Category Archives: Issues

Extreme Spring Weather

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It seems that last year’s wet spring may be the cause for this year’s drought. Learn why in this CBC Article Hot, dry summer causing ‘weather whiplash’

We’ve been archiving old newsletters and found this article from 1990. Both excessive rain and drought are frustrating,  but equipping yourself to handle both can be crucial to your farm!

LESSONS FROM LAST YEAR – The dangers of A wet Spring – by Bernhard Hack (February 1990)

Each year is a learning experience. We should take the opportunity to learn from mistakes, so that we can try to avoid them in the future. On my visits to farms last year as an advisor I noticed a number of things from which all could learn.

Due to last years extended rainy season in late spring and early summer, farmers became very nervous about cutting hay. Immediately after the first gleam of sunshine many started to cut their forage. Acceding to the date on the calendar they were starting very late. But plants depend much more on the available sunlight for assimilation and growth than on the calendar. Cutting this immature forage immediately following the rainy season had a detrimental effect in many ways.

The soil was too moist to stand the heavy hay cutting equipment. Cutting at this time delayed the soil’s drying because there was no canopy of living forage plants to use this moisture. The results were heavy tracks of soil compaction where all plants, mainly alfalfa were badly hurt and next year only dandelions will be seen. One could see dying yellow alfalfa plants regrowing on the tracks. Remarkably, the soil not only impacted downwards but sideways as well.

Another factor is that during that period of rain and overcast skies, the plant’s ability to manufacture carbohydrates, other nutrients through photosynthesis slowed down. If the plants were cut before they had a chance to use the sunny days to make these nutrients then the quality of the hay would be poor. This results in low milk yields while this poor quality hay is being fed. Farmers who allowed their hay fields to benefit for a week or so from the mature protein and a high content of nutrients (carbohydrates and sugars)/ Also trace minerals were incorporated in the forage during the blooming process. Also, leaving plants to use up the moisture avoided soil compaction.

The protein Question:

Protein in forage is measured through the nitrogen although we know that nitrogen is not necessarily protein.

Let’s consider a living plant. An annual emerges using the seed energy, while a perennial plant regrow this supported by energy stored in the root system. Both types of plants use stored energy to develop the first stages of growth. Then the green leaves assimilate nutrients and support the next stages of growth.  When the blossom stage is reached a plant’s growth ends and all assimilated nutrients are stored in the plant’s structure to foster, in a later stage, the development of seeds.

Indicators For Forage Maturity:

We have balance nutrients and fiber, remembering the fiber plays an important role in butterfat production. While the blossom stage is one indicator of when to cut hay, another one is the appearance of regrowth at the root crown of the blossoming alfalfa plant. Regrowth of the second or third cutting will have the same conditions at the first growth in spring. It is supported by nutrients stored in the root system.

Knowing these facts, farmers will be able to use common sense about when to cut hay, allowing their cows to be healthy and to grow older. In Eastern Ontario I met an old farmer 76 years old still milking 18 cows. He started haying only when all other farmers had finished. He was reported by his neighbors as having trouble drying up his cows. This extreme could give us some food for thought.

Yellow Barely:

Another very common problem for farmers this year was the yellowing of barely. Spring grain which were not planted before the heavy rain, was planted in very moist soil conditions causing severe compaction. Farmers complained about the yellow looking and poorly growing barley. They also observed the soil to be dry when tiling. A few rows of barley along the fence line proved the opposite. Tilling equipment is much wider than the tractor so a few rows of barley were saved from tracks and compaction. These areas showed healthy and vigorous growth of more than double the amount of suffering barely where the compaction has occurred. Another striking example was seen on a field that looked like a chessboard with very Small Square of barely. The farmer confirmed he had crisscrossed the field when tilling. This meant that some squares had not been compacted by the wheels. Remember compaction spreads sideways as well.

In this case another detrimental factor came into play. This field was the farthest from the barn and since clearing the land possibly never received the benefit of recycling organic matter in the form of manure which in turn is able to buffer adverse effects of compaction.

In cases of moist soil conditions that motto should be: “Work rather late than wet”.

Questions and Answers Regarding National Standards for Organic Agriculture

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The link below contains proposed answers to questions, raised by organic stakeholders, regarding the National Standards for Organic Agriculture. The proposed responses are subject to a 30 day comment period. All comments regarding these answers should be sent to

Questions and Answers Regarding National Standards for Organic Agriculture

NEW COMMENT PERIOD – March 7 to April 7 2016




New Report from CBAN: Will GM Crops Feed the World?

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New Report from Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN): Will GM Crops Feed the World? 

We are often told that we need genetically modified (GM) crops to feed a growing population and reduce hunger around the world. Although compelling, this claim is false, and ignores the many negative impacts of the technology.

CBAN’s new report Will GM Crops Feed the World? examines experiences with GM crops and exposes the many ways in which they threaten the environment and farmers’ livelihoods, and overlook the real causes of hunger. Using case studies from around the world, the report shows that there is no place for GM crops in an ecologically sustainable and socially just food system.

For the report, and a two-page summary, please visit

About Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN):  CBAN’s mission is to promote food sovereignty and democratic decision-making on science and technology issues in order to protect the integrity of the environment, health, food, and the livelihoods of people in Canada and around the world by facilitating, informing and organizing civil society action, researching, and providing information to government for policy development.

To achieve this CBAN works to:
– Facilitate collaborative campaigning at the local, regional, national and international levels
– Enable individual Canadians to take strategic and effective action
– Research and monitor new technologies and provide credible information
– Challenge government to transparency, accountability and democratic process

Letter from the GBCAE: Squash Bee Count Project

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Dear EFAO Members,

This summer the Grey Bruce Centre for Agroecology Cooperative (GBCAE) is embarking upon a pilot program to observe the diversity and abundance of bees, butterflies, and other native plant pollinators across ecological farms in southern Ontario.

Given the alarming decline in honeybees, monarch butterflies, and insectivorous birds documented in our region in the recent years, we are hoping to raise awareness about the important and largely unstudied diversity of our native pollinators. Our native pollinators provide invaluable services to our farms and farmers, and often many ecological farms take extra efforts to provide areas in the landscape to enhance pollinator presence. Thus, these farms provide ideal locations to examine pollinator abundance and diversity. Furthermore, participating in pollinator observations on your farm will provide data that allows you to compare the status of pollinators relative to other similar habitats in different geographic locations.

beeOne quick-and-simple project that we would love your help with is our squash bee count. The squash bee, Peponapis pruinosa, specializes on pollinating squashes and other Cucurbits. As such, presence and abundance of this bee can dramatically improve crop production for these plants that require pollinator visitation for successful fruit set. The goal of this project is to survey the abundance of squash bees on ecological farms, as well as to investigate whether landscape-level or other geographic factors associated with squash bee abundance.

To determine the presence and abundance of squash bees, we are organizing a squash bee count to be conducted on all participating farms in early August during peak squash flower production. All it requires is about one hour of your time from 8:00-9:00 am on a sunny, warm and wind-still morning. We ask that you will walk five transects along flowering squash plants distributed throughout the overall planting area, and observe 100 flowers for each transect. For each flower you will determine squash bee presence and abundance. We also recommend a practice run at an earlier day, to familiarize yourself with squash bees.

The complete project description with image and protocol can be found here.

In addition to the squash bee count, if you are interested, we would love your participation in conducting a brief habitat assessment for your farm. This would provide us with additional site information that would prove helpful for our comparative analyses, as well as provide you with useful information about pollinator habitat on your farm. The Habitat assessment form can be found here.

Please send filled-out protocols to the following address:
Grey Bruce Centre for Agroecology Cooperative
RR3,Allenford, ON
N0H 1A0

If you have any questions, please call (519) 935-3005.

Thanks very much,
Thorsten Arnold & Jeri Parrent

(Photo source:

Official EFAO Statement on Closure of Kemptville and d’Alfred College Campuses

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March 26, 2014
Guelph, Ont.

Ecological Farmers of Ontario (EFAO) would like to express concern over the recently announced closure of the University of Guelph’s satellite Kemptville and d’Alfred college campuses in Eastern Ontario in 2015 and urge officials to preserve d’Alfred’s organic dairy research and teaching capacity.

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The buzz on neonicotinoids

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Recent headlines have been ablaze with news of declining bee numbers and the link with controversial agricultural pesticides, especially neonicotinoids — a synthetic insecticide and systemic neurotoxin intended to kill insects like wireworms, white grubs and corn rootworm, but found to be highly toxic to bees.

Just recently a report from Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) showed the levels of neonicotinoids are comparable with those found last year despite implementation of a “mitigation strategy” to reduce bee exposure to these insecticides. Continue reading