July / August 2020
ENTREPRENEURS IN AGRICULTURE
Blood, sweat and oil Saskatchewan sisters leverage skillsets to boost value-added agribusiness
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Dissect the numbers by Scott Shiels
A Farmer’s Viewpoint
Support agriculture when required by Kevin Hursh Ag Colleges
Optical Spot Spray Technology by Brianna Gratton
Precision problem by Natalie Noble
By Trevor Bacque
Spraying Weather by Tom Wolf
Those Wily Weeds
Assess Weed Control at Pre-harvest Timing by Tammy Jones SARRC
What goes around comes around by Bill Watson
Farming Your Money
Calculate your efficiencies by Paul Kuntz
READ THE LATEST NEWS AND INSIGHTS FROM OUR CONTRIBUTORS. WHETHER IT’S FARM INVESTMENTS OR INSECTS, THEY SHARE THE LATEST TO BRING YOU SUCCESS IN AND OUT OF THE FIELD.
Harvest management by Geoff Geddes
BRIANNA GRATTON 4
Grain Market Analysis
Blood,sweat and oil
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GRAIN MARKET ANALYSIS | DISSECT THE NUMBERS
Dissect the numbers Well, I thought by now that we would not be quite as concerned with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, but that is just not the case. The world is still firmly in its grasp, but we have begun the journey down the road back to normal with different provinces re-opening in phased approaches. 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
I want to dive into StatCan’s May planting report, considering that it put this report out with a big asterisk beside any data gathered. Due to COVID-19, and the effects it has had on the ag and food industries, StatCan was quick to dismiss its data as concrete, mostly because it was unable to contact as many farmers for input as it would have liked. I, like many of you I’m sure, always take its reports with a grain, or shaker, of salt. This one is as accurate as any before it, in my mind. Starting with my favourite, oats of course. I firmly believe that the report of a six per cent increase in Canadian acreage this year is a bit low. Oat prices have held up very well this year, surpassing the $4 mark in Manitoba for most of the spring, and with new crop pricing at more than $3 available, farmers are not hesitant to switch some additional acres into this crop. Couple that with the amount of spring harvested acres that could need to be planted late, and I would not be at all surprised if oats actually go in at a nine to 12 per cent increase over last year. Canola acreage is projected to be two per cent lower this year. With all of the unharvested canola from last year going into the spring, exports, lower prices and global uncertainty surrounding the crop, it could easily slide even lower than that. For many of you, canola is the crop that you put the most time, effort, and money into, but it also is the crop that pays the bills. With skyrocketing input costs, and very little increase in country prices, it is not hard to understand why canola acreage could slide a little bit this year. With that slide in canola acreage, even though StatCan says it will be flat, I believe that we will see flax acreage climb slightly this year. Flax is a good cash crop, and with pricing between $12 and $14 at the bin readily available, it could be a viable option for some of those oilseed acres in a farmer’s rotation. StatCan is projecting wheat acreage to be higher this year by about three per cent for all wheat, but flat for hard red spring wheat, the most widely grown wheat in Canada. I think that with the wreck many farmers experienced this year due to low falling numbers even in the early harvested, good quality wheat, farmers will be very cautious when marketing their wheat, which could put the market in a very bullish situation as we get through harvest. Be diligent with your sampling and don’t take the first deal that comes along on wheat this year, that is my advice. There are big increases in all the fall-seeded crops, so look for soft prices and difficulties moving rye, triticale and winter wheat this year. All of these are projected to be well into the double digits in acreage increase from 2019, 34 per cent, 22 per cent and 54 per cent respectively higher. While these are not huge acreage crops, these are increases that will be tough for those markets to bear, so be prepared to be patient when marketing them. Until next time…
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SUPPORT AGRICULTURE WHEN REQUIRED | A FARMER’S TITLE VIEWPOINT | SECTION
Support agriculture when required Kevin Hursh
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
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, a river of money has been flowing from Ottawa. The agriculture sector has received a relative pittance. While the appropriate level of support is a matter of debate, it’s also important to have meaningful support with the fewest unintended consequences. The organizations representing cattle producers have been asking for set-aside programs to help defray the cost of holding back animals and feeding them longer as the processing sector struggles to control the disease outbreak among its workers. This is a logical approach even though what the government has initially allocated is woefully inadequate to compensate for the losses. At the time of this writing, information is not available on how payments will be provided. The devil is often in the details. Another logical approach is premium cost-sharing under the Western Livestock Price Insurance Program (WLPIP). Under this program, cow-calf producers can lock in a minimum price for their calves for the fall calf run. Only a small minority of producers have used the program in the past and now with all the risk in the marketplace, the premium costs are onerous. The WLPIP is government run, but the premiums are not subsidized. Government support on the premium cost is a logical way to help the sector. Crop insurance premiums are subsidized. Why not livestock price insurance? Fear of trade retaliation by the Americans seems to be a weak excuse. Whenever government money is flowing, it’s human nature to want to join the gravy train. Certain organizations representing the grain sector have been calling for subsidy money even though many grain prices are stronger than a year ago and the economic outlook in grain looks reasonably good. In Ontario, where corn, soybeans and winter wheat dominate, the outlook is more clouded particularly with the downturn in the
ethanol sector. Here in the West, canola and wheat prices haven’t been stellar, but durum, lentils, peas, flax and oats show promise. Each day seems to bring a new funding announcement from Ottawa to address a real or perceived need. The assistance is meant to buffer the economic disaster, but what are the long-term ramifications of record government debt? The sectors of agriculture that need help should receive help. For now at least, that isn’t the grain sector of Western Canada and it’s embarrassing to see industry leaders lobbying for handouts that aren’t needed. There’s a valid argument that AgriStability support is too low, but what other businesses have this sort of financial safety net? Farmers who have dropped out of AgriStability should look at rejoining it. For all its flaws, the approach attempted with AgriStability is the correct one: compensate farmers when their income drops dramatically from their average. There’s no use in governments propping up operations that are perennial money losers, but a level of protection for dramatic income downturns is reasonable. On the other hand, the highly popular AgriInvest program is difficult to defend. Why should farms get a yearly handout whether they need it or not? A reported $2 billion in AgriInvest money is sitting in accounts unused. Certain farmers accumulate AgriInvest for the intent of buying more land and then complain about ever-increasing land values. There have been calls to raise AgriInvest support from one per cent of eligible net sales to five per cent as a way to support farmers. Hopefully, the federal government will resist this approach. Provide support to the sectors and the farmers that need it. Government money isn’t free money. All the economic problems created by the pandemic won’t be solved with government payouts. Special consideration is warranted for certain sectors and some of the serious problems facing agriculture, but universal payments are not a solution. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t return government cheques and I certainly participate in AgriInvest even though I think it’s the wrong approach. But the farm sector loses credibility when it calls for money when it isn’t warranted. Let’s have a little pride. 9
AG COLLEGES | OPTICAL SPOT SPRAY TECHNOLOGY
Optical Spot Spray Technology Brianna Gratton
Brianna Gratton is the smart ag techgronomist at the Olds College Smart Farm. After obtaining her Certified Crop Adviser designation, Brianna worked with various companies such as Crop Production Services, Decisive Farming and Chinook Agronomics before joining the Olds College team.
Precision and digital agriculture technologies are rapidly entering the market, but farmers have little to no third-party, independent data illustrating their effectiveness and economic benefits for use of optical spot spray technology in conventional, dryland farming in Western Canada. The WEEDit was pioneered in Australia, is commercially available in Canada and is reported to reduce pre-seed herbicide use by up to 85 per cent by identifying and targeting weeds rather than spraying the entire surface. The Olds College Smart Ag team’s research aims to answer fundamental questions about spot spraying technology such as its performance in western Canadian conditions and its impact on chemical use and crop yield. This research will also help identify the need for bias mode and whether or not stubble type and travel speed during spraying has an impact on effectiveness of the technology. The overall goal of this project is to assess the practicality as well as the economic benefit of spot spray technology for broad-acre, dryland farming in western Canada. In addition, it seeks to compare chemical use and efficiency between “bias” and “spot” modes. 10
The WEEDit system that we will be using contain sensors placed at 1 metre intervals, these scan the ground ahead of the boom, identify the presence of plants, and trigger the nozzle in line with the plant. The system identifies weeds based on their green coloration, so WEEDit is suited for spraying pre-seed, pre-harvest or post-harvest. Early adopters of the technology in Canada have focused on using the WEEDit technology for pre-seed burn-off. The sprayer we will be using is a 24-foot WEEDit mounted on a three-point hitch. The methodology of this project includes field-scale strip trials across all zones of the fields to establish the sensitivity of the WEEDit imagery to accurately detect and target small weeds typically present at pre-seed burn-off. In addition, we will also systematically evaluate the effect of field condition, spraying mode and field velocity on weed pressure and crop yield. All trials will be conducted over the next two growing seasons using naturally occurring weeds on two different stubble types including canola and a cereal. To evaluate weed pressure, populations will be monitored before and after spraying to assess efficacy of treatments and how well the system covers weeds of different types and sizes. The strips using treatments of sport spray, 30 per cent bias and full spray at two different travel speeds will be compared to show how these may effect overall savings and efficacy in field. Once season is complete and all data including yield has been collected, a full report will be available.
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COVER STORY | BLOOD, SWEAT AND OIL
BLOOD,SWEAT AND OIL Progressive trio brings value-added to the grocery store By Trevor Bacque
It always starts with a conversation. Many entrepreneurs nostalgically pinpoint the exact moment their business venture was born. For many, it becomes a point of pride to re-tell the origin story and remember humble beginnings on their winding road to success. Well, for Colin Rosengren, Ron Emde and Dan Vandenhurk, three farmers from Midale, Sask., their serendipitous moment did not appear like anything noteworthy on first blush. “It is pretty stereotypical of farmers … sitting around a curling rink, complaining about low prices,” says Rosengren with a smile across his face. “Crush margins were high at the time, but commodity prices on canola were low and that’s kind of where it started. We said we should do something to value-add.” Not long after their bemoaning bonspiel, Rosengren found himself sitting at an Ag-West Bio meeting in Saskatoon, Sask. The year was 2005 when he was introduced to an ancient grain, camelina. The tall, skinny crop has a raft of monikers including false flax, German sesame and gold-of-pleasure. Officially a brassica, camelina has a relatively small footprint in Canada as compared with many other growing regions including large tracts of Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Despite the crop being an agronomic unknown, Rosengren was attracted to it for its unusually high amounts of Vitamin E and 12
Omegas 3 and 6. The Omega 3 content is six times higher than that of canola. He remembered his conversation with Emde and Vandenhurk about value-added and rapidly connected the dots to camelina. It serves as a suitable cooking oil and has a higher smoke point than canola, as well, another attractive feature for the relatively unfamiliar product. Growing camelina is fairly straightforward, if not a bit annoying. After fiddling with seeding dates, Rosengren now prefers to seed the crop, often classified as a winter annual, in early springtime and intercrop it with peas or lentils, and he typically opts for the latter. The lentils are not as competitive whereas peas can be a bit feisty alongside camelina. It is a very frosttolerant crop and Rosengren recalls his 2019 seeding experience with multiple cold May days, yet the camelina did not just survive, it thrived. “It grew through the whole thing, weeds, everything,” he says. “It almost choked out the lentils because it survived the frost. It’s very resilient.” Growing camelina is one thing, harvest is another. “Camelina is a really tough one to combine because of the way the pods break: they break in half into a cup shape—you cannot destroy that cup, it’s indestructible. Camelina is so small and light that it doesn’t really separate and sift out,” he says.
BLOOD, SWEAT AND OIL | COVER STORY
Photo: Dan Vandenhurk, left, Colin Rosengren, centre, and Ron Emde, right, are the
three farmers behind the eponymously named company, Three Farmers. The men all farm at Midale, Sask., and have create a value-added business that has resonated with Canadian consumers from coast to coast.
COVER STORY | BLOOD, SWEAT AND OIL
Photo: The company first began selling camelina oil, a novel crop to Saskatchewan that is grown by the three farmers as well as others under contract.
“I was just looking for something to jump into and call my own. They gave me an opportunity to do that, to give legs to this new crop camelina oil. I came along in a business development position and it kind of grew from there.” - Natasha Vandenhurk For that reason, Rosengren, and others prefer to combine it alongside the intercropped pulse. The heavier lentils help sift camelina, which increases harvest speed and reduces losses. He says the plants seem to grow as well as anything else does, and it can even be planted on poor quality land and yield good enough to earn a modest profit margin. When intercropped with a nitrogen fixer such as lentil, farmers may cut back on application and Rosengren typically just tops up to about 30 or 40 pounds of nitrogen from the point of what is already in the soil. 14
The three farmers have 1,000 acres of camelina grown under contract in addition to their own, bringing the annual total to 2,000 acres which yields anywhere from 500 to 1,500 tonnes each year. “Demand and volume are large enough that it’s good to spread out our growing acres,” says Rosengren. “We don’t want to risk our production all in one place.” Once they began to successfully grow their crops, the three farmers became Canpressco in 2007, before the Three Farmers brand began in 2010. Once Canpressco started, the farmers had the foresight to realize they needed help. They called upon Vandenhurk’s third child Natasha, a fresh economics graduate from the University of Saskatchewan who was seeking a new life challenge. Known to immerse herself in whatever she is doing, the new company seemed like a fun project. “I was just looking for something to jump into and call my own,” she says. “They gave me an opportunity to do that, to give legs to this new crop camelina oil. I came along in a business development position and it kind of grew from there.” It did not take long for her to realize that there was something special about camelina, and she had the wherewithal to know more help was required. She called up her younger sister Elysia,
COVER STORY | BLOOD, SWEAT AND OIL a Red Seal chef, who could speak to the oil’s functionality with matching credentials. “That’s sort of the angle we took, all the health benefits that are hard to come by,” she says, adding the oil has a light taste profile and has often been compared to fresh peas or asparagus. “It’s unique in that it’s cold pressed, it’s not hexane extracted. It’s high pressure, low heat. We filter it and bottle it.” The oil found success in niche markets and people wanting a healthy, different oil to cook with became its primary customer base. It also has success in the equine and pet market with many people explaining their animals’ joint health improves when taking camelina. Since day one, the message and ethos of the company hasn’t changed: “We had three words associated: Natural. Sustainable. Traceable,” says Rosengren. “Our brand is starting to gain some traction. We’re right across Canada with market penetration.” The ancient crop has resonated with consumers who want to create a stronger connection with their food and the traceability aspect has always been there. From the outset, all camelina farmers associated with Three Farmers have always been able to find their products thanks to bag codes that can go right back to the field and growing year. “Being a smaller company, we have some advantages being directly connected, there’s not several degrees of separation,” he says. “It’s still owned by three farmers, and obviously our management team, and partners in the organization, as well.” The message is getting out there, too. What started out at weekend farmers’ markets has now blossomed into Canadawide distribution in all the biggest grocery chains. Federated Co-op was the company’s first big score in 2013 before hitting it much larger in Loblaws and Metro five years later. While the oil was well-received by all who tried it, selling a brand-new product in a crowded marketplace of oils proved difficult. Undeterred, the sisters kept at it but simultaneously dreamt up new product offerings for their customers. The second product from Three Farmers was not an oil at all, but it was from a farmer’s field. Their Roasted Chickpeas hit store shelves in 2014 and were a vastly different item compared to the oil. Aimed at health-conscious women between 35-55, they were an instant hit. They followed up their efforts two years later with roasted Pea Pops. With a high crunch, the peas proved a perfect substitute for chips. It wasn’t until 2018 when they launched Crunchy Little Lentils that things really took off. Similar to Spitz, the lentils can be consumed by the mouthful and customers knew what to do. This time there was no need to explain or sell it as they had to with the oil. 16
“Growing up we had zero money, working was just what we did. We didn’t go to people’s houses to play, we did chores. Different experiences in our lives shape how we respond to certain situations. I have this never-giveup attitude.” - Natasha Vandenhurk “We knew from a primary research perspective that once customers tried lentils they fell in love,” she says. “We sort of knew that first inkling could be a real winner.” It only took the lentils about 18 months to match the entire sales of the chickpeas. Today, they each sell about one million units annually across all the different sizes. The flavours also seem to cater to just about every taste bud: maple cinnamon, wild ranch, sriracha, barbecue, dill pickle, garlic & herb as well as various levels of saltiness. Available across Canada, the products have the strongest acceptance east of Manitoba. “We’ve seen phenomenal uptake in Toronto and Quebec,” she says. “They’re a little bit more open.” The company marks its packaging with different labels such as gluten-free, non-GMO, nut-and-peanut free, high fibre and high protein disclaimers to let customers know what the products are and are not. The marketing appears to be working, as well. No longer a startup, the company exceeds $4 million annually in sales and Vandenhurk and sister Elysia, the company’s chief revenue officer, have a new goal to position the company as a top-flight offering in the better-for-you category on Canadian grocery store shelves. The company is currently rebranding, but due to COVID-19 that has been pushed back until early 2021. “That rebranding entails a whole new look to our packaging and communicating our story and who we are to consumers,” she says. “Definitely innovation and new products are on our minds.” For Vandenhurk, the rebrand and goals to become synonymous with other major grocery store players comes from a strong work ethic instilled in her and her five siblings since childhood.
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COVER STORY | BLOOD, SWEAT AND OIL
“If you knew all the hurdles, would you do it anyway? We probably would.” - Colin Rosengren “Growing up we had zero money, working was just what we did,” says Vandenhurk. “We didn’t go to people’s houses to play, we did chores. Different experiences in our lives shape how we respond to certain situations. I have this never-give-up attitude.” As the company continues its journey to retail success, Vandenhurk is keenly aware the company would not be where it is today without the help of her father as well as Rosengren and Emde. “They have been so supportive,” she says. “[There have been] lots of times in this business if things didn’t look so positive, they’ve stuck behind us. They had a vision for what this could look like, too. These are not your Average Joe farmers. They’re willing to take risks and try new things.” One of those recent key pieces has been establishing greater governance as they recently welcomed new investors and directors around their boardroom table.
From Rosengren’s perspective, he has had his eyes opened time and time again learning about the retail world and how distribution chains work, which he says can be interesting and discouraging at times. Three Farmers has been a way for the families to maintain their landbases and not be gobbled up by larger farms hungry for additional acres. “As farms have grown and rural areas have declined to some degree, the value-added portion is a way to sort of offset that to a degree,” he says. “Farms of the old size can’t survive, it’s not feasible and people are displaced. If we can value-add through this, we’re able to keep people employed and replace ones that are lost with that.” And even though the three farmers did not anticipate all the challenges and risks that came with Three Farmers, it never stopped them from trying something new and seeing it through. “If you knew all the hurdles, would you do it anyway? We probably would,” says Rosengren. “We probably didn’t realize how difficult it is to do, for one. It’s not like there’s anything easy or simple about it, but certainly something interesting. We’re proud of the way we’re growing [crops] and raising food that’s good to tell our story of trying to improve our soils. It’s something that’s worthwhile and we would do it again.”
Photo: Dan Vandenhurk, second-from-left, works closely with his fellow farmers and
two daughters, Natasha, second-from-right and Elysia, right, at Three Farmers. Natasha is the company’s CEO while Elysia, a Red Seal chef, is the company’s chief revenue officer.
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PRECISION AG | PRECISION PROBLEM
Precision problem By Natalie Noble
Ever since precision agriculture entered the fields of western Canadian ag, the concept has been complex and, frankly, overwhelming. Skeptics often cite that it’s also too tough to truly know that the pretty penny spent on the practice is specifically providing the competitive edge to put it back in their pockets. “As an industry we did a lot of disservice to ourselves early on,” says Terry Aberhart, Saskatchewan agronomist and CEO with Sure Growth Solutions. “Some of the approaches and philosophies given by some companies insinuated there was only one way to do things. The reality is there is no right or wrong way to do anything, but there’s probably a better way for your farm.” Adding to the conundrum is the fact “precision agriculture” is an umbrella term encompassing so many technologies and practices. Yelto Zimmer, head of agri benchmark, a global non-profit network of farm economists, defines it in a simple two-pronged approach. “[It’s] the ability to, first, develop appropriate strategies for site-specific application of inputs, including seeds, fertilizers and other crop care,” he says. “And second, to execute those strategies in an efficient and accurate manner.” Because it means many things to many people, the ways any given farm can adopt it are varied and go from simple to intense. Every service provider is different and there are many combinations of what they offer and how they offer it. The basics of most companies lie in soil testing, creating management zones and variable rate (VR) fertility plans or prescriptions based off those zones. Then there are added offerings such as strategic planning, scouting, VR fungicide, yield mapping, cropping mapping scenarios and other agronomy practices.
Services are charged either by a fee per acre or as a flat rate contract fee. The yearly cost doesn’t tend to change, but zones per field and program intensity can come into play as well as higher start up fees for more intensive approaches like electrical conductivity data and mapping. The challenge lies not in understanding everything at once, but rather determining the uniqueness of any given farm, and then finding which precision approach can offer the best advantage to that operation. Take for instance Bentley, Alta., farmer Jason Lenz. He, like most farmers, says he knows his fields like the back of his hands, but he’s always looking for ways to know more. Up until five years ago he regularly conducted his own soil sampling in order to plan for each upcoming year’s nutrient and fertility application needs. “I thought there had to be a better way and that’s when we started looking to work with a precision ag company,” says Lenz, adding that the family stepped into the practice gradually, having adopted GPS guided steering on their equipment and then began looking into VR fertility.
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PRECISION AG | PRECISION PROBLEM noticing the service levels offered from smaller specialized companies to larger full-service providers. They settled into a mid-grade service package heavily based on comprehensive soil sampling and formulating field prescriptions at $4.95 per acre. “We feel per acre this is really reasonable and for us it’s pretty simple,” says Lenz. “If you don’t think you can make five bucks per acre back off of doing it, why would you try. It should be really easy to make back.” Others may not be sold on this simplicity. With so many variables at play field-to-field and even within each field, how can farmers like Lenz be sure precision ag is the reason for success from one year to the next? Zimmer understands this sentiment. “I fully subscribe to the notion that understanding the drivers for in-field variation is key. To me this is the major challenge,” he says. “To be honest, without some kind of site-specific trials it can be very difficult to prove which elements of precision farming are really profitable or not.” He wants more sufficient publicly available data as the basis for entrepreneurial decision-making in western Canada. “What might be a solution is to form growers clubs or peer groups and to jointly test and evaluate approaches,” he says. Photo: Terry Aberhart, Saskatchewan agronomist and CEO with Sure Growth Solutions.
Until then, there are steps farmers can take to overcome evaluation challenges. Understanding the relationship between precision practices and return on investment starts with establishing expectations. “Growers need to identify what they’re trying to manage,” says Aberhart. “What is the variability? And, what’s causing the variability in the fields. Is it water, topography, salinity, soil type, nutrient variability? Identify these challenges up front, then figure out how to take advantage of precision approaches to manage that variability.” It’s also essential that results be measured over the long-term, particularly when working with VR technology and changing soil fertility. This means capturing good yield data to work with and track trends over the long-term. “You can prove these things by looking at the data and measuring it, but you need to have that reporting and benchmarking figured out,” says Aberhart. Farmers can then use that data and study their yields to create profit maps. “We take our yield times its price, which is a simple way to get your gross revenue per acre. Then minus all your costs, fixed and variable, which change by zone depending on how much inputs are applied to each zone,” says Aberhart. “You can then create a map that shows the profitability of the farm.”
Photo: Yelto Zimmer, head of agri benchmark, a global non-profit network of farm economists.
Using this technique, Aberhart identified poor areas in the field losing money every year on the family farm near Langenburg, Sask. “It’s counterintuitive to what most farmers’ instincts are, we
“It’s counterintuitive to what most farmers’ instincts are, we want to farm every acre of land, but by continuing to farm these poor areas in the same way, we were adding to the problem.” - Terry Aberhart want to farm every acre of land, but by continuing to farm these poor areas in the same way, we were adding to the problem.” He took these acres out of production or shifted them into something better suited for those areas such as hay. He also works to understand the best places to invest using on-farm trials. One study involved four adjoining fields with the same historical yields. “We took three of them and used VR fertility, leaving the fourth in flat rate,” he says. “For the next four or five years we compared how much money we put in and what we actually got out.” The first year saw some savings in fertilizer with almost insignificant yield increase. In year two, the fertilizer savings flattened out, but yields started increasing each year over those in the flat-rate field. Lenz also finds it fairly easy to do on-farm trials come harvest. “We’ll look at the yields we get on a plot with precision ag versus one using blanket coverage for fertilizer,” he says. “Obviously we can’t conduct trials as accurately as the researchers are doing on small plots, but farmers are learning to be more precise and accurate in our field trials.” The most obvious outcome he’s seen while evaluating his progress over the last five years is yield, specifically in his malt barley, which has a better stand thanks to VR, making harvest faster and saving wear on equipment. Soil sampling is probably one of Lenz’s top assessment tools. “Having good soil sampling done is really the foundation of any sort of precision ag, but in particular with VR fertility,” he says. “If you already know what’s there, you can fertilize the upcoming crop appropriately in those zones.” This knowledge can payoff big and Lenz said his fertilizer bill this spring is going to be significantly down because of his soil samples. At the end of the day, Aberhart says there are many ways to simplify any farm’s approach into precision ag that have been previously overlooked as complexity clouded the issue. “We don’t have to get it perfect, just do better than yesterday,” he says.
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YIELD MONITORS | HARVEST MANAGEMENT
HARVEST MANAGEMENT By Geoff Geddes Above: A 1976 Gleaner L: The oldest known combine with a FarmTRX yield monitor installed.
Simply put, the job of a yield monitor on a combine is to monitor yield, so what could possibly go wrong? Like much of farming, the answer is “quite a bit.” As farmers face certain challenges with factory yield monitors, an aftermarket in these devices has steadily been on the rise. Working in concert with other sensors, a yield monitor calculates the total harvested grain by measuring grain flow, moisture content and speed. It can also link with GPS to produce a grain yield map that aids in decision-making for farmers.
Knowing the score “We typically think of data coming from the yield monitor as a scorecard for the crop year on how well farmers did, given their situation,” says Boyet Norte, sales manager for Ag Leader Technology in Kitchener, Ont. “In order for the scorecard to be used, it needs to be very accurate. The scorecard helps [farmers] understand what they did in the current crop year and will help them make good sound decisions for next year instead of decisions that sound good.” While it is easy to determine total yield, a monitor theoretically tells you what’s happening in different areas of the field. If a certain portion is underperforming, the farmer can then investigate further to find out why that is happening and what needs to change. Does that area need more or different irrigation? Are there different soil types requiring a change in nutrients or variable rate fertilizer? Was there a problem with insects? 24
HARVEST MANAGEMENT | YIELD MONITORS
Knowledge is powerful “Without that knowledge of variances across your field, you will miss opportunities to improve overall production,” says Harvey Chorney, vice-president, Portage operations for the Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute (PAMI) in Portage la Prairie, Man. “When yield monitors first appeared 25 years ago and started gathering data, the biggest aha moment for farmers was realizing they had to address drainage practices on their farm. Yield maps correlate well to elevation maps and that promoted a lot of improvements in surface and tile drainage. Variances in water migration in a field have a strong effect on yield, which is something we found on our farm as well.” Of course, to get the most out of a yield monitor, there is one overriding requirement: it has to work properly.
A sticking point “With all technology there is a leading edge and a bleeding edge,” says Chorney. “The first factory yield monitors caused a bit of bleeding as they were subject to sticking and frustrating to operate. You could often get a buildup of dirt that caused problems with accuracy. Today’s models are less prone to these issues, and the interface with total GPS systems has greatly enhanced the analytics that can be performed with the data.”
Photo: Corn field yield map from that 1976 Gleaner L.
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YIELD MONITORS | HARVEST MANAGEMENT
“Hopefully, there will be a renaissance in the adoption of yield monitors and yield mapping so that these components of precision agriculture can really take off regardless of your farm size or the type of farming you do.” - Mark Hammer In spite of the improvements, the yield monitors that come installed in combines today still suffer from accuracy problems if not calibrated regularly, something that is harder than it sounds. “If you want true numbers for each part of the field in terms of bushels per acre, you need to calibrate factory yield monitors frequently based on the variety you are harvesting that day,” says Chorney. “For example, you might be working with canola that has high moisture content, and the next day dealing with a low-moisture variety.”
Time is everything This regular recalibration is necessary but impractical for farmers given all of the demands on their time.
Photo: In-cab FarmTRX Mobile app on user’s tablet during harvest.
“In talking to farmers, agronomists and precision agriculture specialists, the overarching sentiment is that yield monitors from the factory tend to be very finicky,” says Mark Hammer, vice-president of sales and business development for Farm TRX in Ottawa, Ont.
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HARVEST MANAGEMENT | YIELD MONITORS “When they are calibrated and working, well, they give good information, and this is possible when it’s sunny and dry and you are not under stress at harvest. The reality, though, is that something always goes wrong on the farm at the worst possible time, and your No. 1 job in that instance is getting the crops off. Producing good yield maps is a distant second.” As well, many farmers have old equipment and can’t justify trading in a perfectly good 20-year-old combine worth $30,000 for a model that costs 10 times the price, just to get the latest yield monitor. Buying an aftermarket monitor means a farmer cann keep the old combine and then try and benefit from aftermarket technology.
Sharing the wealth “A big consideration in buying a yield monitor is being able to get the information and share it with others in real time,” says Norte. “Farmers tell me that after a long day at harvest, they are not able to review the data from their factory yield monitor as they have to download it from their display and then load it up to the computer, so they just forget about it.” According to Norte, aftermarket options show farmers data in real time and have the ability for it to be uploaded to the cloud. Anyone involved in the farm operation would also have access to the data. Assuming a farmer is fed up with their factory monitor and intent on going the aftermarket route, what criteria should inform their buying decision? “Price is always top of mind,” says Hammer. Prices can range from under $2,000 to well over $10,000, and another hidden cost is getting started. He also warns that time is another great consideration since certain models may take one to three days to install and require a technician. Specific aftermarket models can be installed and
ready to go in under half a day. Of course, with higher costs come additional features such as in-cab data display and access to a greater variety of data points including elevation mapping systems and weather data. Though lower-priced models might lack some of the extras, they try and compensate in other ways to entice farmers to still remain interested in their products. “We didn’t develop a dedicated in-cab display because if we did, it would be stuck in time and soon be out of date,” says Hammer, adding that farmers simply bring their own smartphone or tablet with them into the cab. “We don’t tie into data such as spray logic and weather, but farmers can input that information in our software so they have a record of it to use for future decision making,” says Norte.
After dinner viewing Different monitors have different levels of integration and Hammer says Farm TRX automatically syncs to its app so by the time a farmer gets home for dinner, they can see all their data on the computer. “You don’t have to be a tech expert to use this,” he says. “I have guys in their 80s who are using it and loving it.” Aftermarket dealers realize there is still work to be done to drive interest, but they hope that more buyers see the appeal of such a product. “The use of yield monitors is not where it should be due to adoption barriers like price, complexity and calibration demands,” says Hammer. “Hopefully, there will be a renaissance in the adoption of yield monitors and yield mapping so that these components of precision agriculture can really take off regardless of your farm size or the type of farming you do.”
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SPRAYING 101 | SPRAYING WEATHER
Spraying Weather It’s time to spray and what’s the first thing you do? Check the weather forecast, of course. More often than not, the suitability of the weather is the main factor in the decision to spray. Let’s have a closer look at what each weather component contributes to the spray decision.
Wind: 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.
Everyone knows that small droplets can drift if it’s windy. The windier it is, the worse it is. But that’s hardly the whole story. Here’s how can we improve our understanding of wind and its impact. • Look beyond the wind forecast. It’s standard practice to look a day or two ahead for wind forecasts. At any instant, the wind speed and direction may be acceptable for our planned spray job, but we know that it will change. Consider wind speed sites such as Windfinder, Ventusky, or Windy for added insight. These services show trends over time in a great visual interface, allowing users to anticipate changes in wind speed and direction for better planning. These types of sites are not forecasts per se, but by visualizing wind patterns over a larger region, allow a better understanding of, say, pressure system effects on wind direction. • Use wind as an ally. We are conditioned to think of wind as having a negative effect on spray drift. The less the better. Yes, droplet displacement increases with wind speed. But the “negative-only” perspective is being re-evaluated in light of dangers associated with wind-free conditions that often occur during temperature inversions. In fact, wind provides a few advantages over calm conditions: • Directional certainty. We can assess the risk to downwind sensitive areas. This is not possible with calm conditions because inversion air flow may follow terrain, and as inversions dissipate, the first daily winds can be changeable and unpredictable in direction. • Turbulence. Wind creates mechanical turbulence which links different layers of the atmosphere and can help sprays deposit and disperse. Both of these effects have value. In a calm environment, such turbulent eddies do not exist.
ADVERTORIAL |BUSHEL PLUS
BUSHEL PLUS Harvest time is very busy for everyone. It’s the one chance a farmer gets to recoup all their costs for the year, so it’s important they get everything right the first time. Bushel Plus continues to update its products to help farmers be more productive to measure harvest losses. Through Bushel Plus’ app, new features may save farmers even more time, benefit future harvest and drive profitability. By listening to its customers’ needs and through ongoing R & D, its team was able to implement more vital tools to its app. Combine setups Western Canada has interesting harvest conditions where small changes may make a huge difference. The best example is that the success of the threshing starts at the cutter bar. If the crop isn’t cut clean and fast, it will create problems later on. The combine won’t be able to fix improper feeding issues and the chain reaction will continue on through the machine. There is a lot to think about in the heat of harvest and it would be great to have one spot to track and save these settings and scenarios in matter of seconds, especially when you found settings that work great for you in those different conditions. The Bushel Plus app is just that, it can save all relevant harvest data, allows users to upload images and make notes regarding specific conditions. The dollar-per-acre perspective Seeing your grain loss in the app is great, but it is also able to
display the loss or savings in dollars per acre, so bushel loss actual means something across your entire farm. This helps educate drivers, business partners or customers about the actual amount of money being thrown out or saved. This can show how these settings, or this type of combine can help you pay for this machine and demonstrates how the Bushel Plus system saves you money. On a 1000-acre farm the investment for a Bushel Plus system is less than $2.90/ac in the first year and there is no cost after the initial purchase. Safety first for your family and team As combines have become larger and travel at higher speeds the risk increased as well. We hear horror stories from farmers at tradeshows about farm injuries, including a man who recently lost an eye. He used a stick with a catch basin to collect a loss sample; however, while he was running, the tool hit the ground and bounced up into his eye. Examples like this underscore the importance and safety of Bushel Plus’ remote control system. New release for 2020 – The BP SmartDrop The development is over and we are excited to release our all-new Bushel Plus SmartDrop. Control your Bushel Plus System through the convenience of your smart phone. The feature can be retrofitted to our 2019 units. It is now possible to release the drop pan from your smartphone with a simple green and red light system to show the pan actually dropped. This is helpful in dusty conditions or when operating the combine by yourself.
SPRAYING 101 | SPRAYING WEATHER
the coarser sprays (systemic products, broadleaf targets) for less certain conditions later in the day. Or treat the fields whose downwind edges border a sensitive crop during better conditions.
Temperature Like wind, air temperature is more complex than it appears at first sight. Here are some other aspects to consider:
Photo: Graphical depiction of wind speeds across a region, showing trends with distance and time (from Windy.com).
• Low drift options. If it’s windy, we have options to respond. We can lower the boom or lower the spray pressure. We can mix the next tank in higher water volume, forcing either a larger nozzle (larger flow rates of the same model nozzle usually produce coarser sprays) or slower travel speeds. All these practices reduce drift when it’s windy. In comparison, nothing, except not spraying, can be done to reduce risk during inversion conditions. This is because even low-drift spray contain enough fine droplets to cause damage if they linger. • Know your wind speed. The international standard for wind speed measurement is 10 m above ground level. When 25 km/h wind speeds are reported, they are at 10 m, not the 1 m height where the boom is located. Within the surface boundary layer, the part of the atmosphere closest to the ground, wind speeds typically increase linearly with the natural log of the height above the canopy. The slope of that line depends on atmospheric stability and roughness length. Very close to the ground, the wind speed reaches zero, and that height is a function of the roughness of the surrounding terrain. As a rule of thumb, over a short crop canopy, expect the wind speed at 1 m above ground to about 0.67x of the speed at 10 m. So, if the weather reports 25 km/h, the actual wind speed at boom height is closer to 17 km/h. Remember that weather stations can be far away, and local conditions will vary. Always measure your local wind speed and direction with your own weather station of handheld device and keep a record. • Wind and mode of action. Coarser sprays are a common way to reduce drift in windy conditions. But certain modes of action aren’t well-suited to coarser sprays. We can schedule our spray jobs throughout the day to correspond to spray quality tolerance. Apply the products that require the finest sprays (contact products, grassy herbicides, insecticides) when conditions are best, and save the sprays that tolerate 32
• Understand temperature inversions. Temperature matters. But perhaps the most important aspect of temperature when it comes to spraying is not the temperature per se, but how it changes with height. The temperature change with height is used to identify dangerous temperature inversions. Here’s how temperature profiles work: Due to atmospheric pressure, there is always a slight temperature decrease with height, about 1 C per 100 m (the dry adiabatic lapse rate). If that is the current temperature profile, it describes a “neutral” atmosphere, meaning no thermal effects. When it’s sunny, solar radiation heats the earth, which in turn warms the air near it. As a result, the rate of cooling with height is greater than the adiabatic lapse rate, and we have “unstable” conditions that are characterized by thermal turbulence (warm air rising, cold air falling) that actively mixes air parcels. Thermal turbulence is very good at dispersing anything in the air, including spray droplets. When solar radiation is low or absent, the earth cools and so does the air near it. As a result, air temperature rises with height. Air parcels no longer move up or down, in fact they return to their original location if displaced. This results in a “stable” atmosphere, also called an inversion. Inversions are dangerous because they are associated with very low dispersion, and a spray cloud will remain concentrated and may linger over the ground for a long time, like ground fog. Most weather services do not actively measure inversions, and their presence has to be inferred by clues. For example, inversions: (a) occur primarily when solar radiation is low, from early evening, overnight, to early morning; (b) are more likely on clear nights, when soils cool more; (c) can be seen when ground fog is present, or when dust hangs, moving slowly; and, (d) are associated with low ground temperatures that also cause dew. • Learn from North Dakota. North Dakota has an extensive network of about 130 weather stations (a mesonet) that,
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SPRAYING 101 | SPRAYING WEATHER
Photo: Wet bulb depression (Delta T) for a range of temperatures and relative humidity’s. Note that RH of 40 per cent is considered suitable for spraying at low temperatures, but not at high temperatures (from Cropsmart.com.au).
among other things, measures and reports temperature inversions. NDAWN (ndawn.ndsu.nodak.edu) reports temperatures at 3 m and 1 m, and issues warnings of temperature inversions as they develop at a specific location. NDAWN information is available as an app. North Dakota isn’t the only place to have a public mesonet so check and see what’s available in your area. The added information is worth the subscription. • Know the volatility of the product. Certain pesticide active ingredients are volatile. This means they can evaporate from a wet or dry deposit during and after application. Dicamba is a prominent example, but there are others, like trifluralin and ethalfluralin, 2,4-D and MCPA ester, and clomazone. Formulation can affect volatility, and the use of lower volatile esters of 2,4-D and better salts of dicamba have helped. Microencapsulation has been used to reduce the problem with clomazone. Volatility is strongly affected by surface temperature, and volatile products should not be sprayed on hot days or when the forecast calls for hot days following application. Volatile products have been found to evaporate from dry deposits for several days after application, and their vapours move under inversion conditions, causing widespread damage. 34
Sun The sun plays a big role in spraying. Plants love it when it’s sunny, and their active growth improves herbicide translocation and activity in the photosystem, or amino acid or fatty acid synthesis. The activity of herbicides has been shown to improve under sunny conditions for that reason. Some herbicides, most notably diquat (Reglone), work too well when it’s sunny, and improved performance can be gained by spraying under cloudy or low-light conditions. The lack of photosynthesis allows for some passive translocation before the product causes tissue necrosis. Sunny conditions also increase thermal turbulence which is useful for burning off morning inversions. But what usually follows a sunny day is a strong inversion as the sun sets and the clear sky facilitates the earth’s rapid cooling. It would be possible to spray a bit later into the evening when it’s cloudy.
Humidity Since about 99 per cent of the spray volume is comprised of water, evaporation of this water can have strong effects on droplet behaviour. Droplets begin to evaporate as soon as they leave the nozzle, becoming smaller and more drift-prone while still in flight. Higher booms and finer sprays increase the flight-time of droplets, and this increases the sensitivity to evaporation.
SPRAYING WEATHER | SPRAYING 101 The most common measure of water in air is relative humidity (RH). Unfortunately, the same RH at different temperatures results in two different rates of water evaporation, so it doesn’t tell the whole story. A better measure is wet bulb depression, the difference in temperature reported by a dry bulb vs. a wet bulb thermometer. Wet bulb depression has more recently been coined as “Delta T” in Australia. The Delta T value is directly related to water evaporation, and charts have been published showing acceptable values for spraying. A Delta T of >10 C is considered too high. After they deposit on a leaf, droplets can evaporate to dryness within seconds, and this can reduce uptake. In one study, a Group 2 herbicide was applied to weeds in a normal-sized spray, and also as a fine mist, both under very dry conditions. Unlike the normally applied product, the finely misted herbicide had no effect on the weeds due to its rapid drying. Interestingly, the product began to work again when the plants were placed in a humid environment. High humidity can also work against an application. Since humidity is often high during temperature inversions, droplets remain potent while they linger and drift over sensitive terrain. It would be better if they had evaporated and lost their effectiveness.
Some proponents of low water volumes and fine sprays have suggested oily formulations or adjuvants prevent evaporation. While this may, in fact, slow evaporation, it also creates a dangerous condition in which many small droplets remain aloft for a long time, with high activity on any target they may encounter. The bottom line: Don’t spray low volumes with oily adjuvants.
The Perfect Day The ideal spray day is sunny, starts a few hours after sunrise once the dew has mostly burned off, and has consistent winds away from sensitive areas. This day ends before sunset, before winds become calm, which signals the onset of the inversion. The well-prepared operator knows that winds will pick up in the afternoon and possibly shift direction, and has planned their day to accommodate the sensitive crops nearby, guided by buffer zone statements on the product label. Their plan involves not just their pick of products and fields that can best handle the forecast, but they also travel with another set of nozzles that can be used when conditions require more than a pressure change can offer. The operator knows that every minute counts and is well prepared with an efficient tender system, spare parts, and a contingency plan should something unexpected happen. They keep a record of weather conditions before, during, and after the field is sprayed.
SECTION THOSE WILY | TITLE WEEDS | ASSESS WEED CONTROL AT PRE-HARVEST TIMING
assess Weed Control at Pre-harvest Timing Pre-harvest is a strategic window of opportunity for weed control. It is an extremely useful tool for certain weeds in certain situations, but has limitations and serious consequences if not thought out completely. That may sound alarming, but it is a fact. Applying the wrong type of herbicide to a crop at the pre-harvest timing may affect crop yield, quality or marketability. So, it is important to assess the situation before using this tool. The main questions to answer: Tammy Jones B.Sc., P.Ag Tammy completed her B. Sc. In Crop Protection at the University of Manitoba. She has over 15 years of experience in the crops industry in Manitoba and Alberta, with a focus on agronomy. Tammy lives near Carman, and spends time scouting for weeds and working with cattle at the family farm in Napinka, Manitoba.
• Which weeds are a concern? • Which herbicide options are available? • What impact does this have on marketing the crop? Which weeds are a concern? Pre-harvest herbicide applications can manage weed escapes from the growing season, but typically are focused on optimizing perennial weed control. A secondary benefit to the weed management is the opportunity for increased ease in direct combining of standing crops, which in turn can maximize yield and benefit quality. Even if you plan to swath the crop, pre-harvest weed control is more effective for managing perennial weeds than cutting them off. The timing for herbicide control options for tough perennials such as quackgrass, Canada thistle, dandelion, perennial sowthistle and even milkweed or yellow toadflax is when the plant is shifting or has shifted from growth to reproductive stage. There are some pre-seed and in-crop herbicide options that help minimize the growth and therefore the impact of these weeds on crop yield potential, but the best time for control is typically closer to harvest time. At this time of the year, days start to shorten, nights get cooler and perennial weeds begin to shift from above-ground growth to replenishing root reserves to survive another tough winter. Getting to that root provides the most effective long-term herbicide control of perennial weeds. Conversely, annual weeds are likely more suited to an herbicide application that results in rapid dry-down of plant material and a quick kill to prevent seeds from maturing or being viable. That is not usually achieved with the slow translocation and death of the plant when using glyphosate (at least 7 to 14 days). In that case, swathing or desiccation works well. Since desiccants are contact herbicides, the effects may be noticeable within hours or days. Contact herbicides do not translocate through the plant, resulting in great top growth control, but no impact on rooting systems of perennial weeds. Keep in mind that desiccants typically break down cell walls, which is helpful for rapid dry down, but that also means that plant structure starts to deteriorate and if there is a delay in harvest, the crop may not stand as well after desiccation.
Getting back to that pure pursuit of weed control, another factor to consider is the staging of the target weed for most effective control. The crop and weed combination may mean that pre-harvest glyphosate is not going to be the best option. Early maturing crops such as peas or winter wheat may be ready to harvest before the weed is at an appropriate stage. Conversely, later maturing crops such as conventional soybeans or fababeans may be too immature for glyphosate application when the weed is at the correct stage. Typically, the weed should be in the bud to early bloom or early heading stage to achieve the best result. In the case of earlier maturing crops, it may still be a benefit to apply the pre-harvest herbicide, with a reduced expectation of efficacy, but with a later maturing crop, other control options will have to be explored. Always refer to and follow the product label for the correct timing. Which herbicide options are available? The most commonly used active ingredient used for preharvest weed management is glyphosate. There are other herbicides approved for pre-harvest application, but they function as desiccants. The table outlines the registered options for pre-harvest herbicides and their associated function. There are also products that are pre-packaged mixes of active ingredients including glyphosate (which is not a desiccant) and desiccant products, which affects application timing as well as other parameters, especially water volume and pre-harvest interval. What impact does this have on marketing the crop? Thoroughly investigate a pre-harvest herbicide prior to application on a particular crop. Off-label herbicide use can result in an unmarketable product. Most farmers are aware that glyphosate is unacceptable for use on malt barley or crops for seed production as it may negatively affect germination of the harvested product. Increasingly sensitive herbicide residue testing has resulted in increased consumer awareness, and end-use buyers making specific requirements even when a particular product may be registered for use on a particular crop. An excellent source of information on emerging issues is Keep it Clean (keepingitclean.ca), which details pre-harvest intervals, and provides information on meeting export standards, maximum residue limits and herbicide/crop combinations that result in a marketable product. Pre-harvest herbicide applications have been tested extensively to ensure efficacy but also safety to consumers. The label is vital in providing information on rates, staging and pre-harvest intervals (the time between the application of a pre-harvest herbicide and the time when it is swathed, combined or otherwise harvested for use). Remember, desiccants or glyphosate have no impact on crop maturity and desiccants applied alone will not help with perennial weed control.
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SARRC | WHAT GOES AROUND COMES AROUND
What goes around comes around It may surprise you to know that many items considered ‘waste’ or ‘garbage’ on the farm can be re-used over and over again. From farmers’ machine shops, used motor oil, used oil filters, used antifreeze and oil/antifreeze/diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) containers can be reclaimed and re-sold as new lubricating oil, antifreeze and other products. That is if they are stored, collected and processed properly. The key to developing a successful circular economy is using post-consumer material as a resource for manufacturing new material. To move from our traditional linear economy to a circular economy, effort is required by everyone along the supply chain. Manufacturers need to think about product design so something useful can be made once the consumer is done with it. Consumers need to properly store and collect used material so they can be delivered to a recycler, and the right infrastructure needs to be in place to make it all happen efficiently. In Saskatchewan, the infrastructure to recycle automotive fluids and containers has existed since 1997 when the province legislated that any manufacturer or first seller of these materials had to have a way to recycle them. To put the responsibility of managing the post-consumer phase on the manufacturer is known as extended producer responsibility (EPR). 38
Manufacturers decided it was more efficient to work together and formed the Saskatchewan Association for Resource Recovery Corp. (SARRC) to manage their recycling network. SARRC provides 37 year-round eco-centres across Saskatchewan for free public dropoff and encourages businesses to become volunteer drop-off locations. SARRC provides a return incentive to collectors so it makes economic sense to pick up from generators anywhere in the province and deliver materials to processors. Incentives are also in place to assure all materials are made into clean, re-usable products. This recycling program is funded exclusively by environmental handling charges provided by the manufacturers and is not a tax collected by government. Farmers are well aware of the idea of circularity. For example, using composted manure as a soil amendment turns material considered waste into a valuable product. Similarly, using crop residues to trap moisture, improve infiltration and improve soil quality changes a waste product to a useful tool. That same thinking can be applied to antifreeze, lubricating oil and oil filters needed to run all manner of agricultural equipment, from large tractors, to combines, to the ATV used to run out to the pasture. When antifreeze, oil, and oil filters are stored properly so they
2110-27862 - SARRC - FarmTmrw 3.375x9.625 - Duck
The key to developing a successful circular economy is using post-consumer material as a resource for manufacturing new material. To move from our traditional linear economy to a circular economy, effort is required by everyone along the supply chain. can be collected, it keeps things circular. Antifreeze is toxic if ingested, and used oil can quickly contaminate groundwater and surface water. â&#x20AC;&#x153;The days are mostly behind us when used oil was being used for weed control or burned in the back forty, and antifreeze was drained onto the ground,â&#x20AC;? says Ethan Richardson, 39
SARRC | WHAT GOES AROUND COMES AROUND
The agricultural sector uses large quantities of lubricating oil, oil filters and antifreeze. There are two ways to recycle these materials: transport smaller quantities to your nearest EcoCentre or other volunteer drop-off location; or for larger volumes, call a registered collector to pick-up at your farm or business. executive director of SARRC. “It is really important to store used antifreeze in a separate container, somewhere out of reach of small children and pets. If antifreeze is mixed with used oil, then the glycol in the antifreeze can’t be recovered as it is burned off in the oil re-refining, and all the effort to recycle the antifreeze is wasted.” One big positive: these recycled products are in demand. Oil filters are crushed to remove residual oil, then sold as scrap metal
Photo: Interior of a SARRC EcoCentre.
for smelting and eventually turned into useful products such as construction rebar. Used antifreeze is cleaned and filtered or glycol is extracted so it can be re-sold as new antifreeze, meeting or exceeding the specifications of new antifreeze. Used oil, just like crude oil, has value as a commodity. According to Richardson, “The recent drop in crude oil prices has affected the value of used oil. In some cases, especially in northern and remote regions, it wouldn’t make business sense to collect used oil without some sort of incentive. Our program is designed to make sure that used oil has a positive value so it’s worth a collector’s time to gather and transport used oil to a processor. We do this by providing a cash incentive for independent businesses to collect used oil and all our materials across the province.” Once at a processor, used oil is re-refined into fuel, base oils, or into new lubricating oils using one third the energy of refining it from scratch. Plastic oil/antifreeze/DEF containers provide a different challenge, as these containers must be cleaned thoroughly and the metal handles need to be removed from 20-litre pails before they can be recycled. “They need a little more help to recycle,” says Richardson. “SARRC provides an incentive to processors to cover the extra cost of running a washing line. But the good news is these containers are almost all made out of one type of plastic: high-density polyethylene plastic. Once washed, ground and moulded into pellets, this relatively pure HDPE can readily be sold into North American markets and made into things like drainage conduit, fence posts, park benches and even new oil containers.” The key to keeping different types of plastics out of this material
stream demonstrates how extended producer responsibility works. â&#x20AC;&#x153;If an industry member makes a different type of container, they must be prepared to pay the full cost of recycling it. So, if a new container is made out of a different plastic that is not compatible with HDPE, then we can either work with that industry member to reduce the impact on their recycling network, or place a high environmental handling charge on that product to make sure there is enough money to pay for additional recycling costs,â&#x20AC;? says Richardson. The agricultural sector uses large quantities of lubricating oil, oil filters and antifreeze. There are two ways to recycle these materials: transport smaller quantities to your nearest eco-centre or other volunteer drop-off location; or for larger volumes, call a registered collector to pick up at your farm or business. Of the 37 eco-centres in Saskatchewan, 30 of them are located in small centres intended to serve local do-ityourself mechanics and the rural and agricultural sector. In addition, collectors, registered as independent businesses with SARRC, service all corners of the province. To find a collector or for more information (including links to programs in other provinces), visit usedoilrecyclingsk.com or phone, toll free, 1-877-645-7275 (in Saskatchewan only).
It is important to make the best use of our finite resources. We will create a sustainable circular economy if we all do our part from product design, to responsible use, storage and recycling, to re-manufacture into useful new products by using these resources as many times as possible.
FARMING YOUR MONEY | CALCULATE YOUR EFFICIENCIES
Calculate your efficiencies When times get lean, we need to be efficient. But isn’t the goal to be efficient all the time? As our operations become more profitable, we often lose efficiency. We justify purchases that we really do not need. We justify extra labour. We generally make poorer business decisions. As long as the cash keeps coming in, we are fine. It is when there is decline in price or production, or both, that we run into trouble. 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.
The first step in measuring efficiency is having a realistic income goal. In certain cases, this means not using your historical average. There are areas in Western Canada where the past three years have been record-setting. I do not think it is a good idea to base the future income on those results. Conversely, certain farmers have suffered in the past three years with no moisture. It is also not wise to base the future on that. You need to come up with a realistic number. From there, you need to measure all cash that leaves your bank account. This includes loan payments, all expenses and living costs. You can measure this as a total number or a per unit number. For example, you may need $300/acre to pay all the bills. Or you might need $900/cow to pay all the bills. If this number is too high, the first recommendation from most experts is that you need to expand. If you had more acres or more cattle, the number would be lower. I am not going to argue with that Grade 6 mathematical query. It is correct that the break-even number will go lower if you increase the units. I challenge you to look deeper rather than just getting bigger. Look at all the cash that leaves the farm. Can you justify it? Is there any way to reduce the cash outflow? Look at your machinery and the debt you are carrying. Could your farm operate with less value in equipment? I often have conversations with farmers who try to justify a bigger, newer combine, drill or tractor. Perhaps you should focus on keeping what you have. Or maybe even selling what you have and getting something that costs less. That type of thinking is almost considered radical today. Everyone wants to be bigger. Size is not the measuring stick, it should be profit. Unfortunately, we do not discuss our operations in those terms. It would different if described our farm as having a $240/acre break even or $450/cow. Instead we proudly boast, “I farm 10,000 acres” or “I have 500 cows.” If the next person only has 7,000 acres or 375 cows, there is an assumption of inadequacy. How big your operation is does measure profit or efficiency; all it measures is the size of the farm.
CALCULATE YOUR EFFICIENCIES | FARMING YOUR MONEY
Many years ago, one of my clients shared a quote: “You need be good before you are big.” That has always stuck with me. If your 3,000-acre farm is failing, making it 5,000 will not make it better. Many years ago, one of my clients shared a quote: “You need be good before you are big.” That has always stuck with me. If your 3,000-acre farm is failing, making it 5,000 will not make it better. Most likely it will increase your level of failure. There are certain situations that require a larger farm base. One is your cost of land ownership. If you have bought land recently, you will have hefty payments per acre. You may need to lower that payment by spreading it out over more acres. For example if you bought a quarter section and the payments are $120/acre, if you were to rent 400 more acres at $50/acre, your total cost
per acre for the 400 rented and 160 owned would be (400 x $50=$20,000) + (160 X $120=19,200)/560) $70/acre. So, I am not saying it never pays to expand the aces. I am saying you need to look closer. We also need to be efficient on the income side. How much more per acre could we produce? How much more could we sell our grain for? How much bigger could we get our calves before we sell them? How much better could we do at marketing our livestock? All of these aspects will increase revenues. With the size of farm you have now, you need to concentrate on these areas and get them as close to perfection as you can before you look to expand. I do not know where commodity prices are going in 2020 and beyond. There seems to be a consistent theme among experts that we should expect a little less than we got last year. Regardless of where the markets go, waste is waste. We need to be efficient. Not just when we need to be, but all the time. We are stewards of a small part of mother nature and we should not take that for granted. Make the most out of the resources we are in control of. Ensure good practices today so that we can enjoy the resources forever. I believe this is the most important element of agriculture.
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MacDon The all-new MacDon R2 Rotary Disc Header and M1240 Windrower deliver a knock-out performance in a wide variety of crops and conditions. Featuring MacDon’s Evenflow technology, the R2 delivers the best possible cut, conditioning, and windrow formation, allowing for quick dry down and increased productivity. Low-profile forward mounted cutting discs provide a nearly flat header angle, resulting in a close, clean, smooth cut at speeds of up to 25 km/h. The 18-degree reversible blades provide more lifting action in lodged crops. The R2 features the industry’s widest conditioning rolls at 129 inches. This massive conditioning surface area creates well-conditioned windrows even in the heaviest crop conditions.Even windrow formation has never been easier and the M1 Series Windrowers feature in-cab controls allowing the operator to adjust the R2’s baffle, controlling windrow formation on-the-go. One-touch controls allow for faster and more precise positioning of the header. Operators can easily program one-touch return buttons for fast in-field control. Serviceability with the R2 is a breeze with easy access to the belts and optional quick coupling drivelines
to the conditioners. Each of the R2’s discs feature shear pin protection. These pins are designed to shear if the disc comes into contact with a large rock in the field. Once sheared the disc moves up, out of the path of the obstruction preventing any damage to the rest of the cutter bar. The shear pins can be quickly replaced in-field, with minimal downtime. Its optional double windrow attachment saves time and money. The attachment combines two or three passes into a single windrow, ideal for keeping today’s large forage harvesters working at capacity.
Olds College Olds College is excited to announce that it is the only postsecondary institution in the world to deploy the fully autonomous DOT Power Platform as a teaching and research tool on the College’s Smart Farm. This next generation of ag technology gives Olds College students one-of-a-kind learning opportunities on commercially available field-scale robotics technology. The DOT Autonomous Platform also gives the college an opportunity to conduct future-focused applied research on the environmental, economic and labour benefits of autonomous technology in the ag sector. Olds College Smart Farm will be operating DOT autonomous equipment in the field for the first time this spring. Part of a three-year Smart Farm research project, the college will collect information and observations to understand the benefits and challenges of autonomous agricultural equipment. The project will also measure the economic and environmental footprint of autonomous agricultural equipment. “Our goal is to demonstrate how this leading-edge technology works and provide research results for producers to use to 44
make informed decisions about how to incorporate this technology into their own operations,” says Joy Agnew, associate vice-president of applied research, Olds College “Of course, our students will also benefit from working with and understanding autonomous technology.” The DOT power platform and DOT-ready implements represent a significant first step towards autonomous commercial agricultural operations. Olds College will deploy the full DOT Power Platform in spring 2020. “Being able to provide this kind of cutting-edge technology experience to our students is invaluable,” says James Benkie, dean of the Werklund School of Agriculture Technology.
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AirGuard If you are thinking about putting new hoses on your air seeder you may want to consider a new type of hose clamp. The Airguard Sabre Clamp integrates a series of teeth into the clamping surface so that your hoses will not pull out. Testing has proven a minimum of two times more clamping power compared to regular hose clamps. You can prevent misses in your field with the Airguard Sabre Clamp. Nothing is worse than seeing strips in your field where a hose came off. The new Sabre clamps will keep your hoses where they should be. “This is the first year that these clamps are available on the market and they have been an overwhelming success. We have heard from many of our customers that the Sabre Clamp has fixed their issues 100 per cent,” says Brian Cruson, owner and director of research and development at Airguard. “They are all stainless construction and come in various sizes to fit any hose on seeding equipment.
We have even developed a special model to fit Vaderstad openers where smaller hose clamps are generally used.” The Airguard Sabre Clamp will give you a peace of mind knowing that you don’t have to keep checking to make sure all your hoses are attached. Visit your local Airguard dealer for more information or visit our website www.sabreclamp.com.
lethbridge College Lethbridge College was recently awarded one of just six new Technology Access Centres (TAC) across Canada by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). The $1.75 million five-year renewable grant will be used to create the Integrated Agriculture Technology Centre (IATC), which will help farmers, farmers and food processors across the country tap into the latest research and recognized expertise at the college. “This announcement is extremely significant and welcome news,” says Paula Burns, Lethbridge College president and CEO. “It signifies to Canada’s agriculture industry that we are here to support their needs and find solutions to the challenges they face. The IATC will help to drive forward one of the country’s most important industries and provide a boost to the provincial economy.” The IATC will offer clients from across the agriculture industry access to applied research and development, technical services and consulting and training and education, with a focus on the college’s core research areas of aquaculture, crop production and wet processing. The IATC will operate within the college’s Centre for Applied 46
Research and Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CARIE) and is part of a network of 60 TACs nationwide through Tech-Access Canada, each serving a specific geographic area with a focus on strengthening a sector of significance to that region. Lethbridge College’s commitment to agriculture and ag-tech applied research has grown significantly with recent additions of dedicated researchers in the fields of aquaculture, irrigation and agricultural engineering and technology.
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