FarmTech 2016: An Attendee’s Experience

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With 2000 seats in the main hall, a 165′ wide high definition video wall plus remote screens made sure that everyone had a great seat at FarmTech 2016.

Alberta Canola Producers Commission director Kelly McIntyre attended last week’s FarmTech event. He offers his thoughts on the conference and all it had to offer.

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For the last five years, I have attended FarmTech as an Alberta Canola Producers Commission (ACPC) director. Prior to joining the board, I still attended almost every one as a farmer. Why? Leading edge information that helps me succeed both as a farmer and a person. The variety of presenters at FarmTech is amazing.

ACPC’s commitment to FarmTech helps to ensure that the commission stays connected to the farmers it serves and this years’ experience was even more exciting to me than past ones. As a director of the Canadian Canola Growers Association (CCGA) I was asked to participate in a television interview to promote ‘The Man Van’. This van is a portable testing facility for the early detection of prostate cancer in men. It was brought to FarmTech though the sponsorship provided by CCGA. Doing a television interview is a bit of a nerve-wracking experience for a rookie like me but I was happy to help promote such a good initiative. The Global News health segment aired that night after the first day of FarmTech. Well, as a result there were many farmers who came to the van the next day for the simple PSA blood test! There were even a few people from the city that had seen the interview and came to the FarmTech event just to get tested. I never could have imagined when I started to come to this event many years ago in Red Deer that I would be a part of such a noble cause.

As the years of attending have progressed I have found that my focus has changed. I used to go to as many agronomy sessions as possible. Now I tend to go to sessions that are more about self-improvement and big picture thinking. Agronomy is still available if you want it but some of the other session topics are a little harder for a farmer to find in other places. It can be a little overwhelming having all these new ways of thinking and doing things so I try to focus on one or two new ideas and developed the skills around them.

This year I attended a session called Relationship Awareness. I don’t think many farmers would have actively sought out information on this subject previously, but at a conference it is easy and comfortable to attend. Good communication with many different people is a big part of a farmer’s life and this session focused on improving that. I also attended a session on sustainability, which helped me to understand that it is more than just a buzz word, it is part of our entire food production system. The session on Weed Resistance in the USA made me realize the devastating effects of not paying attention to crop and chemical rotations: they are in big trouble. Plant Growth Regulators presented by a panel of farmers with some experience are emerging as a new technology available to farmers. I learned that they are sometimes very effective but not necessarily a fit for everyone or every field. The large attendance at the Managing Canola Harvest session showed me that farmers are very willing to adopt new management strategies.

Overall, I will continue to attend this event in both a personal and professional capacity because it brings value to all parts of my life. As an ACPC director I enjoy the conversations I have with other growers and like seeing people enjoy an event we host.

Podcast: Pea Leaf Weevil Expanding its Range

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Photo: Josh Thompson

Scott Meers, insect management specialist with Alberta Agriculture, talks about pea leaf weevil. Meers says the range of this insect is expanding, adding it’s also affecting fababeans.

Download the podcast here: http://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$Department/newslett.nsf/all/cotl24704/$FILE/16_27_Scott_Meers.mp3

Canola Producers Commission Introduces 2016 Board of Directors

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Back Row (L to R): Dale Uglem. Renn Breitkreuz, John Guelly, Kevin Serfas, Stuart Holmen, Steve Marshman; Front Row (L to R): Greg Sears, Denis Guindon, Daryl Tuck, Terry Young, Kelly McIntyre

The 26th Annual General Meeting of the Alberta Canola Producers Commission (ACPC) was held January 26 at the FarmTech Conference in Edmonton. In the fall, director nominations were held and two new directors were acclaimed. Following the AGM, the board met and voted for executive positions. The new chair of the board is Greg Sears of Sexsmith, Alta. and vice-chair is Renn Breitkreuz from Onoway.

ACPC would like to welcome:

  • Denis Guindon of Falher, AB replacing Raymond Blanchette in Region 3
  • Kevin Serfas of Turin, AB replacing Lee Markert in Region 9

“Thank you to Lee Markert, our past chair, for setting a high standard in professionalism, passion for the industry, and leadership. We wish you the best in your future on the farm with your family and in your business,” says new Chair of the Board Greg Sears. “I would also like to thank our two past directors Marlene Caskey and Raymond Blanchette for their dedication to this board, and their contributions to this industry and its producers.”

ACPC is actively seeking eligible growers that could represent Region 12. This region is made up of areas such as Drumheller, County of Forty Mile, Cypress County, Starland County and surrounding areas. Anyone growing canola in these areas is eligible for the board of directors.

Alberta Farmers Crowned in DeKalb Seed for Yourself Yield Challenge

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This year, hundreds of growers competed in the DeKalb Seed for Yourself Yield Challenge. Growers entered their DeKalb corn, canola and soybean crops and squared off with other individuals for the prestigious title of champion. In order to claim this honour, one must produce the highest yielding crop in their crop category in their respective contest zone.

Several Alberta farmers are included among the winners in Western Canada:

Zone  Crop Contest Zone City Prov Winner Name DEKALB Hybrid  Yield (bu/ac)
1 Canola South of Highway 1 Welling AB Richard Wilde 74-44 BL 78.4
2 Canola Highway 1 North to Highway 12 Crossfield AB Peter Cissell 74-44 BL 83.5
3 Canola Highway 12 North (outside of Peace Region) Fort Saskatchewan AB Joanne Kuhn 74-54 RR 70.0

Podcast: 2016 Insect Forecast

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The 2016 insect forecast maps are now available  on Alberta Agriculture’s website. Scott Meers, insect management specialist with Alberta Agriculture, gave an update at Agronomy Update in Red Deer. For wheat midge, Meers says 2016 shows an overall lower level of the insect across the province; but he says timing is everything.

To listen to the interview: go here: http://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$Department/newslett.nsf/all/cotl24701/$FILE/16_26_Scott_Meers.mp3

To view the maps, visit: http://www.agric.gov.ab.ca/app21/loadmedia

Cereal Researcher Receives Prestigious Award

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Former Alberta Agriculture and Forestry researcher Jim Helm is awarded the prestigious American Society of Agronomy Distinguished Service Award. This award is given only to highly distinguished nominees that have made a transformational contribution to the agronomy profession.

“Jim Helm is a household name among cereal breeders and scientists worldwide” says nominator John Ryan, former soil scientist with the International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas.

Helm spent over four decades as head of research at the Field Crop Development Centre, located in Lacombe, and oversaw the release of 42 cereal cultivars bred specifically for conditions in Alberta and Western Canada, including 32 barley varieties, nine triticale varieties, and one winter wheat variety.

“While this award is primarily a credit to Jim, it’s also a credit to his colleagues and the Centre here in Lacombe” says Ryan.

Born and raised in Washington state, Helm had the opportunity as a master’s student to work with legendary Nobel Peace Prize winner Norman Borlaug at Washington State University.

After obtaining his Ph.D from Oregon State University, Helm found his way to Alberta in 1973 to become the sole worker at the brand new provincial barley breeding program, later known as FCDC.

Under Helm’s leadership, the FCDC grew from its humble beginnings into a world class cereal breeding facility, with 10 scientists and over 30 staff working in pathology, biotechnology, quality, and breeding labs. Initially focusing on feed barley, the FCDC’s breeding programs have since expanded to include malt barley, spring and winter triticale, and wheat.

Helm retired from FCDC at the end of 2014. He has also received the Canadian Society of Agronomy’s Distinguished Agronomist award, the Alberta Centennial Medal for outstanding service to the people and province of Alberta, the Alberta Science and Technology Award for Innovation in Agricultural Science, and was inducted into the Alberta Agricultural Hall of Fame in 2002.

CS Camden Oat Receives Milling Approval

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Canterra Seeds announces its CS Camden oat has been added to the list of recommended varieties by Grain Millers of Yorkton, Sask.

Grain Millers has completed the test-run of CS Camden oat, and are very satisfied with the milling performance. The mill yield from the sample was slightly higher than their average yields this year, and the variety was easier to dehull, making it smoother to work with in their system. Terry Tyson, Grain Procurement Manager for Grain Millers spoke positively about the milling results of CS Camden. “We’ve heard from growers how happy they are with the agronomics of the variety, and are eager to recommend it for milling in our operation,” he said.

CS Camden oat was bred by Lantmannen SW Seed, and was tested by Canterra Seeds within their internal research program. It was registered in Canada in January of 2014. The oat variety is agronomically superior, with a shorter stature and better lodging resistance. CS Camden also boasts very high yields at an average of 114% of CDC Dancer (2016 SaskSeed Guide), and 153 bu/ac (Seed Manitoba – 2016).

Sales of CS Camden are expected to increase greatly this spring, now that milling quality has been confirmed by one of North America’s largest millers. “It’s great to see a high-class new oat variety come along. We’re excited to see genetics moving forward,” said Tyson.

Canary Seed Approved for Human Consumption

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Canary seed, which has been used almost exclusively as birdseed has received novel food approval from Health Canada as well as GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) status from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“With the achievement of this milestone, we’re hopeful that the food industry and consumers will begin to adopt this nutritious, high protein, gluten free grain,” says Canaryseed Development Commission of Saskatchewan chair, David Nobbs. “Up until now, production potential has been limited by the size of the market for birdseed.”

Producer levies paid to the commission over the past decade supplemented by various government programs have made food approval possible. Extensive compositional, nutritional and toxicological work was required.

“Canary seed is the first novel cereal crop to be approved in Canada,” notes Dr. Carol Ann Patterson of The Pathfinders Research and Management. Patterson is the food scientist who piloted all the work necessary for food approval. “Projects are continuing to determine the best food applications.”

Canary seed flour can be used to make bread, cookies, cereals and pastas. Whole seeds can be used in nutrition bars and sprinkled on hamburger buns in place of sesame seed.

The approval covers glabrous (hairless) canary seed varieties, with both brown and yellow-coloured seeds. The glabrous varieties currently grown by farmers are brown when the hull is removed.

Dr. Pierre Hucl, the canary seed breeder at the University of Saskatchewan’s Crop Development Centre will be seeking approval for a yellow line at the variety registration meetings in February. Nutritionally, brown and yellow are very similar, but the yellow seeds are more aesthetically pleasing in many food products.

It was Dr. Hucl’s work to develop glabrous canary seed that started the effort for food approval. Beyond the breeding, it was Dr. Elsayed Abdelaal, a member of Dr. Hucl’s team, who did the initial compositional, nutritional and toxicological analysis on the first hairless variety, CDC Maria, to show its similarity to other cereal grains. His work provided the core safety data for the Health Canada submission.

While canary seed is gluten free, those individuals with a food allergy to wheat may also be allergic to a protein in canary seed. Canary seed and canary seed products for human consumption will have to be labelled with a statement such as, “This product contains canary seed which may not be suitable for people with a wheat allergy”.

“We hope that further work will lead to the removal of this labelling requirement at some future date,” says Patterson. “On food products where wheat is a labelled ingredient, the cautionary statement will not be necessary.”

The CDCS will establish a toll free number published at www.canaryseed.ca where any adverse reactions to canary seed can be reported. These will be passed along to Health Canada annually.

Another area of ongoing commission activity involves the approval of crop protection products.

“The herbicides and other crop protection products registered for use on canary seed for birdseed do not immediately have their registration extended to canary seed for food use,” explains Kevin Hursh, executive director for the CDCS. “These products are registered on other food grains, and the commission is working to get expanded registrations for products that are important to canary seed production.”

The food use approval is for dehulled canary seed. Commercial dehulling capacity may be required as food demand for the crop expands.

Saskatchewan is the world’s top exporter of canary seed. Nearly 2500 Saskatchewan farmers have marketed canary seed within the last three crop years. In 2015, an estimated 149,000 tonnes of canary seed with a farm gate value of roughly $90 million was harvested from over 300,000 acres.

Wheat Class Modernization Plan Moves Ahead

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The Canadian Grain Commission’s plan for modernizing Canada’s wheat class system will move ahead with the implementation of 2 new classes and the elimination of 3 other classes in 2016, as well as variety designation changes in 2018.

The new wheat classes, Canada Northern Hard Red and Canada Western Special Purpose, will take effect on August 1, 2016. The Canada Western Interim Wheat, Canada Western General Purpose, and Canada Western Feed wheat classes will be eliminated on August 1, 2016.

Twenty-five varieties of Canada Western Red Spring and 4 varieties of Canada Prairie Spring Red wheat will move to the Canada Northern Hard Red class on August 1, 2018.

These steps reflect feedback from consultations in early 2015, followed by discussions with stakeholders on a proposed plan, as well as a scan of international markets conducted by Cereals Canada and the Canadian International Grains Institute. The Canadian Grain Commission carefully considered all feedback from breeders, variety owners, grain companies, producer groups, marketing organizations and end-use customers.

Quick facts

  • The Canada Northern Hard Red class will:
    • Have basic milling quality parameters
    • Require quality data for varieties to be registered
    • Be implemented on August 1, 2016
  • On August 1, 2016, the Canada Western Interim Wheat class, which came into effect on August 1, 2015, will be eliminated. Faller, Prosper and Elgin ND will be designated to the Canada Northern Hard Red class.
  • The Canada Western Special Purpose class will:
    • Have no quality parameters and include registered varieties for which no quality data has been provided by the variety registrant
    • Be implemented on August 1, 2016
  • On August 1, 2016, all varieties in the Canada Western Feed and the Canada Western General Purpose wheat classes will be re-designated to the Canada Western Special Purpose class.
  • The transition of 25 varieties of Canada Western Red Spring and 4 varieties of Canada Prairie Spring Red wheat to the Canada Northern Hard Red class will take place on August 1, 2018 instead of August 1, 2017, the date that was originally announced. The new date addresses stakeholder concerns about designating certain varieties to different classes before the value chain is adequately prepared.
  • The 29 varieties are moving to the Canada Northern Hard Red class because they do not meet revised quality parameters for their designated classes.

Government of Canada to Discontinue Conditional Registrations for Pesticides

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Health Minister Jane Philpott announces that Health Canada intends to stop granting new conditional registrations of pesticides as of June 1, 2016.

Pesticides are registered in Canada only after a rigorous scientific evaluation determines no harm to human health, future generations or the environment will result from exposure or use, a news release stated.

Conditional registrations have been granted on occasion when the scientific review determines that the risks of a pesticide are acceptable but that additional confirmatory information is required. Unlike full registrations, conditional registrations do not undergo a public consultation until the registration is amended, renewed or converted to a full registration.

Moving away from conditional registrations will provide reassurance that all pesticide registration decisions are made with the same high level of scientific and public scrutiny, Philpott said.

A Notice of Intent has been posted on Health Canada’s website and is open for comment for 60 days until March 19, 2016. The final decision will be published following the consultation once all comments have been considered.