Christmas 2010
AIC Notes Top
Issue 2011-46    December 22, 2011
Happy holidays to our readers! 
In This Issue
Canadian Journal of Soil Science
Conservation Program Launched
More Canadian Farmers Going High-Tech
Alberta Growers Want a Provincial Wheat Commission
Strengthening Food Safety in Canada
Feds' GM Food Proposal
AAFC Gets to the Root of Organic Fruit Crops in BC
Study on New Canola Grading Technology Nears Completion
Uncertain Job Market Leads Young Professionals to Farm Work (U.S.)...
Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food
Coming Events

Canadian Journal of Soil Science 


The Canadian Journal of Soil Science, Volume 91, Number 6, November 2011 is now available online.


Sample Abstract


Soil compaction under varying rest periods and levels of mechanical disturbance in a rotational grazing system

C. Halde, A.M. Hammermeister, N.L. McLean, K.T. Webb, and R.C. Martin

In Atlantic Canada, data are limited regarding the effect of grazing systems on soil compaction. The objective of the study was to determine the effect of intensive and extensive rotational pasture management treatments on soil bulk density, soil penetration resistance, forage productivity and litter accumulation. The study was conducted on a fine sandy loam pasture in Truro, Nova Scotia. Each of the eight paddocks was divided into three rotational pasture management treatments: intensive, semi-intensive and extensive. Mowing and clipping were more frequent in the intensive than in the semi-intensive treatment. In the extensive treatment, by virtue of grazing in alternate rotations, the rest period was doubled than that of the intensive and semi-intensive treatments. Both soil bulk density (0-5 cm) and penetration resistance (0-25.5 cm) were significantly higher in the intensive treatment than in the extensive treatment, for all seasons. Over winter, bulk density decreased significantly by 6.8 and 3.8% at 0-5 and 5-10 cm, respectively. A decrease ranging between 40.5 and 4.0% was observed for soil penetration resistance over winter, at 0-1.5 cm and 24.0-25.5 cm, respectively. The intensive and semi-intensive treatments produced significantly more available forage for grazers annually than the extensive treatment. Forage yields in late May to early June were negatively correlated with spring bulk density.


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Conservation Program Launched


Four rural municipalities east of Regina will participate in a five-year conservation project known as Alternative Land Use Services, or ALUS.


It is the first one in Saskatchewan and will be similar to projects already underway in Ontario, Alberta and Prince Edward Island.


The basic premise sees the program compensating farmers for good environmental practices on their land.


"It's really trying to do good environmental things on farmland, but have all society kind of chip in to pay for that stuff," says Rob Olson, president of Delta Waterfowl Foundation. "We would like to see wetland drainage rates decrease, but our big realization is that you can't get there by forcing them (landowners) to do that. This is an alternative approach that has producers and rural communities lead the effort."


A Partnership Advisory Committee will have two representatives from each rural municipality: South Qu'Appelle, Indian Head, Francis and Lajord. There will also be one person on the committee from each of the four sponsoring organizations: Delta Waterfowl Foundation, Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation, Saskatchewan Association of Watersheds and the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan.


Payments will be based on average land rental rates.  


"Currently, we have about $300,000 for a budget we have been able to cobble together through all of the organizations. We have about $100,000 to start payments to farmers in the spring," Olson says.


A variety of environmental services are eligible for payment under ALUS, such as improved wetlands, riparian areas and native grasslands. 


"Whether you have planted some grass along a creek to make a riparian area or if you purposely left some bush and grass for a wildlife corridor, these are examples of eligible projects," says Norm Hall, president of the Agriculture Producers Association of Saskatchewan and farmer near Wynyard. "The best part of ALUS is the ability of farmers to be proactive in delivering ecological goods and service in an environment they're largely responsible for."


ALUS originally started in 2006 in Manitoba with funding from the federal and provincial governments. A three-year pilot project was started in the Rural Municipality of Blanshard, about 75 kilometres northwest of Brandon. Approximately 21,000 acres were enrolled, with more than 70 per cent of landowners participating. Over the three years of operation, approximately $900,000 in payments were issued.


"There is demand there (in Manitoba) to restart it and we hope to relaunch that in the spring as well, so we have all three Prairie provinces running it at the same time," Olson says. "We are confident that is going to happen. There has been demand for it to keep going ever since it stopped with that initial pilot. I think this announcement in Saskatchewan will help us relaunch it in the spring in Manitoba." 


The four Saskatchewan RMs are excited about the pilot project.


"Most farmers are environmentalists," Hall says. "We see what we need to do and we have been doing it out of our own pocket. This shows some appreciation to farmers for taking care of the water and keeping it clean. Giving us clean air and giving us green spaces for wildlife to breathe and live."


Neil Billinger, FCC Express, December 16, 2011


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More Canadian Farmers Going High-Tech 


More and more Canadian farmers are adopting mobile technology to help them manage and improve their businesses, an industry group survey found.


Farmers have been as quick to purchase a smartphone or a tablet computer as other Canadians, a release from Farm Credit Canada said Tuesday.


With a strong Internet connection, mobile devices can turn vehicles and farm machinery into a mobile office where producers can place orders, market products, and monitor weather, interest rates and grain markets, said Farm Credit Canada, the country's largest agricultural lender.


"Getting access to relevant financial data and economic information can be a real advantage in a fast-moving marketplace," Jean-Philippe Gervais, a senior agriculture economist for the lender, said.


"Innovation has always been a major driver of profitability in agriculture and mobile technology is just one more tool available to gain a competitive edge."


More than half of Canadian producers who own a smartphone today plan to buy a tablet within two years, the survey found.


"Canadian producers are innovative and have historically adopted new technology so we weren't surprised by the survey results," Farm Credit Canada Chief Operating Officer Remi Lemoine said.

UPI, December 20, 2011


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Alberta Growers Want a Provincial Wheat Commission


A group of Alberta farmers is pushing for the establishment of a provincial wheat commission, saying it could help unite wheat producers and drive more money into cereal research.

"We see this as an opportunity to enhance grower profitability through research and market development," said Greg Porozni, a grain producer from Willingdon who is a member of the steering committee composed of representatives from cereal groups.

The committee has been making presentations at Alberta Canola Producers Commission regional meetings to drum up support for the proposed commission.

At present, only a small amount of grower funds is given to the Western Grains Research Foundation for research and market development. Canada is only putting about $20 million into grains research, and that's not nearly enough, said Porozni. Australia, which produces the same amount of wheat as Canada, is currently putting about $80 million into plant breeding and research, said Porozni, adding his group would like to see an Alberta wheat commission set up Aug. 1, 2012. "Ultimately we are hoping that Saskatchewan and Manitoba will also come on side," Porozni said.

Cereal Council of Canada

One of the long-range goals is to form a Cereal Council of Canada, similar in structure to the Canola Council of Canada, he said. "I was on the board of directors of the Canola Council of Canada and it worked extremely well," said Porozni. "We growers worked side by side with all of the industry players and it is an absolute success. We need to get there with cereals and this is how we get there."


The steering committee includes representatives from the Alberta Winter Wheat Producers Commission, the Alberta Barley Commission, the Alberta Canola Producers Commission, the Alberta Soft Wheat Producers Commission, and the Western Grains Research Foundation. "The reason we have that kind of a group is that we are showing that we want to work together with all sectors of industry to make this work," said Porozni.

The move for the all-inclusive wheat commission has been building for about three years. In 2008, the Alberta Winter Wheat Producers Commission proposed an all-inclusive wheat commission be formed in Alberta in order to acquire more funds for wheat research. "Winter wheat and soft wheat only represent about five per cent of the wheat grown in Alberta," said Porozni.

Checkoff money from that group was largely spent on administrative costs, with very little money was left for research and development.


Once an Alberta wheat commission is up and running, it should be able to invest about $3 million into research and market development each year, said Porozni.

It's expected a provincial wheat commission would also work closely with the Western Canadian Research Foundation and the Canadian International Grains Institute.

Porozni urged the producers present at the three canola growers' meetings he's addressed to voice their support for the idea to the minister of agriculture.


Alexis Kienlen, Alberta Farmer, December 20, 2011


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Strengthening Food Safety in Canada


The Government of Canada has released its final report to Canadians on the action it has taken to respond to all recommendations by Ms. Sheila Weatherill outlined in the Report of the Independent Investigator into the 2008 Listeriosis Outbreak.


Action on Weatherill Report Recommendations to Strengthen the Food Safety System: Final Report to Canadians outlines the Government's continuous work to reduce food safety risks, enhance surveillance and early detection of foodborne pathogens and illnesses, and improve emergency response.


"We have taken concrete action to improve how we detect and respond to foodborne illness outbreaks," said Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq. "From stronger response plans with our food safety partners to using innovative technologies in our labs, we are better prepared to protect the health of Canadians."


The Government of Canada has made significant investments to improve the food safety system. In 2009, a $75 million investment was provided to further improve Canada's ability to prevent, detect and respond to future foodborne illness outbreaks. Budget 2010 allotted an additional $13 million annually for two years to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to fund increased inspection capacity for meat and poultry processing facilities. Budget 2011 provided a further $100 million over five years to invest in inspector training, tools and technology, and science capacity. All of these investments build on the Government's 2008 commitment to invest $489.5 million over five years in the Food and Consumer Safety Action Plan.


In 2009, the Government of Canada committed to act on all of Ms. Weatherill's recommendations. The final report highlights the actions taken to strengthen the food safety system, including:


  • Identifying and fast-tracking the approval of food safety interventions such as food additives that reduce the growth of Listeria monocytogenes and other pathogens.
  • Hiring 170 additional full-time inspectors to increase CFIA's presence in federally registered meat processing plants.
  • Developing new detection methods for Listeria and other hazards in food that reduce testing time and enable more rapid response during food safety investigations.
  • Using innovative laboratory technologies in outbreak investigations and expanding the outbreak detection lab network to include public health and food safety partners across Canada.
  • Supporting national public health surveillance to improve collection, reporting and analysis of a wide range of health information.
  • Providing Canadians, including those most vulnerable, with the nformation they need to reduce the risk of a foodborne illness through a new online food safety portal and national public information campaigns.
  • Updating the Foodborne Illness Outbreak Response Protocol, which guides how all levels of government work together to respond to a national or international outbreak.
  • Ensuring that health risk assessment teams are available 24/7 to support food safety investigations.
  • Building surge capacity in order to respond more quickly and effectively to potential future foodborne illness outbreaks.


The final report can be found on the Government of Canada's food safety portal


AAFC Press Release, December 19, 2011


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Feds' GM Food Proposal Compromises Food Safety, Say Groups 


A federal government proposal that would allow low levels of contamination from genetically modified foods from other countries is raising concerns among activist groups.


The proposed policy on "low level presence" (LLP) relates to the unintended presence in low amounts of unapproved genetically modified (GM) material in imported food.


"We think that's a huge concern from a health safety standpoint. There is no justification for this policy from a public health point of view," says Lucy Sharrat, coordinator of Ottawa-based Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN), which is taking part in a government stakeholder consultation on the policy.


"The government is very clear that this is trade policy, and our position is that this is clearly trade policy that sacrifices food safety," she says.


The proposal stems from an industry concern that the inevitable presence of traces of GM in imported food that has been approved in one country but not in the country of import could disrupt international trade.


According to U.K.-based Graham Brookes Consulting, a 2006 incident involving EU imports of rice from the U.S. in which traces of yet-unapproved GM material were found and the subsequent rejection of the imports cost the EU rice sector 111 million pounds (C$177 million) in the years immediately following the incident.


Another incident involving EU imports of U.S. maize that contained traces of unapproved GM is estimated to have cost the EU livestock sector 1.6 billion pounds, according to researchers with the Wageningen University and Research Centre in The Hague.


If the proposal is adopted, Canada could be the first country that would set up a system to allow contamination from unapproved GM foods.


"The need to address low-level presence has been recognized internationally, and Canada is showing leadership by reviewing its policy to manage domestic occurrences of LLP," Patrick Girard, a spokesperson with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), explains in an email.


"This is part of a broader strategy to maintain food safety, prevent trade disruptions, and ensure open and predictable trade."


The proposal was crafted by an interdepartmental committee that was formed in 2010 consisting of AAFC, Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and Health Canada, among others, to look into LLP policy.


"Many of our trading partners recognize the importance of the issue, and we are working with them to develop global solutions," says Girard.




But as far as opponents are concerned, Canada expecting the rest of the world to accept its food exports with LLP doesn't justify allowing the presence of any material not yet approved by that country's health and safety agencies in food imports.


"It's unconscionable that our government would purposefully allow unapproved foods into Canada just so we can try and push our GM contamination on the rest of the world," Tanmayo Krupanszky of the Canadian Organic Growers Toronto Chapter said in a statement.


CBAN's Sharrat says the proposed policy is based on a hope that other countries will follow suit, but there is no guarantee that other countries will adopt similar LLP policies.


"We think that even the trade justification of this policy is extremely weak," she says.


Girard says that the fact that LLP is defined as low-level presence of GM material that has been approved in at least one country with risk assessment procedures that Canadian regulators have confidence in is a very important protection to the safety of Canadians.


The proposed policy also contains three possible approaches to further maintain food, feed, and environmental safety.


"In the first proposed approach, the quantity of GMO must be so low that testing and sampling techniques cannot determine with certainty that there is actually GMO in the shipment," Girard says.


"In the two other approaches, Canadian regulators would conduct risk assessments for health and safety, i.e. toxicity and allergenicity. If any health and safety issue is identified, the LLP policy would not apply and the shipments would need to be brought back into compliance."


The proposal is preliminary and represents a "preliminary review of possible approaches."


Omid Ghoreishi, Epoch Times, December 18, 2011


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AAFC Gets to the Root of Organic Fruit Crops in BC


For any crop plant, healthy roots are the foundation for sustainable, high quality yield.  Healthy roots are dependent on healthy soils that are biologically active, have a porous, stable structure, and high water-holding capacity.


In organic perennial fruit crops, soil health can be manipulated through irrigation and the application of organic materials and organisms.  At Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) in Summerland and Agassiz, B.C., researchers Dr. Gerry Neilsen, Dr. Denise Neilsen, and Dr. Tom Forge are examining the use of these strategies to improve soil and root health of four important fruit crops: apples, grapes, blueberries, and raspberries.


Mulches serve many purposes in organic production systems: they control weeds, alter soil properties, and influence soil biology.  The team of B.C. researchers explored the use of mulches of shredded paper, composts, alfalfa hay, and polyethylene fabric under apple trees and compared them to conventional weed-free bare soil.  Their findings suggest that the abundance of protozoa and beneficial nematodes, and the consequent cycling of nutrients, were greater under organic mulches when compared to bare soil or plastic mulch.  Additionally, root growth was increased under mulches, and populations of the damaging root lesion nematode appeared to decrease under some organic mulches and increase under plastic mulch.


In a study on apples led by Denise Neilsen, the effects of reduced irrigation and crop load on root growth and parasitic nematode populations are being examined. Root growth is being studied with minirhizotrons:  clear acrylic tubes inserted in the ground through which a special camera photographs root growth.  With climate change expected to reduce water availability, using less water is important for both organic and conventional fruit growers.  Reducing irrigation may also result in healthier root systems and more resilient crops.


Replant disorders can result in poor establishment of new orchard plantings and subsequent yield reductions, and are a particular problem for organic growers, who are unable to fumigate the soil and apply chemical fertilizers at planting.  Dr. Louise Nelson and Molly Thurston of UBC Okanagan, in collaboration with Gerry Neilsen, are exploring the use of composts in the planting holes of trees and the application of bacteria to the roots to improve orchard establishment.  Some bacteria can improve plant growth by increasing nutrient availability, producing plant hormones, or reducing the effects of plant pathogens.  The current focus is on phosphate-solubilizing bacteria.


Replant disorder is also a concern for raspberry growers in the Fraser Valley, where pathogen buildup necessitates frequent replanting. Current practices of fumigation and leaving the soil bare over the winter may be contributing to nitrate leaching into groundwater.  Forge is looking at organic alternatives to fumigation, with the goal of improving overall soil health.  Trials compare the use of a fall cover crop and spring applications of manure and compost to fumigation.  He is evaluating crop growth and the buildup of plant pathogens, particularly root lesion nematode, and monitoring nitrate leaching.  Preliminary results indicate that the cover crop reduces leaching.  The fumigated plots have the best growth and fewest nematodes, indicating that pathogens are truly a problem, but compost and manure also reduced nematodes and increased growth.  Forge says the next step is to look at a combination of a fall cover crop, spring application of compost at planting, and immediate seeding of a between-row cover crop to take up any extra nitrogen.


The AAFC team is also comparing different rates of fertilization and irrigation, manure applications, and the use of annual and perennial between-row cover crops in an established raspberry crop.  They are looking at nitrate leaching and soil health factors including fungal and nematode pathogens, earthworm numbers, and soil structure.  Although little data is yet available, the cover crops do not appear to reduce yield, a concern that has kept them from being widely adopted.


Nematode pests of blueberry and grape are of increasing concern in B.C.  Forge has discovered a new nematode pest, Paratrichodorus renifer, on blueberries in the Fraser Valley.  In microplot studies, populations of the nematode increased rapidly and caused a 30% drop in growth and yield.  Forge and the Neilsens are also looking at the effects of irrigation and nitrogen inputs on ring nematode, a nematode they have demonstrated to be damaging to grapes.  Higher nitrogen and greater irrigation tend to increase populations.


While agricultural practices are usually aimed at optimizing short-term yield, research is needed to determine if these techniques are conducive to maintaining long-term crop health and productivity.  Sustainable soil and root health continues to be a goal of the research conducted on perennial fruit crops at AAFC.

Andrea Muehlchen, Organic Agriculture Centre of Canada, December 19, 2011


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Study on New Canola Grading Technology Nears Completion 


The Canadian Grain Commission's evaluation of an objective test for measuring chlorophyll content in canola is close to completion.


Research scientists and inspection experts at the Canadian Grain Commission have been evaluating near-infrared reflectance spectroscopy (NIRS) instruments for measuring chlorophyll.


At its November 1, 2011 meeting, the Western Standards Committee heard results should be available for spring 2012 meeting, at which time, a decision about adopting this technology could be made.


"Before a new grading technology is recommended to the industry, the Western Standards Committee makes sure its decision is based in solid research and careful consideration of what effect the technology will have on the industry," says Elwin Hermanson, Chair of the Western Standards Committee and Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Grain Commission.


The Western Standards Committee also approved new standard samples and guide samples at the meeting and received the Canadian Grain Commission's crop quality report.


Further information is available at


Canadian Grain Commission Press Release, December 20, 2011


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Uncertain Job Market Leads Young Professionals to Farm Work (U.S.) 


Layoffs, office politics and a desire to escape the confines of an office cubicle are only a few of the reasons people in their 20s and 30s are taking an interest in agriculture.


The Associated Press reports enrollment in university agriculture programs is on the rise, as well as interest in farmer-training programs, farmers markets and a growing curiosity in the trip food makes from farm to plate.


Demand and interest in locally grown and organic food is increasing, and younger workers are finding ways to promote the agricultural products they produce through social media.


High start-up costs including equipment and land can be intimidating, but agriculture fared better than most parts of the economy during the recession. The USDA expects farm profits to reach record levels this year.


In the dairy industry, some farms have initiated share-milk arrangements with people wanting to get a start in agriculture. For instance, a farmer who is nearing retirement can partner with a younger person and they split the milk check. 


Interest from a younger audience is encouraging to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and others in government. More than 60 percent of farmers are over the age of 55 and the question of feeding the growing population is a major concern.


Read more here.


Brett Wessler, AgProfessional, December 22, 2011


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Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food


The Committee is on Christmas break. 


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Coming Events


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 


Conference Board of Canada Canadian Food Summit, Toronto, February 7-8, 2012 


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


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


Canadian Society of Soil Science and Association Québécoise de Spécialistes en Sciences du Sol Joint Conference, Lac Beauport, Quebec, June 3-7, 2012


Joint Annual Meeting of ADSA - AMPA - ASAS - Canadian Society of Animal Science - WSASAS, Phoenix, Arizona, July 15-19, 2012


Joint Annual Meeting of the Canadian Society of Agronomy, Certified Crop Advisors and Canadian Society for Horticultural Science, Saskatoon, July 16-19, 2012

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


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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