Page 46 - RealDirtENG2017newJAN
P. 46
Pest- ghting – there’s an app for that!
Many different smartphone or tablet apps have been developed to help farmers identify weeds and pests quickly and easily. Farmers are also increasingly turning to social media to ask their peers for help
in identifying and managing pest issues.
To the moon and back
The Canadian company that developed lunar rovers for the Canadian Space Agency has adapted the technology for use on earth. The Argo J45 XTR is an unmanned robotic platform that can travel on rough terrain through a variety of severe conditions, ranging from war zones to underground mines, without putting the operator at risk. On the Caribbean island of Martinique, the J5 is used to spray for black mould on banana plantations located on steep hillsides. At the University of Guelph, researchers are using the same robot to help with soil sampling.
NASA is using Canadian bumblebees in its research to  gure out how to grow food in space. Early signs show that the pollinators could help in space production of certain types of fruits and vegetables.75
The Real Dirt on Farming
Hop varieties at the University of Guelph
Courtesy of AgInnovation Ontario
DNA barcoding is a made-in-Canada tool that helps identify pests. Here’s how it works: a small tissue sample is taken from a species, and its DNA is extracted in a lab. That DNA is then ampli ed and sequenced for identi cation, in similar fashion to how a barcode is read when a product is passed over a scanner at the supermarket.
Development of this technology was led by the University of Guelph, which has become an international leader in the  eld and is home to both the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario (BIO) and the Centre for Biodiversity Genomics. To date, the library has collected barcodes from
137,000 animals, 50,000 plants, and 3,400 fungi and other life forms, all of which are accessible to the public.
As advanced as Canada’s food system
is, cases of “food fraud” can still arise, whereby a product differs from what it’s being sold as. Recent examples include cheaper  sh sold as more expensive seafood, or imported produce being labelled as “Canadian”. In such cases, DNA coding could be used to determine quickly and exactly what a product truly is, and whether it matches the marketing, thereby helping to improve food traceability, as well as producer and consumer protection.
Barcodes aren’t just for supermarkets anymore
Energy from the sun, wind – and even plants
The world depends heavily on natural gases, petroleum, and other non-renewable resources for energy, but Canadians are also becoming more energy-conscious by looking for ways to reduce the footprint on the environment.
As energy costs rise, farmers are looking for new ways to heat their barns and greenhouses affordably and sustainably. Farmers, for instance, are installing solar panels, wind turbines, and anaerobic digesters, which create methane from organic material,
to generate electricity on their farms. Some use that electricity to power their homes
and farm buildings; others sell it back to the grid in order to power homes, of ces, and factories in Canada’s cities. Still other farmers are growing plants such as miscanthus or switchgrass – called biomass or energy crops – or using food waste products speci cally to be turned into energy.
About  ve per cent of Canada’s farms are producing their own energy; of those, 85 per cent have solar panels, and about 15 per cent are using wind turbines. Ontario has the highest number of farms producing renewable energy, followed by Alberta.76

   44   45   46   47   48