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Nitrogen fixation is a great tool in legumes for providing nutrients necessary for high yields; however, in grassy species (such as corn and wheat), nitrogen has to be applied either in organic form (manure) or synthetic (fertilizer) form.

However, researchers are looking at trying to produce a hybrid that would fix its own nitrogen (check out the article here). While nowhere near completion, the idea itself is enough to get peole excited about the possibilities.

While I am rather intrigued by this, I am somewhat wary about being able to make hybrids that fix their own nitrogen. Is it going to have an impact upon quality? We might never know. However, we’re going to have to haveĀ  a LOT more research done before we’re going to be able to ensure that nitrogen-fixing corn is the right way to go.

Teaching a corn crop to fix its own nitrogen could be pivotal in reducing environmental issues associated with nitrogen leaching.

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The newly-formed Grain Farmers of Ontario, which brought wheat, corn, and soybean producers under one umbrella, is already suffering from personnel troubles, and it’s not even a year old.

Dale Petrie, vice-president of strategic development, and Arden Schneckenberger, director for District 14, tendered resignations just last week.

The GFO was quick to assure producers that it wasn’t because of management instability; the two members found the job to be different than anticipated, and wished to pursue other options.

It’s only to be expected. A new organization, with a new operating structure, is bound to have some problems. Producers shouldn’t be alarmed; they’ll continue to operate as planned, and represent producers well in the future.

The Grain Farmers of Ontario form an umbrella group for wheat, corn, and soybean producers.

An article recently published on the Ontario Farmer website (found here) talked about some of the misconceptions with antibiotics used in livestock production.

People don’t seem to understand that we don’t use antibiotics all the time. We use them if the animal is sick; and when the animal is young, we use preventative treatments to help the animal get on its feet. There are also strict withdrawl timelines that we have to follow for all antibiotics to ensure there is no contamination.

Thank you, for at least getting the word out to some people so that we don’t have quite as many people crying out that we’re killing everyone else and we’re the main problem with superbugs evolving.

Antibiotics are used as the last resort, in most cases. Overuse results in an animal that can't be shipped.

It’s long been known that weeds cause yield loss in corn crops.

However, Prof. Clarence Swanton, researcher at the University of Guelph, is doing research on how corn “sees” weeds, even before they come in direct competition of light, water, or other nutrients. The corn senses the green weeds beside them, and then changes their structure. Although the difference isn’t overly obvious, Swanton has shown there is a significant yield loss even from competition up to the 3-leaf stage in corn.

Weeds have long been shown to reduce yields in corn.

Now this is cool research. Corn that can see weeds? Awesome. I kind of want to see more of this kind of research in the future. What’s next? Maybe corn that can kill weeds without actually using herbicides. That would be handy.

Researchers are getting concerned.

Researchers looking at resistance strategies are worried that they don’t have enough time to actually determine how resistance works in different insects. The key to working around resistance is to actually determine the mechanism of resistance; without that, it’s a complete shot in the dark to try and solve the problem. With the CFIA coming down hard on refuge compliance in Bt corn, coming up with resistance strategies becomes a race against time.

European Corn Borer larvae is one of the insects that could become a serious problem if resistance arises to Bt corn.

For the hope of producers using the Bt technology, I hope they can come up with something soon, or we may be seeing the insect version of roundup resistance.

Corn companies are facing increasing pressure from officials from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to enforce the use of refuge in Bt corn crops by producers. Ever since the Bt gene has been introduced into corn varieties, it has been mandatory for producers to have ate least 20% of their corn acreage planted to non-Bt corn to ensure that resistant bugs don’t breed and proliferate.

However, as many corn producers will tell you, they don’t really follow the regulations – the lack of a way to actually enforce the refuge has encouraged growers to plant pretty much all of their acres to Bt varieties for better bug control.

Monsanto is planning on implementing random testing of farmer’s fields, and non-compliance with the refuge agreement could result in a loss of use of the Bt technology. Other companies (especially Pioneer and Syngenta, the other two main corn producers with the Bt gene) haven’t yet released how they’re going to enforce this new complicance.

A new study from a biology professor from the University of California has found thatĀ  atrazine – long been used by farmers in corn crops for weed control – can alter the sex ratio in frogs by changing 1 in 10 male frogs into females. While these transvestite frogs can mate with male frogs, genetically they are still technically male, so all the offspring they produce are male, skewing the male/female ratio.

This disturbing discovery raises more worries about the use of chemicals as pest control in crops. Syngenta, the company who produces atrazine, is protesting that atrazine is one of the most studied and safe herbicides used worldwide.

It will be interesting to see the fallout from this new study. I could see many people getting up in arms (again) over commercial use of chemicals. Could this be the beginning of another rally towards organics? We’ll just have to wait and see.