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fall 2018 Edition

Mapping Weather Gets Very Local »5 Flea Beetle Bane »8 Selective Spraying »22


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Contents

Fall 2018 EDITION

President’s Message: Farming Smarter Here For You. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 GMs Report: Questions Coming in From the Cold. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 Mapping Weather Gets Very Local. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 Randy Kutcher – Professor of Plant Pathology University of Saskatchewan. . . . . . . . . 6 Intercropping Sustainability in Dryland Regions. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7

Pg. 8

Flea Beetle Bane. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 Prebiotics, a Novel Tool to Protect Bees From Pesticides. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 New Projects to Watch From Farming smarter. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 Checking on Check-off Research. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 Great Things to Learn at Lethbridge College. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 Learning Adventures 2018. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 Plant Protein Industry Set to Soar. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20

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Infra-red Sprayer Saves Money with Selective Spraying. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22 Time to Toot Our Horns For Ag. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24 Stewardship Projects From the FSC . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26 Science Changes our Lives. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28 An Intern’s Perspective. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29 Old and Wise... or Maybe Just Oldish. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30 High Value Study Broke Ground This Year. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31 Oldman River Watershed Outreach. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32

Pg. 26 Visit us online for innovative agronomic . and technical research information:

www.farmingsmarter.com

3rd Annual Farming Smarter Open Farm Days. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33 Book Review: How the Mighty Fall by Jim Collins . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34

Farming Smarter is published bi-annually by . Glacier FarmMedia LP for Farming Smarter, . 211034 Hwy 512,. Lethbridge County, AB, T1J 5N9 . with the support from the Agriculture . Opportunities Fund

Cover photo:

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

Photo: farming smarter

Adrian Moen of AJM Seeds took this photo with his drone during a demonstration at Farming Smarter Open Farm Days Aug. 18, 2018

Farming Smarter / fall 2018

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President’s Message

Farming Smarter Here For You By Doug Brodoway

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018 may be a season that most farmers would like to forget due to crazy weather, drought, low grain prices and world politics. All these events play a big part in our day to day lives and affect your business bottom line in some way. The Farming Smarter team, board and staff, see these things and we promise to specialize in Growing New Ideas, Growing Knowledge and Growing Stewardship in agriculture. We also promise to keep sharing through handson demonstration and unbiased information all that we learn that benefits the industry and producers in southern Alberta. Over the past decade, Farming Smarter worked hard to build an organization that excels at serving our community. We invested in people, tools, equipment and processes that earned us a reputation as diligent researchers and dynamic communicators. Some of our research projects require a land base for three to five years. Thanks to a

Lethbridge College partnership, we have 60 acres to farm and space for our shop, equipment shed, office and Quonset. We began renting land across the road in 2012 to add another 160 acres that allows for crop rotation and leeway to perform many trials. We can see that the need exists for handson demonstrations, finding southern Alberta agronomic solutions for new crops, growing bigger knowledge platforms and sharing unbiased information. Producers and industry want the information we produce and provide. Over recent years, our organization needed to fill many gaps created by financial cutbacks at our three government levels. But Farming Smarter has come to a fork in the road. It needs your support to solidify our land base by purchasing land that will ensure we will always be here for you and future southern Alberta farmers. We’re about to start several fundraising projects. Please consider helping us in whatever way you can. Visit our

website and sign up for our newsletter to keep on top of what we’re doing and find your way to help us. I would like to take this opportunity to thank my fellow board members for their dedication, both in time and effort, throughout the year by attending meetings, answering phone calls, and emails at all times of the day. All so that we can further our common goal of guiding Farming Smarter to higher levels that support the agriculture business of southern Alberta. h

All the best in 2019, Doug Brodoway Farming Smarter President

GMs Report

Questions Coming in From the Cold

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e’re all survivors. Funny thing about agriculture is that as much as we plan and execute, it’s always humbling to accept vulnerability to the weather. Cheers to your hard work and grit! Farming Smarter survived this very short growing season quite well all things considered. The spring started off with a lot of uncertainty regarding funding for both research and extension resulting in a slightly smaller program than expected. In hindsight, this was lucky given the weather this year. We were also fortunate to garner a mostly returning crew save two exchange students from France and two new interns. Everyone had a great time working together and I’m very proud of what we accomplished. I can’t say enough about the people who are so passionate about their jobs and take great pride in doing their best to help the agriculture community in southern Alberta.

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Farming Smarter / fall 2018

We were sad to see our students leave and miss their laughs and enthusiasm. Best wishes to Chelsea, Jazz, Sara and our “frenchies” Ben and Tom (thanks for the goodbye cake Sara). Farewell to Adam and Megan, our hard-working technicians. It was a great year and hope to have you back. Some highlights for me this year: New Research:

• cover crop p8Manitoba • novel crop and fusarium head blight crop sequencing trials with Dr. Jan Slaski of Innotech Alberta and Dr. Randy Kutcher, University of Saskatchewan • deep banding immobile nutrients, Dr. Kabal Gill, SARDA Ag Research • hemp agronomy contract with Manitoba Harvest • Field Tested on farm research program, Lewis Baarda Farming Smarter

• final year of hail wheat and pulses • final year of precision planter canola Extension

• • • •

 heat Stock – Alberta Wheat Commission W Medicine Hat Crop Tour – Cypress County FMC Demonstration plots new communications intern – December Burgess

Agvocacy

• Open Farm Days – 300 city folks • Rural Caucus tour – local MLA Maria Fitzpatrick and guest MLAs Here’s to a short winter, an early spring and just the right amount of rain! See you soon. Ken Coles Farming Smarter

GROWING NEW IDEAS / GROWING KNOWLEDGE / GROWING STEWARDSHIP


Technology

Mapping Weather Gets Very Local by Kristi Cox

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hen it comes to weather, people seem to focus on extremes and records. Was that a record-breaking high? We got THIS much snow overnight! While this is fun to talk about over coffee, weather varies so widely over time and between locations that it’s hard to have a productive discussion about trends until we look at some reliable, location-specific data. The Alberta Government established the Alberta Climate Information Service to help investigate just about any weatherrelated question in Alberta and it’s freely available for anyone to use. To examine weather and climate patterns, we need to have access to abundant and accurate data. Historically, a few weather stations were sporadically placed around the province and not consistently reported. After the droughts in the early 2000’s, several organizations put in new weather stations for drought reporting, flood forecasting, climate change monitoring and to support weather-based insurance products. Forestry stations are being modernized to report hourly, rather than manned observations once or twice daily. Over 430 weather stations spread across the province today and most report automatically every hour and provide a clear picture of what is happening with temperature, winds and precipitation. Government of Alberta staff recognized the value in ensuring this data was quality controlled and compiled into a functional format. “We’re really passionate about this and we realize how important weather data is — not just for our use today, but for generations,” said Ralph Wright, Manager of Ag-Meteorology with the Government of Alberta. “So, we started building the Alberta Climate Information Service to serve data easily and freely to everybody in the province.” They created the general platform and started adding components; growing degree days, growing season precipitation accumulations, snowpacks, frost free days — all the agronomically important things. Everyone in the province now has online, instant access to 58 years of historical weather data for Alberta; a thorough hourly snapshot of what’s happening right now; and the potential for a very clear look at the trends in the future. “Even if climate change isn’t happening, we should be absolutely as concerned about climate variability because that’s what’s going to get us,” said Wright. “We need to understand how extreme it can be and be able to be more resilient to those extremes.” Using ACIS data, we can see evidence of climate variability.

Lethbridge bar graph for total precipitation from 2016 for all 4 stations – shows 70mm variation. Photo: Ralph Wright

GROWING NEW IDEAS / GROWING KNOWLEDGE / GROWING STEWARDSHIP

Lethbridge snowpack bar graph from last 100+ years.

Photo: Ralph Wright

There are four weather stations in the city of Lethbridge. There can be a large difference in weather recorded at stations very near to each other. In 2016, the four Lethbridge stations measured 300 mm, 320 mm, 350 mm and 370 mm of precipitation. (See graph) That represents at least a 70 mm variance in a relatively small area and is significant enough to alter the results producers might see on their land. Similar variances can show up in winds or temperatures. “There is no one weather story. There’s lots of weather stories,” said Wright. “What is the weather pattern? It’s that there’s variability.” In Lethbridge, in a period of over 100 years, we see a variance in snowpack, with a few general trends evident (See snow graph): 1901 to 1946 – less snow 1947 to 1979 – lots of snow 1980 to 2018 – less snow When we start looking for patterns in weather, it’s critical to consider what might have happened outside of the time frame we are examining. If someone looked at only the last 30 years in Lethbridge their impressions would be very different than if they look at the entire century. “Do we really want to be planning tomorrow based on what we’ve had in recent memory or even more distant memories?” asked Wright. “The key is to understand that these things are highly variable.” ACIS can be accessed through the website weatherdata.ca. Wright recommends using the mobile friendly version first, as it’s simplified. This can be accessed from any mobile device as well as your personal computer. Overwhelmed? Don’t miss this opportunity. The website comes with personalized help. “My phone number is at the bottom of the webpage for a reason. We welcome people to call me,” said Wright. Basic information like precipitation, wind and temperature data is available, both currently and historically through the weather station data tabs. Users can do things like access graphs of what the temperature was over the past day, week, or month. By selecting ‘element’, users can add precipitation accumulated, wind info, humidity and other factors. As they become more comfortable navigating the system, they will find options like graphing results from multiple weather stations. Weather-related information models are also available, giving producers additional valuable information. “We are modeling fusarium head blight, alfalfa weevil, bertha army worm and wheat midge,” said Wright. “This allows people to keep an eye on what’s going on and what state the insects are possibly in and when to scout. The vision here is that in some point in time we’ll put in a lot of little tools that rely on weather information to help farmers in their decision making.” Give ACIS a try and find out for yourself how it can aid your farming operations. h Farming Smarter / fall 2018

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Partner Profile

Randy Kutcher

Professor of Plant Pathology University of Saskatchewan By Kristi Cox

Randy Kutcher shares project details with WheatStalk participants at Farming Smarter.

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any hands make light work. This concept is what drives Randy Kutcher’s focus on research collaboration. Kutcher is a Professor of Plant Pathology (Cereal and Flax Program) at the University of Saskatchewan. This year saw the start of a crop sequencing study aimed at providing valuable insights into fusarium head blight management. Farming Smarter is proud to be part of that partnership. After 15 years with Agriculture Canada in applied research focused on plant diseases, Kutcher began his role as cereal and flax pathologist at the University in 2011. His focus is on applied research, with a combination of field plot, growth chamber and greenhouse work. “I do work on any of the cereals, so all the classes of wheat, a little bit of barley work and some oats,” Kutcher explained. “We have a couple of canary seed projects and flax, which is not a cereal, but it’s in the mandate.” In his position with the University of Saskatchewan, Kutcher previously collaborated with Farming Smarter on research looking at fall fungicide applications as well as fungicide timing for leaf spot and fusarium control.

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Farming Smarter / fall 2018

Photo: Shelly Barclay

“In my days at Ag Canada we were strongly encouraged to do collaborative research and I developed a good network of colleagues; which includes Ken Coles down at Farming Smarter,” Kutcher said. Instead of one person working at one or two sites for several years, it is much more efficient to get multiple colleagues to each have a site for a few years. In two years, six colleagues can gather 12 site years of data, often with the added benefit of adding multiple geographical regions. Kutcher collaborates with organizations like Farming Smarter, Agriculture and Agri-food Canada and other Universities to get reliable results quickly. “In two years you can answer a significant question,” said Kutcher. “You can be fairly sure of the conclusions if you have that many site years of data in that many environments across Western Canada.” This type of collaboration fits perfectly with the most recent project that Kutcher asked for Farming Smarter participation. “This year, because the relationship was good, he included us in a crop sequencing

study looking at fusarium head blight management,” Farming Smarter General Manager Ken Coles explained. Each of eight locations across Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba will use a base set of five crops; wheat, barley, canola, field peas and corn. From there, they each add between one and four additional crops depending on the location, resources available and the suitability of the plot. The crops are planted in parallel strips adjacent to each other, then next year, they come back and seed strips perpendicular to the original layout. This strip block trial allows researchers to then see each crop on its own stubble as well as on all the other stubbles in the test. The main goal is to determine whether fusarium is more prevalent when certain crops follow others, as well as if certain sequences decrease its occurrence. “We will also look at yield and quality,” explained Kutcher, “but the disease we’re targeting is fusarium head blight, because it’s really an issue now.” Fusarium is a tricky disease to manage.

GROWING NEW IDEAS / GROWING KNOWLEDGE / GROWING STEWARDSHIP


Fungicides can aid with suppression, but not elimination. At this point, no strong fusarium-resistant cultivars have been established, despite efforts in that direction. “Even in hard red spring where we have moderate (fusarium) resis-

Randy Kutcher

Photo: Shelly Barclay

tance, growers still need to think about their rotations,” said Kutcher. “An integrated pest management approach is necessary for fusarium head blight because there is no one strategy that is going to cure it.” Farming Smarter has nine crops in its test rotation, yielding 81 combinations of crop sequencing within its plot. Farming Smarter’s plot includes spring wheat, durum wheat, barley, dry beans, corn, peas, canola, hemp and quinoa. “Intuitively, we think the worst option will be to grow corn before wheat if you have a fusarium problem,” Kutcher said. “From the literature and other people’s experience, we think that’s the worst thing to do, so that’s our base treatment. Then we’ll compare all the other alternatives to that to determine what might be better in terms of disease management.” “We’re trying to show the alternatives for sequencing your crops or planning your crop rotation,” said Kutcher. “We’re not directly going to consider the economics of it, that’s up to the grower to decide what’s economical in their area.” With an eye on risk management, eight sites were established this year. Six sites secured funding over the full five-year study, so after the first two years, six will be selected to complete the trial. Damp, warm conditions during flowering will increase the chances of fusarium showing up in the research plots. Farming Smarter has its plot under irrigation that can encourage fusarium. Not all sites have irrigation. “We’re kind of the opposite of the farmers,” said Kutcher. “We’re hoping for fusarium and sometimes we’re disappointed when it doesn’t happen. We hope they don’t have to deal with the disease, but it’s pretty hard for us to research it if we don’t have the disease.” h

Agronomy

Intercropping Sustainability in Dryland Regions By Farm Stewardship Centre

Intercropping test plots.

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Photo: Farm Stewardship Centre

ntercropping (or Inter-seeding) is an ancient agricultural practice that involves two or more crop species being grown together. This practice has the potential to address modern monoculture cropping problems such as weed resistance/control, crop health, pest and pathogen accumulation, soil degradation and environmental deterioration, with a net benefit to soil health and reduced GHG emissions. During recent engagements and discussions there is a lot of interest in the practice of intercropping, but there is a need for more extensive Intercropping research, especially in the dryland area of southern Alberta. This study will attempt to identify the effects of various intercropping scenarios and interactions, effects on soil and water, plant and biological community impacts, fertilizer and chemical input requireGROWING NEW IDEAS / GROWING KNOWLEDGE / GROWING STEWARDSHIP

ments and effects, as well as GHG emission and overall environmental impacts in a low moisture dryland scenario. The project will be a whole farm type study in co-operation with producers and a controlled plot scale research study. The potential outcomes of this project could include information and tools available to producers to make informed decisions about adopting intercropping; development of crop mixtures and rotations that minimize reliance on chemicals and maximize reductions in GHG emissions; and finding best management practices that could identify required equipment modifications and technology for separating the crops at harvest. Some of the learnings and practices could benefit organic agriculture as well. For more information, contact Blaine Metzger at 587-486-1021. h Farming Smarter / fall 2018

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Pest Control

Flea Beetle Bane Scientists study methods to negate yield loss in canola due to invasive pests by Trevor Bacque

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s any Prairie farmer can attest, flea beetles are becoming a constant source of frustration on canola and, by all accounts, the issue will not slow down. Each year, the pests cut an estimated $130 million to $300 million out of Prairie farmers’ annual income. There are two main types of flea beetles, the striped and the crucifer. The striped, once dominant only in central and northern Alberta’s more humid climatic zones, are now found throughout the province. The crucifer, meanwhile, is still found throughout Alberta. Flea beetles attack canola by feasting on leaf, stem and cotyledon tissues. The overwhelmingly favoured control is a neonicotinoid seed treatment that, although effective, does not boast 100 per cent efficacy against the pest. Dr. Alejandro Costamagna from the University of Manitoba is the principal investigator working closely with Dr. Héctor Cárcamo of the Lethbridge Research and Development Centre, a co-investigator, to determine if increased seeding rates in canola will benefit the fight against flea beetles. This three-year study (2018-21) will detail findings as technicians apply various seed rates — three kg, six kg and 12 kg per hectare — on both early- and late-seeded canola. Costamagna and colleagues including Cárcamo have previously conducted research on this subject and learned during a 2015-17 study that 25 per cent is the acceptable threshold for flea beetle damage to canola seedlings before yields dramatically reduce and hurt farmer profitability.

Flea beetle damaged canola.

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Photo: Farming Smarter

Farming Smarter / fall 2018

Hector Carcamo tries to count flea beetles in a canola trial. Photo: Farming Smarter

“This is a chronic pest that appears year after year,” says Cárcamo. “It’s the No. 1 issue in terms of impact and difficulty managing it because they’re so unpredictable in terms of how quickly the damage can happen. The damage can change dramatically depending on the temperature.” Cárcamo believes part of the reason the striped flea beetle prevalence is increasing is the weather. “We’ve had more wet years in the southern prairies, not the last two, but long-term; the last 12 years we’ve had above-average moisture,” he says. With certain neonic seed treatments under review from Health Canada potentially facing a ban in the next three to five years, the result would leave farmers with fewer options. In addition, it may require a greater amount of foliar insecticide sprays; which may have negative environmental impacts and cost farmers more money. “Nothing is perfect. Any insecticide or control strategy will have its pros and cons,” says Cárcamo, adding that even Lumiderm, an insecticide seed treatment with higher utility than neonics for the striped flea beetle, is not providing complete control. As part of their studies (that also include researchers Jennifer Otani at Beaverlodge and Tyler Wist at Saskatoon), they will evaluate ground and foliar predators as well as landscape structure on canola defoliation by flea beetles. Further information they hope to obtain includes flea beetle abundance and species composition in Western Canada. There are three, secondary objectives of the research. Evaluate the effect and the mechanism of stem feeding by different flea beetle species under laboratory and field conditions and determine the direct and indirect effects of predators on stem damage and defoliation. Determine the effect of ground and foliar predators and landscape structure on canola defoliation, flea beetle abundance, and species composition in different regions of Western Canada. Construct a predictive model for flea beetle abundance and damage to canola, incorporating predators, landscape effects and abiotic (weather) factors. This year, Cárcamo and others on the investigative team seeded during the first week of May and the third-into-fourth week for both earlyand late-seed trial data, respectively. For more information on year one results, visit farmingsmarter.com. h GROWING NEW IDEAS / GROWING KNOWLEDGE / GROWING STEWARDSHIP


AnnuAl GenerAl MeetinG Join Farming Smarter for dinner Feb. 27, 2019 4 - 8 pm www.farmingsmarter.com You should come


Stewardship

Prebiotics, a Novel Tool to Protect Bees From Pesticides By Kristi Cox

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ees are facing significant challenges today. Honey bee colony losses continue, and species of wild bumblebees are now listed as endangered or threatened. Many factors contribute to this, including some pesticides that can directly cause impairment or death or indirectly enhance disease. Mitigation of these effects might come from an unexpected source — prebiotics. A research study identified prebiotics as an effective way to mitigate neonicotinoid exposure in managed honey bees, leafcutter bees and bumblebees. Danica Baines, Research Scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, did previous research on reducing pathogen burdens in cattle without using antibiotics. She began looking at prebiotics and probiotics for managing the entry and growth of pathogens in the gut. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria and prebiotics are dietary fibres that support beneficial gut bacteria.

In these studies, Baines discovered that prebiotics act almost like a mop in the gut of the cattle, preventing transfer of food-based toxins into the animals. It also serves to feed beneficial gut bacteria, outcompete pathogens for space in the gut and can effectively ‘wake up’ a suppressed immune system The prebiotic she uses is a human-grade non-digestible oligosaccharide or fibre derived from a yeast similar to bread-making yeast. It provided consistent results in cattle and she has continued with it in the bee studies.

With the bee losses of great concern, and the success of prebiotics in cattle, a provincial apiculturist and Baines discussed the potential for prebiotics to mitigate the issue of neonicotinoids and bees. The hope was that when bees pick up food toxins such as neonicotinoids, prebiotics could prevent those toxins from entering the bees’ systems and making them sick. Baines set out to determine how bees react to four neonicotinoids reported to have adverse effects. Previous research considered the honey bee to stand in as a rep-

“We’ve developed a food for leafcutter bees that we’re happy with that we think we can use as a field release formulation.”

Danica Baines presents her research at Farming Smarter Field School 2018.  photo: Morton Molyneux

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Farming Smarter / fall 2018

GROWING NEW IDEAS / GROWING KNOWLEDGE / GROWING STEWARDSHIP


Bee food with prebiotic (green) and without (beige). photo: Danica Baines

resentative for all bee types. Baines looked at the response of managed honey bees, leafcutter bees and bumblebees and found that all three species reacted differently to neonicotinoid exposure. While leafcutter bees are very sensitive and their reactions more obvious, honey bees and bumblebees’ symptoms don’t always stand out, making it difficult to know if the bees are affected. Bees exposed to low levels of neonicotinoids found in natural bee food looked outwardly normal, but neurological testing revealed that the bees were permanently impaired, not standing or walking properly. “I call them the living dead because they aren’t going to recover,” Baines explained. Another piece to come out of this was that the researchers discovered that not all adult honey bees respond the same to neonicotinoid exposure. Previously, all similar tests were done on summer honey bees. Baines found that winter bees are extremely susceptible to neonicotinoids compared to their summer counterparts. Winter bees are the ones with six month, rather than six week life spans. They care for the hive through the cold months. Getting prebiotics to these winter bees and taking care not to expose them to pesticides at this sensitive time, may prove instrumental in protecting honey bees and other bee species. Bees are very susceptible to even low levels of neonicotinoids found in their natural foods. “We found out that the low environmental level of two neonicotinoids potentially

present in the natural food collected by summer bees caused bee losses,” said Baines. “That had not been reported previously because no one had ever looked at these environmental levels.” The good news is that the prebiotics completely alleviated symptoms and losses in the bees after low level exposures to the two neonicotinoids. Even at very high non-environmental levels of neonicotinoids, the prebiotic was effective in recovering 50 per cent of the exposed bees. “So, we can’t 100 per cent protect bees from extremely high levels of neonicotinoids,” said Baines. “To me the fact that we are even able to recover them at such high doses was a little bit shocking in a positive way, reinforcing the potential for prebiotics to protect bees.” Baines continues her studies now, examining all the herbicides, fungicides and insecticides that are applied in canola and alfalfa fields to identify any chemicals that have adverse affects on bees. “We’re looking at them all with the same intent,” said Baines. “We will assess the prebiotic with any pesticide that has an adverse affect at concentrations potentially found in the natural food and see whether or not we’re able to stop the symptoms in the bees.” While investigating ways to deliver the prebiotics to bees, the researchers discovered that the quality of food typically given to honey bees to replace their honey stores was low, and that leafcutter bees weren’t being provided food. “As a way to promote bee health, we’ve

GROWING NEW IDEAS / GROWING KNOWLEDGE / GROWING STEWARDSHIP

started to look at developing diets that will provide bees with all the essential nutrients that they need,” Baines said. The idea is to develop something simple and economical that bee managers and farmers can use to provide their bees with quality food at critical times. Baines is currently in the process of developing that food for each of the types of bees. “We’ve developed a food for leafcutter bees that we’re happy with that we think we can use as a field release formulation,” said Baines. “The next stage will be to put the prebiotic in and see how it performs in the colonies and crop during pesticide applications.” Further research needs to be done into the effects of providing prebiotics to the bees over time. “It’s always a risk when you have something new going into a system such as the honey bee colonies. You want to be sure that it’s safe. You can’t tell from one season or one generation if that’s true or not,” said Baines. “We have been looking at the safety aspect of this specific prebiotic for four consecutive years in the same honey bee colonies and with multiple generations of solitary bees. To date, there are no negative effects, only positive health benefits. While there’s hope that prebiotics could alleviate some of the stress bees face in our current environment, it’s also important to look at other management practices. We can’t provide prebiotics to every bee, so careful consideration of approvals for pesticides and timing of their use could go a long way toward ensuring these important pollinators are protected. h Farming Smarter / fall 2018

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Farming Smarter Research

New Projects to Watch From Farming Smarter By Alexis Kienlen

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arming Smarter submitted four full proposals to Alberta Funding Consortium in the summer of 2018. If approved they will research advanced durum agronomy, biostimulant products, precision planting pulse crops and Field-Tested precision planted canola. If approved these projects will begin in spring 2019 and be part of its extension program, so watch for modules at events starting next summer. Irrigated Durum

The three-year project will examine better yields and an improved fusarium headblight management in Brooks, Lethbridge and Bow Island. “We’re trying to apply a number of different techniques to irrigated durum” said Ken Coles, general manager, Farming Smarter. The organization did a fair amount of work with a vacuum planter in canola and have been able to obtain very even stands. “We did a demonstration plot with durum this year as well for that reason. If we’re finding there’s benefits for canola, farmers are going to want to use these practices for other crops,” said Coles. The group tested wheat, peas, chickpeas, faba beans, lentils and flax with the planter. All of them worked well and created nice, even stands. The group decided to focus on durum because it is susceptible to fusarium head blight. Coles said that he’s also heard farmers say that durum yields have not improved in in the past 20 years. “The average yield hasn’t increased because nobody has done any work on it. The agronomy piece has been fairly light,” he said. Irrigated durum has a high yield potential, so the team intends to use narrow row planters to see how that impacts tiller management. “With fusarium head blight, one of the best and worst ways to manage it is to have a very even crop,” said Coles. The planter allows for that even crop. Growth regulators will make the crop even more uniform. “The premise is, that if we can have all the wheat heads flowering at exactly the same time and narrow the flowering period, we can narrow the period the plant is susceptible to fusarium head blight,” said Coles. If that’s the case, it might make a difference on spraying fungicide too.

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Farming Smarter / fall 2018

Faba beans on the precision planter from an initial trial Farming Smarter did in summer 2018. photo: December Burgess

“If you have a variable field and you’re trying to manage disease when you have tillers that are flowering, three weeks later, essentially, you’ve got something flowering for a five week to sixweek period, then you really open yourself up to head blight,” said Coles. The project will combine some of these factors and look at all the fertility packages and take all the best varieties and agronomy factors to break the stagnant yield barrier. Biostimulants

The goal is to test a system of biostimulant products from various companies, on the same land for three years. The tests will be conducted on peas, wheat and canola. “We’re going to apply the same system on the same piece of land for three years and at the end of the three years, we might have a little bit of knowledge on whether there’s a measurable yield and economic advantage or not,” he said.

Biostimulants refers to a group of products that could impact plant growth by various methods. They can include root growth enhancers or drought/stress tolerance inhibitors. “They’re really playing around with plant biology. A growth promotant or a growth regulator are both examples of biostimulants,” said Coles. Inoculants are also considered biostimulants. There’s a whole range of different products, mixed in different blends and mixes. “It’s this almost never-ending sea of products flooding into Canada. A lot of them are because the Canadian Food Inspection Agency regulations changed a few years back and didn’t require efficacy data for registration. We’re really in the thick of all these companies coming to the marketplace to sell whatever product. There may be some products that work well and some that don’t,” said Coles.

GROWING NEW IDEAS / GROWING KNOWLEDGE / GROWING STEWARDSHIP


He’s tried some of them. He found it’s hard to sort out what works and what doesn’t and if there is an economic return or not. “We don’t want to be myth busters debunking every product out there. But at the same time, people spend a lot of money on these products and they’re not sure if they work or where. That could be part of the problem too,” he said. Precisions Pulses

This three-year project will explore whether seeding pulses with a precision planter has value. Coles asks, “Just to find out. Can we do a better job growing peas or chickpeas and have better disease management? Can we play with the canopy architecture in a way that would improve on that? Can we save money on seed?” Farming Smarter’s work with canola during a three-year trial with a precision planter had some interesting results. “We definitely see some significant advantages with the planter; especially on the narrow spaced rows. In all honesty, the yield bump in precision planted, narrow rows is so good that I’m quite nervous that it is too good to be true,” he said. The team at Farming Smarter saw up to a 15 per cent yield advantage over a traditional air seeder. “That would be a major impact across the industry,” said Coles. To test the canola findings, On Farm project lead Lewis Baarda will use a planter to plant canola in local farmers’ fields. “It’s an example of Farming Smarter testing our own research,” said Coles. h

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Farming Smarter / fall 2018

13


Research

Checking on Check-off Research

Learn how much Alberta crop commissions earmark for research through its levies By Trevor Bacque

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griculture progresses just like any other industry — through continued research. Without an ongoing cycle of research, Alberta farmers would be left with more questions than answers and less advanced means to fight pests, agronomic concerns, poor yields, standability issues and more. Luckily for Alberta’s hard-working men and women who work the land, research never sleeps and provides a shot in the arm when it seems most needed. One of the primary avenues of funding for Alberta crop research is through the four main provincial crop commissions: Alberta Barley, Alberta Canola Producers Commission (ACPC), Alberta Pulse Growers (APG) and Alberta Wheat Commission (AWC). Combined, these four groups output more than $5 million annually into research and development of countless projects all with the aim to benefit crop producers and increase profitability and field success. Canola Research

“Our guideline for research spending is about 30 per cent of total revenues. The last five years, we’ve had an annual budget of about $6 million, and our annual research allocations are from $1.5 million to $2 million,” says Ward Toma, the General Manager of ACPC.

ACPC has three main buckets where its money flows: research, public engagement and promotion and grower relations and extension. This year, due to a new cluster beginning under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, ACPC’s board allocated an additional $2 million to project funding, bringing this year’s total to just shy of $4 million. The proposal ACPC submitted for the Partnership cluster funding was $20 million with the group receiving $12 million. “We had a very big ask, we went in knowing that some projects were going to be ranked at a lower level. The extra $2 million allowed us to take the projects that got kicked out and ensure they still got done,” says Toma. So, when it comes to research, where does ACPC research funding end up? “The majority of the work is guided by finding better ways to grow canola. Mitigating the impacts of pests and diseases. There’s a good amount of genetics work being done, sclerotinia, clubroot and black leg.” However, Toma says it is year-to-year dependent. At times, submissions are heavy on agronomics and then the following year it’s all about genetics. One of the major criteria ACPC has for a project to be green-lighted is that research must be peer-reviewable, no exceptions. “That’s how we know it’s worth it and that

For every $1,200 of major field crops sold in Alberta, producers invest $1 into research. This does not include investments by companies or governments.

money is well-spent and not wasted. You can waste an awful lot of money on research. If you can’t publish it, you don’t know what you’ve got.” Pulse Research

In Alberta, pulse crops continue to grab acres as the international demand remains high and domestic interest increased. Leanne Fisch-

The Alberta Canola Producers Commission spends about one-third of its annual budget funding research to benefit Alberta farmers. If research cannot be peerreviewed, it’s not worth the money, according to Alberta Canola Producers Commission GM Ward Toma. photo: Alberta Canola Producers Commission

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Farming Smarter / fall 2018

GROWING NEW IDEAS / GROWING KNOWLEDGE / GROWING STEWARDSHIP


buch, APG executive director, says her organization dedicates 40 to 50 per cent of its annual budget toward research projects. For 2018-19, the number is $2.57 million or 41 per cent. “For our organization, we are recipients of grower dollars. The primary use is to put it back into research,” she says. “The more dollars we can get into research for our growers, there’s the Scientific Research and Experimental Design (SR&ED) opportunity available to them.” SR&ED is the tax credit to farmers who support the commission through yearly levy contributions. In 2017, the APG SR&ED rate was 13.7 per cent. Of the major research areas, APG’s current focus is on disease management, pea leaf weevil control, genetic improvement, processing of pulses for value-added industries and health. Of those, the largest two priority areas remain genetics and agronomy. APG has 43 research projects underway in the areas of genetic improvement, agronomy, food and health. This includes projects under the recently announced Pulse Science Cluster and the Integrated Agronomy Cluster. “When we identify research questions, the next step is to reach out to scientists who have the capacity and resources available to work on these questions. Research benefits the growers by providing answers that they can use on-farm. They also get SR&ED value for funding they provided to the organization,” says Fischbuch.

Agronomist Rob Dunn collects rain data for APG’s Plot to Field research initiative. Annually, the commission allocates 40 to 50 per cent of its budget to pulse-specific research projects. photo: Alberta Pulse Growers

Wheat/Barley Research

The AWC, despite being the newest commission of the four, commits substantial dollars to research funding. In 2016-17, AWC spent $1.96 million on research, or 35 per cent of its overall budget. This year, that number gets a bump as the Growing Forward 2 agreement ends and the Canadian Agricultural Partnership begins. AWC currently has 49 active research projects. “We’ve certainly been ramping up,” says Lauren Comin, the AWC/Alberta Barley research director. “We’ve been building our portfolio over the last six years. Going forward, we anticipate even more of a ramp up.” Unofficial numbers for 2017-18 pegged AWC with $9 million in check-off revenue and $2.66 million dedicated to research investments, or 30 per cent. During 2016-17, Alberta Barley invested $430,000 into its research program, about 19 per cent of its overall budget. Its three priority areas are genetics, agronomics and end-uses for feed, malt and food barley.

Due to an internal research review by the provincial government, the Alberta Barley board decided to withhold core funding to the Field Crop Development Centre in Lacombe, one of its biggest funding recipients. This brought Alberta Barley’s annual research funding amount lower than expected. “Certainly, we had plans for the program,

GROWING NEW IDEAS / GROWING KNOWLEDGE / GROWING STEWARDSHIP

but nothing was contracted this fiscal year,” says Comin of barley-based research agreements, adding that the organization has four active research projects. In 2017-18, Alberta Barley’s had an estimated $2.83 million in check-off revenue with research expenditures totalling $566,000, or 20 per cent. h Farming Smarter / fall 2018

15


Education

Great Things to Learn at Lethbridge College By Lee Hart

A couple of times per year, Lethbridge College students come to Farming Smarter for some hands-on learning.

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hether your interests are in ag business or management, crop production, soil science, livestock production, or ag mechanics, the diversified package of programs available through Lethbridge College were designed to help farmers better understand their daily operations or provide a good foundation for students interested in working in some other aspect of the agriculture industry. As the 2018 school year gets rolling, all programs, whether at the two-year diploma or one-year certificate level, have a strong enrolment from students with diverse interests, says Kenny Corscadden, dean of the Centre for Technology, Environment and Design. “Our programs appear to be popular with a cross section of students,” says Corscadden who joined Lethbridge College about a year ago, moving from Halifax after serving as associate dean Research and Graduate Studies at Dalhousie University in the Faculty of Agriculture. “I’d say most are students have a

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Farming Smarter / fall 2018

farming background and plan to return to the farm, while we also have students looking to get a foundation in some field of agriculture as they go on to further studies at university or work in some aspect of the agricultural service industry.” Depending on career needs, Lethbridge College programs provide a good introduction — a solid foundation — of tools, skills and knowledge to be used on the farm or elsewhere in the agriculture sector. Certificate Programs

The college offers two one-year agriculture certificate programs. One popular, practical and high-tech program introduces students to agricultural and heavy equipment technology. With 24 students enrolled in 2018, it is a good introduction to agricultural mechanics, says Corscadden. Working with industry partners who supply various pieces of the latest farm machinery, students learn the basics of service and repair, and understanding the

Photo: December Burgess

sophisticated technology used in modern machinery. Complimenting the one-year certificate program, the college also offers an Agricultural Equipment Technician Program that is a four-year combination of classroom and work apprentice program as a student works toward obtaining their journeyman papers. The other one-year certificate program coming later this year is an Internet-based Agriculture Business Risk Management program, that will offer several business management modules on-line. The details of the program are just being worked out. Diploma Programs

The college also offers two two-year diploma programs. In the Agricultural Sciences program students can focus on one of two streams working toward a diploma in plant science or a diploma in animal science. The 60-some students enrolled in the program this year, for example, start out all learning

GROWING NEW IDEAS / GROWING KNOWLEDGE / GROWING STEWARDSHIP


the fundamentals of science areas such as chemistry and biology before choosing their major. “It is a very practical program offering a very good foundation whether the student plans to return to the farm or carry on further,� says Corscadden. The other two-year diploma program, new for 2018, is Agriculture Enterprise Management. About 20 students enrolled in the program that again provides a good foundation of agriculture business, also covering food production and processing and agricultural economics. Popular Non-Credit Program

The college is also taking an interesting and practical approach in a new-this-year, noncredit, multi-disciplinary program called Ag Entrepreneurship open to all college students. The college worked with industry partners to identify several real problems facing different aspects of the agriculture industry. Teams of students from various college programs can select a problem and work with an industry mentor to come up with a solution. At the end of the program those solutions will be presented to the respective industry. Corscadden says for example; a processing

Farming Smarter truck filled with sample bags from the trial harvest at Mercer Farms. These will be analyzed to provide information on grain quality to augment geo-referenced yield data from the Field-Tested trial currated by Lewis Baarda, Farming Smarter On-Farm Research. sector of the industry may have a problem of dealing with a waste or by-product. The student teams working on the problem will hopefully develop a viable solution on how to add value to or manage that waste product. Forty

students have signed up to put their heads together to study these industry challenges. For more information on these and other programs visit the Lethbridge College website at: www.lethbridgecollege.ca. h

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17


Learning Adventures 2018

Ken Coles lets double axes fly as he hones his throwing skills at Wheatstalk 2018. Photo: Shelly Barclay

Plot Hop attendees listen as Syama Chatterton talks disease resistance in pulse crops. Photo: Shelly Barclay

Adam Stanford talks DIY and affordable data collection with his soil sensor at the 2018 Plot Hop. Photo: Farming Smarter

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Farming Smarter / fall 2018

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The MLA’s get a taste of agriculture as Farming Smarter employee, Mike Gretzinger, talks about the different equipment we have and use on our fields. Photo: Farming Smarter

Justine Cornelsen teaches Farming Smarter guests how to spot Blackleg in their crops at Cypress Field Day.

Wheatstalk gets hands on as our guests determine the biggest differences between precision planting and air seeding. Photo: Shelly Barclay

Photo: Farming Smarter

Field School participants look for pesticide resistant wild oats in a wheat crop. Photo: Farming Smarter

GROWING NEW IDEAS / GROWING KNOWLEDGE / GROWING STEWARDSHIP

Farming Smarter / fall 2018

19


Economic Development

Plant Protein Industry Set to Soar By Madeleine Baerg

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lant-based proteins in Alberta received a major boost this spring when the federal government announced the formation of a Protein Industries Supercluster: a combined $400-$500M commitment of government, the agriculture industry and venture capitalists to support and grow business opportunities for novel plant proteins across the Canadian prairies. “Canada has historically been seen as the hewers of wood and haulers of water,” says Trevor Lewington. He is chief executive officer of Economic Development Lethbridge and a director of the Plant Protein Alliance of Alberta, Alberta’s representative organization and strategic partner within the Protein Industries Supercluster. “We export raw commodities. We need to ask: how do you create more value at home? Nothing irritates me more than shipping products south of the border, so we can buy them back at higher prices. The question we need to be asking is not just how we attract and support ag-business but how do we shift ourselves higher on the value chain?”

Globally, there is a huge increase in demand for protein. Animal proteins will grow, but they will never meet all that demand He believes the Protein Industries Supercluster is uniquely positioned to help answer exactly that question, but through supporting existing businesses and by connecting new businesses. In some cases, the Supercluster will invest in raising awareness of opportunities, either to individual farmers or to larger businesses. In other cases, investment may go toward linking innovators with resources including coaching, mentoring, information, and financial backers. Typically, the funds will be used less to fund specific plants, start-ups or research projects and more to provide background support. He says a conversation he had with one plant-protein based bio-tech company from Calgary really cemented his understanding of the need for this Supercluster. “They slaved away for five years getting started. I asked (the CEO and founder), ‘What is the one thing that would have unlocked success faster for you?’ He says he had to go out and find all these people, make all the necessary connections, find support. Our hope is that the Supercluster gathers all the existing resources and connects players to accelerate success.” The possible avenues to support agri-businesses are broader than one might first think. “Is there a play for applied research at post secondaries? What other infrastructure is necessary — logistics and supply chain for example — for companies to be successful? And elements of smart ag come into it as well. The challenge for the Supercluster is that success touches on so many things; it’s all integrated,” says Lewington.

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Farming Smarter / fall 2018

Ripe yellow peas ready for harvest.

Photo: Farming Smarter

The Innovation Supercluster Initiative is an ambitious concept to build innovation and capacity within a sector by uniting the efforts and dollars of small, medium and large companies, academic institutions, industry organizations and government. The Supercluster concept is based on the Barton Report, a broad set of recommendations laid out by the federal government’s Advisory Council on Economic Growth. As Lewington explains, the report’s over-arching recommendation is that, “if Canada is going to be great at something, we have to figure out where our strengths are and invest heavily to push those things forward.” The federal government has committed to invest heavily. The government announced an investment of $950M spread among five superclusters from various sectors located coast to coast. In each case, the private sector will match government dollars. In the case of the Protein Industries Supercluster, the federal government committed just over $150M; the ag industry committed at least as much, and venture capitalists are investing a minimum $100M more. Commitment to support plant-based protein agri-businesses is not entirely new. In fact, Protein Industries Canada (PIC, the lead applicant GROWING NEW IDEAS / GROWING KNOWLEDGE / GROWING STEWARDSHIP


on the Protein Industry Supercluster), the Plant Protein Alliance of Alberta and multiple industry groups have been supporting novel proteins for numerous years. The formation of the Supercluster application provided an opportunity to formalize and unite these efforts. Lewington says that the focus on novel proteins is logical and desperately necessary given the current and coming challenges of feeding a changing world. “Globally, there is a huge increase in demand for protein. Animal proteins will grow, but they will never meet all that demand. I’m a steak guy; I’m going to continue to support beef. Plant proteins aren’t trying to replace animal proteins; they are complimentary. As countries grow and develop and continue to demand more protein, and as consumer preferences shift towards alternatives, there’s a humungous need to supply more protein to the globe. This is the future of food.” Lewington believes the collaboration between government, industry and investors proves the value of the major investment in the Protein Industry Supercluster. “There is always going to be criticism that the government shouldn’t pick winners and losers. But, government does have a role to be a catalyst in growth, and the fact that industry has put up money to match is telling. This is an industry led initiative; it’s not government directed and that’s a key distinction.” Farmers and agribusinesses alike should greet the news of the new Protein Industry Supercluster with enthusiasm for how it will positively impact the entire industry, says Lewington. Then, they should seriously consider how their business might directly benefit from the investment.

Lentils ready to harvest in southern Alberta.

Photo: Farming Smarter

“The very first question they should ask themselves is: Is there a play that makes sense for me? If they are a farmer, they should ask: do any of those crops fit into my rotation? If they are a business or an investor, they should ask: how does this emerging sector fits into my plans. There’s opportunity for those who are willing to look for it.” h

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21


Pest Control

Infra-Red Sprayer Saves Money with Selective Spraying By December Burgess A demonstration of Weed Its capabilities at Farming Smarter’s Wheatstalk.

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new wide-scale, spot spraying technology makes an early emergence in Canada, as dealers predict the future of weed management will move toward selective spraying. Travis Albrecht, owner of Albrecht Green Acres, was the first North American producer to buy and implement Weed It technology over a growing season. “It’s been over our farm three passes now and I sold four systems besides mine — two in Southeastern Alberta and two in Southwestern Saskatchewan,” he said. He, along with Tom Wolf, Senior Scientist at Agrimetrix Research and Training, are working towards popularizing the system among growers in the prairies. “There’s a lot of creativity that can be implemented in this system,” Wolf said, “This is just the beginning.” The machine emits a red light that, upon hitting chlorophyll, comes back as a near infra-red signal to alerting the system that a weed is present. This triggers the nozzle behind the sensor that turns on and sprays for a predetermined length, targeting only the weed it sensed. The sensors are spaced one metre apart — 36 in total — that are divided into five channels that trigger five different nozzles per metre. The system uses conventional flat fan nozzles running at about 40 pounds per square inch.

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Farming Smarter / fall 2018

Photo: Farming Smarter

“It’s very precise targeting,” Wolf said. “The company is talking about 2cm2 as a threshold, so that would be around two thumbs.” Wolf said this means a plant needs a true leaf to be detected, though sensitivity settings can be tweaked to change the device threshold. This is handy when producers are in early season and the weeds are unable to trigger the nozzle.

“Last fall, on all our acres because it was dry, we saved 87 per cent of chemical on our fall burn-off.” Albrecht agreed, surmising that the estimate of a 2cm2 weed at 15 miles an hour is an undershot for what the system can accomplish. “In South America, they run them as high as 25 miles an hour and it depends on your topography. With high speeds, you want to make sure your high control system is top notch because you want to stick as close as you can to 24-inch height,” Albrecht said.

The system can run in the background as a broadcast application at a lower rate. The idea is that cotyledon stage weeds will likely succumb to a small dose of herbicide that you could spray across the entire field. “When the weed is large enough to trigger the system, it will likely need a larger dose to be killed — that’s when the squirt of the full dose comes in.” Albrecht said there is no doubt that this technology is a great money and resource saver. “Last fall, on all our acres because it was dry, we saved 87 per cent of chemical on our fall burn-off.” However, long term saving requires a hefty short-term investment. According to Albrecht, a device with 120 ft. is worth $170,000 plus installation. “It depends on what you want us to do,” Albrecht said, referring to install, “but it’s probably around 30,000 to 50,000 to put them on.” Albrecht primarily takes orders for Weed It in the autumn. Once they receive their client’s sprayers, it takes three weeks of hard install to get the system up and running. “Right now, we’re just taking orders,” he said, “whoever is in first gets the first install.” Albrecht said he hopes he can do six to eight sprayers through fall and winter. h

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Economics

Time to Toot Our Horns For Ag By Madeleine Baerg

Lethbridge Mayor Chris Spearman stands next to Cavendish Farms president Robert Irving, Premier Rachel Notley and Lethbridge MLAs Maria Fitzpatrick and Shannon Phillips as they share a snack of french fries following the official ground breaking ceremony for Cavendish Farms’ future frozen potato-processing plant. Photo: Lethbridge Herald

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n September one year ago, Cavendish Farms officially broke ground on a $360M frozen potato-processing plant in Lethbridge. The plant, which happens to be the single largest private construction project in Lethbridge’s history, is a major example of the growing vibrancy of innovative, value-added agriculture in southern Alberta. That Cavendish Farms chose Alberta over other possible North American locations represents a major step in the right direction for a province that, until recently, exported virtually all its raw commodities for processing elsewhere. But, says Farming Smarter’s general manager, Ken Coles, agriculture can’t afford to sit back and enjoy the win: to keep moving forward, the whole industry must pump up its ag-advocacy. “We’ve got a very interesting and diverse ag business in southern Alberta. A lot of people don’t realise just how diverse it is,” says Coles. “There is a lot of buzz and a lot of economic activity going on. We need to step up and sell that on all fronts. It’s about branding Southern Alberta as a place to invest.” Southern Alberta has never had the benefit of oil and gas that other parts of the province have enjoyed. The flip side of that coin, however, is that Southern Alberta has been forced to invest elsewhere, most notably agriculture. According to Economic Development Lethbridge, agriculture directly drives more than 15 per cent of that city’s total GDP. Twelve hundred (1,200) of the city’s 5,500 businesses identify as agri- or agrifood businesses. And agriculture directly employs five per cent of all

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Farming Smarter / fall 2018

Lethbridgians. Those numbers, of course, do not include related and spin-off activities that strengthen the education, service, construction and so many other sectors. Also, the urban numbers pale in comparison to the impact of agriculture in more rural parts of southern Alberta. “Agriculture drives a disproportionally large part of the economy and underpins a lot of the rest of the economy. It’s not sexy and it doesn’t get a lot of PR time but it’s always growing,” says Trevor Lewington, chief executive officer of Economic Development Lethbridge. “The fact that we’re ag-based is not a bad thing. Now, how do we build on that?” he says. “A lot of communities spend a lot of time trying to figure out… how they want to brand themselves. Why would we go after something we’re not? We already know what we’re good at. We need to ask: No. 1, how do we support (the ag) industry; No. 2, how do we support the move to more value-added?” While many still think of Albertan agriculture only in terms of endless fields of wheat and canola, the reality is far more interesting. Lewington points to Sakai Spice, a mustard seed processing plant that exports almost exclusively to Japan; Black Velvet Distillery, a spirit distillery owned by industry giant Constellation Brands; and Phoenix Haskap Berries, a grower producing a previously unknown type of berry for niche sale to Asia, as just three examples of companies quietly but very successfully going about innovative, value-added business in Southern Alberta. There are countless more, some of which build their businesses upon less traditional-to-Alberta crops like hemp, dill, onions, mint and more. GROWING NEW IDEAS / GROWING KNOWLEDGE / GROWING STEWARDSHIP


“Agriculture doesn’t always get the credit it deserves. We had an economic downturn across Alberta because of oil and gas issues, but we didn’t face that here in southern Alberta thanks to agriculture,” says Coles. “We need to support initiatives that support agriculture — the research, education, extension efforts — to diversify and strengthen the entire economy.” Whether an individual entrepreneur with a dream or a large company looking to expand, anyone looking to build an agri-business will enjoy multiple advantages in Alberta. Taxes are competitive; government and industry continue to invest significantly in agri-business innovation; there’s excitement and momentum growing for agri-business innovation. Another major benefit is the collaborative research capacity offered through Farming Smarter, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry and the region’s post-secondary institutions. Farming Smarter continues to promote innovation through research by leveraging government and industry dollars towards a wide variety of projects. Currently, Farming Smarter is looking to build capacity by working with the Lethbridge College. And recently, Lethbridge and Medicine Hat Colleges launched the Agricultural Enterprise Management Program, a joint program between the two institutions. “We’ve got innovation and value-add already happening and we’ve got the research component too. We’ve got all these people and infrastructure already in place: that’s what ends up attracting businesses like Cavendish,” says Coles.

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Prairie Hill Fruits Ltd. frozen haskaps.

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25


Stewardship

Stewardship Projects From the FSC By The Farm Stewardship Centre

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arm Stewardship Centre’s mandate is applied research, evaluation and implementation of new methods and technology aimed at reducing the environmental footprint of farming and food production. The Centre takes a leadership role with applied research, measurement and verification of current and future agri-environmental stewardship issues. It transfers unbiased evidence-based information to government and Alberta’s primary producers and commodity groups. This information informs producers and enables their adoption of beneficial environmental management practices that improve whole farm sustainability and demonstrate good environmental stewardship. Farm stewardship or agri-environmental stewardship evolved over time, expanding from taking care of the soil to include water, air quality, biodiversity and greenhouse gas emissions and is more commonly referred to as environmental stewardship. The concept of environmental stewardship adapted over time, as science gave new insights into the complexities and interactions of soil, water and air. This helps us to understand how farming practices affect the environment. Taking care of the land used to mean preventing erosion, maybe adding some manure; now it is all about soil health, looking at microbes and

The concept of environmental stewardship adapted over time, as science gave new insights into the complexities and interactions of soil, water and air enzymes, organic matter, water holding capacity, macro and micronutrients, and a host of other items. Environmental stewardship has become very complex. The Farm Stewardship Centre is well positioned to help agricultural producers deal with these complexities, answer questions and assist in improving producers’ environmental stewardship. Located in the heart of irrigation country and close to the huge diversity of crops and large variety of livestock operations in southern Alberta the Stewardship Centre is close by for many of Alberta’s producers. The Farm Stewardship Centre works closely with producers, commodity groups and partners like Farming Smarter to explore innovative ways to care for the environment and strives to be a resource for producers to help them make informed decisions related to environmental stewardship. A recent project was to design, test and demonstrate a remote livestock watering site

alert system and it proved to increase producer confidence in the proper operation of their remote watering systems. It also provided peace of mind, reducing the number of trips required to remote sites to check the watering system and ensure cattle had adequate water. The success of this project led to the alert systems being included in the funding list under the federal-provincial-territorial agreements, both Growing Forward 2 and the new Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP) program. On another project, the Centre, working with the County of Warner, installed and evaluated the effectiveness of a non-point source filtration system for the removal of dissolved phosphorus from surface water run-off. The monitoring included assessing its performance for phosphorus removal under Alberta conditions, especially winter conditions. Results so far show that the filter is very effective in absorbing phosphorus and the project has piqued the interest of many producers,

UAV view – RCC installation.

PhotoS: Farm Stewardship Centre

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Farming Smarter / fall 2018

GROWING NEW IDEAS / GROWING KNOWLEDGE / GROWING STEWARDSHIP


Farm Stewardship Centre, Lethbridge.

counties and others. It has led to discussions about a variety of potential applications for the phosphorus filter to help keep water resources clean. The Farm Stewardship Centre also aims to provide the science-based information related to environmental performance that will help the agriculture industry manage risk and maintain existing or access new markets. A current project has the Centre partnering with other researchers and a local veterinarian to assess the impact of an amended feedlot pen surface on cattle health and welfare, as well as on environmental and economic sustainability. Pen

floors made of roller compacted concrete are being compared with traditional clay floor pens to evaluate the difference in factors such as cattle health and welfare, water runoff, ammonia and greenhouse gas emissions, seepage, and manure volume. The strength and durability of this concrete is also being evaluated, and an economic comparison completed. This study will provide some of the science-based results needed to make informed decisions on how roller compacted concrete should be handled under the Agricultural Operation Practices Act as well as whether it fits into sustainability criteria for beef production.

A variety of other projects are underway at the Farm Stewardship Centre, such as using portable gas analyzers to compare to manual methods of greenhouse gas collection, trying to simplify and automate the process of greenhouse gas measurement. This would allow verification of emission reductions due to practice changes and adoption of best management practices. The center is also involved with land-use planning, providing technical expertise and an agricultural perspective. The center aims to be recognized and valued by industry and government for achieving world-class applied research on whole farm sustainability practices, based on industry engagement and policy needs as well as engaging and collaborating with agriculture clients and stakeholders. The center invites farmers to let them know what they do on their farm to practice environmental stewardship; share their ideas for needed research; or ask questions around environmental stewardship. Come visit the Centre at 3020 College Drive South, in Lethbridge, or give them a call at 403-329-1212. Working together, we can make Alberta’s farms world-class leaders in environmental stewardship. h

Exclusively from Chinook TreatersÂŽ GROWING NEW IDEAS / GROWING KNOWLEDGE / GROWING STEWARDSHIP

Farming Smarter / fall 2018

27


Agricultural Advocacy

Science Changes Our Lives By Madeleine Baerg

S

cientific research has value. Applied science — is practical, immediately usable science. Pure science — is the curiosity driven, very longest term kind of science. Both have an important role to move knowledge forward. However, when there’s clearly not enough money to go around, who makes the hard decisions about which projects to fund? It’s a very important conversation with immediate implications for many industries, most notably agriculture. But it’s only a small part of a bigger, long overdue conversation about the role of science and all of our attitudes towards it. The world seems polarized into contrasting camps on so many fronts. Perhaps it’s logical that science would go that way too. There is a growing disconnect between science and how the average person perceives science. The scientific community complicates the issue by what it considers ‘real’ science, says Farming Smarter’s general manager, Ken Coles. “Science has become arrogant. That’s my harsh take on it. The science community believes, and they’ve done a good job of convincing government, industry and even individuals, that the only good research is research that gets published in scientific journals. But, publication in a journal alone doesn’t mean there’s value to society. “Some say what applied research organizations do isn’t real science because we’re not publishing. I think that’s the wrong attitude and it’s causing rifts between the middle folks that can bridge the gap.” On the other hand, there’s a growing chasm between what people believe and what they hear scientists saying. Consider, for example, climate change. Scientists are united in proclaiming justifiably dire warnings about our future on this planet. Yet, the Average Joe continues to have trouble personalizing and internalizing any fear because his weather reality seems, well, kinda like always. Or, consider your average doctor’s visit, says Coles. “You go to a doctor feeling unwell; they take a shot in the dark; you go home feeling unsatisfied. If that is your basis of connection to science, it translates into how you feel about science in all the other parts of your life.” Who is in the wrong: the scientific community for not connecting in a meaningful way, or the individual for not doing enough to engage more fully with the scientist? To be honest, it really doesn’t matter.

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Farming Smarter / fall 2018

“We’re talking about perception versus reality and perception will always win,” says Coles. “People only have a limited attention span. They don’t want to hear the full story or the other side once they’ve chosen their position.” In the context of agriculture, average farmers — the ones who will ultimately translate ag research into functional gains — are moving further and further away from feeling personally connected to ag research. “There’s a huge gaping hole between science and the application of science, between those who do the research and the real people using it to make more money, do better by the environment or use it for any other real world application,” says Coles. But no wonder: the linkages between research and application have mostly disappeared. “My entire career, I’ve heard from Ag Canada that they’ve invested so much in science but they are unhappy that it’s not being commercialized or adopted. What do they expect, when the extent of them getting knowledge out there is writing an article? “The Government of Canada doesn’t even use the word ‘extension’ anymore. Now all we have is minute funding, basically no funding, towards something called ‘knowledge and technology transfer.’ They created a position to oversee this ‘knowledge and technology transfer’ a year ago, and then they got rid of it. That’s how much they prioritize getting research into the hands of farmers.” The disconnect makes paying for research, either via taxation or check-off, a bitter pill to swallow. “When a farmer sees check offs going to scientific research, the link between published science and benefit to one’s individual farm can be difficult to make. That creates real unhappiness,” says Coles. Part of the problem, of course, is one of funding. Ag research dollars continue to be cut to the barest of bones. “Everyone has a reduced budget approach to everything now. I keep hearing that there needs to be more focus on collaboration and less duplication. Dude, there is no duplication! There is not enough research period. There is not enough dog food with a whole bunch of hungry dogs fighting over it. When everyone is trying to get their little share, it changes the big picture.” But it’s not just about trying to prove the sci-

entific value of one’s work in order to stay afloat; Coles thinks. “Yes, self-preservation is in there. But, I do believe there is a naturally inherent arrogance in science beyond whether there is a shortage of money. There needs to be a little more modesty in science.” In this issue, as in so many, it is much easier to point out a flawed system than to work towards solutions. But, solutions do exist, even to a problem as challenging as this one, says Coles. “The complexity of our lives is naturally pushing us apart. It’s much easier to focus in on what you’re doing than to see how you fit into the big picture. At the same time, there is really huge opportunity to pull all the parcels together.” Reconnecting science and average people starts with all players recognizing that there is a continuum in science and a role for every piece of that continuum. We need both longer term and shorter term projects, big picture and applied work, work by every level of expertise, work by both research scientists and applied research organizations. While it can be tempting to believe only research conducted by someone with a PhD is reliable, remember that any research funded by external funders is peer reviewed during the funding proposal stage. This review process is an effective check and balance on the quality of the work: achieving funding by definition means that experts believe in the integrity of that project’s science, regardless of the academic credentials of the researcher conducting the work. Farmers have an important role in linking science and practical application, says Coles. “It’s about strengthening the value between industry and research. What does it mean? Why does it matter? They need to not be afraid to ask the question: why am I not getting practical value from research?” And, farmers need to take the initiative to get a better understanding of the different pieces of science: who is doing what kinds of research and why those different forms of research matter. “They need to understand the end game, how their goals can align with research goals, and how they can value and support each piece,” says Coles. The other area that farmers can make a direct difference is in political pressure. “If you want to be in business in 20, 30, 40 years, what are the mechanisms that will support you being competitive?” says Coles. “Farmers have a big role in encouraging the development of research capacity, specifically human resources, through their check off investment. But, that requires a certain amount of looking past the immediate. The only way we’re going to move forward and be ready for the future is if farmers are willing to look beyond their own farms.” h

GROWING NEW IDEAS / GROWING KNOWLEDGE / GROWING STEWARDSHIP


Opinion

An Intern’s Perspective By December Burgess

M

y time at Farming Smarter has been an endless stream of silly questions. What does a root look like? Why are there so many kinds of the same plant? What’s a lean-to? That last question had everyone laughing at me! Apparently, lean-to is a term used by more than just people in the agricultural industry. Who knew? I walked up to the site on my first day with a strong distaste for dirt, a fear of all insects and an ignorance that frankly surprised me.

But people are right when they say that it’s a tough road ahead Simply saying that I knew nothing about agriculture and farming is an exaggeration. I knew less than that. I spent my entire life under the impression that this industry was a stagnant, hackneyed process that evolved little and innovated even less. Never once did it occur to me that this industry held technical, political and business oriented tactics and strategy that still goes way over my head. Yet the team seemed to have no qualms about showing me the ropes and answering any questions that popped into my mind. Even when the questions are undeniably stupid. (I asked yesterday if female cows were the only ones that produce milk.) I’ve been working at Farming Smarter as a Communications Associate for a little over three months now. I originally came as an intern from Lethbridge College — studying journalism — looking to fill my practicum requirement but ended up staying on through the rest of the summer. Farming Smarter gave me an opportunity to jump into my chosen field of work with a lot of support and mentorship from people who have been in the industry longer than I. It’s been interesting to observe how “fake news” — a topic so relevant to my studies —

Farming Smarter employees, December Burgess and Chelsea Hubble sit down for lunch at Open Farm Days 2018. Photo: Shelly Barclay

can translate to an industry that is so different than where I expected to land. To put this into an agricultural perspective, let me use an example. In high school, we were forced to watch Food Inc. in two of my science classes. For anyone who doesn’t know, Food Inc. is a 2008 documentary that “breaks open” the world of agri-food, portraying it as a money-hungry, unhealthy business that does more harm than good. Thinking back on the documentary now, I am more inclined to believe that a small percentile of the ag-population participates in unsafe farming instead of the large conspiracy the documentary was narrating. But I ate it up when I first watched it! And why wouldn’t I? Everyone loves a good controversy, and everyone loves drama. It’s no surprise that the stories that get shared most often contain

GROWING NEW IDEAS / GROWING KNOWLEDGE / GROWING STEWARDSHIP

some element of the two within them — even if it’s entirely untrue or over embellished. Urban people are more inclined to read an article claiming that canola gave someone a tumor than they are about how agri-research improved the techniques and methods producers use when spraying for pests. And that’s if they even want to read about food production and agriculture in the first place. I don’t want to say that public outreach is a hopeless endeavor — because it’s not! I’m from the public and the more I learn about agriculture, the more interested I become. But people are right when they say that it’s a tough road ahead. And I wish anyone willing to trek it, good luck! Don’t give up on us city slickers, there are some who are not only willing to listen but ask questions as well! h Farming Smarter / fall 2018

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Opinion

Old and Wise... or Maybe Just Oldish by C. Lacombe

I

turn 60 this year. Holy jumpin’ Jiminy Cricket, how did THAT happen! Well, it happened the same way all life happens; one day at a time. I mean, when Hollywood directors start making history documentaries about your childhood years, you know Spring Chicken has disappeared from the rear view mirror. History though really started catching up to me in the last couple of years and I feel like I have some advice to offer younger adults. First, pay attention to the world around you. Watching and reading history from my own childhood really drove this home. My sister brought me a July 1975 National Geographic magazine focused on feeding the world. I also watched The Vietnam War: A film by Ken Burnes & Lynn Novick (1955-1975); Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States and The Men Who Built America; which is about Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, Carnegie, Astor, Ford and Morgan – those were some vicious men. In 1975, I was 16 and just out of high school. Yes, I graduated at 16. I had heard about starving Biafrans and draft dodgers, but I wasn’t really paying attention. In my defence, I was 16 or younger while this stuff was going on and only now see how these events shaped today’s world. Biafra, by the way, only existed for three years in Nigeria. It’s really tempting to simplify all this by quoting Jean-Battiste Alphonse Karr who said, in French, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” But the fact is we live in a really complex world and, if we want to make a better future, we need to know how what we do fits into the big picture. I’m seeing some common threads for sure. For instance, lots of politicians lie to get elected and stay elected. Although, to be fair, the above sources deal only with American politicians. While all this global strife was going on around me, I had no context and couldn’t see the relevance to my life. So that’s my second piece of advice; find the context that makes what you learn relevant. I read this summer that 1972 brought a rash of bad weather around the globe that impacted world supply of grain and threatened to tip global surplus to deficit. Then, the 1973 Energy Crisis sucked the fuel and fertilizer out of food production in poor nations causing losses and suddenly, the world had only a few weeks of food grains left in reserve. I remember that. But as a teenage Canadian couldn’t see why running out of grain for a few months would be such a dire problem. A small hardship, yes, but a crisis? Now I know my perspective would be different if I lived in India at the time. Same thing with draft dodgers. I thought that was funny. That really wasn’t funny. Finally, pay attention to how cultural norms shape your actions and opinions. Confession: I’m a Trekkie. Probably because my dad was a Trekkie and I have fond memories of watching Star Trek with him 1966-1969. So, when Netflix came into my life. I methodically watched all of them; I mean all of them. Even Deep Space Nine. In the context of 2018’s cultural norms, the characters in these series were sexist, racist and arrogant beyond reason. But I remember I did not feel that way when the shows originally aired. Also, thanks to Netflix, if you watch TV shows from the 1970s, you clearly see

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these characteristics in many shows. Our culture has changed. It’s changing right now. Don’t get left behind. Also, don’t get so caught up in your own culture that you don’t understand that it’s different in other places. You cannot use your norms to judge other cultures. Travel is the best way to experience other cultures, but if you can’t do that check out a TedTalk by Anna Rosling Rönnlund called See How The Rest Of The World Lives, Organized By Income. She introduces her project called Dollar Street (https://www.gapminder.org/dollar-street/matrix ) explains how to use the web tool. The web tool is fascinating. It allows you to see in photos from other cultures of every day objects. For example, you can go look at what front doors look like all over the world. You quickly see that people in different places value different things. Although a cell phones show up at all income levels in the most loved category of photos. Proving that we’re more alike than we are different. It is great site to add context to your own life. Assuming you want to move humanity toward a brighter future, these are my recommendations. Pay attention to the world, look for context and relevance and know how you’re shaped by cultural norms and how those norms are changing around you. And then, you know, Be the Change. One last thing, good luck. The future awaits you. h

GROWING NEW IDEAS / GROWING KNOWLEDGE / GROWING STEWARDSHIP


Opinion

High Value Study Broke Ground This Year by C. Lacombe

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ovel crops can offer good returns and add diversity to crop rotations. But, where they fit it in matters. By now, most people know that pulse crops give the next crop a nitrogen boost, but what other benefits or risks might be lurking in a crop sequence choice? A major study started this year in Alberta plans to answer many questions around these choices. It’s called, “Introducing high value specialty crops to western Canadian crop rotations,” because scientists don’t know how to come up with snappy titles. But, kidding aside, the results over the next four years could help many farmers make great choices when it comes to year over year crop planning to maximize benefit and minimize risks of incorporating high value, novel crops into the on farm mix.

Large strips of dry bean, quinoa, corn, hemp, peas, canola, wheat & barley at Farming Smarter’s Lethbridge site under irrigation in July 2018. Photo: Farming Smarter

Trial locations Three agro-climatic zones in Alberta Farming Smarter — southern Alberta brown soil; irrigated land InnoTech Alberta — central Alberta black soil SARDA — Peace Country gray soil Indian Head, SK black soil representing rain-fed southern prairies. Ken Coles will oversee the southern Alberta part of the study at Farming Smarter, Lethbridge. “Farmers are very interested in what is the best crop rotation. Unfortunately, these studies are often long term and generally underfunded. We are pleased that this study will generate some data on how to best incorporate new crops into traditional rotations. Another benefit is that we always learn something more than we intended along the way.” Coles says. He adds that the main objectives of the study are to figure out how these crops interact with each other year over year; how novel crops perform in Alberta conditions and what kind of agronomic management gives the best results for all the crops — standard and novel. Here are the specific crops for the various locations (but not the sequence): • Falher and Vegreville — Wheat, Barley, Canola, Pea, Hemp, Quinoa, Flax, Faba bean • Lethbridge (irrigated) — Wheat, Barley, Canola, Pea, Hemp, Quinoa, Corn, Dry Beans • Indian Head — Wheat, Barley, Canola, Pea, Hemp, Quinoa, Soybeans, Annual Canary Grass (canaryseed) The trial design will take two years to implement and result in 64 different sequences in 256 plots and offer 12 site-years of data by the end of the trial. “By the time we’re done, we will be able to offer farmers some choices based on actual knowledge of how one crop might affect another. We’ll have a few years of data about what happens to soil, pests and yields that will at least give us some idea of potential benefits and potential challenges of introducing some of these crops into standard rotations.” Farming Smarter will share progress reports about this at field days, conferences and through web and print-based media. h GROWING NEW IDEAS / GROWING KNOWLEDGE / GROWING STEWARDSHIP

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31


Stewardship

Oldman River Watershed Outreach By Oldman Watershed Council

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ldman Watershed Council spends its summers connecting with people across the Oldman watershed to inspire positive change and offer meaningful opportunities for people to get their hands dirty pulling weeds, planting seedlings, and learning about the watershed. No matter where we go in the watershed, from farmers’ fields to farmers markets, everyone we talk to understands the value of water and supports education and restoration initiatives to ensure we have clean water for current and future generations. To support this work, we hire seasonal Outreach Assistants annually and this summer OWC hired Dylan and Dorothy, both Environmental Science students at the University of Lethbridge. They spent four months travelling throughout the watershed, attending public events, assisting with stewardship activities and engaging over 1,000 people in face-to-face conversations about the watershed where we live, work, and play. They did a great job connecting with people in the backcountry, in the city, and everywhere in between! Together with partners and volunteers with Nature Conservancy of Canada, MD of Ranchland, the Helen Schuler Nature Centre, Castle Crown Wilderness Coalition, and the Pincher Creek Watershed Group, we pulled thousands of weeds from properties across southwestern Alberta. We helped protect our water source by planting hundreds of willows and trees along streams in our headwaters. As they grow, their roots will stabilize the stream banks, filter runoff and keep sediment out of the water. The leaves of riparian vegetation shade the water, keeping it cool and providing refuge from predators for native species like westslope cutthroat and bull trout. Our Outreach Assistants developed and piloted new interactive ‘education stations’ about native fish and invasive species, including weeds, zebra mussels, and whirling disease. They also created short educational videos on various topics, like river structures, cottonwood trees, and how to Clean, Drain, Dry your equipment to prevent the spread of invasive species. Check them out on our YouTube channel! Before they headed back to University at the end of such a busy season, we asked our Outreach Assistants, “What was the highlight of your summer?” Dorothy responded, “I worked with the Barons School on its Great Waters Challenges (https://waterlution.org/gwc) with Waterlution during the 2017/18 school year and for the final challenge students raised money for a party and donated the extra to OWC. One of our first trips was going to thank them and play some games and present to the class. That was a really fun way to celebrate the kids’ hard work and wrap up the Challenges.” Dylan’s highlight was the Blueweed Blitz in the M.D of Pincher Creek: “Being able to see and talk to so many people interested in bettering the health of the watershed was really inspiring. Also, the networking there was awesome; it really is a great way to get to know other people in the field.” OWC thanks Dylan and Dorothy for their hard work this summer, and all our members, volunteers, and donors for helping to improve watershed health and ensure clean water for future generations. After all: We are all downstream. h

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Farming Smarter / fall 2018

2018 Outreach Assistants Dylan Brassard and Dorothy Graham (with Winnie the Westslope Cutthroat Trout!). PhotoS: Oldman Watershed Council

Planting willows to stabilize stream banks along Lost Creek with Alberta Environment and Parks, May 2018.

Triumphant volunteers after pulling weeds in Lethbridge, August 2018.

GROWING NEW IDEAS / GROWING KNOWLEDGE / GROWING STEWARDSHIP


Participants learned and got gifts from many exhibitors including Brian Kennedy representing Alberta Wheat Commission. Photo: Farming Smarter

3rd Annual Farming Smarter Open Farm Days

Adrian Moens of AJM Seeds brought his drones this year and took some aerial shots of our Open Farm Day event in action. It was just one of the many things to see and learn about at the 2018 OFD event. Photo: Adrian Moens, AJM Seeds

Kids enjoyed the craft tent where they found buckets of seed to make seed art, miniature farm equipment to play with and could have their faces painted. Photo: Farming Smarter

Farming Smarter’s infamous wagon took people to tour research plots and learn about crops in southern Alberta. Photo: Farming Smarter

GROWING NEW IDEAS / GROWING KNOWLEDGE / GROWING STEWARDSHIP

A few animals brought in by a local 4-H club captured the attention of kids and adults. Photo: Farming Smarter

Farming Smarter / fall 2018

33


Book Review

How the Mighty Fall by Jim Collins And why some companies never give in Reviewed by C. Lacombe

This little book belongs among your reference material as something you pick up once a year and check. In it author Jim Collins outlines five stages of decline for any business. He says that a business can reverse its downward spiral right up until it gets into Stage 5, so checking in might help any business steer itself back on track. Collins makes that easy by listing the major signs of each stage in a handy table for each stage. It’s worth reading the whole book as he gives examples and definitions of warning signs for each stage. He has a series of books based on his study of American businesses. The first one we reviewed for you was Good to Great, but Collins has decades of research and six books on this topic. I’m tempted to read all of them because I think he offers some real insight into keep a business on track (or your life for that matter!). It probably won’t surprize anyone that the first stage of decline starts with hubris; which is the deadly sin of Pride. It is good to know where you’re great, but it’s not good to think you’ll always be great without effort. Stage 2 kicks in when, because you’re great, you think you can do anything and it will be great. Because you’re great, it’s all great. Actually, you’re wrong and undisciplined and you will pay for your hubris with a fall from greatness. You are firmly in Stage 3 when you find yourself realizing things are not great, but do not openly admit that to anyone, including yourself. In this stage, you tell yourself that everyone knows you’re better than any possible competition and carry on doing business as usual that requires no real thought or effort. That leads to Stage 4 where suddenly the whole world can see you are not great, so you start trying to grab great things and pretend that they will make you great again. They don’t, of course, because greatness requires dedication, focused effort and open-mindedness; which you abandoned way back in Stage 2. If you do not heed the warnings of Stages 1-4 and find yourself in Stage 5, you’re done. All you can do is cut your losses and hope Twitter is kind to you. This is a simple overview of the advice and warning signs contained within the book. Collins goes into more depth with each stage. You will notice that the subtitle to the book is And why some companies never give in. He offers examples of companies that let themselves slide and companies that didn’t give in. I do think reading this book has value for everyone. It is quite easy on life’s roller coaster to get caught up in any one of these stages and forget that there are things you can do to make positive change. That’s why I think keeping this quick read and reference guide handy might be helpful for business or life. It is important in business, life and relationships to never give in or up. h

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Farming Smarter / fall 2018

This is a simple overview of the advice and warning signs contained within the book. Collins goes into more depth with each stage

Jim Collins

GROWING NEW IDEAS / GROWING KNOWLEDGE / GROWING STEWARDSHIP


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Powering Your Profits Tour Agronomy | Marketing | Management

3 events in Southern Alberta

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Tuesday, November 20

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Topics and speakers: Harvest Management Tax Tips and Traps & Clubroot Mitigation AUTUMN BARNES, AGRONOMY SPECIALIST

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Farming Smarter Fall 2018  
Farming Smarter Fall 2018