March / April 2021
ENTREPRENEURS IN AGRICULTURE
Crops ‘n’ Cattle
Southern Alberta farmer expands business in red hot agricultural region
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By Trevor Bacque
A Farmer’s Viewpoint
Carbon tax hurts custom trucking by Kevin Hursh
Those Wily Weeds
Weed Control – Science or Art? by Tammy Jones
Grain Market Analysis
Not just a passing trend by Scott Shiels
How secure is farm data? by Jaclyn Krymowski
Ahead of the curve by Natalie Noble
What’s new in crop protection? by Jeff Melchior
Farming Your Money
What if interest rates went up? by Paul Kuntz
Where Does the Spray Go? by Tom Wolf
KEVIN HURSH 4
Crops ‘n’ Cattle
Tallulah Pengilly from northeast of Melville, Sask., is our unconfirmed youngest (not yet two) reader of Farming For Tomorrow. It’s good to see the future generation farmer getting a good start on their reading. Credit: The Pengilly family
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CARBON TAX HURTS CUSTOM TRUCKING | A FARMER’S VIEWPOINT
Carbon tax hurts custom trucking An ever-increasing carbon tax that hits $170 a tonne by 2030 is going to cost farmers a lot of money, but it will also have some unintended consequences. Year by year, it will make custom grain haulers less competitive as compared to farmers using their own trucks.
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
Farm diesel and gasoline are exempt from the carbon tax. The diesel used by custom truckers, however, is not. While the carbon tax is still relatively low, that isn’t such a big deal. As the tax rises, it’s going to be a competitive disadvantage in the custom trucking business. An increasing number of farms run their own semis. During seeding, they are used for hauling seed and fertilizer to the field and during harvest they haul grain from the combine to storage. If you have a semi anyway, you may want to haul your own grain to market, particularly for the relatively short distance runs. Many farmers like to haul their own grain so they can have more control of the schedule. In busy seasons or when a lot of grain needs to be moved in a short period of time or when loads are going a long distance to market, they can still hire a custom trucker. Does it pay to truck your own grain to market? It depends who you ask. However, if you truthfully include all the costs involved, you might not be earning much for your time by running your own truck. Some farmers realize this, but continue trucking most of their own grain as a way to retain full-time employees during the winter and that’s certainly a valid approach. For all the icy roads, snowstorms, -30 C temperatures, muddy yards and idiot drivers they have to contend with, custom truckers don’t exactly have a cushy lifestyle. Obviously, there has to be a certain return for efficient operators or they wouldn’t continue doing it, but returns are likely to become evermore meagre as the carbon tax goes skyward. 7
A FARMER’S VIEWPOINT | CARBON TAX HURTS CUSTOM TRUCKING
The theory behind a carbon tax or “a price on pollution” as the Liberal government likes to call it, is to encourage the adoption of greener technologies. Unfortunately, options today are limited for farmers trying to cut their fossil fuel consumption.
have traditionally been priced FOB farm, but will that change when buyers have to pay the carbon tax on fuel for trucking?
As custom trucking margins tighten, some will reconfigure their operations to move other products while others will simply exit the business. That has downsides that go beyond the custom truckers.
The theory behind a carbon tax or “a price on pollution” as the Liberal government likes to call it, is to encourage the adoption of greener technologies. Unfortunately, options today are limited for farmers trying to cut their fossil fuel consumption.
The farms least likely to run their own trucks are typically smaller with older operators. Farms growing a more specialized crop mix are also in this category.
Many costs are difficult to exempt such as the carbon taxes paid by the railways and the increased costs of manufacturing fertilizer. Overall, farm costs will rise dramatically due to the carbon tax and there’s no way to pass those costs along when your commodities are priced in a world market.
Farms with a smaller acreage would typically like to avoid investing in a semi that has to meet all the safety requirements for highway travel. Older farmers that aren’t already licensed to drive a semi face a significant expense and a learning curve if they want to go that route. And farms growing many of the specialty crops are often accessing buyers hundreds of kilometres away. These crops may
I’m one of those smaller, older farmers and we mainly grow specialty crops. I have no desire to drive big trucks through cities. We have a couple of tandem grain trucks and a rusty old tridem trailer that we pull up and down the backroads with the seeding tractor. Virtually all of our grain is moved to market by custom truckers. I’m not pleased to contemplate a time in the near future when my trucking cost per tonne will be higher than neighbours’ doing their own trucking. I also anticipate a time when it will be more difficult to access the services of custom grain haulers.
The carbon tax on propane and natural gas for grain drying has received a lot of attention and those fuels for farm use should be exempt similar to farm gasoline and diesel. Diesel for custom truckers moving grain and fertilizer should also be exempt. It makes no sense to disadvantage that service.
WEED CONTROL – SCIENCE OR ART? | THOSE WILY WEEDS
Weed Control – Science or Art? 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 her time scouting for weeds and working with cattle at the family farm in Napinka.
There is no doubt that weeds result in yield losses. As a science, like physics or chemistry, there should be an easy way to measure the economics of this issue. Farmers would benefit from a formula and a black and white decision-making tool to assess the necessity of a weed control action. A simple, effective calculation of the return on investment would allow science to prevail over emotion and ensure every weed control activity is necessary and worthwhile. This basic idea has led to the development of economic thresholds of specific weeds in certain crops but, to a certain extent, has stalled there. The relatively straightforward concept is complicated by the complexity of the interactions of weeds with crops. Baseline research has been carried out by weed science pioneers, looking at single weed species and specific densities while measuring yield reductions in specific crops. This measurement of competitive ability generates an estimation of the population density that may result in a yield reduction that equates to the cost of control. Table 1 is an example of relative competitive ability of common western Canadian weeds in studies conducted in winter wheat in Europe. This example demonstrates that research conducted in one region or in a particular crop may not be relevant to other crop production areas. In this example, the Lamb’s quarters is not particularly competitive in a winter-seeded crop, but in Western Canada, in spring-seeded crops, 25 plants/m2 would cause more than a five per cent yield reduction. Also, this research paper generalized that a five per cent yield reduction would be equivalent to the cost of the control method. Unfortunately, a five per cent yield reduction on a canola crop with a 50 bu/ac yield potential will differ vastly from the value of a five per cent yield reduction on an 85 bu/ac feed oat crop. 9
THOSE WILY WEEDS | WEED CONTROL – SCIENCE OR ART? One of the influencing factors of the competitive ability of the weeds in the winter cereals is the relative time of emergence. This seems simple - whichever plant emerges first is likely to have the advantage. The plant should dominate based on access to all the things that allow for growth. Crops and weeds vary in their competitive ability based on the growing conditions including the availability of moisture and nutrients, air and soil temperature and other environmental factors. But, even in situations where plants, weeds or not, are growing and a crop is germinating, there is scientific evidence that a germinating plant is negatively impacted before it ever emerges to compete for resources. Weed scientist Clarence Swanton and his research team at the University of Guelph have demonstrated that the yield potential of a plant is permanently reduced by early season stress, and what mathematical equation will ever be able to reflect the competitive impact of plant interactions prior to germination? As we are all aware, no field is just one weed, the weeds are never evenly distributed across the field and so researchers continue to fine-tune the competitive indices. At the November 2020 Canadian Weed Science Society meeting, Shaun Sharpe with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Saskatoon, Sask., presented research on the competitive dynamics of wild oat and kochia. He
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noted that there has been an expansion in the area where kochia is a problem and was curious if it would be able to prevail over the wild oat or vice versa. In the study, Sharpe looked at ratios with one-on-one and two-on-one competition. What he learned was wild oat is more impacted by other wild oats than it is by kochia competition. Sharpe concluded that even though kochia’s range may expand northward within Western Canada, it is not likely to easily displace wild oat within the weed community. Sharpe’s study is genuinely the tip of the iceberg. To generate data for a robust model, the research would need to explore weed interactions under varying conditions not limited to different soil types, fertility regimes, with varying amounts of available moisture and temperature ranges. The list of options is exhaustive and the time, space, money and manpower required is significant. Current weed research funding has limits. In order to maintain or increase crop production, research priorities include the discovery of new herbicide molecules, surveys of weed shifts in various crop production systems, as well as efforts to document, understand and overcome herbicide resistance. With all these important efforts, the quantification of the impact of weed populations on yield at a field scale may be unaffordable. The dollars and cents of killing weeds or tolerating a few of them is likely to remain more of a personal decision than a pure science. There is a cost associated with not killing weeds, such as future weed control issues, competition with the crop and potentially crop quality loss. Advantages of tolerating low levels of weeds include short-term cost savings, possibly less selection pressure for herbicide resistance, and biodiversity that can be beneficial for other organisms. And thus, the art of weed control is a reality.
Table 1. Relative competitive ability of weed species in winter wheat crops (Marshall EJP et al., 2003)
# of weeds/m2 = 5% yield loss
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GRAIN SECTION MARKET | TITLE ANALYSIS | NOT JUST A PASSING TREND
Not just a passing trend
Oats’ big comeback thanks to shifting consumer diet preferences 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
One of the biggest reasons for the surge in oat demand, and oat price increases over the past couple of years, is oat milk. Now some of you will say, “You cannot milk an oat!” You would be correct, but you can make what is arguably the best dairy alternative product on the market today from an oat. And, before you start the debate about it not being milk, I do agree that it is an oat beverage, not milk. But since it is in the market to compete with milk, I do think it is OK to call it that. I am not going to get into any of the science behind how they produce the products, as that is not really a concern as far as the oat market implications go. What really matters is the volume of oats that now move into this new market, and the growth rate that we witnessed over the past few years. In North America, oat milk demand has doubled each year over the past three years! Looking ahead to next year, it sure feels funny to say that we only expect a 50 per cent increase in demand for 2022. Most retail grocery stores now carry one or more brands of these new oat drinks, proving that it has indeed become a mainstream product. We now see oat-based coffee creamer products in many stores, as well as coffee chains such as Starbucks which offers oat milk as one of its dairy alternatives. When global chains hop on 12
board the oat milk train, the potential for growth in this market is bullish indeed. With the oat milk and oat coffee creamers leading the pack, the future is laden with the potential for other products with an oat milk base to hit the market. Products such as whipped cream, cheese, cream cheese, sour cream, ice cream and yogurts made from oat milk are not far from hitting store shelves. Many of these products have been available in Europe for years and are slowly becoming available in major centres in the U.S. One company south of the border has already launched an oat milk ice cream-based treat line, and from what we have heard in the oat industry, it has already become very popular. The reasons behind the popularity of oat milk are primarily two-fold: lactose-free and gluten-free. These two sectors of the food industry continue to grow exponentially as more and more consumers tailor their diets to reduce or eliminate lactose and gluten from them. Oat milk works double duty on this as most of the brands are made from gluten-free oats, enabling them to be labelled as both lactose- and gluten-free. While at first gluten-free diets such as the Wheat Belly diet were thought to be a bit of a fad, the reality is that between true celiacs and the number of people that just feel better with less gluten in their diet, the demand for gluten-free oats is only going up, not down. Coupled with the increase in oat-based dairy replacement products, we see a nice, sustainable increase in North American oat demand. Until next time…
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COVER STORY | CROPS ‘N’ CATTLE
Kevin Serfas works hard at the farm and feedlot but also gives back to his community. For more than a decade, he has contributed his time to minor hockey in his area.
CROPS ‘N’ CATTLE | COVER STORY
CROPS ‘N’ CATTLE Southern Alberta farmer expands business in red hot agricultural region By Trevor Bacque Photography by Chris Yauck Photography
Kevin Serfas is a man with many titles: husband, father, brother, son, boss, coach, president and board director. But it’s the simple moniker of farmer he most prefers. After all, it is what the 45-year-old Turin, Alta., man does almost every single day of the year. Since 1994, Serfas has been working full time on his family farm, which has roots dating back to the early 1950s when his grandparents Adam and Elsie immigrated from Germany. Back then, Adam worked a piecemeal collection of rented lands for years in southern Alberta. By the 1970s, the Serfas’s managed to purchase a few of those rented acres. In 1973, Serfas’ father Herb diversified the farm to include a feed yard beginning in the late ‘70s with 1,000 feeder cattle. This continued on through the late ‘80s before a sell off in 1988. However, Serfas wanted to rebuild the cattle and in 1992 it was he and brother Mark who began construction a new feed yard. After 10 years, it had been built up to 6,000 head. While the cattle had been building up steadily for years, the brothers had a desire to expand the farm, knowing that in his highly competitive area, smaller farms unable to offer a niche product were likely not long for the world. Quickly, Serfas began to secure rental agreements on as many acres as he could. A risky play, but the only logical one he saw in his mind at the time. “Looking back, the price of land was extremely reasonable, but back then it was extremely expensive,” he says. “At that time, you could try to make a go of it without a whole bunch of cash. We kept picking away at it. Opportunities came up and we’d go after them not necessarily knowing how we could pay for it.
We learned a lot of lessons along the way on how to scale up.” What began as 1,800 acres of irrigated land when be began in the mid-‘90s, Serfas Farms has now settled into a usual crop production system with 55,000 to 60,000 under dryland and irrigated production. Not every acre is under irrigated production as the cost of a single pivots can be anywhere from $100,000 to $150,000, plus the cost of irrigation rights, making the decision a calculated one. Primarily he grows barley, canola and silage corn, which may seem unusual, given that Serfas resides in one of the most desirable climates for growing virtually any crop, including seed alfalfa, pumpkins, mint, sugar beet, hemp and more. The crop options are all thanks to the country’s most robust irrigation network which criss-crosses all of southern Alberta. “It’s always been competitive and red hot, but it doesn’t seem to want to stop. The reason being is the water. You have lots of people immigrating from wherever because there’s water,” he says of the region. “The irrigation is a different beast and it’s only going to get more and more competitive. We are irrigating off snowpack. There will always be water, that’s why you are seeing more potatoes grown here, dry beans and seed canola.” Serfas explains that other considerations such as never worrying about Mother Nature to fill dugouts or if there will be a plentiful water source for the cows are weights lifted off his shoulders, too. Knowing that, he continues with a tried-and-true program that works well for his farm. 15
COVER STORY | CROPS ‘N’ CATTLE
“We can bale and feed a lot of our grain,” he says, adding that canola is still a nice cash crop. Surprisingly, Serfas is not even interested to try and produce spring wheat anymore, and for good reason. Being located in an area aptly known as feedlot alley, Serfas’ cereal of choice always has been, and likely will continue to be, feed barley. “Because we are at the heart of the cattle feeding industry, we are at market,” he says. “Every year I try to pencil out wheat and it makes about the same amount of sense as barley, but there’s no risk with barley. $16 canola? $7 barley? It’s just insane.” He is just as passionate about growing his silage corn, as well. “It’s the same thing. We grow it for silage. We cut it and we like the feed that it makes. It returns reasonably well for us,” he says. “Everybody does things differently. If it works, great. Run with it.” With strong relationships with landowners, Serfas has been fortunate to purchase some of the acres he has dutifully rented for the last 20-plus years. However, it’s not a fast process. He lives in an area where one dryland acre comes with a $4,000 is normal, only becoming more expensive the closer you journey to Lethbridge proper where numbers hover around $10,000. He decided to purchase rented land farther afield with the notion to purchase costlier lands in the future. “We thought if we are going to get into ownership side to a bigger extent, that was where we were going to have to end up,” he explains of the now-owned land 35 to 50 kilometres north of the main yard. “With so many feedlots in that Turin area, it was getting hard to buy land. We went where there was less demand.” Alongside recent land acquisitions, Serfas began to reexamine the potential for a feed yard expansion. No stranger to cattle feeding, he thought that a bigger herd will generate more market opportunities and spread risk out through diversified agrifood products. He says “it had never crossed our mind” to the question of building a feedlot, but as his simple calculator projections kept looking rosier and rosier over the years, he took a longer look at the idea. “We started looking at numbers and the way things were working out, I thought, ‘let’s see if we can get a permit put through,” he explains. By December 2019, he had put in for that permit. Optimistic he would be approved, the wait was on. Approvals for such permits take about six months. The application was accepted and Serfas immediately began work on the expansion. 16
The new yard features what Serfas terms, “probably one of the bigger mills that has been put up in the south,” which features raw storage of 4,000 tonnes and a rolled capacity of 600 tonnes. “Did we overbuild? Maybe a little, but it allows room for any kind of expansion that we could ever think about doing.” He is excited for the new yard, which has a total capacity of 40,000-head and is already partially stocked. The yard has been designed with convenience in mind and features easy access so a truck can pull up, unload and drive away within 15 minutes, Serfas says. He says the reception has gone over pretty well as the newest feed yard in the area, especially because Serfas regularly purchases straw and other feed stocks. “For the most part, it’s a good thing. Others view it as somebody else that’s competitive for land if they want to sell to another buyer.” Once the new yard is running full time, Serfas hopes to add a total of 40 employees to his staff. He says he is hopeful to
CROPS ‘N’ CATTLE | COVER STORY
Kevin Serfas owns and operates a farm and feedlot in southern Alberta. His next venture is to expand his cattle operations with a new 40,000-head capacity yard north of his home yard.
employ people in the local community, but has also sourced help from international destinations such as Mexico and South Africa in the past, two countries with established feeding industries and the skilled workers to match. This will be the first year Serfas experiments with the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) process for seeking additional talent at his feed yard. Serfas says it’s necessary to search abroad, saying that Canadians are just not interested in these types of jobs. “It’s too bad,” he says. “It can be real money and a reasonable job, but guys don’t want to do it.” On the farming side, however, it has been easier to find workers. Serfas says that despite the downturn in Alberta’s economy has proven to be at least a small consolation for his farm workers. Beyond the farm, Serfas is never at a loss of how to be kept busy. A father of five, he is actively involved in farmer boards and minor hockey. Currently in his second-to-last year with the Alberta Canola Producers Commission, Serfas feels fortunate to have served on
its board, and is currently its vice-chair. In addition, he is the ACPC’s representative for the national Canola Council of Canada. “It is definitely eye-opening,” says Serfas of the board work. “I think it’s important to always continuously learn.” Serfas most enjoys his time on governance and grower relations committees, adding that all the work done by provincial crop commissions is beneficial for all its farmer members. Arguably his biggest non-farming love, though, is hockey. A former player himself, he now finds himself behind the bench and serving as a chauffer to three of his children currently playing. He first became involved when one daughter began to play out of nearby Picture Butte, Alta., in 2009. Initially, the plan was to watch and cheer. However, Serfas’ big heart eventually landed him a spot on the local association’s board of directors, which lasted a decade, including the final three as its president. Serfas believes that without committed parents, hockey simply does not happen, and that was not something he could live with. 17
COVER STORY | CROPS ‘N’ CATTLE
From left to right: Employees Jackie Leppington and Kevin Campschroer talk with Kevin Serfas at the company’s feed yard.
“As for the future of the business, every day is a new day. You don’t know what opportunities will present themselves when you wake up in the morning. The future is exciting and we look forward to whatever gets thrown our way.” - Kevin Serfas “There’s a lot of people that like to bitch and moan and do nothing about it and not a lot who want to step up and be involved to take care of some of the associations,” he says. “I tell people I have a hard time saying ‘no.’ Once you say ‘yes,’ people always come looking. If it’s not for volunteers, none of this stuff works. Nobody gets paid to get yelled at.” Today, Serfas is the current president of the Golden Suns Athletic Association (GSAA) out of Taber, Alta., as well as its current U-13 peewee coach. He loves watching kids develop and 18
mature on and off the ice, knowing that hockey is something different and special for each one of them. After seeing and contributing to a young teen’s development, it often makes moving on that much harder. “That last game, it’s always tough,” he says. “You know that some of the kids will never play together again. I spend 500 hours a winter with these kids, that’s more time with that team than with my family. They kind of become a family of their own.” Serfas says it’s hard for both him and the kids knowing that this year’s season was cancelled due to COVID-19. He is confident GSAA will be back as soon as restrictions are lifted and a great team will take to the ice yet again. In the meantime, though, Serfas will be busy in the field and pens. He hopes to have his new feed yard fully operational and stocked by the fall. “As for the future of the business, every day is a new day,” he says. “You don’t know what opportunities will present themselves when you wake up in the morning. The future is exciting and we look forward to whatever gets thrown our way. As for the future of the region, the competitiveness is not going to stop. Water is the root of life and it will continue to attract people and business.”
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DATA SECURITY | HOW SECURE IS FARM DATA?
HOW SECURE IS FARM DATA?
Skepticism and privacy concerns still prevalent among many farmers By Jaclyn Krymowski Like much of the world, data now plays an integral role in our daily life. This is extended to modern agriculture from research to daily farm management. While this affords farmers many advantages and opportunities, it opens serious questions on data ownership and security. In a 2017 survey by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, 55 per cent of respondents said farm data privacy and security was either a barrier or significant barrier for them to adopt precision ag technology. Despite such concerns, companies collecting agricultural data continues to grow. According to Research and Markets, the entire precision agriculture sector alone will be worth $18.4 billion by 2024. To do their jobs, such technologies rely on complicated software that continually collect, interpret and store data. The same applies to advanced livestock recordkeeping software, robotic equipment, field maps and more. However, just because something is intended for on-farm use does not mean the farmer and employees are the only ones with access to it. Ultimately, the agreements between buyer and software company are intended to determine and uphold privacy—or are they? “Many companies don’t have a company wide data policy that everyone involved knows and understands,” explains Todd Janzen, attorney and co-founder of Janzen Agricultural Law, LLC. “They make all sorts of promises to farmers, but they’ve never taken the time to actually sit down and figure out what are company-wide policies with respect to farmer data.” 20
Value of data As digital connection becomes a bigger part of daily life, more of us have become aware to the value of data. Massive amounts of consumer information are collected and stored every day from the devices we use, providing incredible value to advertisers. Cüneyt Gürcan Akçora is a professor of computer science and statistics at the University of Manitoba and explains how in most industries they can do back-testing on this past information and compare it to the current year to understand its value. Agriculture data is not priced this way. “In agriculture, the main issue is the company doesn’t want data to leave their servers and they don’t want competitors to know what they are doing,” says Akçora. Janzen also points out it’s a common pitfall for ag data companies to assume they can create and implement their own policies similar to what other industries have done. “That mindset doesn’t appreciate that farming is a very unique business,” says Janzen, noting how farmers have different needs and concerns compared to most industries. “Agricultural data is proprietary business data, and it should be treated like consumer data is on Facebook or other social media platforms.” One person who believes that fellow farmers are truly unaware of what their data represents is Brian Tischler. He farms 3,000 acres in Mannville, Alta., and firmly believes many farmers do not comprehend the true value their data generates, stores and provides third parties. “Take something as simple as a moisture probe connected to
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DATA SECURITY | HOW SECURE IS FARM DATA?
the internet and giving georeferenced hour-by-hour moisture data,” he says. “What is that worth?” If valuable, there needs to be a way to quantify it. Tischler suggests it may need to be farmers like himself who advocate for research avenues or explore opportunities for compensation. Something else worth considering is how often companies are not only collecting, but also learning and storing data. Tischler compares this idea to how daily, data is constantly being collected when we are unaware including online activity, purchases, GPS tracking and which businesses we frequent. However, having all this information at the fingertips is extremely useful to farmers as it accumulates over time. “The more data that you have, the better decisions you can make going forward,” says Janzen.
Dairy farmer David Weins is the chair for Dairy Farmers of Manitoba and vice-chair for Dairy Farmers of Canada. He believes greater discussion from farmers is necessary surrounding data security concerns. Photo courtesy of Dairy Farmers of Manitoba
For example, the information collected on a 1,000-acre wheat field that includes weather, soil conditions and yield could be used to predict what might happen if a farmer made the move to plant 20,000 acres of wheat in the same area. For things like this, farmers need not only their data but a system and service to process it. It takes a very complicated series of computer processing, analysis and machine learning to take seemingly arbitrary bits of information and translate them into something that is valuable and understandable. “We have to model the data and learn a machine learning model from it even when we do not understand the nature of the data,” says Akçora. “Once the data is put into a digital format, algorithms can find relationship between parts of data.”
Data and privacy When farmers agree to use software and other data-collecting technology, they enter into a private agreement with the provider. Terms and policies will vary according to individual companies and the services provided. One of the issues, Tischler believes, is companies having their own systems without a national standard. With a unified platform and public access, private companies could still profit by interpreting available data in a meaningful way to the farmer.
Todd Janzen is the co-founder of Janzen Agricultural Law, LLC, where he serves both farmers and ag technology providers. Some of his work involves bringing greater contract transparency between farmer and technology providers. Photo courtesy of Janzen Agricultural Law, LLC
“My philosophy is farm data should be like Google Earth and be public, then the services could be provided from that data,” says Tischler. “I think that’s where the future of business lies.” Such a future could be possible, according to Akçora. “New concepts, such as federated learning, are currently being developed to train models on pieces of data that reside on different serves and locations.”
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DATA SECURITY | HOW SECURE IS FARM DATA? David Weins, chair of Dairy Farmers of Manitoba, milks 240 cows near Grunthal, Man. On his dairy farm, they use a variety of advance technology for daily farm management. This includes things like robotic milkers, automatic feeders and herd management software. All of these continually collect, store and interpret different kinds of data. While the data is intended only for on-farm purposes, Weins notes the agreements they sign onto with the companies for these systems aren’t as clear cut as he would like. “How much access they have to our data on the farm I am not altogether clear on,” he says. “Also, the level of security threats and security breaches isn’t clear either.” He notes a lot of these legitimate concerns and questions are often not discussed in farming circles. He agrees it may be up to farmers to make their concerns and questions known.
Who has the final say? A common concern is what should happen if data security becomes compromised or questionable, either by the company providing the service or foreign tampering. While there exist certain recommended data handling guidelines, such as those put forth by the Consultative Group
for International Agricultural Research, all legal issues and concerns come down to the original agreement made between the two parties. “At the end of the day, what matters is that contract between the farmer and the data company. You can’t expect a government agency is going to swoop in and solve the problem for you,” says Janzen. Weins believes that stronger regulation in these sensitive areas is important. Like Tischler, he believes having more standardization would be ideal. “I think this is one of those things that kind of creeps up on you a little bit here and there until we’re not as aware to the dangers,” he says. Getting farmers to appreciate the value of their data is important to getting solutions made around ag data privacy and security, says Tischler. “Imagine asking the companies I buy inputs from to install my app that tracks their stock information, their purchase cost, and how much they retail it for,” says Tischler. “The app would constantly send me that information because that’s exactly what’s happening with farmers data. Why does it sound crazy when the data flow is reversed?”
In 2021, recycle every jug Our recycling program makes it easier for Canadian farmers to be responsible stewards of their land for present and future generations. By taking empty containers (jugs, drums and totes) to nearby collection sites, farmers proudly contribute to a sustainable community and environment. When recycling jugs, every one counts. Ask ag-retailers for a collection bag, fill it with rinsed, empty jugs and return to a collection site.
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SEEDING TECHNOLOGY | AHEAD OF THE CURVE
AHEAD OF THE CURVE
Latest seeding tech gives more options than ever before By Natalie Noble The demand for Canadian farmers to produce more from every acre while remaining environmentally and economically sustainable means they have constantly sought new ways to farm better. Still, the perceived silver bullet of precision agronomy has been received with mixed reviews over the years. On the progression scale, they sit anywhere from leery, to gradual adopters, to bleeding-edge advocates of its paybacks. While farmers contemplate its adoption, so do the ag manufacturers behind the innovations delivering optimal technology to suit farmers’ unique needs and targets. Whether it’s a break-out product achieving never before seen results or a incremental improvement upon generations of development, there’s virtually an option to fit every situation. “A lot of the reason some farmers don’t leverage agronomy to a high level is they haven’t had the machinery to execute on it fully, or at least they haven’t believed they have,” says Noel Lempriere, vice-president of marketing and software solutions at Clean Seed Capital Group.
The SMART Seeder MAX The company is hopeful the recent November 2020 launch of its SMART Seeder Max and MAX-S will disrupt the seeder industry. The up-and-coming tech company shaking up the ag space describes its new machine as “the Tesla of seeding.” 26
“A lot of the reason some farmers don’t leverage agronomy to a high level is they haven’t had the machinery to execute on it fully, or at least they haven’t believed they have.” - Noel Lempriere Its latest innovation integrates a singulation vacuum meter with four digital volumetric meters per row across the entire seeder. “The SMART Seeder MAX-S really becomes the first true hybrid variable-rate seeder–planter,” says Colin Rush, Clean Seed’s chief operating officer. “It is the next generation creating a new class of seeding equipment.” Farmers can now experience the accurate rate distribution of planter-style singulation at the same time they meter seeds for a multitude of crops and up to four volumetric products independently. The SMART Seeder MAX also brings air seederstyle efficiency to seed and plant crops in a single pass, no-till machine with hyper accuracy. “It’s getting down to managing
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SEEDING TECHNOLOGY | AHEAD OF THE CURVE
Clean Seed’s SMART Seeder MAX-S launch is the first true hybrid variable rate seeder planter. It meters seeds for a multitude of crops and up to four volumetric products independently while efficiently seeding/planting crops in a single pass, no-till machine.
“In a very dry or a very wet year, we see tremendous root development and emergence out of the furrow a lot quicker when you’re not having to overcome that soil pressure. These plants really get a leap on traditional seeding methods.” - Colin Rush every foot of the field with up to five different products independently,” says Rush. “It validates this by tracking where those products go based on the sensors on the machine.” It also introduces the first-ever capability for six variable placement options, including deep-band, side-band and paired-row placements. Getting that precise placement of seed, and where products are placed around it, is vital to quick and even plant emergence. “This mitigates harvest timing issues, weed and disease pressure, and gives the best chance for those seeds to produce the maximum yield,” says Rush. The MAX technology presents a triple shot opener to split products into individual hoses and three-quarter-inch carbide tips to shatter soil for better seed-to-soil contact and packing capabilities. This includes a more aerated soil column for grain seed coverage as well as improved moisture absorption and drainage. “In a very dry or a very wet year, we see tremendous root development and emergence out of the furrow a lot quicker 28
when you’re not having to overcome that soil pressure,” says Rush. “These plants really get a leap on traditional seeding methods.” Such sophistication simplifies a farmer’s day. While traveling across the field, necessary adjustments are made without losing precious time. “Furrow product placement options are a 30-second change,” says Rush. “A farmer can go from a single row of cereal to a paired row by changing settings.” Clean Seed promises a push button plug-and-play scenario. Users program everything by touch screen on their chosen device with SeedSync software. The system’s portals are the control centre for accurate singulation and volumetric seeding output, as well as inputting prescriptions for farmers or their agronomists. While the SMART Seeder MAX has all the features to keep farmers ahead of the game as they increasingly adopt progressive agronomy, its design is such that benefits will be easy to see. The flat rate setup is maintained and controlled through machine speed and precision RTK. Set at the MAX, it delivers accurate seed and product delivery with turn compensation and row by row overlap protection. “It’s a set it and forget it scenario, the system will self-manage,” says Lempriere.
The Ultra SR & UltraPro II Longtime industry player in the air seeder market, SeedMaster’s latest innovation pairs its new Ultra SR with UltraPro II metering, launched in 2020. Merging the two technologies is SeedMaster’s answer to ongoing challenges around distribution variation in air seeders, tested over the years as high as 10 to 20 per cent from row to row. SeedMaster designed the UltraPro II to overcome the problem by avoiding product being split at distribution towers, thus upping its accuracy.
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SEEDING TECHNOLOGY | AHEAD OF THE CURVE
“Its metering capacity for seed and fertilizer applications is 25 per cent better than its first-generation predecessor and can be configured with its precision metering from two tanks into a single air stream,” says Kent. As proof, SeedMaster hired the Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute to test the UltraPro II’s even distribution across its drill. The results showed variation down to three-to-five per cent. SeedMaster’s engineers also designed its new products for greater precision in seed placement. “The history of seeding equipment has gone from air seeders to air drills, then to precision drills,” says Duane Kent, Alberta territory manager at SeedMaster. “The biggest advancement through each stage of this has been around placement.” To deliver farmers better placement accuracy, the Ultra SR is an improved design over other three- and four-rank toolbars on the market. Because its design is a single 60-foot rank unit, it’s extremely responsive to uneven terrain using sensors to monitor and automatically adjust as it travels across the field. All its dual knife openers along the rank stay engaged in the ground at the proper angle to achieve accuracy in placement, optimal depth and packing pressure. “It takes things to the next level in precise and consistent depth for both seed and fertilizer placement,” says Kent. “It also allows for consistent row spacing even if the drill is turning around corners or obstacles in the field.” Section control and VR capabilities continue SeedMaster’s tradition in the Ultra SR along with premium features that realize efficiency and return on investment for farmers.
The 2021 Ultra SR single rank unit with UltraPro II metering takes seeding to the next level with accuracy, depth and packing pressure. “It really helps keep that precise and consistent depth for both the seed and fertilizer placement,” says SeedMaster Alberta territory manager Duane Kent. “It also allows for consistent row spacing even if the drill is turning around corners or obstacles in the field.”
“We’ve got scales on each tank to make things easier for loading and also our SmartCal feature,” says Kent. “It allows the operator to calibrate in real time while they’re seeding. They can confirm or adjust their calibration as needed on the go [to] reduce input costs.” Efforts also meet the farmer’s need to work quickly with ease. For instance, the SR is a single unit, not a train. “Pulling a conventional air seeder usually involves at least two units, maybe even three. This is a much simpler operation for the farmer,” says Kent, adding it requires less horsepower and less physical material is in the field. Better innovation tackles residue management with the Ultra SR’s ground-driven rotating spoked wheels between its openers to pull residue through. “With all the openers at the back of the drill, it leaves a field finish not usually seen by an air drill,” says Kent. “There are no tire tracks driving over the seeded rows. Even any residue that might flow through ends up between the rows and nothing piles onto that actual seeding row.” Farmers operating this system have simple tablet access to auto-zone control, real time product weighing and five product VR control using Raven’s new Viper 4 with ISO capability. As Prairie farmers take on more advanced practices, companies continuously work to leverage the latest tech to ensure precision options are available. This spring will mark the first time farmers have access to arguably the most advanced and accurate seeding tech, reflecting industry’s response to the slow and steady adoption of precision ag at all stages of the growing season.
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CHEMICAL ADVANCES | WHAT’S NEW IN CROP PROTECTION?
WHAT’S NEW IN CROP PROTECTION?
Kochia a consistent issue, reflected in new chemistries By Jeff Melchior Ask many farmers across the Prairies about their most feared weed and chances are good that kochia will either be number 1 or not too far down the list. Ever since being discovered in southern Alberta in 2011, glyphosate-resistant kochia has spread across Western Canada like a tumbling wildfire. Chemical companies have worked overtime to develop new formulations to fight resistance in the annual broadleaf weed and extend the viability of glyphosate, its longtime herbicidal nemesis. Although new products have other unique properties, kochia control is a consistent theme. All three are registered for use in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba as well as the Peace region of B.C.
BASF Certitude features Group 27 protection on canola Certitude is a new pre-seed herbicide from BASF Canada designed to be applied pre-seed to canola. One of the biggest features setting Certitude apart from similar products is its inclusion of a Group 27 active ingredient called topramezone. This represents the first time a Group 27 ingredient can be used in a pre-seed canola herbicide, Andrew Geerligs says Andrew Geerligs, senior brand manager of insecticides with BASF Canada. Certitude’s other active ingredient is the Group 6 chemical bromoxynil. “I think what makes topramezone very significant, and a great story for Western Canada, is that it’s a new tool for canola growers dealing with challenging weeds,” he says. “What’s great 32
about Certitude also is that the two modes of action provide both contact and systemic activity and that is why we get such consistent performance.” A broadleaf herbicide, Certitude is intended to be mixed with glyphosate for control of several grass weeds as well, says Geerligs. “[Certitude] is an add-in. When mixed with glyphosate, those three modes of action are very complementary and with them you get very broad spectrum weed control.” Certitude helps sharpen the performance of glyphosate on a host of weeds including Lamb’s quarters and Redroot pigweed, says Geerligs. Most noteworthy, though, is its control of kochia and volunteer canola. “Those are the two most commonly targeted weeds in canola production,” he says. “[Certitude] really offers the industryleading control of kochia and volunteer canola. With kochia specifically, it controls a lot of the Groups 2-, 4- and 9-resistant biotypes.” The herbicide also increases canola farmers’ traditionally limited control options for volunteer canola. “If you are seeding InVigor canola you know your in-crop herbicide option is Liberty and if you’re seeding a Roundup Ready crop you know your in-crop herbicides are going to be glyphosate. So being able to incorporate these new and different modes of action for control of weeds really helps set your crop up for success.” Certitude is in some ways a response to growing awareness of the risks volunteer canola can present to canola crops, says Geerligs. “I think some growers in the past have thought, ‘If I’m growing a canola crop maybe having volunteers come up is OK.’ But as more information and work is done we know volunteers don’t
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CHEMICAL ADVANCES | WHAT’S NEW IN CROP PROTECTION? yield as well as the seed you’re planting. Also, those volunteers can be hosts for pathogens like clubroot, blackleg and can even increase flea beetle populations.” Modern thinking behind canola crop density can also require action on volunteer canola, he says. “We know canola yields are maximized at five to seven plants per square foot. More than that is not optimal and can even cause lodging challenges.” Farmers often ask BASF representatives the best time to leave between pre-seed application and seeding, adds Geerligs. “Our recommendation is the closer to time of seeding the better as it allows for more weeds to germinate,” he says. “Certitude does not offer any residual properties so you want to have the weeds present and actively growing. That’s going to give you your best results.”
controls Group 2-, 4- and glyphosate-resistant kochia biotypes when tank-mixed with glyphosate, she says. Nufarm claims ThunderHawk offers extended residual control, up to three weeks in some cases, making it a good fit for control of volunteer canola. “It’s very strong on volunteer canola because of the florasulam in it which offers some residual activity. That’s a benefit to growers in the black soil zone that have some diverse environmental conditions with weeds emerging at different times in the spring.”
Corteva’s Rezuvant XL boosts kochia-killing ingredient
Nufarm expands pre-seed portfolio with ThunderHawk Nufarm’s ThunderHawk is a pre-seed burndown herbicide for a wide spectrum of broadleaf weeds ahead of barley, oats and wheat. It’s the latest in the company’s suite of pre-seed herbicides which also includes Conquer, GoldWing and BlackHawk. Minimizing herbicide resistance was a top-of-mind priority going into the development of Holly Nicoll ThunderHawk, says Holly Nicoll, head of marketing with Nufarm Canada. The sheer number of modes of action attest to this. The product includes Group 2 (florasulam), Group 4 (MCPA ester) and Group 14 (pyraflufenethyl) active ingredients. “Traditionally, farmers have done a pre-seed burndown with a glyphosate-only application and as a result there’s an increasing amount of weed species becoming resistant to Group 9 chemistry,” says Nicoll. Nufarm urges tank-mixing ThunderHawk with glyphosate for the best possible control on a larger range of weeds. “When you tank-mix it with glyphosate you are up to four active ingredients and it’s just a really solid strategy to offer multiple modes of action on several weeds for broad spectrum weed control.” Fighting kochia and kochia resistance continues to be a priority for Nufarm, and ThunderHawk is no exception. The product 34
Corteva Agriscience, the amalgamation between Dow Agrisciences, DuPont and Pioneer launched in 2015, continues to build its portfolio of crossspectrum herbicides with Rezuvant XL. Featuring Groups 1 and 4 active ingredients as well as the company’s proprietary Arylex active ingredient, Rezuvant XL is intended for barley as well as spring and winter wheat. It is primarily meant for black soils.
Rezuvant XL features control of grass weeds such as wild oats, green foxtail and barnyard grass, broadleaf weeds including cleavers, hemp-nettle and wild buckwheat as well as a number of others in both categories. Its recommended tank mix is MCPA Ester 600. “It has the Arylex active which we’re really excited about because it performs consistently over a wide range of conditions, in the process opening up some more spray days for folks as well,” says Orr. “It also features the convenience of a co-formulated product instead of components in a box.” According to Orr, a major difference between Rezuvant XL and its 2019-released namesake product is expanded control over kochia. This, he says, is due to 25 per cent extra content of the Group 4 active ingredient fluroxypyr in the newer herbicide. Corteva’s Prominex, a new annual and perennial broadleaf herbicide for cereal crops, sports the same amount of fluroxypyr. “In combination with Arylex active and clopyralid for superior thistle control, [Prominex] features better and more consistent control of kochia and other weeds,” says Orr.
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ADVERTORIAL | AGSMART READY TO SHOWCASE TODAY’S LATEST AG TECH
AGSMART READY TO SHOWCASE TODAY’S LATEST AG TECH With the ag tech space constantly evolving since AgSmart’s launch in 2019, there are many new players and technologies entering the industry. Olds College and Agri-Trade, the producers of the expo, are excited with the potential for what is to come for AgSmart this year. The outlook for the event is positive with the expo being completely outdoors, the summer timeframe and with the goal of 1,000 people onsite each day. The event plans have incorporated the COVID regulations, prior to the current restrictions, with safety being the top priority. There will be continuous monitoring of the requirements and the plans will be adapted as the requirements change. AgSmart will be showcasing what’s new and coming down the pipeline through interactive exhibits, industry expert sessions and hands-on demos. Farmers can expect to see and learn from top industry influencers such as Raven with their DOT platform, the latest in drone tech, new livestock focused innovations and so much more. “Vantage Canada shares AgSmart and Smart Farm’s dedication and focus on innovation in the agriculture industry so it’s a perfect opportunity to showcase our latest ag technology in action,” says Candace Warder of Vantage Canada. “The opportunity for everyone in agriculture to experience the latest technology available and decide what to integrate into their farming operation is valuable. We look forward to connecting 36
with farmers and growers to build modern precision solutions with efficiency, accuracy and economics in mind.” The event is a unique opportunity for producers to engage with the Smart Farm and do a deeper dive into the projects and their outcomes. These projects will be showcased through each of the interactive elements within the expo, such as sensor cluster demo, regenerative grazing sessions and hyperlayer data. “AgSmart provides the College with a unique and critical platform to demonstrate technologies and share results with our key audiences: technology developers and technology users (farmers),” says Joy Agnew, Associate Vice President, Applied Research. “The event also provides us with an opportunity to get important feedback from stakeholders on technologies and practices to explore and questions to ask in future research projects. It’s extremely important to remain as connected as possible with our clients and the ecosystem as a whole and AgSmart allows us to do that.” Ag tech related companies can showcase their product or service at the expo through exhibits or partnership with the event. Attendee tickets will be available this spring. For additional information, visit AgSmartOlds.ca or follow AgSmartOlds on social media for the latest updates.
WHAT IF INTEREST RATES WENT UP? | FARMING YOUR MONEY
What if interest rates went up? Being in the world of finance, interest rates are always a subject of discussion. Whether it is a casual conversation with friends or an in-depth meeting with clients negotiating the terms of a mortgage, it is a topic that never gets old. Are interest rates up, down or static?
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.
There are certain well-known misconceptions about interest rates. Certain people think that eventually they have to go up. No, that is not correct. Interest rates are not like commodity prices. There is the saying, “low prices cure low prices.” This does not apply in interest rates. We have been in a low interest rate economy for many years. Depending on your definition of low rates, you could say we have had a couple decades of low rates. There is also a belief that government sets the rates. Although the government does exert a large influence, they do not set all rates. The government, through the Bank of Canada, sets what is known as the overnight lending rate. It is commonly explained as the rate banks charge other banks to borrow money. From that, the banks and credit unions set their prime lending rate. They are not obligated to follow the Bank of Canada’s rate. But, typically, when the Bank of Canada changes its rates, your bank’s prime lending rate changes. We saw this as COVID-19 struck and the economy began to shut down. We saw unprecedented rate drops. The prime rate dropped by amounts unheard of in the past. In less than four weeks, we saw prime drop 150 basis points. That is 1.5 per cent—from 3.95 per cent to 2.45 per cent. Typically, changes in rates happen in only 25-point increments and it is rare. This time, changes came fast and furious. Where the government has much less influence, though, is on fixed rates. Those rates are set off the bond market. While the government does have influence in that marketplace, there are many other market drivers. In my 30-plus years of analyzing rates, the one aspect that has changed with low rates is the minimal impact the government can have on the economy. The last time the Bank of Canada 37
FARMING YOUR MONEY | WHAT IF INTEREST RATES WENT UP? lowered its overnight rate it went to 0.25 per cent. There is zero room to move on that. If an overnight rate of 0.25 per cent does not stimulate the economy, a 0.15 per cent rate will not, either. So, they can slow the economy down by raising rates, but they cannot stimulate it anymore. What have these lower rates done to farming? With my clients, they have been encouraged to borrow. My clients range in age, wealth and farm size. Those parameters affect how much they borrow, as well. There is no standard amount with my clients. But overall, they have borrowed more in the past few years. It is safe to say that we are at the bottom of the rate barrel. I do not anticipate an increase for at least couple years based on the economists I follow. It is prudent to analyze what a rate increase would do to your farm. It is especially prudent to analyze the existing debt that you have. For the most part, you cannot control the interest cost on your current debt. Certain loans can be locked in, but eventually they mature and you have to renew. If you consider a new purchase, you are in control to go forward or not. Existing debt is where the risk is. To determine the impact changing rates would have, I decided to look at real farms. The objective was to see how they have been affected by lower rates, and what rising rates would mean. The first thing I realized was how diverse the reliance on borrowed money was between farms. When measuring the cost of the debt in dollar per acre, the difference was vast. Needless to say, the more reliant you are on borrowed money, the more impact changes in interest rates may have on your operation. Because the variances between farms was so high, I put the farms into three categories:
Group One These farmers did not have a lot of debt. They were wellestablished and not growing. They had not bought land in a long time and are focused on getting rid of debt.
Group Two These farmers had expanded a lot recently but are not growing right now. They had not bought land in the past three years but they have been trading equipment.
Group Three These are aggressive farmers who have bought a lot recently and are continue to buy. This includes a lot of land and equipment. I went back five years to look at actual rates and what they have done. For mortgages in the five-year fixed term category, rates have come down from around 4.25 per cent to around 3.55 per cent. This is a basis drop of 70 points. Equipment rates have 38
moved more because they were around 5.25 per cent and, now, they are around 3.75 per cent. This is a 150-point drop. So, I will focus on these two drops. Then, I will examine what a 200-point increase would look like. 70 Basis Point Drop $/acre
140 Basis Point Drop $/acre
200 Basis Point Increase $/acre
When I look at this chart, there are a few things that stand out. The farmers in Group One do not have a lot to worry about regarding higher rates. They have not benefited as much from the drop, either. The farms in the other groups have seen a noticeable change lowering their cost of borrowing, but also face risks if rates were to rise. If we think that an average break even of $350/acre, a $12 increase would be a 3.4 per cent increase in costs and a $20 increase would represent an increase of 5.7 per cent. I think that is significant considering this is something you have very little control over. This would be my warning: If you are currently an aggressive borrower and are rapidly expanding, your break even could increase by $20/acre because of rising rates and you would still be paying reasonable low rates like 5.95 per cent to 7.95 per cent. So, this is not a scare tactic using unrealistic predictions like interest rates going back to 20 per cent as they were in the 1980s. I am talking about rates rising, but still being relatively low. If you struggle with your break even now, a modest rise in rates could make it worse. I heed this warning not because I believe rates are about to imminently rise, but because they are not going down any further. Most farmers know what a $50/tonne increase in fertilizer prices will do to their bottom line. Do those same farmers know what a 200 basis point increase in interest rates could do to their farm? Talk to your lenders and have this discussion. See what protections can be put in place. Find out how much payments would rise if rates went up. Calculate how that will affect your break even. None of these steps will change rates going up or down, but at least you will understand the impact.
This isn’t a business for pretenders.
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Always read and follow label directions. AgSolutions, INVIGOR, and LIBERTY are registered trademarks of BASF, used under license by BASF Canada Inc. © 2021 BASF Canada Inc.
SPRAYING 101 | WHERE DOES THE SPRAY GO?
Where Does the Spray Go? 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.
In agriculture, environment and economy are intertwined. Farmers strive to obtain the maximum return on their inputs. They study incremental returns and avoid unnecessary application, especially if conditions don’t warrant it. The financial incentive is powerful, and waste is a four-letter word. This applies to seed, fertilizer and pesticide.
different, but depending on operator experience, 30 to 50 gallons are usually needed to push product from the tank to the last nozzle. Only part of that is lost to the ground, as boom sections can be shut off as soon as product has reached every nozzle of that section. For now, assume 0.2 gallons per foot of boom is lost.
But there are plenty of other places where spray applications incur waste. As with time efficiency, it’s a good idea to identify where this waste occurs, and the only tool needed is a sharp pencil.
Spraying itself is relatively straightforward. Swath and sectional control handle the overlaps, but in less ideal terrain, double application is known to account for four to five per cent of the area to reach non-square parts of the field. This is even more likely when the outer section is 10 feet or more. Early turn on of the boom prior to leaving the headland, to allow boom to reach operating pressure, adds to this.
When might we incur waste in the spray application process? •
Mixing more than we need because we don’t trust the flow meter or the tank gauge entirely, or don’t know the exact field size.
Priming the boom before the first swath.
Overlapping due to curvy terrain and coarse sectional control.
Rinsing the tank remainder and boom.
Spray drift away from the intended swath.
How big are the losses? Let’s say we have a clean sprayer and need to spray 160 acres before moving to a new crop and product. We plan to apply 10 gallons per acre and have a 1,200-gallon tank with a 120-foot boom. That means we need 1,600-gallons of spray mix in total. Once we are at the field, we prime the boom. Each sprayer is 40
Figure 1: Air-activated shutoff for individual nozzles reduces section size at a reasonable cost. With an average nozzle, we can expect about two per cent of the product lost to airborne drift. Most airborne won’t return to the ground within the field borders, so it’s a complete loss.
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SPRAYING 101 | WHERE DOES THE SPRAY GO? acre. Priming the boom with 0.4 gallons per foot, allowing for all associated feed lines, consumes 48 gallons, but only wastes half of that, or 1.5 per cent, of the total volume needed for the field. Four per cent overlap consumes another 64 gallons.
Figure 2: Most of the spray that travels more than five metres after leaving boom stays airborne and should be considered a total loss from the field. As we finish, the pump draws air before the tank is empty due to sloshing or foaming, and a 50- to 60-gallon remainder is common. We’re assuming five per cent of tank volume remains. We also need to purge spray from the boom at cleanout, consuming an estimated 0.4 gallons per foot of boom. This occurs after the field is completely sprayed and is therefore considered waste. So how does this add up? The following table shows the approximate losses associated with five setups. Table 1: Spray mix losses during a sprayer operation. Scenario 1 = baseline; Scenario 2 = low application volume; Scenario 3 = baseline with recirculating boom, tank level monitor, and low-drift nozzles; Scenario 4 = large area between cleaning; Scenario 5 = large area with recirculating boom, tank level monitor and low-drift nozzles. In the first scenario, we spray just 160 acres at 10 gallons per
Tank Cleanout Waste
Boom Cleanout Waste
% of total applied spray 5
% of total applied spray 42
In the Scenario 3, let’s assume we use better technologies such as a recirculating boom that returns the initial prime volume to the tank, eliminating any waste. We’ll also upgrade to individual nozzle sectional control, reducing overlap to one per cent. And, since we want to know exactly what’s left in the tank, let’s invest in an AccuVolume system to precisely monitor tank volume. This allows us to make small rate adjustments up or down to be sure that as much of the mixed product goes onto the sprayed swath as possible.
Total Applied Spray
% of total applied spray 4
If we add to that a conservative two per cent drift loss, it sums to a surprising 14 per cent of the total spray volume. For those that use lower water volumes, Scenario 2, the volumetric losses are slightly less, but their proportion is higher, now accounting for 23 per cent of the total spray mix.
% of total applied spray 3
Upon cleaning the boom, we need to push the spray mix out of all the plumbing after the pump, as it has nowhere else to go. At an assumed 0.4 gallons per foot, that’s another 48 gallons, or three per cent.
Area Between Cleanings
% of total applied spray 2
If we have five per cent of the tank volume left over, that’s 60 gallons. That amount is so small it doesn’t even register on the sight gauge but nonetheless it represents another four per cent of the total sprayed amount.
WHERE DOES THE SPRAY GO? | SPRAYING 101 higher than we assumed. If we average the scenarios, there is 10 to 15 per cent waste. At, say, $200,000 spent on pesticide for a single spraying season, that’s $20,000 to $30,000 worth of product and water hauled that ends up where it doesn’t belong. Beyond the time and money, there can also be environmental consequences depending on how that waste is treated. Here are some things that can be done. Figure 3: Recirculating booms allows the spray mix to pass through entire length of boom without being sprayed, saving waste during priming and allowing waste-free boom rinses. When the sump begins to empty, we can introduce some water from the clean water tank to push the last of the mix to the boom (a continuous rinse system makes this easy).
Figure 4: An AccuVolume sensor shows the exact volume left in the tank at any slope position and with one gallon resolution, allowing greater accuracy when filling and emptying. We’ll assume our sump waste is now reduced to 12 gallons. We still need to dispose of the content of the boom somehow, so the recirculating boom offers no saving there. But let’s also add better low-drift nozzles to reduce drift by 50 per cent (now one per cent total volume). Total loss now sits at just six per cent.
Know the exact area of the field to be sprayed.
Study your sprayer plumbing and consider improvements such as recirculating booms and continuous clean out.
Improve monitoring of tank content to allow lower remainders.
Consider individual nozzle shut off to improve sectional control. These are part of Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) systems but can also be achieved with less expensive valves.
Plan spray operations to minimize the amount of product changeovers.
Consider direct injection.
The return on investment for plumbing improvements can be high and result in considerable future savings over the life of the sprayer. It’s worth thinking about.
Spray 4 Times In 1 Pass!
Improve Coverage using Full Season DualFan nozzles with the air-injected TADF, or the BPDF for PWM systems A full season nozzle means that you can use the same nozzle in drift-critical burndown applications and coverage-critical applications such as contact herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides.
Figure 5: Low-drift nozzles such as this AirMix (Agrotop) SoftDrop reduce airborne drift by 50 to 90 per cent. The last two rows in the table repeat the first and third scenarios for a larger sprayed area (1,000 acres) before a tank cleaning is needed. This doesn’t change the magnitude of the volumetric loss, but reduces its proportion. Per cent loss is down by a factor of two from the 160-acre interval, to three to seven per cent. Experienced operators might cheat the system a bit by mixing the required pesticide with extra water to make up for the plumbing waste. Doing so prevents extra pesticide from being consumed, but it doesn’t reduce the inherent inefficiency. This exercise suggests that waste from spraying is probably
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Blended Pulse™ is a trademark of and used with permission of Capstan Ag Systems, Inc.
NEWS & INNOVATIONS
Farmcash The fields are thawing, calving season is underway and bees are snug in their hives awaiting spring flowers. It’s a new year and are you prepared to manage another season of your farming operation’s cash flow? FarmCash provides producers of over 50 agricultural commodities – including all major crops, livestock and honey – up to $1 million with the first $100,000 interest free and the remainder at TD prime minus 0.75 per cent, giving western Canadian producers low interest rate benefits along with the flexibility of using a cash financing alternative. Designed to be more than just a cash advance to cover operating costs, FarmCash is a cash flow management tool to help you improve the long-term profitability of your farm and weather any unexpected hiccups that could jeopardize your commodity in the growing season.
Learn more about how you can apply for a FarmCash spring advance and receive funds in as little as three to five business days using our simple and convenient online application at FarmCashAdvance.com, or call 1-855-376-2274 to speak with a FarmCash representative.
Do you have unexpected vet bills, anticipate another year of bad weather, or need to purchase additional supplies and equipment? FarmCash can give you cash flow flexibility and help grow your long-term profitability.
The Advance Payments Program is a federal loan program administered by The Alberta Wheat Commission. It offers Canadian farmers marketing flexibility through interest-free and low interest cash advances.
FP Genetics The Naming of New Seed Varieties Will Honour Veterans FP Genetics Inc., and The Royal Canadian Legion, Saskatchewan Command, announce a new collaboration that will seek to honour veterans and highlight the sacrifices they have made in service of community and country. “The legislation that applies to naming plant varieties operates on the principle of “One Variety – One Name.” This affords us a unique, timeless and global opportunity to recognize veterans for their contributions to Canada by naming new crop varieties in their honour,” says Chris Churko, CEO of FP Genetics. “Symbolically, these varieties namesakes will further contribute to the global community through high quality food production, which Canadian farmers are known for.” As part of this collaboration, The Legion’s Saskatchewan Command will accept and review applications from military, RCMP veterans and their families, making recommendations to FP Genetics for variety names. The Royal Canadian Legion – Saskatchewan Command and FP Genetics are excited to release the name of the first veteran chosen in this collaboration, Harold Hague. The official variety 44
name is AB Hague, which is a new high-yielding feed barley bred by Pat Juskiw and team at the Field Crop Development Centre, Olds College. The Royal Canadian Legion, Saskatchewan Command, serves veterans and the communities in which it operates through advocacy work for the care and benefit of all who have served Canada. The Legion provides representation, services, and assistance to veterans at no cost. The Legion understands the importance of honouring past sacrifices and acknowledging the courage of those who served and still serve today. Wholly-owned by more than 160 local seed growers, FP Genetics is dedicated to providing superior seed genetics to Western Canadian farmers. FP Genetics has developed an industry-leading portfolio of more than 60 certified seed varieties of various crop types including wheat, durum, barley, oats, flax, pulses, and hybrid fall rye.
Providing your operation with a steady supply of premium diesel engineered to increase the fuel economy and efficiency of your equipment.
Available in Bulk & at 60+ UFA Cardlocks.
© 2021 UFA Co-operative Ltd. All rights reserved. 13681
EVEN FARMERS IN AN AD FOR WEED CONTROL,
GRASS AND PERENNIAL BROADLEAF
GROUPS 4, 6, 27
GROUPS 2, 6, 27
*Tank mix Olympus® with Roundup® herbicide and follow in-crop with Varro® or Velocity m3 herbicide for optimal results.
WOULD RATHER NOT BE SPRAYING WEEDS. We’re guessing you didn’t get into farming for the thrill of controlling weeds. That’s where Bayer cereal herbicides come in. With a wide roster of solutions, you can be sure there’s one that’s right for your operation, no matter what cereal you’re growing.
GET BACK TO FARMING. GET BACK TO WHAT YOU LOVE.
Always read and follow label directions. Bayer, Bayer Cross, Olympus®, Infinity® FX, Luxxur® and Varro® are registered trademarks of Bayer Group. Roundup® is a registered trademark of Bayer Group, Monsanto Canada ULC licensee. Bayer CropScience Inc. is a member of CropLife Canada. ©2021 Bayer Group. All rights reserved.
TOUGH WEEDS IN CANOLA? STRIKE BACK WITH A LITTLE ‘TUDE.
Get a new mode of action pre-seed for a new level of certainty.
To help maximize your canola’s yield potential, you need to put the smackdown on weeds early. New Certitude® herbicide is the pre-seed solution that provides exceptional control of challenging weeds like resistant kochia and volunteer canola. Certitude is also the first Group 27 chemistry for canola production, making it an ideal tool for helping to ensure the sustainability of your farm. We’ve stepped up our game. Now it’s your turn. Visit agsolutions.ca/certitude to learn more. Learn more about our canola solutions portfolio at agsolutions.ca/canolastrong
Always read and follow label directions. AgSolutions and CERTITUDE are registered trade-marks of BASF, used under license by BASF Canada Inc. © 2021 BASF Canada Inc.