AIC Notes    Top Issue 2011-30      August 18, 2011 
In This Issue
Canadian Journal of Animal Science - New Issue Online
Canadian Journal of Plant Science - New Issue Online
Food Waste Among Priorities for New University of Guelph Chair
Revealing Research: Canada Missing its Potential in Bioproducts
University of Alberta Scientist Turning Cow Parts into Plastic
Bare Shelves in Canada's Breadbasket
Adoption of New Technologies Key to Reducing Losses of Grain in Storage
Biotech Crops Gaining Ground in Canada
Canada and Newfoundland and Labrador Invest in Farming Sector
Local Research into Bee Deaths Gets Funding from B.C. Government
New Packaging Promises Fresher Fruit
Sustainable Agriculture Key in Developing a Green Economy, Both at Home and Abroa
Coming Events

Canadian Journal of Animal Science - New Issue Online

  

The Canadian Journal of Animal Science, Volume 91, Number 3 is now available online.

 

Sample Abstract

Optimum extent of barley grain processing and barley silage proportion in feedlot cattle diets: Growth, feed efficiency, and fecal characteristics

Karen Koenig, Karen Beauchemin

A study was conducted to evaluate the effects of forage proportion and extent of processing of barley grain on growth, intake, feed conversion efficiency, and fecal characteristics of feedlot cattle. Crossbred steers (120; 40731 kg) were housed individually and assigned to 10 diets (n=12): two degrees of temper rolling of barley grain [processing index (PI) of 82% (standard) or 87% (coarse)] were combined with five levels of barley silage [3, 6, 9, 12, and 15% of dietary dry matter (DM)]. The PI was determined as the weight of grain after processing expressed as a percentage of the weight before processing. Cattle were slaughtered after 104-109 d on feed, at a final weight of 576 kg, SEM = 5.1. There were very few interactions between grain processing and silage proportion for the variables measured. Grain processing had no effect (P>0.05) on average daily gain (1.59 kg d−1, SEM = 0.057) or final weight. Feeding PI-87% barley tended to increase dry matter intake (DMI) over the experiment (7.63 vs. 7.34 kg d−1, SEM = 0.123, P=0.10) compared with feeding PI-82% barley. Higher DMI of cattle fed PI-87% barley corresponded to lower estimated starch digestibility, as a result of increased appearance of whole kernels and grain fragments in feces. Consequently, gain:feed ratio tended (0.210 vs. 0.219, SEM = 0.0035, P=0.06) to decrease by 4% with PI-87% versus PI-82% barley. Similarly, silage proportion had no effect on gain but DMI increased (P=0.05) linearly from 7.19 to 7.75 kg d−1 (SEM = 0.194) with increasing proportion of silage. Consequently, gain:feed ratio decreased linearly from 0.225 to 0.202 (SEM = 0.0056) with increasing silage proportion. Optimum proportion of barley silage to maximize feed conversion efficiency was 3 to 6% of DM. Decreasing the extent of barley processing or increasing the silage proportion may reduce the risk of acidosis, but feed conversion efficiency is lowered. Formulating diets to reduce the incidence of digestive disorders may decrease the cost of mortalities and treatment of sick animals, thereby improving animal health and welfare, but these costs are unlikely to offset the increased cost of gain in commercial feedlots.

 

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Canadian Journal of Plant Science - New Issue Online

 

The Canadian Journal of Plant Science, Volume 91, Number 5, is now available online.

 

Sample Abstract

Integrating green manure and grazing systems: A review

Joanne Thiessen Martens, Martin Entz

Green manuring, also referred to as cover cropping, is an ancient practice that is gaining popularity, especially in ecologically integrated farming systems. Much green manure research in Canada has focused on legumes, where green manure plant material is incorporated into soil. This review focuses on the role of livestock in utilizing traditional and novel green manure crops adapted to the Canadian prairies. Legume and non-legume green manure plant species are discussed in terms of suitability to grazing management by different livestock species. Integrating grazing livestock into green manure systems affects nutrient cycling and potential nitrogen (N) loss pathways. However, losses may not be substantially different from other production systems, especially when loss mitigation practices are employed. Grazing green manures may also affect soil biological and physical properties. We conclude that grazing green manures may provide economic as well as biological advantages over the traditional approach of soil incorporation. For example, a green manure biomass yield of 5000 kg ha−1 is sufficient to produce 175 kg ha−1 of animal live weight gain, providing a gross revenue of $385 to $770 ha−1 at April 2011 prices, while returning at least 75% of N and other nutrients to the field. Barriers to farmer adoption of grazed green manure systems include a lack of livestock management knowledge and infrastructure.

 

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Food Waste Among Priorities for New University of Guelph Chair 

 

A leading Canadian plant scientist and organic farming champion has taken up his new role as the University of Guelph's Loblaw Companies Chair in Sustainable Food Production. Studying food waste and what can be done to reduce it will be among Ralph Martin's priorities.

 

Martin, recently from the Nova Scotia Agricultural College where he was the founding director of the Organic Agriculture Centre of Canada, said this week he looks forward to fostering new research and knowledge in the area of sustainability. The way we waste food, he said, is one problem that needs to be addressed.

 

Loblaw Companies is the largest food retailer in Canada. In March, the company announced a $3 million gift to the university to establish the position. At that time, Galen Weston, executive chair of Loblaw, said the goal behind the donation was to help establish a global centre of excellence, "bringing the best ideas and minds together to make Canada a world leader in sustainable food production."

 

"In food, one of the big things is waste," said Martin, who holds a PhD in plant science from McGill University. He was raised on a farm in a Mennonite community. "That's sometimes not often looked at, but with respect to sustainability I think it is something we need to look more at."

 

Guelph-based agricultural think-tank George Morris Centre released the findings of its Food Waste in Canada study last year. It found that Canadians waste a staggering 183 kilograms of food per capita each year. As much as 40 per cent of all of our edibles are wasted. The study estimates the value of food wasted to be as high as $27-billion per year, most going into landfills or composting bins. Consumers who throw food out at home account for about 50 per cent of all wasted food.

 

"About 40 per cent of all food is wasted. That's huge, and if we can get that down to 20 per cent that will be a big step in terms of sustainability," said Martin. "Of the people I've talked to so far, whether retailers, consumers or farmers, no one is opposed to doing what we can to reduce waste. Everybody agrees that is a good objective."

 

New and improved postharvest storage technologies are one way of addressing the problem, but much of the waste happens at the retailer or consumer level, and that is where changes need to occur.

 

"I think it is a matter of looking at the responsibility of individual consumers, doing the research to find out where we can make the biggest gains, and then educating the public," he said.

 

In order to have a sustainable food system, Martin said we must realize that producers, distributors, retailers and consumers "are all in this together." Attitudes, motivations and habits have to be examined and changed.

 

A sustainable food system is one where, whatever we do in agriculture now does not compromise our capacity to produce food in the future. Martin said society as a whole is beginning to shift to a more sustainable way of thinking.

 

"It's not just a matter of treating food as a mere commodity, because sometimes when that is done we don't respect food quite as much as we should, and that can lead to waste," said Martin. "When people appreciate the culture and tradition of food, they perhaps develop a little bit more respect for it, and treat it as the valuable life-giving source that it really is."

 

Jodi Koberinski is executive director of the Organic Council of Ontario.

 

"It's clear that players all along the food chain are recognizing our dominant food system is unsustainable," she said. "The fact that there is a willingness to take existing profits from that food system and apply them at the academic level to sustainability solutions is commendable, and Loblaw should be commended, as should the university, for their forward thinking action."

 

The supermarket system, which sells food as cheaply and conveniently as possible, is part of the dominant food system, she said. It is unsustainable because of the environmental impacts and waste it creates.

 

Alternative food systems, like organics, community shared agriculture and farmers markets, are ways of procuring food that uphold the values of local and sustainable production. More and more people are becoming aware of and embracing these alternatives, she said. An ever increasing number of corporations are taking sustainability seriously.

 

As a professor at the University of Guelph, Martin will fulfil the customary roles of teaching, research and service. As a chair, he will be heavier on the service side, collaborating with farm organizations, community and consumer groups, identifying concerns and research opportunities related to sustainability.

 

Rob O'Flanagan, Guelph Mercury, August 12, 2011

      

  
Revealing Research: Canada Missing its Potential in Bioproducts

 

Canada has long been known to have the essential ingredients to create a profitable bioproduct industry - abundant biomass, a strong industrial sector and the scientific capabilities needed for research and development. Research by Richard Ivey School of Business scanning the landscape for bioproducts reveals that the exact opposite may be true. The report contends that the Canadian landscape is underdeveloped, lacking comprehensive planning and vulnerable to foreign takeover.

 

Bioproducts are consumer or industrial goods including materials, chemicals, energy and fuels derived from renewable resources. Canada is in an enviable position with forests and agricultural lands that yield an abundance of feedstock, and the skilled labour, research capabilities and education systems needed to support innovation and the growth of a new economy. However, Canada has yet to turn these advantages into a successful large-scale bioproduct industry.

 

Ivey Professor David Sparling, Erin Cheney and Professor John Cranfield of the University of Guelph, authors of the new report, investigate Canada's bioproduct industry structure, performance and practices.

 

"With the growing concern over the environment, and the impetus to transition from an oil-based economy to one based on sustainable alternatives, one would expect strong growth in the Canadian bioproduct industry. In fact, the industry has contracted," said Sparling, who is also Chair of Agri-Food Innovation and Regulation at Ivey.

 

"The survey results suggest that somehow Canada is missing its potential in bioproducts." Revenue, exports and profits are far below 2003 levels. Spending on research and development is also down. The report indicates that only $221 million was invested in Canadian bioproduct firms in 2009, with the majority coming from government sources.

 

The potential for bioproducts is still there. Firms are expanding their partnerships with industry, government and academia to extend their capabilities. "Existing leaders in industrial biotechnology could act as pillars to the industry as it struggles to establish a foothold and successfully launch products onto the market." However, the industry remains challenged by access to capital, regulation and most recently the cost of acquiring biomass.  Government policy and programs will continue to play an important role in this developing industry.  

 

The report - based on Statistics Canada's Bioproduct Production and Development Survey (2003, 2006 and 2009) - analyzes Canada's strengths and weaknesses in the bioproducts industry and makes recommendations for growth and development.

 

The full study by David Sparling, Erin Cheney and John Cranfield entitled, Not Enough Green in Canada's Bioproduct Industry is available directly through the Ivey School of Business.

 

Ivey School of Business Press Release, July 27, 2011 

 

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University of Alberta Scientist Turning Cow Parts into Plastic 

 

A University of Alberta scientist has figured out a way to transform cattle parts into plastic to offer a potentially profitable alternative to the disposal of all those bits that the mad cow crisis turned into waste.

 

"We're one of the few projects that was kind of a wild card -- go out and see if we could add value," said biochemical engineer David Bressler.

 

Canada's cattle industry was devastated in 2003 when mad cow disease was discovered on an Alberta farm. In addition to trade disruptions that continue to plague ranchers, cattle brains and spinal cords, known as specified risk materials, could no longer be used for fear of possible infection and were rendered worthless.

 

What producers or meat processors once sold for up to $100 a tonne now costs them $30 a tonne in disposal costs.

 

Bressler, with funding from government and industry, was asked to see if he could find a way to make that material useful again.

 

He and his team found they could use highly pressurized water to break down proteins in the materials into smaller bits that could be bound together with a second chemical -- much like the rungs joining two sides of a ladder.

 

The process creates a brownish, opaque, odourless powder that can be cast into any shape. Its strength and flexibility can be adjusted by altering the number of chemical steps joining the two sides.

 

"What we're doing in our lab is testing different cross-linking and different amounts of cross-linking to see if we can build up something that makes a very rigid or very soft plastic," said Bressler.

 

"We've been talking with a couple of the big auto parts manufacturers in Canada that sell globally. We're sending them materials and they're testing it out and giving us feedback on how to modify it."

 

It could also be blended with other materials such as Fibreglas for different uses, suggested Bressler.

His group has applied for patents on the product, although it's probably two or three years away from commercial feasibility.

 

About 5,000 tonnes of cow parts a week are dumped into landfills, estimated Bressler. That garbage could yield 3,500 tonnes of raw material for the new plastic.

 

But don't ask him what to call it.

 

"We don't have a name," he laughed. "We don't really have a catchphrase nickname for it."

 

Canadian Press, August 15, 2011

 

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Bare Shelves in Canada's Breadbasket

 

With the local food movement booming across Canada and the United States, farmers' markets have been cropping up everywhere, from office buildings to hospital lobbies and even remote communities.

 

The heart of Canada's breadbasket, though, is becoming the country's most unfortunate place to be a foodie: In Manitoba and Saskatchewan, two of the nation's most agriculturally oriented provinces, reams of requests for new farm markets are being turned down, and some markets regularly have dozens of empty stalls despite the crowds they draw.

 

The reason is paradoxical but simple: there aren't enough farmers to go around.

 

"Because of the local food movement having this huge momentum now ... I have calls on a regular basis from people wanting to start a farmers' market. [But] we haven't figured out a plan to recruit farmers' market vendors," said Dianna Mae Hocaluk, director of the Farmers' Market Association of Manitoba.

"There is a lack of affordable farmland for small scale farms," she said. "We have a lot of large, corporate farms. They've taken over most of the land."

 

With more than 7.7 million hectares devoted to farming (picture a sprawl of about 19 million football fields) Manitoba ranks third among provinces with the most agricultural land. Most of that has historically been devoted to cash crops such as corn and grain, and while small-scale farms have begun to increase, demand has outpaced them. In 2007, the province had just 13 farm markets; now there are 48.

 

The story in Saskatchewan is similar: The province leads the country with more than 26 million hectares of farmland, but struggles to entice large operators to local markets, which are running well below capacity.

 

"I know there's good spice production in this province, but they [producers] are too big to consider doing some portion at a small scale and getting the product right into the hands of the people that live here," said Debra Claude, manager of operations for Saskatchewan Farmers' Markets.

 

"We'd love to run more markets," she said. "We just don't have enough people that are really taking on market gardening."

 

Making a sustainable living from small-scale farming can be a slog, especially during the early years when many farmers still work regular jobs to make ends meet. Between these jobs and work on-farm, people have to be strategic about where they sell.

 

"We have to be selective about the markets we choose," said Kim Shukla, an agrologist and co-owner of Stoneland Orchard, a fruit and vegetable operation near Steinbach, Man. Ms. Shukla and her husband, Richard Whitehead, bought their farm 10 years ago. Now, they vend at two markets a week and operate a successful community-supported agriculture operation (consumers pay a fixed weekly fee for a box of bounty that is heavier in good seasons and lighter in bad ones, sharing both risk and rewards with farmers). Expanding sales to more markets, particularly at new and unproven locations, upsets their balance sheet, Ms. Shukla said.

 

"Last year, we did three markets. We ended up just working to pay the staff," she said.

 

Ms. Shukla said she needs to take in $2,000 to $10,000 to make a market day worth her time.

 

Numbers like that are easiest to hit in areas with more density than the Prairie sprawl. A cross-country survey conducted in 2008 by Farmers' Markets Canada showed that 64 per cent of farm market sales occur in Ontario, which has about 150 of the country's 500 markets. Despite ranking fourth in terms of the amount of land farmed, the province has the most farms in Canada, more than 57,000. In the populous Greater Toronto Area, small-scale farmers have dozens of options each week.

 

Bert Andrews runs a pick-your-own berry operation west of Toronto at his farm, Andrews Scenic Acres. He also sends staff and a fleet of rented trucks packed with produce to 11 markets across the GTA each week. The vast exposure, he said, helps drive people to the picking operation at his farm, boosting the overall viability of his business.

 

"We go to four on Saturday morning alone," he said. "If we had the ability, we'd go to more."

 

Jessica Leeder, Globe and Mail, August 15, 2011 

 

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Adoption of New Technologies Key to Reducing Losses of Grain in Storage

 

A researcher with the University of Manitoba suggests the willingness of farmers to adopt the techniques and technologies that will preserve grain is key to minimizing losses in storage.

 

Researchers with the University of Manitoba and four institutes in China are examining all aspects of drying, storing and handling grain in an effort to reduce losses during storage.

 

Dr. Digvir Jayas, the University of Manitoba's vice president research and a distinguished professor in biosystems engineering, says in well-managed storage systems, losses should be less than one per cent, and he's confident that is achievable with the technology available today.


Clip-Dr. Digvir Jayas-University of Manitoba:
The numbers in China, what we hear, losses could be 10 to 12 per cent, would be the range where the spoilage could occur.

One of the statistics I heard was 13 to 15 per cent, so I would say between 10 to 15 per cent would be the spoilage in China.

On an individual farm, a farmer could lose all of his or her bin, for example, due to spoilage.

The technology certainly is there to reduce the losses significantly.

It's more of adopting the technology, and the need for the farmers who are the major group who store the grain, so educating them to implement the technology, or--if there are depots and centralized facilities, then the storage managers--being educated to implement the technology, and then monitoring the grain.

I would say the technology certainly is there.

It's the willingness on the part of the farmers and the storage managers to implement that technology, and then certainly monitor the grain once it is in storage on a regular basis, so that corrective actions can be taken before it is too late.


Dr. Jayas says reducing losses in storage will increase the volumes of grain available for food and for other uses without the need to increase production, which will mean fewer acres and fewer inputs.

 

Bruce Cochrane, University News, University of Manitoba Faculty of Agricultural & Food Sciences, August 16, 2011
 

 

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Biotech Crops Gaining Ground in Canada 

 

The area seeded to biotech crops in Canada has increased in recent years, reaching roughly eight million hectares (19.8 million acres) in 2011, according to a report from the U.S. Foreign Agricultural Service.

That compares with 6.9 million hectares (17 million acres) seeded to biotech crops in 2010.

 

Biotech crops account for 58 per cent of the corn, 46 per cent of the soybeans and 80 per cent of the canola grown in Canada, according to the report.

 

"Canada's strong research system and proximity to the U.S. facilitate collaboration and advances in biotechnology," the FAS report said.

 

Canada is one of a few countries, along with the U.S., Australia, Mexico and South Africa, which allows for stacked traits, or up to three traits in one crop.

 

Janice Tranberg, vice-president for Western Canada with CropLife Canada, a trade association for the plant science industry, estimated actual area seeded to biotech crops may already be larger than the FAS estimates.

 

Over 90 per cent of the canola grown in the country consisted of genetically modified varieties while soybeans were around 65 per cent and corn 60-70 per cent.

 

"Since plant biotechnology was first introduced in Canada (15 years ago) it has consistently been increasing, not only in Canada but also around the world, and we expect that trend to continue," she said.

 

The focus in biotechnology moving forward will be on developing crops that have increased cold and drought tolerance, allowing them to be grown in new areas, Tranberg said.

 

Phil Franz-Warkentin, Country Guide, August 17, 2011

 

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Canada and Newfoundland and Labrador Invest in Farming Sector

 

The Newfoundland and Labrador farming sector will receive more than $11 million to promote innovation in the sector and reduce the risk of foreign animal diseases. Regional Minister for Newfoundland and Labrador, Federal Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and President of the Queens Privy Council, Peter Penashue and the Honourable Shawn Skinner, Minister of Natural Resources, Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, made the announcement today in St. John's, Newfoundland.

 

The joint investment by Canada and Newfoundland and Labrador will focus on two initiatives, and provide:

* $7.5 million for the Agriculture Research Initiative to help farmers and others in the sector lower production costs, enhance environmental sustainability and seize opportunities in new crop varieties, livestock and crop management practices through new techniques especially suited to the Newfoundland and Labrador climate; and 

* $3.9 million for the Foreign Animal Disease Preparedness and Specified Risk Materials Disposal Initiative to build a new animal disease laboratory that will help increase animal disease surveillance and detection capacity.

 

The federal government will contribute more than $6.8 million under the AgriFlexibility Fund, part of Canada's Economic Action Plan. Newfoundland and Labrador will invest more than $4.5 million.

 

AAFC Press Release, August 18, 2011 

 

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Local Research into Bee Deaths Gets Funding from B.C. Government

 

Genetic scientists in B.C. are trying to breed a better bee that can survive a mysterious new phenomenon that is wiping out colonies across North America.

 

On Monday, the provincial government gave Genome BC $25 million to continue research on a variety of health, agriculture, forestry, fishing and mining molecular biology projects, including more than $2 million to try to understand the root causes of "Colony Collapse Disorder" in honey bees.

 

That disorder, discovered in 2006 after it wiped out whole apiaries in the U.S. and Canada, has created a crisis because bees are the world's major pollinators. Between one-quarter and one-third of all food produced in the world originates from insect pollination, according to Paul van Westendorp, the chief apiculture specialist for the province's Ministry of Agriculture.

 

But determining the cause of CCD is proving difficult. Scientists believe it may be caused by a variety of compounding problems including new viruses, diseases and prolonged exposure to insecticides and herbicides. But one of the key factors is believed to be a virulent pest called the Varroa Mite, which latches on to bees and their larvae and sucks blood out of them.

 

The research being done by Leonard Foster at the University of B.C. will look at mapping the DNA of honey bees and isolating strains of the insect that are resistant to varroa, van Westendorp said.

 

"Much of the thinking is that ultimately the bees themselves must develop some form of better, natural resistance to these viruses and mites. But in order to select for that kind of genetic bee stock, you have to carry out nothing but endless amounts of research and selective breeding and that takes a lot of time. We don't have that kind of time," van Westendorp said.

 

"What Dr. Foster is involved with is developing a very good diagnostic tool that can be employed where certain lines of bees with certain genetic characteristics can be quickly identified and selected. Those can then be selected for further breeding."

 

Foster was away on holidays and could not be reached for comment.

 

The bee project is just the tip of the iceberg for Genome BC, a not-for-profit agency that works with academia, government and industry to apply molecular biology solutions to various industry and health sectors.

 

The $25 million, when coupled with another $50 million the province gave Genome BC in 2008, will be leveraged into $300 million in research funding with the help of the federal government, private industry and charities. A first phase of Foster's bee research was also funded at that time.

 

"What this gets us, if you like, is applications of genomics towards actual products or services in those sectors, which will then provide more jobs and competitiveness for the industries or governments operating in those sectors," said Alan Winter, the president and CEO of Genome BC.

 

The bee project is especially timely, he said. "The concern has been whether any one of a number of viruses is causing Colony Collapse Disorder. I think [Foster's] view is that it is not just one but several, so he needs to understand not only the genome of the bee but all the different types of viruses and how they interact and how that affects bees under stress."

 

More than 60 per cent of the money will go toward medical and health research, with the rest split between agriculture, forestry, fishing and mining. Winter cited three personal health projects where molecular biology is showing results: dealing with adverse drug reactions in children, targeting specific cancers at the cellular level and trying to counteract the need for anti-rejection drugs in transplants.

Other non-medical projects include trying to identify the triggers in acid rock drainage in mining and creating disease-resistant shellfish.

 

Jeff Lee, Vancouver Sun, August 17, 2011  

 

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Local Research into Bee Deaths Gets Funding from B.C. Government

 

Genetic scientists in B.C. are trying to breed a better bee that can survive a mysterious new phenomenon that is wiping out colonies across North America.

 

On Monday, the provincial government gave Genome BC $25 million to continue research on a variety of health, agriculture, forestry, fishing and mining molecular biology projects, including more than $2 million to try to understand the root causes of "Colony Collapse Disorder" in honey bees.

 

That disorder, discovered in 2006 after it wiped out whole apiaries in the U.S. and Canada, has created a crisis because bees are the world's major pollinators. Between one-quarter and one-third of all food produced in the world originates from insect pollination, according to Paul van Westendorp, the chief apiculture specialist for the province's Ministry of Agriculture.

 

But determining the cause of CCD is proving difficult. Scientists believe it may be caused by a variety of compounding problems including new viruses, diseases and prolonged exposure to insecticides and herbicides. But one of the key factors is believed to be a virulent pest called the Varroa Mite, which latches on to bees and their larvae and sucks blood out of them.

 

The research being done by Leonard Foster at the University of B.C. will look at mapping the DNA of honey bees and isolating strains of the insect that are resistant to varroa, van Westendorp said.

 

"Much of the thinking is that ultimately the bees themselves must develop some form of better, natural resistance to these viruses and mites. But in order to select for that kind of genetic bee stock, you have to carry out nothing but endless amounts of research and selective breeding and that takes a lot of time. We don't have that kind of time," van Westendorp said.

 

"What Dr. Foster is involved with is developing a very good diagnostic tool that can be employed where certain lines of bees with certain genetic characteristics can be quickly identified and selected. Those can then be selected for further breeding."

 

Foster was away on holidays and could not be reached for comment.

 

The bee project is just the tip of the iceberg for Genome BC, a not-for-profit agency that works with academia, government and industry to apply molecular biology solutions to various industry and health sectors.

 

The $25 million, when coupled with another $50 million the province gave Genome BC in 2008, will be leveraged into $300 million in research funding with the help of the federal government, private industry and charities. A first phase of Foster's bee research was also funded at that time.

 

"What this gets us, if you like, is applications of genomics towards actual products or services in those sectors, which will then provide more jobs and competitiveness for the industries or governments operating in those sectors," said Alan Winter, the president and CEO of Genome BC.

 

The bee project is especially timely, he said. "The concern has been whether any one of a number of viruses is causing Colony Collapse Disorder. I think [Foster's] view is that it is not just one but several, so he needs to understand not only the genome of the bee but all the different types of viruses and how they interact and how that affects bees under stress."

 

More than 60 per cent of the money will go toward medical and health research, with the rest split between agriculture, forestry, fishing and mining. Winter cited three personal health projects where molecular biology is showing results: dealing with adverse drug reactions in children, targeting specific cancers at the cellular level and trying to counteract the need for anti-rejection drugs in transplants.
 

Other non-medical projects include trying to identify the triggers in acid rock drainage in mining and creating disease-resistant shellfish.

 

Jeff Lee, Vancouver Sun, August 17, 2011  

 

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New Packaging Promises Fresher Fruit 

 

A new packaging technology promises to help fruit growers lengthen shipping times at the same time as getting fruit to market in a fresher condition.

 

The new shipping containers combine special boxes, cooling techniques and an anti-microbial compound, allowing shipping times of up to a month, with the fruit arriving in a fresh-picked condition at its destination. Friday, Agriculture Canada announced they were investing $261,000 in helping Innovative Food Systems and the scientists at the Pacific Agriculture Research Centre complete development of the product.

 

"Our producers need cutting-edge technologies that will help them remain competitive in the global marketplace," said Okanagan Coquihalla MP Dan Albas, in making the funding announcement.

 

"We are creating and supporting a major economic sector in B.C. We are delivering on consumers' demands for freshness and environmental responsibility. And we are opening up new markets, so that future generations of farmers are well set to compete in global markets."

 

Dr. Perry Lidster, president and CEO of Innovative Food Systems, explained the packaging technology allows them to cool a closed and lidded box of fruit as quickly as they could without a lid on it. The addition of the anti-microbial agent that activates at high temperatures or high humidity helps prevent the development of fungi, mould and bacteria, ensuring the safety and quality of the fruit.

 

"We are able to withstand temperature abuses like product being left on the tarmac at an airport or on an unrefrigerated dock at a retail store and we are able to ensure that product will not decay, that there are no food-borne pathogens that are developing on that," said Lidster. "We are providing a premium ripe product that is actually harvested at a more mature stage rather than the dark green that you see on a tomato or peach; it's actually gone through some of its initial ripening process. So you are going to get something that we can sustain for a period of 25 to 35 days through the distribution system and have it ripe within a day at distribution centres."

 

Cost savings for producers come both from being able to use more economical shipping methods - like ocean or rail freight, rather than air - and fresher fruit at the destination means more sales, with less claims for damaged fruit.

 

"If you send cherries to market with dried stems because there was an interruption in the cold chain, then you have a product that is not going to sell," said Joe Sardinha, president of the B.C. Fruit Growers Association. He uses the Taiwanese market as an example. "They want large fruit, they want fresh-looking fruit, they want the green stems. If this preserves the greenness and freshness of the stem and also prevents the fruit from dehydrating ... you've really enhanced the value of your product and the quality of the product at destination."

 

Sardinha is pleased with the concept, though cautious about the long-term costs.

 

"This is pretty exciting. It will be interesting to see what cost factor there will be for the packaging over the standard packaging now," he said. "If it is offset by the savings in freight and then some, then I can see some real possibilities there." 

 

The horticultural sector is vital to Canada's agriculture industry and plays an important role in the economy. In 2010, the Canadian horticultural industry brought in close to $6 billion in farm cash receipts and generated exports of nearly $3.6 billion.  

 

This project is funded under the Developing Innovative Agri-Products initiative, which is delivered by the Growing Forward framework under the Agri-Innovations program, a $158 million five-year program announced to support industry-led science and technology projects.  

 

Steve Kidd, Penticton Western News, August 16, 2011 

 

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Sustainable Agriculture Key in Developing a Green Economy, Both at Home and Abroad 

 

Vancouver is one of the greenest cities in North America, ranking second out of 27 major cities in the U.S. and Canada Green City Index report. As the world's largest burner of coal and emitter of industrial carbon dioxide (CO2), China, on the other hand, may not be the greenest of countries.

 

A constant layer of smog in Beijing is a stark reminder that carbon emissions are affecting air quality.

This is largely due to the fact that coal accounts for nearly 70 per cent of China's total energy consumption. But efforts are underway to lessen the environmental impacts of China's rapid industrialization and shift the economy towards one that favours sustainable development.

 

According to a new Worldwatch Institute report, "Green Economy and Green Jobs in China," the three sectors of energy, transportation, and forestry could provide at least 4.5 million green jobs in China in 2020.

 

China's wind power industry alone created an average of 40,000 direct green jobs annually from 2006 to 2010. But, according to the report, "greening can and should occur in all sectors of the economy."

Agriculture, for example, can contribute significantly to the green economy. Small-scale, sustainable farming encourages job creation and reduces the environmental impact associated with energy intensive industrial farming.

 

Because this type of farming is meant to be small in scale, it can be practised even in crowded cities where space is limited. Here in Vancouver, several urban farming projects are working to provide the community with fresh, local food by growing vegetables in backyard gardens. Kitsilano Farms, for example, converts unused backyard space around the Kitsilano neighborhood into productive vegetable gardens.

 

Inner City Farms is also focused on bringing urban agriculture to the city of Vancouver. Like Kitsilano Farms, Inner City Farms offers the community access to fresh, locally-grown produce through participation in a summer community supported agriculture (CSA) program. Fresh Roots Farm operates a CSA program as well, providing east Vancouver residents with local, healthy, organic food. Fresh Roots additionally offers educational opportunities through urban farming internships and workshops.

 

Then there's SOLEfood, an enterprising non-profit organization that is providing employment opportunities as well as fresh produce. SOLEfood is an urban farm located in Vancouver's downtown eastside neighbourhood. By providing residents with job training and employment, SOLEfood is directly contributing to the economic revitalization of this inner-city neighbourhood. Local residents are hired and trained to build, plant, maintain and harvest the farm, which sells its produce to local restaurants and community organizations and at farmers' markets, thereby strengthening neighbourhood food security.

 

Although agriculture contributes as much as one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions, greening agriculture - by maintaining soil fertility and reducing soil erosion, increasing water use efficiency and decreasing deforestation, for example - could transform agriculture from being a major emitter of greenhouse gases (GHG) to possibly being a GHG sink. According to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), green agriculture has the potential to substantially reduce agricultural GHG emissions by annually sequestering nearly six billion tons of atmospheric CO2.

 

In addition to providing environmental benefits such as carbon sequestration, sustainable agriculture can provide significant economic opportunities and help reduce rural poverty. A vast majority of the 2.6 billion people worldwide who depend on agriculture for their livelihoods live in rural areas on less than US$1 per day. According to UNEP, evidence shows that sustainable or green farming practices could increase yields between 54 and 179 per cent. Increased crop yields mean that farmers not only have enough food to feed themselves and their families, but they also have a surplus that they can sell at local markets. Estimates indicate that for every 10 per cent increase in farm yields, poverty has been reduced by seven per cent percent in Africa and by more than five per cent in Asia.

 

Agriculture should be part of the equation in developing a new, green economy, both here at home as well as in China. As urban farms begin to emerge in Vancouver, so too do new opportunities for employment. And while China is starting to transition to a green economy, particularly in the areas of energy, transportation, and forestry, green agriculture also has enormous potential to create jobs, reduce poverty and protect the environment.

 

Danielle Nierenberg is project director of the Worldwatch Institute's Nourishing the Planet project (NourishingthePlanet.org). Haibing Ma is the Worldwatch Institute's China Program Manager.

 

Special to the Vancouver Sun, August 11, 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
 
 

 

 

AIC LogoAIC Notes is a weekly update provided as a service for AIC members.  Please do not circulate or post.  The content of AIC Notes does not represent official positions, opinions or support of AIC or its members. 

Frances Rodenburg, Editor