Friday, August 17, 2018

Chicken consumption still rising

Canadians continue to eat more chicken.

So far this year, it’s up by 5.8 per cent from last year.

And given that border controls are more effective, thanks to being able to distinguish between spent hens (burned-out egg layers) and broilers (raised for meat), more of that chicken was grown by Canadian farmers and processed by Canadian workers.

Canadian production for the first half of this year increased by 6.7 per cent.

In Ontario it increased by 8.9 per cent, in British Columbia by 10.3 per cent, but in Quebec by only three per cent. Those three provinces are Canada’s leading chicken producers.

Harold Rudy to publish a book

Harold Rudy, who was executive officer of research and business development for the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association, is about to publish a book about what happened on his watch.

He helped the organization develop and implement a number of programs that garnered financial backing from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs during his 31 years with the OSCIA.

He was raised on a farm in the Waterloo Region and spent his life helping farmers to improve their fields and crops.

For example, he introduced the annual Forage Masters’ Competition.

The Soil Conservation Council of Canada inducted him into the Canadian Conservation Hall of Fame in 2017. He also received the Canadian Seed Growers’ Association’s Honourary Life Award in 2016.

The OSCIA is planning an official book launch this fall. Rudy plans to donate royalties from The Soil Fixers to the OSCIA.

The book will be available in softcover, hardcover and electronic formats from FriesenPress.

Tyson to buy Keystone Foods

Tyson Foods Inc. is going to buy Keystone Foods from Brazil’s Marfrig S.A. for $2.5 billion, reports Reuters news agency.

Keystone makes chicken nuggets for McDonalds and others.

It has plants in the United States, Korea, China, Malaysia, Thailand and Australia.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Canadians help crack wheat genome

Canadian researchers have cracked the genome for Chinese wheat, a feat  once considered near impossible.

The team was led by the University of Saskatchewan and included the University of Guelph, the University of Regina, the National Research Council and the federal agriculture department’s research branch.

For the past 13 years, more than 200 scientists from 73 research institutions in 20 countries have been endeavouring, through the International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium (IWGSC), to complete the genome sequence for bread wheat and make publicly available the new genomic assembly for breeders seeking to develop improved varieties.  

“With funding from a range of partners and cutting-edge sequencing technology from our industrial partner NRGene, our research team at the University of Saskatchewan played a key role in the international consortium’s success, a discovery that has the potential for disruptive innovation in wheat improvement,” said Curtis Pozniak, researcher and wheat breeder at the Crop Development Centre in the university’s College of Agriculture and Bioresources.

“Essentially we have completed the wheat genome jigsaw puzzle with all the pieces put together in their correct positions and order, providing an enormous advantage for breeders when searching for genes that control important traits in the crop,” said Pozniak. “This breakthrough research will help produce better wheat varieties over the long term.”  

Pozniak leads Canada’s contribution to the IWGSC-led wheat genome initiative through the Canadian Triticum Applied Genomics (CTAG2) project.

“The new genome assembly provides a chromosome-by-chromosome representation rather than the fractured picture available previously and will elevate wheat research and breeding to a level equal to, or even better than, other major crops,” said Andrew Sharpe, director of Genomics and Bioinformatics at the University of Saskatchewan’s Global Institute for Food Security (GIFS) and co-lead for the CTAG2 project.  

AAFC wheat breeder Richard Cuthbert said, “breeders will now have the information they need to identify economically important traits more rapidly, which will better enable development of wheat varieties with increases in yield, enhanced grain quality, improvements in disease resistance and more resilient to environmental stresses. 

“The result will be more nutritious grain that can be grown more effectively and efficiently in harsher climates.” 

In Canada, wheat accounts for more than $4.5 billion in annual sales and, when value-added processing is factored in, contributes more than $11 billion each year to the Canadian economy.

With the world’s population expected to reach 9.6 billion by 2050, Maurice Moloney, executive-director of GIFS, said this discovery will have a major impact on global food security. 

From my perspective, this is far more valuable than the entire budget for federal-provincial business risk programs, yet the researchers are constantly under pressure to source enough money for their projects.

Bayer concludes two big deals

Bayer closed its merger with Monsanto this week and a related deal to sell its vegetable seeds business to BASF.

The price tag for Monsanto was $8.5 billion The BASF deal offset that by $2.6 billion.

BASF said Nunhems® “adds a well-recognized brand with a very successful business track record.

The acquired vegetable seeds business comprises 24 crops and about 2,600 varieties. It also includes Bayer’s research and development and breeding programs for more than 15 crops.

Now that Bayer has merged, the Monsanto name will eventually disappear, but it will retain brand names such as Dekalb, Asgrow and Channel.

Bayer also said it intends to vigorously appeal the California jury award of $289 million US to a school employee who claims he developed terminal cancer from exposure to Roundup.

Farm organizations to face tribunal

Ontario’s three biggest general farm organizations have been called to answer to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Appeals Tribunal on Sept. 28.

Their certifications to enable them to collect membership fees are up for review.

The three are the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario and the Ontario branch of the National Farmers Union.

The tribunal traditionally requires the organizations to provide accounting for what they have done with the money they collected and how they serve the interest of farmers.

U.S. to buy $60 million worth of beef and chicken

The United States Department of Agriculture has announced it plans to buy up to $60 million worth of beef and chicken products to support welfare programs.

The chicken purchases will include whole bagged chicken, consumer split breast, and dark meat parts.

National Chicken Council president Mike Brown said the program will help balance the supply and demand situaton in the market. 

“As such, it will provide continued and improved employment in the poultry industry, underpin steadier family farm grower incomes, and enhance better feed demand for the on-coming expected bumper harvest of corn and soybeans," Brown said in a statement. 

The program will benefit financially stressed families, group feeding kitchens, disaster-relief operations, schools and consumers needing food assistance, Brown said.

The announcement came right after the department said that it will, for the first time, buy fluid milk for the welfare programs.