Alberta Wheat Commission Announces Director-at-Large Election at Annual Meeting


The Alberta Wheat Commission (AWC) announces that a director-at-large election will be held during this year’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Jan. 27, 2016 in Edmonton, Alta.

AWC issued a call for nominations in September for the director-at-large position and received nominations for: Kevin Bender from Bentley, Darrell Stokes from Hussar, and Jack Swainson from Red Deer, Alta.

“It is great to see an election being held for the director-at-large position,” said Kent Erickson, AWC Chair. “This means there is interest in AWC and we have growers who want to make an impact on our industry.”

The director-at-large represents all five regions across Alberta and will provide strategic direction and leadership to the Commission on behalf of wheat producers. AWC has posted the candidate profiles at Growers are encouraged to visit the website and learn about each candidate ahead of the AGM in preparation for voting.

All eligible producers will be given a ballot at the AGM registration to vote for the director-at-large. An eligible producer or AWC member is someone that has sold wheat and paid a service charge or check-off to the Commission when making a commercial sale of wheat in the last two fiscal years.

“The board of directors encourages AWC members to attend the AGM to not only cast their vote, but to hear about the work the Commission has done in the past year and where our priorities are for the future,” added Erickson.

The AGM will take place at 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016 in Edmonton in Hall F at the Northlands Park, Edmonton Expo Centre. It is being held in conjunction with the FarmTech conference, but growers or members of the public wishing to attend the AGM and cast their vote do not have to be registered for the FarmTech conference. AGM attendees can proceed directly to Hall F.

U of S Researchers Help Lead Wheat Genome Sequencing Breakthrough


Curtis Pozniak

An international consortium of scientists co-led by the University of Saskatchewan has been able to crack the code for understanding the order of about 90 per cent of the highly complex genome of bread wheat, the most widely grown cereal in the world.

“This new wheat genome sequence is an important contribution to understanding the genetic blueprint of one of the world’s most important crops,” said Curtis Pozniak, a plant scientist with the U of S Crop Development Centre in the College of Agriculture and Bioresources. “It will provide wheat researchers with an exciting new resource to identify the most influential genes for wheat adaptation, stress response, pest resistance and improved yield.”

A combination of advanced software, computer programming and bioinformatics tools enabled the International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium (IWGSC) to use existing sequencing technologies to look at virtually the entire wheat genome. This will complement existing IWGSC strategies that are studying one chromosome at a time.

The consortium expects to have the complete picture of the wheat genome puzzle (17 billion base pairs)—with a clear idea of how the genes are ordered—within two years’ time. Given that the wheat genome is five times the size of the human genome, previous estimates suggested this work would take four or five more years.

“The computational tools developed by NRGene, which use Illumina’s sequence data,  combined with the sequencing expertise of IWGSC has generated a version of the wheat genome sequence that is better ordered than anything we have seen to date.  We are starting to get a better idea of the complex puzzle that is the wheat genome,” said Pozniak.

The result will be much greater precision in the breeding process.

“Imagine that you have a blueprint for the order of important pieces of the wheat genome puzzle. With that information, it becomes far easier to assemble the puzzle more quickly into new and improved varieties,” said Pozniak. “But this sequence is just the first step. There is still much work to do to define the function of each of the genetic pieces so that breeders can identify the very best genes in the gene pool.”

Though the work was done on just one variety of bread wheat (Chinese Spring), the new knowledge will serve as the backbone to unlock the genetic blueprint for traits in other varieties as well, significantly accelerating global research into crop improvement, he said.

Nils Stein of IPK Gatersleben in Germany said the new sequence represents “a major breakthrough” for the consortium’s efforts to deliver an ordered sequence for each of the 21 bread wheat chromosomes.

Co-ordinated by the IWGSC, the project uses Israel-based NRGene’s DeNovoMAGICTM software with Illumina’s sequencing technology.

The public-private collaborative project is co-led by Stein, Pozniak, Andrew Sharpe of the Global Institute for Food Security at the U of S, and Jesse Poland of Kansas State University. Other project participants include Tel Aviv University in Israel and the French National Institute for Agricultural Research.

Funding was provided by Genome Canada, Genome Prairie, Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture, the Saskatchewan Wheat Development Commissions and the Western Grains Research Foundation through the Canadian Triticum Applied Genomics (CTAG2) project; Kansas State University through the U.S. National Science Foundation Plant Genome Research Program; and Illumina, Inc.

IWGSC Executive Director Kellye Eversole said the preliminary results are impressive and will complement existing genomic information the consortium has gathered over the past decade. Making available the ordered sequence for each wheat chromosome that precisely locates genes and genetic markers along the chromosomes will provide invaluable tools for wheat breeders, she said.

Results of this new approach will be presented at workshops at the Plant and Animal Genome Conference taking place in San Diego from Jan. 9 to 13. All data will be available in the IWGSC wheat sequence repository at URGI-INRA.

Wheat is the staple food for more than a third of the global human population. As the global population grows, so too does its dependence on wheat. To meet future demands of a projected world population of 9.6 billion by 2050, wheat productivity needs to increase by 1.6 per cent each year. Saskatchewan supplies 10 per cent of the world’s total exported wheat and is Canada’s most important grain-producing region.

Plant Breeding 101


The process of plant breeding can be a long and complicated one, but we talk to three experts who boil it all down.


Syngenta Launches Apron Maxx with Intego Co-pack Targeting Root Rot in Pulses


Field of cicer arietinum l

Syngenta Canada launches a new co-pack, Apron Maxx with Intego, for western Canadian pulse growers looking to control seed and soil-borne diseases including Fusarium, Pythium and Rhizoctonia and address growing concerns posed by Aphanomyces root rot.

Aphanomyces (Aphanomyces euteiches) is a soil-borne root rot pathogen that primarily affects field peas, chickpeas, dry bean and lentils. The pathogen thrives in wet, waterlogged soils and produces spores that choke off root systems and reduce the plant’s ability to take up water and nutrients. Due to a number of factors, such as cool, wet weather over the past few years, researchers have indicated that Aphanomyces pressure has increased across the Prairies.

“The Apron Maxx with Intego co-pack recognizes the growing concern around Aphanomyces among pulse growers,” says Nathan Klages, Product Lead, Seedcare and Inoculants, with Syngenta Canada. “Through this new, convenient offering, we’re addressing the need for management tools for Aphanomyces together with a broad spectrum disease control program as part of a complete pulse Seedcare product.”

Apron Maxx is a combination of Fludioxinil (Group 4) and Metalaxyl-M (Group 12) fungicides. These active ingredients control seed rot, pre-emergence damping off and post-emergence damping off caused by Fusarium, Pythium and Rhizoctonia. Apron Maxx also helps to control seed rot and seedling blight caused by seed-borne Botrytis.

Intego (ethaboxam) is a Group 22 fungicide that also controls Pythium, while providing suppression of Aphanomyces root rot, as well as root rot caused by Phytophthora.

Apron Maxx with Intego will be packaged as two 10 L jugs of Apron Maxx with two 605 mL containers of Intego.

Apron Maxx with Intego will be available for sale for the 2016 planting season.

Podcast: Cropping Alternatives 2016 Available


Alberta Agriculture has just released the Cropping Alternatives tool for 2016. In this short podcast, Rawlin Thangaraj, a crops economist with Alberta Agriculture, updates growers on the new version of the software based crop budgeting tool.

Go here to listen:$Department/newslett.nsf/all/cotl24619/$FILE/16_03_Rawlin_Thangaraj.mp3

Alberta Had Most Honeybee Colonies in Canada in 2015


New numbers from Statistics Canada confirm Alberta as the top honey producing province in Canada.

“Alberta produced 42.8 million pounds in 2015, which up 20.4 per cent from 35.5 million pounds in 2014,” says Medhat Nasr, provincial apiculturist, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, Edmonton. “As well, yields rose from 125 pounds to 145 pounds per colony.”

Nasr says Alberta was also the top province for bee colony numbers in 2015 with over 295,000 colonies. “Winter mortality was also the lowest in the past 15 years, at about 10 per cent. That compares to the national average of a 16 per cent loss and the American average of 23 per cent.”

Farm cash receipts from honey sales in Alberta are approximately $75 million per year, in addition to $12 million per year from pollination service fees. The market value of honey bee contributions to the pollination of pedigree hybrid canola and canola crop production is estimated to be $650 million per year in Alberta.

Canadian beekeepers produced 95.3 million pounds of honey in 2015, up 11.4% from 2014. There were 8,533 beekeepers in 2015, 365 less than in 2014.

Chart 1  Chart 1: Production of honey
Production of honey

Chart 1: Production of honey

The total value of honey rose 10.9% from 2014 to $232.0 million as a result of increased production. The average price of honey was stable at $2.43 per pound.

On average, each colony had a yield of 132 pounds of honey, 9 pounds more than in 2014.

The number of colonies rose 3.6% from 696,252 to 721,106. This increase was attributable to favourable weather conditions that reduced winter losses, particularly in the Prairie provinces.

In Saskatchewan, honey production increased from 16.5 million pounds in 2014 to 18.8 million pounds in 2015, as a result of more colonies and higher yields.

In Manitoba, although yields were lower, production rose from 14.1 million pounds in 2014 to 16.0 million pounds. This increase was attributable to more honey-producing colonies in the province in 2015.

Producer Groups Provide Leadership in Wheat and Barley Breeding


Recognizing the important role producer funding of public breeding has played in delivering new wheat and barley varieties for increased farm profitability, Western Canada’s wheat and barley commissions/associations are working together to consider options for continued leadership and influence.

Since producer investments in breeding began in 1995, over 200 new wheat and barley varieties have been made available to farmers by public research institutions. With studies demonstrating that producer investments contribute to increased net profitability per acre for western Canadian farmers, producer organizations have formed a working group to examine opportunities for optimum producer involvement in wheat and barley variety development.

The participating organizations include the Alberta Barley Commission, the Alberta Wheat Commission, the BC Grain Producers Association, the Manitoba Wheat and Barley Growers Association, the Saskatchewan Barley Development Commission, the Saskatchewan Wheat Development Commission, the Saskatchewan Winter Cereals Development Commission and Winter Cereals Manitoba. The Western Grains Research Foundation (WGRF) serves as the facilitator.

A recent study commissioned by the WGRF calculated that on average every producer check-off dollar invested into wheat varietal research has returned $20.40 in value to the producer. Barley varietal research saw a return of over $7.56 for each producer dollar invested.

In 2015, the working group engaged JRG Consulting Group to explore a range of opportunities for producer involvement and leadership in wheat and barley variety development. The consultant’s report was recently received by the working group. The report emphasizes the importance of continued and increased public, producer and private industry investment in wheat and barley variety development, and the benefits to producers. The report identifies and evaluates five options for producers to intensify their leadership and realize the benefits of future variety development.

The consultant’s report is available on the websites of the participating organizations. The organizations are encouraging farmers and other interested stakeholders to read the report and provide comments. The five options put forward are intended to stimulate dialogue and none have been endorsed by the working group.

Five Alberta Farmers Among Winners of 2015 Pioneer Yield Challenge Contest


DuPont Pioneer announces the 15 winners of  the 2015 Western Canadian Proving Ground Yield contest, and five Alberta farmers are among them.

The highest canola and corn yields recorded as part of the 2015 contest were an impressive 116 bushels per acre for canola in Saskatchewan and 200 bushels per acre for corn in Manitoba, but Alberta farmer Jim Herder of Sylvan Lake attained a yield of 84.3 bushels of canola, putting him in first place for Alberta.

The other Alberta canola winners were as follows:

  • Ron Krywko, Sturgeon County, 81.3 bushels (2nd place in Alberta)
  • Ridgevalley Colony, Crooked Creek, 69.2 bushels (3rd place)
  • Arnold Beusekom, Fort Macleod, 63.6 bushels (4th place)
  • Kevin Taschuk, Two Hills, 69 bushels (5th place)

Each winner wins a trip for two to the 2016 Tim Hortons Brier in Ottawa, Ont. from March 10-14, 2016.

Canterra Follows Up Alberta Hire with New Saskatchewan Position


Canterra Seeds welcomes Lauren Wensley as pedigreed seed territory manager for Saskatchewan, effective Jan. 4, 2016. This newly created position will provide additional and continual service to Canterra Seeds seed grower shareholders and retail partners in Saskatchewan.

“The addition of Lauren is the latest demonstration of our intentions and follows on the heels of hiring Colette Prefontaine for the same position in Alberta. As with Colette, we fully expect Lauren to make an immediate impact to our business,” says Brent Derkatch, director, operations & business development.

Canterra Seeds has made a number of significant investments in its pedigreed seed business in 2015, including adding a large number of new varieties to their portfolio, signing a P4 agreement with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the Alberta Wheat Commission to support the CPSR wheat breeding program at Lethbridge Research Station and, finally, announcing a new joint venture company, Limagrain Cereals Research Canada, with Groupe Limagrain of France.

Lauren brings prior experience in the seed business as well as the grain handling industry. Her previous roles have included cereal seed merchandiser with Viterra and outside sales representative with Cargill. Lauren also has hands-on experience on her family’s farm operation in west central Saskatchewan.

GrainCorp to Operate Elevators Across Alberta


GrainCorp Canada announces the creation of a new, fully integrated export supply chain for Canadian grain and oilseed growers.

GrainsConnect Canada Operations Inc. is incorporated in British Columbia and will operate now grain elevators across Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Construction is expected to commence in 2016, with sites progressively opened over 2017-18. The construction and other activities of the joint venture are subject to the satisfactory completion of due diligence of the potential sites, as well as obtaining other customary regulatory and planning approvals.

The operation represents a significant new investment in Canadian grain infrastructure and is an equal partnership joint venture between two of the world’s leading agribusinesses: GrainCorp Limited, Australia’s largest agribusiness and Zen-Noh Grain Corporation, a subsidiary of major Japanese agricultural cooperative Zen-Noh (National Federation of Agricultural Cooperative Associations).

The owners will leverage their respective global networks and customer demand to ship Canadian grain to the world.

Warren Stow, GrainCorp’s North American Trading Director said:

“Today is an exciting day for Canadian grain growers. We know they want access to global markets and exposure to the best prices. We are confident we will be able to deliver choice and competition across the supply chain. We will provide a fully integrated supply chain delivering efficiency, reliability and more markets to Canadian growers.

“We will proudly be investing in local communities in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Our investment will generate construction jobs in those communities over the next few years and new permanent jobs and economic activity once complete.”

The joint venture will build on GrainCorp’s Canadian footprint, which includes the Canada Malting Company, a grain trading operation based in Calgary and additional operations at Strathmore and Bashaw. It will leverage Zen-Noh Group’s significant experience and customer relationships in exporting agricultural commodities from North America to Japan and other Asian destinations.

GrainCorp Marketing’s existing Canadian office will support the joint venture to manage the origination process with Canadian grain and oilseed growers.

Discussions have commenced in relation to rail and port access for the joint venture.