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Serving the producers of the Northwest

FARMER North Battleford, Saskatchewan

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Thursday, November 19, 2020

Pollinators key to sustainability, says 2020 Volvo Environment Prize winner By Marc Fawcett-Atkinson Local Journalism Initiative Reporter National Observer

Forget lions, tigers and bears: For Claire Kremen, conserving insects is more important. Around the world, forests, meadows and wild spaces are being rapidly transformed into farmland, pushing wildlife into steep decline and threatening our food security. It’s a crisis that Kremen, professor of zoology, con-

servation biologist and recipient of the 2020 Volvo Environment Prize, has dedicated a lifetime to solve. The annual prize is among the world’s most respected environmental honours and includes a cash award of $210,000. “Over time, our farms have gotten larger, they’ve tended to get more simplified,” said Kremen. That change has made it increasingly difficult for pollinators like bees and flies — responsible for about 75 per cent of the

world’s crops — to survive. Fortunately, reversing the catastrophe is possible, she said, by making working lands like farms and ranches more ecologically diverse. Between 60 and 70 per cent of the Earth’s terrestrial surface is used by people for farming, forestry or ranching. They’re the lands that feed us; however, many of the management practices used on them to maximize food or timber production Continued on Page 2

Claire Kremen is a conservation biologist, a professor of zoology at UBC and this year’s recipient of the Volvo Environment Prize for her work on pollinator habitats and agriculture. Photo by Volvo Environment Prize

APAS launches Saskatchewan’s first Internet Speed Test Agriculture group highlights poor rural internet by challenging rural residents to test their speed The Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan (APAS) has launched an Internet Speed Test for Saskatchewan. The test gives people living anywhere in Saskatchewan the chance to test their internet speeds against what their internet contracts promise. The project is a partnership between APAS, Saskatchewan’s agricultural policy and advocacy organization, and the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA), which

works to improve the safety and accessibility of the internet for Canadians. The APAS Internet Speed Test is the first such partnership between CIRA and a Saskatchewan organization. The data collected will help establish a baseline for internet service levels in the province. APAS hopes the research will help ensure that the federal government’s enhanced Universal Broadband Fund supports projects in the areas that need it most.

“The investment in the Universal Broadband Fund is an important step, and our Internet Speed Test is a great complement to it,” says farmer Jeremy Welter, Chair of the APAS Rural Connectivity Task Force, which launched in September to focus on rural internet and cellular service. “This Speed Test lets us put numbers to people’s experiences and see what internet service levels look like in specific areas around the province.”

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The Internet Speed Test, which takes only a minute to complete, gives the user detailed information about their download and upload speeds. Speeds that meet the CRTC’s service standards for Canadian internet are given a blue dot on the Saskatchewan map, while substandard internet is marked in red. “Not only does it give us a really compelling picture of internet speed across the province,” says Welter, “but it also gives people an

exact picture of their own internet. They can compare their speed to what their contract promises and let their service provider know if they’re not getting the speeds they’re paying for.” APAS is calling on rural Saskatchewan residents living on farms, in towns and villages, and on First Nations, to complete the Internet Speed Test. The data will help APAS understand actual internet service levels in the province and advocate for im-

provements. People can take the Internet Speed Test at apas. ca/speed-test. Launched in September 2020, the APAS Rural Connectivity Task Force is currently meeting with industry experts and service providers to find out why connectivity is still so bad in rural Saskatchewan, plus identify ways to fix the problem. The Task Force will release its findings in early 2021. Visit apas.ca/connectivity for more information.

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Page 2 - The Battlefords, Thursday, November 19, 2020

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Warmer winters mean more freeze-thaw cycles — and more emissions — for Canada’s fields By Marc Fawcett-Atkinson Local Journalism Initiative Reporter National Observer

Each September, Ashala Daniel sows her fields with winter rye, hoping the seed takes root before the first snows fall. It’s a ritual that could help save the planet. Fields are among Canada’s largest emitters of agricultural greenhouse gases (GHGs), emissions that are at their highest levels in winter. During the freezethaw cycle, increased levels of nitrous oxide (N2O) and methane, both potent GHGs, are pumped from barren fields into the atmosphere. The natural phenomenon is expected to become more common as winters warm. “It’s part of why I cover crop,” said Daniel, who owns Solstedt Organics, an organic vegetable farm and orchard near Lytton, B.C. Cover cropping is the practice of planting a field with a crop, like winter rye, after the growing season is over. It is common

Pollinators

Continued from Page 1 are driving astonishing biodiversity loss. Among the most worrying trends is the rapid decline of pollinators. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, 16.5 per cent of pollinators are threatened with extinction. About a third of Europe’s bee and

on organic farms because it helps build soil fertility and reduce erosion. However, the practice isn’t widely used on most Canadian fields, particularly if they’re managed for industrial agriculture. That could be a problem: A study published last month in the scientific journal Nature revealed that nitrogen fertilizers, essential to industrial agriculture, and the N2O they release are driving agricultural emissions globally. Without major transformation to farming systems globally, these emissions will send global temperatures soaring far above the 1.5 C “safe” limit agreed to in the 2015 Paris Agreement. Freeze-thaw cycles play a major role in this process, explained Carson Li, lab and research co-ordinator for the University of British Columbia’s sustainable agricultural landscapes lab and a researcher who studies N2O in agriculture. “Normally, people think that where N2O comes from is the warm-weather agricultural regions,”

but that’s not what’s happening, he said. Instead, his team and others have found that between 17 and 28 per cent of field-based emissions are taking place in the winter, after crops have been harvested and the fields left fallow. It’s an unexpected process they trace back to the freezethaw cycle. “(N2O) is produced by microbial processes in the soil,” he said. “A lot of the (soil) bacteria will use carbon and nitrogen contained in the organic matter. They break them down to emit CO2, methane and N2O.” It’s a complicated process shaped by temperature and oxygen and water levels in the soil that get disrupted by a hard frost. When the ground freezes, the water contained in it expands, blocking oxygen from reaching organisms living in the ground below the frost line and moving the soil around. That forces the microbes to start anaerobically digesting the fresh organic matter pushed from the surface underground by the frozen

butterfly species are declining. Industrial agriculture, an approach to food production promoted by governments and agri-business for decades, is largely to blame. “Pesticides are being used to control crop pests, but, unfortunately, they tend to be not that targeted and ... affect beneficial insects like pollinators as

well,” Kremen explained. “And then there’s habitat change.” That change has been marked by the transformation of biodiverse farm fields, forests or meadows into fields of a single crop, or monocrops. These are like food “deserts” for pollinators, Kremen explained, and leave the insects struggling to find enough food. British Columbia’s blueberry farms are an example. Rows upon rows of blueberry bushes all need to be pollinated when they bloom in the spring — a Herculean task for native pollinators, which are often helped by hives of domesticated honeybees that farmers rent to ensure their crops get pollinated. But that pollen feast is quickly over, leaving native pollinators with almost nothing to eat for months, and making it difficult for them to survive. That’s bad news, and not only for the insects. “You get into this situation where the farmers become really, really reliant on importing honeybees to provide pollination ser-

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water. If there’s excess nitrogen in the soil, which is usually the case in fields that have been heavily fertilized with artificial nitrogen or even manure, that process transforms it into N2O. When the soil thaws again, that N2O gets released into the atmosphere in a hard-to-measure burst, Li said. That means the more freeze-thaw cycles fields go through over the course of a winter, the more N2O

they emit — and those cycles are expected to become more common Canada-wide over the next century. “As winter temperatures rise across Canada, especially in southern parts of the country, we get more days where temperatures may go above zero ... and then go back colder again,” said Chris Derksen, climate researcher for Environment and Climate Change Canada. Canada is warming at

almost twice the global average, according to a 2019 report by Environment and Climate Change Canada. If nothing is done to curb global emissions, the country could be on average up to 6 C warmer than between 1986 and 2005. “That’s an example of a positive climate feedback (loop), where we get warming temperatures in the winter, it leads to more freeze-thaw cycles, that releases more GHGs in the atmosphere, which exacerbates warming,” Derksen said. It’s a dangerous cycle, and one that cover crops can slow down by picking up excess nutrients in the soil, Li explained. That prevents fields from feeding subterranean microbes during the winter and leaching into nearby creeks and lakes where they can also contribute to similar feedback loops. “A cover crop is definitely one of the most useful ways to reduce and mitigate this type of environmental impact,” he said.

vices because the native pollinators just aren’t abundant enough anymore,” she said. Imported bees also have problems — collapsing colonies, queen bee shortages — and aren’t very good at their job. Native bumblebees, a species that has seen its relative abundance decline by 97 per cent in North America, are much better at harvesting and transporting blueberry pollen than their domesticated cousins. They’re built to fit a blueberry flower and can vibrate their wings at the right frequency to loosen the pollen; domesticated honeybees can’t. That makes it easier for the bumblebees to coat themselves in pollen and continue pollinating other plants. “There is research that has shown in different crops that, sometimes, the combination of honeybees and other pollinators can be more effective for pollination and getting a good harvest,” Kremen said. Increasing that diversity is possible: It’s Kremen’s life’s work. She studies

how agricultural landscapes can be made more diverse to better support pollinators and other wildlife. It’s an agro-ecological approach that can include everything from adding hedgerows to planting pollinator-friendly meadows near farm fields and diversifying the plants under cultivation. Critics of this approach say it’s less efficient and won’t be able to produce high enough yields to meet the world’s growing population. Kremen disagrees. Her research has shown that strong native pollinator populations can actually increase yields while helping farmers reduce their costs and reliance on imported bees. “(When you’re) thinking about a farming system that we can really count on for the long-term future, then it’s better not to have all your eggs in one basket,” she said. “Professor Kremen’s work on diversified farming systems and conservation has helped us to understand how the increasingly globalized food system affects

biodiversity, sustainability, and equity, and — most importantly — how to significantly improve this system so that we can feed ourselves while protecting biodiversity and mitigating climate change,” the jury of the Volvo Environment Prize Foundation said in a statement announcing Kremen’s win. “I’m not suggesting that we need to rely solely on native pollinators, but they have a really good part to play in crop pollination. Creating conditions in which they can thrive is basically an insurance policy,” Kremen said. That insurance policy is increasingly important. Unprecedented rates of extinction and a changing climate are putting evermore strain on our agricultural and food systems. Transforming how food is is essential to long-term sustainability and food security. Focusing on pollinators is a good place to start, she said. “I sort of see pollinators as your gateway drug to sustainable agriculture. Because who doesn’t like pollinators?”

Canadian winters are predicted to get much warmer, increasing the frequency of freeze-thaw cycles and agriculture emissions, climate researchers say. Photo by Hanne Christensen

Serving the producers of the Northwest

RancheR

A community newspaper published Monthly . Owned & Operated by Prairie Newspaper Group LP a division of GVIC Communications Corp. 892 - 104th Street, North Battleford, Saskatchewan S9A 1M9 Telephone: 306-445-7261 • Fax: 306-445-3223 E-mail: newsoptimist.news@sasktel.net We acknowledge the financial support of the Government of Canada. Nous reconnaissons l’appui financier du gouvernement du Canada.

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The Battlefords, Thursday, November 19, 2020 - Page 3

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Hummus for cows? Identifying the best chickpea crops for cattle feed USask – While hummus used to be an exotic spread enjoyed only in the Middle East, it has become a staple in grocery stores throughout the world. Recently, the savory dish has gained popularity amongst a new fan base: herds of cows. As chickpea production increases around the world, those crops not suitable for human consumption are being recycled into cattle feed as a partial replacement for soybean meal and cereal grains, explained Dr. Peiqiang Yu, a professor with the University of Saskatchewan (USask). “However, until now there was limited information about the nutritional values for this newly developed chickpea as ruminant feed,” he said. In a recent study, Yu and colleagues showed that the Canadian Light Source (CLS) at USask can effectively image the molecular structure of chickpea seeds to determine which varieties have the highest nutritional value and would best serve as a feed for beef and dairy cattle. Yu and colleagues

The Canadian Light Source at the University of Saskatchewan is a national research facility, producing the brightest light in Canada— millions of times brighter than even the sun. studied CDC Cory, a new chickpea cultivated by the Crop Development Centre at USask, with seed samples provided by breeder Dr. Bunyamin Tar’an. Using the Mid-IR beamline, the researchers imaged the distribution of chemical compounds like protein, lipid and carbohydrates in the chickpea tissue in pixelsized increments. “This information can be used for selecting superior varieties of chickpea,” said Yu, “and for predicting nutritive values.” He said the CLS beamline offers the particular advantage of being non-destructive.

“Unlike the commonly used wet chemistry, this technique preserves the intrinsic microstructure of samples and can detect ultra-structural chemical information within the cellular dimension.” The significance of the research is that it

shows how synchrotron techniques can offer insights into which crops will perform best before they are produced on a mass scale. In this case, the analyses will help to ensure cows can enjoy a hummus that is not only a tasty treat, but also a nutritious one.

“Quantifying the inherent molecular structure is vital to understanding the variation in nutrient digestibility and utilization when chickpea is used in animal feed.” In the future, the team plans to investigate how different chickpea

processing techniques like dry heating, moist heating and microwave irradiation affect the internal nutrient components. “This information could be a tremendous benefit to chickpea breeders, growers and processing operations, and to the animal feed and export industries in Canada,” said Yu. The Canadian Light Source at the University of Saskatchewan is a national research facility, producing the brightest light in Canada—millions of times brighter than even the sun. One of the largest science projects in our country’s history, the CLS hosts annually more than 1,000 scientists from around the world who use our light to conduct ground-breaking health, agricultural, environmental and advanced materials research. The Canada Foundation for Innovation, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, National Research Council of Canada, Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Government of Saskatchewan and the University of Saskatchewan fund our operations.

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Page 4 - The Battlefords, Thursday, November 19, 2020

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Buying food online? Farmers are paying to make that possible — and it might put them out of business By Marc Fawcett-Atkinson Local Journalism Initiative Reporter National Observer

Grocery shopping online is convenient. A convenience farmers fear

could put them out of business. A handful of grocery chains supply Canadians with food and, with online sales predicted to surge beyond the pandemic, they’re racing to adapt. That

means a suite of expenses — warehouses, robotics, software development, delivery trucks — that farmers and processors say are being passed down to them. “This is coming from

Three grocery chains — Loblaws, Sobeys, and Metro — control more than 60 per cent of Canada’s grocery retail market. That gives them enough market power to offload expansion costs down the supply chain. Photo by James Vaughan/ Flickr

the imbalance of (market) power,” said Michael Graydon, CEO of Food, Health, and Consumer Products of Canada, an association representing Canada’s food, beverage, and consumer products industries. “When you’ve got over 80 per cent of grocery retail consolidated into five individual retailers, it gives them (significant market power). That’s the root cause of the issue.”  Together, Loblaws, Sobeys/Safeway, and Metro make up 63 per cent of all grocery stores in the country.  That leaves farmers and food processors few options to get their products to market, and minimal negotiating power to set prices that reflect their costs of production. It’s a situation farmers say has contributed to skyrocketing farm debt in Canada and could have cascading impacts on Canada’s food supply chain.  “That makes farmers less resilient, less able to adapt to climate change, less able to have the reserves they need to protect

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themselves from unexpected events like pandemics,” said Darrin Qualman, director of climate policy and action for the National Farmers Union. Canadian farmers have been increasingly pinched between rising costs for growing food and lower prices for years. They’re the only part of Canada’s food supply chain that is distributed across several thousand small businesses — a sharp contrast to heavy consolidation among both grocery chains and seed and fertilizer companies.  They’re also competing against producers in Mexico, the United States, and other countries where the cost of growing and processing food is cheaper, Graydon said. Eventually, farmers and processors can’t cut their costs any further. Unless they can convince domestic retailers that their food is worth a higher price tag, they’re forced out of business and that increases Canadians’ dependence on food grown across international borders or thousands of kilometres away.  Taken together, these forces have put farmers and processors in a difficult position, Graydon and Qualman agreed. A position that’s set to get worse as grocery chains race for online dominance, a competition best exemplified by a $3.5-billion e-commerce expansion project announced by Walmart Canada in July.  The company’s plans include renovating a third of its Canadian stores, building two new distribution centres to serve online customers, and incorporating robots and machine learning into its operations. “This investment ensures we’re developing a supply chain that is the envy of the world. The better the supply chain, the quicker our customers can get the products they want,” said John Bayliss, senior vice-president of logistics and supply chains for Walmart Canada in a written statement in July. Canada’s National Observer made multiple requests to Walmart for comment that were not answered by publication time.  The problem, Graydon said, is that the company has been clear the $3.5 billion won’t come from its coffers. Instead, it will be transferred down the supply chain as an “infrastructure fee” applied to the price received by the food processors and farmers supplying the U.S.-based company.  “There’s been this tradition to improve profitability while (keeping prices

low for consumers) by putting all the risk and responsibility (of expansion) back onto the suppliers,” Graydon said. That’s common among grocery chains across the country, he explained. What’s different with Walmart’s recent announcement is that the company told its suppliers directly it would be cutting into the prices suppliers received to fund the expansion project. And presented with few other places to sell their goods, producers don’t have much choice besides accepting the price cut and hoping they stay afloat.   “(Walmart) has just reported some of the best financial results in the history of their organization and is now putting what is traditionally the purview of the company themselves — capital investment in growth — onto its (suppliers),” Graydon said.   Walmart saw its sales jump 10 per cent in the first quarter of 2020, a direct result of pandemic panic purchases, and the fastest pace of growth in almost 20 years. Nor is it alone. Monthly retail sales for Canadian grocery stores surged by about $2 billion above average during the first three months of 2020, reaching about $10.3 billion by April. The bulk of this growth went to the country’s three major grocery chains — Loblaws, Sobeys/Safeway, and Metro — companies that are also surging into online shopping, Graydon said. They’re just less transparent about how they’re funding these expansion plans.  Even the federal government is concerned.  “It is unfortunate to see grocers impose these costly (expansion) fees during this pandemic, which fall on the thousands of Canadian food producers who are working hard to feed Canadians and support their communities amid many challenges,” said Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau in an emailed statement.  “Food producers and processors, and their workers, have played a critical role during the pandemic.”  However, she noted that “terms of sale are generally the exclusive domain between suppliers and buyers, and these areas fall under provincial jurisdiction ... Given that unfair business practices, including as they relate to terms of sale, are addressed at the provincial level, we encourage our provincial and Continued on Page 9


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The Battlefords, Thursday, November 19, 2020 - Page 5

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USask plant scientists develop model for identifying lentil varieties best suited to climate change impacts  USask Research Profile and Impact  With demand for lentils growing globally and climate change driving temperatures higher, a University of Saskatchewan-led international research team has developed a model for predicting which varieties of the pulse crop are most likely to thrive in new production environments.  An inexpensive plantbased source of protein that can be cooked quickly, lentil is a globally important crop for combating food and nutritional insecurity.    But increased production to meet this global demand will have to come from either boosting yields in traditional growing areas or shifting production to new locations, said USask plant scientist Kirstin Bett.  “By understanding how different lentil lines will interact with the new environment, we can perhaps get a leg up in developing varieties likely to do well in new growing locations,” said Bett. 

Working with universities and organizations around the globe, the team planted 324 lentil varieties in nine lentil production hotspots, including two in Saskatchewan and one in the United States, as well as sites in South Asia (Nepal, Bangladesh and India) and the Mediterranean (Morocco, Spain and Italy).   The findings, published in the journal Plants, People, Planet, will help producers and breeders identify existing varieties or develop new lines likely to flourish in new growing environments — valuable intelligence in the quest to

feed the world’s growing appetite for inexpensive plant-based protein. The new mathematical model is based on a key predictor of crop yield — days to flowering (DTF) which is determined by two factors: day length (hours of sunshine or “photoperiod”) and the mean temperature of the growing environment. Using detailed information about each variety’s interaction with temperature and photoperiod, the simple model can be used to predict the number of days it takes each variety to flower in a specific environment.   “With this model, we

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can predict which lines they (producers) should be looking at that will do well in new regions, how they should work, and whether they’ll work,” Bett said.         For example, lentil producers in Nepal, which is already experiencing higher mean temperatures as a result of climate change, can use the model to identify which lines will produce high yields if they’re grown at higher altitudes.   Closer to home in Western Canada, the model could be used to predict which varieties should do well in what are currently considered to be marginal

USask plant scientist Kirstin Bett. Photo courtesy Debra Marshall Photography

production areas.   The project also involved USask plant researchers Sandesh Neupane, Derek Wright, Crystal Chan and Bert Vandenberg.  The next step is putting the new model to work in lentil breeding programs to identify the genes that are controlling lentil lines’ interactions with temperature and day length, said Bett.  Once breeders determine the genes involved, they can develop molecular markers that will enable breeders to

pre-screen seeds. That way they’ll know how crosses between different lentil varieties are likely to perform in different production locations. This research project was part of the Application of Genomics to Innovation in the Lentil Economy (AGILE) program funded by Genome Canada and managed by Genome Prairie. Matching financial support was provided by partners that include the Saskatchewan Pulse Growers, Western Grains Research Foundation, and USask.  

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Page 6 - The Battlefords, Thursday, November 19, 2020

Regional News-Optimist

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USask researchers partner with industry to make food and pipelines safer, agriculture smarter   By USask Research Profile and Impact  Backed by $2 million from the federal government and partner organizations, University of Saskatchewan

(USask) researchers aim to make Arctic pipelines stronger and safer, protect the food supply, and improve crop processing with cutting-edge technology.  Five research teams

have been awarded a total of $1.08 million from Canada’s Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) to lead the wideranging NSERC Alliance research projects. As well,

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partner organizations are contributing a total of $600,000 in cash and $340,000 in inkind contributions to the projects. “This major partnered investment will support exciting USask research projects that address complex challenges, create environmental and economic benefits, and contribute to Canada’s long-term competitiveness,” said USask Vice-President Research Karen Chad. “These collaborative projects will also train new researchers in areas important to Canada and our partners.”   The new research projects with combined NSERC and partner funding are:  Developing highstrength, coldtolerant steel for pipelines - $770,000  USask engineering researcher Jerzy Szpunar—working with EVRAZ Inc. and C a n m e t M AT E R I A L S Natural Resources Canada—will develop a new process for manufacturing highstrength steel adapted to low-temperatures (-45oC) for pipelines in northern Canada and Arctic areas around the world. Pipelines in cold regions face challenges such as terrain frozen by permafrost or gouged by sheets of ice. The research could improve the safety of gas and oil transport, open a new market for Canadian manufacturers, and reduce the environmental damage in the case of a pipeline failure in a sub-arctic environment.  Using biotech to make animal feed processing

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cheaper and more efficient - $697,000  USask veterinary researcher Dr. Matthew Loewen—partnering with biochemist Michele Loewen at the University of Ottawa and Western Grains Research Foundation, Saskatchewan Pulse Growers, and Botaneco Inc.—will use cutting-edge biotechnologies to tweak the chemical structures of two enzymes important for removing bitter-tasting tannins from animal feed. The results will lead to more efficient and cheaper bioprocessing, yielding more palatable and safer animal feeds. The research could have longterm applications for making new plant-based products for human consumption.   Improving antimicrobial use practices for the beef industry - $430,500  Working with the Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC) and Alberta Beef Producers, USask veterinary researcher Dr. Cheryl Waldner, who holds the NSERC/BCRC Industrial Research Chair in One Health and Production-Limiting Diseases, will examine changes to antimicrobial use and resistance in cowcalf operations resulting from recent federal regulations requiring veterinary prescriptions for the sale of all medically important antimicrobials for use in food animals. The results will inform beef industry stewardship practices that minimize antimicrobial resistance and support environmen-

tal sustainability, protecting public health, animal health, and animal welfare.  Using nanotechnology to decontaminate eggshells - $110,600  Partnering with the Canadian Poultry Research Council and Saskatchewan Egg Producers, a multi-disciplinary USask team led by Lifeng Zhang (engineering), Shelley Kirychuk (medicine), and Karen Schwean-Lardner (animal and poultry science) will develop a chemical-free, nanotechnology-based surface decontamination method for treating eggshells to control microbial contamination. The results will improve food safety and reduce environment impacts.  Making soil management smarter $62,600  To precisely manage their crops, producers need detailed information about how soil properties vary across the field. How much information is the right amount? Soil scientist Angela Bedard-Haughn and her team, working with CropPro Consulting, will combine machine learning, predictive soil mapping techniques, and strategic field soil sampling to determine a cost-effective soil sampling strategy. The results could help make precision soil mapping widely accessible to producers.  More information on NSERC’s Alliance grants is available here: https://www.nserccrsng.gc.ca/Innovate-Innover/alliance-alliance/ index_eng.asp 

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porting these retailers.” Impacts that the pandemic laid bare.  Two huge federally inspected meat-packing plants process about 80 per cent of all beef eaten in Canada. They’re preferred suppliers for Canadian grocery chains because only federally inspected meat can cross provincial borders, while consolidated processing capacity leads to economies of scale — and cheaper meat. Both were hit hard by the pandemic, with one forced to close for two weeks to control a COVID-19 outbreak at the facility. That led to tumbling cattle prices, steers piled up in feedlots and farms across the country, and concerns of countrywide meat shortages, explained Qualman from the National Farmers Union. That should be a wakeup call, Graydon said. 

Continued from Page 4 territorial counterparts to examine this matter.” The minister did not specify whether the federal Competition Act, which aims to “maintain and encourage competition in Canada ... to ensure that small and medium-sized enterprises have an equitable opportunity to participate in the Canadian economy,” could be applied in this context.  That doesn’t surprise Graydon. “The problem is the way the Competition Act is established today,” he said. The Competition Bureau, which administers the act, only looks at the consumer impacts of mergers and consolidation within an industry.  “(The Competition Bureau) doesn’t look at the impact (of consolidation) on the supply chain sup-


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