Category Archives: field crops

Harnessing physics for better seed germination, higher crop yields

By Matt McIntosh

Waterloo – Physics, the science of the cosmos, is critical to our understanding of the natural world – and on a more practical agricultural level, it might be able to help improve crop yields.

According to entrepreneurs and former University of Waterloo students Amir Zhumagulov and Ilyas Ashirov, physics – or a force within the science called electromagnetism – can be used to stimulate grain seeds into earlier and more productive growth.

If done at the right time, Zhumagulov says electromagnetically stimulating grains like wheat, corn, and rice can hasten germination time and facilitate early root development. In turn, this gives farmers a more uniform and early crop, which can translate to higher, more consistent yields.

“Every seed comes with its own nutrients so it can start growing,” says Zhumagulov. “Before planting, low-frequency electromagnetism can be used to stimulate how fast enzymes in the seed begin breaking down the starch and proteins contained within it, giving the seed a more vigorous start. Faster root development also comes from increases in protein synthesis within the seed.” Continue reading

Cosmetic and health products generate new markets for Ontario sweet corn

By Lilian Schaer

Guelph – A local biotechnology company is expanding its operations to meet growing global demand for its sweet corn-derived glycogen product.

Mirexus Inc., a University of Guelph spin-off company, is building a $6.8 million research and production facility that will have the capacity to produce 16 tons of its trademarked flagship product PhytoSpherix annually.

PhytoSpherix is nano-particulate form of glycogen, currently offered as a key ingredient in personal care and cosmetic products with a particular focus on anti-aging. The product is certified natural, non-toxic, food grade, and biodegradable, making it safe for human use in food and cosmetics. In the long run it has much potential for medical applications as well, such as a nano-carrier or transport system in the body to carry drugs to targeted areas like cancer cells.

To feed the expanded production, Mirexus will need 4,500 acres of sweet corn production per year, creating new market opportunities for farmers. All the sweet corn used to make PhytoSpherix is currently sourced from Ontario, which the company plans to continue doing, says President and CEO Dr. Phil Whiting.

“These are new markets for farmers that aren’t driven by the commodity cycle, and we are using sweet corn varieties available on the market today,” he says. “Forty per cent of the dry corn kernel is the material we use, and that’s what lets us harvest this economically, because there is a lot of it.” Continue reading

A sweet market for crop residues

Biorefining company expands partnership with local crop farmers with new glucose-processing facility

By Matt McIntosh

Sarnia – Making more money on the same amount of land – it’s a mantra for today’s farmers, and one that’s increasingly relevant as land prices and production costs continue to rise.

A Sarnia refining company is helping local farmers expand their return per acre by providing a market for an otherwise low-value material: the corn stalks and wheat stubble left over after harvest.

With planning for a new facility well underway, Comet Biorefining is expanding its partnership with Ontario farmers who are members of the Cellulosic Sugar Producers’ Cooperative – a partnership that started in 2014 – to turn an additional 60,000 tonnes of crop residue into 30,000 tonnes of cellulosic dextrose, or industrial processing sugar, each year. Continue reading

Sky high scouting zeros in on crop stressors

Using drones, farmers can save money and increase their crop yields by mapping their fields to identify areas of stress.

By Jane Robinson

Peterborough ON – What started as a move back to the Ontario family farm for Norm Lamothe turned into a big move forward in crop scouting technology for Canadian farmers.

Lamothe left a 10-year career in the aviation industry to return to be the sixth generation on the family farm near Peterborough. At the encouragement of a neighbouring farmer, Lamothe bought his first unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) or drone in 2015. He had a small group of area farmers already signed up to have a block of acres viewed by the new technology and help share the investment risk.

“We quickly identified the opportunity for farmers to save money and increase their crop yields by mapping their fields to identify areas of stress,” says Lamothe. Continue reading

Innovative farmer wins award for soil conservation practices

Eric KaiserBy Lilian Schaer

Napanee – Eric Kaiser has spent a lifetime transforming 14 former Loyalist settlement properties into a large, productive egg and field crop farm business – and always with a singular focus on the environment and innovative, sustainable soil conservation practices.

His efforts have earned him the 2017 Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association (OSCIA) Soil Champion Award, which is handed out annually to recognize leaders in sustainable soil management.

“There is no one practice that defines conservation farming, it’s a management system and every component has a part to play,” says Kaiser, who has a civil engineering degree from the Royal Military College. “Sustainability has many components, but the preservation of top soil must be the final result.” Continue reading