AIC Notes Top         Issue 2012-12        March 22, 2012 
In This Issue
Canadian Journal of Soil Science - Special Issue on Mollisols
New Institute to Protect, Preserve Threatened Plant Life
Manitoba New Frontier for Growing Soybeans
BC Agri-Business Growth Spurred By Local Demand and Overseas Need
W. Garfield Weston Foundation Supports Major Growth of Alternative Land Use Services (ALUS)
Canada Marketing Alfalfa Hay to China
Louisiana Tech Professor to be Primary Reviewer for US Science Standards
Urgent International Action Needed to Combat Social Inequalities and Environmental Risks
Technician, National Bee Diagnostic Centre
Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food
Coming Events

Canadian Journal of Soil Science - Special Issue on Mollisols


The Canadian Journal of Soil Science, Volume 92, Number 3 is now available online.


This is a special issue on soil quality and management of world mollisols. Mollisols are recognized as the world's most important and productive dryland agricultural soils, and are found predominantly in only four regions of the world: North America, South America, Eastern Europe and Central Asia. In this special issue leading soil scientists from each of these regions have contributed papers that highlight current and past management practices, state-of-the-art research that is occurring in their regions, and the challenges we face in sustaining Mollisols in the face of increasing population and changing climate.


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New Institute to Protect, Preserve Threatened Plant Life 


Developing innovative ways to protect and conserve the world's endangered plants is the goal of a new institute being created at the University of Guelph.


The Gosling Research Institute for Plant Preservation (GRIPP) will help prevent loss of plant diversity through research, education and service. Here scientists will hone cutting-edge technologies to preserve, multiply and conserve threatened plant life.


The institute will be supported by a $1.5-million donation from the Gosling Foundation, a non-profit organization for ecological preservation and environmental education co-founded by Philip and Susan Gosling. The gift is being made through the BetterPlanet Project, the University's $200-million fundraising campaign for teaching and research in food, environment, health and communities.


"Plants play a fundamental role in all ecosystems, helping to sustain life on this planet," said U of G president Alastair Summerlee. "But the Earth's plant species are under strain, and there is a pressing need to develop efficient and effective solutions. We need new ways of thinking and of sharing knowledge - a philosophy that is the foundation of this revolutionary institute."


Based in U of G's Ontario Agricultural College, GRIPP will be run by renowned plant scientist Praveen Saxena. A professor in the Department of Plant Agriculture, Saxena is known internationally for work in protecting valuable plant species through methods such as in vitro preservation and multiplication.


Earlier support from the Gosling foundation has already helped a team of scientists led by Saxena and plant agriculture professor Alan Sullivan develop technology to clone American elm trees that have survived repeated outbreaks of Dutch elm disease, their biggest killer.


They plan to expand that work and develop new interdisciplinary collaborations to preserve and restore threatened plant life.


"The need to conserve endangered plant species is crucial and urgent," Saxena said. Worldwide, about one-third of all plant species face the danger of extinction within three decades due to disease, pollution, climate change and other human activities.


Such rapid loss of plant diversity also threatens the health and resilience of all ecosystems and the quality of human life, he said. "This institute will help to protect thousands of endangered plant species and to reintroduce disease-resistant plants back into their natural environments."


Researchers will focus on in vitro techniques, which allow scientists to store hundreds of genotypes in a secure small space and easily propagate them, Saxena said.


The institute will also run education, outreach and service projects to teach people about the value of conservation, locally and globally.


Kevin Hall, vice-president (research), said the institute is an ideal fit for Guelph. "Our researchers have a deeply rooted understanding and appreciation of the natural world and of the need to protect plants and land of ecological significance. They will use that expertise to find better ways to preserve the Earth's biodiversity. Such efforts are critical to the University's efforts to build a better planet."


For Philip and Susan Gosling, the co-founders of the Gosling Foundation, seeing plants restored and protected lies at the heart of their decision to help create GRIPP. "For many years we have been deeply concerned over the loss of our much loved trees," said Philip. "This institute promises leading-edge research to save our threatened plants and trees - get a GRIPP."


Added Susan: "We feel that this is a perfect connection between our foundation and the expertise at the University of Guelph."


University of Guelph Press Release, March 19, 2012


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Manitoba New Frontier for Growing Soybeans  

Expansion of soybean production farther and farther north is occurring because soybean breeders are developing shorter maturity soybean varieties. That northern expansion is exemplified by Pioneer Hi-Bred establishing a research center at Carman, Manitoba, Canada.


The Carman research center was established because Pioneer sees soybean production in Canada as a frontier territory for growing more soybeans. There has been huge expansion to the north during the past couple decades, and that expansion is continuing.


"I think if someone 20 years ago would have said we will be growing a significant number of soybean acres in the Red River Valley, I think people would have been shaking their heads wondering what this is all about. They would have said you've got to be crazy," noted Steve Schnebly, Pioneer senior research manager crop genetics research and development.


Schnebly recently explained that Manitoba soils and the growing season are conducive to soybean production being profitable for growers.


"We have a lot of good yield potential, but we need to try and find varieties that can mature in a very short season. We actually are making very good progress on this, and there is a lot of people in Manitoba that would like to switch from field peas and some small grains. It is not about switching from canola for soybeans. It is about switching from some other crops for profitability per acre, and many growers think they can make more profit with soybeans than some other crops they are growing today," Schnebly said.


Even though the expansion north includes Pioneer and other soybean breeders having northern research operations, this does not mean new northern varieties cannot be developed using winter nurseries in Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Brazil, Chile, Argentina and other countries. With winter nurseries, there can be two to three cycles per year or two to three more growing seasons per year.


Pioneer entered the soybean business in 1973 at a time when it took 12 to 15 years to bring completely new varieties of soybeans to market. Using winter nurseries, the time to provide new technology seed products to customers is basically half the time.


"We can now introduce a new technology in about 7 to 8 years rather than 12 to 15 years," Schnebly said. Therefore, new varieties for expanding farther north will continue to come onto the market quite fast.


Rich Keller, Editor, Ag Professional, March 19, 2012


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BC Agri-Business Growth Spurred By Local Demand and Overseas Need 

Strong demand for B.C.'s premium food products at home and abroad is expected to propel the annual value of the province's agricultural output from $10.5 billion to $14 billion over the next five years.


The Liberal government's newly released agrifood strategy, released today in Abbotsford, projects increasing demand from India, China and the Pacific Rim, and substantial increases in agricultural productivity.


Fruits, seafood, niche products such as grass-fed beef, value-added products such as wine and other "high-quality, high-value" foods have strong growth potential, the report says. The industry is confident it can leverage Canada's stellar reputation for safety and quality, according to Garnet Etsell, president of the B.C. Agriculture Council.


"We have food safety programs in Canada and B.C. that are second to none and Asian buyers recognize that," said Etsell.


A study released Thursday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control found that of all imported foods causing illness in the United States nearly 45 per cent came from Asia and that the most common source of illness was seafood.


The agri-food strategy, developed as part of Premier Christy Clark's jobs strategy, includes a five-year goal to increase the revenue generated by B.C. agri-foods business - from livestock and aquacultured seafood to wine and caviar - by $3.5 billion.


Sector revenue has increased by around 3.5 per cent a year over the past decade, according to government figures and growth is projected to hit 4.4 per cent annually over the life of the new strategic plan. A number of industry trends give the government reason for optimism.


The value of packaged and processed food and beverages produced in B.C. has grown by more than 30 per cent over the past decade from about $4 billion in 2000 to more than $6 billion in 2010, a growth trend the government expects to continue.


B.C. exports about $1 billion worth of seafood a year, a figure that is growing by $10 million annually.

New blueberry bushes already in the ground will add 40 million pounds a year to B.C.'s annual production of 89 million pounds.


An agreement between the governments of Canada and China signed earlier this year gives Canadian luxury food producers expanded access to the Chinese marketplace, beginning with B.C. sweet cherries.

"We will be serving markets in Asia with higher-end products," said David Sparling, chair for Agri-Innovation at the University of Western Ontario. "I don't think there's any doubt that we will be exporting more product into India and China."


To serve those markets at a profit, some farms will get bigger to benefit from economies of scale, and agriculture in general will employ increasingly sophisticated technologies, Sparling said.


Sparling is the keynote speaker at next week's joint annual general meeting of the B.C. Agriculture Council and the Investment Agriculture Foundation of B.C.


Small- and medium-sized producers creating premium niche products for overseas markets and strong domestic demand for "fresh and local foods" will drive continued growth of agri-food businesses in British Columbia, said Sparling.


"We are going to see a healthy, active local food market as we develop the systems to really deliver that," he said. Demand for locally grown and processed foods will spur investment in smaller regional food distribution businesses while increasing health consciousness among consumers will change the way ready-to-eat foods are prepared.


Thousands of new food products are introduced to the grocery marketplace every year and consumers will notice processed and packaged food products evolve into healthier and more nutritious choices, according to Sparling.


Massive farms managed by complex software and new high-tech equipment for cultivation and harvest will drive increases in productivity for commodity crops, especially such iconic B.C. crops as blueberries and cranberries.


Large-scale farms are beginning to employ new computer-driven systems and machines that precisely map soil fertility, customize fertilizer applications and measure yield to the square metre.


Such farms seek to increase yields and reduce the number of workers required.


To make the switch from labour to capital, farmers will need a break from provincial taxes on machinery and relief from the carbon tax, according to Etsell.


"This is the only jurisdiction in the world where agriculture is subject to a carbon tax," he said.

B.C. producers are keen to exploit new markets but there is concern about the level of support they are receiving from government, he said.


Provincial support for developing overseas markets remains weak, said Etsell, who suggested that beefing up B.C.'s presence at major trade expositions is key to sparking new demand for our products.

"It's embarrassing when you go to these big trade shows and B.C.'s booth is small and stuck away in a corner somewhere," he said.


Strong demand for local sustainable foods has doubled the number of farmers' markets in B.C. over the past decade and spawned a new generation of small-scale farming operations.


Sparling foresees a period of consolidation for urban and micro-farms in which most will either grow or die.


"There has been a movement to scale up organic [farms] to reduce the costs associated with it so it becomes more accessible in price to consumers," said Sparling.


Small-acreage farms are unlikely to survive without getting bigger and employing some mechanization, he said. A renaissance in farm co-ops is being driven in part by the need for small-scale farmers to combine their marketing and distribution functions to keep their costs manageable.


Agrifoods Strategy Web  


Randy Shore, Vancouver Sun, March 16, 2012


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W. Garfield Weston Foundation Supports Major Growth of Alternative Land Use Services (ALUS) 


Delta Waterfowl is pleased to announce a leading donation from The W. Garfield Weston Foundation in support of the Alternative Land Use Services (ALUS) program. With the Foundation's gift of $1.46 million, Delta Waterfowl will create two centres of operations, or hubs, to support the national expansion of the ALUS program.


This is the second major grant from the Foundation in the past year, bringing its total commitment to ALUS to more than $3 million.


Developed more than ten years ago by Delta Waterfowl Foundation and Manitoba's Keystone Agricultural Producers, ALUS is a community-led, farmer-delivered initiative that promises to revolutionize conservation in this country. The goal is to create a healthy, working landscape that simultaneously sustains agriculture, wildlife and the protection of natural spaces.


Through ALUS, farmers receive payments for delivering a variety of environmental services. Projects include enhanced and protected wetlands, increased native grass cover, wildlife-friendly fencing, pollinator strips and improved riparian areas. ALUS projects are currently established in Ontario, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Prince Edward Island.


"The Foundation is proud to continue its support of this very important conservation initiative," said Eliza Mitchell, Director, The W. Garfield Weston Foundation. "Farmers are playing a key role in preserving Canada's natural legacy. They are having a great impact on local ecosystems by preserving habitat for endangered species, improving water quality, and reducing soil erosion. Their efforts are important to all Canadians."


The Foundation has supported the ALUS program for more than a decade. This latest donation will support the expansion of ALUS to at least 8 new communities in Ontario and western Canada. Challenge grants will act as a catalyst to stimulate matching funds from other organizations.


"This is a sea change in conservation for this country," says Rob Olson, president of Delta Waterfowl Foundation. "Communities all across the country are lining up to be part of this initiative. There's unprecedented energy and excitement."


Olson says the latest Weston funding will help establish ALUS as a viable addition to conservation efforts across the country.


"Our hope is that the momentum from adding these new communities will grow exponentially," says Olson. "This grant has the impact of allowing us to do 10 years of work in one year. We're very thankful The W. Garfield Weston Foundation is giving us this chance to do it."


Delta Waterfowl Foundation Press Release, March 20, 2012


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Canada Marketing Alfalfa Hay to China 


Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz today marked the first ever commercial shipment of Canadian alfalfa hay to enter the lucrative Chinese market since Canada gained market access for alfalfa hay in March 2011. Twenty containers of Canadian alfalfa hay have been shipped to China and 40 more containers have been ordered; the total estimated $600,000.


"This is the first of many shipments as China's growing demand translates into new sales opportunities for Canadian producers, and jobs and growth for our economy," said Minister Ritz. "This is solid evidence that Canadian exporters are taking advantage of new market access secured by this Government."


Minister Ritz congratulated Green Prairie International, a global wholesale supplier of quality forage products located in Alberta, to be the first Canadian company to ship alfalfa into the Chinese market.

"We are extremely excited by this new marketing opportunity between Canada and China," said Mr. John Van Hierden, President and CEO of Green Prairie International. "This will create unprecedented opportunities for the Canadian forage industry. We believe this will create important economic and cultural benefits to both Canada and China."


As China looks for more international suppliers to meet its growing demand for animal feed, the Harper Government is also negotiating new market access for timothy hay, another type of hay used in the livestock feed industry. Canada produces some of the best quality hay and processed by-products in the world, with primary forage exports being timothy and alfalfa. Canadian alfalfa and timothy hay, meal, and pellets total exports worldwide were worth over $85 million in 2011.


China's hay and forage product imports increased significantly in the last five years, going from $119,000 in 2006 to over $103 million in 2011. Alfalfa hay is a high-quality forage used in livestock feed, in particular for dairy cattle. China is significantly expanding its dairy industry-aiming to double its milk production by 2015-and the growing demand for alfalfa hay on the Chinese market is offering some great sales opportunities for Canadian producers.


This good news is not only benefiting Canadian producers, but it is also a good example of how the Government of Canada is delivering on its commitment to agricultural co-operation with China. During Prime Minister Harper's recent mission to China, a Cooperative Agreement was signed that included the creation of a joint technical working group to move forward a Canada-China Cooperation Dairy Farm Pilot Project. The project would demonstrate how Canadian feed products, live dairy cattle, and Canadian management practices would contribute to this goal of doubling milk production. While Canada is marketing its high-quality products to this important market, it also contributes to the Chinese agricultural production growth.


This good news is not only benefiting Canadian producers, but it is also a good example of how the Government of Canada is delivering on its commitment to agricultural co-operation with China. During Prime Minister Harper's recent mission to China, a Cooperative Agreement was signed that included the creation of a joint technical working group to move forward a Canada-China Cooperation Dairy Farm Pilot Project. This project would demonstrate how Canadian feed products, live dairy cattle, and Canadian management practices would contribute to the goal of doubling milk production. While Canada is marketing its high-quality products to this important market, it also contributes to the growth of Chinese agricultural production.


AAFC Press Release, March 19, 2012


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Louisiana Tech Professor to be Primary Reviewer for US Science Standards  


Dr. David Mills, professor of biological sciences and faculty in the Center for Biomedical Engineering and Rehabilitation Science at Louisiana Tech University, has been appointed as a 'Primary Reviewer' for the Next Generation U.S. Science Standards for Today's Students and Tomorrow's Workforce.


Mills will work with state and national leaders in a collaborative, state-led process as new K-12 science standards are developed to be rich in content and practice, arranged in a coherent manner across disciplines and grades, and will provide all students an internationally benchmarked science education.  The first public draft will be released in April for public review.


The National Research Council, the National Science Teachers Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Achieve are the lead partners in the two-part process to develop the Next Generation Science Standards.


"This is a critical undertaking and I am greatly honored to assist in developing America's Next Generation Science Standards," said Mills. "We have a great challenge ahead of us as the U.S. system of science and mathematics education is performing far below par. If left unattended, it will leave millions of young Americans unprepared to succeed in a global economy."


It has been 15 years since science standards have been comprehensively reviewed. The National Research Council's National Science Education Standards and the American Association for the Advancement of Science's Benchmarks for Science Literacy, while critical to the field for the past 15 years, do not reflect the changes we have experienced in society or science, such as the availability of the internet, access to cell phones, and even the changes within science such as the emergence of biotechnology and changes of how we see our own solar system (for example, Pluto).


The U.S. ranked 14th in reading, 17th in science and 25th in mathematics on the 2009 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). Less than ten percent of U.S. students scored at one of the top two of six performance levels.


"This is a time for change and to set standards that increase America's competitive edge, provides the essential preparation for all careers in a modern workforce and provides scientific and technological literacy for all students," Mills said.


The United States is 12th in high school graduation rate among the 36 Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries for which data is available. Over one-third of eighth-graders scored below basic on the 2009 NAEP Science assessment and 78 percent of high school graduates do not meet the readiness benchmark levels for one or more entry level college courses in mathematics, science, reading and English.


Louisiana Tech University Press Release, March 22, 2012 


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Urgent International Action Needed to Combat Social Inequalities and Environmental Risks


Social justice and environmental protection are equally urgent and intrinsically linked universal goals, with coordinated global action needed on both fronts at the UN's 'Rio+20' Conference on Sustainable Development in June, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a message to an audience of development experts, civil society leaders and government officials at the first Global Human Development Forum today.


"The world stands at a crossroads," the Secretary-General said in his message to the Istanbul Forum, convened by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Government of Turkey. "We need everyone - government ministers and policymakers, business and civil society leaders, and young people - to work together to transform our economies, to place our societies on a more just and equitable footing, and to protect the resources and ecosystems on which our shared future depends."


UNDP's 2011 Human Development Report -"Sustainability and Equity: A Better Future for All," which argued that social inequalities and environmental hazards must be combated together for the sake of future generations- provided the framework for the two-day Istanbul dialogue. The Global Human Development Forum was organized to examine the critical social, economic and environmental challenges facing the world today, including better approaches to assessing national and global progress.


"The concept of human development originated in well-founded dissatisfaction with using only gross domestic product as a measure of human progress," the Secretary-General noted in his statement today. "Though this understanding has become something of a benchmark in our thinking about development, there remains a need to dramatically change the way we value and measure progress."


UNDP Associate Administrator Rebeca Grynspan and Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan of Turkey opened the Forum today by stressing the importance of collective global action at the "Rio + 20" conference three months from now. "This Forum is particularly timely and important," Grynspan said. "It provides a unique opportunity to debate the messages we want to take to Brazil, reflecting on what we have learned since the Stockholm Conference in 1972 and the Earth Summit in 1992."


More than a hundred heads of state will be leading their national delegations to the June Conference on Sustainable Development, making it one of the largest such high-level gatherings in recent times.


Added Grynspan: "We must recognize that high-carbon; unequal growth will undermine itself by breeding social unrest and violence, and by destroying natural habitats critical for livelihoods. We need a new paradigm of growth and a new approach to the political economy of sustainable development."


The Global Human Development Forum will culminate Friday with an "Istanbul Declaration" articulating the participants' jointly proposed goals and priorities for the "Rio+20" summit.


"Sustainable development recognizes that our economic, social and environmental objectives are not competing goals that must be traded off against each other, but are interconnected objectives that are most effectively pursued together in a holistic manner," the Secretary-General said in his message today. "We need an outcome from Rio+20 that reflect this understanding and that relates to the concerns of all."


Deputy Prime Minister Babacan, a member of the Secretary-General's High-Level Panel on Global Sustainability, urged the adoption of new 'Sustainable Development Goals' to guide global priorities following the 2015 conclusion of the UN's 15-year Millennium Development Goals campaign. Cevdet Yilmaz, Turkey's Minister of Development, who moderated the Forum discussion on the "Social Contract: Building Equity and Sustainability", said: "The Forum provides a solid platform to share different viewpoints on the universal goal of having resilient people and a resilient planet."


The Global Human Development Forum was organized jointly by UNDP's Human Development Report Office and Bureau of Development Policy, with support from the Turkish Ministry of Development and the Government of Denmark.


UNDP Press Release, March 22, 2012


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Technician, National Bee Diagnostic Centre 

The National Bee Diagnostic Centre (NBDC) located at the AAFC-Research Farm in Beaverlodge, Alberta is seeking a technician. The position's major responsibilities, under direction, include receipt and proper care of incoming samples; performing diagnostics in accordance to Standard Operating Procedures; preparing results; maintaining the laboratory space and supplies; liaising with beekeepers/agencies supplying samples; and contributing to the sustainability of the NBDC.   Read more here.


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Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food


The Committee has no meetings scheduled this week.  They resume hearing witnesses on their study on the food supply chain on March 28.    


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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 AIC, 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