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Agronomy

THE 411 ON VAC

Canadian breeders have produced a promising suite of new malting barley varieties. Registered in recent years, varieties such as AAC Connect, CDC Bow and CDC Fraser are successors to older cultivars such as AC Metcalfe and CDC Copeland.

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COMEBACK CLASS

There was a time when Canadian Western Hard White Spring (CWHWS) wheat was touted as the next big minor class. Today, though, the class is virtually dead. Despite having lost its shine, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) wheat breeder Harpinder Randhawa believes CWHWS is poised to make a comeback thanks to a new, higher yielding variety he developed. While AAC Whitehead yields 21 per cent higher than previously established CWHWS varieties, industry experts believe it will take more than yield to revive the class. If the history of CWHWS has taught any lessons, it is that marketing, competition and quality all play a crucial role in determining the success of a wheat class. However, GrainsWest recently spoke with farmers and scientists who are cautiously optimistic about its return.

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BUGHOUSE FOR ENTOMOLOGY

One of the largest bug resources in the world is located right here in our backyard. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) maintains the Canadian National Collection (CNC) of Insects, Arachnids and Nematodes. Located at the Ottawa Research and Development Centre Central Experimental Farm in Ottawa, ON, the facility serves agricultural research in a number of key areas.

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POSSIBLE PEST OUTBREAK

Over the last several years, dry conditions have led to lower wheat midge levels in Western Canada, but spring rains in 2020 appear to have sparked a potential outbreak in various regions of the Prairies. Details and confirmation of these nascent flare-ups await release of data from the annual wheat midge survey. In the meantime, greater attention to midge management may well be required in the run-up to the incoming crop year.

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FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS

Beneficial insects are old news, at least to entomologists. However, their benefits, hence the name, are in the limelight once again. This is thanks to a recent promotional campaign and the reinforcement of the notion that positive alternatives beyond blanket spraying exist.

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THE YIELD GAP CHALLENGE

In February 2020, Eric Watson of Ashburton, New Zealand, produced a new world record wheat yield. At an incredible 258.8 bu/ac, his 21-acre irrigated crop was grown in the country’s South Canterbury region where the average wheat yield is a respectable 178 bu/ac. It was his second such record yield confirmed by the Guinness World Records organization.

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THE SECRET LIFE OF BUGS

From weevils to midges, beetles to spiders, professor and entomologist Boyd Mori examines the secret
life of bugs. He leads a team of researchers with the University of Alberta’s Agricultural and Ecological
Entomology Group. Focused on integrated pest management, the team analyzes the inner workings of
insect ecosystems. This burgeoning area of study focuses on the battles between pests and beneficial
insects within agriculture.

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A WIN FOR FERTILIZER

The use of nitrogen fertilizer in agriculture has increased over the years as farmers have sought to boost crop yield. This reliance can bring unintended consequences in the form of nitrous oxide emissions, a greenhouse gas that contributes to ozone depletion. For decades, scientists around the world have worked to remedy this problem.

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MIXED SIGNALS

The Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) is looking at changes to tank-mix policy. These adjustments could make many tank-mixes illegal. This is a concern for farmers and industry groups as the issue reflects policy conflicts and not the correction of potentially unsafe application practices.

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