VISION IN AGRICULTURE
A third generation family farm prepares to pass the torch
Crop Returns Tighten Harvesting Profits a Tough Sell Can a Financial Advisor Save your Marriage? Dicamda Misplay still Causing Damage 1
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Helping Albertans for 80 years
prairie preservation A look at a Canadian family farm and how they have navigated succession planning. With three grown children, spouses and grandchildren, developing a plan to maintain the Martin farm legacy has become more important than ever. Through open discussion, living and learning, the Martin family exemplifies the benefits of a great succession plan.
INSIDE THIS ISSUE
4 8 20 26 29
A Farmerâ€™s Viewpoint
Crop returns tighten Grain Market Analysis
The Struggle of Quality and Quantity Tried and True
Prairie mainstays continue to make the grade for farmers Grain Marketing 101
Harvesting profits a tough sell Precision Seeding
34 38 42 45
The Misplay of our Generation Willy Weeds
Managing the Growing Foxtail Barley Problem on the Prairies Farming Your Money
Can a Financial Advisor Save Your Marriage? News & Innovations 3
A Farmer’s Viewpoint
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.
Crop Returns Tighten
Profitable cropping options are few and far between heading into the 2018 growing season. With a 50 per cent tariff on peas exported into India and an apparent oversupply of red lentils in the world, pulse prices have been hit particularly hard. Those are major crops in Saskatchewan and many of those acres are likely to shift to other crops in the upcoming growing season. So how do the various cropping options stack up? Here’s a comparison based on Saskatchewan numbers. Yields are typically higher in both Manitoba and Alberta and there are also price differences caused by different transportation costs. Manitoba has had much better yield results with soybeans than Saskatchewan. In Alberta, feed barley garners a much better price the closer you get to the cattle-feeding region in the south of the province. But the average Saskatchewan numbers still tell an important story for the entire grain sector. In the table on page 6, the yield estimates are in bushels or pounds per acre and come from the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture’s final crop report of the season issued October 23. Other sources report slightly different average yields. Prices come from various online sources as of November 29. Prices are expressed in dollars per bushel except for lentils, mustard and canaryseed, which are in cents per pound. Many producers will have sold at higher prices earlier in the fall and everyone will have different yields and costs. This analysis is meant only for a rough comparison of how cropping options look as we head towards 2018. 4
Variable expenses (seed, fertilizer, chemicals, crop insurance, fuel, etc.) for each crop come from the Ministry’s 2017 Crop Planning Guide. In most instances, expenses from the Dark Brown Soil Zone have been used. To manage herbicideresistant weeds, the guide assumes more herbicide applications than producers may typically be using.
Farming For Tomorrow thanks the
farmers and ranchers, and their families, who shared their insights about farming for tomorrow.
Publishers Pat Ottmann Tim Ottmann
Marketing Kristen Mowat
Design Andrea Espinoza Espi Designs
Regular Contributors Kevin Hursh Jeanette Gaultier Paul Kuntz Scott Shiels Tom Wolfe
Table 1. Yield and price of crop variations in saskatchewan Grain Yield Estimates Yield
Editing Lisa Johnston Nerissa McNaughton
This issue’s Contributors
Geoff Geddes Melanie Darbyshire Lee Hart
#2 L. Green Lentils
Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture’s crop report, Oct 23 2017.
Fixed expenses (machinery depreciation, land costs, repairs) vary greatly from one producer to the next, but most of us need a return over variable expenses of at least $100 an acre to be making any money. As you can see from the chart, at current prices and average yields, most crops in Saskatchewan are not covering fixed expenses and a couple aren’t even covering variable expenses. Producers selling earlier in the fall received better prices on many crops, and there were producers with 50 and 60 bushel per acre canola crops who did very well. But current prices with average yields tell a story of declining returns. The grain sector has had many years of record profitability over the past decade. Now it appears we could be heading into a time of tighter margins. 6
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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. © Winter 2018
“If we talk about what we’re doing, people will understand how their food is grown and why we grow it the way we do.” Pattie Ganske, Agvocate Former Owner, Ag Retail
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Grain Market Analysis
The Struggle of Quality and Quantity Scott Shiels Scott grew up in Killarney, Manitoba and has been in the grain industry for over 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 Abernethy, Saskatchewan with his wife Jenn.
As winter closes in, and with harvest now behind us, markets should generally stabilize as some buyers focus on trying to establish the quality of the crop we just took off. While yields were generally smaller than we would like to see, the quality of the crop that we have seen so far appears to be exceptional. Great quality will not make up for a lack of volume for buyers, but it will definitely make marketing this crop a great deal easier for producers.
The oat market remained steady throughout late fall and early winter, with many buyers sitting comfortably covered out into the spring. Pricing into the late spring and summer has softened some, with the increased acreage from last year producing enough oats to make the market slightly bearish. Looking forward into next year (a long ways out I know), with oat pricing available in the $3.00 range, I anticipate oat acreage across the Prairies to increase somewhat, considering that the other cereal grain options, wheat or barley, are priced quite low at this time. Another factor that surfaced in early November, that could help to boost oat acres, was a 50 per cent import tariff on Canadian peas imposed by our largest importer, India. This tariff will likely stifle pea prices for both old crop and new crop peas, limiting seeded acreage of that crop. If the tariff is lifted, or even reduced significantly, that would limit the effect on oat acreage. Wheat markets have struggled to gain any traction late in the year, despite production of only a very average crop, yield wise. Much of the problem is due to the majority of the hard red spring wheat crop having exceptionally low protein, which is a huge surprise considering how dry the year was. Normally, buyers and farmers anticipate high protein after a dry growing season, but this one is just the opposite, with many producers growing the best looking wheat theyâ€™ve ever produced, with lower protein than ever before. Because of the low protein, many producers are experiencing difficulty marketing their wheat, and for those that did sign some really nice, high-priced contracts earlier in the year, they are being heavily discounted due to not meeting their agreed upon protein specs. These issues, should they continue, will definitely have producers thinking twice about seeding much wheat in the spring. Another crop that has been experiencing some bearish pricing is barley. Due to the above-average quality of the crop just harvested, malt buyers do not have to pick and choose like they normally do; most of the submitted barley samples are making the top grade. This has brought down the malt bids significantly; nearly down to the feed market prices. Without a noticeable premium for malt, producers will be reluctant to seed malt varieties this spring, as they can get much better yields with a feed variety, and really no limitations on where they can market them, or tough specs to meet. Oilseed crops seem to be relatively stable going into the winter, and with yields above average on canola and flax, I donâ€™t see any indication that we will move much in either direction any time soon. Soybeans, however, are quite the opposite. While we saw soybean acreage increase dramatically across the Prairies, production numbers are way lower than what we expected. We are unlikely to see a big run-up in soybean prices, as Western Canadaâ€™s production is but a drop in the soybean bucket. If grain companies and crushers want to keep these acres in beans, I feel they will need to open their wallets and buy some new crop acres. For most producers, the soybean crop this year was the big loser, and word on the street is that we will see many of those acres going back to more traditional prairie grains and oilseeds.
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Prairie Preservation A third-generation family farm prepares to pass the torch
By Trevor Bacque For Garnet Martin, his rural life is best summed up with three words: family, farming and finances, with family being the unshakable principle. The Watrous, Sask. farmer along with his wife, Darlene, adhere to those words daily, especially as they have been in the throes of succession planning with son, Derek, daughter, Lesley Kelly, and son-in-law, Mathieu Kelly, since 2010. The trio of values is interconnected and valuable in unique ways. The conviction is that without one of three core beliefs, the other two arenâ€™t as strong. Itâ€™s simple and complicated all at once.
The 6,000-acre operation, Evergreen Woodcreek Farms, produces canola, canary seed, lentils, milling oats and wheat. The family has also become recently involved with certified seed production. For many Prairie farmers, huge tracts of land mean they are operating multimillion-dollar businesses. What may come as a surprise is how few have succession plans in place or have even had a conversation about who will be the next on-farm generation, if anyone.
Previous page: Left to Right; Derek Martin, Lesley Kelly, Garnet Martin, Mathieu Kelly. Above: Garet Martin with his grandchildren Jennings and Copeland - Photos courtesy of Lesley Kelly
Statistics Canada’s 2016 Census of Agriculture, a study published every five years, noted that the number of farm succession plans are very low versus the number of Canadian farms. Across Canada, only 8.4 per cent of farms have written succession plans. A typical grain and oilseed farm is above the national average, but not by much, at 10.4 per cent. Dairy is the highest at 18.4 per cent while sheep and goat farms were on the other end at 4.3 per cent. Certain succession planning coaches suggest the numbers are higher, however plans may remain somewhat ad hoc or in some cases are simply a verbal agreement. As more farms shift to different business models, the operations still remain as family enterprises, whether through a sole proprietorship, partnership or as a corporation. “Farms do continue to be family businesses,” says Ellen Bekkering, analyst with StatsCan. “The operation may be changing, but they are family businesses.”
The genesis of the family farm was 108 years ago in 1910 with Garnet’s grandfather, Robert Martin Sr., a Scottish immigrant. He broke 60 acres of wild prairie with oxen, just west of where the current-day farm sits near Watrous. Garnet’s father, Robert Martin Jr., began to farm following service as an Air Force mechanic during the Second World War. As Garnet grew up in 12
the ’60s and ’70s, he loved farm life and all that came with it. When he graduated high school in 1975, he went straight into a farming partnership with his father and second cousin, Vernon Christianson. “The deal was basically Vernon and I each got 25 per cent and dad got 50 per cent,” says 60-year-old Garnet. The young man was happy to be behind the wheel of his dad’s machinery and peel back another layer of what it meant to be a farmer. For seven years, the three of them farmed 1,500 acres, half of which were left as summer fallow, and life was good. “In that era, farming was beginning to boom,” he says. “We basically grew wheat and barley. Wheat prices were on the rise. Young farmers were beginning farming again, and a few [people] a bit older that had gone to school or work, had come back to the farm. The farming industry was on the upswing.” In 1980, they diversified their income by renovating a run-down hog barn to accommodate a herd of feeder cattle. They continued this way for nearly another two years before grain prices started to tumble. Cousin Vernon grew weary and in 1982, he ventured out on his own while Garnet doubled down at home by expanding the farm’s land base another 900 acres. By this time, the farm was operating under a system of two-thirds crop and one-third summer fallow.
Here’s to the
FARMER “My family started working this land in 1891. Today, I’m proud to continue our farming tradition with my dad, brother and sister. Our farm is part of a great industry, and I want the world to know it. My name is Katelyn Duncan and I grow lentils, canola and durum.” From all of us at FCC, thanks for making Canadian agriculture so amazing.
Top Left: Garnet Martin Bottom Left: Darlene with grand daughter Danyka. Middle: Mathieu Kelly with sons Copeland and Jennings - Photos courtesy of Lesley Kelly
“In that time period … it was more of an agreement,” says Garnet, whose father had just sold out of a machinery company and was beginning to semi-retire. “I paid him a set value, which worked out roughly to what land was renting. I started buying land from him, not going through the bank, just paying him a certain amount of dollars. It was around $80,000 a quarter [section] and I would pay him X amount for so many years.”
affected many farm businesses and inter-generational land transfers. Much to the relief of the Martin-Kelly clan and others, those ideas have been walked back. However, such policies underscore the need for farmers to have clear directions and understandings of what they have today and where they want to be tomorrow.
The succession planning between Garnet and his father was tense at times, and much of it was predicated on the son’s youth and ideological approach to farming.
For the incoming fourth generation, the sacrifice and hard work of Garnet and Darlene only makes them want to repay both the patriarch and matriarch to help secure the farm’s future, not create tension.
“When I first started farming, I wanted to own the land myself. I was all ramped up. You need to have that as a young person, but you also need to realize it takes time,” he says. “Dad discouraged me from that. He always said, ‘the land is going to be yours,’ but I wanted to own it, pay for it, take leadership of it. I ended up making a deal with dad and thank God I did. Because I wouldn’t be farming today if I borrowed that money. “The interest rates would have sunk me. I struggled even without having the interest rates. I don’t remember not paying dad, but I remember having the flexibility of not paying him. He ended up being my banker, and a generous banker. In a tough time, that’s a key point.” One gigantic conversation that would be narrowly avoided due to farmer blowback was the potential of the Trudeau government’s changes to tax laws, which would have greatly 14
“He is like the coach of a team; he weathers the storm,” says Mathieu, 40. “He sheltered us, and now it’s maybe time for us to shelter him and start to move that forward. It would be nice to have him be able to start to focus on retirement and have us step up and make some more decisions.” For Garnet, he’s been making decisions his entire adult life. After his cousin’s departure and the acquisition of additional acres, Garnet realized the equipment needed to be upgraded. He expanded the machinery line that same year to make farming 2,400 acres more economical. However, the shiny equipment was the only bright spot for more than a decade at the farm. “From ’82 onwards into the ’90s, almost no machinery was bought. It was starting to get worn out,” he says. “We didn’t
- Family photos courtesy of Lesley Kelly
expand the farm; it was flatlined. I knew something had to change.” He tried his hand at everything – from studying grain marketing to rescuing the old wooden Watrous elevator from certain destruction and even dabbling in adding value with Lesley making Martin Munchies snack foods with the farm’s barley – and never waited for life to come to him.
Deal struck By the time 2010 hit, the fourth generation had earned their stripes in a variety of ways off the farm, and slowly but surely the idea of life in Watrous continued to tantalize the kids. Mat had explored life on other farms and the black gold rush of Alberta’s oilsands. Lesley has spent the bulk of her career in marketing and still works hard to promote the farm through her blog High Heels and Canola Fields and co-hosts an agricultural podcast. Derek became a father, moved to Manitoba to work for an outfitter, tried his hand at farm life with another Saskatchewan family and spent time in agri-retail. The return to the family farm has proven to be just as big a test of character and resolve as the succession planning itself. “When we came back to the farm, we knew there were going to be challenges because it was a family unit,” says Lesley, 35. “We were bringing in a son-in-law … that was tricky. What we did was sit down as a family unit. We talked about what our goals were as a farming unit; where we wanted the farm to go. We honed in
on our mission and visions and our values and our culture. If we didn’t get that right, we knew we wouldn’t be successful.” With Garnet as the farm’s figurehead, honest conversations have helped everyone as difficult topics have come up in discussion. “Now we are in this time where the boys are taking on more responsibility, and they want to make those final decisions,” says Lesley. “Sometimes there is confusion about ‘do I run this by Garnet?’ That’s the transfer of management taking place. “We’ve always been a family that is very open. There’s times when he says ‘no, this is what we’re doing’ and that’s OK. If you give context, it’s easier to get alliance.” Derek concurs with his sister and says the variety of voices and interests mean that tensions are inevitable. “We have three partners which brings in three different families, kids, wives, all that,” he says. “I’m not going paint a picture and say it’s all pretty; we’ve got our differences, we’ve had our fights, but it’s how we overcome it.” Through it all, the family maintained open communication, even when it was difficult, and one of the other core values – finance – was invoked, and the joint partnership with each family receiving one-third of all farm income was formally established. “The biggest thing that I see is that it’s simple, it’s one-third, one-third, one-third. Everybody wins, everybody loses,” says Derek, 15
Cover story 33. “If we win, we share our winnings; if we lose, we share our losses. It’s not I, it’s not me, it’s we. When someone makes a mistake, we identify it, and we learn from it. That’s what’s made us so strong.” There is an agreement at Evergreen Woodcreek Farms that if anything should happen and any of the three family units can no longer farm, their interest will be bought out and they will be taken care of appropriately. “In the farm plan, you always need an exit strategy,” says Garnet, who considers succession planning his exit strategy from farming. A big way they overcame their differences, ensuring their best chance of success, was to hire an outside consultant. That person walked through scenarios and coached them through the process, offering tips and helping to avoid common succession planning pitfalls. The family even went so far as to take a personality test, the famed Myers-Briggs, which assigns four letters to create a personality archetype. While Mathieu cannot recall his assessment, he’s the first to say, “I’m a feeler. I’m an emotional guy is what I am.” Such emotions are common during succession planning – good and bad – and help families determine what direction the farm will take and how goals will be achieved. The sessions were difficult, and Lesley had no idea how it would affect her and others on the inside. “I wish I knew how heavy a process it was on my parents, both emotionally and mentally,” she says. “Their whole world is going to be different in a few years. The pressure my dad has … he feels he has to figure it all out. I wish I would have shown that we will figure it out together [at the time].”
With three families officially farming together, everyone knew that a limited number of acres wouldn’t be financially viable. Mathieu and Derek took charge in the first year of their partnership and rented an extra 1,000 acres and upgraded machinery to reflect the scale of work that needed to be done, just as Garnet had in the early ’80s. However, nothing could prepare them for 25 inches of rain. “It only gave us experience,” says Derek. “I won’t say it’s stupid, but I’ll say I’m proud we did it and that we learned that money doesn’t grow on trees and that we need to pay for that machinery.” That year emphasized the need for trust and open communication to Garnet yet again. “I need to learn that they need to make mistakes,” he says. “It’s tough for me to watch. It’s not me beating them up; it’s them being young. They were focused on what they were combining today; I was thinking about what do we do if it rains, and thinking three, four, five or 10 days out.” Garnet says despite 2010 being one of the worst years farming, it was their absolute best in terms of communication. “You would have thought that those were the times we didn’t get along, but it wasn’t. This year, we’ve had our best financial year, yet we had our most difficult time working together. I’m trying to figure out why that was. Every year presents a different challenge.” Now entering its eighth year, the partnership is still fluid and ever-changing, and likely will always be that way. As Garnet and Darlene slowly lessen their in-farm involvement, the same discussions from eight years ago will crop up, but from different perspectives. “Things change and you may have great intentions about a five- or 10-year plan, but be patient. There’s ups and downs,” says Mathieu. Lesley echoes her husband’s sentiments. “We do need help. We need someone to come in and have a look at what our roles and responsibilities were a few years ago,” she says. “In six to 12 months, I would really like to identify, when my dad transitions out, how the farm will be set up; the roles and responsibilities; what you need to do is be really, really clear about how we can help each other. “Succession planning isn’t something you do in a year and you put the plan away. It evolves, changes directions and sometimes you feel like you went a different way,” says Lesley. “It’s evolving on a day-to-day basis and it never ends. You have people’s feelings and lives at stake and you want to ensure everyone’s heard. That’s hard. Is it perfect? No, but the work we’ve done over the last five years has helped set us up for success.” 16
“What we did was sit down as a family unit. We talked about what our goals were as a farming unit; where we wanted the farm to go” -Lesley Kelly
Farm & Family: Keeping Them Together
Succession planning as a farmer is a unique process. Like other entrepreneurs, farmers have invested body and soul into their business and want that legacy to continue. What sets farmers apart is their tie to the land. The value of their farm isn’t just in its equipment and buildings. It’s in the soil they and their family worked and grew up on. Family comes first for farmers when creating a transition plan to ensure their legacy continues. The best tax plan and legal agreement won’t guarantee a future for the farm if the family doesn’t get along. Parents know all about this. The top thing farmers mention when starting to talk about transitioning the business inevitably is “we don’t want the kids to fight.” Clear, honest communication from all stakeholders is critical when starting to plan to transition the family farm. And that starts with paying attention to what people are saying, before going over finances and tax strategies. “The very essence of our program is we listen to the people in the family first,” says Jonathan Small, Farm Management Consultant and MNP succession specialist. “Before we start drawing squares and triangles on org charts and doing tax plans, we need to understand what the sensitivities of this family are. Because it’s not always that simple. Sometimes the best tax plan is the worst plan for the family.”
Too often transition plans are guided by the needs of the business or tax considerations, rather than the family environment the future of the farm depends on. To ensure all stakeholders are heard, it is important to work with an unbiased third-party you like and trust and to commit to the process. A succession plan that works for you and your family takes time, usually months and effort to make sure your vision is realized and yet flexible, as circumstances change. “A transition plan is not a blue print, but a living process that likely will have to be adapted as life goes on,” says Small. “We are infinitely variable; we change our minds and life comes along and changes our minds for us - our health may change; our relationships may change. But it’s easier to make those adaptations if you’ve all agreed on the basics at the beginning.” Jonathan Small, FEA, is a Farm Management Consultant with MNP. He can be contacted at 403.346.8878 or email@example.com
The desire to keep the land in the family is the next most cited goal, because a farm is so much more than just real estate. It represents dreams and lives and memories. Intense emotions around the land often supersede keeping peace at home, so being able to maintain clarity by following an established process can be critical to a successful transition. Minimizing taxes takes a strong third after family and land, but also requires a full understanding of family dynamics to complete the vision the farmer may have.
Succession planning that works for FARM&FAMILY
Your Family, Your Farm, Your Future – What’s Your Transition Plan? As a farmer, you’ve worked hard to get to where you are. By planning for succession, you control where your agriculture business goes next. At MNP, we help you prepare for the future with a program created specifically with farmers – and their families – in mind. MNP’s Succession team help you transition your farm on your terms, ensuring every step of the process is considered, leaving nothing to chance.
For more information contact Jonathan Small, Farm Management Consultant, at 403.346.8878 or firstname.lastname@example.org See what the right move can do for your operation. Visit MNP.ca/Moves
Tried and True Prairie mainstays continue to make the grade for farmers
By Geoff Geddes Some dilemmas, such as choosing a Porsche, Mercedes or BMW, are nice to have. The farming equivalent might be wheat, canola and oats, as they all boast strong science, promising yields and a stellar reputation. And like high-end vehicles, these three crops can get you where you’re going in style.
Oats: a healthy choice “Oats are lagging a bit behind crops like wheat and canola in some respects, but we are a small community that works well together on a global scale,” says Dr. Jennifer Mitchell Fetch, a research scientist and oat breeder with Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) based in Brandon, Man. The oat community has made great strides over the last decade in sequencing the oat genome, with some findings to be published in the near future. “We’ve done a lot of collaborative projects to develop molecular markers that can be used in breeding programs,” she says. One of those programs is currently running at the Brandon Research and Development Centre. Dr. Mitchell Fetch and her colleagues are developing milling, feed and forage quality oats with improved nutritional quality and reduced business risk for production in a sustainable cropping system in Western Canada. “Our main focus when I joined the program was meeting the heart health claims for oats in Canada and the U.S., where a specific level of beta-glucan in oats reduces cholesterol and helps with diseases like diabetes.” Through research and breeding, they have raised beta-glucan to the 4.5 per cent level required by the milling industry, while lowering the fat content of oats. They’ve also had success with disease resistance and are working to find more resistant genes to stay ahead of ever-evolving pathogens. 20
“The farmers I talk to in Western Canada say they can always make money with their oat crops,” says Dr. Mitchell Fetch. “They generally obtain good yields and find there is usually a market for their oats. It’s a crop backed by strong genetics and the farmers who choose the right land and fertilize them properly will do well.”
Wheat: Raising output and lowering inputs “The primary area of wheat research today is disease resistance,” says Dr. Richard Cuthbert, a research scientist and wheat breeder with AAFC in Swift Current, Sask. “We want to produce varieties with built-in genetic resistance that are the most sustainable for farmers with the fewest crop inputs. Right now the most economically-concerning diseases are fusarium head blight and stripe rust or yellow rust, so we are using molecular mapping to determine the DNA markers associated with genes that control resistance to these diseases.” Another priority is agronomic performance in areas like nutrient use and water-use efficiency. Ultimately, it’s about maximizing yields and stabilizing those yields over the extreme environments found in Canada.
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“New genetics are pushing the envelope for what is possible with yield and allowing wheat to do well in different ecological zones across the Prairies,” says Dr. Cuthbert. As a crop for farmers, wheat has a lot to offer. “Farmers know wheat; it fits well in their rotation and can be reasonably lucrative. It’s a fairly easy crop to grow, doesn’t require the best land and appeals to a variety of end users and marketing channels.” One reason for the range of marketing options is wheat’s reputation.
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“One of the big leaps was developing herbicide-tolerant canola resistant to broadspectrum products like Liberty and glyphosate,” says Ward Toma, general manager of the Alberta Canola Producers Commission. “Then researchers tackled resistance to canola diseases, most notably blackleg.”
But it didn’t end there. In 2015, the industry’s new Innovation Strategy for canola identified gaps and opportunities in all aspects of canola research. The strategy encouraged a good balance of applied and pure research driven by private/ public-funding partnerships and collaboration between industry and academia. While research is critical, Toma says the appeal of canola for farmers is simple: it makes them money. “It’s not a cheap crop to grow, but there’s a good margin in it. Investment in input and seed and land has a positive rate of return, which is very important.” As with any product, demand is the bottom line.
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“If you look at a chart for vegetable oil demand globally, it’s almost a straight line up. People need canola oil and they always will; that demand keeps prices high. It’s the crops consumed by humans that have the biggest margins, and canola is one of those crops.” It’s not just canola that’s in demand, however, but Canadian canola in particular. “We are the largest exporter of canola seed and oil in the world. We have productivity they can’t match in Europe or the United States because of our technology and cooler climate.”
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In 2009, three major seed companies in Canada opened or announced new canola research and development centres. The following year, industry and the federal government launched an ambitious program directing more than $20 million of funding to canola research projects. Clearly, this is a commodity committed to progress.
Whether you’re seeking a high-end car or a high-yield crop, quality, performance and reputation are critical.
“In general, wheat from Western Canada is regarded as a highquality product by customers around the world,” says Elaine Sopiwnyk, director of grain quality with the Canadian International Grains Institute. “Customers tell us it is clean and features reliability, uniformity and consistency of supply. There are also a number of wheat classes, grades and protein contents available so that customers have a wealth of choices.”
Canola in demand
That may explain why in 2016, despite disease and moisture challenges, Canadian farmers achieved record canola yields. Oats, wheat and canola are unique in many ways, yet share a number of attributes appealing to growers. Whether you’re seeking a high-end car or a high-yield crop, quality, performance and reputation are critical. In either case, if you protect it, treat it well and choose the one that suits you best, you’ll be on the road to success in no time.
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Grain Marketing 101 Harvesting profits a tough sell for farmers
By Geoff Geddes If farming was as easy as “plant, nurture, harvest, repeat,” the other 98 per cent of non-farming Canadians might try it. For farmers, getting their grain from the ground is just the start of the story. To write a happy ending, they need to sell what they sow, and like farming itself, that’s harder than it looks. “Quite simply, proper grain marketing will determine if you’re still farming next year,” says Brennan Turner, president and CEO of FarmLead, an online grain marketplace.
Share the wealth
“The average farmer produces hundreds of thousands of dollars in product each year, if not millions,” says Turner. “You need to think of your crop like shares in a company. If you don’t manage your shares correctly, your company is in trouble.” Just as stock market dynamics such as book values and price-to-equity ratios can be complex, so too are international markets for wheat, canola or soybeans. In both markets, it’s possible to wade in alone, but only if you know your stuff. “From my experience, five to 10 per cent of farmers do well on their own because they understand the markets. They time their activity to sell when they can rather than when they must.” For Turner, they are the “risk managers or hedge fund managers” of farming. He finds that another 30 to 50 per cent do fairly well with some small wins here and there, yet are often looking to improve. “The rest think about how they sold grain previously rather than how the market performed. They say, ‘I caught the high at this time last year, so I’ll sell now,’ or ‘I sold wheat at $12 before so I’m waiting for that price again,’ often with no rhyme or reason to it.” 26
This little kernel went to market
While no one can become an expert overnight, success in marketing grain starts where any road to riches begins: mastering the fundamentals. “Cost of production is step one. In the stock market you must consider what you paid for that share, and in grain marketing it’s about what it cost you to produce that crop.” Another critical element in both markets is quality. According to Turner, a smart investor in stocks will know the value of a company, so farmers should know exactly what their grain is worth. “You must have a good handle on grain quality, especially with wheat. Factors such as protein levels, falling numbers, mycotoxins, downgrading factors, and your chit and germ with malt barley.” Once they have the basics down, producers need to learn all they can about the markets. “Farmers must understand what’s happening out there: Should I sell my grain now? What are the bullish and bearish factors in the market and what is just noise?”
months down the road and understand when you have bills to pay and when you need cash. If there’s a 50 per cent premium available to deliver in three months, could you wait and capture that? We call it ‘capturing the carry-in the market,’ and it can be another way to maximize your revenue based on your own situation.” For Turner, it all comes back to comprehending the factors affecting the market and acting accordingly. “Hope is not a risk management strategy. A producer might say he’s waiting for a certain price and when I ask him why he’s doing that he’s not sure, but that’s just the price he has to get. Know your cost of production first, and then talk about what price you really need.”
Snyder describes the canola streaming contract as a “cash advance on steroids” because he can pay it back over five years and do it with grain rather than money.
With so many marketing tools and contracts available, Turner says it can be overwhelming for farmers who already have too much on their plates. “Understanding the pros and cons of each contract is challenging enough, let alone deciding when to sell your grain. It’s vital that you fully comprehend the contract you’re signing and walk through a few different scenarios first to see how it all would impact you.”
Are the futures friendly?
When looking at the futures market, Turner favours hedging over speculating and stresses the importance of current market knowledge. “The average producer in Western Canada has to deal with factors like the currency component, as one of the best times we had with canola prices was when the loonie was near par with the U.S. dollar.” Then there are international events to consider, such as the 50 per cent import tax on peas imposed by the Government of India on Nov. 8, 2017. With almost half of Canada’s pea production exported to India each year, such moves can greatly impact marketing strategies. With all the complexities, perhaps it’s little wonder that a lot of farmers stick to straight cash sales and sell when prices are better. In the process of cashing in, though, they may be missing out. “Not enough producers consider deferred movement of their grain,” says Turner. “Sometimes it can pay to look three to four
Dare to stream
Depending on those needs, one option gaining some interest among canola growers is the canola streaming contract offered exclusively by Regina-based Input Capital. “A canola streaming contract is a multi-year, prepaid delivery agreement with variable or fixed pricing to sell canola to Input Capital,” says Gord Nystuen, vice-president, market development. As Nystuen explains, unlike delivery contracts from traditional companies, streaming contracts pay the farmer in advance, often before the crop is even seeded. In addition to locking in price and volume, the streaming contract pays a substantial portion of the contract value – up to 50 per cent – to the farmer at the time of signing. Input Capital takes on the price and basis risk for the canola contracted. If canola prices exceed a predetermined rate in a crop year, anything above that is shared equally between the company and the client. “Effectively, a streaming contract eliminates downside while leaving a farmer with a healthy exposure to rising prices, nicely aligning the farmer’s interests with those of Input Capital,” says Nystuen. “Many growers who struggle to capture a solid price on a consistent basis come looking for variable price contracts, largely because of our pricing expertise. Since we have several clients marketing many tons with us, we can start putting a pricing program together before farmers have even planted an acre.” 27
To do so, they employ a variety of marketing tools including basis contracts, calls and puts, and long and short positions on canola. While they don’t promise miracles, they take a longterm approach and aim for a “good solid price.” “In any season we are trying to avoid the low prices in the fall; but it’s almost impossible to pick the high price without selling all of your grain on one day, and you never know what day that will be,” says Nystuen. “Our goal is to get as strong a basis across the portfolio as we can and then use other pricing options to build the best possible price for our growers.”
Losing interest in the banks
One such grower is Taylor Snyder in Glendon, Alta., who is in his second full year on canola streaming contracts. “We were looking for a financing alternative to banks,” says Snyder. “I find finance companies are sometimes easier to deal with, especially one like Input Capital that understands our industry.” Snyder describes the canola streaming contract as a “cash advance on steroids” because he can pay it back over five years and do it with grain rather than money. “I’m literally hedging a portion of my crop for the next five
years. They guarantee me a price and we share the profit if prices go higher. Granted, I may give away some profit, but Input absorbs the losses, and in this business, taking the full brunt of the downside can kill you a lot faster than sacrificing some upside.” At present, Snyder has a third of his canola in the streaming contracts, which is generally the maximum allowed by the company. He likes the flexibility of the program in accommodating a range of circumstances. “If you’re not too worried about money now you can take less up front and a higher price per bushel,” says Snyder. “Since we required funds, we took a higher percentage at the outset which reduced our bushel price, but it gave us the cash when we needed it most.” Whatever your chosen marketing approach, education is critical. “You must understand what’s happening in the market, how it affects you and what your options are,” says Turner. “There’s a real appetite for that knowledge, and rightly so. It can be hard to understand grain marketing at the ground level when we play at such a big-picture game.”
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Seeding is the foundation for a successful crop
By Lee Hart Getting the proper rate of seed in the ground at the proper depth with the proper distance from fertilizer is vital to southern Saskatchewan farmer Dallas Leduc. It is all about getting the most number of seeds to germinate as close as possible to the same time, to produce a nice, full, even stand that hopefully, as weather co-operates, will mature and produce an optimum yield on his dry-land farm in Glentworth, Sask. “Precision seeding or trying to be as precise as possible with seed placement is critical for us,” says Leduc, who, along with family members crops about 9,000 acres of cereals, oilseeds and pulse crops. “We are looking for that nice even germination that hopefully continues to produce an even stand with even maturity. We always use good-quality seed for all our crops and seed is expensive. With hybrid canola varieties, seed can cost $10 to $12 per acre. We don’t want to seed too heavy and perhaps waste seed, so we are aiming to have as many of those we do put in the ground to germinate and produce a healthy productive plant.” Research shows that typically only between 50-60 per cent of canola seeds planted actually germinate, so any management that can improve that average is a savings in seed costs. Leduc has worked with a number of different seeding systems over the years. Most recently he’s favoured air-seeding systems with independent openers, which he finds are very accurate at placing seed at the proper depth. With canola, for example, equipment is set to place seed at one-half to three-quarters of an inch depth, and with a seed-metering system, he comes as close as possible to controlling the single placement of each seed to achieve optimum plant spacing in the seed row. Depending on the variety, and working with his farm agrologist, he can produce an excellent canola stand, for example, with a three-and-a-half pound per acre seeding rate. Seed is placed at the proper depth, with proper spacing between seeds. He supplies a liquid phosphorus product in the 29
seed row, while the rest of the fertilizer is placed about three-quarters of an inch to the side and below the seed row.
and other provincial government and extension services websites.
He follows a similar approach with cereals and pulse crops. He selects seed batches tested for a high germination rate, and based on a thousand kernel weight measure, his agrologist calculates a proper seeding rate for different crops.
While seeding-system technology has become much more efficient in metering and placing seed, Brook says the whole seeding operation needs to be managed properly. “Your field travel speed at seeding can make a significant difference on seed survival and emergence,” says Brook. He points to research with canola, for example, which shows the ideal tractor operating speed for seeding is four-and-a-half miles per hour. “Farmers are aiming to shallow seed the crop in the top-half to three-quarter inch of soil,” he says. “But at faster travel speed, equipment will bounce and they’ll have some seeds on the surface and some may be two inches deep. So slowing down with equipment will help get seeds planted at the targeted depth.”
“Seeding technology has improved significantly over the years,” says Leduc. “I am very happy with the system we are using today. We have the ability to control seed placement in each row and as well we have both zone and sectional control features on the drill so we can be as efficient with seed and fertilizer placement as possible.”
INTEGRATED APPROACH “Technology is making it possible for producers to be much more accurate and efficient with seeding and other inputs”, says Harry Brook, a longtime crop specialist with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry. “Being efficient with rate and placement of seed is key to the overall productivity of the crop and optimizing yield”, says Brook.
Precision seeding is a complex objective farmers, agronomists, researchers and seedingequipment engineers would all agree on. Today’s systems are good, but nothing on the market yet has hit pefection.
“Producers need to be as efficient with their seed as possible, and at the same time target that optimum plant stand,” says Brook. “They really need to be thinking about an integrated management approach.”
Brook says farmers shouldn’t be targeting just a minimum, but an optimum seeding rate. Research has shown a higher seeding rate, with cereals, for example, produces a denser crop stand, which can effectively control wild oats. That translates into a more robust crop, reduced herbicide use, a crop making more efficient use of nutrients, even maturity and hopefully a high-yielding, high-quality crop at harvest – especially if it is being straight combined at harvest. The effect of how the crop is seeded continues right through to harvest. Brook says the ideal plant count – plant density – for each crop will depend on climate and soil type. A seeding rate determined for the more productive Black Soil Zone will likely be different (higher) than one calculated for the Dark Brown or Brown Soil Zones. “Producers will know the productivity of their soils and we always recommend they determine the seeding rate based on a calculation using a thousand kernel weight measure,” says Brook. “There is not only a wide difference in crops, but a wide variation in seed batches within a given crop.” Seeding rate calculators can be found on Alberta Agriculture and Forestry 30
PRECISION IS THE FOCUS While there has been significant development in seeding technology over the past 120 years, farmers and seeding technology are still on the same mission – get seed in the ground in the most efficient way possible, with an ultimate goal of optimizing yields.
With all the refinements in engineering and harnessing of new technology including computer-controlled monitors and metres, rate controllers, sectional shut offs and precision guidance systems, where is seeding technology at? While over the past couple decades of seeding system R&D, there has been an emphasis on larger and faster machinery to cover more acres, the attention in more recent years is focused on precision. With many full-out systems covering 70, 80 or even 100 feet in one pass, it is not unreasonable for farmers to target 300 seeded acres per day, provided there are no major interruptions. But as seed and other input costs rise, farmers are dealing with a challenge: if they can get the crop seeded and inputs applied on time, is everything where it should be to optimize plant stand, utilize inputs the best way possible and maximize their dollars? Precision seeding is a complex objective farmers, agronomists, researchers and seeding-equipment engineers would all agree on. Today’s systems are good, but nothing on the market yet has hit perfection. The challenge is to consistently get the right number of seeds placed at the proper depth, with the proper spacing, within the proper distance to nutrients attempting to
get the optimum number of seeds to germinate. All of this must be done on the timeline of “as soon as possible” once seeding season hits. Getting an evenly spaced and emerged crop is important for the management of the crop over the entire growing season. An even stand is important for all in-crop treatments ranging from herbicide applications, top-up foliar nutrients, fungicide and insecticide treatments. Ultimately, its importance will be determined by harvest, where an evenly maturing stand is key, especially in a straight-cut system.
operations to adjust equipment not only for crops and seed sizes, but also for variable rates of inputs in changing soils and moisture levels. Conditions change from field to field, which makes the challenge of managing all conditions a daunting task. Seeding technology has taken giant steps forward from the first drills to gravity and air-seeding systems, then onto manual to computerized-control systems, to larger, faster, stronger equipment. Always building on the premise “where there is a will there is a way,” seeding technology is on the cusp of delivering true precision.
As the technology advances so does the fine-tuning during field
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The Misplay of our Generation 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 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
We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run. –Amara’s Law of Computing We tend to overestimate the effect of a stewardship mistake in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run. –Wolf’s Adaptation of Amara’s Law to Agricultural Stewardship Starting in June of 2017, extension specialists and state officials in the soybean-growing areas of the United States became inundated with reports of dicamba damage symptoms in soybeans throughout the Mid-South and Midwest. As of October, it was estimated that 3.6 million acres were officially affected by dicamba drift, with over 2,700 individual complaints received by state authorities. It’s been suggested that actual numbers are significantly higher since not all incidents are reported. Precise yield impacts may never be known since many of these drift incidents affected entire fields, leaving no untreated comparison. For those new to the issue, dicamba is a broadleaf herbicide in the Group 4 mode of action group, a benzoic acid. It’s an important tool for herbicide resistance management for weeds like palmer amaranth (Amaranthus palmeri) and waterhemp (A. tuberculatus), populations of which have become resistant to Group 2 (ALS inhibitors), Group 5 (triazines), Group 9 (glyphosate), Group 14 (PPO inhibitors) and Group 27 (HPPD inhibitors) in some places.
We use sprays to control pests. That’s the only reason. We have to apply them so that they work, or else it’s a wasted effort. That’s the efficacy part. We also need to use our resources, time, money, etc., efficiently so the whole process doesn’t bankrupt us and we have time left for other important tasks. That’s efficiency. And finally, we need to protect the environment, and that means making sure the product lands where it’s intended. None of these three priorities trumps the others. All need to be met to the best degree possible. Due to ever-changing conditions, we will typically change our approach to emphasize one or two of these three over the others to have a working system. Simply put, pesticides belong on target surfaces covered by the swath of the sprayer, and nowhere else. If they do move elsewhere (something we’ve come to view as inevitable), regulators conduct risk assessments to ensure that this movement does not result in harm. If harm is possible, mitigating tools such as application timing, product rate, spray method and buffer zones may be imposed. If those tools aren’t enough to ensure safety, regulators deny product registration. That’s their job.
Dicamba is a volatile herbicide, discovered in 1942 and first registered in the U.S. in 1967. Its primary use was in corn and other cereal crops, lawns and rights of way, at comparatively low doses, and relatively early in the season. Calling a pesticide volatile means it can evaporate after application, either from a liquid or a dry deposit, for hours or sometimes days after application. The resulting vapour cloud can move unpredictably, depending on atmospheric conditions, and affect plants long distances away. Higher temperatures increase vapour loss. Starting this year, dicamba-tolerant soybeans and cotton (Xtend varieties) were sprayed with new lower-volatility formulations of dicamba, XtendiMax, Engenia and FeXapan, to control certain broadleaf weeds (including the amaranth species above) without harming the soybeans. Problem is, dicamba can harm non-Xtend soybeans and other plants, even at very low doses. And these registrations were for applications that occurred later in the season, at higher doses than before. I usually don’t get involved in people’s decision about whether to spray, or what to spray. But I do get involved when it comes down to how to spray. That’s my job. The real question to me is “can this product be used safely in cotton and soybeans?” Right now, the answer seems to be “with great difficulty.” In my business, our guiding principles are what some people have called the “three Es of application” – efficacy, efficiency and environment.
But even if no harm is done by trespass, the products still need to be on-target. That’s stewardship. It’s a principle whose adherence gives licence for a technology to be used. It gives others faith in our competence. Practicing this principle when it’s easy prepares us for hard times. I respect our regulatory process, and know it to be increasingly conservative with regards to risk the less data there are. I worked for the PMRA (the Canadian pesticide regulatory agency) as an application expert for five years. I know the system isn’t perfect and can make mistakes. I know the system can be political. Usually it’s by being too careful. With dicamba, it looks like the opposite happened. The reason our U.S. colleagues and neighbours saw dicamba leaf cupping everywhere isn’t because all applicators suddenly forgot how to spray. They didn’t suddenly get reckless. They didn’t wilfully ignore all the training that the dicamba manufacturers and state and provincial governments developed in preparation for the product launch. Instead, dicamba drift reports arose from a combination of extreme sensitivity and easily identified symptoms, as well as an unexpected (by some) amount of vapour drift. Even good applications appeared to create problems. Despite warnings from local experts, regulators and registrants didn’t see it coming. Experienced agronomists have suggested that the observed dicamba trespass of 2017 implicates both temperature inversions and vapour drift. And although the new product labels advise against spraying under inversion conditions, they don’t say a word about vapour drift, the conditions that give rise to it, or how to protect against its occurrence. Not one word. I’ve searched the XtendiMax, Engenia and FeXapan labels. Nada. 35
Seems that the regulators and registrants felt confident enough in the reduced volatility of dicamba, based on their internal empirical data and modelling, that they didn’t need to mention it on the label. Calling that a mistake is an understatement. I’d call it the biggest spray application misplay I’ve ever seen. A part of the problem may be the enormous scale on which this new use of dicamba was introduced, over 25 million acres of Xtend crops. Scale-up errors are common in many industries. Emergent properties related to scale can’t readily be predicted by empirical data and models. Especially when the underlying data are scant, and the models were not designed for the evaluation of dicamba volatility. So what to do? The continued success of agriculture depends on continued access to safe crop production tools. Irresponsible use threatens that. By irresponsible use, I don’t just mean application. I also mean registration, promotion, sale and support. The whole stewardship package. When problems occur, we need to be quick on our feet to acknowledge them, to support those affected, and to try to understand the cause and prevent the situation from continuing or getting worse.
I want to stay proud of our story. And in this case, that requires admitting to mistakes that were made and taking corrective action that is in the best interest of our entire industry. Agriculture will persist longer than company brands and titles. It takes priority. It’s still too early to fully understand all the reasons for the widespread dicamba damage, but there has not been any recognition by the dicamba manufacturers that volatility could play a role. Instead, they cite applicator error; disregard of the product labels. But it’s not too soon to say that much of this could have been prevented with a smaller roll-out, with greater collaboration with government and university experts during registration, and with more honest information on dicamba volatility on product labels. Call it volatility humility.
The lack of humility and leadership by many of the proponents of this technology, those with no small financial stake in its continued use, hurts not just them, but all of us involved in farming. This is not stewardship. It’s not licence. It’s short sighted and reckless.
The current industry response appears to be the exact opposite. What I’ve seen is full of denial, downplaying, innuendo, blaming and entrenchment. In fact, Xtend bean varieties are expected to grow to 50 million acres for 2018, increasing the use of dicamba. Why is such an important issue in pesticide stewardship handled so poorly? The immediate victims of this situation are the producers that depend on new technologies. But the long-term victim is agriculture as a whole. The lack of humility and leadership by many of the proponents of this technology, those with no small financial stake in its continued use, hurts not just them, but all of us involved in farming. This is not stewardship. It’s not licence. It’s short sighted and reckless. Over my career, spray application has generally become safer for the operator and the environment. A big part of our success has been the adoption of low-drift nozzles, the de-facto standard for modern pesticide application. The development of less toxic and less persistent pesticides has also been very 36
important. We can avoid a lot of problems with good chemistry. I’ve been proud to tell this story.
We’ll all pay for the mistakes that were made. We’ll likely have more stringent and expensive registration protocols. More restrictive application parameters. Strained relationships. More distrust of agriculture.
In October, the U.S. EPA declared dicamba a restricted herbicide. This means that among other things, only certified applicators can purchase or apply the product, and they need to complete special training on dicamba application. States are proposing strict time-of-day and time-of-year restrictions as well, relegating the product to early-season application only. Fortunately, the states have that legal power, although they are being challenged in court by dicamba manufacturers. Experts are skeptical if these proposed measures can prevent similar or worse problems from happening. For now, fingers are crossed, because it’s in fact a gamble. A better alternative would be to move forward with more independent research on vapour and droplet drift generation and movement, identify the true causes of the problem, and proceed on the basis of widely-accepted facts. You know, scientifically. And as always, an ounce of sweet prevention would have been much better than the pounds of bitter cure that will surely be required to make this right.
Tiny and Mighty Bee Vectoring Technologies deploys bees in environmentally-friendly crop protection By Melanie Darbyshire A perpetual thorn in farmers’ sides, pests and diseases require much time, energy and money to control. At large-scale industrial operations and small family farms alike, the battle to protect crops from deleterious invaders is never ending. Add to this increasingly-resistant pest and disease variants, growing public scrutiny of farming practices and rising crop yield targets, and it’s plain the war must be well thought out and fought.
“The fungus is safe for humans, animals and the bees,” says Malik, “and when deposited onto the plants, blocks the botrytis fungus from taking hold. The upside to using bees is that this method uses no water, requires no heavy machinery and delivers the protective compound directly to the fruit with very little waste.” Using bees also boosts pollination, reduces the active ingredient load to a few grams per acre, and continually refreshes the application, he adds.
Crops such as strawberries, sunflowers, apples, Intending to be on the front line of the fight, tomatoes, canola and blueberries can be Bee Vectoring Technologies (BVT) has protected. developed an effective and environmentallyBoth bumblebees and honeybees can be used with friendly way to protect flowering crops. The the system – bumblebees are a better option for biotechnology company, based in Mississauga, certain crops and for indoors, while honeybees are Ontario, uses natural biological control optimal for open fields. products – such as a fungus called Bee Vectoring Technologies CEO Clonostachys rosea – rather than chemicals, Ashish Malik And the fact that chemical spraying is avoided to protect crops from pathogens like botrytis provides an added benefit for the bees (grey mould) or Sclerotinia sclerotiorum. But themselves, since spraying for pests with rather than spraying the product, the company delivers the traditional neonicotinoid products and methods is believed to product via tiny Trojan Horses: bees. be harmful to them. “We have introduced a new method for farmers to control For certified organic farms – who, in order to remain certified, different pests and diseases,” says CEO Ashish Malik. “It will cannot use chemical fungicides – the system is particularly increase their profitability, but also do it in a very effective. A single bumblebee hive of 200 bees can come into environmentally-friendly way, bringing benefits to the retailer as contact with approximately 10 million flowers over the bloom well as consumers. It’s a very sustainable delivery system.” period. “We’ve actually seen that yields, when using our That system comprises man-made beehives that house technology, are increased by up to 30 per cent when compared commercially-reared bees (as opposed to native bees which are with traditional methods,” Malik says. under stress and experiencing declining numbers). When placed BVT has tested its product in the field in Europe and North in the field, as a bee exits the hive to pollinate flowers, it walks America with very positive results. Its microbe is expected to be through a small tray of grey powder (a proprietary compound approved for general use by the U.S. Environmental Protection produced by BVT which contains the fungus Clonostachys rosea) Agency in the first half of this year, and is projected to be which sticks to their legs. When the bee lands on a flower, some available in Canada for the 2019 crop year. of the powder falls off and – voila – crop protection occurs. 37
Those Wily Weeds
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 over 10 yearsâ€™ experience working in the crops industry, with a focus on weed management. Jeanette lives with her husband and three children near NotreDame-de-Lourdes, Manitoba, where they operate a U-pick strawberry farm.
Managing the Growing Foxtail Barley Problem on the Prairies Abundance of foxtail barley, a persistent weed issue for many Prairie farmers, is on the rise. This is evident from its steady increase in rank across the Prairie provinces over the last 40 years, according to weed survey data (Table 1).
Table 1. Weed Survey* Rank (based on relative abundance) of Foxtail Barley by Decade. Weed Rank Province
1990/2000 2000/2010 2010/2020
Data from the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) Prairie Weed Survey Series.
Foxtail barley is not a new weed problem in the West. Settlers in Manitoba documented this weed growing in areas of agricultural production almost 150 years ago. At the time, it was largely managed by the intensive tillage and fallow practices used by early farmers. Adoption of soil conservation practices, including reduced and zero till, on the Prairies beginning in the 1970s is one reason given for the increasingly abundant foxtail barley. But foxtail barley is more than a one-trick pony. Its success can also be attributed to its ability to disperse and establish. As a simple perennial, foxtail barley relies solely on seeds for reproduction. The familiar awned seed heads move readily with wind, animals and equipment. With little to no dormancy, these seeds germinate in a range of soil types for month-long periods in both spring and fall. The only upside is that the seed bank longevity for this short-lived perennial is typically only two to three years. 38
Like most crops, foxtail barley grows best in moist, fertile soil. However, it’s generally outcompeted in these areas. As such, it’s better known for its ability to thrive in dry and/or saline soils where it gains the competitive edge over crops and other plants that can’t survive in these conditions.
Managing Foxtail Barley with Herbicides Reduced or zero-till fields are more reliant on herbicides for weed control. Which brings us to another ace up the sleeve for foxtail barley – its ability to tolerate herbicide application. Of the Group 1 graminicides, only Assure II (quizalofop) boasts control of foxtail barley. Poast Ultra (sethoxydim) and generic quizalofop products will also provide suppression of this weed. But because it’s only the non-selective Group 1 herbicides that have activity on foxtail barley, their use is limited to registered broadleaf crops. There are no in-crop herbicides registered for the control of foxtail barley in cereals. Glyphosate applied as either a fall post-harvest or a spring pre-seed treatment is generally regarded as the best option for foxtail barley control in annual crops. Application rates of one to two litres per acre Roundup Equivalent (1 REQ = 1 L/ac of 360 gae/L glyphosate) are necessary when targeting this weed. Limited data suggests that the addition of AMS may improve efficacy. Because glyphosate has no residual activity, application timing can prove tricky. Fall application is best for mature foxtail barley plants, while a spring application addresses the emerging seedlings. Although somewhat counter-intuitive, AAFC
researchers found that later spring applications are generally more effective than earlier ones, likely due to better coverage and uptake of glyphosate on foxtail barley plants past the oneto two-leaf stage. Short-term residual control of foxtail barley may also be achievable. Researchers at the University of Alberta found that a glyphosate tank mixed with residual herbicides containing flucarbazone + tribenuron (Inferno Duo) or pyroxasulfone (Fierce, Focus or Zidua SC) decreased foxtail barley biomass more than glyphosate applied alone. More importantly, it was also shown that the glyphosate + pyroxasulfone combination reduced the emergence of foxtail barley seedlings compared with other herbicide combinations or glyphosate alone. Residual control is the only option for mixed grass/legume hay land and pastures. The herbicide Kerb (propyzamide) must be applied in late fall prior to freeze up to provide activity on foxtail barley in the spring. Not including Kerb, the Alberta study concluded that residual herbicides do not effectively control foxtail barley on their own and should always be used in combination with glyphosate. It was also noted that, for the best results, herbicides should be used as part of an integrated management approach for this weed.
Managing Foxtail Barley without Herbicides Nope, not going to rehash integrated weed management here. But my inner soil scientist says farmers need to get to the root 39
Foxtail barley is more than a one-trick pony. Its success can also be attributed to its ability to disperse and establish.
of the problem and manage their salinity issues rather than just the salt-tolerant weeds. Planting a forage mix in saline areas of a field to use the moisture that brings up salts may be one of the cheapest methods. Although thereâ€™s little scientific evidence, farmers who have tried it suggest that, depending on the level of salinity, soil improved and foxtail barley populations decreased in as little as two growing seasons. Selecting the right forage mix is critical for establishment in such field zones. Yet another study conducted in Alberta found that forage species like alfalfa, smooth bromegrass, and tall or green wheatgrass were well adapted to and competitive in saline soils. As a weed article, it is worth ending on that note: always ask for the weed seed analysis of a forage mix before seeding it, as some may contain noxious weeds like downy or Japanese brome. Introducing these brome species to a field might help you forget about your foxtail barley woes, but wouldnâ€™t be among my foxtail barley management recommendations.
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Farming your money
Can a Financial Advisor Save Your Marriage? 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
I have a client (husband and wife) and the wife always jokes how I help their marriage. I have heard this before from other clients and always took it in good fun and never put too much thought into it until recently. This particular client has repeated it several times, so I began to analyze what my type of service means to different people. The intention of my services is to provide financial direction to improve farming and ranching operations. This is what my skill set and experience provides. It was never my intention for these services to go any further than that. Each client, though, interprets the service differently. I have farm clients who enjoy the opportunity to share financial results and talk openly about their concerns. That conversation is difficult to have with just anyone. Farmers want to share their information with someone who actually wants to listen. In the case of some of my clients, their spouses are interested in the farm, but only to a certain extent. They do not want to hear about too many financial details. So who can these farmers talk with? Sharing these details with others presents issues of confidentiality. They cannot, nor do they feel comfortable, sharing these conversations with just anyone. Every producer has an accountant. One would think that this relationship would result in an opportunity to share financial information. It does not always work that way. A lot of accountants involved want to talk about certain parts of the operation but for the most part, it is limited to income and expense as it pertains to income tax. Not all accountants are fluent in agriculture lingo. Farmers like to talk about financial performance of certain varieties of crops and different growing techniques. They want to talk about genetics and bloodlines in their herd. This type of conversation is tough to have with a lot of accountants. Another reason this relationship does not produce a lot of conversation is the time of year. Farmers meet and talk with their accountant right in the heart of 42
tax season. Accountants are jammed up trying to complete 80 per cent of their work in 20 per cent of the calendar year. So even if you have the right accountant, there still may be issues. Bankers are probably the first choice for producers to share financial information, but not all farms have a good dedicated account manager. If there is a revolving door at the bank, producers will not engage in conversations with the bank unless they need something. There needs to be a strong relationship to engage conversation. The farms I deal with – where the husband and wife are very engaged in decision-making – will use my services to settle disputes. One will feel strongly toward a certain financial direction while the other wants the farm to do something else. I bring a neutral third-party opinion to the debate and hopefully some financial mathematics that can assist with an objective perspective. This will be the catalyst for constructive discussion. I also validate each of the positions as they are based on good intentions. This is the case with my above-mentioned clients who feel I have assisted in the positive health of their marriage. These clients use me as an opportunity to talk openly about the farming operation. It is like a board meeting. Both parties prepare for this event and we bring constructive respectful
conversation to the table. It is a time and date that is meant for farm business. This dedication of time is a very important aspect to the process. It is easy to get pushed aside in this busy world. Couples will often say, “we will talk about that later.” Or worse, “when we are not so busy, we will sit down and figure that out.” We all know life is too busy.
Communication alone cannot solve all of these issues, but it is the beginning of the process. Everyone needs someone to talk to. Farming is a very stressful occupation. Farmers are owners/ operators of small businesses. They have to make hundreds of decisions each year that can have a huge impact on their operation. Anyone in that situation needs someone to talk to. They need to bounce ideas off of someone. They need to vent about situations. They need validation that what they are doing is correct. 43
Some of the topics/questions my clients bring to me are:
How do we handle the loss of revenue from a crop issue or calving problem? Can we buy our neighbourâ€™s land? Should we?
Should we trade off equipment now or wait and pay additional repair costs? Our kids are interested in farming, how do we involve them? The bank has issues with our financial position.
If producers do not have anyone to discuss these types of issues with, they will suffer. All of this leads to an abundance of stress. This can lead to depression, anxiety, alcohol and drug abuse. Within family operations, this type of stress can lead to conflict that can tear a farm apart. Communication alone cannot solve all of these issues, but it is the beginning of the process. Everyone needs someone to talk to. In June of 2017, Kim Keller, co-founder of Saskatchewan Women in Agriculture, sent out a tweet that started a provincial conversation. She had received a message that someone was looking for help to deal with a farmer who had taken his life. The Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan jumped on board saying the conversation regarding mental health was long overdue. Premier Brad Wall reached out to Keller asking her to share her discussions with the Department of Agriculture. Shortly after Kellerâ€™s tweet, I attended a Canadian Association of Farm Advisors meeting with our Yorkton chapter. Our 44
president, Delores Moskal, had seen the urgency for the topic and brought in speakers to discuss mental health issues that we, as advisors, could learn about. We also discussed options for our clients, the main one being the Farm Stress Line. This is a provincial initiative in Saskatchewan. As an advisor who works directly with producers, I have an opportunity to offer help. I deal on the financial side of their lives which is an area that can attract a lot of stress. My role is to listen and engage in conversation to start the process of problem solving. Simple empathy can go a long way in helping a producer get through a tough time. For the producers who are feeling the pressure that their industry can apply, find someone to talk to. It does not have to be a financial advisor. It can be a friend, colleague, neighbour or one of your many industry partners. I can guarantee you that most times, your situation is not unique. I can also guarantee that you will feel better sharing your situation.
News & Innovation
CLAAS Maximize Throughput and Grain Quality with a 2018 LEXION Combine The 2018 LEXION combines can now be ordered with the new CEMOS AUTOMATIC. This system automatically senses changes in harvest conditions, and then adjusts the machine’s cleaning and separation systems to maximize throughput and grain quality.
The CEBIS MOBILE Monitor also brings other technologies together into one simple control centre. Operators can set the parameters for technology such as CRUISE PILOT, an option that monitors multiple parameters to automatically control harvesting speeds for best results.
CEMOS AUTOMATIC will also become more accessible through the CEBIS MOBILE Monitor, with a simple touch-screen control on a 12-inch colour monitor. The new, intuitive interface actually simplifies the operation of the combine itself, using “slider” controls to set up CEMOS AUTOMATIC. The grower can dial in the desired performance parameters with a few swipes on the screen, saving time and ensuring proper operation automatically.
The new GRAIN QUALITY CAMERA also uses the CEBIS MOBILE Monitor as a display. The camera sits in the clean grain elevator, allowing growers to see the quality of their grain, even as it is transported to the grain tank. A silhouette of the combine on the touch controls of the CEBIS MOBILE Monitor provides additional operator feedback about grain quality, throughput and system performance.
NAVAG Since the first seed was planted by a human hand over 23,000 years ago, there have been countless ideas and technologies that have come and gone through the ages. In the evercontinuing pursuit to feed the world, farmers have always been the cornerstone of modern society. There is no doubt that the pace of technological change continues to accelerate. With the current electronics and big-data revolution in full swing, machinery and equipment are rapidly becoming obsolete, left behind and replaced in the new disposable society. As stewards of the land, this disposable aspect of society runs counter to the natural tendencies of a responsible farmer who recognizes the importance of the three Rs – reduce, reuse and recycle. Founded on a farmstead in rural Manitoba, NavAg Inc. has been helping breathe new life into old machinery and equipment that would otherwise be disposed of or sold. As a Topcon Aftermarket dealer, NavAg Inc. can add automatic steering to almost any machine. Yes, a 50-year-old tractor can steer itself. Considering a new drill and commodity cart to take advantage of variable rate technology? Why not upgrade a current setup with a VRT kit from Topcon? Concerned with spray drift and
need better boom height control? Topcon has recently acquired NORAC and can retrofit almost any sprayer on the market to provide the best control in the industry. Need better harvest yield data for the agronomist? Topcon Aftermarket can retrofit a combine to provide accurate data too. As a Topcon Aftermarket dealer and electronics specialist, NavAg Inc. has the expertise to make equipment and brands of all colours “talk” and work together. NavAg Inc. is here to help reduce input costs through precision application technology, reuse existing equipment through technology upgrades and recycle broken hardware with its service centre boneyard and environmentally-responsible electronics recycling program. For more information about how Topcon Aftermarket and NavAg Inc. can make a difference, contact Chris Paradis at chris. firstname.lastname@example.org. 45
News & Innovation
VALLEY IRRAGATION Valley®, the leader in irrigation technology, brings the smartest centre pivot irrigation control available with the Valley ICON® series of smart panels. ICON smart panels provide users with an intuitive, customizable touch-screen interface and includes industry-leading advanced features making the grower experience easy to control while saving time. AgSense® ICON Link is built in and ready for activation in each ICON smart panel, allowing users to monitor and control pivots remotely. The Valley ICON series brings a suite of four unique control panels, each targeted to a specific need. ICON10 is the flagship smart panel. With a 10-inch touch screen, it’s the most intuitive user interface in the industry. It also provides the capability to connect remotely to the panel via Wi-Fi. ICON5 provides all of the same control features of the ICON10
in a compact 5-inch touch screen. The ICON5 includes a set of tactile push buttons that complement the 5-inch touch screen to provide an interface for those who prefer the latest technology as well as traditional push buttons. ICON1 is revolutionary in that it removes both the touch-screen interface and the push buttons. It’s ready to control the centre pivot machine entirely from a mobile device. ICONX brings the full ICON advanced feature set to most any previous generation mechanical or competitive brand pivot. Growers with mixed-brand centre pivots and those with older mechanical control panels can now easily bring these into a simplified single-control platform using the ICONX.
EDGE AGRO Edge Agro is an agricultural development and manufacturing company based in Saskatoon, Sask. The company produces a dynamically-balanced auger that changes the industry’s definition of refinement, durability and innovation. Edge Agro incorporates dynamically-balanced flighting, which is suspended within the tube allowing for ultra-smooth operation at any speed. Suspending flighting within the tube prevents flighting on tube contact, which gives the auger near-silent operation. It also drastically reduces flighting and tube wear, prolonging the service life compared to conventional augers. Productivity is also a key focus of Edge Agro loading augers. Implementing 50hp and 60hp Perkins diesel motors on the 12-inch and 14-inch models gives the producer unparalleled power and speed to load faster and more efficiently. The flighting technology Edge Agro incorporates into their grain augers is easier on commodities than conventional augers, reducing damage to pulses and is the reason why many producers and companies are going to this flighting technology for constant duty applications. Producers also value the ability to run the auger empty without unnecessary wear and noise in 46
between trailers or if there is another truck in line to be loaded. Having over 16 feet of unobstructed reach past Edge Agro’s heavy-duty mover system makes the Edge Agro auger the choice of larger diameter hoppers. The 12-42 and 14-42 models will effectively reach 24’-27’ hopper bottoms with quad skids. There is also a 52-foot model for even longer-reach applications. The low-profile intake hopper is cleanly designed not to interfere with hopper cross members. If you are looking to get away from the noise and vibration while increasing longevity in comparison to conventional augers, Edge Agro’s dynamically-balanced augers with suspended flighting are made to last for today’s progressive farmer. Visit www.edgeagro.com or call 306-665-6550.
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Douglass Agro runs a mixed farm operation of cow-calf pairs, grain, and backgrounding. We use a range of Union Forage products including perennials for grazing pairs on irrigation, and annual cover crops for silage and swath grazing. We have had great success with the perennial pasture mixtures. The various legumes and grasses have helped increase our production while lowering fertilizer costs.Â
Cover crops after silage or green feed is beginning to be an integral part of our operation to help extend our fall/early winter grazing season with a high-quality feed; they also add another element to our crop rotation that is profitable and gives something back to the soil to build its overall health. Braden Douglass Douglass Agro Ltd. Gem, Alberta
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Farming for Tomorrow January February 2018