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15 Environmentally Safe Nitrogen

SARA Chairman’s Message Beat the Heat with Winter Peas & Lentils Gold of Pleasure or False Flax: The Camelina Story ARECA – An Update SARA Maximizing Benefit from Its Research Station 12 Winter Wheat Acres with Winter Peas & Lentils 13 A Fit for Winter Wheat on Irrigation 14 Altruistic Crop Production Provides Double Social Benefits

16 Conservation Farming has Two Champions in Southern Alberta 17 Fixed Costs Central to Net Realized Farm Income 18 The Making of a Farm CEO 19 Winter Pulse Trials Show Promise 20 Nitrogen Hogs the Stage 21 GPS, GIS and Industrial Sites 22 Opinion: Urban Priorities Could Undermine the Farm

Options for Downy Brome Control in Winter Wheat

Farming Smarter is published annually by the Southern Applied Research Association with the assistance of the Southern Alberta Conservation Association, Ducks Unlimited and support from the Agriculture Opportunities Fund and Alberta environmentally Sustainable Agriculture program. Editorial Board: Alex Russell, Ron Svanes, Ron Lamb, Ken Coles Editor: Claudette Lacombe • Cover Photo: Claudette Lacombe Photography: Claudette Lacombe, Hector Carcamo, Jamie Rieger, S.A.R.A. Contact SARA: Ken Coles, M.Sc. B.Sc., Agronomist, Southern Applied Research Association, Agriculture Center, #100, 5401 – 1st. Ave. South, Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada, T1J 4V6 Tel: 403-381-5118 Fax: 403-382-4526 Email: Published by:

Become a Member of the Southern Applied Research Association Help direct farm research in this region. Receive early notice of conferences, workshops, field days. Send your SARA membership fee, $40 per year to Southern Applied Research Association, Agriculture Center, #100, 5401 – 1st. Ave. South, Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada, T1J 4V6 Name _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Address ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Membership/subscription $ enclosed _____________________________________________________________________________________ Major farm interests _____________________________________________________________________________________________________



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SARA Chairman’s Message This information, along with findings from various sources, we passed on to the community at various events such as the Diagnostic Field School in July, conferences, grower meetings and through conversations with SARA’s agronomist, publications and our Farming Smarter magazine. SARA’s membership grew by over 500% this year as people in the industry continue to realize the value provided to the industry. This is extremely important in order to secure matched government funds and I encourage you to join this growing organization. There also continues to be an opportunity to help bring issues to the forefront as a SARA director. Please join us at our annual meeting March 5 in Taber. Good luck and much success in 2008.


his year good crop prices renewed optimism for grain producers, yet livestock producers struggle with elevated feed prices. It’s a complicated industry and there never seems to be a shortage of issues faced by producers. Along with a growing network under the Agricultural Research and Extension Council of Alberta (ARECA) family, SARA continues to improve its capacity and ability to help producers address issues. A strong partnership with government and industry specialists helps SARA provide valuable information through research and extension events. Important research projects this year included winter pulses, pea leaf weevil, environmentally safe nitrogen, regional variety trials, pulse/wheat rotation, insect pest monitoring and glyphosate resistance monitoring.

Corny VanDasselaar SARA Board Chair

Time to protect, reinvent agriculture, say industry leaders

f the world hopes to meet growing demand for food Irelationship without destroying wildlife habitat, it needs to rethink the between habitat and high yield farming. At the

the yields of conventional farming. Together, these are impossible demands based on a touching faith in the past successes of farm science and technology.” A growing consumer focus on organic production systems threatens to undo the gains agriculture made through high yield production practices, says Avery. “From an environmental perspective, high yield agriculture has saved the planet 16 million square miles of forest that, based on consumer demand, would otherwise be cleared for food production. Without it, humanity’s food needs would be pitted against the needs of wildlife. High yield farming allows us to have both food and wildlands.” Held since 1972 in Banff, Alberta, the Banff Pork Seminar is coordinated by the Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science, University of Alberta, in cooperation with Alberta Pork, Alberta Agriculture and Food and other pork industry representatives from across Canada. Program and proceedings of the Banff Pork Seminar are available on the Seminar Web site,

same time, agriculture needs to reinvent itself in order to regain the trust of the public. These were two different perspectives presented by leading industry analysts at the 2008 Banff Pork Seminar. “Over the next 50 years, the world’s producers will face their greatest conservation challenge in history: supporting a population of eight billion humans and their pets without clearing the rest of the planet’s forests for low yield crops and pasture,” says Dennis Avery, director of the Centre for Global Food Issues, an agricultural and environmental think-tank in Churchville, Virginia. “Additionally, farmers are expected to free the world from its ‘addiction to fossil fuels’ by producing billions of gallons of biofuel on their ‘spare’ land. Finally, farmers are being told they should produce this abundance organically, a system of farming which would produce half 5

Beat the Heat with Winter Peas & Lentils roducers in Alberta continue to realize the benefits of winter wheat as a part of their cropping system. As a result, production acres are increasing and success stories continue to spread. That said, what are the opportunities for other winter crops in Alberta? Currently, winter pulses, and specifically winter peas and winter lentils, are the most promising. Preliminary work in southern Alberta conducted by the Southern Applied Research Association and Alberta Agriculture and Food using varieties developed in the Pacific Northwest United States demonstrated good winter survival and high yields. Winter peas and lentils share many of the same benefits as winter wheat, such as time management due to fall planting, increased weed competitiveness, more efficient use of soil moisture and earlier harvest. In addition, we are exploring other useful applications for winter pulses such as producing more nitrogen on farm by growing cover crops, green manures or simply in a rotation with cereals. They are also


useful as part of a pest management strategy for the control of the pea leaf weevil.

Research and Opportunities Alberta is in the preliminary stages of research. This fall, SARA initiated small plot experiments to learn where producers can successfully grow the available varieties of winter peas and winter lentils. There are five sites located in Alberta at Lethbridge, Oyen, Camrose, Falher, and Fort Kent and one at Swift Current, Saskatchewan. Important data to collect includes winter survival, harvestability, yield and quality compared to spring peas and lentils. These sites, if the crops survive, will allow us to study the notion that winter pulses may fix more nitrogen than spring pulses. Successful adoption of winter pulses has the potential to significantly reduce economic and energy inputs associated with inorganic fertilizers. Unfortunately, current varieties of yellow winter peas may be unsuitable for edible markets. The development of a Canadian breed-

Austrian winter peas on the field edge (right) and spring peas in the middle of the field (left). 6

by Ken Coles, SARA Agronomist ing program would likely solve this problem and efforts have begun to make this a reality. Nevertheless, current varieties being tested could easily enter feed markets and the newer winter lentils have good potential for edible markets.

Pea Leaf Weevil and Winter Pea Trap Crops Pea leaf weevils (Sitona lineatus L.) are a new pest threatening pea acres in Alberta. Feeding damage occurs in spring when weevils emerge from shelterbelts and alfalfa fields. Experts believe egg laying starts immediately and most economic damage likely occurs from larvae that find their way to feed on the nitrogen fixing rhizobium nodules of the plant. The scale of economic damage is currently under assessment and is potentially disastrous to pea and faba bean acres. Southern Alberta experienced high infestation levels during the 2007 growing season. A method of controlling the weevils while minimizing pesticide use and promoting the establishment of parasitic insects is to plant a trap strip of winter peas or early seeded spring peas around the field edge. Early emerging trap strips attract a high concentration of weevils that spraying or a seed treatment can control. It could be possible to avoid treating an entire field resulting in cost savings and reduced dependence on pesticides. Results from the first of a three-year field scale study at Nobleford and Lethbridge show promise, despite very high levels of infestations. With weather trends leading to hot dry summers and increased pressure toward energy conservation and greenhouse gas mitigation, winter pulses may improve profitability for producers while reducing negative environmental impacts of dryland crop production.

Gold of Pleasure or False Flax The Camelina Story

by Ken Coles

t‘s funny how people get excited about something new. This year, there’s been a lot of talk about a new low input crop in Alberta called Camelina. Funny enough, there’s nothing new about Camelina except what we know about it. It’s an ancient oil seed crop cultivated by our ancestors as far back as 600 B.C. and known as false flax or Gold of Pleasure.


Camelina Sativa Part of the Brassicaceae family, it is an oilseed with an upright growth habit and small round seed pods suitable for straight cutting. The seeds produced are caramel colored and very small (1 gram / 1000 kernels). They have an oil content similar to Canola (30-40%) and are particularly high in linolenic acids, (30-40%) an omega-3 fatty acid. The oil is low in saturated fats but unusually high in cholesterol. Despite a rather unique oil complex possibly well suited as healthy oil, its target is the bio-fuel industry. Bio-diesel grade methyl ester yields are similar to canola with slightly elevated levels of iodine. The meal is likely suitable for feed, but that requires more study. Western Canada grew approximately 10,000 acres of Camelina with varying degrees of success at the producer level. Yields in 2007 ranged from 10 to 35 bushels per acre with dockage an issue thanks to the very small seed size. Despite a natural ability to suppress weeds (alleleopathic), several fields had infestations with no registered in-crop herbicides available. However, there are currently no known problems with insects or diseases. In fact, some studies have shown a natural resistance to flee beetles. Perhaps, the most interesting characteristic of Camelina is that it is a winter hardy bi-ennial. It can be fall planted, frost planted or early spring planted. Yield benefits and improved weed competition are possible compared to spring planting. It grows well under dry and low fertility situations while maturing early. This may allow for a good rotational fit with other fall seeded crops such as winter wheat. Camelina shows potential as another cropping option for producers in Western Canada. Current hurdles include fine tuning the processes in Camelina bio-diesel production, confirming the feed potential of the meal and continuing to determine suitable areas and agronomic practices for successful production. For more information or seed, check out a company jointly created by Dan Kusalik and Ryan Mercer called Camelina Canada (

Camelina Sativa (L) (Cruciferous Family) Camelina is native to southeastern Europe and southwestern Asia. As a cultivated plant it has been known for about 4000 years. In Europe it was used as an oil plant in the time of the ancient Greeks and Romans, and in the Middle Ages. In the 21st century the biggest producers are Germany, Poland, and the USSR. © Copyright 2007 Mercer Seeds Ltd.


ARECA – An Update by Ron Montgomery he Agricultural Research and Extension Council of Alberta (ARECA) is a non-profit, producer-driven, province-wide organization that now represents 15 applied research and forage member associations and one associate member. Funded by both government and members, ARECA works to enhance and improve agricultural operations through increased access to field research and new technology. ARECA’s mandate has four main parts that are in turn applicable to each respective non-profit producer group — fostering communication among members, partners and producers; achieving sustainability for ARECA and its members through successful partnering; representing its members and the interest of producers at all levels and promoting extension through coordination of member association activities and hosting of conferences. Collaborative efforts under ARECA’s umbrella provide a vast array of benefits to the combined approximate 1,500 producer-association members and to over 50,000 other Albertans that attend events, receive newsletters and so on. Forthcoming conferences and information sessions, as also outlined on ARECA’s website at, are extensive and, for example, include the Western Canadian Grazing Conference, plus the Alberta Forage Industry Network (AFIN) and the Forage Agronomy Update. Farm and field tours, plus numerous workshops will take place again this year throughout Alberta in the various member associations respective regions. Under the leadership of ARECA, a new western Canadawide Post-registration Variety Testing (PVT) System is

under development that will ultimately provide important information to producers through a dedicated website about high-quality crop variety trials conducted in western Canada. The completed project aims to replace three separate regional testing systems in the western Canadian provinces with a more effective and efficient single system that should be partially operational in 2008 and fully operational by 2009. Funded through grants from Agriculture and Agri Food Canada’s Advancing Canadian Agriculture and AgriFood (ACAAF) program (administered by the Agriculture and Food Council of Alberta), the Alberta Crop Industry Development Fund, the Alberta Barley Commission, and Alberta Agriculture and Food, the project aims to coordinate variety testing trials of spring wheat, durum wheat, oat, barley, spring triticale, flax and pulse crops, and to collect the results for use by both industry and individual producers across western Canada. Another project underway is the GPS Crop Yield Monitoring Program that involves collecting crop yield information, primarily from reclaimed oil/gas sites in Alberta, to determine their impact on productivity over an extended period of time. Farmers who have yield monitors on their combine and a reclaimed industrial site on their land are eligible to participate in this program and will be paid for their crop yield information. This monitoring program is expected to conclude in 10 years, so participants will be asked to sign a guideline to provide their crop data over 5-years, pending continuation of funding. A multi-year project, Accelerating the Adoption of Integrated Pest Management and Risk Management Strategies in Wheat and Other Cereals, in partnership with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada will continue through 2008. The objective of this project is to accelerate the adoption of integrated pest management (IPM) and pesticide risk reduction (PRR) practices by Alberta cereal growers. In November and December 2006, 285 farmers from four geographical regions in Alberta were surveyed to determine baseline adoption rates of IPM/PRR practices. Extension events promoting IPM/PRR practice adoption undertaken in 2007 will continue in 2008, considering evaluation of the success and effectiveness of the 2007 events. A follow-up survey will take place in late 2008 to measure whether the concerted extension efforts increased the adoption of priority practices and to determine the most effective methods. The Sustainable Grazing Mentorship Program (SGMP) is a unique consulting/mentoring program administered by ARECA. For a nominal $ 100 fee, the program provides


ARECA supports events like the SARA Diagnostice Field School held each July in Lethbridge. Here, Scott Meers tells producers what he’s learned over the years about Alberta crop pests. PHOTO: C. LACOMBE 8

ARECA purpose of ESAIP was to fund initiatives that are complementary to the objectives of environmentally sustainable agriculture. Forty-eight projects out of 86 applications were funded, and many continue. Project areas include: nutrient management, soil and water management and monitoring, integrated crop management, riparian and grazing management, climate change, greenhouse gases and biodiversity. Funding is used for applied research projects, demonstrations, technology transfer initiatives, tours and field days, evaluations of beneficial management practices, technical resource material development, and related printing and publishing costs. The first call for letters of intent was issued in September 2006. The last call for proposal occurred in January 2007. The fund was fully subscribed. For further information on ARECA and their member association’s regional activities, projects and events visit You can also contact Laura McNabb, Communications Program Manager at ARECA’s office in Sherwood Park Alberta by telephone at (780) 4166046 or by e-mail

clients (farmers/ranchers) with access to qualified mentors who understand grazing. These consultants work with the client to explore options and develop a plan for their future success. Greencover Canada Regional Technical Assistance Program, administered by the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, also funds the program. This funding pays the mentor (assigned or chosen by the client), who spends approximately 16 hours creating grazing plans, developing systems, and performing economic analyses of the client’s enterprise. Although each client’s needs are likely to be site specific, counselling services may provide tangible benefits toward improved grazing management, getting advice from someone with experience, developing a whole farm plan for the future, establishing healthier pastures, dealing with environmental issues, getting information on fencing and watering systems and increasing profitability. The Environmentally Sustainable Agriculture Initiatives Program (ESAIP) was a one-time program funded by the Government of Alberta and administered by ARECA. The


BenchMark Seeds (Alberta) Ltd. RR8 – 41 – 3 6311 – 56 Ave. Corny Van Dasselaar Cell. (403) 308-3602

Lethbridge, AB T1J 4P4 Taber, AB T1G 1X9 Adrian Moens Cell. (403) 308-6685 9

Phone (403) 320-5987 Phone (403) 223-9090 Mark Hein Cell (403) 308-9866

SARA Maximizing Benefit from Its Research Station growing number of producers, agronomists, consultants and agricultural specialists are taking advantage of the learning opportunities offered by field school activities through the Southern Applied Research Association (SARA). In 2005, SARA moved to a 50acre site for its crop research trials. In 2007, the Diagnostic Field School had 210 participants in the three-day event up from 126 in 2006. SARA also expanded producer opportunities to learn from researchers and trial plots by holding several other events that opened the site to more attendees. (see sidebar) According to SARA agronomist Ken Coles, “Researchers also gain insight from producers that enables them to target specific issues farmers may have and give them the information they need to address those issues. The researchers commented that the SARA Field Day is a “fabulous venue to share information and receive feedback from the people who will apply the findings.” The topics included in the Diagnostic Field School covered many aspects of production from crop trials; soil studies; pest control options; fertilizer products, applications and advancements and irrigation timing.


“It’s an opportunity for our presenters to highlight their research and share their findings with producers. A lot of their research helps farmers improve production, pest control soil management and profits,” says Coles. Participants also take advantage of the opportunity to share their experiences, successful practices and observations during the question and answer periods and networking time scheduled into the day. Ken Coles says that SARA holds one of the few remaining Field Days and benefits greatly when members show support by participating. He thanks the producers who came to the Field Day proving the value of this activity. He also thanks the organizations that supported the Field School in 2007 – Reduced Tillage Linkages, Dupont, RTL Agri-services, Bayer Cropscience, Dow Agrosciences, Lethbridge College, Monsanto

by C. Lacombe

2008 SARA Field School July 8, 9 & 10 Get in on the learning!

Canada Inc., Ducks Unlimited, Cargill, Agrium, BASF, Canterra Seeds, Viterra, and Pioneer Hi-bred. Coles says, “with interest and credibility generated from this year’s field school, we expect 2008 to be even better with topics covering winter crops such as winter peas, winter lentils and winter barley. Other topics include cover crops, composting, cropping systems, greenhouse gases, precision farming, agronomy/ESN, insects and the industry update.”

2007 Southern Applied Research Association Diagnostic Field School Event Attendance June 14 June 19 June 19 July 10-12 July 15-16 July 19 July 23 Misc

35 attendees – Crop Walk 25 attendees – Ag Canada Marketing and Policy 7 attendees – CFIA inspector training 210 attendees – all reviews very positive 25 attendees – ARECA Tour and Barbecue 100 attendees – Agri-Trend Tour 15 attendees – DuPont Tour 10 attendees – Personal tours with industry reps Total: 427 through SARA R&D site in 2007

Acre impact 131 (31%) producers 552,165 acres 167 (39%) industry specialists 41,888,610 acres 103 (24%) consultants 4,673,600 acres 22 (5%) government – Total: 47,114,375 acres

Scott Meers demonstrates the most effective way to sweep a crop. PHOTO: C. LACOMBE

99% of participants found the information valuable for their business or farm. 10


Winter Wheat Acres with Winter Peas & Lentils

by Susanne Brummelhuis, Ducks Unlimited Canada

from reduced herbicide use, providing a greater net income for farm profitability. The increase in winter wheat acres is beneficial to spring nesting waterfowl, particularly northern pintails that are a species in decline since the late 1970s. This benefit to waterfowl has led Ducks Unlimited Canada to invest in excess of $3.5 million in support of variety development, agronomic research, producer group support and financial incentives to winter wheat producers over the past six years. Visit for more information. Statistics Canada website: (Table on Page 21)

ccording to Statistics Canada, winter wheat acres have had another year of exceptional growth. More prairie producers seeded winter wheat this fall bringing the prairie acreage up to 1.5 million acres from last year’s reported 1.2 million. Alberta’s acres increased remarkably from 220,000 in 2006 to 300,000 in 2007. Why a continued surge in winter wheat for southern Alberta? An early harvest, brought on by hot summer weather, helped ease the workload for fall seeding. The heat also emphasized the advantages of winter wheat over spring wheat. Making use of early spring moisture and earlier maturity meant that in most areas, winter wheat far out yielded spring wheat. The bottom line and marketing options for producers have also improved. This year the price spread between No. 1 CWRW Select 11.5 and No. 1 13.5 CWRS has been on average less than $0.42 per bushel. Savings also come



A Fit for Winter Wheat on Irrigation by Sandra Taillieu

Farmers in southern Alberta are growing winter wheat in irrigated systems under very different circumstances. “Irrigation is diverse and management of winter wheat varies significantly from farm to farm,” says Rob Dunn with Alberta Agriculture & Food. “Winter wheat is a good fit to control erosion following crops like potatoes and beans, where harvest operations leave the soil in a vulnerable condition. The key is getting it seeded early enough for the crop to provide enough vegetative cover by early November or the soil will blow in the windy season.” Bryan Corns, a seedgrower from Grassy Lake agrees. “For winter wheat to be successful as a cover crop, we need to get it seeded by September 18,” he says. Corns grows winter wheat under irrigation following canola, harvest of beans or potatoes with different management. “After potato harvest, we make one pass with a large double disc,” he explains. “We target 110-120 bu/acre and fertilize in stages to allow the nutrients to be available to the crop as it grows. This reduces losses and can also result in higher protein which can be difficult to get under irrigation. We have a floater come in and broadcast coated fertilizer for part of the nitrogen requirement for the crop and then we make another tillage pass. We usually apply about ¾ inch of water and then seed shallow (3/4-1 inch). We seed a minimum of 2 to 3 bu/acre depending on seed size and seeding date. We band a phosphorus blend at seeding, broadcast a non-coated urea or dribble 28-0-0 in the spring, and apply liquid fertilizer through the irrigation up to the flag leaf stage.” Corns is careful to avoid disease and lodging problems: “Choosing varieties with disease resistance, shorter stature and straw strength is key,” he says. “We manage for diseases by seeding on time, planning for at least one pass of fungicide, using chloride based fertilizers at seeding and managing our irrigation to reduce humid conditions in the crop canopy.” “We basically saturate the soil profile the beginning of May and let the field dry down more than we would for soft white wheat,” Corns explains. “We water winter wheat at a cooler time of the year so there is less evaporation. We often irrigate once more before flower and once after and then we are done for the season. Winter wheat requires as much as 2 inches less water than soft white wheat. Efficiencies in water and energy use help to make the crop a competitive choice.” Edgar Dueck farms heavy clay soils at Coaldale where he has grown winter wheat for 15 years under irrigation. “We’re always aiming for a good crop rotation,” says

Timely seeded winter wheat provides vegetative cover to prevent soil erosion. PHOTO: DUCKS UNLIMITED

Dueck who grows barley, alfalfa, canola, winter wheat, spring wheat and timothy in a direct-seeded system. “Winter wheat is a competitive, low-input crop with high yield potential that allows us to spread our seeding and irrigation workload,” Dueck explains. ““We’ve had winter wheat yield 110 bu/ac, but we normally average 90 to 105 bu/ac grain and 2 tonne/acre of straw. Winter wheat grows huge straw and we straight-cut so we grow Radiant; which is a variety that stands well. We seed as soon as we can get our argentine canola off which is usually in the last half of September, or as late as the first week of October. We have to get the winter wheat seeded before the water shuts off around October 10th. We have standing stubble so there is no erosion and we often get good snow cover. We seed winter wheat shallow and then put on 1 ½ inches of water. We always get an excellent stand. We place 30-40lbs of N and 25 lbs of phosphate with the seed and broadcast another 100-110 lbs/acre early in the spring. “We spray with an inexpensive broadleaf herbicide to control the winter annuals before we irrigate. Winter wheat is competitive with weeds and we are able to avoid spraying for wild oats. The efficient use of water by the crop allows us to irrigate winter wheat about 1/3 less than our spring seeded cereals which is another cost savings. We spray a fungicide to control leaf diseases about half the time.” “Winter wheat gives us lots of marketing options,” says Dueck. “We target the CWB select market but we don’t always get high enough protein for a premium. The feed market price here is often as good as the price for select with the CWB and there is local demand for winter wheat in feedlot and poultry rations,” says Dueck. “Even at a lower price than spring wheat, the benefits of winter wheat make it a good fit on our farm.” 13

Altruistic Crop Production Provides Double Social Benefits wo groups of southern Alberta farmers are singing the praises of winter wheat thanks to a project that benefits the world’s poor – and the continent’s waterfowl, says Melissa Stanford, a conservation programs and winter cereals specialist with Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC).

incorporated, non-profit association established by a group of Canadian churches in 1983, the bank provides a practical way for Canadian farmers to share their harvest with the world’s hungry. Typically, one producer donates the land and others help plant and harvest the crop, with industry often donating agronomic services or product, including fertilizer. “Ducks Unlimited Canada got involved when they looked at seeding winter wheat because that crop offers some significant advantages to waterfowl production,” notes Stanford. “In fields where crops were seeded in the fall, research shows one Northern Pintail nest in every 72 acres of seeded crop. Spring seeding drops that statistic to one nest per 1,132 acres since that process disrupts nesting.” With DUC’s support, participants seeded both parcels (and one in Central Alberta) to winter wheat in 2005. Producers like the crop because they can harvest it weeks before spring-seeded crops, it out-yields spring varieties and they can market it directly to grain companies. Winter wheat that germinates before winter freeze up also prevents soil erosion caused by wind, says farmer Charlie Redpath, who coordinates the Medicine Hat project. Launched several years ago, DUC’s Winter Cereals Initiative provides agronomic support to producers and links new growers to a network of experienced producers. “The link to the Food Grains Bank initiative is a bonus, since we secure habitat for spring nesting and get to help these farmers feed the world’s hungry,” adds Stanford.


Fall-seeded crops, like winter wheat, are pintail-friendly generating a greater number of nests – and from these nests, a greater success in hatching ducks. PHOTO: DUCKS UNLIMITED

Farmers will donate crops harvested next summer from two parcels of land in the Burdett and Medicine Hat areas to the Canadian Food Grains Bank. A federally

Options for Downy Brome Control in Winter Wheat ter able to compete against downy brome. Winter wheat and fall rye crops that germinate prior to downy brome can significantly reduce yield loss. Until recently, there were no chemical control options for downy brome in winter wheat. Simplicity, a cross spectrum grass and broadleaf control product in wheat by Dow AgroSciences, has strong performance on downy brome and Japanese brome grass species. It provides superior control of wild oats. Simplicity also offers low use rates, broad tank mix options and complete rotational flexibility, with a group 2 mode of action. Winter wheat has been submitted for registration and is anticipated to be added to the Simplicity label for the fall 2008. Product should be available for spring wheat and durum applications in June.

n southern Alberta, downy brome has become an increasingly bothersome weed. The increase in density and distribution of this grassy, winter annual is associated with fall-seeded crops; which have a similar life cycle to downy brome, as well as minimum tillage systems. Traditionally, control of downy brome in winter wheat or fall rye has involved leaving an interval of at least three to four years between fall-seeded crops. Inclusion of an oilseed or pulse crop in the rotation also improves control of downy brome. Management practices, including banding rather than broadcasting nitrogen and monitoring of field edges and fence lines for downy brome infestations, can limit the spread. By seeding fall cereal crops in a timely fashion and managing the crop for maximum health, the crop is bet-



Environmentally Safe Nitrogen by Ron Montgomery Research Association (SARA) is compiling a report from he availability of controlled release nitrogen ferfield trial research SARA conducted on ESN. tilizer offers producers a viable option to Results from these field trials will address, among conventionally applied nitrogen fertilizer. The other topics, the effectiveness of using various blends of increased costs of a controlled release product may be both conventional and controlled release nitrogen. offset by more efficient Ken comments “ESN is proven to provide protection application procedures to seedling damage when combined with more applying large amounts of effective nutrient beneseed placed nitrogen. It may fits. It may also lessen also provide season long environmental concerns release of nitrogen to plants relative to leaching or as they require it diminishgas conversion (denitriing risk of environmental fication and volatization). escape. There may be a big ESN (Environmentally opportunity to accomplish Smart Nitrogen) by Agrium one pass seeding operations is rapidly gaining in popuwith all fertilizer placed with larity. According to the seed. This could increase information garnered from profits through less machintheir highly informative ery costs, time savings, fuel website at http://www.agrisavings and also improve a flexible, microsoil health through minimal thin polymer coating encasdisturbance.” es each nitrogen granule. He adds, “My research This unique design allows project is looking at the difmoisture (water and liqueference seed openers make fied nitrogen) to move both with regard to seedling daminward and outward. SARA agronomist Ken Coles talks about ESN during the 2007 age. As you increase seedbed Water will initially move SARA Field Day in Lethbridge PHOTO: C. Lacombe utilization, seedling safety inward through the memalso increases. Therefore to brane thereby liquefying the maximize efficiency of blends will depend on the openencased nitrogen. The liquefied nitrogen releases ers used, seed type, amount of total fertilization in the through the coating accordingly to soil temperature and seed row, including phosphorus, soil type and environmoisture conditions. The polymer coating degrades over mental factors such soil moisture and timeliness of time into carbon dioxide, ammonia and water, all naturainfall events after seeding.” rally occurring substances required for normal plant Ross McKenzie, Agronomy Research Scientist with growth and development. Alberta Agriculture and Food (AAF) is researching the Excerpts from one of many ESN publications on the use of ESN for winter wheat, barley and canola. Given site explain, “Conventional application methods apply the relative newness of ESN technology and with much of the fertilizer in advance of crop needs. Nitrogen research data still pending, he advises producers to simin the soil is subject to processes that can cause loss to ply exercise caution regarding application procedures, ground water or to the atmosphere before the plant can rates, blends and handling. absorb it. These losses reduce economic efficiency of the For further information on the topic of ESN, visit applied N and may pose an environmental risk. Agrium’s website at and follow Producers can implement a variety of fertilization the links under “products and services”. You can also practices to reduce N losses and increase N efficiency. contact Ray Dowbenko, Agronomist with Agrium at 800Most of these require additional field operations that 661-6757 or by e-mail increase crop production costs, are inconvenient, or Contact Ken Coles, Agronomist with SARA at 403come at a time when weather prevents timely nutrient 381-5118 or by e-mail application. ESN technology allows the grower to mainSARA will post its ESN research findings at tain flexibility in field operations while reducing N loss. Ken Coles, Agronomist with the Southern Applied



Conservation Farming has Two Champions in Southern Alberta

by Ric Swihart

Biemans said equipment designers and manufacturero tillage has helped many farmers avoid the ers responded. While some questioned the reliability of ravages of wind erosion, a plague of the early days some of the early machines, quality is good and direct of farming that rears its head from time to time seeders find they can reduce costs in several ways. despite the best efforts of researchers and producers. Gone are the days of recreational Ken Biemans of Seven Persons cultivation. Some producers cultivated became a believer of conservation fields many times a year in the goal to farming years ago and Murray Lewis retain a black surface, not realizing turned conservation farming into a soil moisture was lost each time. research project designed to help Direct seeding on land with minimum farmers gain from the knowledge and disturbance allowed soil moisture experience of some of the best conretention and herbicides became the servation farmers in the province. cultivator to control weeds. Biemans is president of the As farmers progressed with direct Southern Alberta Conservation seeding, they found the texture and Association and Lewis is a federal quality of their soils improved. Soils Prairie Farm Rehabilitation with higher organic matter are not Administration soil specialist. only more fertile, but they retain Row crop production ultimately much more soil moisture making it means soil disturbance to some available to grow better crops and degree and that leaves the soil suscephelping to purify it in the event some tible to erosion, especially in the of it leaches away into the ground critical fall, winter and early spring water supply. when freezing and thawing can break Visiting several fields, Lewis pointed down the soil to smaller particles. Add drought, with the subsequent Murry Lewis checks a soil erosion monitor out soil erosion monitors strategically located in fields managed several ways. reduced plant material and even some in the field. PHOTO: submitted by SACA The monitor design keeps its opening stubble fields experience erosion, espefacing the prevailing winds. Windcially with severe and prolonged borne soil particles get trapped in the unit and winds. Potatoes are a good example of ultimate managecalculations determine the soil movement or erosion. ment when it comes to wind erosion abatement. Lewis said the management usually depends on soil Lewis embarked on a study of lands prone to erosion type. For instance, soils that have more tilth or organic in the Grassy Lake-Bow Island area, a heartland of the matter usually are less prone to erosion. Heavier soils potato growing region. Much of his work involves cocan usually be deep cultivated to bring large lumps or operation with a range of potato growers, assessing the clumps to the surface. Potatoes are planted six inches work done individually to protect the soil resource and deep and then the harvest process involves extensive disdevelopment of a database to assist more producers in turbance in digging the spuds. Virtually the entire surface the fight against erosion. area of the field is disturbed. Conservation farming continues to gain converts and Farmers also like to plant potatoes on lighter soils, the education gets full marks for helping. Biemans said the ones most susceptible to erosion without management. In movement that preaches reduced or zero tillage to fight all the fields, potatoes vines were evident, mostly on the wind erosion and build the soil resource has no age barsurface. They were less evident on the cultivated fields. riers. “One of the older producers at this conference is a In some cases, farmers spread barley on the surface of pure direct seeder,� he said. the potato field, and that seed germinated when put in The movement had its beginning about the time forcontact with the soil during the potato harvest. It leaves mer Sen. Herb Sparrow released the book Soils at Risk. a carpet of small barley plants. While the barley root The premise is that cultivation makes soil less productive structure is small and the first frost kills the surface mateand interferes with the soil structure and natural fertility. rial, it does help protect the soil. Finding ways to avoid cultivation meant finding new Winter wheat and fall rye are also popular, partly equipment that could allow farmers to seed crops in because they have extensive root systems that help hold stubble land and apply fertilizers with the seed to minithe soil in place. But it means using a herbicide to kill mize soil disturbance.



Conservation Farming Fixed Costs Central to Net Realized Farm Income by Ric Swihart Realized net income was tough for 2007, says Saskatchewan farm consultant Kevin Hursh of Regina. Ontario farmers could show reductions of $200 million in realized net farm income, he said adding that Alberta is in better shape, but farmer realized net income could be higher. Alberta farmers should make $310 million in realized net income. Hursh said that outlook makes management more important. For instance, more farmers should use valuable market information these days. “We have to make sunshine,” he told the 2007 Southern Alberta Conservation Association conference in Lethbridge. “We really miss the boat with our fixed costs.” Farmers should ask if they have too much equipment or debt for the size of the farming operation. Fixed cost per acre can make a major difference between farmers who do well and those on the edge of failure he said. Land value is another major factor in agricultural economics. The average value for farmland and buildings in Ontario is $3,518 per acre. In Alberta, it is $870 an acre. Saskatchewan is at the bottom at $355 an acre. Recent changes in land ownership laws in Saskatchewan encourage land purchases by people from outside the province. Usually, they buy and rent the land to Saskatchewan farmers. In that case, most purchasers bet on increasing land prices. Hursh praised the Environmental Farm Plan program, mostly because there is some government money at the end to help make improvements to protect the environment. He said the process could benefit from refinement and, although there is some question about funding in the near future, he feels the program likely won’t end March 31. Farmers can also get help developing a farm plan and, with that done, take advantage of other work such as feasibility plans. He urged farmers to check the list of approved consultants. Too often, farmers stall such work until they are in real financial trouble. Perhaps this time of good grain prices might signal producers to get professional help walking through production numbers to set a more stable direction for the farm, he said. AgriStability, what Hursh called the soon-to-come program to replace the Canadian Agricultural Income Stability plan, will be a simple concept. It will also involve cost sharing between governments and producers. He said all producers must learn the rules for the new program. Because many chose not to get involved in CAIS, “a whole pile of free government money was left on the table.” Hursh added that the future is uncertain in some areas. For instance, many dealerships have waiting lists for new equipment. In this hot grain economy, dealers tend not to have such large equipment inventories. At the same time, farmers see reduced farm machinery prices, but used equipment for trades also brings lower prices. Cash land rental fees will increase, especially on the better quality land. That is a major shift from a couple of years ago when some land rent couldn’t cover the taxes.

those crops to plant alternate crops the following year. Of course, if the crop progresses well in the fall, the farmer has the option of leaving it grow to harvest the next year. Potato growers also extensively use land ridging in the fall to prepare their land for planting the following spring. The ridges help break the power of the wind and, especially if the soils are the right type, need little other action to protect the soil. “We are trying to learn from the innovators," said Lewis. “We hope to work with industry and producers. That is why our partnership with Alberta Agriculture and Food is important.” The next challenge is to expand the knowledge base for other farming systems - looking at different equipment, different soils and different crop rotations. It will come down to recommendations for beneficial management practices, said Lewis. The idea is to develop impartial recommendations with reasons why some practices work better than others in certain conditions. Biemans said innovators in every community also offer a major source of information. “Innovators are powerful communicators,” he said. “They are proof that agricultural fences do not stop the flow of information. When a farmer sees someone trying something, then awareness dawns. And when they see the fruits of those efforts, it makes an impression.” Biemans said most farmers maintain a communications open door policy. “They are good at sharing information with their neighbours.” Biemans said every producer at the conference is a conservation farmer, since all farm under different conditions and use different equipment, there is no cookie cutter conservation farming policy. Such producers have to take information available and apply to their own conditions. When they see changes for the better, they start looking for other ways to continue to improve. He said conservation farming is still a philosophy, but these days, it is supported by economics. “We have found we can do better financially by reducing tillage and at the same time, reduce spending,” he said. With southern Alberta’s irrigation industry becoming so economically vital – 20 per cent of the province’s farm production comes from four per cent of the arable land – intensive agriculture took its place. 17

The Making of a Farm CEO by Ric Swihart anagement is key to business success in agriculture and everybody can learn from the best two key consultants told the 2007 Southern Alberta Conservation Association conference in Lethbridge. Danny Klinefelter, a Texas A&M University extension economist, said his evaluation of the best managers helped him outline 25 attributes that set them apart. “It’s clear that Danny Klinefelter being a top producer, PHOTO: R. Swihart focusing on controlling costs, keeping good records and having a sound marketing program are all essential to being a good manager,” he said. Brent VanKoughtnet of Winnipeg said it takes a chief executive officer mentality, different from managers, but becoming a farm CEO is possible. VanKoughtnet, owner of Agri Skills and manager of the family farm at Carmen, Man., said the pattern of a CEO in the business world is multi and varied and it is time for farm managers and owners to begin to think on that bigger scale. While a farm may be successful, the management skills that got it there may not serve in the future, he said. VanKoughtnet said simplicity isn’t how progressive managers or CEOs can progress. If things are complicated, there is opportunity to gain, he said. Kleinfelder said costs, records and marketing plans are what make the best managers and set the standard for those who want to remain competitive and successful in the future. That list could include only one or two per cent of all U.S. farmers. VanKoughtnet said finding more interesting ways to produce and market crops will help give farmers an edge in the market.


“Conflict isn’t scary.” He suggested embracing it because strong management can help the manager find ways to win. “Such strong management has never been more important,” he said. That’s because agriculture is no longer a lifestyle. It is a business and very much a personal business. Most farmers realize that their neighbour is a competitor, but ultimately, the processor, dealer, supplier, agronomist and others in the value chain are also competitors. That doesn’t mean a manager must get mean while getting leaner. “They should treat their suppliers and customers like customers.” VanKoughtnet set out the map for becoming a CEO manager. “It is a mindset, including working with a peer group, and requires proof of performance,” he said. Klinefelter said working harder isn’t the key to success. He thinks producers who find balance in their lives, balancing hard work with family and outside interests, are among the most successful. Breaks from work allow a manager to revitalize and refocus and allows workers to learn to handle more responsibilities. “Remember, success is getting what you want,” he said. “Happiness is wanting what you get.” Klinefelter said there are four patterns that consistently emerge with successful managers. “They anticipate and adapt to the changing needs of their markets,” he said. “They are open to exploring new ideas and considering different points of view. And they operate more like resource managers than production managers who know the importance of networking and building alliances across the agricultural value chain.” Klinefelter said there are two million farms in the United States. About 30,000 produce most of the 18

Brent Vankoughnet (left) and Don McLennan at the SACA conference 2007.

food and include most of the best managers. The good managers think of everybody as their customer and find ways to solve their frustrations. “That makes you the preferred supplier to those customers.” He said farmers must also look beyond the first step in the market, keeping abreast of changes and challenges in the rest of the value chain. Klinefelter said modern farmers can’t be married to a commodity. They must be ready to move to meet the markets that offer the most potential. He said strategic planning is the management of the future. It is all about anticipating, driving and capitalizing on change. It means doing the right things. “You have got to go where the market is, he said. It won’t come to you. If you are moving with the masses in marketing, you are too late. The best managers are able to objectively assess strengths in everybody they are associated with, including themselves. They build on strengths, compensate for weaknesses, and often pick the right people for the right position.” Top managers, said Klinefelter, are in a continuous improvement mode, working hard to keep ahead of changes off the farm and then working to keep ahead of the competition that can be a neighbour or somebody across the country or the world.

The Making of a Farm CEO The best managers are optimistic, people who know when to get involved and when to get out. They also look for things that could go wrong and work with plans to cope in the event the bad things happen. The true measure of the individual lies in how they react and respond to adversity, he said. “While we are frequently not responsible for what happens to us, we are totally responsible for how we react and respond.” He said the biggest challenge to managing is communication. Secrecy in a company is one of the biggest roadblocks to progress. Kleinfelder said the future has changed, and that requires managers taking a different view of how to deal with the future. Gone is the traditional view of growing a crop for one specific market when there may be hundreds of thousands of growing opportunities.

“As a new farm CEO, you need to think about farmer customer service, being a solution provider, plan and prepare and be able to execute the plan,” he said. “If a manager can’t do that, he can’t become a player in the modern market.” New rules – where is value created in a market, what brand possibilities exist and how powerful is that brand in the market, what information must move with the product to preserve the value and who accepts what risk at what level and how is that risk managed – are all on the table today. The future will be marketplace based agricultural marketing with ideas retained for strategic advantage, he said. Industry is already starting to see innovations with managers realizing that they hadn’t heard about the innovation in time, he said. The next step will be specific management protocol to increase the

likelihood of expressing the required characteristics and management to uncover the potential improvements in final use characteristics of the crop. “These are important when something the manager has done matters,” he said. “If you watch what is going on in the industry, the market place is aligning with who they want to be their suppliers.” That is part of the evolution of the marketplace, he said. But with more medium players in the market, companies who can’t compete with the giants, they are starting to learn how to innovate so they can compete. They are looking at new partners and that means finding a group of producers who do things differently to help the company become unique in the market place.

Winter Pulse Trials Show Promise anagement in agriculture continues to be a vital part of operations M and winter pulse crops could find a niche in the crop rotation plans of more producers.

with promising results, but then both winters were mild so it may be too early to draw conclusions. Dunn said winter peas, planted in mid to late September, develop about two to five nodes before freeze-up and then resume growth from a scale node in early spring. They appear to have very good spring frost tolerance and flowering begins in late May to early June, reaching maturity by mid-July. Earlier trials used Austrian winter types that are only suitable as forage but newer yellow and green pea types suitable as food or feed also looked promising in Lethbridge trials. Results from 2006 and 2007 showed that the more upright, yellow and green peas yielded in the 80 bushels an acre range compared to 30 to 40 bushels for spring-seeded peas. But then, both years favored winter crop yield potential with cooler, wetter springs followed by hot Julys. Dunn said winter lentils also showed promise in the past two years with good survival and excellent yields (40 bu/acre range). SARA is co-coordinating research trials across Alberta with support from the Alberta Pulse Commission to further investigate the potential for winter pulses as a viable crop option for Alberta. The agriculture department is working toward a closer working relationship with the American plant breeder to help fast track the winter pulse genetics that meet southern Alberta agronomic and end-use market needs. by Ric Swihart

Rob Dunn, a land management specialist with Alberta Agriculture and Food in Lethbridge, said winter pulse crops, especially winter peas, may eventually have a fit for southern Alberta cropping systems. Having a viable winter broadleaf crop option would be very attractive for farmers, he said. Along with all the rotation and nitrogen-fixing benefits associated with spring pea, they also widen the planting and harvest window to include fall and mid-summer. They have the potential for higher or at least more reliable yields by flowering well before the onset of mid-summer heat since peas don’t tolerant heat or drought during the flowering stage. For this reason, most farmers try to plant early to beat the heat and winter peas will take some of the pressure off the tight spring planting schedule allowing an earlier start to harvest. Dunn said Washington State University developed several varieties of winter pea and winter lentils over the past decade and Montana research in similar climates to southern Alberta has shown good winter survival for pea and fair winter survival for lentils. Southern Applied Research Association and Alberta Agriculture trials examined winter peas over the past four years as a potential crop for southern Alberta. The trials at Lethbridge also included winter lentils in 2006 and 2007 19

Nitrogen Hogs the Stage by Ric Swihart researcher and extensionist knows a hot topic by the crowd interest. Ross McKenzie planned a detailed report on fine tuning fertilizer input for optimum yield for the Southern Alberta Conservation Association (SACA) annual conference in the Lethbridge Lodge Hotel. When the dust had settled, McKenzie had covered only the nitrogen component. Producer questions simply gobbled up the time on center stage thus reconfirming for McKenzie the importance of nitrogen in a strong production regime and the burning desire of producers to optimize yields. McKenzie, an agronomist on leave from Alberta Agriculture and Food to instruct at Lethbridge College, said optimum fertilizer use stems from proper soil sample collections, something he likes producers to do themselves “because then they know it is done properly.” Those tests confirm which soil nutrients are marginal or deficient, which fertilizers the soil really needs and what form will work best.


Producers should temper that information with potential recommendations for calcium or magnesium and micronutrients boron, copper, manganese and zinc; all products McKenzie said southern Alberta soils seldom need. McKenzie said producers have an excellent management tool through Alberta Agriculture – Alberta Farm Fertilizer Information Record Manager or AFFIRM. That gets back to soil sample collections, he said. There are three main collection methods – random sites with 15 to 25 samples a field, site specific (same site or location each year) and benchmark sampling that involves uniquely different areas within a field sampled separately. When it comes to soil nutrient variability, McKenzie recommends a grid sample, the Cadillac system that is most time consuming to collect and costly to analyze, “but will give the best sense of nutrient level variation in the field.” McKenzie said there are different ways to place fertilizer in the soil including placing it with the seed, but from a farm perspective, it could come down to nitrogen cost. Anhydrous ammonia (82-0-0) and Urea (46-0-0) are usually the least expensive forms, liquid (28-0-0) is usually more expensive and currently, Environmentally Smart Nitrogen, a coated Urea, is the most expensive. “Producers must know the costs of the various forms of nitrogen before they can make AFFIRM effective,” he said.

How important is that cost? “If Urea N fertilizer is 51.4 cents a pound and you apply 70 pounds per acre to 5,000 acres, the cost is $179,900,” he said. “If liquid N fertilizer is 62.5 cents a pound and you apply 70 pounds an acre to 5,000 acres, the cost is $218,750. The difference is $38,850.” McKenzie said the important management decisions for nitrogen use include reviewing soil N levels and soil moisture levels, establishing a realistic target yield and then compare the fertilizer cost and crop value. “I think producers should work with an agronomist to finalize nitrogen fertilizer rates, forms and time of application for individual fields and crops,” he said. With SACA participants and other farmers peppering McKenzie with questions about nitrogen, they will have to wait for another opportunity to hear McKenzie's opinions on phosphate, potassium and sulphur fertilizers; the other nutrients in the Big 5 of the fertilizer menu.

Rob Dunn takes a soil sample. 20

GPS, GIS and Industrial Sites by Ty Faechner ccording to Ty Faechner, research program manager at Agricultural Research and Extension Council of Alberta (ARECA) Global positioning system (GPS) provides a way to determine geographic locations anywhere on the earth. Consequently, farmers can use GPS to do auto-steering, precision farming and variable rate seeding and spraying. A typical set-up for farm applications includes a GPS receiver, antenna and cables to receive location information and transfer it to other electronic equipment such as a yield monitor or a variable rate controller. Accurate, automated tracking with GPS receivers allows farmers to record where they applied different rates of seed, fertilizer or spray. This allows increased accuracy of application for different crop inputs; which is environmentally friendly. Additionally, GPS provides guidance for agricultural equipment in the field reducing overlap and input costs. Equipment operators also benefit since the job of driving agricultural field equipment becomes easier. The management of data using Geographic information systems (GIS) software is the next step in extracting value from data collected with GPS. GIS provides the tools to manage, analyze and interpret the large amounts of accumulated data. GIS helps to organize and manage this data so farmers can use it in making decisions. Finally, GIS software is usually installed on a desktop computer and the work done in an office compared to GPS equipment which is on a tractor, combine or sprayer and has a monitor in the cab with a slot for a data card to record the data. GIS software displays the data recorded with GPS in the form of maps for visual analysis of the area of interest. In fact, mapping is a minor part of the use of GIS. The data sets are powerful tools for organizing, analyzing and interpreting data. Statistics, simulations and models are additional analytical tools users can apply through GIS to extract more information from the data to support farm manager decisions. GPS and GIS technologies on the farm are necessary for a new program managed by ARECA and its member associations. The new GPS Crop Yield Monitoring Program, funded by Alberta Environment, is about collecting crop yield information from reclaimed industrial sites in Alberta. A previous study, funded by Alberta Environment, explored the effectiveness of GPS yield monitoring technology at reclaimed industrial sites. The study demonstrated that GPS yield monitoring technology is applicable for analyses of crop yield on industrial


Harvesting grain while a yellow GPS (Global positioning system) receiver atop the combine cab receives signals from satellites orbiting the earth. Working with GIS (Geographic information systems) software at a desktop computer to organize and manage crop data for farm decisions. PHOTOS: Submitted by ARECA

disturbances for one or more years. The study also determined that one or even several years of crop yield data may be insufficient given crop and environmental conditions typical for an area. Farmers who have a yield monitor on their combine and a reclaimed industrial site on their land could participate in this program by contacting their ARECA Association manager. An industrial site includes any reclaimed areas such as oil/gas well sites, battery sites, pipelines, sand/gravel pits or road borrow pits. Yield monitoring equipment could include the John Deere Greenstar/Apex system, Case IH AFS system, Ag Leader or Trimble. Farmers receive payment for the crop yield information and, with most systems, it takes about 15 to 30 minutes to get the data. This monitoring program is expected to conclude in 10 years, so farmers will be asked to sign a guideline to provide their crop data for 5 years providing funding is available. For more information from your local ARECA member association, contact Ken Coles, Southern Applied Research Association, 403-381-5118, or email: You can also visit, and use the guide bar at the top of the page to locate the office closest to you or contact Dr. Ty Faechner, Research Program Manager of ARECA, at or (780) 416-6046 Ext. 14. 21

Urban Priorities Could Undermine the Farm

by C. Lacombe

t’s pretty hard to write an article when no one wants to go on record to articulate the issue at hand. For several years now, people involved in agricultural extension work at all levels and in all organizations have whispered that they feel the funding dropping away from primary production research and agricultural extension work. The trepidation they feel about talking openly about this topic stems from the fact that they all receive money from the government to do their work. All those expressions about biting hands and looking in gift horse’s mouths come to mind. So, I went up the organizational tree and spoke to a deputy minister. He, of course, isn’t hearing the whispers. In fairness to this gentleman, he would like to hear first hand the concerns whispered elsewhere. I find this is the challenge with the way we allocate money from the government to the people on the ground. Our governments, federal and provincial, face pressures by the international community, lobby groups and citizens to address their concerns. The government bureaucracy gets new bosses every few years that champion projects or areas of work based on political pressure by the global, national and provincial priorities of the day. If you want to guess where government funds will fall in the next few years, watch the urban newspaper headlines for issues. Right now, those issues related to agriculture are climate change, water, bio-fuels, organic production and food safety. Here in Alberta, our government works to align its programs with federal programs to maximize available funds for research and extension programs. The federal

Agricultural Policy Framework completed a five-year plan and moved into a new plan called Growing Forward. This put Alberta Environmentally Sustainable Agriculture (AESA) into limbo as Alberta Agriculture waits to see how to fit its programs with the feds’. The AESA council will become the Agra-Environmental Partnership (AEP). The AEP council will look a lot like the AESA council. Because the federal Growing Forward plan isn’t quite ready, Alberta Agriculture extended all its AESA programs for 2008 while they wait for federal documents that will allow them to fit programs in Alberta with the national initiative. This all makes perfect sense but doesn’t explain why primary production seems to be missing out more and more as the years go by. This I think we can explain through the knowledge that most urban citizens have no direct experience with primary production and therefore are not clamoring for improvements in crop varieties, rotational practices, soil management information or pest control. Urbanites hear about adverse environmental impacts from farm production and they hear loud and clear food safety issues when they crop up in the media. The reason it’s important what urbanites think is that, for the first time ever, urban populations out-number and out-vote rural residents all over the world. Are we moving away from helping farmers do the best job possible with scientific support? I’m not qualified to answer that question. However, if the whispers are more than discomfort in the face of changing government priorities and programs, then yes we are.


High-tech dowsers are mapping out Alberta’s reservoirs of fresh water hidden underground dissolved minerals such as salt. The work is beginning with a scheduled four-year survey of the area between Edmonton and Calgary. It stands out as Canada’s fastest-growing population, traffic, industry and agricultural corridor with the greatest competition for water and most urgent needs for management and conservation, Andriashek said. New sampling wells will check and confirm outlines of aquifers sketched by the aircraft. The survey will also tap into deep data banks already on hand in the ERCB's earth sciences branch. “We’re not starting from ground zero,” Andriashek said. The new portrait is intended to answer wider environmental questions about water use and conservation. Expanded geological maps will serve as guides to the size of Alberta fresh water pools, their quality, levels of economic activity they can sustain, how the deposits form, their durability and measures needed to maintain supplies.

nly two months after taking off, an airborne search for water counterparts to Alberta’s subterranean oil reservoirs is on the trail of gushers. “This is fundamentally going to open our eyes and let us view the nature of the rocks beneath our feet in a different way,” predicted Laurence Andriashek, head of a new groundwater inventory section at the Alberta Geological Survey. “It’s like having an MRI of the landscape,” he said, comparing the new three-dimensional Earth portrait being drawn by his science arm of the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) to advanced medical imaging. Early survey results point, for instance, to a previously unknown aquifer or porous formation full of water clean enough to drink beneath Pigeon Lake, 60 kilometres southwest of Edmonton. The target is nature’s best reservoirs where the water is 99.6per-cent pure, containing no more than 4,000 parts per million of



2008 Southern Applied Research Association Diagnostic Field School Lethbridge, Alberta – July 8, 9, 10

Topics: winter peas, lentils and barley, cover crops for erosion and weed control, composting and nutrient management, cropping systems and greenhouse gases, GPS and precision farming, agronomy/ESN, insects, industry update Take advantage of southern Alberta’s premier field school with great interactive learning and networking opportunities. See firsthand new and emerging crops, technologies and production practices with industry and government experts. Contact Ken Coles for more information: 403-381-5118 or Contact Elizabeth Tokariuk to register: 403-328-0059 or

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Helping increase your net returns from farming