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FROM THE

PRESIDENT Welcome to another issue of FARMING SMARTER. We hope that in this issue you will find the useful and practical information that you have come to expect from the Southern Applied Research Association (SARA). In agriculture, we face challenges from all areas; Corny VanDasselaar weather challenges, foreign market issues, low commodity prices and many things that could make this a long list if we cared to focus on negative issues. Southern Alberta farmers have an amazing capacity to be optimistic and forge ahead in the face of challenging times. Realistically, we have faced the challenge of change for many years in agriculture and, still, many find ways to thrive. Over the past year, SARA also dealt with change. Besides the regular turnover of board members, Pat Pavan left us to pursue an opportunity in the agribusiness sector. Since then, we survived with some great interim help and recently hired a new staff member. Paul Jungnitsch joins us in the central and critical position as our agronomist. Paul has extensive experience in the area of applied research and we look forward to a bright future together. FARMING SMARTER is one of the ways we spread

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the message of lessons learned from the research and demonstrations accomplished over the last year. The aim of the SARA is to provide you with ideas that can help your farming operation in these changing times. Farmer directed research into practical issues for farming is the primary focus of SARA. Our hope is that these activities result in sound and unbiased ideas that you can apply on your farm. I urge you to attend any of the events SARA offers for the next year and see the value that you can gain from attending. In the past, we have always had great farmer support and involvement on our board. I urge you to get involved as farmer involvement ensures that the programs SARA pursues focus on practical farm issues. There is an immense amount of knowledge on Southern Alberta farms, and our members reap many advantages through interacting with each other. Best wishes for a safe and prosperous growing season and we hope that we will see many of you at SARA events over the year.

Sincerely,

Corny VanDasselaar Corny VanDasselaar President

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FARMING SMARTER

CONTENTS

Winter wheat A good option to control erosion in irrigated crops 7 Greenseeker to test its effectiveness in Canadian conditions. 10 Irrigated crop production update conference 11 Managing water laden soils this spring 12 S.A.R.A welcomes new agronomist 13 How that reclaimed site doing? 14 Managing crop rotation on a dryland farm in Alberta 15 Managing the risks and reward of pulse crops 17 Where lies the path to sustainabilty 21 There’s no place like home 22 For 2006 and beyond: fertilizer’s “triple e” future effective, efficient and economical 23 Study shows warm season grasses can work in rotation 24 Farming Smarter Newsbites 25 Bugs without passports 27 Engage in a self-assessment for your farm 29 C.S.I. in lethbridge 29

Farming Smarter Farming Smarter is an annual publication by the Southern Applied Research Association, RR8-36-11, Lethbridge, T1J 4P4 with the assistance of the Southern Alberta Conservation Association and support form the Agriculture Opportunities Fund and Alberta Environmentally Sustainable Agriculture program. Editorial Board: Ron Lamb, Alex Russell, Richard Fritzler Editor: Claudette Lacombe Photography: Rob Dunn, Iain Shute, Sandra Taillieu, SARA, Henri Goulet Published By:

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PEA-WHEAT ROTATION

PROVING PROFITABLE By Claudette Lacombe

summer or chem-fallow in rotation in southern Alberta. In the low moisture areas, it conserves moisture, helps control weeds and reduces risk," Jungnitsch says. He adds that one big advantage of peas is that they have shallow roots and tend to leave some moisture in the ground. Traditional fallow methods can increase moisture loss through evaporation. Jungnitsch explains that SARA wanted to answer questions about whether or not field pea crops have a real advantage over fallow. "We wanted to find out if peas take too much moisture. We know peas make their own nitrogen, so there's advantage because the price of nitrogen increases all the time," Jungnitsch explains. Peas are also very strong Faba bean leaf damaged by the pea leaf weevil; note characteristic notching on leaf edge on mycorrhizae; which are a type of soil (photo by H. Goulet of AAFC) fungus with the unique ability symbiotically Field peas may prove a wise alternative to fallow for bind with plant roots and act as an extension of the root southern Alberta producers. In southern Alberta according to system. This helps plants capture nutrients such as phosphorus Alberta Agriculture (AAFRD) figures, there is an average of 1.3 and micronutrients from the soil. million acres in fallow each year. "When wheat follows peas, the wheat can use this system A long-term rotation trial at Bow Island on-going for the too," he says. "This greatly enhances the wheat's ability to pull past 12 years on small plots, tried different rotations such as nutrients as well," Jungnitsch explains. He adds that this is not continuous wheat, wheat-fallow, wheat-wheat-fallow, flaxthe case with other crops like canola. He says this is what wheat-fallow, pea-wheat and grass. Ross McKenzie, Agronomy makes field peas provide the best yield increase to wheat. Research Scientist with the Crop Diversification Centre of Jungnitsch says that during the next three years of the study, he Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development (AAFRD) will continue monitoring the sites for moisture retention as an in Lethbridge led this study. important factor for dryland farming.  His study prompted SARA to try a larger trial to take peawheat rotation to a field scale study. They set out four sites in southern Alberta: Lethbridge, Lomond, Etzikom and Schuler. On each site, they planted two 80-acre fields alternating between field peas and wheat. The long-term study is entering its third year and SARA plans to continue it for five years. "The best return was from a wheat-field pea rotation," says Paul Jungnitsch Southern Applied Research Association (SARA) agronomist. The study tracks costs and income; monitors possible weed and disease build up and nutrient make up from marked-point soil samples. There was a $67.50 net return on the pea-wheat rotation compared to an estimated $30.50 on a wheat-fallow rotation when the income from both fields entered the equation. Rob W pea-wheat trial "There are good reasons why people keep

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A GOOD OPTION TO CONTROL EROSION IN IRRIGATED CROPS

WINTER WHEAT By Donna Fleury

In the irrigated areas of southern Alberta, high-value crops such as potatoes and beans are important. However, these crops leave little to no residue behind after harvest, increasing the risk of soil erosion and the loss of topsoil, nutrients and productivity. The critical window for cover is through the fall, winter and spring period. "Irrigation growers in southern Alberta know that soil conservation measures are critical after potato and bean crops, and cover crops have a definite fit in many situations," says Rob Dunn, Conservation Cropping Specialist with Alberta Agriculture Food and Rural Development (AAFRD). "A few farmers have decided that if they are going to establish a cover crop, then winter wheat might be a good option because once it's established, you don't have to touch the field in the spring." Seeding winter wheat in the fall not only reduces the spring workload; it also provides a grain crop option the following year. Winter cereals provide better soil protection than spring cereals when seeded later in the fall because they continue to grow after a few frosts and resume growth in early spring. "However, even winter cereals on their own will not produce enough growth to protect the soil if planted after midSeptember for many situations in southern Alberta," explains Dunn. "Winter chinooks and successive freeze-thaw cycles can level the soil surface and blast out seedling plants before growth can resume the following spring." In 2004, a demonstration project was initiated in the Lethbridge and Rolling Hills areas to look at including winter wheat in rotation for both grain production and erosion control. The demonstrations included mid to late September planted winter wheat after both beans and potatoes, which is past the traditional planting window for most cover crop scenarios. The project also compared the conservation and production benefits of winter wheat to spring wheat for diversified irrigated crop rotations in southern Alberta. The demonstration sites included the Irrigation Demo Farm at Lethbridge, the AAFC Research Farm at Vauxhall and two cooperator sites near Rolling Hills. "The optimal seeding date for winter wheat is in the first two weeks of September," says Dunn. "However, seeding winter wheat in mid to late September can be successful for grain production, but there may not be enough crop growth to hold the soil through the critical mid to late winter period." Therefore, surface roughness or anchored residue is needed to further protect the soil with these later plantings. "We decided to use a wider row spacing hoe drill, such as Conserva Pak(tm), which leaves a deep soil furrow and a fairly rough surface after seeding," explains Dunn. Irrigating before planting is preferred to minimize the leveling action from F A R M I N G

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Harme Stikker checking for winter wheat emergence in his bean field, fall 2004. Credit: Rob Dunn, AAFRD

Winter wheat plot after beans at Harme Stikker's, on April 10, 2005. Note the uneven emergence from poor seed placement. Credit: Rob Dunn, AAFRD.

Winter wheat plot after potatoes at Stuart Kanegawa's, November 16, 2005. Note soil ridges to help reduce soil erosion potential. Credit: Rob Dunn, AAFRD.

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Winter wheat plot at Stuart Kanegawa's, April 10, 2005. Credit: Rob Dunn, AAFRD.

water application after planting. "Winter wheat makes good use of early seeded moisture, so it will start growing quickly and is a good competitor against weeds," explains Melissa Schurmann, Winter Cereals Specialist with Ducks Unlimited Canada in southern Alberta. This also translates into higher yield potential. "If your winter wheat crop gets off to a good start, there is a chance it won't be necessary to use a wild oat herbicide, which represents a reduced input cost for the grower." "Although fall rye may be superior as a cover crop, winter wheat is superior in terms of economics and marketability," explains Dunn. Winter wheat yields are typically 15 to 20 percent higher than spring hard red wheat. Winter wheat tends to require lower inputs in terms of equipment, fertilizer, herbicide and water for irrigation, as compared to spring wheat production. Two varieties recommended for irrigation with good standability, winter hardiness and high yields were used for the demonstration project, including Radiant a milling variety developed at AAFC Lethbridge, and CDC Falcon, a feed variety. Winter Wheat and Beans in Rotation Harme Stikker farms seven quarters of irrigated land near Rolling Hills. He usually rents out one or two quarters for potatoes, and grows two circles of beans, with the rest in wheat and canola. "My annual crop rotation is usually about 50 percent row crops of either beans or potatoes, followed by grain crops," explains Stikker. "I am interested in winter wheat both as a cover crop and a grain crop, but find that the bean crops are usually harvested too late to seed before September 20 as a target date. However, he has had success with later seeding dates. For the project in 2004, they tried to direct seed into the

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bean stubble without any pre-seeding work. "It didn't work that well, because the bean stubble has areas of very loose soil where it had been tilled during the crop year for weed control, and very hard soil areas where the crop was actually growing," explains Stikker. "Trying to maintain an even seeding depth with the shank-type planter was very difficult." In 2005, Stikker worked and leveled the bean stubble once, then direct seeded the winter wheat using a Bourgault drill with mid-row banders. "I seeded quite late this year, about October 14," says Stikker. "However it was a late fall and it did emerge to the three-leaf stage. It's not really enough for a secure stand for the spring, which is why I used the Bourgault drill because it creates quite a lot of ridges that I hope will help stop the field from blowing as well." Stikker sees late seeding as a continual challenge, because most years the bean crops are harvested quite late. He also recommends if seeding is quite late, then bumping up the seeding rate from the normal rate of two bushels per acre to three is a good idea. Stikker plans to continue including winter wheat in rotation for both erosion cover and a grain crop. For bean stubble, he recommends trying to level the land out some prior to seeding, but also create some lumps in the field during seeding. "Even seeding late, winter wheat usually germinates enough to get established for a crop the next year," says Stikker. "The growing crop and leaving ridges or lumps in the field will hopefully stop any soil erosion over the winter and into early spring." Winter Wheat and Potatoes in Rotation Stuart Kanegawa farms with his brother Stan in the Scandia/Rolling Hills area, and they farm a total of 26 quarters of owned and rented land. They usually grow about F A R M I N G

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1500 acres of potatoes each year. "For the past three years we have been trying to see if winter wheat can follow potatoes, and then follow with two years of spring cereals," explains Kanegawa. "Besides the cover crop benefits of winter wheat, I think it will have disease related benefits as well." Kanegawa grows winter wheat or fall rye primarily for erosion cover. "Whether it's our land or rented land, we are committed to planting cover crops after potatoes," says Kanegawa. Renting land for potato crops can be difficult if the issues of fall cover aren't addressed. "Over the last 7 to 10 years we've moved away from heavy tillage in potato field preparation and throughout the year from seeding to harvest." Kanegawa sometimes has to seed a portion of his winter wheat/fall rye later than recommended, and this year seeded some in mid-October with some success. "We try to get the rented land harvested by mid-September, and then get cover crops established." Depending on the rental agreements, the timing and other factors, Kanegawa will either do one pre-seed operation, often to apply fertilizer, then direct seed winter wheat, or broadcast the seed over the potato stubble and lightly disc it in. "If we are planning to harvest the crop, then we usually level the field prior to seeding, otherwise the roughness makes harvest difficult. It's really a certain amount of calculated gambling and looking ahead to the weather to determine whether you have time to get a crop established. Once you get a substantial catch, we're pretty confident adequate cover will be there over the winter." For the project in 2004, Kanegawa did grow the crop out for harvest. "The yield was moderate, and I was happy with the other benefits such as harvesting the crop early, which allowed us to prepare the land in the fall for the following spring." Kanegawa expects they will have to look at seeding a portion of winter wheat/fall rye later than optimal in most years. "You really have to watch the seeding depth the later into the season, and should seed shallower than the recommended one inch. Every 5 to 7 days after September 15, you're also looking at increasing the seeding rate by one-half bushel per acre, up to a certain point." Kanegawa plans to continue including winter wheat or

fall rye in rotation for cover crops, and grain crops when warranted. "We're fairly new to winter wheat, but it's something we plan to keep pursuing where possible." However, this year proved Mother Nature doesn't always cooperate, and wet conditions meant Kanegawa didn't get everything harvested in 2005, so next spring will have additional challenges. Lessons Learned Overall, the demonstrations were a success, showing that winter wheat can be planted later in the fall and still provide benefits as a cover and a grain crop after special crops such as potatoes and beans. Although there are some challenges, with timing being one of the biggest ones, planning ahead can make winter wheat a successful crop option for preventing wind erosion, reducing spring workload and realizing economic returns. DUC and their partners continue to support programs for growers around winter wheat. They see the environmental value of reducing soil erosion and loss of nutrients and productivity as very important. "We also see winter seeded crops as very important for providing nesting ground for the northern pintail duck in particular," says Schurmann. "Northern pintails have a low propensity to re-nest if their nest is disturbed, as can happen with spring seeded crops." DUC and their partners can help answer questions and provide information to growers interested in growing winter wheat. Watch for field days and demonstration site tours in various areas in 2006. Partners in the demonstration project included AAFRD, DUC, Southern Applied Research Association, Alberta Reduced Tillage LINKAGES, the Potato Growers Association of Alberta and the County of Newell. For more information, go to: www.wintercereals.ca  *Donna Fleury prepared this article in co-operation with Ducks Unlimited Canada.

Winter wheat plots at Stuart Kanegawa's, on July 22, 2005, comparing the variety CDC Falcon on the left and Radiant on the right. Credit: DUC.

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GREENSEEKER NEW TECHNOLOGY UNDER SARA MICROSCOPE By C. Lacombe

To assist farmers in the constant quest to use optimum amounts nitrogen, Southern Applied Research Association (SARA) bought a GreenSeeker to test its effectiveness in Canadian conditions. Ntech Industries (http://www.ntechindustries.com) makes the model SARA is testing in the field. Their web site says the “GreenSeeker collects NDVI (Normalized Difference Vegetative Index commonly used to measure plant health and vigor.) data during existing farming operations such as spraying, cultivation, mowing, etc. GreenSeeker calculates NDVI using red and near infra-red (NIR) light. Plant chlorophyll absorbs red light as an energy source during photosynthesis. Therefore, healthy plants absorb more red light and reflect larger amounts of NIR than those that are unhealthy. NDVI is an excellent indicator of biomass (amount of living plant tissue), and can accurately project yield potential in conjunction with growing degree days greater than zero (GDD>0) or days from planting.” “These images can create management zones, identify pest and disease problems, evaluate drainage systems efficacy, modify soil sampling strategies, monitor and modify irrigation schedules, determine optimum harvesting dates and make variable rate prescription maps. GreenSeeker sensors have about a 24-inch field of view. Optimal sensing height is 32-48 inches above the plant. The percent of area coverage you get from each mapping system depends upon the spacing and number of sensors used.” “The GreenSeeker allows for logging of individual sensor data. The system can have 2-50 sensors. The system is CAN network based and includes desktop software to post collected data. The software processes collected data files into shape file format.” SARA agronomist Paul Jungnitsch says, “These are expensive units at $4,700 for the hand held unit SARA bought.” He adds that there are other manufacturers of this type of technology and it is in greater use in the U.S. and Europe than here. He quoted a report that says there are about 300 units in use worldwide. SARA’s early experiments with the device highlighted some challenge with calibrating the device. The manufacturers recommend putting a nitrogen strip in each field where you put on as much nitrogen as you think the crop can use. You then use that strip to calibrate the device. “That takes some of the environmental factors into

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consideration such as moisture and other growing conditions,” he says. “It looks as though the actual calibration can be a bit difficult. It looks like it’s fairly easy for the sensor to tell you how well the crop is growing, but how you relate that into actual fertilizer recommendations is quite a bit more complicated.”

Dwayne Rogness tests the GreenSeeker in a field of winter wheat.

He adds that it seems to be leading edge technology that isn’t in wide-spread use. He comments that this may be why a good body of information about the device isn’t available right now. “There’s not a lot of practical experience with it yet. I think it’s kind of like GPS mapping when it first came out. People knew the technology could work, but weren’t sure how.” He sees possibilities in the crop growth mapping function of the device and thinks that as the technology advances, comes down in price and becomes more foolproof, it could become a standard piece of equipment for nutrient management. “Certainly with the price of fertilizer going up, it becomes even more important to apply just what the crop needs,” says Jungnitsch. “The few actual trials I’ve seen have cut down the nitrogen applications by a reasonable amount. It will probably be quite useful.” Jungnitsch plans to continue experimenting with the unit to see what applications he can find for it and best ways to work with the technology. “We’ll see how these trials go and keep our members informed.” 

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IRRIGATED CROP PRODUCTION

U P D A T EBy Ron C Montgomery ONFERENCE Management. Presentations featured Ted Harms of AAFRD Over 250 people came to the inaugural Irrigated Crop who explained the R.A.T. of irrigation management: the Production Update 2006 conference January 17 at the future for improving irrigation deficiencies; Dr. Shelley Lethbridge Lodge Hotel making it a resounding success. Woods of AAFRD gave tips for irrigating to enhance quality Organized by Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural and yield; Dr. Allan Walburger from the University of Development (AAFRD) and the Southern Applied Research Lethbridge tackled irrigation economics - what is an inch of Association (SARA) the busy, but well-rounded agenda water worth and Roger Holm, Head of Farm Irrigation consisted of four primary sessions featuring a variety of Management Section with AAFRD introduced new irrigated informative presentations under each relevant session topic. crops of the future. Dr. Ross McKenzie and Roger Holm Following opening comments by Brent Paterson, Head provided conference wrap-up comments. of Irrigation Branch AAFRD, George Lubberts of Complete Roger also remarked that, "As conference organizers, we Agronomic Services chaired the first session focused on were thrilled with the content of the information presented Irrigation Cropping Practices. Speakers and topics included and the response from Jack Payne from Olds College producers at the conference. discussing understanding The conference did not just provide facts and figures The irrigation industry in crop growth dynamics; Dr. on crops, pests and diseases but reached to the future Alberta has been waiting for Frank Larney of Agriculture and had producers thinking of new ways to make a conference designed to and Agri-Food Canada, their individual operation sustainable and increase provide information directly AAFC sharing lessons from the productivity of the industry. related to their production long-term irrigated crop needs and from all reports rotation research and Rob the Irrigation Update conference met or exceeded the needs of Dunn of AAFRD reporting best seeding practices for the producers. The conference did not just provide facts and irrigated cereals and canola. figures on crops, pests and diseases but reached to the future Leigh Morrison of AAFRD chaired the second session, and had producers thinking of new ways to make their Irrigated Crop Nutrient Management, that featured individual operation sustainable and increase the productivity presentations by Dr. Ross McKenzie of AAFRD whose topic of the industry. Will we do it again - absolutely - the response was soil fertility and crop nutrition- a balanced approach; Dr. to the first Irrigation Update identified a need for the industry Tom Jensen from Agricore United talking about nitrogen that we cannot miss filling." fertilizer, forms and methods of application; Dr. Rigas Elizabeth Tokariuk, Manager of SARA added, " SARA is very Karamanos of Westco presenting information about pleased to be involved in the first Irrigated Crop Production micronutrients for irrigated production; Dr. Barry Olson of Update. This is a chance to bring the latest and best of research AAFRD spoke about understanding how to use manure or and new developments to the irrigation farmers of Alberta and compost to optimize irrigated crop production and Trevor put them in touch with the people working on their behalf. Wallace of AAFRD explained logistics for manure handling. We had an excellent organizing committee that kept the needs Keith Mills from Agricore United chaired Pest of these producers in mind when planning the agenda and Management Under Irrigation to open the afternoon brought a high quality information package to them." program. Presentations by Scott Meers of AAFRD about Contributors to the conference included AgPro, Agricore insect thresholds for irrigated crops; Dr. Jim Moyer of AAFC United, Bayer Crop Science, Ducks Unlimited Canada, tackled re-cropping practices after residual herbicide use; Dr. Milliken Farm Supplies, Monsanto Canada, Oliver Irrigation, Ron Howard of AAFRD presented a field crop disease review Parrish & Heimbecker Limited, Prairie Ag Photo, Reduced and forecast and Dr. Kelly Turkington of AAFC speaking Tillage Linkages and United Farmers of Alberta. about irrigation and plant disease management completed the third session. Additional information on the conference proceedings is on Gregg Dill chaired the final session Irrigation Crop Water AAFRD's Ropin the Web site at http://www.agric.gov.ab.ca.  F A R M I N G

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MANAGING WATER LADEN SOILS

THIS SPRING By Barbara Duckworth

Land is also at risk from increasing salinity levels as the Near record levels of rain last year resulted in saturated water table rises. When saline groundwater rises to within two land throughout large sections of southern Alberta. to three metres of the surface, salts readily move into the Root zones are full and the water table rose in the areas topsoil in susceptible soil types, especially in fallow fields extending south of Lethbridge to the western corner of the under tillage. province and north throughout the municipal districts of “Farmers may see a major jump in the levels of salinity in Rockyview and Foothills to Vulcan. Conditions become drier some of these areas in their fields if they are not careful over toward Medicine Hat, said Joe Michelson of Alberta the next year or 18 months,” Dunn said. Agriculture’s drought branch. He recommends contacting local agriculture service Fortunately, soil is resilient with good stability thanks to years boards for analysis of salinity levels of specific fields. of minimum tillage. A better approach to dealing with this year’s moisture “That temporary flooding we have wouldn’t necessarily challenge maybe cropping options like planting perennial be bad for the system,” said Rob Dunn, conservation cropping forages, alfalfa for instance, in the rotation because they specialist with Alberta Agriculture. improve soil quality. Ironically the root zones may be saturated but because a Forages can remove heavier saturation in the deeper dry winter with almost no snow cover created a dry seedbed, profiles because the plant roots seek water 10 feet down. a good spring snowfall before planting would help. While expensive to establish, W i t h t h e s e forages in rotation are best considerations in mind, soil left for three to four years and management options for this Summer fallow can result in long term organic managed for grazing or hay. crop year have farmers matter decline and increased salinity problems. The Equipment and marketing thinking about a return to extent depends on soil type, tillage frequency and are challenges, but custom summerfallow or finding suitable crops to draw up precipitation patterns. A short-term effect could be a haying is a growing business decline in the “light fraction” organic matter in southern Alberta and baled excess moisture. forage or grazing is usually in Summerfallow may be the responsible for good soil tilth. demand. cheapest approach in a year For those who cannot of poor commodity prices afford to put in a crop, the practice of cover cropping with bin and high input costs, but it may not be the best option for soil run seed followed by a shortened fallow period may be a better health, said Dunn. option, especially if the soil profile is saturated. Bin run seed “If you are going to put it back to summerfallow, be is cheap, but may need some cleaning and pre-seed glyphosate, cautious. It may be a good economic decision, but from a soil fuel for planting or field preparation may be an issue. quality point of view you need to consider the implications Cover crop terminated with herbicide or cut for greengiven that there is excess moisture this year,” he said. feed has less sunk costs than a grain crop, although annual Summer fallow can result in long term organic matter forage will need some fertilizer to be productive. Rotational decline and increased salinity problems. The extent depends issues related to pests should also be considered when on soil type, tillage frequency and precipitation patterns. A choosing a cover crop. short-term effect could be a decline in the “light fraction” It may pay in the long run to spend the extra inputs and organic matter responsible for good soil tilth. plan for a grain crop rather than a cover crop. The key is to Decomposing roots, plant exudates and soil biota decline use the stored soil water rather than risk swamping the field or quickly without crop growth. This further accelerates with accelerating the development of soil salinity in susceptible tillage based fallow. There is an immediate burst in available fields. If the choice is either summerfallow or a cover crop, a soil nitrate nitrogen that reduces following crop fertilizer fall seeded winter cereal is always a good idea to use some of needs, but nitrogen stores are also susceptible to leaching or the accumulated soil nitrogen and moisture rather than denitrification losses in waterlogged soils. Denitrification is risking losses during the winter to spring period. Fields costly both in terms of productive soil nitrogen loss and should also be managed to prevent the risk of wind erosion. greenhouse gas emissions of nitrous oxide (N2O). N2O emissions have a greenhouse gas equivalency of 320 times that of CO2 and are a serious concern for agricultural systems.

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The accompanying table shows costs of cover crop for summerfallow and above that for a normal chemical fallow approach. The example is for barley or peas planted without fertilizer or in-crop herbicide and then terminated with glyphosate in early summer – before weeds make seed. Peas fix high amounts of nitrogen by the early bloom stage if grown on low nitrogen fields with proper rhizobia inoculation to ensure good nodulation. Mixtures of barley and peas also provide a useful cover crop alternative. Remember most of the nitrogen benefit from peas is removed when the biomass is harvested as forage.

Additional cash costs for cover crop during summer fallow * Cash costs/acre Barley cover Pea cover crop crop Bin-run seed cost (2 bu barley, 3 $4.00 $12.00 bu peas) Planting $8.00 $8.00 Termination with glyphosate $7.00 $7.00 + Spraying Total $19/acre $27/acre Other potential costs Seed cleaning $2.00 $3.00 Inoculant $5.00 Adjusted Total $21/acre $35/acre Cost of lost soil moisture for next ? ? crop Value for fixed nitrogen $27 - 36/acre 60 – 80 lbs actual N/acre @ $.45/lb Value for soil quality ? ? * Does not include fixed machinery costs or cash costs for pre-seed glyphosate or land preparation since these would also be incurred with a chemical fallow operation. Source: Rob Dunn, Alberta Agriculture

SARA WELCOMES NEW AGRONOMIST

Paul Jungnitsch F A R M I N G

Paul Jungnitsch grew up on a mixed farm in the Peace River area of Alberta. He achieved his crop science diploma at Fairview College in 1985. Paul spent some time traveling the world after graduating, working on farms in England, Australia, and Israel. He returned home and managed the Fairview Applied Research Association in Fairview, Alberta for nine years. He continued his education and graduated with an undergrad degree in Agronomy from the University of S M A R T E R

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Saskatchewan in 2003. Currently, Paul works toward finishing a Master's degree in Soil Science from the U of S comparing the effect on nutrients, pasture growth, cattle condition and economics of wintering cattle directly on pasture versus wintering them in the yard and mechanically spreading the manure. He joined Southern Applied Research Association as agronomist in October. 

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AGRICULTURAL TECHNOLOGY Lethbridge Community College

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RECLAIMED SITE DOING? by C. Lacombe

Would you like to help determine if current land reclamation practices do their job? A study coordinated through Alberta Environment and the Agricultural Research and Extension Council of Alberta (ARECA) will collect data from reclaimed land sites to determine the effectiveness of current reclamation practices. The study is province-wide with local research associations working with landowners to gather data. The Southern Applied Research Association (SARA) invites landowners with reclaimed sites to

We want to get a sense of whether or not the industry practices are acceptable in terms of bringing the land back to predisturbance productivity

Grow Your Future Train to be part of Alberta’s number one renewable resource industry and meet the needs of a growing service and value-added processing sector. Our two-year diploma program, redeveloped for 2006 based on industry recommendations, is designed for students seeking careers in a wide variety of agriculturerelated fields. You will receive specialized training in the business of agriculture, including business management, entrepreneurial, marketing and public speaking skills. In your second year, you will choose to specialize in Plant and Soil Science or Animal Science, devoting 40 per cent of your time to hands-on learning experiences in the laboratory and in the field through practicum experiences. In the final semester, you will complete a business plan for a new enterprise. Incoming students do not require a farm background! The program includes certification in areas such as Safety Oriented First Aid/CPR and Pesticide Applications, making you employment-ready upon graduation. Graduates of our Agricultural Technology program work in a wide variety of settings, including farming, ranching, agri-business, agri-services, agricultural research, consulting, and farm finance.

320.3407 • 1.800.572.0103 • www.lethbridgecollege.ab.ca

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provide data. Cooperating producers need a yield monitor on their combine and GPS capabilities to provide SARA with yield data from the site and the surrounding land. The sites must have a signed reclamation certificate. These certificates include a report about the reclaimed landscape, soil and vegetation conditions over the site and access roads. Vegetation conditions in the report include crop height, head length, general vigor and health compared to the surrounding land. It can be land reclaimed from any activity that caused considerable disturbance of the land, such as oil sites, old roadbeds or filled in dugouts. The data will go to a central coordinating body that will compile the yield data from sites to provide information about the effectiveness of reclamation. "We want to get a sense of whether or not the industry practices are acceptable in terms of bringing the land back to pre-disturbance productivity," says Elizabeth Tokariuk of SARA. SARA would like participants from all over southern Alberta. If you want to take part in this study, please contact SARA, 403-328-0059, for more information. F A R M I N G

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MANAGING CROP ROTATION ON A

DRYLAND FARM IN ALBERTA By Sandra Taillieu

the limiting factor for plant growth. When I add together my yield On a dryland grain farm East of Warner, Alberta, Brian Otto begins planning for next year's crop. Twelve years of direct seeding potential on stubble, the cost of production and today's have taken Brian from a continuous cropping system to a rotation commodity prices, continuous cropping is just too risky for us." "I decided to do things differently," says Brian. "I gradually with a third of the acres in chemfallow. The environmental and changed my farm to a rotation with 1/3 chemfallow and 2/3 crop. economic realities of the Otto farm are the key drivers behind Brian's cropping and management decisions. By having some chemfallow, I am able to reduce my risk in really "When I am deciding what to grow, I have to be flexible," dry years and also reduce my input costs. With chemfallow, I don't work any ground and I don't have to worry about wind erosion." says Brian. "The crops I grow have to put a dollar back in my "My cropping choices are also influenced by what I can move at pocket." harvest," says Brian. "I try to forward price about 25% to 30% of Brian grows barley, durum wheat, winter wheat, yellow mustard, yellow field peas with a few acres of safflower. He also tried several my crop and move it out in August and September if I can." Economics specialty crops including chickpea, lentils and coriander. Brian's "When I prepare my farm plan in the off-season, part of my flexible approach to crop rotations helped him to respond to decision to grow a crop is based on the pricing increasingly unprofitable economic conditions opportunities for that crop, but I also think of in farming. "I started moving to include chemfallow in what I want to follow in my rotation," Brian explains. "Will this crop restrict me in what I my rotation after 2001-the worst drought we've can grow or benefit the crop I plant the ever had on this farm," says Brian. "I learned following year? I try to get an average yield of that continuous cropping works in this area all the crops I grow over a 10-year period to until we have an exceptionally dry year - then you can lose a lot of money. If I go 20 miles try and figure out what I can get for yield. I will grow a crop that makes me very little north or west of my farm, the moisture profile improves. But here, moisture is almost always Brian direct seeds barley into mustard stubble money if it fits in my rotation.

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"When I chose field peas for this year and plugged it into my field program it didn't look like I'd make any money on them but with the nitrogen they put into the ground, I'll come out ahead. For example, if my peas yield 50 bu/ac they give me 30lbs of actual nitrogen for next year's crop. At $0.45/lb for N, I'm ahead $13.50/acre." Brian is flexible in choosing how much fertilizer to apply to each field: "I get soil tests taken and a lot of my decision will be based on that soil test and what I need to apply for my target yield," he says. "If the target yield doesn't pencil out for the cost of producing the crop, then I adjust accordingly." Commodity prices are a key factor in Brian's decision as to how many acres he grows of each crop: "Mustard prices were terrible last year so I substituted safflower, winter wheat and hard white wheat," he explains. "We run a fine line on profit margins, so we have to be really aware of our fixed and variable costs," says Brian. "Fertilizer prices can determine what we seed. We may seed more pulse crops with higher fertilizer prices. If we see a 25% increase in the cost of fertilizer this spring, we won't be able to seed the full 2/3 of our acres. Fertilizer, chemical and fuel are the three input costs we have no control over. I don't believe in planting a crop just for the sake of paying my fertilizer and chemical bill. There has to be a dollar left for me at the end of the day." Weed Management "When it comes to making decisions on herbicides, I consider cost, weed pressure and return on that investment," says Brian. "I won't get trapped into believing I have to kill every weed out there." "My weed spectrum has changed with direct seeding from a lot of hard-to-kill weeds like buckwheat and Russian thistle to more easyto-kill weeds like stinkweed and flixweed, controlled with a spring burn-off" explains Brian. "I've also noticed a significant decrease in my wild oat pressure. I attribute that to less disturbance and seeding with a narrow opener." "In continuous cropping, we were having quite a time with Canada thistle," says Brian. "Now that I am chemfallowing, I am getting control of my Canada thistle. I haven't used pre-harvest glyphosate because of the cost. It just doesn't pencil out for me." Brian is careful with his use of residual herbicides in order to maintain flexibility in his crop rotation: "I avoid most residual chemicals to give me more options for what I can seed," he says. "I will use pre-emergent Edge prior to safflower and yellow mustard but it means I have to be careful if I want to follow these crops with

durum and winter wheat." Moisture "Moisture is a big consideration in deciding what crops to grow in my rotation," says Brian. ""I try to seed about 700 acres of winter wheat if I have enough moisture. I need to have 1 inch of rain in the fall to get the crop started. On my farm, having enough moisture to get the crop established is more critical than having snow cover to protect the winter wheat from cold temperatures. I like to seed winter wheat into mustard ground but in a dry year, I won't - I'll substitute barley. Residual from the Edge I use prior to seeding mustard can affect the survival of my winter wheat. In a wet year, I have my choice of seeding winter wheat, barley, or durum without any problems." Field Selection Brian's cropping choices are often limited by the condition of the land he has available: "I have saline land that is best suited to barley or wheat," he says. "I also have some hills that eroded years ago that need special attention to avoid further erosion. "I don't want to put peas on fields that have a high weed pressure. Last year I put peas on a newly acquired land and ended up with a mess of Canada thistle. It was a reminder of how important it is to know your field history and to use that in your cropping decisions." Changes with Direct Seeding Brian is pleased with the changes he has made on his farm: "I don't worry about wind erosion since I switched to direct seeding," he says. "Even in 2001 with the worst crop I've ever grown, erosion was not a concern. "When you leave the land undisturbed, it's surprising how many deer and antelope, ducks, rabbits and racoons will make their home there. That's a bonus." "The biggest change with direct seeding is that I'm not wearing out my equipment," says Brian. "I haven't replaced my tractor in 20 years. The cost of my iron is less now that I'm not summer fallowing. There is a trade-off between reduced machinery costs and increased chemical and fertilizer costs with direct seeding. It takes a pretty sharp pencil to make a dollar either way." Despite the struggles of the worst economic reality since he began farming, Brian presses on: "The success I see is the improvement in the quality of my land in the last five years," he says. "It's alive again! When I go out in the spring to seed and see all those earthworms in the soil - it tells me we're doing something right."

Brian's crop rotation varies depending on markets, moisture and weed pressure but he follows a few basic principles. "I do not repeat any crop - for example, growing durum on durum stubble," says Brian. "I try to grow an oilseed or pulse followed by a winter or spring cereal in order to reduce disease pressures. "Doing a good job of in-crop weed control can be tough in pulse and oilseed crops. If I have an emerging weed problem in a field, I clean it up with either a cereal or chemfallow the following year.

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"As a rule of thumb, I try to keep the combined cost of my broadleaf and grassy weed control at less than $20/acre." "I won't chemfallow pea ground- I put it into wheat," says Brian. "Peas fix nitrogen and I want to use that to my advantage. There isn't a lot of residue left after peas and I am careful to avoid soil erosion. Wheat provides residue cover for the land and allows me to gain from the rotational benefits of peas."

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MANAGING THE RISKS AND REWARD OF

PULSE CROPS By Sandra Taillieu

Sixty miles east of Lethbridge, Koos Wysbeek evaluates the risks and rewards of dryland pulses as he plans for next year's crop. Koos manages 4000 direct-seeded dryland acres and 4500 irrigated acres on Burbridge Farm Limited at Burdett. He is also a Commissioner for the Alberta Pulse Growers. "Pulse crops have changed dryland farming in a really positive way," says Koos whose farm experience spans twentyfive years. "Our dryland acres are all direct-seeded in a continuous crop rotation that alternates between cereal and pulse crops. We grow durum, yellow peas, hard red spring wheat and kabuli chickpeas. We do not direct-seed our irrigated land because sugar beets and dry edible beans are included in the rotation." "We started growing dry beans on the irrigated land in 1985," says Koos. "Around the same time we started continuous cropping the dryland acres and then we began direct seeding. We tried growing canola, mustard, and sunflowers in rotation with cereals but we had trouble getting a return on them in a continuous cropping system. The input costs were just too high for what we could produce with an average rainfall of 200 mm/year." Yellow Field Peas "I was looking for a good rotation crop when I found out about peas at a farm meeting," says Koos. "In 1998, we tried them and they worked very well. Consider a side-by-side comparison of two stubble crops, fertilized the same in any given year on this farm. The durum grown on pea stubble would show a 25% yield advantage and probably some protein

advantage over the durum grown on durum stubble. The rotational benefit from yellow peas is partially a moisture benefit. Yellow peas only draw moisture18-24 inches deep and for a relatively short part of the growing season as they are harvested by the end of July. In dryland farming, that makes a difference." "In general, if you compare stubble crops on this farm, yellow peas will yield 20% more than durum, depending on the moisture. Our yellow pea yields range from 25-40 bu/ac on average. Last year we had close to 50 bu/ac but that was an exception. "I went to a seminar in the early 1980's and there was a speaker there that said 'whatever you do, don't cut back on nitrogen for the cereal crop following peas. On a wet year you will get your bushels and on a dry year you will get your protein'. I really believe in that." "There is a big push to lower the amount of nitrogen you apply because the price of it is so high," says Koos. "I won't be doing that. My philosophy is if you're going to farm, you have to use the inputs you need to get a return. It's tough to do, but we had a perfect example in 2002. We had low reservoirs in the spring and it was really dry and a poor outlook. Lots of farmers cut back on N and after May it started to rain. You could drive around and see those fields hurting." "Nitrogen fertilizer is a relatively cheap investment for the return," Koos says. "10 lbs of actual nitrogen costs about $4, which would be equivalent to the value of a bushel of durum. By cutting 20lbs/acre, you save $8. That same 20 lbs/acre will probably give you a net gain of 5-10 bushels in yield on a wet

Seeding yellow field peas on durum stubble stubble

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year or 1-2% protein on a dry year. Some years you won't gain anything by fertilizing but I don't think you're losing too much either." Koos manages his weeds carefully. "We do a spring burnoff with 0.4-0.7 L/acre of glyphosate on our pea fields," he explains. "We start seeding peas as early as the last week of March. They are the first crop we put in. A lot of times there isn't much weed growth. We seed with a John Deere 1895 disc drill, which is very low disturbance. Germination of the field peas can take 7 to 14 days. I watch. If the weeds start germinating before the peas, they will be up between the time we plant the peas and when they emerge. I may do my burnoff after seeding and two days before the peas emerge. We seed, then roll, then spray with glyphosate. In-crop we usually use Odyssey to control our broadleaf weeds and wild oats." Kabuli Chickpeas "The very first year I considered growing chickpeas, I looked at the seed cost and decided against it," says Koos. "A friend of mine grew them that year and he convinced me to give them a try." Chickpeas do not provide the rotational benefit of field peas. "Durum grown on chickpea stubble would have a comparable yield to durum grown on durum stubble," says Koos. "Chickpeas root deep and draw moisture from up to 3 feet for the full length of the growing season as they are harvested at the end of September or later. This leaves much less moisture than field peas for the following crop." Still, the

comparatively high returns for quality make chickpeas an attractive option for the dryland acres of Burbridge Farm Limited. "I grow CDC Zena and CDC Diva varieties of Kabuli chickpea. Seed this spring cost me $0.52/lb and I seeded 150 lbs/acre. If you grow chickpeas you have to be willing to put the inputs into it. When I seed chickpeas, I prepare to spend more money on herbicides the following year but it's all about returns. That's the only reason I stick with chickpeas - the returns. "Our yields for Kabuli chickpea averaged 1800 lbs/ac in 2003, 1200 lbs/ac in 2004 and 1400 lbs/ac in 2005. The last two years the price for kabuli chickpeas has been good. The chickpeas are graded by size and this year we were able to get $0.38/lb for 9mm chickpeas and $0.45/lb for 10mm chickpeas. It works out to roughly $20-$24/bu, which is very attractive. Last year, I grew a couple of quarters for seed so hopefully the return will be good on that too." "Chickpeas are a high management crop," says Koos. "They can only be grown once in four years because of the potential yield loss caused by ascochyta blight. This year, with all the moisture we had there was a lot of disease pressure from ascochyta. We sprayed the chickpea 4 or 5 times with Bravo, Quadris and Headline fungicides in rotation at $13-$15 a pass to protect the crop from ascochyta. "Weed control in Chickpea is also very tricky because the in-crop herbicide choices are so limited. I still have mixed

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feelings about growing chickpea because of the problems with weed control. We do apply Edge in March or early April on the fields we plan to seed into chickpea. We broadcast it when there is rain or snow in the forecast." "2003 was the first year I grew chickpeas and I put the Edge on in January," explains Koos. "Then we got 3 inches of snow and it worked great. Our crop was as clean as a whistle. In 2004 I put the Edge on in March and we didn't get any moisture. It didn't work very well at all. Our chickpea crop was a disaster. But, we had a nice fall and the weeds dried down so I didn't have to use a pre-harvest. We harvested and the returns were still very good. "In 2005, we had fairly good control with Edge on 2/3 of the chickpea acres but it was less effective on the sandier soil where we had a fair amount of weed growth. We usually harvest chickpea the last week of September. The chickpeas have to mature naturally. Normally, a killing frost will dry down the weeds, but this year we had to apply Reglone to the crop mid-September for dry down." Special Management for Pulse Crops Field selection is critical to growing any pulse crop successfully. "At harvest I pick the fields I could use," says Koos. "Most of the fields we have fit for field pea but not every field is suitable for chickpea. I won't grow chickpea where there is high weed pressure or poor soil quality where the success of Edge may be questionable." Koos has moved to a very low-disturbance seeding system:

Koos Wysbeek, Farm Manager for Burbridge Farm Ltd., Burdett, AB

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BenchMark Seeds (Alberta) Ltd. RR 8 – 41 – 3 Lethbridge, AB T1J 4P4 6311 – 56 Ave Taber, AB T1G 1X9

Corny VanDasselaar Cell (403)308-3602

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Phone (403)320-5987 Phone (403)223-9090

Adrian Moens Cell (403)308-6685

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Trevor Veenendaal Cell (403)308-7199

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1895 John Deere no-till disc drill

"We went from 47 feet of Concord drill to 40 feet of John Deere disc drill," he says. "With a knife we had to seed at 4.5 mph or the back shanks would throw dirt on the front rows. With the disc drill we can seed at about 7 mph. We use enough air velocity to get the product to the boot and no more. It's a fine line with peas and chickpeas. You don't want to plug and you don't want to damage the seed." "The biggest advantage with the disc drill is moisture conservation," says Koos. "With a knife, we would often seed into moisture but after two or three days of Chinook winds, that seed-row was dried out. With the disc, we just slice it in and the seed is protected. "With the disc drill, straw management is critical. The main down-side with this drill is that heavy residue can cause a hair-pinning problem. We use a chopper and spreader on our combines. If we get the residue spread evenly, we can manage the problem." "We harvest everything with draper headers and straightcut everything," says Koos. "We use a rotary combine, which is gentle on pulses at harvest. We use conveyors to handle the

peas and chickpeas and to fill the air cart. Handling pulses with conveyors helps to limit seed coat damage. "I pick the best of my own seed to use for next year and keep it separate. I get my seed tested for germination and vigour. If it does not meet my standards, I buy new seed. I really believe you have to start out with good seed. "We always inoculate our peas and chickpeas but we don't use any fertilizer on them. I may try using nitrogen on our chickpeas and do a side by side comparison to see if adding N instead of relying on nitrogen fixation might speed maturity. We used to apply only 40-50lbs of N with our dry beans and now, over the last 4-5 years we've been using 80-100lbs of actual N on irrigation for that very reason." Koos admits pulse crops require special management, but he believes they are key to the long-term success of his dryland crop rotation. "If there is anything you want to do in life, there is no return without risk," says Koos. "The rewards are there but it takes disciplined management, the right inputs and a lot of luck!"

Field peas on May 3, 2004

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WHERE LIES THE PATH TO

SUSTAINABILTY By Iain Shute

For Fred Kirschenmann, the drive to increase the size of farms in an effort to maintain profitability is the wrong way to be sustainable. He rejects that argument. Not only on the grounds of sustainability, but also because a fragile, oil-dominated economy is not conducive to the economic well being of farmers. Kirschenmann is the Director of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture based at Iowa State University. He was in Lethbridge in December 2005 to speak at the Southern Alberta Conservation Association's 12th Annual Reduced Tillage Conference. "The public is now aware of food supply issues. He adds that, "The public is increasingly unhappy with the specialized food system." While this could be a source of trouble, he believes an advantage for Canadian farmers is the greater public 'engagement' than in the United States. This, Kirschenmann believes, will produce the pressure for change. Indeed, based on Kirschenmann's own experience, it is clear the official policy south of the border is one of not worrying about who produces the food as long as someone does it. While he believes the government is unlikely to change its position in the foreseeable future, some involved in the food service industry are beginning to respond to public pressure. Sysco, North America's largest food supply company, evolved a marketing strategy based on "memory, romance and trust," conjuring up visions of a bucolic landscape of rolling fields and orchards inhabited by fresh-faced farmers and their families. This seems a far cry from the "fast, convenient and cheap" mantra of 30 years ago. Kirschenmann says they are riding the current wave of consumer dissatisfaction with bland, tasteless foods and that, if a company like Sysco can see the value of changing their marketing strategy, then there are clearly opportunities for producers to do the same. Also, mid-sized, family-run farms are the ones best placed to take advantage of these burgeoning opportunities. Small producers won't have the capital to take advantage of market changes; large organisations will be too unwieldy. "The marketing opportunities are there, but they have to be seized now." Kirschenmann says there are other options available that, if taken early enough, may prove the basis of an agricultural renaissance. Many agriculturalists and writers favour one of these options; a 'back to the future' approach where updated versions of methods used in earlier times replace current technologies. Although it received no appreciable coverage in the U.S. media, Kirschenmann says the most significant report to have ever come out of the United Nations was their recent Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Report that stated about 60 per cent of all ecosystems were reported as "substantially degraded." Using graphs plotting farm income and expenditure from 1949 to 2002, Kirschenmann demonstrated that while gross income "maintained pretty well" throughout the period, net income decreased steadily over time. "Farmers have no 'wiggle room.' It's all about how we make enough to keep in business another year. That's why I call F A R M I N G

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it a bankrupt farm economy." Much of the decrease in farm income over the period could be attributed to increased use and costs of fertilisers and other inputs, many that depend on an oil economy for their production Kirschenmann states the core assumptions of industrial agriculture include: a belief in continued availability of cheap sources of energy, technological innovation can always solve problems and specialization, simplification and concentration work best to achieve efficiency. "It is an assumption which is no longer true." However, he believes we are now moving into the "sustainable age" of agriculture from the industrial age, but, in order to meet the challenges of the future, it is vital to build an agricultural system that remains sustainable indefinitely. Agriculture must simplify procedures and routines as much as possible to cut down on unnecessary consumption of irreplaceable resources. He adds that from an efficiency ratio of 1:100 for oil extraction during the 1940s, (one gallon of oil expended to produce100 gallons); by the 1990s, it dropped to 1:10. Even with alternative sources of energy, such as the latest generation of wind turbines with their efficiency of 1:50, he believes energy suppliers will never reach the efficiency levels of the middle of the last century again. "We're never going to get back to those heady days," he says. Most prepared foods in North America now consist largely of just four ingredients, corn, soya beans, sugar and salt fuelling concerns about lack of diversity in the food chain and lack of choice for consumers. "Ecological health of the land is so compromised it may not bounce back," he says. As the situation is so complex, there can be "no simple fix." Climate change, loss of bio-diversity, land degradation, species and habitat loss all contribute to a decreasing resilience of ecosystems. However, with an expected 30 - 80 per cent increase in demand for food production expected over the next 50 years, there is still a belief that crops must increase yields as the only way out of the problem. Other evolving trends focus on what Kirschenmann calls the "soul values" of personal relationships and the importance of being "small and local." In this context, local doesn't mean geographically close to the consumer. It means giving the consumer an emotional connection with the product and the producer. Using the Wisconsin-based Organic Valley producer group as an example, a marketing group of about 700 family farms with a turnover of $200 million U.S., he says such simple measures as maintaining a "meet the farmers" section on the group's web site achieved this. "The primary benefit to the farming families is that people don't mind paying higher prices if they are getting good quality in return." Kirschenmann suggests there are also other, less tangible benefits in striving for better quality food. "There is evidence, albeit anecdotal, that by producing better quality food with fewer chemicals, health care expenditures may reduce," he adds. 

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THEREâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;S NO PLACE

LIKE HOME By Claudette Lacombe

The Southern Applied Research Association (SARA) has a new home for its Diagnostic Field School (DFS). After about 15 years of staying with friends and family, SARA contracted 50 acres of land at the Lethbridge Research Station. "We're very excited because we contracted this site for a few years," says Elizabeth Tokariuk of SARA. The first diagnostic field school began in the early 1990's in the Chin area for two years. Funding difficulties forced it to take a sojourn for a couple of years before Alberta Agriculture reestablished it at Lethbridge Research Station where it survived for a couple more years. Internal changes at Alberta Agriculture gave SARA the opportunity to step in and work with Alberta Agriculture, Agriculture Canada and interested

A group of producers attend the DFS field day in 2004.

private industry representatives that provide module design and instruction for the field day held each year. SARA hopes to institute a three-year rotation on 30 acres and use 20 acres for long-term research projects. "The main reason we wanted a piece of land on a more permanent basis is so we can do long term plots for manure management, herbicide carry over, long term rotation and things you can't you do when you move every year," Tokariuk says. "You can't establish forages, for example, and have anything to show beyond establishment because you're gone from that site the next season. There are all kinds of things we wanted to get our hands on that we haven't been able to do because we haven't been assured of a permanent site," she adds. The DFS mandate is to provide farmers and industry with tools to farm more efficiently in the best way possible by keeping abreast of current and emerging issues. "The insect module is a perfect example because quite often we'll plant things that we know will attract certain insects, but come summer, we never know if we'll have a new insect out there. When we find something different we can ask our producers, 'Hey have you guys seen this?'" explains Tokariuk. "This is the damage it will cause and we can be very responsive to new insects and in some cases diseases and give producers the tools right away to address any problems. "We want to offer leading edge management tools to the producers," she says, "Now we have a long-term site as home."

SARA DFS 2006 Field day June 27-29 Lethbridge Community College One-day workshop three days to choose to participate SARA members $100; non members $125 Focus: Management practices on different crops

These plots are part of the 2005 DFS.

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Visit www.areca.ca or Call Elizabeth Tokariuk, 403-328-0059, for information. July 27 follow-up day. F A R M I N G

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FOR 2006 AND BEYOND: FERTILIZER’S “TRIPLE E” FUTURE

!! P&] ‹ !!& & 7P 7 By Reg Norby

2006 will see producers facing high fertilizer prices and less than robust crop prices. The anticipated narrowing of margins and net returns will make this a "Triple E" fertilizer management year to use fertilizer effectively, efficiently and economically according to Ross McKenzie, Agronomy Research Scientist with the Crop Diversification Centre of Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development (AAFRD) in Lethbridge. What are the possible fertilizer options for producers to consider for this crop year and beyond? McKenzie indicates that the one question that producers ask is "how can I cut back on fertilizer?” His recommendation is that the producer initially needs a starting point to really decide if and how much to cut. The best way to have a starting point is to soil test, not necessarily every field, but key fields that can act as a reference for other fields. This will tell you where your nutrient levels are because, without a starting point, you really do not know how much you should cut back. Spring soil testing may be particularly beneficial this year due to improved soil moisture from 2005's wet fall that resulted in increased microbial activity. Also, for most of this past winter, southern Alberta soils did not freeze and this microbial activity continued; which is not typical. According to McKenzie, the reality is that if you soil sampled last fall and again this spring, odds are that you would find significantly more nitrogen there and available for the plants than you would have found last fall. That will beneficially reduce the amount of fertilizer needed. If that's the case, the good news is that the higher than normal nitrogen levels this year allow producers to cut back onthe amount nitrogen fertilizer. With your soil analysis defining your fertilizer needs, McKenzie recommends producers talk to several different dealers and compare fertilizer prices. With current nitrogen fertilizer prices at around 45 cents/pound, McKenzie feels this is the time to shop around to get "the best deal in town." He also suggests they check out all types of nitrogen fertilizer - anhydrous, liquid and urea - and not just what they used in the past. When you price them out per pound of actual nitrogen, a 5 cent/pound difference is significant and can make a difference as to the amount of nitrogen you want to apply. Try to pick the cheapest form of nitrogen you can get at the best price you can get from your fertilizer dealer. This might let you put on more fertilizer without spending more money. Finally consider your cropping options for the best use of fertilizer. He recommends answering these questions: what crops are you growing; what are the expected crop prices; what is your yield potential, how much nitrogen does the crop require and how much would you expect to get back? To assist in this analysis, McKenzie recommends using the Alberta Farm Fertilizer

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Information Recommendation Manager (AFFIRM) program available/downloadable free of charge from the AAFRD Ropin' the Web website (see instruction sidebar). This analysis tool allows the producer to select the farm's soil zone and examine and compare possible cropping and input options and expected returns by inputting the soil test values, the soil moisture conditions, the crop(s) choices, the expected crop price(s) and the fertilizer price(s) to determine your 2006 planting choices. Given southern Alberta's excellent soil moisture conditions going into the 2006 crop year, McKenzie notes that this year producers will also have other fertilizer considerations. The producer can take a greater risk in applying fertilizer because there is a greater chance of a return, given that yield potential will be better. The producer will have a wider array of possible cropping options with better returns available to consider. There is limiited need for micronutrient fertilizers except with beans or corn on sandy soils. Spending an additional $5/acre on nitrogen will provide better returns than on unnecessary micronutrients. In addition, facing high fertilizer prices the producer can consider production alternatives and doing things differently. Look at crops that fix nitrogen. If you're unhappy with putting on nitrogen, then make sure that 20 - 25% of your cropping acreage is in a pulse crop like peas or lentils. The following year you can cut your nitrogen fertilizer application back significantly, because long term pea/wheat rotation research has shown good returns in a dryland crop rotation in the Brown soil zone. Applying composted manure at a moderate rate every four years could eliminate the need for phosphorus, potassium and sulphur fertilizers. If you are in close proximity to a feedlot, often for the transportation cost you could consider application of compost on one quarter of your land base each year, reducing or eliminating the need for fertilizers other than nitrogen. In summary for 2006, it will be more effective, efficient and economical fertilizer use not more fertilizer that offers the better returns. 

To Download AFFIRM software Visit www.agric.gov.ab.ca click on Calculators Scroll down to Crop & Forage Nutrient Use Click on AFFIRM V2.0 and follow the download AFFIRM instructions.

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STUDY SHOWS WARM SEASON GRASSES CAN

WORK IN ROTATION By Claudette Lacombe

A three-year study conducted by Southern Applied Research Association (SARA) experimented with several varieties of Sorghum-Sudan grass mixed with millet. Warm season grasses (WSG) are more common in the U. S., but producers began trying them in southern Alberta in recent years. The Sorghum-Sudan is a hybrid between grain Sorghum and Sudan grass. "Subsistence farmers use grain Sorghum as an alternative to corn, because it is very drought tolerant, has a much bigger root system and less leaves. If it gets dry weather, it will go dormant whereas corn will dry out," says Paul Jungnitsch SARA agronomist. "Sudan grass is a more fine-stemmed, leafy grass, so the hybrid gets the benefits of both," he adds SARA experimented with growing five-acre strips of different varieties of Sorghum-Sudan and millet to see how they perform on a larger scale in southern Alberta conditions. WSG are competition for corn, oats and forage. During the experimentation, they swath grazed, bailed and stockpile grazed the crop. "So far, they had decent growth. There are some differences between the varieties, but the interesting finding is that grasshoppers don't seem to like them," Jungnitsch says. He adds that when you combine that feature with the crop's drought tolerance, WSG may make an interesting fit into a rotation during dry years. The study also showed that WSG grows rapidly; which allows for late planting in emergencies. They grow to about four or five feet tall and yield 1,465-1,800 pounds per acre of dry

matter. A southern Alberta producer who used WSG for the past three years stock pile grazed the crop to cut down on energy and equipment costs. He seeds warm season grasses one year, fences the whole quarter, moves the cows in to graze over the winter (which spreads the manure around the field), then seeds a regular crop in the following year. "He cuts down his machinery costs by avoiding feeding the cattle, hauling manure and increases his yield on his next crop," Jungnitsch says. He cautions that the study did find some challenges with the crop. With Sorghum-Sudan grass, there can be nitrate and prussic acid issues and, because of the millet, there are limited choices for weed management. The nitrates are a problem if the growth suddenly stops; during a cold snap for instance or a period of no moisture. â&#x20AC;&#x153;This can be an issue with other feed crops, but seems more of an issue with these,â&#x20AC;? Jungnitsch explains. The Sorghum Sudan grass also gets a prussic acid build up under these conditions, but it dissipates after seven days. "You just let it dry down and the prussic acid dissipates," he adds. SARA hopes to continue monitoring warm season grasses through communication with producers who grow them. SARA would like any producers who chose to grow the crops in their rotation to invite Jungnitsch to see the crop and talk about how it worked for you. Contact Paul Jungnitsch, 403381-5118, if you try WSG on your operation. 

Warm season grasses offer producers an alternative in rotations and a viable choice for late season planting.

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FARMING SMARTER

NEWSBITES Province opens state-of-the-art animal disease surveillance lab Alberta's efforts in animal disease detection and research received a substantial boost with the opening of the province's $14-million, state-of-the-art Level 3 Biocontainment Lab. The new facility puts Alberta on the cutting edge of animal disease detection and research. "Animal health threats are a reality we've come to know quite well in Alberta," said Doug Horner, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development. "It is vital that we not only manage these threats, but also expand our understanding of them. This facility makes Alberta a leader in animal disease detection and research." The lab will significantly increase Alberta's testing capacity for animal diseases such as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), chronic wasting disease (CWD) and avian influenza (AI). While the initial focus of the lab will be testing, it will also conduct animal disease research, in collaboration with the Alberta Research Council and the University of Alberta. For more information, please visit www.agric.gov.ab.ca.

CLA Network aims to harvest benefits of 'wonder nutrient' New knowledge of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is at the heart of growing evidence that beef and dairy products may be among the most promising health foods of the future. Now a broad, Alberta-based network of experts is in place to help turn that promise into reality. It's called the CLA Network, and it's poised to deliver major benefits to the beef and dairy industries and to consumers. "Canadian researchers have been very active in studying CLA health benefits, the impact on animals and the methods of increasing CLA in both beef and dairy products," says Vince Ohama, CLA Network manager with Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development (AAFRD). CLA is a unique fat, found naturally in dairy and beef products, that is showing considerable potential for human health benefits related to cancer, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, kidney disease and bone density. Studies have confirmed ruminant meats and dairy products already contain natural CLA and there is strong potential to enhance these levels through a variety of livestock production strategies, including simple livestock dietary changes. Though research is in early stages and based largely on animal models, the potentially broad and clinically significant benefits of CLA have earned it increasing recognition as a wonder nutrient of the future. Through a collaborative effort involving government, academia and industry, the CLA Network formed in 2001. It includes representatives from many areas of expertise such as research, food industry, health and communications. Major advances in CLA are expected regularly over the next

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several years and the CLA Network is a key link to global progress, says Ohama. "A key part of the CLA Network is communications. For more information on CLA and the CLA Network, visit www.CLAnetwork.com.

New study to help canola farmers win battle with blackleg Helping western Canadian canola growers win the long-term battle with blackleg is the goal of a new, three-year study supported by the Endowment Fund, administered by Western Grains Research Foundation (WGRF). The study will build a new base of knowledge on changing populations of the pathogen that causes blackleg. This will allow producers to better select canola varieties that have resistance to the pathogen types of most concern to their specific growing area. It will also fuel the development of new canola varieties that have better resistance against the evershifting pathogen population. More information, including a longer "Research Report" on the results of the Rimmer study is available on the WGRF Web site, www.westerngrains.com.

Global 'rust busters' take aim at new threat to wheat production Western Canadian wheat farmers are helping scientists find solutions for a major new disease threat to global wheat production. "Ug99" is a new strain of stem rust first identified in Uganda and now spreading in east Africa and toward the Indian subcontinent. Canadian wheat researchers are part of an international effort to combat the disease by identifying and developing wheat varieties that are genetically resistant to the disease. In Western Canada, this effort is supported in part by farmers through the Wheat Check-off Fund, administered by Western Grains Research Foundation (WGRF). "We've had excellent resistance to stem rust in all of our spring wheat varieties for 50 years, so the emergence of a new strain is something we want to monitor closely and make sure we're prepared," says Dr. Tom Fetch, pathologist at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's (AAFC) Cereal Research Centre in Winnipeg. "This is certainly a wake-up call on the need to be prepared." As its name implies, Ug99 was first reported in Uganda in 1999, but its potential as a threat to wheat production is only now becoming understood. It is now also known as "black rust" and has spread to both Kenya and Ethiopia, possibly beyond. Canadian wheat varieties feature different genetic sources of stem rust resistance. While the specific gene or genes behind those sources of resistance are not pinpointed, testing so far shows at least some Canadian wheat material appears to have a

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level of resistance to Ug99. More information on Ug99 and Canada's role in the new initiative is featured in the February edition of Western Grains Research Magazine, now available at www.westerngrains.com.

Booklet explains basic greenhouse gas, agriculture link A new booklet that explains the basic relationship between Canadian cattle production and greenhouse gas emissions is now available to beef producers and the public. The "Greenhouse Gas Sinks and Sources Tour Guide for Canadian Beef Producers" is a very user-friendly, 50-page booklet that lays down the fundamentals of the greenhouse gas issue, says Lee Pengilly, a Saskatchewan rancher, consultant and writer who produced the guide on behalf of the beef sector of the Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Program for Canadian Agriculture (GHGMP). "For a lot of people, the confusing part is knowing what it is about livestock production that affects greenhouse gas emissions," says Pengilly, who, along with her husband Ben, ranches near Melville, Sask. "What practices contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, and what can I do to change it?" A feature report on the Sinks and Sources Tour Guide is available on the CCA website at www.cattle.ca. Go to the Stewardship section and follow the links. In the Sinks and Sources Tour Guide, Pengilly uses what she describes as "cowboy common sense" to explain in basic language and with humor what is often viewed as the complicated interaction between modern-day agriculture and greenhouse gas emissions. Free copies of the Sinks and Sources Tour Guide are available through provincial beef producer associations and also from the Canadian Cattlemen's Association by calling (403) 2758558 or online by visiting www.cattle.ca and making a request under the "contact us" link.

New Chair named for Surface Rights and Land Compensation Boards Following an open competition, Alberta Sustainable Resource Development Minister Dave Coutts named Brian Gifford as the new chair of the Surface Rights Board and the Land Compensation Board. Currently Chair and CEO of the British Columbia Employment and Assistance Appeal Tribunal, Mr. Gifford brings a wealth of experience in establishing and managing an independent, quasi-judicial tribunal. Now completing his Master of Laws degree, Gifford also has several years experience in private law practice and offers strengths in administrative law, arbitration hearing processes and interpretation of legislation and policy. He begins his new position with the Boards on April 1. The Minister also announced that Dave Broda will move from his current role as Board Member, Surface Rights Board, to Vice-Chair, Surface Rights Board. Mr. Broda has an extensive background in real estate and as a rural provincial government MLA. The Surface Rights Board is a quasi-judicial board authorized under the Surface Rights Act to grant Right of Entry and determine compensation related to energy activities. Where an

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operator and a landowner or an occupant fail to reach an agreement regarding energy activities, the Surface Rights Board is authorized to determine compensation. The Board issued 1,786 Orders in 2005. The Board is also responsible for issuing compensation orders for damage claims, rental reviews, and claims for unpaid rentals. The Board also maintains all Right of Entry Orders issued in the province through amendments, termination and partial termination. The Land Compensation Board is a quasi-judicial board authorized under the Expropriation Act to determine compensation payable to a Landowner or a Tenant when an expropriating authority has expropriated land. The Land Compensation Board received 23 applications in 2005.

Insurance changes to help grains and oilseeds producers this growing season Alberta's grains and oilseeds sector will see short-term relief from higher-than-expected input costs and low commodity prices this growing season while government and industry work on a long-term recovery strategy for the $1.7-billion sector. Doug Horner, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development announced production insurance changes that will see premium reductions for producers under one program offered by Agriculture Financial Services Corporation (AFSC) and increased pay-out benefits under another. For the second year in a row, a producer's premium share of the Spring Price Endorsement option will drop from 50 to 30 percent. This program allows producers to hedge against a possible fall commodity price drop. At the same time, floor price trigger for payments under the Revenue Insurance Coverage option will increase by seven per cent, allowing more producers to receive the benefits from this option. Revenue Insurance Coverage protects producers against abnormally low commodity prices by setting a predetermined floor price. Last year, more than $72 million was paid out to Alberta growers under these two options, resulting in additional insurance payments of about $13,000 for each participating producer. While these insurance changes will help grains and oilseeds producers through this growing season, Horner said a longterm strategy for future years is vital. The Minister announced a three-point recovery framework that will form the basis of upcoming discussions with industry. The framework looks at: better business risk management tools, including changes to the Canadian Agricultural Income Stabilization (CAIS) program; new crop uses, new technologies and new varieties; and new business, new investment and new marketing tools. Details of Alberta's Grains and Oilseeds Three-Point Framework are available on Ropin' the Web (www.agric.gov.ab.ca). It will form the basis of consultation meetings held across the province with grains and oilseeds industry. Information on AFSC's production insurance for annual crops is available by calling any local AFSC insurance office or the AFSC call centre at 1-888-786-7475 or by logging on to www.AFSC.ca. 

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BUGS WITHOUT

PASSPORTS by Peter Scott

Faba bean leaf damaged by the pea leaf weevil; note characteristic notching on leaf edge (photo by H. Goulet of AAFC)

Héctor Cárcamo is on the front lines these days in the fight against cross-border terrorism. The slightly built former El Salvadorian PhD might not appear, at first glance, to be someone on whose narrow shoulders a nation would place its homeland security. But Cárcamo isn’t battling these nefarious infiltrators with John Wayne bravado and a bazooka. A microscope is more his weapon of choice, that and a family of wasps. Those are part of the arsenal available to him – and to farmers throughout southern Alberta – to do battle with the newest recruits of the insect world in their continuing campaign for world dominance. Cárcamo, research scientist with Insect Pest Management at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Lethbridge, is marshalling his forces for this spring/summer season against, among other six-legged enemies of the state, the cereal leaf beetle, a nasty piece of work seen for the first time in southern Alberta last year. Native to Europe, legions of the cereal leaf beetle showed up in Ontario close to 40 years ago, but it has taken this long for them to appear in Alberta. To date, they’ve been spotted in just two counties – Taber and Lethbridge – but the threat they pose has been serious enough for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to slap a legal order on hay deliveries F A R M I N G

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leaving these two areas, ordering that they be fumigated before they’re transported. “The ones seen in 2005 could have come from B.C. or Montana,” says Cárcamo. “We’re kind of surrounded here in southern Alberta.” So what uniforms does the enemy wear? Farmers are warned to be on the lookout for a beetle with a black head, an iridescent blue-black abdomen, and a distinctive orange thorax. Its legs, too, are orange, and it bears long, thin antennae. In fact, says Cárcamo, but for those antennae it bears a resemblance to the soft-wing flower beetle, actually a beneficial, native insect. The cereal leaf beetle will dine on a variety of grain crops – Cárcamo calls it a “generalist” – but prefers oats, wheat and barley. Its larvae are easily distinguishable, looking as they do like small slugs attached to plant stems, an appearance the result of covering themselves in their own feces to make them less palatable to birds. After over-wintering in field margins and shelter belts, the beetles will appear in June. They’ll hit oats first, a strategy Cárcamo hopes to use against them. “We’ve asked our diagnostic field school to plant oats early this year to see if oats might make a potential trap crop,” he says.

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But that’s just the war on the ground; Cárcamo also hopes to call in the air force. “That’s the good news,” he says. “This beetle is one of the few insect pests in annual crop systems where biological control has been used successfully.” Which is science-type talk for: “Send in the wasps.” A pair of wasp species is tapped for this mission; one attacks the beetle’s eggs, the other goes for the larvae. Cárcamo, along with Lloyd Dosdall of the University of Alberta, has requested provincial funding to begin tests this spring. “But before we introduce an exotic species (the wasps are not native to the area) into the area, we want to make sure we have a real threat,” he says. So farmers are asked to be vigilant and familiarize themselves with the beetle. If they spot the enemy, Cárcamo asks them to contact him or the CFIA (Canadian Food Inspection Agency). “With the pea acreage in the Lethbridge area increasing, this weevil may become more prevalent,” he says. “But we want to make sure it’s a problem first; we don’t want to trigger irrational spraying.” The weevil, with mouth parts distinctively at the end of its head and elbowed antennae, originally showed up in the last decade, but higher rates of damage occured in 2001. It has a taste for peas and fava beans, notching their leaves like a giant paper punch, and will also get into lupines. But the real threat comes from its larvae (it’s always the kids!) that feed on

root nodules, interfering with the plant’s ability to take in nitrogen. Also on the enemies list this year is the cabbage seedpod weevil, which, despite its name, threatens canola. Discovered in B.C. in the 1930s, it headed south and east, throughout the U.S., but appeared in southern Alberta canola in 1995. Hot, dry summers tend to keep it at bay, but last year’s cool, moist conditions caused canola to ripen slowly, providing rich terrain for the bug, which could prove a problem this summer if large enough numbers survived. Because it is attracted to earlier flowering plants, Cárcamo suggests the best way to protect canola is to build a perimeter wall by planting a 20-30 m border of a field earlier than the middle. The gap in the canola’s growth stages should allow farmers to concentrate the weevils in the earlier flowering strip and manage them there before they reach economic level in the middle. That’s the intelligence so far this year, although the Swede midge and the wheat-stem sawfly may also mount campaigns and the diamond-backed moth is known to be lurking in the area. In all, the season looks to be a busy one for entomologists and growers who will need to dust off their sweep nets and keep an eye for all these pesky bugs. 

Adult pea leaf weevil, a potential new pest of field peas in southern Alberta (photo by H. Goulet of AAFC)

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C.S.I. COMES TO LETHBRIDGE By Iain Shute

Okay, not really, but Jack Payne's presentation on crop problems the first time. Payne says it is vital to collect all the investigation science reintroduced farmers to the benefits of facts objectively from the written records before a physical field scouting and how to use methods and design a system to examination. After reviewing all the field records, walk the diagnose problems. field and integrate all your observations without falling into "Field scouting is often overshadowed by glitzy products the assumption trap. Take care to keep accurate notes and take or new technology, but it is effective at reducing inputs and photographs to provide an invaluable record. Take care to increasing revenues by identifying problems before incurring correctly identify any plant injuries; what looks like herbicide serious losses," says Payne an Olds College agronomist. He injury may actually be insect damage. If insects are not visible, advised conducting field scouting at least four times through Payne advises a return visit later in the day. Remember that an the growing season. He entomologist can identify the recommends a post seeding insect species from the telltale To tackle a field investigation in the style of Gil emergence assessment, weed damage it leaves behind. identification before Grissom and the Las Vegas crime lab, Payne suggests When you have all the starting with a review of records before heading out information in hand, spraying, post spraying weed to the field. control or resistance formulate a theory for the assessment and a mid-season physical finding in the field. to pre-harvest check for insect Payne warns that accuracy infestations and weeds. Producers can also check irrigation requires ruthlessness. If the theory doesn't fit, reject it and requirements while scouting the field. formulate another. It is a process of elimination and, before any While Payne thinks the ancient practice of field walking is action, the diagnosis must be sound. under rated, he isn't averse to using technology. He is a great It must be "beyond a shadow of doubt," Payne says. Seek believer in aerial photography to identify potential field-wide assistance from external agencies if you have difficulty coming problems and close up photography to identify problems and to a conclusion. Payne suggests a generalist rather than a keep a record of subsequent solutions. specialist. To tackle a field investigation in the style of Gil Grissom "Pathologists think disease, weed specialists think and the Las Vegas crime lab, Payne suggests starting with a herbicide injury," Payne cautions. Once you complete the review of records before heading out to the field. assessment, ensure you keep full records of your observations, "Always start at the house," he says, "I can't emphasize diagnosis and remedial action to provide future solutions to that enough." With good record keeping, a producer can save problems more easily.  a great deal of time, effort and money by correctly identifying

ENGAGE IN A SELF-ASSESSMENT

FOR YOUR FARM By Iain Shute

Whether we like it or not, concern for the environment and the affects of agricultural practices upon it is a hot topic. This is where an Environmental Farm Plan (EFP) can help farmers by increasing awareness of how farm activities influence the environment. However, Alan Pasolli and Therese Tompkins of the Alberta Environmental Farm Plan Company don't expect F A R M I N G

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sudden changes in producer practice. "You want to do the best you can," Pasolli says, "But small steps are best." Pasolli adds increased health and safety, environmental quality, reduction of inputs, protection and improvement of the environment are all sound reasons for implementing a plan. Perhaps the most compelling reason is the ability to gain access to incentive funds and take advantage

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of the free training and assessment gained through the EFP process. The plan itself takes landowners through a workbook supplemented by workshops and access to technical assistance while creating an individual plan tailored to individual needs. The process is inherently flexible, which makes it work for farms as small as 20 acres right up to 16,000 acres according to Pasolli who says, "It works for everyone." "I've seen it work for hobby farms, Hutterite Colonies, chicken farms, llamas and honey operations with 10 million bees" Pasolli says. The EFP process includes self-assessment exercises related to water, pesticides, farm waste, household waste, waste water and energy efficiency in a practical, easy to implement and understand process. The Peer Review process ensures farmers don't try to do too much and become disappointed with the results. Workshops involve two steps taken on separate days and don't place large time demands on the participants. The first workshop day takes about four hours and is a chance to meet the facilitator, select an area of concern, identify challenges and produce an outline to show practical implementation of new systems. Producers then take the workbook home to complete an on-site assessment of their operation and a draft plan to address identified issues. Pasolli says that, depending on the size and complexity of the operation, the 'homework' takes no more than eight hours.

Two weeks after the initial workshop, the second workshop day gives participants a chance to ask questions and iron out problems through the facilitator. During the process, the plan receives blind peer review, which means that your name is absent from the documents, but you get the benefit of advice from others working in the same field. Since its inception, over 3,000 farms participated in some form of environmental planning and the mid-term target is to take 11,500 farms through the process by 2008. Alberta has 30,000 active farms. The federal government joined forces with the provincial government in January 2005 to form the Canada Alberta Farm Stewardship Program. The program supplies up to $30,000 per farm for environmental stewardship projects. As Pasolli says, there is much more public awareness about farm and food production environmental issues today; as anyone who attends a public meeting regarding intensive livestock operations can confirm. Not only will the EFP identify areas for improvement, but Pasolli says it points out areas producers do well. It is a potential way to add value to an operation or increase customer confidence. 

PIONEER HI-BRED SALES AGENT For Southern Alberta:

BenchMark Seeds (Alberta) Ltd. RR 8 – 41 – 3 Lethbridge, AB T1J 4P4 6311 – 56 Ave Taber, AB T1G 1X9

Corny VanDasselaar Cell (403)308-3602

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Phone (403)320-5987 Phone (403)223-9090

Adrian Moens Cell (403)308-6685

Trevor Veenendaal Cell (403)308-7199

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Soils & Crops Diagnostic Field School Lethbridge Research Centre â&#x20AC;&#x201C; July 27 â&#x20AC;&#x201C; 29th, 2006

Soil Fertility, Agronomy, Weeds, Herbicides, Diseases, Insects SARA, AAFRD, AAFC and industry to present hands-on workshops. Experts address current issues and challenge you to see more in the plots. An intense learning experience that's invaluable for crop planning, problem diagnosis and management. If you can't come, make sure your crop advisor attends. To register or for more info: Elizabeth Tokariuk 403-328-0059 (Fax 380-3889) E-mail: Sara.research@connectcomm.ca


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Farming Smarter -- 2006 Edition  

Helping increase your net returns from farming

Farming Smarter -- 2006 Edition  

Helping increase your net returns from farming