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To protect the midge tolerance gene and ensure it continues to do its job, tolerant wheat must be sown as a varietal blend, 10 per cent of which is susceptible to midge. This limited sacrifice to the insect ensures it does not evolve countermeasures. Breeding these all-but-identical pairings is a tricky task, but they are needed now more than ever.

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Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Youth Employment and Skills Program (YESP) was created to help students acquire the skills and experience they need to land that first job once they complete their studies. This year, the federal government allotted $3.7 million to subsidize about 300 agricultural jobs open to youth between the ages of 15 and 30.

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As drought ravaged crops across the Prairies this past summer, it was once again made abundantly clear farmers can’t control the weather. On the Prairies, crop losses in dry years can range from 30 to more than 50 per cent of average yield.

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Old World malting barley genetics may soon be available to Alberta farmers, brewers and distillers in search of trademark flavour characteristics and carcinogen-free chemistry.

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Prairie winter wheat acres have declined for years, but interest in the versatile crop has been revived. Its renewed appeal coincides with a changing of the guard in wheat breeding circles. Picking up where their predecessors left off, breeders Harwinder Sidhu and Curt McCartney aim to give farmers strong new varieties.

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While fertilizer is critical to keep farmers in the black, many see red as its cost has greatly increased. As prices are on the upswing, industry groups and researchers turn their attention to new ideas that may boost ROI.

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Pests are a top concern for farmers, especially those with limited management options. Wireworms are one pervasive example. A misnomer, they are not actually worms but rather the larval form of click beetles. These sneaky creatures can wreak havoc on fields as they hollow out seeds and shred stems in cereal crops. Hard to identify and even harder to manage, these small but mighty pests can devastate entire fields.

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Fairytale characters spin straw into gold, but could demand for wheat straw create a gold rush for farmers? The question has arisen with the recent announcement of the $800 million Great Plains MDF facility in the hamlet of Equity, in Kneehill County. The plant will process wheat straw to produce medium density fibreboard (MDF) products such as furniture, panelling, flooring and kitchen cabinets. This and a similar project proposed for Regina, SK, are expected to boost the long-term demand for wheat straw and provide a marketing opportunity for farmers. To calculate the economics and agronomic impact is a more complex task than one might imagine.

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Agricultural research facilities are critical to the forward momentum of Peace Country farming. Established in 1917, the Beaverlodge Research Farm is the most northerly Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada research centre. The wide scope of its programming reflects the sheer size of the region. This encompasses research on forage production and integrated crop management as well as disease and pest management and honey bee pathology.

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