Ag Census data backs up canola's sustainability success storyJune 8, 2017Hub ArticleEvery five years, farmers are required to complete the Agriculture Census. Census 2016 was released May 10th, tracking long-term trends in Canadian agriculture and providing a unique snapshot of farming in Canada. In 2016, the Census was filled out by 94% of farm operators. We recognize that filling out the questionnaire takes time, but the data generated provides invaluable information to farm associations advocating on farmers' behalf, including CCGA. One powerful element, often overlooked in mainstream reporting of Census data, is the information it provides on environmental sustainability. Canola's sustainability story to our marketsCanola has an important sustainability story to tell. Customers are increasingly making food choices based on environmental practices, and governments are exploring policies aimed at reducing greenhouse gases (GHGs). Census data reveals positive environmental trends providing quantifiable evidence to assist in communicating canola's story. It demonstrates that farmers are committed to sustainable farm practices, and are partners in environmental improvements. 65% of Prairie farmers employ no-till seeding. Advancements in plant genetics and farm management practices have led to great improvements in this area. In 1991, 7% of land in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta was no-till seeding. This number has catapulted to 65% in 2016. Due to practices like this, Canadian crop land now sequesters 12 million tonnes of GHG every year in the soil, rather than releasing it into the atmosphere. This is the equivalent of removing 2.5 million passenger cars off the road. Pan-Canadian increase in bee colonies. Another interesting story that the Census tells is the growth in honey and pollinating bees. Canola and bees enjoy a mutually beneficial relationship – canola is an ideal habitat and food source and bees help improve yields through pollination. The Census data demonstrates that honey bee populations are indeed healthy — bee colonies on Canadian farmland increased from 561,297 in 2011 to 772,652 in 2016 — and supports the symbiotic relationship between canola and bees. Having this sustainability information allows us to communicate canola's positive aspects to government and our markets. With the Ag Census data in hand, we can show how farmers are innovating to protect the environment, and how they're protecting helpful insects like honey bees.Tracking farmer innovationCensus 2016 also introduced questions looking at the use of technology on farm. Canola farmers have a history of rapidly adopting new technologies that have provided multiple benefits, not only to the environmental sustainability of their individual farms and communities, but to the larger agriculture sector. Moving forward, the Census will provide trends on the incorporation of technology on farm. Auto-steer, GPS technology and smartphones/tablets for farm management have largely been incorporated, while GIS (such as soil mapping) accounts for roughly one-fifth of production. Want to read more on the Ag Census? Read last week's Hub post on trends in grain and oilseed production, young farmers, and female farmers.