genetic Mechanism Enabling Plants to Overcome Environmental Challenge  


When an animal gets too hot or too cold, or feels pangs of hunger or thirst, it tends to relocate - to where it's cooler or hotter, or to the nearest place where food or water can be found. But what about vegetative life? What can a plant do under similar circumstances?


Plants can't change the climate and they can't uproot themselves to move to a more favorable spot. Yet they do respond successfully to changes in environmental conditions in diverse ways, many of which involve modifications of the way they grow and develop.


Plant biologists at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) have now discovered at the genetic level how one species of grass plant responds to the challenge to growth posed by shade. Central to this work is the team's identification of the role played by a gene called grassy tillers1, or gt1, whose expression, they confirmed, is controlled by light signaling.


The discovery of gt1's role is full of implication, for it occurs in maize, one of the world's most important food crops, and the genetic trick it performs, which results in changing the plant's shape, suggests how maize's ancestor in the grass family was domesticated by people in Mexico and Central America thousands of years ago. The discovery also suggests a present-day strategy for improving yield in switchgrass, a biofuel source.


In maize - or corn, as it is commonly referred to in North America - it has long been known at the level of effects, but not causes, how an unimpressive grass plant called teosinte was improved upon genetically through trial and error to become a prime source of food for the human race. As anyone who has seen a corn field knows, modern maize plants grow in close proximity, in long rows, and tend to produce robust, branchless stalks which yield one or two large ears apiece.


"The domestication of maize from its wild ancestor teosinte resulted in a striking modification of the plant's architecture, and this fact provided a starting point for our work," says CSHL Professor David Jackson, who led the research team which also included scientists from Cornell University; the University of Wisconsin, Madison; North Carolina State University; the University of California, San Diego and Pioneer Hi-Bred. The team's findings appear today online ahead of print in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


One can plainly see that maize plants produce very few lateral branches at their base. The sparseness of tillers, as these branches are called by plant biologists, is the first clue: plants with many lateral branches don't tend to grow well in close proximity, for their branches and leaves tend to throw any close neighbors into shade, thus limiting access to sunlight, their common prime energy source. By severely limiting its lateral branching, maize is able to redirect its energy to the primary shoot, which grows taller and escapes the shade.


"It is actually human selection that has done this," explains Jackson. "Although maize plants produce tiller buds, the nascent branches fail to grow out, which results in the plant's familiar dominant central stalk." The team knew that maize plants in which gt1 is mutated generate several tillers and additional ear branches; this suggested that gt1 expression is normally associated with the suppression of tiller growth. This was confirmed in tests in which gt1 expression was measured in plants grown in the laboratory equivalent of shade.


Another maize gene called teosinte branched1, or tb1, is also known to regulate tiller bud growth and lateral branching in maize, and to be active in response to internal signals indicating the presence of shade. The next question was whether the two genes act in a common pathway, or separately. The expression of each was measured when the other was experimentally inactivated.


"We found that gt1 doesn't get activated unless tb1 is active; but that tb1 can act without gt1," says Jackson. "Taken together, our experiments indicated that the two genes are indeed part of a common pathway, in which gt1 is downstream of tb1 - it is not expressed until after tb1 is expressed."


Knowing that ancestral teosinte is a highly branched and tillered plant, the team tested the hypothesis that it was the gt1 gene that was specifically (if unwittingly) selected by ancient agriculturalists in their trial-and-error attempts to domesticate a wild grass to produce a new source of food. By sequencing gt1 from diverse lines of modern maize and wild teosinte, "we obtained significant evidence that gt1 was selected during domestication," according to Jackson.


"Tillering is an important trait in the grass family, and by modifying tiller production agriculturalists have increased yield in grasses such as maize and rice. Understanding the molecular mechanisms behind that modification may now provide us with a means to increase biomass production in switchgrass or other potential biofuel crops," Jackson adds.


"grassy tillers1 promotes apical dominance in maize and responds to shade signals in the grasses" appears online ahead of print in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences August 1, 2011. The authors are: Clinton J. Whipple, Tesfamichael H. Kebrom, Allison L. Weber, Fang Yang, Darren Hall, Robert Meeley, Robert Schmidt, John Doebley, Thomas P. Brutnell and David P. Jackson. The paper can be accessed online at:


This research was supported by generous grants provided by the National Science Foundation and the US Department of Agriculture.


Source: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, in, August 4, 2011


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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


2011 Joint Annual Meeting of the Entomological Society of Canada and the Acadian Entomological Society, Halifax, Nova Scotia, November 6-9, 2011  


Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance, National Hemp Convention, Winnipeg, Manitoba, November 21-21, 2011 


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


6th Annual Growing the Margins: Rural Green Energy Conference and Exhibition and 4th Annual Canadian Farm and Food Biogas Conference and Exhibition, London, Ontario, March 5-7, 2012



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Frances Rodenburg, Editor