AIC Notes Top         Issue 2012-14          April 5, 2012 
In This Issue
Agriculture Department Grazed In Federal Cost-Cutting
Guelph to Downsize Enviropig Research
Got Kids? Steer Them Toward Agri-Food
Federal Government Strengthens Agricultural Co-operation with Kazakhstan
Brandon Researcher Receives Rosemary Davis Award
New Chair to Support Pollinator Research
Establishing an Insectary: Using Flowers to Attract Beneficials
Fertilizer Use Responsible for Increase in Nitrous Oxide in Atmosphere
BC Investment Agriculture Foundation Annual Report
Career Openings
Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food
Coming Events

Agriculture Department Grazed In Federal Cost-Cutting


Consolidation of "back-office functions," streamlining of operations, reduction of costs and shedding of assets are on the agenda over the next three years in Canada's agriculture ministry.


Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, releasing the Conservative government's 2012 budget on Thursday, announced plans that will see the federal agriculture portfolio's overall annual budget reduced from current levels by $309.7 million by 2014-15.


"Agriculture and Agri-Food portfolio organizations will streamline their operations and reduce operating costs, while making sure services are provided to farmers and the agriculture industry in the most cost-effective and efficient way," Flaherty's budget announced.


To that end, the budget said, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency are going to merge their "back-office functions" and will "integrate scientific research capacity and expertise through co-location and collaboration."


Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada will also consolidate the delivery of grants and contribution programs across the department, and will "streamline management" of the Farm Debt Mediation Service.


The budget aims to cut AAFC funding by $17.1 million from current levels in 2012-13, and by $168.5 million from current levels in 2013-14.


The budget also proposes transition funding of $27 million in 2012-13 and $17 million in 2013-14 for the Canadian Grain Commission, to see the commission move to "a sustainable funding model" and update its fee structure for its services.


Responding Thursday to the proposed budget cuts, the Grain Growers of Canada said it would reserve judgment "till we have more details regarding which programs will be trimmed," according to executive director Richard Phillips. "Potentially, these widespread cuts may not touch critical areas."


That said, "we will be looking for more detail where the cuts are coming from," Phillips said, noting government proposals for "the integration of scientific research capacity and expertise through co-location and collaboration."


"We need assurance that this will translate into more agriculture research and scientists on the ground," he said.


"We appreciate money is tight federally, but it is important to remember that agriculture didn't cause (the federal) deficit, and in fact we have been one of the consistent bright spots in the economy," GGC president Stephen Vandervalk said in the same release.


"Single window"


The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), also part of the AAFC portfolio, will see its budget cut from current levels by $56.1 million by 2015, starting with cuts of $2.1 million in 2012-13 and $10 million in 2013-14.


The agency, in Flaherty's budget, is expected to "transform its service delivery approach by providing a single window for client applications for permits, licences and registration, as well as for the provision of technological, interpretive and specialized advice."


The government also plans to change how the CFIA monitors and enforces "non-health and safety" food labelling regulations.


The agency is also tasked with introducing a "web-based label verification tool that encourages consumers to bring validated concerns directly to companies and associations for resolution."


The government said it will also repeal regulations related to container standards, allowing industry to "take advantage of new packaging formats and technologies, while removing an unnecessary barrier for the importation of new products from international markets."


The budget also telegraphs cuts of $400,000 from the annual budget of the Canadian Dairy Commission, $300,000 from the Farm Products Council of Canada and $100,000 from the Canada Agriculture Review Tribunal, all by 2015.


"Broader range"


Other line items of interest to farmers, rural residents and commodity exporters include:

- up to $99.2 million over three years to fund "permanent flood mitigation measures" undertaken in response to floods in 2011;

- $27.3 million over two years for Transport Canada to support "divestiture of regional port facilities" and continued operation and maintenance for federally owned ports;

- $50 million over two years to support implementation of the federal Species at Risk Act;

annual budget cuts from current levels totalling $86.9 million by 2015 for the government's five regional development agencies; and

- $2 million in reduced tax revenue through expansion of the accelerated capital cost allowance for clean energy generation equipment, to include a "broader range of bioenergy equipment" such as systems that use plant biomass such as straw to generate electricity and heat.


The government also pledged to support rural broadband in its spectrum auctions for the 700 MHz and 2,500 MHz spectrum bands, planned for 2013.


Companies that get access to more than one block of the 700 MHz band, through either the auction or spectrum sharing, will be required to deploy new advanced services to 90 per cent of the population in their coverage area within five years and to 97 per cent within seven years.


The government also pledged to "streamline and improve" its Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR+ED) tax incentive program. Farmers who pay checkoffs into organizations such as the Western Grains Research Foundation are able to claim SR+ED credits on a portion of their checkoff dollars.


The government on Thursday said it will narrow the base of SR+ED-eligible expenditures by removing capital expenditures incurred in 2014 and beyond. Eligible expenditures would still include salary and wages, materials, overhead expenses and contract payments.


Also, effective Jan. 1, 2014, the general SR+ED investment tax credit rate will be cut from 20 per cent to 15 per cent.


"Most resilient"


Canada's agriculture sector was described in Thursday's budget as "one of the most resilient through the economic downturn," noting the sector accounted for about two million jobs and eight per cent of total Canadian gross domestic product in 2009.


The government in 2012 will be working with the provinces and territories on a new federal-provincial-territorial agricultural policy funding framework to replace the current Growing Forward agreement, starting in 2013.


The new five-year framework agreement will set out policies and programs supporting a "modern, innovative and market-oriented sector," including a "refocused" suite of business risk management (BRM) programs.


Country Guide, March 30, 2012


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Guelph to Downsize Enviropig Research 


Researchers in Ontario plan to wind down the breeding work on a line of hogs genetically modified for more efficient use of phosphorus in their diets.


Ontario Pork, one of the key funders in the development of the "Enviropig" line at the University of Guelph, recently announced the university is "reducing the scope of its Enviropig research" when Ontario Pork pulls its funding from the project this spring.


The Guelph-based hog industry organization has "decided to redirect its research dollars," but added that research on the Enviropig line has been completed to a point where the genetics have been "proven" and their value has been documented.


At this point, Ontario Pork said on its website, the university has decided the project "is at a point where it is best for industry or a receptor to take it over" and the school's business development office will look for "potential commercialization/industry opportunities."


Research on the Enviropig will continue, but in "a more cost-effective way that does not require the continual breeding and generation of live animals," Ontario Pork said.


The Enviropig line of genetically modified Yorkshires was invented by Guelph professors Cecil Forsberg and John Phillips, with University of Delaware professor Serguei Golovan.


The breeding line includes a composite gene allowing the animals to produce an acid phosphatase enzyme, commonly called phytase, in the salivary glands and secrete it in their saliva.


The composite gene was created with a gene from an E. coli strain that makes phytase, plus a "very small portion" of a gene from a mouse that controls the production of proteins secreted in the salivary gland.


As Enviropigs digest typical hog feed, phytase is active in their stomachs, degrading otherwise-indigestible phytate that accounts for 50 to 75 per cent of their ration's grain-based phosphorus.


With the animals' feed phosphorus digested, the project's backers say, there would be no need for an Enviropig producer to supplement the diet with either mineral phosphate or commercially-produced phytase.


Furthermore, the animals shed less phosphorus in their manure, which would reduce their environmental impact in areas where soil phosphorus is beyond a desirable level.




Wayne, the first Enviropig, arrived in 1999, followed by Cassie, whose breeding line was submitted to regulators in Canada and the U.S. in 2009 and 2007 respectively, for approval for human food consumption and commercialization.


Ontario Pork noted it has a joint development agreement with the university for the sharing of any revenue that may be realized when or if the Enviropig technology is commercialized.


Member groups in the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN) on Monday cheered the university's decision to end the breeding program, and urged the school to "withdraw its request for approval from Health Canada and not pursue commercialization."


"It's clear that consumers oppose GM (genetically modified) animals so we're relieved the project is being shelved," Ottawa-area farmer Paul Slomp, the youth vice-president for the National Farmers Union, said in CBAN's release.


"The GM pig was going to drive consumers away from eating pork if it was ever approved for market (and) could have permanently damaged our domestic and international pork markets."


Quebec meat packer Olymel, for one, went on the record last year as saying it had no intention of marketing pork derived from genetically modified pigs, in either domestic or export markets.


Country Guide, April 2, 2012


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Got Kids? Steer Them Toward Agri-Food  

Everyone wants the best for their kids, which has traditionally meant trying to steer them toward reliable jobs that keep them upwardly mobile or at least stable, and able to live within their means.


I'm lucky my three kids have all, in some way, made agriculture and food their profession, either by choice, luck or marriage. I think they've made wise choices, and everywhere I look their decisions to be part of the industry are confirmed, particularly as the world wakes up to the need for a new emphasis on agriculture and food.


It hit me again last week when I looked at conclusions from a group of scientific leaders from 13 countries (not Canada, sadly), called the Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change. They called for an "enabling environment" globally for all stakeholders in the agri-food sector - from small farmers to national governments - to invest in the economic and environmental resiliency of their land resources.


A key part of the commission's position is its inclusion of government reform. Too often, the emphasis is all put on farmers to make production changes that will help them address current and future hunger. But that won't happen unless governments help create a working environment and culture that supports agri-food development.


The commission cited seven action points. These included integrating food security and sustainable agriculture into global and national policies, significantly raising the level of global investment in sustainable agriculture and food systems in the next decade, and creating comprehensive, shared, integrated information systems that encompass human and ecological dimensions.


The latter point is where new careers in agricultural communications exist, particularly in a field called knowledge mobilization, or knowledge translation and transfer. If no one can understand how to feed the world with new or existing technology on their own farms, these developments will sit dormant on shelves or be buried in computers. Social media gives new opportunities to farmers and other professionals to mobilize that knowledge quickly and effectively about research, approaches and techniques that can enhance production.


Good reasons exist to invest in the agri-food sector. A new state of the union report from TD Canada Trust says food processing was the only manufacturing sector to grow in Ontario in the recession. This is due in part to the fact that Canada is rich in agricultural resources, says the bank. As well, we're fortunate that our province and country is stacked with smart farmers - University of Guelph graduates, among them - who know how to work export markets on one hand, and local food markets on the other. They know people all want the same thing - abroad, they want Canadian food because it's safe, wholesome and nutritious. Locally, they also like these features, plus its homegrown appeal.


The Ontario government has long been a huge supporter of the agri-food sector. It understands, as the global commission urged, the need to meld policy and production, to create a flexible working environment for farmers and give them research-driven tools to be the best they can be.


For its part, Ottawa also issued an overview of Canada's agri-food sector last week, noting how it encompasses several industries including the farm input and service supplier industries, primary agriculture, food and beverage processing, food distribution, retail, wholesale and food service industries. The sector continues to play an important role in federal and provincial economies, says Ottawa, directly providing one in eight jobs, employing two million people and accounting for more than eight per cent of total GDP.


This is a vital, growing sector in which to invest and work. Jobs are plentiful and new ideas are needed. Got kids? Suggest they try agri-food.


Owen Roberts, Guelph Mercury, April 2, 2012


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Federal Government Strengthens Agricultural Co-operation with Kazakhstan

Canadian producers and agricultural researchers now have new opportunities for co-operation in Central Asia after Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz and his counterpart from the Republic of Kazakhstan, Minister of Agriculture Asylzhan Mamytbekov, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) today.


"Our government's top priority remains the economy, and by enabling more co-operation with countries such as Kazakhstan, we are helping create more opportunities for our agriculture industry and more prosperity for all Canadians," said Minister Ritz. "Today's agreement demonstrates a strong and growing relationship between Canada and Kazakhstan for the benefit of producers and consumers in both countries."


The MOU signed today will increase co-operation in the areas of animal and plant production and development, and it will also increase knowledge sharing and exchanges of new technologies. There are many opportunities for further co-operation and trade between the two countries, particularly in the livestock and meat sector, and this MOU can help generate new business opportunities in both countries. A joint Canada-Kazakhstan working group will be established and will meet annually to ensure that the goals of this MOU are met.


For 20 years, Canada and Kazakhstan have enjoyed positive diplomatic ties and strong, two-way trade in agriculture. In 2011, Canadian agriculture and food exports to Kazakhstan totalled about $14 million, which included exports of Canada's top-quality breeding cattle. Canada is a trading partner of choice for Kazakhstan, particularly in the livestock and agricultural machinery sectors.


AAFC Press Release, April 3, 2012


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Brandon Researcher Receives Rosemary Davis Award  

A researcher with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Brandon is one of five women recognized by Farm Credit Canada for their leadership and commitment to Canadian agriculture.

FCC has announced the winners of the 2012 FCC Rosemary Davis Award, and the list includes Dr. Katherine Buckley.

"I was very surprised and honoured to receive the award, and to be in the company of women who have shown tremendous leadership in the agriculture industry," says Buckley.

Much of her 27 year research career has focused on interactions between livestock and crop production - for example, Buckley has done extensive work on the use of composted livestock waste as organic fertilizer.

"I've tried to take a little different approach...trying to integrate livestock and crop production more closely through long-term studies," she explains.

The award also recognized Buckley's volunteer involvement in community gardening projects.

"I've been very concerned about the quality of food that people are consuming, and I'm a gardener myself, so I naturally gravitated toward working with community gardeners and showing them how to produce vegetables that include organic fertilizers. I speak to gardening clubs quite frequently on the importance of protecting the soil and diversifying plant material," she explains.

Buckley is also an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Soil Science at the University of Manitoba, and has shared her experience on numerous boards, including the Agricultural Institute of Canada, the Manitoba Institute of Agrologists, the Canadian Society of Agronomy and The Canadian Society of Horticulture.


Kelvin Heppner,, April 3, 2012


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New Chair to Support Pollinator Research 


The W. Garfield Weston Foundation is making a major contribution to support the future of the world's food supply with the establishment of The Rebanks Family Chair in Pollinator Conservation in the School of Environmental Sciences at the Ontario Agricultural College, University of Guelph. The endowed Chair is a Canadian first and has been made possible with a $3 million gift and in the name of Wendy Rebanks, daughter of Garfield Weston and Director of The W. Garfield Weston Foundation.


"The shortage of honeybees and other pollinators is a serious threat to plants, the food chain and to our economies," said U of G president Alastair Summerlee. "This investment will support critical research and education that is a vital part of the University's efforts to build a better planet. We thank The W. Garfield Weston Foundation for their vision and generosity."


Worldwide, about 300 cultivated crops are used for food, fodder and fibre production, worth an estimated $200 billion-plus a year. About 80 per cent of those plants rely on pollinators - mainly honeybees - to set seeds and fruit.


Both the diversity and the numbers of insect pollinators are falling globally because of such factors as disease, pesticide exposure, malnutrition, habitat loss and climate change. In Canada, 28 species of butterflies and moths and two bee species are known to be at risk. In the United States, honeybee populations have declined 30 per cent in the past 20 years.


The Rebanks Family Chair in Pollinator Conservation at U of G will develop a world-class research program, raise awareness of the importance and plight of pollinators, inform public policy, help train highly qualified conservationists and agriculturalists, and assist amateur beekeepers.


"For three generations, The W. Garfield Weston Foundation has maintained a family tradition of helping charitable organizations to make a difference and enhance the quality of life for all Canadians," said Chairman, W. Galen Weston. "We are excited to partner with the University of Guelph on this important initiative that goes beyond pure research to engaging all stakeholders in this critical effort."


The University will conduct an international search for a proven educator, researcher and advocate of pollinator conservation. The chair will undertake broad consultation beyond the University to create an expert advisory group, guide curriculum and contribute to undergraduate and graduate education.


University of Guelph Press Release, April 2, 2012



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Establishing an Insectary: Using Flowers to Attract Beneficials


Organic farms provide habitat for many beneficial organisms, including pollinators and insects that prey upon or parasitize pests. In this article, we focus on creating insectaries - strips of plants that support beneficial insects, a subject under investigation  by Organic Science Cluster researchers.


You can create the insectary by leaving weeds or strips of insectary plants along field edges or by planting strips throughout a field. Beneficials can travel along these 'habitat highways' and disperse into fields. Larger and more connected strips provide more benefits than small isolated patches.


When selecting insectary weeds, flowers or cover crops, choose plants that provide beneficials with shelter and/or food (e.g., pollen, nectar, prey). Avoid plants that may become invasive weeds or attract pests. For example, carrot rust fly damage is worse when Queen Anne's lace surrounds fields.


Select plants that help you in many ways. Tall strips can provide shaded or sheltered microclimates for crops. Cut flowers can be sold at farmers' markets. Buckwheat, in particular, performs many functions. It supports many pollinators and beneficials. It also breaks up compacted soil, controls weeds and makes phosphorus more available.


A combination of plants often supports more beneficials. Plants that bloom in succession can provide nectar and pollen for a long period of time. However, to avoid pest problems, don't grow related plants in the same location two years in a row. Note: buckwheat and phacelia are insectary plants unrelated to other crops.


Crops can be used as insectary plants. For example, unharvested mustard greens, broccoli side shoots and fava beans flower late into the fall and provide food for pollinators, parasitoids and hoverflies.


By mowing insectary plants, you can prevent them from going to seed and/or stimulate migration of predators. For example, flowering dandelions provide pollen and nectar. Once they are mowed, the beneficials will move into surrounding crops. By planting, mowing and tilling different strips at different times, you can maintain several life stages of the plants at one time. Sickle-bar mowers are gentler on the beneficials than flail and rotary mowers.


Creating insectaries on your farm can be as simple as not mowing the field edges. Or, you can develop a complex system of living mulches and flowering crops planted and mowed in succession. The challenge is to reap the benefits of insectary plants without incurring significant costs (i.e., competition with crops, increase in pests).


Janet Wallace, for the Organic Agriculture Centre of Canada, April 2, 2012


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Fertilizer Use Responsible for Increase in Nitrous Oxide in Atmosphere 


Climate scientists have assumed that the cause of the increased nitrous oxide was nitrogen-based fertilizer, which stimulates microbes in the soil to convert nitrogen to nitrous oxide at a faster rate than normal.


The new study, reported in the April issue of the journal Nature Geoscience, uses nitrogen isotope data to identify the unmistakable fingerprint of fertilizer use in archived air samples from Antarctica and Tasmania.


"Our study is the first to show empirically from the data at hand alone that the nitrogen isotope ratio in the atmosphere and how it has changed over time is a fingerprint of fertilizer use," said study leader Kristie Boering, a UC Berkeley professor of chemistry and of earth and planetary science.


"We are not vilifying fertilizer. We can't just stop using fertilizer," she added. "But we hope this study will contribute to changes in fertilizer use and agricultural practices that will help to mitigate the release of nitrous oxide into the atmosphere."


Since the year 1750, nitrous oxide levels have risen 20 percent -- from below 270 parts per billion (ppb) to more than 320 ppb. After carbon dioxide and methane, nitrous oxide (N2O) is the most potent greenhouse gas, trapping heat and contributing to global warming. It also destroys stratospheric ozone, which protects the planet from harmful ultraviolet rays.


Not surprisingly, a steep ramp-up in atmospheric nitrous oxide coincided with the green revolution that increased dramatically in the 1960s, when inexpensive, synthetic fertilizer and other developments boosted food production worldwide, feeding a burgeoning global population.


Tracking the origin of nitrous oxide in the atmosphere, however, is difficult because a molecule from a fertilized field looks identical to one from a natural forest or the ocean if you only measure total concentration. But a quirk of microbial metabolism affects the isotope ratio of the nitrogen the N2O microbes give off, producing a telltale fingerprint that can be detected with sensitive techniques.


Archived Air from Cape Grim


Boering and her colleagues, including former UC Berkeley graduate students Sunyoung Park and Phillip Croteau, obtained air samples from Antarctic ice, called firn air, dating from 1940 to 2005, and from an atmospheric monitoring station at Cape Grim, Tasmania, which has archived air back to 1978.


Analysis of N2O levels in the Cape Grim air samples revealed a seasonal cycle, which has been known before. But isotopic measurements by a very sensitive isotope ratio mass spectrometer also displayed a seasonal cycle, which had not been observed before. At Cape Grim, the isotopes show that the seasonal cycle is due both to the circulation of air returning from the stratosphere, where N2O is destroyed after an average lifetime of 120 years, and to seasonal changes in the ocean, most likely upwelling that releases more N2O at some times of year than at others.


"The fact that the isotopic composition of N2O shows a coherent signal in space and time is exciting, because now you have a way to differentiate agricultural N2O from natural ocean N2O from Amazon forest emissions from N2O returning from the stratosphere," Boering said. "In addition, you also now have a way to check whether your international neighbors are abiding by agreements they've made to mitigate N2O emissions. It is a tool that, ultimately, we can use to verify whether N2O emissions by agriculture or biofuel production are in line with what they say they are."


Changes in fertilizer use can reduce N2O emissions


Limiting nitrous oxide emissions could be part of a first step toward reducing all greenhouse gases and lessening global warming, Boering said, especially since immediately reducing global carbon dioxide emissions is proving difficult from a political standpoint. In particular, reducing nitrous oxide emissions can initially offset more than its fair share of greenhouse gas emissions overall, since N2O traps heat at a different wavelength than CO2 and clogs a "window" that allows Earth to cool off independent of CO2 levels.


"On a pound for pound basis, it is really worthwhile to figure how to limit our emissions of N2O and methane," she said. "Limiting N2O emissions can buy us a little more time in figuring out how to reduce CO2 emissions."


One approach, for example, is to time fertilizer application to avoid rain, because wet and happy soil microbes can produce sudden bursts of nitrous oxide. Changes in the way fields are tilled, when they are fertilized and how much is used can reduce N2O production.


Boering's studies, which involve analyzing the isotopic fingerprints of nitrous oxide from different sources, could help farmers determine which strategies are most effective. It could also help assess the potential negative impacts of growing crops for biofuels, since some feedstocks may require fertilizer that will generate N2O that offsets their carbon neutrality.


"This new evidence of the budget of nitrous oxide allows us to better predict its future changes- and therefore its impacts on climate and stratospheric ozone depletion -- for different scenarios of fertilizer use in support of rising populations and increased production for bio-energy," said coauthor David Etheridge of the Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research in Aspendale, Victoria.


Story Source:

The above story is reprinted from materials provided by University of California - Berkeley. The original article was written by Robert Sanders.

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

University of California - Berkeley (2012, April 2). Fertilizer use responsible for increase in nitrous oxide in atmosphere. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 5, 2012, from­ /releases/2012/04/120402144930.htm


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BC Investment Agriculture Foundation Annual Report 

The BC Investment Agriculture Foundation strategically invests federal and provincial funds in support of innovative projects to benefit the agri-food industry in British Columbia. The annual report is of interest and can be read here.


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Career Openings 


General Manager - AgriBusiness
Niagara, Ontario
General Manager, AgriBusiness required for a business that supplies agricultural row crop and horticultural crop inputs and services to growers.   


Agricultural Market Analyst
London, Ontario
Market Analyst required to fill an essential role in interpreting and communicating commodity analysis for a leading company's subscription base of farmers, agribusinesses and other agricultural institutions.


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Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food


The Committee met on April 4 to hear witnesses on their study on the food supply chain.  Presentations were made by representatives of  Farmers' Markets Canada and Les amiEs de la terre de l'Estrie.


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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