AIC Notes TopIssue 2011-40            November 10, 2011 
In This Issue
Conference Board Report Shows the Benefits of Canada's Ethanol Industry
Richardson and CANTERRA SEEDS Introduce New Durum Variety
Report Highlights Opportunities
Genetics Projects to Provide On-Farm Benefits
Volatility Big Risk for Producers
Agriculture Minister Addressing Concerns Over Wheat Supply Chain
Wood Biofuel Could Be a Competitive Industry by 2020: UBC Study
Do Plants Perform Best with Family or Strangers? Researchers Consider Social Interactions
Using Biochar to Boost Soil Moisture
Summit for Animal Agriculture Conference Presentations
Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food
Coming Events

Conference Board Report Shows the Benefits of Canada's Ethanol Industry


A study on the economic impact of the ethanol industry in Canada and its environmental and health effects from the Conference Board of Canada mirrors Grain Farmers of Ontario's recent findings: the ethanol industry benefits our economy and our environment.

"Good policy is based on accurate information and careful assessment of the alternatives. The purpose of this report is to assess the evidence and to contribute to policy discussions around ethanol," said Len Coad, Director, Environment, Energy and Transportation in a release. "Our study concludes that ethanol should be part of Canada's energy mix. It is a clean transportation fuel that has a positive energy balance, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, and contributes to energy self-sufficiency."

According to the study, ethanol production in Canada has reached almost two billion litres per year and it can contribute to reducing Canada's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. A 10 percent ethanol blend in our fuel reduces GHG emissions by four to six percent compared to gasoline. The Conference Board also looked at the economic impact of the ethanol industry and found that it contributes as much as $1.2 billion annually to the Canadian economy and accounts for more than 14,000 person-years of employment during construction and over 1,000 permanent jobs once plants are in operation.

"These findings substantiate our previous findings through our own independent research," says Barry Senft, CEO of Grain Farmers of Ontario. "It's very clear that the ethanol and biofuels industry is important to Canadian farmers and non-farmers alike on a myriad of levels including benefits to the environment and the economy." The report, Ethanol's Potential Contribution to Canada's Transportation Sector (
), is publicly available from the Conference Board's elibrary (, November 8, 2011


Back to top  

Richardson and CANTERRA SEEDS Introduce New Durum Variety


Richardson International and CANTERRA SEEDS have partnered to introduce AC(TM) Enterprise, a new Canadian Western Amber Durum variety, to Canadian growers and international end-use customers.


Developed by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's Swift Current breeding program and marketed by CANTERRA SEEDS, AC(TM) Enterprise demonstrates a strong yield advantage over the current durum market leader with similar maturity and improved disease resistance.


"AC(TM) Enterprise is the next great durum variety, with a strong agronomic package and an excellent quality profile," says Brent Derkatch, Director, Operations and Business Development for CANTERRA SEEDS. "We are excited to have Richardson as our exclusive market development partner working to derive increased value and market uptake for the variety."


Richardson, which handles over 500,000 metric tonnes of durum annually, will promote AC(TM) Enterprise to end-users combining its international marketing experience and relationships with millers and pasta makers around the world. During market development, Richardson plans to contract 50,000 acres of AC(TM) Enterprise in 2012, growing the program in 2013 and 2014.


"We have already seen strong interest from customers in testing AC(TM) Enterprise in their milling and pasta processes," says Peter Entz, Richardson's Assistant Vice-President of Seed and Traits. "Our market development program for AC(TM) Enterprise will create more opportunities for Canadian farmers and bring them closer to working with end-use customers for their grain."


Richardson has been working with the Canadian International Grains Institute (CIGI) to conduct quality evaluation trials of AC(TM) Enterprise to demonstrate the quality attributes of the product to end-users. A low cadmium variety with similar grain protein, gluten index and semolina yield to the leading durum variety, AC(TM) Enterprise has also demonstrated good semolina colour, a desirable trait for pasta makers. With the first round of trials now complete, Richardson is expanding the testing with CIGI to better understand the variety's fit in the international market.


Richardson International Press Release, November 7, 2011


Back to top    



Federal/Provincial Actions Move Canada Closers to 2020 Target for GHG Emissions Reductions


The International Institute for Sustainable Development estimates new federal regulations combined with provincial actions will achieve nearly half the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions Canada has targeted under the Copenhagen Accord.


"Many Canadian GHG emitters are facing carbon costs consistent with emitters in the European Union and at levels well above competitors in the United States," said David Sawyer, IISD climate change and energy director and author of Mind the Gap: The State-of-Play in Canadian Greenhouse Gas Mitigation.


The Canadian Government is implementing policies that reduce GHG emissions by regulating new and modified coal-fired power facilities and through vehicle efficiency standards in order to meet its target of a 17 per cent reduction in emissions from 2005 by 2020.


The Canadian government isn't acting alone to reduce GHG emissions. "The emerging federal GHG emission mitigation policy builds on what is happening at a provincial level," Sawyer said.


"The federal and provincial governments are delivering reductions that jointly put Canada on track to achieve nearly half of its 2020 emissions reduction target," he said, adding that existing policies are already delivering 30 per cent of the target and the new measures should deliver a total of 46 per cent.


"Closing the remaining 54 per cent gap in Canada's target will be challenging and require a rethink on how we approach policy design, which has until recently focused on carbon pricing policies rather than performance-based regulations preferred by the Canadian government."


IISD's Mind the Gap paper provides new modelling to measure the impact of Canadian efforts to reduce GHG emissions, outlines five principles to guide policy development in a regulatory environment and offers three options Canada can consider to help it reach its target.  


 The first option suggests Canada can regulate all existing sources of carbon emissions, rather than just new or modified sources. It can also look at establishing a domestic offsets system and expand Canadian use of international offsets that take advantage of the relatively low-cost reductions available internationally.   


"While it isn't currently politically feasible to implement a national carbon pricing policy, it will eventually be necessary in order to the deliver cost-effective reductions required to meet Canada's longer-term aspirations for GHG emission reductions," Sawyer said.   


The report, Mind the Gap: The State-of-Play in Canadian Greenhouse Gas Mitigation, is one in a series of papers on the subject of Regulating Carbon Emissions in Canada.  Please also see the commentary: Canada is finally moving in the right direction on greenhouse gas policy  



IISD Press Release, November 6, 2011  



Back to top

Report Highlights Opportunities 


The federal government has released its Market Access Report summarizing significant progress made from January 2010 to March 2011 to increase agricultural trade access in ten priority global markets.


The ten markets were selected by the federal market access team members, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, following consultation with industry stakeholders and other levels of government.


Six established markets were targeted, including the European Union, Japan, Mexico, South Korea, Taiwan and the United States. Emerging markets with high economic potential were identified as China, India, Indonesia and Russia.


According to Martin Charron, vice-president for market access with Canada Pork International, the close collaboration and good relationship with team members were key to the success in reopening the Chinese and Indonesian markets following the H1N1-related ban.


Another success story was the approval of three Canadian pork processing plants for export to the European Union under the Ractopamine Free Protocol.


Charron says Canadian pork farmers, who export two-thirds of their production, rely heavily on government efforts to keep existing markets open and to gain access to new markets. He notes the role of government-to-government discussion is essential.


Highlights on the beef side include the agreement with China on a process for opening their market to Canadian beef, the agreement for access to the EU's duty-free, most-favoured-nation quota and expansion of access to Russia.


The report estimates that the duty-free access to the EU for beef could be worth more than $10 million annually, while exports to Russia have more than tripled by value, exceeding $23 million in 2010.


Canadian Cattlemen's Association president Travis Toews says market access is critical for producer success and praised the team's commitment to on-going CCA priorities. These include resolution of the country of origin labelling issue with the United States, securing access for Canadian beef to South Korea and expanding access to Japan, Russia and Mexico.


The report also highlights accomplishments in the canola, wheat, pulses and animal genetics markets.


D. Larraine Andrews, FCC Express, November 4, 2011


Genetics Projects to Provide On-Farm Benefits 


Farmers will benefit from two major livestock research projects announced last week by Genome Alberta through its Applied Livestock Genomics Program.


The biggest project, budgeted at $12.4 million, involves applying genomics to swine health and welfare. A research team led by professors Graham Plastow, University of Alberta, John Harding from the University of Saskatchewan and Bob Kemp from PigGen Canada, will work towards reducing the impact of two of the most common diseases in commercial pig production, porcine circovirus-associated disease and porcine respiratory and reproductive syndrome.


The scientists will study mechanisms in pigs that make them genetically less susceptible to these diseases. It's hoped the results will provide important new diagnostic tools for breeders, expand the sector's understanding of disease control mechanisms and render improved vaccines and a safer food chain by reducing antibiotic use.


The second research project, involving cattle genomics, is an international collaboration involving Prof. Stephen Miller, University of Guelph and Alberta researcher Stephen Moore, director of the Centre for Animal Science at the University of Queensland in Australia.


Canadian researchers have been part of a major international undertaking to sequence the bovine genome. Now, says Genome Alberta, they're at the forefront of developing genomic selection techniques to boost genetic improvement in cattle, which is the goal of this $8.2 million research project. It will enable Miller and Moore to target traits that are difficult to improve through conventional means. Low-cost tests are being developed that will provide information about an animal's genome from a relatively small number of genetic markers. This will give valuable information about its breeding value at a very early age. 


Genome Alberta expects this research to bring immediate benefits to breeders, enhance product traceability and lay the foundation for the next generation of technologies aimed at environmentally sustainable production. It's estimated this research will generate more than $300 million in benefits over the next 10 years.


Both research projects will also look into the public perception of genomic technologies and potential market barriers against their use.


Owen Roberts, FCC Express, November 4, 2011 


Volatility Big Risk for Producers


The long-term prospects for Canada's agriculture industry are bright, but producers will have to get used to - and deal with - volatile swings in commodity prices, input costs and exchange rates in the short and medium term, TD Economics said in a report released Thursday.


"Volatility is the new norm,'' said Craig Alexander, senior vice-president and chief economist with TD. "Volatility in terms of commodity prices has become more intense in recent years - Just as investors are dealing with a very uncertain financial outlook, so too are farmers.''


In fact, Alexander said volatility has been increasing for the sector since the recovery of commodity prices about five years ago. "Since 2006, we've actually seen farmers do an awful lot better. But they have had to cope with a lot of volatility, both in terms of the prices they receive for their products, but also the environment in which they're operating.''


Specifically, Alexander pointed to Canadian dollar and agricultural commodity prices, which have swung wildly in the past three or four years. "When you look at the post-2006 world, boy, has the amount of volatility gone up dramatically."


The agricultural sector is headed for another respectable year in 2011, with both crop and livestock prices on track to record significant gains on average compared with 2010, the report said.


However, the unpredictability and volatility that has characterized the farming sector in recent months is likely to continue challenging producers in the near term. Uncertainty surrounding the global economy, unpredictable weather patterns and investor interest in commodities are among the factors that will contribute to volatility in agricultural markets, the report said.


"You cannot let the uncertainty and volatility paralyze you," Alexander said. "You still have to make decisions, you still have to build your business."


Farmers can cope with these gyrations through a number of strategies, including hedging, ensuring credit is in place before it's needed and using reasonable interest rate assumptions when assessing investments, the report said.


"Hedging is an important dimension in an increasingly volatile world. That doesn't mean you hedge 100 per cent. It may be too expensive to lock in the prices completely," Alexander said.


"Understand the risks you're taking, then make prudent decisions about how you can to manage that risk and, if it means you have use some hedging contracts to mitigate the risks - that's money well spent.''


Bruce Johnstone, Leader-Post, November 4, 2011  


Back to top 



Agriculture Minister Addressing Concerns Over Wheat Supply Chain  


Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz is promising to set up a "crop logistics working group" to deal with transportation and supply chain issues arising from the government's plan to remove the Canadian Wheat Board's monopoly over western wheat and barley sales next August.


Speaking to the Inland Terminal Association of Canada in Saskatoon on Monday, Ritz conceded the removal of the CWB's single desk will pose significant challenges to the wheat supply chain, including independent inland terminals that handle about 2.5 million tonnes of grain and oilseeds annually in Saskatchewan and Alberta.


"During our extensive consultations, industry has raised a number of valid issues around transition (to the open market),'' Ritz told ITAC members, who represent 10 inland terminals, seven of which are in Saskatchewan, and their 5,000 shareholders, most of whom are producers.


Among those issues affected by the removal of the CWB's single desk are: access to elevators, rail and ports, producer cars and shortline railroads, funding market development and research, and price transparency and "price discovery,'' Ritz said.


The crop logistics working group will help develop solutions to the issues of terminal access, rail access, producer cars and other "transportation and supply chain issues arising from the transition to marketing freedom," in conjunction with the grain supply chain study and rail freight service review, Ritz said.


The Battlefords-Lloydminster MP admitted the transition to the open market will mean major changes in the way the grain industry operates. "As we all know, nothing good ever comes easy. Changes brings challenge, but it also brings opportunity,'' Ritz said in his speech to ITAC delegates.


ITAC executive director Kevin Hursh agreed that transition from the single desk to an open market is a "complicated issue, but perhaps the working group will be able to monitor for any anti-competitive activity."


But Terry Boehm, president of the National Farmers Union, said the Conservative government is rushing into the open market without considering the impact on producers or the industry.


"Ritz and the Harper government are moving very quickly,'' Boehm said. "They're not making any sort of informed decisions as to how you reconstruct or maintain valuable pieces of the infrastructure that we have.''


Boehm said with the elimination of the single desk, the CWB will no longer play a major role in grain transportation and logistics, such as providing producers with access to grainhandling facilities, or allocating producer cars and ensuring the railways to move them to port.


Allen Oberg, chair of the CWB, added announcing the crop logistics working group at this late date is an admission that the government's plan to eliminate the single desk was politically motivated and not well thought out.


"Normally, you would look at all the implications and, having seen those, you'd introduce the changes later," Oberg said. "This has the cart before the horse, as far as I'm concerned.''


For example, he said the legislation doesn't explain how "third parties'' - companies without country elevators or port terminals - will be guaranteed access to the grainhandling system. Similarly, producer cars - which save producers about $14 million annually in reduced grainhandling charges - will slowly fade away without the support of the CWB.


"Once the system is deregulated, they will be on the same footing as canola producer cars are today,'' Oberg said. "The economics of shipping grain by producer car will be taken right out of it.''


Bruce Johnstone, Leader-Post, November 8, 2011


Back to top 



Wood Biofuel Could Be a Competitive Industry by 2020:  UBC Study 


Fuel made from wood could become a competitive commercial alternative to fuel made from corn by 2020 if the wood biofuel industry is supported, according to a new University of British Columbia study.

Corn ethanol is currently blended with gasoline to satisfy government-mandated targets to include renewable content in transportation fuel. Compared to corn, wood-based biofuel is considered more sustainable but is not currently produced in large commercial quantities in Canada and the United States because the costs are too great.


The study, published in the most recent issue of the journal Biofuels Bioproducts & Biorefining, identifies several opportunities for reducing these costs. Researchers in UBC's Faculty of Forestry found that large-scale commercial production of wood-based ethanol, also known as cellulosic ethanol, will reduce capital and operation costs and assist in achieving the improvements necessary for wood-based ethanol to compete, without government support.


"As industrial production increases, cellulosic ethanol is likely to become more competitive with corn ethanol for a share of the renewable fuels market," says Jamie Stephen, a PhD candidate at UBC and lead author of the study.


Stephen's research indicates that the economic competitiveness of wood-based ethanol fuel production could be improved by reducing the capital costs of facilities and equipment, reducing enzyme costs and generating revenue from co-products like electricity. Today, the enzymes needed to breakdown wood products are one of the major costs associated with production. As industrial volumes of biofuel are produced and demand grows, technological learning and economies-of-scale will help reduce the cost.


The 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act in the United States requires that 117 billion litres (31 billion gallons) of ethanol be added to gasoline annually by 2022. In Canada, the federal government mandates that gasoline must include five per cent renewable fuel content.


Wood-based biofuel creates fewer greenhouse gas emissions and requires less water to produce. Cellulose, the main component of wood, is also the most abundant polymer on Earth and unlike the starch and sugars found in corn and sugarcane, people cannot digest it. Production of wood-based ethanol fuel doesn't use food supplies for fuel and competition for agricultural land can be reduced.


"If you do a purely economic production cost comparison between wood and corn today, corn will be the lower cost option," says Stephen. "If we consider other factors, like energy security, the environmental impact and availability of resources, cellulosic ethanol becomes a more competitive option for Canada and the United States."


In Canada, wood waste, corn stover and wheat straw are being considered for wood-based ethanol production.


Stephen notes that 35 years ago Brazil made the decision to invest heavily in sugarcane-ethanol production. Today, Brazil's flex-fuel vehicles run on fuels of up to 100 per cent ethanol and government subsidies for the industry have nearly disappeared.


"Commercial production of wood-based ethanol requires government support to be economically viable," says Stephen. "There has been a lot of investment in the research and development of cellulosic ethanol, especially in the United States and Canada. Huge advancements have been made to reduce the cost of production but there is still a long way to go before the volumes produced by the corn ethanol industry are attainable."


This study was supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and the British Columbia Innovation Council (BCIC).


Story Source:

The above story is reprinted from materials provided by University of British Columbia.

University of British Columbia (2011, November 8). Wood biofuel could be a competitive industry by 2020. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 9, 2011, from­ /releases/2011/11/111108133045.htm


Back to top


Do Plants Perform Best with Family or Strangers?  Researchers Consider Social Interactions 


In the fight for survival, plants are capable of complex social behaviours and may exhibit altruism towards family members, but aggressively compete with strangers.


A growing body of work suggests plants recognize and respond to the presence and identity of their neighbours. But can plants cooperate with their relatives? While some studies have shown that siblings perform best -- suggesting altruism towards relatives -- other studies have shown that when less related plants grow together the group can actually outperform siblings. This implies the group benefits from its diversity by dividing precious resources effectively and competing less.


A team from McMaster University suggests plants can benefit from both altruism and biodiversity but when these processes occur at the same time, it is difficult to predict the outcome.


"The greatest challenge for understanding plant social interactions is we can't interpret plant behaviours as easily as we do those of animals," explains Susan Dudley, an associate professor in the Department of Biology at McMaster. "Though we have shown plants change traits in the presence of relatives, we need to determine if this is cooperation. Linking the plant behaviours with their benefits is challenging when multiple processes co-occur."


Dudley and a team of researchers disentangle the sometimes contradictory research in the latest edition of the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, describing how the identity and presence of neighbours affect many processes acting on plant populations.


The problem, she says, is that plant social interactions are treated as a black box, with researchers only looking at the output, or the fitness of the plant, in sibling competition. But they need to investigate the mechanisms inside the box -- by describing how traits of individuals affect fitness -- to understand how the output is reached and which mechanisms are occurring to get there.


"Simply put, social environment matters to plants. If we first acknowledge that kin cooperation and resource partitioning are co-occurring, we can begin to address some very important questions," says Amanda File, a graduate student in the Department of Biology at McMaster.


"Among these questions is whether there is a link between kin recognition and plant performance, whether plant kin recognition can improve crop yield and how kin recognition shapes communities and ecosystems" says Guillermo Murphy, a graduate student in the Department of Biology at McMaster. 


Story Source:

The above story is reprinted from materials provided by McMaster University.

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.

McMaster University (2011, November 9). Do plants perform best with family or strangers? Researchers consider social interactions. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 10, 2011, from­ /releases/2011/11/111109115816.htm


Back to top


Using Biochar to Boost Soil Moisture  


Scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are leading the way in learning more about "biochar," the charred biomass created from wood, other plant material, and manure.


The studies by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists at laboratories across the country support the USDA priorities of promoting international food security and responding to global climate change. ARS is USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency.


Soil scientist Jeff Novak at the ARS Coastal Plains Soil, Water and Plant Research Center in Florence, S.C., is coordinating the multi-location effort. In one project, he led a laboratory study to see if different biochars could improve the sandy soils found on the Carolina coastal plain, and Pacific Northwest silt loam soils derived from volcanic ash.


Novak's team used peanut hulls, pecan shells, poultry litter, switchgrass and hardwood waste products to produce nine different types of biochars. All the feedstocks were pyrolysed at two different temperatures to produce the biochars. Pyrolysis is a process of chemical decomposition that results from rapid heating of the raw feedstocks in the absence of oxygen. Then the biochars were mixed into one type of sandy soil and two silt loam soils at the rate of about 20 tons per acre.


After four months, the team found that biochars produced from switchgrass and hardwoods increased soil moisture storage in all three soils. They saw the greatest increase in soils amended with switchgrass biochar produced via high-temperature pyrolysis-almost 3 to 6 percent higher than a control soil sample.


Biochars produced at higher temperatures also increased soil pH levels, and biochar made from poultry litter greatly increased soil levels of available phosphorus and sodium. The scientists also calculated that the switchgrass biochar amendments could extend the window of soil water availability by 1.0 to 3.6 days for a soybean crop in Florence, and could increase soil water availability for crops grown in Pacific Northwest silt loam soils by 0.4 to 2.5 days.


Given their results, the team believes that agricultural producers could someday select feedstocks and pyrolysis processes to make "designer" biochars with characteristics that target specific deficiencies in soil types.


Results from this study were published in Annals of Environmental Science and in the Journal of Environmental Quality.


Read more about this work in the November/December 2011 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.


Ann Perry, ARS News Service, November 8, 2011


Back to top


AIC President Discusses Post-Harvet Losses


AIC President Dr. Digvir Jayas, who is Vice President and Distinguished Professor, University of Manitoba, talks on Farming First TV ( about how to address post-harvest losses. He also talks about the need to give attention to this issue at the government level, and to see post-harvest losses as a national issue rather than one which only affects farmers.


The video can be viewed live on Farming First TV here


Back to top


Summit for Animal Agriculture Conference Presentations


Copies of most of the presentations made at the Summit for Animal Agriculture conference held in Ottawa in October are now available on the Farm Care Foundation website.


Back to top



Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food


The Committee meets twice next week to continue hearing witnesses on its study on the new agricultural policy framework Growing Forward 2 (Science and Innovation). Witnesses include Greg Meredit, Assistant Deputy Minister of the AAFC's Strategic Policy Branch, as well as representatives of the Canadian Farm Business Management Council, Organic Meadow Co-operative, Fédération des groupes conseils agricoles du Québec, and the George Morris Centre. 


Back to top  


Coming Events


Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance, National Hemp Convention, Winnipeg, Manitoba, November 21-22, 2011 


Canadian Weed Science Society Conference, Niagara Falls, November 21-24, 2011 


15th Annual Fall Canadian Agriculture Outlook Conference, Calgary, December 1-2, 2011


Canadian Forage and Grassland Association Conference and AGM, Saskatoon, December 13-14, 2011


Canadian Agricultural Economics Society, Growing Forward in a Volatile Environment, Second Annual Canadian Agriculture Policy Conference, Ottawa, January 12-13, 2012


Irrigated Crop Production Update Conference, Lethbridge, January 31 -February 1, 2012 


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


5th World Congress of Agronomists and Agrologists, Quebec City, September 17-21, 2012 


Back to top 

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