Ontario Grain Farmer June/July 2024

Published by www.OntarioGrainFarmer.ca JUNE/JULY 2024 SPECIAL EDITION: NEXT-GEN AG The innovators FINDING THE RIGHT FIT

25The educators Mary Feldskov 26The globetrotters Melanie Epp 30The survivors Lois Harris JUNE/JULY 2024 volume 15, number 7 ONTARIO GRAIN FARMER is published 9 times a year (December/January, February, March, April/May, June/July, August, September, October, and November) through Grain Farmers of Ontario. Distribution is to all Ontario barley, corn, oat, soybean, and wheat farmer-members. Associate Membership Subscription available upon request. Views and opinions expressed in this magazine are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the policies of Grain Farmers of Ontario. Seek professional advice before undertaking any recommendations or suggestions presented in this magazine. PUBLICATIONS MAIL AGREEMENT NO. 40065283. Return undeliverable items to Grain Farmers of Ontario, 679 Southgate Drive, Guelph, ON N1G 4S2. © Grain Farmers of Ontario all rights reserved. Publisher: Grain Farmers of Ontario, Phone: 1-800-265-0550, Website: www.gfo.ca; Managing Editor: Mary Feldskov; Production Co-ordinator: McCorkindale Advertising & Design; Advertising Sales and Sponsorship Consultant: Joanne Tichborne 6 ON THE COVER Stormy skies ahead Treena Hein WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2024 From the CEO’s desk FEEDING THE WORLD 4 A year in review Laura Ferrier 10 Market review 2022 - 2023 Blair Andrews 12 Business side Conversations with business experts 9 GrainTALK newsletter An update on Grain Farmers of Ontario news and events 16 What do Canadians think about food? Mary Feldskov 14 Crop side Agronomic information from crop specialists 23 European trade policies Ontario Grain Farmer 18 More winter barley acres Matt McIntosh 20 Grain contracts guide Mary Feldskov 22 Ontario Agricultural Conference 2024 Ontario Grain Farmer 24 Stronger leadership Rachel Telford 26 Good in Every Grain Updates on our campaign 30 Farming for world hunger Rebecca Hannam 28 172024 ANNUAL DISTRICT MEETINGS CHECK HERE FOR DATES AND TIMES DECEMBER 2023 / JANUARY 2024 volume 15, number 3 ONTARIO GRAIN FARMERis published 9 times a year (December/January, February, March, April/May, June/July, August, September, October, and November) through Grain Farmers of Ontario. Distribution is to all Ontario barley, corn, oat, soybean, and wheat farmer-members. Associate Membership Subscription available upon request. Views and opinions expressed in this magazine are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the policies of Grain Farmers of Ontario. Seek professional advice before undertaking any recommendations or suggestions presented in this magazine. PUBLICATIONS MAIL AGREEMENT NO. 40065283. Return undeliverable items to Grain Farmers of Ontario, 679 Southgate Drive, Guelph, ON N1G 4S2. © Grain Farmers of Ontario all rights reserved. Publisher: Grain Farmers of Ontario, Phone: 1-800-265-0550, Website: www.gfo.ca; Managing Editor: Mary Feldskov; Production Co-ordinator: Kim Ratz; Advertising Sales and Sponsorship Consultant: Joanne Tichborne BIODEGRADABLE POLY 15-03 OGF DecemberJanuary 2023-24_OnGrainFarmer 2023-11-09 11:04 AM Page 3 Crop side Agronomic information from crop specialists ON THE COVER The innovators Ralph Pearce FINDING THE RIGHT FIT 4From the CEO’s desk Looking back, moving forward 18GrainTALK newsletter An update on Grain Farmers of Ontario news and events 34Good in Every Grain Updates on our campaign 10The leaders Mary Feldskov The problem solvers Treena Hein 20The 4-Hers Barb Keith 22The mental health advocates Rebecca Hannam 11 Business side Conversations with business experts 33Crop side Agronomic information from crop specialists COVER PHOTO: COURTESY OF PROOF LINE FARM PHOTO COURTESY OF GOOD IN EVERY GRAIN.

MAY 1 MARKED A SIGNIFICANT MILESTONE in Ontario agriculture – the 150th anniversary of the Ontario Agricultural College (OAC) at the University of Guelph. On this day, Aggies from across Canada (and the world!) celebrated by wearing their OAC jackets and sharing photos on social media. As an OAC ’97 graduate and dad to an OAC ’26 student, my son Clayton and I proudly donned our jackets to commemorate this day. Over the next eight months, OAC will be hosting a number of events and activities to celebrate its 150-year history. Growing from a small, one-year program to train agriculture students to a worldrenowned institution with campuses in Guelph and Ridgetown offering diploma, undergraduate, and graduate degree programs, the OAC is integral to the success of Ontario’s agriculture industry — training the next generation of Ontario farmers, agronomists, researchers, and entrepreneurs, and conducting the research on the most pressing issues that Ontario’s farmers face. You can read more about some of the bright, young graduate students, researchers, and faculty in OAC in this special edition of the Ontario Grain Farmer, Next-Gen Agriculture. Grain Farmers of Ontario is a proud supporter of OAC and the University of Guelph – we have funded the Grain Farmers of Ontario Wheat Professorship in Wheat Breeding and Genetics, headed by Dr. Helen Booker, and the Grain Farmers of Ontario Professorship in Field Crop Pathology at the Ridgetown Campus (where a search is currently underway for a candidate). We make annual investments — last year, more than $1.85 million — in research projects, many of which are led by OAC researchers. Student groups and projects, campus facilities, and the annual College Royal Open House have all benefited from Grain Farmers of Ontario’s investment. Supporting OAC is just one of the ways that Grain Farmers of Ontario invests in the ‘next generation’ who will lead the agriculture industry into the future. Our Grain Farmers of Ontario Legacy Fund Scholarships, support of leadership programs like Nuffield Canada and the Advanced Agricultural Leadership Program, and investments in developing leaders in the agriculture industry through Grain Farmers of Ontario programs like Grains in Action and the Women’s Grain Symposium are all ways that farmer-member dollars are put to good use to advance the industry. I can attest to the importance of investment in leadership opportunities — I was a Canada Nuffield Scholar in 2012, and the skills, international contacts, and learning that I gained have been instrumental in my work in Ontario agriculture. By travelling around the world and meeting farmers, researchers, and agricultural business leaders, my eyes were opened to new ways of thinking, and I gained an incredible appreciation for how fortunate we are in Ontario to have the opportunity to grow abundant, safe, and reliable grains and oilseeds to supply Canada and the world. Grain Farmers of Ontario has continued to advocate for risk management programs that help farmers manage the risk on their farms. While these programs are important for all farmers, we know that for younger farmers, whose tolerance for risk may be lower, programs like crop insurance and Ontario’s Risk Management Program are vital. We also continue to advocate on important files such as carbon tax, fertilizer, and programs to support our farmer members. I’m writing this editorial in early May when ongoing rain has kept many farmers out of the field. By the time you read this in June, I hope that #plant24 is wrapping up and Ontario is well on the way to a great growing season. • Crosby Devitt, CEO, Grain Farmers of Ontario 4 From the CEO’s desk Looking back, moving forward UNIVERSITY OF GUELPH JOHNSTON HALL PHOTO COURTESY OF UNIVERSITY OF GUELPH

This scholarship encourages the pursuit of higher education in any area of study that will benefit the Ontario grain industry or agri-food industry and supports the development of future leaders in these areas. The Legacy Scholarship is open to students accepted or enrolled in any accredited post-secondary college or university program. Up to 10 scholarships of $5,000 will be awarded; up to five of those may be awarded to students pursuing non-agriculture specific studies. Legacy Scholarship applicants are required to submit a resume, letter of reference, and a 1,000 word essay explaining how they became interested in their area of study, how their area of study and career goals will benefit the future of the Ontario grain sector or agri-food industry, and why Grain Farmers of Ontario should be a partner in their academic journey. • Deadline to apply is July 21, 2024 • Proof of college/university enrollment is required For more information or to apply, visit www.gfo.ca/legacyscholarship If you have any questions about your eligibility for the Grain Farmers of Ontario Legacy Scholarship or the application process, please contact Rachel Telford, Manager, Member Relations, rtelford@gfo.ca. The Grain Farmers of Ontario Legacy Scholarship can help! Need help fulfilling your dreams?

6 Cover story The innovators FINDING THE RIGHT FIT Ralph Pearce EVERY WINTER DURING THE MEETING SEASON, THE WORD “INNOVATION” IS MENTIONED — OFTEN WITH GREAT ENTHUSIASM. It may result from a previously untried processing opportunity, a seldomgrown cropping alternative, or a transition to something completely different, like adding livestock to a grain and oilseed operation. Although there’s no age limit governing such entrepreneurial spirit, anecdotally, there does seem to be a greater willingness for “something different” among younger producers. Their goals range from doing something positive for the environment to charting a new value-added venture for their farm. Or they find a market opportunity that doesn’t exist in their particular area — or a little of all three. One thing about the search for differentiation is that it seldom comes without plenty of planning, discussions with those experienced with such ventures, and a learning curve that tends to be more of a straight line upward. Yet, two elements that tie them together are the determination to make their new endeavour successful and the patience to endure subsequent growing pains. Here are the stories behind three innovative operations, all managed by young producers. WHAT’S ‘IN STORE’ ON THIS FARM Innovating on the farm usually involves answering to the local marketplace, filling an opportunity that’s often unattended. The McNaughtons have transformed Proof Line Farm, a generational operation, into a value-added venture. They’ve complemented their farming history with an on-site farm market that sells dairy products, eggs, local meat, and a wide variety of food items from other ventures, including honey and maple syrup. “We have a small dairy and work some additional cash crop acres, with a cornsoybean-wheat-alfalfa rotation on the home farm and a corn-soybean-wheat rotation for everything else,” says Steve McNaughton. He and his wife, Janan and his brother, Mike, operate the farm alongside their father, Norm, with help from extended family members, including their grandmother, Katherine. “We also grow a bit of sweet corn, pumpkin and sunflowers and have some dairy-beef cross cattle as well as a handful of laying hens, all to supply our farm store.” In the past couple of years, they’ve tried to focus more on their soils, adding cover crops following wheat and switching to strip-till for corn and no-till for all other crops. • The McNaughtons have grown their family farm business by expanding into on-farm processing and retail. • Leveraging their complementary skill sets have been integral to their success. • The Israel family has taken an organic approach to diversify their farm business, filling a niche market. • Adding cereal rye and alfalfa as a cover crop has helped control weeds and boost corn and soybean yields. • The Stone family has focused on crop diversification and seed production to grow their family business. • Adopting technology like drones is just one of the innovative practices that have been adopted. WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW Steve and Mike are the sixth generation to work on the family farm, with the creamery and farm market part of its transition. Mike began farming with Norm after returning home from college in 2011; he gradually took over management of the dairy operation following the construction of their new free-stall barn and milking robot in 2018. “Janan and I have been working on the creamery and farm market concept since 2019,” says Steve, crediting Norm with succeeding in the operation the way he did. “He expected well-thought-out and thoroughly researched business plans and has been very supportive of the changes we’ve made in the past few years. He’s provided us with the opportunity to expand, and he’s been patient with us when we’ve made mistakes and learned along the way.” The technological changes they’ve made STEVE AND MIKE McNAUGHTON. PHOTOS SUPPLIED.

7 ONTARIO GRAIN FARMER JUNE /JULY 2024 continued on page 8 include a GEA Monobox milking robot that Steve calls a pivotal part of the dairy, offering flexibility and data that are invaluable, plus a robotic feed pusher running every two hours to keep feed in front of the cows. The laying hens are kept in a Cackellac chicken tractor in warmer weather, allowing them to be safely and securely housed on pasture and moved on to new grass daily. With their expansion, efficiency is paramount: each task needs to be accomplished quickly and easily on a daily basis. With the store, Janan is kept busy vetting suppliers and trying various products. Working with local people is important but so too is their focus on offering the highest quality goods from consistent and reliable suppliers. Their cousins produce the maple syrup they sell, and there is a couple that maintains an expanding apiary on the McNaughton farm to supply them with honey. Steve acknowledges the need to be multifaceted to operate any farm and that he, Janan, and Mike each possess a diverse yet complementary skill set suited to their current operation. Mike is hands-on and has a practical approach, and Janan is strongest in formulating customers’ experiences, relationship management, and marketing the business. Steve’s strengths lean to the food-processing side, together with planning and crunching numbers. “The skill set necessary to add a consumerfacing aspect to your farm is definitely different from being strictly productionfocused,” says Steve. “You have to keep consistent retail hours and respond to the evolving needs and desires of your customers. We’re more implementers than innovators; we just try to piece together things we think will work well for us here on our farm.” AN ORGANIC APPROACH Farming is hard enough, dealing with the vagaries of weather and the volatility of commodity prices. But making the decision to undergo organic certification — and not just in crops but in livestock, as well — further complicates life as a producer. Yet that is exactly what Brett Israel, his father Jamie, and grandfather Carl have embraced in the past eight years. The family-run farm has been certified organic since 2019 in their crops and with their 170-sow, farrow-to-finish operation. Brett acknowledges the effort involved in “going organic”; he never tries to convince others that it’s the only way to go, yet he does field a significant number of questions about his family’s methods and goals. The transition has yielded numerous benefits, from premiums resulting in the added management requirements to improved soil conditions and animal health. They’ve checked their land base at 800 to 900 acres, and if they expand on those acres, it’s a gradual process that reflects their organic requirements. “If we have an opportunity to grow in our land, we’re going to take that opportunity and look to grow it modestly — nothing too fast,” says Brett, who rotates corn, soybeans, and winter wheat, spring barley or mixed grains. “I don’t want to overproduce for a given market, either. That’s an important component, where growth hasn’t been excessive, and it’s more about improving profitability per acre if we can.” Two additions to the crop rotations are alfalfa and cereal rye as a cover crop. They’re seeing better weed control in subsequent crops, plus higher corn and soybean yields following alfalfa. The feed quality for their hogs is showing positive results, which Brett notes is a return to past practices, such as when his grandparents fed alfalfa haylage to their sows in the 1960s and ’70s. Incorporating cereal rye as a cover has also helped with weed control and boosted soybean yields. JANAN McNAUGHTON

8 Cover story “We started looking at ways to get more cereals into the system going back to 2022, and we’re actually now starting to drill through a rye cover after some of our grain corn gets harvested in October,” says Brett. “We have two years where we’ve seen that work quite nicely in terms of overwintering, even though it’s established later in the fall.” A common thread among innovators is in bridging the gap between farm and consumer, and that’s certainly part of the approach the Israel operation has taken, particularly in listening to the needs and wants of the average non-farmer. Brett believes he’s tapped into a preferred production system for the farm’s hog operation, including loose housing for the animals. Together with organic feed, it’s translated into improved animal health, both in terms of average daily gain and feed conversion and lower mortality rates. “We’ve had the opportunity to network and share with others, and that’s always fortunate,” says Brett. “It’s encouraging more producers who are building new to be thinking about housing and maybe building something that could be standards that are evolving, going forward. It’s certainly led us to the position that even if we weren’t going to be supplying a certified organic marketplace, I wouldn’t want to raise pigs the way we used to raise them.” When asked if he considers himself an innovator, Brett replies that he’s just a humble observer of a process and that he’s trying to carry forward a legacy of asking questions in search of greater understanding. If that can help others find their way to a better system, all the better. COVER CROPS AND SO MUCH MORE Looking at a map of Ontario, it’s easy to lose sight of the scope of agriculture across such a huge expanse with different production practices. In the Ottawa Valley, it’s possible to depart from corn or winter wheat while attending to malt barley or hemp. That’s what Keanan and Reuben Stone have found, along with developing Valley Bio, between Ottawa and Pembroke. The farm has evolved in the past 15 years, building a registered seed establishment on 800 to 1,000 acres of owned and rented land, a variety of 30 cover crop species and UniSeeds, a hemp genetics business they started in 2012. The Stones are also SeCan growers and dealers, with soybean and cereal seed from genetics suited to their specific region. The two, along with Reuben’s father Dalton, run a three- to five-year rotation with the main crops being industrial hemp, soybeans and cereals, including rye, barley, and oats. They also add peas and buckwheat and try to follow most crops with a cover, depending on the goal, be it soil health, forage for livestock or returning nutrients to a field. “We want to make a difference in the agriculture industry,” says Keanan. “We want to ensure the sustainability of our farm for our family or future generations that will farm this land, so focusing on soil health and sustainability is a big driver. Working with traditional commodities offers some stability but the market’s so saturated it’s difficult to add much value or generate much profit, so we diversify.” Reuben adds they can ship a container of hemp almost anywhere in the world for the same percentage margin as a truckload of corn to the Port of Johnstown, roughly 200 kilometres away. They do that by adding value to the hemp and most of the other crops they grow, producing them with the goal of being seed, which is then conditioned and packaged in their registered seed establishment. The variety of cover crops includes traditional options like rye, oats, barley, buckwheat, and clovers, but Reuben’s been experimenting with common vetch and yellow sweet clover for the past couple of years. He’s also spent time working with growers on cover crop strategies, attempting to add diversity in some fields or introducing cattle forage. Among the other cover crop species they sell are flax, continued from page 7 JAMIE, CARL, AND BRETT ISRAEL. PHOTO SUPPLIED.

9 ONTARIO GRAIN FARMER JUNE /JULY 2024 sorghum, sunflower, phacelia, peas, radish, and turnip. If working with hemp and an extensive list of cover crops weren’t enough in terms of innovating, Reuben began working with a drone in 2023 after watching them for several years as they evolve for farming purposes. He’s seen enough success that he is convinced the technology has a permanent place on their farm. “We’re investing heavily in the logistics to support that equipment and make it even better,” he says, noting he can use it for seeding and fertilizing crops. “It’s our next tractor, but it does add another layer of complexity to a farming operation and certainly has to be taken seriously.” Reuben and Dalton are building a custom trailer to improve the logistics for seeding with the drone, and they’re hoping to put it on the road this summer. “Reuben is the innovator in our team – he can’t help it,” says Keanan. “Sometimes it’s hard to rein him in, but it’s also fun to run with him on some of his ideas and projects because they’re exciting and they keep things interesting.” • REUBEN AND KEANAN STONE AND THEIR FOUR CHILDREN. PHOTO COURTESY OF GOOD IN EVERY GRAIN.

10 Member Relations The leaders YOUNG FARMERS MAKING THEIR MARK Mary Feldskov CANADA’S FARMERS ARE AGING: according to the 2021 Census of Agriculture, the average age of farmers in Canada is 56 — representing 60.5 per cent of all farm operators in Canada. But what about younger farmers? Thirty-five per cent of farmers are in the 35-54 year age group, with just 8.6 per cent under age 35. However, as the older generation of farmers prepares to retire, more and more young people are preparing to take the reins: the census reports that the proportion of farms in Canada reporting a succession plan increased from 8.4 per cent in 2016 to 12 per cent in 2021, with farms classified as oilseed and grain farming accounted for the largest share (44.5 per cent) of farms reporting a succession plan in 2021. THE NEXT GENERATION OF FARM LEADERS Grain Farmers of Ontario prioritizes ensuring young farmers have a voice in the industry’s future. Programs that encourage young farmers to get involved, learn more about the industry, and gain leadership skills and experience — like Grains in Action, the Women’s Grain Symposium, and the American Soybean Association (ASA) Young Leader Program — are a top priority for the Grain Farmers of Ontario Board of Directors. Current and past board members and delegates are alumni of those very programs, including Grain Farmers of Ontario’s chair and director of District 12 (Durham, Northumberland, Kawartha, Peterborough, Hastings), Jeff Harrison, who, along with his wife, Janie, was an ASA Young Leader in 2017. “Through programs like the ASA Young Leaders and Grains in Action, we are giving young farmers the opportunity to find their voice, get involved, and make an impact.” Harrison acknowledges that it’s not always easy for young farmers to participate in events, meetings, and leadership development programs; off-farm jobs, family commitments, and general “busyness” on the farm can all be deterrents. “But it’s really important to have young people’s voices heard,” he says. “They are the future of our industry.” DISTRICT LEADERSHIP Kristen Carberry, chair of District 12 (Durham, Northumberland, Kawartha, Peterborough, Hastings), knows all about being busy. Carberry farms near Campbellford in Northumberland County with her husband, Kyle and brother-in-law, Geoff, where they have 500 acres of cropland and a dairy herd. She is also the East-Central territory manager for Pioneer and, together with Kyle, a parent to Madison, age 3, and Rylee, age 4. Prioritizing involvement in Grain Farmers of Ontario, she says, is a way to put her skills and knowledge to use and give back to the industry. Her Grain Farmers of Ontario leadership path began in District 11 (Dufferin, Simcoe, Halton, Peel, York) in 2018, where she and her husband farmed near Caledon. With a B.Sc. in agriculture from the University of Guelph and as a certified crop advisor (CCA) with resistance management specialty (RMS), she has put her industry knowledge and expertise to good use as a Grain Farmers of Ontario Research Committee member. Since moving to Northumberland, Carberry says District 12 has been really welcoming, and she has enjoyed leading an active and engaged group of delegates as chair for the past three years. “I just keep on a path of accepting new opportunities,” says Carberry of her leadership journey. And, she’s always looking to take on new challenges, like speaking on grower or research panels. “I’m always looking to refine my skill set and get some new experiences under my belt.” Carberry encourages young farmers to get more involved in the organization, stressing that Grain Farmers of Ontario’s structure gives everyone the opportunity to have their voices heard, particularly as a delegate. “It’s just important to get out, and attend a meeting,” she says. “I know it’s hard to prioritize sometimes, with off-farm jobs and other commitments, but it’s important to be in the room.” And with lots of organizations vying for young farmers’ time, she says, “…this one [Grain Farmers of Ontario], your voice is heard. This one is worth it.” Join the conversation at www.ontariograinfarmer.ca to read more stories about young leaders in the grain and oilseed industry. • KRISTEN CARBERRY. PHOTO SUPPLIED.

11 ONTARIO GRAIN FARMER JUNE /JULY 2024 Next-Gen financing BUSINESS SIDE WITH... (J.M.) WHO WILL BE THE NEXT GENERATION OF CANADIAN FARMERS? (P.W.) The next generation of farmers is important to the growth of our industry. We will be relying on young people who come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences to continue producing our food. At Farm Credit Canada (FCC) we know the next generation will include those who will take over the family farm and individuals who are new to agriculture, all with a diverse skillset. We also expect a greater proportion of women and Indigenous people to be farming, representing a growing but underserved segment of our sector. The numbers don’t lie; Farm Management Canada estimates that 75 percent of farms across Canada will change hands over the next decade. In 2021, Statistics Canada reported that 60.5 per cent of farm operators were older than 55. The next generation is ready to farm, and we need them, but they also need the support to help them succeed. For example, FCC’s economics team recently identified a national opportunity that amounts to a $1.5 billion boost to primary agriculture’s GDP if we can increase the participation of Indigenous people in agriculture and bridge the gap in farm income between Indigenous and non-Indigenous farm operations. HOW IS FCC SUPPORTING NEW FARMERS? Canada’s next generation of farmers are currently being under served. That’s one of the reasons FCC is increasing focus on these groups to provide more support by expanding our products and creating new, specific loans and services for these groups, and offering educational events and resources. Our events are open to anyone interested in Canadian agriculture and feature speakers who inspire, inform, and introduce new ways of thinking about agriculture and food. FCC hosts several events, including Young Farmer Summits, Ag Outlooks, and Women in Ag, Transition, and Indigenous-focused learning opportunities. As I mentioned, FCC is proud to focus our efforts on supporting Indigenous agriculture and food. We invested $15 million in the National Aboriginal Capital Corporation’s Indigenous Growth Fund to increase entrepreneurs’ access to capital through Indigenous Financial Institutions. The FCC Women Entrepreneur Program is our commitment to supporting women in agriculture and food based on our understanding of their needs and those of women entrepreneurs across the country. It offers support to women involved in Canadian agriculture and agri-food by providing the capital they need to grow their business, along with the meaningful skill development opportunities they are seeking. WHAT PRODUCTS AND SERVICES ARE AVAILABLE? FCC offers a robust suite of products and services, including increased lending programs and services directed at the next generation of Canadian farmers. We’re invested in the future of our industry and the success of our clients. For a full list of our financing products, please visit our website, www.fcc-fac.ca. Here’s a look at the specific loans and services we offer to support young farmers, new farmers, women and Indigenous people. Starter loan: Designed to establish or expand your operation and build your credit history with FCC. Receive up to $150,000 with special 1 – 10-year fixed rates available and no loan processing fees. Perry Wilson, Senior Vice-President Agriculture Production – Ontario, Farm Credit Canada www.fcc-fac.ca Business side Jeanine Moyer Young Farmer Loan: Qualified farmers under 40 years of age can use the loan to purchase agriculture-related assets for up to 18 months (up to $2,000,000) with no loan processing fees. Women Entrepreneur Loan: Provides each female borrower a one-time fee waiver of up to $1,000 of the loan processing fees. Borrowers are encouraged to reinvest these savings into personal and professional development that best suits their individual needs and the needs of their growing business (training, conferences, mentorship, etc.). This loan program has provided over $2.5 million in lending to female entrepreneurs since the loan’s inception in March 2019. Indigenous Agriculture and Food: On and offreserve financing and resources for Indigenous entrepreneurs, economic development corporations and First Nations communities. In addition to agriculture activities, we have also expanded our eligibility to include traditional Indigenous harvesting from natural sources. Young Entrepreneur Loan: With this loan, entrepreneurs under age 40 can start or expand their business and access capital for their business of up to $2,000,000 to purchase agriculture or food-related assets with low interest rates or loan processing fees. FCC transition services are also available as a complimentary advisory program designed to help farm families gain clarity, identify goals and determine the next steps in their transition journey. FCC’s business advisors work with farm families to help start the conversation, define goals and intentions, eliminate barriers and explore options for farm transition. •

The problem solvers Dr. Adrian Correndo SERVING AGRICULTURE THROUGH DATA 12 Research Treen Hein DR. ADRIAN CORRENDO, WHO RECENTLY BEGAN AT THE UNIVERSITY OF GUELPH AS AN ASSISTANT PROFESSOR AND RESEARCH CHAIR for The Pick Family Chair in Sustainable Cropping Systems, was definitely born into the right time. “I want to put modern data analytics into the service of our farmers,” he says. “I’m very passionate about using data and digital tools to identify and promote the best management practices for sustainable crop production.” Correndo grew up in Argentina and obtained his undergraduate and master’s degrees at Universidad de Buenos Aires. He finished his PhD at Kansas State University and did a year of post-doctoral research there before moving to Guelph with his family in 2023. However, his attraction to agriculture started at a very young age. “It has a lot to do with my father, Pedro, and his entrepreneurial spirit,” says Correndo. “He always rented farmland and had small projects, growing some corn, feeding our own cattle. His projects during my childhood helped me to develop a strong relationship with agriculture. Years later, when deciding on a career, I just had to read the University’s ‘agronomy plan of study’ once, and I knew it was my calling.” HELPING FARMERS Over the next few years, he aims to create interactive dashboards so that agronomists, farmers and others can use research results more efficiently. In addition, he wants to help refine the recommendations for managing nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in the production of Ontario’s main crops. Also, over the next few years, he aims to better understand the role of cover crops in plantsoil nutrient dynamics. “Over the longer term, at the cropping system level, the effect of key practices such as tillage and crop rotation requires time to be appropriately assessed, for example, to establish soil carbon trends,” Correndo explains. He considers the multiple long-term trials at the Elora Research Station to be very valuable, where management practices such as tillage, crop rotation, cover crops, and fertilization management have been studied over many years. However, on-farm research is also an essential tool for investigating crop management practices and getting recommendations out to farms. “Challenges to this are variable equipment, data collection, and analysis,” says Correndo, “but we certainly need to move more toward this type of research using real scenarios. Extreme weather events can be a challenge, however. Many times, if the weather causes failure of a new crop or a cover crop the year farmers try it, they will be discouraged to try it again. This is why we need both on-farm and long-term data.” Correndo also sees more education of agronomists to be important in the adoption of new and better cropping practices. “Farmers are the stewards of the land, and agronomists should be the stewards of the data,” he says. “However, data literacy and applied programming education is still very limited. Agronomists capable of understanding and managing large amounts of data will make a clear difference.” TECHNOLOGY ADVANCES As Correndo develops new tools for farmers, he’s incorporating the latest developments. Advances in computing capacity, for example, are enabling him and his colleagues to use Bayesian statistics. “This, in my opinion, brings significant opportunities to explore the real world of risk and uncertainties that face farmers,” he says. “It’s a must for moving towards more realistic decision frameworks for farmers based on probabilities rather than on trying to provide magical ‘true values’ for rate of seed, fertilizer, and other factors.” The latest developments — this time in programming — will also inform Correndo’s work to develop interactive dashboards for sharing data and research results with agronomists, farmers and others. “I am very excited to take an active role in creating these ‘open access dashboards’ that will help farmers make more informed decisions,” he says. “It will mean sharing results in a much more efficient and dynamic manner compared to classic static outcomes like reports.” Correndo is also focused on achieving improvements in research results. “We could say that classic research is at the core based on explanatory models, which simply ‘explain’ what already happened,” he says. “This helps us understand patterns in a simplified way but doesn’t predict anything. Here, modern analysis techniques like machine learning provide opportunities to read intricate interactions between factors – which is exactly what occurs in agriculture – and to develop models that can forecast instead of just explaining. There are exciting days ahead.”• PHOTO SUPPLIED.

is, to verify his work, McConachie needs that very particular weather conditions that FHB requires to grow — good for research but not for farming wheat. McConachie is excited about his career and truly fascinated about using new technology in agriculture. “There are many ways it can be leveraged to improve the industry and help safeguard food supply chains,” he says, “and it’s powerful, but I think we also have to keep in mind that all technologies have limitations. Integrating some of the more fundamental techniques is very useful.” Booker has been very impressed with McConachie’s progress so far. “Riley has been a tremendous asset to the Guelph Wheat Program as an undergraduate UESL/co-op student and now as a graduate student,” she says. “Riley has taken every opportunity to hone his communication skills by presenting his research to diverse audiences. Importantly, Riley is the first author of a peer-reviewed paper in the Plant Phenome Journal. Riley’s hard work and focus have really paid off.” • 13 ONTARIO GRAIN FARMER JUNE /JULY 2024 The problem solvers: Riley McConachie DISRUPTING FUSARIUM GENETIC ANALYSIS UP TO THIS POINT, PHENOTYPING (RATING DISEASE INFECTION SEVERITY) OF FUSARIUM HEAD BLIGHT (FHB) IN WHEAT HAS BEEN VERY INEFFECTIVE. There’s quite a bit of inaccuracy, making breeding efforts based on the ratings not as efficient as they could be. The existing rating systems are also time-consuming. Enter Riley McConachie, who is working to change this situation for good. Under the supervision of Dr. Helen Booker at the University of Guelph, McConachie is pursuing a master’s degree, developing a new way to increase the accuracy of FHB disease ratings and slash the time needed to do so. “I’m combining deep machine learning with some fundamental remote sensing techniques,” he explains, “in order to rapidly produce accurate disease severity scores using simple cell phone images.” McConachie has already won numerous awards for his innovative approach. It was during his bachelor’s degree in environmental science at the University of Guelph, specifically during his first co-op experience at the Indian Head Research Station in Saskatchewan, that McConachie was first introduced to agricultural science. “I really enjoyed my time there and ended up getting a position with the Wheat Breeding Lab at UofG for my third co-op position,” he says. “Afterwards, I completed an Independent Research Project with the lab and was invited to come back for my fourth co-op. I really enjoyed it, so I discussed a master’s with Dr. Booker. The rest is history!” When asked to summarize why he’s drawn to agriculture science, McConachie points to its complexity. “There are so many approaches you can take,” he says, “and all the aspects interact with one another. It leaves such an open door for researching the aspect that holds the most interest.” McConachie aims to wipe inaccurate FHB severity phenotyping off the map while automating the rating process. Time saved in the field means that researchers will have more time for other tasks and be able to help farmers sooner. Increased and faster rating accuracy will enable faster progress in breeding programs and faster release of improved cultivars. “In the long term I hope to expand this workflow to create an app that allows producers to quickly and easily estimate the degree of infection within their fields,” says McConachie. “A better understanding of FHB infection within fields would allow producers to enact the optimal management strategy for harvesting their crop to help minimize the impact of FHB infection.” To do all this, McConachie is harnessing the power of advanced deep learning algorithms, but ‘training’ these programs is quite timeconsuming at times and requires a lot of computing power. The weather can also get in the way, but in a counterintuitive way. That PHOTO SUPPLIED.

AWARD-WINNING, MOTIVATED, OUTSTANDING — THIS IS HOW YOUNG SOYBEAN SCIENTIST KELSEY BOUCHER IS DESCRIBED by people who know her, including her graduate advisor, Dr. Istvan Rajcan, professor and graduate program coordinator for soybean breeding and genetics at the University of Guelph. She is co-advised by Dr. Milad Eskandari. Since May 2022, Boucher has been working towards her M.Sc. degree in the Department of Plant Agriculture, focusing on identifying quantitative trait loci (chromosomal regions) associated with resistance to sudden death syndrome (SDS) in Canadian elite soybean genotypes. This topic is considered a high priority by both Grain Farmers of Ontario and the Ontario Agri-food Alliance, which financially supports Boucher’s research. “The genetics of SDS resistance is a very important topic,” says Rajcan, “and Kelsey is making excellent progress in the collective effort to achieve better control of the disease. She has been an outstanding student 14 Research interest,” she explains. “In the near future, my goal is to determine genomic regions of interest that have not been previously identified by others. In doing this, I would be answering the question of whether there is novel SDS resistance present in the Canadian germplasm.” This will lead over the long term to her long-term goal of producing hardier soybean crops, particularly those with more disease resistance. However, the path to success with resistance is not an easy one to manoeuvre. “When host plants are given better resistance, the pathogen will often also evolve to be able to overcome that resistance,” says Boucher. “Breeders must, therefore, constantly look for new potentially-beneficial genomic regions.” Indeed, crop geneticists like Boucher are in an ongoing battle against the power of pathogen genetics, but she is dedicated to this fight for the long haul. “By next year, I hope to start my PhD,” she says, “and I am excited about the future, about making further contributions.” Rajcan notes that during her graduate studies, Boucher has shown initiative and excellent planning and organization skills. “She has been a stellar and exemplary student who is a true pleasure to work with,” he says. “I foresee a bright future for Kelsey as a young scientist.” This research is funded by Grain Farmers of Ontario and the Ontario Agri-Food Innovation Alliance, a collaboration between the Government of Ontario and the University of Guelph.• The problem solvers: Kelsey Boucher BATTLING SUDDEN DEATH SYNDROME who has won several awards during her studies, including the second prize for a poster award at the 2024 Soybean Breeders Workshop held in St. Louis, Missouri, in February 2024.” Like many of her peers with a passion for improving crops, Boucher hails from a farming community, in this case, a small town called Kars just outside of Ottawa. “While I am not from a farm myself, my grandfather was a proud farmer in the community and growing up, most of my neighbours were farmers,” she says. “This upbringing gave me a large amount of appreciation for the work farmers do, including the hours they put in and the risks they must take in terms of their farms’ profitability. As a child, I watched farmers lose their profits for the year due to disease, flooding, drought, etc., wiping out their crops. I knew I wanted to help them achieve consistent yields year over year.” After learning more about agriculture during her undergraduate degree, Boucher felt strongly that the best way she could help farmers secure high yields was through breeding, particularly breeding for resistance to the various stresses crops face throughout every growing season. When she was accepted to do a master’s degree at the University of Guelph, she couldn’t wait to get started. Over the past two years, Boucher has completed experiments evaluating the degree of SDS resistance in what’s called a Canadian soybean diversity panel. This has meant testing about 250 different soybean varieties both in the greenhouses at Agriculture and Agri-food Canada Harrow and in the field. “This includes screening lines for symptoms in naturally infected fields, inoculating plants in a growth chamber environment, and finally conducting a Genome-Wide Association Study to determine genomic regions of continued from page 13 PHOTO SUPPLIED.

NITROGEN IS ONE OF THE MOST LIMITING NUTRIENTS FOR CROP PRODUCTION, YET IT’S THE MOST PRONE TO LOSSES FROM THE SOIL TO THE ENVIRONMENT. This is a problem that Dr. Inderjot Chahal, a postdoctoral fellow in the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of Guelph, Ridgetown Campus, is passionate about solving. “Dr. Chahal’s research is leading soil health knowledge in Canada and worldwide,” explains colleague Dr. Laura Van Eerd. “Her expertise is sought to lead the interpretation of complex soil datasets that expand the knowledge of the scientific community, policymakers, and farmer practitioners.” But long before obtaining her master’s degree at California State University and her PhD at the University of Guelph, Chahal was a little girl with a keen interest in the natural world. “I would attribute my interest in studying plants to my grandfather, Mr. Gurmail Singh Chahal,” she explains. “He was passionate about gardening and would create lots of fun activities for all the grandkids to grow our interest in plants and insects. I really enjoyed spending time in the garden, helping in watering the plants, looking for earthworms, and pulling weeds. That’s where it all started.” 15 ONTARIO GRAIN FARMER JUNE /JULY 2024 In the long term, Chahal is also very interested in how to design cropping systems that better withstand adverse weather conditions without a decline in yield. “Due to climate change, the frequency of extreme weather events is expected to increase and enhancing the resiliency of cropping systems will be really beneficial to growers,” she says. “I am very interested in exploring the specific underlying biogeochemical mechanisms responsible for imparting resiliency.” As she continues to inspire and inform more research and changes to agricultural practices in Ontario and beyond, Chahal is very happy to be pursuing a career where she uses the skills, expertise, and experience she has gained along her journey. “I would like to mention that I am extremely grateful for the guidance and motivation I have received from amazing agronomy and soil researchers, many of them women,” she notes. “They have inspired and played a key role in shaping my career. In turn, I look forward to being a mentor for the next generation of agricultural scientists.” • The problem solvers: Dr. Inderjot Chahal LEADING SOIL HEALTH RESEARCH IN CANADA AND AROUND THE WORLD After secondary school, Chahal completed an undergraduate degree in agricultural science in India to better understand the processes and factors responsible for crop production. “I am still very passionate about agricultural research, specifically the interactions between the plants and soil,” she says. “To me, among all components of the crop production system, these interactions are the most fascinating.” Broadly, Chahal’s research focuses on understanding the role of sustainable agricultural management practices such as cover crops, reduced tillage and crop rotation diversification on soil health, soil carbon storage and crop productivity. Nitrogen cycling and strategies to reduce nitrogen losses to the environment are a priority. Chahal explains that a critical way to optimize soil nitrogen fertility and reduce nitrogen losses to the environment is to synchronize cover crop nitrogen release with the peak period of a crop’s nitrogen demand. “To understand this, we need to test the above- and below-ground cover crop residue decomposition dynamics under various soil types and management practices,” she says, “such as tillage systems and crop rotations.” But while Chahal feels the benefits of adopting sustainable agricultural management practices such as cover crops are clear, they aren’t as widely used as they could be. “The soil management practices which contribute to building soil health (which build soil organic matter and soil carbon) are the keys to enhancing the resiliency of our production systems, but we still have this enormous challenge of increasing adoption,” she says. “Perhaps conducting comprehensive economic analysis and putting a dollar value on the benefits might help to move adoption rates upward.” PHOTO SUPPLIED.

16 Research YOU MIGHT SAY PROBLEM-SOLVING COMES NATURALLY TO YAJUN PENG, who is pursuing her doctorate at the University of Guelph Ridgetown Campus under the supervision of Dr. Laura Van Eerd. “Ms. Peng is an exceptionally talented scientist who is excelling in her PhD studies largely due to her problem-solving abilities,” Van Eerd explains. “This takes both creativity and intellect. Her research continues to enhance our understanding of the mechanisms by which carbon and nitrogen are stored in soil and cycled to grain crops. This has provincial and global significance.” For Peng, the drive to tease apart these mechanisms comes from her steadfast desire for everyone to have healthy food every day. But she adds that “when it comes to ‘healthy’ food, in my view, it is not only about nutrients for human beings, but also about the way that we create food that is healthy for the air, water, flowers, and animals. In my opinion, to achieve this goal, the first step is to have much synchrony exists between cover crop nitrogen release and crop nitrogen demand across soil types. In the long term, she sees her future research focusing on how the agricultural community can increase agricultural productivity without depleting soil and water resources to meet the food needs of growing populations. “I believe adoption of best management practices in agroecosystems is a realistic and cost-effective approach to improving agricultural sustainability and protecting natural resources,” she says. “So, my long-term goal is to investigate why best management practices can increase crop yields and soil health as well as protect the environment, based on on-farm and long-term research experiments.” In Peng’s view, sustainable food production is very much all about the soil. “I think of soil as just like the heart in human beings,” she says. “It must be protected and improved, and that, of course, requires everyone in the agriculture community working together. We scientists can’t do it alone.” • healthy soil by building up soil organic matter to strengthen its resilience to climate change.” Long-term cover cropping is a key way to achieve the build-up of organic matter, but how this affects nitrogen management has yet to be fully discovered. “The main question of my research is ‘Does soil organic matter accrual increase nitrogen availability to grain corn, and if it does, why?’” Peng explains. “To answer this question, we use the nitrogen-15 tracer technique. This technique allows us to trace the labelled fertilizer nitrogen in the soil-plant system, especially to investigate the contribution of labelled fertilizer nitrogen and soil nitrogen to grain corn.” Another part of this research that Peng considers “amazing” is that she is able to compare this in long-term cover cropping versus first-time versus none in the same field, removing potentially confounding experimental factors of growing conditions, soil type, and more. “With this experimental set-up, we have the opportunity to provide farmers with scientific evidence that even one year of cover cropping is better than zero.” But while it is quite clear from cover crop trials in these scenarios build up soil organic matter and replenish nutrient levels (especially increasing nitrogen availability as well as minimizing its loss), just how carbon and nitrogen are released from cover crops is not yet well understood. It is particularly important also to see if there are differences in release across different soil types and agroecosystems. Peng’s next step is, therefore, to investigate how soil texture with different soil organic matter content affects cover crop decomposition, using an incubation experiment with nitrogen-15 labelled cover crops. In the end, she should be able to make good conclusions about how The problem solvers: Yajun Peng IMPROVING AGRICULTURE SUSTAINABILITY IN THE FUTURE continued from page 15 PHOTO SUPPLIED.