Monday, February 29, 2016

Climate change will make Canada warmer and wetter

Canada wlll be two degrees warmer and five per cent wetter by 2050, reports Canadian Press in an article that features quotes from a number of researchers.

The bad news is that there will be more extremes within those averages – searing high-temperature droughts and downpours causing flooding.

"The kind of changes one anticipates are more likelihood of drought or more likelihood of wet periods," said Greg Flato, Environment Canada's top climate modeller.

"If you think about temperature extremes, as the climate warms the likelihood of getting a very hot extreme becomes greater; the likelihood of getting a very cold extreme becomes less likely."

The extra rain, for example, is unlikely to fall in a gentle spring shower. Look for it in great flooding downpours or winter rains that drain before they can nourish crops.

John Pomeroy, a Canada research chair in water resources at the University of Saskatchewan, says that moisture from snow has already declined by a third across the Prairies. The number of multi-day rains has increased by 50 per cent. 

"Farmers need to adapt to that, to being inundated and flooded quite a bit," he said.

Heat-loving crops such corn could become much more common, but they are more likely to run short of water.

"It complicates the U.S.-Canada relationship," said Rob Huebert from the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary.

"We know that in the southwest (U.S.) they're pretty much getting maxed out in terms of available water sources. In a United States that is water-deprived, they're automatically looking northward."

Climate will be a hidden driver behind many difficult foreign situations, said Huebert. Refugees, fleeing expanding African deserts or the strife caused thereby, will be knocking on Canada's door.

CFO and CFIA to share data

The Chicken Farmers of Ontario marketing board has signed an agreement to share information with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to control disease outbreaks.

The agreement limits the CFIA to using the chicken-board data only for disease control purposes.

The chicken board says on its website that it’s the first agreement of its kind.

Last year two Oxford County turkey farms and one hatching egg farm were hit by outbreaks of avian influenza thought to be carried by migrating ducks and/or geese.

The entire poultry industry went on high alert, working through a joint command centre and sharing information with the CFIA.

"This ground breaking agreement represents several years of work by the respective staffs of the two organizations," said Henry Zantingh, chairman of Chicken Farmers of Ontario.

"It is also recognition of the importance of active communication and cooperation between the government and industry in dealing with disease management in the poultry industry."

The chicken board says “the detailed production information data bases utilized within the poultry supply management system are invaluable for identifying affected flocks, providing detailed mapping of farm locations and helping disease spread control measures to maintain business continuity during an outbreak.”

Chicken board president and chief executive officer Rob Dougans said "this agreement helps advance CFO's enterprise risk management framework and will enhance our ability to plan our mitigation strategies in the future." 

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Dole salad victim list increasing

Three more sick people have had their illness traced to salad prepared at the Springfield, Ohio, processing facility run by Dole.

That brings the total hospitalized in the United States to 18; the Public Health Agency of Canada has not updated its report on Feb. 3 that there are 11 cases in five provinces.

The U.S. illnesses were first identified in July and since then have shown up in nine states.

Dole has recalled all of its salads that it believes may have been contaminated with Listeria bacteria.

One person from Michigan died as a result of listeriosis. Another was a pregnant woman.

Laboratory tests performed on clinical isolates from all 18 ill people showed that the isolates are highly related genetically.

The Public Health Agency of Canada, said the 11 cases in Canada are also highly genetically related to the same outbreak strain of Listeria.

Although the investigation began in September 2015, the source of these illnesses wasn’t known until January 2016 when a laboratory result from a packaged salad collected in Ohio linked the illnesses to the Dole processing facility in Springfield, Ohio.

On January 27, 2016, Dole voluntarily recalled all salad mixes produced in the Springfield, Ohio processing facility.

The recall in Canada includes President’s Choice salads distributed by Loblaws.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Finishing barn breaks with PED

 A finishing barn in Chatham-Kent has an outbreak of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus.
It’s the 91st case in Ontario.

It comes days after a “town hall” meeting organized by the Ontario Pork marketing board during which veterinarians expressed confidence that the virus can eventually be eradicated from Ontario.

That would improve Ontario’s status with hog importers around the world and will be especially welcome for purebred breeders.

GMO opposition is costly

Opposition to genetically-modified crops is costly, claims a new report prepared by a foundation funded mainly by companies that develop and market GMO crops.

The study, Suppressing Growth:How GMO Opposition Hurts Developing Nations, claims the losses will amount to $1.5 trillion between now and 2050. That’s about $385 million per year.

It also claims the benefits between 1996 and 2013 amounted to $133 billion, which is $7.8 billion per year.

And while it argues that poor farmers in poorer countries are denied GMO advances, it also says 16.5 million small farmers cropping 230 million acres planted GMO seeds in 2014.

The study was funded by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.

GMO-shy flax growers ponder new variety

It’s not genetically modified, but it’s a coming variety of flax that is resistant to glyphosate.
And because glyphosate-resistant corn was the first GMO variety in the world, the link may be made by GMO critics and the public.
Eric Fridfinnson of the Manitoba Flax Growers Association says in an article in the Manitoba Cooperator that the move towards herbicide-tolerant flax began several years ago and stemmed from a desire to increase yields, which hover around 22 bushels per acre in Manitoba.
We really feel that it would be a great benefit to flax to be able to use this technology,” said Fridfinnson. “We see a number of areas where it would be useful for breeders to be able to move their program more quickly and raise the genetic potential of flax.”
In the spring of 2010, the Flax Council of Canada signed on with U.S. crop trait development firm Cibus to work on non-transgenic flax traits, providing significant funding for the company’s work. The Manitoba Flax Growers Association also contributed to the project, providing approximately $200,000 to the San Diego-based company over about four years.

But after Cibus failed to meet various milestones, the council ended its arrangement with the company. Now Cibus says it’s ready to launch the new variety in 1919 in the United States and in 2020 in Canada.

Feedlots may be contaminating salads

A new study says feedlots might be too close to fields growing leafy greens in California.

There have been salads, such as spinach, contaminated with E. Coli 0157:H7, which is common in cattle manure.

The study indicates that the current guidelines, which call for a separation of 120 meters (400 feet), may not be enough.

The study has been done by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Meat Animal Research Center at Clay Center, Neb., the University of California-Davis, and the USDA’s Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, Beltsville, Md.

Trevor Suslow, plant pathologist with the University of California-Davis and one of the authors of the study, said the research indicates that proximity to large concentrated animal operations calls for extra diligence in determining risk and in putting in place processes that monitor potential contamination.

Food and Drug Administration produce safety regulations do not specify setback distances between leafy greens fields and cattle feedlots, although the Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement in California, followed by many other organizations, put the number at 400 feet, he said.

“Many times 400 feet is more than enough separation based on position relative to prevailing winds and other times it can clearly result in contamination,” he said.

It is not a simple formula to say everything has to be a mile between feedlot operations. That could make production very difficult in most places,”  he said.

Suslow said another part of the study, not published yet, looks at the role of certain types of flies that can carry bacteria from feedlot operations to fields.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Chinese pursue GMO for agriculture

Chinese researchers are working to perfect Crispr, a tool for easier and more accurate gene transfers, because they want to create GMO crops, livestocks and medicines.

They’re aiming for leaner pork, fungus-resistant wheat, disease-resistant tomatoes and soybeans with higher oil content.

Crispr technology has revolutionized what was once a time-consuming, pricey and inaccurate process, and scientists and businesses worldwide are seeking to capitalize on this emerging technique. The expertise the Chinese groups are developing positions them to eventually challenge U.S. gene-editing companies, some of which have raised millions in venture capital.

Farmers want more workers

Farmers and meat packers both want the federal government to make it easier for them to hire temporary farm workers.
Resolutions passed at the annual meeting of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture this week calling for an increase in the total allowed entry and to allow them to accumulate more than the maximum of 48 months.
This comes in the context of tens of thousands of Syrian refugees flooding into Canada, plus promises that more refugees will be welcomed from other camps, such as Africans waiting for decades in one of the world’s worst camps in Kenya.
"There are some jobs that we can't get Canadians to do," Norm Hall, president of the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan, said Wednesday.
"Having enough employees to get the job done in a timely matter makes more money for agriculture."
The federal Seasonal Agriculture Worker Program already allows foreign workers to be hired in Canada for up to eight months each year in specific industries such as the tobacco, livestock, fruit and vegetable sectors.
The program is open to workers from Mexico and some Caribbean countries.
Hall's group and other farm organizations such as the Union des Producteurs Agricoles want Ottawa to expand the program to include other commodities such as grain, oilseeds and maple syrup.
Hall said there is a growing shortage of farm hands as older producers retire and younger people leave rural areas or seek other jobs. But farmers who remain on the land are hoping to expand production.
"There are just not enough farm boys left," Hall said. "It would mean getting the crop in on time, getting it sprayed in time and then getting it harvested on time."
Foreign workers hired under the program are limited to basic jobs such as running farm machinery, looking after animals, planting and harvesting.
They can come back to Canada year after year until they reach the program's cumulative limit of 48 months.

Olymel deal gets feds’ approval

The federal Competition Bureau has granted approval for a deal struck two years ago between Olymel and ATRAHAN Transformation Inc.

Both companies are Quebec-based hog slaughtering and processing businesses,

ATRAHAN has about 350 employees and exports to about 50 countries.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Chinese researchers are working to perfect Crispr, a tool for easier and more accurate gene transfers, because they want to create GMO crops, livestocks and medicines.

They’re aiming for leaner pork, fungus-resistant wheat, disease-resistant tomatoes and soybeans with higher oil content.

Crispr technology has revolutionized what was once a time-consuming, pricey and inaccurate process, and scientists and businesses worldwide are seeking to capitalize on this emerging technique. 

The expertise the Chinese groups are developing positions them to eventually challenge U.S. gene-editing companies, some of which have raised millions in venture capital.
Europeans may need to cut beef and mutton consumption by 50 per cent to meet greenhouse-gas emissions targets.
The new study says Europeans could  continue eating pork and chicken at current rates.
The study appears in the February issue of the journal Food Policy.
It takes productivity gains into account.
Under optimistic assumptions, these developments could cut current food-related methane and nitrous oxide emissions by nearly 50 percent.
However, also dietary changes will almost certainly be necessary,” the study says.

Large reductions, by 50 percent or more, in ruminant meat (beef and mutton) consumption are, most likely, unavoidable if the EU targets are to be met. In contrast, continued high per-capita consumption of pork and poultry meat or dairy products might be accommodated within the climate targets.”
Glenn Black, a retired engineer, says tingle voltage could be ended by reverting to using an extra wire at the neutral.
When Ontario was first electrified, there was an extra wire included at the neutral. 

Somebody came up with a brilliant method of saving money by using the earth to act as the circuit neutral, thereby saving 20 per cent of the cost of stringing wires.

When a phase imbalance occurs, you get rid of it by creating "tingle voltage". 

If there was the extra wire, there would be no "tingle voltage" and it would be readily detected as voltage and current in the neutral wire, automatically shutting the imbalanced system down, or preventing "tingle voltage" from bothering people, cows, etc.,’ Black wrote in an e-mail.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Barn door falls, killing teen

A barn door being lifted by a front-end loader fell and killed a 16-year-old boy in Woolwich Township, north-east of Kitchener-Waterloo.

Police were called to 1220 Halm Rd. in West Montrose on Saturday morning to respond to a workplace accident.

The Ministry of Labour has ordered that the barn door be secured with a chain and that the scene remain undisturbed.

A ministry official said can take up to a year to investigate incidents such as this.

Farm runoff in the crosshairs

Farm runoff of manure and fertilizer are in the crosshairs of government regulators on both sides of Lake Erie.

They aim to cut phosphorous content by 40 per cent in streams and rivers feeding the lake, and they want to achieve that goal within two years.

That will definitely require major reductions in manure and fertilizer runoff because they are considered the major source of the type of phosphorous that feeds algae.

Algae blooms in Lake Erie reappeared with a vengeance last year.

And now scientists are learning that the blue-green algae produce toxins that are harmful to swimmers.

They could develop itchy, irritated eyes and skin.

If water is swallowed in small quantities, symptoms could include headaches, fever, diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting.

While swallowing large quantities of water affected by the blue-green algae could lead to more serious health effects, such as liver damage.

A Great Lakes cleanup agreement in 1972 helped reduce algae levels in Lake Erie, but they began rebounding in the late 1990 and increasingly have consisted of bacteria that produce toxins. Levels of a toxin called microcystin in 2011 in Lake Erie reached levels 50 times above the World Health Organization limit for safe bodily contact.

Ontario, Ohio and Michigan will be front and centre in the pursuit of the 40 per cent reduction in phosphorous.

None of them has yet said what they are prepared to do to curb farm-source phosphorous pollution.

So where is the Enviropig when we need it? Stuck in regulatory limbo! The Enviropig was genetically engineered at the University of Guelph to exude a substance in pigs' saliva that would convert rations so more phosphorous is available for digestion.

That means, in turn, that the pigs need less phosphorous in their rations and that they will pass less phosphorous in their poop.