At first glance, the farmer’s role in helping Canada reach its ambitious goal of net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050 appears simple: lower emissions and adopt technology and alternative management practices that boost soil carbon sequestration. Many believe addressing the carbon equation offers economic advantages, too. Farmers who cut back on inputs subject to the carbon tax save money, and those who adopt so-called regenerative practices may participate in the growing carbon economy by collecting and selling carbon credits. While this sounds straightforward, it is anything but.
Bacterial leaf streak (BLS) is a subtle intruder, but given the right conditions, it can cause significant yield loss and affect future crops in wheat and barley. Most commonly transmitted through contaminated seed, the disease has the cereal industry pushing on all fronts to break the chain of transmission, starting with the development of an effective seed test to help farmers manage the risk and prevent it from spreading.
Undoubtedly, one of the most prominent success stories is the advancements of plant breeding innovation within our very own, world-leading research sector. It is truly an amazing time to observe plant breeders safely and relatively quickly create new crop varieties that meet the health, safety and functional needs of end-users but are also adapted to specific geographical environments.
The United Nations (UN) announced its global Food Systems Summit will be held in October. As I write this, it is unclear whether the Summit will be an in-person, virtual or hybrid event. Whatever the case, the event will encompass a spectrum of topics related to the production, processing, transportation, marketing and consumption of food. It will build on earlier summits held in 1996, 2002 and 2009 with the goal to reduce global hunger.
These have been difficult times for the global brewing industry. While estimates vary, as the smoke clears, it appears world beer production was down between eight and 10 per cent in 2020, less than some early dire predictions of up to 14 per cent. Certain regions were particularly hard hit, such as Africa, Asia and Europe with output drops of 10 to 15 per cent. North and South America fared better with production down by two to five per cent. In China, the world’s largest brewer, production is estimated to have fallen by eight to 10 per cent, or 30 to 35 million hectolitres. To put this in perspective, Canada’s annual beer production is around 20 million hectolitres. In Japan, beer sales reportedly dropped nine per cent, while in Vietnam, which has a large population and strong beer culture, output is estimated to have fallen by a substantial 14 per cent.
In recent years, China has hastily established barriers to Canadian imports that have created trade uncertainty. Canadian farmers have begun to see Chinese policy for what it is, a fragmented approach void of certainty that spurns the norms of regional and international trade agreements. Simply put, trading with China is like bartering on the black market; there is no recourse if you are ripped off. In order to ensure the livelihoods of Canadian farmers are not tied to the whims of Chinese politics Canada needs to take advantage of new markets that embody rules-based trade. If this occurs, farmers can expect predictability, the main ingredient of good business and trade.
As the world moves toward net-zero emissions by 2050, the use of lower carbon and non-emitting fuels is expected to ramp up. The Clean Fuel Standard (CFS) provides significant opportunities for western Canadian farmers, as demand for several crops will increase with the growth of the biofuels market.
The next great leap in digital agriculture, the adoption of intelligent technologies is a complex work in progress. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are engineered to produce agronomic insights farmers can act upon from a vast flow of information that includes precision ag field data, weather, soil and yield data as well as drone and satellite imagery.
Farmers love simplicity. The impulse to eliminate complication drives them to innovate and create solutions to various farm problems. As farms have grown larger and advancements in plant genetics have increased yields, progressively greater crop hauls have made on-farm grain handling more complex.