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IN CASE OF FIRE

Jody Wacowich, executive director of AgSafe Alberta, expects dry conditions may be the norm in the near future, which makes fire safety and awareness a priority on the province’s farms. “That’s something we have to plan for” she said. “At this time of year, we don’t have that green grass growing yet. Everything is dry and combustible. The wind picks up a spark and a fire can go for miles before anyone can do anything about it.”

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STUDY EXAMINES FUEL EFFICIENCY AND TAX REDUCTION

A three-year Team Alberta study on grain conditioning has just produced its second-year results. The research project will assess the efficiency of various grain drying systems used by a selection of Alberta farmers. Initially inspired by the potential impact of federal carbon taxation, it will also analyze how various methods and fuel types can diminish the bite it takes from the farm bottom line. 

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GENETIC ADVANCES MULTIPLY

Two research projects funded by the Alberta Wheat Commission (AWC) have made significant advances in cereal crop genetics. Overseen by Pierre Hucl of the Crop Development Centre (CDC) at the University of Saskatchewan, the first of these examined the viability of a new dwarfing gene in bread wheat. Secondly, Nora Foroud of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) developed new wheat and barley lines with improved resistance to Fusarium head blight (FHB).

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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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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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LESS IS MORE

Led by University of Manitoba researcher Martin Scanlon, a nearly complete project aims to reduce the formation of potentially harmful acrylamide in wheat-based baked goods. This will be done through chemical analyses, bread quality evaluation and agronomic and genetic strategies. The project’s main objective is to maintain Canadian wheat markets by assuring customers the crop meets safety and functionality requirements.

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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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TAX CHANGES ON HOLD

Proposed changes to the provincial tax assessment rate have been shelved after municipalities and other stakeholders voiced concerns about revenue loss and the impact on budgets and services. The planned overhaul to the provincial assessment model could have potentially resulted in an increased financial burden for farmers who are both landowners and business operators.

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GENETIC RICHES REVEALED

Launched by the Wheat Initiative, an international research organization, the 10+ Wheat Genome Project has unlocked the genetic code of 15 wheat varieties. Curtis Pozniak, USask professor and director of the institution’s Crop Development Centre, led the project, which was funded by numerous organizations including the Alberta Wheat Commission and carried out by scientists in several countries.

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