Author: Owen Roberts

Owen Roberts directs research communications and teaches at the University of Guelph, and is president of the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists. You can find him on Twitter as

Modified tobacco plants help reduce post-weaning diarrhea in piglets

Genetically modified tobacco has proven successful in helping reduce potentially fatal post-weaning diarrhea in piglets. The tobacco contains a protein called FaeG, derived from a bacteria called F4 enterotoxigenic E.coli . This protein prevents pathogenic E. coli, the causal agent of post-weaning diarrhea, from taking hold in piglets’ small intestines. The genetically modified tobacco is… Read more »

Empathy, listening skills key elements of farmers’ mental health program

A new mental health program for farmers called In The Know is being piloted this month in Ontario. Three versions of the program — developed over the past year at the University of Guelph with PhD candidate Briana Hagen and the guidance of a 30-member advisory committee consisting of farmers, veterinarians, mental health experts and… Read more »

Quinclorac MRL approval marks collaborative win for growers and industry

Cleavers is the only loser in the recent approval of a maximum residue limit (MRL) for the active weed-control ingredient quinclorac for use on canola. The resolve by industry to work collaboratively through the international research-based regulatory system means that in 2019, growers will be able to fight cleavers with a new and effective crop… Read more »

Soybean production creeping up in The Netherlands

The Netherlands, with its moderate climate, may seem like an odd place to grow heat-loving soybeans. But just a few decades ago, that’s what people said about Ontario, too – and soybeans have become the province’s major field crop, expected to top three million acres this year. That kind of acreage is not in the… Read more »

Emerging avian virus found in wild ducks in Ontario

Questions are being raised about the connection between wild ducks in Ontario, an emerging avian virus, and egg production drop in a turkey breeder flock in the province. A research team, including Ontario Veterinary College pathobiology professor Claire Jardine, found 22 per cent of almost 400 live wild ducks sampled from 23 Ontario lakes tested… Read more »

Kentucky looks longingly across the fence at Ontario

Even though Kentucky’s first-ever agricultural trade mission was eight months in the making, no one would have blamed the state’s trade commission for delaying last week’s five-day trek to Ontario until the air cleared of anti-Canadian rhetoric from U.S. President Donald Trump. After all, not only are trade tensions high, but Kentucky is as pro-Trump… Read more »

Have your say about food waste from the farm

Food waste has become the poster child for inefficiency in agri-food. But how much are farmers contributing to the problem…or to the solution? That’s what a study led by Second Harvest and Value Chain Management International (VCMI) is trying to find out, in what they say is the world’s first comprehensive look at food loss… Read more »

Profitability quest driving adoption of field data management software

More Canadian farmers believe that the need for improved profitability will prompt them to use field data management software in the future — and nearly one-quarter of non-users and current users say they are likely to adopt new software in the next three years. These are among the findings from Stratus Ag Research, in its… Read more »

Ear tag sensor-based feed program field tested on Canadian dairy

Production efficiency is said to be one of the biggest limiting factors in dairy production. So to that end, for the past six months, animal nutrition and health company Alltech has been researching and developing a new production efficiency program called Smart Dairy. It combines nutrigenomics (the study of how nutrition affects gene expression) and… Read more »

Benchmark study shows health challenges for dairy cull cows at auction

The first benchmark study of the condition of culled dairy cows in Canada shows many animals in less than optimal condition are transported to auction in Ontario, and sold at discounted prices. The study, by a University of Guelph research team, involved 4,460 cows at three Ontario auctions. Over 16 weeks last May through August,… Read more »

Rural investment efforts get a huge global ally

With the Ontario election campaign in full swing, the drive to arm rural-friendly politicians with substance for strategic policies and talking points has received a huge global boost. The international Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has issued a report called Rural 3.0. – A Framework for Rural Development, saying rural regions will play… Read more »

Staking a claim for ag in the social media jungle

Marketing and farming go hand in hand, says UK communications specialist Simon Haley. In a swing through Ontario that starts later this week, he’ll be urging farmers to use their intrinsic marketing skills to get back in touch with consumers. “Farming is where marketing started,” says Haley. But over the years – as nations became… Read more »

Urban Ontario gives its rural cousin a mixed review

Rural Ontario has long been seething at provincial Liberals for a list of problems it lays at their feet. Now, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) has added a new villain to the list of those it says should show more love for rural Ontario: that is, urbanites. Prior to the provincial budget being announced,… Read more »

Needed: Free-flowing ag sector employment pipeline

A massive turnover in the agricultural workforce caused by retiring baby boomers means the employment pipeline needs to be flowing more freely than ever. That’s the word from Scott MacDonald, insecticide marketing manager and horticulture lead for BASF. He says universities will be the key source for providing agriculture with new talent. “They’ll make a… Read more »

Young leaders grow where they’re planted

Calls abound for programs and leadership to help strengthen rural Canada, to make sure the voices of this country’s farmers are heard outside the farm gate, and to help urban people understand farmers’ crucial, daily role in feeding the world. The question is, who’s responsible for developing leaders? Maybe one answer to the leadership question… Read more »