Agroforestry Strategic Plan (2008)

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The provincial Agroforestry Management Committee is pleased to announce it has initiated a strategic plan for the period of 2009 to 2013.

A key element to the success of the Agroforestry Initiative has been its focus on the priorities from various stakeholders around BC. In September we will be conducting online surveys to gauge your ideas, interests and aspirations for the coming years. We hope you can spare some time from your busy schedules to complete a survey and help us understand your priorities. An email invitation with a link to the survey website will be sent to everyone on the Agroforestry Mailing List.

In October and November we will be conducting a series of regional focus group meetings to gather more detailed information and help us with the process of prioritizing agroforestry development needs and shaping future agroforestry support programs.

General written submissions, of any length, with ideas, suggestions or links to organizations, programs or information you think would be of benefit to the development of agroforestry in BC are most welcome.

If you would like to be involved through participation in one of the regional focus groups or would like additional information on the planning process, please contact me at (250) 983-5114 or e-mail:

Periodic updates and information on the Plan will be posted in the "News" section of the Agroforestry Initiative website:

Kindest regards,
George W. Powell, PhD, PAg
BC Agroforestry Industry Development Initiative c/o PO Box 4261, Quesnel, BC V2J 3J3
Phone: 250.983.5114

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What is Agroforestry (2005)

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What is agroforestry?

Much as the name implies, it is the blending of agriculture and forestry in the same production system. More formally, agroforestry can be defined as the purposeful integration of tree or shrub production with conventional agricultural crops and/or livestock production. It is a common land-use practice in the tropics and is widely used in other areas of the world, but is still relatively unknown in Canada.

What are the advantages of adopting agroforestry practices?

The advantages of agroforestry are generally threefold:

First, when structured properly, combinations of trees, shrubs and ground crops can be more productive than growing equivalent areas of each in monocultures. This is because complementary plant mixtures make better use of the growth potential of the land - a phenomenon known as 'over-yielding'. Multiple canopy layers improve the capture of sunlight. Similarly, combinations of deep and shallow rooted plants make better use of available soil water and nutrients. Other favourable outcomes, such as enhanced nutrient cycling and reductions in pest problems have also been shown in agroforestry systems.

The second area of advantage from adopting agroforestry practices is economic and social. Producing multiple commodities can reduce production risks. Diversification may also make better annual use of labour or machinery. Moreover, mixing longer-term forest production with the annual agricultural income offsets the start-up and maintenance costs of the tree crop, and makes the overall system more profitable. Through diversification, reducing risk and offsetting costs you increase profits and stabilize year-to-year incomes for producers. This contributes to stability in the agri-food and forest sectors, and in communities dependent on these industries.

The third advantage can be viewed as the environmental services provided. Trees and shrubs have long been used in shelterbelts to reduce erosion and to protect buildings, livestock and crops. More recently, the benefits of trees and shrubs in protecting riparian habitats (along streams, rivers and wetlands) have been demonstrated. Integrated riparian and shelterbelt management, means that protecting and enhancing these areas can also generate income from traditional and non-timber forest products. Exciting new uses for trees and shrubs to act as bio-filters are being explored to reduce noise, dust and odours from intensive livestock operations or other farm activities. Trees and shrubs also create wildlife habitat, contribute to biodiversity, capture greenhouse gases and contribute to the aesthetics of the landscape through creation of green space - an issue of increasing importance as our farmlands are squeezed by urban expansion.

What can be produced in agroforestry systems?

Agroforestry is somewhat unique, in that it is defined by the production techniques employed, rather than the specific products generated. The potential commodities from agroforestry systems are extensive and diverse:

1. Biofuels (e.g. firewood, methanol, or electrical co-generation from burning plant residues);

2. Christmas trees, ornamentals, floral greenery, arts and craft stock;

3. Food (nuts, berries, honey, grains, vegetables, sap, mushrooms, herbs and spices, etc.);

4. Forage and browse;

5. Health products/cosmetics (derived from sap, leaf, flower and berry extracts);

6. Traditional forest products (lumber, pulp, wood chips and veneer, fence posts, rails, pickets, animal bedding, mulch, etc.);

Agroforestry systems may be adapted to supplement existing management to achieve specific products or environmental services. They provide the opportunity for diversification of production in every region of the province with environmentally sustainable practices.

What challenges are facing the "agroforestry industry"?

A major hurdle has been a lack of recognition of agroforestry, and among some producers, an initial reluctance to mix agriculture and forestry. A typical Canadian perspective has been that forestry and agriculture are incompatible. It is true that unmanaged, combining forestry and agriculture can create problems, and setting up an agroforestry system may take more planning than conventional production systems. But structured properly, these systems reap benefits on many fronts.

The other major challenges are in gaining site-specific production information so that we can adapt agroforestry production to the diversity of growing conditions and production interests across BC. There is also a need for improved access to marketing information and a means to link buyers and sellers of agroforestry products, particularly in the interior and the north.

What is the Agroforestry Industry Development Initiative?

The Federation of BC Woodlot Associations (FBCWA), on behalf of the provincial Agroforestry Management Committee, is administering the Agroforestry Industry Development Initiative. This initiative is part of the federal-provincial Agri-Food Futures Fund, with the overall goals of the development and sustainability of the agri-food industry in British Columbia. The Agroforestry Initiative is assisting the development of the emerging agroforestry industry with the goals of diversifying production opportunities with environmentally sustainable practices and increasing producer incomes. Funding is available through the Initiative for the development of cost-shared projects that demonstrate the social, economic and environmental advantages of agroforestry systems.

Where can someone get more information?

General information can be found in the Agroforestry section of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries' InfoBasket website (

The Guide to Agroforestry in BC and other general information can be found on the Small Woodlands Program website, hosted by the FBCWA ( Information and application forms for the Agroforestry Initiative are also available on the FBCWA website ( Anyone with questions, ideas or interest in applying for project funding can also contact George Powell, the Agorforestry Initiative Facilitator.

George W. Powell

Agroforestry Initiative Facilitator

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Annual Crops


BC Corn Hybrid Trials 2012 Yield Results

For farmers and ranchers in BC, choosing the best performing corn varieties for silage can be a challenge.

Global seed companies develop hundreds of new hybrids every year, phasing out old varieties every four to seven years. New varieties, with better weed control and water retention, can have higher yields. Almost 30,000 acres of fodder corn are grown in BC every year, with an estimated value of $20 million.

“Over the last 20 years, dry matter target yields in corn silage have increased from five to seven tonnes per acre,” states Ted Osborne, semi-retired general manager at Coldstream Ranch in Coldstream, BC. “But because new corn hybrids cost more, the only way producers can ensure they will truly benefit from the new technology is to do local testing. “

With partial funding from IAF, the Pacific Field Corn Association undertook a project to evaluate silage corn hybrids for BC dairy and beef farmers. From 2009 to 2011, field trials of new hybrids were conducted on three different farm sites in both coastal and interior regions of BC. The research provided comprehensive data on yield, dry matter, grain and lodging percentages (results are posted on the Farmwest website:

Having access to this data is highly valuable to producers, whose needs vary from farm to farm. Some may need a higher yield, while others need more energy content. Abbotsford dairy farmer Mike Dykshoorn was one of the volunteer hosts for the field trials. “I was extremely pleased with both the research methods and the results,” states Dykshoorn. “Over 40 different varieties were grown at this site and tested for the different attributes. I found the data very useful to determine the type of corn that would be best for my cows.”

With the list of hundreds of hybrids narrowed to ones that are best suited to BC conditions, BC farmers and ranchers will continue to benefit from the technological advances of corn hybrids.

Source: Investment Agriculture Foundation of BC


Corn - A New Pasture Grass?

While most farmers do everything possible to keep cows out of their corn, a few intrepid BC ranchers have been turning their beef cows into their corn fields in fall to graze.

Cattle producers are keenly interested in extending the grazing season into the autumn and winter. Grazing avoids the costs of harvesting, conserving, and feeding out forage and spreading manure. Because over-wintering beef cows do not require a high plane of nutrition or specialized housing, they are able to graze in winter. After all, the cow is efficient at both harvesting forage and spreading manure.

The main strategy for winter grazing is called stockpiling. The forage is grown in a normal way but left standing in the field after the growing season. Cold temperature helps to conserve the standing forage. While stockpiling grass is better known to farmers, stockpiling corn for winter grazing has some advantages. First, the whole season's dry matter production can be stockpiled. Second, corn sticks well out of the snow for cattle to easily access. Finally, the corn acts a windbreak for cattle standing downwind.

Unfortunately, growing corn for winter grazing can be challenging. Most cattle producers own neither a corn planter nor a herbicide sprayer, so establishing good stands of corn is difficult. Also, in many beef cattle areas there are insufficient heat units to grow a decent crop of corn. The corn may grow tall, but if cob development is poor, yield is low. Another problem in areas with a moist fall is that molds, such as Fusarium, that may develop on the leaves and cobs are a health hazard to cattle. If the ground is not frozen while cattle are grazing, utilization of the crop can be reduced due to mud on downed plants and soil compaction can become a problem.

Despite these challenges, winter grazing of corn has been successful in the interior valleys in Southern BC. Here, the summers have adequate heat units to grow corn, the falls are dry preventing molds, the winters are cold and dry so soils are frozen and snow cover is not excessive. Gus Fischer, a farmer at Hat Creek, has been successfully grazing corn for the past two winters.

Our Research Unit at Kamloops (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada) conducted a study in December 2000 to compare the performance of pregnant cows grazing stockpiled corn with the performance of cows grazing stockpiled tall fescue or fed tall fescue hay (2nd cut) in the feedlot. The average daily gains were 0.4 kg (0.8 lb) on corn, 1.1 kg (2.4 lb) on stockpiled tall fescue pasture, and 0.6 kg (1.4 lb) on fescue hay. The corn averaged 9% protein compared to 12% for fescue pasture and 11% for fescue hay. The digestibility of corn was similar to the fescue hay (38% vs. 35% ADF) but much less than fescue pasture (28% ADF). The amount of stockpiled corn (15.5 t/ha or 7 tons/acre of dry matter) was much greater than stockpiled tall fescue (4.4 t/ha or 2 tons/acre). As a result, an acre of corn provided 530 actual grazing days compared to only 100 for the fescue pasture.

The behaviour of cattle grazing corn was very interesting. Cows first picked off the cobs and then the leaves. While seeking these choice parts, the cattle knocked down the stalks which, if not soiled, they later picked up. We used electric fence to control access to strips of corn. The animals gained rapidly when first turned into a new strip but their gains declined when left with only the less digestible stems.

We used a very late-maturing (3400 CHU) corn hybrid (Pioneer 34G81) as it is desirable that corn be much less mature for fall grazing than for silage. If the standing corn is too mature, the leaves break off in the wind. Last year we planted the corn at 15 cm (6 in) spacing in 75 cm (30 in) rows for a population of 86,000 plants/ha (35,000 pl./ac). This year we doubled the population by planting at 8 cm (3 in) spacing to get finer stems, which we expect to be grazed more readily.

Last summer, we compared the yield and quality of Pioneer 34G81 with another later-maturing variety called 'Amaizing Graze' (3500-3600 CHU) planted at three different dates. Amaizing Graze, a variety promoted for grazing, is much more variable in height and maturity than typical because it is an open pollinated variety and not a true hybrid. The Pioneer hybrid gave greater yield with slightly less protein (8% compared to 9% protein) than Amaizing Graze. We found that delaying planting to June 1 reduced yield but improved nutritional quality. The late plantings lost less dry matter through the winter probably because they retained more leaves.

Our conclusion is that farmers with the right temperament can maintain a large number of animals on a small piece of land by winter grazing corn, provided that they have the right climate, equipment and skill.

D. Thompson, AAFC, Kamloops

Previous Page: « Tips to Minimize Soil Nitrate Levels in Fall »

Next Page: « Relay Cropping a Big Hit in Whatcom County »

Grazing Corn in Winter

Two articles in Cattlemen’s Magazine last February about Alberta and Manitoba producers who reported good success with grazing corn resulted in a number of enquiries to our office from area ranchers looking for more information on this new use for corn. Corn has been grown for winter grazing in the US mid-west for several years, but few farmers have tried this in Canada, perhaps because of our shorter summers and severe winter conditions. Three projects conducted in Interior BC in 1999 will help answer farmers’ questions about the potential of corn as a grazing crop for BC cattle.

A field of grazing corn north of Cache Creek - July 30, 1999.

One trial was planted at the Chutter Ranch in Merritt on May 26. This trial comprised two-acre blocks of the grazing corn variety “Amaizing Graze” (approximately 2400 Corn Heat Units) and a standard silage corn hybrid, Pioneer 3936 (2550 CHU). Amaizing Graze refers to a group of multi-tillered varieties of corn from Baldridge Hybrids of Ohio which, according to the company, were developed specifically for grazing. The planting in Merritt was on an old alfalfa/grass stand that had been sprayed with Roundup the previous fall and then disced in the spring. No additional weed control was done at planting time. A number of alfalfa plants had survived, along with a fair amount of mustard. The plot was sprayed with 2,4-D at the end of June. Populations averaged 71,000 plants/ha (28,500 plants/ac) for Amaizing Graze and 87,000 plants/ha (35,000 plants/ac) for Pioneer 3936.

Gus Fischer, who ranches just north of Cache Creek, planted corn on a 31-ha (76-acre) field, half to Amaizing Graze and half to a typical silage variety (Hyland Brand). The corn was planted on May 19, using a grain drill with every other run blocked, for a planned population of 74,000 plants/ha (30,000 plants/acre). Primextra was used for weed control with good results. Actual population was 84,000 plants/ha (34,000 plants/acre).

Finally, a research trial was planted at the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Research Centre in Kamloops to compare two varieties of grazing corn with a standard silage corn and to test the effects of different planting dates.

How well did the corn hybrids grow? On September 15, at Merritt, both varieties of corn averaged only about 1.8m (6 ft) in height, had poor cob formation and many brown leaves because of an early frost. No frost had occurred at Cache Creek, so the crop in mid-September was over 2.7m (9 ft) tall with some cobs starting to fill.

Final yield and quality samples were taken on both farms in mid-October, after growth had stopped. At Merrit there was little difference in yield and quality between the two hybrids. Amaizing Graze yielded about 9,000 kg/ha (8,200 lb/acre) of dry matter at 7% crude protein and 63% total digestible nutrients (TDN) while Pioneer 3936 yielded 9,600 kg/ha (8,700 lb/acre) at 7.6% crude protein and 64% TDN.

At Cache Creek, Amaizing Graze yielded 13,500 kg/ha (12,000 lb/acre) of dry matter at 9% crude protein and 64% TDN. The Hyland hybrid yielded about 13,500 kg/ha (12,000 lb/acre), at 7.75% protein and 64% TDN. The rancher plans to graze this 31-ha (76-acre) field in December. He has divided it up into eight pastures with electric fence and will graze with about 380 dry beef cows. We will monitor cow performance by weighing the cows first when they go onto the corn and again when they come out. Results of the grazing will be reported on next spring.

Ted Moore, BCMAF, Kamloops

Previous Page: « Just How Bad Was 1999 »

Next Page: « Relay Cropping for Forage Corn - A System in Demand! »

New Herbicide for Field Corn

Converge® 75 WDG can now be used by field corn producers in BC thanks to a minor use label expansion. This pre-emerge herbicide offers season-long control of many weeds resistant to Atrazine. Converge® can be used safely on crops treated with Counter® insecticide (for wireworms). However, a big caution from Roy Cranston, weed specialist with BCMAFF. Converge® may cause damage to corn under stress from cool, wet, and cloudy weather. Therefore, farmers are advised to try the herbicide on a small area to see how it performs under their conditions, before they make it part of their whole management package!

Weeds controlled by Converge® include lamb's quarter, red-root pigweed, common ragweed, eastern black nightshade, dandelion seedlings, smooth and large crabgrass, velvetleaf, plantain seedlings, witchgrass, wild and wormseed mustard, barnyard grass, and green foxtail. Converge® can be tank mixed with Atrazine for control of lady's thumb.

Do not use Converge® on sweet corn or seed corn and do not graze corn for 60 days after application. Converge® can be used on all soil types except for sands, loamy sands and soils with less than 2% OM.

The electronic version of the label can be found on:

PFCA Corn Hybrid Performance Report 1995 Edition

PDF Version of Report


  • 1994 Silage Trials - Early (Abbotsford & Saanich)
  • 1994 Silage Trials - Late (Agassiz & Chilliwack)
  • The Pacific Field Corn Association - The Pacific Field Corn Association is a non-profit society registered under the B.C. Society Act.  Its mandate is to evaluate new corn hybrids for B.C., to support registration of new hybrids and to promote research and education related to field corn production.  The hybrid evaluation program is funded on a fee-for-service basis to private companies wishing to use impartial, scientific data to market corn hybrids and to support new registrations.
  • Procedure for Hybrid Evaluation

PFCA Corn Hybrid Performance Report 1996 Edition

PDF Version of Report


  • 1995 Silage Trials - Early (Abbotsford & Saanich)
  • 1995 Silage Trials - Late (Agassiz & Chilliwack) 
  • Italian Ryegrass - Two crops where one has grown before
  • Banding Herbicides Saves Money
  • High Moisture Ear Corn
  • The Pre-Sidedress Soil Nitrate Test (PSNT) Saves Cash

PFCA Corn Hybrid Performance Report 1997 Edition

PDF Version of Report


  • 1996 Silage Trials - Early (Abbotsford & Saanich) 
  • 1996 Silage Trials - Late (Agassiz & Chilliwack)
  • Processing Corn Silage
  • Why poor weed control in 1996?
  • Update on relay cropping
  • Before next spring: Tune-up your corn planter
  • Mechanical weed control makes a comeback in corn

PFCA Corn Hybrid Performance Report 1998 Edition

PDF Version of Report


  • 1997 Silage Trials - Early (Abbotsford & Saanich)
  • 1997 Silage Trials - Late (Agassiz & Chilliwack)
  • Fall Nitrogen Test - good report card for Agassiz corn producers
  • Ten tips for managing nitrogen efficiently
  • New herbicide for grass control in corn
  • PFCA Activities in 1997
  • Harvest corn silage by moisture content, not just milkline
  • Microwave method for determination of moisture content of silage corn

PFCA Corn Hybrid Performance Report 1999 Edition

PDF Version of Report


  • 1998 Silage Trials - Early (Abbotsford & Saanich)
  • 1998 Silage Trials - Late (Agassiz & Chilliwack)
  • Record yield and early harvest - near perfect corn year in BC in 1998
  • Herbicide ACCENT zaps grassy weeds in BC corn fields, but ...
  • Genetically Engineered Corn
  • Pamper Soil Bugs and Avoid Purple Corn

PFCA Corn Hybrid Performance Report 2000 Edition

PDF Version of Report


  • 1999 Silage Trials - Early (Abbotsford & Saanich), Late (Agassiz & Chilliwack), Southern Interior (Coldstream)
  • Cold spring, late planting, but mild autumn
  • ONe in ten year event - September wind storm causes lodging
  • Advanced Forage Management - Book by PFCA
  • Just how bad was 1999?
  • New Research in Interior BC - Grazing Corn in Winter
  • Relay Cropping for Forage Corn - A system in demand
  • Advantages of realy cropping
  • Know how much you harvest .. the easy weigh!
  • The importance of farmland to shorebirds wintering in the Fraser River Delta

PFCA Corn Hybrid Performance Report 2001 Edition

PDF version of report


  • 2000 Silage Trials - Coast Early (Abbotsford & Saanich), Coast Late (Agassiz & Chilliwack), Southern Interior (Coldstream)
  • 2000 - The Corn Year in Review
  • Agassiz Corn Competition - Top Corn Growers Use Nitrogen Efficiently
  • What are Corn Heat Units?
  • Southern Interior - Winter Grazing Corn
  • Central Interior - Winter Grazing Corn
  • Winter temperatures on
  • T-sum Calculation on
  • Can Reduced Tillage Help Corn Production in BC?
  • Corn Production Technology Update

PFCA Corn Hybrid Performance Report 2002 Edition

PDF Version of Report


  • 2001 Silage Trials - Coast Early (Abbotsford & Saanich), Coast Late (Agassiz & Chilliwack), Southern Interior Early (Coldstream), Southern Interior Late (Armstrong)
  • Reduced Tillage in the Fraser Valley
  • Agassiz Corn Competition - Nitrogen Report Card 2001
    • Do Agassiz Corn Kings use more nitrogen?
  • Procedure for Corn Hybrid Evaluation
  • Year in Review - South Coast
  • Year in Review - North Okanangan
  • Schedule Irritation with
  • New Herbicide for Field Corn
  • Tips to Minimize Soil Nitrate Levels in the Fall
  • Corn - A new pasture grass?
  • Relay Cropping - A big hit in Whatcom County

PFCA Corn Hybrid Performance Report 2003 Edition

PDF Version of Report


  • 2002 Silage Trials - Coast Early, Coast Late, Southern Interior Early
  • 2001 Corn Quality - Coast Early, Coast Late, Southern Interior Early & Late
  • Nutritional Qulaity of Silage Corn
  • Reduced Tillage for Silage Corn
  • How to use information on stover fiber concentrations
  • Explaining fiber
  • Fraser Valley Relay Cropping takes off in 2002


PFCA Corn Hybrid Performance Report 2004 Edition

PDF Version of Report


  • 2003 Silage Trials - Coast Early, Coast Late, Souther Interior Early
  • 2002 Corn Quality - Coast Early, Coast Late, Southern Interior Early
  • Relay Crop Report for 2003
  • What is T-Sum
  • T-Sum Date Arriving Earlier
  • Explaning Fiber
  • How to Calculate Whole Plant ADF & NDF

Reduced Tillage in the Fraser Valley

For the first time, several Fraser Valley corn producers attempted to grow corn with reduced tillage this year . The fields varied in soil type, amount of tillage used and previous crop and so did the results.

In preparation for corn planting, most farmers plough, disc and harrow their fields, working the field 3-6 times. The intention of this ‘conventional’ tillage is to eliminate weeds, prepare a good seed bed, loosen the soil to help corn roots grow, eliminate compacted areas and level the surface. Loosening soil can also help it dry faster and a drier soil warms up more quickly.

The effect of tillage on seed bed deserves some consideration. Corn seed is large and requires a planting depth of 2.5-6 cm (1-2.5 in) with good soil contact all around the seed. Corn planters are designed to cut a groove into the soil, deposit seed into the groove, then cover the groove. These planting operations are more easily accomplished in a cultivated field with loose soil.

In un-tilled fields, a cutting disc mounted in front of the openers assists penetration into the soil and cuts through trash on the soil surface. However, even more difficult than opening the furrow is closing it. Corn seed in an open furrow is exposed to birds and rodents and will not absorb water rapidly.

At Agassiz, we have found that the solution to closing the furrow is to cultivate a narrow (7 cm or 3 in) band of soil prior to creating the furrow. This is accomplished with special concave and fluted disks, mounted in front of the openers (see photo). The depths of the disks must be set to match seeding depth, so that the seed furrow can be easily closed by the packing wheels. Because of this cultivation, we prefer the term ‘minimum-till’ to ‘zero-till’. Overall, seeding must be done more slowly in un-tilled than in tilled soil.

On the coarse-textured soils at the Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre at Agassiz, minimum-till corn has consistently yielded as well as, or slightly better than, tilled corn. Also, the minimum-till corn matured earlier and contained more grain. In other regions, performance of minimum tillage has improved over years .

How well did reduced tillage work on Fraser Valley farms in 2001? In two side-by-side comparisons by a farmer near Rosedale, yield, maturity and grain yield were somewhat better for reduced-tilled corn than conventionally tilled corn. This farmer had a bumper crop of 20 t/ha of dry matter (9 T/ac) with over 27% dry matter content. ‘Reduced tillage’ in these fields meant reducing the number of cultivations rather than ‘minimum-tillage’.

On a nearby farm, corn grown with no tillage yielded 30% less than with conventional tillage (11.7 vs 17.4 t dry matter /ha or 5.2 vs 7.7 T/ac). This fine-textured field was planted with a planter that did not have the ‘cultivating’ disk (see photo), so the furrows were left partially opened. The same type of planter was used in south Rosedale to plant corn directly into winter wheat stubble sprayed with Roundup. Uneven germination in this field caused the farmer to cultivate and replant. This farmer planted corn directly into winter wheat in another field that ranged in texture from heavy to light. A side-by-side comparison of no-till and conventional tillage on the lighter part of the field produced almost identical yield, dry matter and grain for the two management systems (15.4 t dry matter/ha or 6.9 T/ac with 26% dry matter content).

A sandy field near Chilliwack emerged well, had few weeds and produced a respectable yield of 15.9 t/ha (7.1 T/ac) at 28.0% dry matter and just under 40% grain. The farmer states that he is pleased with the overall results but suggests that headlands should be tilled to reduce compaction.

What are the lessons learned from the 2001 experience? Planting corn with reduced tillage seems advantageous. Planting minimum-till must be done carefully with the right tools so that seed placement is uniform and seed furrows are well covered. More testing needs to be done under different soil and cover crop conditions.

S. Bittman, AAFC, Agassiz.

Next Page: « Nitrogen Report Card 2001 »

Fenugreek & Forage Beets - (2011)

by Curt Gesch, Telkwa, B.C., 2011


  • I had enough seeds left over from last year to try a small patch. This time I did NOT do any pre-emergent spray or tillage: just a few passes with a rototiller and then I planted according to directions. The seedlings germinated well, but grew slowly. They do not seem bothered by early frosts. By June they were being depressed by weeds, volunteer clovers, etc. I’ve sent a couple pictures. In one you can see a lone fenugreek stem and leaf. In the other the jungle of the competition.
  • I would say that—based on two years of tiny trials—that a clean seedbed is the only way to grow this plant. I am not in favour of routine herbicide treatment as a matter of course, but it might be the way to prepare for a seeding. I suspect that a number of pre-plant and pre-emergent tillings would achieve the same thing.
  • Also, I know it is a rhizobia-associated plant, but I wonder if some high-N wouldn’t be the thing really get this stuff going so it can shade out competition instead of the other way around.


  • This time I was a little more scientific.  I planted relatively long rows of three varieties (see below) and added various sources of calcium cross-row.   I had one plot using lumber-mill “wet-ash” and another using “dry-ash” (both from the kilns at a mill) and one plot using calcium carbonate.  A fourth plot received no lime and was intended as a control.
  • The weather tends to really affect these amateur experiments, and in our case the long, cool, wet summer probably caused skewed results.  Also, I did not have replications, bad scientifist that I am.  The wettest spots germinated and then nearly drowned, and never did really catch up with their neighbouring plants, even within the same plots.  There was not much doubt, however, that forage beets, like regular garden beets, respond positively to calcium/lime in nearly any form.  The CaC03  plots did best, and then one of the mill ash plots.  I based my results solely on visual observation, but there was not much doubt about it.  The control plot was lower in productivity. (By the way, my pH is about 6.7.)



A.     Mammoth Red - This type is probably the easiest to find.  If the cows could talk, they’d tell me these are the most palatable (sweetest?) of the varieties I tried.  I got them from Johnny’s Selected Seeds, but Jung’s (USA) and a few other companies carry these, too.  You can see from the photos that these did not get to the bragging range of 10-20 pounds.  I don’t think they could ever get to that size in our cool summer climate.  They also had many roots hairs and branches.  The ones I grew did not push up out of the ground enough.  I had to dig them.

B.     Golden Eckendorf - I got these from Jung’s Seeds.  They did the best in our climate (see photos for average size) with half the root or more out of the ground.  I could pick these without digging.  I suspect that anyone with a welding torch and some steel could devise an easy-lifting device for these.  

C.     Bucklunch - also from Jung’s.  It is being advertised for white-tail deer hunters who maintain food plots.  It is white and looks like some winter radishes I’ve seen.  In spite of the claim, it did not grow half out of the ground in my tests.  

The seed packages all say “110 days” to maturity, but I think that shorter seasons or fewer heat units means simply smaller roots, not that one shouldn’t try growing them.   Certainly our climate (Telkwa) often has a light frost every month and I’m sure the plants will live through those without too much trouble.

It would be great if someone could make a connection with the German company that I found looking under the words “Startseite » Nutz- & Heimtierbedarf » Futtermittelbereitung » Pressen, Quetschen & Stampfer” who produce relatively cheap hand-cranked slicer/choppers.  It would be a good demonstration project for our forage people, 4-H clubs, and so on.  I’m sure I could find people in our area who’d jump at the chance to try out a new crop and the chopper.


CONCLUSIONS - I will grow the Mammoth Red and Golden Eckendorf again next year.  I will add Ca to the soil to all seedings and may experiment with ways to make a temporary storage “pit” above ground with soil, straw, etc. 

Tillage radishes – a new option for improved soil health

New-to-Canada cover crop salvages nutrients, improves water and air movement in soil, protects from pests and increases crop yields

by Madeleine Baerg
Link to posted article:  Tillage Radishes

Very aggressive when rooting, tillage radishes can exert 290 pounds per square inch of pressure as they drill down, which allows them to punch their way through compacted soil and hardpan.

Photo by Kevin Elmy.

Cover crops are not yet grown much in Canadian fields. However, tillage radish, a fast-growing, all-natural cover crop from Pennsylvania-based Cover Crop Solutions, may just change that.

According to Patrick Fabian, tillage radishes do everything from increasing nutrient availability for subsequent crops, to suppressing pests and supporting healthy saoil organisms, to improving water and air movement through soil. That, combined with the fact that studies now show yield increases of up to 10 and 11 percent respectively in soybeans and corn planted into decomposing tillage radishes, means this cover crop is making significant waves south of the border.

While still brand new to Canada – 2013 will be just their second year available in this country – expect to hear much more about tillage radishes in the near future.

“Tillage radishes are an important new tool in producers’ toolboxes,” says Fabian, a certified seed producer in Tilley, Alta., and the Alberta/B.C. territory rep for tillage radishes.  “There’s no question that they are going to be part of the western Canadian landscape in a big way. Down in the States, they’ve caught on like wildfire.”

Tillage radishes are daikon radishes with a thick white tuber that can grow up to 18 inches in length, and a single long taproot that can easily bring the plant’s total rooting depth to four feet or more. Very aggressive when rooting, tillage radishes can exert 290 pounds per square inch of pressure as they drill down, which allows them to punch their way through compacted soil and hardpan. When they decompose in the soil, the natural pores left behind serve as ideal water and air movement channels, greatly increasing the surrounding soil’s health. The long taproot also allows the plant to access nitrogen and other nutrients that are deeply buried and inaccessible to shallower growing crops.

So long as the radishes are left to decompose naturally in the spring, the salvaged nutrients brought up from depth and stored in the radish tubers will be slowly released to the roots of subsequent crops.

“If you start with 40 pounds of nitrogen in the top foot of your soil in the fall, tillage radishes will leave you with 60 to 80 pounds of nitrogen stored in the tubers by the next spring,” says Kevin Elmy, a western Canadian distributor for tillage radish and co-owner of Friendly Acres Seed Farm in Saltcoats, Sask. “Calculating based on a cost of $0.70 per pound for nitrogen, that 20-pound increase in nitrogen is a $14 per acre benefit.”

Tillage radishes are the result of a dozen years of selective breeding. The original forage radish genetics from Quebec interested researchers because they hoped its natural bio-fumigant properties would suppress nematodes in soybeans. In fact, it turns out that the tillage radish’s combination of natural heat, fast growth and nutrient capturing capabilities helps manage multiple pests.

“If you take a crop off in the fall and for six weeks before freeze-up there is nothing growing, all the microbes in the soil are basically starving,” explains Elmy. “If you can grow a quick crop like tillage radishes, it’ll feed the good microbes so that the bad microbes don’t have an opportunity to take over.”

In the spring, decomposing tillage radishes release a very pungent natural gas smell. The chemicals released through decomposition help rebalance soil microbes, supporting beneficial microbes that encourage plant health.

On the weed front, tillage radishes offer excellent winter annual weed control. Because their foliage grows so quickly, they can be planted as late as three weeks before a first frost and will effectively outcompete weed species. Additional pest management benefits are currently being studied. Early evidence from the American northeast suggests they may effectively ward off wireworms in potatoes.

And, Elmy says, they may also help protect canola from clubroot. “Because tillage radishes and canola are both part of the brassica family, there was some concern at first especially about clubroot,” he notes. “But three trials have been done in different areas in southern Alberta, and they’ve found that in fields with 70 percent infection in the canola, there’s only a three percent infection on the tillage radishes. In fact, tillage radishes might actually help control clubroot. Clubroot is a problem in really high nitrogen soils. But tillage radishes tie up nitrogen and slowly release it, so they may decrease the clubroot in the canola they’re planted into.”

From a management perspective, tillage radishes’ quick growth offers benefits. Their dense foliage provides erosion protection both to sparsely leaved crops such as potatoes and beans during the growing season, and to otherwise empty fields through the winter. And, like the original forage radish from which they descend, tillage radishes offer a fast way of creating very palatable forage for cattle and sheep.

For best results, err on the side of planting later rather than too early. Daylight sensitive, if these radishes are planted too early, they will not produce much root because they will focus their energy on bolting and seed production. But planted after summer solstice, they will respond to the decreasing hours of daylight by putting energy into developing a root tuber that in warmer climates would survive the winter.

“If you seed them May 5, they will look like a canola plant – they’ll be four feet tall and after 85 days, the root will be three inches long. But when they were planted Aug. 15, 28 days later the root was 12 inches long,” says Fabian.

With a seed size similar to canola, tillage radishes should be planted at between one and four pounds per acre for grazing, and between six and 10 pounds per acre for breaking apart hardpan or smothering weeds. “It’s a very versatile crop that can be seeded virtually any way you like, and they are very user-friendly,” says Fabian. “They do not require any additional fertility to get them going, so you can basically seed them and forget them.”

This past year, Elmy and Fabian expected to bring in enough seed for 15,000 to 20,000 acres. Fabian expects that number to grow easily to half a million acres in the next couple of years.

“Tillage radishes are a tool just like any other tool in a farmers’ toolbox,” he notes. “It’s just like GPS for your tractor. Can you get by without it? Definitely. Did we get by without it for many years? For sure. But, is it something that will make farms more efficient and more profitable? Absolutely.” Elmy agrees. “Cover crops add sustainability. On our farm, what I’m looking at is reducing risk and increasing profitability by keeping my net farm income the same with half the inputs,” he says. “Tillage radishes suit anyone who wants to use biological processes to help improve productivity.”

SOURCE:  Ag Annex

Yield Isn't Everything (2005)

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Yield is an important aspect of a crop variety's merit, but not the only one. In tough years it's less important than you might think.

As you're choosing this season's varieties, try thinking and reading outside the (yield) box. Granted, yield is an important aspect of a crop, but choosing the best variety for your farm has more to do with the overall merits of a variety than simply how many bushels per acre it yields.

When evaluating new varieties for recommendation, crop industry experts look at three categories:

  • Disease and pest resistance
  • Agronomic traits (i.e. yield, maturity, straw strength)
  • Quality

The same principles apply when choosing a variety for your farm. Bryan Harvey, Advisor to the Vice-President of Agricultural Research and Malting Barley Breeder at the University of Saskatchewan, says that all three categories are evaluated independently and as a total package before being recommended. "Farmers need to do the same. If variety A yields 10% more than variety B, but is susceptible to lodging or a major pest in the area, which would you choose?"

After a year like 2004, when early frosts and snow made harvesting a real nightmare, Phil Thomas wants to drive home the importance of agronomic traits - beyond yield. As Senior AgriCoach with Agri-Trend Agrology Ltd., Thomas stresses looking at maturity, straw strength, and the genetic pest resistance when choosing a variety. "I always suggest looking at days to maturity in an average year, and sticking with only those varieties that are going to ripen in that time frame. Some learned a hard lesson last year when late crops got caught by frost," he says. Thomas also says that knowledge of what pests were a problem last year, or could be this year in your area, should dictate which varieties to grow. "Whenever genetic resistance to insects or diseases common to your area is available, take advantage. A small increase in yield potential isn't worth downgrading disease resistance," he cautions.

Moving beyond agronomic traits, Harvey highlights the importance of quality in the final crop. Whether for malting, canola oil, or the feedlot, end-users have specific criteria for what they want and if a high-yielding variety can't deliver on quality, the extra bushels aren't going to help you market your crop. Harvey explains that malting varieties like Harrington, or the first canola varieties, had lower yields to begin with, but the industry could see the potential in the quality gains. "Could you imagine what Western Canada would look like if we hadn't recommended the first canola varieties because of low yield potential?" he asks.

Harvey highlights two points that drive home the message that merit is more than yield. "It's no good to have high yield if you can't harvest the crop. For example, a high yielding variety that lodges because of weak straw, sprouts in the swath, matures too late and is at risk to frost damage, or is covered in disease is going to lose any yield advantage it started out with. Also, if no one wants to buy your crop, all the yield in the world isn't going to help you sell it. A maltster won't want our high-yielding, low-quality barley. They, or any end-user, demand quality."

A variety's merits are found in the total package, not just in the promise of greater yields.

This article is reprinted with permission from, Alberta's Seed Guide - Winter 2005 Issue. To view the entire seed guide online or to order a hard copy, please visit

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Funding Expands Successful Noise Conflict Program for Blueberry Growers (2007)

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A $100,000 grant to the BC Blueberry Council will expand a successful program that helps to resolve noise conflicts between blueberry farmers and their neighbours, Agriculture and Lands Minister Pat Bell has announced.

Begun in 2002, the Grower Liaison Officer program focuses on educating blueberry farmers on bird management strategies and the proper use of audible bird-scare devices, primarily propane cannons. The officer works directly with the farmer, neighbors and the local government to address the noise complaint.

"This funding will support continuation of a program that has been very successful in reducing conflicts between farmers and their neighbours," Bell said. "I want to see our farming and urban communities more understanding of and responsive to each other's needs. This program by the BC Blueberry Council is doing just that."

Over the past five years, the program has successfully resolved many potential conflicts, despite the rapid growth of the blueberry industry and expansion of neighbourhoods closer to blueberry fields.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Lands has guidelines regulating the use of devices used for wildlife damage control, and local governments in blueberry growing regions have incorporated the guidelines into noise-control bylaws. In addition, the BC Blueberry Council works closely with the ministry and local governments on other bird-scare methods, including reflective streamers, netting, falcons and devices that emit sounds resembling a bird in distress.

"Our members have made a very sincere effort to make changes to their practices in order to be good neighbours," Council chair Wilhelmina de Jager said. "Once farmers are informed of a complaint, many adopt bird-scare methods that go beyond what is called for in the provincial guidelines and local bylaws."

B.C. is the biggest producer in Canada of high bush blueberries and the second largest producer in North America. Employing more than 5,000 people, B.C.'s blueberry industry produced 63 million pounds of berries worth $95 million in 2006. Approximately 14,200 acres are in production, double the acreage of five years ago. It is estimated that 10 per cent of the crop is lost to birds.

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Keeping Birds at Bay from B.C. Blueberry Harvest (2006)

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Blueberries are delicious and not just to us. Birds love them! Every year thousands upon thousands of starlings, crows and song birds descend on blueberry fields all over British Columbia's Fraser Valley - where more than 95% of Canada's highbush blueberries are grown - to feast on the fruits of farmers' labours. This invasion adds up to significant losses to farmers and not just from consumed berries, but also to fruit that is downgraded due to damage by these winged predators.

Protecting this high-value crop from bird predation has been a huge challenge for blueberry farmers. There are many devices available to deter birds from entering fields. Unfortunately not all are effective or affordable. Many farmers employ noise devices to discourage birds and mitigate damage, but the same noise that frightens the birds can also cause disruption to neighbours.

Recognizing the impact that the use of noise devices can have on its neighbours, the blueberry industry devised a program to work with individual farmers to develop an integrated approach to crop protection. By using a variety of scare techniques to deter birds from blueberry fields - such as audible devices and visual techniques (hawk kites, reflective streamers, etc) - this integrated approach would improve relations with neighbours and hopefully decrease losses more than the use of a single approach. In light of the significant efforts the blueberry industry is willing to take to improve relationships in the communities in which they farm, the Agriculture Environment Partnership Initiative agreed to provide $30,000 funding support for this $75,000 stewardship project running from 2003 to August 31, 2007.

One component of this project was the development of a GIS database that includes complaints by region, location of farms and neighbours. The information was then used to conduct an awareness and education program focusing on growers' responsibilities to reduce the impact of their farming practices on neighbours. An advisor was also hired to visit farms, discuss the impacts of noise on others in the community and help farmers implement an integrated approach to bird management. In addition to working with farmers, the advisor plays a role in mitigating issues that arise around the use of noise scare devises by helping neighbours and farmers better understand each other's concerns.

Is this strategy working? It seems to be.

"Since this program has started, we have seen growers and neighbours understand each other better," said Nazam Dulat, advisor for the B.C. Blueberry Council integrated bird management project. "And we have seen a reduction in complaints about bird scare devices."

"Without the B.C. Blueberry Council's involvement, I think we would still be struggling with enforcement versus proactive compliance efforts and cooperation," added the City of Surrey's senior bylaw officer, John Hofmann.

Neighbours are in agreement with the success of this program too. Each season the B.C. Blueberry Council receives many letters of commendation for this program and encouragement to continue. Although there is still work to be done, the efforts made and the successes gained so far are undeniable.

This project - a joint undertaking of the B.C. Blueberry Council and the Agriculture Environment Partnership Initiative (AEPI) - is an example of how working together can bring awareness and understanding of the issues to both farmers and their communities.

The AEPI provides funding assistance for farmers in B.C. to address environmental issues, enhance environmental sustainability and reduce the impacts of wildlife on agriculture. Funding for the AEPI is provided through the Agri-Food Futures Fund, a joint program of the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture and Lands and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. AEPI funds are held in trust with the Investment Agriculture Foundation of B.C. The B.C. Agriculture Council manages the program.

Nazam Dulat
Advisor, B.C. Blueberry Council

John Hofmann
Senior Bylaw Officer, City of Surrey

Brian Baehr
Coordinator, Agriculture Environment Initiatives, BC Agriculture Council

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BC Cranberry Industry Backgrounder (2007)

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  • Cranberries are one of the few commercially grown fruits that are native to North America
  • The first commercial field was planted in BC in 1946
  • Cranberry harvest in BC is from September through the end of October
  • British Columbia is the second largest producer of cranberries (behind Quebec) in Canada
  • BC cranberry production is over 75 million pounds per year
  • BC cranberry production represents 12% of total North American production
  • Eighty farm families (some 4th generation) are dedicated to growing cranberries on approximately 5,600 acres in BC
  • Over 90% of BC cranberries are shipped to the USA for use in value-added Ocean Spray products
  • Off-shore markets for cranberry products include: Australia, France, Germany & Mexico
  • Over 50% of BC cranberries will be made into Craisins
  • Approximately 40% of BC cranberries will be used for juice products
  • New market development has been initiated in Korea, in keeping with the federal governments' priority to investigate export potential to this country.
  • The BC Cranberry Marketing Commission has been a part of the BC cranberry Industry since 1965
  • The BC Cranberry Marketing Commission regulates in any and all respects, the transportation, processing, packing, storage and marketing of any variety of cranberries grown in the province of British Columbia
  • Cranberries are good for you! Research points to the health benefits of cranberries consumption can be beneficial for the following illnesses: anti-cancer, anti-aging, dental, heart health and ulcers. For more health information visit the Cranberry Institute website at

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Cranberry Harvest (2009)

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We all know that it has been a very dry summer and start to fall and we are not wishing for a heavy rainy season, but with or without rain BC cranberry growers will be flooding their fields to harvest BC's biggest berry crop. Gorgeous crimson pools will be seen from Richmond to Agassiz, and on parts of Vancouver Island, over the next few weeks as cranberry growers work to bring in what looks to be the best crop in years.

"The weather has been perfect for cranberries this year" says BC Cranberry Marketing Commission Chairman, John Savage. "We had excellent pollination and fruit set this spring and now all indicators point to a crop at least 20% larger than last year."

In 2009, our 80 farm families will harvest over 80 million pounds of cranberries from 6,000 acres, from Richmond to Agassiz and on Vancouver Island. Making cranberries the biggest berry crop in BC, and making BC one of the largest cranberry producing regions in Canada!

Just what does 80 million pounds of cranberries look like? Well, it would take 1,739 semi-trailers which when lined up on Highway #1 would stretch from the South-end of the Iron Worker's Memorial Bridge in Vancouver to Glover Road in Fort Langley! Now that's a lot of cranberries!

Which is good news, as cranberry popularity continues to grow. Says Savage, "Consumers can't seem to get enough of high quality, healthy products like whole fresh or frozen cranberries, cranberry juices and Craisins."

You can find cranberry products at your local grocer, for fresh cranberries look for the Ocean Spray bag in the produce department. Or why not head out to a farmers market or festival to pick-up your fresh supply? Check out these local events:

  • The Haney Farmers Market will have a special cranberry sale on October 3rd and Bernardin will be there to show you creative ways to use cranberries in canning, visit their website at
  • The 14th Annual Cranberry Festival takes place October 10 in Fort Langley for details visit
  • Also on October 10, the Richmond Nature Park will be having their annual cranberry sale, with sale proceeds going back to the Richmond Nature Park Society,
  • On Vancouver Island check out Yellow Point Cranberries activities by visiting their website at

With emerging research on the healthful benefits of consuming cranberries, cranberry products serve the dual purpose of function and taste giving consumers more value for their grocery dollar. Cranberries are available year-round as fresh, frozen, dried or in juice. With so many convenient ways to enjoy them you can easily ensure you are getting your daily dose of this tasty and healthy addition to your diet. Visit to find information on the industry, health and fabulous recipes.

For more information, contact:

Geraldine Auston
Director of Communications T: 604.820.4451
BC Cranberry Marketing Commission

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Cranberry Harvest - BC's Largest Berry Crop (2007)

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The first signs of Autumn are upon us...children are back at school, days are shorter, morning air is crisp, leaves are falling and BC's largest berry crop is being harvested. Yes, it is cranberry season.

Cranberries, part of BC history since the fur trading days, remain a significant contributor to BC's economy today. The cranberry industry is BC's largest berry crop with fields yielding over 75 million pounds annually. British Columbia is the second largest cranberry producing region in Canada (behind Quebec) and our production represents 12% of total North American volumes.

"The quality for this year's crop is excellent" says John Savage, Chair of the BC Cranberry Marketing Commission, adding "BC's total cranberry crop will not meet its potential of 85 million pounds, but we will still have strong production of about 75 million pounds."

"Demand is strong for cranberries worldwide for both juice and dried (Craisins) products" noted Savage. In fact, demand is so strong for those tasty and tangyCraisins that over 50% of BC's crop will be used in their production.

Cranberry farming is a family affair in BC with eighty farm families, some 4th generation, dedicating themselves to growing this delicious, versatile and healthy berry.

Most of BC's cranberries go into products made by Ocean Spray. Says Savage, "BC cranberry growers are proud owner/members of Ocean Spray, by buying Ocean Spray products consumers are supporting BC farmers."

Delicious and versatile? Absolutely! The BC Cranberry Marketing Commission (BCCMC) wants to tempt your taste buds with recipes created to enhance the unique flavour of cranberries and to demonstrate that cranberries are not just for Christmas! Expand your adventures in cooking and find out how special cranberries are in Cranberry Sweet Potato Soup, Cranberry-Hazelnut Stuffed Pork Tenderloin and for dessert a delectable Cranberry Delight! Visit the BCCMC website at for these recipes, information on the industry and more.

Cranberries have been known for their healthy properties for centuries. Recent scientific research shows that cranberries and cranberry products contain significant amounts of antioxidants and other phytonutrients that may help protect against heart disease, cancer and other diseases. The Cranberry Institute has posted up-to-date health research and information on their website, visit to find out more reasons for adding cranberries to your daily diet.

Cranberries are available year-round and whether fresh, frozen, dried or in juice there is always a convenient way to ensure you are getting your daily dose of this delicious and healthy addition to your diet.

Contact: Geraldine Auston
Director of Communications T: 604.820.4451
BC Cranberry Marketing Commission E:

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Cranberry Harvest Has Begun (2008)

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BC Fashion experts indicate that jewel tones are all the rage this fall. We couldn't agree more! Our little red gems are ready for harvest and will be on display at your grocer in time to dress-up your holiday table and so much more. Yes, the cranberry harvest has begun in BC.

Cranberries have proven their staying power year-after-year. In fact, they have been a part of BC history for at least 150 years. Traded by First Nations people with the Hudson's Bay Company, they were packed into barrels and sold to shipping companies on the western seaboard to prevent scurvy. Little did they know then that cranberry health benefits would extend far beyond this purpose and that modern day researchers would discover that cranberry antioxidant capabilities are nothing short of miraculous! Recent scientific research shows that cranberries and cranberry products contain significant amounts of antioxidants and other phytonutrients that may help protect against heart disease, cancer and other diseases.

"This year's cranberry harvest is looking tremendous" says BC Cranberry Marketing Commission Chairman, John Savage. "Conditions are excellent and throughout Canada and the United States we are looking at some of our best production numbers in years."

In 2008, our 80 farm families will harvest 85 million pounds of cranberries from 6,000 acres from Richmond to Agassiz and on Vancouver Island. Making cranberries the biggest berry crop in BC, and making BC one of the largest cranberry producing regions in Canada!

Which is good news, as cranberry popularity continues to grow. Says Savage, "Consumers can't seem to get enough of high quality, healthy products like whole fresh or frozen cranberries, cranberry juices and Craisins."

And it would seem that health savvy consumers know what they are buying. With emerging research on the healthful benefits of consuming cranberries, in a variety of forms on a daily basis, cranberry products serve the dual purpose of function and taste giving consumers more value for their grocery dollar.

More than just a passing trend, BC cranberries are not only a classic for fall and winter but their tangy, fresh taste brings flare to so many recipes throughout the year. The BC Cranberry Marketing Commission wants to tempt your taste buds with recipes created to enhance the unique flavour of cranberries. Find out how special cranberries can be in Cranberry Glazed Ham, Cranberry Chutney and sensational Cranberry Decadent Cookies. Visit our website at for these and other recipes, information on our industry and more.

Cranberries never go out of style! They are available year-round as fresh, frozen, dried or in juice. With so many convenient ways to enjoy them you can easily ensure you are getting your daily dose of this tasty and healthy addition to your diet. Bring some home today.

For more information, contact:
Geraldine Auston
Director of Communications T: 604.820.4451
BC Cranberry Marketing Commission E:

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Cranberry Tipworm and Blueberry Gall Midge (2012)

Cranberry Tipworm and Blueberry Gall Midge

Cryptic Secrets of Tipworms - Research Unlocks Mystery
By Devon Brooks, Orchard & Vne Magazine 2012

When two insects, such as the cranberry tipworm and the blueberry gall midge, look so alike that they can’t be distinguished visually, but are actually different insects, they are called cryptic species.

This dry distinction is very important for British Columbia’s cranberry growers, who are suffering the onslaught of the cranberry tip worm.

As cranberry plantings took off in this province during the 90’s, cranberry farmers believed the infestation on their plants came from nearby blueberry farms where the gall midge had been detected a decade earlier.

Given that the insects are identical in appearance it is easy to understand why farmers made the obvious link. Even Dr. Sheila Fitzpatrick, an entomologist at the federal government’s Agassiz Research Centre, says that was her first thought.

It has taken years of testing to prove the two species are distinct and cannot interbreed. Results from Fitzpatrick’s latest study show that neither male nor female tipworms will mate with gall midges of either sex.

That means the infestation of tipworm was imported in with cranberry vines when the plantings were expanding. It was, she says, a politically touchy conclusion.

Vine growers out of the United States, where the vines were purchased, didn’t want to accept responsibility and undoubtedly, farmers putting in the new vines didn’t want to be told their plantings were the ones that brought the problem to British Columbia. At this point, where the tip worm originated is academic. “They’re here to stay,” she says. “But cranberry farmers don’t need to worry about what is happening on a neighbouring blueberry farm.”

As the gall midge is not nearly as destructive, research is now focusing on the tipworm, starting with a look at some wasps that are parasites on the tipworm, but Fitzpatrick says they have a natural incursion rate of only about one in five (18%). That helps, but it won’t be enough on its own.

Tipworm populations expand most quickly during early growth of the plants. To encourage faster growth of young vines some growers will apply large amounts of fertilizer, but this fast, succulent growth provides the perfect feeding and breeding ground for the tipworm. Careful management of nitrogen application, suggest Fitzpatrick, is needed to balance growth and breeding opportunities for the pest.

The two pesticides available are only licensed for use before berry production so once the plants are bearing fruit the pesticides cannot be used. Further, tipworm larvae reside inside the plant buds. These two pesticides are contact pesticides so the plant itself shields the insects.  A new pesticide, known by its trade name of Movento (Spirotetramat), is undergoing studies, but won’t be available until 2013.

Meanwhile Fitzpatrick is focusing her work on finding a relatively easy way for farmers to determine how large an infestation might be. Her past work identified four pheromones that attract the tipworm, making it easier to get good counts. Since the most effective pheromone probably can’t be manufactured at a reasonable cost she is working on developing a cost effective combination of the four pheromones.

Source: Orchard & Vine Magazine



Sea Buckthorn Resurfaces

By Maureen McEwan
Orchard & Vine Magazine 2012


Sea buckthorn is a unique plant with a multitude of benefits. Its deep root system is beneficial in controlling soil erosion and its efficient nitrogen fixation can also enrich degraded soils. It has been used successfully on the prairies as shelter belts and in wildlife habitat improvement programs. Sea buckthorn berry is the most nutritious and vitamin-rich fruit found in the plant kingdom. Boasting more than 190 micro nutrients, the entire sea buckthorn plant – seeds, fruit, branches, leaves, seed oil, fruit oil, juice and pulp – is useable. It’s been formulated to treat various health ailments including high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease, and has been used in hundreds of products, including supplements, skin care creams, numerous food items, even pelleted feed for livestock. Research shows that the plants are easy to grow, produce a high yield, have a long life span, and require relatively low maintenance. (From report written by the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration Shelterbelt Centre in Saskatchewan)

Sea buckthorn berries

Sea Buckthorn - The wonder plant

The wonder plant of the early 1990s is being revitalized in Canada with help from a group of entrepreneurs, each one of them based in B.C. From a manufacturing plant in Surrey, to cosmeceutical and nutraceutical products from Peachland, there’s an emerging belief that the world is finally ready for what this small berry can do.

When sea buckthorn plants arrived in Canada in 1991, the deciduous shrub was to be used in an erosion control program. Shortly afterwards however, sea buckthorn’s nutritional and medicinal value came to light and it was quickly heralded as a potential crop for Canadian farmers.

Allan Smith was among those who heard the call, bolstered by research done by the Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre in Summerland. The former president of the British Columbia Sea Buckthorn Association, rallied 50 growers from various provinces with the intent of sharing information, expanding growers’ knowledge and getting crops in the ground. Unfortunately, by the time the crops were ready to harvest, the issues outweighed the potential. “We knew we were headed down the wrong track,” says Smith. “The berries were too difficult to harvest, due to the type of plants we grew. And, by the time the fruit was ready to harvest, there was no market. After looking after crops for five or six years, it was just devastating.”

Sea buckthorn is difficult to harvest. It needs to be picked by hand or harvested mechanically, but the machinery was underdeveloped and expensive. Limited fruit supply meant processors were hesitant to get involved. As a result, most growers pulled out their crops, and their dreams, along with the berries, died a disappointing death.

Yet Smith believes there’s still a future for sea buckthorn. “It certainly has tremendous potential for someone who wants to pursue it,” says Smith. Someone, he adds, with financial backing and a good solid plan. And that plan would need to focus on building demand, believes Chuck Barton, vice president of Sea Buckthorn International Inc., in Peachland. “We decided to work on creating the demand instead of the supply,” says Barton, which has resulted in a line of 55 cosmeceutical and nutraceutical sea buckthorn products, available online and at 1,000 retail outlets across the country. “But there has to be a certain volume to be able to pass it on to the farmers.”

This is where businessman K.J. Kim, president and CEO of SMK Investments Inc., fits in. He has masterminded a plan that he thinks will revive the sea buckthorn industry in Canada. With $10-million already invested into the infrastructure, including the SMK Sea Buckthorn Research and Development Centre in Surrey, Kim says his objectives are simple. One is to develop a sports drink using Canadian grown sea buckthorn, which will be marketed to Asia. The other is to promote prairie farmers with large quantities of marginal land who can benefit by growing sea buckthorn.

But Smith believes an opportunity exists for B.C. growers too. “Prairie farmers can compete with their cheap land, but I don’t believe they can compete with some of the varieties, particularly with the yield and the quality. The weather here plus the excellent soil means there’s lots of room for potential.” Smith thinks there could be a demand for feedstock, as the pelleted form (which uses the branches and the leaves) can be fed to small animals and livestock. He also believes there is a market for jams and jellies, wines and liqueurs.

Farm gate sales might be the answer, says Brian Lang, owner of Okanagan Sea Buckthorn in Kaleden. But for sea buckthorn to truly become a viable crop, he says growers would need to plant it as a multi-purpose crop. “It adds nitrogen to the soil, it can be used for soil erosion and u-pick is even a possibility,” says Lang, “but the public would need to understand and appreciate the benefits of the berries.”

And that comes back to marketing and harvesting, the two original issues with sea buckthorn. But Kim believes there is a market, both here and internationally, and particularly for berries grown in Canada. “Made in Canada gives the edge to marketing this product in the Far East,” says Kim. “Herbs and foods manufactured in China are very mistrusted. Made in Canada means food is much safer.”

Kim’s plan will focus on marketing with a large component of grower support. Greenhouses at the research centre will be used to propagate seedlings and machinery is currently being developed to improve harvesting ability. Kim will assist in the development of the non-profit Canadian Sea Buckthorn Association to help members promote their products and improve crops, and he’ll provide assistance with export projects. “We are looking for entrepreneurs willing to get into the industry and grow sea buckthorn here in Canada,” says Kim. While growers may still be sceptical, it is a step in the right direction. It could just be the plan Smith was referring to, and the initiative that’s needed to make sea buckthorn a viable industry in Canada. 


Strawberry / Raspberry

Government of Canada Announces Three New Berries (2009)

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Ed Fast, Member of Parliament (Abbotsford), today announced the release of Nisga'a, a new early strawberry, and two new raspberries: Ukee and Rudyberry. These promising new plants will be available to growers starting this spring.

"The release of these new berry varieties is good news for both industry and consumers," said Mr. Fast, who made the announcement on behalf of Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz. "This Government is working continually for farmers and Canadians by promoting innovation and advancement that will grow more opportunities for our farmers."

These new berries will translate into increased profits for farmers because they are high-yield, early ripening, naturally resistant to disease, harvestable by machine and suitable for the fresh and processed food markets. In 2007 more than 80% of Canada's red raspberries were grown in B.C., generating $12.8 million at the farm gate. Strawberries generated another $4.2 million for B.C. farmers.

"Science and innovation play an important role in helping farmers succeed," said Minister Ritz, who addressed the Pacific Agriculture Show's Agri-Food Industry Gala by video conference. "These berries will create new market opportunities for farmers because as you know, farmers want to make their money in the marketplace, not the mailbox."

"Growers need new varieties to help us get ahead of problems like root rot," says Rudy Janzen, an Abbotsford raspberry farmer after whom the Rudyberry is named. "I became involved in testing because I think it's very important for growers to have a chance to say which varieties will work for them."

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Small Fruit Breeding (2005)

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What are the primary objectives of the Small Fruit Breeding Program at the Pacific Agri Research Centre (PARC)?

The work at PARC focuses on developing raspberry and strawberry cultivars suitable for the Pacific Northwest that show resistance to disease and insects. Suitability for machine harvesting has also become important. Generally we are aiming to improve fruit quality in order to provide an advantage to local farmers.

How are new varieties developed?

Developing a new raspberry or strawberry cultivar is a very long process. It can be 8 to 15 years in the development and testing stage before a cultivar is released. The average is 10 years.

First, parent lines are identified that have the desired characteristics. Seeds are started in the greenhouse and the first screening occurs in the greenhouse at the seedling stage. For instance, all varieties must be resistant to aphids, so at the seedling stage any varieties not resistant to aphids are eliminated.

The primary problem at this stage of development is the difficulty in determining resistance to many of the diseases.

What is the primary concern in the raspberry industry with respect to new varieties?

Currently, the primary concern in the raspberry industry of the Pacific Northwest is the raspberry bushy dwarf virus, a virus that is pollen transmitted. In development trials, there is no way of knowing if the variety is resistant or susceptible to this virus until the plants are exposed to the virus in field conditions. This is one of the reasons it takes 10 years to develop and test a new variety.

Scientists at PARC recently released a raspberry variety resistant to the raspberry bushy dwarf virus. The variety, called Cowichan, was released in 2001 and is now extensively grown throughout the Pacific Northwest.

What is the primary concern in the strawberry industry with respect to new varieties?

The concerns are similar in both the strawberry and raspberry industries - resistance to disease and insects. The primary concern for strawberry varieties is resistance to viruses and soil borne diseases.

What is the primary concern for berry producers when selecting what varieties to plant?

Productivity is the primary concern for variety selection. The variety must provide the highest possible return with the least amount of inputs. The variety must have disease resistance, as pesticide and fungicide use has been reduced over the last few years. Varieties that do not require high chemical inputs result in higher returns.

Both raspberry and strawberry producers primarily produce for the processing market. Therefore in the raspberry industry they look for varieties suitable for machine harvesting. In the strawberry industry there has been a shift to the fresh market in the last few years, so producers must also consider qualities that will enhance fresh market sales. Also, the strawberries industry has a very short harvest season - approximately 5 weeks long. Therefore producers must select varieties that ripen within the time frame when the processors are operating.

Where do you conduct field trials?

Raspberry and strawberry field trials are located in Abbotsford, BC. Many varieties of raspberries and strawberries have been developed and tested here and are now commercially produced throughout the Pacific Northwest, including Oregon, Washington and B.C.

Has the PARC Small Fruit Breeding Program been successful in developing new cultivars?

Raspberries developed by the Pacific Agri Research Station staff are now the most popular varieties in the world for fresh market production. In fact, one raspberry variety called Toulamine received the Best Fruit Variety Award from the Canadian Society of Horticultural Science in 2003 and in the summer of 2004 will receive a similar award from the American Society of Horticultural Science.

Our program has also developed an early ripening kiwi with improved winter hardiness and very high vitamin C; established pruning practices that rejuvenate hazelnut orchards to improve canopy light penetration and increase yield; and developed the Qualicum raspberry variety and the Nanaimo strawberry variety.

One unique aspect of the Small Fruit Breeding Program at PARC is the naming of varieties - all new varieties are named using local native words.

Chaim Kempler (Research Scientist)
Phone: (604) 796-2221 Ext:224

Fax: (604) 796-0359

Chaim Kempler is a plant breeder working at the Agriculture Canada Research Centre in Agassiz. The goals of the Small Fruit Breeding Program are to develop improved raspberry and strawberry varieties for sustainable production in the Pacific North West and Canada with increased market appeal and high fruit quality.

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Crop Breeding

Drought Tolerance

Drought Resistance Is the Goal, but Methods Differ (2008)

Published: October 22, 2008

To satisfy the world's growing demand for food, scientists are trying to pull off a genetic trick that nature itself has had trouble accomplishing in millions of years of evolution. They want to create varieties of corn, wheat and other crops that can thrive with little water.

As the world's population expands and global warming alters weather patterns, water shortages are expected to hold back efforts to grow more food. People drink only a quart or two of water every day, but the food they eat in a typical day, including plants and meat, requires 2,000 to 3,000 quarts to produce.

For companies that manage to get "more crop per drop," the payoff could be huge, and scientists at many of the biggest agricultural companies are busy tweaking plant genes in search of the winning formula.

Monsanto, the biggest crop biotechnology company, says its first drought-tolerant corn will reach farmers in only four years and will provide a 10 percent increase in yields in states like Nebraska and Kansas that tend to get less rainfall than eastern parts of the Corn Belt.

At a recent farm show here called Husker Harvest Days, a few thousand farmers were guided past a small plot on which Monsanto had grown its drought-tolerant corn next to a similar variety without the "drought gene." A transparent tent had shielded the plants from any rain through the hot Nebraska summer.

The results were, to be sure, less than miraculous. Both the drought-tolerant and the comparison plants were turning brown and shriveling, and they were about three feet shorter than the lush green irrigated corn growing nearby. But the drought-tolerant plants, which also contained a second gene to protect their roots from a pest, were a little greener and a few inches taller than the comparison plants, and their cobs were missing fewer kernels.

Monsanto said the improvement was significant. And the Nebraska and Kansas farmers who toured Monsanto's plot, many of them facing water-use restrictions and soaring pumping costs for irrigation, said any improvement would be welcome.

"We pump water like there's no end, and that's not going to last forever," said Tom Schuele, a farmer in Cedar Rapids, Neb. Monsanto's competitors, including DuPont's Pioneer Hi-Bred unit and Syngenta, say they also plan to introduce water-efficient corn in a few years. And companies are working on plants that can stand up to heat, cold, salty soils and other tough environments.

A small California company called Arcadia Biosciences is trying to develop crops that need only half as much nitrogen fertilizer as a conventional plant. Fertilizer is crucial to modern food production, but the large quantities used today damage the environment. And because fertilizer is made from natural gas, its costs have soared along with other energy costs.

Public sector scientists are also on the hunt. Researchers at the University of California and the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines are developing rice that can survive flooding, which causes major crop losses for poor farmers in the lowlands of India and other countries. While rice is typically grown in standing water, the plants will die if submerged for more than a few days.

Many of these advanced crops are being developed using genetic engineering. The technology, already used to make crops that can resist weeds and insects, has spurred worldwide controversy. But in an era in which people are marching in the streets of many countries to demand more food at lower prices, low-water crops might win over areas that now shun biotech crops, such as most of Africa.

"Drought tolerance to me is the most critical entry point," said Calestous Juma, a professor of international development at Harvard who has advised African governments on biotechnology. "This is kind of reopening the window for genetic modification."

Critics accuse the biotechnology industry and its backers of exploiting the recent global food crisis to push a technology that has been oversold and that could have unanticipated health and environmental effects.

Indeed, many past predictions of how biotechnology would create novel crops have not come to fruition. And some experts say Monsanto and its peers have not published enough information to prove they can make drought-tolerant crops.

"I want to see more, I guess, from the Monsanto work before I'd be convinced they've got it," said John S. Boyer, an emeritus professor at the University of Delaware.

Safety questions must also be answered. Changing the water needs of a plant requires a more fundamental alteration of its metabolism than adding a gene to make the plant resistant to insects. "The potential for unintended side effects is greater, so the testing has to be greater," said David A. Lightfoot, a professor of genetics and genomics at Southern Illinois University.

How much could be gained by use of these new crops is not yet clear. A report in 2007 by the International Water Management Institute, which is part of a network of agricultural research centers, concluded that genetic improvements would have only a "moderate" impact over the next 15 to 20 years in making crops more efficient in using water.

"Greater, easier and less contentious gains," it said, could come from better managing water supplies, rather than trying to develop crops that can flourish with less water.

But many experts say the situation is grave enough that all approaches must be tried simultaneously.

Poor growing conditions can reduce crop yields by 70 percent or more below their potential. American farmers, for instance, average about 150 bushels of corn an acre. But David K. Hula of Charles City, Va., won a competition last year by achieving nearly 386 bushels an acre, a measure of what modern crop varieties can achieve under optimal conditions.

In many areas, lack of water is the biggest limiting factor, and supplies of water for irrigation could be reduced further in coming years in order to supply more water to growing cities and proliferating factories.

Global warming is also expected to lead to drier conditions and more frequent droughts in some parts of the world. Scientists at Stanford, for instance, have projected that corn yields in southern Africa could drop 25 percent by 2030 because of warmer, drier weather.

Breeding water-efficient crops would seem to be straightforward: Just grow crops under dry conditions and choose the ones that do best for the next round of breeding.

It does not quite work that way, however. After several generations, the crops are indeed more resistant to drought. But there is a downside in that they often turn out to have lower yields when there is plenty of rain.

So scientists are harnessing the same genetic techniques that have yielded insights into human health to decipher how plants control water use and adapt to stress. "We've probably made more progress in the last 15 years than we have in the last 5,000 years," said Ray A. Bressan, a professor at Purdue.

In particular, he said, studies have overturned the conventional wisdom that water use is so complex that no single gene could have a big impact on it. "Single genes are having effects in the field that we never thought would be possible," he said.

That has opened the door for genetic engineering, which allows scientists to add a gene from another species to a plant, or even an extra copy of one of the plant's own genes.

Critics say that biotech seeds, which are patented and tend to be costly, might not be suitable for poor farmers in developing countries. The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, a group working for improved farm productivity on that continent, has said that for now it would avoid genetic engineering because greater gains for small farmers can be made at lower cost using conventional breeding.

Indeed, there has been progress developing drought-tolerant crops using conventional breeding, despite the obstacles.

Syngenta, a big Swiss seed and agricultural chemical company, says it will introduce drought-tolerant corn developed by conventional breeding in 2011, followed by a genetically engineered version in 2014.

The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center in Mexico, the institute that sparked the output improvements of the Green Revolution decades ago, has bred drought-tolerant corn that is already being grown in Africa. Marianne Bänziger, director of the global corn program for the center, said the yields are 20 to 50 percent higher than local varieties during droughts, with no loss of yield in wetter years.

Still, her institute, with financing from foundations, is working with Monsanto to develop genetically engineered corn that would be even more water-efficient.

Monsanto has said it would not charge royalties for using its technology in the African corn, to keep the seed affordable. It says that corn customized for Africa could be ready by 2017, only five years after it starts selling drought-tolerant corn to American farmers.

Various other approaches are being tried to make less thirsty crops.

Performance Plants, a Canadian company, adds a gene that causes the plant to start preserving its water more quickly as a drought begins. In one field test, the yield of its genetically engineered canola barely fell when irrigation was cut in half. The yield of a comparison crop fell 14 percent.

Monsanto is going in the opposite direction -- trying to keep the plant producing seed when a drought starts, even when its natural response would be to slow down in order to preserve water.

"You don't want a cactus," said Jacqueline Heard, who directs Monsanto's program for drought-tolerant crops. "You want something that keeps a plant very active."

Monsanto will not say exactly what genes it is using, or in which species they originated. But one approach involves transcription factors, which are like master regulators, able to turn on dozens of other genes to orchestrate a plant's response to lack of water.

But with so many downstream genes activated, there could be other effects on the plants besides less need for water. At a recent biotechnology conference, a university researcher showed a photograph of a cotton plant with an inserted gene for a transcription factor. The plant was missing most of its leaves.

No single approach is likely to suffice for all types of dry conditions. "Probably no one has found the magic gene yet," said Jian-Kang Zhu, a professor of plant biology at the University of California, Riverside. "Probably there is no magic gene."


Crop Pests & Disease

Clubroot in the Peace Region (2017)

Imagine you couldn’t grow canola, warns farm leader.  Clubroot’s arrival in the Peace isn’t a shocker, but it’s another sign 
farmers are flirting with disaster, say canola experts.  If you’re growing non-resistant canola varieties, you could wake up one day to find ‘astronomical’ levels of clubroot spores, says agronomist Dan Orchard.

In the war between canola producers and clubroot, clubroot is winning. “The clubroot-infested area is spreading at roughly about 30 kilometres a year, and we’re only managing it at 20 kilometres a year,” said Dan Orchard, agronomy specialist for the Canola Council of Canada. “We got an appreciation this year for just how fast it can spread. We’re way behind it — chasing it out rather than choking it in.”

Clubroot was first discovered in central Alberta in 2003, and since then has spread to more than 1,000 fields in over 30 counties. Last month, it was discovered for the first time in the Peace region (in Big Lakes County). Canola industry officials are still trying to trace how the disease moved into the area, as well as which strain of clubroot it is.

But for Sexsmith-area producer Greg Sears, that rapid spread is a wake-up call.

“Anything as ominous as clubroot is worrying when it’s spreading at any rate — but certainly, it’s covering a lot of ground quickly, and it doesn’t give us a lot of time to look at our practices and make the changes we need to,” said Sears, chair of the Alberta Canola Producers Commission. Even so, Sears calls clubroot’s spread north “inevitable.”

“There’s nothing magical about our soils that would prevent clubroot from migrating here,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that it’s been identified, but I think it was inevitable.” That’s partially because “there’s a certain level of denial” about clubroot, especially in areas that haven’t been affected by the disease in the past.

“There are a lot of crossed fingers that clubroot isn’t going to make it into the area,” said Sears. But crossed fingers aren’t enough to slow the spread of the disease, and many producers don’t want to risk losing canola as a cash crop by changing their management practices or extending their rotations.

“Canola-cereal rotations have become a very desirable rotation,” said Sears. “Canola works well on people’s operations. It’s a great crop to grow, both from a revenue standpoint and with the herbicide options for cleaning up land. “It’s pretty hard to give that up.”

But the rapid spread of clubroot may soon force their hands.

“In the Peace Country, we’ve relied quite heavily on canola as a good-income crop, and if we don’t get on top of it early, we’re going to see our ability to grow it on a regular basis diminished,” said Sears. “When you’re used to having canola income every two or three years off a piece of land and you end up going to every five or six because clubroot becomes that much of a problem, that is a significant issue. “That’s going to hurt quite a bit, especially up here in the Peace Country where we don’t have a lot of alternative crops.”

Clubroot “isn’t going to go away in a heartbeat,” added Canola Council agronomist Gregory Sekulic, who’s based in the Peace. “It’s something we’re going to have to manage quite aggressively in the short term, and honestly, we’re going to have to do a better job of managing it than we have been,” he said. “It’s not a surprise that we found it, but now that it’s here, growers do need to be that much more cognizant of managing it. “We really want growers to assume that all fields have clubroot.”

The first step is growing a resistant variety. “Once the disease has been identified on your field, look into resistant varieties immediately,” said Sekulic. “You need to switch all of your varieties to resistant varieties. Period. That goes for growers in the immediate vicinity as well.”

Orchard agrees. “These fields we’re now finding are all susceptible varieties,” he said. “By the time they’re discovering it, the crop is dead in huge areas. The amount of spores in the soil is astronomical, and it now becomes a difficult disease to manage. “When other counties are diligent and finding it really, really early, the management list is far more extensive.”

Managing disease resistance

But producers also need to manage disease resistance in their varieties. “Use the same resistance too often and it won’t work. It’s like an antibiotic that you repeatedly take that eventually doesn’t work,” said Orchard. “That’s what’s happening in the areas with really high spore loads and canola every second year with the same genetics.” It only takes about two crops of a resistant variety for the pathogen to start to shift to overcome it, said Murray Hartman, provincial oilseed specialist. “If you start growing a resistant variety before you know there’s any symptoms, you can probably grow that crop three or four times,” he said. “But if you wait until you’ve got the patches, you’re only going to grow it twice before you’ve got these new strains.” That’s why officials say “don’t grow a resistant variety more than once every four years.” “Two crops would give us almost 10 years to breed new varieties,” said Hartman. “Unfortunately, we had guys growing them back to back, and within three years, the resistance was starting to fail in spots.”

Extending the crop rotation “isn’t so much about yield penalties or agronomics — it’s to protect resistance,” said Orchard. “If you’re on a two-year rotation, then it’s four years before your resistance doesn’t work anymore,” he said. “The longer you stretch out your rotation, the longer you’ll have until the resistance doesn’t work. You’ll get the same number of canola crops out of that field. It’s just whether you want to stop growing canola in four years or eight.”

Other best practices

Extending the crop rotation comes with other benefits as well, said Sekulic. “For disease management, a longer rotation is going to be better,” he said. “We definitely want to encourage growers to introduce as much diversity into their fields as possible. The longer a field is out of canola, the fewer spores that will be in it. “Once clubroot is found, we absolutely need to stretch our rotations to at least one in four.” Sanitation should also be “first and foremost in producers’ minds,” he added. “When they’re travelling from field to field, they need to make sure their soil stays at home,” he said. “And when we’re bringing equipment in from other parts of the province, we really want to make sure that it’s been pressure washed aggressively, ideally with a bleach solution to kill any spores.”

Incorporating those management practices might be a hard sell for producers who can’t afford to extend their rotation or stop during a busy harvest to sanitize their equipment. But ultimately, the future viability of canola as a crop may depend on it, said Sears. “It is hard to stop at the end of the field before going to the next one and get rid of all the excess dirt. And it is hard to try a new crop,” said Sears.

“But clubroot is a very significant and very real issue for us in Canada, and I think you just have to close your eyes and imagine what your farm would be like if you couldn’t grow canola. “It’s one of those tough choices that we need to make.” And those tough choices need to be made sooner rather than later. “You can’t switch from a one-in-two rotation to a one-in-four rotation overnight. We need to start making those changes right away so that we’re ready for it.”

Alberta Farm Express LINK to Complete article
By Jennifer Blair
Published: September 11, 2017


Spotted Wing Drosophila (Fruit Fly) (2011)

Spotted wing drosophila (Drosophila suzukii), a serious new fruit fly pest of soft fruit and berries, was first identified in British Columbia in 2009. It is now widespread in Coastal and Interior fruit growing areas of B.C.

Spotted wing drosophila is a temperate fruit fly, native to Southeast Asia; preferring temperatures of 20-30 oC. It is known to infest thin-skinned fruit. Many species of fruit flies are present in late summer; most normally infest overripe, fallen, decaying fruit, so are not crop-limiting pests. However, a spotted wing drosophila female lays her eggs inside sound fruit before harvest with her saw-like ovipositor, which contaminates fruit with larvae, and causes it to become soft and unmarketable.

Life Cycle
Spotted wing drosophila emerging in the fall overwinter as adult flies. In spring flies become active, mate and lay eggs in ripening fruit.  Based on climate model predictions, there could be up to 5 generations per year in B.C.  Generations will likely be overlapping as flies are relatively long-lived particularly at temperatures of 20°C and cooler.  Based on a Japanese publication (Kanzawa 1939), oviposition lasts 10-59 days, with 7-16 eggs laid per day, and averaging 384 eggs per female.  Eggs hatch in 2-72 hours, larvae mature in 3-13 days, and pupae reside in fruit or outside of fruit for 3-15 days.  In the lab at constant temperature, one generation takes 50 days at 12°C, 21-25 days at 15°C, 19 days at 18°C, 8.5 days at 25°C, and 7 days at 28°C.  Adults are also attracted to dropped and decaying fruit and will feed on it.

How it Spreads
Spotted wing drosophila adults can be blown by wind to nearby locations.  However, long distance dispersal is expected to be achieved by transportation of infested fruit to new regions.  Non-fruit bearing plants are not considered to be of significant risk to transport this pest.

Management recommendations include good harvest and sanitation practices, such as culling soft fruit, burying culls, and keeping processing areas and equipment free of old fruit. 


Drosophila suzukii was first detected in British Columbia in 2009 and has been detected in most fruit growing regions of Canada as of the fall of 2010. Surveys indicate that the pest is present in the major fruit growing regions of North America and there does not appear to be any practical measures which could prevent further spread into and within Canada. Eradication is not a possibility. After review of the science based information available, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has decided not to add D. suzukii to the List of Pests Regulated by Canada.




When Bugs Come to Dinner (2003)

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Ujwala Ranade-Malvi
Micnelf USA Inc.

Every progressive farmer of the 21st century is aware that he is not just a tiller of the land. Gone are the days when farming was merely an "honorable" profession. This is the era of the progressive farmer and the challenges of modern day farming make him an important component of the food security equation. However, in order for a farmer to be progressive he needs to board the 'information bandwagon' and empower himself with the appropriate scientific information. This will allow him/her to make calculated decisions to optimize the quality and quantity of his/her produce.

All organisms that have evolved and survived on this planet have inbuilt natural defenses to combat attack by other organisms. Plants are no different. Being immobile, they have evolved complex mechanisms to counteract the onslaught of diseases and pests. However, in this day of pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, insecticides, bactericides and viricides we fail to acknowledge the inherent capacity of plants to fight their own battles. In this article let us try to understand what is a disease and why does it really attack a plant, what conditions make a plant more prone to attack and what we as growers can do to minimize the onslaught.

I am not suggesting that under a pest attack one should not take protective measures to restrain the attack; I am suggesting that prevention is better than cure. Let us try to maximize the inherent disease fighting capabilities of our crops by providing them with their basic necessities

The mechanism of a parasite attack
According to the Webster's dictionary, a disease is defined as "a condition of the living animal or plant body or of one of its parts that impairs normal functioning". Parasites, insects, nematodes, fungus, bacteria and virus are some of the leading disease causing organisms in commercial crop production. All growers at some point have developed a strong animosity to these organisms, which come in different forms, shapes and sizes but they have the same final effect- moderate to complete devastation of the crop.

Now when does a pest attack a plant? When presented with a favorable environment and a favorable host, the pest will attack. A wide variety of parameters such as temperature, humidity, pH, water and deficiency or excess of nutrients make the conditions conducive for a pest attack. The type of pest will usually determine the severity of the attack. An obligate pest will normally weaken its host, but will not kill it since killing the host would certainly guarantee the death of the pest. However, a facultative pest, when in its parasitic mode, is likely to be aggressive enough to kill their host. The next logical question is to examine why a pest attacks the host. The primary reason is for food. Pests attack the plant to prey on the crop or lay eggs, which in turn grow and prey on it. Plants come armed with a range of pest-specific arsenal and their biochemical responses are catered to the pest in question. For the purpose of this discussion, let us talk about the influence of mineral nutrition on plant resistance to fungal attacks. So how does a fungal attack occur?

...When dinner is served.

I. Imbalance of nutrients:

Excess, insufficiency or an imbalance between the seventeen essential nutrients is likely to decrease the crop-resistance to disease. For example, under conditions of HIGH NITROGEN and/or LOW POTASSIUM excessive amounts of amino acids and sugars are produced inside the cell. Why? Because the homeostasis between protein synthesis and carbohydrate synthesis is skewed. The protein metabolic pathway stops short and instead of proceeding to form proteins, low-weight intermediate amino acids accumulate in high concentrations in the cell. Fungal spores germinate and proliferate on cell exudates containing high amounts of amino acids. These exude out of the cell and offer an ideal environment for a fungal attack (see fig.1)


II. When the plasma membrane turns leaky

Under zinc, calcium and boron deficiencies the plasma membranes become unstable. These three nutrients have specific roles to play in maintaining the cell wall integrity. Calcium binds with pectate found in the middle lamellae of cells. Calcium also binds with Boron in the cell wall and both these bonds are vital for maintaining the strength of the wall. A deficiency (actual or induced) of any of these elements will result in cell walls with increased pore size, thus making them permeable or "leaky". A leaky plasma membrane will facilitate:

1. The movement of exudates out if the cell and

2. The unimpeded penetration of fungal hyphae into the cell

III. When the host is unable to protect itself

Chemical metabolites produced by the plant in response to parasite attack are termed as "secondary metabolites". These are different from primary metabolites (glucose) as they are waste products of metabolism, are toxic and are produced only when a defense response is elicited. These are derived from the isoprenoid, phenylpropanoid, alkaloid or fatty acid/polyketide pathways and include products like tannins, nitrogen-based compounds (nicotine, morphine, and cyanide), terpenoids, alkaloids and phenolics (salicylic acid, lignin). Most antimicrobial plant products have relatively broad-spectrum activity, and specificity is determined by whether or not the parasite has the enzymatic machinery to detoxify the host product. Plant toxins kill the intruders, reduce their capacity for normal reproduction or cause temporary or permanent physiological change in the pest.

Extensive research has indicated that micronutrients especially Boron, Manganese and Copper play a significant role in secondary metabolism production. In the event that these micronutrients fall short, the production of secondary metabolites is hampered or blocked. Hence, the plants inherent capacity to fight disease decreases and it succumbs to disease. Flavanoids are a classic example. They have fungistatic properties, which stops the proliferation of the fungus on the plant.

Calcium also has a key role to play in disease-resistance. When a fungus attacks a plant it produces an enzyme called polygalacturonase. This enzyme degrades the pectate in the cell wall and causes disintegration and collapse of the cell wall and affected tissues. The activity of this enzyme is drastically inhibited by optimal calcium levels in the cell. However, if calcium is deficient in the plant, the activity of polygalacturonase goes unchecked and fungal invasion occurs unimpeded.

Although disease resistance and disease tolerance are genetically controlled traits, we just saw how the mineral nutrient status of a crop influences its disease fighting/tolerating capabilities (see fig 2).

Optimal Nutritional Status of Crop

All nutrients available for primary and secondary metabolic functions

Optimal Health

Optimal Immunity-all nutrients present to activate defense mechanisms if needed

If attacked a high plant resistance to disease
Damage is less or none at all!

So what can a grower do?

Now that we have seen the relationship between nutrients (macro and micro) and disease, we can try to evaluate our nutrient inputs a little better. Nutrient management is an important factor in sustainable and profitable farm management. A key aspect of nutrient management is balancing the nutrients correctly. Maximum yield results are obtained from the addition of micronutrients only when major and secondary nutrients are present in adequate amounts and in a balance required by the crop.

BALANCED PLANT NUTRITION (BPN) is NOT a revolutionary concept-----IT IS A POORLY UNDERSTOOD ONE. It encompasses the concepts of nutrient management based on crop type, soil type and stage of plant growth. Use of BPN ensures proper ratios of ALL essential nutrients and hence enables the plant to complete life cycle in the precise timeframe. Plants are very fastidious when uptake of nutrients is concerned and they preferentially exclude or absorb nutrients based on the concentration of nutrients provided to them. Therefore, any odd combination of nutrients is not going to do the trick of providing all 17 nutrients in the appropriate ratios required by the plant. There are three good reasons to practice Balanced Plant Nutrition.

1. Ratio between nutrients is important for efficient usage by crop.

2. Antagonistic & Synergistic relationships between nutrients may prevent efficient uptake and utilization. For example, excessive phosphorus in soil produces a "phosphorus induced zinc deficiency". For a grower who is caught unawares, he assumes that there is lack of zinc in his soil and he may apply zinc to counteract this problem. However, this application may not benefit him in anyway--he has spent money on a problem that never existed! Understanding this relationship is essential for profitable agriculture.

1. Different stages of growth need different ratio of nutrients.

To assure high-quality end-products, whether it is fruits, vegetables or corn-ears, it is important to coordinate crop-physiology with crop nutrition status. It is a well-documented fact that a high percentage of micronutrient requirements are taken up during the first one third of the growing period. Therefore, it is important to have these micronutrients available at the very beginning of the plants life cycle to get the maximum utilization. If they are applied later, the crop may experience hidden hunger, and yield and quality will be affected.

In essence, food is essential for optimal growth and development of any organism. This understanding of nutrient-dynamics in a plant system will make it possible for us to sustain our farms in a productive and profitable way.

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Wire Worm Research at PARC, Agassiz (Oct 2008)

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Todd Kabaluk, a research biologist in the Integrated Pest Management program at the Pacific Agriculture Research Centre (PARC), has been studying the biological control of field insect pests using microbial insecticides. Currently, Todd is working toward the use of Metarhizium anisopliae as a biological control for wireworms.

Wireworms are the larval stage of click beetles (see Figure below). They live in soil where they feed on seeds, plant roots, and other organic material. The most serious crop damage from wireworms is generally related to spring larval feeding, when developing larvae are near the surface and actively seeking seeds for their high nutritional content. Wireworm larvae locate seeds by detecting the carbon dioxide produced during germination and they can be particularly destructive of spring crop seedings. (Source:

Metarhizium anisopliae is a fungus that grows naturally in soils throughout the world and causes disease in various insects by acting as a parasite. It is considered to be a soil-borne insect pathogen.

Todd's current research is focusing on the effect of Metarhizium anisopliae seed treatment to increase the yield of field corn. Research to date has shown consistent increases in yield as high as 20%. For example, without Metarhizium seed treatment, there was a 60% yield on a field infected with wireworm; with Metarhizium seed treatment, there was a 80% yield. The Metarhizium seed treatment performed as well as 'Poncho' - a currently used chemical seed treatment.

The reason for this increase in yield is likely due to the Metarhizium fungus acting as a repellant to wireworms, although this is still under investigation.

The next step in this research is to carry out experiments in the lab to determine if the Metarhizium fungus was actually acting as a wireworm repellant. If not, then other factors will be considered. If it is shown that wire worms can be repelled by Metarhizium, then this will be a useful non-chemical control of wire worms. A real step forward for wire worm infected areas of the province!

Contact Information:
Todd Kabaluk
PO Box 1000
Agassiz, British Columbia V0M 1A0

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Quality Alfalfa Requires Good Fertility

Alfalfa remains one of the country’s major forage crops, despite having a rough go of it in recent years. In 2012, harvested area of alfalfa hay in the United States fell to about 17.3 million acres, the lowest since 1942 according to government statistics. The effects of drought and high grain prices were mostly to blame. But since then harvested area has clicked up by almost a million acres (NASS Quick Stats, Oct. 2014).

There are many factors that affect alfalfa yield and quality, whether it is for hay, silage or pasture. Some of these factors, like rainfall and temperature, are uncontrollable; however, other factors are to some degree controllable, and can be carefully managed. For example, alfalfa is relatively sensitive to soil acidity, and does best in soil pH range of 6.5 to 7.5. The bacteria that fix atmospheric nitrogen for alfalfa do best in this soil pH range. Soil acidity issues can be corrected with liming, and should be addressed before planting. Crop nutrition and the provision for an adequate supply of nutrients is another of the controllable and critical factors in the production of quality alfalfa.

In most areas alfalfa begins growth in the early spring and continues into the late fall, resulting in a continuous nutrient demand on the soil for several months. While the figures can be quite variable, data pub- lished in IPNI’s 4R Plant Nutrition Manual indicates that alfalfa hay removes about 51 lb N, 12 lb P2O5, 49 lb K2O, and 5 lb of S per ton of production. Rhizobium bacteria on well-nodulated alfalfa can fix enough nitrogen (N) to meet crop needs, although a newly planted crop may require some N fertilizer (15 to 20 lb N/A) until nodulation occurs. On the other hand, soil supplies of phosphorus (P), potassium (K), and other nutrients can be rapidly depleted from alfalfa fields if not replaced by fertilization.

Phosphorus performs several vital functions in alfalfa plants. It can impact stand establishment by encour- aging root growth, and adequate P has been shown to support higher nodule numbers and nodule health essential for protein production. Plant regrowth and recovery after cutting is more rapid with adequate P, compared with deficient P conditions. It is well known that movement of P in soils is limited, so it’s usually recommended to apply as much of the crop’s anticipated need as reasonable through preplant incorporated application.

Alfalfa takes up and removes large amounts of potassium, in fact more is removed by alfalfa than any other soil nutrient. Alfalfa forage may contain 2 to 3% K. Potassium has many critical roles in plant growth and de- velopment. It has long been recognized as a factor affecting disease incidence, and has an important role in enhanc- ing nitrogen fixation. Adequate K also helps to improve stand persistence and winter survival. Sulfur (S) deficiency in alfalfa results in reduced yield, crude protein content, and feed value. It is most likely to occur in high rainfall areas, sandy soils, and under irrigation where the concentration of dissolved S in irriga- tion water is low. Input of other nutrients such as zinc and boron may be needed in some cases.

Alfalfa provides excellent forage, and stands can remain productive for years with proper care and nutrition. When considering fertilizer inputs remember that not all yield and quality compromising deficiencies are visible to the naked eye. To help make the best fertilization decisions for specific circumstances use tools such as soil testing, plant analyses, local information, and nutrient input and removal history.

For more information, contact Dr. W.M. (Mike) Stewart, IPNI Director, North American Program, Ph: 210-764-1588. E-mail:
Note: Plant Nutrition TODAY articles are available online at the IPNI website:



BC Forage Council

Forage a huge, underappreciated part of agriculture

Rural Revival By: Laura Rance
Posted: 12/6/2014

If you asked a room full of people -- farmers included -- to name Canada's largest crop, chances are you would get a debate going over whether it is wheat or canola.

And they would both be wrong.

Canada's largest crop, occupying 39 per cent of the farmable land, is forage -- hay and pasture to feed livestock. Wheat and canola are the two most valuable crops farmers produce, but with $5.1 billion of economic activity generated, forage comes in a solid third -- well ahead of corn.

However, despite its sizeable footprint and contribution to the Canadian economy, forage gets lost in the shuffle when it comes to allocating funds for research and development.

It's partly because it does its best work behind the scenes. You could say for every successful cattle farmer in Canada there's a good stand of hay.

And while most people recognize it plays an important role, it gets taken for granted, similar to how society treats a stay-at-home mom. Everyone knows she's doing an important job -- and yet people keep asking her when she's going back to work.

Likewise for forage lands, which are often referred to as "unimproved" or "undeveloped." Those terms ignore the valuable roles those lands play -- economically, by supporting livestock production as well as environmentally by reducing soil erosion, improving water quality, maintaining wildlife habitat and adding to biological diversity.

But it's also because there are no easy way to raise funds for forage research. The structure of the industry is such that a checkoff won't work, because most of the production is never sold through commercial channels. It is either fed on farm or sold producer to producer. Historically, research into improved varieties has been done by the public sector, but government support for that research has been waning since the 1990s.

A 2007 analysis shows publicly funded forage research had declined by $44 million annually during the previous 15 years. That lack of research into new and improved varieties has resulted in forage yields that are stagnant or declining.

So four years ago, the forage seed, grass and hay producers in Canada banded together under the Canadian Forage and Grassland Association to increase the sector's profile and generate more interest in supporting research.

As 80 per cent of Canada's beef production relies on forage as a main feed source, it seems logical cattle producers would be onside. Of the $5.1 billion of economic activity forage contributes to the Canadian economy, it is estimated 53 per cent is captured directly by beef producers.

Yet the Canadian Cattlemen's Association this year declined to continue with the $20,000 contribution it has given the CFGA over the past three years, citing limited budgets. The CCA noted it still provides support for forage through the Beef Cattle Research Council, which is a national industry-led funding agency for beef research.

The CFGA is vowing to soldier on on a much-diminished budget, but its ability to function, let alone attract research dollars, has been compromised. And it has become painfully obvious in recent times that without a national voice, support for forage research will continue to decline in this country.

The Canadian Cattlemen's Association decision is hard to rationalize relative to other places the organization has been spending producer checkoff funds lately. So far it's spent $3.25 million on legal fees to challenge the U.S. country-of-origin labelling (COOL) legislation, combined with another $3 million put into lobbying efforts.

Five years into the battle, cattle producers have little to show for these efforts, and there is no end in sight. Last week, the U.S. announced it would be appeal the latest World Trade Organization ruling in Canada's favour.

The CCA's own data show the return on investment on funds used to finance research is 46 to one. Maybe the COOL fight has to continue, but diverting just a few of the dollars now spent on legal fees might provide a better bang for the buck.

Laura Rance is editor of the Manitoba Co-operator. She can be reached at 204-792-4382 or by email:
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 6, 2014 B9


BCFC Looking for Producer Participants for Forage Project in Vanderhoof area

The BCFC has successfully secured funding for a new project: "Demonstrating innovative forage production practices to increase climate change adaptation".

We have hired Agrowest Consulting out of Kamloops to complete this project. Dr. Catherine Tarasoff will be the project lead. She has a PhD in Crop Science and Range Ecology from Oregon State University. She will be working with by Dr. Tom Pypker who has experience with weather stations and hydrology.

At this stage, the BCFC is looking for producers who are willing to participate in research to assess innovative farm practices for adapting to climate change and weather related production risks, and to identify new and adaptive management practices. The project will involve the development of tools to support on-farm trials, several farm-scale demonstration sites where the producers complete trials over two summers (2015 and 2016) with the project providing research development support, access to research equipment, lab analyses, and local climate data. (Project Summary is attached.)

The final outcome of this project will be a Workbook and Manual: "How to Conduct Your Own Farm-Scale Research Projects", educational opportunities for area producers through field days and a workshop and increased farm related weather information for the area.

Examples of potential trials (each site will develop their own project)

  • Determine variation in maturity rates of different alfalfa, timothy, oat varieties
  • Investigate Rhizobium spp. issues potentially related to soil temperature, acidity, and soil nutrient relationships
  • Determine the effects of soil acidity and lime application on production, and yield relationships – economics
  • Evaluate Growing Degree Day (GDD) and other methods to predict plant growth stages, and plan harvest to maximize quality, yield and winter hardiness
  • Evaluate various harvest operations, equipment and timing and effects on quality
  • Determine how to bring low fertility areas into full production
  • Evaluate effectiveness of delaying first cut harvest

We are currently looking for producers willing to participate in this farm-scale demonstration project.

Participant requirements:

  • located in forage producing areas in and around Vanderhoof , and located within one of the 5 major micro-climates areas of the region
  • willing to work with the Consultant and Producer Advisory Committee to develop an interesting project on your own land
  • willing to keep detailed records as required by the Consultant willing to host and maintain a weather station on or near your operation willing to provide feedback to the consultant on the draft Manual and Workbook willing to participate from December 2014 until Spring 2017
  • willing to host field days at the research site on your land; the project team will support the organization and delivery of the events

If you are located within the VANDERHOOF area and are interested in participating in this project, please contact BCFC. WE ARE ALSO LOOKING FOR PRODUCERS to form an Advisory Committee to provide overall project oversight, to review the development of the Manual and Workbook, and to act as a source of information for the Consultant.

BC Forage Council
Cell: 250-267-6522 

Demonstrating innovative forage production practices to increase climate change adaptation - Project Summary 2014



While several forage yield evaluations have been conducted in the Central Interior of BC, there has been little information gathered on forage quality and quality/weather related factors. In light of anticipated changes in growing conditions and emerging market opportunities, research is required to assess innovative farm practices for adapting to climate change impacts and weather related production risks, and to identify new and adaptive management practices.

A recent 2013 study by the BC Forage Council (BCFC), “Forage Production and Export Potential in BC’s Central Interior”, confirmed opportunities to expand the export forage market and identified existing limitations. One such limitation is that in the Central Interior, the ability to produce a suitable volume of export grade forage is limited by variable weather conditions during the harvest windows.

Although standardized variety tests are extremely useful and provide valid data, conditions on each farm can be different than the test area, fields within each farm can also be variable, as can areas within a field. On-farm research is necessary to test and validate production methods and species in terms of: suitability, profitability or ability to meet desired markets in a variable climate. As well, on-farm research allows farmers to vastly enhance their knowledge of their own forage production systems, improve information resources and increase capacity within the agricultural community to support adaptation of innovative practices and technologies.

The BCFC is starting a forage project that will assist in the development of on-farm adaptations focused on producing high quality forage under a variety of weather conditions. Through the development of a weather station network within the production area, the evaluation of production techniques using on-farm trials, and the creation of a manual for conducting on-farm trials, this project seeks to increase the information and management options available to producers as well as provide for the long-term ability to respond to changes in growing conditions.

With the establishment of several weather stations, this project will also result in weather information from currently under-represented geographies being made available to those involved in climate change adaptation.



  • Improve individual producers’ long-term ability to conduct their own on-farm trials to test adaptive production methods through the development, testing, and refinement of a “How To” Manual and an accompanying workbook, that once complete will be available to producers throughout the province.
  • The forage research manual will instruct farmers on topics such as: choosing sites, site preparation, setting up protocols, sampling procedures, data collecting, etc. This project will empower farmers to improve their operations individually and collectively, and will encourage farmers to co-operate and share information, especially as government steps away from these activities.


  • Increase access to regional weather and climate information to track weather variability, assess production and harvest windows, and increase potential for long term climate adaptation through the establishment and maintenance of permanent weather stations in the region that will persist beyond the timeframe of the project.
  • Increase producer knowledge and capacity to make use of local weather data and related decision tools (e.g. Growing Degree Day (GDD)) in production related decisions.


  • On-farm forage demonstration plots will be established based on industry-driven questions. These will be operational farm-scale plots, where size will be a function of factors such as available area, equipment and number of questions. These plots will differ from typical research plots in that they will be operational in size and will not necessarily involve multiple replicated sites.
  • Explore potential to cost effectively meet export market specifications for forages through the evaluation, demonstration, economic analysis, and promotion of production practices which incorporate and/or respond to variable weather conditions.
  • Improve the capacity for future market development and production practice evaluation through the provision of forage quality assessment tools.


  • Funding has been provided through the BC Farm Adaptation Innovator Program, a Growing Forward 2 initiative; the Omineca Beetle Action Coalition; and the Nechako Kitimaat Development Fund Society.
  • In-kind support, production data and knowledge, and communication links to local producers will be provided from members of the agriculture industry in the project area including: Glen Dale Agra Service and Tophay Agri-Industries.
  • In-kind support including substantial time investments from forage producers who will not only be participating in the advisory committee and maintaining the various demonstration sites but who will also play a critical role in the collection of samples and data and in providing feedback on the efficacy, practicality and clarity of the Manual and Workbook. This type of participation has the added value of not only contributing to the project’s success but also building local capacity for future on-farm trials.
  • Scientific support and technical information will be provided by: Dr. S. Bittman and D. Hunt (AAFC), Dr. T. Jensen (International Plant Nutrition Institute), and Dr. B. McGill (University of Northern BC).
  • In-kind support from the BC Ministry of Agriculture, primarily in staff time and travel, will support multiple aspects of the project including technical information, participation in advisory committee, access to various contacts, facilitation and coordination support as required.
  • The BCFC will be providing project management, project administration, input during development of project deliverables, initiating the producer advisory committee, and general project oversight. 


.... coming ...

BCFC Hires Project Consultant 2014

BC Forage Council hires Agrowest Consulting - The BC Forage Council has initiated a project entitled: “Demonstrating innovative forage production practices to increase climate change adaptation”. This 2 ½ year project will use farm-scale forage demonstration sites to increase producer adaptive capacity to overcome limitations from adverse growing conditions and to maximize economic returns.

Bio Energy Crops

Crops - The Foundation for a Renewable Future (May 2006)

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Bio-industrial products are renewable, have a measurable ecological footprint, and use safer and less toxic refining processes. These feedstocks and crops come from reliable sources - Alberta farms. Bio-based products will help replace or complement petroleum-based products in the market place, a sensible approach to help sustain Alberta's resource base.

"Bio-industrial products are developed from crops using conventional breeding and molecular technologies," says Don Salmon, plant breeder with Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development's crop development - non-food branch, Lacombe. "These products include modified oils, bioplastics, enhanced biofibers, biochemicals and biodiesel. In the industry, these are known as renewable energy, enviro-materials and enviro-products."

Salmon, along with his triticale team, has released two new triticale varieties to two independent organizations. These varieties will be targeted to the ethanol market in addition to feed and fodder markets. The varieties that can be grown across the prairies have a 15 to 20 per cent higher yield than wheat. They are also disease resistant.

"It is anticipated that crops such as triticale will be the platform for further improvements, following on the success of input traits, such as herbicide resistance, and abiotic stress resistance, such as drought tolerance," says Christine Murray, branch head, crop development - non-food, Alberta Agriculture, Edmonton.

To optimize the efficient production of bio-products, including research, development and regulation cost, crops are being developed as platform technologies - single species used to produce a range of products. Just as canola has been a platform for the production of edible oils, meal and biolubricants, these crop platforms will support a range of valuable products. The choice of crop platforms encompasses climatic suitability, agronomic system compatibility, biosafety risk and exclusivity. Flax and triticale are suitable crops in Western Canada as the oil and starch based crop platforms.

"Interdisciplinary research is required to build crop platforms, from the selection, transfer and optimization of transgenic traits for bio-product production, to agronomy, bio-safety risk assessment, breeding, biochemistry, and basic biotechnology and genomics," says Salmon. "Product utilization and processing is an integral part of this program and research objectives must be driven by market demands for products, in cooperation with industrial partners. Coordinated, multi-disciplinary research needs to be conducted in parallel, rather than sequentially, if we are going to be internationally competitive in bringing these crop products to market in a timely fashion."

The advances made already by the triticale team are just some of the first successes in developing the new varieties that will lead us into a sustainable, renewable resource-based future.

Don Salmon (403) 782-8694
Christine Murray (780) 644-1986

Source: Alberta Agriculture

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Brassica Crops

Brassicas to Extend the Grazing Season

Prepared by Marvin H. Hall, professor of forage management, and Jerry Jung, adjunct professor of agronomy.  Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences research and extension 

Use of Brassica Crops to Extend the Grazing Season

Cool-season perennial grass and grass-legume pastures typically become less productive as the grazing season advances from June to November. Forage brassica crops such as turnip, swede, rape, and kale can be spring-seeded to supplement the perennial cool-season pastures in August and September or summer-seeded to extend the grazing season in November and December. Brassicas are annual crops that are highly productive and digestible and can be grazed 80 to 150 days after seeding, depending on the species (see table on back page). In addition, crude protein levels are high, varying from 15 to 25 percent in the herbage and 8 to 15 percent in the roots, depending on the level of nitrogen fertilization and weather conditions.

Species and varieties

Kale (Brassica oleracea L.)

Varieties of kale differ markedly in winter hardiness, rate of establishment, stem development, and time required to reach maturity. The stemless type of kale (e.g. ‘Premier’) has a faster rate of establishment than varieties that produce stems. Crop height of the stemless type is approximately 25 inches, whereas that of narrow stem kale is 60 inches with primary stems often 2 inches in diameter. Stemless kale attains maturity in approximately 90 days, allowing two crops per year, whereas varieties that develop stems require 150 to 180 days to attain maximum production. ‘Premier’ has consistently survived winters in central Pennsylvania, whereas other varieties of kale usually are winter-killed in December.

Rape (Brassica napus L.)

Mature forage rape is one of the best crops available for fattening lambs and flushing ewes. Rape is a multi-stemmed crop with fibrous roots. The stems vary in length, diameter, and in palatability to livestock. Forage yields of spring- planted rape increase until plants become physiologically mature. Growth slows or ceases at maturity and yields plateau until leaves senesce and die. Varieties differ in when this occurs; however, ‘Rangi’ rape retains its leaves longer than most varieties. Generally, yields of rape varieties in Pennsylvania are maximized with two 90-day growth periods. However, performance of ‘Emerald’ and ‘Winfred’ rape varieties is best with one 180-day growth period, and yields of rape hybrids are greatest with 60 days of growth before the first harvest and a 30-day growth period before the second harvest.

Swede (Brassica napus L.)
Like turnip, swede produces a large edible root. Swede yields are higher than those of turnip, although growth is slower and requires 150 to 180 days to reach maximum production. Swede usually produces a short stem (neck), but can have stems 2 1⁄2 feet long when grown with tall crops that shade the swede. Unfortunately, stem elongation is at the expense of root development. The variety ‘Calder’ is cold hardy in central Pennsylvania and thus ideal for stockpiling and for late fall or early winter grazing. In general, all swede varieties are recommended for late fall grazing.

turnip (Brassica rapa L.) or turnip Hybrids

These crops grow very fast, reaching near maximum production levels in 80 to 90 days. Studies in southwestern Pennsylvania showed that turnip can accumulate dry matter in October as fast as field corn does in August. Growing “out of season” (October/November) makes turnip a valuable crop for late fall grazing.

The proportion of tops and roots varies markedly depending on variety, crop age, and planting date. Research by the USDA Pasture Laboratory showed that turnip crops can vary from 90 percent tops/10 percent roots to 15 per- cent tops/85 percent roots. Some hybrids have fibrous roots that will not be readily grazed by livestock. All varieties produce primarily tops during the first 45 days of growth. Sixty to 90 days after seeding, turnip varieties such as ‘Savannah’ and ‘All Top’ continue to produce a high pro- portion of tops. During the same period, other turnip varieties have nearly equal top and root production, except ‘Purple Top’ has a greater root than top production. The significance in the proportion of tops and roots is that the crude protein concentration (8 to 10 percent) of roots is approximately one-half of that in turnip tops. Therefore, greater root production tends to reduce the crude protein yield of the total crop. On the other hand, stockpiled tops appear to be more vulnerable to weather and pest damage than roots. Varieties differ in their resistance to diseases, but this often is not evident until the crop is more than 80 days of age and the plants are reaching full production.

Other Forage Brassicas

Several hybrids of brassica species are also used as forage crops; however, there is limited research information on the production and management of these hybrids. The more common hybrids include a cross between Chinese cabbage (Brassica campesteris sensulato L.) and rape (‘Perko’), tur- nip (‘Tyfon’ and ‘Buko’), and swede (‘Wairangi’).



All brassica crops require good soil drainage and a soil pH between 5.3 and 6.8 for optimum production. Good stands can be established by planting 3.5 to 4 pounds per acre of kale or rape, or 1.5 to 2 pounds per acre of swede or turnip. The higher seeding rates are recommended for spring plantings. The seeds should be planted in rows 6 to 8 inches apart and not more than one-half inch deep. However, brassica seed can also be broadcast and incorporated into tilled seedbeds by cultipacking. When preparing a tilled seedbed for brassica planting, plow the ground several weeks before planting to allow weed seeds to germinate before secondary tillage is completed to form a firm and fine seedbed that is free of weeds. In addition, the preplant incorporated herbicide Treflan (trifluralin) is labeled at 0.5 to 1.0 pint active ingredient per acre for control of annual grass and small- seeded broadleaf weeds in brassicas.

Brassica stands can also be established by no-till planting in grass sod that is suppressed with paraquat or glyphosate herbicides. Read pesticide labels and precautions before using either of these herbicides. Ideally, the grass sod should be grazed through June with the grazing prior to brassica seeding being very close. Approximately two weeks before planting the herbicide should be applied to the grass sod. Another option for no-till establishment would be to apply
a manure slurry to the sod, burn the sod back, and then no- till plant the brassica seeds through the slurry. In addition to reduced erosion concerns with no-till planting, there are generally fewer insect problems than with conventionally seeded brassicas. The following recommendations will improve the chances of successful brassica establishment.

1. Attempt establishment only on well drained soils.

2. Do not seed deeper than one-half inch.

3. When seeding into a sod, suppress the sod long enough to allow the brassicas to establish (two to three weeks).

4. Apply 75 pounds of nitrogen at seeding to stimulate establishment and growth.

As previously mentioned, forage brassicas can be grown to supplement perennial cool-season pastures in August and September or to extend the grazing season in November and December. In the first instance, brassicas would be planted in May or early June because spring rains will help ensure production for August and September grazing (Figure 1). Turnip, rape, or stemless kale could be used for this purpose. In the second instance, swede or kale would be planted in spring, or rape, turnip, and turnip hybrids would be planted in late July or early August, and growth allowed to accumulate until November or December.

CLICK HERE to read the entire PDF.




Double Cropping Fall Rye for Extra Forage

by Joel Bagg, Forage Specialist & Peter Johnson, Cereals Specialist, OMAF and MRA

Fall rye is an excellent forage crop when seeded after early-fall harvested crops. It is ready for harvest in southern Ontario in mid-May, which provides great opportunities for “double crop” options, and can also fill in the gap in years when forage supplies are short. Seed as early as possible in September, apply nitrogen in the spring, and time harvest for nutrient quality needs. Do not confuse cereal rye (Secale cereale) with ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum or L. perenne), as they are totally different grass species with quite different characteristics.

Fall rye prevents erosion and gives good weed suppression. Rye is very cold tolerant, the hardiest and most disease resistant of the winter cereals. Fall rye has an extensive fibrous root system, can scavenge nitrogen very effectively, and utilizes early spring moisture for rapid growth.

Fall rye is faster growing and earlier maturing in the spring than the other winter cereals, including wheat, barley and triticale. This enables an earlier forage harvest and more “double crop” options. Fall rye grows well on lighter and low pH soils, but does not do well on poorly drained, heavier soils. Forage rye is higher yielding, but not as palatable as winter wheat. Rye matures rapidly at the flag-leaf, boot and early-heading stages, with significant reductions in forage quality. This can create the challenge of a very narrow harvest window, particularly if there are rain delays.

Double Crop Options

Farmers looking for extra forage can plant fall rye following the harvest of many crops, particularly corn silage. Forage rye harvested in mid-May can be followed by a late-planted crop, such as soybeans, edible beans, or a warm-season annual forage crop such as sorghum. Winter wheat heads two weeks later than fall rye making forage wheat harvest too late to be followed by corn or soybeans. In dry years, decreased moisture in the soil profile following forage rye can have a negative effect on the yield of the following crop. It is essential to completely kill the rye with glyphosate or tillage to minimize shading and competition for moisture.

Rye is sometimes noted for having an “alleopathic effect” that suppresses the germination and growth of weeds and other crops. With most of the rye plant removed, alleopathy is a low risk in forage situations. The possible exception is with no-till corn on heavier soil types.


Fall rye is easy to establish and can be seeded from late-summer to late-fall. If harvest as silage the following May is planned, fall rye should be seeded in September, but later seedings can work. Early planting allows more time for tillering, higher forage yields, and slightly earlier forage harvest dates. Some growth going into winter is preferred for early spring growth and good yields. Seed is relatively inexpensive. Under good conditions, fall rye can be seeded at 110 kg/ha (100 lbs/ac), but the seeding rate can be increased up to 190 kg/ha (168 lbs/ac, 3 bu/ac) if the seed is broadcast rather than drilled, or if the seeding date is late.


Fall rye is best used to provide early-spring grazing, but can also be grazed into late-fall. It is ready to graze early in the spring and growth is very rapid. To ensure that it does not get too mature, be prepared to move livestock frequently by strip grazing. Grazing rye on wet heavy clay soils in late-fall or early-spring is not recommended due to livestock “pugging” and compaction. If fall pasture is desired, fall rye should be seeded by August 15-30th. 

Read entire article here

Forage Chicory

Forage chicory (Cichorium intybus L.) is a perennial plant that is suited to well-drained or moderately drained soils with medium- to high-fertility levels and a pH of 5.5 or greater. Chicory produces leafy growth that is higher in nutritive and mineral content (if managed properly) than is produced by alfalfa or cool season grasses. It has a relatively deep taproot that provides for tolerance to drought conditions.

Chicory provides both spring and summer forage with average growth rates from April through October of 50 pounds per acre per day. During peak growth periods chicory produces 73 pounds per acre per day. Chicory is a relatively new forage crop in the United States but has been used in other countries for more than 300 years. Although it originated in central Europe, much of the breeding for improved forage characteristics has been completed in New Zealand.

Forage chicory is a low-growing rosette plant with broad leaves in the winter, very much like dandelion. With warm temperatures in the spring it produces large numbers of leaves from the crown. In late spring, after the establishment year, a few flower stems begin to develop from the crown and will reach heights of 6 feet if ungrazed. The thick taproot of chicory can be exposed and damaged by overgrazing, excessive hoof traffic, and frost heaving.

Link to complete pdf document.

Italian Ryegrass

Italian ryegrass can produce very high quality, leafy, palatable forage suitable for high producing dairy cows. As a cool-season bunch grass, it is best adapted to cool, moist conditions. It does not grow as well in hot, dry summer weather. In Ontario it has been seeded in early spring (April, early-May) for harvesting that year. More recently, it has been seeded in August for harvest in late-fall and then again during the following year. This can provide an excellent double-crop option, but the risk of winterkill must be managed.

Italian ryegrass is noted for its high fibre digestibility (NDFD), high relative forage quality (RFQ), palatability, ease of establishment, and its yield response to nitrogen. Ryegrass is characterized by a glossy appearance of the underside of the leaves. Do not confuse cereal rye (Secale cereale) with ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum or L. perenne), as they are totally different grass species with distinctly different characteristics.

Read complete article here.


New Forage Cultivars Tailored for BC Production (2003)

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Surya N. Acharya
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Lethbridge, AB

Traditional forages


Alfalfa (M. sativa L.) is the most widely used forage legume in western Canada. This crop occupies approximately 2.6M ha in this region due to its wide adaptation. It establishes quickly and easily, produces high forage yield and if harvested at an appropriate stage the forage is of high quality. For these reasons, alfalfa is often referred to as the 'Queen' of forages. However, this crop has some weaknesses. This crop can cause bloat in ruminants, available cultivars cannot survive in mixed stands for very long and have no tolerance for acid soils. Most cultivars are prone to verticillium wilt caused by Verticillium albo-atrum. This is a serious disease of alfalfa in Alberta and BC in areas with high moisture. In interior BC, alfalfa faces two major challenges for optimal growth. They are plant diseases and acid soils.

Two cultivars AC Blue J and AC Longview with high levels of resistance to verticillium and bacterial wilt and high yield were released in the past six years to counteract the disease problem. Seeds for these cultivar are readily available in the market. These cultivars will not only produce higher yield each year, but also, they will live longer and produce weed free high quality hay. However, these cultivars are not suitable for low pH soils.

Vast tracts of land in the Prince George area are quite low in pH, and most alfalfa varieties in Canada are not suitable for these acidic soil conditions. We now have a new alfalfa cultivar under testing in the region that looks very promising. The new cultivar is the result of a careful breeding strategy. We collected stem cuttings from surviving plants from some old pastures and hay stands in the area - with the idea that they have some acid-tolerance - and intercrossed these selections. We were able to come up with a new alfalfa synthetic that shows good tolerance and produces high forage yield. If all goes well, this synthetic could be released to a seed company in the fall of 2004 for multiplication. Seed for commercial production of the acid tolerant cultivar with adaptation for interior BC will probably be available in 2006.

Cicer milkvetch

Cicer milkvetch is a long lived, rhizomatous high quality forage legume. It is well adapted to western Canada, is productive and long lived and unlike alfalfa, does not cause bloat when grazed by ruminants. However, cicer milkvetch is not used to its potential in western Canada pastures. Cicer milkvetch seeds have a high level of slow germinating hard seeds and the seedlings grow much slower than most other forage crops. This crop requires special care at establishment to obtain a vigorous forage stand.

The impermeable hard seed coat does not allow the seed to take in water under favorable germination conditions. Hard seededness is a type of dormancy that ensures species survival by maintaining long-term viability and distributing seed germination over a long period. Hard seeds, however, pose a major agricultural problem where quick and uniform stand establishment is the goal. Quick and uniform establishment also requires rapid growth at seedling stage. Unfortunately, seedlings of cicer milkvetch grow slow compared to most forage crops.

Research at Lethbridge Research Centre has focussed on improving this important forage crop. Through repeated cycles of selection for improved seedling vigour genetically superior lines have been produced that emerge faster, grow rapidly at the seedling stage and produce greater amounts of forage. Using these selections we have developed AC Oxley II that can produce almost 200 % of Oxley biomass in the establishment year. Although AC Oxley II seedlings have the ability to grow rapidly after germination a high proportion of the seeds have a hard coat. Therefore, for proper establishment the seeds need to be scarified properly prior to seeding.

For assured establishment and high level of forage production, scarified cicer seeds need to be seeded into a firm and weed free seed bed at shallow depth. Use of proper inoculant and fertilizer has shown positive effects on cicer milkvetch establishment and subsequent performance. While establishing a mixed stand, cicer milkvetch has benefited from a mowing when fast growing companion crops may shade the crawling seedlings and adversely affect their growth. Unlike alfalfa, cicer component in a mixture increases over the years, especially in stands that are grazed.

Now producers have a more productive cicer cultivar AC Oxley II. Seed for this cultivar is now available for commercial production. This new cultivar, released in 2001, has performed well in trials conducted in interior BC. Another new synthetic LRC94-1 is out performing all other entries in BC trials. This new synthetic may be ready for release in 2005.


Orchardgrass (Dactylis glomerata) is known for producing high quality forage and under BC conditions can produce high forage yield. It responds well to irrigation and has shown tolerance to heavy manure applications. Orchardgrass is the main feed for dairy cows in much of central BC. However, it is prone to winter injury when grown in the Canadian prairies or interior BC.

New lines of orchardgrass - represent further potential for forage producers. We have developed several lines of this forage with improved winterhardiness and resistance to the cocksfoot mottle virus. Winterhardiness is important for farmers in the BC interior, while lines with resistance to cocksfoot mottle virus are needed in the coastal areas where this disease is more prevalent. Using an indoor screening method, we have developed several winterhardy synthetic populations that have produced higher forage yield than the check cultivars in BC interior. The highest yielding synthetic will be released for multiplication and distribution in 2004. Producers are advised to look for "Adanac" orchardgrass in near future.

In collaboration with Dr. Shabtai Bittmen of Agassize, BC, we have developed nine orchardgrass populations with resistance to the cocksfoot mottle virus. These populations are now being tested in coastal BC. If all goes well, the best performing synthetics will be released for commercial production in 2005.

Non-Traditional forages


Perennial Cereal Rye (PC rye)

Lower feed costs, good persistence, beats barley as silage, and solid performance against weeds are sure to attract producers to Canada's first perennial cereal (PC) rye cultivar ACE-1. A population developed in Germany by crossing Secale cereale (rye) and Secale montananum (grass) was used as source material. The original population did not have the winter hardiness required for the prairies so we made selections within the population to produce a suitable cultivar that would survive western Canada winters. ACE-1 is the resulting cultivar and has survived for four years in southern Alberta.

This perennial will only be seeded once every three to four years, unlike barley or wheat, which would mean a substantial savings for producers. This also means that throughout winter, the live roots will prevent soils from wind and water erosion. This cultivar grows early in spring and so will utilize spring moisture better than annual crops. It has produced two cuts per year under normal growing conditions.

ACE-1 produces best if seeded in the fall. It is as early as crested wheatgrass. It can be seeded in the spring, but the crop will stay vegetative and will not produce seed head during the summer of establishment year. ACE-1 should be seeded using seven inch row spacing on moist or irrigated areas and 14 inches on dryland. Use 100 pounds of seed per acre and 75 pounds of nitrogen per acre for optimum performance. The yield potential from the first cut is about the same as you would expect from barley silage. In most cases it can produce a second crop of another 40-50 % of the first cut biomass. The quality of silage is comparable to that of barley.

The cultivar is very competitive, doesn't require much herbicide and grows very rapidly at establishment. Tests indicate that ACE-1 fits well in common herbicide systems. In a three-year study, weeds made up 20-36 per cent of total ACE-1 dry matter, when herbicide was not applied during the crop's vegetative state. These results are particularly good considering the weed content of seedling alfalfa under the same test hit 80 per cent. In the year after establishment, ACE-1 was essentially weed-free without having to use herbicides. The variety was not harmed by herbicides used to control wild oat, green foxtail and broadleaf weeds.

So far we have noticed only one problem with ergot and that's why it is not being grown for human consumption, but rather for silage and grazing at early stages of plant growth.

As a dry land crop, ACE-1 produces extremely well and that amount doubles if the land is irrigated.

In BC, ACE-1 was only tested in Creston where it has done well for two years now. We will collect germplasm from the Creston stand after three years to develop a new cultivar with adaptation to interior BC conditions. More research on this crop is needed to determine how widely it will be adapted and how it will be utilized by different types of animal systems.


Fenugreek is an annual legume presently grown as a dryland crop for it=s seed. Fenugreek seed is used as a condiment, flavouring agent and for pharmaceutical purposes. In the year it's seeded, fenugreek produces almost as much forage as a mature stand of alfalfa. The crop yields 3 to 4 tons of dry matter per acre on dryland and twice that under irrigation. In collaboration with animal nutritionists we have found that fenugreek forage is very similar in quality to alfalfa, with crude protein levels around 18 to 20 percent. In preliminary grazing trials fenugreek did not cause bloat in ruminants.

Fenugreek has an advantage over alfalfa: it maintains its quality all through the summer. Instead of taking multiple cuts to ensure good yield and high quality forage, you can cut fenugreek once, late in the year and get a full high quality forage harvest. Fenugreek is probably better suited to silage making than haying, because harvesting a full forage crop in a single cut results in a heavy swath that takes a long time to dry, especially late in the summer.

Dr. Zahir Mir found that silage made from mature fenugreek was eaten about 15% less than alfalfa. However, animal gains were similar to those on prime cut alfalfa. The plant contains growth promoting substances and these natural substances may increase muscle growth in animals fed fenugreek. It is extremely palatable for rabbits and so for small plot trials rabbits can become a pest. However, fenugreek has no known insect pests or diseases excepting showing susceptibility to powdery mildew in late fall.

Fenugreek is expected to make excellent hay cubes without addition of a binding agent. It contains a gummy substance which can be used as a binding agent for making alfalfa or other cubes. The intense aroma of fenugreek survives passage through the animal and may taint milk. However, this nature may be useful in reducing manure odors, especially from cattle, poultry and hog operations.

Growing fenugreek is similar to growing other legumes. As it is an annual crop, the seed should be inoculated, seeded as early in spring as possible with a little nitrogen and fairly high phosphorus. The crop is drought tolerant, but it produces better under irrigation. The following crop in the rotation gains from the nitrogen fixed by the fenugreek. These considerations may make fenugreek particularly attractive to farmers growing annual crops who wish to include a high value forage in a short rotation.

A forage type fenugreek cultivar adapted to western Canada is expected to be released for multiplication and distribution in 2003 fall. Producers are advised to look for 'Tristar' fenugreek in near future. This cultivar needs to be tested in interior BC before it can be recommended for commercial production in the region.

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Check Your Orchardgrass Fields For Virus Now (2001) - Over the past few weeks we have received several reports of cocksfoot mottle virus (CMV) appearing in orchardgrass fields in the Fraser Valley. This disease is not new to the region, but more people are beginning to notice it. Late March to early April is the best time to detect this disease in your fields.

Rust Alert (2000) - We have had two recent reports that stripe rust has arrived in the Fraser Valley. Farmers should monitor their orchardgrass fields and take action if they find that their crops are infected.

Check Your Orchardgrass Fields For Virus Now (2001)

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Check Your Orchardgrass Fields For Virus Now (2001) - Over the past few weeks we have received several reports of cocksfoot mottle virus (CMV) appearing in orchardgrass fields in the Fraser Valley. This disease is not new to the region, but more people are beginning to notice it. Late March to early April is the best time to detect this disease in your fields.

Rust Alert (2000) - We have had two recent reports that stripe rust has arrived in the Fraser Valley. Farmers should monitor their orchardgrass fields and take action if they find that their crops are infected.

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Cocksfoot Mottle Virus (2009)

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Shabtai Bittman (PhD)
Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre (PARC)
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Cocksfoot mottle virus (CMV) infects orchardgrass and is well known in many regions around the world that produce orchardgrass. In Japan, CMV is considered the most serious disease of orchardgrass. PARC Scientists first positively identified this virus on farms fields in BC in the early 1990's. CMV is probably widespread in both coastal BC and the Pacific Northwest.

The disease is most easily noticed in late March or early April when plants are less than 30 cm (12 in) tall. Distinctly yellowish (sometimes mottled) plants are scattered around fields. The disease is most prevalent in older stands because it builds up gradually. The pathogen does not survive in the soil and is not carried by seed so most new stands are disease-free. The disease is spread from infected plants by certain beetles but more commonly by harvesting equipment. The disease is less common on pastures than mechanically-harvested fields.

Plants infected with CMV lose vigour and eventually die. Because infected plants diminish and die, it is rare to see more than 10% infected plants in a field. CMV is very likely a major cause of stand decline and weed encroachment in orchardgrass in our region. There is no information on whether CMV reduces forage quality.

To reduce spread of the disease, farmers should plant resistant varieties (consult extension agent). Cleaning harvesting equipment, especially after harvesting older infected fields will slow spread of the disease. Harvesting clean fields before infected ones should also help to slow the spread of CMV.

Reprinted with permission from "Advanced Forage Management: A production guide for coastal British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest", S. Bittman, O. Schmidt and T.N. Cramer, 1999.

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Rust Alert (2000)

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Shabtai Bittman, Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre,
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Agassiz, BC

Severe stripe rust in the Chilliwack area in 1987.

Stripe rust on orchardgrass has arrived early in the Fraser Valley this summer. Infections have been reported in the Chilliwack and Agassiz areas. The rust appears as orange pustules usually arranged in rows on the leaves of orchardgrass. Stripe rust does not infect other forage grasses grown here, although other types of rust do.

Where does the rust come from?

Stripe rust usually does not overwinter in BC, although small amounts may survive in mild winters. The rust usually blows in on southerly winds from Oregon where it overwinters. Once established, stripe rust needs warm dry weather with 2-3 hours of morning dew to proliferate. The rust organism will double in number every 4-5 days.

What are the consequences of stripe rust on orchardgrass?

The main impact of rust is reduced digestiblity. Severe infections will increase Acid Detergent Fibre (ADF) by more than 5%, lowering TDN by at least 3 to 4%. Stipe rust also increases Neutral Detergent Fibre (NDF)and lowers protein content.

Variety differences in resistance to stripe rust.

What should farmers do?

The best strategy is to use resistant varieties. Seed dealers can provide information on the rust resistance of the varieites they sell. But no variety is totally immune to this disease. Infected fields should be harvested early to reduce the impact on digestibility and to reduce the amount of inoculum that may infect not only their crops but also those of their neighbours. Ensuring adequate fertility helps helps the grass outgrow the infection, although it does not reduce the rate of infection.

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Forage Management

Fertilizer Prices Affect the Value of Hay and Straw (2008)

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By Doon Pauly, Alberta Ag-Info Centre

The dramatic rise of fertilizer prices over the last year may be old news, but the effects of these increased input costs are still surprising. High fertilizer costs could affect hay, greenfeed and straw prices. Animal feed that is produced and harvested in one area and fed in another will export a lot of nutrients, and the fertility of that producing land will decline if these nutrients are not replaced as fertilizer or manure. The replacement cost of these nutrients needs to be built into the price of feed.

Fertilizer prices have been volatile since the fall of 2007, and this has even carried into summer months when prices are usually stable due to low demand. In an ever-changing market it is hard to come up with concrete prices, so, for the purpose of this article I have assumed some product costs that are hopefully close to realistic for much of Alberta.

Table 1. Estimated Fertilizer Costs Summer 2008















$/lb actual





Note - these costs have accounted for the nitrogen component of phosphate and sulphate fertilizers

Using these estimated fertilizer values and average feed analysis, the fertilizer replacement costs in various feeds ranges from about $39 per ton for straw to over $94 per ton for alfalfa hay, as shown in Table 2. Keep in mind that these are only some of the expenses tied up in this feed and do not include any of the costs of cutting or baling.

These values are also built on the assumption that any replacement fertilizer is 100 per cent efficient. In reality, fertilizer efficiency is lower than this and fertilizer is even more costly to replace. Although some may question the accuracy of these numbers, what they clearly indicate is that the nutrients in feed are valuable and need to be considered when setting prices.

Table 2. Nutrient Content and Fertilizer Replacement Costs in Various Feeds*

lb N/ton

lb P2O5/ton

lb K2O/ton

lb S/ton

Total Fertilizer
Cost $/ton







barley greenfeed
























oats greenfeed






barley straw






*From 10 Year Average Analysis of Alberta Feeds 1984-1994,$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/anim3780

High fertilizer prices seem to be a new reality and are not surprising anymore. What is unexpected sometimes is how these prices affect farming practices and products. Hay and greenfeed have value not just as animal feeds, but also on the basis of their fertilizer replacement value. Even straw, which is often viewed as waste product, may contain over $39 per ton of fertilizer equivalent. Fertilizer prices have made the nutrients in feed quite valuable, and buyers and sellers should take this into consideration when setting hay, greenfeed and straw prices.

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Forage Project Demonstrates Techniques to Benefit the Environment (2006)

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A three-year cropping demonstration in B.C.'s Peace River region is designed to show producers across Western Canada improved direct seeding techniques that will not only benefit crop and forage production but also benefit the environment.

The project, supported in part by the Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Program for Canadian Agriculture (GHGMP), is intended to show farmers a process for re-establishing hay and pasture stands without having to till fields, a common practice which not only increases the risk of erosion but also releases stored carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere.

In many situations, hay and pasture fields seeded to domestic forages have a limited life span and need to be reseeded or re-established every few years, explains Julie Robinson of the Peace River Forage Association (PRFA).

A conventional approach in many areas has been to plow and disc these fields through several tillage operations and then re-plant a perennial hay or pasture grass-seed mix.

On annual seeded crop land, dedicated to cereals and oilseeds, for example, an increasingly common farming practice, in recent years, has been to direct seed cereal and oilseeds - such as wheat and canola - directly into last year's stubble without tillage.

"Direct seeding forages, however, presents other challenges," says Robinson, who is also field co-ordinator for the soil and beef sectors of the GHGMP in the northeast B.C. region. The soil sector of the GHGMP program is administered by the Soil Conservation Council of Canada. "The difficulty with direct seeding a perennial back into an unproductive hay or pasture stand is getting good stand establishment and good weed control."

The objective of this demonstration is to develop a system that eliminates the need for breaking the sod and working the field. It appears the best strategy is to spray out the old forage stand with a herbicide, direct seed an annual crop such as oats or barley for preferably two years, and then re-established the new perennial crop into the cereal stubble. This can all be done without tillage.

A decent hay or pasture stand will produce about 2.5 tonnes of forage per acre per year for several years, but as the stand ages and production drops to about one tonne of forage per acre or less, the field is usually tilled and reseeded.

"With tillage there's always the concern about wind or water erosion until the new crop is established," says Robinson. "There's also the cost of the four or five tillage passes needed to break and cultivate a field. At today's fuel prices, that isn't cheap. And from an environmental standpoint, cultivation affects soil structure and also releases carbon dioxide, a harmful greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere."

A healthy, productive forage stand captures carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and stores or sequesters it as carbon in plant leaves and roots and in the soil. Conventional tillage, which breaks the sod and exposes the soil, releases that sequestered carbon.

The GHGMP-funded project, working on two sites, is evaluating different herbicide timings to determine if a fall and spring treatment is needed or just a fall treatment is sufficient to control weeds before the annual crop is directly seeded. Different herbicides and different combinations are being used. A feature report on the project is available on the SCCC website at

This summer the PRFA will work with Calvin Yoder, an Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development forage specialist from Spirit River, Alberta, to conduct a plant count on the various sites to determine which timing and which combination of herbicide was the most effective.

"Overall, we also need to look at herbicide economics," says Robinson. "There are different products and different combinations of products that may work. For the sake of production economics, we want to see if perhaps a less expensive treatment will do the job."

A report on the results of the various treatments should be ready by the fall of 2006.

For more information, contact:
Julie Robinson
Field Co-ordinator
Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Program for Canadian Agriculture
Dawson Creek, B.C.
Phone: (250) 782-4501
Doug McKell
Executive Director
Soil Conservation Council of Canada
Indian Head, Sask.
Phone: (306) 695-4212

Dawson Creek, B.C. February 17, 2006

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Grass and Legume Seed Market Update (2008)

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Note: prices provided are grower prices, quoted by processors to growers after cleaning and dockage.

Prices for some grass and legume seed species have moved up a bit, in anticipation of lower production this upcoming year. A reduction in seed acres, not only in the Peace region but also in western Canada and throughout the world, is keeping the trade wondering how much production is in store for this year. The worldwide phenomenon of increasing cereal and oilseed production will affect the grass and legumes seed for the next few years.

In the turf sector, creeping red fescue quotes have moved up to around 60 ¢/lb, with fall prices quoted at 65 ¢/lb. This is a good price, but it our dollar hadn't moved up to it's present on-par situation with the US dollar, this price would have been 70-76 ¢/lb!!! Certified Boreal creeping red fescue is still showing a 5 to 10 ¢/lb premium.

In the forage grass seed sector, small price movements can be seen Common meadow brome grass seed quotes remain strong, in the $1.60-$1.70/lb range. Certified Fleet meadow brome anywhere from $1.70 to $1.90. Inventories of meadow are low. Common smooth brome grass seed quotes have softened slightly, and are in the $1.20 to $1.35/lb range. Certified Carlton is commanding a 15 to 20 ¢/lb premium. Common timothy has now moved up to the 40 - 50 ¢/lb range, with certified Climax timothy at 50 to 60 cents/lb.

On the legume side of thing, quoted have remained relatively unchanged. Sweet clover quotes remain at 25-30 ¢/lb, with alsike clover quotes around 35 - 37¢/lb. Good quality red clover quotes are between 85¢/lb and $1.00/lb, but good quality seed is scarce. After good early spring movement, common alfalfa seed prices are have softened a bit and are now quoted in the $1.15 to $1.25/lb range.

In summary, the industry continues to be slow, and is still expecting a fallout from the very strong prices in the grains and oilseed sector. With spring in the air, seed movement should be a good indicator of the near term market prospects for all grass and legume seed. So far, retail movement of seed has been slow.

For more information about the content of this document, contact David K. Wong.$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/sis9787

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Maximizing the Nutritive Value of Forages (AAFC Fact Sheet 2015)

Maximizing the Nutritive Value of Forages - Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Fact Sheet in pdf format.

Cutting forages in the afternoon increases their nutritive value. 

Forages are a key part of the beef and dairy value chains. A clear link between forage quality and beef or milk production indicates the value of forages and the importance of enhancing the nutritive value of forages. Optimizing forage nutritive value can increase profitability for producers.

A key element of forages is “non-structural carbohydrates” (NSC), commonly known as sugars, which are made up of starch and water soluble carbohydrates (WSC). WSCs include glucose, fructose, sucrose along with fructans in grasses and pinitol in legumes. NSCs are an important source of energy and increasing these carbohydrates in forages has been shown to improve feed intake, milk yield, and nitrogen (N) use efficiency in dairy cows.

AAFC scientists carried out various studies looking at farming practices that optimize the nutritive value of forages including taking advantage of diurnal variations in non-structural carbohydrates and energy content of forages. They also evaluated the impact of the resulting high NSC forages on the performance of dairy cows

Feeding forages cut in the afternoon can increase milk yield
by up to 8% in dairy cows!


1. Farming practices that favour the accumulation of energy in forages

Time of Cutting
Plant NSC concentration increases during the day when photosynthesis creates more carbohydrate than the plant utilizes. Studies conducted in different areas of North America and with different forage species have shown that cutting in the afternoon, particularly on a sunny day, results in greater NSC concentrations.  (Figure 1).

 figure 1

Figure 1.  Diurnal variations in alfalfa concentrations (% of dry matter) of starch, soluble carbohydrates, and non-structural carbohydrates in summer regrowth in Quebec.  Dotted line shows hours after sunrise when the NSC concentration is at its maximum.

The AAFC studies showed that:

  • The greatest NSCconcentrations are usually reached 11-13 hours after sunrise in both grasses and legumes throughout the growing season (Figure 1).
  • As an example, for alfalfa, afternoon (PM) cutting resulted in a 50% higher concentration in starch, 19% higher concentration in WSC, and 22% increase in NSC (Figure 2). The concentration of NSC remained higher throughout the wilting period.
  • Related research showed that in four growth cycles the sugar concentration averaged 1.1 percentage units higher in PM-cut alfalfa forage (Figure 3).
  • The benefits of afternoon-cut forages also include other nutritive attributes such as greater in vitro dry matter (DM) digestibility. 

 figure 2

Figure 2. Effect of cutting time on alfalfa baleage carbohydrate concentration (% of dry matter).

 figure 3

Figure 3. Forage sugar concentrations (% of dry matter) from wide swaths cut 12 hrs after sunrise (PM cutting) or at 8 am the next morning (AM cutting).

Wide Swaths
Leaving forages to dry in wide swaths speeds up wilting time benefitting NSC concentrations by decreasing post-cut NSC use by the plant. After cutting, during the wilting period, NSC concentration decreases by as much as 0.35% dry matter per hour until the plant cells die and stop using NSC for respiration.  Recent research has shown that nighttime NSClosses in alfalfa cut in late afternoon are minimal and that these losses are more than compensated for by post-cut early morning photosynthesis within the cut herbage. 

Species Selection
A diurnal increase in NSC has been observed in most forage species, although the extent of the increase varies with species. While selection of proper forage species and cultivars can increase NSC concentrations, there have been only a few studies done on NSC comparisons.  Currently, there is insufficient information available to make specific recommendations.

OTHER strategies that may increase carbohydrate concentrations in forages
In addition to PM cutting, wide swathing, and species selection, factors such as climate, harvest management, and fertilization are also likely to affect plant growth, metabolism, and forage NSCconcentration.


·     Nitrogen fertilization - Lowering N fertilization has been shown to increase NSCconcentration and reduce crude protein concentration of several grass species (timothy, orchardgrass, tall fescue) which can lower N losses and improve the N use efficiency of cattle. However, the challenge is to balance this with reduced grass yield.


·     Genetic selection and improvement - NSCconcentration can be improved by genetic selection. However, there are few reports on genetic variability and the possibility of genetic improvement for sugar concentration for most forage species.  While development of perennial ryegrass varieties with an increased sugar concentration up to 8 percentage units have been reported out of the UK,         the results of recent AAFC investigations into genetic selection in alfalfa produced small (1 percentage unit) increases ofNSCconcentration.


·     Stages of development at harvest - Variations of NSCconcentration with stage of development are inconsistent, due in part to the confounding effects of stage of development and climatic conditions. However, in the fall, delaying harvest can result in significant increases in WSC because cool-season grasses generally have a higher concentration of NSCwhen grown at cool temperatures (5-10°C) than at warm temperatures (15-25°C).


·     Spring, summer and autumn growth - Forage harvested in late fall (e.g. October in Eastern Canada) is likely to have greater NSC concentrations than forage harvested in summer or early fall. The effect of the growing season on NSCconcentration is not clear as peaks in carbohydrate concentrations occur at different times of the year depending on, among other factors, forage species and location. The effect of temperature, photoperiod, and other factors affecting NSCvary among growth periods.


·     Silage fermentation - The concentration of NSCdecreases during fermentation and the decrease may vary with the silage DM concentration. Because of this, forages with high NSCconcentration might lose some of their advantage during the fermentation process. However, afternoon cut alfalfa and timothy are still best for silage as they will have a greater initial concentration of NSC.


2. Increased forage energy content IMPROVES dairy cow performance

Feeding 16 late-lactation dairy cows a diet of afternoon-cut higher energy (higher NSC) forages, confirmed an improvement in the performance (Figure 4): 

  •  Dry matter intake (DMI) by dairy cows increased;
  • Intake of digestible organic matter also increased;
  • Cows yielded 1.6 kg/d (3.5 lb/d) or 8% more milk;
  • Milk urea N (MUN) was lower suggesting improvement in N use efficiency.

      Other studies conducted with perennial ryegrass in the UK showed similar results.

 figure 4

Figure 4. Effect of cutting time on dry matter (DM) intake, milk production, and milk urea nitrogen.


Cutting forages in the afternoon (PM – 11 to 13 hours after sunrise) and leaving forages in wide swaths (to optimize rapid drying) raises the non-structural carbohydrate concentration in forages.  Forages with high NSC concentrations have more energy and are more digestible.

Optimizing non-structural carbohydrates in forage feed improves productivity and profitability. Dairy cows fed higher NSC forages were found to have higher dry matter intake, improved nitrogen use efficiency, and increased milk production by up to 8%.


For more information contact:

Gilles Belanger
Gaetan F. Tremblay

This fact sheet is based on two articles in “Cool Forages – Advanced Management of Temperate Forages”, Published by the Pacific Field Corn Association ( and Edited by Shabtai Bittman and Derek Hunt.

Berthiaume, Robert, Gaëtan F. Tremblay, Gilles Bélanger, Carole Lafrenière, Annick Bertrand, Yves Castonguay, Réal Michaud and Guy Allard, 2013, Taking advantage of Diurnal Shifts in the Nutritive Value of Forages, Cool Forages, Chapter 42 Pg 176-179.

Bélanger, Gilles, Gaëtan F. Tremblay, Robert Berthiaume, Annick Bertrand, Yves Castonguay, Réal Michaud and Guy Allard, 2013, Increasing Non-Structural Carbohydrates in Forages, Cool Forages, Chapter 43  Pg 180-183

cool forages


Options for Improving Forage Production on Pastures and Hay Lands (2004)

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Fraser Stewart, Manitoba Forage Council 2004

The productivity of a forage field depends upon many factors including available moisture and nutrients and the presence of productive forage species. Loss of production may be due to weather, decline in fertility, and loss of productive forage species due to management. We cannot affect weather but there are options to correct some of the other causes. It is important to understand the reasons for low productivity and correct it before initiating rejuvenation.

If the management, which caused the original loss of productive forages species, is not changed - it will be a short period of time after renovation when the forage field will have deteriorated back to the original state.

For pastures that consist primarily of native species, adjusting the grazing management is perhaps the most common method used to encourage the growth and development of the more productive forage species. This will require time for the more productive species to return to the pasture.

Similar management applies to seeded or tame pastures; however, there is more interest in introducing new, more productive forage species into the forage than waiting for a natural shift to the more productive species. Seeding more productive and adapted native species into an existing native stands is also being done successfully.

Perhaps the most important practice to improve the productivity of a pasture or hay land is to use a management system that allows the productive forages to rest and recover following a grazing or hay harvesting period.

Knowledge of what the potential forage production could be on your farm and an assessment of the forage species that are in your pasture or hay land will determine if and when to make improvements.

When to Improve a Pasture or Hay land ?

Condition Critera Recommendation

1. 75-100% of the potential yield for the area
2. 95% of the production coming from the desirable species

Maintain management system

1. 60-75% of the potential yield for the area
2. 75%-94% of the production coming from the desirable species

Maintain management system

1. 50-60% of the potential yield from the area
2. 51%-74% of the production coming from desirable species

Consider management changes and rejuvenation methods

1. 33%-55% of the potential yield for the area
2. Less than 50% of the production coming from desirable species

Introduce new forage species and adjust management system

Forage Rejuvenation Options

In general, there are a number of several accepted management practices that will assist in the rejuvenation of a forage stand in addition to grazing or hay land management: There are many ways to improve a forage stand or to introduce new forage species, some are very expensive systems and some very low cost but do take time for the results to be seen.

The results of an improved pasture or hay land can be increased carry capacity of a pasture or yield from the harvested forage. The economics of the increased production usually are far greater than the cost of the inputs.


Fertility has a major effect on forage production, perhaps second only to moisture. Fertilizer should be applied to the crop, based on the needs of the plant and the availability of nutrients in the soil based on soil tests.

  • Fertility will have a major effect on an existing forage stand and will be very cost effective. However the cost/benefit must be considered to ensure the profitability
  • Fertilizer is most effective on forage stands that are in fair condition or better. It may not be economic on very poor or depleted forage stands.
  • The use of legumes in a forage mixture will improve the soil fertility and the productivity of most forage fields. This is accomplished by the use of nitrogen fixing bacteria ( Rhizobium), which grows on the legume roots and allows the legume plant to convert nitrogen from the air for plant use. The Rhizobium is applied to the legume seed at seeding. Grass/legume mixtures that have at least 50% legume content are usually fertilized with phosphate fertilizer as this nutrient encourages the growth of the legume. If nitrogen is applied, it will encourage the grass at the expense of the legume. Other nutrients are applied if required by soil test.
  • Nitrogen is the major nutrient for application to grasses and will increase both feed value and total yield. Other nutrients should be applied according to soil test recommendations.
  • Commercial fertilizers are most effective when applied when temperatures are low and the probability of moisture is high. Early spring or late fall are the preferred options. Banding fertilizer into a forage field is the preferred method of application although broadcasting is most common due to lower cost.
  • Pastures usually require less fertility than hay land as the grazing animal excretes approximately 70% of the ingested nutrients back through the manure and urine to the soil and plants. The grazing management system, to some degree can be used to redirect the nutrients where most needed.

Complete cultivation or renovating

Seeding into an existing pasture or hay field has always been a popular "fix" for a tired pasture. Adding new, more productive forage species into a pasture or hay land will increase the productivity. However, there are major challenges to do this successfully.

One of the most effective ways of improving a productive forage is the complete cultivation or renovation of the existing forage and then seeding down a new forage stand as it will usually result in the most successful forage establishment However, this is usually considered as the most expensive option and in some soils, where soil erosion or other environmental conditions are a concern, may not be the most profitable or accepted option. Where forages are used in a crop rotation, it is usually the accepted method.

Some of the management highlights include:

  • The existing forage species are killed out by the use of an herbicide and/or cultivation so there is minimal competition for the emerging forage seedlings.
  • A firm, even seedbed is developed to encourage seed germination and plant establishment
  • A seeding system is used to place the small forage seeds shallow for maximum emergence. In this picture, the forage seed is placed on the soil surface and a press wheel is used to press it in. Also fertilizer may be banded below the seed. Minimal tillage systems are being used which result in excellent seed placement with minimal soil disturbance.
  • An environment is provided to allow the emerging forage seedlings to establish by the use of adequate fertility and suppression of competing plants such as weeds and cover crops. Following the breaking of a forage field, the nutrients released from the decaying vegetation are available to the establishing forage seedlings. Weeds however also utilize this nutrient source and can very quickly choke out the new forage seedlings if not controlled.

Sod seeding

This is a practice used to introduce a more productive forage species into an existing forage stand. Sod seeding is often used instead of more extensive cultivation due to limitations to cultivation by stones, brush or soil erosion problems


Sod seeding equipment must be able to penetrate the sod layer (thatch layer) and place the seed into the mineral soil. This usually involves triple disc drills where a heavy disk cuts a slot in the sod and the next set of disks places the seed. Depth control is required on the seeding disks so that the seed is not buried too deep or emergence will be restricted. A packer wheel is used to close the slot to reduce drying out of the soil.

Hoe drills or the use of spike equipment is also used but are not very satisfactory for areas where there are stones.

The major problem in most areas is the availability of equipment as this specialized equipment is often very expensive. However, after frost, early in the spring, most soils are quite soft and many traditional seeders will be very effective.


a) Soil tests need to be taken to identify limiting nutrients that will have an effect on successful establishment of a new forage crop.

b) Phosphate fertilizer has been recognized as perhaps being the major nutrient required to promote seedling establishment and root development.

c) The ideal seeding equipment should be able to deliver the required fertility in a banded form at time of seeding.

Vegetation Control:

Establishing a new forage seedling into existing sod is a challenging experience as the seedling is usually placed into a very hostile and competitive environment. The sod thatch is very acidic and can affect germination, there is competition from the existing forage and other plants, and there are also insects that love the freshly germinated seedlings - a very hostile environment.

a) To reduce the competition from other plants, which is usually the major competition: use of a nonselective herbicide such as Roundup (glyphosate) applied one to two days prior to seeding is a common practice. Fall herbicide application is sometimes used but in the event of a dry spring, may be a higher risk. The forage to be controlled needs to be actively growing for theherbicide to be effective.

b) Many of the non-selective herbicides, do not provide complete vegetative control, more of a suppression effect, however, if the suppression is enough to allow establishment of the forage seedlings that is all that is required. Some forage/weed species are resistant to herbicides such as glyphosate and may increase as a result of the application eg: pasture sage.

c) The use of some broadleaf herbicides (eg: Banvel ) may result in some herbicide residues in the soil for 2-3 weeks , which could effect the germination of broadleaf forages such as alfalfa or other clovers.

d) Seeding Alfalfa into an old alfalfa stand is not recommended unless the old plants are sparsely spaced due to the auto toxicity of the old alfalfa roots and leaves, which prevents the establishment of new plants.

e) Over grazing or very close grazing of a forage stand the previous fall will often weaken the existing plants enough so as to reduce competition to the new forage seedlings.

f) Close cutting (mechanical), can sometimes reduce the competitiveness of the existing stand.

g) Fire is often used to burn off old growth that could interfere with the seeding process. However, as fire stimulates new growth, it should be used with careful management

Timing of seeding:

This is often a critical factor for successful sod seeding.

a) Early spring seeding is the most effective time for sod seeding, as there is usually sufficient moisture and cooler weather. If seeding takes place directly after the snow melts, the sod is very soft and even a double disk drill will penetrate very easily.

b) However, if it is too early and there is insufficient insulation for the new seedlings, some legumes could be killed out by late spring frosts. Seeding into an old stubble will often provide the necessary insulation or protection.

c) Later spring seeding and summer seeding may be successful but higher risk due to moisture limitations and excessive heat, which can kill seedlings.

d) It is often a good management practice to sod seed a few pastures/hay fields every year as some years there is sufficient moisture and it works well, other years the technique may not work.

Forages for Sod Seeding:

Legumes have generally being most successful for sod seeding although there are a number of grass species, including some native species that will establish reasonably well. Legumes are usually preferred as they reduce the need for nitrogen application and will improve the quality of the forage.

a) Red Clover is very aggressive; where there is good moisture, but usually a short-term legume.

b) Alfalfa has more long term potential, however, introducing alfalfa into an existing alfalfa stand can be limited due to the auto toxicity of the existing plants. New seedlings within 8 inches of an old plant have very limited chance of survival, at 16 inches there is survival but low yield while at 24 inches there is no effect on establishment.

c) Trefoil has been successful where there is sufficient moisture. One advantage of this species is that it will reseed itself and it does not cause bloat.

d) Grass species, which can establish easily such as: Orchard, Timothy, Tall Fescue and Meadow Brome have worked well where there is sufficient moisture. Some native grasses have also been sod seeded but are usually slower to establish.

Over seeding

Over seeding involves the broadcasting of seed into an existing pasture or hay land. The cost of this process is usually quite low cost, however due to lower seed germination and establishment, the amount of improvement may be quite limited, thus establishment risk is greater than other options. However, if there is successful establishment of one to two legume plants per square meter, this will result in improved forage quality to the pasture or hay land.

Some specialized renovation equipment

such as the Aer-Way units, which consists of spikes on a shaft, which can be angled to increase soil disturbance. These units were originally design to aerate the soil but are also being used to open the sod on rough land for seeding new species.

The teeth open the sod, and allows for the broadcasting of the seed into the soil. They will kill some of the existing plants but if there are sufficient creeping rooted plants, they will quickly fill in. This equipment will negatively affect alfalfa and bunch type grasses. The renovation is usually done in early spring and can result in 50% -70% disturbance of the sod..

These units work better than a spiked toothed cultivator which some farmers have used as they can be used on rough land.

Beam Scrapers

In recent years, drag bars or beam scrapers have been built that have resulted in successful forage stands. The drag bar consists of a heavy steel beam (eye beam) followed by grader blades bolted together on edge so that they will cut or scrape the sod. This heavy unit will level and cut into the sod enough to bare the mineral soil. Very adapted to rough terrain. These units are easily home made from scrap materials.

This equipment has been used to reseed old pastures The scraper, opens and levels the sod, seed is broadcast into the semi cultivated soil and then a second pass with the beam will work the seed into the soil.

The use of a non-selective herbicide such as Glyphosate, reduces competition from the existing forage. This system has been used as a relatively low cost method to improve rough land pasture.

These units have also been used to improve rough land pasture where there is excessive brush and small trees. The beam scrapers are pulled over the trees and scrape the bark off so that will dehydrate and die out. This usually done in late spring or early summer before the brush becomes too mature.

Frost Seeding

This technique has been used successfully in Eastern Canada and the NE USA to introduce new forage species into a forage stand. It has had some limited success but if moisture is available can be successful. It is usually used to introduce new forage plants, primarily legumes into an existing forage stand in areas where other mechanical equipment would not be able to go such as where the terrain is very rough or there are stones.

The forage seed is spread on the soil surface using a small battery operated broadcaster mounted on a small tractor. Most units spread about twenty feet wide and the seeding is done in the winter on the snow or early spring period when there are still frosts.

The effect of the snow melt, helps to take the seed down to the mineral soil, the alternate freezing and thawing helps to break the seed coat, works the seed into the mineral soil and stimulates germination. Very similar to what happens in nature

  • Most successful establishment with legumes (50%-60%), compared to grasses (20%-30%)
  • Usually takes at least two years to see any major effect.
  • The cost of the equipment is very low but as the seedling mortality is very high, there is a higher risk for establishment.
  • Ideal is to seed a few small fields every year instead of many fields at once so that there is a greater chance of success as not every year will be the ideal year with good moisture or growing conditions. Some farmers, annually frost seed 25% of their fields and over time, increase the productivity of the forage.

Field Trial Results

Some of these options were involved in a trial conducted in SE Manitoba, which was initiated in 2001 and was evaluated over the following two years.

Renovation System % of Seeded Plants of the Total Plant Population ( June 2003)
Herbicide plus Phosphate Herbicide with no Phosphate

sod seed



aerway & broadcast seed



drag & broadcast seed






The species seeded included alfalfa, trefoil, red clover, timothy, tall fescue and meadow brome. Of interest in this trial was the relative success of the drag system and that the benefit of the phosphate fertilizer at seeding.

Winter-feeding on pasture

This is another option that is used to introduce new seeds to a pasture. Bales are unrolled or are shredded and fed on the pasture area over the winter period. Any mature forage will drop seed onto the soil and will be worked in by the animals. The additional fertility by the manure (beef manure: N 35 lbs, P 27 lbs K 31 lbs over 100 days) will provide a good medium for the new seedlings.

Bale grazing is another unique approach to this winter-feeding system. Round bales are set out in rows in the winter pasture area in late fall, a temporary fencing controls the feeding of the bales so that no winter tractor use is required. The animals will spread the manure on the fields and some seeds will be shed from the fed hay. Many farmers have found the pasture from these areas is slow to come back in the spring but the overall effect has been higher forage production from the wintering areas Feeding bales in a brush area will also help to kill out the invaders and allow new grass to grow. This is an excellent, painless method of removing pasture brush - feed on top of the brush/weeds in the winter!

Livestock Seeding

This has been another method some have used but with usually very limited results. This is where the forage seed is fed to the animals and then the seed is deposited on the pasture through the manure. The limitations are that the animals do a pretty good job of digesting the seed so live seed in the manure may be very low, the ammonia in the manure can also have an effect on the germination and you have minimal control of where the cows will deposit the manure. However, some have mixed 5 lbs of forage seed (primarily legumes) into 50 lbs of mineral prior to putting the animals into new pasture and have seen some results after several years.

Control of Competing Vegetation

Vegetation such as weeds and brush compete with the forage for nutrients including light. It is usually very cost effective to remove them to increase productivity.

  • Mowing by the use of flair or rotary mowers can be used to remove brush, perennial weeds, and poisonous plants or unproductive forage species. Cattle may not graze some species and mowing several years in a row will reduce the persistency of the shrubs/weeds. However the process is time consuming and expensive but may be the best practice in some situations to allow the more productive forages to persist. Brush is usually cut in the early spring and perennial weeds are often cut prior to flowering, as that is the time the root reserves are at their lowest point
  • Herbicides are also used to control brush and unwanted weeds to allow for forage growth.

- Equipment options include ground sprayers, aerial sprayers; wick sprayers and the use of spot spraying equipment. Selection of the equipment and herbicide will be made on the basis of the weeds or brush that needs to be controlled and the terrain of the field. For example, aerial spraying may be the only option in very rough pastureland and the use of a wick sprayer may be used to remove tall growing weeds or brush from a productive grass/legume pasture.

- The use of herbicides may be very cost effective and need to be considered in conjunction with other options. Regrowth of plants following the use of herbicides requires follow-up management.

- Selection of herbicides will be determined by the species to be controlled. Herbicides used may be selective in that they will only affect certain types of weeds, such as broadleaf weeds or they may be non selective and will remove or suppress all vegetation. The range of registered herbicides available for use on forage crops is quite limited.

  • The use of fire has also been effective for some situations. A natural occurrence on many native grasslands, it can be used to control invasion of brush and for removing old growth so that new seedlings and forbs can develop. However brush regrowth occurs after a fire and needs follow-up control.

Management of Reseeded Forage

It is important to reduce the grazing pressure on the newly seeded forages to allow for effective establishment of the forage. After seeding, livestock are often allowed to graze off any surplus forage or weed growth, prior to the emergence of the new seedlings. This will reduce the competition to the seedlings. Depending upon the amount of growth of the seedlings, they may be grazed in the year of establishment but very carefully. Grazing can be beneficial as it can reduce competition from other plants, but a sufficient rest period needs to be provided for the regrowth of the forage seedlings. In some situations, the reseeded fields should not be grazed for the total season.

In Summary - there are some key options to improve a "tired pasture or hay land"

1. Use a grazing management system that includes a Rest/Re-growth system so as to promote the more productive forage species in your pasture and to reduce the opportunities for the undesirable plants.

2. When seeding new forage species into the pasture, plan ahead, reduce the competition, place the seed if possible into the mineral soil and use a grazing or hay management system to promote development.

3. Plan for the future, have some goals, do a little each year, and over the years, you will see a major improvement!

Source & pdf version of this article:

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Researchers Answer the Unasked Questions (Jan 2011)

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Researchers answer the unasked questions

By: Laura Rance

Given the season, you might have heard about the six French scientists, not to mention hundreds of samples, it took to figure out the science behind the age-old practice of pouring champagne down the side of a tall glass to prolong its bubbly flavour. Yeah, and they probably worked for a university too, one of the last bastions of research that, on the surface at least, has seemingly little practical relevance.

But chances are, you've never heard about the university summer students hired to sit in a pasture and observe how cattle graze. When they weren't re-evaluating their career choices, these poor schmucks might have wondered what possible good might come from their season of obscure data collection.

It turns out, this basic research, the kind the more practically minded among us like to ridicule, is providing insights that can make the difference between profit and loss in a beef operation -- without a single investment in supplements, machinery or technology. It might even curtail global warming.

By watching cows do what they are naturally designed to do, which is harvest the sun's energy through grass, researchers learned that cows are basically unionized, grazing specialist Jim Gerrish told the recent Manitoba Grazing School in Brandon.

After pausing for the inevitable "hardy-har-har" from his audience, he pointed out there's not a thing you can do to make cows eat for more than eight to 10 hours a day. That's because cows are ruminants, which means they have four stomachs to process food; they need to eat, rest and ruminate in fairly equal blocks over a 24-hour period.

So if producers want to increase their herd's grazing efficiency, they can't do it by increasing the grazing time. "The only thing we can control is the bite size." Those observational studies found that cows do their best eating on pasture that is six to 15 inches (15 to 38 centimeters) in height.

Under those optimum conditions, cows will literally wrap their tongues around the forage and pull it into their mouths between 15,000 and 18,000 times a day. As the grass gets shorter, they take quicker smaller bites, averaging between 45,000 and 50,000 per day -- but they aren't getting as much feed and they're having to work harder for it. Plus, overgrazing above the surface compromises the plant root systems below. Forage is like a solar panel that captures the sun's energy, converting it to carbon through photosynthesis. Reducing the forage cover reduces the solar panel, which slows the pasture's ability to rebound.

"How many of you have gone to the pasture thinking you're going to move cattle, looked and said, they can stay another day?" Gerrish asked his audience. "That is the single biggest mistake we make in the grazing community." If producers were doing a better job managing their grass, they could extend their grazing system well into a typical Prairie winter for about 33 cents per animal per day instead of feeding harvested hay at an average cost of $1.33.

It sounds counterintuitive, but the best way for producers to increase their forage production and increase the grazing efficiency of their cow herds is to graze each paddock a little less. "There is no such thing as wasting grass," he says.

Granted, there's lots of controversy swirling around the cattle industry in the greenhouse gas debate. Some have labelled the livestock sector as one of the biggest global contributors to greenhouse gases and suggested one way to control global warming is to eat less meat and dairy.

That may be so, especially since most of our meat comes from animals raised in confinement systems, with grain hauled in and manure hauled out.

But those anti-livestock arguments don't factor in the role that well-managed grazing lands play in sequestering carbon. According to Gerrish, if graziers left an extra two inches (five centimeters) of forage on 20 per cent of the world's grazing lands, global CO2 levels would drop to pre-industrial levels inside of 10 years.

What's more, he says one acre of well-managed grass sequesters more methane than one cow produces in a year -- not to mention the role grazing animals play in recycling nutrients. One of the best ways to improve soil quality is to graze animals on it. It starts with research that gets little support from the private sector because it has no immediate practical application and provides no opportunity for collecting a return on investment.

So while you're pouring out the less-than-bubbly remnants of last night's celebration, raise a toast to those researchers still out there finding answers to questions most of us never think to ask.

Laura Rance is editor of the Manitoba Co-operator. She can be reached at 792-4382 or by email:

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Ten Keys to a Profitable Forage Program (2009)

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1. Remember that you are a forage farmer. Forage typically accounts for over half the cost of production of forage-consuming animals and provides most of their nutrition. Thus, it has a major influence on both expenses and income. Efficient forage production and utilization are essential to a profitable operation.

2. Know forage options, animal nutritional needs, and establishment requirements. Forages vary as to adaptation, growth distribution, forage quality, yield, and potential uses. Various types and classes of animals have different nutritional needs. Good planting decisions depend on knowing forage options for your land resources and the nutritional needs of your animals.

3. Soil test, then lime and fertilize as needed. This practice, more than any other, affects the level and economic efficiency of forage production. Fertilizing and liming as needed help ensure good yields, improve forage quality, lengthen stand life, and reduce weed problems.

4. Use legumes whenever feasible. Legumes offer important advantages including improved forage quality and biological nitrogen fixation, whether grown alone or with grasses. Once legumes have been established, proper management optimizes benefits.

5. Emphasize forage quality. High animal gains, milk production, and reproductive efficiency require adequate nutrition. Producing high-quality forage necessitates knowing the factors that affect forage quality and using appropriate management. Matching forage quality to animal nutritional needs greatly increases efficiency.

6. Prevent or minimize pests and plant-related disorders. Variety selection, cultural practices, scouting, pesticides, and other management techniques can minimize pest problems. Knowledge of potential animal disorders caused by plants can help avoid them.

7. Strive to improve pasture utilization. The quantity and quality of pasture growth vary over time. Periodic adjustments in stocking rate or use of cross fencing to vary the type or amount of available forage can greatly affect animal performance and pasture species composition. Matching stocking rates with forage production is also extremely important.

8. Minimize stored feed requirements. Stored feed is one of the most expensive aspects of animal production, so lowering requirements reduces costs. Extending the grazing season with use of both cool season and warm-season forages, stockpiling forage, and grazing crop residues are examples of ways stored feed needs can be reduced.

9. Reduce storage and feeding losses. Wasting hay, silage, or other stored feed is costly. Minimizing waste with good management, forage testing, and ration formulation enhances feeding efficiency, animal performance, and profits.

10. It's up to you. Rarely, if ever, do we get something for nothing. In human endeavors, results are usually highly correlated with investments in terms of thought, time, effort, and a certain amount of money. In particular, the best and most profitable forage programs have had the most thought put into them.

Source: Ball,D.M., C.S.Hoveland, and G.D. Lacefield, 1996. Adapted with permission from the International Plant Nutrition Institute,Norcross, GA.


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VIDEO: Forage Production and Management (based on the book: "Cool Forages") (2014)

The experts from have released a new comprehensive guide to forage production entitled "Cool Forages: Advanced Management of Temperate Forages". The guide has information on everything from selecting new forage varieties, maximizing manure as a fertilizer, feeding of seasonal forages, to predicting forage quality. Co-author, Dr. Shabti Bittman, talks about the secrets to forage management and how to maximize your production. Click here to watch video.

Date: February 20, 2014

Speaker: Dr. Shabtai Bittman, Crop Specialist, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

WEBINAR: Modern Nutrient Management in Forages

Webinar for the beef industry, April 8, 2015
Shabtai Bittman and Derek Hunt
AAFC, Pacific Agri-food Research Centre, Agassiz. BC

The paradox of managing nutrients in forages is that it is, at once, more and less sustainable than in annual crops. The permanent cover protects against nutrient losses leaching and runoff but makes losses to the atmosphere more common. Furthermore, forages often receive nutrients as manure, but there are great problems with using this cheap nutrient source effectively for crop production, including nutrient imbalances and uneven distribution. I will discuss some problems and strategic solutions for using nutrients during this part of the talk. In the second part of the talk, I will discuss nutrient management as a global issue. I will explain why the new concept of the ‘cascade of nitrogen’ in the environment has gained traction around the world. I will also discuss some of the nutrient relevant results from our recent farm survey of the beef cattle sector (conducted by IPSOS). Finally, I will talk about our new book called Cool Forages. It is our attempt to inform the sector about some of the most important and interesting contemporary topics about forages (including nutrients), trying to inspire enthusiasm and appreciation for our trodden crops. The book covers new information from around the world on manure testing and use, unexpected wintertime nutrient losses, application of phosphorus and sulphur on forages, effects of nutrient imbalances on pastures and how to balance nutrients on pastures with more plant diversity, the benefits of forages in rotations, and even how to use municipal biosolids on forages…and many other topics. Cool Forages is available at a reasonable cost, in hard and soft cover, through the Pacific Field Corn Association website called

Forage Testing

Forage Analysis and Determining Feed Quality in Dry Years (March 2010)

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From the Mar 1, 2010 Issue of Agri-News:$department/newslett.nsf/all/agnw16271

Many areas of Western Canada have come through a dry summer, and, in some areas of Alberta and Saskatchewan, weather conditions have reduced perennial and annual forage production by 75 per cent. This means that forage costs have increased dramatically from the previous year, and farmers are trying to optimize the use of their feed resources.

"Mixing feeds is one way producers can stretch their feed supply," says Barry Yaremcio, beef and forage specialist, Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development. "To do this efficiently, feed testing each forage type and grain is required. With tight economic times in the cow calf sector, many producers have turned to the Near Infrared Red Spectroscopy (NIRS) system for analysis instead of wet chemistry. This change reduces costs by approximately $40 per forage sample submitted, and turn-around time is significantly reduced when NIRS is used."

In dry years, plants mature more rapidly than in a normal year. A lack of moisture restricts total plant growth and the amount of starch or sugar deposited. Dry conditions restricts the plants' ability to get calcium and other nutrients out of the soil, thus mineral content in plants is also reduced. Also, acid detergent fibre and neutral detergent fibre levels increase more rapidly in the plants than in a year with normal moisture, which further reduces overall energy content in the forage.

"When producers are dealing with production problems associated with dry conditions, feed testing is essential, which is what makes NIRS so attractive," says Yaremcio. "NIRS measures the nutrient content of forages and grains by the amount of light that is absorbed or reflected off the sample. Light energy absorbed by the hydrogen-containing bonds in the feed is measured by the machine and the scan results are related through statistical correlation and calibration equations, to predict the nutritional content of the feed."

To develop calibration curves for the NIRS system, reference samples are analyzed by wet chemistry. These reference samples are from a wide range of locations, different stages of plant maturity and environmental conditions. The accuracy of NIRS predictions depends on the calibration curves developed from the reference samples. NIRS results for protein, acid detergent fibre (ADF) and neutral detergent fibre (NDF) of forages are used widely in North America for ration-balancing purposes.

When testing feed, a note of caution must be acknowledged. Measuring mineral composition (calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, and sodium) by NIRS is less precise and more problematic than wet chemistry. These nutrients do not absorb light in the near infrared spectrum unless they are bound in a molecule which contains a hydrogen bond. Unlike CP and ADF, NIRS is not recognized as an official method for determining the mineral content in forages by the Association of Official Analytical Chemists (AOAC).

Test results for calcium, phosphorus and magnesium must be considered carefully before values are used for ration balancing purposes.

To illustrate methodology can impact test results, portions from the same sample of a barley greenfeed grown under drought conditions was analyzed by both NIRS and wet chemistry. Results are in the table below. Reported concentrations for calcium, phosphorus and magnesium were considerably different between wet chemistry and NIRS while the potassium and sodium results are identical (see chart below).

Reported concentrations differ between wet chemistry and NIRS



















Wet Chemistry









If a cow calf producer was to provide this barley greenfeed as the sole feed after calving using the NIRS results, a lactating cow would require 113 grams (4 ounces) of limestone per head per day to maintain a 2:1 calcium to phosphorus ratio. Phosphorus and magnesium levels appear to be sufficient when using Cowbytes to balance the ration.

When the wet chemistry results are used, feeding the same ration, on a per head per day basis, 50 grams (1.75 ounces) of a 2:1 mineral is needed to increase the phosphorus content in the ration, along with an additional 95 grams (3.3 ounces) of limestone to have a 2:1 calcium to phosphorus ratio. Magnesium is deficient and 23 grams (0.8 ounces) of magnesium oxide is required per head per day.

"Calcium and phosphorus are the two most important macro minerals in a beef ration," says Yaremcio. "If the amounts of calcium and phosphorus are not in the proper ratio with calcium being deficient; weight gains can be reduced in growing animals. For mature cows fed a calcium deficient ration you may experience the following conditions: milk fever or downer cows; reduced milk production; winter tetany; stillborn calves; and, retained placentas. Calcium can be mobilized from the cows' bones which can cause osteoporosis.

"If phosphorus is deficient in the ration, feed intake can be reduced resulting in lower milk yield in cows and growth rates in calves. Additional cow concerns are silent heats, longer times to start cycling and low conception rates in cows. A phosphorus deficiency related production problem will be noticed quicker than a calcium deficiency. To prevent tetany problems, 23 grams (0.8 ounces) of magnesium oxide is also required per head per day."

There can be large discrepancies in feed test results among the analytical systems. Depending on which results are being used, the supplementation program required can be considerably different and have impact on the long term performance of the cow herd. Consult with a nutritionist, or extension agent, to obtain a second opinion of what is required to provide a balanced supplementation program.

Barry Yaremcio
Alberta Agriculture & Rural Development

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Link to BC Ministry of Agriculture Nutrient Testing Labs in B.C.   - The following is a list of laboratories known to provide agricultural testing services for farmers in British Columbia, in particular for nutrient management. It is not an endorsement of any laboratory. For each laboratory, the types of analyses offered are listed by the following code:

  • S = soil fertility
  • C = crop or tissue nutrients
  • M = manure or compost nutrients
  • W = water quality 
 Click here for link.

The Western Forage Testing System Report 2014

The Western Forage Testing System (WFTEST) was developed in 1994 to coordinate the testing for registration and performance of forage cultivars across Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

The goals of this system are:

  • To streamline and coordinate the registration and performance evaluation process. The tests will provide sufficient data for simultaneous consideration for registration and/or performance listings in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
  • To share the responsibility for forage testing among provinces, the federal government and the seed trade.
  • To encourage as much data collection as possible and to ensure that the tests are uniform and the sites are inspected.

CLICK HERE for full report in pdf format.

Trials to Assess Disease Resistance and Yield Potential of Red Clover Varieties (2015)

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National Forage Issues

Expert Committee on Forage Crops (2004)

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The Expert Committee on Forage Crops (ECFC) held its annual meeting in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan on February 4 & 5, 2004 in conjunction with the Canadian Hay Association annual meeting. Special associated meetings of Forages Canada, the organization that assists in coordinating the various provincial forage councils, was held as well as a meeting of the proposed Canadian Hay Grading Standards Committee.

The mandate of the ECFC is to provide a forum for communication, discussion, planning, cooperation, and coordination among all areas of the forage industry. The committee monitors forage research, and identifies potential challenges and opportunities related to forage and seed production. It also advises on variety registration and seed quality issues; coordinates national and regional variety testing; advises on conflicts on land utilization involving forage resources in Canada and the potential for change; initiates and coordinates national workshops or symposia on forage crops when needed; and presents recommendations on forage related research and forage policy issues in consultation with stakeholders.

Roundtable for Forages

The main focus of this year's annual meeting was the development of a proposed "Round Table for the Canadian Forage Industry". During 2003, Agriculture & Agri Food Canada launched a number of sector-specific roundtables to implement action plans for global market success.

Roundtables are formed to create a shared understanding of key market challenges and opportunities facing the sector; to set goals and targets that will strengthen the sector's competitive position and enhance Canada's overall capacity to meet the changing demands of markets; and to develop branding strategies for the sector. The goal is to bring together industry stakeholders and governments to work on a common action plan, to have the international programming work for them and to improve their position in external and domestic markets.

The forage sector is generally seen as an input industry to the beef and dairy industries. The forage sector is not yet active in roundtable discussions and no forage issue has been raised yet by livestock groups. The two forage processing sectors (double compressed hay and dehy alfalfa) have expressed desire to establish a separate Value-Chain Roundtable specific for the forage industry.

Input from the provincial forage councils through Forages Canada will be sought in addition to the forage seed producer's organizations in Western Canada and possibly the Canadian Turf Grass Industry Association. At present these groups are in the process of developing a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) of the forage sector as part of the roundtable formation request to Ottawa.

For more information, please contact Dr. Shabtai Bittman, Pacific Agri Research Centre, email:

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Grapes - Management

2006 Season Has High Crop Potential (2006)

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The most significant feature of the upcoming 2006 grape growing season would likely be high crop load potential. Yields were lower than normal in many vineyards in 2005 and this in combination with a very mild 2005/2006 winter will result in high cluster numbers per shoot and high loads if we have good conditions for fruit set (unlike last year).

Crop control will be an essential tool this year for producing quality wine grapes. This will be especially important for third-leaf plants that, if healthy and had all fruit removed the previous seasons, might have a potential for almost full-crop levels. Around 50 per cent of potential is recommended in these vines so one to three tons per acre (depending on variety and trellising) would be considered an achievable amount with good wine quality possible. Many outstanding wines have been produced from these young vines using careful crop control, even age-worthy "big" reds. Most wineries don't often play up the fact about wines from young plants due to the perception of only great wines from older vines.

Cluster thinning is the most common method of crop control and is essential for varieties that can produce more than two clusters per shoot. The main variable to consider with this practice is timing the removal. The two options are removing clusters pre-bloom or post-bloom after fruit set. Removing clusters pre-bloom is a little faster because the clusters are easier to see due to a smaller canopy. Also, if some shoot thinning is done, the cluster thinning on remaining shoots can be performed at the same time. With early cluster thinning, fruit set is improved and berries will be a little larger compared to post-bloom removal. Cultivars with naturally loose clusters, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, and not susceptible to bunch rot would be the best candidates for pre-bloom thinning.

When performing post-bloom thinning after fruit set, the canopy is around 70 per cent formed so locating clusters is more difficult. It is a much better choice, though, for tight-clustered cultivars such as Pinot Noir and especially if you have had troubles with bunch rot.

It is good to have an easy rule of thumb for vineyard crews to follow for thinning. One common one is to remove all clusters on shoots less than a foot long; leave one cluster for shoots of one to two feet; and leave two clusters on shoots longer than two feet at time of thinning. In some older vineyrds, there are often smaller plants interspersed throughout the vineyard. Removing all or most clusters may allow these plants to catch-up and have a much better chance of future full yields.

With either thinning scenario, cluster thinning will have positive benefits on fruit ripeness, vine size, vine hardiness and, ultimately, final wine quality. It is also less traumatic to the grower than watching fully formed clusters dropped to the ground if thinning needs to be done post-veraison.

Article by: Alan Marks
Orchard & Vine Magazine, Spring 2006

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A Quick Guide to Starting a Vineyard (2007)

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By Mark Simpson
Orchard & Vine Magazine, Fall 2007

A strong demand for grapes drives rapid vineyard growth in B.C. Interest in B.C. wines is rising as the industry matures.

Demand has outstripped supply as consumers are responding to good winemaking, improving varietal vine maturity and strong marketing from the industry. The net acreage in B.C. is approximately 7500 acres, which is 13% higher than 2006 (6632 acres). Grape contracts are hotly contested and spot prices have risen to an all time high of over $3000 Cdn. per ton for good fruit. Many growers are starting wineries themselves to realize higher economic returns, leaving their long term winery customers scrambling for fruit.

These trends are all leading to vigorous vineyard expansion in both established and new growing regions. Crop conversions (like apples to grapes) and extensive remediation of marginal sites (rocky or poor contours) are also becoming more prominent as first class growing land gets more expensive and hard to find.



  • Conduct a number of site visits at different times of day to view site weather and a variety of other influences (people traffic, vehicle traffic, insects, wildlife, wind, light, ground moisture, indigenous plants)
  • Review ease of access to the site to get equipment in and crops out
  • Review all documents pertaining to the site such as: correspondence with local planning officials, civil engineering documents, soil analysis, and irrigation information
  • Consult with acknowledged viticulture experts regarding the optimal plant varieties for the site, including other local growers and winemakers
  • Investigate all available water sources, including any restrictions on irrigation and effluent

If all these factors seem positive, then it is time to consider the actual viticulture parameters to ensure success. Every site has its own terroir and micro climate, so gather your own data to allow precise decision making.


Minimum Requirements for the Planting of Vitis Vinifera

  • Frost free season exceeding 150 days
  • Minimum mid-winter temperatures no lower than minus 25C
  • Minimum temperatures during the shoulder months of November and March no lower than minus 20C
  • Minimum of 1200 growing degree days > 10C are needed to mature the fruit for Bordeaux red wine grapes
  • Well drained soils
  • Sunshine between April 1 and October 31 to exceed 1250 hours
  • Availability of irrigation quality water (low silt, pathogen free, low metals) equal to 2L/plant/day at planting rising to 5L/plant/day at maturity during active growth periods. For a 10 acre vineyard planted as 1200 plants per acre, the demand could be as high as 60,000 litres/day. Water storage and harvesting may be necessary depending on available site water.


Growing degree days (GDD) is an expression of heat summation and is a measurement of physiological time. Growing degree days is an expression of the amount of heat the plant receives that is above the basal development temperature. The more degree days accumulated, the faster the rate of production. One growing degree day is accumulated for each degree the mean daily temperature is above 10C. Accumulations are measured throughout the entire growing season. The formula for calculating Growing Degree Days is listed below:

Growing Degree Days: (GDD > 10C) = (T max - T min)/2 - 10

Each daily-accumulated GDD is added to previous GDD accumulations to give the total GDD accumulated in the season. If the daily average temperature is below the basal limit, the GDD for that day is 0. There are no negative GDD values. Early ripening varieties require fewer GDD than late ripening varieties and therefore are best suited in the cooler regions of the valley. Late ripening varieties require more GDD which for some varieties limits the regions in which they can be produced successfully.


Solar radiation is associated with growing degree days at particular sites. Factors such as the length of growing season, although not directly related with heat accumulation, are associated with solar radiation. Long growing seasons with low heat unit accumulations are found in cool grape growing areas such as coastal climates where solar radiation is limited. Development of flavour components in grapes suitable for cooler climates is generally enhanced in such climates. Flavour components for the same varieties are often destroyed or nearly non-existent in areas of too much solar radiation.


Grapes grow best under mild, dry spring weather conditions, followed by long, warm dry summers after bloom. Cold temperatures and rainfall during the flowering period may interfere with fruit set. Rain and wet weather at any time can create climate conditions conducive to the growth of pathogens detrimental to crop production and vine health. Rain at harvest may also reduce fruit quality. The advantages or disadvantages of rain depend on when, how long and how much it rains.


The amount of heat accumulated at a site varies depending on the slope of the land and the direction of the slope. IN the northern hemisphere, south facing slopes are the best choice to gain increased solar radiation. North facing slopes gain the least while west facing slopes intercept more solar radiation than east facing slopes. The angle of the slope, in relation to the location of the sun, is very important to maximize the amount of solar radiation collected as a site. Cold air flows down slopes and collects at the base creating frost pockets and areas with late spring frost and early fall frost. The most suitable slopes for grape production have a gently slope that provides good air drainage and maximizes heat accumulation.


Grapes are grown over a wide range of elevations in B.C. (9 to 490 meters above sea level). Vineyards at higher elevations are therefore generally cooler than vineyards at lower elevations in the same region. Higher elevations can be wetter due to increased precipitation during the growing season and winter months. Cooler temperatures at higher elevations delay bud break, flowering and ripening dates.


Moderate air flow is beneficial to grapevines as it generally results in reduced disease pressure. High winds can cause serious damage to grapevines. Many studies illustrate the negative effects of high wind on vine growth, production and fruit quality. Vines create a special climate between the rows and in the leaf canopy that is altered or destroyed by winds. Exposure to moderate and high winds has a desiccating effect due to the high evapotranspiration rates, which cause physical damage.

In regions with significant wind issues, row directions should run parallel to the prevailing wind where possible in order to reduce shoot damages. Studies in other areas show that sheltered vines protected by artificial or natural windbreaks have higher percentages of bud break, more shoots, higher pruning weights, larger clusters and more berries per cluster, lower pH, and potassium. Yield increase have been reported when vines were protected from strong winds. The benefits of wind shelters will vary with the frequency and the degree of high winds.


Large bodies of water, such as Okanagan Lake, moderate temperature effects on surrounding areas. Such bodies of water have a large heat storage capability which has a cooling effect in the summer and warms surrounding area in the winter. In addition to this moderating effect, vineyards located on slopes close to large lakes or rivers benefit from the reflection of solar radiation from the water surface increasing the length of fronts free periods. Lakes or large rivers can also increase the surrounding are humidity and cloud cover. All of these factors reduce the risk of late spring or early fall frosts and extend the growing season. Fog and moist air masses should also be considered as they can lead to increased disease pressure and block radiation when humid air lingers in the vineyard.


The type of rootstock selected depends on many factors from marketing to soil and is a complex enough topic to merit its own article. There are two main types of plants: self-rooted vines and grafted rootstocks. Self-rooted vines are grown in a nursery and usually come in small pots. They establish quickly and can be propagated from vineyard cuttings. Grafted vines consist of a scion head (with varietal character) grafted to a rootstock that can be selected to impart valuable characteristics such as disease resistance, faster ripening, soil adaptation, drought tolerance and vigor modification. Using grafted rootstock gives the most flexibility in matching the planting to the conditions and desired outcome. The best way to select the right plants is to take advice from a reputable plant supplier after a good discussion of the conditions and goals for the vineyard. There are long lead times for plants as most of the material is grown overseas, so plan ahead and order early. Another important factor is acquiring disease-free material, sousing plants inspected and certified by CFIA (Canadian Food Inspection Agency) is essential.


There are many factors to consider in the process, so careful planning and research is the best way to lower the risk and have a successful and healthy vineyard. Another important factor is to plan out the resources over time (finances and human resources) as a growing vineyard requires lots of labour, attention and focus to maintain healthy vines, give good yields and most important provide good varietal character for the wine. Good wine is made in the vineyard. The process is long and involved from first bud break to the first bottle, but is very rewarding and worth the journey.

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Balanced Pruning - Pruning Grape Vines (2005)

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Alan Marks, Ph.D.
Veraison Viticulture and Enology Consulting

With pruning season quickly approaching, it is important to review the concept of balanced pruning and its application in our cold climate region.

Most growers and viticulturists would agree that pruning is the most important single task that is performed in the vineyard. It also has a high potential for adversely affecting the vines, and negative effects on yield, fruit quality and winter hardiness.

It's not uncommon to hear new growers (and sometimes experienced ones) say that they have some over-vigorous vineyard blocks, and they are going to prune them way back to slow them down. The few buds left grow uncontrollably the next season, producing "bull canes" of extreme length, less fruit, and the vines often take a few years to come back into balance.

The concept of balanced pruning, largely developed by Nelson Shaulis and refined by his students such as Richard Smart and Andrew Reynolds, is based on balancing the vegetative growth and fruit production into a healthy equilibrium. Since the root system and older wood can't be easily measured, the one-year-old pruned wood is used to estimate the vine's capacity for fruit production. The prunings are weighed and the number of buds left on the vine increases with increased pruning weight.

It is very helpful to carry a small hand scale and go to the trouble of weighing a few vines' prunings to get an idea of what a one, two or three-pound vine looks like, and show the pruning crew. The more vines that are actually weighed the faster one gets at doing it visually with some degree of accuracy.

One of the keys to this procedure is the formula used for determining the number of buds to leave. A "30 + 10" formula, for instance, would leave 30 buds for the first pound of pruning weight and 10 additional buds for every additional pound of prunings. Most recommendations for vinifera varietals are in the range of 20 + 20, with hybrids and table grapes more along levels of 20 to 40 + 10.

For new or small vines, it is recommended to leave around seven buds for each quarter pound of prunings, and remove flower clusters before bloom. In colder climates or with very tender varieties, often more buds are left than the balanced pruning formula calls for. If a severe winter causes bud damage or a late spring freeze occurs, these buds are left untouched, depending on cold severity. If there is little damage from winter injury, the excess buds are removed about the time of the last expected spring frost.

This late touch-up pruning can delay bud break somewhat, also giving a little margin for error if a very late freeze comes along. As with any vineyard practice, your experience and observations can be more important than trying to grow grapes with numbers and formulas.

The goal is to produce quality grapes to produce outstanding wines and table fruit and keeping records of pruning systems and perhaps doing a few trials with different rows and different pruning levels can be very useful to achieve a balanced, high-quality vineyard.

Alan Marks is director of winery operations at Summerhill Pyramid Winery in Kelowna, and proprietor of Veraison Viticulture and Enology Consulting. Email: . This article was prepared for the Orchard & Vine Magazine:

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Balanced Pruning after Winter Injury (2009)

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With some BC interior vineyards experiencing winter low temperatures of minus 25 to minus 27 Celsius, there can be some degree of bud damage expected this growing season in more tender cultivars. Without adjusting for this bud damage, too few remaining healthy buds after pruning results in over-vigorous shoots ("bull canes"), low yields and difficulty getting the vine back into a balance of vegetative growth and fruit production.

Also, the 2008 season started with a late spring and, with some fall cool rainy periods, many growers were leaving fruit to hang trying to achieve optimal ripeness and tannin development in the reds. The "recovery time" or period between fruit harvest and leaf drop was very little in many cases further leading to the possibility of winter damage. Accurately measuring the degree of bud damage seems to be like keeping a balanced chequebook or rotating your tires: most vineyard managers know about the process and agree it's important but now everyone actually does it.

The process involves taking a random sample of canes throughout a block, each one usually 30-50 cm long with 100 buds per cultivar. The bundles of canes are slowly thawed by putting them in buckets of water in a cool place like a dark basement for 1-2 days then in a warmer spot for a day. The buds are then sliced through the middle with a razor blade and examined. Dead primary and secondary buds will be black or brown. Some primaries will be damaged but have a live secondary. So, a score of one-half can be given to those. It does take some time and a good eye with a magnifier helping, but having an accurate bud kill percentage is well worth the effort. Simply leaving 20% more buds on varieties with 20% bud kill is an easy task during pruning and east to teach to vineyard workers.

Another technique to consider is double-pruning. The first pass involves leaving longer spurs on cordon-trained vines, at least 5=6 buds long or extra canes/cane length on that pruning style. After bud break, damage can be assessed visually and a touch-up pruning done if necessary. More work in the long run but useful and practical in smaller vineyards, this late touch-up pruning can also dealy the speed of budbreak a little, giving a bit of a margin for protection from late spring frosts.

Article by: Alan Marks, Ph.D.
From the Orchard & Vine Magazine (Pre-Spring 2009)

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Communication a Valuable Tool for Post Harvest Feedback (2006)

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Like any relationship, the grower/winery type needs to practice good communication skills to remain healthy. A valuable tool for any grower and especially for newer ones (and new wineries) would be to have a post harvest meeting to discuss the harvest and the developing wines. It seems all too often the only feedback the grower receives is the brix reading and maybe the pH and acidity. A more detailed discussion can address issues related to improving grape/wine quality and result in a healthier vineyard.

One of the first topics for review is whether the fermentation was generally healthy and quick to start or slow and sluggish. Problem fermentations can have numerous causes and many unrelated to grape growing, but there are concerns that should be addressed. Low vineyard nutritional status may result in musts with low nitrogen and other nutrients that can result in slow ferments and even “off” odours. Another topic would be to address timing and amount of sulfur and other fungicides applied by reviewing spray schedules. Even with a generous cutoff date for the last sulfur spray, if high rates are used, there can be enough residue to result in fermentations with some “sulfury” odours.

For reds, an indication of preliminary wine colour can be useful to assess the cropping level, as low colour can be indicative of over-cropping. Knowing the potential of each site to produce a certain tons/acre or kg/plant is much more difficult without knowing information beyond sugar levels. Brix levels can be adequate and even high in over-cropped vineyards due to desiccation from extended hang-time and not from physiological maturity. These high brix levels can give a false sense of security when assessing cropping levels and, with extreme cold temperatures, can result in high bud mortality.

There are many more topics that can be addressed during these discussions such as overall grape condition at delivery, varietal character intensity and tannin levels and quality in reds. Winemakers love to deal with growers who are interested in receiving feedback and growers benefit with information to improve their grapes, making them more marketable at premium prices.

Alan Marks, Ph.D.,
From: Orchard & Vine, Year End 2006

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Cover Crop Between Grape Vines (2010)

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What can we plant between grape vines that will give a good cover crop? I was wanting something that improves the soil.

One of the easiest cover crops for a vineyard is the native grasses and weeds that will grow back. With occasional mowing, broad leafed weeds will gradually decline. If the field is allowed to fallow prior to planting, you can identify the weak areas of the field because weeds will be slow to grow back there. Map these areas with a few photos because these will be the weaker areas of the vineyard after you plant and will require special attention. There is no single "best" cover crop. Legumes will assist to build up organic matter because they fix nitrogen. Grasses will consume nitrogen and help to control excess vigour, but your organic matter will gradually decline.

There are texts and on line information sources about cover crops but they may or may not apply to your situation. Start with the simplest solution and then adjust your strategy when you detect problems.

Gary Strachan, Summerland, BC

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Extreme Viticulture Considerations (2008)

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The growing of wine grapes in untraditional areas – or what some may call “marginal” – may become more attractive as land prices soar in established regions such as the Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys. There are feasibility studies already underway in the Thompson and Fraser River valleys and there will surely be more areas that will be investigated. Even in established regions, looking at sites with higher elevations than usual may have potential for quality grape production.

“Quality” in winegrapes always needs to be considered in the context of the type of wine that will be produced from them. Very ripe, high brix, high extract and colour grapes aren’t “high quality” if one desires to use them for sparkling wine for instance. Instead, ideal grapes for sparkling are typically harvested at 18-20 brix with high acidity, low pH and low varietal intensity. Indeed, areas where grapes struggle a bit to achieve these levels often produce the most exceptional sparkling wines. British Columbia wineries area already producing some outstanding examples of sparkling wine and new areas should consider this style of wine for their planting choices. More cold-hardy varietals such as Riesling and interspecific hybrids like Vidal and Seyval Blanc are especially well-suited for sparkling production. Picking wine grapes relatively early at low brixes helps the vine store carbohydrates for better winter hardiness and can allow for fall fertilization before leaf drop as anther benefit.

To grow winegrapes for table wine in new areas, hybrid varieties may be the best choices and can make very marketable wines. Even in established areas such as the Okanagan, there are high—priced hybrid wines such as Foch and Baco Noir being sold with great success.

Unique varietals can have marketing advantages and many are extremely cold and disease resistant. A Swiss grape breeder, Valentin Blattner, has developed quite a few cultivars and there are reports of these being grown in areas including Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands without any spraying at all.

Until the “gene jockeys” give us a genetically modified Cabernet that can survive Prairie winters, traditional grape breeding still offers many choices that can suit a particular region.

In our new potential regions, viticultural techniques that maximize cold hardiness are crucial. The most radical, and most labour-intensive would be actually burying the vines’ fruiting canes with soil. There are areas where this is done commercially but it takes careful management and the right soil type to be done mechanically. Others include balanced pruning and balancing vegetative growth and fruit yield (important everywhere), disease/insect control, canopy management to maximize sunlight on leaves and good soil fertility, including the addition of organic matter where necessary.

Great grapes and wines often come from small specialty areas, and it will be interesting to see what develops in BC in the coming years.

Alan Marks, Ph.D.
Orchard & Vine Magazine, Pre-Spring 2008

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Fall Vine Maintenance Can Pay Dividends (2005)

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Alan Marks, Ph.D.
Veraison Viticulture & Enology Consulting

Now that most vineyards have been harvested (except icewine blocks), there are a few post-harvest tasks that should be considered before that well-deserved holiday. As with any vineyard management technique, proper timing can make a large difference, especially in terms of future vine health and the corresponding wine quality.

Disease control is an important consideration as many varieties can maintain green canopies for quite a while after harvest, especially with mild fall temperatures that have been occurring in recent years. Mildew can infect harvest vineyards and susceptible varieties such as Chardonnay can be post-harvest sprayed with sulfur for control. If left unchecked, late-season mildew can cause leaves to drop prematurely and the vine's winter hardiness may be affected. Also, this potential for lower carbohydrate reserves would show up next spring as a vine with weaker early season growth. Mildew and other diseases late in the season will also overwinter and cause more disease pressure in the spring.

Fall nitrogen fertilization can be a useful management tool. This practice would be best used on early harvested varieties where the vine still has time to take up the nitrogen before the end of the growing season. The applied nitrogen will be taken up by the roots and stored in the vines' trunks to be used for early growth. Areas with long, mild falls such as Vancouver Island and vineyards that have shown weakened growth throughout the season would be especially suited for this practice. If using composts or manures, incorporating the material into the soil is highly desired.

Hilling up of young vines if very beneficial in colder climates like the Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys. Soil is mounded up against the trunks, with at least 15 centimetres covering the graft unions. In vineyards with rocky soils, bark mulch can be used if a cheap source is available. Protecting the graft union seems to not be as critical in older vines around at least five years old. The mounding process, however, can damage very young vines, so care must be used, including the spring breakdown of the mounds. Own-rooted vines do not need to be hilled as suckers from damaged vines can renew the canopy in a relatively short time compared to replanting grafted plants.

If milk cartons or grow-tubes were used in new plantings, these should be removed before winter. If left on the young trunks, they create warmer conditions and can delay hardening of the wood, with a much greater chance of winter injuries such as splitting and crown gall.

Alan Marks, Ph.D.
Veraison Viticulture & Enology Consulting

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Fruit Zone Leaf Removal for Higher Grape & Wine Quality (2005)

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Alan Marks
Veraison Viticulture and Enology Consulting

Good canopy management techniques, including shoot positioning and removal, cluster thinning, hedging, shoot tipping and leaf removal, are essential tools for growing high-quality wine grapes in our region. Fruit zone leaf removal can have positive effects on final grape and wine quality if used with discretion and, like any other viticulture treatment, with each specific site's characteristics in mind.

Last season's vintage saw an unusually prolonged period of wet weather during September, and many vineyards had problems with a high incidence of botrytis affected fruit. It was very apparent that vineyards that had practiced fruit zone leaf removal had a lesser degree of infected clusters and needed very little cluster culling.

It would seem a reasonable observation that costs associated with leaf removal were much less than the labour costs of removing bad clusters combined with the loss of actual tonnage. In larger vineyards, mechanical leaf removal is an option to further reduce labour costs.

This benefit of reduced disease from better sunlight (and spray) penetration and the resulting better air movement and faster cluster drying after wetting is the most consistent positive reported by viticulture research. One comprehensive study found much better botrytis control from only leaf removal versus no leaf removal and fungicide sprays (two percent infected clusters versus 10 percent with no removal and spray).

Research results examining differences in fruit soluble solids, pH and acid levels are more mixed and have much to do with leaf removal timing. It is well accepted that older leaves around the basal clusters are not producing carbohydrates at high enough levels to export them to the berries. Removing two to four leaves in this zone has little if any effect on final juice brix. The most efficient leaves for producing fruit sugars are those that are newly mature and fully expanded. After full expansion, their photosynthetic efficiency slowly decreases. High vigour vines with lots of young leaves are better candidates for leaf removal than from low to moderate vigour ones.

Leaf removal timing is important to avoid negative effects such as fruit sunburn. For north-south rows, many find it better to remove leaves on the east side of the rows to avoid the intense late afternoon sun rays and also get the earliest fruit drying effect of the morning sun. Very late season leaf removal may burn fruit that has been shaded all season as shaded fruit may not build up an adequate waxy layer for sun protection.

The best time for leaf removal is around four to six weeks before anticipated harvest. With this timing, many red grape cultivars will develop more anthocyanins (colour pigments) in the fruit and possibly increased flavour components. Glycosides, important precursors of aroma and flavour compounds in grapes, have been shown to increase in fruit with better sun exposure. As a side benefit, consider the slowness of hand-harvesting grapes from dense canopies.

Fruit zone leaf removal can result in a 20 to 30 percent time saving during harvest and offset the labour costs in addition t the savings from less fungicide spraying and most importantly, can result in growing better grapes for better wines.

Alan Marks is director of winery operations at Summerhill Pyramid Winery in Kelowna, and proprietor of Veraison Viticulture and Enology Consulting. Email: . This article was prepared for the Orchard & Vine Magazine:

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Irrigation Choices for Quality Wine Grapes (2008)

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One of the most important choices facing new vineyard owners is the type of irrigation to install and how to manage it to maximize vine health and grape/wine quality.

Concerns about future water availability and price in areas that have metering are also leading those with older systems to consider updating installations. Choices include overhead sprinkles, drip systems and micro-sprinklers.

All types have their advocates but for optimum final wine quality the choice of system is less important than how to manage its use.

There is much information on the effects of water stress to vines but less on irrigations strategies for specific combinations of soil types, cultivars, climates and desired wine styles, although some generalizations can be made.

Most British Columbia vineyards use overhead sprinklers for irrigation. This system has advantages such as for spring and fall frost control (water releases heat when it freezes) and lower installation costs. With very sandy soils, it may be necessary to use sprinklers to maintain a cover crop especially if this is needed to operate tractors without "sinking in". It follows that sprinklers can also aggravate weed problems especially in heavier soils. Also, overhead irrigation uses between double and triple the water amount of drip or micro-sprinklers.

Many vineyard managers also like the ease of watching a zone being watered and not worrying about inspecting drip emitters for problem ones. Sprinkler use encourages the vine to form a more shallow, spread out root system. If switching from overhead to drip, vine stress can easily develop from a dramatically decreased wet zone so gradual transitions are better and many vineyards like to have the option of having both types of systems available.

Drip irrigation is widely used and has advantages such as lower water use and the ability to incorporate fertilizers, "fertigation", which also reduces fertilizer use and run-off. On steeper hillsides, drip may be the only choice as overhead irrigation will be difficult to manage without run-off and soil erosion. Disease pressure can be reduced, as canopies are not wetted, especially important in vigorous, heavily shaded vine situations. Also, drip-irrigation has more potential to control shoot growth and moderate vigour. Micro-sprinklers can accomplish the same goals and have the ability to be used for some degree of frost protection by inverting them to spray upwards into the canopy but only practical in smaller vineyards. Grapes from drip-irrigated vineyards usually mature faster likely due to not having the cooling effect on the canopy from overhead sprinkling which can be desirable in marginal areas or with late-ripening varietals.

Compared to choosing systems, careful management of amounts and scheduling is more important with respect to final grapes/wine quality. Mild controlled water stress (regulated deficit irrigation or RDI) is widely used to improve quality by influencing berry size, brix levels, pH and acidity. Benefits to the vine include earlier cane lignifications and increased bud cold hardiness. Choices include using RDI over the growing season, just after veraison or before veraison only. Research in Washington State found positive benefits to early season RDI and later full irrigation including more balanced canopies. With careful RDI practices, yields do not have to be compromised.

Whichever system and strategies are used, irrigation can't be managed without measuring soil moisture and evaporation demand, which will be the topic of the next column.

Alan Marks, Ph.D, is the technical sales representative for Scott Laboratories Ltd.
Article from: Orchard & Vine Magazine, Spring 2008

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Irrigation for Quality Wine Grapes (2008)

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Last issue’s column focused on irrigation types and choices for various situations. Whichever system is utilized, there must be some type of measurement of soil moisture and evaporation in order to effectively irrigate to maintain plant health and maximize potential wine quality.

Excess irrigation may not impact vine health as much as under watering but there are definite negative effects on wine quality. Sugar levels may be decreased but more importantly there will be changes to the aroma and flavor profiles including excessive “vegetal” characters, along with colour, acid, pH and phenolic differences. There are also considerations to soil salinity, oxygen content, fertilizer utilization and of course the water charges. The motivation for excessive irrigation is almost always related to the grower’s desire for more tonnage and it is not uncommon to find growers putting on the water a day or two before scheduled picking. Under irrigation obviously impacts vine health, had negative effects on juice and wine quality and can seriously affect the vine’s winter hardiness.

For small vineyards, irrigation management will most likely be made by observational methods. Experienced growers can observe leaf condition and appearance along with changes in the tendrils. Cover crop condition is another indicator, such as stress and dormancy in shallow-rooted grasses. Unless isolated, observing irrigation practices of other well-managed vineyards in the area is always a good idea.

Larger vineyards have many options with respect to systems and sensor types. For deep-rooted crops like grapevines, measuring soil moisture is preferred over the other main method of estimation - plant evapotranspiration. There are sensors that are indirect types that must be calibrated, direct types that measure soil water tension (the effort required by the roots to use water) and TDT sensors (time domain transmissivity) and others. With direct soil measurement, the vineyard manager can see the actual amount of water used by the vines and make scheduling decisions. Some good starting points for more details on systems can be found at,, and

Mild water stress using regulated deficit irrigation (RDI) is proving to be a great tool for achieving vine balance in many different regions including British Columbia but does require careful management and is best used with a dedicated monitoring system. Vineyards around 10 acres or larger should seriously consider this investment.

Article by: Alan Marks, Ph.D.
Article from: Orchard & Vine Magazine, Summer 2008 issue.

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Mechanical Harvesting for Small Vineyards (2007)

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By Alan Marks
Orchard & Vine Magzine, Fall 2007

With continuing labour shortages in many industries including agriculture in British Columbia, vineyard operators may find new developments in mechanical harvesting attractive. Also, it is often hard to keep picking crews on-site when it might be a fair number of days between varieties and this problem has led many to consider a harvester. Gone are the days of vine beating and slapping and even trunk shaking is becoming outdated. Cost is still a limiting factor but payback time can be reasonable, especially if machines can be shared by neighbouring vineyards.

When discussing mechanical harvesting for small vineyards (around 40 acres), the only types that can be realistically considered are the tow-behind models. Besides costing half or usually less than half of self-propelled machines, some can even be adapted to perform multiple functions such as hedging. One major limitation to this type is a much larger turning radius than with self-propelled units. Others would include slope issues, having a tractor powerful enough (around 70-80 hp PTO) and trellising concerns. Vertical shoot positioned (VSP) vineyards would be the most desirable, but newer models can handle other types including Scott-Henry and even crossarms if not too wide.

In the past, one of the major obstacles to mechanical picking was winemaker insistence on the superior quality of hand-picked fruit. Although this attitude may still be encountered, most winemakers who have seen mechanically picked fruit harvested by newer machines are very surprised. The method now used for fruit removal involves bow-shaped rods that shake the canopy with horizontal back and forth movements to throw the berries off the clusters. This shaking needs heavy well-formed berries so raisined berries, botrytis infected ones and shot berries, stay largely on the cluster. MOG (material other than grapes) removal systems are also much improved and often machine picked fruit has less leaves and petioles and other debris than hand-picked. Although not quite as important a factor with our cooler harvesting weather, the ability to night-harvest to get the coldest possible fruit (and also to get it to the crush pad first thing in the morning) may be important to some wineries. This option often offsets the fear that machine harvested fruit will result in astringent wines (whites & rosés) from phenolic pickup in the harvesting bins as cool temperatures greatly reduce this extraction.

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Micronutrients for Healthy Grape Vines - BORON (2007)

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Even though boron is classified as a micronutrient, it can have "macro" effects on the grapevine when deficient in the soil. Southern Interior soils are known to be potentially low in boron, along with magnesium and zinc. Areas with higher rainfall, such as parts of Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland, are susceptible to boron deficiency and often benefit from yearly applications.

Boron's key roles in the plant include its effects on pollen germination and growth along with bud development and root growth. Most growers are aware that low boron levels result in poor fruit set but other problems can be equally damaging. Low boron can cause poor bud break and mimic damage from cold winter temperatures. This is related to boron's role in cell wall formation and carbohydrate metabolism. Poor root growth, especially the small white roots, can restrict all nutrient uptake and cause leaf chlorosis.

A classic symptom of boron deficiency is low bud break followed by slow shoot growth with short internodes and a "zigzag" growth pattern. Shoot tip dieback after bloom can also be indicative of a deficiency as well as smaller and malformed tendrils. Besides overall poor fruit set, there is often the mix of large and underdeveloped berries in the cluster known as milledange or "hens and chickens."

Petiole testing is the most common way to diagnose a deficiency along with using soil tests. Results can be misleading because boron is needed in large amounts during the spring and its movement throughout the plant is controlled by transpiration. In seasons or areas with higher humidity and mild temperatures, transpiration (and boron availability) is reduced. A foliar prebloom boron application is often recommended unless petiole and soil results are unusually high. Typically, early sprays are done two to three weeks before bloom and care must be paid to label instructions to avoid toxicity problems. Boron is often applied in the fall to the soil and can be tank-mixed with herbicides.

The higher than average crop levels in most all B.C. vineyards for the 2006 harvest may indicate an increased need for boron for the 2007 season. With higher crop yields comes higher boron extraction from the soil. This may be an especially good time to keep micronutrient management in mind as a factor to ensure a healthy, well-balanced and productive vineyard.

Alan Marks, Ph.D
Article from: Orchard & Vine Magazine, Pre-Spring 2007

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Mircronutrients for Healthy Grape Vines - Magnesium and Zinc (2007)

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Magnesium and zinc are nutrients that have crucial roles in maintaining grapevine health and, as with every other nutrient, their deficiency can affect final grape and wine quality.

Both nutrients have been known to be deficient in areas with young plants grown in sandy soils, and this situation is definitely present in British Columbia.

Deficiency symptoms for both are fairly easy to spot visually but should be verified with soil and, more importantly, petiole testing.


Magnesium, classified as a macronutrient, is part of the chlorophyll molecule (the only mineral in it) and also is involved in enzyme activation.

Deficiency symptoms are seen on the older basal leaves and start with leaf margin yellowing that moves inward. The leaf veins stay green the longest and the areas between become pale green and often creamy white. In red grapes, there may be a reddish colouring that develops between the veins.

Observations have been made that certain rootstocks, especially SO4, seem to make vines more susceptible to magnesium deficiencies. If doing petiole testing, the range of magnesium in fall collected petioles (at veraison) should be in the range of 0.25 to 0.5 per cent.

In looking at nutrient problems, there can be interactions where a large amount of one can interfere with uptake and usage of another.

In the case of magnesium, heavy potassium applications can reduce uptake of magnesium. This could even become an issue in organic vineyards that are adding large amounts of composted grape pomace back to the soil that is high in potassium.

For high acid soils (pH less than 5.6, there is an increased chance of magnesium deficiency along with calcium, phosphorous and potassium being less available at low pHs.

For correcting deficiencies, sprays of magnesium sulfate (Epsom salts) are recommended at a rate of 1.5 kg per 100 litres, with 1 to 6 sprays 10 days apart beginning at leaf emergence.


Zinc doesn't make up any part of carbohydrates, proteins or fats contained in the vine, but rather is involved in processes related to growth regulator (auxin) production.

The decrease in auxin results in reduced shoot and leaf growth with short internodes. There may also be interveinal leaf chlorosis. These "little leaf" symptoms usually start appearing in mid-summer, around the time secondary shoot growth starts. Some varieties show "straggly" clusters with small shot berries as an indication of low zinc amounts.

For petiole testing, samples are best taken at full bloom and should be in the range of 30 to 50 ppm.

Zinc availability is theoretically reduced in high pH soils (>7.0) but most grapevines seem adapted to moderately high levels and can utilize zinc without problems. As with magnesium, deficiencies are usually corrected with foliar applications as most soils can hold these nutrients quite well and keep the plant from taking them up.

Sandy soils are the exception and can benefit from soil additions. Zinc sulfate or a proprietary zinc compound at typical rates of around 400 grams per 100 litres are used and best applied one to two weeks before bloom. As always, label instructions must be followed precisely, especially with micronutrients such as zinc.

Alan Marks
Orchard & Vine Magazine, Spring 2007 Issue.

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Terracing for grape vines in Kelowna (2010)

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I am looking for advice on the best practices for terracing a few acres in Kelowna. I have 2 differnt soil types and want to ensure we build these terraces so that the vines are still producing in 50 years time.

Hiring an Ag Engineer to do your earth works is a great idea, but please be sure they understand the need to properly remove and return top soil as part of the process. There are many examples in the Valley where terracing was done that did not respect the need to carefully replace top soil and the land was destroyed for grapes or any crop production. I am not aware of any Ag Engineers in the Kelowna area. I think you should to ask local vineyard operators if they can recommend someone. For irrigation, I would recommend Craig Roth at Nulton Irrigation (not in your area but worth contacting).

Dr. Pat Bowen
Research Scientist, Viticulture and Plant Physiology, Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada

Terraces require a lot of planning. The first consideration is the type of subsoil. If there is a non permeable layer beneath, there is danger that a heavy runoff will sweep the terrace off the hillside or at the very least cause serious erosion.

Drainage for the terraces must be planned very carefully and permanent sod created quickly and well maintained.

Narrow terraces with single rows or a few rows can be difficult to cultivate safely. Try to make the terraces as large as possible.

Vines which are located on the outer edge of a terrace often have exposed roots. The exposed rooted areas also warm more rapidly than deeply rooted areas and dry out more rapidly.

Rows which run across the fall line of a hill are dangerous to work because a tractor tends to dog track downward, especially on wet grass or clay soils. Cultivation will gradually create terraces in this situation by drawing soil from the uphill side of the aisle to the lower side. The uphill plants will have roots with shallow soil coverage (see above).

The headland turning area should be as level as possible to minimize the chance of rolling a tractor when turning. Headlands should allow seven or eight metres for turning.

Gary Strachan, Summerland, BC

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The Backyard Micro-Vineyard Project (2010)

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By Mark Simpson, January 2010

If you watch a lot of TV you will see images of lottery winners buying themselves lavender fringed vineyards in Tuscany or Provence. Well, you can stop buying tickets and have your own vineyard experience right at home.

You can have your own backyard vineyard and have a great time experiencing the highs and lows of winegrowing, or is it grapemaking?

I wanted a small vineyard so I could experiment with specific cultivars that could grow and ripen in my East Vancouver, west facing backyard. The other great benefit for me in this exercise is that having a backyard vineyard is an ongoing tutorial in grape physiology and viticulture. I get to enjoy going outside with my morning coffee to observe the small nuances of the life cycle of the vine, right from winter sleep to harvest. There is nothing more exciting for a winemaker than observing the first bud break in spring, which signals that the vine has survived winter and will bear fruit another season. This is somewhat of challenge as the weather on the coast is not exactly the ideal condition for wine grapes. Successful cultivation requires 160-180 or so frost-free days with consistent sunlight, the right amount of moisture and most important, dry weather, consistent heat units and not much rain in the last 2 - 4 weeks of ripening. The macro weather trends are often quite similar throughout southern BC, so the vineyard performance in the Fraser Valley can be quite indicative of potential harvest quality in the Okanagan or Similkameen. Or in other words, if it is a good year here, it will be even better in Osoyoos or Penticton, where it is hotter and drier.

So these plants have become indicator species for me in helping me stay in tune with the overall vintage quality and changes of timing in each phase of growth. This keeps me connected in spirit with colleagues or clients that own or run other vineyards in Southwest BC. Another good application for a micro vineyard is to test potential sites for performance of specific cultivars, site orientation etc., before large resources are committed to planting a full vineyard.

The installation was quite straightforward, so now I will share a few keys aspects to consider when you plant your own micro vineyard.

  • Use well drained soil with a neutral pH- acidic soils with peat for example are not advised. Eighteen inches of soil on top of a sand or gravel base is a good combination. Grapes don't like wet feet! If the soil is very rich (for example commercially bought topsoil), the vigor of the vineyard will be high, so be forewarned that lots of pruning and thinning will be required.
  • Lay out your vineyard with landscaping string and 18 inch bamboo stakes to assign row spacing and density: 4- 5 - feet between plants and 3-5 feet between rows. Remember you will have to move around between these rows later on for pruning, trellising and picking, so don't make the spacing too tight. In my case, I went for a very high density to get as many plants as reasonable in a tight space, so I went with tight spacing, a decision I might regret in twenty years. For best results, plant in an area with good afternoon sun with a north- south orientation to the rows and with good air drainage to prevent frost damage.
  • Use 18 stakes for the first year and switch to 6 foot bamboo stakes in year 2 as vines can grow 6 inches or more a week in peak season and will be 6 feet high in no time. In year 2 or 3, you can add more permanent posts and permanently strung steel wire. In my vineyard, I will use 6 steel posts, two small spools of wire and some clips, all purchased from Mark Gonczy at Valley Vineyard Supplies for less than $100.
  • Pick cultivars that are interested for you the grower and make sense for that terroir. On the coast, it is pointless to plant a late ripening plant like Syrah, so I chose "Blattner Crosses" which are cross-red plants grafted onto a robust rootstock with some frost hardiness and root mold resistance (like 101C or Riparia). My varieties are Cabernet Foch, Cabernet Libre, Marechel Foch and Seyval Blanc. Most nurseries will sell small quantities of plants and will even give some advice on what might work, if you plan ahead and make your commitment before all available plant material is sold out.

Now this is just the beginning of the process. Once you plant the vines, water sparingly in the first year until the root ball is established. Pruning and weed control become important, as well as establishing a dominant cane to be the trunk. After year one, you will need to consider the trellising system (and there are many of them out there), sink your more permanent posts and string the wire. In my case, I am keeping it simple with a high cordon training to get my fruit as high up as possible to squeeze every drop of heat units from the coastal sun (which can come in liquid form some harvests!). The pruning strategies are also endless and lots of fun to explore, so maybe we will leave this topic for another article. Have fun with it and take some chances, the worst that can happen is you get a suntan and have some nice relaxing times tending your vineyard.

Mark is a Vancouver, BC based Winemaker and Brewmaster who operates Artisan Food and Beverage Group Inc.

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Why Does the area around Kelowna grow so many grapes while the Merritt area has none? (2009)

Why Does the area around Kelowna grow so many grapes while the Merritt area has none? Their climate figures are almost identical, except Merritt is 605 metres up (Kelowna is 430) and Merritt gets 8 inches less rain per year...but water is available for irrigation.

While Merritt BC has a fine climate for growing wine grapes during the summer months, there are three basic climatic requirements for growing noble (Vitis vinifera) wine grapes:

1. Sufficient growing degree days (GDD, base 10°C) during the spring through fall are required for crop development and to achieve full maturation of the fruit. An average of 1000 would be considered adequate for most cool-climate varieties such as Chardonnay or Gewurztraminer, whereas some red varieties including Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah require ca. 1600 GDD to fully mature.

2. A sufficient number of continuous frost free days (FFD) is required to maintain active leaf area on grapevines. A minimum requirement of 150 FFD is needed for short-season white varieties. Most vineyard sites in the Okanagan Valley, for example, average more than 180 FFD, and many fine sites have well over 200 FFD. The temperature-moderating effect of the lakes is helpful in increasing FFD in the Okanagan Valley.

3. Moderate, rather than severe, minimum temperatures in fall and winter are essential for grapevine survival. Temperatures lower than -18°C to -24°C are lethal to V. vinifera tissues. The extent of tissue damage depends on the variety, prior acclimation and the specific tissue. For example, a sudden plunge in temperature to -18°C in fall can kill Merlot buds. In mid-winter when temperatures are consistently low, grapevine tissues acclimate and can withstand colder temperatures but not much lower than -24°C for most V. vinifera varieties. Particularly vulnerable are the primary buds which develop into the grapevine's fruit-bearing shoots. Extensive damage to primary buds substantially reduces crop yield. Trunk tissues can be damaged by temperatures below ca. -20°C, depending of the variety and acclimation. Grapevine roots are tender and will be damaged by prolonged periods of cold that penetrates the root zone. Temperatures below -26°C, especially if prolonged, will kill V. vinifera vines. Merritt experienced temperatures below -27°C for three consecutive days last December. The minimum temperature measured on December 20 was -32.5°C, which would be lethal to most V. vinifera varieties.

The climatic requirements described above are only for maintaining live fruit-bearing grapevines. Also important is climate in the growing season which is the most influential factor in determining fruit quality for wine making. The distribution of GDD over the season, and daily maximum and minimum temperatures especially during the fruit maturation period (post-veraison), will determine the composition of the fruit and whether the wine will be bad, ordinary or rich and complex. Climate makes wine.

Dr. Pat Bowen
Research Scientist - Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada/Agriculture
Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre (PARC)

I don't think they ( checked the number of frost free days (FFDs) in Merritt. It seems that Merritt has well over the minimum, at 250 per year. Kelowna apparently has 152. What Farmwest really did was answer the question "what climate is needed for grapes?" and ignored the climate in Merritt, making the assumption that Merritt misses the criteria.

The average high temperature in Merritt is 56 degrees, average in Kelowna 56.9. Precipitation is 12.69 inches in Merritt compated to 20.37 inches in Kelowna.

My conclusions from what I have seen? Merritt has more frost free days by far, but average temperatures are very comparable. Merritt is much drier than Kelowna.

I think we still need to locate the relevant data. The monthy climate patterns might be significant,

I did find a site (below) for calculating the suitability of a climate for grape growing. It is complex, and even the specific conditions of a given vineyard are important (messo climate).

"2. A sufficient number of continuous frost free days (FFD) is required to maintain active leaf area on grapevines. A minimum requirement of 150 FFD is needed for short-season white varieties.

Most vineyard sites in the Okanagan Valley, for example, average more than 180 FFD, and many fine sites have well over 200 FFD. The temperature-moderating effect of the lakes is helpful in increasing FFD in the Okanagan Valley."

However I found on another site this quotation:

Merritt, has the hottest and driest climate in this grassland area with the average temperature in July equaling 18.2 degrees Celcius and annual precipitation averages of only 311 mm. The frost-free period averages 250 days, which is nearly triple that at Princeton.

Frost free days in Kelowna: With over 152 frost-free days and over 1900 hours of sunshine annually, the growing season in the North Okanagan lasts over 159 days a year.

Average daily temperature in Merritt BC,_British_Columbia

Average daily temperature in Kelowna BC

Formula for grape growing propensity

Jim Bruce

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Wine Sub-appellations: the pros and cons (2010)

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By Elnora Larder

In countries across the world with well-established wine industries, people often recognize quality wines by the region where the grapes are grown. Here in British Columbia, that process began with the adoption of the five appellations, or wine regions; Vancouver island, Similkameen, okanagan, Fraser Valley, and Gulf Islands. Now two okanagan vineyard groups are considering moving their wine appellations to the next level. Naramata Bench (near Penticton) and vineyards near The Golden Mile (near Oliver) are exploring the pros and cons of sub-appellations, the still smaller geographically distinct areas that are linked to grape flavour.

On the plus side, sub-appellations put a name to distinctive regional wine areas that can become known in their own right. The process is gaining popularity internationally, and helps consumers who want to buy wine locally.

"Sub-appellations give the consumer an idea of the unique location where you grow your grapes," says Sandra oldfield, co-owner of Tinhorn Creek Vineyards, south of Oliver. "We can tell a story about the grapes."

Many winemakers consider terroir to be an important aspect of the art of winemaking. A wine with terroir owes its distinctive flavour to the climate, soils, and topography where the grapes are grown. Winemakers who work to preserve terroir keep the influence of yeast on the flavour to a minimum with cool fermentation, a reliable yeast, and a long contact time, according to Dr. Ulrich Fischer, who spoke recently at the BC Wine Grape Council Enology and Viticulture conference. The wine, therefore, retains the distinctive flavour originating in the vineyard area.

Some appellations, such as the Okanagan, are very large in area, and contain a variety of soils and microclimates. Grapes produced in Lake Country near Kelowna are exposed to different conditions from those grown near Vernon, where the cool nights accentuate the aromatic qualities of the wine, and are different again from those grown in the black sage area near Oliver. And BC may soon need additional appellations for regions like the Shuswap, the Kootenays, and Lillooet, all of which are currently producing grapes outside the five regions with the recognized appellations.

Many countries with mature wine industries, such as France, South Africa, and the USA (think California), have made extensive use of sub-appellations.

"BC is one of the few places that doesn't have sub-appellations yet," says Oldfield.

Tracy Gray, proprietor of Discover Wines, a BC wine and artisan food store in Kelowna, agrees. "It is a trend internationally to create appellations," she said.

Gray notes the public is becoming increasingly familiar with wine styles, and sub-appellations give people more information to find the style they are looking for. If they know about the growing areas of BC, it may help them to choose a wine they prefer.

"I think the more information consumers have on the wine they're buying, the better, because it allows them to make a well-informed decision," Gray says, adding that people increasingly want to know where their food comes from, and this includes wine.

"There is a huge trend among the public for wanting to buy locally," she says, but there's a proviso - the price and quality must be similar to what you could get internationally.

Cynthia Enns, co-owner of Laughing Stock Vineyards, explains that one purpose of sub-appellations is to prevent wineries from advertising themselves as part of a vineyard area when, in reality, their grapes are grown elsewhere.

People who would prefer not to see sub-appellations adopted point out that they could potentially complicate the marketing of wine, and that adopting them will require a fairly lengthy and time-consuming process.

Some consumers, although preferring to buy BC wine, are not concerned with wich part of the province in which the grapes originate. Those customers would be likely to recongnize an Okanagan wine, but might be confused by a more regional name, and decide not to buy the wine.

Another argument against sub-appellations comes from people who point out that some local regions are successfully marketing their wines as distinctive without undergoing the sub-appellation process. Enns says some Naramata Bench Winery Association members "feel that Naramata Bench is well established in its brand already, and that adding an extra layer of regulation is unnecessary."

According to Enns, Naramata Bench has been able to market itself "in a clear way", and she adds: "consumers like that".

A winery group that is interested in establishing a sub-appellation must present the BC Wine Authority with scientific evidence that the area is geographically distinct, and possesses clear boundaries. The area must be commercially viable, and the authority will investigate whether most winery association members support the sub-appellation, and whether there are any creditable objections from nearby stakeholders. The group's application for sub-appellation must also be approved by the legislature.

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Grapes - Pests & Disease

New Leafhopper Controls Look Promising (2006)

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One of the most difficult and potentially damaging vineyard pests to control is the leafhopper. Both types in B.C. (Western Grape and Virginia Creeper) over-winter as adults, and initial observations point to potentially high numbers this season. Leaf damage can be severe enough to affect photosynthesis, resulting in lower-quality fruit and reduced winter hardiness for the vine.

For the organic or conventional grower looking to reduce insecticide input, few effective controls are available. With the labelling of Surround WP for grapes, a safe (OMRI listed), effective material is now available that may also have some additional benefits for enhancing grape/wine quality. Thrip control is also reported for grapes along with other insects such as pear psylla, rust mites and leafrollers on other crops.

Surround is an extremely finely ground kaolin clay with small amounts of adjuvants that increase effectiveness and adherence. Kaolin clay has a long history of use as a food ingredient for anti-caking and in products such as toothpaste. Its mechanism of action is as a barrier that insects don't like to deal with as the fine particles cause irritation and interfere with feeding and egg-laying. The material does leave a visible white colour which may further confuse the insects along with unfamiliar textures on the leaves.

Surround is mixed and used at a typical rate of 50 kg per 1,000 litres per hectare for the first spray and then lower rates later to maintain the film layer. The material is reported to be non-abrasive so damage to spray nozzles and gaskets shouldn't be a concern. A vineyard using drip irrigation would be better suited for its use as overhead irrigation would necessitate more frequent spraying to keep the barrier layer intact. Thorough coverage is crucial so denser canopies would need heavier applications, to the near-drip stage. Sprays are usually continued until veraison or stopped earlier for table grapes to avoid any visual residue.

One thought might be that this white barrier would negatively affect photosynthesis and gas transpiration in the leaf, resulting in lower or delayed grape maturity. So far it appears that the particles do not block usable light and gas, with brix increases being reported. This is presumably due to the particles reflecting infrared light, lowering heat on the leaves and fruit and allowing photosynthesis to continue during periods where normally it would shut down due to high temperatures closing the leaves' stomata. For vineyards practising leaf-removal in the fruit zone and having sunburn problems on the berries, Surround may alleviate this issue.

Ongoing studies are looking at such things as Surround in combination with Neem oil for enhanced control in difficult situations. As with any registered pesticide, following label guidelines is essential and its use will be most effective with a well-managed system incorporating the best cultural practices for the specific variety and vineyard.

By Alan Marks, Ph.D. , proprietor of Veraison Viticulture & Enology Consulting.
Article from: Orchard & Vine Magazine, Summer 2006

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Time for Neem

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Alan Marks, Ph.D.
Veraison Viticulture & Enology Consulting

Veraison Viticulture & Enology ConsultingIn the 2005 growing season, many vineyards, especially organic or low-input, saw large populations of leafhoppers that were very difficult to control and caused significant damage. Both of our types of these insects, the Western Grape and the Virginia Creeper leafhoppers, over-winter as adults and with the very mild 2005/2006 winter (so far) populations should be expected to be high for the coming season.

With growing interest in organic viticulture and continuing evidence of synthetic insecticides' detriments, very little is available for practical control. Sticky yellow tapes do help for spot treatments as does timely leaf pulling and even vacuuming but all are very expensive and labour intensive. It seems a shame that there is a very promising natural product used with success elsewhere that even has benefits as a fungicide and miticide.

Neem oil is produced from the seeds of the neem tree which is native to and grown in Southeast Asia and being cultivated for commercial use in the southern U.S. The main compound that has insecticidal activity is azadirachtin, produced by the plant as a natural insect protection. It acts mainly as an insect growth regulator, interfering with the molting process and is more effective on younger insect stages so would be applied with careful observation similar to using available insecticidal soaps. Neem preparations also have odours and bitter flavours so act as anti feeding agents. Azadirachtin is known to have extreme low toxicity to mammals and fish and breaks down fairly rapidly, around 100 hours in water or with light exposure. Also, it has very little negative effect on beneficial insects. In 2003, over 30 tons of neem oil was used in California alone on a wide variety of vegetable and fruit crops including wine grapes.

Some commercially available products are azadirachtin based and others are based on the oil itself, which has the fungicidal and miticidal benefits. The fungicidal benefits include control of powdery mildew by coating the leaf surface thereby inhibiting fungal spore germination. Being a complex mixture with many sulfur-containing compounds, it does seem to have eradicant properties for controlling existing powdery mildew infections.

Neem has been used for thousands of years for insect control. Many commercial neem products are OMRI (Organic Materials Review Institute) listed but neem is only registered for forestry use in Canada. There are individuals and groups working on Canadian registration but 2008 is being talked about for completion. A fast-tracking is definitely needed and with so much historical and recent research available it seems that bureaucracy is holding up a much needed, safely proven tool.

Alan Marks is director of winery operations at Summerhill Pyramid Winery in Kelowna, and proprietor of Veraison Viticulture and Enology Consulting. Email: . This article was prepared for the Orchard & Vine Magazine:

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Using Bordeaux Mixture Post-Harvest (2008)

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Bordeaux mixture has been used as a broad spectrum fungicide for more than 120 years.

It was reputedly discovered when a Bordeaux grape grower applied a copper/lime mixture to his areas of the vineyard close to the roads to discourage passers-by from helping themselves. It was found that these areas were free from downy mildew (recently introduced from North America similar to the Phylloxera spread).

The French botanist Alexis Millardet fine-tuned the mixture and the formula remains virtually the same today. Mostly used in more humid climates, the mixture is effective against downy mildew, black rot and dead-arm diseases. It is fairly rain resistant and fungi/bacteria have not shown any ability to evolve resistance to it. It does have effectiveness against powdery mildew, especially late foliar infections, which make it an option in our growing regions. It would also be a good option for sulfur-sensitive varieties such as Foch.

Ontario's experience with Bordeaux mixture has shown that it can increase bud hardiness and help with wood maturity in older vines. It is also used in young vineyards not yet bearing fruit as a spray about one month before the expected first frost date to help with winter maturity.

The rate for the mixture is three-kg of copper sulfate plus six-kg hydrated lime in 1,000 litres water, at 1,000 liter mix per hectare. The copper sulfate is not extremely soluble so it can be pre-soaked in a plastic bucket with hot water before mixing. When the spray tank is about one-third full, the copper is added with the agitator running. The lime can now be added by washing through a screen using the water hose or pre-soaked like the copper. The spray agitator has to be kept running and the spray mixture used at once. Another option is to use copper oxychloride at the same rate (called Burgundy Mixture) and this tends to be less clogging to the spray nozzles.

Especially in shorter seasons such as this year with a late spring, it is very important to maintain a healthy canopy for as long as possible, even after harvest. Late powdery mildew infections can cause early leaf drop, resulting in less winter hardiness. Bordeaux mixture can be a useful tool to keep in mind and I would be interested in hearing feedback from any B.C. growers currently employing it.

Alan Marks, Ph.D., is the technical sales rep for Scott Laboratories Ltd. And can be reached at . Article from the Orchard & Vine Magazine, Fall 2008.

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Hay production

Alfalfa Hay Shipped to China - AAFC News Release (March 2012)

Harper Government paves way for first commercial shipment of alfalfa hay to China

Ottawa, Ontario, March 19, 2012 - Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz today marked the first ever commercial shipment of Canadian alfalfa hay to enter the lucrative Chinese market since Canada gained market access for alfalfa hay in March 2011. Twenty containers of Canadian alfalfa hay have been shipped to China and 40 more containers have been ordered; the total estimated $600,000.

"This is the first of many shipments as China's growing demand translates into new sales opportunities for Canadian producers, and jobs and growth for our economy," said Minister Ritz. "This is solid evidence that Canadian exporters are taking advantage of new market access secured by this Government."

Minister Ritz congratulated Green Prairie International, a global wholesale supplier of quality forage products located in Alberta, to be the first Canadian company to ship alfalfa into the Chinese market.

"We are extremely excited by this new marketing opportunity between Canada and China," said Mr. John Van Hierden, President and CEO of Green Prairie International. "This will create unprecedented opportunities for the Canadian forage industry. We believe this will create important economic and cultural benefits to both Canada and China."

As China looks for more international suppliers to meet its growing demand for animal feed, the Harper Government is also negotiating new market access for timothy hay, another type of hay used in the livestock feed industry. Canada produces some of the best quality hay and processed by-products in the world, with primary forage exports being timothy and alfalfa. Canadian alfalfa and timothy hay, meal, and pellets total exports worldwide were worth over $85 million in 2011.

China's hay and forage product imports increased significantly in the last five years, going from $119,000 in 2006 to over $103 million in 2011. Alfalfa hay is a high-quality forage used in livestock feed, in particular for dairy cattle. China is significantly expanding its dairy industry-aiming to double its milk production by 2015-and the growing demand for alfalfa hay on the Chinese market is offering some great sales opportunities for Canadian producers.

This good news is not only benefiting Canadian producers, but it is also a good example of how the Government of Canada is delivering on its commitment to agricultural co-operation with China. During Prime Minister Harper's recent mission to China, a Cooperative Agreement was signed that included the creation of a joint technical working group to move forward a Canada-China Cooperation Dairy Farm Pilot Project. The project would demonstrate how Canadian feed products, live dairy cattle, and Canadian management practices would contribute to this goal of doubling milk production. While Canada is marketing its high-quality products to this important market, it also contributes to the Chinese agricultural production growth.

Drying Forage for Hay & Haylage by Dr. Dan Undersander (2007)

Drying Forage for Hay and Haylage
Dr. Dan Undersander, University of Wisconsin
Source: (includes figures and diagrams)

If we understand and use the biology and physics of forage drying properly, not only does the hay dry faster and have less chance of being rained on, but the total digestible nutrients (TDN) of the harvested forage are higher. As mowing and conditioning equipment has evolved, some of the basic drying principles of forage have slipped by the wayside and we need to review them.

The general pattern of drying forages is shown in the figure at right. When forage is cut, it has 75 to 80 percent moisture must be dried down to 60 to 65% moisture content for haylage and down to 14 to 18% moisture content for hay (lower figures for larger bales).

The first phase of drying is moisture loss from the leaves through the stomates. Stomates are the openings in the leaf surface that allow moisture loss to the air to cool the plant and carbon dioxide uptake from the air as the plant is growing. Stomates open in daylight and close when in dark and when moisture stress is severe. Cut forage laid in a wide swath maximizes the amount of forage is exposed to sunlight. This keeps the stomates open and encourages rapid drying which is crucial at this stage because plant respiration continues after the plant is cut. Respiration rate is highest at cutting and gradually declines until plant moisture content has fallen below 60%. Therefore rapid initial drying to lose the first 15% moisture will reduce loss of starches and sugars and preserve more total digestible nutrients in the harvested forage. This initial moisture loss is not affected by conditioning.

The second phase of drying (II) is moisture loss from both the leaf surface (stomates have closed) and from the stem. At this stage conditioning can help increase drying rate, especially on the lower end.

The final phase of drying (III) is the loss of more tightly held water, particularly from the stems. Conditioning is critical to enhance drying during this phase. Conditioning to break stems every two inches allows more opportunities for water loss since little water loss will occur through the waxy cuticle of the stem.

Understanding these principles will allow us to develop management practices in the field that maximize drying rate and TDN of the harvested forage. The first concept is that a wide swath immediately after cutting is the single most important factor maximizing initial drying rate and preserving of starches and sugars. In a trial at the UW Arlington Research Station (Figure 2) where alfalfa was put into a wide swath, it reached 65% moisture in about 8 hours and could be harvested for haylage the same day as cutting. The same forage from the same fields put into a narrow windrow was not ready to be harvested until late in the day or the next day!

In fact, a wide swath may be more important than conditioning for haylage.

The importance of a wide swath is supported from drying measurements taken at the Wisconsin Farm Technology Days in 2002 (figure 3) where different mower-conditioners mowed and conditioned strips of alfalfa and put the cut forage in windrow widths of the operators choice. Moisture content of the alfalfa was measured 5.5 hours after mowing. Each point is a different machine that included sickle bar and disc mowers and conditioners with, steel, rubber or combination rollers. Across all mower types and designs, the most significant factor in drying rate was the width of the windrow.

In figure 3, note the one outlying point at 70% moisture content and a windrow width/cut width ratio of 0.48. This shows how much drying can be slowed by improper adjustment of the conditioner.

We used to make wide swaths in the past but have gradually gone to making windrows that are smaller and smaller percentages of the cut area as mowers have increased in size. Generally, as mowers have gotten bigger, the conditioner has stayed the same size, resulting in narrower windrows. There is some variation among makes and models and growers should look for those machines that make the widest swath.

Putting alfalfa into wide swaths (72% of cut width) immediately after cutting results improved quality of alfalfa haylage compared to narrow windrows (25% of cut width) in studies at UW Arlington and Marshfield Research Stations in 2005 to 2007 (Table 1). Alfalfa was mowed with a discbine, conditioned, and forage was sampled approximately two months after ensiling in tubes. The alfalfa from the wide swaths had 1.0% less NDF, and 1.7% more NFC. Haylage from the wide swath had more substrate for fermentation which resulted in more lactic and acetic acid. The higher acid content would indicate less rapid spoilage on feedout.

Some are concerned that driving over a swath will increase soil (ash) content in the forage. In table 1, the ash content of haylage from wide swath alfalfa was actually less than from narrow windrows. While narrow windrows are not usually driven over, they tend to sag to the ground causing soil to be included with the windrow when it is picked up. Wide swaths tend to lay on top of the cut stubble and stay off the ground. Further, driving on the swath can be minimized by driving one wheel on the area between swaths and one near the middle of the swath where cut forage is thinner.

Grasses, especially if no stems are present, must be into a wide swath when cut. When put into a windrow at cutting, the forage will settle together, dry very slowly and be difficult to loosen up to increase drying rate. Recommendations: • Put cut forage into a wide swath at cutting that covers at least 70% of the cut area. • For Haylage: if drying conditions are good, rake multiple swaths into a windrow just before chopping (usually 5 to 7 hours later). • For Hay: if drying conditions are good, merge/rake multiple swaths into a windrow the next morning after mowing (when forage is 40 to 60 % moisture) to avoid leaf loss.

NWIPC Certified Weed Free Hay Program (August 2011)

The NEIPC – NWIPC Certified Weed Free Hay Program Pilot Project - Currently there is a pilot project taking place in northern BC to promote the production and consumption of weed free forage, particularly for use in backcountry areas of BC. This is a consumer and producer-led initiative aimed at developing the market for weed free forage within BC, preventing the spread of designated weeds and undesirable plant species, protecting private and public lands from non-native, invasive plant species and increasing the awareness of the environmental impact of these species.

If you are interested in either producing or purchasing weed free forage or if you would like more information on the project please contact Sonja Leverkus with the BC Ministry of Agriculture at (250) 774-5518, or on email at

Native Grass Production

Native Seed

Development of Native Grass Seed For the West Coast of British Columbia (2006)

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Manivalde Vaartnou Ph.D.,P.Ag.
M. Vaartnou & Associates, Richmond, B.C.

Sound ecological restoration includes the use of native species. However, on the west coast of British Columbia, native seed for large-scale reclamation purposes has neither been available in sufficient quantity, nor at a reasonable price. Thus, in April, 1996 this ten-year applied research program1 was initiated with the following goals:

  • to determine which west coast native grasses could be utilized in revegetation
  • to establish which native grasses produce sufficient seed for commercial seed production and sale at a reasonable price

The conclusions from this program are applicable to the CWH biogeoclimatic zone of Vancouver Island, and are likely to also be applicable to the CWH biogeoclimatic zone on the adjacent Mainland Coast, and to the CDF biogeoclimatic zone on Vancouver Island.

The long-term objective of the program was the harvest of sufficient seed from seed multiplication plots to allow established seed merchants to grow the seed, in commercial quantities, for purchase by large-scale users. For large-scale use to occur in the future, three basic conditions had to be met. These were:

  • there must be sufficient native seed available for large-scale use by major seed users
  • native species trial plot results must be comparable to results achieved on control introduced agronomic species plots
  • while initial costs may be higher, the long-term cost of native species seeds must be no more than minimally higher than the cost of agronomic seeds

In 1996 and 1997 seeds of native grasses were collected from the wild, and were then sown to flats in the U.B.C. greenhouse. Emergent seedlings were then transplanted to a Seed Increase Nursery established in Duncan. Subsequently, seeds grown at this nursery were harvested and cleaned so that the other parts of the program could be carried out. These seeds were used to establish trial plots throughout Vancouver Island. Five different native seed mixtures were created and each was seeded to six locations. At each location a control plot was seeded to introduced, agronomic species. Ground cover was evaluated annually at each location using the 'Daubenmire' system until five years of data was available from each site. Subsequent biometric analysis of the ground cover data showed no differences in cover production between the native mixtures and the control mixtures. Demonstration sites were also established at locations that could not be replicated because of a lack of homogeneity in site characteristics, and, in the last five years of the program, large operational sites were seeded to the most successful native species. The demonstration and operational sites were also evaluated for five years; results with the native grasses were outstanding.

Once it became apparent which species were likely to be most successful, these were seeded to large seed multiplication plots in Dawson Creek. Winter damage was not a problem but the amount of seed production varied markedly from year to year. Thus, a decision was made that future commercial seed production should occur in Oregon as consistent seed production is vital to maintain moderate seed prices to the end-users.

The most successful species were Bromus sitchensis, Deschampsia cespitosa, Deschampsia elongata, Elymus glaucus, Festuca rubra ssp arenicola and Festuca rubra ssp pruinosa. The first step in future field-scale seed production of these species was taken in 2004 with transfer of seed stock to Pickseed Canada Inc., and the establishment of seed multiplication plots in Oregon. Other successful species with market potential are Agrostis exarata, Agrostis scabra, Bromus carinatus, Calamagrostis stricta and Poa compressa. In 2005, seed of these latter species was also transferred, and seed multiplication plots were established in Oregon. The author's involvement in future field-scale, commercial seed production has now been completed with the transfer of appropriate seed stock, and future commercial seed production decisions will be made by others, based on the potential market for each species.

View the entire paper in pdf format: Native Grass Seed For BC

1 Funding for this program was provided by Forest Renewal British Columbia, Weyerhaeuser Company Ltd., Cascadia Forest Products Ltd., International Forest Products Ltd., Western Forest Products Inc., TimberWest Forest Ltd., Canadian Forest Products Ltd. and the British Columbia Ministry of Forests.

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Native Grass Development Update (2007)

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The Pacific Coast native grass development program that I was involved with from 1996-2006, ended in March, 2006, with a successful conclusion. I'm no longer directly involved, but am happy to report 2006 developments .

In 2003, 2004 and 2005 seed of the most successful species was transferred to established seed merchants, and they began large-scale multiplication of these seeds, so that they could then enter field-scale, commercial seed production if they chose to do so. This multiplication was successful; and commercial seed production will commence shortly in 2007 for six of these species. If this is successful, there will be native BC coast grass seed on the market by the late summer/fall of 2008, and BC coast reclamation can take a major step forward to true "ecological restoration" in the near future. As yet, the precise species to be seeded to field-scale production have not been determined, but the choice is from the following eleven (11) selections).

  • Agrostis exarata #10
  • Agrostis scabra @61
  • Bromus carinatus #127
  • Bromus sitchensis #48
  • Calamagrostis stricta #84
  • Deschampsia cespitosa #30
  • Deschampsia elongata #13
  • Elymus glaucus #14
  • Festuca rubra ssp arenicola #91
  • Festuca rubra ssp pruinosa #56
  • Poa compressa #83

Commercial seed production may be successful by late summer 2008.


There was no new commercial seed production in 2006. The selections discussed below have been extensively tested over the last thirty years in northern Canada. I used the results from these trials to write the specifications found in the Yukon Revegetation/Reclamation Manual. The citations for the two volumes of the manual are:

Kennedy, C.E. editor. 1993. Guidelines for Reclamation/Revegetation in the Yukon. Department of Renewable Resources, Government of Yukon. 180pp.

Hill, T., C.E. Kennedy and D. Murray, editors. 1996. Guidelines for Reclamation/Revegetation in theYukon: Volume Two. Department of Renewable Resources, Government of Yukon. pp 181-266.


A) Seed Available Today

One selection, Agropyron violaceum MV6 (violet wheatgrass), is available in reasonable quantity at a reasonable price from two seed merchants. The original collection was from Kluane Lake, Yukon Territory. This selection prefers open and semi-shaded sandy loam and thrives at locations from 56-63 degrees North Latitude. It has reasonable tolerance of mildly alkaline soils, and is the most critical component for a successful reclamation mixture in northern Canada. It is not a subalpine/alpine species, but may be of considerable use in the interior of BC.

If interested in obtaining reasonably priced seed contact:

  • Pickseed Canada Inc. - Lance Johnson: 1-800-265-3925 or 780-464-0350
  • Brett-Young Company - Gloria Weir: 1-800-222-6443 or 780-985-7305

A second selection, Poa glauca MV4 (glaucus bluegrass), is now also available, although perhaps in lesser quantities. The original collection was from Miles Canyon (Whitehorse YT). This selection is suitable from 56 degrees NL to the Arctic Ocean, but prefers semi-open sites. It is useful in semi-xeric sites, has a mild tolerance to alkaline sites, and, while not considered a true alpine species, has demonstrated long-term survival in sub-alpine locations. This selection is a much sturdier plant than the cultivar developed elsewhere.

If interested, contact as above.

B) Other Activity

In the last year I have become aware of several possibilities for multiplication of my other northern species. Thus, in 2006, each of the following selections were seeded to multiplication plots in northern Canada at different locations. Initial results were very promising, and, if seed production in these plots in 2007 is sufficient, each of the following selections could be in the large-scale seed production stage by the spring of 2008. If successful, this would allow for commercial production by established seed merchants, but this depends upon their analysis of the potential market for these species.

  • Agropyron macrourum MV8
  • Agropyron subsecumdum MV8
  • Agropyron trachycaulum (pauciflorum) MV9
  • Agropyron violaceum MV6
  • Agrostis scabra MV14
  • Deschampsia caespitosa MV12
  • Festuca saximontana MV2
  • Phleum commutatum MV13
  • Poa alpina MV3
  • Poa glauca MV4
  • Poa palustris MV5
  • Trisetum spicatum MV11


A collection of southern interior grasses was undertaken in 2004. This was the successor to an unsuccessful program attempted in the previous years with the assistance of Kelowna Parks, to whom I'm forever thankful. This did not work because of "fire season" in the Okanagan. The seeds from the latter collection were seeded to individual 50m rows in August, 2004 in Oliver, and maintenance was carried out throughout 2006. The success rate varied tremendously as described below. I will endeavour to maintain this plot for one more year to see if there is funding available to take this program to the next stage. The species I collected and seeded were:

  • Elymus spicatus - very weak initial emergence; recollected from another location and reseeded in 2005; 2006 seeding also unsuccessful as of early August, 2006.
  • Festuca idahoensis var idahoensis - reasonable emergence in 2005; always promising & very successful in 2006.
  • Koeleria macrantha - poor initial emergence; reseeded with remainder of 2004 seed in 2005 - 2006 results excellent.
  • Poa secunda (I question the sp. i.d.; looks more like Poa compressa) - minimal emergence in 2005; excellent stuff through delayed germination in 2006
  • Stipa sp. - no emergence in 2005; recollected from same location and reseeded in 2005; great stuff, but very tiny plants, in 2006
  • Bromus spp. (2 species) - both very successful (B. carinatus, thought to be an annual in 2005, definitely not, as shown in 2006, but the other brome may not be B. ciliatus; therefore i.d ???)
  • Calamagrostis rubescens - no emergence; abandoned
  • Leymus cinereus - still extremely successful - but does it have a use?
  • Sporobolus cryptandrus - initial no emergence; recollected from another location and reseeded in 2005, another poor result as of August, 2006
  • Helictotrichon hookeri - very successful again - but does it have a use?
  • Also collected some Aristida longiseta in 2006, will seed in 2007


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Pacific Coast Native Grass Seed Development (2008)

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Article submitted by: Manivalde (Many) Vaartnou

The Pacific Coast native grass development program that I initiated, and pursued from 1996-2006, ended in March, 2006, with a successful conclusion. I'm no longer directly involved, but am happy to report 2007 developments.

In 2003, 2004 and 2005 seed of the most successful species was transferred to Pickseed Canada Inc., so that they could begin field-scale, commercial seed production if they chose to do so. Commercial seed production began in August, 2007. Seedling emergence was variable in the fall of 2007 for six of these species, which were seeded to small field-scale production. Some were very successful, while others required interseeding to fill out the fields. This 2007 emergence should result in seed production this summer, so there will be native BC coast grass seed on the market by the winter of 2008/09, and BC coast reclamation can take a major step forward to true "ecological restoration" in the near future. As yet, the precise species quantities of seed which might be available are unknown because this depends upon success in the field this year. The species I selected from my former coast program, on the basis of possible utility, are listed below. Those that were seeded to field-scale in 2007, through the efforts of Pickseed Canada Inc.'s BC Manager, have an asterisk. The others are serious possibilities in the future, depending upon commercial response to the first six.

  • *Agrostis exarata #10
  • Agrostis scabra @61
  • Bromus carinatus #127
  • *Bromus sitchensis #48
  • Calamagrostis stricta #84
  • Deschampsia cespitosa #30
  • *Deschampsia elongata #13
  • *Elymus glaucus #14
  • *Festuca rubra ssp arenicola #91
  • Festuca rubra ssp pruinosa #56
  • *Poa compressa #83

For more details, feel free to contact me at 604-271-2505, and if interested in seed purchase in the fall/wintere, the contact is: DON BIGGIN; BC Sales Manager, Pickseed Canada Inc. His contact info is as follows: Ph: 604-309-7939 or 1-877-505-7964; e-mail: I hope to accompany Don on a visit to the fields in June.


There was no new commercial seed production in 2007. The selections discussed below have been extensively tested over the last thirty years in northern Canada. I used the results from these trials to write the specifications found in the Yukon Revegetation/Reclamation Manual. The citations for the two volumes of the manual are:

Kennedy, C.E. editor. 1993. Guidelines for Reclamation/Revegetation in the Yukon. Department of Renewable Resources, Government of Yukon. 180pp.

Hill, T., C.E. Kennedy and D. Murray, editors. 1996. Guidelines for Reclamation/Revegetation in the Yukon: Volume Two. Department of Renewable Resources, Government of Yukon. pp 181-266.


A) Seed Available Today

One selection, Agropyron violaceum MV6 (violet wheatgrass), is available in reasonable quantity at a reasonable price from one/two seed merchants. The original collection was from Kluane Lake, Yukon Territory. This selection prefers open and semi-shaded sandy loam and thrives at locations from 56-63 degrees North Latitude. It has reasonable tolerance of mildly alkaline soils, and is the most critical component for a successful reclamation mixture in northern Canada. It is not a subalpine/alpine species, but may be of considerable use in the interior of BC.

If interested in obtaining reasonably priced seed contact:

Pickseed Canada Inc. - CARLENE VAN BRABANT: 1-800-265-3925 or 780-464-0350 (definitely available )

Brett-Young Seeds - GLORIA WEIR: 1-800-222-6443 or 780-985-7305 (may be available)

A second selection, Poa glauca MV4 (glaucous bluegrass), might be available, although perhaps in lesser quantities. The original collection was from Miles Canyon (Whitehorse YT). This selection is suitable from 56 degrees NL to the Arctic Ocean, but prefers semi-open sites. It is useful in semi-xeric sites, has a mild tolerance to alkaline sites, and, while not considered a true alpine species, has demonstrated long-term survival in sub-alpine locations. This selection is a much sturdier plant than the cultivar developed elsewhere.

If interested, contact as above.

B) Other Activity

In the last two years I have become aware of several possibilities for multiplication of my other northern species. Thus, in 2006, each of the following selections were seeded to multiplication plots in northern Canada at different locations. This is an on-going program, which will be continued in 2008 to ascertain interest. I'm using the botanical names as they were at the time I collected them. Species involved are:

  • Agropyron macrourum MV8
  • Agropyron subsecumdum MV8
  • Agropyron trachycaulum (pauciflorum) MV9
  • Agropyron violaceum MV6
  • Agrostis scabra MV14
  • Deschampsia caespitosa MV12
  • Festuca saximontana MV2
  • Phleum commutatum MV13
  • Poa alpina MV3
  • Poa glauca MV4
  • Poa palustris MV5
  • Trisetum spicatum MV11


A collection of southern interior grasses was undertaken in 2004. This was the successor to an unsuccessful program attempted in the previous years with the assistance of Kelowna Parks, to whom I'm forever thankful. This did not work because of "fire season" in the Okanagan. The seeds from the 2004 collection were seeded to individual 50m rows in August, 2004 in Oliver, and maintenance was carried out throughout 2006. The success rate varied tremendously as described below. Through the financial assistance of Terra-Link Horticulture Inc. I was able to maintain this plot in 2007, and will do so in 2008. Taxonomy follows the BC MOF manuals of the early 1990's (some botanical names have changed), but am using the BC MOF names from the early 1990's, for this latter program because I think most of you are more familiar with these than the 70's names or the more recent taxonomy in the 8 Volume B.C. Flora published this decade.

Elymus spicatus - very weak initial emergence; recollected from another location and reseeded in 2006; 2006 seeding also appeared unsuccessful initially, but was very successful in 2007 and promising for 2008

Festuca idahoensis var idahoensis - reasonable emergence in 2005; always promising & very successful in 2007 (a definite winner)

Koeleria macrantha - poor initial emergence; reseeded with remainder of 2004 seed in 2005 - 2006 results excellent, 2007 even better - while not definite, looks like a winner

Poa secunda (I question the sp. i.d.; looks more like Poa compressa) - minimal emergence in 2005; excellent through delayed germination in 2006, outstanding in 2007 - great, but I'm 99% sure it's actually P. compressa

Stipa sp. - no emergence in 2005; recollected from same location and reseeded in 2005; very tiny plants in 2006, bit stronger in 2007; but nothing truly worthwhile as yet

Bromus spp. (2 species) - both very successful, B. carinatus, thought to be an annual in 2005, definitely not, as shown in 2006/07, but the other brome will be deleted in early 2008 if I can't hand weed it 100% accurately in May. B. carinatus is outstanding, even if it is a probably a short-lived perennial (3-4 years)

Calamagrostis rubescens - still no emergence; abandoned

Leymus cinereus - still extremely successful re plant growth & survival, but very weak seed production in 2007 - but does it have a use?

Sporobolus cryptandrus - initially no emergence; recollected from another location and reseeded in 2005, another poor result as of August, 2006; still a no-show in 2007

Helictotrichon hookeri - very successful from start and again in 2007 - but does it have a use?

Also collected some Aristida longiseta in 2006, seeded 25% of row in early 2007; nil emergence by August, 2007

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Natural Fibres

Going Green with Natural Fibres (2009)

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Going Green with Natural Fibres: AAFC Marks Natural Fibres Year

The possibilities for natural fibres have expanded beyond traditional fabrics into applications no one ever imagined. And the United Nations has 'caught the wave;' following on last year's worldwide celebration of the potato, the international body declared 2009 as International Year of Natural Fibres.

For thousands of years, people have used natural fibres to make cloth, string and paper and strengthen building materials. Industrial change and competition from synthetic fibres since the 1960's pushed down demand. But rising oil costs, greater awareness of the environment and advances in science and technology have combined to create an exploding market for enviro-friendly fibres.

Natural Fibres Year will help promote the sustainability, desirability and utility of natural fibres and encourage international partnerships for research and trade among natural fibres interest groups.

This spring, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) announced more than $9.6 million in funding for creation of the Natural Fibres for the Green Economy Network (NAFGEN), under the Agricultural Bioproducts Innovation Program.

NAFGEN is a multidisciplinary network developing value-added markets for flax and hemp fibres. It brings together Canada's top researchers, industry and producers to breed better varieties and solve problems with harvesting, processing, storage, transportation and grading. The network will also develop technologies to convert fibre and associated residue into a range of new industrial products and chemicals. The end result will be new markets for farmers growing these crops.

Along with Natural Resources Canada and the National Research Council, AAFC will work in support of the network. NAFGEN is led by Flax Canada 2015, which represents the flax industry's interests here, and includes several other academia and industry partners.

AAFC scientists are playing key roles on the flax research side. Dr. Scott Duguid and his team from the Morden Research Station in Manitoba will identify and characterize genes and genetic mechanisms involved in the production of fibre yield in flax.

"The new information we glean will translate into flax bred with higher fibre yield and seed yield," says Dr. Duguid.

Dr. Duguid is also spearheading the development of crop management practices to enhance flax fibre production. "Our team will be looking at the effects of seeding date, seeding rate, nitrogen application and fungicide use on fibre yield," explains Dr. Duguid.

Meanwhile, Mark Stumborg from the Semiarid Prairie Agricultural Research Centre in Swift Current, Saskatchewan, is leading the evaluation and development of systems and equipment for harvesting and curing flax.

"Our study will improve the quality, quantity and value of natural fibres and co-products in flax production," says Mr. Stumborg.

In Summerland, British Columbia, Dr. Joe Mazza and his team from the Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre will investigate and develop new conversion technologies used in natural fibre-based biorefineries.

"We're working on cost-competitive green technologies that will extract and convert flax straw and shives into two streams - distinctive materials and compounds for further processing," explains Dr. Mazza.

Flax shives are the woody residue left after fibres are removed from straw. They yield 2.5 tonnes per tonne of fibre produced. The massive amounts of flax shives available worldwide could turn an effective processing method for this material into economic gold.

Except for a few niche markets, flax and hemp are currently underutilized in the natural fibres industry. However, the possibilities for end use are virtually limitless: from plastic composites (replacing fibreglass in car panels and sewage pipes) to geotextiles for use in horticulture (serving as a mulch or weed barrier) and in construction (reducing levels of dust and erosion).

AAFC views Natural Fibres Year as a unique opportunity to "get the word out" about flax and hemp crops and the way they can contribute to an environmentally and economically sustainable future for Canadians.

To learn more about:

  • AAFC's efforts to accelerate research, development and commercialization of bioproducts and bioprocesses, visit the Agricultural Bioproducts Innovation Program Web site []

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Fruit Trees

Apple Maggots Appear in the Vancouver Area (2006)

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The appearance of the apple maggot in the Vancouver area has Okanagan fruit growers worried about the potential spread of the noxious pest.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency recently detected apple maggots in several locations within the Abbotsford area, according to a BC Ministry of Agriculture and Lands news release.

All findings of the apple maggot, discovered during regular survey activities, are localized and within a few kilometers of each other.

Although there has been no detection of the pest in the Interior of the province, growers are taking steps to prevent its introduction to fruit growing areas in the Okanagan, Similkameen and Creston Valleys.

The apple maggot, endemic in the United States and the rest of Canada except Newfoundland, is a serious pest of apples and soft fruit. It destroys the fruit, which drops to the ground when infested.

"The public has a huge part to play in protecting our tree fruit growing region from this pest," said Joe Sardinha, president of the B.C. Fruit Growers Association. "We ask travelers not to transport apples or transplant trees from their backyard tress to other areas of B.C.

"We want to assure the public that our fruit is healthy and safe, and that our climate and isolation help us to keep our pesticide use to a very low level."

The apple maggot (Rhagoletis pomonella) is a fly that, in its larval stage, damages apples and other fruit by tunneling through them. The principal hosts of apple maggot are apple, crabapple and hawthorn trees; however, it also occasionally attacks plum, cherry, peach and pear trees. It poses no threat to human health.

Apple maggot is a quarantine pest in Canada and, until these findings, British Columbia had been completely free of the pest.

Terry Edwards
Orchard & Vine Magazine, Fall 2006

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Application of CaCl2 Sprays Earlier in the Season May Reduce Bitter Pit Incidence in

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This is a summary report. To view the complete paper in pdf format, click here.

Gerry Neilsen, Denise Neilsen, Shufu Dong, and Peter Toivonen
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre, Summerland, BC V0H 1Z0 Canada

Frank Peryea
Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center, Washington State University, 1100 North Western Avenue, Wenatchee, WA 98801


Calcium application trials were undertaken in a 'Braeburn' apple orchard with a history of bitter pit development at harvest. In 2000, an early season calcium chloride application strategy was compared with the unsprayed control and a late season application strategy. From 2001-03, the assessment of timing of calcium chloride sprays was extended by comparing effects of five weekly sprays applied during the growing season either early, middle, or late season. Other Ca applications strategies tested included sprays of acidified calcium carbonate suspensions and soil application of calcium thiosulphate. In the first experiment, early applications of calcium chloride reduced the occurrence of bitter pit at harvest and after 3 months cold air storage, despite having low harvest fruit Ca concentrations. Late sprayed fruit had a higher incidence of bitter pit. In the second experiment, the later calcium chloride was sprayed in the growing season, the higher the fruit Ca concentration at harvest. Despite this, no bitter pit was measured at harvest for 2 years for early and midseason calcium chloride spray regimes. In 2003, when Ca disorders were severe and fruit large, bitter pit was observed despite early season calcium chloride sprays. Soil calcium thiosulphate application and foliar sprays of acidified calcium carbonate suspensions failed to meaningfully augment harvest fruit Ca concentrations and affect bitter pit incidence.


The importance of achieving adequate Ca supply for optimizing the quality of apple fruit has stimulated research in the major fruit growing regions of the world to increase fruit Ca concentration and thereby improve fruit quality. The preferred method to increase fruit Ca concentration has been via preharvest foliar Ca sprays. Recommendations based upon this early research usually involves application of three to six sprays of soluble Ca salts (usually chloride or nitrate salts) throughout the growing season. Limited consideration has been given to time of Ca application since many spray rate application experiments have been confounded by application at different times. Several laboratory studies using Ca have indicated that the rate of penetration of Ca into the fruit decreases as fruit ages during the growing season. Limited use of this information has been made in the field despite a possibility of improving the effectiveness of Ca sprays, especially since the initial symptoms of apple physiological disorders have been reported to occur early in the fruit development stages. In a field trial where rate and timing of Ca sprays were not confounded, Mason (1979) found that three late-season sprays were more effective at increasing harvest fruit Ca concentration and reducing "Spartan" breakdown than three early season sprays.

Cultivars are known to vary in their susceptibility to Ca-related disorders such as bitter pit. 'Braeburn' is a cultivar originating from New Zealand with a known susceptibility to developing bitter pit on initial crops and with reported low fruit Ca concentrations. There is however limited information concerning the mineral nutrition of 'Braeburn' in different regions and much existing information has related to vigorous trees growing on nondwarfing rootstocks such as MM106. Little is know concerning fruit Ca concentration of 'Braeburn' growing in high density orchards on dwarfing rootstocks in the Pacific Northwest of North America. Similarly there is little information to support or refute the use of new and largely untested Ca compounds that have been promoted for this cultivar.

For these reasons, Ca application experiments were undertaken in a high density 'Braeburn' apple orchard in the Pacific Northwest. By designing spray regimes that did not overlap in time, the effects of an early and late season spray regime (Experiment 1) and very early, midseason and late spray regimes (Experiment 2) could be compared.

Materials & Methods

A block of 'Braeburn' apple trees on the dwarfing rootstock, M9, planted in April 1998 was used to undertake Ca experiments. The experimental site was located in southern British Columbia. (Please see pdf format for Materials & Methods)

Results & Discussions
Experiment 1
: Fruit Ca concentration, incidence and severity of bitter pit at harvest and after 90 days cold air storage were affected by foliar spray regime in 2000, the third growing season for this experiment. Fruit size was unaffected by treatments. Despite a moderate fruit size, over all treatments, unsprayed (control) fruit had a low fruit Ca concentration of 3.8 mg Ca/100 g FW and an estimated 25% of fruit affected by bitter pit at harvest, with similar proportions of fruit exhibiting bitter pit after cold storage. Five sprays applied closer to harvest (weekly from 25 Aug to 22 Sept) significantly increased fruit Ca concentration relative to unsprayed control fruit. The early season Ca spray regime however had no measurable bitter pit at harvest or after storage (see Table 1 in pdf format). At harvest but not after storage, incidence and severity of bitter pit was reduced by the early relative to the late season Ca spray regime.

Whole fruit Ca concentrations of 3.8 mg Ca/100 g FW at harvest were associated with high incidence of bitter pit disorder which had developed on the tree prior to harvest. Although the inexact relationships between harvest fruit Ca concentration and bitter pit incidence is well recognized, it is noteworthy that Ca concentration of 'Braeburn' fruit severely affected by bitter pit was less than 4 mg/100 g FW which has been cited as a critical quality threshold for apple fruit. The successful elimination of bitter pit by sprays that commenced as early as 22 June and were completed by 20 July differs from recommendations that foliar Ca sprays are most effectively applied late in the season when the fruit target is larger.

Our results imply that fruit Ca concentration is increased most by late sprays but this did not result in the lowest incidence of bitter pit. Timing of Ca application appeared to be more critical than amount of Ca absorbed in order to reduce the development of bitter pit on the tree. A question arises as to how effective sprays applied earlier in the season would be against bitter pit in 'Braeburn' fruit.

Experiment 2: Application of five CaCl2 sprays early in the growing season failed to increase fruit Ca concentration above that of unsprayed fruit, whereas five CaCl2 sprays applied late in the season (after mid-August) generally resulted in fruit with the highest Ca concentration. Spraying liquid calcium thiosulphate within the tree row on the soil surface in early spring did not increase fruit Ca concentration in the two years this treatment was applied. Similarly spray application of acidified suspensions of calcium carbonate and Micronoshade generally did not increase fruit Ca concentration (relative to control) regardless of whether sprays were applied late or early.

Maximum Ca concentration in fruit at harvest occurred after multiple calcium chloride sprays were applied later in the season.

Experiment 2: Fruit disorders at harvest
At commercial harvest fruit disorders observed on 'Braeburn' apple included bitter pit (all 3 years), lenticel pit and core browning and water core. Of these disorders, only bitter pit was differentially affected by experimental Ca treatments. In 2 years bitter pit incidence was lower for fruit receiving foliar CaCl2 applications, regardless of timing when compared to unsprayed (control) fruit. (See table 2 in pdf format). Other Ca applications via the soil ro as sprays of acidified calcium carbonate suspensions were ineffective. Foliar application of Micronoshade resulted in lower bitter pit incidence relative to unsprayed fruit in 1 of 3 years. Each year, the lowest incidence of bitter pit was observed after application of CaCl2 early in the season. No bitter pit was observed after early and midseason CaCl2 applications.

It is not surprising that bitter pit incidence was reduced by foliar application of calcium chloride, a generally recommended industry therapy. It was, however, noteworthy that sprays applied earliest in the season (primarily June) were as effective as they were despite their limited ability to increase fruit Ca concentration at harvest. It has been difficult to define the optimum moment for Ca application to fruit from historical spray experiments which often compare treatments overlapping in time. Our study with treatments applied at specific times suggest that bitter pit has an early season origin which benefits from timely application of small amounts of Ca applied by early season foliar sprays.


The cumulative results of this research indicate young 'Braeburn' apple trees have an insufficient supply of Ca early in the season for lightly cropped trees and would benefit from spray application of CaCl2 at this time. Five weekly sprays of CaCl2 commencing the first week of June were as effective as a similar regime of CaCl2 sprays applied in late season at reducing bitter pit incidence, despite minimal impact on whole fruit Ca concentration at harvest. Achieving fruit with maximum Ca concentration at harvest, as might be the goal for optimizing fruit storage quality where no obvious Ca disorders are present, is best achieved by applying CaCl2 close to harvest. Early season applications of Ca thiosulphate directly to the soil and early or late foliar applications of acidified calcium carbonate compounds are ineffective strategies.

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Beware the Silver Leaf

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By William McPhee
Source: Orchard & Vine Magazine Vol. 51, No 4 Fall 2010

Silver Leaf is a disease commonly seen in older apricot, peach and prune blocks in the Okanagan valley and is becoming more common in apples. It is generally not recognized as a significant problem, however, losses from silver leaf, although not as spectacular as severe infections of diseases such as brown rot, can be more serious because:

1. They are persistent over time.

2. There is no chemical control treatment available.

3. Infected trees usually die unless managed properly.

The silver appearance of the leaves on apricot on an infected branch.

The disease is caused by the fungus, Chondrostereum purpurem. At the early stages the symptom for C. purpureum is a “silvering” of the leaf. The affected leaves have a distinct pale grey, metallic sheen in contrast to the normal deep green of healthy leaves. The “silvering” is caused by a breakdown of leaf structure which results in the epidermis lifting away from the underlying tissues. This is initiated by the fungus growing in the xylem and phloem, killing the host cells and completely stopping all sap movement.

Usually silvering shows up in one or two small shoots but rapidly involves the leaves of the entire branch. There is no sign of the fungus in the leaves but the mycelium will be found in the woody tissue below the lowest silvery leaves. This is initially at the point of infection. When the whole tree becomes silvered, infection has occurred in, or moved into, the trunk or crown. At this stage fruit size will be affected.

When silvering is observed there will also be a visible decline in vigour and reduction in fruit size as a result of the limitations on nutrient flow within the tree. Infected branches may remain chronically weak or die.

Removal of the dead wood and/or infected wood is important. Using a saw or chainsaw to do this is the most likely way the disease is being transferred within the block. Since there are often no sporophores present in the orchard and the fungus is a wood rot, transfer of dead bits of wood (sawdust) from infected wood to healthy wood during pruning is likely how the disease is spread when no fruiting bodies are present. This often results in a string of dead trees as pruning progresses down a row.

Since the disease development is slow, relating pruning-action to the transfer of infection isn’t always obvious.

Typical sporophore that generates new inoculum each year. Remove stumps from the orchard before these appear.

The fungus does produce a distinct sporophore which is the source of natural spread. Spore production by these sporophores on dead branches, old stumps, or in piles of pruning are a source of new infections. When attacking the living tree these fungi are active parasites but they can also continue to survive as saprophytes on dead wood for long periods of time.

When removing the infected limb check the cross section of the limb for the distinct pattern the fungus makes in the wood. If they typical dark brown pattern shows then the cut should be extended down until the wood is clear of the brown necrosis.

Fan shaped necrotic area is typical sign of the infection in the wood.

Silver leaf is not listed in the production guide, yet it has been common in the Okanagan for decades on apricot, peach and prune. It was rarely seen on cherries and apple varieties in the past but there is some recent evidence that it is becoming more common in new apple varieties that are planted as high density, such as Gala. Since there are no registered chemical controls the early detection and conscientious removal of infected limbs or whole trees is essential. Growers should recognize the early stages of the disease and be aggressive in removal of the diseased wood from the orchard. This will help maintain full production in the block.

Protective sprays should be possible if a fungicide is identified that controls the causal fungus.

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Cherry Deal Sees Many Happy Returns (2009)

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Maybe if the stock market was as bullish as British Columbia's sweet cherry exports, we'd all be on Easy Street. That's because the value of the crop's exports have skyrocketed over a fifteen year period, climbing more than twentyfold from around $1 million in 1994 to over $21 million in 2007.

This dramatic growth is in large part due to a unique business arrangement between Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre (PARC) and the Okanagan Plant Improvement Corporation (PICO), both based in Summerland, B.C. Together, these two organizations have created a high-speed connection that brings cherry innovations to the marketplace. In fact, this partnership has just garnered an "Excellence in Technology Transfer" award from the Federal Partners in Technology Transfer.

According to AAFC cherry breeder, Dr. Frank Kappel, the PARC-PICO union is a win-win situation for all concerned--scientists, growers and industry. "It allows us to accelerate the transfer of new cherries from the lab to the orchards and provides an opportunity for direct industry feedback on market priorities."

PICO is an industry-led marketing organization established in 1994 by the British Columbia Fruit Growers' Association, and represents government (and other) plant breeders on whose behalf it grants rights to growers and other third parties. As John Kingsmill, General Manager and CEO of PICO explains, "these rights allow us to evaluate, propagate and commercialize the new cherry varieties to cherry producers in Canada and worldwide."

"This arrangement traces its roots back to the introduction of Plant Breeders' Rights in 1990," says Mr. Kingsmill. "That's when legislation was put into effect to strengthen the intellectual property rights of breeders, opening the door to licensing and other intellectual property management instruments to return royalties on new releases." He further notes that the new legislation provides an incentive to more aggressively market new varieties. It also helps keep the stream of new material flowing, as the returns can be reinvested in further research and development.

PICO has also adopted a "Canada First" policy to ensure that Canadian growers have unrestricted access to new cherry varieties. The relationship has allowed for an increase in the size and competitiveness of the B.C. cherry industry and generated substantial royalties for both PICO and AAFC. Over 250 domestic and international royalty agreements are in effect and returns have totalled over $2 million over the past 10 years.

But it takes more than marketing to ensure success - the product must be sound in the first place. Tracing its roots back to 1936, PARC's sweet cherry program certainly has delivered on this front: since 1994, about 90 per cent of new acreage of cherry tree plantings in B.C. are PARC varieties.

Building on its longstanding commitment to B.C.'s cherry industry, PARC has developed germplasm that is attractive to today's growers and consumers alike. Fruit quality is of course key, but even more value is added by self-fertility and late maturity. These two attributes two mean that fruit is "set" even when springs are cooler than usual, and that new, late-season markets can be tapped when conventional sources have disappeared from retailers' shelves.

Varieties developed by the PARC breeding program have allowed local growers to gain a reputation in the world market place as producers of high quality cherries. Jobs in the cherry industry, although seasonal, are quite significant. Every year there is an influx of orchard workers, predominantly from Quebec. The boost to the cherry industry has also helped stimulate and diversify the local economy.

"We are very proud of this partnership and its impact on the cherry industry," affirms Dr. Kappel. "Over 100 cherry varieties have been licensed to PICO with new varieties being made available yearly."

With the cherry season quickly coming upon us, we should soon be able to enjoy some of these new varieties. And better still, the recent release of late season cherries from AAFC allows us to enjoy fresh "made in Canada" cherries just a little bit longer!

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Mulches and Biosolids Affect Vigor, Yield and Leaf Nutrition of Fertigated High Density Apple (2003)

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G.H. Neilsen, E.J. Hogue, T. Forge, and D. Neilsen

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre, Summerland, B.C.

Click here to view the complete research paper in pdf format.

Recent interest in minimizing use of agro-chemicals in fruit growing to protect environmental and human health has stimulated interest in integrated fruit production (IFP). Although several options for nonchemical control of insects and diseases exist, the alternatives for weed control in high-density apple orchards often have not maintained satisfactory production.

Mulching is a traditional weed control method that offers important potential benefits by maintaining a high quality soil environment. As sources of available mulches have diversified, interest in this method has increased. Several recent trials in humid regions have identified beneficial effects of mulching on apple tree performance, soil moisture content and biological activity in orchard soils. However, little information is available concerning the effects of mulching in high-density apple orchards in irrigated regions where daily irrigation and fertigation might be expected to reduce potential nutrient and water stresses.

Of particular interest is the effect of mulching on problems associated with fertigation of coarse-textured soils, including acidification and the development of potassium-deficiency. Also of interest would be the effect of using mulches in combination with organic waste amendments. Biosolids and other biowaste amendments have improved the growth of annual horticultural crops in sandy soils, but their effects in perennial cropping systems have received little attention.

Thus, a long-term field trial was established to study the effects of various mulch and organic waste combinations on growth, yield and nutrition of drip-fertigated apple trees.

Materials and Methods

An experimental block of "Spartan" apple trees was planted at the Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre at Summerland in April 1994. Seven soil management treatments were established in a 2-meter wide strip centered on the tree rows.

Treatments included:

1) Check - plots maintained weed free year round via applications of glyphosate

2) Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD) biosolids - minimally composted sewage sludge from GVRD applied in 1994 and 1997

3) Shredded office paper

4) Alfalfa straw

5) Black woven polypropylene - permeable to irrigation water

6) Shredded paper mulch over Kelowna biosolids

7) Shredded paper mulch over GVRD biosolids

Results and Discussion

Vigor and Yield - Average trunk cross-sectional area (TCA) was affected by soil management treatment the year after planting. After six growing seasons, the largest trees were associated with the shredded paper mulch treatment with TCA being more than 50% larger than check trees. Application of GVRD or Kelowna biosolids once every 3 years beneath the paper mulch did not further increase TCA. Trees grown under black plastic mulch were larger than check trees from spring 1995 until spring 1997, but thereafter were the same size. Similarly trees grown under an alfalfa straw mulch were no larger than check trees after 6 years despite being larger until spring 1998. Smallest trees were consistently observed for the check treatment and for trees grown with GVRD biosolids applied once every 3 years.

The improvement in tree vigor observed for mulched trees in this study is a generally reported consequence of mulching fruit trees. Improvements in shorter-term tree vigor have previously been attributed to improved soil quality, increased availability of nitrogen, or of water. In the longer term, only mulches containing shredded paper resulted in significantly larger trees than those grown in a herbicide strip (check treatment), implying that in the long term alfalfa straw and black plastic mulch had similar effects on tree growth as the standard herbicide treatment.

Soil management treatments also significantly affected fruit yield in three of the five fruiting seasons. In these years, yields exceeding those measured for check trees were observed for various treatments that involved mulch application to the soil surface, including alfalfa (year 1), black plastic or shredded paper applied alone or with GVRD biosolids. Cumulative 5-year yields were higher for all six soil management treatments relative to the check treatment.

Thus, all mulches increased yield for high-density dwarf apple trees grown on coarse-textured soils in semi-arid regions despite an apparently optimum nutrient and water regime provided by daily drip irrigation and annual fertigation.


Vigor and yield of a high density, fertigated apple orchard over the first five fruiting seasons was increased by soil management treatments involving the application of bio solids, various surface mulches, or both. Yield was lowest for trees grown with the normal commercial production practice involving maintenance of a wide (2 m) weed-free strip by multiple applications of glyphosate.

Improved tree growth was not associated with improved availability of any single nutrient, as indicated by minimal and inconsistent effects of soil management treatments on leaf nitrogen concentration. Fertigation of nitrogen appeared to negate major differential effects, which may have resulted from the application of mulches containing different nitrogen contents.

Soil management treatments did however affect nutrient availability. Leaf phosphorus, zinc and copper concentrations increased when biosolids were applied. Mulches with a high potassium content prevented the decline in leaf potassium concentration reported for trees grown in coarse-textured soils which are NP-fertigated. Mulches had few positive effects on leaf micronutrient nutrition and sometimes decreased leaf copper concentration. Other nonnutritional factors likely contributed to improved tree performance. These include the extent to which surface mulches conserved soil moisture and reduced tree water stress in these planting systems which normally would be considered adequately irrigated when drip irrigated daily. Changes in soil properties and hence soil quality may also be critical since populations of beneficial and deleterious soil organisms were altered by these soil management treatments.

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Spread of Apple Maggot Alarms Okanagan Fruit Growers (2007)

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By Don Plant
From: Country Life in BC, April 2007

An alien pest known as the apple maggot is on the Okanagan's doorstep and fruit growers are sounding the alarm.

The tiny insect, which defiles apples and crab apples, crossed the U.S. border into the Fraser Valley last year. The Canadian Food Inspection agency (CFIA) first detected apple maggot at several locations in Abbotsford in August 2006.

The pest has since been found in two locations (Langley and Vancouver) in the Greater Vancouver Regional District and two locations (Esquimalt and Victoria) on Vancouver Island. Growers warn it's only a matter of time before an unwary visitor brings infected fruit into the Okanagan and introduces the maggot to commercial orchards.

"We desperately need highway signage to inform the public in the Lower Mainland not to transport fruit here," said Joe Sardinha, president of the B.C. Fruit Growers Association (BCFGA).

"If the apple maggot were established here, it has the ability to undo all the work and achievements to date with the Sterile Insect Release program. It would force growers to go to a full spray program when they only have to do a minimal spray now."

The southern Interior is the only apple-growing region in North America free of apple maggots, said Hugh Philip, entomologist with the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture and Lands (BCMAL) in Kelowna. Once the insect establishes itself here, countries that import Okanagan fruit could impose trade restrictions.

Growers would deal with more culls and have to quarantine infected trees. Marketing local fruit would become a challenge, Philip said.

Experts are also worried a home gardener in the Fraser Valley or Vancouver Island may dig up a perennial plant with soil containing maggots or pupae and transport it to the Okanagan.

"Any fruit from the Coast should be checked," Philip said. "Don't bring your damn fruit here, or your infested soil. It could possibly infest ... this whole industry."

A cousin of the cherry fruit fly, the maggot bores through the flesh of an apple in late summer and leaves brown tunnels. It crawls into the ground, where it spends the winter, emerges as a fly the following summer and flies to the nearest apple tree.

An electronic sign was posted on Highway 1 near Hope last year, warning motorists against bringing fruit into the Interior. A provincial campaign is now underway to erect more signs and step up surveillance of the pest.

If you find one, bury it two feet underground, says Philip, or contact your local BCMAL office.

"We're already wrestling with codling moth and leafroller. We don't need another major pest to deal with," said BCFGA vice president Fred Steele. "We want to maintain our reputation for quality."

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Winter Injury In Okanagan Fruit Trees (2010)

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By William McPhee

"Trees which have been frost-bitten, when they are not completely destroyed,
soon shoot again, so that they immediately bear fruit."

Theophrastus (373-287BC)

Clearly there is a potential for trees to recover from winter damage. However, winter injury has been misdiagnosed and mismanaged for years in the Okanagan and resulted in significant losses.

The Okanagan, although relatively mild compared to some other parts of Canada, does experience Canadian winters and temperatures can drop significantly below zero. Although damage can be to roots, bark, buds etc., with today's technology recovery can be greatly assisted. Trees can actually withstand temperatures significantly lower than those experienced this year provided they "winter-off" prior to the arrival of the low temperatures

The extent of winter injury is greatly influenced by environmental conditions during the winter. Snow cover, temperature pattern, tree condition etc. all influence the extent of the damage that can occur.

Damage is more severe when there is no snow cover and when soils are dry. To help protect roots from freezing temperature make sure the orchard goes into the winter with soil water level up. Snow cover is not controllable but a good irrigation prior to water shut off is.

Winter root damage is easy to identify and different from pathogen damage. Freeze injury on roots results in complete rupturing of the cell integrity so that the root tissue disintegrates (Figure 1). Under dry conditions winter injured root tissues crumble like sawdust. When wetted, as when winter injured nursery stock is soaked prior to planting, the root tissues become slimy and slough off.

Trees with root damage from winter injury tend to push normally in the spring utilizing reserves within the tree. However, when there is a demand for water, usually coinciding with the first hot spell, these trees exhibit a general loss of vigour and show wilting

For maximum recovery during the season the winter injury should be diagnosed early. This is accomplished using a shovel and a little bit of no-how.

In spring new root development begins when soil temperature reach about 8 - 10oC but winter injury can and should be assessed as soon as the soil is thawed the roots can be observed and the level of response determined.

Table 1: Guide to managing trees that have suffered from winter damage.

Damage Level Within the Root System


Feeder Roots These normally are regenerated each year and not associated with significant winter injury. There should be no growth retardation Standard spring phosphorus treatment *
Secondary & Tertiary Root Damage

This indicates more severe winter damage. The extent of the damage depends on the soil temperature, soil type etc. and is important to the normal regeneration of the flush of spring feeder roots that are associated with the tips of these roots. Damage at this level may delay recovery of the roots in the spring.

A standard spring phosphorus program followed by foliar sprays in the spring as necessary.
Primary Root Damage When winter injury is severe enough there can be significant damage to the main root system and even to the crown area. Damage at this level can result in tree death or significant decline during the spring and summer. This level of damage requires an agressive recovery program. This level of damage requires an aggressive program and may require several phosphorus treatments to the soil as well as an aggressive foliar feeding program.

*Always combine a phosphorous program with a follow-up inspection to determine if soil pathogens are also of concern.

Assessing Root Damage

In high density plantings start about 60 cm (2ft) from the trunk and dig soil away gradually while moving toward the trunk area. By digging down and in this way the roots are exposed allowing one to examine them closely. It also avoids damaging the root system as much as possible. The 3 root zones to assess, as per Table 1, are shown in Figure 2.

Moderate root damage in the Okanagan is the rule rather than the exception. However, good soil and root management can have a significant impact on tree health and orchard production under all conditions. It is appropriate for growers to assess their root systems and manage them just as they manage other orchard disorders.

Contact you horticulturist or BC ministry specialist for help in assessing root condition.

Figure 1: Shown is typical major root damage due to winter injury. Tissue completely disintegrates when scraped.

Figure 2 A, B and C illustrates the levels of root damage.

A (green arrow) indicated the primary roots which are directly linked to the shank (trunk).

B (white arrows) show the second level considered here as secondary and tertiary roots.

C (red arrow) shows the feeder root level. This is the most important segment of the root system during high water demand in hot weather.

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Zinc and Boron Nutrition Management in Fertigated High Density Apple Orchards - COMPLETE PAPER (2005)

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G.H. Neilsen, D. Neilsen, E.J. Hogue and L.C. Herbert

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre, Summerland, British Columbia, Canada, V0H 1Z0.

G.H. Neilsen, D. Neilsen, E.J. Hogue and L.C. Herbert Zinc and boron nutrition management in fertigated high density apple orchards. Can. J. Plant Sci. XX: XXX-XXX. An experimental high density apple (Malus x domestica Borkh.) block (1,666 trees ha-1) on M.9 rootstock was planted in 1992 and maintained until 1996 as a randomized, replicated split-plot experiment with 5 N-K fertigation treatments, each with subplots containing 4 apple cultivars ('Gala', 'Fuji', 'Fiesta', and 'Spartan'). Management of Zn and B nutrition varied throughout the experiment ranging from no application (1992-93) to foliar applications (1994) to fertigation of 3.5g Zn tree-1 and 0.34g B tree-1 during the growing season in 1995-1996. Deficient concentrations of Zn and B were measured in leaves and 'blossom-blast' B deficiency symptoms were observed within 2 years without applications of Zn or B. Foliar application of both nutrients increased their respective leaf concentrations and ameliorated B-deficiency symptoms. Zinc-fertigation in 1995-96 failed to improve leaf Zn concentration. In contrast, B-fertigation at the same time readily increased root zone soil solution B concentrations and increased leaf B concentrations to values within the sufficient-optimum range for apple. Generally, cultivars responded similarly to B and Zn-treatments although, relative to other cultivars, 'Spartan' had higher concentrations of Zn and B in leaves and 'Fuji' had high leaf B.

Key words: fertigation, leaf boron and zinc Malus x domestica Borkh., soil solution boron


Several recent reviews have emphasized the merits of simultaneous application of water and fertilizers (often termed fertigation) as a method of improving nutrient use efficiency for micro-irrigated horticultural (Haynes 1985) and agronomic crops (Bar-Yosef 1999). Considerable research has been reported for perennial fruit crops including tart cherry (Callan and Westcott 1996), peach (Coston et al. 1978), orange (Dasberg et al. 1988) and apple (Klein et al. 1989; Hipps 1992), but the emphasis has been on applying the major fertilizer nutrients nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (Neilsen et al. 1999).

In the fruit-growing region of the Pacific Northwest of North America, fertigation-induced problems for sandy soils have included rapid soil acidification leading to nutrient imbalances such as K-deficiency (Neilsen et al. 1995b). This has stimulated the development of adaptive strategies to minimize soil acidification (Neilsen et al. 1995a) and correct K-deficiency via fertigation (Neilsen et al. 2000). Inadequate leaf micronutrient concentrations have also been observed for high density orchards receiving macronutrient fertigation (Neilsen et al., 1995b), implying that strategies for maintenance of micronutrient nutrition are also important for these production systems. Micronutrient deficiencies including boron (B) (Woodbridge 1955) and zinc (Zn) (Woodbridge 1954) have long been reported to potentially cause major growth problems for apples grown in traditional apple orchards in the region. Standard commercial production practices have been developed for both B- and Zn-nutrition and emphasize foliar sprays to correct deficiencies or maintain plant levels (British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture and Food 1998). Soil B applications can be effective due to the known mobility of B, particularly in sandy soils (Neilsen et al. 1995b). Soil applications of Zn are generally considered less effective due to Zn-adsorption by the soil (Neilsen and Hoyt 1990). The ability to effectively supply both these micronutrients via fertigation has received little systematic study despite their importance for maintaining consistent production in the region.

The objective of this study was to assess the effectiveness of fertigation to supply Zn and B for apple trees already receiving N and K via fertigation.


An experimental apple block was established in May 1992 at a 1.5m (within row) x 4m (between row) spacing with sufficient trees to allow the establishment of a randomized complete block split-plot experimental design. Five main plot fertigation treatments were comprised of four apple (Malus x domestica Borkh.) cultivars ('Gala', 'Fuji', 'Fiesta' and 'Spartan' on M.9 rootstock) planted in three-tree plots in each of the five replicates for each fertigation treatment. 'Elstar' apple trees on M.9 separated each main plot fertigation treatment and were also planted as a border completely surrounding the experimental block.

Trees were trained to a slender spindle system supported by posts and grown in a 1.5 m-wide vegetation-free strip maintained by applications of 1 kg.ha-1 glyphosate each year in early May, mid-summer and early fall. All trees received daily irrigation from about 1 May to 1 Oct. in each year via a single 4 L h-1 'Hardie' pressure-compensating drip emitter located 0.5 m from the tree trunk within the row (Hardie Irrigation, El Cajon, CA), delivering 8 L of irrigation water tree-1 day-1 . Insect and disease control procedures followed standard commercial recommendations (British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries 1998).

The experimental site was located on a Skaha loamy sand (Wittneben 1986), an Orthic Brown soil, extensively planted to orchards or vineyards in southern British Columbia. These soils have limited nutrient and water holding capacities.

From 1992-1996, main plot units consisted of five annual N-K fertigation treatments (low, medium and high rates of N with lowest and highest N applied with or without K) as previously described (Neilsen et al. 2000). The consequences of these macronutrient fertigation treatments to growth, yield, nutrition and fruit quality of apple cultivars have previously been described (Neilsen et al. 2004).

Pertinent to this discussion was the management of Zn and B nutrition from 1992-1996. For Zn, no applications were made in the first 2 years. In 1994, trees received zinc sulphate (36%) during the dormant period (silver tip to green tip stage of bud development) by air-blast sprayer at 14.4 kg Zn×ha-1. Two foliar chelate Zn applications were also made in May and June at label-recommended rates. In 1995 and 1996, Zn was fertigated weekly for a cumulative annual application rate of 3.5g Zn tree-1. Fertigation occurred from May 26 to Jul 26 in 1995 and from June 3 to June 24 in 1996. For B, no applications were made during 1992-1993. In spring 1994 two foliar applications of Solubor (20.3% B) were applied by air-blast sprayer at 1.1 kg B×ha-1 on May 4 and June 14. In 1995-96, B was fertigated daily for a cumulative annual application of 0.34 g B tree-1. Fertigation occurred from May 26 to July 26 in 1995 and from May 23 to Jul 29 in 1996.

In summer 1992, soil solution lysimeters with 2.5-cm diameter x 5-cm-long porous cups attached to plastic tubes (Irrometer Co., Riverside California) were used to monitor soil solution concentrations, primarily for NO3-N and K. The lysimeters were installed around the middle tree of each 'Gala' subplot at 30-cm depth and at a 45° angle to minimize preferential flow of irrigation and fertigation solutions down the side of the lysimeter. Soil solution samples were collected on a regular basis throughout the study during the irrigation seasons by applying a 70 KPa vacuum to the lysimeters for one hour after irrigation shut-off. Samples were analysed for B by inductively coupled argon plasma spectrophotometry during the 1995-96 irrigation seasons. In

1995, samples were collected weekly June 7- July 18 during B-fertigation and weekly Aug.2- Aug 16 after fertigation. In 1996, samples were collected before (May 21) and immediately after (May 24) the commencement of B-fertigation (May 23). During fertigation, samples were collected weekly May 28-July 23 and after the cessation of B-fertigation samples were collected Aug. 6, 13, 20 and 30.

Composite leaf samples comprised of 30 leaves from the mid-portion of extension shoots of the current year's growth were collected in mid-July of each growing season from each treatment and replicate. Samples were unwashed prior to preparation for analyses. Although washing techniques have successfully removed major nutrient deposits from sprayed fruit leaves, it has been our experience that B and Zn micronutrients are difficult to remove, possibly because of ion penetration into leaf free space (Ashby, 1969). Thus leaf B and Zn concentration were elevated by foliar sprays applied prior to sampling in 1994. All samples were oven-dried at 65°C and ground in a stainless steel mill. One-gram samples were dry-ashed at 475°C and dissolved in 0.5 M HCl prior to determination of Zn by atomic absorption spectrophotometry. A 0.5 g sample was dry- ashed at 525°C in a porcelain crucible and dissolved in 10 ml of 1.2 M HCl for determination of B by inductively coupled argon plasma spectrophotometry.

Analysis of variance was performed on all tissue B and Zn concentrations according to the experimental design using the general linear model program (SAS Institute Inc. 1989). Data were analyzed as a split-plot experimental design with a factorial arrangement of 5 N-K treatments, replicated in 5 randomized main plot rows with subplots comprised of 3 trees of each of 4 different cultivars. Data were analyzed separately by year due to annual variation in crop from year to year.



Nitrogen- and K-treatments in general had no effect on leaf Zn concentration in the 5 yrs the N-K fertigation experiment was carried out (data not shown). Cultivars differed consistently in leaf Zn concentration which was usually highest for 'Spartan' (Fig. 1). Exceptions from these general patterns occurred in 1994 when foliar Zn sprays were applied in the block. In 1994 'Spartan' leaf Zn concentrations were low and a significant interaction between K-treatment and cultivar occurred due to dilution of leaf Zn concentration from improved growth for the K-fertigated trees. The most important plant response to the N/K treatments was prevention of the development of K-deficiency by K-fertigation (Neilsen et al. 2004). Improved performance of trees receiving K was indicated by a 21.6% increase in per tree yield, 1993-96.

After two years (1992 and 1993) without Zn-application, all trees, regardless of cultivar, had leaf Zn concentrations below the 14 mg kg-1 deficiency threshold (Shear and Faust 1980) in the first year and even lower concentrations in the second year. Leaf rosetting and blind-bud, Zn-deficiency symptoms, were observed on some trees in early spring 1994 but not by mid-July. The difficulties of identification of Zn-deficiency in regions of chronic low level Zn-deficiency, as in the Pacific Northwest fruit growing region, have previously been discussed (Neilsen et al. 1988). This implies there is a rapid development of Zn deficiency concentrations under Pacific Northwest growing conditions on these soils for trees receiving N and K fertigation. The difficulty of maintaining adequate mid-summer leaf Zn concentrations in the fruit growing regions in the Pacific Northwest has previously been documented (Neilsen 1988). Macronutrient fertigation seems to aggravate the problem as indicated by the development of Zn deficiency in 12 of 19 surveyed NP-fertigated high density orchards (Neilsen et al. 1995b). The application of dormant Zn and foliar chelates in 1994 resulted in very high leaf Zn concentrations for all cultivars (Fig.1), as a result of contamination from surface residues of the foliar Zn sprays. There was very little carry-over of the effect of foliar Zn sprays on leaf Zn concentration the following year (Fig. 1). The limited residual effect of foliar and dormant Zn sprays on the next year's leaf Zn concentration has previously been documented (Neilsen and Hoyt 1990). Fertigation of 3.5 g Zn per tree in 1995 and 1996 generally did not increase leaf Zn concentration above the 14 mg kg-1 deficiency threshold for any cultivar, with the exception of 'Spartan' in 1996.


Five years of N- and K-fertigation treatments tended to decrease leaf B concentrations with significant decreases observed as rate of fertigated N increased in 1992 and 1995 and with K-fertigation, 1994-1996, the last 3 fruiting years (Neilsen et al. 2004). These relative decreases in leaf B concentration likely resulted from dilution due to growth stimulation, especially by K-fertigation. Cultivar consistently affected leaf B concentration with highest annual leaf B concentrations measured for 'Fuji' and 'Spartan' cultivars 1994-96 (Fig. 2).

Boron-nutrition was managed differently throughout the study with no B applications in the first 2 yrs. In 1992, leaf B concentrations were generally low to adequate, regardless of cultivar, and by 1993 leaf concentrations were near or below 20 mg kg-1 ( Fig. 2), considered a deficiency threshold for apple (Shear and Faust 1980). A susceptibility towards B-deficiency has long been recognized in orchards of the semi-arid, fruit-growing region of the Pacific Northwest where B-additions via organic matter mineralization or precipitation are minimal. (McLarty 1936; Woodbridge 1955). These results confirm a recent survey of drip-irrigated and NP-fertigated apple orchards which found possibly deficient leaf B concentrations in more than half of surveyed locations (Neilsen et al. 1995b). Leaf B deficiency occurred rapidly within 2 years in our research study on a sandy soil, paralleling the situation in grower orchards where problems occurred after only 2-5 years of NP-fertigation, and lowest extractable soil B values were measured in orchard soils with a high content of sand.

In spring 1994, classic B deficiency symptoms were observed as 'blossom blast' of a small percentage of flowers on all cultivars but not all trees throughout the experimental block. This disorder involves drying and shrivelling of flowers at bloom and is distinguishable from frost damage by the longer retention time of the damaged tissue on the tree. Two foliar boron sprays were subsequenty applied in early May and mid-June resulting in contaminated leaves and high leaf B concentrations by mid-summer 1994 (Fig. 2). Maintenance of B nutrition by foliar sprays is a standard commercial recommendation in interior BC orchards (British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture and Food 1998) and was apparently effective as no B-deficiency symptoms (such as corking and cracking of skin surfaces as observed in 1993) were observed on fruit harvested in fall 1994.

Fertigation of 0.34 g B per tree increased soil solution B concentrations at 0.3 m depth to values exceeding 1 mg L-1 from background values less than 0.1 mg L-1 soon after commencement of B-fertigation in both 1995 and 1996 (Fig. 3). Soil solution B concentrations returned to background values within 2-3 weeks after cessation of fertigation. The reponsiveness of soil solution B values to B-fertigation is therefore similar to the responsiveness of soil solution NO3-N concentration to N-fertigation (Neilsen et al. 1998). Like N, fertigated B is mobile within the soil and is anticipated to be similarily effective for plant uptake as fertigated N.

Leaf B concentrations in 1995 and 1996 were well above deficiency and within the sufficient-optimum range for apple (31-60 mg kg-1) for all cultivars (Fig. 2). In general, leaf B concentration also increased for all cultivars between 1995 and 1996 suggesting a need to be cautious of plant B status when supplying B by fertigation in order to prevent over-application. The narrow margin between B-toxicity and deficiency for fruit trees was recognized during early work on B-deficiency (Woodbridge 1955). More recently Hansen (1981) suggested bud damage when leaf B concentrations exceed 60 mg kg-1. There has been little fertigation research for micronutrients such as B on fruit trees (Robinson and Stiles 1993) although the possibility has been recognized (Haynes 1985). Our results from 1995 and 1996 indicate that it is possible to supply B nutritional needs of apple via fertigation but vigilance is required to avoid B toxicity.


Evidence from this experimentation on high-density apple orchards indicates that micronutrient deficiencies associated with Zn and B, and commonly observed for standard low-density orchards receiving broadcast fertilizer applications, are likely to develop rapidly when trees are fertigated with the macronutrients N and K. Deficient leaf Zn concentrations were observed within a year and deficient leaf B concentrations within 2 years for a range of fertigated apple cultivars planted in typical coarse-textured orchard soils and grown under environmental conditions typical of the semi-arid fruit growing region of the Pacific Northwest of North America.

Leaf concentrations of both Zn and B were effectively increased via foliar application . Foliar B applications ameliorated deficiency symptoms associated with 'blossom blast' in the spring and fruit corking and cracking at harvest. Fertigation of Zn as soluble zinc sulphate was ineffective at increasing leaf Zn concentration. In contrast, fertigated B was mobile within the soil and it was relatively easy to increase leaf and fruit B concentrations via fertigation of modest rates of 0.34 g B per tree. The ready response of tissue B concentrations to fertigated B suggest caution is required to select moderate B application rates in order to avoid toxicity when fertigating B.

There were minor differences in leaf Zn and B concentrations among 'Gala', 'Fuji', 'Fiesta' and 'Spartan' apple cultivars during the field trials. Nevertheless, in general, all cultivars responded similarly to B and Zn treatments including non-application or application via-foliar sprays or fertigation. This suggests general conclusions would be applicable to most apple cultivars grown under similar production conditions.


The able technical assistance of Brian Drought and Andrea Martin is appreciated as well as financial support from the Okanagan Valley Tree Fruit Authority and the Washington State Tree Fruit Research Commission.

Ashby, D.L. 1969. Washing techniques for the removal of nutrient element deposits from the surface of apple, cherry and peach leaves. J. Amer. Soc. Hort. Sci. 94:266 -268.

Bar-Yosef, B. 1999. Advances in Fertigation. Advances in Agronomy 65: 1-76.

Beyers, E. and Terblanche, J.H. 1971. Identification and control of trace element deficiencies IV Boron deficiency and toxicity. The Decid. Fruit Grower 21: 235-239.

British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture and Food. 1998. Tree fruit production guide for commercial growers. Interior districts. 1998-99 Edition. BCMAF, Victoria, B.C. 170 pp.

Callan, N.W. and Westcott, M.P. 1996. Drip irrigation for application of potassium to tart cherry. J. Plant Nutr. 19: 163-172.

Coston, D.C., Ponder, H.G. and Kenworthy, A.L. 1978. Fertilizing peach trees through a trickle irrigation system. Commun. Soil Sci. Plant Anal. 9: 187-191.

Dasberg, S., Bar-Akiva, A., Spazisky, S. and Cohen, A. 1988. Fertigation versus broadcasting in an orange grove. Fert. Res. 15: 147-154.

Hansen, P. 1981. Boron toxicity and bud development in apple trees. Dan. J. of Plant Soil Sci. 85: 405-410.

Haynes, R.J. 1985. Principles of fertilizer use for trickle irrigated crops. Fert. Res. 6: 235-255.

Hipps, N.A. 1992. Fertigation of newly planted 'Queen Cox'/M.9 apple trees: Establishment, early growth and precocity of cropping. J. Hort. Sci. 67: 25-32.

Klein, I., Levin, I., Bar-Yosef, B., Assaf, R. and Berkovitz, A. 1989. Drip nitrogen fertigation of 'Starking Delicious' apple trees. Plant Soil 119: 305-314.

McLarty, H.R. 1936. Tree injections with boron and other materials as a control for drought spot and corky core of apple. Sci. Agr. 16: 625-633.

Neilsen, D., Hoyt, P.B. and MacKenzie, A.F. 1988. Comparison of soil tests and leaf analysis as methods of diagnosing Zn deficiency in British Columbia apple orchards. Plant and Soil 105: 47-53.

Neilsen, D., Hoyt, P.B., Parchomchuk, P., Neilsen, G.H. and Hogue, E.J. 1995a. Measurement of the sensitivity of orchard soils to acidification. Can. J. Soil Sci. 75 : 391-395.

Neilsen, D., Parchomchuk, P., Neilsen, G.H. and Hogue, E.J. 1998. Using soil solution monitoring to determine the effects of irrigation management and fertigation on nitrogen availability in high-density apple orchards. J. Amer. Soc. Hort. 123: 706-713.

Neilsen, G.H. 1988. Seasonal variation in leaf zinc concentration of apples receiving dormant zinc. HortScience. 23: 130-132.

Neilsen, G.H. and Hoyt, P.B. 1990. A comparison of methods to raise zinc concentration of apple leaves. Can. J. Plant Sci. 90: 599-603.

Neilsen, G.H., Hoyt, P.B. and Neilsen, D. 1995b. Soil chemical changes associated with N-P fertigated and drip irrigated high-density apple orchards. Can. J. Soil Sci. 75: 307-310.

Neilsen, G.H., Neilsen, D., Herbert, L.C. and Hogue, E.J. 2004. Responses of apple to fertigation of N and K under conditions susceptible to the development of K-deficiency. J. Amer. Soc. Hort. Sci. 129: 26-31.

Neilsen, G.H., Neilsen, D. and Peryea, F. 1999. Response of soil and irrigated fruit trees to fertigation or broadcast application of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. HortTechnology 9: 393-401

Neilsen, G.H., Parchomchuk, P., Neilsen, D. and Zebarth, B.J. 2000. Drip-fertigation of apple trees affects root distribution and development of K deficiency. Can. J. Soil Sci. 80: 353-361.

Robinson, T.L. and Stiles, W.C. 1993. Fertigation of young apple trees to improve growth and cropping. Compact Fruit Tree 26: 61-65.

SAS Institute Inc. 1989. SAS/STAT._. User's guide, version 6. Vol. 2. SAS Institute Inc., Cary, N.C.

Shear, C.B. and Faust, M. 1980. Nutritional ranges in deciduous tree fruits and nuts. Hort. Rev. 2: 142-163.

Wittneben, U. 1986. Soils of the Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys. Min. of Environment Technical Report 18. Report No. 52. British Columbia Survey, Victoria, British Columbia.

Woodbridge, C.G. 1954. Zinc deficiency in fruit trees in the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. Can. J. Agric. Sci. 34: 545-551.

Woodbridge, C.G. 1955. The boron requirements of stone fruit trees. Can. J. of Agr. Sci. 35: 282-286.

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Zinc and Boron Nutrition Management in Fertigated High Density Apple Orchards - SUMMARY (2005)

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G.H. Neilsen, D. Neilsen, E.J. Hogue and L.C. Herbert
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre, Summerland,British Columbia, Canada, V0H 1Z0.

Click here to view the complete research paper with references.

Several recent reviews have emphasized the merits of simultaneous application of water and fertilizers (often termed fertigation) as a method of improving nutrient use efficiency for micro-irrigated horticultural and agronomic crops. Considerable research has been reported for perennial fruit crops but the emphasis has been on applying the major fertilizer nutrients nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K).

In the fruit-growing region of the Pacific Northwest of North America, fertigation-induced problems for sandy soils have included rapid soil acidification leading to nutrient imbalances such as K-deficiency. This has stimulated the development of adaptive strategies to minimize soil acidification and correct K-deficiency via fertigation. Inadequate leaf micronutrient concentrations have also been observed for high-density orchards receiving macronutrient fertigation, implying that strategies for maintenance of micronutrient nutrition are also important. Micronutrient deficiencies including boron (B) and zinc (Zn) have long been reported to potentially cause major growth problems for apples grown in the region. Standard commercial production practices have been developed for both B- and Zn-nutrition and emphasize foliar sprays to correct deficiencies or maintain plant levels. Soil B applications can be effective due to the known mobility of B, particularly in sandy soils. Soil applications of Zn are generally considered less effective due to Zn-adsorption by the soil. The ability to effectively supply both these micronutrients via fertigation has received little study despite their importance for maintaining consistent production in the region.

The objective of this study was to assess the effectiveness of fertigation to supply Zn and B for apple trees already receiving N and K via fertigation.

Materials and Methods

An experimental apple block was established in May 1992 at the Pacific Agri Food Research Station in Summerland B.C. Five main plot fertigation treatments were comprised of four apple cultivars: Gala, Fuji, Fiesta and Spartan. All trees received daily irrigation from May to October

The experimental site was located on a Skaha loamy sand, an Orthic Brown soil, extensively planted to orchards or vineyards in southern British Columbia. These soils have limited nutrient and water holding capacities.

From 1992-1996, the plots received five annual N-K fertigation treatments (low, medium and high rates of N with lowest and highest N applied with or without K). The consequences of these macronutrient fertigation treatments to growth, yield, nutrition and fruit quality of apple cultivars have previously been described (Neilsen et al. 2004).

Pertinent to this discussion was the management of Zn and B nutrition. For zinc, no applications were made in the first 2 years. In 1994, trees received zinc sulphate during the dormant period. Two foliar chelate Zn applications were also made in May and June. In 1995 and 1996, Zn was fertigated weekly. For B, no applications were made during 1992-1993. In spring 1994 two foliar applications of Boron were applied. In 1995-96, boron was fertigated.

Soil solution samples were collected on a regular basis throughout the study during the irrigation seasons. Samples were analysed for Boron during the 1995-96 irrigation seasons. Composite leaf samples were collected in mid-July of each growing season for zinc and boron analysis.

Results and Discussion


Nitrogen and Potassium treatments in general had no effect on leaf Zn concentration in the 5 years the N-K fertigation experiment was carried out. Exceptions from these general patterns occurred in 1994 when foliar Zn sprays were applied. In 1994 'Spartan' leaf Zn concentrations were low and a significant interaction between K-treatment and cultivar occurred due to dilution of leaf Zn concentration from improved growth for the K-fertigated trees. The most important plant response to the N/K treatments was prevention of the development of K-deficiency by K-fertigation. Improved performance of trees receiving K was indicated by a 21% increase in per tree yield, 1993-96.

After two years (1992 and 1993) without Zn-application, all trees had leaf Zn concentrations below the 14 mg/kg deficiency threshold in the first year and even lower concentrations in the second year. Leaf rosetting and blind-bud, Zn-deficiency symptoms, were observed on some trees in early spring 1994 but not by mid-July. The difficulties of identification of Zn-deficiency in regions of chronic low-level Zn-deficiency, as in the Pacific Northwest fruit growing region, have previously been discussed (Neilsen et al. 1988). This implies there is a rapid development of Zn deficiency concentrations under Pacific Northwest growing conditions on these soils for trees receiving N and K fertigation. The difficulty of maintaining adequate mid-summer leaf Zn concentrations in the fruit growing regions in the Pacific Northwest has previously been documented (Neilsen 1988). Macronutrient fertigation seems to aggravate the problem as indicated by the development of Zn deficiency in 12 of 19 surveyed NP-fertigated highdensity orchards (Neilsen et al. 1995b). The application of dormant Zn and foliar chelates in 1994 resulted in very high leaf Zn concentrations, as a result of contamination from surface residues of the foliar Zn sprays. There was very little carry-over of the effect of foliar Zn sprays on leaf Zn concentration the following year. Fertigation of 3.5 g Zn per tree in 1995 and 1996 generally did not increase leaf Zn concentration above the 14 mg/kg deficiency threshold.


Five years of N- and K-fertigation treatments tended to decrease leaf B concentrations with significant decreases observed as rate of fertigated N increased and with K-fertigation the last 3 fruiting years. These relative decreases in leaf B concentration likely resulted from dilution due to growth stimulation, especially by K-fertigation.

There were no B applications in the first 2 years. In 1992, leaf B concentrations were generally low to adequate, and by 1993 leaf concentrations were near or below 20 mg/kg, considered a deficiency threshold for apple. Susceptibility towards B-deficiency has long been recognized in orchards of the semi-arid, fruit-growing region of the Pacific Northwest where B-additions via organic matter mineralization or precipitation are minimal. These results confirm a recent survey of drip-irrigated and NP-fertigated apple orchards, which found possibly deficient leaf B concentrations in more than half of surveyed locations. Leaf B deficiency occurred rapidly within 2 years in our research study on a sandy soil, paralleling the situation in grower orchards where problems occurred after only 2-5 years of NP-fertigation, and lowest extractable soil B values were measured in orchard soils with a high content of sand.

In spring 1994, classic B deficiency symptoms were observed as 'blossom blast' of a small percentage of flowers on all cultivars but not all trees. This disorder involves drying and shrivelling of flowers at bloom and is distinguishable from frost damage by the longer retention time of the damaged tissue on the tree. Two foliar boron sprays were subsequently applied in early May and mid-June resulting in contaminated leaves and high leaf B concentrations by mid-summer 1994. Maintenance of B nutrition by foliar sprays is a standard commercial recommendation in interior BC orchards and was apparently effective as no B-deficiency symptoms (such as corking and cracking of skin surfaces as observed in 1993) were observed on fruit harvested in fall 1994.

Fertigation of 0.34 g B per tree increased soil B concentrations to values exceeding 1 mg/L from background values less than 0.1 mg/L in both 1995 and 1996. Soil B concentrations returned to background values within 2-3 weeks after cessation of fertigation. The responsiveness of soil B values to B-fertigation is therefore similar to the responsiveness of soil NO3-N concentration to N-fertigation. Like N, fertigated B is mobile within the soil and is anticipated to be similarly effective for plant uptake as fertigated N.

Leaf B concentrations in 1995 and 1996 were well above deficiency and within the sufficient-optimum range for apple (31-60 mg/kg). In general, leaf B concentration also increased for all cultivars between 1995 and 1996 suggesting a need to be cautious of plant B status when supplying B by fertigation in order to prevent over-application. The narrow margin between B-toxicity and deficiency for fruit trees was recognized during early work on B-deficiency. More recently Hansen (1981) suggested bud damage when leaf B concentrations exceed 60 mg/kg. There has been little fertigation research for micronutrients such as B on fruit trees. Our results from 1995 and 1996 indicate that it is possible to supply B nutritional needs of apple via fertigation but vigilance is required to avoid B toxicity.


Evidence from this experiment on high-density apple orchards indicates that micronutrient deficiencies associated with Zn and B, and commonly observed for standard low-density orchards receiving broadcast fertilizer applications, are likely to develop rapidly when trees are fertigated with the macronutrients N and K. Deficient leaf Zn concentrations were observed within a year and deficient leaf B concentrations within 2 years for a range of fertigated apple cultivars planted in typical coarse-textured orchard soils and grown under environmental conditions typical of the semi-arid fruit-growing region of the Pacific Northwest.

Leaf concentrations of both Zn and B were effectively increased via foliar application. Foliar B applications ameliorated deficiency symptoms associated with 'blossom blast' in the spring and fruit corking and cracking at harvest. Fertigation of Zn as soluble zinc sulphate was ineffective at increasing leaf Zn concentration. In contrast, fertigated B was mobile within the soil and it was relatively easy to increase leaf and fruit B concentrations via fertigation at modest rates of 0.34 g B per tree. The ready response of tissue boron concentrations to fertigated B suggest caution is required to select moderate B application rates in order to avoid toxicity when fertigating B.

There were minor differences in leaf Zn and B concentrations among Gala, Fuji, Fiesta and Spartan apple cultivars during the field trials. Nevertheless, in general, all cultivars responded similarly to B and Zn treatments including non-application or application via-foliar sprays or fertigation. This suggests general conclusions would be applicable to most apple cultivars grown under similar production conditions.


The able technical assistance of Brian Drought and Andrea Martin is appreciated as well as financial support from the Okanogan Valley Tree Fruit Authority and the Washington State Tree Fruit Research Commission. For a complete list of references, please see the entire article at here.

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Pasture Management


Alfalfa Economics to be Assessed in Grazing Demonstrations (2005)

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Following a successful year of grazing field trials and demonstrations across Western Canada in 2004, the developers of a new livestock bloat control product will now focus on the economic performance of grazing legume forages versus grass forages, says an Alberta researcher.

There will be a reduced number of on-farm trials evaluating the effectiveness of Alfasure this summer, says Dr. Merle Olson, with the University of Calgary (U of C). "We know the product works, so now our emphasis will be more on evaluating the beef production advantages, as well as the economic advantages of using forage legumes in rotation," he says.

Further analysis of 2004 data will also show the environmental benefits of producing and grazing legume forages, says Olson, a veterinarian and gastrointestinal specialist at the U of C. Working with a number of New Zealand-developed bloat control products, Olson formulated the Alfasure product for use in Canada.

Availability of an effective bloat control product opens a wide range of opportunities for Canadian beef producers who have either limited or avoided the use of forage legumes due to the high risk of animal losses from bloat.

Perennial legume crops such as alfalfa, clovers and others have long been regarded as productive and environmentally sound forages with great potential for livestock production provided the risky bloat-issue could be managed.

Alfasure is an anti-foaming agent typically supplied to grazing livestock in their drinking water. The product works as a surfactant to destabilize foam in the rumen, enabling cattle to eliminate gas.

Product testing in recent years, backed by extensive on-farm grazing trial demonstrations in 2004 involving more than 7,000 head of cattle, shows Alfasure does work under a wide range of conditions.

"The studies showed mortality was less than one animal in 100,000 grazing days," says Olson. "In all cases, except for one, losses were due to management issues. The bottom line is, if cattle get the product, they don't bloat."

Aside from the beef production standpoint, increased use of alfalfa and other perennial forages is also good for the environment. Demonstration of grazing alfalfa with the assistance of the bloat control product is partially funded by the federal Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Program for Canadian Agriculture (GHGMP).

Access to higher protein alfalfa pastures could reduce beef finishing times by as much as one month, he explains. Trials show steers grazing alfalfa were ready for a finishing feedlot 30 days sooner than cattle on grass. Reducing the length of time from birth to slaughter can reduce the amount of methane produced by cattle. As well, because alfalfa is more digestible than other forages, if grazed at the proper time, it has the potential to reduce the amount of methane animals produce per pound of forage consumed. The combined benefit is a shorter grazing period, which reduces rumen methane production.

Increasing reliance on alfalfa pastures may also help reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. Alfalfa, like other plants, captures carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through photosynthesis. Some of this carbon is cycled through the animal during feeding. Some remains in the plant and root material, eventually adding to soil organic matter levels, a key indicator of the amount of carbon stored or "sequestered" in the soil.

For more information contact:

Dr. Merle Olson
University of Calgary
Calgary, Alta.
Phone: (403) 202-2855

Pat Walker, Cattle Project Co-ordinator
Greenhouse Gas Mitigation program
Calgary, Alta.
Phone: (403) 601-8991

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Cutting and Grazing Management of Orchardgrass (2005)

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Article from PNW 502 ~ April 1999. D. Hannaway, S. Fransen, J. Cropper, M. Teel, M. Chaney, T. Griggs, R. Halse, J. Hart, P. Cheeke, D. Hansen, R. Klinger, and W. Lane. Orchardgrass (Dactylis glomerata L.). Oregon State University. Website:

Cutting and grazing management greatly influences forage quality, productivity, and persistence. Quality is most affected by maturity stage at harvest. To obtain high-quality preserved forage (hay or silage), harvest orchardgrass at early boot stage. Delaying harvest until head emergence or early bloom increases yield but reduces quality and regrowth.

Later-maturing varieties may delay harvest by 10 to 14 days, but seldom enough to avoid poor haying weather in the Pacific Northwest and other spring rainfall areas. Alternatively, the first harvest may be grazed, green chopped, or ensiled. To stimulate growth, fertilizer immediately following the initial harvest.

New Seedlings

Because orchardgrass germinates and establishes more slowly than some other cool-season grasses, new stands can be seriously damaged by overgrazing or grazing too soon. Make sure new stands are well established and approximately 10 to 12 inches tall (25 to 30 cm) before grazing or harvesting. Plants are established when they have three or four leaves and are not easily pulled out of the ground. Test by pulling on newly established plants. If they resist your pulling, livestock won't be able to remove plants by grazing.

Established Stands

Grazing and cutting management should ensure large quantities of high-quality forage, rapid regrowth, and long-lived stands. Understanding grass regrowth mechanisms and applying these important principles can achieve these objectives.

Wise management in early spring, while the grass is in the vegetative stage, ensures rapid regrowth. When in the vegetative stage, grass shoots show no sign of seed head development in the basal zone.

For pastures, good management at this stage involves allowing plants to grow to 8 to 10 inches, grazing to 2 to 4 inches, and providing a regrowth period. For hay or silage, allow plants to reach the pre-boot stage before mechanical harvest.

Splitting a shoot lengthwise with a sharp blade easily monitors progress toward seed head development. Plants are in the early transition stage when internodes at the base of the shoot have elongated and have raised the meristematic growing point (the potential seed head) to a vulnerable height.

A recovery period after cutting or grazing that allows regrowth of 8 to 10 inches (20 to 25 cm) is a reasonable rule of thumb for orchardgrass. In pastures, orchardgrass regrowth can be utilized as frequently as 14 to 21 days or may require more than 40 days, depending on grazing period, temperature, and moisture.

Under silage and green chop management systems, four to six harvests per year are common. With hay production, three harvests are obtained in addition to early spring and late fall pasturing.

In orchardgrass-legume mixtures, the legume can be reestablished, if necessary, by no-till seeding, or by overseeding during the spring, fall, or winter following close grazing or herbicide application. Some chemicals injure seedlings, so be sure to read labels and use chemicals correctly.

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Grazing Annual Forages (2007)

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There is no one 'best' method that all producers should use in their production and feeding choices. In a cow/calf business, feeding is the largest production cost. Many cow/calf managers are of the opinion that the biggest opportunity to lower the cost of producing a calf to market weight is to keep cows grazing for more than the average 150 to 200 grazing day season widely used.

"There are, however, times and places where grazing can be more expensive than some of the low cost alternate feeds. These are situations where factors such as high land ownership costs, low yield, high rent, short grazing season, high transportation costs and cheaper stored feeds, come into play," says Russel Horvey, beef/forage specialist with Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development's Ag-Info Centre, Stettler.

When it comes to winter annuals used for grazing, the most popular crops are fall rye, winter wheat and winter triticale. The more common annuals are oats and barley. There are also instances when heels of seed left over from seeding are mixed and seeded for grazing. In this case almost anything can make it into the mix for grazing, wheat, peas, canola, etc.

What are some of the pros and cons of some of the different annuals used for grazing?

"Of the winter cereals used for grazing, fall rye has an advantage of having a higher winter survival rate," says Horvey. "Fall rye will provide early spring grazing the second year more often than the other less winter-hardy winter cereals. Spring cereals, in the year of seeding, will actually produce more top growth, more quickly, than the winter cereals."

To get the best results growing annual forages, fertilizer rates should be increase by about 25 per cent. The burden of an extended growing season increases fertilizer requirements. These crops grow well into the fall, as opposed to a crop that ripens in August.

"Annual forages also have the potential for improved water use efficiency," says Horvey. "More of the moisture received during the growing season can be used for growth, assuming the plants are in a green, vegetative state throughout the growing season. This increased potential for growth, from the same amount of rainfall, means that the plants will require additional nutrients for additional growth."

Producers may also want to consider legume crops as grazing annual forages. Legume crops can be used to offset some of the nitrogen fertilizer requirements. Sweet clover is a legume worthy of consideration.

"When using sweet clover as the legume of choice keep in mind that it is a bi-annual that produces less vegetation the first year," says Horvey. "During its second year, it will require fairly heavy grazing or early cutting for feed, to prevent it from getting too coarse. Sweet clover also creates some weed control challenges for the two years this legume is in the stand."

Annuals at their most vegetative stage will be high in protein and low in fiber. Feeds high in protein and low in fiber can cause a condition in cattle called high blood urea. This condition can cause an acidic condition in the reproductive tract resulting in reduced conception rates. Putting out feeds lower in protein content and higher in fiber content can reduce the risk of this condition. This is another reason for seeding annuals such as oats or barley in with fall rye or other winter annuals that will be used for grazing. Allowing the annual cereals to elongate provides vegetation with more fiber and lower protein.

Russel Horvey 1-866-882-7677
Source: Alberta Agriculture ... Ropin the Web

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Pasture Management

Pasture Fertilization in the Bulkley Valley (2012)

Based on the Results of a Local Demonstration Trial by the Smithers Farmers' Institute


Despite good intentions, it is common for well-used, older hay fields and pastures to get nutritionally depleted over time. This is partially resolved in the Bulkley Valley by the application of chemical fertilizer and/or livestock manure.

Chemical fertilizer may be cost-prohibitive for many producers. As a result, there is an interest in determining the efficacy of manure applications for maintaining or enhancing forage productivity on older pastures.

The primary purposes of this demonstration trial were:

  • to see if there is a visible difference in pasture productivity when commercial fertilizer blends are compared with horse and cattle manure applications,
  • to compare the timing of fertilizer applications between spring and fall, and
  • to examine ways to reduce environmental risk when using manure as fertilizer.

Fertilization Options in the Bulkley Valley

Chemical Fertilizers

Custom blend fertilizers are formulated based on soil test results. Depending what goes into them, custom blends may be more expensive to buy initially, but they are more cost effective in the long run as you only pay for what you need.

Generic fertilizers (usually 34-0-0-11 for grass pastures) are readily available. The most obvious response when using this fertilizer is the immediate uptake of nitrogen. The disadvantage to using this fertilizer is that it does not ensure long-term soil health or increase the productivity of legume pastures.


Livestock manure provides an inexpensive source of nutrients and organic matter. It is most cost effective when sourced from the same farm and applied on pastures close to the manure source. Fall applications of cattle and horse manure were the most effective treatment type in this Demonstration Trial. Although only some of the nutrients in manure are available for immediate plant uptake, the high organic matter content provides a long-term source of nutrients, helps to maintain soil moisture and improves soil structure.

Demonstration Trial Results

  • Forage biomass noticeably increased in the strips with the fall applications of cattle and horse manure, followed by the custom blend chemical fertilizer;
  • Natural variation in soil nutrients and differences in vegetation was observed throughout both sites used in the trial; 
  • Control strips (no fertilizer) were lower in all the macronutrients at the end of the trial;
  • Final soil test results indicated that the dairy cattle manure used was likely low in sulphur;
  • Phosphorus was nearing excessive levels in some areas on one site due to long-term manure applications. Regular soil testing would ensure that the rate of manure applied to this field could be reduced if necessary; and
  • The majority of the fertilizer regimes increased forage productivity, especially on the site that was very nutrient deficient.

Conclusions & Recommendations

Overall the trial was a success! At both sites, the increase in forage productivity from the cattle and horse manure applications was equal or greater to the chemical fertilizer. Although the 34-0-0-11 fertilizer performed well, the custom fertilizer outperformed it by the end of the trial.

The results of the demonstration trial were definitely impacted by the weather. Both of the 2009 and 2010 growing seasons were relatively hot and dry, limiting re-growth of the pasture forage.

Soil testing at the end of the trial indicated that both sites were still very nitrogen deficient. If these pastures are going to be used extensively, additional fertilizer is recommended to achieve optimal pasture productivity. When this is not economically feasible, rotational grazing would more evenly distribute the nutrient deposition from manure and urine.

The positive impact that the livestock manures had on the forage vegetation really emphasized that using manure as a fertilizer may ultimately increase pasture production, and thus improve overall economic viability.


This project was funded in part by the Investment Agriculture Foundation of BC through Agriculture and Agri‐Food Canada’s Advancing Canadian Agriculture and Agri‐Food (ACAAF) program. The BC Ministry of Agriculture was another important partner in this project. This project was sponsored and funded by the Smithers Farmers’ Institute. Other funding support came from the Bulkley Valley Cattlemen’s Association, the Pleasant Valley Cattlemen’s Association and the Northern Saddle Club. This project would not have been possible without the generous in-kind contributions of Al and Rosalie Brandsma and Rene and Joyce Dieleman, Paul Davidson, Matthew Taylor, Norm Dueck, Smithers Feed, Mark Perry and Jane Lloyd-Smith, and Chris Hassell. Finally, thank you to Eileen Ewald for helping with the field portion of this trial.

Agriculture and Agri‐Food Canada, the BC Ministry of Agriculture and the Investment Agriculture Foundation of BC, are pleased to participate in the delivery of this project. They are committed to working with their industry partners to address issues of importance to the agriculture and agri‐food industry in British Columbia.

For more information or for a copy of the full report, please contact:

Smithers Farmers’ Institute
17970 Quick East Road
Telkwa, BC V0J 2X2
Phone: (250) 846-9416


Pasture Management (2005)

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BCMAFF - Grazing Management Factsheet #9

Pasture Management - Click here to view entire article in pdf format.

Pasture Mixes
Mixes are more common in pasture seedings, and are often more complex, with many species being included on the theory that given the variable conditions that often occur in pastures (e.g. wet areas, hilltops, etc.) the species most adapted to a particular part of the pasture will eventually dominate. Unfortunately, what usually happens is a great many species will try to grow initially, usually at the expense of the most productive species. The primary recommendation for pasture mixes is to keep it simple, with no more than 2 to 4 species in the mix.

For irrigated pasture for sheep or cattle, orchardgrass with either white or red clover or alfalfa is recommended. Although alfalfa is initially more productive than the clovers, it is less tolerant of grazing and soon disappears from pastures. White or ladino clover, at 25 percent (maximum) of the seed mix with orchardgrass is recommended for well drained soils.

On heavier more acidic soils, red clover may survive and produce better than white clover, but is shorter lived. In areas with good snow cover, where winterkill is not a problem, perennial ryegrass makes excellent pasture. However, for most parts of the Southern Interior of British Columbia, it is not reliably winter-hardy.

Tall fescue is a new grass species for the Southern Interior area of British Columbia. Tall fescue is similar to orchardgrass in yield, but has the advantage of maintaining feed quality longer into the fall and winter, making it well suited for extended grazing systems.

One of the disadvantages of tall fescue is lower palatability during the growing season than orchardgrass. It is also important to use only forage variety tall fescue, and not turf varieties. Turf varieties have endophytes (a type of fungus), which increases hardiness and resistance to trampling, but can be toxic to livestock, especially horses.

Regular meadow bromegrass, although not common in this area, has good potential as a pasture grass. Its main attribute is early spring growth, but it has less late season production than orchardgrass.

For horse pasture, where rate of gain is not the major objective, Kentucky bluegrass/white clover should be considered. Although less productive than orchardgrass, it is more tolerant of close grazing and can reduce chances of founder and obesity in horses. The low growth habit of white clover is also well adapted to close grazing.

Intensive Irrigated Pasture Management
Intensive management of irrigated pasture has the potential to provide a good economic return with minimal machinery investment.

Intensive management of fertilizer, irrigation and grazing is required to obtain the best returns per unit of land area.

General principles of pasture management are presented below:

  • Orchardgrass seed at 15-20 pounds per acre (with 2-3 pounds of clover or alfalfa) is the main grass species recommended for irrigated pasture in the Southern Interior of British Columbia.
  • Initial fertilizer use should be determined by a soil test prior to seeding.
  • Subsequent fertilization will normally be nitrogen; it is recommended that approximately 50 pounds per acre of nitrogen fertilizer should be applied at monthly intervals throughout the grazing season.
  • Stocking rate varies depending on pasture productivity. Productive irrigated pasture in this area should support 2-3 head of yearling cattle for 120-150 days.
  • Stock intensity (which is the number of animals per acre at any one time) should be 10 animals per acre or greater to ensure even utilization of the forage, and to minimize selective grazing.
  • To achieve the recommended stock intensity, pasture subdivision (fencing) is required. Although opinions vary as to the number of pastures required, the minimum number recommended to maximize production is 8 pastures. Fewer than this result in the forage plants being re-grazed too soon. It is also important to note that more pastures increase fencing costs and require more labour, without necessarily increasing production.
  • Keep grazing management flexible - the grazing rotation time will vary from spring to fall, depending upon the rate of forage growth (fast growth equals fast rotation).
  • Consider supplementary feeding (e.g. grain) when pasture growth slows in late summer, or include annual pastures in the rotation to provide increased grazing in late summer and fall.
  • Match your pasture management system to your livestock requirements - yearling cattle will have different nutritional requirements than cow-calf, therefore different grazing management is required.

Seeding Rate Recommendation
One of the most frequent questions asked is "How much should I seed ?" Although seeding rates are important, especially as they normally represent a significant cash output, the ultimate success of a seeding is much more dependent on other factors such as irrigation, fertility and harvest or grazing management.

Seeding rates are expressed in units of weight per unit of area (e.g. kg/ha or lb./acre) but the number of seeds in a given unit of weight varies tremendously (for example alfalfa contains approximately 440,000 seeds per kg, timothy 2,700,000 seeds per kg.). If alfalfa is seeded at 10 pounds per acre this is a density of 46 seeds per square foot; timothy at 10 pounds per acre would have over 270 plants per square foot. A medium seeding density is 50 seeds per square foot. Obviously, not all seeds germinate and grow, but in an established alfalfa field, 4 to 5 plants per square foot is normal. It is apparent that following good management practices at seeding time and throughout the establishment year is important to obtain a good stand.

The following seeding rates assume a good seed bed and adequate irrigation and weed control during the establishment season. Higher seeding rates may result in a greater establishment year yield, but research has shown that yield differences are not significant in subsequent years.

Dryland seeding rates are typically lower as fewer plants can be supported by the available moisture.

(Please open article in pdf format to view seeding rate recommendation tables.)

For further information please contact:
Darren Bruhjell, PAg, CPRM BC Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries
Phone: (250) 371-6058

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Pasture Rejuvenation and Weed Control (2014)

by Duane McCartney - Forage Beef Systems Research Scientist (retired) Lacombe, Alberta.

Grazing is still the cheapest way to raise beef cattle. However pasture productivity still needs to be addressed on most farms. Overgrazing is still the biggest cause of low forage production on these grazing lands. In most cases cows have grazed the forage right down to the ground resulting in low productivity grasses (Kentucky Blue grass and Creeping Red Fescue) domination the grazing lands. This is one of the biggest issues that must be addressed by to the grazing industry in the future.

They are not making any more land! With the high prices for oil seed crops and some grain crops beef producers are caught in a dilemma. Do they break up forage lands and seed these higher priced crops? If Canada is to maintain or increase the current amount of beef production then it will have to be done on less land and this means that pasture productivity in the future will have to be substantially increased. Research at Lacombe Research Centre, Semi Arid Prairie research Centre at Swift Current as well as provincial Universities are trying to address this critical issue.

So what does the research tell us about pasture management and pasture rejuvenation.

Many years ago, the late Dr Alex Johnston , Lethbridge research Centre showed that you get as much root mass below the ground as you have forage biomass above the ground. It’s the root system that drives the pasture productivity. If you don’t have adequate root mass then you will not get the forage productivity. By grazing the sward often with little rest periods the forage plants will not recover from grazing. Dr Jim Romo Range Scientist from University of Saskatchewan says “What we do before grazing is more important than what we do during grazing.” The length of the rest period before grazing is critical for growth.

Research has shown that meadow brome grass and alfalfa pastures is one of the most productive forage stands available in the Aspen parkland for forage production and grazing. Researchers at Brandon, Saskatoon, Melfort and Lacombe have all shown this result. They have also shown the big forage yield increases when nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizer are applied to the pasture sward. This information is readily available on

The question beef producers must address is: How do I rejuvenate my worn out pastures? Forage researchers across Canada have all shown that annual fertilizer application will greatly increase forage production. Take a look at what it costs to rent pasture in your area and add in the cost of trucking cattle to these pastures, the shrink loss, the labour and time required to travel and look after these cattle compared to the cost of the increased forage production from fertilizer application on pasture that is on your farm.

Researchers at Lacombe and Brandon have shown the increased value of adding alfalfa into the pasture sward. In meadow brome alfalfa mixtures with 40% alfalfa, the alfalfa fixed about 90 kg/ha N and left about 38 kg/ha annually in the roots and litter for uptake by the plant community. They basically saved the equivalent of in excess of 100 kg N/ha of fertilizer-N.

Breaking and reseeding is one way of changing the forage composition in an old worn out pasture. Research at Melfort has evaluated many different methods of reseeding old worn out pastures. We found that the newly reseeded pasture eventually reverted back to the old original pasture mix due to the large seed bank in old pastures. It is recommended that when breaking up old pasture stands a grain crop be seeded for a couple of years prior to re seeded with forages. There has been some interest in renovating old pastures by seeding a grain crop for swath grazing crop into the old existing pasture. This could be done over a number of years until the field is basically clean and then reseeding to a forage mixture. Glyphosate herbicide could be used on the initial stand to suppress the existing vegetation before the swath grazing crop is seeded.

Sod seeding is another method of incorporating a legume in to the stand. Extensive research has been done by Dr John Waddington and Dr Gary Bowes in Saskatchewan and by Fraser Stewart of Manitoba Agriculture. This research has been summarized in a review paper called Pasture Rejuvenation.  A Review by Waddington and is available on in the section on Pasture rejuvenation and in the publication “Sod Seeding” available from Manitoba Agriculture. In addition the following research papers have been published:
Bakker, Wilson, Christian, Li, Waddington, 2003, Ecol Applic 13; 137-153
Schellenberg, Waddington, 1997, CJPS 77: 573-578
Bakker, Christian, Wilson, Waddington, 1997, JRM 50: 156-159
Schellenberg, Waddington, King, 1994, CJPS 74: 293-301
Schellenberg, Waddington, King, 1994, CJPS 74: 539-542
Waddington, 1992, JRM 45: 483-487
Malik, Waddington, 1990 CJPS 70: 261-267
Waddington, Bowren, 1976, CJPS 56: 985-988

There is a great deal of practical and scientific information on pasture rejuvenation available on on various aspects of this topic.

Across western Canada weeds on grazing lands has become a major issue. The following is a review of the current knowledge on weed control on grazing lands.

Canadian Thistle control using grazing management

Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense) is considered by livestock producers to be the most problematic pasture weed on the Canadian prairie. Canada thistle roots spread about 1-2 m per year but can extend 6 m. Root pieces as small as half a cm long can produce viable plants. Canada thistle is a very aggressive weed and takes light, moisture and nutrients from the surrounding forage plants. This results in forage yield losses approached a 2:1 ratio, meaning an increase in thistle biomass of 1 kg/ha reduced forage yield by 2 kg/ha.

Dr Ed Bork and his many graduate students at the University of Alberta have evaluated Canada thistle responds to the intensity and frequency of defoliation of surrounding plants. Four grazing strategies were implemented to control Canada Thistle on fertilized and unfertilized sites and cumulative grass production was measured for three years. The study involved clipping forages around thistles to isolate the effect of selective grazing. Continuous clipping down to a height of approximately one inch every 14 days mimicked maximum stress on forages ie continuous grazing and resulted in the lowest grass production on fertilized and unfertilized pastures sites.. High-intensity/low-frequency sites were clipped to approximately one inch every six weeks and provided the second-highest grass production. This showed that rest is critical to rebuilding forage leaf area, root mass and stems. Deferred grazing sites were clipped once at the end of the growing season (mid-August) following unimpeded growth throughout the summer.

The highest forage biomass came from fertilized and unfertilized plots in the deferred grazing sites, which were left to grow for the entire summer. Thistle biomass was highest in the continuous system, followed by the Low-intensity/high-frequency, High-intensity/low-frequency and deferred systems, due to strong competition between the weed population and adjacent forage.

In another study High-intensity/low-frequency, Low intensity /High frequency and continuous systems were grazed by cattle at four locations for three years. Thistle density remained stable in excess of 32 stems per square meter when cattle had repeated access to plants in the continuous system. Low intensity /High frequency grazing was managed to achieve 40 per cent utilization with two weeks of rest between grazing periods. It provided limited thistle control with 24 thistle stems per square metre by the end of the third year. Cattle in the High-intensity/low-frequency system were allowed to graze 70 to 80 per cent of the forage, which took about five days, and the pasture was then rested for six weeks. This provided the best thistle suppression with fewer than two thistle plants per square meter remaining after three years.

The High-intensity/low-frequency system was most effective because the recovery period was sufficient for the grasses to remain competitive and cattle didn’t selectively graze around thistles to the same extent as in the other systems and actually removed thistle by consuming it at a rate of 1400 lbs./ac. Cattle didn’t reject thistles under High-intensity/low-frequency grazing because periodic defoliation kept most of them at the early growth stage (rosette) when they are most palatable and nutritious, with crude protein content of 18.6 per cent and total digestible nutrients of 83 per cent. The cattle consumed some thistle in the Low intensity /High frequency system, but not enough to provide effective control.

Cattle didn’t touch the thistles in the continuous grazing system, letting them advance to the late-flowering-to-fluff stage. By this time, the weed had more stem, is pricklier and became harder for animals to eat and digest than young thistles.

A year after producers had reverted back to continuous grazing, the thistles had not recovered on the High-intensity/low-frequency pastures, suggesting that control was achieved above and below ground. The thistle population was struggling to recover and a big increase in total forage productivity was still evident. This is a rare win-win situation because the greatest thistle control coincided with the grazing system that gave the best production and best utilization of thistle.

Canadian Thistle control using herbicides and fertilizer

Dr Ed Bork team conducted earlier field studies on thistle-infested tame grass and grass-legume pastures. They broadcast applications of 29-13-3-4 fertilizer at the rate of 335 pounds per acre (lbs./ac.) in each of three years and increased productivity of desirable forage by an average of 76 per cent, however thistle productivity also increased by 26 per cent.

Four broadleaf herbicides were compared for effectiveness in removal of thistles from permanent pasture: Grazon, Dyvel DS, Lontrel and 2,4-D. Each was applied singularly on pasture plots in early to mid-July. Two months later, all products had reduced the thistle population compared to the unsprayed checks. Two years later, all sites that had received herbicide treatments still had lower thistle densities compared to the checks. The lowest thistle densities were in areas sprayed with Grazon and Lontrel.

The recommended time for application occurs when the majority of thistles are at the bud or early-flowering stage. This is when transport of herbicide to the roots will be most efficient and plant energy reserves will be low, weakening its ability to rebound and reducing its vigor. Control will be most effective when there is adequate leaf area to absorb the herbicide.

Though none of the herbicides require removal of beef cattle from pastures, some do have restrictions on removal of animals from treated fields prior to slaughter and the restrictions are tighter for dairy cattle immediately following treatment. Producers must follow label recommendations.

Without fertilization, the herbicide treatments resulted in an average 36 per cent increase in forage production, which translated into 985 lbs./ac. of additional forage. Forage production on fertilized sites was highest and increased by 1,234 lbs./ac. following herbicide treatment. Weakening the weed population with herbicide allows the grasses to benefit from fertilizer and compete rigorously to further suppress the weed.

Wiping for Thistle Control

The use of weed wipers for controlling thistle with herbicides was evaluated as weed wipers apply a relatively concentrated herbicide through a saturated sponge, wick, or carpet, directly onto weeds. For successful use of wipers the target weed (e.g. Canada thistle) must be taller than the surrounding forage. Grazing will reduce the height of the forage plants and leave taller weeds behind. Wipers have two potential advantages, including a reduction in the amount of herbicide used (per unit area) compared to broadcast spraying, and the retention of desirable plants (legumes and grass) in the understory that may be susceptible to the herbicide. To date, the only herbicide with recommended label specifications for applying herbicide with a wiper is glyphosate (i.e. Roundup)

Wiping with glyphosate resulted in a marked reduction in thistle density. However, the reduction in thistle also coincided with a reduction in grass biomass and increased forbs which were largely annual, weedy species. The loss of grass biomass appeared to result from the application of glyphosate to grasses that escaped grazing and were hidden within the taller thistle canopy, and were therefore exposed to herbicide. Where this occurred, dead patches of grass were evident. In addition, the patchy removal of grasses appeared to allow short-lived, weedy annual and biennial species (e.g.flixweed, stinkweed, pigweed, lamb’s quarters, etc.) to germinate and increase in abundance. Thus, although wiper applied glyphosate was effective in reducing thistle,it also reduced forage production and increased undesirable annual weeds.

In a recent study by Ed Bork and his graduate students they looked at the relationships between regenerating Canada thistle and neighboring White clover and Kentucky Blue Grass seedlings. They found that thistle was a superior competitor to both forage species, although thistle was more susceptible to competition from White clover than Kentucky Blue Grass seedlings. Similarly, impacts of thistle on both forage species indicated White clover was more resistant to decreases in growth with increasing Canada thistle presence, and was likely to incur smaller reductions in forage biomass. These findings highlight the need to ensure newly seeded pastures are free of live thistle root fragments to maximize subsequent forage establishment. The inclusion of White clover appears to enhance early suppression of Canada thistle, at least relative to monocultures of Kentucky Blue Grass and could therefore provide an additional benefit to including this legume in newly seeded pasture mixes.

For additional information go to Canadian Cattlemen Magazine, Canadian …and proud of it. Canadian Cattlemen magazine Aug 2014 pg 16 and go to Range Management, Invasive Plant Species Control section for Dr Bork’s research information.

Other references:

Interspecific Relationships between White Clover, Kentucky Bluegrass, and Canada Thistle during Establishment Danielle T. Gabruck, Edward W. Bork, Linda M. Hall, Jane R. King, and Donald D. Hare. Agronomy Journal 105 #6 2013

Neighbor defoliation regulates Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense) in pasture by mediating interspecific competition Sue L. De Bruijn, Edward W. Bork*, Chad W. Grekul. Crop Protection 29 (2010) 1489:1495

Extended pasture forage sward responses to Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense) control using herbicides and fertilization Edward W. Bork_, Chad W. Grekul1, Sue L. DeBruijn. Crop Protection 26 (2007) 1546–1555.

Control of Absinth wormwood

Absinth wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) is a challenging weed to control in tame hay and pastures. It is a long-lived perennial herbaceous plant with a woody base. Individual plants grow 40 to 100 cm tall. Leaves are silvery-pubescent. The plant is easily recognized through its characteristic sage odor. Absinth was originally introduced from Eurasia and was recognized as a serious weed as early as 1954. Absinth is found throughout Canada but is most abundant on the Prairies. It is a noxious weed which must be prevented from expansion. Once established, absinth is very difficult to eradicate. Cattle will not graze it by choice and heavy infestations reduce forage production and quality. If dairy cattle consume absinth on pasture or in hay, milk will be tainted.

In Saskatchewan an ADOPT funded project lead by Dr. Bart Lardner, Western Beef Development Centre and and Nadia Mori, MSc., P.Ag Regional forage specialist Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture demonstrated the use of six different herbicide options and their effectiveness up to 12 months following treatment. Spraying of 2,4-D ester 700, Banvel II, Restore II, Reclaim, Grazon, and Rejuvera XL took place between the last week of June and first week of July 2012 for a total of four demonstration sites. Results across sites reflected the variability in initial absinth canopy cover present and variability in herbicide effectiveness associated with application timing, equipment, and stand maturity. It is important to note that any broadleaf herbicide application will result in the eradication of beneficial forage legumes present. The loss of the beneficial effects of forage legumes on feed quality and soil fertility will need to be weighed against potential benefits of weed control. Absinth control was not effective in 2,4-D treated plots and the need for multiple seasons of application will cumulate the cost of this herbicide choice. Banvel II provided more effective control compared to 2,4-D but absinth plants were found at all demonstration sites 12 months following herbicide application. Restore II, Reclaim, and Grazon all provided good control with only minor absinth occurrences noted following treatment. Rejuvera XL provided good control at three of the four sites. Based on cost, residual weed control provided, and label recommendation, Restore II would likely be the product of choice when considering longer term absinth wormwood control. For any herbicide options considered, the Guide to Crop Protection should be consulted for product application information and restrictions. Results of this demonstration project are available on Sask. Agric webinar and from the final report available from Western Beef Development Centre.

Control of Scentless chamomile

Scentless chamomile (Matricaria perforata) is an invasive weed which is a problem in both cultivated land and perennial forage stands. Scentless chamomile is an annual that can act like a biennial or short-live perennial. It’s often confused with another invasive plant, oxeye daisy, because the white flowers with prominent yellow buttons are almost identical. The most visible difference is the fine, carrot-top-like leaves of scentless chamomile. This weed blooms continuously and the seeds germinate throughout the growing season. Fall seedlings can over-winter in the rosette stage. Cattle avoid grazing scentless chamomile, however sheep and goats, readily consume it. Scentless chamomile seeds can survive digestion in the rumen.

There are some chemical control options available for annual crops, however most or all of these chemical options also kill alfalfa plants limiting their usefulness in forage crops. There are also two main biological control agents that control scentless chamomile, including stem gall midge (Rhopalamyia tripleurospermi) and seed head feeding weevils (Omphalapion hookeri). However, biological control options are not widely known amongst producers and the availability may be limited.

With the assistance of ADOPT funding, the Saskatchewan Forage Council demonstrated the relative effectiveness of chemical and biological controls on scentless chamomile in perennial pastures. Three chemical controls (Restore, Reclaim and Refine-M) and two biological controls (stem gall midge and seed head feeding weevil) were utilized in perennial pastures. Restore and Reclaim were found to effectively control scentless chamomile with Refine-M less effective at killing this weed. At the two sites alfalfa was effectively killed by Restore and Refine and was injured, although not completely killed by Refine-M. Biological controls using seed-head feeding weevil and stem gall midge did not demonstrate any measureable control of scentless chamomile however longer-term evaluation is necessary to fully evaluate the effectiveness of biological controls. As biological methods do not injure alfalfa, these methods may be desirable as part of ongoing control of scentless chamomile in mixed grass/alfalfa stands.

In other studies mowing prevented initial seed set but buds grew from side branches below the cutting height. Ensiling fields with large infestations showed mixed results. The full report is available from Sask. Forage Council or on the Sask Agric webinar.

Biological Control of weeds

Biological control covers two key concepts: the deliberate use of a weed's "natural enemies" to suppress its population and the use of these live organisms to maintain this lower population density. A weed's natural enemies may be arthropods (insects, mites and their relatives), bacteria or fungi. These "control agents" feed upon or cause disease in the weed, thereby limiting its growth, reproduction and spread. There are two distinct primary approaches to weed biocontrol: classical and inundative.

Classical (inoculative) biocontrol involves the release of a relatively small number of control agents. These agents feed on the weed, reproduce and gradually suppress the weed as their population grows. For this approach, arthropods are generally used as control agents.

Inundative biocontrol. In this type of biological control, large quantities of a control agent, generally a pathogen (a bacteria or fungus that causes disease in a weed) are applied to weeds in much the same manner as a chemical herbicide would be.

Biological control can be used in areas that do not allow for chemical/mechanical removal such as near water bodies. Saskatchewan Agriculture and the West Central Forage Association have excellent information on the use of biological controls. The Chinock Applied Research Association also initiated a research trial using Stem-Mining Weevil to control Canada thistle.

The Canada thistle stem-mining weevil (Hadroplontus litura, formerly Ceutorhynchus litura) occurs naturally in France, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Britain, and southern Scandinavia. It was first introduced into Canada as a biological pest control agent in 1965 and into the US in the early 1970s.

Eggs are laid in the mid-vein of the rosette leaves in early spring, and hatch after five to nine days. Larvae internally mine the inside of the stem of the thistle plant as the shoot elongates during the summer. Fully developed larvae will exit the plant at the root and enter the soil to pupate. They will emerge again in their adult form later in the summer, and feed on thistle leaves before winter. Adults will over winter in the soil, ready to attack the emerging thistle the following spring. The adults are cold hardy and can tolerate wet spring snow storms, and some light flooding, without difficulty.

When the larvae mine the stem, they consume plant tissue, and leave exit holes when they emerge, which may allow other micro-organisms to enter the thistle stem, with adverse consequences for the thistle.

There have been questions about these biological control insects becoming invasive. All biological control agents have to be approved and would not be allowed in the country, if they were a risk to agricultural crops. The host range of the weevil is restricted to C. arvense and some Carduus species (plumeless thistles, but not nodding thistle).

Evaluating the effectiveness of insects to control some of the worst weeds on the prairies is the focus of much research by Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food, Manitoba Agriculture, the Alberta Research Council and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, in cooperation with agencies from around the world.

Control of Leafy Spurge

Leafy Spurge (Euphorbia esula) is a deep-rooted, noxious perennial weed that was accidentally introduced to North America in the early 1800's . The plants grow to a height of 1 meter, have long, thin, dark green leaves and can be identified from a distance by their distinctive yellow-green flowers. Since its introduction, it has spread to become a very serious problem on rangeland, pasture and grassland throughout the southern prairies and is gradually working its way north.

Leafy spurge is very competitive and easily out-competes many forage and native plant species. The juice of the plant is white, milky latex that may cause mouth and throat blistering in cattle and contact dermatitis in people. Ingestion of large amounts of leafy spurge has been suspected of causing death in cattle.

Cattle avoid spurge-infested areas, greatly reducing the livestock carrying capacity of infested range and pastureland. Leafy spurge has proven to be very difficult and expensive to control with herbicides and virtually impossible to control with cultural techniques.

The most successful insect to be used in the prairies is the black dot spurge beetle (Aphthona nigriscutis). Release of these insects on leafy spurge has resulted in a 99 per cent reduction in spurge stand density in one area and a corresponding 30-fold increase in grass biomass after four years. Each adult female is capable of producing about 150 offspring in a growing season. This control agent does best in dry, sandy soils.

The Foothills Forage Association have had success in using beetles to control leafy spurge.

Common Tansy

Common Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) is being evaluated as a possible candidate for biological control.

The first pathogen to be registered as a bioherbicide was the fungus Colletotrichum gloeosporioides f.sp malvae for control of round-leaved mallow (Malva pusilla) in field crops. This bioherbicide was formerly licensed for commercialization under the tradename BioMal. Currently, it is licensed to Encore Technologies LLC with a tradename to be determined for commercial release in the near future.

Other target weeds for inundative biological control are wild oat, green foxtail, Canada thistle, cleavers and scentless chamomile. Additional information can be found on under Invasive Species.

Management of White Cockle

White cockle (Silene alba or Silene pratensis) is a biennial to short-lived perennial plant introduced to North America from Europe in the 19th century. It now occurs across northern U.S. and in every province of Canada, including the Peace River region of Alberta and B.C.

White cockle is dioecious, meaning it has separate male and female plants. Two year and older plants flower from June through September with seeds maturing 4 to 6 weeks after flowering. Unfortunately, white cockle can re-flower after being mowed. It mainly spreads by seed and white cockle can produce up to 24,000 seeds per plant. Most white cockle mature seeds can germinate immediately, but they do require light for germination, and thus can remain dormant for extended periods of time if the seed is buried. One of the main means of spread is as a contaminant in crop seed or in hay. It is particularly a problem in alfalfa, clover and timothy seed as the white cockle seed is difficult to remove in the cleaning process The most significant damage occurs in establishing forage crops where the weed out-competes forage seedlings, resulting in thin, weedy stands.

White cockle can be differentiated from similar looking plants: it doesn’t have the sticky flower heads of night-flowering catchfly, it isn’t hairless like bladder campion and it doesn’t have the pink flowers of cow cockle.

White cockle is especially difficult to control in forage stands containing alfalfa or other legumes where few herbicides are registered and herbicide application may injure the legume.

As white cockle is resistant to most herbicides, including 2,4-D, MCPA, Embutox and Tropotox Plus, it is important to investigate alternative means or an integrated approach to managing this weed. White cockle is recognized as a “sun-lover” and the seeds require light in order to germinate. These two facts suggest that increasing forage competition may provide an alternative cost effective means of managing this weed.

Previous research conducted by Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development in central Alberta has shown that an integrated approach of using fertility and herbicides together can successfully manage problem perennial weeds in pastures and hay land. Not only is it possible to manage such weeds as toadflax, common tansy, wild caraway, dandelion and ox-eye daisy with an integrated approach using competition, but there is the added benefit of increased forage yields. The aim with this research was to develop suitable cost effective measures of managing white cockle grass hay fields and pastures.

Express SG herbicide looks promising for long term white cockle management in grass pastures and hay land, especially when fertilizer to soil test recommendation is surface applied about the same time as the Express SG is applied. The fertilizer application had the most effect on the white cockle in the year of application where the combination of fertilizer and effective herbicide significantly reduced white cockle shoot numbers over herbicide or fertilizer alone. In fact, unsprayed white cockle responded very well to fertilizer application by doubling the shoot numbers.

The tolerance of the different grasses to Express SG still needs to be verified. Preliminary results indicate that meadow and smooth bromegrass are tolerant to Express SG applications but timothy may show some stunting. Express SG will damage legume crops but alfalfa is not usually killed and will usually come back to full yield the following season. However,there is nothing selective that will control white cockle and preserve forage legumes in pasture other than mowing female plants off to prevent seed set.

Additional information is available from E. I. du Pont Canada Company and Parkland County

Control of Foxtail Barley

Foxtail barley (Hordeum jabatum) is major weed detrimental to both field crop and livestock production. The plant invades disturbed pastures, hayfields and cultivated land alike and has proven difficult to control, especially in saline soils. This perennial weed typically produces abundant quantities of wind-dispersed seed which contribute to infestations year after year. The plant’s sharp, stiff awns become slivers penetrating, lodging and infecting the tender nose and mouth parts of cattle, sheep and horses. Infected animals eat less, gain less weight and produce less milk. The current chemical controls include heavy pre-emergence applications and in-crop doses in annual field crops and fall spraying in forage crops.

Foxtail barley has a shallow, fibrous root system that makes it more responsive to control by tillage than many other perennial weeds and tends to become more of a problem whenever tillage frequency is decreased as in hayfields, pastures and reduced tillage grain fields. Seeds are easily carried by the wind, spreading quickly from contaminated field margins, shores of water bodies, wetlands and adjacent fields. New plants tend to invade any area that is not occupied by other plants, showing behavior typical of a pioneer species. This is why the weed frequently inhabits saline environments.

Dr. Harold Stepphun nad Dr Allan Iwaasa Agriculture Canada’s Semi-arid Prairie Agricultural Research Centre in Swift Current have done extensive research in the control of foxtail barley using AC Saltlanded a salt-tolerant green wheatgrass to suppress this weed. Foxtail barley frequents a range of saline soils from slight to severe. Three green wheatgrass treatments, smooth bromegrass, tall wheatgrass and the Saltmaster blend all suppressed foxtail barley and downy bromegrass to a 90%+ control level within three growing seasons at the least saline site. Foxtail barley suppression at the second, more severely saline site required twice the time to achieve 80%+ control. Under severe salinity levels, the AC Saltlander green wheatgrass treatment would likely be the best crop recommended. Proper preparation of the seedbed is essential and would include glyphosate, rototilled, harrow-packed and then seeded with a disc drill equipped with trialing packer wheels. Ample quantity of seed is also a requirement when trying to establish forage under saline conditions as individual salinity tolerance of forage plants exists in any particular seed lot.

Multi Species grazing to control weeds

Goats can be used to control weeds when other alternatives are not possible. Nadi Mori Forage Specialist Sask. Agric has been involved with grazing goats to control Common Tansy under the Agriculture Demonstration of Practices and Technology Initiatives in Saskatchewan. Common Tansy is unpalatable to cattle and can be toxic.

With common tansy, there is the concern over the compound thujone which can be toxic to livestock if consumed in large quantities. The goats provided an 80 to 100 percent defoliation of Common Tansy. In order to control weeds using small ruminant grazing a minimum of three to four years of consecutive grazing impact is necessary in controlling targeted weeds or browse. For further information see Western producer Aug 14 2014 pg. 83.

Manitoba Agriculture’s Jane Thorton Forage Specialist has had a grazing project to control leafy spurge and increased carrying capacity by using goats for bio-control of leafy spurge when grazed with and existing cattle herd. The project was very successful at reducing the leafy spurge infestation, increasing the carrying capacity for cattle, and providing awareness both on the problem of leafy spurge and on the use of multi-species grazing for its control. In the three years of goat grazing, the spurge was reduced by 76 percent. When compared to other possible treatments the project was the most cost effective (had the least-lost) over a 10 year period

Other related weed control projects

At Agriculture Canada Lethbridge Jim Moyer, Don Wilson , Lloyd Darwin, Peter Bergen, Bill Hamman and Bob Hironaka were involved with research on dandelion control in pastures experiments and published papers in Canadian Journal of Plant Science in the early 80’s. There was a grazing study to see if cows utilized dandelions and some nutritional studies plus some data on the effect of dandelions on yield. The result of all this work was that dandelions were mainly just filling in the holes left in old stands, cows ate them, seemed to like them just as well as grass and nutritionally they are pretty good.

There were other trials on foxtail barley control with Kerb. It was somewhat effective but extremely expensive and was rarely used. Another study looked at the ability of a number of grasses to compete with foxtail barley in an irrigated pasture. Tall fescue was pretty effective in suppressing foxtail barley. Another study on rangeland involved shrubby cinquefoil control with various chemicals and the effect on rangeland production and composition.

The following research papers have been published from all the experiments.

Moyer, J. R. 1984. Yield and nutrient composition of orchardgrass hay as affected by dandelion control. Can. J. Plant Sci. 64:295-302.

Moyer, J. R. and Smolick, S. 1987. Shrubbly cinquefoil control changes range forage production. Can. J. Plant Sci. 67:727-734.

Bergen, P., Moyer, J. R. and Kozub, G. C. 1990. Dandelion (Tarazacum officinale) use by cattle grazing on irrigated pasture. Weed Technology 4:258-263.

Moyer, J. R. and Hironaka, R. 1993. Digestible enery and protein content of some annual weeds, alfalfa, bromegrass, and tame oats. Can. J. Plant Sci. 73: 1305-1308.

Moyer, J. R., Cole, D. E., Maurice, D. C. and Darwent, A. L. 1995. Companion crop, herbicide and weed effects on establishment and yields of alfalfa-bromegrass mixture. Can. J. Plant Sci. 75: 121-127.

Smith, E. G., Barbieri, J. M., Moyer, J. R., and Cole, D. E. 1997. The effect of companion crops and herbicides on economic returns of alfalfa-bromegrass establishment. Can. J. Plant Sci. 71:231-235.

Moyer, J. R., Fraser. J., Rode, L. M. and Topinka, A. K. 1999. Effect of growth-stage-based alfalfa harvest on weed encroachment and resultant quality. Can. J. Plant Sci. 79:243-247. - Frequent cutting regime here may be similar to the effects of over grazing

Moyer, J. R. and Boswall, A. L. 2002. Tall fescue or creeping foxtail suppress foxtail barley. Can. J. Plant Sci. 82:89-92. - Study was conducted on an irrigated pasture on the Research Station that was subject to foxtail barley infestation

Moyer, J. R. and Acharya, S. N. 2006. Impact of cultivars and herbicides on weed management in alfalfa. Can. J. Plant Sci. 86:875-885. - Not a pasture study but show some interesting changes in weed populations due to weed control. Ie. shift from palatable dandelions to downy brome from dandelion control with Ally. Early Roundup application to alfalfa was an idea of Bill Haman’s that did not work. Thinned the population of alfalfa and produced a lot of weeds including Canada Thistle (application to early in the season to control it)

Moyer. J. R., Declerk-Floate, Van Hezewijk and Molnar, L.J. 2007. Agronomic practices for growing houndstongue (Cynoglossum officinale) as a crop for mass-producting a weed biocontrol agent. Weed Sci.55:273-280. - Not a weed control experiment but gives you references to Rose’s biocontrol work with this very effect agent for houndstongue control. Houndstongue is a very troublesome weed on range and pastures in BC.

Moyer, J. R., Boswall, A. L., Kawchuk, L. M., Entz, T., Tovell, B. and Lee, B. 2009. Characterization of dandelion (Taraxacium officinale), biotype morphology. Chemical composition and response to glyphosate. Can. J. Plant Sci. 369-378. - Dandelions were collected from a pasture that was converted from a grass pasture to a legume pasture by spraying with Roundup and direct seeding. System worked except it left a lot of dandelions behind. Thought we had collected dandelions that were resistant to Roundup but it turned out that all biotypes needed a very heavy dose for their control.

At the Melfort Research Station in Saskatchewan John Waddington and Garry Bowes did extensive research on brush control in pastures. This research is summarizes on in the Brush Control and pasture rejuvenation section and in the following research papers.
Malik, Bowes, Waddington, 1993, Weed Tech 7: 483-490
Malik, Waddington, 1990, Weed Tech 4: 63-67
Malik, Waddington 1989 Weed Tech 3: 288-296
Cessna, Waddington, Bittman, 1989, CJPS 69: 205-212
Waddington, 1988, CJPS 68: 817-821
Waddington, Bittman 1987, CJPS 67: 467-475
Waddington, Bittman 1987, CJPS 67: 845-848
Waddington, 1985, Weed Sci 33: 411-414
Waddington, 1980, Weed Sci 28: 164-167

In addition , PFRA in Manitoba has developed an extensive text book on all aspects of brush control on pasture and rangelands.


Teaching animals to graze weeds

Grazing animals often avoid eating weeds due to novelty even though weeds are often as nutritious as many of our planted pasture and rangelands species. Animals learn what to eat and avoid by grazing with their mothers and through individual experience. Once animals establish a preferred diet of familiar foods, adequate in nutrients, and low in toxins, most animals simply avoid eating new foods. When a weed invades a pasture, it is likely a new or novel food meaning livestock grazing the pasture have never eaten the new weed. In no time, weeds take over because plants that are not grazed have a competitive advantage over grazed plants.

Teaching animals to eat noxious weeds may be a solution to reducing noxious weeds. Kathy Voth from Colorado has developed a system for teaching cattle to eat weeds. The process consists of training the cattle to eat a certain weed by feeding them in a controlled situation like a feedlot pen. She first starts by feeding cattle some grain in a tub then over the next few days she gradually introduces the weed in question by offered it to the cattle in the same tub. The amount of grain is reduced so that by the end of the seven day teaching process the cattle are eating 100% of the weed in question. Once the cattle are done the training process they are turned into a pasture high in that particular weed. Sheep and goats can be trained the same way. For additional information go to and the June 2014 issue of the Grey Wooded Forage Association “The Blade”

Beth Burritt and Rae Ann Hart at Utah State University Dept of Natural Resources have created an agriculture bulletin to provide the nutritive values of many common weeds. Often weeds contain some level of toxins but most weeds are not so toxic that they cause health problems or death provided livestock have access to a variety of plant species. At the end of the bulletin is additional information on the toxicity of weeds listed in this bulletin.

When using livestock to graze weeds, variety is important. Even if an animal will readily eat a weed, it doesn’t mean the animal can survive on a sole diet of that weed. Many livestock producers have met with disaster trying to force animals to survive on a diet of a single plant. Tame forage plants planted in pastures, on rangelands, or used for hay have been bred to be high in nutrients and low in toxins. These species significantly lower the risk of toxicity to grazing animals eating a single plant species. Animals rarely die from over ingestion of plants with toxins provided they have a variety of forages to eat. Animals prefer to eat a variety of plants. Eating a variety of plants lessen the chances of poisoning from any single plant species. For more information see Utah State University Dept of Natural Resources : “Why Livestock Die from Eating Poisonous Plants.” and the Canadian publication on Stock-Poisoning Plants of Western Canada by Majak, Brooks and Ogilvie.

Conclusions on weed control in pastures

“ Prevention is the key and the cheapest way of controlling weeds on pasture and rangelands. Once introduced you need to find it and eradicate it right away. You want no survivors. You want no situation where you will get it next time as that will be too late. There is a potential of spreading a million seeds per plant across your pasture and rangelands” Clark Brenzil Sask. Agriculture .

Teaching animals to graze weeds (2014)

By: Duane McCartney, Forage Beef Research Scientist (retired), Lacombe, Alberta

Grazing animals often avoid eating weeds due to novelty even though weeds are often as nutritious as many of our planted pasture and rangelands species. Animals learn what to eat and avoid by grazing with their mothers and through individual experience. Once animals establish a preferred diet of familiar foods, adequate in nutrients, and low in toxins, most animals simply avoid eating new foods. When a weed invades a pasture, it is likely a new or novel food meaning livestock grazing the pasture have never eaten the new weed. In no time, weeds take over because plants that are not grazed have a competitive advantage over grazed plants.

Teaching animals to eat noxious weeds may be a solution to reducing noxious weeds. Kathy Voth from Colorado has developed a system for teaching cattle to eat weeds. The process consists of training the cattle to eat a certain weed by feeding them in a controlled situation like a feedlot pen. She first starts by feeding cattle some grain in a tub then over the next few days she gradually introduces the weed in question by offered it to the cattle in the same tub. The amount of grain is reduced so that by the end of the seven day teaching process the cattle are eating 100% of the weed in question. Once the cattle are done the training process they are turned into a pasture high in that particular weed. Sheep and goats can be trained the same way. For additional information go to and the June 2014 issue of the Grey Wooded Forage Association “The Blade”

Beth Burritt and Rae Ann Hart at Utah State University Dept of Natural Resources have created an agriculture bulletin to provide the nutritive values of many common weeds. Often weeds contain some level of toxins but most weeds are not so toxic that they cause health problems or death provided livestock have access to a variety of plant species. At the end of the bulletin is additional information on the toxicity of weeds listed in this bulletin.

When using livestock to graze weeds, variety is important. Even if an animal will readily eat a weed, it doesn’t mean the animal can survive on a sole diet of that weed. Many livestock producers have met with disaster trying to force animals to survive on a diet of a single plant. Tame forage plants planted in pastures, on rangelands, or used for hay have been bred to be high in nutrients and low in toxins. These species significantly lower the risk of toxicity to grazing animals eating a single plant species. Animals rarely die from over ingestion of plants with toxins provided they have a variety of forages to eat. Animals prefer to eat a variety of plants. Eating a variety of plants lessen the chances of poisoning from any single plant species. For more information see Utah State University Dept of Natural Resources : “Why Livestock Die from Eating Poisonous Plants.” and the Canadian publication on Stock-Poisoning Plants of Western Canada by Majak, Brooks and Ogilvie.

Relay Cropping / Intercropping / Crop Rotation

A New Twist on Cropping - Living Legume Mulches (2008)

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Many producers are interested in sustainable crop production systems that reduce the application of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Incorporating a 'living mulch' in cereal silage production might help achieve this for certain producers.

Living mulches are a form of intercropping. Intercropping is the cultivation of two or more plant species in the same field at the same time. A living mulch is an established legume cover crop into which an annual row crop is seeded. Often that annual row crop is a cereal, such as triticale or barley. Forage legumes are ideal for use as living mulches because they can be low growing and perennial. Using a perennial forage legume allows the living mulch to be maintained for multiple years without reseeding.

There are many benefits to using a legume living mulch. Forage legumes fix nitrogen through their relationship with soil microbes called rhizobia. If more nitrogen is fixed than the legume plant needs, this excess nitrogen may be released into the soil. Once in the soil, the nitrogen can then be taken up by the cereal crop. Decomposition of legume leaves and roots also adds nitrogen to the soil.

The ground cover provided by the legume living mulch helps control weeds through competition. For example, the legume living mulch can shade emerging weed seedlings, reducing their growth. The legume living mulch can also decrease cereal leaf disease incidence by acting as a barrier to pathogen spread between cereal plants.

The legume and cereal occupy different above and below-ground niches. They complement each other, increasing the cropping system's ability to capture and use resources, such as sunlight, water, and soil nutrients, efficiently.

The legume living mulch can increase the economic sustainability of a producer by decreasing the need for expensive inputs, such as nitrogen fertilizer and herbicides. It can also increase his environmental sustainability by providing constant ground cover to reduce wind and water erosion

Growing a cereal for silage in a forage legume living mulch would increase its forage quality. The protein-rich legume leaves would increase the crude protein content of the silage, while decreasing fibre levels.

Some suppression of the established living mulch in the spring before seeding your cereal is needed. This suppression could be a reduced herbicide application ten to 14 days before seeding or mowing the legume a couple days before.

What forage legume would be a good candidate for use as a living mulch? A fairly fast establishing, low growing legume would be ideal. If you are planning on maintaining the living mulch for multiple years, longevity and winter-hardiness would be two other characteristics to consider. Ultimately, the legume you choose will depend on the growing conditions in your area, and could vary from alsike to white to red clover for example.

One legume that has shown promise as a living mulch in Alberta is kura clover. Kura clover is relatively new to the province, and is currently used in the United States in mixed pastures. Kura clover living mulches have the potential to be adopted for barley or triticale silage production in Alberta, creating systems with lower input costs and increased forage quality.

For more information please contact
Stephanie Kosinski, Forage Specialist with Alberta Agriculture

Source: The Blade - Grey Wooded Forage Association, May 2008.

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A Receipe for Relay Cropping

By: Dr. Shabtai Bittman


Relay cropping entails growing 2 crops on the same piece of land (inter-cropping), at least for a part of the season. Intercropping is rarely practiced in industrial agriculture because of the difficulties involved in controlling weeds along with planting and harvesting the 2 crops. All these factors need to be considered to successfully relay-crop. Remember that corn is a heat loving plant and ryegrass grows best under cool moist conditions.

Planting corn

Plant corn early, late April to early May. This will allow you to harvest the corn early, one of the most important secrets of success. Early (low heat unit) corn hybrids will favor early harvest. If planting after mid-May, pay very close attention to heat-loving annual weeds (see weed control section, below).

Use normal corn populations of 75,000 plants per ha. The ryegrass will perform best where the corn is thin, but deliberately favoring the ryegrass by reducing corn density is not economical.

Planting ryegrass

Plant ryegrass when the corn has 3-6 leaves. Planting when the corn is smaller will enable the ryegrass to suppress corn yield. Planting after 6 leaves will produce thin spindly ryegrass plants.

Plant ryegrass at 25-30 kg/ha. Plant in strips between corn rows taking into account the weed control program (below).

Ryegrass varieties

One of our greatest break-throughs was discovering that only tetraploid, biennial Italian Ryegrass varieties are suitable for relay cropping. Annual and diploid varieties will not persist well in the corn understory. Our suspicion is that successful persistence depends on resistance to several diseases, in particular a fungus called Fusarium.

Check with your local seed supplier for the current list of available varieties.

Weed control

This is the big challenge. Italian Ryegrass will not persist in weedy corn fields.

In Canada, the best method to control weedy grasses, especially barnyard grass, is to apply Primextra (atrzine and metolachlor) prior to or just after seeding. Some incorporation of herbicides is necessary unless there is ample moisture. The herbicide will not allow the ryegrass to establish, so it must be applied in bands over the corn rows only. This is best done by spraying at seeding time, with the sprayer mounted on the planter. Weeds between rows can be cultivated. This can only be done prior to seeding. Cultivation should be shallow to prevent root pruning and to avoid drying out the soil prior to grass seeding.

Many broadleaf weeds are controlled by Primextra, but those that are not can be sprayed after corn emergence but prior to grass seeding with a number of registered products.

Harvesting the corn

It is very important to harvest the corn as early as possible. By harvesting 10-14 days earlier the fall growth of the ryegrass may be increased by over 30%.

Some tire traffic is inevitable but attention must be paid to drive over the corn rows as much as possible and avoid driving over the grass until it is well established.

Fertilizing in spring

For best spring yield and quality, apply 50-60kg N per ha as fertilizer or slurry manure in late winter or early spring.


Ryegrass is probably nearly as winter hardy as winter wheat but less hardy than fall rye. Very small plants are less hardy to low temperature, heaving and needle-ice than well-rooted plants. We have not lost ryegrass at Agassiz in the past 5 years.

Flooding tolerance

Small ryegrass plants will withstand some flooding, but ongoing flooding for more than 1-2 weeks will severely hamper the ryegrass.

Using the ryegreass

Italian Ryegrass is reputed to be the highest quality of cool season grasses. Ryegrass is very well suited to grazing, and cows can be put out early because of early growth. Damage to the stand or compaction of wet soil is of minor concern since the field will usually be prepared again for corn.

Ryegrass also makes good green-feed and silage, although it is difficult to cure.

Fall grazing would rarely be possible in Canada, but may be practical near the coast and in the US.

The relay crop can be left through the next summer to take advantage of its high quality. To succeed farmers should consider logistics.

Can you apply manure to a relay crop in the fall?

Research is underway to determine if some manure can be applied in the fall without fear of leaching.

Eliminating the stand in the spring

Roundup will not kill ryegrass in the spring. Ploughing and allowing some rotting of the sod is the best method. Intense grazing prior to ploughing will help break down the sod.

Effect on subsequent nutrient requirement of corn

Nutrient requirements for corn will increase following a relay crop, giving greater opportunity for use of slurry manure.

Does Relay Cropping Pay?

By Andrea Harris

We compared the economic viability of a elay cropping system to two alternative cropping scenarios:

1) Fall Rye Cover Crop

2) No Cover Crop

The returns and variable costs of the three cropping systems were compared using partial budgeting. Our analysis shows that, in addition to contributing to environmental sustainability, relay cropping provides a substantial contribution to net farm income relative to conventional cropping systems.

Table 1: Partial Budget Comparision of 3 Cover Cropping Scenarios.
Budget Items Fall Rye Cover Crop vs. no Cover

$ Change

Relay Crop vs. no cover

$ Change

Relay Crop vs. Fall Rye Cover

$ Change

Grass Forage $72 $130 $58
Variable Costs *
Seed $21 $24 $3
Fertilizer $0 $0 $0
Herbicide $0 -$26 -$26
Machinery op. $68 $77 $8
Custom Work -$10 -$17 -$7
Change in Net Farm Income** $7 $72 $79

In Table 1 the results from the corn-cropping model are presented by comparing the annual change in the returns and the variable costs associated with the three scenarios.

The benefits from relay cropping are substantially higher (10%) than those associated with either a straight corn (no cover) or a fall planted cover-cropping system. This is primarily the result of higher value grass forage and savings in fertilizer costs. The returns with a fall planted cover are slightly lower than those associated with a no cover system (-1%)

The estimated annual increase in farm income from relay cropping is $72 per acre, relative to a no cover system. An extra cost of $77 per acre, for machinery operation and $24 for seed is incurred. However, these costs are offset by the additional $130 return on grass forage, a savings of $26 on herbicides, and a savings of $17 in custom work. Relative to a fall planted covercropping system, relay cropping represents an increase in annual net income of $79. This is primarily due to a higher value forage crop and the savings realized by band spraying pre-emergent herbicides only on the corn rows, rather than the entire field.

Table 2: Effect of Growth Stage & Harvest Date on Yields and Benefits, based on 3 years of testing.
  Ryegrass Yield (t/ha) Corn Yield (t/ha) Benefits - Expenses
Growth Stage
3-leaf 1.2 28 $882
6-leaf 1.2 28 $927
9-leaf 1.0 29 $907
Harvest Date
09/7 1.6 25 $787
09/20 1.0 29 $910

An annual decrease of $7 per acre, or 1 percent, in net farm income is anticipated with the fall rye cover cropping system versus a conventional no cover system. The extra costs include $21 per acre for grass seed, $15 per acre custom manure spreading charge, and $68 per acre to undertake the extra field operations required for cover cropping. This increase in costs outweighs the additional $72 return on grass forage and the $25 savings in custom work.

The results from field and research trials have shown that there is no negative effect on corn yield when Italian ryegrass is planted between corn rows at the 3-6 leaf stage of corn growth. However, research on relay cropping undertaken by Agriculture and Agri-food Canada has indicated that grass and corn yields are affected by: a) the growth stage of corn at the time of grass planting; and b) the date of corn harvest. As a result of this research it was concluded that in order to maximize yields, the optimal time to plant Italian ryegrass as a relay crop is at the 6-leaf stage of corn growth.

Although a higher corn yield can be achieved at a later harvest date, a later harvest date will also result in lower grass yields. The first two columns in Table 2 summarize these results. The last column of Table 2 outlines the corresponding net crop related benefits as calculated in this study.

When combined, these results indicate that a later harvest date will result in greater increase in farm income and that planting ryegrass at the 6-leaf stage not only maximizes corn and grass yields, but also maximizes the net economic benefits from relay cropping.

Is Fusarium the Hidden Killer?

By Orlando Schmidt and Dr. Shabtai Bittman

In July of 1995, a tour group visited several farms that were experimenting with relay cropping for the first time. One of the stops was at the Hodgins-Smith Farm in yarrow. The group was immediately impressed with the uniform well-established grass crop growing between the corn rows. Ag-Canada researcher Shabtai Bittman exuberantly proclaimed "This is the winner!"

Less than 2 months later, the corn was off and the field was exposed. The results were less than impressive! A vehicle driving by would not have know a grass crop had been planted there. Why the dramatic change?

Certainly part of the problem was equipment related. Because of a high water table in the area, the soil was quite moist and harvest equipment left its share of ruts.

Upon a closer look, it was apparent that many plants that were thriving a few months earlier were now dead. Weed control on this field was excellent and soil moisture was adequate. This begs the question "Is fusarium the hidden killer?"

In his textbook Plant Pathology (1978), George Agrios describes fusarium as a Vascular Wilt, a family of widespread, very destructive fungal plant diseases. Symptoms are "More or less rapid wilting, browning, and dying of leaves and succulent shoots of plants followed by the final death of the plant." Entire death of plants can occur within weeks.

Fusarium lives in the soil and infects plants through the roots. Once in a field, fusarium is there forever. A wide variety of plants including annual vegetables, flowers, and weeds are known to be affected by fusarium.

In the field, the best control technique is planting resistant crop varieties. Unfortunately, not much is known about resistance to fusarium within the family of Tetraploid Italian Ryegrasses.

Is fusarium the hidden killer? Time will tell. Over the next few years, it will be important to continue monitoring relay-cropping fields with fusarium like symptoms. If plant samples are collected in the right time, diagnostic tests can be performed to confirm its presence or absence. In the meantime, it is recommended that growers use varieties, which have proven to be persistent within Ag-Canada's variety test program.

Multiple Benefits Make Relay Cropping a Good Option for Producers (2005)

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Multiple Benefits Make Relay Cropping a Good Option for Producers

Two crops are better than one, or at least that appears to be the case in ongoing relay cropping research at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre (AAFC-PARC) in Agassiz, B.C.

"Italian ryegrass inter-seeded with corn in the spring is helping B.C. lower-mainland farmers use surplus soil nitrogen while producing excellent forage for livestock," says Dr. Shabtai Bittman, a forage and field crop management specialist at AAFC-PARC. The practice, known as relay cropping, further benefits the environment by significantly reducing the amount of nitrogen lost through leaching or to the atmosphere.

The research/extension project is being co-coordinated through the Pacific Field Corn Association and is supported in part with funds from the Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Program for Canadian Agriculture (GHGMP). A regional report about the research is available on the recently revamped Soil Conservation Council of Canada Web site at

The concept is to seed a second crop with corn that will continue to grow and use surplus nitrogen once corn has been harvested. In this case, Italian ryegrass emerged as the most suitable forage.

Surplus nitrogen in the usually heavy winter rainfall area of south-coast B.C. causes major environmental concerns because it can leach from soil and enter groundwater, says Sandra Traichel, of the Abbotsford Soil Conservation Association and a field co-coordinator for the GHGMP in B.C. Relay cropping is one possible way to reduce surplus nitrogen. Even with all the benefits, producer interest in relay cropping in Canada was slow in coming, says Bittman, but recent producer tours showing the success of the practice has generated considerable interest among B.C. producers in the past two years.

Italian ryegrass has proven to be a valuable forage for dairy cattle. A very palatable forage with good protein, the crop can yield three to five tonnes per hectare and can be used as silage, green feed and pasture.

"Relay cropping can play an important role in reducing the impact of surplus nitrogen on the environment," says Bittman. "And Italian ryegrass is not only an excellent forage, but can help producers reduce feeding costs."

The GHGMP supports a broad range of projects across Canada with the goal to promote awareness of agricultural practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. SCCC administers the delivery of the soil and nutrient management sector component of the program. For more information on activities, visit the SCCC's Web site at

For more information, contact::
Sandra Traichel
GHGMP field co-ordinater for southern B.C.
Phone: (604) 556-3732

Doug McKell, P. Ag.
Executive Director, SCCC
Phone: (306) 695-4212
Fax: (306) 695-4213
Web site:

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Relay Cropping Evaluated

By: Judy Walters Harvest is busy season for BC farmers. South-western BC dairy farmers are sometimes hard pressed to sow the cover crops they need to protect their soil from being eroded by heavy rains which characterize coastal winter weather.

Last fall, for example, some farmers' corn crops didn't mature until November. Other farmers who usually plant fall rye found that last fall's heavy rains made their field too wet to work.

The solution, says Orlando Schmidt, coordinator of the Dairy Producers Conservation Group (DPCG) is to plant a cover crop in the summer months.

Relay cropping is a new cropping system developed by Dr. Shabtai Bittman of Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada. It enables farmers to double crop their land, produce more home-grown forage, eliminate a time management bottleneck, and protect the environment by reducing soil erosion and impacts of manure and/or chemical fertilizer.

Italian ryegrass, a biennial grass, is used for relay cropping. Unlike fall rye, which must be sown after forage corn is harvested, Italian ryegrass can be sown into a standing crop.

 This relay-cropping field in Matsqui, shown in fall 1995 and spring 1996 yielded 6 t/ha dry matter. An economic study shows relay-cropping can increase returns by as much as $72 ($53U.S.) an acre.

"Italian ryegrass is sown between the rows of corn when the corn is at the 3-6 leaf stage, which is usually in late June" explains Schmidt.

Matsqui dairy farmer Bill Van Reeuwyk tried relay cropping last year. He drilled and broadcast Italian ryegrass on several small plots of land when his corn was 8 to 12 inches high.

Seeding a cover crop in the summer turned out to be a godsend for Van Reeuwyk, who milks 140 cows at Summershade Farms. "The harvest was late and the fall weather unseasonably wet. There's no way I would have had time to put in a crop of fall rye." The Italian ryegrass protected Van Reeuwyk's soil and gave him 50 extra acres of fall and spring pasture for his cattle.

Relay cropped Italian ryegrass not only alleviates the harvest-time crazies and yields additional feed, it protects the soil from erosion and improves nutrient uptake, says Saanich dairy farmer David Pendray, who also tried relay cropping last year.

Seed drills like this modified Vicon air-seeder are recommended as a preferred method of planting relay crops.

Soil and nutrient runoff management are "the most critical issues facing farmers today," says Pendray, who milks 225 cows with his brother Michael at Pendray Farms Ltd.

Tough new environmental regulations require farmers to ensure the manure they spread on their fields does not contaminate surface and ground water supplies.

If you sow Italian ryegrass in the summer, there's an established crop that can use the nitrogen you apply to your field, says Pendray. More important, the manure is available when the ryegrass needs it most.

Italian rylegrass is a superior quality feed, says Pendray. Compared to fall rye, Italian ryegrass is higher in nutrient quality and digestibility.

When Schmidt compared Italian ryegrass to fall rye he found the ryegrass had 15% protein, 25% acid detergent fibre, and 69% total digestible nutrients while the fall rye had 11.6% protein, 33% ADF and 63% TDN.

Italian ryegrass can either be left for pasture after the corn is harvested, cut and made into hay or silage, or ploughed under to improve the soil's structure and organic content.

Because relay cropping is new, there are still a few wrinkles to iron out. Weed problems, winter flooding, and extreme cold all pose a hazard to farmers. Most of the chemical controls that farmers would use to control weeds in their corn crop would kill their ryegrass, says Van Reeuwyk. "You can't sacrifice your corn crop for your ryegrass."

Inclement weather can prevent relay crops from getting properly established or surviving the winter.

 The Italian Ryegrass is shaded by the corn through the summer (left) slowing down the growth. Once the corn comes off though, the relay crop has a tremendous advantage over any fall planted cover crops (right).

Relay crops should only be sown in well-drained fields that have a history of few weed problems, recommends Schmidt.

Schmidt and agricultural economist Andrea Harris conducted an economic analysis of relay cropping with funding from the Canada-BC Farm Business Management Program. The CBCFBMP is a federal-provincial program designed to help farmers manage change, adopt modern farm business management principles and practices, improve their international competitiveness and self-reliance, address environmental issues, and ensure the long term sustainability of the industry.

The cost-benefit analysis of relay cropping shows that in addition to contributing to environmental sustainability, relay cropping provides a substantial contribution to net farm income relative to conventional cropping systems, says Schmidt.

Relay Cropping a Big Hit in Whatcom County

Is 'relay cropping' another example of Americans beating us at our own technology? Relay cropping is the system of planting Italian ryegrass into young corn stands (when the corn has 3-5 leaves) as a way to establish the ryegrass as a fall cover crop. After the corn is harvested, the ryegrass grows rapidly, protecting the soil and reducing leaching over winter, and producing high-quality feed in early spring. Although the system was developed at the AAFC Research Station at Agassiz, few BC farmers are using relay cropping. In contrast, over two-thirds of the corn fields across the border in Whatcom County are being relay-cropped. Whatcom farmers are benefiting from relaxed restrictions on fall manure applications on relay cropped fields and from a bonus of 3 t/ha (1.5T/acre) of high-quality feed in spring! So why not in BC?

When AAFC researchers first developed relay cropping, BC farmers did not have a registered herbicide to control grassy weeds, such as barnyardgrass, that was compatible with relay cropping. Agassiz researchers solved this problem by band spraying Primextra in 8cm (3in) bands over the corn rows at seeding. American farmers did not face this challenge. They could spray out barnyardgrass with the herbicide 'Frontier' before planting the ryegrass. With this in mind, custom worker Alan Yoder and friends, who had studied the research done at Agassiz, realized that relay cropping makes sense. His secret was developing an implement that cultivated, side-dressed and seeded the relay crop all in one pass. This year, Yoder and his associates relay-cropped about 2,500 ha (6,000 acres) of corn land in Whatcom County, where the concept has proven to be a winner for farmers, seed companies, the environment and custom workers.

Today farmers in BC can control grassy weeds in relay-cropped fields with the herbicide Accent. Will BC farmers choose to try relay cropping to see if they can also benefit from relaxed manure restrictions and a bonus crop?

O. Schmidt, BCMAFF, Abbotsford

Previous Page: « Corn - A New Pasture Grass? »

Relay Cropping for Forage Corn - A System in Demand!

The technique of relay cropping Italian ryegrass in forage corn was developed concurrently by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in the South Coastal Region of British Columbia and by government scientists in The Netherlands. It has become an important farming tool in several countries. Extension agents in Washington and Oregon have promoted this technology with great success, and it has also become an established practice with corn growers in the United Kingdom and The Netherlands.

Relay cropping is the technique of seeding a winter cover crop, often Italian ryegrass, into a young corn crop. The ryegrass germinates and grows slowly under the corn canopy. When the corn is harvested in the fall, the Italian ryegrass is already established and growth resumes, saving valuable time. Generally, the relay crop will have far more growth throughout the fall, winter and spring, than will any cover crop seeded in the fall. There are many advantages to relay cropping, with the main ones listed in box.

Is relay cropping being used in coastal BC where it was developed? Pendray Farms Ltd. is a 200-acre dairy farm on the Saanich Peninsula of Vancouver Island. Dave, John and Michael Pendray cooperated on some of the original large-plot trials testing relay cropping and have been using the technique ever since. The Pendrays have been relay cropping on all their corn land for the past three years. They plant Italian ryegrass into the corn using a small air seeder fitted with shoe-type openers spaced four inches apart. Seeding rate is usually around 28 kg/ha (25 lbs/acre). Time of planting is critical for successful establishment. If planted too early, the ryegrass may compete with the corn crop and if planted too late, establishment may be poor due to competition from the corn. The target time for planting should be when the corn is 15-20 cm (6 to 8 in.) tall. Pendrays indicate one drawback of this system is that ryegrass planting comes at a very busy time of year.

Weed control can be a challenge if weedy grasses have been a problem in the field. Pendrays have had reasonable success using Dual (metolachlor) plus atrazine applied as a pre-emergence band application over the corn row at planting. Cultivation, using a high speed Sukup cultivator, controls weeds in the inter-row space until time for ryegrass planting.

Advantages Of Relay Cropping
  • Greater fall and winter capture of nutrients remaining in the soil after corn harvest than with a conventionally planted cover crop.
  • May allow for environmentally sound application of more manure nutrients in the fall than is the case with fall-seeded cover crops.
  • Improved protection of soil from wind and water erosion and protection against raindrop impact.
  • Ensures cover crop establishment. Adverse fall weather conditions may mean you could not plant fall-seeded cover crops.
  • Improved support for harvesting equipment from the ryegrass sod when soil conditions are wet at harvest.
  • Production of more high-quality plant material for harvest or grazing in spring, or to return to the soil as green manure.
  • Reduces runoff in the winter. This means less sediment and fewer nutrients moving into surface water such as streams and ditches.

Dave Pendray says “In the spring of 1999, we planted Italian ryegrass into all our corn crop. This year we have one of the best relay crops ever. We have been very pleased with how this system saves us time in the fall, allows for earlier fall manure application and helps support heavy harvesting and manure application equipment. The added economic and environmental benefits are very important to us. Greater fall nutrient capture by the crop means reduced fertility costs for crops planted the following year. There are also major pluses from the environmental perspective due to prevention of nutrient and soil erosion losses.”

The benefits and success of relay cropping are well documented in the whole of the Pacific Northwest. With increased demands on farmers from both an economic and environmental perspective, this technique will be used on many more farms in the future.

Michael Betts, BCMAF, Sidney

Previous Page: « Grazing Corn in Winter »

Next Page: « Know How Much You Harvest... The Easy Weigh! »

Relay cropping produces top forage, benefits environment (2006)

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Fast growing grass provides ground cover and helps reduce surplus nitrogen.

Italian rye grass inter-seeded with corn in the spring is helping B.C. Lower Mainland farmers use surplus soil nitrogen and at the same time produce an excellent forage for livestock, says a Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Researcher at Agassiz.

The practice, known as relay cropping, is beginning to catch on among dairy producers, says Dr. Shabtai Bittman, a forage and field crop management specialist at the Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre (PARC). "The Italian rye grass, over its growth cycle will remove about 100 kilograms of surplus nitrogen per hectare," says Bittman. "And it is one of the top forages to produce. It's a leading forage in New Zealand and Europe."

Relay cropping further benefits the environment by significantly reducing the amount of nitrogen lost through leaching and to the atmosphere. The research project, co-ordinated through the Pacific Field Corn Association, is supported in part with funds from the federal Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Program for Canadian Agriculture (GHGMP).

Forage seeded with corn

The concept is to seed a second crop with the corn that will continue to grow and use surplus nitrogen once the corn has been harvested, says Bittman. After looking at several options over the years, Italian rye grass emerged as one of the most suitable forages.

The Italian rye grass is inter-seeded when the silage corn is between the three to six leaf stage, which explains the term relay cropping. "It won't compete with the corn at that stage, and yet there is enough sunlight to allow the Italian rye grass to establish," he says. Growth of the rye grass is suspended once the corn crop canopy closes. But after the corn is harvested, in late September or early October, the rye grass begins growing again.

"It usually takes about 10 days after corn is harvested for the Italian rye grass to take off," says Bittman. "But it continues to grow into December." Bittman estimates the rye grass uses between 50 and 65 kilograms of nitrogen per hectare in fall. After resuming growth, usually in February, it will use another 40 to 50 kilograms of nitrogen before harvested as silage, greenfeed or used as pasture.

"The rye grass is not able to use all the surplus nitrogen in the soil, but it makes a significant difference," he says. "On average the crop removes about 100 kilograms of nitrogen per hectare whereas without it, surplus nitrogen use would be zero."

Environmental concerns

Surplus nitrogen in the usually heavy winter rainfall area of south-coastal B.C. causes major environmental concerns, points out Sandra Traichel, with the Abbotsford Soil Conservation Association and a field co-ordinator for the federal GHGMP in B.C.

Surplus nitrogen can be leached from soil and enter the groundwater, she says. And in waterlogged soil, it is also subject to a process of denitrification, which means the nitrogen is converted and released to the atmosphere as nitrous oxide, one of the more serious greenhouse gasses.

In two years of trials comparing application of manure on bare soil with manure application on grass fields, research showed a dramatic reduction in the production of nitrous oxide. "Vigorously growing grass really soaks up the nitrate," says Bittman. "We found a five to 10-fold reduction in nitrous oxide production on grassland compared to bare fields. It makes a significant difference."

To maximize the benefit of relay cropping it's important to use a forage with high feed value, says Bittman. Earlier research found fall rye also works as a relay crop, but it makes poor livestock feed. "Producers are inclined to plow it under rather than harvest the feed," he says. "And that practice just returns the nitrogen to the soil, so we don't really gain anything."

Excellent forage

But Italian rye grass has proven to be a valuable forage for dairy cattle. A very palatable forage with good protein, the crop can yield three to five tonnes per hectare and be used as silage, green feed and pasture.

Producer interest in relay cropping in Canada was slow in coming, says Bittman. Some U.S. Pacific Northwest producers saw relay cropping trials in B.C. and jumped on the practice much earlier. One reason is the U.S. producers had access to a herbicide which could effectively control barnyard grass that grew along with the Italian rye grass. Canada now has a registered herbicide to control the weed and not harm the forage.

A second reason for speedy U.S. adoption, was interest by at least one company to provide a custom service for inter-seeding the Italian rye grass into corn. "It made quite a difference for northern Washington and Oregon producers just to be able to hire someone to do the seeding," says Bittman. "Producers here are set up for row crops, but not all have access to grain seeding equipment."

Producer tours showing the success of relay cropping has generated considerable interest among B.C. producers. "One producer on southern Vancouver Island who has been relay cropping for several years is getting exceptional yields, and this year he had half his crop harvested by early April," says Bittman.

"It has proven to be an excellent forage," he adds. "And the grass crop plays an important role in reducing the impact of surplus nitrogen on the environment."


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Research Needs


On wet soils, tire tracks from harvesitng equipment will set back the relay crop. To avoid this problem, concentrate tire tracks over corn rows.

At least a dozen farms have tried relay cropping in South Coastal British Columbia since 1995. Why have some succeeded and others failed? This question teases the minds of researchers and farmers alike. Here are some research questions which still need attention.

  • Is the success of the relay crop related to the variety of corn crop planted? Some corn varieties have more of an upright leaf posture while others have more "floppy" leaves. An upright leaf posture allows more light through the canopy. We're not sure but we suspect varieties with upright leaves will work better in a relay-cropping scenario.
  • Why do some relay-cropped fields look so patchy after the corn comes off? We suspect that patchy relay crops are due to poor weed management, drought, disease, soil variation or a combination of these. Most likely, the reasons are different in each field. Further testing and observation is required to get a better handle on this question.
  • Can a relay crop survive in "40 ton/acre" corn? The higher the corn yield, the less light that is available for the relay crop. We have definitely observed that the ryegrass does not do as well in a bumper crop of corn. Further testing and fine-tuning is required to see if double-cropping can succeed in this environment.
  • Are there weed control products available for post-emergent control of grassy weeds? Part of the success with relay cropping in the U.S.A. is due to a wider range of herbicides to choose from. Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada is now conducting trials to attain minor use registration on a herbicide called Elim. If residual effects are not a problem, this product could provide a valuable tool for successful relay cropping.

Relay Cropping Reduces Runnoff

In a research trial conducted at the Pacific Agricultural Research Centre in Agassiz, Dr. Laurens Van Vliet compared rainfall runoff from a relay cropped corn system and a corn system without a cover crop.

Corn was planted in plots on a field with a gentle slope (5-10%). Runoff was collected and measured for each plot from May 1, 1996 to May 1, 1997. Table 3 shows the findings from this trial.

In a relay cropping system, the corn is harvested normally. The Italian Ryegrass may appear stressed at first but will quickly bounce back.

 In a relay cropping system, the corn is harvested normally. The Italian Ryegrass may appear stressed at first but will quickly bounce back.

Annual rainfall for this period was 1987mm, approximately 300 mm above average. The data, which represents the mean of 2 replicates, shows that runoff is reduced in the relay cropping plots by about 15%. It is quite likely that the difference in runoff is dramatically higher during storm events when runoff can be 50-60% of total rainfall and erosion potential is the greatest.

Although the data from Van Vliet is only from one calendar year, it shows that relay cropping has tremendous potential as an erosion control technique.

Rotation Benefits Organic and Conventional Farmers Alike (2008)

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Real estate people say that success is all about 'location, location, location'. Organic farming has a similar mantra and that is 'rotation, rotation, rotation'.

Disease, weed and insect cycles are a perpetual headache for any farmer and this is particularly true for the organic farmer. With limited inputs, the most important management tool is crop rotation. The plain truth is that a well-designed rotation not only makes organic farming possible, it can also work as an effective cost cutter for the conventional farmer.

This was the take home message recently delivered by John Hollinger, organic business development specialist for Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives at the demonstration farm in Carman. It is her that a six year rotation designed by Dr. Margin Entz of the University of Manitoba has been running for the last four seasons.

"What we're trying to demonstrate is a practical crop rotation that organic farmers, or any farmers who are interested in sound agronomic practices, can use to produce a crop based on a 'stockless' regime," Hollinger explains. "If you don't have livestock but you have a rotation like this, it could very well work."

This 'stockless' approach is necessary for straight organic grain farms since they do not normally have access to manure that can be used as fertilizer. As a result, stockless organic farmers must find a different source of fertilizer for their land.

A three-pronged attack

A good rotation, whether it is organic or conventional, employs a three-pronged strategy with the first two prongs aimed at reducing the need for inputs. To begin with, rotations must first address the usual agricultural pests. To do this, a farmer has to anticipate the cycles of diseases and insects and use different crop types to break them up. It also has to include crops that can compete with weeds and, in an ideal system, reduce or even eliminate them.

The second part of the strategy deals with the health and fertility of the soil. A good rotation should help maintain high levels of both organic matter and the mirco-organisms that break it down into usable plant nutrients for the next crop generation. "a healthy soil grows healthy plants that can withstand stresses such as drought, bugs, or disease and can compete with weeds a lot better than plants that are not vigorous, Hollinger says.

The third prong is the economic prong, such as the saving of resources, the marketability of the crop and the resulting profitability of the farm. "So our six year rotation includes cereals, pulses and a green manure every three years." Hollinger says, "The green manure supplies enough nitrogen to replace what's being used up by the annual crops."

The green manure may be a legume, such as a clover, or in this case, hairy vetch. The vetch is a source of organic matter and a source of available nitrogen. "Hairy vetch is one of the best fixers of nitrogen out there and it provides very good competition for the weeds," Hollinger says. "The seed was bought in iowa for close to two dollars a pound Canadian and seeded at 20 pounds to the acres, so it's costing about $40 to seed the field, but you get at least 100 pounds of nitrogen fixed per acre."

After the vetch was worked in, they planted a cover crop of fall rye. Fall rye may seem an odd choice because there is not a very big organic market for it. However, fall rye exudes certain alkaloid compounds into the soil that inhibit weed germination, especially with small seeded annuals.

"When oats are used as a companion crop with the vetch, as we have in this demonstration, the oats may be used as a green feed or silage, so this crop would be swathed probably sometime in July just as the seeds are starting to fill," Hollinger says. "you'd get a lot of biomass for green feed or silage that can be sold to cattle farms, then the vetch continues developing and it can be worked into the ground in September."

On paper, the rotation starts with the green manure to get the soil nitrogen levels up. The next year, either an oilseed such as flax or some other broadleaf crop such as buckwheat is grown. The following year, spring wheat is grown.

Alternating the cereal and broadleaf crops break disease and bug cycles that may be developing. After another green manure year and another cereal crop, a pulse crop such as soybeans can be grown. A cover crop of fall rye after the soybean harvest may help to get row crop weeds under control before going back to a green manure at the start of another six year rotation.

"In 2006, the economics on this particular site showed up pretty well, including those lean years where you just have expenses and no income other than the contribution of nitrogen," Hollinger says. "If you figure with a green manure you're getting a hundred pounds of nitrogen then that's worth something, especially at today's prices of fertilizer."

Farmers wishing to try weed control and fertility through rotation should know that effective rotations are specific to their regions, so what works in Winkler, Manitoba, may not work in the Peace River region. Good record keeping is essential and a good working knowledge of the crop history, climate and soil geography of the farm is important.

Article by Gordon Leathers, Top Crop Manager (West) - January 2008

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Silage Production

Corn Silage

New Herbicide for Field Corn Producers in BC (2001)

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Converge 75 WDG can now be used by field corn producers in BC thanks to a minor use label expansion. This pre-emerge herbicide offers season-long control of many weeds resistant to atrazine. Converge can be used safely on crops treated with Counter insecticide (for wireworms). However, a big caution from Roy Cranston, weed specialist with BCMAFF. Converge may cause damage to corn under stress from cool, wet, and cloudy weather. Therefore, farmers are cautioned to first try the herbicide on a small area to see how it performs under their conditions before they make it part of their whole management package!

Weeds controlled by Converge 75 WDG include lamb's quarter, red-root pigweed, common ragweed, eastern black nightshade, dandelion seedlings, smooth and large crabgrass, velvetleaf, plantain seedlings, witchgrass, wild and wormseed mustard, barnyardgrass, and green foxtail. Converge can be tank mixed with atrazine for control of lady's thumb.

Can Converge be used with minimum till? The company reports that field research has shown that CONVERGE provides excellent weed control in all tillage systems. CONVERGE is only registered in conventional tillage systems at the present time. Registration for use in no-till is expected prior to the year 2000 use season both alone and with a glyphosate tank-mix. The CONVERGE plus glyphosate tank-mix provides excellent burndown and season long weed control, all in one application.

Do not use Coverge on sweet corn or seed corn and do not graze corn for 60 days after application. CONVERGE can be used on all soil types except for sands, loamy sands and soils with less than 2% OM.

The electronic version of the label can be found on

In case of spills call 1-800-334-7577 (24 hrs/day)

For information call:

Aventis CropScience Canada C.,
295 Henderson Dr.
Regina, SK, S4N 6C2

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