AIC Notes Top         Issue 2012-10         March 8, 2012 
In This Issue
New Issues of Canadian Journals of Soil Science and Animal Science
Study: Innovation Investment Critical For Agriculture
National Research Council to 'Refocus' to Serve Business
Forget the Honey: B.C. Bees to Pollinate Blueberries
New Biomass Study Supports Production in Ontario
Going To Seed
Federal Budget Expected to Deal Blow to Farm Programs
New Organic Research Centre to Open Later This Year
Feed Production in Step With Demand, For Now
The Future of Plant Science: A Technology Perspective
2.7 Billion People Affected by Global Water Shortages
Applications Open for Nuffield Farming Scholarships
New CAST Publication: Assessing the Health of Streams in Agricultural Landscapes
Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food
Coming Events

New Issues of Canadian Journals of Soil Science and Animal Science


The Canadian Journal of Soil Science, Volume 92, Number 2 is now available online.


Sample Abstract

Urea fertilizer forms affect grain corn yield and nitrogen use efficiency

Bernard Gagnon, Noura Ziadi, Cynthia Grant

Controlled-release urea may be a good management strategy to increase the efficiency of N fertilizers. In a 3-yr study (2008-2010) conducted on a clay soil near Quebec City, Canada, we compared the effect of polymer-coated urea (PCU), nitrification inhibitor urea (NIU), dry urea and urea ammonium nitrate 32% (UAN) on corn yield, plant N accumulation and soil NO3-N remaining at harvest. Corn was fertilized with urea and PCU at 50, 100 and 150 kg N ha−1 in addition to an unfertilized control (0 N), and NIU and UAN at 150 kg N ha−1. Urea, PCU, and NIU were pre-plant broadcast whereas UAN was side-banded at the six-leaf stage of corn. Response to N fertilization occurred in all years, but the magnitude of the response varied with years. In wet years (2008 and 2009), PCU and NIU resulted in higher grain yield than urea, but the increase was greater for PCU (+0.8 to 1.6 Mg ha−1) than for NIU (+0.3 to 0.6 Mg ha−1). In a dry year (2010), no significant difference was found between urea, PCU and NIU. Yields and apparent N recovery were comparable for PCU and UAN except in the dry year, when plant N accumulation was much higher for the UAN treatment. At harvest, soil NO3-N was increased by PCU in all years. Economic analysis revealed that despite 30% higher cost, PCU gave comparable net returns at equivalent N rate than UAN in wet years. We conclude that controlled-release urea, particularly PCU, would be an additional option to farmers instead of sidedressed UAN application for fertilizing corn grown in eastern Canada.



The Canadian Journal of Animal Science, Volume 92, Number 1 is available online.


Sample Abstract

Bioperformance evaluation of various summer pasture and winter feeding strategies for cow-calf production

Getahun Legesse, Julie A. Small, Shannon L. Scott, Ermias Kebreab, Gary H. Crow, Hushton C. Block, Clayton D. Robins, Mohammad Khakbazan, W. Paul Mccaughey

Bioperformance of two summer pasture and four winter feeding cow-calf production strategies in the western Canadian Parkland was evaluated. Diet composition and animal data were collected over 5 production years. Each production year began with fixed-time artificial insemination (TAI) of cows and turnout of cow-calf pairs (n=288 yr−1 including 76 primiparous replacement cows) assigned to either alfalfa-grass (AG, n=9 paddocks) or grass (G, n=9 paddocks) pastures until weaning. Post-weaning, pregnant cows (n=240 yr−1) were assigned to either extended-grazing (EG, n=120) of dormant regrowth of perennial pastures and swathed annual crops, or one of three diets fed in a drylot (DL): hay (HY, n=40), straw/barley (SB, n=40; 70% oat straw:30% steam-rolled barley grain DM), and silage/straw (SS, n=40; 40% barley silage:60% oat straw DM). Common diets were used for all treatment groups between the weaning and winter feeding period, as well as between the pre-calving and summer grazing period. Cow and calf body weight (BW) gains were higher (P<0.05) for AG than G pasture until the third production year and the advantage diminished as the carrying capacity declined. The latter may be attributed to a lack of spring/summer moisture. Further, G pastures required more nitrogen fertilizer to achieve the same level of bioperformance as that of AG pastures in years 4 and 5. Cows in the EG treatment maintained BW better than those in the DL treatment (especially those cows receiving the SS diet) except in year 5 (P<0.05) in which drought resulted in lower body weights for cows in the EG treatment. On all treatments, cows maintained BCS that supported reproductive function; however, fertility to TAI was lowest (P<0.05) in years 4 and 5. Cows in the DL group had a 1.8 times greater risk of being culled before turnout and as a result lower (P<0.05) rates of calf survival to weaning. In conclusion, AG pastures and EG are important alternatives to further develop for cow-calf production in western Canada.


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Study: Innovation Investment Critical For Agriculture  


A new study by RBC and the Farm & Food Care Foundation suggests further investment and innovation in sustainable business practices at the farm level is critical for the future success of Canadian agriculture.

The study, Growing from Strength: Farmers enhancing productivity with sustainable innovation, suggests farmers invest in innovative technology and energy efficient equipment to capitalize on the productivity benefits of sustainable business. This will help ensure access to global markets now and in the future.

The full report is on the Farm & Food Care Foundation's website., March 7, 2012


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National Research Council to 'Refocus' to Serve Business 


Canada's national government research and development agency is being transformed and "refocused" into a service that provides solutions for businesses, Canada's Minister of State for Science and Technology announced Tuesday.


Gary Goodyear says he envisions the National Research Council becoming a "concierge" service that offers a single phone number to connect businesses to all their research and development needs, as recommended in a report by an expert panel last fall.


"It will be hopefully a one-stop, 1-800, 'I have a solution for your business problem,'" Goodyear said Tuesday, following a speech to the Economic Club of Canada in Ottawa.


"It will be the powerhouse that takes the ideas from wherever they come from... and literally pushes those ideas into the marketplace through our business communities, as well as respond to the needs of the business community by providing, for example, research capacity and solutions."


The panel that recommended changes to the NRC, led by Tom Jenkins, executive chairman and chief strategy officer of Waterloo, Ont.-based Open Text, was asked to address a persistent problem - Canada spends more than most countries to help businesses create new products. But it hasn't been paying off, and the participation of Canadian businesses in research and development is still lagging.


The National Research Council, founded in 1916, is a government agency dedicated to research and development through more than 20 institutes and national programs specialized in areas ranging from plant biotechnology to aerospace to fuel cells. It has more than 4,000 staff across Canada.


Goodyear acknowledged that originally, the NRC was developed to do basic research. But he said that was before Canada developed research strength at its universities.


Over the years, "it's gotten weaker and more diversified," he said. "And we need to refocus it to produce a better outcome for our business community."


Two years ago, the government hired a new NRC president, John McDougall, to help reshape the organization. Since then, the government has already begun taking steps to "refocus" the NRC, Goodyear said in his speech.


That means looking at programs that are too small, redundant because they are done in other departments, or no longer meet the need they once did due to changes in the economy, he explained in a later interview.


Some of the changes will be taking place immediately, some will probably be unveiled in the federal budget later this month, and some will be announced over the next couple of months, Goodyear said.

"This is a great opportunity to focus the NRC more toward the business end, the applied end, the commercialization-successful end of any discovery," he added.


In his speech Tuesday, Goodyear said the government agrees with what the Jenkins report listed as key problems hampering business innovation in Canada:

- Too many programs spread across too many departments.

- A research and development tax credit system that is too complex.

- A lack of policies to encourage innovation by making sure government purchases target innovative companies.

- Lack of access to financing at early and late stages of research and development.

- No research and development organization "sufficiently" dedicated to supporting business R & D.

- A lack of leadership to oversee a "broad strategy" for business innovation.


Right now, changes to address these issues focus on the NRC a little more, Goodyear said. But there are plans to streamline other research and development-related government programs, which currently number about 60 over 17 departments.


"What I do see is less programs, same money," Goodyear said.


CBC News, March 6, 2012


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Forget the Honey: B.C. Bees to Pollinate Blueberries 


Beekeepers in B.C. have just brought in more than 3,000 packages of bees from New Zealand to bolster local colonies needed to pollinate Fraser Valley blueberries.


In what has become an annual event, boxes and tubes each carrying three pounds of bees and equipped with a laying queen began arriving last month at Vancouver International Airport to replace colonies lost over the winter to disease and cold weather. And the import industry is growing because B.C. has neither enough native bee populations nor domestic hives to supply the province's agriculture sector.


This spring, more than 20,000 packages of bees and more than 100,000 mated queens will be imported to Canada in an effort to shore up the pollination business, a key building block for at least 20 commercial crops, including canola, blueberries, cranberries, raspberries and tree fruits such as apples, peaches, apricots and pears. Although honey is an important product - in 2010, Canada produced 78 million pounds worth $145 million - it is pollination that drives the honey bee industry.


In B.C. alone, crops pollinated by bees were worth more than $163 million in 2004, the last year for which the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture had statistics. The blueberry crop accounted for $65.5 million of that.


Canada is the second-largest producer of blueberries in the world behind the United States, and collectively the two countries meet more than 75 per cent of the world's demand. B.C. is at the forefront of that, with 12 varieties that bloom between April 15 and May 31.


But with beekeepers over the last five years losing an average of 30 per cent of their hives every winter to disease and cold, they can't keep up with the demand without help from imports, according to John Gibeau, the owner of the Honeybee Centre in Surrey.


"There are just not enough bees in B.C. to handle all the pollination demands of farmers," said Gibeau, who provides 4,200 colonies throughout the season to pollinate 11 different crops. "So the industry has turned to importing bees from New Zealand and a few other places to fill that gap."


Gibeau brought in 637 packages this year.


Alberta commercial beekeepers, who winter some of their colonies in the Fraser Valley's comparatively mild climate,, provide about half the bees needed for B.C. blueberries. The rest must come from local beekeepers, but between the two, there are not enough hives to cover all crops.


Bob Fisher, a bee-keeper and blueberry grower who owns West Coast Bee Supply, just installed 50 imported packages in hives to help boost his business. Although he successfully wintered 19 other hives, it wasn't enough to pollinate the 10 hectares of blueberries he owns or rents. He also sells packages of bees for $150 each.


Without those bees, his fruit would not set and his blueberry business would fail.


"Some beekeepers I know have lost colonies over the winter and can't meet their pollination contract requirements without starting with more packages."


New Zealand has emerged as the main source of bees for Canada because that southern hemispheric country's bees are relatively disease-free and are at the end of their season.


More than two decades ago, Canada shut the border to imports from the U.S. when a serious pest from Asia, the Varroa mite, began infecting North American colonies. Although the mite has now spread around the world, the border remains closed to U.S. imports because of the emergence of Africanized honey bees and another pest, the hive beetle.


More than 80 per cent of the queens imported come from the Big Island of Hawaii, but whole packages - containing bees and queen - are only permitted from New Zealand, parts of Australia and Chile.


That's because the world's domesticated honey bees are under attack from a variety of diseases and other stresses that have led to a serious decline in bee populations. As a result, there are fewer places for Canadian beekeepers to turn to in their quest for replacement bees.


Jaquie Bunse, the provincial government apiculture inspector for the Fraser Valley, says B.C. bee breeders working with the University of B.C. are trying to develop a strain of bee that can winter well and resist the panoply of diseases now affecting domestic bees. But she said imports are necessary now to meet the demand for commercial pollination.


"Bees have to be replaced every year.There are so many stresses on bees now that we have had some high losses and we can't sustain that without importation if pollination is to be successful," she said.


Mark Winston, a Simon Fraser University researcher and one of the foremost authorities on bees in North America, blames monocrops, big agri-business practices and the loss of habitat for native bees for what he terms the unhealthy need for bee imports.


Winston, who closed his world-renowned bee lab at SFU five years ago, said he no longer believes importing bees is the solution.


"This is a reflection of a very large-scale and general problem in agriculture in North America," he said. "Because of the lack of diverse eco-systems we don't have sufficient wild bees to pollinate and we must push honey bees to their limit. The outcome of that has been the near-destruction of the beekeeping industry."


The spread of uniform crops, increased use of pesticides whose residues get into beehives and the spread of serious pests and bacterial or viral diseases have all made it tough for bees.


"Honey bee management today is in pretty sorry shape and there are multiple, multiple factors that are affecting it," he said. "If we were managing bees the way we should be, we wouldn't need to be importing them from anywhere."


Jeff Lee, Vancouver Sun, March 6, 2012


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New Biomass Study Supports Production in Ontario 


A new study on the feasibility of growing biomass in Ontario will be released on March 6, 2012 at the Growing the Margins Conference and Exhibition in London, ON. The study report, The Business Case for Growing Biomass in Ontario, was prepared in partnership with the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA), Sarnia Research Park, Erie Innovation and Commercialization and the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association.

The study evaluates the economics of growing and processing biomass in Ontario for domestic and export heat and power markets. Research results will provide valuable information to Ontario producers, members of the value chain and policy advisors on this innovative cash crop opportunity. Throughout the study members of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs/Ontario Power Generation Agricultural Biomass Steering Committee provided valuable input and feedback throughout the study.

"This study supports purpose-grown biomass crops as a promising alternative for Ontario farmers," says Mark Wales, president, Ontario Federation of Agriculture. "Growing and utilizing these crops for heat and power generation will soon be a part of Ontario's integrated and improved agricultural system."

The full report will be presented at the upcoming London conference by Dr. John Kelly of Erie Innovation and Commercialization and Dr. Aung Oo, from Sarnia Research Park. Their presentations will include the cost of production, market analysis, value chain costs and a business case for using biomass as a heat and power source. "The positioning of biomass as a reliable renewable fuel source will be important in the future," says Kelly. "And by comparing the cost of growing and processing biomass against other fuel sources, this study leads us to believe that purpose-grown biomass is a competitive product in most rural energy markets."

A full report on the study will be available on the OFA website in late March, 2012.

Funding for this project has been provided by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada through the Canadian Agricultural Adaptation Program (CAAP). In Ontario, this program is delivered by the Agricultural Adaptation Council.


AgriLink, March 5, 2012


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Going To Seed


Canadian barley might be making a move from your plate to your vanity, as researchers with the University of Alberta Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science have discovered some innovative new uses for the ancient food grain.


Lingyun Chen, assistant professor in plant protein chemistry and technology, along with her team of researchers, have not only developed a cost-effective method of extracting the protein from the raw grain, but have also come up with a number of original applications for its use.


"When we analyzed the barley protein, we found some very interesting properties," said Chen.

"One of the most interesting being that it serves as a very good emulsifier and encapsulation material, which we realized could have benefits for the personal-care or food industries."


Chen says barley protein has the ability to replace many existing emulsifying agents in a variety of food and cosmetic products and can also be used to encapsulate many neutraceuticals, concealing their occasionally unpleasant taste and odour, and protecting them from deterioration before being absorbed into the intestine.


Many "personal-care" products, such as skin creams, hair conditioners and ointments, rely on emulsifiers in their formulation. These have traditionally been derived from animal products or, more recently, completely synthesized. Given emergent market trends towards natural, sustainable and organic products, Chen feels that these new applications of this ancient grain is exactly what consumers are looking for.


In addition to barley protein's potential applications in the personal-care industry, Chen's team also found numerous similarities to ingredients currently being used in retail food products.


"The barley protein has similar capacity to lecithin, which is a soy-based emulsifying agent commonly used in the food industry," said Chen, "but lecithin is very expensive. The production cost with barley is much lower."


Adding value to one of Alberta's largest grain crops presented a special challenge for researchers, as a limited amount of study had been done on barley protein to date.


"Our first job was to develop a cost-effective process to extract the protein from the grain. Then we had to systematically analyze the structure and properties, and finally, we had to determine where those properties could add value," she explained.


Chen's research has already led to a number of patented technologies which have resulted in a $4.4 million investment from the federal government that will help to test and commercialize her new products. Additional support is also being provided through the Alberta Barley Commission and Alberta Innovates Bio Solutions.


"Result-oriented research is what the agriculture industry needs," said Matt Sawyer, chair of the Alberta Barley Commission. "This kind of producer investment highlights the value of renewable agricultural products while raising awareness and creating value for Alberta barley farmers."


Chen's position as the Alberta Barley Cereal Protein Chair is co-funded by the Alberta Barley Commission and the Alberta Crop Industry Development Fund.


Ken Matthewson, University of Alberta News, March 5, 2012


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Federal Budget Expected to Deal Blow to Farm Programs 


So what do you do when you're a government facing investigation for electoral interference?


You give people something else to talk about, of course, something perhaps just as controversial, but not illegal.


That's why some pundits are predicting the federal budget expected in late March could be even tougher than previously expected, as the Harper government works to give people a healthy reason to be mad at it, instead of over the unfolding robocall debacle.


After all, if indeed this government actually earned its election, it was on the premise of fiscal restraint. So across-the-board budget cuts are expected. The only question is, how deep will they go?


Farmers have particular cause to be nervous. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada reported recently that times have been pretty good for farmers in recent years, despite some inclement weather and unseeded acres.


In a somewhat befuddling mix of statistics and analysis, the department's latest farm-income forecasts take the unusual step of predicting positive incomes for farmers a decade into the future, even though its analysis of the past two years identifies some income-reducing factors that weren't foreseen at the beginning of the year.


"Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's Medium Term Outlook indicates that many of the forces affecting farm incomes in Canada in 2010 and 2011 may continue over the next 10 years. These include increasing worldwide demand for feed grains, a rising price of crude oil, a Canadian dollar near par with the American dollar, and Canadian population growth of 1.2 per cent per year, with its implications for increased domestic food demand."


In addition to the analysis on how various commodities, input costs and output performed in 2010 and 2011, the federal report offered data on other measures of farm financial performance.


"Those indicators suggest a positive situation. Average total income of farm families, which includes non-farm income, is forecast to reach $109,216 in 2011. At the same time, average net worth per farm is expected to reach $1.6 million, a 44 per cent increase over five years."


It's no secret that it's easier to trim farm programs when farmers appear to be doing better than the average Canadian household, which Statistics Canada reports earns about $75,000 annually.

The last time the federal government -- it was the other guys in 1995 -- undertook massive spending cuts in agriculture, the Crow Benefit was wiped off the books.


Prairie landowners were compensated, but the payout was a piddly 20 per cent of what the annual Crow Benefit subsidy was worth to the western Canadian economy.


The Liberals argued its elimination was justifiable because it was considered a dirty subsidy in international trade agreements and because it interfered with value-added processing on the Prairies.


But the mood at the time was bullish and there was barely a whimper from farmers until a few months later, when they delivered their first load of grain and saw just how much their freight bills had jumped.


Another reason farmers might be a mite uncomfortable is found in the latest data outlining what proportion of farm family incomes actually comes from the farm business, versus off-farm employment and subsidies.


"In 2011, the average farm family is expected to earn a larger portion of its total family income from non-farm sources than farm sources in 2011," the report tells us. Cattle farms, for example, earned only three per cent of their total family income from farm operations. For grain and oilseed farmers, it's 23 per cent.


As a sector, Canadian agriculture earned 54 per cent of its net operating income from program payments during the five-year period ending in 2009. It was 50 per cent for grains and oilseeds, 168 per cent for hogs, 147 per cent for cattle, 59 per cent for potatoes, 13 per cent for dairy and 11 per cent for poultry.


To be fair, farmers contribute to support programs on a cost-shared basis, so they were getting some of their own money back. But while Canadians are routinely told their food costs them a mere 11.8 per cent of their income, that's not including their tax dollars at work.


Some complain supply management for dairy and poultry is costing consumers dearly at the grocery store. But when compared to what it costs to support the export-oriented commodity sectors, perhaps that isn't such a bad deal.


We'll have to wait and see. But the stage is set for a budget that gives farmers something to talk about -- besides the Canadian Wheat Board.


Laura Rance, Winnipeg Free Press, March 3, 2012


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New Organic Research Centre to Open Later This Year


News that construction of a new applied research facility for organic agricultural production will be built near Montreal is being applauded by producers across Quebec.


"It's very good news, very positive," says Gérard Bouchard, an organic dairy producer, cheese maker and president of the Fédération d'agriculture biologique du Québec, which represents about 1,600 producers of organic milk, meat, grains and maple syrup.


"A research centre will help to find and provide us with better production methods and technology (and) will help to establish standards and processes that will help not just our industry, but the entire agricultural sector," he says.


The planned construction of the $7-million, two-storey building, which will be located in St. Bruno de Montarville, was recently announced by Quebec's Institut de recherche et développement en agroenvironnement (IRDA), an agricultural research group currently located on about 200 acres of certified organic farmland in nearby St. Hyacinthe.


The new centre is slated to open later this year and will house two dozen research scientists as well as several labs, incubators and a growth chamber.


The planned construction of a greenhouse has been postponed for lack of funds.


The centre is the result a 2008 agreement between 34 partners, including McGill University, Université Laval, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and Quebec's organic producers' federation.

The new research facility will focus on both the development and the advancement of organic production to help sustain the sector's growth in Quebec.


"There is a huge demand for organic products that we can't meet," says Gisèle Grandbois, president and chief executive officer of the IRDA. "The work we will do (in the new centre) will serve all producers, not just organic ones."


Bouchard, a pioneer in organic milk production, started producing in the 1970s when he and his brother converted their family's traditional dairy farm into an organic operation. He says all producers will profit from research-generated improvements in everything from land and animal management to crop production.


"Research into organic production creates positive spin-offs for all sectors," he says. "This is a winning project for all producers."


Mark Cardwell, FCC Express, March 2, 2012


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Feed Production in Step With Demand, For Now 


Animal feed production, a significant part of the food chain, appears to be in step with the growing global demand for more protein from animal sources.


Alltech, an animal health and nutrition company, says a recent survey conducted on its behalf in 132 countries shows world feed production has reached an estimated 873 million tonnes.


That's significantly more than another independent global report out of Britain in 2010 that placed the world production at 716 million tonnes, and growing at just one per cent per year.


"This new global estimate is quite significant," says Aidan Connolly, vice-president of corporate accounts at Alltech. "Feed production is an increasingly global phenomenon and this survey is the broadest in its reach and, therefore, also complete in terms of its review of the state of play in the world feed industry."


The Alltech survey shows aquaculture is the fastest growing feed sector, totaling nearly 30 million tonnes. Poultry holds the lion's share of the market, however, with 44 per cent of world feed. Connolly says this growth may reflect the cost, health and religious preferences associated with poultry consumption.


Ruminant feed stands at about 220 million tonnes, not including dry matter fed as silage or forage on farm.


Asia is by far the world's leading feed-producing region with 305 million tonnes, which includes a 175.4-million tonne contribution from China. Europe follows with 200 million tonnes, just ahead of North America with 185 million tonnes of feed.

The survey was conducted through Alltech's regional managers, assessing tonnage and all species.


"Alltech has invested in this evaluation of the world's feed industry as part of its ongoing commitment to information and technology transfer between providers and customers," says Dr. Pearse Lyons, president and founder of Alltech.


Owen Roberts, FCC Express, March 2, 2012


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The Future of Plant Science: A Technology Perspective 


Plant science is key to addressing the major challenges facing humanity in the 21st Century, according to Carnegie's David Ehrhardt and Wolf Frommer. In a Perspective published in The Plant Cell, the two researchers argue that the development of new technology is key to transforming plant biology in order to meet human needs.


Plants serve as the conduit of energy into the biosphere, provide food and materials used by humans, and they shape our environment. According to Ehrhardt and Frommer, the three major challenges facing humanity in our time are food, energy, and environmental degradation. All three are plant related.


All of our food is produced by plants, either directly or indirectly via animals that eat them. Plants are a source of energy production. And they are intimately involved in climate change and a major factor in a variety of environmental concerns, including agricultural expansion and its impact on habitat destruction and waterway pollution.


What's more, none of these issues are independent of each other. Climate change places additional stresses on the food supply and on various habitats. So plant research is instrumental in addressing all of these problems and moving into the future. For plant research to move significantly forward, Ehrhardt and Frommer say technological development is critical, both to test existing hypotheses and to gain new information and generate fresh hypotheses. If we are to make headway in understanding how these essential organisms function and build the foundation for a sustainable future, then we need to apply the most advanced technologies available to the study of plant life, they say.


They divide the technology into three categories: existing technology that isn't being applied for all of its potential uses; new, readily envisioned technology; and technology we'd like to have, but don't know how to create.


The technological overview includes expanding existing technologies such as DNA sequencing, RNA cataloguing, mass spectroscopy, fluorescence-based microscopy, and electron microscopy, among many others. A key focus is on the advances possible through advanced imaging technologies.


Ehrhardt and Frommer point out that many of the most often-cited academic papers related to the development new technology, demonstrating the interest of the scientific community. "We certainly expect that new technologies will continue to revolutionize biological research," they say. "Plant science has not often been the driver of innovation but often enough has profited from developments made in other areas."


Story Source:

The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Carnegie Institution.

Carnegie Institution (2012, March 2). The future of plant science: A technology perspective. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 7, 2012, from­ /releases/2012/03/120302201831.htm


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2.7 Billion People Affected by Global Water Shortages 


A new report published in the online journal PLoS ONE, analyzing water consumption in 405 river basins around the world, found that water scarcity impacts at least 2.7 billion people for at least one month each year.

"Freshwater is a scarce resource; its annual availability is limited and demand is growing," said Arjen Hoekstra, professor in water management at the University of Twente and lead author of the report, Global Monthly Water Scarcity: Blue Water Footprints versus Blue Water Availability. "There are many places in the world where serious water depletion takes place: rivers running dry and dropping lake and groundwater levels."

The new assessment of global water scarcity tracked month-to-month variability in water flows and accounted for the flows needed to sustain critical ecological functions. Through detailed analysis of the total water consumption, or depletion, rather than water withdrawals, the study highlights how the water used to grow crops, sustain industry and provide drinking water has in many places exceeded sustainable levels of water use.

Ninety-two percent of humanity's total water footprint is for agriculture, and irrigated agriculture depletes more water than cities and industries. Study co-author Brian Richter, Director of The Nature Conservancy's Global Freshwater Program, explained, "Cities use more water than crops on a per-area basis, but it's important to note that irrigated agriculture occupies four times as much land as cities do. We need to help farmers implement state-of-the-science irrigation methods and improve the productivity of rain-fed farms as soon as possible. We are going to have to produce more food with less water."

Researchers from the University of Twente, Water Footprint Network, The Nature Conservancy and WWF studied river flows in 405 river basins between 1996-2005. Their analysis showed that 201 river basins supporting 2.67 billion people experienced severe water scarcity during at least one month of the year.

"In places with multiple months of scarcity, they are likely experiencing serious competition for water," said Richter, "and during droughts they'll have economic impacts in agriculture, power production or other industries."

"This assessment gives a more detailed and complete view of the relationship between the water footprint - the amount of water consumed in the production of goods and services - and the growing problems of water scarcity and the resulting environmental, social and economic losses," said Ruth Mathews, Executive Director of the Water Footprint Network. "Through cooperation between governments, investors, companies, farmers and environmental organizations, we can take direct action to improve the sustainability, efficiency and equitability of water use ensuring that we can feed people and sustain healthy ecosystems in the future."

Study co-author Ashok Chapagain, Senior Water Advisor at WWF-UK, highlighted the importance of this work to the global conservation targets of WWF. "Annual averages can mask what is really happening in a basin. Visualizing water scarcity month-by-month will help guide water allocations so as to meet social and economic demands, and the needs of rivers themselves."

The levels of water scarcity estimated in the report correspond strongly with documented ecological declines and socio-economic disruption in some of the world's most heavily used river basins.


University of Twente, in AgProfessional, March 5, 2012


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Applications Open for Nuffield Farming Scholarships


The Canadian Nuffield Farming Scholarship Trust is accepting applications for their 2013 program. Applications are due by April 30, 2012 and forms can be downloaded from the Nuffield Canada website.


Three scholarships of $15,000 each are available for 2013.


Nuffield Farming Scholarships are awarded to enthusiastic individuals, with a passion for agriculture and a desire to expand their knowledge, pursue new ideas and to share findings with others. Applicants should be in mid-career, be between the ages of 30 and 45 (although exceptions are made) and must have a minimum of five years agricultural business or farming experience plus the management ability to step away from their current duties. The Scholar must travel for a minimum of ten weeks, with a minimum leg of six consecutive weeks. Scholarships are not for those involved in full-time studies or for the purpose of furthering research projects. 



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New CAST Publication: Assessing the Health of Streams in Agricultural Landscapes 


The health of streams in agriculturally dominated watersheds has long been assumed to be almost entirely dependent on nearby agricultural practices. In that regard, governments are making substantial investments in the modification of agricultural production activities. Conservation practices have reduced nutrient, sediment, and contaminant loads to those streams, but evidence remains strong that water quality and stream health, especially of those streams draining into the Mississippi River, are still a challenge.


Understanding the role and interplay of land- and stream-related factors in determining water quality is necessary in implementing watershed changes and allowing time for these changes to translate to stream improvements.


Order online at, PDF Download: Free to CAST members. $10.00 to non-members. 



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Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food


The Committee met on March 7 to hear witnesses on the Food Supply Chain (Overview of the subject).  These included representatives of the Food and Consumer Products of Canada, Food Processors of Canada, GS1 Canada and as an individual, David Sparling, Professor, Richard Ivey School of Business, University of Western Ontario.

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Coming Events


International Fascination of Plants Day, May 18, 2012


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


3rd International Symposium on Beef Cattle Welfare, Saskatoon, June 5-7, 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