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FALL 2015 Edition

Growing stewardship

Harvest weed management a new priority »16

Growing Knowledge

Get the dirt at 2015 Farming Smarter Conference »26

Growing New Ideas

Hemp crop needs fibre processors »34


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Contents Growing stewardship

Growing Knowledge


Growing New Ideas

Know your grade . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17 Back to school for grain grading. . . 17 Book review: The Hidden Half of Nature The Microbial Roots of Life and Health. . . . . .


UN declares 2016 the Year of Pulses. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21 Agriculture had a disastrous year in Alberta. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10

Farming Smarter part of global learning network. . . . . . . . . . . . 22

Things done in the name of science . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27 Drought conditions hamper PGR assessment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28 Bloat free option for forage. . . . . . . . . 30

International Year of Soils. . . . . . . . . . 14

Vibrant Lethbridge keeps cultivating success. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24

Answers for an old challenge . . . . . . 32

Harvest weed management a new priority. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16

Get the dirt at 2015 Farming Smarter Conference. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26

Hemp crop needs fibre processors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34

Coles Notes

OPINION: What happened to the social in social media?. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8

Features & News 2015 – An emotional roller coaster. . . . . . . . . .

Chairman’s Message Farming Smarter right there with you. . . . . . . .

4 5

New way to support Farming Smarter! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 Minister Carlier talks about priorities . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6

Visit us online for innovative agronomic . and technical research information:

Farming Smarter is published bi-annually by . Farm Business Communications for Farming Smarter, . #100, 5401 – 1st Ave. S., . Lethbridge, AB T1J 4P4 . with the support from the Agriculture . Opportunities Fund

Corn research boosts whole farm returns . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 Partner Profile: Alberta Crop Industry Development Fund (ACIDF) . . . . . . . . . 12

Cover photo:

Ken Coles operates the new hail simulartor during trials in 2015. Photo: Morton Molyneux

Editorial Board: Ken Coles, Jamie Puchinger. Editor: C. Lacombe

Farming Smarter / FALL 2015


Coles Notes

2015 — An emotional roller coaster by Ken Coles


’m so happy to put 2015 to bed that I might even stay up to midnight this New Year’s Eve! Not that it was all bad, but this year’s emotional roller-coaster has left me feeling a little nauseous and bewildered. Finances, politics and stress are definitely worse for your health than beer, bacon and butter, so choose your poison carefully. One crazy ride that we can always count on is southern Alberta weather and this year was definitely no exception. A very mild winter lead to an early spring with the majority of fields planted before the end of May into moist soil. The joy from a smooth-seeding season slowly evaporated as the skies refused to drop any rain and the sun shone stronger than usual. A smattering of hail knocked the gusto out of some crops while others were strained from heat and lack of moisture. Variability was high due to frost and secondary germination from late spring showers. Irrigation equipment got a workout they haven’t seen for several years. Overall it seems that crop yields exceeded expectations with a few exceptions especially to the east where soils are sandier. But who was the hottest and driest this year? Here’s some bragging data from Alberta Agriculture’s AgroClimatic Information Service weather stations in southern Alberta from April 1 to September 15. Precipitation and Corn Heat Units are combined to rank the stations compared to individual long-term averages. And the 2015 winner for the hottest and driest is Del Bonita. Bow Island received the least amount of rain with 143 mm while Lethbridge had the lowest percentage of rain to normal with 59 per cent. Medicine Hat was feeling hot, hot, hot with a whopping 2745 corn heat units while Claresholm was the hottest compared to normal at 125 per cent. Certainly this data doesn’t end all argument as soil type and timing of rain and heat all play into who had the worst crops, so please feel free to continue the debate! The Farming Smarter ride included some stomach bouncing as our core provincial (ARD) funding contract was put on hold due to the election and, to top it off, we received four rejection letters for new project funding. Fortunately, the steep drop was short lived and turned around when we received word that funds for three projects


Farming Smarter / FALL 2015

received a go. The Alberta Pulse Commission stepped up as the sole funders of our Hail Management project as did the Alberta Crop Industry Development Fund (ACIDF) for work in hemp and dryland grain corn. We scrambled to establish plots with late approvals and exalted after the team worked extra hard to hold on. Another twist and turn and back down as our Medicine Hat trials suffered from frost and drought. The Lavern Gill family made valliant efforts to salvage a few priority trials when they hauled water to irrigate, but we had to pull the plug on most. Did you know they don’t sell crop insurance for research trials? A great field school lifted our spirits as did an approval for one year of funding from Agriculture & Forestry (A&F) despite a reduction in the amount. A further boost came from the Lethbridge College as they strengthened ties with us giving us more shop space and might even build some offices someday. In addition to this, NASA Holdings agreed to a five year lease on our irrigated land just east of the jail. Harvest went smooth and we only blew

one combine belt on the hemp. Our new corn header looks a little funny, but works well. Looking forward to next spring so we can play with our shiny new monosem row crop planter. Winter highlights include the conclusion of our soil sensors and fungicide night spraying projects. We also have a trip to Germany and Agritechnica. Our conference in Lethbridge December 8-9 will be smashing at the new Lethbridge Coast location. We’re sharing a booth with APG at Farmtech to show off our new hail simulator. February will be busy with a new conference called Tactical Farming at the Deerfoot Inn and Casino on the 10th and 11th, Canolab at the Lethbridge College the 17-18 and our AGM on the 25th. I’m tired just thinking about it! Thanks to all our partners and supporters for a wild ride! See ya next year. h Ken Coles General Manager, Farming Smarter


Chairman’s Report

Farming Smarter right there with you by craig walsh


ow, what a season! We saw no rain, scorching heat and a tornado a mile from our yard. I think we got to see it all. By the way, when tornados are small and moving away from you, they look pretty cool. By the time this shows up in your mail, you will have harvest wrapped up. I hope you made it through safely and had better than expected yields. Across southern Alberta this summer, I heard of yields anywhere from best ever to written off in June due to lack of moisture. We were lucky to pull off average crops in the Foremost area, although with some variability. The weather affected Farming Smarter too as we had to walk away from our dryland plots in the Medicine Hat area. Luckily, our research clients involved are very understanding and continue to support us. Speaking of support for our research, we still need ways to ensure steady, consistent funding for our programs. While we can find

funding for specific projects, this is always short term. Project specific funding also makes it difficult to look after capital expenses and harder to attract and retain employees. So, while we managed to grow our organization and foster many beneficial relationships, there is still more to do. Our Board believes that farmers want to play a bigger part. To make it simple for individual farms to donate to Farming Smarter, it became a registered charity and can now write tax receipts for donations. We also created a donations page on our website that has a button to donate through Alberta Treasury Branch (ATB) and they will match 15 per cent of all donations. The Farming Smarter Board thinks an endowment fund that would pay most of the overhead expenses would be pretty neat, thus allowing us to pursue projects that are valuable but don’t necessarily pay as well. This brings me to the project topic. We are

always on the lookout for something else to try. If you have some ideas, forward them on to the team. We love a challenge particularly when it comes from a producer. I am very fortunate to be the chair of a group that is so well managed and so well supported by the other directors and our members that this note is one of the hardest jobs I have to do. I would like to thank Ken and the rest of the staff for making it so easy on the board and for being such a dedicated and driven group to ensure the success of Farming Smarter. h

Craig Walsh Farming Smarter Chair

New way to support Farming Smarter!


armers that support the work of Farming Smarter can now receive tax receipts thanks to its new registered charity status from Canada Revenue Agency as of February 2015 allowing it to issue charitable donation tax receipts. “We’ve always had strong support from our community, but no way for individuals to contribute directly to the health of our organization,” says Ken Coles, Farming Smarter General Manager. He adds that many crop growers talk about the benefits gained through research projects at the field school and conference. Many also recognize the importance of objective science to reference when making decisions. Farming Smarter acknowledges it has many generous partners that support its projects and events each year. People familiar with its extension activities recognize its staunch supporters through the many places and times sponsor logos show up. It receives funding from the provincial government, crop commissions and industry, but

all of it is uncertain from year to year and Coles would like to develop a stable core fund to ensure southern Alberta farmers get research needs addressed for decades to come. “We wanted to offer farmers a way to directly support the core of our organization that brings them the information they need most,” Coles explains. “One important reason I want to increase local support is so that we can study things that are most important to southern Alberta farmers. It’s the regional aspect that is difficult to fund, since other available streams, including crop commissions, have mandates to support provincial and western Canadian initiatives,” Coles says. After some research, Farming Smarter realized that the best answer is to offer a direct contribution mechanism for potential supporters. “I dream of a day we have a $10 million investment that grows enough interest each year to provide core funding,” he says. While that may take some time to realize, it is at least a possibility now. Over winter 2015-16, the Board will for-


mulate a complete charitable status policy to outline how the organization will handle donations and recognize patrons. Included in that policy will be a legacy component for farmers who might consider an endowment to Farming Smarter. “I think that our members see the importance of having a research organization dedicated to their needs and I think they will appreciate the opportunity to contribute to the future of farmer focused, objective research,” Coles says. ATB Financial this year began a program called ATB Cares. Anyone can visit the website and donate to any registered charity in Alberta. Farming Smarter Association is listed on the site and ATB will add 15 per cent to all private donations made through the site. Farming Smarter has a link on its website to take potential supporters to the site where they can donate. “If anyone wants to help us out, they should do it now through that link and increase the reach of their dollars,” Coles urged. h Farming Smarter / FALL 2015



Minister Carlier talks about priorities by Madeleine Baerg


lberta’s new Agriculture and Forestry Minister, Oneil Carlier, is a selfprofessed farm boy and foody that says his enthusiasm for agriculture makes his job “fascinating.” Given the diversity of products, issues, priorities and stakeholders tied to agriculture, he faced a steep learning curve since receiving the Ministerial nod from Premier Rachel Notley in May 2015. But, he’s not complaining. Now that the wildfire and drought pressures that consumed much of the Ministry’s energy through the summer eased, Carlier took time to walk Farming Smarter through his key agricultural priorities for the coming months. Carlier is well aware of Alberta producer and processors’ frustration with transportation infrastructure. As such, he says he will advocate for agriculture as the Federal Government works through changes to the Canadian Railroad Act in order to achieve improved access to transportation for Alberta commodities. Also top of mind on his list of ‘reactive’ priorities is the human side of agriculture. With labour shortages common across agriculture, he hopes to work through some of the challenges associated with the Federal Government’s changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker program, he says. A change that will impact producers more, even closer to home, could come from amendments to Alberta’s labour laws. “We are looking at changing the legislation in Alberta to not have our farm workers exempt from the vast majority of the labour legislation, including health and safety,” he says. “We are the last province in Canada to still have exemptions for farm workers, so I am really looking forward to moving forward on that.” On the proactive side, priority one is market expansion. “I think we have some real opportunities over the next few years to expand our markets, to grow perhaps more innovative foods, to grow more of what we are already doing very successfully,” he says. “Sociologists tell us our population is going to increase to nine billion by 2050. I think Canada and Alberta in particular has great opportunities to be able to help feed those


Farming Smarter / FALL 2015

(Right to left) Culture and Tourism Minister David Eggen, Agriculture and Forestry Minister Oneil Carlier and Northlands President and CEO Tim Reid at Northlands Urban Farm in Edmonton, July 11, 2015.

people. We have good water, we have good sustainability, we have good stewardship of the land and we have good products that get better with innovation.” Part of expanding Alberta agricultural products’ marketability lies in both diversifying products and increasing processing capability to add value to raw products. “Our backbone is always going to be our big commodity products. But, there’s a lot of exciting things happening (in the production of non-commodity products), whether smaller specialty crops or greenhouse crops.” “Opportunities exist and we’re going to pursue them, that’s for sure,” he says, hinting generally at ‘big opportunities ahead’ from new processing facilities in the works for Alberta. Two specific areas he hopes to see grow revolve around intensifying land use. “I do think we’ve got to expand in greenhouses. We’ve got a nice, midsized community of greenhouse operators, but there’s room for expansion there. And, there is always room for more irrigation as well. We have the largest irrigation system in Canada and it’s done very well,” he says. “Irrigation projects do a lot of value added (opportunity).” While he is not ready to commit additional

dollars to supporting value-added or diversification opportunities for Alberta producers, processors and products, he does commit that there “won’t be any less money” under his leadership. Research and innovation are also high on Carlier’s agenda. “Research has been a Canadian success story for generations,” he says, citing significant improvements in crop disease and insect pest knowledge and the successful development of crop varieties with improved drought resistance and better suitability to Alberta’s northern climate as examples. “I do think we have an opportunity to perhaps foster more in that area,” he says, though he adds that the province’s financial investment in research should remain fairly consistent with what the previous government committed. Years from now, when Carlier’s time as Agriculture and Forestry Minister is just memory, he has a strong idea of how he’d like to be remembered. “I hope people look back on my work here and say that I was standing up for the farmers and the processors, making sure they stayed viable and making sure that they stayed productive and prosperous, and that in times of challenge we could find opportunity.” h


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What happened to the social in social media? by C. Lacombe

“Today, philosophers describe out-of-hand rejection of new knowledge that contradicts established beliefs or paradigms as the “Semmelweis reflex.” From The Hidden Half of Nature by David R. Montgomery and Anne Biklé


e live in an age of information quagmire (a soft boggy area of land that gives way underfoot). That’s a good description for it. It doesn’t matter whether you get your information from TV, print media, something called a trusted source or, Saints have mercy, the Internet. I find I don’t trust any of it any more. When the age of the Internet dawned, proponents lauded the advent of an information portal where everyone would be able to share information, debate topics and issues from all sides, share experiences and learning and just explode our minds wide open to all the possibilities life has to offer. What ensued first was a war for advertising dollars, then a war for attention and now a war for our hearts and emotions. It’s all the same war actually, but it’s completely left the arena and landed in our offices and homes. It is still all about getting our attention in order to advertise, although what’s advertised broadened from material goods into political thought, social conscience and personal responsibility. That open forum for thought turned rather quickly into a Roman stadium complete with lions and innocent peasants. It is true you can post something to the web any way you want and have the potential to reach the four corners of the world. Of course, often you reach 30 people — albeit sometimes from the four corners of the world. But, how useful is it really? Does it matter that Farming Smarter has Facebook followers from South Africa or LinkedIn associates from India? When we operate in a world where any post can cause a person or organization’s world to crash around them, what a prudent person does is post innocuous content carefully chosen to walk the fine line of socially acceptable… or kitten videos. Then monitor comments to ensure no one turns it into something offensive. The Internet mob shaming that is too familiar to us all now, killed a large part of the original hope for wide open, intelligent debate. Even Sun Media recently decided that


Farming Smarter / FALL 2015

Examples of Slacktivism taken from Facebook.

public commenting on its web content was simply wasting too much staff time cleaning it of trolls and quibblers. Comment threads descended from intellectual debate to trolls under the bridge slinging mud indiscriminately at whomever dared to enter their line of sight. The Internet spawned something new that I don’t think anyone saw coming — slacktivism. Urban Dictionary defines slacktivism as “the act of participating in obviously pointless activities as an expedient alternative to actually expending effort to fix a problem.” Social media teems with slacktivism opportunities where, simply by hitting share, you can let people know you agree with whatever one liners someone

wrote over a picture or graphic. You don’t have to know anything about anything, but you can feel you’ve had your say and done your part — slacktivism. The challenge for people who still have brain cells working is that we know just how reductionist this makes very complex challenges faced by our species, our industries and our countries. Also, these memes shape what people think in spite of the superficial treatment of issues. Once an idea is out there, it is very hard to get past the belief instilled almost instantly into thousands of minds and hearts. I am a woman of opinions (for those who may not know), but I will not, under any circumstances engage in Internet argument. I made a thoughtful comment one day on a Calgary Herald article. Immediately, a woman responded rather rudely. I pointed out the flaw in her generalization to which she responded with a completely different turn of conversation questioning my motives. My flags went up and I Googled her name. She was a hired gun for an oil consortium. It is her job to engage people on the Internet and tear their opinions apart in the event they don’t agree 100 per cent with her client. In this case, it was not acceptable that I mention landowner rights within the context oil and gas development in rural Alberta. I immediately disengaged from that conversation (if I dare call it that). Over the next couple of days, other people liked my comment. When I went to see who they were, I found them under attack by the same person. This is not what I would call open discourse taking place in a public forum. After cases such as the Internet shaming that forced 70-year-old Nobel Laureate and British biologist Sir Tim Hunt to resign his post at University College London because he made an unguarded remark about women in laboratories, who can dare to speak aloud in public? Agriculture in North America is under attack in this revolution and I don’t think it’s a good idea to go with, “this too shall pass.” Indeed it will, but we do not want to be road kill after the bus trundles along its way toward tomorrow. The fact is agriculture’s social license is dissolving during a time when too many people withdrew from actual food production more than a generation ago. The chal-


lenge that creates became evident when the Ontario government banned the use of neonics on crops last season. Where will the voice of reason emerge from this quagmire? As I see it, we are in a revolution. Our circle of influence can go from 30 to three billion in a flash. It can be great or it can be devastating and, of course,

we have very little say about which way it goes. I think though that it is possible to hedge our bets. Farming Smarter made a small first step with its stewardship videos released last spring and they are in good company with a few others also advocating. We are slightly hampered by our insistence on the truth and

our aversion to exaggeration, but I think we have a fighting chance if we start putting our own memes out there and create opportunities for positive agricultural messages to become part of counter slacktivism. That’s what I’m championing — counter slacktivism. Because, it will serve no one well if ignorance continues writing our laws. h

Corn research boosts whole farm returns by Helen McMenamin

Corn trials at the Farming Smarter site in 2015.


orn production is exploding across the prairies and especially southern Alberta. The south with its hot, dry summers and irrigation suits grain corn as well as silage, but grazing corn, a system that’s unique to western prairies, also expanded. The increase in corn acreage is partly because our summers are longer than they were 20 or so years ago. The main driver has been the availability of corn hybrids that mature with fewer corn heat units. Pioneer kicked Alberta’s corn industry up a gear last summer when it opened its 22,500 square foot Lethbridge Research Centre devoted entirely to corn for Alberta. “We have another corn research centre in Manitoba,” says Steven Ling Corn Research Director for DuPont-Pioneer. “But conditions are quite distinct from the eastern prairies here in Alberta and Saskatchewan. “We find local selection extremely useful in developing corn hybrids for each area where we

Photo: Farming Smarter

sell our products. It’s something that applies to every area from the U.S. South, mid-West and northern states to Canada. Each area needs very different genetics and that speaks to the importance of having local breeding facilities for local selection and not trying something you parachute in from somewhere else.” Pioneer has already made progress in developing corn for this area. This year, the company released three new hybrids, including one 2000 CHU (corn heat units) that allows for considerable expansion from the traditional grain corn area around Bow Island. “We’ll keep working to shave off CHU needs,” says King. “An 18 to 1900 CHU hybrid with economic yield would give a margin of safety and make corn a good choice for more growers.” Good corn genetics is only a part of DuPontPioneer’s investment in southern Alberta. The company’s core philosophy includes making investments for a successful, sustain-


able system. The vision for western Canada is to add new cropping opportunities for farmers, not a fad, but an option that has legs and strength for the long haul. A cropping option with good returns helps farmers widen rotations focused on canola. The Pioneer corn breeding group is linked to sales representatives, mainly farmers and also to the technical sales group, a highly educated staff that bridges breeders and customers with agronomic and other support. It takes many layers to build that successful, sustainable system, says King. Crop insurance is important, and it’s being offered in more and more counties as the shorter season hybrids have become available. And, as more farmers see corn as a viable option in their rotations, equipment and services to handle the crop become easier to access. Canola research is not done at the new facility at Lethbridge, but King expects soybean breeding will eventually come. h Farming Smarter / fall 2015


Growing Stewardship

Agriculture had a disastrous year in Alberta By Donna Trottier P. Ag

Farming Smarter’s Medicine Hat field site at the beginning of July 2015. PhOTOs: Farming Smarter


oil moisture levels in many parts of Alberta reached the lowest levels recorded in 50 years because of low rainfall and hot temperatures in the 2015 growing season. The resulting poor crop conditions and economic hardships triggered many municipalities in Alberta to declare a state of agricultural disaster. But when is the term agricultural disaster warranted? Alberta Agriculture and Forestry defines an agricultural disaster as “an event that seriously threatens the livelihood of one or more members of an agricultural community.” Alberta’s agriculture ministry estimates that 2015 crop yields are 25 to 30 per cent less than average with some farmers reporting as much as a 75 per cent decrease in yields. Pasture and hay fields also suffered under the dry conditions. Some areas received good rain late in the summer, but for crops, it was too little, too late and the damage to crops had already occurred. There is also no official definition for drought, as it varies from agency to agency and is very subjective. According to the Alberta government, “drought is commonly considered to be a deficiency of moisture, when compared to some normal or expected amount over an extended period of time.” Sixty per cent of agricultural land in the prairies received very


Farming Smarter / FALL 2015

low or record-low precipitation, according to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. There is sometimes reluctance to define the weather conditions and low precipitation as a drought or a disaster because of the elaborate plans that would be put in place and the financial implications of those plans. Declaration of a drought or a disaster, brings on the use of a different pot of funding than the financial relief available to farmers on an ongoing basis, such as crop insurance. However, the reduced crop yields, dry pastures and hay fields along with record-low precipitation prompted the Alberta government to declare a province-wide agricultural disaster. On August 21, 2015, the Agricultural Financial Services Corporation (AFSC) announced it would pay out $1 billion in insurance claims. The premiums collected by AFSC are used to fund the payouts, but since the premiums collected were less than the claims, the AFSC had to dip into the $2 billion reserve fund. The province’s declaration of an agricultural disaster initiated the process of accessing that reserve fund. The insurance and tax deferrals will help some farmers in the short term, but the question on the mind of many farmers and government officials is, “Will this dryness continue and how will agriculture move forward if the drought persists?”

Weather has always gone up and down in cycles or patterns. There have been droughts like this in the past and there will be more in the future. But are the Prairies in a dry cycle or is this a long term change caused by the effects of climate change? Some people believe droughts are caused entirely by natural variability and that the Prairies are in the midst of a warm, dry cycle driven largely by a lack of rainfall. Others think the current drought conditions are caused by climate change and that global warming exacerbates drought by intensifying evaporation. It is likely a safe bet to sit on the fence and support the opinion that the drought is a result of a combination of natural variability and the rising temperatures of climate change. It may be difficult to recognize a trend towards increasing temperatures because it is hidden by the natural variability of prairie weather. However, climatologists have gathered statistics demonstrating that average temperatures are on the rise and most climatic models point to a warming of the Prairies without a corresponding increase in precipitation. Models also predict that the increasing global temperatures will be accompanied by droughts that are far more serious than those caused by a lack of rainfall alone. Can we rely on the predictions of climate


models? Weather and climate may never be completely predictable, but the science of climate models has now come far enough for us to be more confident in the projections of what the climate may look like in the future. Climate models are mathematical representations of the interactions between the atmosphere, oceans, land surface, ice and the sun. Climate models are used by scientists to understand the current climate and to calculate the effect that future scenarios, such as greenhouse gas emissions, may have on the climate. The climate system is hugely complex and no mathematical model can absolutely reflect all of its intricate processes in perfect detail. Several assumptions must be made and uncertainties such as our inability to predict future greenhouse gas emissions or volcanic eruptions, limit the precision of climate models. Even so, scientists are confident that models can project big-scale climate changes and provide some plausible alternate scenarios of what to expect in the future. What are governments, farmers and

Farming Smarter’s Medicine Hat field site at the beginning of July 2015.

researchers doing to prepare for the predicted climate change scenarios? The agriculture sector is amongst those sectors most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and weather extremes largely due to its dependence upon natural resources. If prairie agriculture aims to increase resiliency through the predicted climate changes, governments, scientists, educators and farmers should already be planning for change and developing adaptations. Drought resistant cultivars, innovative agricultural technologies

and climate-smart policies, practices and tools are needed to address the potential problems which will arise with climate change. There is also a need for better disaster risk assessments and forecasting and warning systems to reduce the exposure to future threats. Prairie agriculture has thrived because of the industry’s ability to adapt quickly to new opportunities and pressures. That adaptability will be an important attribute for dealing with the predicted climate extremes of the future. h

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Farming Smarter / FALL 2015


Partner Profile

Alberta Crop Industry Development Fund (ACIDF) By Kristi Cox

Hemp plots at the research site in Lethbridge. PhOTOs: Farming Smarter

Agriculture Sciences instructor Adriana Navarro Borrell brought her Special Crops students from Lethbridge College to help havest hemp because partnerships beget partnership opportunities.


hen the Alberta Crop Industry Development Fund (ACIDF) decides to fund an agriculture research project, it is likely because the project is relevant in the current market, provides value to the growers, and is maybe even new and different. Farming Smarter’s hemp agronomy and dryland corn research fit those criteria this year, resulting in the start of what will hopefully be a long-term partnership. ACIDF is a not-for-profit company owned by a variety of farmer boards and commissions including the canola commission, pulse commission, wheat commission and potato growers. The organization formed in 2001, starting out with farmer money, and now has a contractual agreement with the Alberta Government. The provincial government provides the funding and ACIDF acts as the delivery vehicle. ACIDF’s current project portfolio is about $90 million, with around 600 projects that are either completed or on the go. Over the history of the organization, about 25 per cent of its funded projects were in manufacturing and food processing, working with companies to build more demand for what farmers grow. Another 25 per cent of its


Farming Smarter / FALL 2015

funding is in plant breeding and genetics, particularly in the area of disease resistance and increased yield. The final 50 per cent funds agronomy research. Alan Hall, New Initiatives Project Hunter for ACIDF spoke of why they selected Farming Smarter projects for funding. “Ken (Ken Coles, General Manager) has demand from the farmers for certain types of information, so it’s very timely. It’s something they’re going to use right away, it’s successful,” Hall said. When requests came to ACIDF ten years ago for hemp research funding, it wasn’t the right time. The market just wasn’t there yet for hemp. But the market demand for hemp is here now, so it’s time to focus on agronomy trials. “Knowing Ken’s group, they can come up with some answers within a year or two that are going to help growers quite significantly,” Hall said. ACIDF also funded a Farming Smarter project this year looking at dryland performance for corn in the southern half of Alberta. Corn grows very successfully under irrigation in the area, but new varieties with a shorter growing season may present a new opportunity to farmers. Feedlots are increasing demand for corn

Grain corn trials funded by ACIDF.

in Alberta. “We don’t have to compete with Iowa,” Hall said, “but if it’s competitive profit-wise with other crops that grow here, it could have a spot in the rotation.” There’s a good chance more Farming Smarter projects will come along in the future with a similar appeal to ACIDF’s selection committees. “We like working with Ken because, quite frankly, he’s very closely connected to the farmers. So you know the work that’s going on is dealing with things that are on the front of farmers minds. Being as how we’re a farm company, that’s pretty important to us,” Hall stated. “We’re quite frankly looking to maintain a good relationship for the longer term, not just a one-time deal.” h


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Growing Stewardship

International Year of Soils By Kristi Cox

Soil core taken from Farming Smarter’s Medicne Hat research site in 2014. PhOTO: Farming Smarter


oils are alive, life-sustaining and threatened, yet soils can’t speak for themselves. The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations provided a voice for soils when it declared 2015 to be the International Year of Soils (IYS). The FAO made this declaration with the intent of raising awareness of the challenges our world’s soils face, to promote investment in sustainable soil management and to advocate for enhanced soil monitoring. They also aim to get people to look deeper into the important and varied roles soils play in our world. When we talk about what we need for survival, people usually quickly respond with, “food, water and shelter.” Interestingly, nobody says soil, and yet that is clearly a unifying factor between all of those needs. Agricultural soils grow numerous plants for direct human consumption or for livestock feed and these soils also provide us with cotton and hemp used to make fibre for various necessities including fabric and paper. We


Farming Smarter / FALL 2015

don’t need to look much further to see the soils that nurture great forests, providing us with lumber for our homes. Also, soils all around us filter clean our water supply and retain precipitation like sponges; which helps prevent flood damage and stores water for times of drought. Of course soils have even more purpose in our ecosystems. They are critical components of the carbon and nitrogen cycles and they directly host and support the planet’s biodiversity. Healthy soils have the ability to provide us with many of our needs, but when those soils come under pressure, from development or overuse, a delicate balance can quickly break down and result in the collapse of an entire ecosystem. Many Farming Smarter readers likely know of the International Year of Soils and have the knowledge it hopes to carry forward. Many members of the public are unaware of the broad scope of importance that soils have in our lives. We need to remember, as farmers and stewards of the land, that nobody can bring awareness to

the challenges we face better than ourselves. Share a link on Facebook, Tweet a quote or fact, start a conversation in the coffee shop or take the time to talk to a classroom. Only when we bring these messages forward, can we ensure that people are behind us in protecting such vital resources. Farming Smarter is doing its part. Our conference in Lethbridge, December 8-9, 2015 is themed around soil, including our keynote speaker, David R. Montgomery who authored the book, The Hidden Half of Nature — The Microbial Roots of Life and Health. Join us as we wrap up the International Year of Soils together! h

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Growing Stewardship

Harvest weed management a new priority by Madeleine Baerg


t is a whole lot more comfortable to learn from others’ mistakes than to feel the pain of hard lessons firsthand. In the case of herbicide resistance, learning ‘second-hand’ means looking at crop production half way around the world, where Group A and B (grassy and brassica weed) herbicide resistant weeds began to plague Australian farmers in the early 1980s. The good news is that Aussie producers’ proactive response to resistant weeds proves it is entirely possible to keep farming even in the face of very significant resistance development. The bad news, however, is that the Australian experience shows a rough road ahead for Canadian farmers who keep doing what they are currently doing, especially as related to harvest weed seed management. “Herbicide resistance is not doomsday. But you do need to get your head out of the sand,” says Ray Harrington, a long-time crop producer in Western Australia and passionate advocate of integrated weed management. “There’s a train wreck coming for Canada if you let it happen.” Herbicides, while still important, are just one part of Australian crop growers’ management plans. The multi-faceted attack includes seeding for strong emergence and a dense, competitive canopy; rotating crops and herbicides as much as possible (harder there than here, since only cereals, canola and lupins grow in their challenging climate); and managing weeds before, during and after the season through every chemical, mechanical, biological, and physical means possible. While Australian farmers handle weeds differently than Canadian producers throughout the season, it’s at harvest that those differences become most obvious. Whereas Canadian farmers essentially ignore weed seeds, allowing them to scatter during harvest, Australian farmers employ a whole range of techniques to capture and destroy weed seeds. “A lot of the jobs you do as a farmer are a pain in the posterior. Harvest weed seed management joins that list, but if we don’t do it, we’re out of the game,” says Harrington. The effort comes down to simple math,


Farming Smarter / fall 2015

according to modelling done at the University of Western Australia’s Australia Herbicide Resistance Initiative (AHRI): if you can collect and destroy 80 per cent of weed seeds at harvest, the weed population will go down over ten years. However, if you solve just 79 per cent of weed seeds at harvest, weed populations will continue upwards. To destroy weed seeds at harvest, some Australian farmers opt to pull a chaff cart with the chaff either destined for burning and/or animal feed; others form narrow windrows to be burned; others layer chaff along GPS managed tramlines where it composts and is crushed by the wheels of controlled-traffic equipment. In the last six years, a new weed destroying tool drove onto Australian fields: the Harrington Seed Destructor (HSD) — invented by none other than our aforementioned weed management advocate, Ray Harrington, and commercialized with help from the AHRI, the Grains Research and Development Corporation and the University of South Australia. The HSD can capture and successfully crush up to 98 per cent of weed seeds of some of Australia’s most problematic resistant weed varieties offering real hope in the war on weeds. The world is taking notice: last year, the HSD won a prestigious Gold Edison Award in New York for innovation in agriculture. While the original version of the HSD existed in a pull-behind cart, a more recent rendition currently in the final phases of testing actually operates inside of a combine and can, in fact, be retrofitted into any existing combine. Expect the price to run in the range of US$80,000: a hefty sum but an obvious investment for those who would otherwise be decimated by resistant weeds. Two pull-behind HSDs are undergoing testing in the United States, a third is now under study in Canada. Before farmers get their hopes up too far, note that weeds problematic in Canada are not the same

varieties causing issues in Australia. While radish and ryegrass — both of which hold their seeds late — are the resistant weeds of note in Australia, many Canadian weeds drop seeds before harvest and so the HSD would not capture them. (For example, according to preliminary findings from field trials first started last year, approximately 80 per cent of wild oat seeds and about 20 per cent of cleaver seeds hit the ground before swathing.) Whether the HSD proves applicable in Canada or not, one thing is certain: Canadian farmers need to get on board with weed seed management, and soon. At issue is the fact that producers’ current management strategies at harvest actively support herbicide resistant weed populations. “You work hard all season to control your weeds. But, then you don’t manage weed seeds at harvest, which means you reward the weed survivors — the hardy ones that beat the drought, that resisted the herbicide, that survived the competition — by spreading them all over the ground. You’re selecting for survivors when you need to do exactly the opposite,” points out Harrington. “I hear some guys over in the U.S. and Canada say they don’t have resistance yet. Don’t be in denial. If you use chemicals, you’ve got resistance.” Despite Harrington’s warnings, his primary message for Canadian farmers is one of good news. “Yes, there are options. Canadians have a big chance of winning the war on resistant weeds because they have the option of diverse rotations. If they jump into harvest weed seed management now, it will get them in front of the game way quicker than we did in Australia. We’ve done all the hard work over here in west Australia. And we’ve shown it’s working. Canadians can grab that technology and they’ll be 20 years in front. But, if they bury their heads in the sand, the weeds are going to get away on them.” h

Australia Herbicide Resistance Initiative — Visit the website to watch videos from Australia’s battle against resistant weeds


Growing Knowledge

Know your grade By Lee Hart


armers marketing grains, oilseeds and other commodities should have a pretty good handle on the grade and quality of their crop as they approach marketing, says Anthony Rowan, a program manager with the Canadian Grain Commission (CGC) in Winnipeg. Knowing what you have coming off the combine or coming out of the bin “is absolutely critical” as farmers approach grain buyers and traders, says Rowan who is responsible for the CGC’s national inspector training and development. “Not knowing what you have in terms of grade and quality would be like pulling onto the weigh scales with a truck and not seeing any numbers or getting a print out,” says Rowan. “It is an imperative”. Rowan says it is important for farmers to know the grain grade they have, so they are able to compare it to the grade they are paid for. In today’s grain market, arriving at the elevator with a No. 2 or No. 3 grade doesn’t necessarily mean that’s what the farmer will be paid.

“At the Canadian Grain Commission we just grade a sample for what it is,” says Rowan. “We have our standards and guides that we follow and we determine grade and quality. But in this increasingly competitive world, the farmer may very well be paid for a better grade than what we assigned. “Depending on the buyer, with their volumes and depending on their needs, and a wide range of other factors, a person may very well show up with a No. 2, but through blending get paid for a No. 1. A farmer could come in with three different samples that all grade No. 2 — No. 2 for frost, No. 2 for mildew, No. 2 for immaturity — but the company may be able to blend that off and call everything a No. 1 — it is possible. And it is important that the farmer knows that.” On the flip side, if a producer approaches a grain buyer with what he considers is a No. 1 grade and the buyer considers it a No. 2 or No. 3, the farmer has the right to ask the CGC for a final ruling on the grade. One of the safe-

guards under the Canada Grain Act specifies “If you (includes anyone delivering grain on your behalf) disagree with the licensed primary elevator’s assessment of your grain’s grade, dockage, moisture or protein, you have the right to ask that a sample be sent to the Canadian Grain Commission for a binding decision. This service is an inspection Subject to Inspector’s Grade and Dockage.” Rowan says he has often heard it said, “it doesn’t matter what the grade is, what matters is what you get paid.” Depending on the circumstances and needs of a grain buyer a truck load of grain grading No. 1 might be valued $200/ tonne (just to use a figure), but another day a farmer with another load of grain grading No. 3 might also be paid $200/tonne… “We can tell you what the grade is, but what you get paid is what’s important and producers need to know whether they are getting a break or not,” says Rowan. h Lee Hart is a long-time agricultural writer based in Calgary.

Back to school for grain grading


lberta farmers will have the opportunity to go back to school for a few days after harvest this fall, to get a hands-on lesson on how to grade grain, oilseed or another commodity. Canadian Grain Commission (CGC) designed and facilitates the three-day workshop offered at Olds College later this year. “It’s all in a bid to help farmers better assess the grade and quality of the crop in the bin,” says Anthony Rowan, a CGC program manager course designer. “Grading a grain sample takes some experience,” Rowan says. “And it is not a process that can be properly captured in a brochure or explained in a video. It is something a person has to do hands-on. We have designed this course so farmers can bring in samples, we will have our samples as well, and

we will spend some time showing producers what they need to look for as they assess grain, canola and other crop samples.” When CGC inspectors grade a grain sample, they follow well-established standards and guides. It is a two-tier process. The first tier establishes the base grade looking for signs of frost or mildew damage and immaturity. The second tier involves more subjective factors like evidence of sprouted or heated grain or other elements. “It really isn’t something you can just tell someone about,” says Rowan. “You have to show them and then let them do their own assessments as well.” The Grain Grading Standards & Processes Workshop is described as a “three-day workshop providing an in depth study designed for producers


who are looking to become better acquainted with CGC standards, process and the grain grading process.” It Includes:

• F  amiliarization with the Official Grain Grading Guide (Canadian Grain Commission). • Seed Identification of Common Grains, Oilseeds and Pulses in Western Canada. • Standardized Operation of Basic Grading Equipment. • Identification of Main Degrading Factors. • Grading Techniques and Practice using Standard Samples. You can leave your email address to receive details by Googling Olds College Grain Grading Workshop and clicking on the link.

Farming Smarter / FALL 2015


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Growing Knowledge

Book review The Hidden Half of Nature — The Microbial Roots of Life and Health David R. Montgomery and Anne Biklè by C. Lacombe


avid R. Montgomery opens this book with the statement that, “We are living through a scientific revolution as profound as the discovery that Earth orbits the Sun.” He may be right. This is not the first time I’ve heard about the importance of microbes in the soil or in our bodies. This is, however, the first time I’ve read in great detail the science and history behind microbial science. I’m not going to lie to you, if you can’t wade through science and history, wait for the Coles Notes version of this one. I met, although did not become intimate with, many science-y words in this book. I found myself both fascinated and frustrated by a lot of it. Of course both Montgomery and co-author Anne Biklè (who are intimately involved — as in married) are scientists — he a geomorphologist and she a biologist. The book begins with the journey they embarked upon when they realized the soil of their Seattle residential lot was dead. Montgomery, a little chagrined with himself for not thinking about the soil under his own feet, gave Biklè permission to do whatever to remediate the soil. Several years later, with life teaming in the yard, the couple decided to investigate what obviously worked so well. Here is where you must put on your thinking cap and stay with Montgomery through the history of soil fertility science in modern civilization. Prepare to learn about archaea, bacteria, fungi, viruses and protists. Get ready for extremeophiles, trade wind travelling microbes and agriculture from (almost) day one. I learned a great deal by reading this book. I’m not sure how often I’ll get to use it in coffee shop conversation, but I’m not a farmer. We meet Carl Linnaeus who named and classified much of life more or less inventing taxonomy. But now we must go beyond traditional taxonomy because Linnaeus believed, “there was no point in classifying the little buggers. They were far too hard to see and all too much alike.” We needed the discovery of DNA and DNA sequencing to begin the work of really identifying and studying microbes. Montgomery takes on humanity’s journey of discovery to learn about symbiotic relationships between microbes, plants and soil. Here we learn how soil microbes help plants take up nutrients.


Farming Smarter / FALL 2015

David Montgomery — David will speak at the Farming Smarter conferece Dec. 8 & 9 in Lethbridge. We will have copies of this book for sale at the conference and David plans to sign books at the break and lunch hour Dec. 8. Contact if you want to reserve a copy of the newly published book for $25. You must mention you saw this information in our magazine.

There is a lot of information in this first third or so of the book. Humanity first focused on discovering and eradicating harmful microbes, but we may be entering a new era where we focus more on understanding beneficial microbial actions and learning to work with them. Biklè then takes us into the interior human microbiome and discusses what humanity knows to date about the microbiome of our gut specifically. Here the book delves into the world of viruses, gut cells, inflammation, immune response and the gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT). She takes us through the human biological history of microbe discovery and introduces us to its major players — Yellow Fever, cholera, tuberculosis, smallpox and typhoid. I found the history of immunization fascinating as it went from primitive beliefs that happened to be right to medical trials on the terminally ill to modern scientific trials that prove its efficacy. Also, the dual nature of our immune system that fights disease and regulates inflammation… or not; which is the basis of much chronic illness in modern societies. She offers us much food for thought regarding the journey a meal takes from

mouth to south and all the processes aided by microbes it goes through. Now we’re down to the cellular level of our own gut where amazing things happen to ensure our bodies take up necessary nutrients. Montgomery then comes back and establishes the similarity of our guts to the rhizosphere. He theorizes about what we may learn going forward about how soil health and human health interact. Because, by now, he and Biklè have shown they did the homework, his hypothesis has strength. The authors clearly have some thoughts regarding where we are today regarding soil and human health. I’m okay with that because anyone who does that much research on a topic is entitled to a learned opinion. Anyone interested in this new look at an ancient field will not regret reading this book. Just be prepared to take your time. h

TEDTalks ( on this topic Jonathan Eisen: Meet your microbes Rob Knight: How our microbes make us who we are


Growing Knowledge

UN declares 2016 the Year of Pulses by Anya McNabb, Pulse Canada


o all the farmers growing pulses in rotations, take a bow — you deserve it. In recognition of pulses’ substantial contribution to global health and nutrition, as well as their role in improving the sustainability of farming practices around the world, the United Nations declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses. This is a tremendous opportunity to increase consumption of pulses and inspire demand for foods containing pulse ingredients. Pulse producing nations have come together to plan a series of events and activities that will draw global attention to pulses in 2016 and beyond. The global pulse industry will launch a global pulse brand as part of its efforts to raise awareness of pulses. This image will revitalize and increase recognition of pulses as a healthy, nutritious and sustainable food and ingredient category. Alongside the pulse brand, a global website for consumers launches in November, 2015. will show consumers around the world that pulses are good for their health and their environment. It will give them innovative ways to incorporate pulses into their daily diets. A consumer promotion campaign, that will debut in 2016 and live through till 2019, will reinforce these messages across North America. Excitement about the International Year of Pulses was very evident among Canadian farmers at the recent Pulse and Special Crops Convention in Calgary. “Most consumers don’t know what a pulse is, but they’re looking for more healthy and nutritious food. They’re also going to like the sustainability story that comes with pulses,” said Alberta Pulse Growers vice-chair D’Arcy Hilgartner, who grows green peas, yellow peas and fababeans at his farm near Camrose.

Pulses are a low carbon footprint, water efficient source of protein that enrich the soil where they are grown. The reduction in fertilizer costs and improved productivity is an added encouragement for farmers to grow pulses. “I believe that growers will continue to increase the amount of acres grown due to the fact that demand will continue to increase,” said Don Shepert, who farms near St. Paul, Alberta. Ted Menzies has grown pulses for 30 years and says farmers should use this opportunity to show Canadians that growing pulses helps conserve the soil on their farm. “Farmers have been doing this because it’s part of their livelihood — it’s part of saving their land for future generations,” said Menzies, who is also president of Crop Life Canada. Allison Ammeter, a pulse grower from Sylvan Lake and the chair of Alberta Pulse Growers, saw a broader legacy for the International Year of Pulses. “This will be a pivot point on which genetic, breeding and agronomic research will also build,” noted Ammeter, who is also the chair of the national committee leading International Year of Pulses promotion here in Canada. As a global leader in pulse production and exports, the Canadian pulse industry is harnessing this global momentum to increase domestic awareness and demand for pulses among a variety of audiences — including


Photos: Pulse Canada

Canadian consumers, growers, media, government, food industry, health professionals and NGOs. An educational program in Canadian schools, a two-part workshop on pulse ingredient processing and a competition for post-secondary food science and culinary students are just a few of the initiatives planned in Canada for 2016. The International Year of Pulses will build a long-term legacy about the role of pulses in 2016 and for the future. The Global Pulse Confederation partnered with over 20 research organizations, universities, foundations, business associations, corporations and NGOs to encourage improved pulse production and consumption throughout the food chain. This may foster further global production of pulses, better crop rotations and address challenges in the consumption and trade of pulses. Ammeter says, “That is just the kind of opportunity we want in agriculture and one we should all support.” h Farming Smarter / fALL 2015


Growing Knowledge

Farming Smarter part of global learning network


arming Smarter welcomes Nuffield Scholars as they travel the globe studying their chosen topic. For one thing, it’s a bit of an honor to have them want to visit Farming Smarter, our research projects and our approach to benefiting agriculture. “It’s also great to talk to people from other parts of the world and make connections that last long after they return home,” says Ken Coles Farming Smarter General Manager. “We have a connection to the Australian Herbicide Resistance Initiative through a Nuffield Scholar that visited us. One can never tell when this type of link will lead us all to a breakthrough. Farming Smarter also sees international links through its website, e-newsletter and social media platforms. Edited from about-us/history/ Canada’s 2016 Nuffield Scholars - Tony Balkwill, of Paris, Ontario, Clair Doan, of Norwich, Ontario, and Tim Smith, of Coronation, Alberta. They will study precision agriculture, supply management in the turkey industry and social license for sustainable beef production respectively. Canada’s 2015 Nuffield Scholars were Becky Parker of Picton, Ontario; Greg Donald of Kensington, PEI and Colin Hudon of Rosser, Manitoba. Starting in February 2015, they respectively studied agricultural education, long-term strategies for the potato industry and farmland ownership models.

A Brief Background

Over the last 60 years, the Nuffield Farming Scholarships Trust provided over 800 people in agriculture, associated industries and the rural community a chance to travel to expand knowledge and understanding. William Morris – Lord Nuffield

The Nuffield name and emblem - a bull riding a bicycle - both derive from the late Lord Nuffield - William Morris. He was a grandson of a farmer and born in 1877 near Worcester, England. His business began by repairing Oxford graduates’ bicycles; which led him to make new models. It evolved to a motor car business through his desire to produce better cars than the ones he saw brought to him for repair by Oxford students.


Farming Smarter / fALL 2015

A better car for Oxford students.

Looking for ideas, he travelled to Detroit, Michigan to understand how Americans produced reliable cars that undercut British prices. Morris continued to travel, seeking new ideas and markets. Recognising the value of travel and study, he sent his key employees out into the world to develop themselves and introduce new concepts to his business. Financial success brought William Morris social recognition. As a leading industrialist and philanthropist, he was ennobled as Lord Nuffield. It is estimated that during his lifetime he gave away more than 30 million British Pounds. The Nuffield Foundation

The Nuffield Foundation established in 1943 for “the advancement of health, social well-being and care and comfort of the aged poor.” By 1947, encouraged by Jack Maclean, Vice President of the NFU, these objectives had been widened to include agricultural advancement. The first Nuffield Farming Scholars received direction to search out and bring back to farmers in the UK details of good and innovative agricultural husbandry from different parts of the globe. In 1950, the Nuffield Foundation started

a parallel scheme covering farmers from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Kenya, the Rhodesia’s and Tanganyika. These Scholars came to Britain for a study period of six months. By 1956, the farming industry began to fund the Scheme under the control of the Foundation and selected Scholars as before. In 1968, the new UK Farming Scholarships Trust continued to receive a modest grant from the Foundation while raising money and offering special awards. In 1976, the Foundation asked those countries still in the scheme to fund their own awards. France joined the scheme in 1982 with the Republic of Ireland welcomed in 1998. In 1978, the Trust became Nuffield Farming Scholarships Trust to recognise and honour its illustrious benefactor. Subsequently, the Trust became a separate body, independent of the Nuffield Foundation, a registered company limited by guarantee and a registered charity, following its incorporation in July 2003. To date some 1,600 scholars worldwide benefited from Jack Maclean’s proposal to Nuffield Foundation that it should encourage the advancement of agriculture. h


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Growing Knowledge

Vibrant Lethbridge keeps cultivating success By Trevor Lewington


griculture is a $29 billion dollar industry in Canada and the Lethbridge region is a significant player with more than 1,200 related businesses in the area. Agriculture has always been a strong economic anchor in this region and that trend continues. In fact, results from the Conference Board of Canada’s Mid-Sized Cities report indicate that a positive outlook in the Agriculture industry continues to help move the economy forward. With both a GDP increase of 4.4 per cent ($973 million to $1 billion) and employment growth at 42.6 per cent (from 3,000 to 4,300 jobs), the area economy continues to experience moderate growth despite a downturn in most other Alberta cities. In Lethbridge, we also continue to see a convergence of traditional industries with technology, and the opportunities that come along with a high-tech approach to problem solving. This region has a long history of collaboration supporting both innovation and entrepreneurs. Perhaps this comes from that quaint notion of neighbour helping neighbour often found throughout rural Alberta communities. Or maybe it comes from the learning and research opportunities that are unique to a campus community. But, visitors to our region often notice a tangible spirit of teamwork and a sense partnership that just does not quite seem the same anywhere else. This is inherent in how we do business and fundamental to creating an environment where people develop new ideas and celebrate the entrepreneurial spirit. The recent progression in the field of precision agriculture is an example of the potential that can be realized when strong industry and high-tech solutions collide. Lethbridge also has unique attributes that add to this innovative environment. With a college and university, area residents have tremendous opportunity to learn and train for employment. While local businesses in a ‘campus community’ can benefit from access to smart, qualified employees. Consider these facts: • Every year more than 2,800 people complete some form of post-secondary education in Lethbridge with 64 per cent of the 25-64 year old population furthering their post-secondary education.


Farming Smarter / FALL 2015

Photo: C. Lacombe

• Lethbridge College trains youth in state of the art techniques to deal with today’s workforce demands. With the recent of opening of the new Trades & Technologies Facility this fall, students, faculty and industry will have a more vibrant learning environment that explores emerging trends in sustainable design and technologies. • The University of Lethbridge is home to nine research centers and institutes that bring leading researchers together from across disciplines to address issues that affect our world and beyond. In fact, The U of L is one of the top three research institutions in Canada. • And, the Lethbridge Research Centre expands our agricultural abilities at one of Canada’s largest Agriculture and Agrifood research facilities. There is tremendous opportunity to focus on continued industry diversification by balancing cutting-edge opportunities, with innovative research, while creating an environment where traditional core industries can grow and expand. The introduction of new technology has always impacted commerce and culture while paving the way for innovative new systems. With ever-increasing global access, technology also impacts the economic shape and

viability of cities — 80 per cent of economic growth comes from technology innovation. How do we ensure we remain relevant within this context? In partnership with the City of Lethbridge, we placed priority on engaging the community to do just that. By using the Intelligent Community framework as a catalyst for discussion, planning and action, we hope to create a ground swell of vision-driven, community-based technology solutions to ensure we remain a community that can support technology-dependent business and engaged citizens. We invite you to visit to learn more about this initiative. Like the city we serve, Economic Development Lethbridge is a stable, yet dynamic organization working to ensure people choose Lethbridge for years to come. We are here to champion and celebrate projects that improve our city, ones that inspire a vibrant economy and those that require a visionary approach to effectively engage and enable citizens to thrive in the technology dependent landscape of the 21st century. We want to ensure Lethbridge is a great place to make a living — and make a life. We are passionate about our role in shaping and sharing Lethbridge’s story and we are proud to be part of its innovative future. h


News Briefs Bayer CropScience Expands in Lethbridge

Bayer invests $15.6 million in its Canola Seed Processing Plant. Bayer CropScience unveiled Oct. 1 the significant upgrades of its Canola Seed Processing Plant in Lethbridge, Alberta. Originally built in 2006, the Lethbridge facility supports North American canola growers. This expansion doubles the foot-

print of the plant and creates a significant increase of processing capacity. It makes this facility the largest dedicated canola seed processing and seed storage facility in the Bayer network. “Canadian growers, especially in Western Canada, grow 20 million acres of canola every year to meet global demand,” says Al Driver, President and CEO of Bayer CropScience Canada confirms. The Lethbridge facility is a 43,000

square foot building with an additional five acres of storage bins and conveyances. Moreover, the expansion brought the processing capacity to over 30,000 tonnes per year. As a result of the expansion, the Lethbridge plant now employs 53 full-time and seasonal positions, making this facility a significant employer in the agricultural industry of Southern Alberta. h

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Growing Knowledge

Get the dirt at 2015 Farming Smarter Conference


PhotoS: Jamie Puchinger

o you have dead dirt? Come to Farming Smarter’s conference and ask David Montgomery while he signs a copy of his latest book, written in partnership with Anne Biklè, at Coast Hotel Lethbridge December 8 and 9. A new twist this year, Shaun Haney from Real agreed to be the master of ceremonies and we are very eager to have him on board to seamlessly transition between speakers and facilitate questions. Montgomery is the keynote presenter and will explore how microbial science is transforming the way we see nature and ourselves. Montgomery has more than 200 scientific papers published and four technical books. He also received three Washington State Book Awards for The Rocks Don’t Lie, Dirt and King of Fish. His new book The Hidden Half of Nature, co-authored with his wife Biklé, comes out this winter. John Knapp will look at 10 global macrotrends and the impact they will have on southern Alberta Agriculture. Knapp continues to contribute as an author, keynote speaker, executive coach and college lecturer after a 36-year career with the Alberta Government. Peter Johnson aka @wheatpete will talk about maximizing your wheat production. Johnson, recently retired from Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food where he founded and hosted CropLine, but continues to work as an independent agronomist and contributor to Real Agriculture with Wheat Pete’s Word. Returning attendees will also enjoy the


Farming Smarter / FALL 2015

larger space, new facilities and exceptional food from LA Chefs that will be part of the conference this year with the move to Coast Hotel. Conference cost stays the same this year with the full pass at $225 and a one day pass for $150 (does not include the banquet). You can register on or call 403-381-5118. This year we have many other great speakers such as Dr. Ron DePauw, Dr. Bob Stewart, Dr. Vern Baron, Dr. Pauline Mele, Kristjan Hebert, Rob Dunn, Dan Orchard, Julianne Curran, Caalan Covey, Ron Pidskalny and Michael Madore. Farming Smarter will take time each day to share project results from a few trials. The December 8 social offers a unique

opportunity to hear from Charlie Russell, the founding director of the Pacific Rim Grizzly Bear Co-Existence Study. Renowned worldwide for his ground-breaking work with grizzly bears in Canada and Russia, Charlie spent the better part of 54 years closely observing the nature of these animals in their natural habitat — more time than anyone else in direct, peaceful relationship with wild grizzly bears. Social tickets are only $30 and anyone can join us for Charlie’s talk by purchasing a ticket. Our partnership with 4-H continues as we host speech contest winners and hold a silent auction to raise money for Southern Alberta 4-H. Anyone can donate items for this auction; contact Jamie Puchinger through Farming Smarter. h


Growing New Ideas

Things done in the name of science By Mike Gretzinger, Research Co-ordinator


hen people talk about research they sometimes make it out to be a glamorous world of red carpet interviews, TEDTalks, book signings and working with high tech robotic equipment. That isn’t how this played out. I never imagined I would wake up at 4 a.m.; pull in at the shop in the pitch black; jump-start a dirty old Chevy pickup; cruise out in the field through an incomprehensible maze of research plots; connect our tangled spray equipment and dawn my Tyvek suit (while trying not to get eaten alive by mosquitoes) all with nothing more than a little camping headlamp and some weak, old halogen headlights. But, that’s exactly what I did for the Night Spraying projects. What makes night spraying special is that not everyone has tried it and not everyone even wants to for that matter. Night spraying farmers are part of a club of elite, cautious, smart, practical, resourceful and prudent farmers trying to make good on-farm decisions about how to handle good old Mother Nature. The project idea was a by-product of the environment and culture of farming in southern Alberta and numerous conversations with local farmers and researchers (thanks Don Boles and Bob Blackshaw). The technological advances in cropping such as GPS, auto steer and modern lighting make it possible to spray in the dark with relative safety. The changing nature of farms as big business means many farm managers look to any ideas to improve efficiency and eliminate down time. Night spraying also offers a practical solution to the typical weather patterns of southern Alberta summers where it is often calm and cool in the morning and evening, and then windy starting around 11 a.m. What I liked most about the Night Spraying Herbicides Project (and recently the Night Spraying Fungicides) project is that it is the definition of applied research. That is to say, it takes the very real problem of application timing and tests it under real world conditions where wind speed, wind direction, temperature, humidity, dew, daylight and other factors can all sway spray success. We didn’t spray greenhouse plants grown in a lab under perfect sunlight/ darkness scheduled lighting regimens with special applicators to quantify a specific droplet onto a measured leaf area. Instead we went out to the field late at midnight (12-1 a.m.), at dawn

(4-5 a.m.) and at noon (12-1 p.m.) just like a farmer would. We grew conventional crops (Roundup Ready canola, Liberty Link canola, wheat and peas) under conventional regional practices. We also used the same style spray nozzles and seed openers that a farmer would. The only minor difference is that our scale of plots is much smaller so that we can randomize and replicate our efforts and hopefully show some statistical evidence of any results. And we did get results that go against conventional wisdom. Many farmers spray early in the day and avoid mid-day applications because we often get an afternoon breeze in southern Alberta. However, modern technology allows us to spray with minimal losses up to 30+ km/h of wind. The results of our trials clearly indicate that all that getting up at ungodly hours did not benefit our crops in terms of better herbicide efficacy or crop tolerance. Challenges with high humidity and cool temperatures both at night and in early morning eliminated any gains a lack of breeze may offer. We tried every way imaginable to spray with different chemicals at different times on different crops and, still, spraying during the day gave noticeably better results over all. We even sprayed trials in southern Alberta (Lethbridge), east-central Alberta (Bonnyville) and the Peace Country (Falher) and still got similar results. Many people walked fields at night to bring you these findings! (Thank you to Avery, Brent, Cheri, Grayson, Iain, Jamie, Jodie, Ken,

Kristina, Matt, Randi, Randi-Jo and Toby for spraying during many late nights and early mornings). We measured everything but the level of staff member discontent at working off hours and still, the best time to spray come out as mid-day. There is of course a 110-page scientific report that covers all the variables we included and results we got from all the locations over the last three years. We will release more information and data about this project over the coming months. Watch our website project page, subscribe to our e-newsletter and keep reading our magazine. Also, we had so much fun doing this, we expanded the project to include fungicides! More on that to follow too. h

Mike in the middle of the night.

Dew drops at dawn.  PHOTOs: Farming Smarter


Farming Smarter / FALL 2015


Growing New Ideas

Drought conditions hamper PGR assessment by Lee Hart


ith near drought growing conditions across most of Alberta this past summer, 2015 may not have been the best year to make many decisions about the effectiveness of using a plant growth regulator on wheat, says a researcher with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry. While much of the research data still needs to be analyzed, a preliminary assessment shows that the results of using a product such as Manipulator, a plant growth regulator marketed by Engage Agro, were mixed and in some cases negative, says Dr. Sheri Strydhorst, an agronomy research scientist, based in Barrhead. Referring to results from a plots in the Edmonton area that received only five inches of rain over the growing season, she actually saw a 10 per cent yield decrease on moisture-stressed wheat treated with a PGR. “And those mixed results are not surprising because the label says the product is not to be used when the crop is stressed and lack of moisture certainly puts stress on the crop,” says Strydhorst. “Probably the greatest take-home message for farmers from 2015 is if the crop is under stress do not apply a PGR.” If the crop lacks moisture, the product places a hormonal stress on the plant that ultimately results in a yield reduction. Strydhorst included an evaluation of using PGRs in a three-year research project that looks at a wide range of management and agronomic factors affecting crop production. She looks at the effectiveness of Manipulator PGR along with a so-far unregistered product identified as PGR B. Manipulator was registered in Canada last year as a harvest management tool to help reduce crop lodging. Engage Agro technical representative Phil Bernardin, says as a further benefit, their research also showed a yield increase as crop height is reduced. Strydhorst’s 2015 research trials at four locations — dryland and irrigated plots at Lethbridge, along with Killam in east central Alberta, Bon Accord just north of Edmonton and Falher in the south Peace River region — all showed some height reduction in the crop, although she points out that doesn’t necessarily translate into improved standability. At the Bon Accord site she observed a three centimetre height reduction in wheat. There was a four centimetre height reduction in wheat


Farming Smarter / FALL 2015

grown under irrigation at Lethbridge and a seven centimetre height reduction in dryland wheat at Lethbridge. “Just because there is some height reduction that doesn’t necessarily mean the variety has improved standability,” says Strydhorst. “At some sights we measured a height reduction but there was no difference in standability between the treated and untreated plots. The only benefit might have been if the farmer was trying to reduce the amount of crop residue, then the height reduction would have been a benefit. But then the producer has to weigh the benefit of reduced crop residue against the cost of applying the product and also the risk of applying the product under dry conditions.”

“Just because there is some height reduction that doesn’t necessarily mean the variety has improved standability.” — Dr. Sheri Strydhorst VARIETY SPECIFIC

Strydhorst says the research also shows the effects of a PGR are very variety specific. At the irrigated site in Lethbridge for example, which would have had the best growing conditions, CDC Go wheat had some height reduction and “a small reduction” in improved lodging. At the same site the wheat variety AC Harvest had a 13.5 per cent height reduction “showing that it responds very well to a PGR,” says Strydhorst. At the Lethbridge site, Hard Red Spring varieties AC Harvest, Coleman and Thorsby all responded well to the PGR and demonstrated improved standability. However, looking at Canada Prairie spring wheats AC Foremost and AAC Penhold showed reduction in height but no improvement in lodging between treated and untreated plots. Strydhorst says she and colleague Dr. Linda Hall, a University of Alberta research agronomist, both look at the effect PGRs have on different varieties and ultimately hope to publish a handbook listing variety performance and other management factors.


Strydhorst also says while a product such as Manipulator does have a fairly wide window of application from a crop safety standpoint, for optimum performance the product application needs to be when the crop is at Growth Stage 31. If the product is applied before or after Growth Stage 31, it will be less effective. “So the timing is still quite critical,” says Strydhorst and determining crop stage involves more than just a quick look at the plants. To determine crop stage, a plant has to be pulled and the stem cut with a knife at the base to determine the location of nodes. It takes some training to make the assessment. And the crop stage can be a moving target depending on growing conditions. “As an example, working with a colleague on a trial at two locations, we wanted to treat the crop with products at Growth Stage 31 and again at Growth Stage 33,” says Strydhorst. “At my research site near Barrhead it took the crop four days to move from Growth Stage 31 to 33. At my colleague’s site near Edmonton it took the crop 10 days to move between those stages and that is all related to growing conditions. So the producer wants to apply the product as close to Growth Stage 31 as possible and depending on growing conditions they may only have a few days to do it.” Phil Bernardin with Engage Agro says obviously while sales are important the company was glad to see farmers in the drought-affected areas were not using Manipulator this past season. “I am personally not aware of any yield reductions through Manipulator applied on a stressed crop,” says Bernardin. “But we are pleased producers in parts of western Saskatchewan and through Alberta did not use the product under these dry conditions and then be left with the impression that the product doesn’t work. Our research shows it is quite effective under more average growing conditions and farmers in eastern Saskatchewan and through Manitoba were using it to reduce the amount of lodging in their crops.” Bernardin says their research shows under more average growing conditions the product works to shorten the stem growth of the plant anywhere from five to 20 per cent depending on variety. And as an important side benefit the majority of producers see a yield increase ranging between five and 10 per cent. h


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Growing New Ideas

Bloat free option for forage By Alexis Kienlen


any producers have better forage crops thanks to Surya Acharya who dedicated his career to forage development and the last 15 years to a new forage legume. Acharya, who works as a research scientist and forage breeder with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, recently released a sainfoin variety called AC Mountainview. Acharya became interested in the crop because he thought it could be mixed with alfalfa removing the possibility of bloat. “It is comparable with alfalfa,” said Acharya, a 26 year veteran at the Lethbridge Research Station. “Because it has condensed tannins in it, the protein digestion is better for animals.” Forage growers overlooked sainfoin in the past because the varieties grown in western Canada were not as high yielding as alfalfa. The crop originated in Europe and grows very well in places like Kazakhstan and central Asia. Before Acharya produced AC Mountainview, the last variety was produced in Alberta in the 1970s. “The crop was growing here, but the true potential of the crop, of any crop, is only realized when you have cultivars adapted to the conditions where you will use it,” said Acharya. His breeding program successfully developed a variety that could be cut multiple times in a year, offering higher yields. While sainfoin can be grown alone, Acharya wanted to develop a cultivar that could compete with alfalfa and survive in an alfalfa stand. “The advantage of putting sainfoin in with alfalfa is that the alfalfa stand becomes bloat free. Our research has shown that 15 per cent sainfoin prevents bloat in an alfalfa pasture,” said Acharya. The alfalfa/sainfoin mix provides good nutrition for cattle, allowing producers to increase gains and stocking rates. The crop looks like a canola crop when in bloom and its flowers are quite obvious. While canola has yellow flowers and alfalfa has purple flowers, sainfoin’s flowers are bright pink. Honeybees really like the crop; which makes it attractive to beekeepers. Sainfoin’s hollow stem means that animals tend to eat the whole plant without leaving behind any stems. The crop is a large seeded crop and is fairly easy to establish. It tends to flourish


Farming Smarter / FALL 2015

PHOTO: Surya Acharyae

in a continuous grazing system, likely because it is under less pressure. Sainfoin can outcompete weeds once established and alfalfa chemical controls also work on sainfoin. The crop is drought-resistant and, because it is a legume, it doesn’t need fertilizer to establish itself. Its long root structure means that it can penetrate through soil to reach nutrients that other plants can’t reach. It is high in protein and useful in hay, silage or grazed alone or with other crops. Acharya and his research team developed a sainfoin variety that can survive with alfalfa, produce high biomass and grow back after multiple cuts. They used conventional breeding techniques to breed AC Mountainview. The development of any open-pollinated cultivar takes a long time. Perennial forage crops are mostly open-pollinated; which makes them more difficult to breed. It takes longer to breed a forage crop than it does to breed a cereal or an oilseed crop. To create sainfoin, Acharya spent 10 years developing cultivars and then three years testing the crop. For the past while, the focus has been increasing seed so the crop can be ready for the marketplace. For perennial crops, it takes about two years to produce enough seed. While AC Mountainview can achieve great yields and prevents bloat, Acharya still doesn’t know if any insects or diseases can affect it.

“Only when you grow a crop in very large areas, do you start to know its weaknesses,” he said. So far, it’s been established that the crop doesn’t do well in high moisture conditions and doesn’t grow well in acidic soil. Acharya is now trying to select sainfoin cultivars to breed a variety that flourishes in acidic soil. The crop may attract pocket gophers, but may not be as palatable to them as alfalfa. With the selection and breeding of sainfoin done at the Lethbridge Research Station, the crop is mainly adapted to southern conditions. “Most people say it cannot be adapted for the black soil zone, but as a breeder, I don’t agree with those comments,” said Acharya. In his view, breeders can adapt a plant to any condition if they do the work to breed proper cultivars. “We have to keep trying to bring in new germplasm. In the case of open pollinated crops such as sainfoin, we can probably develop our own population by selecting plants that work under different conditions,” he said. He’s currently at work on a project to develop sainfoin varieties that will do well in the northern parts of Alberta and Saskatchewan. “I hope and I believe that in a few years we will have a population that will do well in the northern part of Alberta and Saskatchewan,” he said. Producers will be able to try out AC Mountainview in fall 2016 or 2017. The cultivar has already been turned over to Northstar Seeds, a private company based out of Neepawa, Manitoba. The company started producing seed for sale in 2015, but had flood and hail problems that delayed the availability of seed. Acharya is still working to develop sainfoin cultivars that will grow widely throughout the prairie provinces. His other major area of interest is learning how to rejuvenate old pastures by using bloat free legumes. He’s applied for funding for some new programs. “My main goal is to develop sainfoin that will grow north of Hwy. 1,” he said. “We’ll see what we can get. It might take a little bit of time.” h


Did you Know? Lupins, those showy perennial flowers, are also a food crop! According to Wikipedia, in addition to the garden varieity, there are also species that are annuals, shrubs and one tree variety. They flower on spikes and produce pea-like pods. They are legumes and those pea-like pods produce lupin beans that have a longer history than most human civilizations. Romans ate them and, today, Australians grow Lupinus angustifolius. The Wikipedia article says, Austrailian sweet lupins are high in protein, dietary fiber and antioxidants, very low in starch, and, like all legumes, are gluten-free. Lupins can be used to make a variety of foods both sweet and savoury including everyday meals, traditional fermented foods, baked foods and sauces.” There is also a European white lupin — lupinus albus. People eat them as lupin bean pickles all over Europe. People also eat them in Brazil, Egypt and the Middle East. Native Americans ate them and so did the Inca. Today, they show up in vegan dishes. Some consider them an alternative to soybeans. Agriculture uses them for green manure, forage, stock feed and bean crop. It looks like there is quite a bit of potential for the beans as a food crop. They also fix nitrogen like other legumes. h

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Growing New Ideas

Answers for an old challenge By Alexis Kienlen


ail is an unfortunate reality when you live in Alberta, the hail capital of North America. But even though Albertans have a lot of experience with hail, there’s been little research done on how crops recover after they’ve been beaten by hail. The Alberta Pulse Growers (APG), in partnership with Farming Smarter, embarked on a new project that will change all of that. The two farming organizations started a five-year hail simulation and recovery project. “There’s a tremendous amount of funding that goes toward hail and crop insurance,” said Ken Coles, general manager of Farming Smarter. “It’s the majority of the agricultural budget and it blows my mind that we haven’t done any research in this area.” “Hail damage is a huge problem in Alberta for all kinds of crops,” said Leanne Fischbuch, executive director of Alberta Pulse Growers. “Hopefully in the next couple of years, we’ll see some really good results out of this project where we can see if there is any mitigation that growers can do once hail hits their crop,” she said. Hail can damage crops in a number of different ways. In addition to destroying crops entirely, hail damage causes open wounds on a plant allowing opportunistic pathogens to enter and cause diseases. Hailstorms can cause tissue damage, stem breaks, bruising and leaf defoliation. Damage from hail is often uneven; which makes it difficult to study in real life situations. Products created specifically for hail recovery don’t have research on how well these products work. Producers who try to bring their crops back to life have applied fungicides, nutrient blends and plant growth regulators all with mixed results. To help give valuable information to producers, Alberta Pulse Growers and Farming Smarter will research ways to recover damaged crops and determine which remedies actually work. The Alberta Pulse Growers project will study fababeans, lentils, dry beans and peas. Alberta Pulse Growers put in $200,000 for the project and expect results by 2018. To obtain more data about how hail crops recover, Alberta Pulse Growers and Farming Smarter had to find way to simulate hail damage. This spring, Farming Smarter worked with Kirchner Machines to develop a hail simulator that can attach to a front end loader. A bar with


Farming Smarter / FALL 2015

Close up of dog chains in action.

Ken Coles and Site Manager Toby Mandel prepare for a trial run of the hail simulator.  PHOTOs: Farming Smarter

dog chains attached pummels crops unevenly in an accurate simulation of hail damage. In a promotional video for the machine, Coles of Farming Smarter says adjusters from the Agricultural Financial Services Corporation confirmed the damage caused by the machine was an accurate replication of what happens to crops after an actual hail storm. Using the machine allows researchers to control the amount of hail damage, and contrast the damaged crop and its recovery with untested check strips. “If we’re testing rescue products such as fungicide, we can test them on an unhailed crop,” Coles explains in the video. Farming Smarter demonstrated the hail simulator to participants at its Field days this past June. “There is some tweaking that we will need to do when the crops get larger, but the adjusters thought we would be able to make the simulator work under all circumstances,” said Coles. “It will be a reliable technique in learning more about the trials and tribulations of managing a hail damaged crop.” The next step is building two more hail simulators. One administered by Alberta Innovations Technology Futures in Vegreville, and the other managed by the Smoky Applied Research and Demonstration Association in Falher. In addition to benefitting producers, the data about how crops recover from hail damage will inform Agricultural Financial Services Corporation adjusters throughout the province. The process of surveying and taking information on crops damaged by hail is long and costly. There aren’t a lot of adjusters in the province and these

adjusters spend many hours on the road often making several visits to the same farm. “Hopefully this will streamline the process a little bit,” said Jenn Walker, research officer with Alberta Pulse Growers. As for the benefit to producers, Alberta Pulse Growers plan to develop a decision making plan so a producer can assess the level of hail damage and be able to offset disease risks and fertility deficits. The research will also inform producers which hail recovery methods actually work. Walker hopes the research will enable producers to make good decisions about when it’s time to act and apply a product and when it’s best to write the crop off. Coles explains the next phase of the project is agronomy work on fungicides and nutrients. He’s also working on a funding proposal to expand the research to include all other crops. The groups will work with Dr. Anne Smith, a research scientist with Agriculture and Agrifood Canada, Lethbridge. Smith will use a drone with a camera to take imagery of the small plot trials. Coles said the intent is to develop an algorithm so that a drone flown over a farmer’s field can estimate the level of hail damage and the spatial distribution of damage in a farmer’s field. This will help the producer deal with the damage on his/her own rather than wait for adjusters. The producer will then have the information right away that will help him or her make the necessary decisions. “They will know right away whether it needs to be sprayed or cut as green feed and how to manage the damage,” said Coles. h


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Growing New Ideas

Hemp crop needs fibre processors By Lee Hart


emp appears to grow well in most parts of Alberta, but now the fledging multiple purpose crop just needs a couple pieces of the processing puzzle to fall into place to complete a quite profitable alternate crop picture, says a researcher with Alberta Innovates Technology Futures. With about 250,000 to 300,000 acres of industrial hemp in production in Alberta now, Dr. Jan Slaski, a research agronomist, says under average dryland growing conditions, as well as irrigation, hemp performs well in most regions of the province. On the marketing side, there is a reliable but limited market at the moment for hemp grain used in food and health products. The one big gap — hopefully soon to be filled — is a large-scale processor of hemp straw and fibre. “We are just at the doorstep of where this industry will really take off,” says Slaski, a plant physiology research scientist leading research aimed at the introduction and breeding of industrial hemp varieties suited for the biocomposite and textile industries on the Prairies. “We have a couple processors now in western Canada processing hemp grain and a few operations producing products from hemp fibre,” he says. “But we are also seeing a lot of interest from investors in developing larger scale operations to process fibre. Once that processing comes on line, opportunities for farmers will really open up.” While Slaski says hemp is an “old” crop — introduced to Canada from Europe about 400 years ago — it is only in about the last decade that the crop resurged for a wide range of uses. “As the markets develop and processors establish, we have a 20 to 30 per cent growth per year in hemp production,” says Slaski. In 2015, there were about 100,000 acres of hemp grown in Canada with about 25 to 30 per cent of those acres in Alberta. There are about 15 hemp varieties best suited for Canadian growing conditions. They include taller varieties well suited for hemp fibre production, shorter varieties better suited for hemp grain production, as well as some that are dual purpose.


At the moment, most hemp produced in Alberta provides hemp grain to a growing market for Manitoba processors — Manitoba Har-


Farming Smarter / FALL 2015

Hemp seedling. PHOTOs: Farming Smarter

Hemp grain.

vest and Hemp Oil Canada. Hemp grain can be a profitable crop. Although hemp yields, like most other crops, are expected to be down this year in many parts of Alberta due to drought, under average dryland farming conditions, the crop will yield about 1,000 pounds of seed per acre. That increases to between 1,800 and 2,200 pounds (and sometimes higher) per acre under irrigation. An average market price in 2015 was expected between 70 and 75 cents per pound. Hemp fibre, originally used for making ropes and later as fabric, is now finding a fit in a wide range of new and somewhat unusual products. “We are seeing increased demand for hemp grain in a wide range of consumer products including hemp hearts, hemp beer, and hemp oil,” says Slaski. “But until this year there really has been no market for hemp fibre. However, we are starting to see processors establishing and demand growing.” Slaski points to the Alberta BioMaterial Centre pilot plant in Vegreville that is increasing production to produce commercial products. TTS Inc. in Edmonton processes hemp fibre to produce building materials and other products. A new company, Just BioFibre, in Calgary just began manufacturing environmentally friendly, high R-factor, interlocking building blocks made of hemp for residential and commercial construction. And another new company, Stemina, proposes to build a $32 million hemp fibre processing plant east of Lethbridge that will process (decortication) both flax and hemp straw for manufacturing construction materials, automotive components and paper products.

“We see a lot of interest in production of these biomaterial products and a lot of interest among investors,” says Slaski. “We are just on the verge of seeing a whole new market for hemp fibre established.” Down the road, one other potentially very lucrative, niche market product that can be extracted from industrial hemp is a nonnarcotic cannabinoid oil. This oil, found in low concentrations in leaves and seed head, is under research for its properties believed to be of benefit in treatment of a number of major human diseases and ailments, including cancer and pain management. “Researchers are just looking at its potential, but if it bears out it could be a very lucrative product for industrial hemp producers,” says Slaski. Potentially one hectare (2.5 acres) of hemp could yield one to two kilograms of this non-narcotic oil, with a potential value of $40,000 to $50,000 per kilogram. “I believe industrial hemp is emerging as a profitable cropping option for Alberta farmers,” says Ken Coles, manager of Farming Smarter. “There appears to be a fair bit of opportunity, and the more I learn about the crop the more exciting it sounds. Initially I learned it was a dual purpose crop — grain and fibre — but now there is also research into this medicinal oil that really increases its potential.” Slaski has a three year variety trial project with Farming Smarter that continues until 2017. Slaski has other research sites at Vegreville, Falher in the southern Peace River Region and Fort Vermillion in the north Peace region. h


Gerald L Anderson P. Ag and Consulting Agronomist comments on the advantages of seed-row and foliar ALPINE G22®.

“a liquid kit increases the options available at seeding time” As a consulting agronomist, I work with all kinds of fertilizer and fertilizer programs. After seeing the results of several years of experience, I now encourage all of my clients to install an ALPINE liquid kit on all of their drills. My observations are taken from watching and working with several different clients on a wide variety of crops, including everything from grains, oilseeds and forages to seed production, specialty and row crops. The reason for a liquid kit is because it increases the options available at seeding time. A two-tank drill becomes a three-tank drill, etc. I generally take the dry phos right out of the spring drill program and depending on the number of tanks available, I will program the NKS for a two-tank system or an N and a KS for a three-tank system. I am also very careful about how much dry product I put down with the seed. This also means that I like mid-row banders and/or fall dry blends.

“you will often see seedling mortality with most dry fertilizers, something you don’t see with ALPINE G22” We all know that urea burns and if a prill is next to a seed, it will invariably take out the seed. Dry potash is much the same and, interestingly, so is the most common form of dry phos or MAP (11-52-0). From the physics side of things, dry fertilizer has to first dissolve to be available and if there is competition for moisture, the fertilizer prill will get it first. Also, phos moves 1mm, so it needs to be right next to the seed, but if it is right next to the seed, roots are burned or at least seriously singed and often, so is the seed. This is not generally noticed because people are not looking for it. When you understand the process and start looking for it, you will often see seedling mortality and root burn with most dry fertilizers, something you don’t see with ALPINE G22.

Any seed that is laterally removed from the phos, depending upon the type of root system, may not be able to access that phos for some time. Just for explanation, if you are seeding on 10” centres and applying 30 lbs. actual P as MAP, there is about 2.25-2.5” between prills. If phos only moves 1 mm and the seed next to the prill gets taken out, what are the other seeds getting? Since phos is important for driving roots, you want this available the sooner the better. This is another reason for the liquid kit. You get a regular stream of nutrients in the seedrow where it is most needed and in the form that the plants can use immediately plus it is distributed to virtually all seeds.

“we are looking for a delivery system for these nutrients” (Micronutrients) As for the micros, the zinc is responsible for root and stem orientation and the boron is responsible for head size. This is why we are looking for a delivery system for these nutrients. In the dry form, these micros are toxic because they are too concentrated. Hence, the liquid system is a fairly continuous stream so virtually all seeds get some fertility, providing a better distribution of not only the N, P and K in the ALPINE G22 but the added micros as well. I also prefer the ALPINE G22 over the 1034-0 for various reasons. Yes, the ALPINE G22 is more expensive. It is also less corrosive and less aggressive with a lower salt index than 10-34-0. In cool spring situations with cold soils, the response to the ALPINE G22 is quicker with the higher levels of ortho phos. And, yes, I do explain to clients that MAP is 100% ortho but because it is not liquid, it needs to dissolve before it is available. We did a side-by-side on sugar beets, seeded at 0.5-0.75” into good moisture and had a one day earlier emergence of the Alpine over the 10-34-0 and a two day earlier emergence over the dry check. We also had some seedling damage with the dry where a prill was next to a seed. We have had similar results with corn, cereals and oilseeds. In our country, that one day earlier in the spring is three days in the summer and at harvest. If you are seeding later in the spring, into warm soils,

there is not much difference in emergence between the ALPINE G22 and the 10-34-0 but there often is with dry, depending on moisture conditions.

“N use efficiency is increased” The other thing that I have found from experience is that N use efficiency is increased. When I am doing crop plans and I know that the client has a liquid kit and is using ALPINE G22, on HRSW, instead of 2.6 lbs. N per bushel of target yield, I can use 2.0, and for canola, instead of 3.3 lbs. N per bu., I can use 3.0. If you have 1000 acres of HRSW at a 50 bu. target and urea is $0.50/lb., that’s a savings of $15,000. And no, I don’t get reduced yields with the lower fertilizer rates. Because there are greater efficiencies with split applications of nutrients, I will do a dry fall or spring blend, a dry drill blend, a liquid drill blend in the seedrow, followed by at least one foliar at herbicide time and hopefully another at flag on cereals or early bloom on canola or at fungicide timing on other crops, whichever works, based on tissue sample results so we are responding to the needs of the plant. The seedling on the right shows the strong growth advantage of seed placing ALPINE G22® compared to dry, seed-placed phosphate (middle), and no phosphate (left). Yes, more N will give you a response but generally, it exacerbates an existing problem, which is usually a shortage of P, K or S or a combination thereof. It is all about balanced nutrition and the efficient as well as effective delivery of fertility. This is another reason why I like ALPINE G22. It is a good delivery system and very safe, whether in the seedrow or as a foliar. Always remember that N, P, K and S are for building and growing crop while micros are for tweaking production. Plant nutrition is a complex and interactive process.

You can’t take just one nutrient and address in on its own. You need balanced nutrition, including micros, if you are going to push production.

KEITH ANDERSON 285 Service Road Vulcan, AB 403.485.1998 / 1.888.972.9378



Farming smarter  
Farming smarter