St. John’s, B.C. and Israeli companies collaborate to breed new pot strains

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Three companies are working together to launch a facility in St. John's that would breed new strains of marijuana leaf tissue that could then be sold as intellectual property to licensed producers. (Photo: Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

A St. John’s entrepreneur is working with two other companies to launch an operation in Newfoundland that will focus on developing different strains of cannabis and hemp.

Chris Snellen is the founder of CEPG Systems, which designs controlled-environment plant-growth systems and currently operates a hydroponic grow operation in the city’s east end that cultivates lettuce, mushrooms and other plants.

He’s now partnering with Future Farm Technologies of B.C. and Rahan Meristem, an Israeli company, to start a hemp breeding program in St. John’s.

The project will focus on growing new cannabis strains specifically tailored for specific medical and commercial uses.

The collaboration between the three companies will go ahead once they get a dealer license from Health Canada, which will  allow them to start doing research and development on new cannabis strains.

The plan isn’t to start producing large quantities of smokeable pot, but to develop the strains themselves as small amounts of cannabis leaf tissue, which will ideally be sold as intellectual property to licensed producers around the world.

Snellen said the plan is to eventually produce new strains that can be used for both medical, industrial and recreational use. He hopes to have some ready by this time next year.

Source: CBC

Safe Transport of Farm Equipment in Alberta Manual

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This newly revised manual is for farm owners and workers transporting agricultural equipment on public roads. In addition to driving tips, advice on increased visibility and common dangerous situations including power lines, the manual outlines requirements specified in the Traffic Safety Act.

Use this publication to help you:

  • identify farm equipment hazards on public roads
  • prevent these hazards by making farm equipment safe and visible
  • understand and apply the regulations on highway transport of farm equipment as set out under the Traffic Safety Act

Safe Transportation of Farm Equipment in Alberta is a joint project between Alberta Agriculture and Forestry (Farm Safety Program), and Alberta Transportation (Vehicle Safety Section).

To get a hard copy of Safe Transportation of Farm Equipment in Alberta, you can order a manual from AF. You can also download an electronic version in PDF format.

CSGA Survey: Changes to Standards for 2019 and 2020

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As part of its Strategic Plan 2017-2023, the Canadian Seed Growers’ Association committed to modernizing its seed crop production standards to meet the challenges of new technology, new market demands and new production realities while systematically involving membership in an ongoing review of Circular 6.

As part of its Strategic Plan implementation, CSGA recently published changes to its seed crop production standards for the 2018 growing season. These changes stemmed from the first phase of the CSGA’s Circular 6 Modernization Project initiated in Fall 2017. You can view the CSGA’s Circular 6 as well as the recently published changes to it at http://seedgrowers.ca/seed-growers/regulations/ . For the most part, these changes involve adjustments for which there was widespread agreement.

The second phase of the Circular 6 Modernization Project is now underway and is focused on some of the more challenging issues facing seed crop production and certification. These issues will require additional research and analysis to determine whether further adjustments are required. The CSGA requires your input to ensure they are focused on the right issues.

To provide your input, complete the new survey available on the SeedTALK platform. It is entitled ‘Circular 6 Modernization: Survey on Possible Changes for 2019’. The survey closes on April 13, 2018.

START SURVEY arrow

Importing Pesticide-Treated Seeds

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Health Canada has provided information to help importers of seed pre-treated with pesticides. Specifically, Health Canada is helping importers understand their responsibilities under the Pest Control Products Act (PCPA) and Regulations (PCPR).

Seeds that are pre-treated with pesticides are considered pest control products under the PCPA and are illegal to import unless both the a) active ingredient and b) seed treatment product are registered in Canada for the purpose of treating the seed.

Because of this, importers of pesticide-treated seeds must provide an import declaration that contains:

  1. The name of the pest control product,
  2. The name of the active ingredient, and
  3. The amount of seed being imported.

This declaration can be provided in the Goods Description field of the “eManifest “system used by the Canadian Border Services Agency until their newer Integrated Import Declaration / Single Window  (IID/SW) system is implemented in the spring of 2018.

The importer is also responsible for ensuring that all imported pesticide-treated seed is labelled properly, whether it be bagged or in bulk shipments, and that the imported seed is only treated with the pesticides included in the declaration.

If an importer has questions about their obligations under the PCPA, they can contact PMRA’s Pest Management Information Service (E-mail: [email protected], Telephone: 613-736-3799) or their local Regional Pesticide Officer.

Source: CSGA

Recover PO4 Inoculant Improves Phosphorus Fertility Management

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BrettYoung Seeds Limited announces the launch of Recover PO4 phosphate solubilizing inoculant for Canada.  The active ingredient in Recover PO4, Penicillium bilaii, is the same proven phosphorus fertilizer efficiency technology that thousands of Canadian farmers have used in products like TagTeam and JumpStart.

Used as part of an overall phosphorus fertility program, Recover PO4 improves access to and makes more efficient use of phosphorus from both fertilizer and soil sources.

“The introduction of Recover PO4 fits with our core strategy of providing innovative seed and seed related products to help farmers grow in every way,” says Eric Gregory, marketing director of BrettYoung Seeds in Winnipeg, Man. “Recover PO4 strongly complements our portfolio of world-class crop input solutions including BrettYoung brand canola and forage seed and Elite brand corn and soybean seed.”

Recover PO4 is being introduced in a convenient liquid formulation as compared to other Penicillium bilaii products, allowing commercial applicators and farmers to easily apply with their everyday seed-treating practices without the need to solubilize with water first.  It is registered on alfalfa, canola, chickpeas, corn, dry beans, lentils, peas, soybeans, and spring and winter wheat.

“The convenient liquid formulation will allow more farmers to utilize this proven technology to grow bigger, healthier crops,” says Gregory.

Will Pot Slow Demand for Barley Varieties?

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Aaron Onio, a malting specialist with the Canadian Malting Barley Technical Centre (CMBTC), works with germinating malt at the CMBTC pilot malt plant in Winnipeg, Man. (Photo: CMBTC)

With the Trudeau government poised to fulfill its pledge to legalize marijuana, questions are being raised about what this could mean for alcohol sales in Canada.

Reports in recent months are predicting Canada’s beer market will take a hit when recreational marijuana becomes legally available. Is this a cause for concern for malt barley, a key ingredient in making beer?

Peter Watts is the managing director of the Winnipeg-based Canadian Malting Barley Technical Centre, a non-profit organization set up to provide technical assistance to the malting barley and brewing industries. He’s among those in the malting barley business who don’t view legalized pot as a significant threat.

“I believe it will have a minimal impact on malting barley production and demand for Canadian malting barley,” he says.

While Watts feels it’s too early to tell what the long-term fallout of legalized cannabis on the beer industry might be, he thinks its impact on beer sales would have to be “pretty significant” to affect Canada’s malting barley industry. That’s because it relies so heavily on exports.

Similarly, Watts doesn’t anticipate there being much effect on plant breeding efforts to produce better varieties and other R&D initiatives for the crop.

“In most grain products, Canada is by far and away a net exporter and that’s true in the case of our malting barley, where the bulk of the production is sent to other countries, either in the form of bulk malting barley or in the form of processed malt,” he says.

According to Watts, only about a sixth of malting barley grown in this country is used in Canada. Because of that, he says, a decline in domestic beer consumption would likely have a fairly limited impact on the nation’s malting barley production.

Brent Johnson, a malt barley grower near Strasbourg, Sask. who’s also the vice-chair of Saskatchewan Barley Development Commission, agrees.

“If beer sales were to decline, which would require less malt, that would have an impact,” he says. “But Canada isn’t the biggest market for our malt barley — it’s only a small portion of it.”

Johnson says another key consideration is the majority of the malting barley grown in Canada isn’t actually used to produce the malt necessary for beer production — most of it is used as feed for beef cattle and other livestock.

“Only a small portion of what we grow is accepted for malt,” says Johnson, who estimates this accounts for around 20 per cent of total malt barley production.

For these reasons, both Johnson and Watts believe legalized pot likely wouldn’t affect malting barley seed sales all that much, at least in the short term.

Johnson believes if there was a reduction in malt uptake due to lower beer consumption in Canada, it could affect malting barley R&D down the road, although the impact likely wouldn’t be huge.

“I don’t see it in the short-term, though,” he says. “I haven’t been shown any evidence yet that’s really going to make me concerned.”

Migrating to Marijuana

Exactly how legalized pot would affect Canada’s beer market and demand for malt barley varieties, both initially and over the long term, has been the subject of much speculation.

A study by Canadian business consulting firm Deloitte posits that the legalization of marijuana would cut into beer and other alcohol sales across Canada.

According to Recreational Marijuana: Insights and Opportunities, about 80 per cent of current cannabis consumers rarely or never mix the drug with alcohol. The study also indicates marijuana users are also drawn to drug for the same reason people choose alcohol — to have fun or help connect with others.

“Taken together, these two findings suggest a potential for some current beverage alcohol consumers to migrate away from that category and toward marijuana when it becomes legal,” the study states.

Deloitte vice-chair Mark Whitmore, who co-authored the report, says 5,000 Canadians were interviewed for the study, which predicts up to 39 per cent of Canadian adults would be consuming cannabis (some regularly but others infrequently) when it becomes legal.

The report’s findings were also based on data from U.S. states where recreational marijuana has been legalized.

“Marijuana is going to have an impact on the alcohol industry here,” he says. “The data [in the U.S.] shows that as cannabis comes onto the market, it does start to erode away market share, particularly in beer.”

Peter Schwartz is a consultant with Anderson Economic Group, a business consulting firm in New York. He predicts that in the first year of legalization, recreational cannabis would drain $70 million from Canada’s beer market, worth about $9.2 billion.

That’s only a small portion — less than one per cent of the total beer market — but that number would rise in subsequent years as marijuana use expands in Canada, according to Schwartz.

“Because of the infancy of the cannabis products industry, it’s going to take some time to grow,” says Schwartz, adding that it would be up against a very well established beer industry as well as strong wine and spirits sectors in Canada. Over time, however, he expects sustained growth for the marijuana market and says it could happen quickly.

Schwartz based his projections on alcohol sales in U.S. states where recreational marijuana is either fully or partially legalized. Factors in Canada such as spending patterns, income and demographic data were also taken into account.

Supporting the Growth of Canada’s Seed Industry

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The federal government is investing over $760,000 through Growing Forward 2 programs to help the Canadian seed industry improve and enhance the certification of seed crops, identify and assess risks and opportunities facing the industry, and expand seed trade in global markets.

The Canadian Seed Growers’ Association (CSGA) will receive $499,814 under Growing Forward 2’s AgriRisk program to better understand the risk and opportunities within the seed system and develop options for the future. CSGA will receive an additional $203,400 under the AgriMarketing program, Assurance Systems stream to modernize seed production standards and guidelines.

The Canadian Seed Trade Association (CSTA) will receive $65,154 under the AgriMarketing program, Market Development stream to help build Canadian seed innovation and trade and break down barriers to trade.

In a news release, Doug Miller, managing director of certification and technology services with the Canadian Seed Growers’ Association, said the CSGA is grateful to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) for the AgriMarketing funds “which will ensure Canada retains its strong reputation as a leader in seed certification through the modernization of official seed crop regulations.

“On behalf of the Seed Synergy partners, CSGA also thanks AAFC for their AgriRisk contribution which supports the Seed Synergy Collaboration Project, an industry-led collaboration which will draft a proposal for a next-generation seed system for Canada.”

The Seed Synergy partners include the Canadian Seed Growers’ Association, the Canadian Seed Trade Association, the Canadian Seed Institute, the Commercial Seed Analysts Association of Canada, the Canadian Plant Technology Agency and CropLife Canada. “By supporting the seed industry, AAFC is demonstrating support for what we believe in: a growing, innovative, profitable and internationally competitive Canadian agricultural sector supported by seed quality assurance and genetic traceability,” added Miller.

According to Dave Carey, executive director with with the Canadian Seed Trade Association, the funding assists the association in being engaged on the global level by attending international meetings of the International Plant Protection Convention, the International Seed Federation and the Seed Association of the Americas.

“A strong Canadian presence abroad is key for helping our members expand market access and work through non-tariff trade barriers,” said Carey in a news release. “The funding also allows us to work with experts on projects that provide our members with the tools they need to increase their exports.”

Canada’s seed industry is respected and recognized worldwide for its high quality, safe and available seed for planting, providing families with quality food. The industry provides close to 60,000 jobs, contributes more than $5 billion to the Canadian economy and has strong export markets helping to achieve the government’s objective of expanding agricultural exports to $75 billion by 2025.

Ag robot speeds data collection, analyses of crops as they grow

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University of Illinois agricultural and biological engineering professor Girish Chowdhary is leading a team that includes crop scientists, computer scientists and engineers in developing TerraSentia, a crop phenotyping robot. (Photo: L. Brian Stauffer)

A new lightweight, low-cost agricultural robot could transform data collection and field scouting for agronomists, seed companies and farmers.

The TerraSentia crop phenotyping robot, developed by a team of scientists at the University of Illinois (U of I), will be featured at the 2018 Energy Innovation Summit Technology Showcase in National Harbor, Maryland, on March 14.

Traveling autonomously between crop rows, the robot measures the traits of individual plants using a variety of sensors, including cameras, transmitting the data in real time to the operator’s phone or laptop computer. A custom app and tablet computer that come with the robot enable the operator to steer the robot using virtual reality and GPS.

TerraSentia is customizable and teachable, according to the researchers, who currently are developing machine-learning algorithms to “teach” the robot to detect and identify common diseases, and to measure a growing variety of traits, such as plant and corn ear height, leaf area index and biomass.

“These robots will fundamentally change the way people are collecting and utilizing data from their fields,” said U of I agricultural and biological engineering professor Girish Chowdhary. He is leading a team of students, engineers and postdoctoral researchers in development of the robot.

At 24 pounds, TerraSentia is so lightweight that it can roll over young plants without damaging them. The 13-inch-wide robot is also compact and portable: An agronomist could easily toss it on a truck seat or in a car trunk to transport it to the field, Chowdhary said.

Automating data collection and analytics has the potential to improve the breeding pipeline by unlocking the mysteries of why plant varieties respond in very different ways to environmental conditions, said U. of I. plant biology professor Carl Bernacchi, one of the scientists collaborating on the project.

Data collected by the crop-scouting robot could help plant breeders identify the genetic lineages likely to produce the best quality and highest yields in specific locations, Bernacchi said.

He and Stephen P. Long, a Stanley O. Ikenberry Endowed Chair and the Gutgsell Endowed University Professor of Crop Sciences and Plant Biology at Illinois, helped determine which plant characteristics were important for the robot to measure.

“It will be transformative for growers to be able to measure every single plant in the field in a short period of time,” Bernacchi said. “Crop breeders may want to grow thousands of different genotypes, all slightly different from one another, and measure each plant quickly. That’s not possible right now unless you have an army of people – and that costs a lot of time and money and is a very subjective process.

“A robot or swarm of robots could go into a field and do the same types of things that people are doing manually right now, but in a much more objective, faster and less expensive way,” Bernacchi said.

TerraSentia fills “a big gap in the current agricultural equipment market” between massive machinery that cultivates or sprays many acres quickly and human workers who can perform tasks requiring precision but move much more slowly, Chowdhary said.

“There’s a big market for these robots not only in the U.S., where agriculture is a profitable business, but also in developing countries such as Brazil and India, where subsistence farmers struggle with extreme weather conditions such as monsoons and harsh sunlight, along with weeds and pests,” Chowdhary said.

As part of a phased introduction process, several major seed companies, large U.S. universities and overseas partners are field testing 20 of the TerraSentia robots this spring through an early adopter program. Chowdhary said the robot is expected to become available to farmers in about three years, with some models costing less than $5,000.

The robot is being made available to crop scientists and commercial crop breeders for the 2018 breeding season through EarthSense Inc., a startup company that Chowdhary co-founded with Chinmay P. Soman.

A former National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellow at the university, Soman is the chief executive officer of EarthSense, which is based at the U of I Research Park and comprises a growing team of engineers and computer scientists.

Source: University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign

Lyster, Whiting Honoured by Alberta Seed Growers

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Norm Lyster, centre, was presented the ASG's Honorary Life Award by ASG co-vice-president Renee DeWindt-Hoyme, and ASG president Ward Oatway.

The Alberta Seed Growers honoured two individuals at their recent annual general meeting in Banff, Alta.

Norm Lyster was presented the Honorary Life Award in recognition of his valuable service to the seed industry in Alberta.

Lyster attended his first CSGA AGM in Banff as a seven-year-old in 1961 and has been involved with the Canadian Seed Growers in an official capacity since 1976.

He earned a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture, majoring in agricultural economics, from the University of Alberta, where his thesis focused on market risk and the maturing risk reduction market for feed pea producers. He also obtained an MSc Ag. in 1999, majoring in marketing and trade, under a fellowship from the Winnipeg Commodity Exchange.

Lyster has worked as owner, operator and manager of Lyster Farms Ltd. Integrated Pedigreed seed production, processing and sales since the 1980s. He is a CSGA recognized Select and Foundation Grower, and accredited grader and operator with the Canadian Seed Institute.

Lyster’s involvement in the Alberta and Canadian Seed Growers has been long-running and multi-faceted. He was elected a provincial director of the Alberta branch of the CSGA in 1999 and served as national representative from 2003-2014. He was then elected president of the CSGA and served from 2014 to 2016 in that capacity. He is currently the past president of the organization.

Trent Whiting, centre, was presented with the Bill Witbeck Outstanding Service Award by ASG co-vice-president Tracy Niemela and ASG president Ward Oatway.

This year, Trent Whiting was presented with the Bill Witbeck Outstanding Service Award, for his outstanding contributions to pedigreed seed production.

Whiting, Alberta/B.C. marketing representative with SeCan, has a degree in agriculture from the University of Alberta. For over 25 years, he has worked closely with seed growers in the seed industry. He started his seed career in Edmonton with UGG Forage and Special Crops in a production role. He remained with UGG/ Proven Seed until 2007, then a short time with BrettYoung before joining SeCan in the spring of 2008.

Whiting is a coach to his friends, his members at SeCan and his competitors in the industry – he has a drive to make all those around him better, and puts the needs of his members and their customers ahead of his own interests.

In his role at SeCan, Whiting helps his members and their customers choose the best products for their farms – this may not always be a SeCan product and this is noted and appreciated by all. Recently, Whiting has taken on the added responsibility of stock seed production at SeCan in the west.

Congratulations to Norm and Trent for their past and on-going contributions toward a strong seed industry in Alberta.

DowDuPont Agriculture Division To Become Corteva Agriscience

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The agriculture division of DowDuPont will be known as Corteva Agriscience one it is spun-off, which is expected to happen by June 1, 2019. The name is derived from a combination of words meaning “heart” and “nature”.

Corteva Agriscience brings together DuPont Crop Protection, DuPont Pioneer and Dow AgroSciences to create a standalone agriculture company with positions in seed technologies, crop protection and digital agriculture.

In addition to announcing the corporate name, the intended agriculture company unveiled the Corteva Agriscience brand identity and logo today (www.corteva.com) at Commodity Classic, the largest farmer-led convention and trade show in the United States.

The corporate headquarters for the intended company will be located in Wilmington, Delaware, and will include key corporate support functions. Sites in Johnston, Iowa, and Indianapolis, Indiana, will serve as global business centers, with leadership of business lines, business support functions, R&D, global supply chain, and sales and marketing capabilities concentrated in the two Midwest locations.

DowDuPont will support the new brand name through a series of recognition events between now and the time the division becomes an independent company.