"The importance of carbon in agriculture has never been in scientific doubt. Whether it’s a component of photosynthesis — in the form of CO2 — or as part of the bigger picture carbon-nitrogen (C:N) ratio or the even more complicated carbon cycle, there’s no getting around the element’s value for farming.
That doesn’t mean we understand it, though.
Carbon is one of 16 elements labelled as essential for plant growth. Among the needed plant nutrients, it’s the first of three (along with hydrogen and oxygen) that are extracted by plants from the air and water. Between 94 and 99.5 per cent of plant material is composed of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen.
The other slice is made up of all the other key elements, with the macronutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, sulphur, calcium and magnesium) and the micronutrients (zinc, copper, iron, manganese, boron, chlorine and molybdenum) making up the other 0.5 to 6 per cent.
As important as carbon is to plant production, finding a cost-efficient method of extracting it from a viable source in order to add supplemental carbon is a real challenge. Among the companies that have launched ag-carbon initiatives, however, Lignition Corporation is early in the stage of examining the role of lignin and its applicability for crops.
According to president and co-owner Dave Sutherland, lignin is the most readily available source of what he calls harvestable sunlight. Yet lignin has little or no value to farmers and retailers within the current agricultural infrastructure. Lignin boasts a high carbon content — as much as 60 to 70 per cent — depending on the source. Canada’s forest and agricultural resources represent a phenomenal storehouse of energy — and it grows daily.
“Every farmer uses lignin already — or their crops would be flat on the ground,” says Sutherland, who has spent a number of growing seasons working with his wife, Lena, developing a process for deriving a useable form of lignin for use on a variety of crops in a variety of forms. “It’s in the stems, the leaves — it holds up the plant. It’s also in every field, as part of the carbon store in soil organic matter. It breaks down slowly, so it plays a key role in carbon and organic matter cycling.”"
"World rapeseed output will fall for the first time in five years, led by a particularly sharp decline in production in the European Union, the top grower, the International Grains Council said.
The council, in its first forecast for world rapeseed output in 2015–16, pegged it at 68.9m tonnes, a drop of 3.8% year on year.
The forecast reflected in the main an estimate of an 11.7% tumble in output in the European Union from last year’s record high, with production this time pegged at 21.2m tonnes.
That is below a forecast of 21.5m tonnes from Strategie Grains, the Paris-based analysis group, and reflected in the main an expectation of lower yields, hurt by a ban on a controversial insecticide type.
‘High levels of pest damage’
“Crops are generally developing well in most areas, including in France,” the IGC said.
“However, a mild autumn and an earlier ban on neonicotinoid insecticides led to fast plant growth and high levels of pest damage in some parts, notably in Germany and the UK.”
Some crops were also “still vulnerable to frost damage”, although “little winterkill has been observed thus far”.
The German crop, recently the EU’s biggest, was seen tumbling 19.3% to 5.0m tonnes, on a 6.4% drop in sowings, with UK output seen falling by 11.6% to 2.2m tonnes, a fall again well ahead of the drop in plantings.
IGC projections show France retaking top spot in the EU with a 5.1m-tonne harvest, a decline of 7.6% year on year, on sowings down 1.0%.
Canola vs wheat
For Ukraine, the IGC forecast a 17.6% drop in output to 1.9m tonnes, warning that while crops appeared to have “survived the winter despite inadequate snow cover”, yield prospects may have been curtailed by “economic and financial constraints which resulted in the reduced use of high quality inputs”.
And while concurring with an official Canadian forecast of a 2.9% rise to 16.0m tonnes in the country’s output of canola, the rapeseed variant, the council warned that sowings could yet fall short of expectations.
"Although canola is generally deemed more profitable than other crops, returns relative to spring wheat – which accounts for the second largest sown area after canola – appear to have fallen compared to a year ago.
“Accordingly, there is the potential for farmers to favour wheat over canola, particularly in fields that would benefit from rotational changes.”
Canola is usually sown in spring in Canada, in contrast to the European Union, where rapeseed is usually autumn planted."
"Citrus farmers say a different pest treatment for exports could boost fruit quality, cut costs, and increase trade.
Currently, citrus exports undergo a cold disinfestation treatment in transit, which can be expensive and damaging to fruit.
Focus is now shifting to irradiation, which kills or sterilises pests in fruit before it leaves the country by exposing it to ionising energy.
Media player: “Space” to play, “M” to mute, “left” and “right” to seek.
AUDIO: Citrus industry explores alternative export treatment (ABC Rural)
Each year, Australia exports $200 million worth of citrus to more than 30 countries.
Citrus Australia’s citrus market access manager David Daniels said the industry needed to find ways to stay competitive, including considering alternative treatments like irradiation.
He said it could overcome major issues in the supply chain.
Mr Daniels said during the cold disinfestation period, fruit were subjected to low temperatures for about three weeks. He said the system could fail when temperatures spiked across the equator, or equipment malfunctioned.
He said these failures could be expensive, compounded by extra costs from shipping companies in applying in-transit treatments, and the certification expenses for Australian growers.
“We would always welcome anything that was more cost-effective than what we’re doing,” he said.
Mr Daniels said many tests more needed to be done on irradiation."
Irradiation of imported spices is pretty standard these days. Irradiating hamburger should be, if you want to remove risk from E. Coli contamination. It also is the best potato sprout inhibitor – potatoes treated just don’t sprout – ever. The fear of the idea of irradiating food is preventing progress in many areas.
"PHOENIX, Arizona — Bryce Knorr kicked off the 2015 commodity classic on a cheery note talking about corn and soybean markets.
“I have good news. I think there is hope for a rally,” said the senior grain market analyst with Farm Futures.
There have been nine times in the past 20 years where the corn stocks-to-use ratio is below 13 percent, which is what is forecast for the end of 2014–15.
In eight of those years the December new crop contract has rallied to take out the highs achieved in the fall. He is forecasting a minimum spring rally to $4.58 per bushel for corn.
There have been 14 times in the past 20 years when the soybean stocks-to-use ratio has been below 15 percent like it is forecast to be at the end of this crop year.
In all 14 of those years the November new crop soybean contract has rallied to take out the fall highs. Knorr expects a minimum soybean price rally to $10.85.
Ed Usset, grain marketing specialist with the Center for Farm Financial Management at the University of Minnesota, agreed that a spring price rally is likely for corn and soybeans.
If the analysts are right that would bode well for all grain and oilseed crops.
Usset said over the last 35 years the December new crop corn contract has rallied to take out the December highs 70 percent of the time. The same is true for soybeans.
This year that would mean $4.39 corn and $10.29 soybeans. Usset said the higher prices are a function of the anxiety that comes with spring planting.
He said there is a 50 percent chance of achieving $4.60 corn and $11 soybeans.
There is a 14 percent chance that corn will rally all the way back to the $5.25 cost of production."
"Consultant offers details on technology farmers could use to find foreign materialsP.E.I. Potato Board
As its industry dealt with cases of tampering, the P.E.I. Potato Board hired a consultant to look at technology farmers could use to find foreign materials.
In a report prepared for the board, Link Consulting said technologies it reviewed add value in reducing risk, but no one technology can remove all possible contaminants.
“Managing and implementing change to improve product safety is a difficult challenge,” the report said.
The board hired Link Consulting within weeks of the first reported case of a needle in a potato from Linkletter Farms in October.
Since then several more cases have been reported from the same farm and the Cavendish Farms processing plant.
The P.E.I. Potato Board has offered a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of whoever is responsible."