Seeding decisions harvest opportunities for Canadian farmers

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With innovations in crop science, production practices, and marketing, Canadian farm operators are growing a wider variety of field crops while also expanding their production area. Canada’s total field crop area increased seven per cent from 2011 to 92.7 million acres in 2016.

The largest crops in terms of acreage were canola, spring wheat, alfalfa and barley. As well, pulses and soybeans have shown considerable growth, the result of market opportunities and the development of seed varieties more suitable to broader environmental regions.

The Prairie provinces led in field crop acreage, with 83.3 per cent of the total area in 2016.

The average field crop area per agricultural operation has doubled over the last 35 years. Canola acreage was almost six times larger in 2016 than it was in 1981, while lentil acreage was over 44 times greater in 2016 than it was in 1981.

Read more here… this information is taken from an analytical series based on 2016 Census of Agriculture data.

 

Wheat Midge Tolerance Gene Detected in Soft White Wheat

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Through recent advancements in marker technology, SeCan recently discovered that the majority of the soft white wheat varieties grown in Western Canada contain the Sm1 trait for midge tolerance – and for this reason they will require stewardship. The Midge Tolerant Wheat Stewardship Team provides the background and an explanation of why stewardship is necessary:

Sm1, the only known gene that confers tolerance to wheat midge, was first identified in soft red winter wheat varieties. In the late 1990s, Canadian public breeders worked to cross this naturally occurring trait into red spring wheat (CWRS and Extra Strong) for the benefit of western Canadian producers. These first products were launched in spring 2010 (AC Unity VB, AC Goodeve VB, AC Glencross VB).

Since that time, over 20 varieties of Midge Tolerant Wheat have been registered in many classes, including CWRS, CPSR, CWES, CWAD, and GP/SP.

As Sm1 products neared commercialization, entomologists agreed that the risk of midge becoming resistant to the trait was highly likely. They suggested a stewardship plan incorporating an interspersed refuge (10 per cent of a susceptible variety) was necessary to preserve the useful life of the Sm1 trait.

First evidence of Sm1 in soft white spring (SWS) wheat varieties came from field tests from the General Purpose Co-op during the 2015 growing season – conducted by the Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) Manitoba wheat midge program (Curt McCartney and Sheila Wolfe), and the University of Manitoba midge program (Alejandro Costamagna, Ian Wise, and Roxanne Georgison). These varieties were identified as midge resistant based upon dissection of wheat spikes.

In 2016, in coordination with SWS Breeder Dr. Harpinder Randhawa, the entire SWS Co-op was tested. The data was all based on dissection of spike samples from the Co-op field tests.

Also, in 2016, Dr. Curtis Pozniak from the Crop Development Centre (CDC) at the University of Saskatchewan, tested a marker for Sm1 on

Wheat Co-op entries. This was done to see if his DNA marker accurately predicted the field-based phenotype (i.e. kernel damage).

The DNA marker developed by CDC was done in conjunction with researchers at AAFC. To date, the marker results appear to match the results from the spike dissections.

Based on the work above, the following varieties carry Sm1 and are midge tolerant: AAC Awesome (CWSP), AAC Chiffon, AAC Indus and AC Sadash. AAC Paramount is suspected to carry Sm1 but needs to be confirmed by field test in 2017.

AC Andrew has been tested by marker and in the field, and does not contain Sm1. For this reason it will be an appropriate refuge for all tolerant varieties.

Why Stewardship Now?

If Sm1 varieties have been grown in other regions without a refuge, why do we need a refuge in Western Canada? Other regions, such as the UK and Eastern U.S., do not have a large acreage of wheat in rotation. In Western Canada, the traditional fit for SWS wheat was the irrigation area of southern Alberta – this area typically has little to no midge pressure. However, in the last seven to eight years, we have seen growth in soft white acres into non-traditional areas to supply the feed and ethanol market. In comparison to other classes, the SWS acres are relatively small. This is fortunate, but still needs to be addressed.

The fact we have been growing SWS without a refuge puts the Sm1 trait at risk. Midge tolerant wheat saves producers $40-60 million per year ($36 per acre). There are no replacement tolerance genes. “There is No Plan B.”

For this reason we need to act as quickly as possible to put a stewardship plan in place for the benefit of all wheat producers (not just soft white).

The Stewardship Plan

Seed growers will add refuge to all future seed stocks released of AAC Awesome, AAC Paramount (once field results confirm resistance), AAC Indus, AAC Chiffon and AC Sadash.

Varieties that have not yet been released have limited volumes. Remediation will be a much greater challenge for a variety like AC Sadash that is currently grown on several hundred thousand acres, making up over half of the total SWS acres.

For AC Sadash there were two options to protect Sm1: 1) Work with SeCan members and the industry to add refuge to all seed stocks available, as soon as realistically possible; 2) Deregister AC Sadash to remove it from the system, and replace it with the new products that have refuge blended in.

SeCan has decided it is in the best interests of the industry that AC Sadash remain available – and trust the industry will be willing to participate in implementing a stewardship plan.

The hope is that growers will “do what is right” to protect the trait for the benefit of future generations of wheat producers.

How Can You Prevent Creating Resistance?

If you grow one of these SWS varieties, add a refuge: one bushel of AC Andrew to every nine bushels of tolerant SWS variety.

If you’re unable to add the refuge, spray insecticide to eliminate the possibility of resistant midge (until you are able to add refuge).

In the near future, we hope to have the Sm1 marker commercially available. This will give us the opportunity to monitor farm level samples of AC Sadash for the appropriate level of refuge to ensure the stewardship is being followed.

New Alberta labour standards for paid farm workers tabled

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(Photo: Government of Alberta)

Waged farm workers in Alberta will be allowed to unionize and get new rules governing vacation pay and youth employment, under a provincial labour bill tabled Wednesday.

The new rules are tucked into Bill 17, the Fair and Family-friendly Workplaces Act, which went through first reading Wednesday and, if passed, would take effect Jan. 1, 2018.

The bulk of the bill is devoted to new employment standards for workers province-wide, relating mainly to parental leave and various types of unpaid leave.

It also raises Alberta’s minimum age of work to 13, citing the International Labour Organization’s Convention 138 on youth employment.

The bill allows the provincial Labour Relations Code to apply to the agricultural sector, giving “waged, non-family” farm employees the ability to unionize if they choose and to bargain collectively.

Farm-specific amendments would exclude family members from the Labour Relations Code, the province said. The rules would also allow the province to appoint a public emergency tribunal to halt labour disputes and/or arbitrate agreements in cases where a strike or lockout could harm livestock or damage crops.

The bill also sets out Employment Standards Code provisions affecting waged farm workers but specifically excludes family members, using the definition of “family member” previously seen in amendments to the province’s controversial Bill 6, the Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act.

The province emphasized Wednesday the employment standards laid out in Bill 17 apply only on farms and ranches with paid employees who are not the owner or related to the owner.

Unpaid farm and ranch workers, such as relatives, friends and neighbours helping out “will not be affected,” the province said.

Children doing chores or taking part in activities such as 4-H, casual work or branding parties, or helping neighbours and friends, or taking part in “recreational activities,” such as hunting on farmland, will also not be affected, the province said.

However, standards outlined for youth under the Employment Standards Code would also apply to paid young employees on farms and ranches, “after consultation on light work and hazardous work with agriculture and other stakeholders.”

For waged farm workers, the new bill lays out standards for general holiday pay, requiring that farm employees who work a general holiday get straight time pay plus either general pay at a rate of 4.2 per cent of the previous four weeks’ wages, or an alternate day off as agreed to by the employer and employee.

Vacation and vacation pay entitlements in the Employment Standards Code would also apply for waged farm workers, but would be calculated on total wages, not on a maximum of 44 hours per week.

Four days of rest for waged farm workers would be provided for every 28 days at the employer’s discretion if the employer and employee can’t agree on dates.

Greenhouses, nurseries, mushroom and sod farms continue not to be considered farms under the Employment Standards Code, the province said.

Existing provincial standards on hours of work and overtime would not apply for farm workers, the province said; minimum wage rules would apply.

The added employment standards and labour relations rules for farm workers stem from recommendations from two technical working groups studying legislation for farms and ranches, the province said Wednesday.

Other rules in the new bill applying to workers provincewide will see maternity leave extended by one week, to 16 weeks; parental leave extended to 52 weeks, up from 37; and compassionate care leave extended to 27 weeks, from eight.

The bill also proposes to guarantee job protection for new unpaid leaves such as long-term illness and injury leave; personal and family responsibility leave ; bereavement leave; domestic violence leave; and leaves relating to critical illness of a child and to death or disappearance of a child due to crime.

Workers would be eligible for all job-protected leaves following a minimum 90 days of employment.

The bill also proposes to remove a provision that allowed employers to apply for a permit to pay persons with disabilities less than minimum wage, the province said.

Source: AgCanada.com

Arctic stronghold of world’s seeds flooded after permafrost melts

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The Svalbard ‘doomsday’ seed vault was built to protect millions of food crops from climate change, wars and natural disasters.

No seeds were lost but the ability of the rock vault to provide failsafe protection against all disasters is now threatened by climate change.

It was designed as an impregnable deep-freeze to protect the world’s most precious seeds from any global disaster and ensure humanity’s food supply forever. But the Global Seed Vault, buried in a mountain deep inside the Arctic circle, has been breached after global warming produced extraordinary temperatures over the winter, sending meltwater gushing into the entrance tunnel.

The vault is on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen and contains almost a million packets of seeds, each a variety of an important food crop. When it was opened in 2008, the deep permafrost through which the vault was sunk was expected to provide “failsafe” protection against “the challenge of natural or man-made disasters.”

But soaring temperatures in the Arctic at the end of the world’s hottest ever recorded year led to melting and heavy rain, when light snow should have been falling. “It was not in our plans to think that the permafrost would not be there and that it would experience extreme weather like that,” said Hege Njaa Aschim, from the Norwegian government, which owns the vault.

Plastic boxes containing plant seeds inside the international Svalbard Global Seed Vault on Spitsbergen, Norway.

“A lot of water went into the start of the tunnel and then it froze to ice, so it was like a glacier when you went in,” she told the Guardian. Fortunately, the meltwater did not reach the vault itself, the ice has been hacked out, and the precious seeds remain safe for now at the required storage temperature of -18 C.

But the breach has questioned the ability of the vault to survive as a lifeline for humanity if catastrophe strikes. “It was supposed to [operate] without the help of humans, but now we are watching the seed vault 24 hours a day,” Aschim said. “We must see what we can do to minimize all the risks and make sure the seed bank can take care of itself.”

The vault’s managers are now waiting to see if the extreme heat of this winter was a one-off or will be repeated or even exceeded as climate change heats the planet. The end of 2016 saw average temperatures over 7 C above normal on Spitsbergen, pushing the permafrost above melting point.

“The question is whether this is just happening now, or will it escalate?” said Aschim. The Svalbard archipelago, of which Spitsbergen is part, has warmed rapidly in recent decades, according to Ketil Isaksen, from Norway’s Meteorological Institute.

“The Arctic and especially Svalbard warms up faster than the rest of the world. The climate is changing dramatically and we are all amazed at how quickly it is going,” Isaksen told Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet.

The vault managers are now taking precautions, including major work to waterproof the 100m-long tunnel into the mountain and digging trenches into the mountainside to channel meltwater and rain away. They have also removed electrical equipment from the tunnel that produced some heat and installed pumps in the vault itself in case of a future flood.

Aschim said there was no option but to find solutions to ensure the enduring safety of the vault: “We have to find solutions. It is a big responsibility and we take it very seriously. We are doing this for the world.”

“This is supposed to last for eternity,” said Åsmund Asdal at the Nordic Genetic Resource Centre, which operates the seed vault.

Source: The Guardian

Canadian young leaders chosen for Youth Ag-Summit

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Bayer, together with partners Groene Kring (GK) and Fédération des Jeunes Agriculteurs (FJA), is pleased to announce that 100 bright young minds have been selected to participate in the third global Youth Ag-Summit, which will take place in Brussels, Belgium from Oct. 9-13, 2017.

This year’s Summit is themed “Feeding a Hungry Planet,” and aims to address the UN Sustainability Goals of ending hunger, achieving food security and promoting sustainable agriculture.

Four of the 100 chosen delegates will represent Canada at the Youth Ag-Summit: Cassandra Hayward, Halifax, Nova Scotia; Brandon Hebor, Toronto, Ontario; Cameron Olson, Rocky View, Alberta; Alexis Wagner, St. John’s, Newfoundland.

Hailing from 49 countries and aged between 18 and 25, the chosen delegates share a passion for agriculture and a vision of a world without hunger. During the summit, they will share their diverse experiences and work together to generate innovative, sustainable and actionable solutions to global food security challenges. Across five days, delegates will undertake group projects and participate in industry tours, as well as learning from expert guest speakers. Their mission is to come up with concrete new ideas which can drive agricultural progress across the globe and be put into practice back home.

“The agricultural industry can contribute strongly to achieving some of the key UN Sustainable Development Goals, but this also requires the active involvement of the next generation. The Youth Ag-Summit aims to give young leaders the opportunity to foster their ideas, share best practices and explore the role of modern agriculture in feeding a hungry planet,” said Liam Condon, member of the Board of Management of Bayer AG and head of the Crop Science Division.

 Participants selected through an essay contest

To be considered for participation, prospective delegates were required to submit an essay of 1,500 words on the topic of food insecurity. A total of nearly 1,200 essays from 95 different countries were submitted, all of which were reviewed by a panel of industry experts.

“The applicants put a lot of effort into their essays. We reviewed them based on their views on sustainable food security and agriculture. Reading them was a valuable experience. Their contributions will form the basis for discussion at the Youth Ag-Summit in October,” said Giel Boey, national chairman of Groene Kring.

Young people can help tackle global food security challenges

 This year’s winning applicants focused their essay submissions on the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals and the role of youth in helping to feed a growing world population. Ideas put forward related to improving education and awareness of best practices, increasing gender equality within the sector, changing consumption patterns, and mitigating the impact of climate change on crop yield, to name a few.

“As a Belgian youth agricultural organization, we look forward to welcoming and introducing young leaders to local farming challenges and hearing their global and local perspectives. It will be a true pleasure to share ideas and thoughts with so many passionate minds,” said Guillaume Van Binst, secretary general of the Fédération des Jeunes Agriculteurs.

The delegates hail from the following 49 countries: Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Denmark, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Guatemala, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Lithuania, Malaysia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Paraguay, Philippines, Poland, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Tanzania, Thailand, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom, USA, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe.

Visit www.youthagsummit.com to meet the delegates and to learn more about the Summit. Follow the latest news on @YouthAgSummit or https://www.facebook.com/YouthAgSummit/.

CSTA Recruiting for Executive Director Position

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Crosby Devitt, the current executive director, will be leaving to pursue a new position as vice-president, Strategic Development with the Grain Farmers of Ontario. (GFO). The executive board members will be leading the recruitment activities for the CSTA executive director position and have engaged Scott Wolfe Management Inc. to assist with this important recruitment.

Link for more information: http://cdnseed.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/CSTA-Executive-Director.pdf

Canada’s 2016 Census of Agriculture

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Farm operators are slightly older and there are fewer farms in Canada than in 2011, but farms are on average larger and more area is devoted to crop production according to the results from the 2016 Census of Agriculture.

Agricultural data has been collected in Canada since 1666 and 2016 marks the 22nd Census of Agriculture since Confederation. The census paints a sweeping picture of the agricultural sector. It tracks changes in crops and livestock, as well as the evolution of farming practices and mechanization, from the power of horses to horsepower. Canadian farmers have continually taken advantage of technological advances to more efficiently deliver a wider variety of agricultural products to Canadians and the world.

Total number of agricultural operations, Canada, 1961 to 2016

Chart 1: Total number of agricultural operations, Canada, 1961 to 2016 While total farm area edged down from 2011, the area dedicated to cropland rose to 93.4 million acres in 2016. Although urbanization may reduce cropland available in some areas, a net increase in cropland is attributable to a shift in land use. Farmers have converted land formerly used as pasture, summerfallow or other less productive land into productive area. Canola remains the biggest crop, accounting for more than one-fifth of all cropland.

The number of farm operators declined from 2011 while the average age continued to rise. However, the proportion of operators under 35 years of age edged up for the first time since 1991. Despite the increase in the average age, only 1 in 12 operations reported having a formal succession plan laying out how the operation will be transferred to the next generation of farmers.

Primary agriculture accounted for 1.5% of national gross domestic product (agricultural gross domestic product) in 2013. However, this percentage rises to 4.6% when agricultural input and service providers, primary producers, food and beverage processors, agriculture food retail and wholesale industries are taken into account (Statistics Canada. 2013. Special tabulation, based on 2013 gross domestic product by industry).

Agricultural operations in Canada employed 280,315 people in 2015. From a trade perspective, agricultural goods accounted for 2.2% of Canada’s total imports and 4.6% of total exports. In terms of value, almost one-third of Canadian agricultural production was exported in 2013.

There are fewer farms, but the farms are larger

The results of the 2016 Census of Agriculture show that the agriculture industry continues to consolidate. There were 193,492 farms counted in 2016, down 5.9% from the previous census in 2011. However, this was the lowest rate of decline in 20 years.

While farm numbers have declined, the average area per farm increased from 779 acres in 2011 to an average of 820 acres in 2016.

The area dedicated to cropland rose 6.9% from 2011 to 93.4 million acres (chart at right) in 2016, as land that was flooded during the 2011 Census was brought back into production, use of summerfallow decreased and marginal land was converted into productive cropland.

Younger operators and women make up a larger share of farmers

The 2016 Census of Agriculture counted 271,935 farm operators on agricultural operations, down from 293,925 in 2011. Farm operators under 35 years of age accounted for an increasing share of total operators and their absolute numbers also rose – from 24,120 in 2011 to 24,850 in 2016. This was the first absolute increase in this category of operators since 1991.

However, the fastest growing age group was farm operators aged 55 years and older. The average age of operators – individuals who make management decisions for the agricultural enterprise – edged up from 54 years in 2011 to 55 years in 2016. This trend parallels the ageing of the general population. Among Canadians aged 15 to 64, the share of people aged 55 to 64 years old (all baby boomers) reached a record high 21.0% in 2016.

Women account for an increasing share of farm operators, rising from 27.4% in 2011 to 28.7% in 2016. In the 2016 Census of Agriculture, 77,970 women were listed as farm operators. Women were most prevalent among farm operators aged 35 to 54 years (30.7%), followed by those aged 55 and older (27.7%) and those under 35 years of age (26.4%).

Many farm operators also do off-farm work

The 2016 Census of Agriculture found that 44.4% of all farm operators did some off-farm work, usually as a means of supplementing their total income. Just over 3 in 10 (30.2%) operators worked an average of 30 hours a week or more off the farm.

British Columbia had the highest incidence of off-farm work, as well as the highest proportion of farms with total sales under $10,000. Just over half (51.1%) of farm operators in British Columbia reported receiving a wage or salary from another job or operating a business unrelated to the farm.

Corporations more likely to have succession plans

The transfer of agricultural assets as farmers transition out of the sector can happen in a number of ways. Farm assets can be sold in whole or in part and the buyer can be a new entrant or someone looking to expand their existing operation. Farm operations can also be transferred to other parties via a will or written succession plan.

In 2016, 8.4% of farms nationally reported having a written succession plan. Among sole proprietorships, 4.9% had a written succession plan compared with 16.3% of family and non-family corporations.

Just over half (51.7%) of all Canadian farms were sole proprietorships in 2016. Partnerships accounted for 22.9% of farms, while 22.5% were family corporations and 2.7% were non-family corporations. The rate of incorporation among farm operations rose from 19.8% in 2011 to 25.1% in 2016.

Chart 3: Number of agricultural operations by operation type, Canada, 2016 More oilseed and grain-type farms

Oilseed and grain-type farms remain the most common type of farm, increasing from 30.0% in 2011 to 32.9% in 2016 (chart at right). In the Prairie provinces, 46.3% of farms fell into this farm type.

Beef-type farms remain the second most common farm type, accounting for 18.6% of agricultural operations, up slightly from 18.2% in 2011.

Prairie farmers drive gains in field crop area

Total farm area decreased 0.9% from 160.2 million acres in 2011 to 158.7 million acres in 2016. Shifts in tenure were responsible for some of this decline, as rental agreements tend to cover only productive land. The area of cropland increased as farmers cleared, drained and upgraded marginal lands to support crop production, shifted practices to reduce the need for summerfallow, and returned land which had been flooded in 2011 back into production. While cropland grew, woodlands and wetlands as well as pasture decreased.

Farm size varied considerably based on region and farm type. The largest operations on average were found in Saskatchewan (1,784 acres), while the smallest on average were located in Newfoundland and Labrador (174 acres).

Field crop area grew from 69.7 million acres in 2011 to 78.5 million acres in 2016, largely driven by increases in the Prairie provinces. In Manitoba and Saskatchewan, the return of cropland, which had been reported as idle in the last census due to flooding, contributed to the rise in field crop area. Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick were the only provinces to report a decrease in field crop area from 2011 to 2016.

The area of hay and alfalfa cropland declined 16.6% (-2.8 million acres), while the area of pasture decreased 4.4% (-2.2 million acres), due in part to a smaller beef herd. Some of the hay and pasture land was converted to field crop production.

Growing diversity of crops

Farm operators continued to diversify the crops they produce in response to changing market demands and improved crop varieties. For example, lentils are now the third-largest crop in Saskatchewan following canola and spring wheat, as market demand increased from foreign buyers. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Canada was the largest producer of lentils in the world in 2014.

Meanwhile, there has been an expansion of soybeans, corn for grain and corn for silage in the Prairie provinces, the result of new varieties suitable to the growing conditions of the region. Soybean area in Manitoba more than doubled – from 705,032 acres in 2011 to 1,645,397 acres in 2016. In Central Canada, corn and soybeans remained the largest field crops by area, while fodder crops and potatoes were the largest crop areas in Atlantic Canada.

Livestock sector characterized by exits and consolidation

The beef sector experienced strong international demand for Canadian beef breeding stock from 2011 to 2016, mainly from the United States. Demand was largely driven by the smaller size of the U.S. beef herd from 2010 to 2012 as a result of drought conditions. Increased demand, coupled with limited supply, drove prices to a record high in 2015. Some producers chose to take advantage of higher prices to sell their cattle and focus on other agricultural activities, such as crop production, or opted to leave farming entirely.

The number of beef cattle decreased 2.4% from 2011 to 6,883,906 heads in 2016, while the number of operations reporting beef cattle declined 12.3% to 62,760. Operations reporting beef cattle had an average of 110 head at the time of the 2016 Census of Agriculture, up 11.3% from 2011.

The beef sector is generally divided in two, with cow-calf operations specializing in raising breeding stock and feedlots specializing in feeding cattle destined for market. The Prairie provinces accounted for just over 80% of the total beef cattle in Canada.

On cow-calf operations, the average beef herd increased from 74 head in 2011 to 84 in 2016. Over the same period, feedlot operations grew on average from 185 head of beef cattle in 2011 to 212 head in 2016.

Total number of cattle and calves, Canada, 1956 to 2016

Chart 4: Total number of cattle and calves, Canada, 1956 to 2016While the average number of head per farm increased, it was not enough to offset an overall decline in producer numbers. The size of the beef breeding herd (beef cows and beef heifers for breeding herd replacement) fell 1.0%, from 4.5 million animals in 2011 to 4.4 million in 2016. While the 2016 Census marks the second consecutive decrease in the beef breeding herd, the rate of decline slowed from the 22.3% drop reported in the 2011 Census.

Meanwhile, milk production rose 8.7% despite fewer dairy cows. Increased production per animal was attributable to improvements in animal nutrition, genetics and production practices.

The average number of dairy cows per farm rose from 65 cows in 2011 to 73 in 2016, a continuation of a long-term upward trend. The number of farms reporting dairy cows decreased 13.4% from 2011 to 12,895 in 2016. The total number of dairy cows fell 2.4% to 939,071 head as farm operations consolidated.

Pig numbers rose from 12.7 million in 2011 to 14.1 million in 2016, while the number of farms reporting pigs increased from 7,371 to 8,402. The growth was due to better market conditions, which boosted the price of pigs relative to the period before the last census. Prior to the 2011 Census of Agriculture, the pig sector was beset by high feed costs, disease and low pig prices, resulting in many farmers leaving the sector and lower pig numbers.

The number of farms reporting hens and chickens increased 15.8% from 2011 to 23,910 in 2016. Meanwhile, the number of birds rose from 133.0 million to 145.5 million.

Blueberries, cranberries, and greenhouse veggies bright spots in the horticulture sector

Fruits, berries, and nuts acreage rose 6.7% from 2011, mainly due to blueberries and cranberries. Blueberry area continued to expand in Quebec and Atlantic Canada (principally areas of managed lowbush blueberries) and in British Columbia (where highbush blueberries dominate). Nationally, blueberry area has consistently increased over the past several censuses and now stands at 196,026 acres.

The increase in blueberry area was largely driven by growing international demand. Canada exported 94.8 million kilograms of frozen blueberries in 2016, up 33.7% from 2011. Meanwhile, exports of fresh blueberries rose 84.4% to 37.1 million kilograms. The United States remains Canada’s top destination for both fresh and frozen blueberries. Total blueberry exports to the United States increased 86.0% from 2011 and the United States accounted for 71.0% of total blueberry exports in 2016, up from 55.3% in 2011.

Cranberry area increased from 15,191 acres in 2011 to 18,134 acres in 2016. Exports of fresh cranberries also increased, rising 77.6% from 2011 to 63.5 million kilograms in 2016. Both blueberries and cranberries are amenable to mechanized harvesting, allowing operators to increase the scale of their operation with a minimal increase in the number of employees.

In contrast to blueberries and cranberries, the area of strawberries and raspberries declined as the commodities faced disease outbreaks as well as labour and market challenges. Raspberry area fell 23.7% from 2011 to 5,651 acres in 2016, while strawberry area decreased 8.4% to 10,155 acres.

Apple orchard area continued to decline, with the largest decreases in Nova Scotia and Quebec. Overall, the total acres dedicated to apple production fell 3.2% from 2011 to 43,631 acres in 2016. While area of production declined, the area is used more intensively. For example, the yield of apples in Canada increased from 7.2 tons per acre in 1996 to 10.0 tons per acre in 2016.

Chart 6: Area of selected field vegetables, Canada, 2011 and 2016 Greenhouse vegetable area rose 22.5% from 2011 to 165.4 million square feet in 2016. Ontario continued to lead the provinces, accounting for more than two-thirds of all greenhouse vegetable area. From 2011 to 2016, Ontario saw almost no change in the number of operations in the province, but a 29.8% increase in the area dedicated to greenhouse vegetables. Over this period, Ontario added 25.7 million square feet – more than the total area of greenhouse vegetable production in every other province combined except British Columbia.

The number of farms reporting field vegetables rose 10.3% from 2011 to 9,994 in 2016. However, most of the new farms reporting vegetables were small. Total field vegetable area in Canada increased 1.0% to 270,294. Despite a 16.9% decrease in sweet corn area since 2011, sweet corn remained the largest vegetable crop area in 2016.

Less nursery, Christmas tree and sod area

Nursery operations reported 17.8% less area in 2016 (49,073 acres) from five years earlier, while Christmas tree area declined 16.0% to 58,780 acres and sod area fell 10.6% to 56,719 acres. Lower sod and nursery area were driven by a shift away from the construction of single-detached dwellings in favour of multi-dwelling type buildings, and a move away from traditional landscaping practices towards hardscaping. The decline in Christmas tree area was a result of increased demand for artificial Christmas trees.

One in eight farms sold food directly to consumers

In 2016, 12.7% of farms reported that they sold directly to consumers. Of the 24,510 farms that were marketing directly to consumers, 96.1% sold unprocessed products such as fruits and eggs, while 14.4% sold value-added products like wine and cheese. Fruit and vegetable combination type farms (79.8%) were most likely to sell directly to consumers.

Farmers harvest the sun for more than growing crops

In 2016, 5.3% of farms reported having a renewable energy-producing system on their operation. Of these farms, 85.0% had solar panels while 15.7% reported wind turbines. Ontario had the highest percentage of farms with renewable energy-producing systems on their operation at 10.4%. Of the 5,180 farms with renewable energy-producing systems in Ontario, 85.5% had solar panels and 17.5% had wind turbines. Prince Edward Island had the second-highest percentage of farms with renewable energy-producing systems at 5.8%, and had the highest percentage of farms reporting renewable energy with wind turbines at 42.3%.

Bigger, more valuable tractors

Farmers continued to report larger and more expensive equipment, in line with the growth in average farm area. The number of tractors over 149 power take off horsepower (p.t.o hp) rose from 85,681 in 2011 to 104,990 in 2016, while their value increased 50.0% (in 2016 constant dollars) to $9.4 billion dollars. The number of tractors smaller than 149 p.t.o hp fell from 600,233 to 546,276 over the same period.

The total value of farm machinery and equipment owned and leased by agricultural operations increased 15.4% (in 2016 constant dollars) to $53.9 billion.

Larger and more valuable farms

The value of land and buildings used by agricultural operations increased 37.5%, from $311.2 billion in 2011 to $427.9 billion (in 2016 constant dollars) in 2016. Land and building values varied across the country, ranging from an average of $1,210 per acre in Saskatchewan to $9,580 per acre in Ontario. The national average value for land and buildings on farms was $2,696 per acre.

Farm profits unchanged from 2010

Gross farm receipts totalled $69.4 billion in 2015, while operating expenses reached $57.5 billion. On average, for every dollar in gross farm receipts, farms incurred 83 cents in expenses in 2015 for an expense-to-receipt ratio of 0.83. Rounded to the nearest cent, the ratio was unchanged from 2010. The stability in the expense-to-receipt ratio indicates that farms were as profitable in 2015 at the national level as they were in 2010.

However, the expense-to-receipt ratio varied across regions and farm types. In 2015, those operations typed as dairy had the most favourable ratio (0.77), despite a deterioration from 0.73 in 2010. Farms typed as sheep and goat, which had the least favourable ratio in 2010 at 1.01, improved to 0.96 in 2015.

Health Canada approves glyphosate

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Health Canada has published the final re-evaluation decision on glyphosate. Following a rigorous science-based assessment, Health Canada has determined that when used according to the label, products containing glyphosate are not a concern to human health and the environment.

Glyphosate, marketed under brand names such as Roundup and Vision, is a common herbicide that is used to control weeds. It is registered for use in a wide variety of settings, including agriculture, forestry, and home gardens and patios. Glyphosate is used both commercially and by homeowners.

Based on this re-evaluation, Health Canada will continue the registration of products that contain glyphosate, but will require updates to the product labels to help provide additional protection to humans and the environment. By April 2019, manufacturers will be required to ensure that all commercial labels on pesticides containing glyphosate include the following:

  • A statement indicating that re-entry into the sprayed areas should be restricted to 12 hours after application in agricultural areas where glyphosate products were used.
  • A statement indicating that the product is to be applied only when the potential to spread to areas of human activity, such as houses, cottages, schools and recreational areas, is minimal.
  • Instructions for spray buffer zones to protect non-targeted areas and aquatic habitats from unintended exposure.
  • Precautionary statements to reduce the potential for runoff of glyphosate into aquatic areas.

Health Canada will continue to monitor research on potential impacts of glyphosate products to ensure the safety and security of Canadians and the environment.

Importance of treating seed

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Whether to seed treat or not is a question that often comes up in the spring.

According to Harry Brook, crop specialist with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, seed treatment should be looked at as an insurance policy to protect against less-than-ideal growing conditions in the spring.

If a producer has high germinating, vigorous seed planted into warm, moist soil, the crop will germinate quickly and be off to a good start. However, spring often comes in spurts between winter and summer, and using treated seed can help to avoid potential problems.

“Soils warm up only to cool off. Long periods of cool, damp conditions hovering around 5 – 6 C gives plenty of chances for root rots to take hold and kill off the plant,” says Brook. “Early plant and root development is a crucial contributor to the overall yield a plant will deliver in the fall. As the roots go, so do the shoots.”

There are other factors besides weather that can increase the risk of seedling losses. Smuts, bunts and Fusarium are seed-borne diseases, and even low levels on untreated seed can, under the right conditions, take over and cause significant yield loss in the crop.

“Without treatment and with a series of damp cool years, small pockets of infection can spread and become a field-wide disaster,” says Brook. “Treating your seed with fungicide kills off those potential damaging organisms and can protect the seed in the soil for up to two weeks. This protection will also extend to some of the common root diseases that attack the crop at the germination stage such as common root rot and seedling blights. Some seed treatments also have insecticides incorporated to prevent early feeding by insects on the seedlings. Seed treatment for flea beetle in canola is standard and treatment for wireworm in cereals is becoming more common.”

Other farming practices that increase the risk of seedling losses include slow soil warming, limited crop rotation and seed quality. “The majority of seeding done is now zero or minimum till. This is good in so many ways but it also slows soil warming in the spring. Plentiful crop residues insulate the soil surface and keep soils cooler and moister, ideal for slowing down germination and emergence and giving fungi a chance to affect the seedling.”

Another big risk factor, says Brook, is crop rotations with little variety. “A lot of central and northern Alberta producers have moved to a canola-wheat or canola-barley crop rotation. Many diseases will overwinter on crop residues left on the soil surface and provide a primary source of infection for surrounding, susceptible crops for the next year. Reducing the spore source requires burial, which is not done with zero tillage. Blackleg on canola is a good example: infectious spores are produced on the stubble for two to three years after the crop is harvested. Highest spore production occurs two years after the crop which is a problem with a wheat-canola rotation. Recent surveys of canola stubble show increasing levels of blackleg in the canola. Crop yield losses are also starting to increase as well.”

Seed treatments with insecticide in them are essential for a couple of crops. “As canola is a very small seed and the seedlings take some time to get established and begin to grow, insecticide treatment is required to protect the seedlings from flea beetles. All hybrid canola sold in Alberta is treated with an insecticide because flea beetles are endemic in the province. As well, peas are susceptible to pea leaf weevil, which is expanding through all of central Alberta. Larval feeding on pea nodules in the roots can lead to nitrogen deficiencies and reduced yields. In areas with high pea leaf weevil populations or signs of heavy feeding in previous years, seed treatment for the weevils is a matter of course. Seed treatment for pea leaf weevil is the only effective way to reduce damage from these pests.”

Another factor to consider when applying seed treatment is the application method. “Ideally, you want every seed to be adequately covered by the seed treatment. Some methods are better than others at getting it on each seed. Drip and gravity feed applicators are not good methods for application as they don’t allow for accurate volume control or seed coverage. To improve coverage, you need an even volume of fungicide being applied over the whole stream of seed as it travels up the auger. Use an applicator tip with a known volume output and pressure.”

Modern seed treatments have lower application rates with less physical product being used, notes Brook. “Even if the seed doesn’t have as much colouring, the fungicides are still effective if applied properly. This makes seed treating calibration even more important, as a visual inspection of the seed is no guarantee of good coverage.”

Seed treatment should never be used to replace good seed. Poor, diseased, low germinating seed will still be poor, diseased, low germinating seed with or without treatment. It is insurance and protection, and not a replacement, for good seed quality.

“As with any insurance, seed treatment is a way of reducing the risk to the crop at the important, early stages of growth and establishment. With the uncertain nature of weather in the spring and tight crop rotations, seed treatment can be way of ensuring a healthy, vigorous crop stand, or you can seed into warm, moist, soil. It’s all a matter of timing.”