Latest articles

Empty soils

Today’s big-yield genetics really are draining the nutrient supply in our soils

The power of today’s corn hybrids and soybean varieties to exceed farmers’ expectations is a testament to the science of plant breeding, and also to the value of selecting the best elite genetics. That farmers in Eastern Canada have been able to push corn yields to 200 bu./ac. and soybeans to 60 bu./ac., even in […] Read more

Governing the farm

On most farms, ‘governance’ sounds like the last thing you’d want to talk about if you hope to keep everyone happy. Steve Tomtene used to think so too, but is glad he changed his mind

Like many farms with added complementary enterprises like a trucking company or livestock barn or a seed business, Tomtene Seed Farm at Birch Hill, Sask., has developed systems to juggle all the moving parts. “Maintaining identification and producing seed products of quality merit takes a shift in thinking about the products, about production, about the […] Read more

Real sustainability

Integrating the benefits of his Ontario Soil Network membership into how he farms is helping Rick Kootstra find real sustainability

Like a lot of farmers, Rick Kootstra doesn’t see himself as an innovator or a leader. He just goes about his business. Thanks to the Ontario Soil Network, though, he does it with a lot of great connections with farmers who share similar goals and aspirations. Kootstra, along with his brothers Rob and Derek, works […] Read more

Sunflowers need a hybrid lift

With Western sunflower acres dropping sharply in recent years, new varieties are needed to claw acres back from easier-to-grow soybeans

There are fewer sights more appealing than a field of mature sunflowers, but this golden vision is growing rarer. The reason is simple — sunflowers are losing out to soybeans. In Canada’s biggest sunflower province, Manitoba, acres dropped under 62,000 this year, with a little more than half the crop going to black oil and […] Read more

Improving flax one allele at a time

Rust hasn’t affected Canadian flax for more than 40 years, but new varieties must still incorporate resistance

On the surface, you’d think that a research project seeking to locate and sequence specific rust-resistance genes, then find ways to quickly identify the presence of these genes in plant breeding material is ultimately about preventing crop loss to rust. But we’re talking about flax here, so think again. Flax is a one million-acre crop […] Read more

Flax opportunities

Agronomics and yield are the big priorities for flax growers in Western Canada

Flax acres have started to rebound over the past few years, with Saskatchewan still accounting for most of the flax grown on the Prairies. In order to entice more growers to flax, however, yields will need to increase. Average flax yields have hovered around 22 bu./ac. for many years, and although growers in some areas […] Read more

Plant Breeders Rights not so simple

New regulations give PBR regs more teeth, but breeders still want you to follow the law out of self-interest, not fear

When Plant Breeders Rights (PBR) got a major facelift two years ago, the seed trade in Canada responded with information campaigns saying that all was for the best. Upgrades in intellectual property protection weren’t a cash grab, farmers were told. Instead, they showed the international community that Canada takes property protection very seriously. That recognition, […] Read more

Detecting spoilage before it starts

An adaptation of cancer-screening technology offers a better and safer way to check for grain bin moisture, with a bonus of theft detection

An electromagnetic imaging technique originally designed to detect breast cancer tumours is now being adapted for a totally different use — locating spoiled grain in bins. The research project at the University of Manitoba uses electromagnetic imaging (EMI) to create a 3D profile of a bin, showing pockets of moisture which can overheat and spoil. […] Read more

Could camelina be ‘the next canola?’

You’ve heard the pitch on this oilseed before, but this time it could actually be true

[Updated Dec. 12, 2016; at bottom] – Jack Grushcow says the sky’s the limit for camelina, and he isn’t referring to the brief but well-publicized test when it was used for jet fuel a couple of years ago. Grushcow is CEO of Linnaeus Plant Sciences, which owns Smart Earth Seeds, a company developing new camelina […] Read more

SeCan at 40

Born in 1976, is SeCan living up to its promise to deliver better, more cost-effective genetics by supporting public research?

In the days leading up to 1976, new public sector seed varieties were few and far between, as Ray Askin recalls things. Askin, who grows seed at Portage la Prairie and is today’s president of the Manitoba Seed Growers Association also remembers it as a time marred by disorganization. “SeCan gave a structured format for […] Read more