Monday, September 26, 2016

AgScape chooses new leaders

Several new leaders have been elected at AgScape, the new name for Agriculture in the Classroom.

The new chairman is Keith Currie who owns Curriedale Farms in Simcoe County and is an eighth-generation Ontario farmer and currently serves as vice president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture.

The vice-chairman is Audrie Bouwmeester who is dairy education program manager for Dairy Farmers of Ontario.

The treasurer is Carolyn Hill. She is the financial administrator for the Ontario Broiler Hatching Egg & Chick Commission.

The past chair is Lorie Jocius who has served on the board since 2009. She has been chair for four years.

"We are very pleased to have such strong representation on the AgScape board from across the agri-food sector," says AgScape’s executive director, Colleen Smith.

"As the voice of Agriculture in the Classroom Ontario, we are looking forward to working with this talented group as we move into the next 25 years of service to Ontario's students and the agriculture industry. These are exciting times for AgScape."

The AgScape board also includes two advisors - Catherine Mahler with the Ministry of Education and Helen Scutt with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.

Three additional community seats on the board are held by Heather Blackwell of Western Fair District, Deb Campbell of Agronomy Advantage and Natalie Walt of Ceres Global Ag Corporation.

Five additional corporate seats are filled by Kathryn Doan of, Peter Hohenadel with The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, Mark Kerry with Monsanto Canada Inc., Jennifer Peart with Farm Credit Canada and Meaghan Ryersee with Syngenta Canada Inc.

All board members serve a three-year term. New to the board for 2016/2017 are Mark Kerry, Meaghan Ryersee, Deb Campbell and Natalie Walt.

Dreaded 0157:H7 strikes ag

The dreaded poison-producing E. coli 0157:H7 has struck again, this time sickening seven people across four states who ate meat from Adams Farm in Massachusetts.

Beef products are probably the cause, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

From June 27 to September 4, seven people ages one to 74 from West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Massachusetts contracted E. coli O157:H7.

No deaths have been reported, but five of the seven have been hospitalized, the CDC reported.

The CDC, the Department of Agriculture and multiple states are investigating the outbreak, which was traced to the Adams Farm Slaughterhouse in Athol, Massachusetts.

The company has recalled beef, veal and bison products.

Guelph team finds beneficial bacteria

University of Guelph plant scientists have shown for the first time how an ancient crop teams up with beneficial bacteria to protect against a devastating fungal infection.

It’s a discovery that may benefit millions of subsistence farmers and livestock in developing countries. It’s soon going to be tested on corn and wheat.

Agriculture professor Manish Raizada led the team that published its results this week in Nature Microbiology.

The team includes former PhD student Walaa Mousa, current graduate student Charles Shearer, Ridgetown campus scientist Victor Limay-Rios and researchers in California.

The paper describes a novel defence mechanism allowing crop plants to work with bacteria called endophytes living in their roots to ward off Fusarium graminearum.

This fungus makes a toxin that can sicken livestock and people.

The M6 microbe lives in the roots of finger millet, a cereal crop grown by subsistence farmers in Africa and South Asia. Millions of people rely on the crop, first domesticated in East Africa in about 5,000 BC.

The crop has long been known to be resistant to fungal disease.

Through microscope observations, Mousa learned how the mechanism works.

Sensing the pathogen near the plant roots, the microbe enters the soil and multiplies to millions of cells that form a protective barrier on the root surface.

Even more striking, he said, the plant’s root hairs grow to many times their normal length. Like layers in lasagna, the root hairs and the bacterial cells form a dense mat that traps the fungus.

Mousas found that natural products of these endophytic bacteria then kill the fungus.

Likening the process to an animal’s immune system, Raizada said, “This appears to be a new defence mechanism for plants.”

He likens the mechanism to the human immune system, with immobile plant cells “recruiting” mobile microbes to seek out and destroy pathogens.

The researchers believe this mechanism evolved in a kind of evolutionary arms race in the African ancestors of finger millet and Fusarium.

The fungus can make an antibiotic against M6 for which the bacterium has developed resistance in turn, Raizada said.

“We think subsistence farmers in East Africa over generations may have selected for this special microbe through breeding.”

He said the findings may help agricultural companies develop seed treatments using M6 to protect more susceptible and widely grown crops such as corn and wheat against the fungus.

The University of Guelph has licensed the lab’s results to an agricultural startup company for potential use in those crops. The microbe is now being tested in Canadian corn and wheat.

The team found that M6 also protects against other fungi.

He said the study shows the importance of indigenous farming knowledge and practices. “These crops should be explored and valued.”

This research was funded by Grain Farmers of Ontario, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, and the International Development Research Centre and Global Affairs Canada.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Raw milk sickens 20 people

Raw milk from a farm in Colorado has sickened 20 people with campylobacteriosis.

The milk was distributed by  Larga Vista Ranch, which is about 20 miles east of Pueblo, according to El Paso and Pueblo county health officials.

The infections highlight the dangers of drinking raw, unpasteurized milk, said Dr. Christine Nevin-Woods, El Paso County Public Health’s medical director.

“Sometimes people think that raw foods of all kinds are healthier,” she said.

“But in this case, raw milk is very dangerous to be drinking.”

Despite the warnings, there still are dairy farmers who allow their families to drink unpasteurized milk. They pass off illnesses as "simply stomach flu". I just hope and pray the children don't get so sick they die or their health is compromised for life.