GFM Network News


Dr. Edward Cocking of the University of Nottingham discovered sugarcane bacteria which are now being sold as crop treatment.

Capturing nitrogen from thin air

Has a U.K. scientist found the nitrogen-fixing bacteria we’ve been waiting for? If he has, it could be great news for nitrogen-hungry crops

The air around us and in every nook and cranny between soil particles is 78 per cent nitrogen, yet farmers pay billions per year for N fertilizer. Wouldn’t it be great if we could find efficient, low-cost, hard-working bacteria to convert nitrogen in the air into an available form of N for any crop — […] Read more



“A seeding rate that targets five to eight plants per square foot is like yield insurance,” says Autumn Barnes with the Canola Council of Canada.

What’s the best seeding rate for canola?

The optimal rate balances seed cost, in-season management costs and yield potential. Here's how farmers can set the ideal seeding rate for each field

If you want the ideal, uniform, early-established canola stand of five to eight plants per square foot, don’t rely on a scale. “When it comes to setting a seeding rate to achieve that stand, the common five pounds per acre is not precise enough,” says Autumn Barnes, agronomy specialist and stand establishment lead for the[...]
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It doesn’t always work. It has to be based on science. Not every little flying creature is beneficial. For comparison, this is the newly identified canola flower midge, which is similar in size to the two beneficial wasps shown on page 30. But as a fly, it only has two wings compared to the wasps’ four. AAFC canola flower midge specialist Boyd Mori says counting wings would be difficult without a hand lens or microscope. Mori describes the midge as “delicate looking and light in colour (usually beige to light brown). Female’s wings are covered in tiny hairs, which gives them a mottled appearance.”

Protect the mighty Microgastrinae

More and more, we’re learning that farmers can save a lot of money in both the short and long term by taking advantage of opportunities to help the insect world police itself

Hector Carcamo was in a southern Alberta canola field in 2018 sweep-netting for cabbage seedpod weevils when what did he find? Little black wasps. Lots of them. Same thing in the next sample site. And then the next. Field to field. “We were consistently finding them. With every set of sweeps we found three, five,[...]
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James Oberhofer took this picture at noon on August 15, 2018. With the smoke-dimmed sun, lights were essential in the yards and fields and on the highway.

Canola growth stalled under a shroud of smoke

Alberta canola farmers dealing with another late harvest in 2018 estimate that smoky skies in August delayed their crop by at least 10 days. Is that possible?

It was an eerie orange noon on August 15 and James Oberhofer needed to turn his truck lights on. When the agronomist for Six Strong Agronomy tried to scout under a canola field canopy, he saw only darkness. Things were in a stunning standstill as Alberta suffered the worst day in what had been a[...]
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Soil pH is often highly variable within fields, as demonstrated in this map of a single central Alberta field. The range is from red (pH of 4-4.5) to dark lime green (pH of 7.5-8). That is why grid sampling is an important step in lime application.

If you have low soil pH, should you lime?

It can take tonnes of lime per acre to move soil pH from 5 to 7, but improved fertilizer availability for all crops, better nodulation for pulse crops and alfalfa, and reduced risk from clubroot in canola can make the investment worthwhile

“Finally.” That word got special emphasis when Doug Penney was asked about liming. “It has become a hot topic… finally.” Penney, a long-serving Alberta Agriculture fertility specialist and now semi-retired crop consultant, says many fields in Western Canada — especially in Alberta — probably would have benefited from lime a long time ago. Fields most[...]
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Peas provide a pulse option in the black soil region but recent wet years have increased disease problems.

Pulses. More than a break crop in your canola rotation

Tours and events this summer will help you check which pulse crops can diversify your farm’s rotation

Rob Stone says red lentils “drive the bus” on his farm at Davidson, Sask. Granted, he says canola does quite a bit of driving too. But the point is this: his pulse crop is so much more than just a break crop for canola. Stone seeds about one-third of his land to lentils, on average.[...]
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Three short season soybeans were grown at four plots to study their nutrient benefit.

New Saskatchewan study compares soybeans to peas, lentils

Jing Xie et al. at the University of Saskatchewan recently published results from a study comparing soybeans, peas and lentils for their nutrient benefit for following crops.* The small-plot study was repeated at four Saskatchewan locations: Scott (dark brown), Saskatoon (dark brown), Rosthern (black) and Yorkton (black). At each site, three cultivars each of short-season[...]
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A professor of plant science at the University of McGill expects the “microbiome” to do as much for crops in the 21st century as chemical inputs in the 20th century.

Giving crop roots a boost

Researchers can now identify the microscopic organisms on which roots depend, and are discovering ways to make their relationships even more effective

For as long as plants have been growing on land, their roots have shared a symbiotic relationship with microbes in the soil. Arbuscules — the microscopic nutrient-gathering hairs of mycorrihizae — have been found connected to 400-million-year-old plant root fossils from the Rhynie chert in Scotland. A paper by Winfried Remy et al, published in[...]
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Mark Belmonte, researcher and associate professor at the University of Manitoba, uses big data and next-generation genetic sequencing to develop crop protection products. One new result is an RNA interference molecule that can stop sclerotinia stem rot.

Species-specific crop protection

RNA interference provides a new method of pest control, using tools so precise they hit only the target insect or disease

“We like to call sclerotinia the bully,” says Mark Belmonte. And stopping a bully is not easy. The pathogen attacks fast, it moves quickly through the plant and it can do heavy yield damage right away. “Because it acts with brute force and involves multiple genes, sclerotinia is difficult to study and get a good[...]
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