November 2020

It is hard to believe we are in November already. This is a busy month for AAC staff. The deadline to submit claims for the Emergency Processing Fund is next Monday, November 16. We are also busy preparing for our 25th Annual General Meeting (AGM) in early December. We encourage all AAC member organizations to register for the event by Thursday, November 19, 2020. We are excited for this year's AGM, as it will provide an opportunity to share our successes from the past year and look back on our 25 years working with the Ontario agriculture and agri-food industry.  

As we near the end of the year, it is important to recognize that the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has declared 2020 the International Year of Plant Health. Farmers and researchers, both locally and globally, prioritize protecting plant health amidst the crops they grow and research by investing in research and outreach. For more information on the FAO and the International Year of Plant Health, you can visit FAO’s website.  

Plant Health is a very important topic for AAC’s members, directors and applicants. This month we are featuring our AAC director from the grains, seeds, oilseeds and specialty crops sector, Keith Black. On his own operation, Keith has prioritized plant health for many years through the reduction of tillage and the use cover crops. We are also highlighting a project being led by a partnership between the University of Guelph and Grain Farmers of Ontario. Through their project, wheat genomics and genetics knowledge are being used to integrate genomic prediction into the winter wheat breeding program and to identify superior breeding lines. 

If you have any questions, please reach out to us. 


Chris Hiemstra, AAC Chair
Terry Thompson, AAC Executive Director
Keith Black, Director

Keith Black has been a director on the Agricultural Adaptation Council (AAC) board since 2014, representing the grains, oilseeds, and specialty crops sector.  

Keith is also a director for Grain Farmers of Ontario (GFO), representing District 8 (Huron County). He serves on GFO’s Wheat Marketing Committee, the Resolutions Committee, Ontario Soy and Canola Committee, and the Grains Issue Committee. Prior to the GFO amalgamation, Keith served as a delegate, director and research committee member to the Ontario Soybean Growers for 11 years. 
Keith is very involved in his local agricultural community. He was as a member of the Drinking Water Source Protection Committee until 2019, and a past president of the Huron County Soil and Crop Improvement Association. Keith also served on the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association Executive where he was President in 2006. 

Keith farms near Belgrave, where his family has farmed for over a century. He currently grows corn, soybeans and wheat. He also pastures cattle each summer and finishes them over the winter. 

Keith and his wife, Barb, have two married daughters, and they and their families live close by. When he is not busy with farm work or serving on committees, he enjoys family time and travelling.  

We have asked a few questions to learn more about Keith, click here to read his responses:

  1. What have you enjoyed most about being a part of the AAC board over the past six years? 
  2. You have been involved in a variety of agricultural organizations, what do you think are the most important leadership traits for being an effective board member? 
  3. As AAC is entering its 25th year, what major changes have you made over the past 25 years to prioritize plant health? 
  4. As we look ahead to the holiday season, what activities are most looking forward to?  
Using genomics-based technologies to improve winter wheat breeding

Through a partnership between the University of Guelph and Grain Farmers of Ontario, wheat genomics and genetics knowledge are being used to integrate genomic prediction into their winter wheat breeding program and to identify superior breeding lines. 

Winter wheat production in Canada is primarily concentrated in Ontario, and mainly in Southwestern Ontario. With over 400,000 ha of annual harvested area, winter wheat produced in Ontario accounts for more than 77% of the total production in Canada. Several biotic and abiotic factors threaten the productivity and plant health quality of the winter wheat crop. 

One of the yield-impacting biotic factors is Fusarium head blight (FHB), which has caused economic losses to farmers since the 1980s. In recent years there has been great progress made toward understanding genes in wheat. These advancements provide great opportunities for wheat scientists, including geneticists and plant breeders, to improve the efficiency of genetic improvements in wheat. The ability to predict the performance of a given breeding line, based on its DNA, has been shown to be one of the potential applications of genomics in plant breeding.  

With funding from the ON-RP3 initiative, Dr. Elizabeth Lee is leading the U of G research team to use state-of-the-art remote sensing technologies, together with an accelerated breeding approach, to assess and improve the efficiency and speed of genetic gains in wheat breeding. This breeding approach was developed by the U of G Wheat Breeding Program, which was successfully managed by the late Dr. Ali Navabi, who initiated this research project before passing away in March 2019.   
Progress in the first year of the project included the initial stages of phenotyping and genotyping for disease resistance and improved genetic gain. Upon project completion, the team hopes to have successfully developed the advanced remote sensing analysis and diagnostic methods with the use of genomic technologies that will allow for the identification of successful genetic lines. With an additional two years of field testing, the new breeding lines can be brought to market for Ontario wheat producers.  

ON-RP3 is a collaborative initiative between the Agricultural Adaptation Council, Ontario Genomics, and the Government of Canada through Genome Canada. To learn more about the projects approved through this initiative, visit the AAC website
Plants are life - Plants make up 80% of the food we eat and produce 98% of the oxygen we breathe. 

Economic benefits - The annual value of trade in agricultural products has grown almost three-fold over the past decade, largely in emerging economies and developing countries, reaching USD 1.7 trillion. 

A growing demand - FAO estimates that agricultural production must rise about 60% by 2050 in order to feed a larger and generally richer population. 

Pest destruction - Plant pests are responsible for losses of up to 40% percent of food crops globally, and for trade losses in agricultural products worth over USD 220 billion each year.