Big Year for Ethanol?

This month, Darrel Good of the University of Illinois’ Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics reported record estimates for U.S. ethanol production: more than 14 billion gallons (more than 1.3 billion gallons more than last year). The reason for this huge spike is something we’ve been hearing a lot about lately: the long, hot U.S. summer, and the record corn crop that came with it.

Ethanol is a renewable fuel that is produced through grain fermentation; we produce a lot of ethanol in Ontario with mainly corn and some wheat. Canada also produces a large amount of biodiesel, which is similar but mostly made from used cooking oil and animal fats (some also comes from soy and canola oil).

While some vehicles can run on 100% ethanol, it is most commonly found as an additive in gasoline, making up as much as 10% of gasoline blends in Ontario. A car using ethanol-blended gasoline instead of unblended fuel emits lower amounts of greenhouse gases, carbon monoxide, particulate matter, and other toxic substances. A 2011 report produced by Grain Farmers of Ontario estimated that substituting 10% ethanol into gasoline in Ontario meant a 62% reduction in net greenhouse gas emissions on a per litre basis.

The Ontario corn crop won’t reach the record size that this summer’s U.S. crop has, but we will likely see some of its effects. While Canada produces a lot of ethanol and biodiesel, we are still one of the world’s largest importers of U.S. ethanol. It’s unlikely that you’ll see a dip in the prices at the pump because of this, but the huge supply of U.S. corn and U.S. corn ethanol will obviously continue to influence the price of corn and corn products for some time to come.

More reading:

Good, D. “Big Year for Ethanol.” farmdoc daily (4):192, Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, October 6, 2014.

“What are the Effects of Biofuels and Biproducts on the Environment, Crop and Food Prices and World Hunger?” (GFO).

Thanksgiving for Everything

Thanksgiving had been unofficially observed in Canada for over 100 years by the time it was named a statutory holiday in 1957: an official “Day of General Thanksgiving” for “the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed.” Since then, Thanksgiving has been celebrated across Canada on the second Monday in October.

Along with turkey (and tofurkey for those soy aficionados out there) dinners, Thanksgiving comes with a few traditions. One of the biggest Thanksgiving events happens here in Southwestern Ontario: Kitchener-Waterloo’s annual Oktoberfest Parade, which will be broadcast on TV nationwide on Monday morning.

Of course, there’s one more Thanksgiving tradition to always keep in mind—that’s to think about all the people who work hard to reap that bountiful harvest, including the 28,000 Ontario grain farmers growing corn, soybeans, and wheat across the province. With this year’s cool, wet summer and late harvest, most of them will still be working hard to harvest their fields for the rest of the month—and it’s a sure bet they’ll be thinking about you while they do it.

Weeknight Meal Tips from the #loveONTfood Twitter Party

Cheddar cornbread tops

@GoodinGrain joined the #loveONTfood Twitter party last night for Ontario Agriculture Week. In case you missed it, here are a few great recipes and tips from Ontario food producers. Make sure to check out the #loveONTfood hashtag for tons of weeknight meal tips and recipes, and check Good in Every Grain for recipes that feature Ontario corn, soybeans, and wheat.

There were also plenty of over-achievers:

(and a little bit of self promotion):

Thanks to everyone that participated and congratulations to the winners of three #loveONTfood prize packs (including Good in Every Grain t shirts): @Charlalotta, @Prettyk612, and @Zac_maniac!

Healthy Lunches Help Fuel Active, Smart Children

Whole grain pizzadillas and tofu ranch dipping saunce

Cara Rosenbloom, Registered Dietitian & mom

What’s the best way to help your children get good grades and have energy for long afternoons at school? Pack a healthy lunch! Here are some tips.

Excel at school

When children eat a well-balanced lunch, it’s easier for them to concentrate at school and have energy for afternoon activities. A nutrient-sparse lunch will make them more likely to reach for unhealthy recess snacks, when energy is low and sugar cravings kick in. This could lead to weight gain and health problems down the road.

Studies show than in addition to providing energy, healthy lunches filled with whole grains, vegetables, fruit and protein can lead to better grades and higher scores on standardized tests, especially when compared with children eating high-fat, salty lunches.

Carbohydrate-containing foods, such as whole grain wheat, corn and soybeans, are crucial for brain health. The Grain Product food group in Canada’s Food Guide provides carbohydrates to the bloodstream to fuel the mitochondrial furnaces responsible for your child’s brain power.

Lunches that kids love

The healthiest carbohydrates include whole grains, vegetables, fruits and beans. They promote good health by delivering vitamins, minerals and fibre, which are required for normal growth and development. Grab that lunchbox and pack meals made with four food groups:

  • Vegetables and fruit
  • Grain Products
  • Milk and alternatives
  • Meat and alternatives

Most kids love sandwiches, which are a great way to ensure they get a serving of Grain Products, a staple food group in Canada’s Food Guide, and carb-rich brain fuel. Stack protein and vegetables on different shapes and sizes of breads. Use cookie-cutters to cut sandwiches into children’s favourite shapes.

Pack whole grain crackers with cheese, or make modern ants-on-a-log with soy butter and currants on celery to harness brain power. Visit for more ideas.

Winter Wheat Planting in Ontario

Wheat ready for harvest

While we usually think of fall as harvest time, you might not realize that a great deal of planting for the new year is already underway in Ontario. Across North America, Europe, and northern Asia, farmers plant winter wheat that will be harvested in the spring.

Winter wheat is harder than other wheats, and it has a higher gluten protein content (in its food uses, gluten is the protein that gives dough elasticity to rise and keep its shape). Winter wheat is used to produce flour for yeast breads and other chewy grain products; it is also blended with soft spring wheat to produce all purpose flour.

When farmers plant wheat in the fall, it must survive the cold winter. A process inside the plant called vernalization is what allows plants to flower in the spring, after long periods of colder weather. Many other species of plants undergo vernalization, including a variety of fruit tree species and annual and biennial flowering plants.

There are several varieties of winter wheat grown in Ontario, and wheat breeders are interested in learning more about and furthering the crop’s resistance to major diseases by developing new varieties. In a new partnership with Grain Farmers of Ontario and SeCan, the University of Guelph has hired Dr. Ali Navabi to fill a new professorship in wheat breeding in the department of plant agriculture. Researchers like Dr. Navabi hope to develop new varieties of wheat that will directly benefit farmers across Ontario. You can read more about Dr. Navabi and his research in the most recent issue of Ontario Grain Farmer magazine, and online here.

Does My Child Require a Gluten-Free Diet?

Everyday 100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

Cara Rosenbloom, Registered Dietitian & mom

Most kids adore pasta, bread and birthday cake – all made with wheat. But wheat contains gluten, a type of protein that has made headlines, and is the subject of questions from concerned parents. Is it okay for your kids to eat gluten? Let’s look at the evidence-based science to find out.

Who requires a gluten-free diet?

Celebrity endorsements and best-selling diet books focus on the glamour of going gluten free, but this popular diet is not meant for everyone.

Gluten-free foods are solely meant for people with celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that affects about one percent of Canadians. It’s also medically necessary for people with a wheat allergy or gluten intolerance. Otherwise, there is no reason for children to follow a gluten free diet.

Gluten is simply a protein found in wheat, rye and barley — staple foods that children enjoy. These foods add much-needed fibre, B vitamins, magnesium, iron and zinc to the diet – which are essential for normal growth and development.

I hear wheat has changed – is it harmful?

In a recent study, Canadian researchers grew wheat from seeds dating back to 1876. When comparing the genetic profile of the harvested wheat, they learned that there has not been a measurable change in the amount of protein and the composition of wheat since 1876. This negates all ideas to the contrary, which were simply based on speculations, but not on science.

Excluding gluten from a child’s diet for no medical reason has drawbacks

Gluten-free products are often made with less fibre and more sugar, salt, fat and refined starches than their gluten-containing counterparts, plus they cost an average of 162 per cent more. Grain Products are a staple food group in Canada’s Food Guide, and provide fuel for your child’s brain. If you are concerned your child has celiac disease, get them tested BEFORE you exclude gluten from their diet.

Cara Rosenbloom On How To Spice Up School Lunches

We’re nearly a month into the school year, which means parents and kids are starting to get the hang of home work, after school activities and early morning routines. For parents, packing a healthy, balanced lunch becomes one of the most important routines. Registered Dietitian and mom shared her tips for packing nutritious, yet easy school lunches kids will eat.

Need to freshen up your kids’ lunch box? Cara created two balanced meals, perfect to set your kids up for a successful day at school. Test them for yourself!

Check out this Global Morning Show Toronto segment for helpful advice:
Cara Rosenbloom On How To Spice Up School Lunches. •

White Mould Affecting Ontario Soybeans

Cool, wet, summers like the one we have just had in Ontario can have a lasting effect on crop success—in the case of soybean crops, as long as ten years.

White mould is a disease that affects soybean plants. The disease is caused by a fungus that lives in the soil surface and forms mushroom-like structures called apothecia. As soybean seedlings break through the soil, the apotheciaejects spores that attach themselves to flower petals and emerging bean pods. As the plant flowers and the bean pods develop, they grow a fuzzy, white, stem rot and hard, black bits called sclerotia inside the stem and pods.

White mould affects hundreds of different plants, including soybeans, dry beans, snap beans, lima beans, sunflowers, canola, carrots, cabbage, and many more (fortunately for Ontario grain farmers, it does not affect corn or wheat plants).

Once a single plant is infected with white mould, it spreads the disease to its neighbours by contact. The sclerotia is also released into the field when affected plants go through a combine at harvest time—they end up in the soil surface where they can infect future crops. It can take up to ten years for sclerotia in the soil surface to completely disappear.

Farmers have come up with a few low-tech responses to the problem that can be very effective means of preventing the spread of the fungus that causes white mould in their fields. Crop rotation is the simplest and often the most effective solution—white mould does not affect corn or wheat, so farmers can grow those crops in affected fields without any issues. Because it takes up to ten years for the sclerotia to completely disappear, and at least five years before sclerotia levels in the soil surface is substantially reduced, farmers will often plant soybeans in affected fields anyways. Research shows that while all varieties of soybean plants are susceptible to white mould, different varieties are more or less resistant to it. Varieties of soybean plants that yield lower are typically less susceptible, as are varieties that can be planted early in the season. Finally, since the mould mainly spreads through plant-to-plant contact, there’s one other low-tech solution for soybean farmers battling white mould: planting in wider rows that make it harder for plants to touch each other.

White mould is not a new issue for Ontario soybean farmers, but wet summers like this past one tend to exacerbate the issue. Fortunately, a bit of common sense, as well as ongoing research supported by Grain Farmers of Ontario, goes a long way to protecting the soybean crop.

Corn Prices Hit Four Year Low This Summer

Chicago Board of Trade

Last week at the International Plowing Match in Simcoe County, it seemed like farmers had one thing on their mind when they visited the Grain Farmers of Ontario: when will the price of corn go back up? It’s true that the price of corn has suffered lately—by July, it had reached a four year low in Ontario.

The single biggest factor keeping the price of corn lower than usual was the early expectation of a record crop in the United States. Like it often seems is the case with all farming questions, the weather is at the root of this—except in this case, it’s actually been the case that the weather was too good. A long summer in much of the U.S., which is the world’s single largest corn producer, has suppressed market prices for corn all summer. As the U.S. harvest has come in without any major issues, the price has stayed down. Even unrest in Ukraine, the world’s fifth-largest producer of corn, hasn’t affected the world supply enough to counteract the massive U.S. crop.

Ontario is Canada’s largest corn producer, and it produces significantly more than the next-largest province, Quebec. About half of Ontario’s corn is used for animal feed, while the other half is sold to companies that produce ethanol to be blended with gasoline. Philip Shaw, who writes market trend commentary for Grain Farmers of Ontario, notes that demand for ethanol production is sharply on the rise, which has prevented corn prices from falling even lower.

There are a few factors that might help farmers get a better price for their corn at a local level this year. Like this year’s Ontario soybean crop, planting was delayed this spring; combined with the early expectations for a record U.S. harvest, many farmers avoided planting corn altogether. Some farmers who did grow corn this year are hopeful that a local crop which is smaller than usual will help them market theirs to local processors. Should they be willing to pay a small premium to save on the expense and inconvenience of importing plentiful U.S. corn, processors will have a smaller local crop to buy from.

While the crop largely hasn’t been harvested yet (in much of the province, field corn still needs at least two weeks of frost free weather), it’s unlikely that the price will improve any time soon. Farmers will be keeping an eye on news about the U.S. harvest. As Shaw points out, it appears 2014 has been the year that supply caught up to a period of increased demand from 2007-2013. With the uncertainty of a late harvest, expect cash prices to fluctuate daily well into the season.

Soybean Harvest Behind Schedule

Brown soybeans in the field

Usually by mid-September, farmers across Ontario will have already begun harvesting the soybean crop; however, this year’s soybean harvest is at least two weeks behind in most parts of Ontario, and as much as a month behind in others.

There are a few reasons why this year’s crop is so far behind schedule, but like a lot of farming concerns, they’re all weather-related. Because of the long winter and deep frost, spring planting couldn’t begin until June in most parts of the province—about a month’s delay. In addition to the late start, crops haven’t seen as much warmth as they typically need, since it has been a very cool summer (and in some places, very wet). Like all crops, soybeans need sun, warmth, and time to develop.

Soybeans are typically planted in mid-May, when the soil temperature is at around 14-16°C, and there is little chance of frost after the seedling emerges from the soil. Soybeans usually take 95-105 days to grow from seed to maturity: as a single soybean plant matures it will produce as many as 80 fuzzy pods full of 2-4 beans each. The plant is ready to be harvested when it dries and turns completely brown.

Soybean farmers will be looking for another few weeks of warm weather this fall. Farmers have been growing soybeans in Ontario since 1942, and since then it has become the province’s largest field crop in terms of dollar value to producers.

You can learn more about growing soybeans in Ontario and soybean products at Grain Farmers of Ontario or by visiting the Growing Connections trailer, which is at the International Plowing Match in Simcoe County this week.