Monday, August 20

Adding value to the mustard capital

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Proponents of a new mustard mill in Gravelbourg are hoping to build on Saskatchewan’s title as mustard capital of the world.

The province is the world’s second-largest producer of mustard, and the largest exporter. The majority of the crop is processed elsewhere.

That will start to change when commercial production begins at Mustard Capital Inc.’s dry milling facility in Gravelbourg later this month.

“We’ve got a unique and innovative mill that we are just finalizing and getting ready for production,” said Mustard Capital Inc. (MCI) CEO Tom Halpenny. “Our mill will use all three types of mustard – yellow, brown and oriental – and it will produce a wide range of products, including blends of the three varieties.”

Dry milling is the process of fractioning mustard seed into its three components – bran, flour and oil.

MCI is one of only two dry mustard millers in Canada, but holds one key advantage over the other dry mill in Hamilton, Ontario: MCI’s plant is smack dab in the middle of the globe’s leading mustard producer.

“That’s an advantage, absolutely,” Halpenny said. “Being physically close to the producer is important. We want to work closely with farmers to develop that supply chain all the way to the end users.”

Canadian mustard production didn’t start until the 1930s, and didn’t really begin in Saskatchewan until the 1950s. However, today the province grows 90 per cent of Canadian production and nearly half the world’s production.

Unfortunately, Saskatchewan’s mustard processing has not enjoyed the same level of dominance.

“Well, it does take some expertise before you can have the confidence to enter the marketplace. Because it’s an oilseed, milling mustard is not really a simple process,” Halpenny said.

“MCI is fortunate to have someone working with us who has multiple years in the mustard industry, so that’s one of the things that gave us the confidence to proceed and enter the marketplace.”

The plant has the potential to process 15,000 tonnes per year, but Halpenny says production levels will be increased based on the market.

“We are looking to have an overall production volume that will be scaleable, depending on the market demand more than anything, but there are other factors like the number of the shifts that we will be operating,” he stated.

Halpenny says the most obvious use for mustard is the food industry, which is where MCI will be focusing most of its attention for the time being.

“Mustard is the most heavily traded spice in the world, and mustard products are used in many of the foods you will find in your fridge besides the jar of yellow stuff,” he said. “Mayonnaise, ketchup and barbeque sauces will use it. It’s often used in the meat industry as a binder for things like hot dogs and other prepared meats.”

But Halpenny is quick to add that there are a number of emerging markets for mustard beyond the dinner table, including bio-pesticides and biodiesel.

“It has a very wide application, and we think we can expand on that potential with some of our products that incorporate non-traditional uses for mustard,” he said.

“We think there are a lot of opportunities beyond the food industry.”

For more information, contact:
Tom Halpenny, Chief Executive Officer
Mustard Capital Inc.
Telephone: (306) 648-2799

Distillers grains could provide boost to beef industry

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

With the rapid increase in ethanol production in Western Canada, dried distillers grains with solubles (DDGS) could become a very popular – and beneficial – feed supplement for beef cattle.

Saskatchewan ethanol plants will have the capacity to produce approximately 170 million litres of ethanol and 150,000 tonnes of wheat-based DDGS this year.

DDGS are the co-product of the ethanol distilling process. After the cereal grain has been fermented and the ethanol distilled and extracted, DDGS is what remains.

“During distillation, most of the fermentable carbohydrates, which are in the starch, are extracted. Left over is a co-product which contains high levels of fat, protein and digestible fibre,” said Dr. Bart Lardner, Senior Research Scientist with the Western Beef Development Centre.

“This co-product appears to be a high-quality energy and protein supplement for beef cows.”

Lardner says that DDGS provides a real opportunity to enhance cattle feed in a low-quality forage situation.

“The protein and nutrients in DDGS are concentrated, so what you get is a high level of protein availability and a high level of energy availability from this co-product,” he stated.

“Typically, a beef cow’s diet is mostly roughage, and, at some points, it’s possible to feed a low-quality diet which would largely be crop residue or straw, for example. DDGS could supplement any deficiencies in energy or protein very well, and bring up these nutrient levels.”

Lardner says there is potentially less digestive upsets when feeding distillers grains. In beef cows, when the diet changes rapidly from high-roughage to high-grain, there can be negative digestive effects due to the shift in the microbial population.

However, feeding DDGS provides needed carbohydrates without the depression in forage digestion. In this case, producers will not see a change in microbial population because the energy is not from starch, but from these highly digestible fibres.

The distillation process also concentrates a variety of minerals, specifically phosphorous, potassium and sulphur. Therefore, producers supplementing their cows’ diets with DDGS are also feeding more of these minerals to the animals.

DDGS is currently priced to match the market rates for barley. However, as more ethanol plants start production, its availability will start to increase.

“As supply ramps up and companies begin looking to get rid of the DDGS, they will have to start pricing it accordingly, and it should start coming down on a cost per tonne basis,” Lardner said.

For more information, contact:
Dr. Bart Lardner, Senior Research Scientist
Western Beef Development Centre
Phone: (306) 682-3139, ext. 249

Increasing demand for flax fibre

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

It’s pretty amazing stuff. You can wear it. You can build with it. You can insulate your house with it. However, here in Saskatchewan, where we grow oilseed flax, little of the straw is used for processing.

Alvin Ulrich, the president of Biolin Research, is trying to change that through his work as the director of Crop Fibres Canada, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Saskatchewan Flax Development Commission.

Crop Fibres Canada is a pilot plant, testing and resource facility for straw processing and fibre and shive (the non-fibre portion of the flax stem) production. Ulrich says they are currently working on ways to capitalize on the growing demand for flax fibre.

“People are going back to natural fibres and they are looking for a stronger fibre for industrial applications,” said Ulrich.

The flax fibre pilot project is partially funded by Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food’s Agriculture Development Fund through its contribution to Flax Canada 2015, a federal initiative aimed at developing the added value potential of flax. This year, there is a cluster of flax producers in the Hepburn and Redvers areas involved in the project.

Ulrich says there are some new procedures to follow in order to maximize the value of the fibre in the straw rather than just picking up what comes from the back of the combine.

“Last year, with most of the farmers, we were able to use a stripper/header. It just strips the seed off the plant so that the straw is standing as tall as possible. Then we got some rollers and rolled it several times. That breaks off the straw in long pieces and gets it flat on the ground,” he noted.

“When we get rain, all of the pieces get a chance to get wet, and all of the pieces are touching the ground. As a result, the microbes in the soil have an easy chance to colonize the pieces of straw, so they start growing on the straw and start decomposing it.”

These extra steps may be part of the reason why the flax fibre industry has yet to take off, despite the fact that Saskatchewan produces 70 per cent of the Canadian crop.

“[Flax is] often the last crop planted in the spring. It’s often the last crop harvested because it can over-winter, so it tends to get pushed off to the end, and often, at the end of season, producers just want to get done and they may not want to fuss around with any extra steps,” Ulrich said.

Ulrich hopes that the net result of the work at the Crop Fibres Canada facility will be targeted end-uses for the fibre, with enough margin to be able to pay farmers to do more in the field to maximize the value of the straw, or even to be able to pay a processor to do it for them.

“We may be able to come up with a system where it is the processing plant that will do those extra operations. The farmer might receive less money, but won’t have to do the extra work. That would make the farmer happy, make the processor happy, and make everybody happy,” he stated.

“That’s the challenge – how do we get that first model plant up and working?” Ulrich says that’s the key to getting out of the catch-22 that currently holds the industry back. Producers won’t grow more flax for fibre without a processing plant, but investors aren’t going to put up the $5 million to $10 million necessary to build a processing plant unless producers are growing more flax for fibre.

However, Ulrich is positive about the future of flax fibre.

“We have more and more overseas customers who are interested in what we are doing and interested in investing. They wouldn’t be here if there weren’t some promising results,” he noted.

“There is no doubt we are seeing a growing interest. I am very positive it will happen. I’m just not certain when it will happen.”

For more information, contact:
Alvin Ulrich, Director
Crop Fibres Canada
Phone: (306) 955-4506

Crop-Connect offers convenient crop insurance management

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

The Saskatchewan Crop Insurance Corporation (SCIC) has developed a website aimed at providing Saskatchewan producers with a convenient and efficient way to manage their crop insurance contracts.

Created in 2003, CropConnect is a free service that gives producers online access to their personal contract information. From the comfort of their own homes, producers can complete the various forms and applications necessary for crop insurance coverage.

“Throughout the year, we ask our customers to supply us with some of their farming data to fulfill their contract commitments,” said Trilby Henderson, Communications and Information Specialist with SCIC.

“By using CropConnect, producers are able to complete these tasks online instead of dealing with the paper copies or by coming into the office.”

Enrolling with CropConnect allows producers to complete personal premium and coverage calculations, enter and view their annual endorsement selections, and view their land claim and yield history. They are also able to complete seeded acreage reports, make personalized production declarations and update their demographic information.

“The site gives producers the opportunity to view the selections they have made and keeps track of their history so that they can retrieve all of that information instantly by signing into the program,” Henderson said. “By accessing the information, producers are able to make better management decisions.”

“At certain times of the year, many producers might not be able to get in to see us, but they are able to complete the elements required under their crop insurance contracts by going online. This allows the service to fit in with their schedules.”

CropConnect benefits Saskatchewan producers in several ways. “The main advantage of using this service is convenience. The site is also a time saver, allowing producers to stay on top of the insurance program requirements from the comfort of their own homes,” Henderson stated.

SCIC also follows a strict privacy policy, so producers can be assured that their personal information is well protected.

As part of their ongoing commitment to customer service, SCIC is continuously looking for new features to add to the website.

Henderson says that SCIC is always ready to help producers who prefer the one-on-one interaction of a meeting. However, there are certain busy periods during the year when the offices are extremely active with walk-in traffic, and delays can sometimes occur.

“CropConnect helps to minimize and contain this active period,” she noted. “So if producers are just looking for a quick way to complete these forms and they don’t need the extra help, they might really enjoy this service.”

Any producers interested in enrolling with CropConnect can contact the CropConnect help desk at 1-800-422-1943. All they require is an active e-mail address and the legal name on their crop insurance contract. Customers can enrol in the program any time during the year.

Producers will then be given a temporary password, and will be able to select their own personal password upon accessing the program.

Visit for more information.

For more information, contact:
Trilby Henderson, Communications and Information Specialist
Saskatchewan Crop Insurance Corporation
Phone: (306) 728-7427

Patience crucial for maximizing canola crop

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

It’s a gamble every year, timing out when the canola crop has turned to maximize your yield.

The task might be more difficult than usual this year, but a little patience can pay off with more canola in the bin.

Saskatchewan agronomy specialist David Vanthuyne from the Canola Council of Canada says this growing season will present even more of a challenge than usual. Vanthuyne says growing conditions will see many canola fields mature at different stages, and advises growers to stay off the swather until sufficient seed colour change has occurred in the crop.

The challenge is that crops don’t come with a best before date, or a “time to harvest” indicator, he noted. As a result, averaging out seed colour change on a number of plants in several locations within a given field will be the most profitable approach this year.

“We’ve extended the swathing recommendation window to up to 60 per cent seed colour change from our old recommendation of 30 to 40 per cent,” Vanthuyne said. “Unfortunately, variations in maturity in many areas this year will make determining when to swath more difficult.”

As a result, he adds that proper staging of the crop will be critical.

“Some plants may be at 60 to 70 per cent seed colour change, while others may only be at 20 to 30 per cent seed colour change,” Vanthuyne said. “The trick is to capture as much yield as possible by delaying swathing long enough, avoiding shattering losses, but allowing as much seed colour change as possible on less mature plants.”

When seeds in the bottom half of the plant have changed colour, seeds in the top, or last-formed pods, will be firm and roll between the fingertips. At this stage of maturity, Vanthuyne says the risk of locking in green seed can be minimized.

To be considered sufficiently “colour changed,” green seeds must have at least small patches of colour or spotting. Seeds slowly turn from green to light yellow or reddish-brown to black, depending on the weather and variety. Seed colour change within pods on the main stem will advance about 10 per cent every two to three days under normal environmental conditions.

Under normal growing conditions, sampling the field every two to three days and averaging the percentage of seed colour change will give growers an accurate assessment of the overall maturity of the crop. Plant densities, soil type, topography, variety choice, and weather will affect the rate of seed maturation.

Vanthuyne says it’s a good idea to walk out and sample at least five plants in different areas of the field. Some varieties will show pod colour change long before the seeds do, while the opposite can also hold true. That’s why it is important for producers to check for seed colour change, not pod colour change.

To catch most of the crop at or near the optimum stage, Vanthuyne notes that growers with large acreages may need to start swathing their earliest maturing fields prior to 40 per cent in order to maintain an average seed colour change of 40 to 60 per cent for the bulk of the crop.

Hot, dry and windy weather can also cause rapid seed moisture loss and seed colour change. “We’ve seen seeds on the main stem change from 10 per cent to 50 per cent in just a few days under these conditions,” Vanthuyne cautioned.

“Patience and averaging seed colour change will be the key this year.”

For more information, contact:
David Vanthuyne, Eastern Saskatchewan Agronomy Specialist
Canola Council of Canada
Phone: (306) 946-3588

Ritchie brothers auctioneers calls Saskatchewan home

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Ritchie Brothers Auctioneers, an auction company with a global reach, now calls Saskatchewan home for their agriculture sector. The grand opening of the permanent Ritchie Brothers auction facility in Saskatoon took place on July 8.

Although the company has been in this facility since November 3, 2006, it was not completed at the time. Their first auction in Saskatchewan at the partially completed facility was held on April 11, and they set the record for the largest agriculture equipment sale in Canadian history. Well over 5,000 people were in attendance, and more than 3,000 placed bids.

Les Harding, the Regional Operations Manager for Ritchie Brothers, says the company’s brand name and popularity are growing.

“We are at a point now where we have outgrown the facility even though we have only had two sales in it,” Harding stated. “Now, we are beginning an expansion.”

The company will be taking down the fence and pouring concrete, increasing the size of the display and consigned equipment lots by 10 acres, and expanding the parking facilities by four acres. The increased space will allow customers easier access. Additional bleacher-style seating will also be installed.

“We’re building off of our success,” Harding said. “We have already established a record and are excited for what the future holds.”

Ritchie Brothers Auctioneers started to get more involved in the agriculture sector in Western Canada approximately four years ago. They made several acquisitions in Saskatchewan, including two small auction companies in the southeastern portion of the province and another in the Rouleau area.

After rolling into the agriculture division and realizing the potential market opportunities, the company decided it needed a facility to act as a hub for the agricultural portion of their operations. After investigating the options, they decided to locate their facility in the Saskatoon area.

According to Harding, this facility has great benefits for Saskatchewan producers.

“A big way in which we will benefit Saskatchewan producers is the fact that our employees are a staffed and managed Saskatchewan group. We understand the market, and we understand producers’ needs. We also understand the province’s daily, weekly and monthly economic status,” he said.

“Also, the space at the new facility allows farmers who are looking to do complete dispersals the chance to bring in their entire equipment lines. It definitely gives them a platform to showcase their equipment.”

Harding says the next auction will take place in late fall or early winter. Once confirmed, the auction date will be announced and posted to their website at

Producers can expect to find a wide range of equipment on the block, including late-model combines, four-wheel-drive, front-wheel-assisted dual-drive tractors, balers, air drills and seeders, and spray equipment.

“Really, all equipment used in the process of farming will be available, and, as the market grows, we will include items such as pick-up trucks, grain trucks, tractor trailers and semis,” Harding said.

For more information, contact:
Les Harding, Regional Operations Manager
Ritchie Brothers Auctioneers
Phone: (306) 933-9333

Are you ready to make a deposit in the carbon bank?

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

The talk of global warming and greenhouse gases may seem a complex and distant scientific equation. But there is one simple truth: pasture land can be an important method to reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is captured by plants and stored as carbon in plant tissue, particularly the roots and, ultimately, in the soil. If there is a net carbon gain on a piece of land, it has become a carbon sink.

“All the tame and native pasture land in Saskatchewan could be classed as a large terrestrial carbon sink,” said Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food Forage Development Specialist Todd Jorgenson. “In fact, the soil we farm today is a result of the buildup of organic matter under native rangelands over the past thousands of years. Before agricultural settlement in Saskatchewan, there was a net carbon sink in these rangelands.”

It all works like a bank account. The plants in the pasture lands take in carbon dioxide and sequester it, making carbon deposits. However, carbon is also released during the plants’ dormant periods, and from soil respiration. In the past, management practices have caused a long-term net loss of carbon from the account, due to both cultivation of native grasslands and overgrazing.

“It is well documented that overgrazed rangeland can be a major carbon emitter,” Jorgenson said. Growing conditions also affect the carbon balance of rangelands. Periods of drought and other poor growing conditions can cause net carbon loss.

“Well managed, healthy rangelands are a net carbon sink,” Jorgenson added. “Management practices aimed at increasing ground cover and biomass production substantially increase the amount of carbon sequestered by pasture land.”

Increasing net carbon sequestration across Saskatchewan’s vast grazing land has the potential to make a significant contribution to the reduction of greenhouse gases in Saskatchewan. There may be potential in the future for producers to benefit from this land, in the form of carbon credits now being purchased and traded on a global market through the Chicago Climate Exchange.

Jorgenson says Saskatchewan pasture land managers can benefit either way.

“The same practices that improve plant growth and overall rangeland health are the practices that hold the potential to increase long-term soil carbon sequestration,” he stated. “The amount of carbon input into the soil depends on many management factors, such as litter and residue management, planting well-adapted species, and reducing overgrazing.”

Jorgenson credits producers with understanding these concepts and progressing towards making Saskatchewan part of the solution for greenhouse gas reduction.

“Producers managing rangelands in the province are well aware of the benefits of good range management from a forage perspective,” he said. “They should also be aware of the fact that they are removing greenhouse gases for the benefit of society.”

For more information, contact:
Todd Jorgenson, Forage Development Specialist
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
Phone: (306) 786-5859

Natural fibre products in the spotlight at Saskatoon show

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Saskatchewan’s natural fibre producers will stage their largest public showcase ever during the upcoming “Saskatchewan indemand 2007” trade show in Saskatoon.

The show was conceived and developed by Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food and Prairieland Park as an opportunity for entrepreneurs to promote their Saskatchewan-made products and services.

“Saskatchewan indemand 2007” will take place September 14 to 16 at Prairieland Park. Along with the trade fair, it will offer educational sessions with keynote speakers highlighting the steps necessary to become a successful marketer of Saskatchewan products, including the stories of those who have already developed new businesses.

The natural fibre sector will be offering a virtual show-within-a-show, according to Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food’s Tara Jaboeuf. It will be called “Fibre inDemand, Naturally!”

“There’s a whole bunch of different producers who got together and created this brand around natural fibres,” Jaboeuf said. “We have different industry groups from alpacas, sheep, llamas, rabbits, goats and flax. It’s our own little area and our own little specialty, showcasing what we do with fibre.”

Displays will be provided by both industry groups and individual producers, including some 20 individual booths and a large demonstration area.

“For example, they will bring fleeces and then show knitting, spinning and weaving with wool,” Jaboeuf said. “They’re going to have some sales at the booths in the trade show, and do some demonstrations both at the booths and in the demonstration area.”

Lynn Hilderman, an alpaca producer who operates Country Vista Alpacas near Duval, is co-ordinating a fibre product competition that will be held during the show.

“Anybody who has a product made of at least 70 per cent natural fibre can enter their work in the competition,” Hilderman said. “We have categories for individual artisans, mills or commercial operations, guilds and two different youth age groups.”

Hilderman says the competition and displays will showcase the full spectrum of skills and uses for fibre.

“Spinning, dyeing, hand-knitting, machine-knitting, crocheting, hand-weaving, sewing manufactured material, artwork and felting will all be judged,” she noted. “We’re hoping that, with the involvement of the different industries, we can have a good turnout and really show Saskatchewan people the diversity and opportunities in the fibre industry.”

Emerging products developed from flax fibre will also be on display, including recently created industrial applications, some of which will be seen for the first time.

“Saskatchewan indemand 2007” and “Fibre inDemand, Naturally!” are not only a showcase for the public, but an important opportunity for current and future entrepreneurs to meet, network and explore new business opportunities.

“People will talk with different associations and trading partners to see what they can do about selling, buying, and dealing with Saskatchewan products,” Jaboeuf said.

The show will also be seen by an important national audience. The Economic Developers Association of Canada is holding its annual meeting in Saskatoon at the same time, and delegates will be chartered to Praireland Park to view the exhibits and demonstrations.

Prairieland Park is still accepting exhibitors to “Saskatchewan indemand.” Anyone interested should contact Prairieland or visit their website at for details.

For more information, contact:
Tara Jaboeuf, Livestock Development Specialist
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
Phone: (306) 933-5099

Saskatchewan horse industry is developing value

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

“The outside of a horse is good for the inside of a man.”

-Winston Churchill

This quotation is a favourite of Jim Graham, Livestock Development Specialist with Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food in Swift Current. Graham works closely with the Saskatchewan Horse Federation to identify training and market development opportunities, and speaks passionately about the investment in time and money that is required to produce horses for the widely varied demands of the modern market.

The Saskatchewan herd is approximately 100,000 animals. The horse industry is comprised of a large number of small operators, perhaps as many as 10,000, according to Graham. The largest herds might number 200 animals, while there are many small acreage owners who are raising only two or three horses for their personal use. The vast majority of the Saskatchewan herd are quarter horses, which are popular both for working and riding. Graham says a growing segment of the horse industry is drawing business from the urban centres.

“Many people find a leisurely ride on a well-mannered horse to be good therapy, and they prefer that to going to the lake or other recreational pursuits,” he stated. “Most potential horse owners want a well-broke animal that won’t scare easily.”

As a result, the industry is seeing more full-service stables that keep, feed and train horses, and provide paddock space or show areas for the horse owners.

The market for Saskatchewan horses is strong in both Alberta and Montana, and Graham is working to get equine entrepreneurs the recognition and the returns they deserve. In any given year, some 5,000 to 10,000 working horses are sold in the province.

Graham says that having a reputation for quality is an important factor in running a successful operation. A trained horse represents a sizeable investment by the owner. A raw colt is worth $1,000 or more. That value is influenced by the genetics and the performance of the dam and sire. The reputation of the trainer, and the ability of the horse to perform, can add value to the horse.

“The cost of hiring a professional to turn that raw colt into a dependable mount can be as much as $500 per month for up to six months,” he said. “Then there will be the daily feed and other health and care costs that can amount to $1,000 per year. There will be a marketing cost for advertising and auction fees that could be $300 or more. What’s a three-year-old well-trained horse worth? To cover costs and provide a reasonable profit, the value could exceed $5,000.”

“If you ever have the opportunity to attend a horse sale, appreciate the time and effort it has taken to get this equine athlete to this stage in its career,” he said. “We should learn to appreciate the business acumen that is needed to meet the challenges and enjoy the fruits of the industry.”

Information on breeding, raising, and training horses, as well as the many competitive opportunities, is available from the Saskatchewan Horse Federation at

For more information, contact:
Jim Graham, Livestock Development Specialist
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
Phone: (306) 778-8289

Will prairie trees survive our changing climate

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Trees across Western Canada are struggling to adapt to rising temperatures and volatile weather. With extreme weather projected to become more common, the result could leave many prairie trees with a grim future.

Now, 60 years after it began researching tree improvements and more than a century after first distributing trees on the prairies, Saskatchewan’s Shelterbelt Centre is taking on the challenge of global warming.

The Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC)-Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration (PFRA) Shelterbelt Centre was established in 1901 with the purpose of providing settlers with trees and shrubs to protect their homesteads from the harsh prairie winters.

Trees were needed to break up the strong winds and to retain crucial soil moisture, but the harsh prairie climate was demolishing the European-bred seedlings that settlers tried to plant.

“Original settlers came with trees from their own countries. These trees turned out to be unsuitable for the harsh weather and rapid climate changes of the prairies,” explained Dr. Salim Silim, a biologist hired by the centre to help locate genes that might improve drought- and cold-resistance, a process that requires screening thousands of tree species.

The solution was shelterbelts, which are rows of trees and shrubs strong enough to protect the herds, land and homes.

As time went on, the centre made it their mission to not only provide trees but to research and develop species of trees that could withstand harsh prairie winters and sweltering summers.

“The Shelterbelt Centre took on the great responsibility of developing trees that are suitable here,” Silim noted.

“Trees that we have developed and are researching at this time adapt well to our current climate. As the temperature rises, other factors come into play, such as drought, changing winter, as well as fall and spring conditions in which the temperature is very cold then very warm,” he said.

“A huge challenge that we are meeting right now is the fast rate of change in the environment, which will result in poor performance, poor growth and eventually the death of many trees.”

The work the Shelterbelt Centre is doing to adapt trees to the effects of climate change includes characterizing the traits that help trees and shrubs survive the unpredictable fall and spring conditions. There are several traits that must be present in trees and shrubs in order for them to survive these climate changes.

“The ability for trees and shrubs to be dormant early, to respond to temperature very quickly, and to stop growth when it warms up very quickly are important determinates of the trees’ survival,” Silim stated.

The Shelterbelt Centre essentially identifies the traits that lead to adaptability, and then uses the traits to screen different populations of trees from different areas. The next step is to use these traits to select the species of trees that will be suitable for future prairie weather conditions.

“Different populations result from trees that have grown in different micro-environments and have adapted to environments differently. Some are much more adaptable than others, depending on where they have been growing for hundreds of years,” Silim said.

For more information, contact:
Dr. Salim Silim, Special Project Biologist
AAFC-PFRA Shelterbelt Centre
Phone: (306) 695-5139

Taste of the Southwest will cater to your tastebuds

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Prepare your taste buds: the Taste of the Southwest is again featuring “the best dang food in southwestern Saskatchewan.” This mouth-watering event allows consumers to meet food producers and processors, and creates the opportunity to taste a wide variety of their food items.

The second annual Taste of the Southwest will be held on Saturday, August 11, 2007, from 11:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. This year’s event will take place on Central Avenue in downtown Swift Current. The southwest region’s producers, processors, caterers and restaurants will be highlighted.

Consumers may sample products to determine what they might want to buy or try again in the future, and they can meet the food producers, processors and restaurants from their local area.

“Last year’s event allowed the opportunity for the consuming public and food providers to build relationships that lasted throughout the year,” stated Gerry Holland, Regional Business Planning Specialist with Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food.

This year’s event will be held in conjunction with the Kinsmen Funfest weekend. A variety of live entertainment will be available all day long, including family-friendly activities such as face painting and games for children. The entertainment agenda is posted on

Taste of the Southwest is a very inexpensive way for attendees to sample as many food products as possible in a fun and entertaining environment.

“The goal is not to provide meals, but to allow businesses to feature their food products to a wide range of the public. Last year’s event served over 900 people,” says Holland.

No admission will be charged this year; however, food tokens will be sold to the public for $1.00 each. These tokens can then be exchanged at the booths for the customer’s desired food items. No item will cost more than four tokens.

Ten per cent of the sales are returned to the organizing committee to offset advertising and rental costs.

The event is organized by a non-profit committee. This year’s organizing committee includes the Southwest Regional Economic Development Authority, Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food, Community Futures Southwest, Golden West Radio, Tourism Swift Current and Saskatchewan Regional Economic and Co-operative Development.

The committee encourages the public to come experience all the wonderful food items, in addition to local Saskatchewan entertainment and children’s activities.

“Come out and support local agriculture producers, food processors and restaurants, and sample all the tasty cuisine. You may find a local producer or processor to supply your family with the freshest and best food items ever produced, right here in your back yard,” said Holland.

For further information, contact Keleah Herron or Britney Blackmore with the Southwest REDA at (306) 778-4243.

For more information, contact:

Gerry Holland, Regional Business Planning Specialist
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
Phone: (306) 787-4051

How to avoid spray drift

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

As pre-harvest spraying gets underway, a research scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Saskatoon is reminding farmers to take precautions to avoid spray drift.

Dr. Tom Wolf says spray drift can cause considerable economic and environmental damage.

“The environment is a foremost concern for both the public and for farmers. We ask that they make sure that, when they do spray, they protect anything that is a non-target, whether it is another crop, a body of water or a shelterbelt. Some of the herbicides we use in pre-harvest can be quite detrimental to water sources or shelterbelts. One of the most common products, glyphosate, can in fact kill shelterbelts outright if it is not applied properly, so spray drift control is very important during a pre-harvest application,” said Wolf.

Wolf says there are a number of tools and tips to prevent spray drift, but the most effective tool is located under a ball cap – the spray operator.

“Ultimately, it is the operator who has to make the choice about whether to spray or not and about how the spray will be applied,” explains Wolf, “but beyond that, weather is also a critical factor.”

Wolf says ideal conditions are a sunny day, with a slight breeze, and at least a couple hours after sunrise.

The fact that a slight breeze is ideal may seem counter-intuitive, but Wolf says there are benefits to a breeze.

“Most people look for calm days, but when it is calm, sooner or later there will be some wind and it will be difficult to predict what direction it will come from or when it will come. So, in order to prevent spray drift is it better to have a predictable wind direction,” said Wolf.

The other key factor in ideal conditions is to spray at least a couple of hours after sunrise. Wolf says that is to avoid temperature inversions.

“Temperature inversion occurs on most summer nights. It is a calm and stable atmosphere that will see any spray drift hang over the crop. That spray drift will stay concentrated in a stable atmosphere. That means it does not get diluted. So, when it does move off target, which it eventually will, it remains quite potent and can cause a great deal of harm. That’s why we want a slight breeze during spraying. The breeze disperses that spray so it actually mixes in the atmosphere so that the spray drift causes minimal harm,” explains Wolf.

However, Wolf concedes that ideal conditions can’t always be found.

“Let’s assume you are in a situation where you just simply have to spray. There are still a number of ways you can bring yourself back into a safe application scenario. One of those ways is to use the proper droplet size. Pre-harvest application is very well suited to the use of low drift nozzles such as an air induced nozzle. When you move to those nozzles, you can reduce your drift from a conventional spray by over 70 per cent. That is a very significant reduction,” said Wolf.

For more information on spray drift, visit the following websites:


For more information, contact:
Tom Wolf, Research Scientist
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Telephone: 956-7635

The sticker is in the mail

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

There is another good reason for Saskatchewan producers to keep an eye out for a letter from their grain company. It may not be as exciting as a grain cheque, but the “Canola Ready” sticker arriving in the mail could save them a lot of money.

At issue is the insecticide malathion.

Chris Anderson, the Canola Council of Canada’s program manager for crop production, says storage bins treated with malathion can’t be used to store canola for six to 12 months after its application.

“Malathion is most often used for insect control in cereal crops, but it’s not allowed for use in canola. Sometimes farmers treat their bins thinking they will be storing cereals later in the year – but then they store canola, or can’t remember which bin was treated and which bin was not,” Anderson said.

“The sticker we created is a helpful reminder. When they have set aside a bin for canola, they can put the sticker on it so that they can easily identify or remember which one they intended to use for the oilseed.”

The stickers are timely, since it’s the time of year when many producers begin getting the bins ready for the coming harvest. This year has also seen a record number of acres seeded to canola, meaning that there may be some first-time growers of the crop who might not be aware of the strict rules regarding malathion.

A simple oversight can be costly.

Anderson says that malathion residue detected in canola exported out of Canada could cost the industry, including farmers, millions of dollars in lost business.

“Every country sets limits on pesticide residues, and exceeding those limits will result in rejected shipments and increased testing requirements,” he stated. “For example, Japan enforces strict food safety laws that prohibit the entry of any commodity exhibiting pesticide residues above the allowable limit.”

Anderson says most stored canola doesn’t need an insecticide treatment anyway, because insects will not feed on sound, healthy canola seed. “However,” he noted, “if canola is in poor condition, moisture-loving fungus feeders such as foreign grain beetles, psocids and mites will invade.

“The presence of these insects means it is time to condition your canola through aeration or drying; it does not mean it’s time to apply an insecticide such as malathion.”

Anderson says that growers are better off focusing on preventative measures. He says canola that is reasonably free of chaff, other seeds and foreign material should be stored in clean bins and kept below 15 degrees Celsius and eight per cent moisture to keep it free of insects.

For more information, contact:

Chris Anderson, Crop Production Manager
Canola Council of Canada
Phone: (204) 982-2108

Thinking beyond the wheat field

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

A Regina-based company is poised to expand a line of domestically made, ready-to-eat products.

Prairie Food Products is a family-owned business that is taking up the challenge of “thinking beyond the wheat field” when it comes to the Saskatchewan food industry.

The company produces a number of value-added products – but one particular item you might not expect to be made in Saskatchewan is offering significant potential: calzones.

Calzones are a semi-circle of deliciousness that are sometimes referred to as a “stuffed pizza.” Calzones are a turnover filled with different types of meat and cheese.

Prairie Food Products General Manager Boutros Skaf says there is a huge opportunity for the product, both here in Saskatchewan and across the country.

“Every calzone that is coming into Canada right now is coming in from the United States, so there is not one calzone that is coming out of Canada,” he said.

That’s where Boutros’ Calzones come in. Prairie Food Products has developed three different flavours for the tasty treats – ham, pepperoni and chicken, spinach and feta – and are now selling them in a number of locations in the province.

Skaf says the product is almost completely home-grown.

“Everything is Saskatchewan-made except for the cheese, which comes from Saputo out of Montreal. Everything else originates from right here in the province. We found pretty much everything here,” he stated.

Boutrous’ Calzones have been a labour of love for Skaf. It has taken considerable time and money to get the product from the test kitchen to the consumer through stores such as 7-11. However, Skaf is grateful for the help his company received from Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food’s Agri-Value Program.

“They were very supportive in helping us link up with other companies, and helped a lot with money, research and development, and marketing assistance,” he said.

“There are a lot of hoops to go through to get a product out. Putting out a single product can cost as much as $10,000 just for printing, nutritional information, branding and packaging. For us, it was pretty much $10,000 a flavour just to get going.”

The company is now looking to expand with a new facility that will allow them to distribute the product nationally, and is looking to introduce more value-added products, including a line of baked pita chips.

Skaf says the Extreme Pita chain is interested in distributing the chips, which are unique in that they are flavoured before they are baked. He notes that the folks at Extreme Pita were impressed with the product and recognized Saskatchewan’s natural advantages.

“We have two advantages when it comes to baking good bread: a dry climate and hard water,” he laughed. “That’s the best thing for baking bread.”

Skaf says Prairie Food Products is committed to Saskatchewan and creating new opportunities here for value-added food products. This pride shows up on the company’s website,, where it says: “Our families are dedicated to being community leaders and believe re-investing in Saskatchewan is important. We are proud of who we are and we want everyone to know we live, work and play in Saskatchewan by choice.”

According to Skaf, “There is an opportunity here that is like no other.”

For more information, contact:

Boutros Skaf, General Manager
Prairie Food Products
Phone: (306) 790-7482

Honour heritage by celebrating at the Yorkton Cowboy Festival

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

It is time once again to pay tribute to the ranching culture and heritage by celebrating at the third annual Yorkton Cowboy Festival. The event honours the skills, interests and horsemanship of the working cowboy.

The festival will be held on the Yorkton Exhibition Grounds at the west entrance to the City of Yorkton from Friday, August 10 to Sunday, August 12.

The festival began in order to commemorate western heritage and culture that has been passed down from previous generations. The festival is also intended to further the development of a “ranch culture” and to foster the spirit of living in the Yorkton area, as well as to attract tourists and economic activity to the region.

“Looking back into our history prior to the traditional grain farming era, ranching and the life of a working cowboy were the original beginnings of agriculture in Saskatchewan,” stated Naomi Paley, Livestock Development Specialist with Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food. “The festival is an event that highlights this history and heritage.”

“In the last five or so years, we have seen a lot of new families with ranching backgrounds moving to the east-central region of the province from Alberta or British Columbia. We wanted to create an event to not only celebrate ranching, but to welcome these new individuals and to help integrate them into the community,” added Paley.

“The Cowboy Festival is a way for new people to come together with local people and help them feel like they are at home here,” she said.

This year’s event brings a few added bonuses to the traditional festival. The Friday night event features not only western music but also cowboy poetry, with western singer, entertainer and cartoon artist Ben Crane headlining.

An artist with multiple talents, Ben Crane comes from the Alberta ranchlands just east of Rocky Mountain House.

“His love for the west country and the outdoors comes through not only in his music, but in his artwork as well,” said Paley. “He is a western cartoonist, and his musical stylings include traditional country with hints of bluegrass, jazz, blues and swing.”

A number of other artists, including Jake Peters, Morley Thorpe and Doris Bircham, will be performing as well.

Adding to the fun is another new event. A chore team competition will be taking place Sunday at 1:00 p.m.

“This event is a real crowd-pleaser, featuring teams of working chore horses. Teamsters will guide their horses through an obstacle course consisting of tasks that a working team would encounter as part of a day’s work. So far, we have seen a lot of interest for this event, so there should be a good turnout,” stated Paley.

Both heavy and light chore teams will compete and will be judged on accuracy and time. Awards will follow the show.

The festival is open to the public, and all ages are encouraged to attend. The event is unique in that it portrays the everyday working rancher in an accurate light. Attendees will experience what takes place on an actual ranch.

“The events in the ranch rodeo are very much fashioned after everyday events that working cowboys or cowgirls would do on their farms or ranches. Not a lot of people get to see that anymore, so it is very interesting,” said Paley.

The event runs the entire weekend. No admission will be charged on Sunday.

For more information on the Yorkton Cowboy Festival, visit or call the festival office at (306) 782-2108.

For more information, contact:

Naomi Paley, Livestock Development Specialist
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
Telephone: (306) 786-1686

Monday, August 6

Regina's Buffalo Days: A Photographic Chronicle

Billed as Saskatchewan's provincial Exhibition, Regina's Buffalo Days with its Fair and Downtown parade is one of those events that perhaps more than any others celebrate the spirit of prairie towns in the purest of traditions. Of course, the rides kids would go on were much less sophisticated 100 years ago, but the need to gather on public grounds in the heart of the summer with family and friends in in the town's public spaces is enduring.

The Saturday parade, with the population lining the streets motivates citizens to go to the fair. For the community organizations that prepare the floats and march in the parade, this is an opportunity show solidarity... and to get some cost-effective exposure, thanks to the volunteers that invest time and energy in shining the vintage tractors that are driven through the streets, or in accompanying the children and the bands in which they play. Watching the parade (and those who participate in it) is one of those simple pleasures one never gets tired of...

Sunday, August 5

Wascana Centre: Canada Day 2007

As Regina citizens, we tend to complain about the length of our winters. While it is true the -40 below weather can be somewhat challenging at times. The one thing that makes up for the cold of those long winter months is the beautiful grasslands summer one enjoys in Saskatchewan, and in Regina in particular.

When Canada Day (on July 1st) turns out to be a beautiful sunny day, people congregate on the shore of Wascana Lake to make the best of our holiday. The photos below give a glimpse of what it was like in Wascana Centre on Canada Day this summer.