Does Glyphosate Cause Cancer?

Glyphosate and cancer. This is something we are hearing so much about, seemingly all of the sudden, with major stories breaking in the last week. Just last Friday, a court case in California resulted in a $289 million dollar payment to a man named Dewayne Johnson, who claimed his years of using glyphosate (also known as Roundup) caused him to develop cancer. A few days before this story broke, glyphosate use was suspended by a judge in Brazil pending a government reevaluation of its toxicity.

What is going on here?

I am a farmer who uses glyphosate. My dad started using it decades ago, and it has absolutely been the single greatest invention in agricultural history. And it is unequivocally, fantastically safe. It is one of the lowest toxicity herbicides we use on our farm. It is less toxic than alcohol. Less toxic than caffeine. So what is all this about?

Why Do We Need It?

I am apart of a multi-generation family farm in southeast Saskatchewan, Canada. We grow canola, wheat, durum, peas, lentils, flax and soybeans, along with a few other crops. I farm with my sister, my mom and dad, my brother-in-law and my wife and two little boys. I love what I do.

dsc_0126

In my part of the Canadian Prairies, we farm in some pretty dry conditions. Our average growing-season rainfall is about 9 inches, or 225 mm. Snow and fall rains provide us with another 4-5 inches. This is semi-arid agriculture, where the next rain really can provide the difference between profit and loss. So, we work very hard to use every drop of moisture we get. We have to. That means we cannot allow weeds to grow, and we must leave the soil undisturbed as much as possible – we do not want to till our land if we can at all avoid it.

What glyphosate allows us to do is to kill every weed in the field before the crop emerges. In the days before glyphosate, my grandfather had the very same goal – but he only had one way to do it. He had to work the land, over and over and over. The goal was to make it absolutely black. That was the only tool they had, and sadly, it was the direct cause of the great dust storms of the Dirty 30’s. Why would we ever want to go back to that?

Moreover, glyphosate allows us to control weeds in certain crops as they grow. Canola and soybeans are two crops I grow that are genetically engineered to be resistant to glyphosate. This means we can spray it over the crops, while they are young and struggle to compete with weeds, to keep them clean. We use different chemicals in other crops to accomplish the same thing, but none have the broad spectrum control that glyphosate has – and few of them are as cheap, or as safe.

The introduction of Roundup-Ready crops, including corn, soybean, canola, cotton and so on, has allowed for safe, simple, very cost-effective weed control.

Is It Safe?

This is the big question, and if you follow the news at all, I could certainly understand if you don’t feel it is safe. You may think it causes cancer, autism, and any number of diseases. That is what you’ll find on the Internet.

Here’s the experience of a farmer.

I use glyphosate hundreds of hours every year. I load and run our sprayers (along with farm employees and my family) over thousands and thousands of acres spraying glyphosate. My son rides in the sprayer with me sometimes. And I don’t worry at all about glyphosate being dangerous.

20170718_202324.jpg

Here’s the thing about spraying a chemical like glyphosate. An acre of land is 43,560 square feet, which is a little smaller than an American football field. On that acre, 360 grams of glyphosate active ingredient is sprayed. Put another way: 2 cans of beer of glyphosate sprayed over an area almost the size of a football field. That’s .015 mL of beer on each square foot – and that includes the solution the glyphosate active ingredient is suspended in. That is an incredibly low concentration. A standard “drop” of water is .05 mL. That’s less than a third of a drop of water!

Sure, some chemicals are highly toxic in even very small doses. Glyphosate is not one of those chemicals. Its LD50, or the lethal dose for 50% of rats in testing, is 5,600 mg/kg. The LD50 for caffeine? 192 mg/kg. Don’t panic about your coffee though – that’s still very safe!

Does Glyphosate Cause Cancer?

While I have explained that an acute dose of glyphosate is safe, that doesn’t really answer the cancer question. That is something that would accrue over many years, and may have little to do with the aforementioned LD50. Has this been studied thoroughly enough to be sure glyphosate is indeed safe? And has it been studied by independent organizations and scientists?

John Giesy, a professor and research chair in environmental toxicology at the University of Saskatchewan, would argue that yes, glyphosate is safe. He has quite the resume, as a professor or honorary professor at six other universities and is the most cited author in the world in the combined fields of ecology and environmental sciences. In an article you can find here, when speaking about the subject of cancer, he had this to say:

“Certainly you wouldn’t wish it on anyone. But whether it’s caused by glyphosate, in my opinion, is highly unlikely.”

In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a WHO agency, claimed that glyphosate was a  “probable carcinogen”. Glyphosate is hardly alone in this category, with such partners as high temperature frying, working as a hairdresser, red meat or shiftwork. Stuff that is actually carcinogenic on their list? Alcoholic beverages, sawdust and processed meat (to name a few). Yes, beer and hot dogs are considered more likely to cause cancer than glyphosate (source).

It was this IARC report that started all of this, and there are some real questions as to their methodology. In fact, according to the then- European Crop Protection Director, General Jean-Charles Bocquet,

“From the summary conclusions it appears that IARC has made its conclusions as a result of an incomplete data review that has omitted key evidence.” (source)

It was recently discovered that the IARC had removed findings from studies that concluded glyphosate was not a carcinogen before they published the final version. They also used the infamous, now retracted Seralini rat study in their analysis.

The fact is that numerous organizations conclude glyphosate is safe, including the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, the European Food Safety Administration, Health Canada, the German Risk Agency, and on and on. A massive study run on 89,000 farmers and their familes in Iowa and North Carolina since 1993 has failed to find any link between glyphosate and cancer. How much more evidence do we need?

I need glyphosate on my farm. It helps me be more sustainable, both environmentally and economically, it helps me protect my soil from erosion and build soil health, and it helps me sequester carbon, reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The fear over glyphosate is unfounded, and we need to slow down and have a real discussion about it. If you want to come to my farm and see how we use this contentious chemical, please let me know. My door is open for anyone who wants to have their questions answered.

Advertisements

Why GMO Labeling Will Never Work

Nikon J1 234Would you want to know if your food contained GMOs?

There has been a major push to get foods containing genetically modified ingredients labeled. Some brands have voluntarily done so, but most have not taken that step. Several countries around the world require GMO labeling, including China, Brazil, Japan and many others. While the US and Canada have debated going in this direction, there has been no binding action- yet. A poll conducted by The New York Times found that a whopping 93% of people want mandatory labeling for GMOs.

Some advocacy groups demand labeling because they claim GMOs are unsafe, and we as consumers should know what’s in our food. Even many supporters of GMOs agree that it would be best to just get on with it and label it already; the campaign against it is doing more harm than good, and people will buy food containing GM ingredients if they believe it is safe. While I can see the merits of such arguments, I believe it would be a colossal error to label food containing GM ingredients. Labeling food containing GMOs will ensure consumers avoid them- it’s a matter of simple psychology.

People Fear What They Don’t Understand

survey conducted in January by the Oklahoma State University Department of Agricultural Economics found that over 80% of Americans support mandatory labels on foods containing DNA. For those who don’t remember high school science class, DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, is our blueprint- it’s what makes us what we are. Almost every life form on the planet contains DNA. So, yes, all food contains DNA. But, if you didn’t know what DNA was, and someone asked you if you’d want to know if it was in your food, you probably would say yes. Why not? What if it’s harmful? It certainly sounds scary if you don’t know what it is.

Another example of the the general public’s ability to be fooled on scientific wording is the dihydrogen monoxide hoax. It all started back in 1983, in an April Fool’s edition of a weekly newspaper in Durand, Michigan. Apparently, dihydrogen monoxide had been found in the city’s water pipes, and it was “fatal if inhaled”. There have been several hoaxes since, each one stating dire warnings of the dangers of the substance. For instance, dihydrogen monoxide “may cause severe burns” and “has been found in excised tumours of terminal cancer patients” and “everyone who consumes it dies”. What is dihydrogen monoxide? Well, its chemical name is H2O, but it is better known as water.

The truth is, if you frame it right, you can make anything sound terrifying. Take A&W’s new marketing campaign. They advertise their beef as “better beef” because it is produced without hormones or steroids. They ignore the fact that you would ingest more hormones from their fries than you would from conventionally produced beef. But, for the uneducated, why not eat beef produced without those components? It clearly sounds safer.

If you put a label on something as “product x free” or “contains product x” you immediately label product x as something ominous- especially if a quick Google search comes back with dozens of websites claiming how dangerous product x is. I suspect that if we label our foods with many of our breeding methods, we will create fear. Genetic modification is only one way of breeding advancements in our crops. One such breeding method is mutagenesis, which involves using mutagens such as UV radiation or mutagenic chemicals to cause random or site-directed changes to an organim’s DNA. A food product developed under this method can be labeled GMO free. I don’t want to demonize mutagenesis; it is an effective way to develop desirable traits in our crops. But let’s be realistic here; why is genetic modification somehow more dangerous than any other method?

GMOs already have an undeservedly bad reputation, especially considering how safe they are. If the government makes GMO labeling mandatory, the odds are very slim that their reputation will improve.

Are GMOs Actually Safe?

The simple answer is a resounding yes. I’ve heard the claim more than a few times that research on GMOs is scant, and Monsanto is funding a ton of propaganda. This could not be further from the truth. In fact, there are thousands of studies on GMOs. A literature review completed in 2012 delved into 1,783 studies on GMOs over a period of ten years (2002-2012). The authors couldn’t find one credible study proving GMOs are dangerous in any way whatsoever. In their words,

“We have reviewed the scientific literature on GE crop safety for the last 10 years that catches the scientific consensus matured since GE plants became widely cultivated worldwide, and we can conclude that the scientific research conducted so far has not detected any significant hazard directly connected with the use of GM crops (source).” 

Another literature review, dubbed the “trillion meal study”, reviewed 29 years of livestock consumption of GM foods. The result? Not one negative health effect. Surely, in nearly 30 years, one animal somewhere must have become sick if GMOs were actually dangerous (read more here). The only studies that have shown dangers to GMOs have been shown to be biased and fatally flawed (an example is the Seralini rat study– it was redacted from its publishing journal).

Do We Really Need GMOs?

If you go to the World Population Clock, you’ll find a number somewhere above 7.3 billion, with over 72 million more added so far in 2015. Our population growth may be starting to slow down, but the reality is that there will likely be 8 billion people on this planet by 2024- a staggering number. How do we feed them all? We will need every tool available to us, genetic modification included. Moreover, it gives us the ability to reduce pesticide use, fortify our foods with essential nutrients (e.g. Golden rice) and grow more food on less land. Let’s try and leave the rainforests where they are. And, more importantly, let’s not let any more children die from Vitamin A deficiencies.

Everyone has heard of GMOs, but few have taken the time to understand what they are. You always fear what you don’t understand; it’s basic human nature. A greater public benefit would come from education on GMOs; what they are, how they’re made, and why we need them. Let’s stop giving people a reason to be afraid of them. Let’s take the unknown out of it. Consumers want to know what’s in their food: instead of giving them an acronym few actually can decifer, let’s explain to them why GMOs are in their food, and why it’s a good thing. If consumers knew the truth about GMOs, there would be no need for labels.

References:

American Association for the Advancement of Science. 2012. Statement by the AAAS Board of Directors On Labeling of Genetically Modified Foods.

Eenennaam, A. 2013. GMOs in animal agriculture: time to consider both costs and benefits in regulatory evaluations. Journal of Animal Science and Biotechnology. 

Entomological Society of America. 2014. Insect-resistant maize could increase yields and decrease pesticide use in Mexico.

Gemma, A. et. al. 2013. Plurality of opinion, scientific discourse and pseudoscience: an in depth analysis of the Se´ralini et al. study claiming that Roundup Ready corn or the herbicide Roundup cause cancer in rats. Transgenic Research.

Nicolia, A. et. al. 2012. An overview of the last 10 years of genetically engineered crop safety research. Crit Rev Biotechnol.

What’s The Beef? M&Ms and Hormones. 2013. Farm Meets Fork.

Glyphosate: A Carcinogen?

John Deere 4940Every once in a while, a news story is released that has no basis in any real science whatsoever. A few days ago, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) declared glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup and many other brands, to be a class 2A probable human carcinogen.

What does this mean? Does glyphosate, long heralded as one of the safest agricultural pesticides on the market, really cause cancer? Should it be ripped from store and retail shelves, buried, burned and otherwise disposed of? Even banned?

Let’s slow down for a minute here. Glyphosate has been tested inside and out for the past 30 years and has not been shown to be a cancer risk for humans. A mind-numbing number of studies have consistently shown, time and again, that glyphosate is safe. So why the controversy? First, let’s look at the basics.

What is glyphosate and how is it used?

Glyphosate was originally patented by Monsanto in the early 1970’s as the active ingredient in Roundup herbicide. It was introduced to the market in 1974 and has since become one of the DSC_0614best-selling herbicides in the world. Its non-selective mode of action means that it does not discriminate in which weeds it kills. The introduction of this product revolutionized the herbicide market and changed the way farmers kill weeds.

For those interested in the details, glyphosate, a derivative of the amino acid glycine, targets and blocks a pathway called the shikimic acid pathway; which, suffice to say, is required for amino acid synthesis in plants. With amino acid synthesis shut down, plants wilt and die from starvation. Since the shikimite pathway is not found in humans (or any other animal), glyphosate is of very low toxicity. Find even more details here.

Before herbicides were broadly and economically available, farmers were forced to use tillage to control weeds. While other methods helped, such as crop rotation, cover crops and late seeding, tillage was the primary method with which weeds were killed. The problem with tillage is that it is extremely damaging to soil structure and leaves soil exposed to erosion. With the introduction of herbicides, and eventually Roundup, minimum-till agriculture became a realistic possibility, which has decreased erosion substantially on farms that utilize it.

The introduction of Roundup-Ready crops, including corn, soybean, canola, cotton and so on, has allowed for safe, simple, very cost-effective weed control.

Where did this cancer label come from?

Sorting through the rhetoric of glyphosate is a challenge all on its own. Type “glyphosate” into a Google search and you’ll find all kinds of wild claims about cancer, autism, poison, and the like. The fact is that most of what you see is sensationalist news articles with little fact-based information. Let’s cut through some of that rhetoric.

First of all, what does IARC, a semi-autonomous extension of the World Health Organization, mean when it classes glyphosate as a 2A human carcinogen? There are five categories of carcinogens that the IARC lists on their website:

  • Group 1: Carcinogenic to humans
  • Group 2A: Probably carcinogenic to humans
  • Group 2B: Possibly carcinogenic to humans
  • Group 3: Not classifiable as to its carcinogenicity to humans
  • Group 4: Probably not carcinogenic to humans

They listed glyphosate in Group 2A, in which there are 73 agents, which includes the occupational exposure as a hairdresser, shiftwork and high temperature frying. Group 1 includes alcoholic beverages, estrogen and wood dust (source). Yes, that means beer is a greater carcinogenic risk than glyphosate.

What’s everyone else saying?

I think one very important detail that is not being reported on is that the IARC is not the only group that has studied glyphosate. For example, the European Crop Protection Director, General Jean-Charles Bocquet, had this to say:

“The IARC conclusions published in Lancet Oncology contradict the world’s most robust and stringent regulatory systems – namely the European Union and the United States – in which crop protection products have undergone extensive reviews based on multi-year testing and in which active ingredients such as glyphosate and malathion been found not to present a carcinogenic risk to humans.”

 “From the summary conclusions it appears that IARC has made its conclusions as a result of an incomplete data review that has omitted key evidence.” (source)

He’s not the only one. The Environmental Protection Group of the US has done extensive testing of glyphosate, and does not consider glyphosate to be a carcinogen. Other groups, such as Health Canada and the German Risk Agency, are firmly against the notion that glyphosate causes cancer. Put simply, the IARC is the first and only group to label glyphosate as a carcinogen.

Oddly, one of the very few studies they allegedly took into consideration was the fatally flawed Seralini rat study. If you’re unfamiliar with it, it was a shocking study that apparently proved that GMOs caused tumours in rats- but the methodology of the study was so poorly exercised that the journal that published it later retracted it. It is now a laughingstock of the scientific community, and any credible organization that references “information” such as this should thoroughly re-evaluate their credibility.

Is glyphosate actually safe?

I could go into the thousands of studies on the safety of glyphosate, and go into a detailed literature review of why it is such a safe product. But this is a blog; not a scientific journal, and as such I’ll leave the science to the scientists with some links for further reading below. Let me summarize instead; glyphosate lacks the structural characteristics of known carcinogens, and the IARC has failed miserably to link cancer to glyphosate. Interestingly, the IARC actually does not conduct their own research; instead, they look at the data that’s out there and form their own conclusion. Isn’t it telling that they are the first and only group to label glyphosate this way?

The reality is that glyphosate has been applied on billions of acres over the past 40 years, and if it really were that dangerous, wouldn’t there have been some real consequences by now? Wouldn’t livestock and people be getting cancer in droves? This has simply not been the case, and glyphosate has been a wonderful alternative to hundreds of other far more dangerous chemistries out there.

My experience

I have been spraying glyphosate, whether it be Roundup, Touchdown Total, Vantage Plus or whichever of its dozens of formulations, for the past ten years of my life. My father has been spraying it most of his life. My experience with this product is that it is safe, effective, cheap, and is a fantastic tool to combat weeds on our farm. Nobody, in all the years we have applied it, on this farm has ever gotten sick from glyphosate. Not a single friend, neighbor or colleague of mine has ever had a negative health effect from this chemical. Too small of a sample size? How about 60 independent genotoxicity studies with none that imply danger to humans (source)?

The message here is that you can’t believe everything you see and hear. IARC reviewed the data on glyphosate- among other chemicals- for less than a week before making a decision. In contrast, a German study conducted on behalf of the European Union has only just seen its first draft released; a study they have been working on since 2012. Their result? Not a carcinogen!

Don’t trust my claims? Check out my sources. Take the time to understand this issue, and understand the science behind glyphosate and modern agriculture. Glyphosate has been a modern miracle; it’s time we treated it that way.

Further reading:

Along with the links embedded in the post itself, check out these pages for some interesting reading on glyphosate:

Genetic Literacy Project. Is glyphosate–herbicide linked to GMOs–carcinogenic? Not if science matters.

Glyphosate Technical Fact Sheet. National Pesticide Information Center.

Greim, H. et. al. 2015. Evaluation of carcinogenic potential of the herbicide glyphosate, drawing on tumor incidence data from fourteen chronic/carcinogenicity rodent studies.

Kier, LD. 2015. Review of genotoxicity biomonitoring studies of glyphosate-based formulations.

Mink, PJ et. al. 2012. Epidemiologic studies of glyphosate and cancer: A review.

Niemann, L. et. al. 2015. A critical review of glyphosate findings in human urine samples and comparison with the exposure of operators and consumers.

Sorahan, T. 2015. Multiple myeloma and glyphosate use: a re-analysis of US Agricultural Health Study (AHS) data.

The Farmer’s Daughter USA. Glyphosate as a carcinogen, explained. (excellent blog)

The Cinderella Crop of the Prairies

Rapeseed. The crop with quite possibly the worst imaginable name to try and market as a health food source. A plant with undesirable components, such as erucic acid and glucosinolates, and lacks many necessary attributes to be successful in today’s marketplace.

Everything changed when several Saskatchewan scientists decided to take this cool-season crop, relatively well adapted to life on the prairies, and convert it into something amazing; we now call it canola.

In the Canadian Prairies, we generally do not receive enough heat in a growing season to successfully grow corn or soybeans on a large scale (although that is changing with new varieties- a topic for another day). Traditionally, we are known as wheat growers, and for good reason. We export a pile of wheat from our farms, and we always have. Canola is relatively new, but it has been a godsend for us.

Rapeseed, the origin plant for canola, was grown in Asia for thousands of years for cooking and lamp oil. With the introduction of the steam engine in the eighteenth century, rapeseed oil was proven to be a very useful oil, and was grown extensively in Asia and Eastern Europe before the Second World War. During the war, rapeseed supplies were short in Canada, and it became a cropping option for many farmers. But, prices weakened after the war, and acres slumped.

Saskatoon was the birthplace of rapeseed research on the prairies, and after 25 years of work by many brilliant scientists and technicians, a new crop was developed. Indeed, this plant was so different from the rapeseed it came from that it needed a new name to differentiate it. In 1978, “canola” was coined from “Canada” and “oil”. Since this incredible innovation, canola has overtaken wheat as the primary crop of choice for prairie producers, with over 20 million acres grown in 2012. It is now grown in many areas of the world, including Australia, Brazil, Europe and the United States.

Yes, this crop is genetically modified. No, it is not a Monsanto product. There are a few different companies that produce canola genetics large-scale, including BASF, Monsanto and Bayer CropScience. Bayer has been immensely successful with its InVigor line of canola, which is our farm’s genetics of choice. Try not to look at the GM crop as “evil”, as these varieties have saved us from having to use much more toxic chemicals to control weeds in this crop. Glyphosate and glufosinate tolerant canola has allowed us to prevent the overuse of many chemicals that are prone to cause weed resistance, despite what you hear about glyphosate resistance. We would be in trouble without these chemical options, which would damage not only our economy here, but it would limit access to one of the world’s healthiest options for cooking oil. Canola has an excellent mix of saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated oils, which have been linked to a reduction in cholesterol levels, among other benefits.

Growing canola has its challenges, but it is one of the easier crops to grow, thanks to its competitive nature. We seed canola as shallow as we can, or it may not come up at all. That is why we use precision air drills, such as this one:

Image

Once the little seed germinates, it is slow to get going. The plant starts out very small, and adverse weather can really wreak havoc on it. Excess moisture, a late frost, or insects called flea beetles can be very damaging. Here is a young seedling that is still only about 1-2 inches tall:

Image

Once canola gets a couple of leaves developed, it quickly becomes a formidable plant. The root system delves into the soil while the leaves gather energy for its fight against its opponents. This next plant is a couple of weeks older, and is far more competitive:

Image

It is at or before this stage that we try to apply a weed control product, which for this variety is glufosinate (Liberty) and clethodim (Centurion). Since canola is genetically resistant to glufosinate, and because clethodim is a product that works only on grassy weeds, the canola will not be injured (unless excessive rates are applied, in which case injury can occur). In the next photo, you will see canola reach a stage that will make any farmer excited- rosette stage.

Image

This is where the hybrid vigour of canola really hits hard. These leaves are six inches in length, allowing them to gather a great deal of sunlight energy. The ground is now essentially covered, preventing germination and growth of weed competition. Again, this is another benefit of these powerful varieties. In other crops, the ground is not covered as quickly, and more chemicals therefore are needed to control weeds. Once canola reaches this stage, weeds are no longer a concern.

These plants are using a huge amount of nutrients at this point, consuming lots of nitrogen and sulphur every day. For a crop like this, synthetic fertilizers are a necessity. There is no way organic farming can provide enough nitrogen, sulphur and phosphate to allow this crop to reach its potential. For this reason, we apply nitrogen, phosphate and sulphur at seeding time.

In the next photo, you can see canola push past rosette stage into stem elongation, or “bolting”. Farmers refer to this stage as bolting because of how quickly the stem grows up from the base of the plant. While it usually takes a month to reach rosette stage, bolting happens within a week.

Image

The tinge of yellow you can see atop these plants are the flowers. At rosette stage, buds are formed at the base of the growing point. When bolting occurs, the buds are pushed upwards, with yellow flowers opening as they move upwards. Very soon, as the flowers continue to unfold, summer on the prairies begins with the magnificent beauty of bright, yellow fields of canola:

Nikon J1 July 293

In the Prairies, the striking beauty of these fields now is a common sight. As the flowers unfold, pollinate, and eventually fall to the ground, more flowers continue to develop in a seemingly never-ending loop. Generally speaking, the longer this crop flowers, the better the yield. Hot weather, especially above 30 degrees Celsius, is very damaging to these flowers, causing them to “blast”. The flowers will simply dry up and pop off the stem. Consecutive days of weather like that is very damaging to yield. This crop uses a lot of moisture, and rain at this time of the year always puts a smile on farmers’ faces.

There are a few dangers at this time of the year. Weeds are no longer a concern, but disease and insects are. Sclerotinia sclerotiorum is the primary disease of concern (Sclerotinia Stem Rot, or just Sclerotinia). The flowers are littered with spores released from little mushroom-like organisms that live on the soil surface, and as they fall, they land on leaves and stems. The disease moves into the plant and chokes off the flow of nutrients from the root system to the flowers and pods. Fungicides control this disease, which are usually a worthwhile investment in warm, wet summers.

Insects such as grasshoppers, lygus bugs, diamondback moth larvae and Bertha armyworms can induce severe damage to canola during flowering and into podding, chewing on stems, leaves and pods. We determine whether we need to spray for these insects by way of economic thresholds, which are developed by agronomists with government agencies. These economic thresholds are calculated from a number of factors: insect numbers, cost of application, value of the crop and number of predatory insects that will feed on the negative ones. We always try to spray in evenings and early mornings, as bees tend to forage in the heat of the day. Spraying insecticides is not fun, and it is very expensive to do. We avoid it as much as we can, but sometimes we must spray to save our crops from utter destruction.

As flowering finishes up, generally after 2-4 weeks, the fields lose their yellow colour and pods are the dominant feature. Each pod contains many little seeds of canola, which slowly mature over a period of 20-30 days after flowering has finished.

Nikon J1 July (2) 174

Once flowering is completed, the countdown to harvest begins. Our canola is in a variety of stages, with some still yellow and some just like the picture shown (obviously; that is where the picture came from!). Swathing occurs about 20-30 days after flowering ends, with harvesting occuring 10-18 days later. We are excited for this time period to come.

Hopefully this has given you some information of value on our most economically important crop. Canola has been a wonderful experience for us, and it will be a part of our rotation for the foreseeable future. If you want to know more about crop diseases, insects, and other parts of crop production, check out some of my other posts. Now you know where your cooking oil comes from!