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

First rural municipalities ready to roll with Farm 911

Municipalities are stepping forward to help Ontario’s Farm 911 emergency signage project for agricultural land get off the ground. The initiative, named “The Emily Project” after seven-year-old Emily Trudeau who died in a farm accident in 2014, is designed to promote the idea that emergency addresses and signage are important for vacant rural land, including… Read more »

Determining where to cut antimicrobial use for dairy calves

All livestock producers have been urged to cut unnecessary antibiotic use, to try to prevent resistant bacteria from developing in their herds and flocks. But on the farm, the question is where, and how? Consider dairy calves, for example. More than half of the deaths of dairy calves are from diarrhea. Producers often treat that… Read more »

Mental health advocate gets the picture

Canada’s leading advocate for mental health awareness in agriculture, University of Guelph veterinary medicine professor Andria Jones-Bitton, is in high demand at farm meetings to speak about her ground-breaking research results. Through her studies over the past three years, she’s discovered an abnormally high rate of depression and other mental illnesses among farmers (and veterinarians)…. Read more »

Unique research program targets fusarium head blight

For researchers at the University of Guelph, addressing fusarium head blight — one of wheat’s most nagging diseases — is an agronomic time trip through the geography and history of Canada. The researchers, led by Ali Navabi, have gone back to the 1880s through to the present to look at the genetic diversity of 450… Read more »

Livestock disease winging its way north as climate warms

Flying, biting midges (Culicoides spp.) — sometimes called no-see-ums — are a scourge to wildlife. Hunters recognize their effects on deer in particular, which are highly susceptibility to a group of midge-transmitted viruses. But there are growing concerns about their potential effect on livestock, too. Here’s why. A midge swarm will blood-feed on animals, causing… Read more »

New technology to reduce antimicrobial use in pigs

An all-Canadian product that promises better pork health is coming onto the domestic market this month. It’s designed to reduce antimicrobial use in piglets, by making them healthier from the start. The product is called Nuvio. Its producers, MicroSintesis and Bio Agri Mix, call Nuvio technology  “proteobiotics.” That’s the name they’ve given molecules produced by… Read more »

Ontario farmers experimenting with world crops

Six years ago, University of Guelph researcher Glen Filson determined that some world crops —such as okra and amaranth — could potentially be grown in Ontario, providing a huge import replacement opportunity for the province’s farmers. He estimated the then-called “ethnic vegetables” represented a $60 million-plus per month market in the Greater Toronto Area alone…. Read more »

Swiss food security vote: because you can’t live on chocolate alone

In our country, referendums are rare, and not for the faint of heart. Remember the Quebec separation referendums back in the 1990s? They nearly tore the country apart. It’s a different story in Switzerland, which like us, is an agricultural nation. Here, referendums — like the one on food security that concluded on Sunday —… Read more »

Efforts intensify in Ontario to regulate organic products

Recent efforts to address consumer questions and confusion over certified organic food production have taken a step forward in Ontario. On Wednesday, MPPs Peter Tabuns and Sylvia Jones announced a co-sponsored private member’s bill for organic products regulation in Ontario. “This bill will provide further transparency and help ensure that the growing organic industry continues… Read more »

A new approach: Turning to consumers for production advice

No one has to tell University of Guelph agricultural economics master’s student Travis Jansen that farmers like him are well-advised to listen to consumers. But he’s doing more than just listening to them – he’s set to learn from them, too. Jansen, who comes from a family hog farm near Seaforth, knows successful farmers have… Read more »

Seeking reasons on why young people keep farming

The exodus of young people from the farm seems to have tapered off as, among other things, prices and trade conditions improved and farmers diversified. But today, what factors are primarily responsible for keeping young farmers on their land? To what extend do cultural, societal and emotional matters figure in? And if those matters have… Read more »

Sausage study challenges consumer confidence

My daughter and grandson share the same birthday, August 7. They’re part of a pork-and-grain farming operation near Thamesville. At their birthday celebration on the weekend, our family barbequed pork sausage from their farm on the campfire. There was no reason to doubt the quality of the sausage. We trust the meat packers in nearby… Read more »

Websites highlight Canadian farmers’ food products

Canada has a reputation for producing superb food ingredients…then shipping them abroad to be processing into finished goods, which we buy back at a higher cost. We further lose their added value because the processing and manufacturing jobs that are part of creating finished goods are part of someone else’s economy, not ours. Apologies if… Read more »

Real AgVentures: Having a mess of fun on a quick trip to Newfoundland

Sometimes it’s hard to get more than a few days for a vacation, no matter where you’re going. Take our recent vacation to Newfoundland, for example. We had only four days available at the tail end of my wife’s conference in St. John’s, but we were determined to see the western part of the province… Read more »

Say ‘salud!’ to the Canada–Mexico connection

I’m sure that with all the sabre rattling going on over NAFTA, our friends in the US understand why Canada and Mexico want to strengthen ties with each other, like we did earlier this month at a meeting in Calgary. There, Lawrence MacAulay, Canada’s Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, and José Calzada, Mexican Secretary of… Read more »