AIC Notes TopIssue 2011-42            November 24, 2011 
In This Issue
Planning for Sustainable Farm Profits in an Era of Increased Expectations
Hemp Farmers Receive Investment to Heighten Exports
Funding for Sustainable Agriculture Technology
New Vegetable-Processing Plan Putting Down Roots in Portage
Organic Farming...Organic Varieties?
Four US Plant Science Research Centres Join Forces
New Projection Shows Global Food Demand Doubling by 2050
After 25 Years, Sustainability is a Growing Science That's Here to Stay
Farm Credit Canada Looks to Celebrate Exceptional Women in Agriculture
Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food
Coming Events

Planning for Sustainable Farm Profits in an Era of Increased Expectations


Commentary by John Clement, General Manager of the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario

Sustainability is becoming a critical factor in agriculture and farmers need to build it into their business plans. That's a key piece of advice from David Sparling, the keynote speaker at the recent convention of the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario.

Sparling was speaking to this year's theme of "Building a Better Agriculture ... through Sustainable Profits." The annual event featured a speaker's program that delivered an overview of how to achieve sustainable profits, focusing on the importance of working with the environment, working with others in the food chain, and doing all the important things right on the farm.

Sparling spends a lot of time thinking about sustainability in his role as Chair in Agri-Food Innovation and Regulation at the Richard Ivey School of Business. He says that farmers need to care about sustainability because society cares and expects more from agriculture. For example, agriculture needs to provide food for nine billion people by 2050. Also, that food increasingly needs to keep us healthy and help cut back on social costs related to wellness. Agriculture will also be called upon to help us reduce our dependency on oil for fuel, while helping to protect the environment and reduce climate change.

Sparling pointed out that big retailers are already moving towards sustainability and are pushing their suppliers to measure up to new standards. He noted that Walmart has created an index that measures sustainability by four key factors. Suppliers must show they are reducing energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions, reducing waste and enhancing quality, using high quality, responsibly sourced raw materials, and creating vibrant, productive workplaces and communities.

Farmers already have a good sense of sustainability, but Sparling urged those in agriculture to consider building stronger business models to reflect the new era of expectations. He advised that farmers begin to understand the impacts of everything they do on the farm, including energy, water use, fertilizer and pesticide use, and cropping practices. Being able to measure key factors will also become important, along with a commitment to improve processes throughout the farm business.

The bottom line is that sustainability is just an extension of what farmers have always done. But Sparling notes it will mean more measurement, more systems and tracking, more reporting and a plan for improving. He notes that it can partly pay for itself and that there is time to adjust. But farmers need to start planning soon, both as individuals and as a sector. As usual, this constitutes both a challenge and an opportunity.

In AgriLink, November 21, 2011


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Hemp Farmers Receive Investment to Heighten Exports


Canadian hemp producers will benefit from a boost to their marketing brand abroad thanks to the support of the Government of Canada. The Honourable Steven Fletcher, Minister of State (Transport) and Member of Parliament for Charleswood-St. James-Assiniboia, on behalf of Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, announced today an investment of more than $55,000 to the Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance (CHTA) as it kicks off its national convention in Winnipeg.


"Hemp food products are a rapidly growing market with great versatility, ranging from high quality flour and pasta to nutritional bars and even ice cream," said MP Fletcher. "Our Government is proud to help this industry capitalize on its successes and further enhance its competitiveness in international markets while bolstering the Canadian economy."


With this investment, the CHTA will promote the high quality of Canadian hemp to international markets. This will include placing the Canada Brand and new CHTA logo on promotional materials as well as a trade show booth. This investment will enable the Alliance to increase participation in key trade shows as well as invite international speakers to make presentations at its two-day national convention in Winnipeg, which began today.


"The funding support available to the Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance through the AgriMarketing Program has allowed us to undertake projects that would otherwise not be possible," said Kim Shukla, executive director of the CHTA. "These are projects that support the growth of the hemp sector, a sector with tremendous range of market opportunities encompassing green, healthy living from food to biofibres."


In 2010, exports of hemp seed and hemp products were valued at more than $10 million. This represents an increase of about 200 per cent from 2007. The CHTA is a national organization, representing those involved in Canada's hemp industry, which promotes Canadian hemp and hemp products globally.


The Government of Canada has also developed the Canada Brand strategy to help the Canadian agriculture, agri-food, fish and seafood sector distinguish itself from key competitors in international markets. The Canada Brand encourages buyers overseas to link Canadian products with quality, commitment, trustworthiness and the clean land and water for which Canada is known.


Tools and promotional products, including a stylized maple leaf logo, are available to registered Canada Brand members to help them develop marketing strategies and activities adapted to their own circumstances.


AAFC Press Release, November 21, 2011 


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Funding for Sustainable Agriculture Technology 


The Government of Canada, industry and academia are partnering to enhance producer profitability through green agriculture technologies. Today, the Honourable Christian Paradis, Minister of Industry and Minister of State (Agriculture), announced an investment of over $900,000 to the Eastern Townships Forest Research Trust to study how agroforestry systems can mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

The Eastern Townships Forest Research Trust will examine how agroforestry - an integrated approach of planting trees and shrubs on farms - can mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. This project will assess the benefits of biomass production on agricultural land, potentially creating economic opportunities for farmers in the process.

"This investment from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada confirms the importance of the agroforestry work we've been doing in Southern Quebec for the last 20 years," said Dr. Benoit Truax, trustee and executive director of the Eastern Townships Forest Research Trust. "The results we obtain will allow us to broaden our knowledge of carbon sequestration provided by planting poplar trees along riverbeds and on abandoned agricultural land, while supporting the use of these reforestation techniques for producers across Canada under the framework of a sustainable management of agriculture."

Funding for this project is through the Agricultural Greenhouse Gases Program (AGGP), a five-year, $27-million initiative that focuses on the development of on-farm greenhouse gas mitigation technologies. The AGGP will provide funding to various partners across Canada to investigate innovative mechanisms, tools and approaches to provide real solutions for the agriculture sector.

The AGGP represents Canada's initial contribution to the Global Research Alliance, an international network of more than 30 member-countries that will coordinate and increase agricultural research on greenhouse gas mitigation and make new mitigation technologies and beneficial management practices available to farmers. For more information on the Global Research Alliance, visit, November 18, 2011 


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New Vegetable-Processing Plant Putting Down Roots in Portage 


Kelly Beaulieu is cultivating more than freshness these days - the former agronomist is growing opportunities and sowing the seeds of success in her hometown of Portage la Prairie.


The entrepreneur has spent the last year creating Prairie Garden Puree at the Manitoba Food Development Centre, a base ingredient for food production.


"This is something that can go into soups, baby food, sauces, baked goods, there are many, many uses for it," said Beaulieu. "We've been talking to some major buyers and they are very excited about the product. There is not a lot of availability of this type of product in North America."


The project sprang from Beaulieu's desire to make use of produce considered unfit for sale because it's misshapen or irregularly sized. As much as 30 per cent of produce goes to waste for this reason, even though it is nutritionally intact.


So far, Prairie Garden has made use of carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, butternut squash, asparagus, pumpkins, saskatoon berries, lentils, peas and navy beans.


"There really isn't a home for these vegetables if they are misshapen, even though they taste fine and are nutritious," said Todd Giffin of Mayfair Farms. "So if this works out, it would be really good for producers."


Using a processing method developed by an Australian company, vegetables are ground twice, then steam-cooked before packaging.


"We have what is called an aseptic process, meaning that our product has self-stability after it's processed," said Beaulieu. "It means there are no additives, nothing is in there but the vegetables."


The process allows purées to retain colour, texture and nutritional value, while also maintaining flavour.


"We're using a unique technology, it hasn't been used for this application before," said Beaulieu. "So what we have done is secured a way to produce a superior product. We've shown our product to some of the biggest names in the industry and they have told us it is the best-quality product they have seen."


Although she isn't saying who those potential buyers and big names are just yet, their assurances have prompted the development of Phase 2 of the project - the construction of a processing plant in Portage la Prairie's industrial park. Land has already been purchased and shovels will be in the ground in the spring of 2012.


The plant is expected to create 60 full-time jobs, and will process close to 20 million kilograms of fruits and vegetables each year.


Beaulieu is supported in the venture by her business partners, Harvey Pollock and Martin Pollock, two Winnipeg-based lawyers. She has also received assistance from two Aboriginal business programs. The First Peoples Economic Growth Fund has provided Beaulieu, who is Aboriginal, with a $180,000 interest-free loan, in addition to expertise and guidance. Aboriginal Business Canada, a federal program, provided a grant of nearly $90,000.


"These programs have been very helpful," she said.


Local vegetable growers are also excited about the prospect of a processing facility opening up so close to home.


"This would be really great for Manitoba producers," said Giffin, who is also the president of the Vegetable Growers Association of Manitoba. "Since Campbell's Soup left there hasn't been much here, and this could give us some nice consistency when we're selling."


Giffin said having a processing plant in central Manitoba would cut down on transportation costs as well. 


"We're really looking forward to this, I think it's long overdue," he said.   


The Co-operator, November 10, 2011  


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Organic Farming...Organic Varieties? 


Can varieties developed for conventional farming, with its use of herbicides, synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, really do well in organic settings?  It's a question that has been asked in organic circles for decades.  And it's gaining in importance as more and more farmers make the switch to organic. 


Plant breeding is carried out in controlled conditions, which usually resemble the conditions of conventional farming.  Various inputs (fertilizers, herbicides and pest control) are used to create a uniform environment for all the plants.  The highest yielding plants are then selected and multiplied.


But, organic systems are often more variable.  For example, organic farmers can't use herbicides to control weeds.  Instead, they use crop rotations and mechanical weeding to control weeds, and sometimes even the crop itself.  Organic crops should grow quickly and shade out the weeds.  Far more than under conventional management, organic crops have to help take care of themselves.


And so the question arises - how will varieties developed in conventional settings fare in organic settings?  Will they produce good yields, both in quality and quantity?  A group of researchers at the University of Alberta has been looking at this question. The results of this work were published in the 2009 study "Should spring wheat breeding for organically managed systems be conducted on organically managed land?" in the journal Euphytica.


The researchers, led by Dean Spaner, conducted an experiment using two cultivars of spring wheat, AC Barrie, the most commonly grown spring wheat cultivar on the prairies in the 1990s, and Attila, developed by CIMMYT, a non-profit research and training center headquartered in Mexico.


Now for a quick biology lesson!  Wheat normally self-pollinates.  This means that the pollen from one plant fertilizes the ovary of the same plant - neighbouring plants generally don't 'mingle' to create offspring.  So, in order to cross two varieties, the plant breeder has to remove the male parts of a plant of one variety.  Then, the breeder can pollinate the female parts by hand, with the pollen of the other variety.  When these seeds are grown, this creates a population of offspring that are a cross of the two parent varieties, containing a mixture of genes from each parent.  Each offspring then continues to self-pollinate and is called a line.  The researchers can select individual lines and multiply them to become a variety.


Using this technique, the researchers crossed AC Barrie and Attila.  Then they grew the parent varieties, along with their offspring, for three years.  Half of each variety or line was grown under organic management, the other half under conventional management in fields that were located less than 1 km apart, near Edmonton, Alberta.


The researchers then selected the top 10% of all the lines, based on nine traits including grain yield and protein, from each management system.  The result?  Less than half of the lines chosen were selected in both systems.  If the top eight lines were selected based only on yield, only a single line was chosen in both systems.  Clearly, the lines that did well under organic management did not necessarily do well under conventional management, and vice versa.


Based on this result, the researchers concluded that the "selection of spring wheat cultivars for organic production systems should be done on organically managed land."


Why did the lines perform differently under organic and conventional management?  The short answer is that the two systems create different environments for the plants.  How a plant grows and develops depends on its genes and its environment.  So the same set of genes can produce a different looking (and different yielding) plant, depending on its environment.


Furthermore, the heritability, or genetic contribution to performance, was the same in the organic and conventional systems.  So, a variety developed under organic management would be expected to produce crops with similar appearance and yield on commercial organic farms, just like the conventional varieties.


And that is good news for organic farmers.  If organic varieties are developed to meet the demands of organic farming, then a big part of the guesswork will be eliminated for the farmer.  No longer would he or she have to pick a conventional variety, hoping that by luck it will work in their region. 


Now, the next step is to determine what traits are important for organic farming, select parent varieties accordingly, and then start breeding and selecting for organic! 

Organic Agriculture Centre of Canada Press Release, November 21, 2011


Four US Plant Science Research Centres Join Forces  


The four largest nonprofit plant science research institutions in the U.S. have joined forces to form the Association of Independent Plant Research Institutes (AIPI) in an effort to target plant science research to meet the profound challenges facing society in a more coordinated and rapid fashion.


Scientific leaders from the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research (Cornell University), The Carnegie Institution for Science, the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center (St. Louis, Mo.) and The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation (Ardmore, Okla.) formed the AIPI to facilitate scientific discovery through intellectual and technical collaborations. The group will also disseminate research outcomes and provide a forum for discussion of approaches to the challenges facing agriculture.


Collectively, AIPI member institutions operate nearly 60 laboratories with more than 400 personnel.

Each organization offers different but complementary technical expertise that ranges from measuring individual chemicals and proteins within plants to the ability to obtain three-dimensional images of plant structures and proteins in living tissue. In addition, state-of-the-art greenhouse and field resources allow science to mature beyond the laboratory and into tangible outcomes to benefit consumers and provide for tomorrow.


"Each of these institutions possesses skilled and dedicated researchers," said David Stern, President of Boyce Thomson Institute. Researchers at each institution have had tremendous success. Together, we will be even better. AIPI is a tool to allow our collective resources to respond faster to opportunities in an organized and collaborative manner. We will achieve more. And humanity will be the beneficiary."


"Plants and the many roles they play in our world are often taken for granted," said Richard Dixon, D. Phil., senior vice president at the Noble Foundation. "But as global populations increase from 6.8 to 9.1 billion people in the next few decades, and water and land resources decrease, we are going to ask more and more from plants to provide food, fuel and fiber."


In a recent meeting of researchers and scientists from member institutions, hosted by the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, AIPI affirmed its initial research objectives in three core areas of plant science research:

  • The development of plants as sources of renewable energy. Grasses, grains, trees and algae are being developed as potential energy sources, including transportation fuels. AIPI scientists will research how to design and deploy plants to contribute to energy needs without depleting soil and water resources, and without competing with food production.
  • The improvement of plants' abilities to provide an unparalleled range of "ecosystem services" to the planet. Plants filter groundwater, reduce erosion, absorb carbon dioxide and generate oxygen. AIPI researchers want to improve these processes and help mankind use them in novel ways.
  • The continued development of sustainable agriculture practices. Plants underpin all agriculture, whether used as food for humans, as feed for animals or to produce fiber. Sustainable practices both decrease costs to farmers, and provide environmental and consumer benefits.


To accomplish these objectives, AIPI scientists will coordinate projects that study plant growth, development, and chemistry; plant interactions with insects, fungi and bacteria; and metabolic processes, such as oil production and photosynthesis.


"Plants are some of the most highly complex organisms on the planet," said Jan Jaworksi, member, Danforth Plant Science Center. "AIPI researchers are dividing up the research into primary areas so that we can generate the most profound and useful discoveries."


Coordinated deployment of the member institution's expertise will lead to a deeper understanding of how plants react to the environment and other organisms, and how they acquire and use nutrients, as well as revealing the genetic potential within plants.


"All of these capabilities can be harnessed, in the long term, to develop plants that resist disease, tolerate drought or nutrient-poor soils, produce healthier foods, or provide raw materials for energy," said Wolf B Frommer, Director of the Department of Plant Biology at the Carnegie Institution for Science. "With the challenges facing humanity in the next few generations, this research is critical to maintaining a supply of nutritious food, fiber and energy, in a manner that does not degrade the environment."


Cornell University Press Release, November 23, 2011  


New Projection Shows Global Food Demand Doubling by 2050


Global food demand could double by 2050, according to a new projection by David Tilman, Regents Professor of Ecology in the University of Minnesota's College of Biological Sciences, and colleagues, including Jason Hill, assistant professor in the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences.


Producing that amount of food could significantly increase levels of carbon dioxide and nitrogen in the environment and cause the extinction of numerous species. But this can be avoided, the paper shows, if the high-yielding technologies of rich nations are adapted to work in poor nations, and if all nations use nitrogen fertilizers more efficiently.


"Agriculture's greenhouse gas emissions could double by 2050 if current trends in global food production continue," Tilman said. "Global agriculture already accounts for a third of all greenhouse gas emissions." Much of these emissions come from land clearing, which also threatens species with extinction.


The article shows that if poor nations continue current practices, they will clear a land area larger than the United States (two and a half billion acres) by 2050. But if richer nations help poorer nations improve yields to achievable levels, that could be reduced to half a billion acres.


The research, published Nov. 21 online by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that adopting nitrogen-efficient "intensive" farming can meet future global food demand with much lower environmental impacts than the "extensive" farming practiced by many poor nations, which clear land to produce more food. The potential benefits are great. In 2005, crop yields for the wealthiest nations were more than 300 percent higher than yields for the poorest nations.


"Strategically intensifying crop production in developing and least-developed nations would reduce the overall environmental harm caused by food production, as well as provide a more equitable food supply across the globe," said Hill.


The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations recently projected a 70 percent increase in demand. According to Tilman, either projection shows that the world faces major environmental problems unless agricultural practices change.


The environmental impacts of meeting demand depend on how global agriculture expands. Clearing land for agriculture and the use of fuel and fertilizers to grow crops increases carbon and nitrogen in the environment and causes species extinctions.


In the paper, Tilman and his collaborators explore different ways of meeting demand for food and their environmental effects. In essence, the options are to increase productivity on existing agricultural land, clear more land, or do a combination of both. They consider various scenarios in which the amount of nitrogen use, land cleared, and resulting greenhouse gas emissions differ.


"Our analyses show that we can save most of the Earth's remaining ecosystems by helping the poorer nations of the world feed themselves," Tilman said.


Story Source:

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

University of Minnesota (2011, November 21). New projection shows global food demand doubling by 2050. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 23, 2011, from­ /releases/2011/11/111121194043.htm


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After 25 Years, Sustainability is a Growing Sceince That's Here to Stay 


Sustainability has not only become a science in the past 25 years, but it is one that continues to be fast-growing with widespread international collaboration, broad disciplinary composition and wide geographic distribution, according to new research from Los Alamos National Laboratory and Indiana University.


The findings, published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, were assembled from a review of 20,000 academic papers written by 37,000 distinct authors representing 174 countries and over 2,200 cities. Authors of the paper, Los Alamos research scientist Luís M. A. Bettencourt, and Jasleen Kaur, a Ph.D. student in Indiana University Bloomington's School of Informatics and Computing, also identified the most productive cities for sustainability publications and estimated the field's growth rate, with the number of distinct authors doubling every 8.3 years. The study covered research generated from 1974 through 2010.


By analyzing the temporal evolution (distinct authors), geographic distribution, the discipline's footprint within traditional scientific disciplines, the structure and evolution of sustainability science's collaboration network, and the content of the publications, the authors ascertained that the field "has indeed become cohesive over the last decade, sharing large-scale collaboration networks to which most authors now belong and producing a new conceptual and technical unification that spans the globe."


While specialized fields like the natural sciences have generally been concentrated in a few cities in developed nations, Bettencourt and Kaur found that sustainability science had a very different geographic footprint.


"The field is widely distributed internationally and has a strong presence not only in nations with traditional strength in science -- the U.S., Western Europe and Japan -- but also elsewhere," Kaur said. "It is also perhaps surprising that the world's leading city in terms of publications in the field is Washington, D.C., outpacing the productivity of Boston or the Bay Area, which in other fields are several fold greater than that of the U.S. capital."


Countries producing sustainability publications of noteworthy magnitude were Australia, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Brazil, China, India, South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya and Turkey. Productive cities included London, Stockholm, Wageningen in the Netherlands, Seattle, and Madison, Wis.


When they dissected the discipline's footprint with respect to other fields contributing to sustainability science, social sciences accounted for 34 percent of the output, followed by biology with 23. 3 percent and engineering at 21.6 percent. Within each of those leading fields, the authors then identified leading subfields in each group: Environmental policy was 20.2 percent of the social science output; weed management was 16.8 percent of the biology total; soil science was 23.6 percent of the engineering total.


The authors also found that sustainability science had a strong presence in smaller universities and laboratories and that the field had received support from cities and nations that transcended locations more commonly recognized in terms of strength of scientific production.


"The presence of political and economic capitals, rather than traditionally more academic places is a common trend throughout the world," the paper noted. Regional centers with high production included Nairobi, Cape Town, Beijing, Melbourne and Tokyo.


"We believe that all of this evidence, when taken together, establishes the case for the existence of a young and fast-growing unified scientific practice of sustainability science," Kaur said. "And it bodes well for its future success at facing some of humanity's greatest scientific and societal changes."


Steve Chaplin, Indiana University, November 21, 2011


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Farm Credit Canada Looks to Celebrate Exceptional Women in Agriculture


Nominations for the 2012 FCC Rosemary Davis Award are now open, as Farm Credit Canada (FCC) seeks to recognize and honour Canadian women for their leadership and commitment to agriculture.


Agriculture matters and women positively impact the industry and their communities. FCC is looking for five women who deserve recognition for their achievements. Past nominees range from producers and educators to agrologists and veterinarians.


Individuals are encouraged to take time to recognize a woman that they see making a difference in the agriculture industry. Self-nominations are also encouraged. Candidates are selected based on their demonstration of leadership - through giving back to their community and the agriculture industry - as well as their vision and passion for the industry. Since 2006, FCC has honoured 25 outstanding women with the Rosemary Davis Award.


Created and named after a successful Canadian agribusiness owner and operator - and the first female chair of the FCC Board of Directors, the FCC Rosemary Davis Award is testament to the growing number of women who are choosing to make a career in agriculture. 


Winners will be announced in March 2012.


FCC Rosemary Davis winners must be 21 years of age or older, and actively involved in Canadian agriculture. Entries will only be received online at


FCC Press Release, November 22, 2011


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Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food


The Committee will meet on November 24 to continue hearing witnesses on its study on the new agricultural policy framework Growing Forward 2 (Competitive Enterprises). Witnesses will appear from The Farmers of North America Inc., Grain Growers of Canada, Ontario Agri-Food Technologies and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. 


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Coming Events


Roundtable for Women Working in Agricultural Sciences, sponsored by AIC and the NSERC Chair for Women in Science and Engineering for the Prairies, Winnipeg, December 6, 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 


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Frances Rodenburg, Editor