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Carbon Tax Impacts Innovations in Spraying Is Canola Creating a False Sense of Security? The Myth’s of Grain Storage Busted Unprecedented Opportunities in Cannabis Prairie farmers and ranchers lead the way to a sustainable future
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Inside this issue
The Magazine of Sustainable Agriculture
Our Prairie Climate
A Farmer’s Viewpoint
Those Wily Weeds
Approaching climate change and adaptation from the farmers’ perspective
The carbon tax and its impact on agriculture
Revisiting integrated weed management
Water for Farming Prairie spring conditions and forecast
Sprayers 101 Four innovations in spraying
Where the Iron Hits the Dirt Busting the myths of grain storage
Opportunities and challenges in the hemp and cannabis sectors
Farming Your Money Is canola lulling us into a false sense of security?
FARMING FOR TOMORROW thanks the farmers and ranchers, and their families, who shared their insights about farming for tomorrow.
CONTACT US: Do you have a comment about an article in FARMING FOR TOMORROW? We would like to hear from you. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Publisher L.T. (Tom) Bradley
• Twitter.com/FFT_magazine • Facebook.com/farming4tomorrow • Website: www.farmingfortomorrow.ca
Marketing Dawn Redmond
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Contributor Kiera Raine
Editing Kathryn van der Laan
Design Brian Wood
Disclaimer This publication is based on information available as of the publication date. References to particular products or services should not be regarded as endorsements. © Spring 2017
Our Prairie Climate
Approaching climate change and adaptation from the farmers’ perspective Dr. David Sauchyn Dr. Sauchyn is the Senior Research Scientist at the Prairie Adaptation Research Collaborative (PARC). His main research interest is in the climate of the past millennium in Canada’s western interior and what past climate can tell us about the climate to expect in the near future.
Did you ever have difficulty recognizing a familiar place because you approached it from a different direction? A few years ago, before a meeting in Sherwood Park, I had a chance to visit nearby Cooking Lake for the first time in many years. I had trouble locating our favourite duck hunting spot, because I’d taken a different approach to the lake than our dad did those many years ago. In a similar way, how we view climate change, and its consequences, can depend on how we approach the subject. Basically, there are two different approaches. They are labeled top down and bottom up in this diagram. Top Down
Social/Economic Development GHG Scenarios Global Climate Change
Regional Climate Change Regional Impacts
Adaptation Policies and Practices
Vulnerability: Sensitivity and Adaptive Capacity Resources: Natural, Fiscal, Institutional, Technological, Information
One of the major concerns about climate change is what it means for global food production and security. This concern has resulted in a large number of studies, reports and scientific assessments. They’ve typically taken a top down approach, using models to simulate global and regional climate changes and the impacts on food production. To incorporate the influence of human activity, the models are run using data and assumptions
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Our Prairie Climate about social and economic development and emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG scenarios). Every climate model predicts a longer growing season for Canada. The obvious conclusion is that there is significant potential for increased production and crop diversity, and for the expansion of agricultural land to higher latitudes, where today you’ll find mostly bush, muskeg and rocky soil, and no grid roads or railroads.
models so that the IPCC would have the best climate change projections for each AR. While each report, from AR1 (1990) to AR5 (2013), has included more information about the social dimensions of climate change, the IPCC has been led and dominated by climate science. This top down process has been a template for national and regional scientific assessments and for major studies of climate change impacts and adaptation. This approach makes some sense when you’re dealing with the entire world; the strongest indications of climate change come from the largest sample, but while climate change is global, the impacts and adaptations are local. People are exposed and respond to conditions where they live. Top down research makes assumptions about how people are affected by weather and how they deal with it. This research either assumes no adaptations, which simplifies the analysis but is unrealistic, or certain adaptations are assumed or anticipated. Why anticipate? Just ask! Farmers are experts on adaptation.
Every climate model predicts a longer growing season for Canada. The obvious conclusion is that there is significant potential for increased production and crop diversity
In a typical ‘top down’ climate and crop modeling study, the UN’s Food Agriculture Organization (FAO) concluded that by 2050 “in the case of wheat, Canada is projected by most models to replace the former Soviet –––––– 6 Union to become one of the top three exporters in the world”. First of all, as far as I know, Canada is already amongst the largest exporters of wheat, and secondly, this prognosis assumes that Canadian grain farmers would choose to seed more wheat in a warming climate, rather than grow higher value crops. This view of Canada from a distance, as a cold but warming country, prompted a Yale University economist and a UK anthropologist to conclude that global warming is good for Canada and the more the better. What they don’t seem to realize is that taking advantage of a warming climate will require adaptation to exploit the extra growing degree days, while minimizing the adverse effects of weather extremes, and amplified climatic variability, and the impacts of more and different pests, pathogens and invasive species, who also like shorter, warmer winters.
All climate change impact assessments have the same ultimate objective: to inform planned adaptation to climate change by identifying the risks, vulnerabilities and opportunities. The top down approach produces information on exposure to climate change – what is changing and where. But risk and vulnerability exist only if and where exposure has consequences, which depend on an array of social factors that determine sensitivity to weather and climate, and on access to various types of resources that enable a community or business to adapt to climate change and manage the risks. These social factors can be measured and evaluated using secondary data from a census or survey, although this information is aggregated by geographic units, like census districts, and only for certain variables. Aggregate data don’t capture the diversity of experience and perspective that characterizes Canadian agriculture, a unique sector because it consists of hundreds of thousands of independent and adaptable businesses. Therefore, any study of climate change in a rural area has to start on the ground speaking with the
What they don’t seem to realize is that taking advantage of a warming climate will require adaptation to exploit the extra growing degree days, while minimizing the adverse effects of weather extremes
The top down approach is a legacy of seeing climate change as a scientific problem. When public concerns about the warming of the earth were first raised in the 1980s, scientists were consulted; they’d known for almost 100 years that the burning of fossil fuels would cause global warming. The United Nations created the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and asked it to produce a series of assessment reports (ARs), each one a synthesis of a large amount of science published since the previous report. Climate modeling centers around the world ran the latest versions of their
Our Prairie Climate farm and ranch families about how they are affected by extreme weather and the best practices for dealing with it.
and innovative farming practices. Thus we expected
A strong personal bias for the bottom up approach reflects my experience with a series of studies of prairie agricultural communities. We consulted a sample of producers who live within a certain distance of a town where they get most of their goods and services. My colleagues in the social sciences interviewed hundreds of producers in their homes and at meetings in town. This bottom up interdisciplinary research has produced insights that would escape a top down approach. Here are a just two examples:
through a changing climate. We heard some of this,
• From irrigators we expected to hear mostly about drought, but they told us about how recent floods had damaged infrastructure designed to deliver water not get rid of it. They are concerned about the potential for more intense rain and flooding in a warming climate.
• Prairie agriculture is arguably Canada’s most adaptive industry; increasingly adopting advanced technology
producers to tell us that further technological innovation will sustain, and even raise, production but we were also frequently told about the high cost of these technologies and also that there is only so much extreme weather that a single farm business can withstand. Thus many producers talked about the importance of community and acting collectively, whether through a local watershed stewardship group or calling on government to support rural development and sustainable farming practices, which they seem to have backed away from, for example, with the demise of PFRA. These and other insights, gained by seeing climate change from the producers’ perspective, are important outcomes of our climate change research. They also provide context for the direction and interpretation of the climate science, allowing us to convert measurements and data into knowledge and understanding.
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A Farmer’s Viewpoint
The carbon tax impacts on agriculture Kevin Hursh, P.Ag. Kevin Hursh is an agricultural consultant, journalist and farmer. He has been an agricultural commentator for more than 30 years serving as editor for Farm Credit Canada’s national bi‑monthly magazine AgriSuccess and writing regular columns for Canada’s top agricultural publications. Kevin is a well-known speaker at agricultural conferences and conventions. Kevin and his wife Marlene, own and operate a grain farm near Cabri in southwestern Saskatchewan, growing a wide array of crops. Twitter: @KevinHursh1
The carbon tax has been a leading topic of discussion among farmers over the winter. Producers want to know how it will be implemented and how much it will add to their costs. Unfortunately, the answers aren’t at all clear and they vary greatly across the country.
Different provinces, different plans Alberta has moved ahead with a carbon tax at levels ahead of the federally imposed minimum. While farm fuel is exempt, producers in Alberta argue that the tax will increase costs in many other ways. For instance, fertilizer will be hit at manufacture and at transport. Manitoba is still working on its carbon tax scheme, while Saskatchewan is refusing to implement a carbon tax leading the federal government to say that it will impose a tax. According to the Saskatchewan government, a $50 a tonne tax on carbon to be imposed by 2022 will cost farmers a total of $11 to $15 an acre.
What about sequestration? Producers often argue that modern farming practices such as minimum tillage and direct seeding sequester carbon in the soil. Agriculture, they say, should be compensated for removing carbon from the atmosphere, or at the very least exempted from a carbon tax. This is a complicated topic. Companies and organizations are doing carbon footprint studies looking at emissions and removals on a carbon dioxide equivalent basis. One of those companies, S & T Consultants has found that the carbon footprint varies dramatically across the country depending upon the region, precipitation, the types and amounts of fertilizer used, tillage practices and the crops grown. The loss of nitrous oxide to the atmosphere from nitrogen fertilizer applications is a big factor. The global
A Farmer’s Viewpoint warming potential of nitrous oxide is said to be 298 times that of carbon dioxide. When all the calculations and assumptions are made, S & T’s carbon footprint studies based on life cycle analysis show that crop production is a net emitter of greenhouse gases. On oats for example, the emissions average 350 kilograms of greenhouse gases per tonne of oat production. Carbon footprint studies would seem to indicate that producers are unlikely to be compensated for carbon sequestration.
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Competitive issues While it’s difficult to predict the actions of U.S. President Donald Trump, the rhetoric to date has the U.S. refusing to implement any form of carbon taxation. If Canadian farmers have to contend with a carbon tax and American farmers do not, the Canadian industry will be less competitive in world markets.
There will also be competitive differences from one province to the next as each jurisdiction comes up with its own pricing and exemptions. Ontario and Quebec have opted for a cap and trade system rather than carbon taxation. Critics argue this system will be manipulated to give them an unfair advantage over other jurisdictions.
Overall theory is flawed In pure economic terms, a carbon tax makes sense. When something is taxed, the increase in price should lead to reduced consumption. Thus a carbon tax is considered an elegant tool for guiding market forces. The reality is likely to be quite different. How will farmers react when faced with higher costs? Crops still need to be planted, harvested and transported. Fertilizer and crop protection products are still required to optimize production. How will a new tax push farmers to cut greenhouse gas emissions?
Stay tuned There are still many unknowns, particularly in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. A carbon tax is coming, but how will it be implemented and what will be exempt? In Alberta, a lot of the money collected is being returned to low income earners.
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Meanwhile, the whole country will be watching the showdown between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall. And a few years from now, the whole country might suffer from the balkanized mess created by the unequal application of this tax. 17ACU033_Ag Print – Rooted Farming for Tomorrow 1/2 page vertical (3.375” x 9.625”)
Those Wily Weeds
Revisiting integrated weed management Jeanette Gaultier, Ph.D., P.Ag., CCA. Jeanette completed her B.Sc. in Agronomy at the University of Manitoba and continued her studies at the Universities of Manitoba and Saskatchewan to earn her Ph.D. in Soils & Pesticide Science. She has worked for Manitoba Agriculture since 2008, first as Pesticide Specialist and more recently as the provincial Weed Specialist. Jeanette lives with her husband and three children near Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes, Manitoba, where they operate a U-pick strawberry farm.
‘Integrated weed management can be defined as a holistic approach to weed management that integrates different methods of weed control to provide the crop with an advantage over weeds.’ - Harker & O’Donovan Our parents and grandparents didn’t knowingly subscribe to an integrated weed management (IWM) system, but rather, used a number of cultural and mechanical techniques to give their crops an edge over yield-robbing weeds. After World War II, their arsenal expanded to include chemical control in the form of herbicides. Since the 1970s, improved herbicide efficacy and selectivity largely replaced the need for IWM. But the superior efficacy of herbicides is also their Achilles heel. As discussed last issue, herbicides control target weeds so effectively that only weeds that develop traits to ‘resist’ the application survive, resulting in a uniform, herbicide-resistant population of a weed species. It’s this intense selection pressure and reliance on herbicides that has allowed herbicide-resistant weeds to thrive in our current system. Interestingly, many producers are turning to IWM to manage problem, herbicide-resistant weeds. Short term economic decisions also tend to limit IWM uptake since the cost benefits of this approach are either intangible or accumulate over time. For the purpose of this article, crop competitiveness is measured by the ability to reduce weed biomass (i.e. suppress weeds). Although crop yield is not specifically focussed on, cultural and mechanical approaches to weed management can maintain or increase crop yield in both the short and long term. And the following cultural control methods require no special equipment or skills:
Those Wily Weeds Table 1. Yield Response (% of 2010-2015 average) of Manitoba Crops Sown on Various Previous Crop Stubble in Rotation. Crop to be Planted Stubble
Spring wheat Winter wheat
Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation: www.masc.mb.ca/masc.nsf/mmpp_crop_rotations.html.
Crop rotation Crop rotation is the backbone of any integrated pest management system, including IWM. Long-term crop insurance data shows that growing the same crop or a similar crop (e.g. cereal, pulse or oilseed) back to back decreases crop vigour as evidenced by a sixteen percent yield reduction, on average, across crops (Table 1). From strictly a weed management perspective, a diverse crop rotation can interrupt weed cycles and suppress weeds due to altering seeding dates, varying crop competitiveness, and rotation of in-crop herbicides. For example, barley grown after a four year crop rotation (of barley, canola and field pea) had two and a half times less wild oat biomass than continuous barley. Adding a winter crop, like winter wheat, fall rye or winter triticale, to the rotation may further reduce weed biomass as these crops suppress most grassy and broadleaf weeds better than spring annual crops.
Short variety, 1x seeding rate + wild oat herbicide. Flax IWM trial in Carman, MB. Photo courtesy of R. Gulden, University of Manitoba.
Perennial crops in a rotation have the greatest suppressive effect on weeds, both within the perennial crop and in subsequent annual crops. Research has shown that three years of alfalfa in a crop rotation can control wild oat without herbicides just as effectively as a wheat-canola rotation treated with herbicides. Another study found that, in addition to wild oat, a three year alfalfa stand also resulted in lower relative abundance of Canada thistle, cleavers and wild mustard. However, since perennial crops can select for other weeds, such as dandelion, a three year cycle within a crop rotation is generally recommended.
Variety selection Just as certain crops are inherently more competitive with weeds than other crops, so are varieties within a crop type. In general taller, ‘leafier’ varieties suppress weeds more than their shorter, more leafless counterparts, regardless of the crop type. In fact,
Tall variety, 2x seeding rate + wild oat herbicide. Flax IWM trial in Carman, MB. Photo courtesy of R. Gulden, University of Manitoba.
Those Wily Weeds wild oat biomass can be decreased by half simply by selecting taller crop varieties, as found in both barley and flax. Differences in varietal vigour can also be important. Canola hybrids have largely replaced early open pollinated (OP) varieties of canola due to significant increases in yield potential. Weed researchers discovered that the vigorous, fast growing canola hybrids rival spring wheat and barley in terms of weed suppression compared with the relatively uncompetitive, early OP varieties that required intensive weed management.
Increasing cereal seeding rates has been shown to both decrease weed biomass and increase yield. Similarly in flax, increased seeding rates resulted in a twofold reduction in wild oat biomass and corresponding ––––– 12 increase in flax biomass and yield. Higher seeding rates typically have additional agronomic benefits such as earlier and more even ripening of crops. The argument for increasing seeding rates of IP crops like canola and soybean may be more complex given
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higher seed costs. These crops also tend to be more ‘compensatory’ with respect to yield. Cropping Systems research from the University of Manitoba shows that economically optimum target soybean populations are lower than the recommended 180,000 to 210,000 plants per acre, based on current seed costs and yields. However, weed researchers found that, while increased soybean seeding rates (> 210,000 plants per acre) did not reduce volunteer canola biomass, it was successful in maintaining soybean yield potential compared with reduced seeding rates.
The ‘integration’ of IWM The real magic of IWM is in the ‘integration’ of weed management techniques. Although each of these methods – crop rotation, variety selection, and seeding rate – increase crop competitiveness and decrease weed biomass on their own, when combined the effect on weed biomass reduction doesn’t add up – it multiplies (Table 2). In general, the individual cultural methods discussed reduced weed biomass by 2 to 3 times in crops. However, when three methods were used the decrease in weed biomass jumped to 18 to 19 times. And surprisingly, research has shown that IWM can be as effective when used in less competitive crops like flax as when used in competitive crops like barley. Table 2. Wild Oat Biomass Reduction in Barley** and Flax***. Weed Management Tool Crop rotation Competitive variety Increased seeding rate Herbicide All combined
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Reduction in Wild Oat Biomass (x) Barley Flax 2.9 NT* 1.9 2.0 2.7 1.7 NT* 3.0 18.7 18.0
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** Harker et al. 2009. Weed Sci., 57:326-337. *** University of Saskatchewan thesis project, 2015 Manitoba site results.
Despite the magic and mathematics above, cultural methods generally suppress rather than control weeds and are best combined with other weed management tools, including herbicides. But the weed suppression offered by IWM means that herbicides don’t have to work as hard, decreasing the risk of selecting for herbicideresistant weeds while producing more competitive, and potentially higher yielding, crops. A few tweaks to your agronomic program could have you farming like your grandparents – which might not be the worst thing when it comes to weeds.
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Water for Farming
Prairie spring conditions and forecast Precipitation from 2016
As the start of each new agricultural year approaches, thoughts naturally turn to what the new year will bring. Will the conditions of last year continue? What risks will arise? Floods? Drought? Will it be an average, poor, or great year? No one has a crystal ball, but many sources of information help to paint the picture. Based on multiple inputs, here is what the picture looks like for the Prairie region as of the end of March.
Patrick Cherneski Patrick is currently manager of the National Agroclimate Information Service. He has been with Agriculture & AgriFood Canada for more than 20 years..
The 2016 crop season finished wet across much of the Prairie region, and some crop remained unharvested due to excess moisture, particularly in Alberta where around a million acres still remain unharvested. The winter season for the Prairie region was much-above normal with respect to temperature, and much below normal for precipitation. This was mostly beneficial for the previously wet parts of the Prairies, but not so for the drier parts.
Percent of Average Precipitation
November 1, 2016 to March 31, 2017 < 40 40 to 60 60 to 85 85 to 115 115 to 150
Fort St. John
150 to 200 > 200
Copyright © 2017 Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Prepared by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Science and Technology Branch. Data provided through partnership with Environment Canada, Natural Resources Canada, Provincial and private agencies. Produced using near real-time data that has undergone some quality control. The accuracy of this map varies due to data availability and potential data errors.
Created: 2017-04-03 www.agr.gc.ca/drought
Water for Farming
Precipitation Compared to Historical Distribution
November 1, 2016 to March 31, 2017 Record Low Extremely Low (0 to 10) Very Low (10 to 20) Low (20 to 40) Mid to Range (40 to 60)
Fort St. John
High (60 to 80) Very High (80 to 90) Extremely High (90 to 100) Record High
Copyright © 2017 Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Prepared by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Science and Technology Branch. Data provided through partnership with Environment Canada, Natural Resources Canada, Provincial and private agencies. Produced using near real-time data that has undergone some quality control. The accuracy of this map varies due to data availability and potential data errors.
In 2016, Alberta started out the growing season with drought, but conditions improved over the year. But over the winter, Alberta received mostly below-average precipitation. The northern region received the lowest amounts, 40 to 60 per cent of normal. The eastern half of Alberta, and most of Saskatchewan, received 60 to 85 per cent of normal precipitation. The southeast and northeast edges of the Saskatchewan were 85 to 115 per cent of normal, and a small area within the extreme southeast corner received up to 150 per cent of normal. Most of Manitoba received normal to abovenormal precipitation; the eastern half was largely above-normal. Overall, winter precipitation for almost the entire Prairie region, when compared to the historical distribution, was low to very low. Despite this, most areas of the Prairies are going into spring with adequate moisture. The areas of extremely low precipitation were north of Edmonton into the Peace District, the east-central and southern regions of Alberta,
Created: 2017-04-03 www.agr.gc.ca/drought
and a large swath of central Saskatchewan, from the southwest to the northeast around Wynyard. The areas of very high and extremely high precipitation were the southeast corners of Manitoba and Saskatchewan respectively. Trevor Hadwen, AAFC Agroclimate Specialist notes that the east side of Saskatchewan has experienced excess moisture and flooding six out of the past seven years. “This year it seemed like the southeast region was on a regular storm track, ” he adds.
Risk of Flooding Localized As of the end of March, the current risk of flooding reflects the conditions going into fall and the precipitation received over the winter. The current risk of flooding is greatest in the extreme southeast corner of Saskatchewan and across the major basins of southern Manitoba. Generally, watersheds in the southwest and eastern regions, including the Souris, the Assiniboine, the Rouseau, the Pembina and the Winnipeg River are at the greatest risk
for overland flooding. Patrick Boyle, Director of Corporate Communication for the Water Security Agency, says, “the highest risk areas yet to experience melt are the Antler River and Gainsborough Creek basins in southeastern Saskatchewan and the Red Deer, Carrot, and Swan River basins in east central Saskatchewan. While above normal to well above normal flows are expected, widespread flooding is not expected unless melt conditions are unfavourable.” In Manitoba, the risk of flooding exists for essentially for the whole southern portion of the province, with the # greatest risks in the southwest and the southeast. The temperature 15 ––––– and precipitation conditions going forward will determine the rate of snowmelt and the amount of flooding. Ideal conditions that would result in a slow melt and minimal flooding include cool, cloudy days, freezing overnight temperatures and minimal precipitation.
Soil Moisture Agriculturally, the year has yet to commence. Snowmelt is most advanced in southern Alberta and southern Saskatchewan (ECCC’s online map shows the current snowpack and snow water equivalent), and bare soil exists from Calgary to Winnipeg. Current satellite soil moisture monitoring is just starting to show the levels of soil moisture in the top five centimetres. (www. agr.gc.ca/drought see Satellite Soil Moisture.) Surface soil moisture and water storage levels generally reflect the wet conditions going into winter. Catherine Champagne, an AAFC earth observation scientist explains, “Soil moisture was higher than average in most parts of the Prairies in the fall, except in parts of Alberta. These wet conditions are showing up again as the snow melts in many areas,
Water for Farming determine whether or not crops there get off to a good start. To see the dry and drought areas across Canada, check out the Canadian Drought Monitor monthly maps at www.agr. gc.ca/drought (see Canadian Drought Monitor).
with extreme wetness in southern Manitoba, but average conditions in most other areas.” In Manitoba, reports through the Agroclimate Impact Reporter www.agr.gc.ca/ ––––– 16 air have indicated surplus soil moisture in the Rhineland, Oakland, Ethelbert, Hillsburg, Grahamdale, Argyle, Rhineland, Killarney, Turtle Mountain, McCreary, Sifton, Lorne, Portage La Prairie, Morton, Daly and Clanwilliam areas. Overall, most of Alberta still has a moisture deficit, but there are no concerns at this time. Future rain will
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Variability is nothing new for Prairie producers, and dealing with change and extremes are a normal part of farming. Still, the past decade has seen a lot of variability, even by Prairie climate standards. We can expect more of this. David Sauchyn, senior research scientist with the Prairie Adaptive Research Collaborative explains, “Our 1000-year record of climate from tree rings suggests that we’ve not seen the full range of weather between extreme drought and excess water. Furthermore, scientific evidence, from climate dynamics and observations, indicates that weather is more variable and extreme in a warming climate. Heavy, rainfall, in particular, is more likely. In the absence of rain, higher temperatures will amplify the dry conditions.”
Be Informed As for the year ahead, crops are not lost in April. There is an old saying: “hope for the best, and plan for the worst.” Look for good reliable sources of information to add to your own experience. All the best to producers for a good year ahead. Note: as this article was originally written as of the end of March; this short paragraph is added on more recent conditions to April 19. Favourable snowmelt conditions were experienced across most of the Prairie region with freezing temperatures most nights, a mix of cool and sunny weather, and limited precipitation. Localized flooding has occurred in southern Manitoba but all major rivers are ice free and overland flooding and tributary flows are subsiding, except in the lower Assiniboine basin where flows are still increasing. There is lots of information available online from federal, provincial, academic and other web sites, including: AAFC’s Drought Watch web site www.agr.gc.ca/drought, ECCC’s weather web site http://www.weather.gc.ca and https://www.ccin.ca/home/ccw/snow/current/swe (for snow water equivalent), Government of Alberta http://www.environment.alberta.ca/forecasting/advisories/, Government of Saskatchewan https://www.wsask. ca/, Government of Manitoba https://www.gov.mb.ca/ flooding/, University of Regina’s Prairie Adaptive Research Collaborative http://www.parc.ca/ and University of Winnipeg’s Prairie Climate Centre http://prairieclimatecentre.ca .
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Four innovations in spraying Tom Wolf, Ph.D, 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 Ph.D. (Agronomy) at the 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. Twitter: @nozzle_guy
The innovation in the spraying business seems to keep going strong. This issue, I want to highlight four new technologies, or philosophies, that may catch on, some sooner than others.
WEEDit WEEDit is the latest version of weed detection technology that we first saw in the early 1990s with the Concord DetectSpray and later with Trimble’s WeedSeeker. This new system, designed in the Netherlands by Rometron, works on a similar principle as the first two, but with significant enhancements. The systems work on the principle that when you shine a certain wavelength of light onto the field, living plants reflect a very specific wavelength that differentiates them from soil or residue. With WEEDit, sensors are placed at 1 m intervals along the boom. Up to 36 sensors are possible, enough for a 120 foot boom. The sensors shine a thin beam of red LED light ahead of the boom, and look for the near-infrared signal that identifies a plant. The sensor then activates a nozzle in-line with the plant, and a herbicide is sprayed on it.
Figure 1: WEEDit showing sensors and red light Photo courtesy of geosistemassrl.com.ar
Sprayers 101 And yet, herbicide savings may not be the most important aspect. Look at it from a herbicide resistance management perspective. It’s well known that the rotation of herbicide modes of action, as well as the use of full rates, is important in delaying the onset of resistance. But even more effective is tank-mixing of several effective modes of action.
Here’s what sets this system apart: 1. High resolution. Each sensor operates five channels, meaning that each 1-m section of the boom is divided into 5 regions of 20 cm each. A narrow fan-angle nozzle (40 degrees) is located behind each of these regions, providing precision targetting with minimal waste.
Figure 2: Each WEEDit sensor controls 5 nozzles at 20 cm spacing Photo courtesy of Weedit.com.au
2. Fast response. With a mounting height of 110 cm above ground, and a look-ahead of 60 cm, the system can respond at up to 25 km/h. 3. Rate control. Each nozzle is pulse-width-modulated, meaning that the dose of herbicide it emits is kept constant regardless of travel speed. 4. Background broadcast spraying. In situations where a large number of small weeds are present in a field, the sensors may not pick up each small weed. In that case, a background broadcast spray dose can be applied. Here’s how: the entire boom can operate at 20 to 60 per cent of field rate with the same pulse-widthmodulation described above. In this way, all weeds receive a small dose. A large weed would still trigger the full dose. 5. Sensitivity adjustment. Depending on lighting conditions and weed size, the sensitivity of the system can be controlled to optimize its response. With significant product savings, tanks won’t need to be as full, or filled as often, saving weight. That’s an advantage in the spring when fields are soft. The technology is important, in my opinion, but not only for the obvious reasons. Sure, users of WEEDit in Australia are seeing significant chemical savings in their summer spraying. Saving 80 per cent of a $4.00 glyphosate in western Canada may not seem like big dollars unless it can be done on many acres. But on larger farms, or with custom operators, a $3/acre saving over, say 15,000 acres is $45,000 per year, very significant. With a Group 4, 6, or 14 tank mix partner, product costs rise to $10.00/acre and weed detection savings could be $8.00/acre.
With WEEDit, expensive tank mixes are now affordable. Imagine a cocktail containing select products from some of the following mode of action Groups: 2, 4, 6, 9, 10, 14, 15, 22, perhaps even 27. Depending on the mix, the total cost may well be $50/acre when broadcast. But with 80 per cent product savings, it’s $10.00/acre. Simply put, affordable. The benefit, delayed onset of resistance, can have significant long-term value.
The company representing WEEDit in Canada is Tramontana Agro Technologies, headed by Andries 19 ––––– Mellema. Tramontana demonstrated an experimental unit at the Western Agronomic Research Corporation (WARC) field day in Scott, SK last summer and are now installing the first unit near Medicine Hat. It will be interesting to see how well it works here. If the Australian experience is any example to go by, expect this technology to grow rapidly.
Blue River Technology Blue River Technology is a new company operating out of California. Its co-founder, Jorge Heraud, has worked in precision ag (Trimble) for many years. The company is taking weed detection one step further, working on identifying and spraying weeds among crop plants. Weed detection in crops has been elusive. Efforts in the early 1990s focused on the use of cameras to identify leaf shapes and sizes, but this effort was abandoned due to inadequate processing power in CPUs at the time.
Figure 3: Blue River Technologies uses cameras to identify and linear nozzles to target plants Photo courtesy of Blue River Technologies
––––– 20 Figure 4: The Kray spray drone Photo courtesy of Kray Technology
The next promising area was hyperspectral imaging, in which the light signature of plants, outside of the visible range, was used to differentiate species. This approach remains sound, although research has slowed.
Variations of this concept can be used in “plant phenotyping”, an evaluation of individual plants or stands with measurements such as plant height, green hue, leaf area.
The Blue River sprayers use cameras under shrouds to provide a consistent light environment and employ “deep learning” algorithms to identify plants. In deep learning, the system takes images of known species and learns its features. In training, the various species are presented, the system makes a decision, and a referee notifies the system if it was correct or not. The system learns from mistakes, and its decisions become progressively better.
Imagine a device that locates, counts and characterizes each plant on a field, and removes unwanted ones, then gives you a file that can tell you plant population or weed population densities.
Once a weed is identified, a special linear nozzle that emits jets of herbicide target the area occupied by the weed. The linear nozzle sprays just the weed, with subinch precision.
Kray Technology A startup from Ukraine has developed a prototype of one of the most interesting drone sprayers to date. The Kray uses eight rotary wings and several fixed wings to propel a 4-m boom at a height of 1 m above the crop at 60 to 70 mph. The inclusions of fixed wings help lift a payload of 15 L of spray solution while retaining 20-minute battery life.
The “See and Spray” machines are in use in lettuce and under evaluation in cotton. What’s neat about this technology, aside from the obvious potential for savings, is the opportunity for learning about a crop stand. For example, one version of the machine is used in lettuce thinning. The sytem is informed of the preferred plant separation within the row. The cameras measure plant characteristics such as size and spacing to select the best ones that also meet the spacing criteria. The rejects are sprayed and removed with a herbicide.
Figure 5: Small, light, smart, affordable sprayers Photo courtesy of SwarmFarm.com
Sprayers 101 Ultrasonic detectors maintain the flight height. Lidar and cameras provide scene reconstruction 200 feet in advance, and obstacle detection and avoidance to 300 feet. It homes to a docking station where the tank is filled and batteries can be hot-swapped, all in about two minutes. Assuming a 5 m swath width, productivity estimates range from 50 to 100 acres per hour. Since drones have low payloads, they must atomize the spray finely to utilize low water volumes, likely around 0.5 US gpa. The Kray has rotary atomizers that achieve the required very fine droplets. I’m unsure what regulations will govern pesticide application from drones. Although the productivity values are very impressive, such an application would be off-label under current laws. As always, one of the main concerns would be spray drift from such an application.
Smarter use of inputs Some of these technologies use smarts to save chemical. Others provide detailed and potentially useful information. Still others save capital expenditures. All of
them can address agronomic issues such as compaction or herbicide resistance. Recently, an Australian farmer and visionary, Andrew Bate, looked at trends in equipment cost and size and felt that as equipment got larger, so did the compromises in terms of performance and value for money. He developed a concept of “SwarmFarm”, using smaller, autonomous equipment that is inexpensive and light. With the SwarmFarm concept, multiple light and small autonomous sprayers move across the field. Overall productivity can be the same or greater, but with less labour, with less compaction, and quite possibly less capital cost. Andrew has already equipped his sprayer bots with WEEDit sensors. Do these technologies represent the future? Possibly. The adoption of all of them will be economically driven. In an environment where herbicides are cheap and safe, adoption will be slower. But when one considers the total benefits that include labour and future viability, perhaps the future will be here faster than expected.
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2/6/17 11:18 AM
Where the Iron Hits the Dirt
Busting the myths of grain storage Joy Agnew, P.Eng., Ph.D. Research Scientist – Agriculture & BioProducts Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute (PAMI)
Drying grain on-farm is a common practice on the prairies to minimize the risk of spoilage during storage. Many producers use natural air drying systems to minimize the investment and operating costs of grain drying. Grain storage and drying – particularly natural air drying – requires proper management. A better understanding of the factors that affect spoilage risk and the air’s effect on storage conditions results in better management decisions. This article explores some of the factors that affect grain storage conditions through a discussion of grain storage myths that are very common. The four most common myths related to grain storage and natural air drying are: 1. Aeration and natural air drying are the same thing 2. Fan size selection should be based on 1 HP per 1,000 BU 3. Air at night is drier than air during the day 4. With today’s technology, farmers can “bin it and forget it”
MYTH 1: Aeration and natural air drying are the same thing To minimize the risk of spoilage, both temperature and moisture content of the grain needs to be controlled. Even if the seed is considered dry, it must be cooled to 15°C or lower to minimize the risk of spoilage. Fortunately, both temperature and moisture can be controlled by forcing air through the grain. Aeration results in cooling and can be done with airflow rates as low as 0.1 CFM/BU. If the ambient air is cooler than the grain, the grain will cool. Natural air drying, on the other hand, results in moisture removal from the grain. Removing moisture requires more energy than simple cooling, so a higher airflow rate (1 CFM/BU) is recommended for efficient drying. If the air has “capacity to dry”, the grain will dry. MYTH 1. VERDICT: BUSTED! Although both aeration and natural air drying involve blowing air through the grain, their intended outcomes are different, so they need to be managed differently.
Where the Iron Hits the Dirt MYTH 2: Fan size selection should be based on 1 HP per 1,000 BU The airflow (CFM) from a fan is important as it can mean the difference between having the capacity to dry grain versus having only the capacity to cool or condition grain. Airflow from a specific fan depends on the fan type (axial, high-speed centrifugal, in-line centrifugal, etc.), fan size (HP), and the resistance to airflow that the fan must push against. Resistance to airflow depends on grain type, grain depth, and type of ducting system. This resistance to airflow is measured as “static pressure” in inches of water. Different types of fans are designed to work for different ranges of static pressure. Axial fans produce high airflows, but work only at low static pressure. High-speed centrifugal fans can work with higher static pressures, but generate relatively low airflows. A graph showing the effect of resistance to airflow on airflow rate from different 5 HP fans is shown in figure 1. Higher capacity fans (higher HP) will generally produce higher airflows at higher static pressure. Figure 1. Effect of resistance to airflow (static pressure) on airflow from four types of 5 HP fans.
25 ft. Based on the rule of thumb, a 5 HP fan is required for both of these bins. How will the type of grain and different grain depths affect the actual airflow (cfm) if the target airflow rate is 1 CFM/BU? Refer to table 1. Table 1. Expected airflow (CFM) from three types of 5 HP fans. Assumes a flat bottom bin with full floor aeration and a target airflow rate of 1 CFM/BU (natural air drying). Bin A has a grain depth of 15 ft and Bin B has a grain depth of 25 ft. Peas
11,140 (too high)
2,800 (low, need 7 HP for target airflow)
Nil (no size of axial will work)
Nil (no size of axial will work)
Nil (no size of axial will work)
Nil (unless inlet is blocked to increase resistance)
Nil (need 7 HP)
Nil (need 10 HP)
Nil (need 10+ HP)
Nil (unless inlet is blocked to increase resistance)
3,500 (low, need 7.5 HP for target airflow)
3,145 (low, need 7.5 HP for target airflow)
1,980 (low, need 10 HP for target airflow)
Nil (need 10+ HP for target airflow)
Peas, because of their large seed size, do not generate a high resistance to airflow. In fact, the peas in Bin A do not generate enough resistance to airflow for the 5 HP in-line and high speed centrifugal fans to work properly. The greater depth of grain in Bin B generates enough resistance for the in-line and high speed centrifugal fans to work. For wheat and canola, axial fans are not a good option as the resistance to airflow is too high for axial fans to work (except with wheat in Bin A, but a 7 HP fan would be required). The rule of thumb recommendation of 5 HP for 5,000 BU only works in four of the 18 scenarios outlined in the table. In eight of the 18 scenarios, a larger capacity fan is required. As an example, consider two bins of same volume (5,000 BU) with different diameters (Bin A is 22 ft diameter and Bin B is 18 ft diameter). Bin A will have a grain depth of 15 ft while Bin B will have a grain depth of
MYTH 2. VERDICT: BUSTED! Grain type, grain depth, target airflow rate (aeration vs natural air drying), and type of fan all need to be considered when selecting fan size.
Where the Iron Hits the Dirt MYTH 3: Air at night is drier than air during the day
MYTH 4: With technology, you can “bin it and forget it”
The recommendation to run fans at night for drying was based on the hypothesis that air at night is “drier” than air during the day. Air’s ability to hold water depends on its temperature; the warmer the air, the more water it can hold before it becomes saturated. The amount of water in the air is indicated by the term “relative humidity”. Relative humidity is a measure of how much water is in the air versus how much it can hold. Relative humidity can be related to “percentage of full”. If air has a relative humidity of 75 percent, it is three-quarters “full”.
A bin of stored grain represents a huge investment and a lot of factors affect the risk of spoilage of that grain. Fortunately, technology is available to help producers monitor and manage the conditions in the stored grain. The most commonly used technologies are temperature and moisture monitoring cables. Older versions of the cables require the user to plug in a reader to intermittently read the current temperature in the grain. Newer versions continually monitor the temperature and send email or text alerts to the user if conditions exceed a specific value. Higher-end monitoring systems include fan controls that automatically turn the fans on and off to achieve a desired result. Other options include web-based apps that provide a five-day forecast of the air’s capacity to dry to allow producers to manually turn their fan on or off depending on the desired outcome and the forecast.
The air conditions at two different times of day are outlined in the following table. Table 2. Effect of air temperature on water-holding capacity of air. Time of day
Water holding capacity (g)
Relative humidity (%)
Actual water in air (g)
Capacity to take up water (g)
Based on the amount of water in the air, the air in the evening is “drier” than air during the day because it is physically holding less water. However, when it comes to grain drying, we are more interested in the air’s capacity to take up more moisture. This is how air dries grain: it pulls moisture out of the grain, holds it, and allows it to exhaust out the top of the bin. Knowing this, the air during the day has a greater capacity to dry since it has a greater capacity to hold more moisture. MYTH 3. VERDICT: CONFIRMED! Air at night is drier than air during the day, but that is not the most important consideration when it comes to grain drying. We are more concerned with the air’s capacity to hold moisture, which is higher during the day. IMPORTANT NOTE: Another important factor that affects air’s capacity to dry is the grain temperature. The air temperature (and thus its capacity to dry) may change as soon as it hits the grain (if the grain temperature is considerably different than the air temperature). This effect will be discussed in more detail in subsequent articles.
All of these technologies are a great investment and can be considered as “low-cost insurance” on a bin of grain. However, understanding the drawbacks and limitations of these technologies will help producers better manage their grain and minimize the risk of spoilage. Temperature and moisture sensors are the only way to directly measure the conditions inside the bin. The largest drawback of sensors is the grain’s insulating capacity which limits the amount of grain that is effectively monitored by each sensor. Some estimates claim that, even with the recommended number of sensors in a bin, less than 1 percent of the grain is effectively monitored by sensors. Users can turn fans on and off to try and detect hot spots that are not near sensors by watching the temperature trend after the fans are turned on, but producers typically do not have time to invest in this strategy. More likely, a hot spot will need to grow large enough for the nearest sensor to pick up on the temperature increase. The main drawback of other tools (such as the “capacity to dry” forecast app) is that they are only valid for older varieties of grain. For example, the options for canola include Tobin and Candle rapeseed. Also, they do not consider all of the factors that affect air’s capacity to dry, such as the temperature difference between the air and the grain. MYTH 4. VERDICT: BUSTED! Sensors are the only way to know what is going on inside the bin, so they are a great investment, as long as their limitations are well understood and managed.
Opportunities and challenges in the hemp and cannabis sectors Kathleen Thompson, PhD, MSW, RSW, BA (Hons) Dr. Thompson has worked in health policy analysis and research as a bureaucrat and as a consultant for the last 25 years, specializing in the mental health, disability and corrections sectors. In 2015, Dr. Thompson created the Cannabis Regulatory Research Group. The focus of the policy research group is on promoting collaborative public policy processes and evidenced-based research with the cannabis industry, governments, academia, civil society and at the United Nations. Additionally, Dr. Thompson consults with individuals and organizations on how to enter the legal cannabis industry.
Recreational cannabis is the most rapidly growing agricultural sector today and unprecedented opportunities exist for creative farmers comfortable in a high risk business environment. 2017 is the ideal time for prairie farmers to begin researching and planning to be part of cultivating, processing and/or distributing domestic and global hemp and cannabis products. There are four markets for entrepreneurs to consider: (1) industrial hemp; (2) medicinal hemp; (3) medicinal cannabis and (4) adult-use cannabis. The first three markets already exist for Canadian businesses to enter. Cannabis is expected to be legal in Canada starting in July 2018. Some aspects of hemp cultivation in Canada were deregulated by the Federal Government late in 2016. Moreover, the vectors for growing hemp and cannabis are amongst the best on the continent in the Canadian prairies. 1 The sunlight and soil conditions in the prairies are ideal for cultivating high quality cannabis. Going forward, global climate change conditions, particularly water shortages in the United States, position the prairies strongly for a dominant future in the hemp and cannabis markets. Moreover, advancing capacities for Agriculture in Controlled Environments (AiCE) allow for climate controlled systems for indoor grows, greenhouses, containers and vertical farms. 2 Technologies exist and are evolving to overcome the limitations of growing hemp and cannabis in a cold climate. Prairie farmers with an entrepreneurial spirit for a high risk and potentially high growth sectors stand to benefit. 1 Easley, N. (2016). Telephone Interview. Nic Easley – CEO of Comprehensive Cannabis Consulting: 3C. Denver, Colorado. http://www.3ccannabis.com/ 2 Guttmann & Blaevoet Consulting Engineers (2017). Agriculture in Controlled Environments (AiCE). San Francisco, California.
Market drivers and growth projections Industrial and Medicinal Hemp The hardy hemp plant is considered one of humanity’s first domesticated crops. Records of its cultivation and industrial, medicinal and nutritional use go back over 10,000 years.
The Canadian prairies were renowned for healthy hemp crops prior to the prohibition of cannabis in the late 1930s.
As 2017 unfolds, the Prairie Provinces are emerging as a potential location for a renaissance of hemp cultivation in light of the unknown future facing the US hemp industry and the increased awareness of the medicinal and nutritional attributes of hemp. Now, the market driver is that hemp is a “super food”. 3 Hemp contains omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Also, hemp has eight essential amino acids, nutrients that help regulate cardiac function, insulin balance, mood stability, skin 4 ––––– 26 and joint health. The non-psychoactive nature of hemp, which contains CBSs but no or little THC, positions it for an alternative to pharmaceutical products for painkillers and other chronic conditions. For animals, consuming hemp contributes to overall health and vitality. It promotes a rich sheen to coats. Dogs, cats, horses and cows all benefit from the use of hemp supplements. Chum hemp is used as angler’s bait. Birds, from chickens to songbirds and racing pigeons, are fed hemp seed. The hemp-based food market is expected to grow at a rate of 20 per cent from 2016-2020. The hemp market globally is estimated to be $800 Million with Canada being the second largest hemp exporter globally next to China. 5 70,000 to 100,000 acres of hemp were produced by Western farmers in recent years. $93 million of hempseed, oil and related products was exported in 2015 by Canadian farmers. 6 Hemp is successfully cultivated in all regions of Canada but the bulk of hemp growth occurs in the prairies. Industrially, it can be manufactured into a wide variety of products. Hemp seeds can be hulled or processed into a variety of food products for humans and animals, personal care products, beer, fuel and paint, to name a few. Hemp 3 PR Newswire (2016). Global hemp-based foods market 2016 – 2010. London. http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/ global-hemp-based-foods-market-2016-2020-300329238.html 4 Leson, G. & Pless, P. (2017). Hemp seed food facts. Vancouver, BC: Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance. http://www.hemptrade. ca/products 5 Ibid, PR Newswire. 6 Arnason, R. (2016). Ottawa takes steps to deregulate hemp farming. http://www.producer.com/2016/11/ottawa-takessteps-to-deregulate-hemp-farming/
Cannabis and Hemp 101 • There are two types of plants – hemp plants and cannabis plants. Cannabis contains THC, a cannabinol with psychoactive effects. Both plants include cannabidiols (CBDs), subclasses of cannabinols.
• Hemp is an agricultural crop – fiber from hemp stalks and oil pressed from hemp seeds are legal to cultivate.
• Hemp crops have 100 tall, skinny plants per square meter. It is machine harvested and manufactured into a multitude of products.
• Cannabis crops have one to two plants per square meter. It is harvested, dried, trimmed and cured by hand or mechanically.
stalks have a wide variety of uses from clothing to building supplies. Hemp is legal to grow and process industrially and medicinally. Most significantly, hemp production experienced a level of deregulation in Canada recently. The established low public health risk of hemp led the Federal Government to simplify the license acquisition and testing processes for hemp cultivation in November 2016.
The changes mean that industrial hemp producers can choose fields at the time of seeding rather than preidentifying sites and notifying the government. The THC testing requirements have been eliminated provided that cultivators grow approved hemp varieties. One limitation remains: the prohibition of hemp flowers and tissue to extract cannabinoid compounds which are evidenced to be useful in pain relief, anti-inflammatory and anti-seizure treatments. The current regulations are an interim measure while the federal government moves forward with a new framework for legalizing, strictly regulating and restricting access to cannabis. 7 Another significant aspect of hemp cultivation on the prairies is that it is a sustainable and eco-friendly crop. Hemp production takes C02 out of the atmosphere. Thus, increased hemp production stands to impact the heavy carbon footprint of coal-based power-systems in provinces such as Saskatchewan. Hemp production could 7 Ibid, Arnason.
be factored into carbon pricing formulas, for instance. Hemp matures to fibre in 60 to 90 days after seeding. 8
into the House of Commons in April 2017 with a commitment to implementing legalization by July 2018.
Hemp has become an accepted industrial and agricultural product in Canada over the last 15 years.
The current medicinal cannabis market has substantial barriers to entry given the illegality of cannabis. The existing regime involves indoor growing of all legal cannabis in Canada with stringent security and seed-tosale tracking measures. Entrepreneurs seeking licences to cultivate cannabis require substantial funds to fully build-out the indoor, secured growing facilities before licencing, necessitating substantial up-front capital investments ranging from $1 Million to $50 Million, depending on the size of the operation. However, the legalization of recreational cannabis in Canada is anticipated to eventually lead to more opportunities for cannabis cultivation for qualified Canadian entrepreneurs. One potential model for the future, depending on the specific approach that governments take towards cannabis cultivation for the adult-use market, would be to move towards outdoor or greenhouse growing of cannabis. Controlled indoor grows are important 27 ––––– for medicinal cannabis; however, indoor growing of cannabis has a significant carbon footprint. It is not sustainable over the long run given the size of the adultuse market. Outdoor or greenhouse growing are options that will likely come into play in a future legal cannabis market. The quality of medicinal cannabis has recently come under increasing scrutiny. The need to control the presence of fungi in the final product suggests that indoor, controlled environments may play a big role in quality
The future looks extremely bright for this industry going forward, particularly for Prairie farmers and entrepreneurs. While hemp has been widely accepted as an agricultural product in Canada, public support around the legalization of cannabis is low in the Prairie Provinces. 9 Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Medicinal cannabis has been available in Canada since 2001 to citizens with a prescription from a licenced physician. Licenced Producers (LPs) in Canada, 41 at publication time, provide tested medicinal cannabis to qualified citizens through on-line and telephone orders that are mailed to individuals through a registered mail carrier. The Federal Government is legalizing recreational, or adult-use, cannabis. The Cannabis Act was introduced 8 Fine, D. (2017). Hemp bound: Dispatches from the front lines of the next agricultural revolution. Hemp technologies collective. http://www.hemp-technologies.com/page83/ page83.html 9 Thompson, K. (2017). Legalization of cannabis: The policy challenges and opportunities. Policy Brief. Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy. https://www. schoolofpublicpolicy.sk.ca/research/publications/jsgs-policybrief.php
Continued on page 308
Kayleigh Donahue in hemp crop. Photo courtesy of Kayleigh Donahue, www.thexyhempcorporation.com
Farming Your Money
Is canola lulling us into a false sense of security? Paul Kuntz Paul Kuntz is the owner of Wheatland Financial and offers financial consulting and debt broker services. He can be reached through wheatlandfinancial.ca
As we get ready to plant our 2017 crop, I can guarantee that a good portion of seeded acres across Western Canada will be canola. If you take a drive in July, there will be many yellow blooming fields. And why not, the crop has great technology put into it, there are great weed reduction systems, we have advanced fungicides to apply, our weather pattern provides the plant what it needs and the market wants our product. In the area where I am, we have three crushing plants close by that offer aggressive pricing, low basis levels and great delivery options. What is not to love? The economics of this crop are hard to beat. Yields have been increasing at a rapid pace while pricing still remains strong. It is tough to find a crop that makes as much money as canola does. But how much can we grow on our farms? How often are we growing it? Are we making business decisions on poor agronomic practices? I will put a caveat on this article: I am not an agrologist or plant scientist. My training and what I practice every day is the financial business of farms. So I am approaching this from a financial concern. One of my clients had a discussion with me a few years ago right after harvest. Some new land had come available and he rented a complete section. You could actually farm it as a 640 acre block. It is a beautiful piece of land. He grew a canola crop that averaged 70 bushels/acre. In our area, that is huge. A 50 bushel crop is a great canola crop so 70 is unheard of. His discussion with me was not of optimism and great joy over the bumper crop he harvested, it was about rental rates.
Farming Your Money You see, there were a few quarters of land available in this area and the owners had done one year leases with some farmers. My client was a local producer but there were other parcels of land that were rented out to farms from quite a far distance away. These other farms would be considered very aggressive. My client had rented this land for $60/acre and was hoping to secure a long term lease at that rate. The other farmer had already made it known that they would be offering $100/acre.
prevent this either. So that leaves blackleg. But I thought all varieties are blackleg resistant? Well they are, but resistant to what strain of blackleg? At a recent Pioneer Dupont grower meeting, they revealed that in almost every test plot there is blackleg. There is not enough to cause noticeable damage, but nonetheless, there was blackleg there. So maybe we can’t save our canola from blackleg just by planting the newest and best varieties.
70 bushels and prices over $10/bushel, there is no issue with paying $100/acre rent. All the numbers would be just fine. The problem…
At 70 bushels and prices over $10/ bushel, there is no issue with paying $100/acre rent. All the numbers would be just fine. The problem is that we should not grow canola every year. We shouldn’t grow it every second year. We should only grow it every third year. The growing conditions for the 70 bushel crop were also perfectly ideal. We should not expect that every year.
The problem is that whether my client wants to follow what is considered a proper rotation or not, the actions of the other farmer are forcing his hand. Rent in that area will rise because of profitable crops. If we took the economics of wheat and put that into the equation, no one would be rushing to rent land. But what happens if you have to grow some wheat for rotational purposes? The economics are already set out and you will lose money. If you can grow a good crop of canola on most of your acres, you will be profitable. I do not have to conduct an analysis of your farm. Based on my clients I know that an average canola crop will always pay the bills. So why don’t we just grow it on every acre? If you look to the real experts on growing canola, you will see that the recommendations given are not followed by producers. The Canola Council of Canada recommends to have at least one year, preferably two or three years of other crops in between canola crops. The reasons cited are to avoid diseases of Blackleg, Sclerotinia, and club root. But the article goes on to say that clubroot spores stay in your field for 7 years, so rotation does not help. Sclerotinia is windborne so with so much canola grown, rotation will not help
Garth Hodges, vice president of marketing and business development with Bayer Crop Science, told the Canola Council of Canada that short rotations are weakening the crop’s ability to withstand pressure from clubroot, blackleg, weeds, pests, and other challenges. He asked the question “How do we go back to some of the basics like saying we have to go into good crop rotation and be better at crop rotation?” Keith Downey, one of the researchers who created canola, is suggesting municipalities use existing legislation to stop farmers from growing canola too often. He is concerned about only having three clubroot resistant genes and not being able to find new ones quick enough. Hodges went on to say he is worried that growers assume that the industrial giants like Bayer Crop Science will simply develop new varieties and products that minimize the problem. “It’s hard to invent new chemistry” was Hodges’ comment. So how bad are we doing? Are farmers really pushing the envelope? In Saskatchewan’s canola growing capital, the north east, in 2015 46 per cent of the acres were seeded to canola. Almost half of the acres in that region are in canola. The quick math on those numbers show only one crop is being grown in between canola crops. Every second year is canola. There isn’t a farmer out there that wants to be unsustainable. Every producer wants to be able to make money today and grow great crops for years to come. The current economics make it very difficult to make good rotation decisions. Continued on page 308
Opportunities and challenges in the hemp and cannabis sectors
control. Great care must be exercised to avoid the use of pesticides for recreational use.
The estimated base market for adult use cannabis in Canada is $4.9-$8.7 Billion. Additionally, there is the ancillary market which includes technical and professional contributions: legal, financial, business, engineering and agricultural consultants, infused product makers, testing labs and security which increase the potential profits to $12.7B as a low-end conservative estimate. Additional revenues for all levels of governments that are seldom factored into the legalization equation include tourism revenue, business and consultancy taxes, license fees and paraphernalia.
Potential estimates of the total market size in Canada are $22 Billion. The evidence for cannabis as a medicine is preliminary. The scheduling of cannabis and its derivatives as Schedule II controlled substances in Canada and as a Schedule 1 substance in the US has restricted research funding and opportunities. Nonetheless, there is encouraging evidence for endocannabinoids to benefit
people experiencing chronic pain, Multiple Sclerosis and Diabetes, conditions that are at high rates in the Prairie Provinces. Farmers face unique opportunities in creating specific strains of cannabis targeted at impacting common health conditions facing aging Canadians.
Opportunities and Risks Opportunities for new, interesting income streams abound for Canadian farmers at the dawn of cannabis legalization in Canada. Recognizing the high risk nature of the industry is important. Finding appropriate partners and, if needed, investors is a solid first step. Watching the markets, researching best practices in cultivation or ancillary options and monitoring governmental approaches are good directions to pursue for people interested in the hemp and cannabis industries. Evidence from other jurisdictions indicates that those who thrive in this new sector are those with strong business skills. The new framework gives Canadian farmers who have learned to innovate and adapt in fiercely competitive global agricultural markets a competitive advantage in the hemp and cannabis sectors into the foreseeable future.
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Part of the problem is that the bad behaviour is being rewarded. If you grew a great canola crop on a field that had canola on it two years ago, you will continue the practice. Producers are not seeing dramatic drops in yield when they push their rotation. If they did, they would change the practice immediately. My fear is that I believe proper crop rotations can be compared to our health and nutrition. If you have one cigarette, you do not get lung cancer. If you eat a bacon cheeseburger with french fries, you don’t have a heart attack. If you have a soft drink, you do not get diabetes. But the research shows that there is a direct link to all of those activities and the negative outcome. The same can be said about rotations. We all know there is a risk, but it is off in the future somewhere and the bills are due now.
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Your seeding plans for 2017 will be set in stone by the time you read this. I want to challenge your financial crop numbers: Calculate your cost of production for your farm and run a crop scenario that has you growing canola every fourth year rather than every second or third year. Could you generate enough income to cover all of your costs? If you can, then your farm is built for long term sustainability. If you cannot, then maybe canola has lulled you into a false sense of security.
SOMETIMES WHAT YOU’RE LOOKING TOWARD IS WHAT YOU ARE LEAVING BEHIND. You have one eye on your harvest and the other on keeping your legacy growing strong. And the only way you can do that is to keep your farm running as efficiently as possible. That’s why Shell ROTELLA makes heavy duty engine oils that help your equipment last. Shell ROTELLA T4 Triple Protection is our most advanced Shell ROTELLA ever, with exceptional wear protection, superior engine cleanliness, and enhanced protection against oxidation. That means less downtime and more time to build your business. Learn more at www.rotella.com ®
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