AIC Notes Top          Issue 2012-04    January 26, 2012 
In This Issue
Federal Government Reducing Red Tape for Farmers
Manitoba Backs Farmed Biomass for Heating Systems
CFI Invests $1.2 Million in U of G Research 'Leaders'
Look To Farming for Health-Care Cost Relief
Taxing Times for Taxonomy
[US] Deans: No Limits To The Value Of An Ag Degree
Technique Could Boost Crop Yields
Food Security Road Map While Adapting to Climate Change
New CAST Issue Paper: Energy Issues Affecting Corn/Soybean Systems
Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food
Coming Events

Federal Government Reducing Red Tape for Farmers 


Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz today issued a statement following the release of the report from the Red Tape Reduction Commission earlier this week and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business Red Tape Awareness Week news release on farmers in Canada issued today.


"To further reduce the red tape load on our farm businesses, we are immediately accepting the "One-for-One" recommendation in the Red Tape Commission report released on Wednesday. This will require the removal of at least one regulation each time a new one is introduced that imposes administrative burden on business.


"Together, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the Canadian Grain Commission are working to streamline regulations, remove duplicate requirements, do away with overlapping obligations and decrease the frequency of document filing. For example, the CFIA has built a more flexible seed variety registration to get new crop choices onto the farm faster - while reducing backlog so new products have a smoother path to market.


"Our marketing freedom legislation for Western Canadian wheat and barley producers will cut red tape and drive innovation by removing the onerous requirement for producers to buy back the crops they paid to grow.


"We are working with our largest trading partner through the Canada-U.S. Regulatory Co-operation Council to streamline regulatory practices, making the pesticide registration process more efficient and timely. Our Government has also made major progress, working closely with our counterparts in the U.S. and elsewhere, to align regulatory requirements and get safe and effective crop protection tools and technologies into the hands of growers. Our Regulatory Acton Plan under Growing Forward is improving producers' access to newer more efficient pesticides and veterinary drugs.


"Red Tape Awareness Week, which the Canadian Federation of Independent Business marks this week, is a timely reminder that cutting red tape is a critically important way the government can support innovation and increase productivity in agriculture. We commend CFIB's efforts for the benefit of agri-businesses across Canada. We will continue to work with farmers and industry to identify areas for reducing red tape and other streamlining measures, while reviewing programs and program delivery to maximize efficiency."


AAFC Press Release, January 20, 2011


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Manitoba Backs Farmed Biomass for Heating Systems 


Manitoba will offer grants of up to $50,000 for users and processors of "high-quality, renewable biomass" to develop products for use in combustion heating systems.


The province on Tuesday said it has budgeted up to $400,000 for its new biomass energy support program (MBESP).


Of more interest to farmers is the program's capital component, which will fund the infrastructure upgrades "required to effectively manufacture or consume biomass fuel including expansion of existing or development of new capacity."


For this program, eligible biomass includes:

- agricultural residue, such as wheat straw, corn stover or flax straw;

- processing byproducts such as flax shives, sunflower hulls or oat hulls;

- compacted biomass, such as wheat chaff pellets and oat-hull pellets;

- forestry residues such as hog fuel, forestry operations residues or salvaged timber; and

- "purpose-grown" crops such as switchgrass, willow crops and poplar crops.


Applicants can include "farms, communities, rural business and industrial users," the province said.

Applications will be accepted until March 9.


The province has estimated it has three to five million tonnes of biomass available each year, over and above what's needed for livestock producers' use or for soil management.


"With the assistance of programs like this, Manitoba farms will reduce their carbon footprint and continue to be part of the solution to environmental challenges," Agriculture Minister Ron Kostyshyn said, announcing the program Tuesday at Ag Days in Brandon.


The program's "consumer support" component, meanwhile, will offer grants of up to $12,000 to Manitoba's coal users, to help offset the price differential between coal and biomass products during the period from Jan. 1 to March 31 this year.


The province announced in 2011 it will prohibit coal use for space and water heating starting in 2014, and encourage use of renewable biomass for those applications.


Country Guide, January 19, 2012


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CFI Invests $1.2 Million in University of Guelph Research 'Leaders' 


The Canada Foundation of Innovation (CFI) today announced it will invest more than $1.2 million in nine University of Guelph research projects headed by "innovation leaders."


The announcement was made by Gary Goodyear, minister of state (science and technology). In total, CFI will provide more than $33 million to support 132 research projects at 31 Canadian universities.


The majority of the funding - $25 million - will come from CFI's Leaders Opportunity Fund (LOF), intended to help Canadian universities attract and retain leading faculty and researchers. The remaining $8 million is from the Infrastructure Operating Fund.


U of G projects include improving sexual, embryonic and cardio-respiratory health, enhancing crop production and creating next-generation nuclear reactors.


"The projects funded today all reflect the University's unique 'one-health' initiative, which looks holistically at animal, human and environmental health," said Kevin Hall, vice-president (research).

"These research leaders also work across the disciplines, engaging with colleagues and students and allowing us to use our combined expertise to find better ways to maintain and improve human and environmental health."


U of G's largest LOF grant - $202,855 - will help chemistry professors Marcel Schlaf and Peter Tremaine to build a safe facility for high-temperature and high-pressure studies in biomass and nuclear energy.


They plan to study conversion of biomass to fuels and materials, and ways to improve nuclear energy production in existing and next-generation reactors.


"Processes at high pressures and temperatures are very important to both the conversion of biomass to fuels and to the development and stewardship of nuclear energy," Schlaf said.


"This new facility will enable us to access these reaction conditions and be unique at Canadian universities."


U of G's other LOF recipients include:

* Prof. Luis Arroyo, Department of Clinical Studies, $125,484 to study the vascular effects of pulmonary artery calcification in horses;

* Prof. David Hooker, Department of Plant Agriculture, $186,081 to study crop responses to technological innovations and systems-based crop production;

* Prof. Brandon Lillie, Department of Pathobiology, $122,619 to research genetic variations that increase disease susceptibility in livestock;


Established as an independent not-for-profit corporation in 1997, the CFI is intended to strengthen university research and training in Canada through partnerships with research institutions, governments, business and volunteer organizations.


University of Guelph News, January 24, 2012


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Look To Farming for Health-Care Cost Relief  


You may have seen news clips last week about worried Canadian premiers searching for ways to try to bring runaway health care costs under control.


Well, here's one suggestion for them: consider agriculture.


Agriculture produces food, and people can help stave off some chronic diseases with good food prepared properly. They can also consume functional foods - foods that have an additional health benefit. Those include much Ontario produce that is already high in beneficial nutrients, as well as some enhanced foods such as omega-3 milk and eggs. The idea is to get your nutritional supplements naturally, through food instead of pills.


Functional foods are the focus of a tool kit being assembled for dietitians by University of Guelph researchers. With support from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and the Canadian Foundation for Dietetic Research, researchers are in the final stages of assembling a wide range of information that will help dietitians navigate their interactions with older adults (60-plus years old).


Prof. Alison Duncan, one of the lead researchers, along with Prof. Judy Sheeshka, says this age group is being targeted because its members are open to dietary ideas that can help them maintain or improve their health.


I hope the premiers take note. Food can change things.


Take, for example, messages coming from this year's North American lecture tour by international animal health and nutrition company Alltech, which swung by Waterloo last Thursday night. North American public relations manager Billy Frey underlined the need in his presentation to nourish the world, not just feed it.


He called on everyone in the agri-food business to let decision makers and the public know that through enhanced nutrition, agriculture can help improve people's diets. What a great message to send to the premiers.


Many other efforts are afoot to make sure food is as good - and authentic - as it can be. Last Monday, at a presentation at the University of Guelph, Prof. Bob Hanner talked about the many ways DNA barcoding is being used to identify new species. It's having the added benefit of being able to determine a certain food's authenticity too, to prevent mislabeling or fraud. As functional foods become more prevalent in the marketplace they'll command a premium because of their added benefits. DNA barcoding is one way to determine these products are accurately labeled.


Such advances are vital to healthy eating, and keeping health care costs in check. And they all begin with farmers committed to growing good food, and having a supportive environment in which to operate.


Canadian farmers are feeling good about rising to the challenge. Results of a farmer confidence survey released last week by Farm Credit Canada shows on-farm optimism at an all-time high. Ontario ranked second-highest (behind Saskatchewan) with 81 per cent of farmers saying based on their current outlook, their farm will be better off in five years. That's an amazing 10 per cent more than just a year ago.


What's driving that optimism? Farm Credit president Greg Stewart cites three reasons: the expectation of profitability, reduced debt and increasing global demand for food. Major agriculture market drivers all are working in farmers' favour - rising farmland values, higher commodity and red meat prices, and low interest rates.


Premiers, take note. Support an environment in which farmers have the flexibility to produce food, and you have a head start on addressing the health care cost crisis.


But farmers too need to be their own ambassadors and, as Alltech's Frey insisted, tell everyone about agriculture - premiers, the pubic, media, you name it.


After all, no one can tell farmers' story better than farmers.


Owen Roberts, Guelph Mercury, January 23, 2012


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Taxing Times for Taxonomy 


Ernest Small's research colleagues at Agriculture Canada had a mystery. Peering at the cellular innards of a clover plant, they wondered why nothing was behaving the way clover should.


They asked Small, a veteran scientist at the Central Experimental Farm, for help. It didn't take him long to pinpoint the problem. Their clover was an alfalfa.


"That's just the kind of thing that happens over and over," says Small, lamenting the lack of knowledge of what plants and animals make up our world.


"How can you do a study of forests without knowing the trees?"


In Darwin's day, biologists travelled the world to identify and classify plants and animals. They collected specimens and named them, grouping them in related categories to show how life on Earth is organized.


The field is called taxonomy, and it has roots that stretch back for centuries.


In the mid-1700s, a Swedish biologist named Carl Linnaeus set forth his analysis of life. Beyond giving names to individual species, he organized them in ways that showed their relationship to each other. For instance, he divided the animal kingdom into mammals, birds, fish, amphibians (which generally included reptiles), insects and a sixth group that was a loose catch-all for invertebrates.


It wasn't the first attempt to classify living things, nor the final word. Today's taxonomy has largely different groupings. Still, Linnaeus gave a sense of how beings are related by how their bodies function as well as their appearance.


And it fits well with modern evolutionary theory, providing a framework within which species adapt, and sometimes split into distinct species, while still retaining complex relationships to all other past and present life forms. We understand life within that framework, even when the framework itself shifts with new discoveries.


Linnaeus was admired as a superstar of science in his day, and long afterward. Yet today, taxonomy is considered a backwater; biologists now focus their microscopes on how the tiny machinery inside a cell works (or breaks down, when there's disease) more often than they step back to see the big picture.


No one denies this is vital stuff. Anyone training today in biology has to specialize in these molecular techniques, which are fundamental to the entire field. But as students can now get a biology degree without leaving the lab, this is considered a dangerous knowledge gap by some: We need to understand whole species, not just genes, if we are to solve the problems of agriculture, fisheries, insect pests, ecology and the spread of many diseases.


Take agriculture.


Governments are frequently scrambling to identify unknown organisms. In an era of global trade, strange insects and weeds from Europe or Asia are constantly showing up in farm fields. Which ones kill our native plants? Which ones spread disease? That depends on what they are.


Odd little creatures are constantly spilling out of bilge water from ships entering the Great Lakes. Someone has to identify which are harmless and which is the next zebra mussel.


This is tough work: An invertebrate animal in the water - perhaps not even mature - can be a slimy little thing a few millimetres long that looks like nothing in any textbook. And is it from the Indian Ocean? The Black Sea? The Amazon River? We need someone with expertise to sort it out.


Analysing its DNA may be a precise way to verify a tentative identification, but genes are a poor starting point for telling what an organism is. And they won't tell anything about how it behaves in the real world.


Knowing living creatures, like knowing what's underwater on a cruise ship's route, may only get public attention in rare cases of sudden and spectacular need.


"I know of botanists who have given evidence in murder trials based on seeds stuck on the victim's or the suspect's clothing," says Ottawa naturalist Dan Brunton. "They didn't think of that when they studied in school, but if they didn't know this, it would all just be green stuff."


Field work on whole plants and animals continues too, of course, but it tends to take a back seat. It has fewer practitioners than lab biology, and it is seldom seen to be the latest hot public issue, even though it is central to preserving biodiversity.


"Gotta be doing DNA work or you're not doing science. (That) seems to be the mantra," says Brunton.

This leaves less time and funding for the study of what species our world contains and how to classify them.


This isn't just an esoteric problem for a few people in labs and university classrooms. It affects children (and likely their parents) as much as professional scientists.


Read more here.


Tom Spears, Ottawa Citizen, January 21, 2012


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[US] Deans: No Limits To The Value Of An Ag Degree 


Jay Akridge, Purdue University; Robert Hauser, University of Illinois; Bobby Moser, Ohio State University; and Wendy Wintersteen, Iowa State University


Given the outstanding enrollment and job placement experience in our respective colleges, it was a surprise when three of the five majors "highlighted" in a recent Yahoo Education article by Terrence Loose entitled "College Majors that are Useless" were programs in the agricultural sciences: agriculture, animal sciences, and horticulture.

Before drawing his conclusions, we wish that Mr. Loose had done more homework beyond what appears to be a cursory review of Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers and the repurposing of a similar headline from The Daily Beast a year ago.

Other sources suggest that not only is the need for graduates in these programs growing, but there is a shortage of graduates in the agricultural, food, and natural resource sciences:

* Broad definition of agriculture. The Yahoo Education article equated "agriculture" with "farm management." Farm management is an important field of study, but defining agriculture only as farm management is much too narrow. Completely ignored are other important areas under the umbrella of "agriculture" including food science, plant science, and soil science, where the Bureau of Labor Statistics report predicts job growth should be faster than the average for all occupations, and where job opportunities are expected to be good over the next decade, particularly in food science and technology and in agronomy. And, of course, the "agriculture" umbrella also covers agricultural economics, agricultural engineering, animal sciences, natural resource and environmental sciences, and agricultural education, to name a few.

* Very low unemployment rates. Recent (Jan. 5, 2012) online posts (New York Times), and NPR's StateImpact Ohio) cited a just released report by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce which found agriculture and natural resources to be among the fields with the lowest unemployment rates - lower than business, engineering, law, and and several others.

* Shortage of college graduates to fill need. The U.S. Department of Agriculture in the Employment Opportunities for College Graduates in Food, Renewable Energy, and the Environment, 2010-2015 report, projects that 53,500 qualified graduates will be available for about 54,400 jobs annually the agricultural and food systems, renewable energy and the environment. About 55 percent of those graduates (29,300) are expected to earn degrees from colleges of agriculture and life sciences, forestry and natural resources, and veterinary medicine. The other 45 percent, an estimated 24,200 graduates, will come from allied disciplines including biological sciences, engineering, health sciences, business, and communication.

* No stronger sector for recruiting. Dr. Phil Gardner, Director of the Collegiate Employment Research Institute at Michigan State University, recently wrote, "No sector appears stronger than agriculture/food processing with an increase in hires of approximately 14 percent" in the annual Recruiting Trends report.

* Vital economic growth engine. A recent study conducted by the Battelle Institute, an independent research organization, found that agriculture and agbiosciences are generating vital economic growth and job creation, particularly in the North Central United States, which includes all four or our respective states. This Midwest area, once dubbed the "Rust Belt," is becoming the breeding ground for new "green" agriculture-related jobs as the agriculture-driven industry is poised to expand into new markets such as health, specialty crops, biofuels and bio-based products.

* New areas of opportunity. The article completely misses an important trend of interest in small scale, local food production and those who want to become part of agriculture by launching these types of businesses. The Bureau of Labor Statistics report from which Mr. Loose took some of his numbers even points out that " increasing number of small-scale farmers have developed successful market niches that involve personalized, direct contact with their customers. Many are finding opportunities in horticulture and organic food production, which are among the fastest growing segments of agriculture."

The success of our graduates is also a testament to the usefulness of agricultural majors. Students majoring in "agriculture" study farm management, horticulture, and animal sciences-as well as agricultural and food business, food science, biological engineering, plant breeding and genetics, wildlife biology and forestry, biochemistry, microbiology, entomology, and other exciting, science-based areas. Our graduates take jobs in a wide variety of industries, pursue research careers, and work in public service in the US and internationally.

Across all four of our agricultural colleges, total enrollment the highest in 30+ years, applications are going up and, most importantly, at the end of their undergraduate careers, our students are facing excellent job or graduate program opportunities. Placement rates are higher than 90%, with 16-26% of that total choosing to pursue advanced degrees and professional education.

Beyond the statistics about jobs, let's think about some basic human needs and consider what "degrees" will prepare a young man or woman to help provide for those needs. Adequate nutrition is a basic need of all humans. Our planet recently reached the 7 billion population mark and the United Nations estimates we will have 2.3 billion more people to feed by the year 2050. We must address how to feed all these people with little expansion of land; in a way that conserves our water resources; and in a fashion that society judges acceptable and even more respectful of our environment. For answers, take a closer look at our agricultural majors.

In addition, those in agriculture will make important contributions to our country's energy requirements and help provide feedstocks for other industrial materials. To meet these challenges, a growing number of passionate, smart, and well-prepared people have a lot of work to do. And we see and talk to these people every day in our campus classrooms, labs and fields.

That's why we're very excited by the prospects for our graduates. Agriculture has been one of the bright spots in the U.S. economy during the current recession and incredible opportunities exist for new economic development in our states and our country. Our graduates are currently writing their own story, and the headline reads: "College Majors that are Invaluable.", January 25, 2012 


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Technique Could Boost Crop Yields 


Scientists in Britain and Japan on Sunday unveiled a fast-track way toward breeding crops with higher yields or resistance to climate change.


Early beneficiaries should be Japanese farmers who need salt-loving rice plants after their fields were submerged in last year's tsunami.


The technique, which does not use genetic modification, instead pinpoints naturally occurring DNA that which confer specific qualities in a plant.


Armed with this knowledge, breeders can then use classic methods to splice these genes into an existing strain.


Right now, it can take up to five or even 10 years to develop a strain, which is known as a cultivar.


But the "MutMat" approach should speed this marathon to a sprint of little more than a year, say its inventors.


"Essentially, it helps to get to the needle in the haystack faster," Sophien Kamoun, a professor at The Sainsbury Laboratory in Norwich, eastern England, told AFP.


The method, reported in the journal Nature Biotechnology, focused on a Japanese wild rice cultivar called Hitomebore.


Researchers led by Ryohei Terauchi from the Iwate Bio-technology Research Centre created 1,500 variants of Hitomebore, each of which had different characteristics, using a chemical treatment to speed up the natural rate of mutation.


They honed in on a variant that had a trait for higher yields and crossed it with the original strain of Hitomebore. The resultant plant was then self-pollinated and grown.


The scientists compared the genome of this progeny with that of the original Hitomebore.


Like laying one map on top of another, they were swiftly able to spot the genetic telltale for the bigger yield.


The process offers a huge gain in time for plant breeders, say the scientists.


Traditionally, breeders have to cross many generations of plants to ensure that desired genes are anchored in the cultivar and unwanted ones are stripped out. But the new method quickly highlights the right genes, meaning that it should not take more than a few generations of fine-tuning to come up with the desired outcome.


In their experiment, Terauchi's team identified the traits for semi-dwarfism, which leads to short, stubby plants with a full head of grain.


It was this characteristic that famously unleashed the Green Revolution in the 1960s, boosting rice harvests in China, India and other countries that teetered perpetually on the brink of famine.


The team has since grown a collection of plants from Hitomebore which cope with high salinity.


"Once genes contributing to salt tolerance are identified, they will be used for developing rice cultivars suitable for cultivation in the roughly 20,000 hectares of paddy fields of the northern Japan coast that were flooded by the tsunami," the study says.


Kamoun said MutMat was simpler than other gene-spotting methods and was especially promising as it could improve a crop that had already adapted to local conditions.


The right genes are introduced "by classical breeding," he added.


"There's no GM [genetic modification] involved in this approach at all."


Other crops with a relatively small and uncomplicated genome are excellent candidates for MutMat but complex species such as wheat and corn would be difficult, he said.


Kamoun said MutMat only became feasible through the arrival cheap computing power and low-cost gene sequencing.


"This is what's so exciting for the future," said Kamoun. "These technologies were not available just a few years ago. The full impact on improving crops and on agriculture is going to be tremendous, and it's very timely, given the challenge we have with food security."


Last October, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) said the global population of seven billion could rise to at least 10 billion by 2100, but could top 15 billion if birthrates are just slightly higher than expected.


That amounts to a major challenge to boost yields, use land and water more sparingly and develop crops that can cope with climate-induced drought and flood.


Agence France-Presse, Vancouver Sun, January 23, 2012


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Food Security Road Map While Adapting to Climate Change 


While recent climate negotiations in Durban made incremental progress toward helping farmers adapt to climate change and reduce agriculture's climate footprint, a group of international agriculture experts, writing in the January 20 issue of Science magazine, urges scientists to lay the groundwork for more decisive action on global food security in environmental negotiations in 2012.


"Agriculture worldwide is being impacted by climate change and in less than 15 years global population will rise by one billion people," said Sir John Beddington, lead author of the article 'What Next for Agriculture After Durban?' "Policy makers and scientists need to work together, quickly, to chart a course toward a sustainable global food system."


"Many agricultural practices show promise for lowering risks to food production and greenhouse gas emissions while protecting forests and other natural resources at the same time," said Prof Tekalign Mamo of Ethiopia's Ministry of Agriculture, who spoke at several official events at the Durban gathering.

"But existing policies do not sufficiently encourage these sustainable approaches or prepare the global agriculture sector for climate change."


Beddington and his co-authors noted that the run-up to the December 2011 meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) featured a strong political push to launch a new work program on agricultural climate change adaptation and mitigation under the UNFCCC's Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA). For example, a group of African Agriculture Ministers presented a call for action on climate-smart agriculture in September, as did scientists from 38 countries through their Wageningen Statement in October.


In Durban, many public figures called for action on agriculture including former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, South African President Jacob Zuma, former President of Ireland Mary Robinson, and Prime Minister of Ethiopia Meles Zenawi. Over 500 people joined in the third Agriculture and Rural Development Day (ARDD) meeting where Beddington presented key actions for avoiding a future in which weather extremes produce a succession of food crises.


However, integration of agriculture in the climate change negotiating process has moved at a slow pace while climate change and the other forces affecting food security, chiefly rapid population growth, are occurring much faster. "Back in 2009 in Copenhagen, we already had draft negotiating text for agriculture," explained Dr Mohammed Asaduzzaman, Research Director at the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies, who serves on his country's delegation to the UNFCCC. "It's time for us to take up a SBSTA work program so negotiating parties can weigh the risks and benefits of different policy and financing choices."


Agreements in Durban did open the door to agriculture. Future negotiations will consider "sectoral actions" on climate change, which could include those related to the agriculture sector. Also, a March 5 deadline has been set for submission of evidence to SBSTA which will "exchange views on agriculture." As a major driver of deforestation, agriculture is likely to be discussed as details of REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) are negotiated. Beddington and his colleagues called these a "welcome first step," however they view it as far short of what is needed. They call on scientists to assume a more prominent role in supporting global and national political processes to ensure talks in 2012 are informed by clear data on how climate change imperils food security and what can be done to avoid catastrophe.


In outlining opportunities for scientists to assist UNFCCC negotiations, the authors point to seven policy recommendations issued in November 2011 by the Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change. Many of the authors serve on the Commission which Beddington chairs. "Scientists have a responsibility to show decision makers what we mean by 'climate-smart agriculture' and 'sustainable intensification,' and how these strategies are crucial to the success of any global climate change adaptation and mitigation effort," said Dr Adrián Fernández Bremauntz, Advisor on Sustainability at the Metropolitan University in Mexico, and a member of the Commission.


"There are clearly major opportunities this year for scientists to provide the evidence required to rapidly generate new investments and policies that will ensure agriculture can adapt to the impact of climate change -- and in ways that mitigate production of greenhouse gas emissions," said Prof Bob Scholes of South Africa's Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, who delivered a keynote address at Forest Day in Durban where links between forestry and agriculture were highlighted. "Scientists can build on the Durban agreements for REDD+ to clearly describe adaptation and mitigation strategies that span agriculture and forestry and improve food security and livelihoods."


"The window of opportunity to avert a humanitarian, environmental and climate crisis is rapidly closing and we need better information and tools for managing tradeoffs in how we grow our food and use our resources," said Prof Molly Jahn of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "Urgent action is needed, within and outside of the UNFCCC, to address the threat of climate change to agriculture and food security." Jahn will share this analysis at a symposium on climate change and food security at the National Conference on Science, Policy and the Environment in Washington on January 19. Earlier this week, she also headlined at the launch of two new global research initiatives for improved production of maize and wheat led by the CGIAR Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centers.


Jahn and other authors of the Science article see a need for more "integrated research" focused on sustainable agricultural practices that are appropriate for "different regions, farming systems, and landscapes," particularly in low income countries where climate change is expected to pose the greatest challenge. The goal, the authors said, is to achieve a "safe operating space" where farmers can produce enough food to meet global needs while adapting to various climatic stresses and also minimizing the environmental impact of food production.


The Science article points to several other opportunities for the research community to provide insights that could direct more attention and resources to the critical link between climate change and food production. For example, scientists can help with identifying robust opportunities for investing in agricultural adaptation and mitigation with financing now available through the Adaptation Fund of the Kyoto Protocol, the UN's Clean Development Mechanism and the Green Climate Fund, which has earmarked US$100 billion for developing countries. They can also assist with inclusion of agriculture in national action plans for climate change adaptation and mitigation that are being developed under the auspices of the UNFCCC.


Overall, the authors believe scientists must help improve the overall "understanding of agricultural practices that will deliver multiple benefits" in areas of climate change adaptation and mitigation, global food security, and REDD.


Story Source:

The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Climate Change Agriculture and Food Security.

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

Climate Change Agriculture and Food Security (2012, January 19). Food security road map while adapting to climate change. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 25, 2012, from­ /releases/2012/01/120119143328.htm  


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New CAST Issue Paper: Energy Issues Affecting Corn/Soybean Systems: Challenges for Sustainable Production 


A new CAST Issue Paper, Energy Issues Affecting Corn/Soybean Systems: Challenges for Sustainable Production, examines energy issues within the corn/soybean production system as a model for understanding the complexity of addressing global energy challenges.

Led by Dr. Douglas Karlen of USDA--ARS, the authors focus on critical energy issues affecting corn/soybean systems by establishing a global production framework for corn/soybean crops,

reviewing Farm Bill criteria defining sustainability, and examining economic, environmental, and market factors affecting energy use and efficiency.


Research and development is needed to find ways to lower adoption barriers for energy-conserving practices and develop management systems that allow agricultural production to meet multiple demands. The challenges include (1) a growth in biofuel production directly from corn/soybean coupled with a simultaneous growth in oil and agricultural commodity prices, and (2) the ability of the motor fuel infrastructure to handle an increased volume of ethanol, biodiesel, and advanced biofuels.

The authors propose a landscape vision for sustainable corn/soybean systems that is feasible and could be done efficiently and economically if there is a desire and public willingness to do so. It would, among other things,

- provide sustainable grain and biomass feedstock supplies for the bioenergy industry,

protect water quality,

- lessen producer/environmental risk, and

- promote biodiversity.


The full text of Energy Issues Affecting Corn/Soybean Systems: Challenges for Sustainable Production (IP 48, 16 pp.) may be accessed free of charge on the CAST website  and also is available in hard copy for a shipping/handling fee.


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New Issue of Healthy Animals Now Online  

The Agricultural Research Service (ARS)has posted a new issue of Healthy Animals. This quarterly online newsletter compiles ARS news and expert resources on the health and well-being of agricultural livestock, poultry and fish.


The current issue examines some of the collaborative partnerships formed by ARS and international agencies to control destructive diseases that threaten the health of livestock in developing nations and other parts of the world.


Other research highlighted in this issue includes:

Scientists' discovery of genetic resistance to nematode parasites that infect sheep.

A widely popular variety of forage grass for livestock.

The potential of "biochar"-charred biomass created from wood, other plant material and manure-to improve soils.


Sandra Avant, USDA, January 26, 2012


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Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food


The House of Commons and the Committee are on break until January 30, 2012. 


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Coming Events


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