AIC Notes Top         Issue 2012-18               May 10, 2012 
In This Issue
Canadian Journal of Soil Science
Technology Funding Turns Waste into Opportunity
Novel Malting Process Opens New Markets for Oats
Shell Scrubs Plans for Manitoba Straw Ethanol Plant
Jet Biofuel Produced From Mustard Seeds
Biomass Holds Promise for Ontario Farmers-London Research Report
CWB Halts Organic Marketing
G8 Urged to Elevate Food Security Issues
Report of the Commissioner of the Environment and of Sustainable Development
New CAST Publication: The Direct Relationship Between Animal Health and Food Safety Outcomes
Call for Session Proposals: Canadian Science Policy Conference 2012
Position Available - Agronomy Manager
Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food
Coming Events

Canadian Journal of Soil Science 


The Canadian Journal of Soil Science, Volume 92, Number 4 is now available online 


Sample Abstract


Nitrogen and phosphorus effects on water use efficiency of spring wheat grown in a semi-arid region of the Canadian prairies

Kröbel, R., Campbell, C. A., Zentner, R. P., Lemke, R., Steppuhn, H., Desjardins, R. L. and De Jong, R. 2012


Water use efficiency (WUE) has often been analyzed for semiarid environments, but fallow-containing cropping systems were assessed inappropriately. Further, these short-term studies are unlikely to correctly assess weather variability impacts in such environments. We assessed the impact of fertilizer N and P on water use efficiency (WUE) and precipitation use efficiency (PUE) of spring wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) from a 39-yr long-term crop rotation study in semi-arid southwestern Saskatchewan. In the rotation experiment, continuous wheat (Cont W) with N+P or P fertilizer only, and fallow-wheat-wheat (F-W-W) with N+P, P only, or N only were studied. We calculated WUE using: (i) Yield (Y)/[water use (WU)/potential water use (PET)]; (ii) Y/WU; (iii) Y/WU with a fallow phase element added; and (iv) Y/harvest-to-harvest precipitation (PUE). The WUEs in the rotation experiment were generally greater for treatments with N+P fertilizer, and greatest after an increase of N application coupled with favourable soil water conditions in the final decades of this study. In cases (i) and (ii), WUE for F-W-W was greater than for the Cont W-treatment. In case (iii), the WUEs were 5.7, 4.5, 3.9, 3.6, and 3.6 kg ha−1 mm−1 water for Cont W (N+P), Cont W (P), F-W-W (N+P), F-W-W (P), and F-W-W (N), respectively. For PUE [case (iv)] the values were 4.0, 3.1, 3.4, 3.0, and 2.9, respectively. We concluded that case (ii) was most appropriate for continuous cropping and case (iii) for systems including fallow, while case (iv) was usable in general.


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Technology Funding Turns Waste into Opportunity  


University of Alberta researcher David Bressler has developed leading-edge technology to convert agricultural waste into useful products.


(Edmonton) Technology developed by University of Alberta researcher David Bressler to convert agricultural waste into useful products is getting a boost from the federal government.


Western Economic Diversification Canada announced a $970,000 investment May 4, towards establishing a pilot industrial plant at the U of A's Agri-Food Discovery Place. Once it is refined and tested, the technology could lead to the establishment of an Alberta-based industrial plant and U of A spinoff company.


A grant from the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency is also helping to support the initiative.


The leading-edge research, called Lipid to Hydrocarbon technology, was developed over the past several years by Bressler, an associate professor in the Faculty of Agricultural, Life and Environmental Sciences, and his team. The technology can convert waste like animal fats-such as tallow from the beef industry-as well as vegetable oils, oil from plant algae and restaurant grease, to high-value byproducts such as hydrocarbon fuels, solvents and chemicals.


These end products take the form of jet fuel, gasoline and solvents for use in the crop, oil and gas industries. As well, one of the solvents developed in Bressler's lab would be the first of its kind used in the cosmetics industry. A spinoff company would produce and supply these products to various industries for commercial applications.


The project has taken biodiesel to the next level, Bressler said.


"This research is a great example of technology that was developed from scratch at the U of A and, if successful, has a chance to make biodiesel obsolete."


Bressler's patented conversion process results in fuels that are more environmentally friendly because they perform better, burn more cleanly and have lower emissions.


Partnerships with agencies such as Western Economic Diversification Canada have been crucial in getting the technology to its current successful state, Bressler noted.


"It's been a long road, and we've been supported all the way by industry and funding agencies, including Western Economic Diversification Canada, the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development, Alberta Innovates Bio Solutions and the Alberta Agricultural Research Institute."


Besides producing exciting new technology and economic opportunities, the research project also benefited budding U of A scientists, said Bressler, noting that several graduate students, a post-doctoral student and a research associate were all trained through the ongoing work. Several scientific papers were also published along the way.


Bressler is pleased to see U of A research like his breaking barriers and moving into the marketplace. "We want to take the discovery process as far as it can go."


Bev Betkowski, University of Alberta News, May 4, 2012


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Novel Malting Process Opens New Markets for Oats 


A new technology developed by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada scientists and put in practice by Edmonton-based biotechnology company Ceapro Inc. will help open new market opportunities for Canadian oat farmers. Member of Parliament James Rajotte (Edmonton-Leduc), on behalf of Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, announced today that the Government of Canada has signed a technology licensing agreement with Ceapro Inc. that will see Canadian oats used to create ingredients for skin care and health products.


Discovered and named by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada scientist Dr. F. William Collins roughly 25 years ago, avenanthramides are naturally occurring polyphenols with antihistamine and anti-inflammatory properties, and they explain why oatmeal baths are soothing to itchy skin. The molecules are found only in oats, and in very small quantities, which has previously limited their commercial application. The new technology increases the levels of molecules that can be extracted, which greatly increases production and cost efficiency.


"We are very excited that Agriculture Canada has determined that Ceapro has the ability to rapidly commercialize this technology," said David Fielder, Ceapro's Chief Scientific Officer. "It will be a game changer for Ceapro, putting us in a position to produce the much larger volumes needed to supply new markets and attract the right partners."


AAFC Press Release, May 4, 2012


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Shell Scrubs Plans for Manitoba Straw Ethanol Plant 


Fuel company Shell Canada "will not pursue" its plans for a straw-based ethanol plant in southern Manitoba.


Monday's announcement from Shell was its first formal acknowledgement that it in fact had plans for such a project, though company spokesmen had openly confirmed its interest in the region through other media outlets late last year.


Shell's Calgary-based Canadian arm and Ottawa-based biotech and biofuel firm Iogen Corp. said in a statement Monday they will "refocus (the) strategy and activities" of their joint venture, Iogen Energy Corp.


The refocusing, they said, would mean a "smaller development program" for Iogen Energy and the loss of 150 jobs.


An Iogen spokeswoman said those jobs would be lost in Ottawa, where Iogen operates both its head office and a demonstration-scale cellulosic ethanol facility. However, she would not comment on where specifically the jobs would end within the company.


Shell said in the same statement that it "continues to explore multiple pathways to find a commercial solution for the production of advanced biofuels on an industrial scale."


However, it said, it won't pursue "the project it has had under development to build a larger-scale cellulosic ethanol facility in southern Manitoba."


Shell spokesman David Williams said Monday that Shell still has the licensing rights to the Iogen technology in question and the two companies' working relationship would continue.


The companies' decision, he said, was based strictly on an internal review of Shell's global portfolio of advanced biofuel projects, not on any availability of federal or provincial support.


"We're proud of where we've got to so far (and) we think this technology is viable," Williams said.


"Very early"


Grand Forks, N.D.-based Ethanol Producer magazine, for one, had quoted another Shell spokesman in December as saying Shell's first choice for a Manitoba facility was at Portage la Prairie, with an unnamed "alternative site" scouted closer to Winnipeg.


The magazine said Shell had dubbed its plan the Solstice Cellulosic Ethanol project, and that it would use about 350 tonnes of primarily wheat straw per day to produce about 40 million litres of ethanol per year, using Iogen's technology.


The Shell spokesman was quoted in the article as saying the project's development was only in its "very, very, very early" stages.


Iogen Corp. said Monday it would "continue to employ approximately 110 people at its Ottawa headquarters" and plans also to expand its own line of technologies for making advanced and cellulosic biofuels.


Iogen said its own industrial enzymes business, which serves customers in the grain processing, animal feed, pulp and paper and textiles industries, "will not be affected by these changes."


Shell's other "pathways" on advanced biofuels still include a joint venture with Wisconsin-based Virent Energy Systems on a demo-scale plant at Madison, making ethanol using plant sugars from cellulose which could include wheat straw, corn stover and/or sugarcane pulp.


The Wisconsin demo plant, using Virent's patented catalyst technology, was launched in 2010 using beet sugar.


Country Guide, April 30, 2012


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Jet Biofuel Produced From Mustard Seeds


The skies over Ottawa are rumbling with the sound of a mid-sized business jet that's propelled by the product of Saskatchewan fields.


Researchers are test-flying a Dassault Falcon 20 plane that burns a biofuel blend derived from modified seeds of the Ethiopian mustard plant, Brassica carinata.


The experiment could result in a more sustainable jet fuel for the world, and bring additional revenues to Prairie farmers.


The project is a collaboration among Agrisoma Biosicences Inc., the National Research Council (NRC), Honeywell UOP Inc. and Saskatoon's Genome Prairie-led Prairie Gold project.


Brassica carinata is drought-and heat-tolerant and can be grown in areas not suited for canola, said Mejda Lortie, Agrisoma's director of regulatory affairs.


The company's variety of the plant, branded Resonance, is an oil feedstock that was grown near Kincaid, Sask., in the summer of 2011.


"It is a tough cookie," she said. "It can grow in poorer soils or soil that doesn't have the characteristics that would support, for example, canola production."


Doug Heath, project manager with Genome Prairie, said Brassica carinata and another plant, Camalina sativa, are being developed for industrial uses. Both are oilseeds and non-food crops.


"The goal is to grow both of these crops down in the Palliser Triangle area where traditionally canola wasn't always a guaranteed crop," Heath said. "Even though right now it takes a few more days to mature compared to canola, that's fine down in southern Saskatchewan and southern Alberta."


The test flights, conducted in partnership with the NRC with funding from the Government of Canada's Clean Transportation Initiatives, will evaluate the Resonance-based biojet fuel under a number of flight conditions to provide the world's first ever real-time, inflight emissions measurements for a biojet fuel.


The tests are being done with a 50/50 blend of carinata jet fuel and petroleum-based fuel which is being used in a modified Dassault Falcon 20 twin-engined jet. A Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star chase plane, equipped to measure inflight emissions while flying in formation, will monitor emissions in real time at altitude.


The test flights are expected to be completed by early June and researchers will then analyze the results. If they get positive results, Lortie said they will be looking to scale-up production.

Postmedia News, May 9, 2012


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Biomass Holds Promise for Ontario Farmers - London Research Report 


Biomass is more than an environmental opportunity for Ontario farmers, says a new report -- it can also make them money.

The report, Assessment of the Business Case for Purpose-Grown Biomass in Ontario, says biomass crops such as miscanthus, switchgrass, sorghum and tall prairie grass can produce profitable energy.

And Ontario farmers, who have the potential to grow what the report calls "hundreds of thousands of tonnes" of these crops, can fetch a margin comparable to that of traditional cash crops (such as corn, wheat and soybeans). The acceptable price of purpose-grown biomass at farm gate in Ontario, says the report, is $104.4 to $148.7 a tonne.

That's a significant finding. Profitability has been one of the biggest criticisms of energy crops. But it's relative compared to some other forms of energy, says Don Hewson, managing director of the Bowman Centre for Technology Commercialization in London, which had a lead role in the study.

"Biomass is presently not price competitive with coal and natural gas. However, in local markets, biomass is less than half the cost of heating oil and propane, which now supplies a large portion of rural Ontario," Hewson says.

Indeed, space heating applications, using heating oil and propane are potentially profitable markets for purpose-grown biomass pellets in Ontario.

Hewson admits large energy utilities are currently best served by coal or natural gas. But, he adds, in the near term other opportunities could arise such as agricultural biomass exports to Europe.

The centre says the business case for energy crops is expected to improve even more as additional acreage is grown, especially as plant breeding and advances in production practices help increase yields.

"There is a future for the purpose-grown biomass industry," says the report. "Farmers are encouraged to include these crops in Ontario's agricultural system."


Bioproducts Update, in AgriLink, May 7, 2012


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CWB Halts Organic Marketing 


A restructured CWB has no plans to initiate any further sales of organic grains.


CWB, as the Canadian Wheat Board recently retitled itself, announced Monday it has carried out all purchases and deliveries for its 2011-12 organic marketing program and ended that program entirely.


Winnipeg-based CWB's current Organic Fixed Spread Contract program will also be discontinued when the 2011-12 crop year ends on July 31, the company said Monday.


Organic exporters won't have to get export licences from the board after that date, although such licenses are still required in the interim, CWB said.


The end of the organic program also means the end of CWB's Organic Sector Market Development Initiative (OSMDI), which has completed its 2011-12 funding year and will be discontinued.


OSMDI had provided over $500,000 to 20 different projects since 2008 and contributed to various organic research initiatives and extension events, CWB said.


The moves come as part of the "ongoing restructuring of CWB services and priorities."


According to CWB officials cited earlier this week in media reports, by the end of 2012, that restructuring will involve the layoffs or departures of over 300 employees who are or were with the board as of early 2011.


The Canadian Press on Wednesday quoted CWB officials as saying there will be 288 employees on the company's staff by the end of this month and "about 100" by the end of 2012.

Country Guide, May 9, 2012


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G8 Urged to Elevate Food Security Issues 

Anti-poverty activists are urging Group of Eight leaders to give more attention to food security when they hold a summit this month in the United States.

The G8, which includes the world's biggest economies of the United States, France, Britain, Italy, Germany, Canada, Japan and Russia, is scheduled to discuss food security on the second day of its May 18-19 summit at Camp David in Maryland.

The meeting comes as a $22 billion food aid package committed to by the G8 at the 2009 L'Aquila Summit in Italy is expiring and while the developing world is continuing to see food price volatility, extreme weather shocks, famine, civil unrest and armed conflicts.

"The G8 leaders have already agreed to do something about global hunger," said Adam Taylor, vice president of advocacy for the Christian anti-poverty group World Vision. "Now is the time to renew and fulfill those commitments, making life-saving investments in solutions that will improve food security and reduce child malnutrition."

The United Nations reported this year that Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Chad, northern Cameroon and Nigeria were suffering from a combination of drought, poverty, high grain prices, environmental degradation and chronic under-development, leaving more than 10 million struggling to survive.

Neil Watkins, director of policy and campaigns for the U.S. anti-poverty group ActionAid, said coordinated action by G8 members is needed to help poor countries develop policies that enhance food security.

"The largest L'Aquila donors are making progress on the financial aspect of their pledge, but they're falling far short on their promises to back developing countries' agricultural development plans," he said.

Watkins urged the G8 leaders to "put their money where their mouths are" and support "innovative programs" like the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program, which seeks to implement strategic aid plans on the country level with the goal of cutting hunger and poverty by half by 2015.

U.S. President Barack Obama, who is hosting the G8 summit, indicated last week he would put the focus on food security by inviting African leaders to join in the discussions.

Presidents Yayi Boni of Benin, John Mills of Ghana and Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania, as well as Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia, were extended invitations to attend the Camp David meeting.

"President Obama has majored on agriculture and food security as part of his foreign aid agenda," Gawain Kripke of Oxfam America told the Voice of America. "And he successfully cajoled other G8 leaders and many others to take that agenda up three years ago.

"So our expectation is that President Obama will do the same here in Camp David."

The International Food Policy Research Institute, a Washington food security think tank, last month urged the developed nations to discourage trade restrictions that exacerbate food price swings and to reduce the competition between biofuels and food production.

To fight food insecurity, the group said, the international community should also "consolidate global and regional agricultural growth strategies" and concentrate on the ones that are working, while stressing sustainability and committing to "concrete action on long-term development challenges, including poor nutrition, degraded soils and scarce water."


United Press International, Inc., May 8, 2012 


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Report of the Commissioner of the Environment and of Sustainable Development 


The Commissioner of the Environment and of Sustainable Development, Scott Vaughan, tabled his 2012 Spring Report in the House of Commons this week. 


The Report examines the following issues:


Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act

Government did not meet Kyoto commitments


Meeting Canada's 2020 Climate Change Commitments

Climate targets for 2020 unlikely to be met


Federal Contaminated Sites and their Impacts

Dealing with sites shows progress but major challenges remain


In addition, the Report contains:


The Commissioner's Perspective

Protecting the environment makes good business sense


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New CAST Publication: The Direct Relationship Between Animal Health and Food Safety Outcomes  

Many groups in society, including politicians, activists, scientists, and stakeholders, are advocating significant changes to livestock production practices. These changes include modification of stocking densities, limitations on antimicrobial use, and requirements for outdoor "experiences." Such changes may affect animal health. Simultaneously, consumers are demanding virtually risk-free food, and they think food safety should be addressed on-farm as well as during processing. Understanding the complex relationship between animal health and food safety is critical.


The Commentary looks at the pressures to change livestock rearing methods, evidence to support the direct public health impact on human illness days, and food safety and inspection service regulations. The authors use indirect evidence, diagrams, and graphs to deliver their findings about the ways that healthy animals result in safer food.


The publication includes specific information from studies and numerous cited sources. The authors believe that "it should be clear that the health of the animals within the food animal production system impacts many aspects of the system far removed from the animals themselves....Based on the research described here, it is evident that the national policy impacts of changing animal health can and should be modeled." The paper concludes that more research is needed in this crucial area of food safety.


The Commentary is available as a free download on the CAST website at


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Call for Session Proposals: Canadian Science Policy Conference 2012 


The Canadian Science Policy Conference (CSPC) 2012 is inviting members of the science policy community to submit proposals for the conference program Nov 5-6, 2012 in Calgary, Alberta. All submissions must be received online by end of day June 8, 2012.


This year's conference sessions will be under the following 4 themes:

Innovating on energy supply and demand for more sustainable resource management: a critical test for the integration of science, technology and policy;

Re-imagining Canadian Healthcare: How innovation in science and policy can contribute to a more sustainable system;

Food, Fuel and Farmers: Agriculture at the convergence of multi-disciplinary science policy issues;



CSPC has become the focal point for Canadian science policy issues, in large part because of the active participation it encourages from the science policy community. Bringing together professionals from business, academia, government and non-profit, CSPC provides an annual forum to discuss the most relevant issues to science, technology and innovation in Canada during its conference sessions.


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Position Available - Agronomy Manager

Technology Crops International, a premier supplier of specialty plant oils, has an immediate opening for an Agronomy Manager at their location in Prince Edward Island.
Application Deadline: June 1, 2012


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Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food


The Committee met on Wednesday, May 9, 2012 for its study of the Animal Products Supply Chain (Red meat).


Witnesses appeared from:

Beef Value Chain Roundtable (Blair Coomber, Government Co-Chair, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Director General, Multilateral Relations, Policy and Engagement Directorate; Dennis Laycraft, Industry Co-chair; Executive Vice-President, Canadian Cattlemen's Association)

Pork Value Chain Roundtable (Susie Miller, Government Co-Chair, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Director General, Sector Development and Analysis Directorate; Jurgen Preugchas, Industry Member
Past President, Canadian Pork Council)

Sheep Value Chain Roundtable (John Ross, Government Co-Chair, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Director, Animal Industry Division; Andrew Gordanier, Industry Co-Chair, Chair, Canadian Sheep Federation).



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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

Canadian Society for BioEngineering (CSBE-SCGAB) Annual Technical Conference, Orillia, Ontario, July 15-18, 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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Frances Rodenburg, Editor