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Airborne pathogens key to North American disease surveillance
An international disease monitoring system initially developed for soybean rust is now being expanded to include other common field crop pathogens. Government, university and industry agencies are collaborating to make the system a useful tool for producers.
The surveillance system uses passive and active spore collectors that sample the air and rainwater. These samplers are stationed in nine fields – or sentinel plots – across Canada, including the University of Guelph’s Ridgetown campus.
Airborne pathogens are caught in the samplers’ filters, which are analyzed to determine which bacterial and fungal species are present.
“We hope to develop a disease forecast, which predicts the incidence and severity of certain pathogens in each area,” says Albert Tenuta, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs crop disease specialist. “It can also identify problem areas and give producers more time for disease scouting and management.”
An increase in spores over time could mean the pathogen is becoming more virulent, and the current resistant varieties may no longer be effective against it.
Canadian collaborators include OMAFRA, Grain Farmers of Ontario and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada •
Pinpointing profitability in marketing
Timing can be everything when selling a corn or soy crop. Market conditions can change without much warning, and producers need a leg up to determine their marketing response.
Dr. Richard Vyn, an agricultural economist from the University of Guelph’s Ridgetown Campus, created a simulation model which uses historical price per bushel data from 1992 to 2009 to compare the financial returns and risks associated with the most common marketing strategies used by Ontario corn and soybean producers.
He found that pre-harvest futures or forwards contracts for corn sales tended to net the highest profits. However, for soybeans, strategies involving cash sales post harvest tended to generate higher prices.
“The relative performance of strategies can vary based on pre-harvest market conditions,” says Vyn.
“When pre-harvest prices are high, there is a good chance that prices will drop going into harvest. Pre-harvest strategies tend to work best in these situations.”
Vyn’s study receives support from the Ontario Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Rural Affairs, and Grain Farmers of Ontario. •
New smartphone app helps guard against soybean aphids
Warding off invasive crop pests such as soybean aphids requires accurate and timely information about where the latest threats are coming from, and how they can be prevented.
To that end, a University of Guelph research team wants to put such crucial information into producers’ hands through a novel, on-farm smartphone tool.
Dr. Rebecca Hallett from the University of Guelph Environmental Science department is working with Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs field crop entomologist Tracy Baute on a new smartphone application, called Aphid Advisor, which they hope will help give producers the upper hand against this year’s severe soybean aphid infestations.
Aphid Advisor features photos and information about the soybean aphid’s natural enemies, such as the lady beetle. The app advises farmers whether there is a need to apply insecticides based on the ratio of natural enemies to aphids. “This way farmers can ensure that they are only using insecticides when necessary and they can otherwise let nature take its course,” says Hallett.
This project is supported the University of Guelph – OMAFRA Knowledge Translation and Transfer program. •
Research Roundup is provided by members of SPARK (Students Promoting Awareness of Research Knowledge) at the University of Guelph’s Office of Research. For more information, contact a SPARK writer at 519-824-4120, ext. 52667.