January / February 2021
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A Farmer’s Viewpoint
The good and bad of niche crops by Kevin Hursh
Grain Market Analysis
Bright Spots in a Bizarre Year by Scott Shiels
by Natalie Noble Succession
No time like the present by Natalie Noble
Black and gold By Trevor Bacque
The droplet size debate by Tom Wolf
Farming Your Money
Longing for the old AgriStability by Paul Kuntz
Those Wily Weeds
Oddball weed identification by Tammy Jones
Markets and Contracts
It’s a small world by Natalie Noble
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A FARMER’S VIEWPOINT | THE GOOD AND BAD OF NICHE CROPS
The good and bad of niche crops Kevin Hursh, P.Ag. Kevin Hursh is one of the country’s leading agricultural commentators. He is an agrologist, journalist and farmer. Kevin and his wife Marlene run Hursh Consulting & Communications based in Saskatoon. They also own and operate a farm near Cabri in southwest Saskatchewan growing a wide variety of crops. Kevin writes for a number of agricultural publications and serves as executive director for the Canary Seed Development Commission of Saskatchewan and the Inland Terminal Association of Canada (ITAC). Twitter: @KevinHursh1
I always encourage farmers to look for profitable market niches. Niches exist for many crops, but you have to remember that they are niches. Too much production and the price drops and profitability evaporates. Here’s an example of one small niche crop: maple peas. It actually illustrates the many factors that we as farmers contend with. Maple pea production is much the same as with yellow or green peas. Maple peas have a mottled colour and are dimpled. When you see them flowering in the field, they are easily identified by their pretty purple flowers. Their traditional end-use was for racing pigeons particularly in Europe: very niche. In more recent times, China has been the big customer. They like maple peas for sprouting and consume them as a sprouted product. However, it’s still very much a niche market prone to overproduction. The price can be attractive or the market can be glutted and then it can be difficult to move them. There are other specialty peas and there are specialty lentils and a wide range of other minor acreage crops all with similar issues. So, why do maple peas serve as an example of the many factors farmers contend with? Let’s deal first with agronomics. CDC Acer used to be a mainstay of maple pea varieties, but it was very susceptible to lodging. A good crop could end up flat on the ground. 6
In addition to the lodging issue in good years, Acers also yield quite a bit less than a regular yellow pea. With those two factors, you need a price premium before you want to grow them. The next varietal advancement was CDC Mosaic. This variety had much better lodging resistance, but it yields about the same as Acer. One of the newest varieties is CDC Blazer and that’s what I’ve been growing the past couple of years. It has pretty good lodging resistance and it has a much-improved yield. The Saskatchewan Seed Guide lists Blazers as 98 to 99 per cent of the yield of the yellow pea check variety CDC Amarillo. So, I think it’s a great variety, but there’s a problem. The seed is slightly larger and has a slightly different look than Acer and Mosaic. Some Chinese end-users don’t want Blazer. As a result, some maple pea buyers, and there aren’t a lot of buyers, won’t always purchase Blazers. Others will buy them at a discount. On top of that, China is the main market and we all know about the market tensions between Canada and China. The other types of peas could find markets elsewhere. Maples, not so much. It’s a case of crop breeding and agronomics versus marketplace realities. We see this in other crops, too. Just look at how hard it is to get maltsters to accept new varieties of malting barley. They want to stick with what they know and they don’t really care about the agronomic issues farmers have to face.
Pat Ottmann & Tim Ottmann
Regular Contributors Kevin Hursh Tammy Jones Paul Kuntz
Scott Shiels Tom Wolf
Copy EditorS Here’s another quirk that’s a sign of the times. When you think about pulse crop varieties developed by the University of Saskatchewan’s Crop Development Centre, you typically think royalty-free. You can grow them and then if you’re neighbour wants some, you’re able to sell the seed. Well, I had to do some checking at the high levels of the seed industry to get an answer, but with the Plant Breeders’ Rights on CDC Blazer, I’m told that you are not allowed to provide the seed to another farmer. In 2020, our maple peas were seeded near the end of April and we started harvesting them in early August. It was a good crop and it stood up well making for easy combining. While harvesting was easy and the crop came off dry and with good quality, buyers were scarce, at least initially. Maple pea prices weren’t great in the fall compared to historical values, but the price was better than yellow peas. As it turned out, I sold way too many way too early. Prices steadily improved after harvest for a wide range of crops, peas of all types included. So, should I grow them again in 2021? I’ve cleaned a bunch of seed just in case, but I worry about the market being oversupplied. I worry about a niche market that relies mainly on China. I worry because the variety I grow is very good from an agronomic standpoint, but it’s not the variety preferred by most end-users. Will new crop production contracts be available? Maybe, but maybe not. And if contracts are available, the price may not be very attractive. Agriculture has always been a risky business. Perhaps even more than the mainstay crops, niche crops are susceptible to politics, pandemics, regulations, trade barriers and price fluctuations.
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GRAIN MARKET ANALYSIS | BRIGHT SPOTS IN A BIZARRE YEAR
Bright Spots in a Bizarre Year Scott Shiels
Scott grew up in Killarney, Man., and has been in the grain industry for more than 25 years. He has been with Grain Millers Canada for five years, doing both conventional and organic grain procurement as well as marketing for their mills. Scott lives in Yorkton, Sask., with his wife Jenn. www.grainmillers.com
Grain markets have continued to rise throughout the fall months and into early winter. The reality appears to have settled in that while we produced a good crop, it was nowhere near the massive record crop initially projected. Certain commodities have jumped in price nearly 50 per cent since the beginning of harvest, let’s take a look at some of the biggest movers, and consider what options to think about going forward. The biggest jump since harvest has been taken by the oftforgotten oilseed flax. Currently, flax prices have risen nearly a full 50 per cent since the beginning of harvest. Farmers seeded a relatively decent sized acreage to flax across the Prairies this year, but the hot dry weather late in the season negatively impacted flax yields in many areas. The quality of the flax this year is making up for some of the yield loss, with most flax fitting into the top grades. This has been a benefit to flax buyers across the country but is not coming anywhere close to making up for the lack of quantity available to purchase. Farmers with good quality flax are reaping the benefits of this tight supply market and should continue to do so throughout the year. Aggressive new crop flax pricing for the 2021-22 growing season is also available, which should result in a production increase that should cap prices going into the new year. With prices in the $15 dollar picked up range already available, I would recommend taking advantage and booking up some new crop flax. Canola has also had a nice post-harvest rally this year, following closely along with soybeans. World production of soybeans is 8
down, with lower yields in the U.S. and projected lower yields in many large production areas around the world. Canola yields in Western Canada were alright in many areas, but with the very high costs of inputs most farmers put into their canola, “alright” yields just don’t cut it. Since harvest we have watched canola climb a couple of dollars a bushel, with some of the specialty canola programs pushing close to the $15 mark in late November. Along with this post-harvest rally has come a rally for next year’s crop as well. Much of the country experienced a very dry growing season this past year, it will be interesting to see what happens with canola acreage in 2021 if we don’t see significant snow accumulation over the winter. Any reduction in acreage projections will put even more bullish pressure on that market, so keep an eye out for aggressive new crop pricing opportunities as we move towards spring. Oats were a solid performer this crop year, too. We had a near-record acreage seeded to oats in Canada this year, but production was nowhere near the mid-summer projections, leading to a strong rally right after harvest that has continued into the winter. While supplies are not as tight as they were in 2019/20, where they effectively went to zero, buyers and millers all too clearly remember where prices went last summer and are not eager to put themselves through that again this year. Aggressive bids in southern Manitoba began the run-up in early October, and through November we were seeing prices upwards of $4.00 nearly all across the prairies. These prices should put oats into a very profitable position for the rest of the year. New crop oat pricing for the 2021/22 crop year is also out already and those prices appear to be aggressive enough to ensure that oat acreage once again climbs across Western Canada. This will be welcomed by the oat industry as demand continues to grow, backed by the strength in the oat beverage market, as well as some sustained growth due to COVID-19. Until next time…
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SEEDING TOOLS | HEAD START
Advances in seeding equipment give crops the best chance for success
By Natalie Noble Seeding equipment continues to deliver better accuracy and technology with a common purpose: greater starts for plants and higher productivity. Advancements are upping efficiency, allowing farmers to make the slightest adjustments on the go ensure peace of mind and a strong start for the season. “For a broadacre grain farmer, the most important operation they’ll do this year is put the seed in the ground,” says Don Henry, CEO at SeedMaster. “If they don’t make sure the seed’s in the right place with good seed to soil contact … nothing else will matter.” Farmers have a lot to look forward to for that head start. “In the last decade we’ve had significant improvement from sectional control to better planting accuracy in depth of seed to more accurate packing pressure,” says Don Campbell, FieldSMART agronomist at Western Sales. But selecting seeding tools is not as simple as “what’s the best product out there?” It comes down to the specific needs of each farm. Because of that, Jim Wood, chief sales and operations officer at Rocky Mountain Equipment says seeding equipment sales tend to be special order. “Most farmers have done their research before they come in to see us because seeding is so individualized for each farm,” he says. “While tractors and combines come with more generalized specs, seeding is such an individual preference and application. Everyone has a different size requirement, tank configuration, spacing and or tools.” 10
“For a broadacre grain farmer, the most important operation they’ll do this year is put the seed in the ground.” - Don Henry The accuracy advantage As variable rate seeding and fertility continue to sweep Prairie fields, accuracy continues to be the focus in seeding tools. “The whole precision side of seeding equipment means we continue to be more accurate and do a better job,” says Henry. “We can have a better bottom line when we ensure we’re spending our money in the right places and getting the most from our fertility programs. The cost of seed is high. If we don’t get it placed in the right spot for the right germination, it hurts our yield dramatically.” The way seed is metered has also improved. “Historically, we’ve measured this in pounds per acre, which isn’t the greatest measure,” says Henry. “Depending on the crop, an agronomist will tell you the optimal number of plants per square foot or per acre.” Fertility is another consideration. “What is the farm’s fertility plan, where do they need to put that fertilizer on in their area
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SEEDING TOOLS | HEAD START to give their seed the best opportunity to take advantage of their nutrient package,” says Henry. “Our farmers are well-educated on this and very particular about this accuracy. They need the equipment that’s going to give them that in their operation.”
Tip-top tips By Natalie Noble When it comes to seeder tips, or ground engaging openers, there are thousands of options. “When it comes to what a farmer’s looking for in terms of capability, a lot of it comes down to the kind of land they have,” says Don Campbell, FieldSMART agronomist at Western Sales. “My response is what land are you on? What are your expectations of what you want to happen?” Soil conditions vary dramatically across the farm, but even across the field. That’s why it’s often difficult to find that perfect opener.” Decision-making starts with the drill type the farmer uses and then the required placement and fertility needs for the seed. “Some individuals will be looking for something as simple as a three-quarter inch knife opener for straight placement of the seed,” says Campbell. “Some will want a side boot so the fertilizer can be placed to the side. This can be done with liquid, anhydrous or dry. In some soil they prefer a split boot which allows for fertilizer to be placed in the centre with the seed coming out both sides.” Fine textured soils tend to be especially tough to work with. “The harder ones are actually the heavy clay or gumbo type soils,” says Garth Donald, co-founder and manager of agronomy with Decisive Farming. “When they get wet, these heavier clay-type soils tend to plug the openers. That’s more what farmers need to be looking at is which opener is best designed for that type of soil so it doesn’t let dirt roll underneath it and plug off, causing misses in the field.” When it comes to tips, carbide’s longevity has essentially replaced steel. “When you get into coarsetextured soils, such as sand, in a large acre case, using a plain steel opener you would burn through it on approximately 6,000-7,000 acres. Whereas with carbide, you could double or triple its life.” 12
Efficiency is a must. “There’s a big push for singulation, putting as little product in the ground as is needed rather than blasting product over the field, particularly for canola,” says Wood. Garth Donald, co-founder and manager of agronomy at Decisive Farming, says the industry has come full circle with seeding tools going back more than 15 years. “The double disc press drill was one of the most accurate means of seeding back in the day,” he says. “Then the hoe drill came in and then no-till. That’s when things kind of changed as we went into air hoe drills so we could direct seed.” Technology progressed from the hoe drill to parallel linkage drills on most well-known seeder manufacturers. “They have a ground following ability to maintain specific seed depths and contour through the different topography of the field.” That ground-following capability continues to be key. “[It] allows farmers to keep the same seed depth from one end of the drill to the other and right through the middle,” says Donald. “It doesn’t matter what that variance is. Most of these systems have the capability of eight to nine inches of travel within each of the shanks. Instead of a gang situation, now it’s changed by shank that is set and can follow that ground contour.” The seedbed now sees more even plant emergence while saving effort for the farmer who would typically set their machine at the desired depth and check it throughout day with some of the older technology. “The new technology takes away some of the concern in that everything’s still where it should be and keeping the depth consistent,” says Campbell, adding that there is better packing pressure capabilities, as well. Currently, planter-style systems are coming to market for seeding grain. “We know that a row-crop planter is probably the most accurate seeding system in the market,” says Donald. “Clean Seed’s SMART Seeder has basically replicated the row-crop planter but made it so we can use it within the oilseed and cereal base on a narrow row spacing to give that accuracy.” The other big push in seeding equipment is on the technology front. While it is complex, it doesn’t have to be complicated and increasingly farmers are being given cloud integration options. “It’s all in the monitor setup within each drill,” says Donald. “Vaderstad/SeedHawk uses an iPad-based program, their Icon system. Everything goes through their cloud to the iPad for it to run the drill. Bourgault uses the TopCon X-35.
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SEEDING TOOLS | HEAD START Their TriMax Triple Shoot system is more mechanical on the cart around which runs go where and the same with their precision seed attachment, but it is run through the monitor once it’s manually activated.”
Wish list This New Year, farmers have lots to look forward to. “Everything is about making adjusting on the go easier for the farmer,” says Wood. “All the new products coming out are aimed at making those in-field adjustments better and giving the farmer the ability to put the product in the right place with the right amount and make it more efficient by filling the tank less and getting more acres done in a day.” Donald broke down some of the latest and greatest in seeding, including Clean Seed’s new offerings.
Western Sales’ Don Campbell says seeding technology is increasingly user-friendly for farmers to use. “We want simple, solid and foolproof,” he says. “Our clients need it to be easy to work with, and if it’s not, it will continue to be pushed off because they just don’t have the time.” Credit: Western Sales
“This new generation will just be available this year and it’s a significant change,” says Donald. “They have a lot to prove, but within their first demos they’ve seen good accuracy.” Bourgault also made developments this year. “Part of this is their new TriMax Triple Shoot System. It took the benefit of the sideband or two-shank systems – like a SeedMaster, Vaderstad/SeedHawk or Conserva Pak,” he says. “They’ve now got a seed shank and a fertilizer shank, and still have their mid-row bander.” The secondary fertilizer shank is designed for non-mobile nutrient application. “We can now pull it away from the seed and prevent seed injury,” says Donald. “We can put higher rates of those non-mobiles, but out in the mid-row we can still put the nitrogen and sulfur down.” Bourgault also added a new singulation system to its drills. “They’ve built the idea of the corn/row crop planter with its accuracy and they’ve actually implemented it into their drill so they have another chamber that goes to individual meters per row to get that accuracy in seeding,” says Donald. Companies like Vaderstad/SeedHawk now have drills with individual meter rolls to meter per second. “They actually have the ability to do variable rate per meter roll as far as fertilizer or seed application,” says Donald. “It’s been out a couple of years, but they haven’t talked a lot about it.” Also noteworthy is SeedMaster’s sale of the Dot technology to Raven Industries in the U.S., allowing SeedMaster to refocus back into seeding equipment. “It’s important to our population and the buyers of our product that we’re becoming more concerned about the sustainability of our farms,” says Henry. “That’s something we have to be aware of as farmers and as manufacturers so we’re meeting that demand.”
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COVER STORY | BLACK AND GOLD
Albertan creates dual careers in oil, farming By Trevor Bacque Photography by Rebecca Hardcastle Photography For many Albertans, their story is intertwined with agriculture. Many of today’s farmers proudly tell stories of their great-grandparents arriving in the province with little more than a set of directions to land stakes. For today’s middle-aged Albertans, another part of their story often involves the oil and gas industry. For Steve Marshman, he is one person who pays homage to both. The Rockyford, Alta., farmer proudly works the ground broken by his paternal great-great grandfather’s family and maternal great-grandfather’s in addition to the family homestead of his wife Jessica. The deep roots mean Marshman and his wife are related to about half of the county. His great-great grandfather William Marshman’s history in North America goes back to the 1700s when he arrived in Pennsylvania via Europe. Later, he would fight in the U.S. Civil War for Abraham Lincoln’s Union before he relocated to Oregon then settled in Alberta where his sons established the farm in 1909. Today, Marshman and his wife farm with his parents Lloyd and Cheryl, and uncle Gerald. The adjacent farm is run by his cousin Kim Salt. Although the farm roots are deep, they have been a relatively new chapter in Marshman’s working career. For 24 years, Marshman worked in energy, primarily through his specialized coring company Rocking Horse Energy Services. Only in the last decade did his oilfield work overlap with the farm, Rocking Horse Land and Cattle Inc. Today, though, Marshman is focused on the farm and his new business ventures: a farm and ranch supply store as well as an OK Tire store after selling his coring outfit in late 2020. 16
BLACK AND GOLD | COVER STORY
Steve Marshman and son Hayes at the family farm near Rockyford, Alta.
COVER STORY | BLACK AND GOLD
When Marshman graduated high school in 1994, he went straight to Olds College and procured an agricultural business diploma. It did not take long for the young man to venture north after learning of opportunities in the oil patch near Fort McMurray. There he learned the art of coring after landing a job on a Cora Lynn coring rig. Quickly, he advanced from roughneck to driller to tool push in two years. The specialty of coring within rig work proved to be something Marshman had a knack for and it set him on the path to specialization within the industry. He helped Dan Zimmer and Neil Brown start and build TerraCore Drilling, a cutting-edge company with automated coring rigs. Under contract he managed the build, design and field supervision of 12 single drilling rigs over a three-year span. By 2006, word about Marshman’s reputation spread in a good way. He was headhunted to run the drilling division of a Calgary based service company. Within a month the board made him president and CEO with the plan to build a team, design and build amphibious core drilling rigs for muskeg-laden areas around Fort McMurray. The patented initial build was a success with drilling being completed for Suncor. He was working alongside Goldman Sachs, presenting to its directors to secure funds to build three advanced single rig units and several more coring units. Spending nights at the RitzCarlton in Battery Park was a far cry from his modest abode back home, but it was evidence of his hard work. With sizable funding acquired, the build began the following year. Everything ran smooth until the Great Financial Crisis hit the marketplace. “With the build underway in 2007 and rigs contracted, the banking crash in the U.S. in the fall of 2007 sidelined that enterprise,” he explained. Undeterred, he began Rocking Horse Energy Services in January 2008, a third-party coring company specialized in wire line coring, conventional coring, core packaging, core transport and drilling rig design. “It’s pretty gratifying work to do,” says Marshman. “It’s a pretty specialized skill to have. Once you know how to do it and do it well it opens a lot of doors.” The ability to arrive at a rig and offer a full suite of coring services quickly set Rocking Horse apart from virtually all other competitors. Marshman and others within the company designed an all-new wire coring system to provide an intact and complete core. A typical coring setup often involves processing core outside with one to two staff. Marshman had a staff of three or more per shift and the big differentiating factor was a tandem truck that contained a “core shack” complete with wire line systems and the ability to pull a string of pipe. 18
Steve Marshman at his OK Tire store in Strathmore, Alta. Marshman and his tire team earned national store of the year honours in 2018.
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COVER STORY | BLACK AND GOLD
“Everything I’ve done with business is sell the best thing I can. It’s not necessarily on price, it’s on quality, service and what it accomplishes for a customer. I took the same focus to this store. No smoke, no mirrors. This is the best there is, it makes it easy to sell.” - Steve Marshman It became evident, if a company needed an intact core, Rocking Horse was the best bet. With a success rate of 99 per cent recovery, it was not just geologists that were pleased with results. Rocking Horse quickly grew to be the largest coring provider in Western Canada. In back to back years of 2012/13, Rocking Horse was ranked inside the top 10 of Alberta’s Fast Growth 50 list, which ranks the province’s best businesses. In 2012, he was No. 2, followed by No. 9. His commitment to never skimping on details also earned him Conoco Phillips’ Safety Contractor Awards. “As far as market share, we kept capturing more and more,” he says. “There was a time we were on pretty much every project in Fort McMurray, every potash project in Saskatchewan and even gas in Quebec. We provided a top-notch service, had the best equipment out there and an amazing group of guys. We were the go-to for tough wells.” Whether it was potash, salt or oil formations, there were simply no samples too difficult to recover. Marshman estimates he pulled more than 100,000 metres of core samples in the last quarter century. Rocking Horse completed work in the U.S. and set up an Australian coring division in Queensland. Exploratory work was conducted in the Middle East, but never materialized as the industry was beginning to slow and contracts were disproportionately saddled with risk and not reward. He always used farming tips to keep numbers conservative so they work even in tough times. Around the time oilfield work was moving along routinely, his father was looking for a change and Marshman entertained the idea of returning to the farm with serious thought in 2010 to be closer to his growing family. “It was a juggle,” he says. “Dad was wanting to retire from the crop side of things.” 20
Marshman officially came on board in 2011 and, true to form, he wasted no time moving the farm in a direction he felt was necessary for his family. With his dad, father-in-law, uncle and neighbour all retiring over a few years, the 700-acre grain farm quickly grew to 3,200. He continues to have his father and uncle help during seeding, spraying and harvest. His 94-year-old grandpa is also still a familiar face at the farm, although most of his efforts these days are poured into his sprawling vegetable garden, which, when ripened, are all harvested and trucked into Calgary’s Mustard Seed or Grace House in Drumheller for those experiencing homelessness. The dark brown soils work particularly well for him and his crop rotations, which he prefers to have at least a one-in-four-year rotation with canola. He tries hard to have a strong chemical rotation, and also prefers to use the LibertyLink system for an additional chemistry break. Along with a consistent lack of tillage, Marshman prefers to keep sprayer passes down to two per field per year. “With minimum till the last 20 to 25 years, it’s really made a difference for growing crops on side hills that never would have grown much in the past,” he says. “I’m working on pet projects to grow my sloughs a bit, re-grassing around them for just to keep the chemistry away from the sloughs and the watershed. Uncle Gerald has always said we are just caretakers of the land for the next generation and I firmly believe that improving watersheds and habitat are part of that.” He continues to improve the land and the farm believing strongly in the five per cent rule; a small change now can pay dividends in the future. He has been working with various new apps to improve record keeping, budgeting and management of the farm. Next year he may look at changing up his calving facilities and increase his land base depending on the rental market, as well. “Steady as she goes,” he says. Marshman quickly got another entrepreneurial itch in 2013 through a non-agricultural opportunity. He had busted tires through college and felt there was a need in Strathmore. This time, with a local friend, they started Boots and Boost Inc., providing tires, farm service, customization and mechanical work, which later morphed into buying into OK Tire to leverage national buying power and optimization. By early 2015 the oilfield was really experiencing upheaval, which Marshman attributes to changes in both provincial and federal governments. Companies began to shift priorities, too. Less wells were being drilled, industry consolidation accelerated and Marshman found himself at a crossroads. “I was looking to diversify a bit, just to keep busier in the summertime,” he says. “The last several years there was no summer work in the patch, and we lose guys because they
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COVER STORY | BLACK AND GOLD need steady income. It’s hard on guys, hard on morale. You have to be honest [with yourself].”
people who are working through an issue, finding a solution and then delivering a quality product for it.
With interest continuing to grow on the farm side, Marshman’s entrepreneurial instincts kicked in. He took his signature Rocking Horse name and shifted it into a brand-new business by 2017—a farm and ranch store, Rocking Horse Industries’ The Farm & Ranch Source store, situated in Strathmore.
“Not a lot of grass grows under my feet,” says Marshman. “I enjoy meeting people and sales, I look forward to that.”
The store began with about 100 retail items, but that quickly grew as the local community shifted support to Marshman’s independent business. Today, the store retails more than 1,000 items and with a “really good group” of seven staff, the priority is geared towards high-end farm products, typical of Marshman’s business philosophy of having satisfied customers. “Everything I’ve done with business is sell the best thing I can,” he explains. “It’s not necessarily on price, it’s on quality, service and what it accomplishes for a customer. I took the same focus to this store. No smoke, no mirrors. This is the best there is, it makes it easy to sell.” One of the latest products Marshman has focused on is helping famers improve connectivity through AyrMesh , a theoretical WiFi shield up to eight kilometres wide over your farm to tie in all bins, calving and security cameras all designed to give full bars of service on your phone for almost a kilometre in any direction from the hub. “That’s what we’re trying to do, do stuff the other guys aren’t,” he says. “I look for great products and take it to next level.” His love of the farm is equally matched with interacting with
Interests in his ventures closer to home, it came time to close a big chapter in his life. In September 2020, he formally sold Rocking Horse Energy Services to two longtime employees. The company’s focus will not change, but Marshman has moved on. “I had an opportunity, made an offer to the guys, they accepted,” says Marshman matter-of-factly. His focus now is to grow all three ventures: the farm, the tire shop and the farm store. Always eager to grow and challenge himself, Marshman says the door is wide open to adding a second farm store or OK Tire location. His four children, ages eight to 14, are getting bigger now and increasingly curious about farming, which means more hands-on help around the yard along with his nephews, as well. It’s a true family affair at the Marshman farm. “I got a great wife, Jessica, and she does awesome with the kids,” he says. “I’m trying to be around the home more for that. There were lots of time where I was just on the road and I’m trying to change that up a bit. The kids are getting old enough now that they will be more and more involved on the farm. My kids and nephews like to work on the farm, as they get older that will take a lot of pressure off. I’ve been very fortunate to have a great team at the shops, so when it is harvest and seeding, I can rely on people to keep things rolling. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
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SUCCESSION | NO TIME LIKE THE PRESENT
NO TIME LIKE THE PRESENT
The pros of proactivity when tomorrow is not guaranteed By Natalie Noble On a mid-November morning, Elaine Froese, farm family coach and succession planning advisor, met with a family to discuss the future of their farm and its eventual transition. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Zoom meeting looked different than her typical kitchen table sessions, but everyone was there – Froese at her own desk, four family members at their table and the fifth away at university. She was especially pleased to see this family proactively plan for a future that’s never guaranteed. The evening before marked the 32nd anniversary of her sister Grace’s death after being hit and killed by a drunk driver. That incident struck “someday” forever off Froese’s calendar. “I implore farm families this New Year, when we can’t do the normal fun activities we’re used to, shift your mindset and look forward to the possibility of getting everyone excited and clear about what the future of the family and the farm is going to look like,” says Froese. Which brings to question: with so much uncertainty in our lives today, why do so many Prairie farmers continue to procrastinate around succession planning? A solid plan ensures the health of the family as much as it protects the wealth of the business. “Nobody works harder than a farmer, but why not put that same commitment into working with the family around proactive transition,” says Annessa Good, agriculture transition specialist with Farm Credit Canada. “Nationally, we have rising land values and equipment prices. For the junior generation, 24
which might be 22 or 42, the size and scale of today’s operation is such a complex business, often with large debt, that there’s simply too much risk in not planning that path forward.” Many of the 195,000 farms across Canada will transition over the next 10 years. “I call this the ‘tsunami of agriculture,’ a backlog of farmers not acting,” says Froese. “I’ll have a farmer aged 57 contact me, and one 87 contacting me. That’s 30 years of difference in ages and stages of planning.” Current numbers don’t indicate a larger percentage of succession plans written over recent years. What also hasn’t changed is the sense of angst and tension around poor communication skills in the family dynamic. Froese pinpoints procrastination and conflict avoidance as the main barriers. Bob Tosh, partner and family business advisor with MNP, agrees. “There are real psychological barriers in doing this work. Many people struggle to get over that when it comes down to avoiding conflict and how to be fair, or, are very reluctant to admit they’re coming to the end of their working lives,” he says. “[This] goes all the way down to cost and all the way up to significancy of conflict.” Planning is less daunting when families work it as a process and find guidance with the right trusted professional. “If you focus on a fixed outcome in your mind there are too many things along the way that you do not control,” says Tosh. “View this as a real investment of time and money. You need to acknowledge that this is a significant and complex transition of wealth.”
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SUCCESSION | NO TIME LIKE THE PRESENT
“The same amount of money put into an on-farm child’s account might purchase oneninth of a combine today, probably not even that. We really have to break these situations down to their impact and not their Excel sheet dollar amount.” - Annessa Good Understanding the ways succession planning typically goes sideways can help families overcome them and take action. Froese references her mentor, family business consultant Tom Hubler, with three key challenges he’s identified. Annessa Good of FCC says considering rising land values and equipment prices for Canadian farmers, “the size and scale of today’s operation is such a complex business, often with large debt, that there’s simply too much risk in not planning that path forward.” Credit: Farm Credit Canada
First, lack of forgiveness and emotional factors that affect planning. For example, the 85-year-old father who takes so long to let go that his 55-year-old son is only just gaining some ownership. “In my world as a coach, that letting go of control needs to happen much earlier,” says Froese. “I like to see 40year-olds have equity, even before that if they’ve proven their worth and their skill to do so.” When there’s a disconnect in expectations between business and non-business heirs we also see this challenge. Consider rising land values. “That land is typically being passed on and not intended to ever be sold,” says Froese, emphasizing that in order for the farm to remain viable “farming heirs need their farm to be left intact because they’re a business, they’re not a birthright.” Good recently returned to residing on her own family farm, suggests families get down to understanding the farm’s fiscal reality as well as the often asset rich–cash poor scenario of Prairie farms. She helps clients focus on what they’re measuring. “Are we looking at the land wealth in fair market value dollars or productive value? The difference between that market value and productive value is usually hundreds of thousands of dollars in difference,” she says.
Elaine Froese, family farm coach, cannot stress enough the importance of starting the succession planning conversation and process now. She describes a ‘tsunami of agriculture,’ or, a backlog of farmers not acting despite the critical need for a plan that protects the family and the business. Credit: Elaine Froese
Parents running the farm while the next generation also works face this challenge, too. “They must now decide how to split up the pie for the off-farm children while the farming child might wake up one day realizing they no longer have a viable business,” she says. “I’ve had parents tell me, ‘I lay awake at night thinking about so much land wealth going to the farming child that we cannot compensate with income [to the off-farm child].’” For example, putting $50,000 into a city-dwelling child’s bank account is life-changing, it can pay off their mortgage or education.
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SUCCESSION | NO TIME LIKE THE PRESENT
“The same amount of money put into an on-farm child’s account might purchase one-ninth of a combine today, probably not even that,” she says. “We really have to break these situations down to their impact and not their Excel sheet dollar amount.” The second key challenge, lack of appreciation, affects all generations from those with a sense of entitlement to those who’ve sacrificed through sweat equity, labour or deferral of compensation for too long. The solution is clarity. “We’ve traditionally worked on promises and handshakes, and that can be the beauty of being in a family run business, but it’s also contributed to generational scars,” says Good. “We need to look at documenting, properly tracking sweat equity and having contracts within a family. People might feel contracts and formal procedures can hurt their family members, but they actually protect the family and the business in the long run.” Bob Tosh with MNP suggests farmers focus on planning as a process rather than focusing on a fixed outcome when succession planning. “View this as a real investment of time and money. You need to acknowledge that this is a significant and complex transition of wealth.” Credit: MNP
Third, pride and stubbornness; these qualities often get in the way of revealing the truth of intent or transparency within plans instead of working through the emotional factors of good planning. “I believe the family dynamic will be much healthier if there are no secrets,” says Froese. On a positive note, Good’s noticed each generation become more comfortable addressing the “agriculture culture” of not talking about difficult subjects. “Many families I sit with say, ‘I don’t want my children to go through what I went through.’ It is a cycle I think is becoming more proactive over time,” she says. A natural starting point is with numbers. How many people will depend on the farm, including retiring parents, the next farming generation and any third-party members? “It’s pretty amazing how many pieces are pulling at this business financially,” says Good, adding that by working together, stress will may quickly disappear. Froese is in her third succession plan with her farming son after planning with her parents-in-law and then her own parents back in the ‘90s. Her plans are written in pieces rather than one static document. Clarity, agreements and timelines also ease the process and increase effectiveness. This includes each shift including labour, co-management, collaborative decision making or equity. Shifts may take place over a range of time rather than all at once, but commitment to action is a must. “The pandemic has amplified whatever pre-existing dynamic was already in the farm family,” she says. “We have a lot of people who are no longer willing to put up with their current scenario and they want to create a new story for their family.”
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SPRAYING 101 | THE DROPLET SIZE DEBATE
The droplet size debate Tom Wolf, PhD, P.Ag. Tom Wolf grew up on a grain farm in southern Manitoba. He obtained his BSA and M.Sc. (Plant Science) at the University of Manitoba and his PhD (Agronomy) at Ohio State University. Tom was a research scientist with Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada for 17 years before forming AgriMetrix, an agricultural research company that he now operates in Saskatoon. He specializes in spray drift, pesticide efficacy, and sprayer tank cleanout, and conducts research and training on these topics throughout Canada. Tom sits on the Board of the Saskatchewan Soil Conservation Association, is an active member of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers and is a member and past president of the Canadian Weed Science Society.
Funny how some issues never go away. For as long as I’ve been in the sprayer business, the question of ideal droplet size for pesticide application has remained a hot topic. At its root are the basic facts that small droplets provide better coverage, making better use of water, but large droplets drift less. So why are we still debating this? Because we need both of these properties to be efficient, effective, and environmentally responsible. Ultimately, the droplet size question is reduced into one of values, where everyone’s individual priorities play a role. First, let’s talk about basic principles. To be effective, an active ingredient must make its way from the nozzle to the site of action in the target organism. On the way, it encounters several obstacles as summarized by Brian Young in 1986. After atomization and before impaction, the spray encounters two main losses, evaporation and drift. Both of these are more severe for smaller droplets. They have a greater ratio of surface area to volume for any given spray volume, and can evaporate to a much smaller size, even to dryness depending on the formulation, in seconds. For water-soluble formulations, one consequence is lower uptake. Oily formulations may maintain efficacy, but neither type can escape the second effect, spray drift. Small droplets are more susceptible to displacement by wind currents due to their small mass. There is no magical size above which drift is no longer possible, but we’ve generally used diameters of 100, 150, or 200 µm as a theoretical cutoff. The proportion of the spray’s volume in droplets smaller than these diameters can be called “drift potential,” and this value is useful to measure the impact of nozzle type, pressure, or formulation on that phenomenon. But it’s not quite that simple. Even a small droplet may resist drift if its exposure to wind is limited, perhaps through a protective shield shroud, or lower boom height, or by increasing its speed through air assist. Even small droplets resist displacement if they move fast enough. 30
Figure 1: The dose transfer process of pesticides (after Young, 1986)
These mitigating strategies aren’t lost on sprayer manufacturers who have used them for decades to build lower-drift sprayers. The next phase of the dose transfer process is interception. The droplet has to encounter its target, but the process is mostly coincidence. Simply put, the target has to be in the way of the droplet’s flight path for the two to meet. Denser canopies are therefore more effectively targeted. A larger number of droplets (smaller droplets or more carrier) also improve the odds. But it’s not that simple. Flight paths can change. That’s where small droplets are more inventive. Because they respond to small air currents, and because such small currents surround most objects, the smaller droplets can weave around objects, following the small eddies generated by air flows. That’s why we’re more likely to find smaller droplets further down in denser, more complex canopies where the eye can’t follow. They simply cascade through.
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SPRAYING 101 | THE DROPLET SIZE DEBATE Larger droplets, on the other hand, resist displacement by air and travel in straighter lines. They tend to hit the objects they encounter. For that that reason, larger droplets are intercepted by the first object they reach and only make their way deeper into a canopy if the path is clear. In other words, vertical, sparser objects allow larger droplets to pass by. These, and the aerodynamic properties of objects such as tiny insects, cotyledons, leaves, and stems, govern the collection efficiency of sprays. Small, slow-moving droplets are then best captured by small objects that don’t create strong enough deflections of airflow to steer these droplets past. Large objects that redirect air around them very effectively are better collectors of the larger or faster droplets whose kinetic energy can guide them through this turbulence. It’s also a meter of probability, as the smaller objects tend to have a lower likelihood of encountering the relatively scarce large droplets of any given spray. But once again, that’s not the end of the story. Interception is followed by a critical stage, retention. Objects must be able to hold onto the droplets they intercept. Slow motion video has shown that droplets flatten out on contact with an object as the liquid converts impaction velocity into lateral spread. Once at full extension, the flattened droplets will collapse even beyond their original round shape, pushing them away from the surface and possibly causing rebound. A rebounding droplet may eventually land on target, but that would be a matter of fortune. It’s better if the leaf can offer enough adhesion, diminishing the power of the rebound oscillation, allowing droplet to stick the first time. Small droplets have less mass and tend to be more easily retained. But more than size is at play here. The morphology and chemistry of the leaf surface is also important, with crystalline or more oily surfaces offering less adhesion for droplets. The physico-chemical properties of the spray mixture becomes important, as characteristics such as dynamic surface tension and visco-elasticity affect spray retention. These properties are optimized through the product formulation effort and possibly via adjuvants added to the tank. We sometimes classify targets as “easy to wet” or “difficult to wet” to summarize these properties. Most grassy plants (foxtails, cereals) are difficult to wet (there are exceptions, such as the sedges) and broadleaf plants vary from the easy to wet pigweeds to the difficult to wet lambsquarters and brassicas. Easy to wet species can retain larger droplets than difficult to wet species, and that’s one reason why finer sprays are preferred for grassy weed control (leaf orientation and size are another). A few words about surface tension. Although surfactants reduce surface tension and facilitate spreading, this may not be enough to improve spray retention. To be effective, surfactant molecules need to align themselves with the surface of the 32
Figure 2: Droplet deformation during impaction. The inability of the target surface to absorb these forces leads to rebound.
droplet so they can be a “bridge” at the interface where the droplet meets the target surface. This takes time. The oscillations that occur during impaction continuously create new surfaces, and if surfactant molecules don’t follow suit immediately, the droplet will behave as if no surfactant is present. Specialists measure “dynamic” surface tension, i.e., the surface tension at young surface ages, a few milliseconds, to better predict spray retention. Very young surface ages have surface tensions of plain water, even with a surfactant present. Only certain surfactants, or higher concentrations of surfactants, can actually improve spray retention. When air-induced nozzles were introduced in the mid-1990s, one of their claims was the improved spray retention due to air inclusions (bubbles) in the individual droplets. These bubbles made the droplets lighter, and also reduced their internal integrity, promoting breakup on impaction. As a result, the coarser sprays they produced actually had some of the same efficacy performance as the finer sprays they replaced. And indeed, research showed that coarser, air-induced sprays did in fact maintain good performance. Interestingly, performance of non-air-induced coarse sprays used with pulse width modulation also showed similar robustness of performance. Research comparing air-induced to conventional sprays of similar droplet size rarely showed differences, and when they occurred, they were small in magnitude and could be corrected through improved pattern overlap. One reason larger droplets still work well is due to the preorifice designs of modern low-drift nozzles. This design reduces the internal pressure of the nozzle itself, with the effect being a slower moving large droplet. This reduced velocity takes away some of the force at impaction, reducing rebound. Another neat effect of coarser sprays is their ability to entrain air. All sprays move air (simply spray into a bucket to see this), and larger droplets do this better and for longer distances. The entrained air is a form of air assist for the smaller droplets,
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SPRAYING 101 | THE DROPLET SIZE DEBATE
increasing their average velocity and thus reducing their drift potential while they move in the spray pattern. The final stage of the dose transfer process is deposit formation and biological effect, and that’s where we once again see differences attributable to droplet size. Once established on a target surface, the active ingredient usually needs to move to its site of action. In certain cases, resting on the surface is sufficient, it depends on the specific product. But for the majority of herbicides, the active ingredient must move across the cuticle into the cytoplasm where it eventually migrates to the enzymes involved in photosynthesis or biosynthesis of fatty or amino acids. The cuticle is waxy, with only a few water-loving pathways and the uptake process is basically driven by diffusion and concentration gradients. As such, it is more effective when the product is in solution and the longer the droplet can stay wet, the better. That’s one reason why spraying during hot, dry days may reduce performance. Again, it depends on the formulation and the mode of action. Too high a concentration can damage membranes, physiologically isolating the active ingredient and reducing its subsequent translocation. It’s always a balancing act.
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If you’ve been keeping track of the score, it’s more or less a tie between large and small droplets. One deposits better and makes more efficient use of lower water volumes, while the other has lower losses from drift and evaporation, helps smaller droplets resist drift, and may improve uptake of some products. And this draw is why the venerable hydraulic nozzle has been so successful for so many decades. Hydraulic atomization, by its nature, creates a wide diversity of droplet sizes, ranging from 5 to 2000 µm or greater. As Dr. Ralph Brown of the University of Guelph used to say, “this nozzle provides a drop for all seasons.” Some small ones for coverage and retention in hard to reach places, and some large ones for uptake and drift-reduction. The result is a robust delivery system that provides reliable results on many different targets under many conditions. In recognition of the heterogeneity of sprays, we don’t refer to specific droplet sizes, but rather their composite, grouped into international categories of Spray Quality such as Medium, Coarse and Very Coarse. Our challenge is to find the spray quality sweet spot, the ideal blend of these contradictory and yet complementary features of our agricultural sprays. I believe that task is very achievable. Simply put, agricultural sprays work reliably when applied as Coarse and Very Coarse sprays in volumes between 7 and 12 US gpa. There is no need to spray any finer than Coarse for good efficacy, as coverage is already sufficient and any additional coverage has small marginal returns. There is, however, value in adding more water when canopies are denser or when leaf area index grows as the crop matures. To gain coverage, adding water is preferred to reducing droplet size because of the value of environmental protection. There is perhaps opportunity in going even coarser than what I’ve suggested. It’s certainly required by law for dicamba products on Xtend-traited soybeans and cotton, but even then, only in conjunction with higher water volumes to offset losses in droplet numbers. In practice, moving to Extremely Coarse or Ultra Coarse sprays may allow an application to proceed in higher than average wind without adding drift risk. The use of some additional water is a relatively small price to pay for that additional capability. There will always be opportunities for efficacy improvement in specific cases for those willing to spend the extra time to optimize that situation. That’s one of the reasons I’m excited to see the widespread adoption of pulse width modulation in the industry, allowing users to change spray pressure and therefore spray quality with no impact on application rate or travel speed. Or the introduction of nozzle switching from the cab, employing the optimal atomizer for a specific location. Although it remains difficult to define the ideal spray, selecting a spray quality has never been so easy.
FARMTRX – MEASURING AND MAPPING YIELD | ADVERTORIAL
FarmTRX – Measuring and Mapping Yield If you don’t know Peter Drucker, you should: He is widely regarded as the greatest management thinker of all time. One of the best quotes he is credited with is: “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” And so the thinking goes with precision agriculture and what it means to today’s business. One of the most important outcomes on the farm is the yield of the crop we are growing. The ability to accurately measure the performance of our fields has to be the first step in developing a comprehensive management program for an area. The challenge for many farm operations is the lack of accurate data with respect to yield. Many of the yield monitors have challenges that do not allow for accurate data to work with and develop a plan for a field. The other challenge is that with some of the older combines the yield monitor option was just not available or not ordered. A retrofit is simply cost prohibitive. With these issues in mind, FarmTRX was invented and refined so that we can now easily install a monitor system and map our fields with accuracy allowing for the planning and management of our number one asset: the land. Regardless of the colour of your combine this system can be installed and running within a couple of hours. On our operation we installed the FarmTRX yield monitor, with their new easy-install snap-lock system, on a JD S680. The kit that was sent to us had everything included for install
with the exception of some basic farm tools (drill and tape measure). Once we determined where the unit should be mounted (not particularly clear in the instructions) on the clean grain elevator, the actual install was straightforward. One hole drilled straight through the elevator allows for the eye to read the grain volumes and was the only mechanical part of the install. After that the sensors are mounted with a self-adhesive mounting bracket and the wiring harness follows a logical path to the cab with tie-downs to keep it all neat. Our cab had provisions to run a wire to the inside so once again this was straight-forward. We then identified a keyed electrical source, connected the power and ground and we were done. In order to keep the costs manageable (no monitor required), the whole system runs off an app that you can download to your phone which allows you to watch the yield variations on the go. The data is collected and can be downloaded to your desktop for mapping, analysis and planning. As with all installs, the first one always takes a little more figuring out, but this is a straight-forward install and a system that will allow you to monitor and map with ease and accuracy. If you are moving towards a more precision approach to your operation, the first step has to be to know what you currently have. To spend without measurement would not be deemed good management and the FarmTRX system allows for that in a cost-effective manner. 35
FARMING YOUR MONEY | LONGING FOR THE OLD AGRISTABILITY
Longing for the old AgriStability Paul Kuntz Paul Kuntz is the owner of Wheatland Financial. He offers financial consulting and debt broker services. Kuntz is also an advisor with Global Ag Risk Solutions. He can be reached through wheatlandfinancial.ca.
As we went through the 2020 growing season, many production challenges occurred. There were areas in Western Canada that had very little rain, other areas were flooded, frost happened in most of the growing months and a heat blast came when canola was flowering. Amazingly through all of this, we managed to grow a reasonable crop. As the weather issues occurred, there was a common theme among commodity groups and other farm advocacy voices speaking to our government leaders and that was to strengthen the business risk management programs offered. The most widely accepted business risk management program by government is AgriStability. As a farm consultant, I like the idea of this program. It pledges to make things on your farm about as good as they once were. There is nothing fake about this program. Unlike other countries that come up with arbitrary grain prices or random $/acre payouts, AgriStability is built on your own numbers. If you have a mediocre farm, you will have mediocre coverage. If you have a very profitable farm, your coverage will be better. I realize that Mother Nature can hand farmers a bad hand to play year after year. Your ability to manage your operation may be hampered by continual weather issues. But for the most part, over a five-year period, strong management will outperform weak management regardless of weather. So, if AgriStability is a fair program and most farmers like it, why are most farmers not using it? The answer is because the government has reduced the coverage so much the program has become unpopular. Even with premiums for coverage only pennies per acre, the hassle for enrolment and continued information requests is too much for certain farmers. 36
The program was a great asset to farmers until the end of 2012. Government changed the rules for 2013 and beyond, making payouts much smaller and harder to qualify for a payment. Industry is now calling for a return to the 2012 AgriStability. The reason the program was changed, and is unlikely to go back, is because of the funding formula. The Canadian Agriculture Partnership agreement which governs AgriStability is cost-shared 60-40 between the federal government and its provincial counterparts. Provinces like Saskatchewan are at a distinct disadvantage because it has most of the farmers and one of the smallest taxable populations. So, in the event of a large wreck, the government would be put in a difficult financial position. Provinces like Alberta and Manitoba are better off than Saskatchewan, but remain at a huge disadvantage compared to Ontario and Quebec where they have only a few farmers and millions of taxpayers. The response to this funding problem was to drastically reduce the coverage of AgriStability. This left many farmers and agriculture leaders lobbying for the return of the previous program. Private insurers have options that work very similar to AgriStability and these options even have the ability to payout like the 2012 AgriStability program. Two insurers that I am aware of are Just Solutions and Global Ag Risk Solutions (Gars). I was introduced to Gars about eight years ago. The concept of the program was intriguing as it had similarities to AgriStability. As a financial advisor, I was drawn to this concept. The product offered better coverage to farmers who advanced their agronomics. Inside the product structure, there is incentive to farm as good as you possible can while being protected. Because of the concept, I became an advisor in 2014. The products offered by Just Solutions and Gars continually evolved but in 2019 there was a change in government legislation. Beginning in the 2020 growing season, insurance proceeds from private insurers is no longer considered eligible
Weeds don’t stand a chance against control this advanced.
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FARMING YOUR MONEY | LONGING FOR THE OLD AGRISTABILITY income for the AgriStability program year, but it is eligible for reference years. So, if you are in a wreck and you have private insurance while being enrolled in AgriStability, the money you get from the private insurer will not reduce your payout from AgriStability. But the money you get from private insurer will be included as income when that year becomes a reference year allowing your average to stay higher. It is the best of both worlds. Government subsidized crop insurance programs are still considered eligible income. So, if you have a crop failure, the insurance proceeds you receive from government crop insurance will reduce the amount you receive from AgriStability. As I learned more about the farmers I work with and their AgriStability coverage, it started to become clear that private insurance such as Gars would be a great way to recreate 2012 AgriStability coverage. Just Solutions offers its product slightly different than Gars, but it still would have the ability to recreate the 2012 AgriStability. I will give you an example of how Gars compares to the old and new AgriStability. I went into my archives of financial consulting and found a farmer that had an AgriStability payout in 2012. I have altered the numbers relatively to create anonymity. This is a 5,000-plus acre grain farmer in the black soil zone in Saskatchewan. I will show this farm under three different scenarios: The first is 2012 AgriStability, just as it happened. The second is 2020 AgriStability. The third is a Gars policy. I have used per/acre numbers throughout so that results may be applied to your farm. Here is what happened in 2012, this is called the Program Year in AgriStability: Allowable Income
Other Allowable expenses
Here is the farms financial history: Reference Years
Other Allowable expenses
(In 2008 there was a drastic accrual adjustment to the FertChem-Seed which actually reduced the total allowable expenses below the cost of the Fert-Chem-Seed. That is why there is a negative number there.) 38
The reference margin for AgriStability is calculated using an Olympic average of the past five years. The years 2007 and 2010 are taken out as the highest and lowest leaving margins of $159, $169, and $156 for an average of $161.33. This will be the reference margin. Here is the payout for 2012 AgriStability program: Tier One 85%-100% Margin $24.20 @ 0%
Tier Two 70%-85% Margin $24.20 @70%
Tier Three 0%-70% Margin $112.93 @ 80%
Negative Margin $15 @ 0%
Here is the payout based on 2020 AgriStability program: Tier One 70%-100% Margin $48.40 @ 0%
Tier Two 0%-70% Margin $112.93 @ 70%
Negative Margin $15 @ 0%
In these examples, I showed no coverage for negative margins. I was using the assumption that the clients would not have taken government crop insurance. In the AgriStability program, participants are penalized when calculating coverage on negative margins if they do not take government crop insurance. AgriStability calculates what you would have received had you taken the crop insurance available at the 70 per cent level and they apply that benefit to your negative margin. Most times, this would eliminate a payout for that portion of the calculation. In the actual case, my client did have crop insurance but at a low level. AgriStability did reduce their negative margin coverage. They did receive a couple dollars an acre of coverage. The Gars program works a bit different. Here is how we calculate the reference margin: Reference Years
We use the full five-year average so it would be $174.80. You can get coverage up to 80 per cent of your average margin.
LONGING FOR THE OLD AGRISTABILITY | FARMING YOUR MONEY In this case it would be $139.84. You will also note that the allowable income is less. With Gars we only allow grain production income (no livestock) and not insurance proceeds. This client had collected insurance in the past years that Gars does not allow in its calculations but AgriStability does. A Gars payout based on maximum coverage would be calculated as follows: Allowable Income
Fert Chem Seed
Private insurers will have a host of rules, but for the most part, they will not punish your farm being efficient. They also do not use Olympic averages. Private insurers will have a host of rules, but for the most part, they will not punish your farm being efficient. They also do not use Olympic averages. Coverage is very individualized and can sometimes be higher than 80 per cent of historical margins. It can also be lower.
As you can see, the Gars program would pay more than the 2012 AgriStability. Again, the allowable income is less because my client received insurance proceeds that Gars does use against you. Based on the new rules for AgriStability, this farmer could have Gars and AgriStability and receive a payout of $117.84 and $79.05 for a total of $196.89. Now, this example oversimplifies many aspects of the Gars Program and AgriStability. One drawback to the AgriStability program that my example does not show is when the reference margin becomes limited. This is a very real situation for farmers in the brown soil zone that grow crops such as lentils and chickpeas. These farmers have strong margins not just because they have good income, but because their production costs are lower. AgriStability penalizes these farmers by limiting their margin to whatever their allowable expenses are. There is a recently changed rule that affects how much the government gets to reduce your margin. The rule states that your margin can only be limited to 70 per cent of what it was. Here is an example of a lentil/chickpea type farmer: Reference Years
Other Allowable Expenses
Total Allowable Expenses
If we take out 2007 and 2010 the average margin is $197. The allowable expenses for the same years average out at $155. So, AgriStability would lower the margin from $197 to $155.
Besides the companies like Just Solutions and GARS, there are many private hail insurance companies that benefit from the changes made to AgriStability in 2019. If your main peril is hail, you can enrol in AgriStability and privately purchase hail insurance. In the event of a hailstorm, your payout from hail insurance would not lower your AgriStability claim. If there truly is an appetite for coverage like 2012 AgriStability, government could offer help. Right now in Saskatchewan the average crop insurance premium charged to a farmer is $7.40, according to SCIC. The funding formula for the premium calculation is that farmers pay 40 per cent, the federal government pay 36 per cent and the provincial government pays 24 per cent. This would make the two levels of government responsible for paying $11.10/acre in subsidy toward crop insurance. On top of that, government pays for 100 per cent of the administration costs of crop insurance. If the government gave the farmer that money to purchase protection wherever they choose, farmers could have 2012 AgriStability coverage at a greatly reduced price. The government could transfer the risk of a crop failure to private insurance companies. This would reduce or eliminate the liability for losses that is currently on taxpayers. This might be information to share with our elected officials. As we go into another uncertain year, I recommend you look at your gross income history, a reasonable income projection for 2021, review your cash outflow expenses and compare all of that to the insurance coverage available to you. If you are interested in private insurance, you need to speak with an advisor in your area and get a quote. This is the only way measure the coverage available. If you are not in AgriStability for the 2021 growing season, you have until April 30, 2021 to enrol. Ask your insurance advisor if they can help you with decision about enrolling in AgriStability. A good insurance advisor will know if AgriStability is right for you. You need to get real information so you can make real decisions. 39
THOSE WILY WEEDS | ODDBALL WEED IDENTIFICATION
Oddball weed identification Tammy Jones B.Sc., P.Ag Tammy Jones completed her B.Sc. in crop protection at the University of Manitoba. She has more than 15 years of experience in the crops industry in Manitoba and Alberta, with a focus on agronomy. Tammy lives near Carman, Man., and spends time scouting for weeds and working with cattle at the family farm in Napinka.
At the most recent Canadian Weed Science Society meetings hosted virtually in Quebec, Clarence Swanton from the University of Guelph summarized from weed surveys in Western Canada that the top three weeds in 1973 were still the top ranked weeds in 2017. Those weeds are green foxtail, wild buckwheat and wild oats. Swanton acknowledged the amazing ability of these weeds to adapt and adjust, as the agriculture industry has been working diligently to control them for more than 40 years and have not been able to gain the upper hand. So, why does it seem that there is so much emphasis on weed identification and scouting when the weed spectrum apparently hasn’t changed?
The “Why” of Weed Identification The easy answer is dollars and cents. A two-year study at North Carolina State University estimated economic losses at more than $200 per acre when the “optimal” herbicide treatment was not used. The study looked at four different scouting methods from “windshield scouting” at the edge of the field to actual weed counts at six strategic field locations. This research found that there is more risk involved when herbicide decisions are based on less time-intensive scouting methods, but also showed that the value of more intensive scouting methods depended upon the weed spectrum present. The crop–weed dynamic is important, as is the identification of the weeds so that the control method is effective. Taking the top-ranked green foxtail as an example, it emerges later in the season, is relatively non-competitive in most cropping scenarios and is typically not the key weed for spraying considerations. A highly competitive weed either due to early emergence, rapid growth or the ability to utilize resources more efficiently, would have a more significant impact on yield and should be proactively managed. So, while most would agree with Swanton that the weed population in a field does not vary dramatically, each year there are a few weeds that emerge as new concerns. Sometimes these weeds are short-term shifts related to weather conditions or changes in cropping patterns (annual weeds are more adapted to annual cropping systems as an example). Other shifts are likely to be longer term, such as changes in climate (heat-loving species such as waterhemp were not expected to be problematic in Manitoba and yet there it is). It’s these new weeds that add risk and uncertainty to crop production systems. By identifying the weeds, the appropriate control measures can be taken to reduce yield impact and prevent future issues.
The “How” of Weed Identification There are courses taught on botany and weed identification, and it’s really challenging to distill down the massive amounts of information. As an example, Budd’s Flora of the Canadian Prairie Provinces is a mere 863 pages of description for keying out many plants found in Western Canada. Budd’s Flora utilizes words like dioecious (male and female flowers are found on separate plants), reniform (kidney shaped), glabrous (lacking hair) and farinose (the mealy substance on plant leaves like lamb’s-quarters). 40
ODDBALL WEED IDENTIFICATION | THOSE WILY WEEDS This is a great resource but is time-consuming and not always easy to understand. With today’s technology, drones are now being used to identify weeds at the field, but the costs associated with that technology may not be economical for everyone. A relatively effective way to identify “new to you” weeds is to consult other agronomists, weed researchers or weed enthusiasts by way of social media or through smartphone apps. This can get to an answer or at least narrow down the list of possibilities to make sure that weed control strategies address the correct weed. Relying on a picture for identification does have pitfalls, so here are three pointers to help achieve a more accurate identification utilizing an app or a person: 1. Take a profile picture: Taking a picture from the top down is usually easier, but that makes it really challenging to figure out the height of the plant, the shape of the stem and the leaf attachment. A side view of a plant will help provide more of those clues. Placing an object such as a ruler or a pen beside the whole plant, will help to assess the size of the plant. 2. Focus: As with all good pictures, being in focus is incredibly important and providing a higher resolution image will allow
for enlargement of the photograph. Typically, shaded plants will be easier to view, as the bright sunshine tends to lead to an overexposed picture and washed out colours. 3. Showcase individual plant parts or structures: On a grass plant, the collar region (the spot where the leaf blade joins the stem) will help to assess the presence or absence of auricles, ligule and hairs on the leaf blade or leaf sheath. That picture would also help to determine if the stem is rounded or flattened. With broadleaf weeds, the stem picture then helps with leaf attachment and arrangement, as in how many leaves attach at each node and if there is a petiole or not. The stem shape and presence or absence of hairs can also be assessed. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but there is enormous value to know where the plant is growing (soil type, tillage practices, previous crop), if the plant has a distinctive odour and if the roots are fibrous, a taproot or spreading. Artificial intelligence continues to develop, and crop scouting may eventually be fully automated. Until robotic weeders and spot-spraying drones can cover thousands of acres affordably, weed identification remains an important skill for every farmer and agronomist to prevent or solve the mystery of oddball weed infestations on the farm.
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MARKETS AND CONTRACTS | IT’S A SMALL WORLD
IT’S A SMALL WORLD
New opportunities around the globe clear some of China’s dark clouds over Canadian canola
By Natalie Noble Prairie farmers live in a world where negativity dominates the headlines. To say 2019 and 2020 saw doom and gloom in ag-related news is an understatement, but exactly how dismal did it all play out? According to the experts, not so bad as first forecasted.
But despite the expectation that China would stop buying canola, their Canadian imports did not reach zero. “Although it was a fraction of the previous volumes, they continued to buy it,” says Driedger. “China still needed, or wanted, a certain amount canola, oil and meal.”
“The initial narrative that trade disruption into China was going to see grain sit in the bins here was very much not the case,” says Jonathon Driedger, senior marketing analyst with LeftField Commodity Research. “By the end of the 2019/20 crop year in August, we ended up exporting surprisingly more canola than people assumed when we consider where we were at in February of 2019 when those announcements first came out.”
Putting the numbers into perspective, Driedger says Canadian canola exports to China prior the trade disruption averaged 350,000 to 400,000 tonnes per month. During the window immediately after, they dropped to approximately 125,000 tonnes per month.
Despite there being no proclamations or lifts on the Richardson and Viterra bans from getting canola into China, Neil Townsend, chief marketing analyst with FarmLink, says canola export numbers are improving. “Are they back to where they were prior to the political disagreement? No,” he says. “Fortunately for Canada there seems to be some expansion into [other markets] buying a little more from Canada.”
How large is China’s shadow? Canada’s interception of Meng Hanzhou, Huawei CFO, saw China quickly shut its borders to Canadian canola imports and many marketing analysts at the time predicted devastating impacts for western Canadian farmers. “Going back to when the trade disruption flared up and during that window right after, we saw a sharp drop in prices, basis levels weakened and there was a big moment of uncertainty,” says Driedger. “Prices and markets initially responded accordingly and appropriately given that China was such an enormously important customer for Canadian canola exports.” 42
Then, as we moved into the “new normal” by March of 2020, China’s canola seed purchases began to pick up. “Let’s just say volumes have tended to roughly sit somewhere in between the old normal and the year immediately after the trade disruption,” says Driedger. “China’s been quietly buying more canola than people would have thought or assumed based on what the headlines were saying.” Canadian canola exports were somewhat buffered through increased volumes moving into the United Arab Emirates (UAE). “They started to crush Canadian canola and send the oil into China,” says Driedger. While this didn’t make up for China’s pre-disruption volume, the indirect movement through the UAE started to help. By August of 2020, the situation convalesced. “In aggregate, we actually saw record canola demand over the last year in total,” says Driedger. “A lot of the negativity around China and canola has quietened down a great deal despite nothing officially changing on the policy front.” More recently, China’s been importing more Canadian canola oil and meal and Canada’s domestic canola crush last year saw
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MARKETS AND CONTRACTS | IT’S A SMALL WORLD
“Generally speaking, Europe tends to be feed-deficit meaning they need to import feed grain. Any feed grain produced in Europe already has a marketplace there for pigs, cattle and poultry.” - Neil Townsend record high volumes. “Even though China’s buying less canola seed, if we consider canola products, they’ve actually increased their purchases of those,” says Driedger. Finally, China was also recovering from the African Swine Fever during this period that had drastically reduced their number of hogs. “They’ve spent this whole year rebuilding their hog herd. That’s had positive impacts on feed demand in general across China,” says Townsend.
Beyond China Agri-food supply chains and markets have become a very small world as globalization increases. What happens in any given area of the world can very well affect another and vice-versa. “Markets are really good at efficiently allocating resources,” says Driedger. “In the case of Canadian canola, it suddenly became very cheap from a global perspective because there was a price response to the idea and expectation that China would not be buying any more. What ended up happening was more traction into some other markets.” For one, Canadian canola volumes into Europe picked up. “Coming into August of 2019, one advantage we had despite the issues with China was the European market opening up for us,” says Townsend. “They’ve been gradually reducing their efforts and energy into producing canola. They’ve had a couple of consecutive smaller acreage bases and smaller yields.” Europe doesn’t view canola as a human product, but they use the meal in feed. “Generally speaking, Europe tends to be feed-deficit meaning they need to import feed grain,” says Townsend. “Any feed grain produced in Europe already has a marketplace there for pigs, cattle and poultry.” It’s also the main ingredient in their biodiesel protocols. “They started importing Canadian canola in volumes with crush oil going into their biodiesel and the meal into their feed industry. That helped us quite a bit,” says Townsend. Then COVID-19 became real in March of 2020 and boosted canola oil demand. “Outside of the EU it’s considered a 44
relatively premium oil around the world with some perceived health benefits,” says Townsend. “People cooking at home are choosing it more than some others that might be considered less healthful. Even in China during that period when everyone was staying home, there was some uptick in canola oil demand.” Mother Nature also impacts markets. “On August 10th everything took another huge leg up when the Midwest derecho windstorm blew through Iowa and the U.S.,” says Townsend. “It altered the trajectory of what was set to be a possible record crop for corn and very sizable crop for soybeans. Since then, the soybeans futures chart has been straight up.” Which brings up pulses over the last couple years. “Pulses have had a more classical supply and demand story over this period. Supply has tightened up and demand stayed steady or improved,” says Townsend. “This has provided an upswing in prices, starting with a faltering crop in India last year. We’re still seeing the lingering impact of that.” The pandemic amplified this scenario. “Many countries around the world had already reduced their lentil acreage for agronomic or pricing reasons,” he says. “Then we throw COVID on top of that, and pulses have really benefited from demand.” India, the world’s biggest pulse consumer, began to ration out one kilogram of pulses per month by family for approximately 800 million people, says Townsend. “Right away there’s more demand while their stocks are low and they struggle to keep food in edible shape in storage.” This situation saw positive support for prices on chickpeas, red and green lentils and even some peas while China’s demand for yellow peas as food, snacks, noodles and feed stayed strong. On the grains and cereals front, feed demands remained strong including good barley prices during this time. “Oats have also had great trajectory with feed grain prices but also it’s an emerging winner in terms of what the woke people like to eat,” adds Townsend. “It’s the No. 1 non-dairy substitute right now.” Other positives include more focus on pantry preparedness and home baking. Winners here include durum wheat as well as flour. “Nation states are also buying more of these because food security is such a giant issue and they can’t afford to have prices accelerate in these countries with people on subsisted living,” says Townsend. For price-hungry farmers, analyst Driedger encourages agility to pounce on great deals. “The supply side of this equation is already determined when the crops come off and we know the size,” says Driedger. “Then demand takes over. Keep a close eye on what’s happening on that side.”
NEWS & INNOVATIONS
Basf $14 million for crop facility BASF Canada unveiled its modernized formulation, packaging and distribution facility in Regina, Saskatchewan. More than $14 million was invested in facility transformations, making it the division’s single biggest agriculture infrastructure investment in the last decade. The facility will produce over half of BASF Canada’s crop protection products, helping ensure farmers across the country and the northern United States have access to products. “For decades, farmers have relied on our portfolio of solutions to help them overcome agronomic challenges on their fields,” says Jonathan Sweat, vice-president, business management. “Situated in Western Canada, the transformed facility will further support our customers and enable us to produce more than 30 million litres of agricultural solutions annually. Major enhancements to the facility include upgrades to mechanical operations, automation systems, quality control and safety protocols and performance. The transformation also supports greater segregation among products, further safeguarding against cross-contamination.
Additional upgrades to the Regina production facility included a new control room, a 300,000 litre stainless steel tank for raw materials storage and expanded analytical capability. The increased ventilation, dust containment and high speed shutter doors in the formulation area are also new. Construction at the Regina facility began December 2019 and was officially completed in October 2020. One hundred per cent of the facility updates were completed by Saskatchewan-based contractors, further supporting the local economy. During peak production period – which generally runs from fall to early spring – the facility will employ approximately 130 people, ensuring farmers are fully supported at the onset of each growing season.
Nufarm / ThunderHawk Pre-seed solutions Nufarm is excited to introduce a new product to its leading pre-seed burndown portfolio for the spring of 2021. ThunderHawk pre-seed herbicide provides fast-acting broadleaf weed control for cereal farmers in the black and dark brown soil zones of Western Canada. With three modes of action (Groups 2, 4 and 14), ThunderHawk delivers top-notch performance when tank-mixed with glyphosate. This herbicide will help farmers achieve a cleaner start at seeding time with a pre-seed product that offers longer residual control (up to three weeks) on volunteer canola, and peace of mind management of Group 2-resistant weeds such as cleavers, wild mustard, redroot pigweed, stinkweed, shepherd’s purse, and kochia. ThunderHawk can be applied before and up to two days after seeding barley, oats, and wheat (durum, spring, winter).
It had to be fast-acting on a wide spectrum of broadleaf weeds. Secondly, it needed to provide residual activity on volunteer canola. Then lastly, and most importantly, it had to offer multiple modes of action to help manage weed resistance,” says Graham Collier, portfolio manager for Nufarm Canada. “This pre-seed product will help farmers manage those tough weeds like narrow-leaved hawk’s beard, kochia and hemp-nettle, and get ahead of herbicide resistance in the black and dark brown soil zones where Group 2-herbicide resistance is growing.”
“When building out the product concept for ThunderHawk, we were looking for something that met three main objectives for pre-seed weed control in the black and dark brown soil zones.
ThunderHawk is another option for these areas where growing conditions vary in the spring and longer residual control of volunteer canola is important. 45
NEWS & INNOVATIONS
Greenleaf Tech Greenleaf Technologies to distribute Albuz ceramic nozzles in North America Greenleaf Technologies has been named the exclusive North American distributor in the United States and Canada for the full line of Albuz ceramic spray nozzles. Headquartered in Evreuz, France, Albuz is the worldwide leader in ceramic spray nozzles for agricultural applications. “We are very proud to be named the exclusive distributor for Albuz ceramic spray nozzles in North America” says Will Smart, owner of Greenleaf Technologies. “Albuz has been manufacturing ceramic spray nozzles for more than 40 years, and its products are used by millions of farmers in more than 50 countries. Now, farmers in North America will have easier access to these premium quality products.” Albuz ceramic nozzles are made from a specific pink ceramic grade which is as hard as a diamond. Their wear resistance is far greater than that of stainless steel, brass or plastics.
“Albuz nozzles exhibit exceptional resistance to wear, abrasion and chemicals,” says Smart. “In addition, they deliver outstanding spray quality and excellent flow rate precision, qualities that are essential in today’s age of precision agriculture.”
Kubota Kubota Canada Limited (KCL) announces it is furthering its commitment to the hay and forage segment by offering a twoyear standard limited warranty across its comprehensive hay tools line. This includes balers, rakes and tedders, as well a three-year standard limited warranty on the cutter bars and gear boxes of its entire range of disc mowers and disc mower conditioners. These new warranty programs are now available. “Kubota is raising the bar in the agricultural equipment market with its new warranty offering,” said Yannick Montagano, KCL vice-president of sales and marketing, service and engineering. “We know farmers face many challenges, but equipment should not be one of them. We are committed to the longterm success of our customers. We are confident in the quality of our products and we are backing that assurance with longer warranty terms.”
The disc mower and disc mower conditioner offer a two-year standard limited warranty plus a three-year cutterbar and gearbox standard limited warranty.
The new two- and three-year warranties are among the industry’s best and are now available for all hay tools purchased at Kubota dealers across Canada in time for the 2021 hay season. The two-year standard limited warranty covers its round balers, bale wrappers, rakes and tedders.
“Kubota has built a brand trusted for durable, quality-built equipment, and for listening to its customers’ needs,” says Montagano. “This new warranty program is a testament to our commitment to our customers and dealers and to provide market-based solutions as we grow together.”
Additionally, Kverneland-branded equivalent products are covered by the same warranties as listed above.
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