Flax Council of Canada Closing Its Doors

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After 32 years of representing the interests of all agricultural and industrial flax interests, the Flax Council of Canada’s executive committee announced yesterday the closure of its office in Winnipeg, effective Jan. 31, 2018. The Flax Council of Canada will continue to operate on a reduced service basis.

The Flax Council of Canada is a national organization, funded by a voluntary export levy. Established in 1986, the Flax Council promotes the advancement of Canadian flax and flax products including nutritional and industrial uses in domestic and international markets.

In a news release, the Flax Council stated: “Over the course of the past year, the formation of a combined oilseed council was thoroughly discussed at the request of some of our members that contribute significant levy dollars to the Council. Through these discussions, it became apparent that the formation of an oilseed council would not materialize in the foreseeable future. The result of this is a significant loss of funding to the Council, necessitating cost reduction measures.”

Recognizing the importance of a national voice, the news release went on to state further dialogue will be needed to see what opportunities may lay ahead as the flax industry decides the merit of a national organization.

The Flax Council played a key role in managing the aftermath following the detection of CDC Triffid seed in shipments to the EU, providing financial support to significant testing protocols in an effort to remove Triffid from the seed supply in Canada.

Since 2013, the Flax Council has managed more than $6.2 million in research and market development programs with the support of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Manitoba Agriculture, Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture, and both the Saskatchewan Flax Development Commission and Manitoba Flax Growers Association.

David Sippell Joins Cibus to Lead Canadian Operations

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Cibus, a leading trait development and plant breeding company, has appointed David Sippell as Vice President, and General Manager, Canada. He will manage Canadian operations from Cibus’ new office in Winnipeg.

Sippell has more than three decades of experience within the agribusiness sector. With the recent launch of SU Canola in Canada, Sippell will direct Cibus’ growth and expansion into the Canadian canola market.

“David’s addition to the Cibus team as the leader of our Canadian operations will steer the company’s progress in this geography and provide innovative profit-yielding options to Canadian farmers,” said Peter Beetham, Ph.D., President and Chief Executive Officer, Cibus. “David’s extensive knowledge of the seed business and international agribusiness expertise will strengthen and grow Cibus’ expanding presence in the world’s most valuable canola seed market.”

David Sippell

Sippell will bolster Cibus’ growing commercial team. “David’s expertise in the agribusiness sector and his deep knowledge and passion for the canola industry will contribute to the expansion of Cibus’ operations in Canada,” said Bradley Castanho, Ph.D., Senior Vice President, Commercial and Business Development.

Sippell’s experience includes decades of leadership experience in the canola seed business in Canada with a range of companies that include Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc. and Syngenta, and Sippell was the founding President and CEO of Canterra Seeds Holdings Ltd., a grower-owned seed company. Sippell holds a Bachelor of Science, Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy in Plant Pathology and Plant Breeding from the University of Guelph.

According to a news release, SU Canola offers Canadian growers valuable, non-GMO hybrids that provide a new option for weed control. Cibus’ first canola hybrid was registered for sale in Canada in spring 2017. Led by Sippell, Cibus’ Winnipeg office is the flagship for expanding Canadian operations as Cibus launches its expanding product portfolio.

Agrium and PotashCorp Merger Completed Forming Nutrien

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Nutrien Ltd. today announced the successful completion of the merger of equals between Agrium Inc. and Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan Inc., creating the world’s premier provider of crop inputs and services.

According to a news release, Nutrien has the largest crop nutrient production portfolio combined with a global retail distribution network that includes more than 1,500 farm retail centres. With nearly 20,000 employees – and operations and investments in 14 countries – the company is committed to providing products and services that help growers optimize crop yields and their returns.

“Today we are proud to launch Nutrien, a company that will forge a unique position within the agriculture industry,” said Chuck Magro, president and chief executive officer of Nutrien. “Our company will have an unmatched capability to respond to customer and market opportunities, focusing on innovation and growth across our retail and crop nutrient businesses. Importantly, we intend to draw upon the depth of our combined talent and best practices to build a new company that is stronger and better equipped to create value for all our stakeholders.”

Nutrien Board of Directors and Senior Leadership Team

Nutrien’s board of directors has equal representation from Agrium and PotashCorp. Jochen Tilk will serve as the executive chair, with Derek Pannell as the board’s independent lead director. Rounding out Nutrien’s senior leadership team is Wayne Brownlee, executive vice president and chief financial officer, and Steve Douglas, executive vice president and chief integration officer.

Additional members of Nutrien’s senior leadership team include:

  • Harry Deans, executive vice president and president, nitrogen
  • Michael Frank, executive vice president and president, retail
  • Kevin Graham, executive vice president and president, sales
  • Susan Jones, executive vice president and president, phosphate
  • Lee Knafelc, executive vice president and chief sustainability officer
  • Leslie O’Donoghue, executive vice president and chief strategy and corporate development officer
  • Joe Podwika, executive vice president and chief legal officer
  • Brent Poohkay, executive vice president and chief information officer
  • Raef Sully, executive vice president and president, potash
  • Mike Webb, executive vice president and chief human resources officer

 

New limits to clothianidin and thiamethoxam use

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(Photo: Janet Kanters)

Health Canada announced new mitigation measures today on the neonicotinoids​ clothianidin and thiamethoxam, pesticides which are sold as seed treatment or sprays to protect agricultural crops from various insects.

A statement from the Grain Growers of Canada said modern grain farmers “utilize a diverse and innovative toolbox of crop protection products, including neonicotinoids.”

The statement says clothianidin and thiamethoxam “are not expected to affect bees,” when used as a seed treatment — a view many environmental organizations dispute.

READ the CBC story

The PMRA is updating the pollinator risk assessment for imidacloprid based on additional data from the registrant, additional literature that has recently been published, and the comments that were received during the public consultation period for the preliminary assessment (REV2016-05, Re-evaluation of Imidacloprid – Preliminary Pollinator Assessment). The PMRA expects to publish a proposed decision regarding imidacloprid pollinator safety in March 2018.

Read more on the proposed clothianidin and thiamethoxam re-evaluation decisions:

 

Midge Tolerant Wheat Stewardship Goes Online

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New system simplifies process for protecting midge tolerance.

Growers of midge tolerant wheat are accustomed to putting pen to paper and signing a stewardship agreement with their seed retailers every year. All of that changes this growing season as the Midge Tolerant Wheat Stewardship Team has launched a digital platform and evergreen agreement. The move online is expected to improve the process for growers and retailers, and help ensure continued protection of the midge tolerance gene.

The Midge Tolerant Wheat Stewardship Assurance Site (MTWSAS) is a secure, web-based tool for use by seed distributors, seed retailers and seed growers that makes the process of documenting the movement of certified midge tolerant wheat seed more efficient. It allows users to create electronically signed stewardship agreements and to post sales transactions.

Digital Agreement is Evergreen

“The new system creates a state-of-the-art means of managing midge tolerant wheat stewardship while also making the process very efficient for everyone who utilizes this valuable technology,” says Rod Merryweather, CEO of FP Genetics, one of the six official distributors of midge tolerant wheat in Western Canada. “It is a big step forward in protecting this valuable trait so resistance does not develop,” he adds, noting that midge tolerant wheat continues to deliver “$36 per acre of value to those who use it each and every year.”

All midge tolerant wheat is sold to farmers under an agreement in order to ensure proper stewardship of the technology, which limits the use of farm-saved seed to one generation past certified seed. With MTWSAS, the stewardship principles do not change, but the process becomes a lot easier.

“This online agreement replaces the paper-based version and manual process that we’ve used since the launch of midge tolerant wheat in 2009,” explains Mike Espeseth, communications manager for the Western Grains Research Foundation and co-chair of the Midge Tolerant Wheat Stewardship Committee.

“The online stewardship agreements are evergreen, which really simplifies things for everyone. Agreements are now signed digitally and farmers will only need to sign once, no matter where they buy their seed,” he says.

System Provides Savings for Retailers

While stewardship agreements have been a vital part of protecting midge tolerant wheat technology for the past eight years, Espeseth and the team knew the process could be improved.

“The new MTWSAS is simple and technologically advanced,” says Ed Mazurkewich, a business development consultant with AgCall, the developer and host of the new retailer-driven platform.

“All wholesale and retail movement of certified midge tolerant wheat seed is posted to the MTWSAS by seed growers and retailers with a user-friendly interface,” he says.

Merryweather anticipates the new process will save time and money for retailers. It will eliminate the nuisance of duplicate agreements and add report-generating capabilities for their specific varieties.

“MTWSAS enables them to manage their customer base and create reports that will help them to manage current and future sales of products,” he says. “It will also eliminate the onerous task of accumulating data for each farmer.”

Merryweather adds that distributors can expect to benefit as well. “We will have access to complete information on the sale of all of our products, along with the absolute confidentiality we need in our business and for our farm and seed grower customers,” he says. MTWSAS is administered and managed by AgCall with oversight by the Canadian Plant Technology Agency to ensure privacy and confidentiality.

Shining a Light on Stewardship

An added bonus of the new system is that it serves as a good reminder to growers and retailers on the vital need for stewardship.

In a survey conducted in spring 2017 with more than 1,000 wheat growers in Western Canada, 94.1 per cent of Alberta growers agreed that “it is critical to have a stewardship program in place to ensure that the effective life of the midge tolerance gene is protected.” The survey also found that 95.1 per cent are familiar with the stewardship agreement for midge tolerant wheat. However, results showed new growers are less familiar with the agreement than existing growers.

“The new system enables us to identify any grower who may be out of compliance so we can follow up,” says Merryweather. “The key is we have the tools to protect this valuable technology and to keep it working for farmers for many years to come.”

Accessing the New System

Mazurkewich explains that in order for distributors, retailers and seed growers to access the new system, they require a new authorized retailer number. This is obtained by successfully passing the updated retailer training located at midgetolerantwheat.ca and by signing a new retailer stewardship agreement at MTWSA.ca.

“New processes incur new actions and perhaps new questions,” says Mazurkewich, adding AgCall is committed to providing ongoing support. “Users will have access to four videos outlining how to use MTWSAS once they receive their login information.”

Crop Gene Discovery Gets to the Root of Food Security

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Researchers from The University of Queensland have discovered that a key gene which controls flowering time in wheat and barley crops also directs the plant’s root growth.

Project leader Dr. Lee Hickey from the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation(QAAFI) said the discovery was a major breakthrough in understanding the genetics of root development and could boost food security by allowing researchers to breed crops better adapted to a range of environments.

“Wheat and barley are ancient crops and humans have been growing them for thousands of years,” Hickey says. “Over the years, farmers and more recently plant breeders, have made significant progress selecting for above-ground traits, yet have largely ignored the ‘hidden half’ of the plant – its roots.

“Our discovery that the VRN1 gene, which is known to regulate flowering in wheat and barley crops, also plays a role in the plant’s ability to respond to gravity, thereby directing root growth and determining the overall shape of the root system.”

Hickey says this unexpected insight into the underground functions of the VRN1 gene has major implications for optimizing cereal crops, as crop varieties with improved root systems could dramatically improve farm productivity.

“A particular variant of VRN1 in barley, known as the Morex allele, simultaneously induced early flowering and maintained a ‘steep, cheap and deep’ root system,” Hickey says.

“This is exciting because flowering time is a key driver for yield and the VRN1 gene appears to offer a dual mechanism that could not only boost crop yield but also improve water and nutrient acquisition through a deeper and more efficient root system.”

The root gene discovery was part of an international collaboration with a team of scientists from Justus Liebig University in Germany, led by Professor Rod Snowdon. The group in Germany provided insight of the gene’s involvement in shaping root development for winter wheats grown throughout Europe, as well as validation of rooting behaviour in field trials.

Another collaborator was Dr. Ben Trevaskis from CSIRO who provided important experimental wheat and barley materials critical for validating the gene’s role in root development.

PhD student Hannah Robinson, along with Dr. Kai Voss-Fels who has recently joined QAAFI as a Research Fellow were joint first authors for the study published this week in high impact journal Molecular Plant.

“While our discovery is exciting, more research is needed to identify other key genes involved to effectively optimise root growth in future crops for farmers,” Robinson says.

“Also, we need to determine the preferred root system architecture for different growing regions, which will help plant breeders develop more productive crops, despite the increased variability of future climates,” she says.

The cereal root research at The University of Queensland and wheat phenology research at CSIRO is supported by the Grains Research Development Corporation, and Robinson’s PhD scholarship.

Source: University of Queensland

CSTA Kicks Off Better Seed, Better Life Program

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The Canadian Seed Trade Association has launched its Better Seed, Better Life program at its semi-annual meeting in Calgary, Alta.

Through Better Seed, Better Life, CSTA will engage in dialogue with Canadians on the role of seed as the foundation for the food and drink we enjoy, the clothes we wear and the fuel in our cars.

CSTA’s Better Seed, Better Life program starts today with the launch of its Better Seed, Better Life video and the fact sheet “Cheers for Cereals.” The video, developed by Alberta Seed Guide publisher Issues Ink, aims to capture the essence of the Canadian seed industry and the role that seed plays in our day-to-day lives. The fact sheet is one part of a series of fact sheets to be released over the coming months. The aim is to connect the seeds produced by CSTA members and the crops grown from those seeds to the products used in our everyday life. The fact sheets will be available at cdnseed.org.

“CSTA believes that having conversations about seed and plant breeding is vital and that is why we have launched our Better Seed, Better Life initiative,” said Dan Wright, CSTA president. “Seeds are a remarkable package that people often don’t give a lot of thought to and we want Canadians to recognize the role that seed plays in their everyday lives and the incredible things that we can do with them. These seeds carry the innovation that the world’s farmers will need to feed a population that is expected to swell to over 9 billion people by 2050. Over the next year and beyond, CSTA members look forward to the opportunity to engage in important conversations with Canadians on how it all starts with a seed.”

CSTA’s Better Seed, Better Life program is based on materials created by the American Seed Trade Association and is a collaborative effort of CSTA and ASTA.

Board Members Eager to Get Growing

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These two seed growers are new Alberta Seed Growers board members. Both have farming in their blood, and are pumped about their new role.

 

Unlike many industries, farming is one where most kids don’t roll their eyes at the prospect of following in dad’s footsteps.

That is certainly the case for two new members of the Alberta Seed Growers (ASG) board who were both eyeing a farming career from an early age.

Such is the story with Richard Hallett, a seed grower and cattle producer located 15 km west of Carstairs.

“My dad started growing pedigreed seed in the 1980s, so I was born into it. I’ve grown pedigreed seed my whole life.”

Hallett took an eight-month break after high school and travelled to New Zealand, but all roads led back to the farm.

“When I returned, I went to Olds College and studied farm and ranch management, and I’ve been working on our seed business ever since.”

Family Values

The business is truly a family affair. Hallett’s young son and daughter are involved, and his 91-year-old grandfather still lends a hand.

That concept of continuity is a big part of the seed growing appeal for Hallett.

Richard Hallett

“I love seeing things through. As a seed grower, I hear about new varieties coming down the pipeline and I can choose the ones I think will be good for our customers,” he says. “It’s satisfying to follow the seeds through their lifecycle and find the varieties that best suit a specific area and client.”

The only challenge comes at peak times when he’s selling seed while trying to get his own seed in the ground. Of course, a knack for overcoming obstacles is a good quality for a new ASG board member.

“I just joined at the end of January, so am quite new to this. I’ve attended the general meetings over the last four years, and when the past president approached me I decided to get involved.”

Shaping the Future

Hallett was keen to meet people and learn more about the workings of the seed industry. As well, he saw the board as playing a key role.

“Seed growers are at the leading edge of the latest varieties and technologies in crop production, and the board is a great spokesperson in representing the industry and guiding it forward.”

In the process, the board must deal with issues unique to the industry. It’s a good time to have board members with different viewpoints, as “everyone’s perspective is valuable”.

Rooted in Success

One of those perspectives belongs to fellow new board member Tracy Niemela. Along with her parents, husband and other family members, she operates a seed farm near Sylvan Lake.

Like Hallett, the business has deep roots in her family tree.

“My sisters and I are the fifth generation on the farm and I am a third-generation seed grower. I guess you could say it’s in my blood. It’s a lifestyle that I grew up in, fell in love with and want to raise my child in. I hope to keep the operation going for generations to come.”

A University of Alberta graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree and an agronomy certificate from Olds College, Niemela worked for the health region as a systems consultant while helping on the family farm. Eventually she quit and went back to the farm full time.

She finds the seed business challenging and rewarding at the same time and one that is constantly changing. That suits her just fine as it really keeps her on her toes.

Tracy Niemela

Also fitting well is her place on the ASG board. Although Niemela was hesitant when first asked to run, fearing she lacked the time and the knowledge of what the board did, she finally took the plunge.

“All boards benefit from fresh ideas. I’m excited about being at the forefront of information, networking and helping to shape the future of seed growers in Alberta and possibly throughout Canada. It will not only benefit me and our seed farm, but others as well.”

Moved to Action

Part of that shaping includes addressing movements like gluten-free, organic and chemical reduction.

“These aren’t necessarily bad things, but there is a lot of wrong and misleading information out there,” notes Niemela. “We need to stay ahead and promote what we do before all of this explodes and starts dictating the future for farmers and possibly seed growers.”

Niemela has seen a lot of industry changes over the years, such as the increasing role of big business in taking control and ownership of varieties while “more and more seed is grown under contract. The questions going forward are critical: Where will pedigreed seed be in the future? Will the seed system still exist? Will it need to exist?”

There’s a lot to tackle, but with farming in the blood and their hearts on their sleeves, Hallett and Niemela are pumped to take it on.

Canola still the king of the crops

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By ATB Financial’s Economics & Research Team

Despite the growing diversity within Alberta’s farm crops, one famous flowering farm staple remains well ahead of all others, at least if you measure it by the cash receipts it commands.

Over the last 10 years, canola has been, by far, the largest cash crop in Alberta. It accounts for about 42 per cent of all cash receipts over the last decade. On average, that’s racked up about $2.4 billion dollars per year for Alberta farmers.

Wheat comes in a respectable second place with average annual receipts of $1.6 billion (including durum wheat). This is about 29 per cent of cash receipts since 2007. Other grains such as barley (5.3 per cent) and oats (0.8 per cent) are well behind in terms of value.

Many Albertans may be surprised to learn that our third largest cash crop is dry peas — they’ve contributed on average $300 million annually, amounting to about 5.4 per cent of total receipts. Lentils and field vegetables kick in another two per cent.

There is a wide variety of other crops that contribute to farmer cash receipts. About 15 per cent of total revenues are items like potatoes ($176 million per year), dry beans, mustard seed and flaxseed.

Correctly Used Neonics Do Not Adversely Affect Honeybee Colonies, New Research Finds

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The three most widely used neonicotinoid pesticides for flowering crops pose no risk to honeybee colonies when used correctly as seed treatments, according to new studies by University of Guelph researchers.

Amid mounting controversy over use of neonicotinoids (neonics) and declining bee population, a new analysis by U of G scientists of previously unpublished studies and reports commissioned by agri-chemical companies Bayer and Syngenta – as well as published papers from the scientific literature – shows no significant ill effects on honeybee colonies from three common insecticides made by the companies.

The findings are described in five papers published this month by Keith Solomon, a toxicologist and emeritus professor with the School of Environmental Sciences and adjunct professor Gladys Stephenson in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health-B.

The duo analyzed 170 unpublished studies that Syngenta and Bayer had submitted to regulatory agencies. They also included 64 papers from the open, peer-reviewed literature on the topic.

Prof. Keith Solomon

Acknowledging that these three pesticides can kill individual honeybees and may also pose a threat to other pollinators, Solomon said: “At least for honeybees, these products are not a major concern. Use of these neonics under good agricultural practices does not present a risk to honeybees at the level of the colony.”

The U of G scientists were asked by Bayer and Syngenta to assess earlier studies conducted by or for the companies on impacts of pesticide-treated seeds on honeybees.

They conducted weight of evidence assessments, an approach developed specifically for these studies that is intended to gauge the quality of reported data and to compare relevance of results from different studies.

The companies wished to respond to controversy and inconclusive evidence about the potential harm posed to pollinators by neonic pesticides, said Solomon.

All pesticides in Canada must be registered with the Pest Management Regulatory Agency.

The study involved three pesticides – clothianidin and imidacloprid made by Bayer, and thiamethoxam made by Syngenta – that are used in seed treatments for various field crops.

Solomon said the original papers varied in quality and scientific rigour, but their results generally showed no adverse effects of pesticides on honeybee hives.

“Many studies look at effects of insecticides on individual bees. What regulations try to protect is the colony — the reproductive unit.”

He said other researchers might use their results to improve studies of pesticide exposure in hives.

The U of G researchers stressed the importance of “good agricultural practices,” including ensuring that seeds are coated and planted properly to avoid airborne contamination of bees during field seeding.

Solomon said their results don’t necessarily apply to other insects that also serve as crop pollinators and that have shown population declines. For those pollinators, he said, “There are too few studies at the colony or field level to allow a weight of evidence analysis.”

The U of G researchers said bees and other pollinators are affected by potentially harmful factors, including long-distance movement of colonies for crop pollination as well as mites and viruses, weather, insufficient food and varying beekeeping practices.

Source: University of Guelph