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Spring 2013 Edition

Partner Profile

ACPC partners with Farming Smarter » 6

Growing New Ideas

Variable rate research: Veris and EM38 » 12

Growing Stewardship

Bridging the great divide between ag producer and urban consumer » 5


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Farming Smarter / Spring 2013

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Contents SPRING 2013 EDITION

Growing New Ideas:

Growing Knowledge:

Growing Stewardship:

Farming Smarter delves into VRT research

Need answers? Visit Farming Smarter

It’s time to share our perspective and spread the word

Project compares Veris and EM38, and various management options . . . . . . . . .12

Ways to tap into information . . . .24

Agriculture needs to breach the chasm . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5

Too many farmers overlook pulse crop nitrogen Increased yields in subsequent crops . . . . . . . . . . . .14

Indian Head research driven by producer input New trial work in soybean, mustard, field peas . . . . . . . . . . .16

Winter Wheat: The Second Season . . . . . . . . . .20

The future isn’t about building a better yesterday Tap into “pioneer spirit” . . . . . . .22

Keep an eye on Bertha armyworms and wheat midge this year Check out Alberta Crop Insect Update . . . . . . . . . . .26

Growing Forward 2 invests in agriculture’s future AgriInnovation program . . . . . . . .28 Producer support needed for Farming Smarter to meet the growing research gap Organization poised to grow. . . . .29

Alberta Conservation Association eager to work with producers Healthy riparian areas contribute to the bottom line . . . .34

It pays to look after the good guys Know the economic thresholds of crop pests . . . . . . .36

Farming Smarter auction boosts 4-H Funds help revitalize program . . . .30

FarmOn committed to supporting agriculture High-tech tools . . . . . . . . . . . . . .32

Visit us online for innovative agronomic and technical research information:

www.farmingsmarter.com Farming Smarter: Building capacity to meet future needs General manager’s report . . . . . . . . . . 4 Producer groups pool their resources and talents Farming Smarter and canola commission . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6

Who will speak for wheat?

Those who know it best . . . . . . . . . . 10

Go from good to great Jim Collins’ latest book . . . . . . . . . . . 38

Farming Smarter is published bi-annually by Farm Business Communications for Farming Smarter, #100, 5401 – 1st Ave. S., Lethbridge, AB T1J 4P4 with the support from the Agriculture Opportunities Fund Editorial Board: Ken Coles, Jamie Puchinger Editor: Sarah Sutton

FA R M I N G S M A RT E R / S P R I N G 2 013

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Manager’s Report

Farming Smarter: Building capacity to meet future needs / By Ken Coles

I

t should come as no surprise that agriculture has been slowly losing government support over the years. The urban population holds an overwhelming grip on issues making health care, energy and education king. Sure, it’s easy to react emotionally and make claims of entitlement like “this nation was built on agriculture” and that farmers are “feeding the world,” but truthfully farmers are being challenged more and more to take care of themselves. This doesn’t mean they have to do it alone, only that they will have to move into the driver’s seat and put some more skin in the game. Such vehicles include crop and livestock organizations that administer check-offs that help fund research, marketing and communication objectives at a provincial level and as part of national councils. Producer investments are leveraged against government funds as in the new Growing Forward II federal agriculture policy.

But, is it enough? Many reports show Canada lagging behind other G20 countries in agricultural research and innovation, a tough pill to swallow for hard-working, proud Canadian farmers. What’s even more disheartening is that it may be already be too late to fix the problem. An increase in investment toward public institutions, universities and not-for-profits might seem like an easy fix but you’d quickly realize that the capacity to do more work simply isn’t there. Public scientists are retiring and few students are interested in graduate and PhD programs in agronomy, weed sciences, breeding and integrated crop management, which are all critical to a farmer’s long-term success. And for those that do, the path to a private industry job is paved with loonies and toonies. Certainly investments in value added industries are important, but we must also acknowledge that the majority of farms are and will likely remain dependent on the efficient production of commodities and livestock.

So what’s the solution? Here are a few ideas to think about. 1. Build capacity of existing organizations with producer focused objectives. 2. Strengthen strategic partnerships with governments. 3. Connect with the general public to help encourage increased investments in sustainable agriculture. 4. Attract and hire top quality scientists, economists and agronomists to work directly for producers. 5. Outsource skilled agriculturalists from other countries. 6. Compensate bright minds with freedom, guidance and competitive wages. 7. Better and more scholarships. There is certainly a lot of optimism from producers going into the 2013 season. It’s important to recognize that the current opportunities were built on decades of ingenuity. Let’s make sure they continue. Happy farming! 

McLennan receives achievement award Outstanding work in conservation and agriculture

D

on McLennan, district soil conservationist and range and forage specialist, PFRA/AAFC, is the recipient of the 2012 Orville Yanke Achievement Award. McLennan came to Medicine Hat as its first district soil conservationist in 1993. He developed working relationships with the local people and organizations focused on agricultural excellence in the region. He

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Farming Smarter / spring 2013

took to his work with vigour and led many projects, developed helpful programs and made himself a valuable asset to the organizations and people involved in southern Alberta agriculture. In 2004, his title changed to range management specialist out of the Medicine Hat Field Office. Some examples of leading edge projects Don either initiated, helped initiate, promoted, organized and/

or presented are: The Summerfallow Competition, Reduced Tillage Conference, Western Range Science Seminar, Residue Management field day, Riparian Area Management Workshop, EID PHD program, Alberta Research Council, Cypress Hill Park, Grazing Associations, Greencover Program, Stony Hill Grazing Cooperative Riparian Initiative, South Alberta Range Resource Team, and Forage Tech Transfer Update. 

GROWING NEW IDEAS / GROWING KNOWLEDGE / GROWING STEWARDSHIP


Growing Stewardship

It’s time to share our perspective and spread the word Agriculture needs to breach the chasm between food producers and urban consumers / By Claudette Lacombe

T

he southwestern edge of Alberta lies on the Great Divide where the mountains reach their highest and divide our continent with the most effective stone wall ever conceived. It works almost as well as the divide between agriculture and urban audiences. It never ceases to amaze me what I overhear in urban public spaces during an event such as the E. coli incident at XL Foods in Brooks. From teenagers avoiding burgers in the food court to small collections of intelligent people gathered for social or business purposes, the comments I heard ranged from ill informed to way out there in left field. Some of the more memorable ones include, “Hamburger isn’t even really meat. You should never, like, eat it.” “I understand beef is full of parasites. That’s why you’re supposed to cook it well done all the time.” For a time, I became one of those people that talks back to the radio… alone… in my car. As I see it, these incidents highlight the chasm between the people who produce food and the urban consumer. They also seemingly confirm my contention that the media has gone astray from informing people about what they need to know and become a medium for telling memorable stories. My challenge with memorable stories is that they are often short on fact and long on feeling. But modern media is what it is and people have infinitesimal attention spans. They also don’t notice anything that isn’t either free or deadly. So when I hear through the media that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is doing everything it can to make sure this doesn’t happen again and then I overhear a random person saying E. coli should not show up in a food processing plant, I get a little squirmy. I want to stand on a chair and yell, “For

There’s still a “Great Divide” between agriculture and the urban consumer. Photo: Farming Smarter

goodness sake, do a little fact finding on those gadgets glued to your hands.” Or when I hear someone say that now that JBS South America owns a piece of Alberta’s agricultural landscape all will be well, my teeth crunch and my eyes lose focus. Why? Because nothing actually changed on any measurable scale through the entire time the story had the limelight. I suppose there might be a few people who actually did do some research on their gadgets or spoke to someone who actually knows something about E. coli and how to prevent illness, but overall a teaching moment slid by unnoticed. This is one of my pet peeves. The Great Divide works both ways. Where were the free samples with a healthy dose of real information in the malls? Why didn’t I hear about free events in the urban centers that would grab attention and teach something instantly to whomever came close?

GROWING NEW IDEAS / GROWING KNOWLEDGE / GROWING STEWARDSHIP

Daily as an urban citizen, I am inundated through social media, conventional media and even food advertising with catchy snippets about pink slime, GMO health impacts, food production damage to the environment and how all our basic foods are riddled with chemicals. What I don’t see are the facts that I learn when I interact with the agriculture industry at conferences, in magazines such as Farming Smarter, and research papers coming out of universities and research groups. I assure you the average Calgarian is not reading or attending these events. I know there are some excellent programs out there for bringing agriculture to the urban audience, but I’m telling you it’s not nearly enough. You cannot win a battle if you don’t show up. I recommend climbing the Great Divide yourself and having a look around. 

Farming Smarter / Spring 2013

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Partner Profile

Producer groups pool their resources and talents Farming Smarter and canola commission collaborate on production projects / By Lee Hart

I

s there any advantage to spraying herbicide on canola at night as opposed to during daylight hours? Or is there any potential yield increase if canola is seeded between stubble rows instead of directly into standing stubble? These questions may not be on every farmer’s mind today, but the answers will be of interest to most down the road, as joint research projects between Farming Smarter and the Alberta Canola Producers Commission (ACPC) look into the pros and cons of these two production practices. The collaboration on these and other research projects is just an example of the growing relationship between two wellestablished producer associations that both have a common element in their mission

“Our relationship with Farming Smarter is certainly a ‘win’ for us, and hopefully it is a ‘win’ for both organizations.” Rick Taillieu statements — helping farmers to be more profitable with long term sustainability. “Our relationship with Farming Smarter is certainly a ‘win’ for us, and hopefully it is a ‘win’ for both organizations, ” says Rick Taillieu, co-ordinator of grower relations and extension with the Alberta Canola Producers Commission.

Growing connections While Farming Smarter and its predecessor the Southern Applied Research Association have always had a relationship with canola extension specialists, over the past four years that relationship has grown and become more formal. In 2012-13, for example, the ACPC has committed more than $400,000 to Farming Smarter programs. That includes about $375,000 last year towards multi-year research projects and just under $50,000 toward extension programs over this fiscal year. “We have the resources because we are supported by a refundable check-off,” says Taillieu, of ACPC programs. “But at the same time we don’t have a large staff. We could Continued on page 8

Canola research collaboration a win-win for both sides. Photo: Farming Smarter

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Farming Smarter / Spring 2013

GROWING NEW IDEAS / GROWING KNOWLEDGE / GROWING STEWARDSHIP


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Partner Profile

Continued from page 6

consider expanding our own research and extension programs, but really why would we do that? We have in Farming Smarter a very well-run and respected applied research association, that’s on the ground doing well designed and monitored research work, and also has the connection with its producers to deliver extension services. Working with a group like Farming Smarter becomes a very effective use of producer funding which supports both our organizations.” ACPC collects a refundable check-off of $1 per tonne from all canola marketed in Alberta, which generates total revenue of about $5 million annually for ACPC programs. About 25 per cent of the ACPC budget is earmarked for production research. ACPC supports a number of provincial and federal research projects, including other applied research associations. ACPC estimates every $1 it spends, generates about $12 worth of actual research. “And when we deal with an organization like Farming Smarter we know they will do quality work and we know the work will get done,” says Taillieu.

better weed control is achieved with mid-day spraying, however the study continues to look at the effect of temperature and wind speeds on product efficacy at different times of the day. And the soil variability research, is looking at the value farmers can expect by using commercial technology such as Veris or EM38 to measure soil characteristics. This project, which involves a number of researchers and other agencies across the province, will look at the role and effectiveness of new technology available to producers to measure features such as electrical conductivity (soil texture), soil organic matter, cation exchange capacity, and soil pH. Results need to reach users But as this research and other agronomic information become available, the next important step is to relay this information to farmers. That’s where ACPC, along with the regional Canola Council of Canada agronomists, can extend their reach by joining with Farming Smarter and its

extension efforts. “Extension is also an important part of our mandate,” says Ken Coles, general manager of Farming Smarter. “It is important, yet it is also one of the more difficult programs to fund. So we are really excited about having this agreement with ACPC, which makes these funds available for the year and it makes it so much easier for us to plan and to budget.” Over the 2012-13 fiscal year ACPC has provided nearly $50,000 to Farming Smarter’s extension budget to be used toward a number of extension projects. Last year about 1,000 producers participated in 21 events including field days, an annual field school, a series of crop walks, demonstration plot tours, and the Farming Smarter annual conference. “Farming Smarter and the Alberta Canola Producers Commission are both producer groups, so this type of co-operation makes sense,” says Coles. “The producer investment in our programs has grown considerably over the last couple with these partnerships with other producer groups.” 

Multi-year projects on the go Three multi-year projects currently being supported by ACPC include a two-year study looking at the value of inter-row seeding; a four-year study looking at the affect of night spraying of crop protection products versus daytime spraying; and a five-year research project aimed at understanding soil variability. The inter-row seeding project is looking at the value of seeding a new crop between rows of standing stubble, versus directly into a row of standing stubble. Preliminary research shows there can be anywhere between 12 to 18 per cent improved yield by seeding between rows. One other question to be answered in this research is whether higher cost precision ag technology such as real time kinematic GPS is needed to achieve inter-row seeding. The on-going night spraying project is looking at whether there is improved efficiency and improved efficacy from crop protection products when they are applied at night, versus early morning or mid-day. Again, some preliminary research shows some of the

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Farming Smarter / Spring 2013

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9


Opinion

Who will speak for wheat? Those who know it best should be wheat’s staunchest defenders / By Les BrosT

W

e humans are a perverse bunch of critters. Surviving as a species only because of our intelligence, we continue to use that intelligence to build things contrary to humanity’s own best interests, like nuclear weapons. The same pattern emerges in man’s relationships with some of the other life forms that helped us emerge from history’s caves. Man used his intelligence to adapt and use animals and plants for his own purposes. Sometimes the uses are considered and thoughtful, serving both the long-term interests of man, animal and plant. Sadly, that doesn’t always happen. In the plant world, the wheat kernel has been one of the fundamental ingredients in mankind’s recipe for survival and societal evolution. Wheat was one of the first plant species primitive man used as cultivars, first grown in the Middle East about 11,000 years ago. As one of the world’s most important food crops, wheat drove man’s social evolution. As humans began to grow wheat and other food sources that provided them with a stable food supply, tribes no longer needed to wander in search of food. This led to the evolution of  permanent  settlements.  Increased wheat growing expertise resulted in wheat surpluses at the community level, which led to the development of trade between various communities and cultures. Today, wheat grows on more than 240 million hectares globally, a larger acreage than for any other crop. World trade in wheat is greater than the trade for all other crops combined. Yet, wheat is under strident attack, blamed for a range of human maladies from obesity to cardiac failure to depression. Best-selling books, social media and “celebrities” blast away at wheat, stridently pointing to the risks inherent with wheat consumption. So is wheat the “devil incarnate” of today’s food world? What are the facts? According to credible research, nearly 98 per cent of humans easily digest wheat protein. Wheat also contains a diversity of needed minerals,

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Farming Smarter / Spring 2013

vitamins and fats (lipids). By adding animal or legume protein, most of us can have a nutritious wheat-based meal. It is true that some of us cannot eat wheat, especially people suffering from celiac disease. What is celiac disease? It is a condition caused by an adverse immune system reaction to gliadin, a gluten protein found in wheat. The bodily reaction to wheat protein is both painful and debilitating for those in its grip. In those suffering from celiac disease, gliadin exposure results in an inflammatory reaction, leading to flattening of the lining of the small intestine, which interferes with nutrient absorption. A lifelong gluten-free diet is the only effective treatment. While caused by a reaction to wheat proteins, celiac disease is not the same as wheat allergy. Wheat allergy is a rare allergy typically presenting itself as a food allergy, but may also be a contact allergy resulting from occupational exposure to wheat. Available data tells us that less than three per cent of us have difficulty digesting wheat. That’s not a large number — but it’s the reason that researchers at Washington State Univer-

sity are working to breed a line of wheat that eliminates the problem protein completely. None of this stops the Anti-Wheat warriors, and their efforts are starting to take hold. More and more “gluten-free” products appear on supermarket shelves and farmer’s markets, ramping up the perception that the critics are right. Even some dog treats are marketed as “wheat-free!” Why are so few in the farming and food community standing up to defend man’s oldest plant friend? Perhaps they see this as a tempest in a teapot — “Just a media creation.” If so, that thinking is dead wrong, for in today’s world, the people ARE the media. An untruth repeated often enough and unchallenged quickly becomes truth by default. So who will speak for wheat? Wheat has filled mankind’s needs for eons. It has fed us, put roofs over our heads, and built countless communities. It’s time for food professionals, physicians, academics and ordinary citizens to champion wheat. Most of all, it’s time for farmers to stand tall and speak out. Shouldn’t those who know wheat best be its staunchest defenders? 

GROWING NEW IDEAS / GROWING KNOWLEDGE / GROWING STEWARDSHIP


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Growing New Ideas

Farming Smarter delves into VRT research Four-year project compares Veris and EM38, and various management options / By Donna Trottier

The Veris 3100 electromagnetic conductivity instrument with electrodes in the form of coulters used here by Jeff Bronsch, CEO of Sunrise Ag. Photo: Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development

F

arming Smarter is embarking on a new project that delves into the world of precision agriculture and variable rate technology (VRT). The four-year project will evaluate two sensorbased soil mapping tools, identify and evaluate protocols to delineate soil management zones, determine relationships between soil properties, soil moisture availability, and crop yields. Furthermore, it will identify and test the top recommended management options that could be variably managed and deliver information to producers about soil mapping tools and how best to use them. “Farming Smarter wants to get a feel for the variable rate technology and sensor-based soil

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Farming Smarter / Spring 2013

mapping tools to gain further understanding of the technology, and build our own data and local field results. Through our trials we want to determine if soil sensors are reliable, and we want to add validity and repeatability,” states Ken Coles, general manager of Farming Smarter. “The results will be analyzed to provide a protocol to implement and evaluate site-specific management prescriptions and then that knowledge will be shared with farmers so they can apply the technology successfully.” Getting a prescription Farmers have long known that soil properties and crop yields vary within fields. Variable rate technology is a process of applying different

rates of inputs matched to the variability of different soil properties of a field, with the goal of optimizing those applications for benefits such as lower costs, increased yields, improved uniformity, environmental advantages and overall higher returns. VRT is accomplished by developing a prescription map for a field, based on farmer knowledge, yield maps, topography, remote sensing and soil mapping tools. The prescription map is then transferred to a controller in the cab of the vehicle, which adjusts application rates based on the map. Precisely delineating and mapping spatially variable zones and the associated prescriptions requires comprehensive data from multiple sources.

GROWING NEW IDEAS / GROWING KNOWLEDGE / GROWING STEWARDSHIP


Growing New Ideas

The Veris 3100 has six electrodes, two emitting and four receiving to measure electromagnetic conductivity in the soil. Photo: Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development

The EM38 does not require soil-to-instrument contact and can be used to quickly obtain conductivity readings in the soil to a depth of 1-1/2 metres. Photo: Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development

The variability of soil properties could be defined and mapped through intensive soil sampling but the cost of this method is prohibitive. Typically, precision agriculture data is compiled from satellite images, yield maps, soil maps and from the farmer’s experience on the land, to come up with areas of the field that will presumably have similar soil properties and response to inputs. Improving zone delineation Coles explains that questions continue to arise on the accuracy of the zone delineation and the number of zones that may be necessary within the field in a precision ag program. Considerable effort and money is being invested into precision ag technologies but clear evidence of improved outcomes are lacking. “The new Farming Smarter project will seek justification and support to using soil sensors to map soil factors and will evaluate the value of sensor-based soil mapping tools. The project also aims to provide an additional layer of data from sensor-based mapping, to improve zone delineation, crop response predictions and prescriptions maps,” says Coles. The project approach will include identification of management zones, measurement of the soil attributes, yield monitoring, and simple onfarm experiments. “We are going to use an applied researchacademic approach using GPS and GIS and marrying it with our agronomy knowledge,” says Coles. The project will research established variable rate technologies such as auto-steer,

and combine them with soil-sensor technology to maximize the benefit. Farming Smarter is partnering with several organizations and a team of experts on GPS, spatial states, economics, farm management, agronomy, and experienced variable rate technology users, along with farmers and other applied research associations. Shelley Woods, soil and water scientist with the Irrigation Management Branch of Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development, is the specialist on the electromagnetic conductivity meters and their application. EM38 versus Veris The Farming Smarter project will be evaluating two types of electromagnetic conductor soil sensors in their field-scale research, the EM38 (www.geonics.com) and the Veris (www.veristech.com). Woods explains that both of these soil sensors will be used to determine and map soil texture variations. The texture maps will be combined with data from core samples, air photos and soil classification maps for delineating zones in the Farming Smarter project. Woods describes how the sensors work: “Electromagnetic induction metres, such as the EM38 and Veris, emit an electromagnetic field. If the electromagnetic field encounters a conductive anomaly, then this creates another magnetic field that is measured by the receiver on the metre. If there are more solutes such as moisture in the soil, then the reading will be higher. The theory is that different soil textures have different water holding capacities. For example, a clay soil would hold more moisture and consequently give a higher

GROWING NEW IDEAS / GROWING KNOWLEDGE / GROWING STEWARDSHIP

reading on the metre than a sandy soil.” She cautions that other conductive anomalies, such as salinity, will affect the readings and must be taken into consideration. Having worked with both sensors over the years, Woods explains the attributes of each instrument. The EM38 is a small, light-weight electromagnetic induction instrument that is used to measure conductivity in the soil. The EM38 does not require soil-to-instrument contact, so can be used to quickly obtain readings to a depth of 1-1/2 metres, with minimal disturbance. The Veris instrument uses soil-to-instrument contact with electrodes in the form of coulters. There are six coulter discs, two with transmitting electrodes and four with receiving electrodes. The voltage is measured on the receiving discs. The Veris can be used to take a shallow reading (zero to 30 cm) and a deep reading (zero to 90 cm) and can be hooked to GPS and towed around the field. Woods explains that it’s best to use the Veris coulters on fields with level soil to ensure sufficient (one to two inches), consistent penetration across the field. If the soil is frozen, then the Veris is not a good choice because the coulters cannot penetrate the frozen ground. The Farming Smarter project will evaluate how information obtained from sensor-based soil mapping tools can improve understanding of the causes of field variability in crop yields and management responses, and provide an additional tool for feasible and effective ways to variably manage fields. Keep an eye on www.farmingsmarter.com for updates on the project. 

Farming Smarter / Spring 2013

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Growing New Ideas

Too many farmers overlook pulse crop nitrogen Pulses can contribute to increased yields in subsequent crops / By Lee Hart

M

ore farmers need to make use of the nitrogen fixed in the soil by pulse crops, says a Montana State University (MSU) crop researcher. Crops such as peas, lentils and chickpeas can return anywhere from 20 to 40 pounds of nitrogen to the soil, but farmers need to make use of it, and factor that added nitrogen into their fertility program, says Perry Miller, a specialist in sustainable cropping systems. “In our on-farm research we found most producers aren’t reducing their nitrogen rates in crops grown following the pulse crop,” says Miller, one of the speakers at the Farming Smarter annual conference in Medicine Hat last December. The research shows having a pulse crop in rotation can increase yields in subsequent crops, and farmers don’t need to maintain or increase their regular nitrogen rates to achieve those yields. In fact, he says, research is also showing that in some areas where pulse crops have been grown in rotation long term, there is a surplus of nitrogen at risk of being leached as nitrates from the soil. Miller refers to the nitrogen produced by a properly inoculated pea or lentil crop as a “nitrogen credit.” If a farmer normally applies 100 pounds of nitrogen, for example, and the pea crop produced 20 pounds of nitrogen, then

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Farming Smarter / Spring 2013

“In our on-farm research we found most producers aren’t reducing their nitrogen rates in crops grown following the pulse crop.” Perry Miller that becomes a 20-pound nitrogen credit. The following year if wheat is planted on the pea stubble, the farmer can subtract the 20 pounds from fertilizer requirements. “In our long-term research looking at wheat/ pulse crop rotations, we have consistently seen a 25 per cent increase in wheat yields in years following the pulse crop,” says Miller. “It may not be as dramatic the first time or first year a pulse crop is grown, but in the second or third and subsequent pulse crops, the benefits are there. What we are seeing is a cumulative affect,” says Miller. “The more pulse crops are grown, the more nitrogen that builds in the soil. “And yet we are also finding that most farmers don’t take this nitrogen credit. They continue to maintain their regular fertilizer rates, and it’s not needed. The research shows in these longer term

pulse crop rotations, they can take their nitrogen credit, seed their wheat crop and still realize these higher yields.” “We don’t fully understand yet how or why — there is obviously some mechanism at work in the soil — but again the yield advantages have been consistent.” Miller is looking at research conducted in the Bozeman area in northeastern Montana, and also in Saskatchewan. He was a researcher based at the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada research centre at Swift Current several years ago. Part of his research at Montana State University has been looking at the benefit of diversified crop rotations. As opposed to monoculture wheat on wheat rotations, he has studied the benefits of adding pulse crops and oilseeds to the rotation. “We are seeing there is clearly a benefit to having a pulse crop in rotation,” he says. “If the crop is properly inoculated, it returns nitrogen to the soil, and the pulse crop residue also helps to improve the soil as well.” Miller says with about 500,000 acres of pulse crops now in Montana, more producers are including crops such as peas, lentils and chickpeas to their rotations. His research with pulse crops has also looked at the benefits of a pea or lentil crop used as green manure. On average, a properly inoculated pulse crop harvested for grain will return about 20 pounds of nitrogen to the soil, while a green manure crop will return about 40 pounds. Miller says in their research they follow a zerotill cropping system. A one-pass tillage operation would probably increase or speed up the amount of nitrogen returned to the soil by green manuring, however tillage has its trade-offs too. “It is going to take two or three or more pulse crop years for this nitrogen credit to materialize,” says Miller. “So I don’t know if a farmer would specifically set out today to plan for this nitrogen a few years down the road, but if you are committed to growing pulse crops anyway because they are profitable in rotation, and help improve soil quality, then I would urge farmers to make use of the nitrogen that is being produced.” 

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Farming Smarter / Spring 2013

15


Growing New Ideas

Indian Head research driven by producer input New trial work in soybean, mustard, field peas / By Alexis Kienlen

K

eenly aware of the new directions in agriculture, Indian Head Agricultural Research Foundation (IHARF) staff are researching alternative crops, such as short season soybean varieties and Ethiopian mustard varieties. The research group is also looking at inputs for field peas and how variables such as seeding rates, foliar fungicide application, and granular and seed-treated inoculant can contribute individually and collectively to field pea yields. “Our mandate is to do research and promote products and practices that will benefit the industry at large or make producers themselves more profitable,” said said Chris Holzapfel, IHARF Research Manager, speaking at Farming Smarter’s annual conference in December. The group is currently running about 40 trials. Every year, the organization does a number of small plot trials looking at a variety of fungicide products for different crops. Furthermore, IHARF is planning to expand its work with soybeans over the next five to six years.

The organization has also experimented with row spacing in oats. Holzapfel is now following that trial with row spacing trials in canola. “Basically we’ve got a Seedmaster plot drill that has been specially designed to allow us to adjust the row spacing with relative ease, so we can go from 10-inch all the way up to 16-inch spacing just by sliding the openers along the frame of the machine. Then we actually go as far as testing it up to 24-inch spacing by lifting every second opener out of the ground on the 12-inch spacing,” he said.

“Our mandate is to do research and promote products and practices that will benefit the industry at large or make producers themselves more profitable.” Chris Holzapfel

Researchers will continue to look at other factors along with the row spacing, such as nitrogen fertilizer rates and seeding rates. As far as research goes, there are benefits to third party research, particularly when these researchers are doing work driven by producers. IHARF is an example of this type of research organization. The group is a non-profit that conducts agricultural research for the benefit of its members and the agricultural community at large. Its nine-member board of directors is comprised of seven primary producers, and two industry representatives. The organization partners with a large number of funders so they can do a wide variety of trials. Many of the trials are funded by producer groups such as the Western Grains Research Foundation, and the Saskatchewan Canola Development Commission. Research is largely driven by the board of directors and input from farmers affiliated with the organization. IHARF manages about 1,250 acres this year, some of which is federal agriculture land. Continued on page 18

The majority of IHARF research is conducted on small plots. Photo: Chris Holzapfel

16

Farming Smarter / Spring 2013

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Farming Smarter / Spring 2013

17


Growing New Ideas

Continued from page 16

Approximately 450 acres of this are not in plots and are farmed. IHARF owns two half section parcels east of Indian Head and rents some land from local producers as well. This past spring, IHARF bought the former Bayer CropScience farm, which will be a major asset. “For many research groups, access to land is a major challenge, especially when you want to do long term trials. If you want to keep the same treatments in place, that can be very difficult if you’re sharing land with a bunch of other researchers or renting land off of farmers in the area,” Holzapfel said. IHARF is an independent research group, but staff work closely with Agriculture Canada scientists in Indian Head. The two groups share some equipment, and staff help out on each other’s projects and in some cases, collaborate directly. IHARF also works closely with other research foundations throughout Saskatchewan, many of which are also affiliated with Agriculture Canada. In 1990, a group of Indian Head area farmers, together with researchers from the Indian Head Research Farm, decided to co-operate on research focused around issues affecting area producers. From this collaboration, IHARF was formed, incorporated in 1993. IHARF’s membership includes hundreds of people ranging from all across Western Canada and the northern United States. While research is IHARF’s main focus, the organization also does some extension. Indian Head is located 75 kilometres east of Regina in a thin, black soil zone with high clay content.

18

Farming Smarter / Spring 2013

Initially, the group’s focus was on managing land owned by Agriculture Canada, not on plot production. “Nobody had the time or money to look after that properly so IHARF started as a way to get inputs from industry and manage that land. From there, it’s really evolved,” said Holzapfel. One of IHARF’s early projects was a precision farming project investigating variable rate technology and nitrogen applications, which then developed into a large, multi-location study evaluating Greenseeker™ optical sensing equipment. Since its inception, the organization has grown, hired staff members and bought a full section of land. IHARF has a small staff of four full-time employees that includes an executive manager, a field and plot technician and a research assistant. “We’re a small enough group that we all do a little bit of everything,” said Holzapfel, who has been with IHARF since 2005. Since he became involved with the organization, the focus of the group has shifted to small plot research. “We still consider field scale research an important part of what we do and we try to superimpose large trials on the land that we’re just managing for fill acres. We also have a half section that has never seen small plots and that is strictly used for field scale trials,” he said. The larger field scale research has included fungicide trials, fertility research and inoculant evaluations using commercial equipment. Small plots are about 20 square metres while plot size in the field-scale trials is about two to five acres. Most of the funded work is small plot research. Holzapfel said approximately

50 per cent of the funding comes from producer groups, 20 per cent from all levels of government and the rest from private industry. Almost half of the projects are one-year projects. IHARF is part of AGRI-ARM, a provincial network that connects eight Saskatchewanbased applied research groups. IHARF also does a large amount of work through direct partnerships or contracts with industry. The researchers have conducted research on a wide variety of crops that can be grown on the Prairies, and often investigate the merits of basic agronomy practices such as seeding rates, row spacing and fertility trials, and conduct more specific work such as product testing. Some of their current projects include looking at varietal differences in shattering resistance in new canola cultivars. IHARF is also working on several harvest management projects and has been investigating intercropping of peas and canola. They’ve also been testing new fertilizer products and nutrient response. The group is heavily involved in variety testing and is one of the sites for canola performance trials administered through the Canola Council of Canada. Other canola trials include research on plant populations in canola. IHARF is also doing some work on re-seeding options in canola in collaboration with other research groups and just finished up a three-year study looking at canola response to seed banded and side placed phosphorus, with and without seed treatments in collaboration with AAFC. 

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19


Growing New Ideas

Winter Wheat: The Second Season

F

• This experiment looked at seed treatments in various agronomic systems: seeding rate (200, 400 seeds/m2), seed size (light 40.7, moderate 41.6, heavy 48.3), seed treatment (with or without Raxil WW®). • In a weak system (lower seeding rate, smaller seed), a seed treatment (Raxil WW®) gave a significant advantage. • In a stronger system (good seed, high seeding rate), the advantage is less apparent, but the economic analyses showed that the seed treatments could pay for themselves and give added insurance for the crop, and are therefore recommended.

arming Smarter seeded winter wheat for a third season as part of a larger program (DIAP/Ducks). The trials below are led by research teams/combinations of Neil Harked, John O’Donovan, Eric Johnson, Guy Lafond, Chris Holzapfel, Byron Irvine, Keith Watson, Kelly Turkington, Randy Kutcher, and Brian Beres, all of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. 2012 Weather Summary • Below normal rainfall for August and September delayed emergence for many farmers, Farming Smarter included. • Data from ACIS (agriculture.alberta.ca/ acis) shows rainfall between August 1 and September 30 was only 1/3 of normal amount. Winter Wheat Experiments Feed into two themes: 1. Focus on stand establishment in the fall. Projects aiming for better plant health and nutrition, and ultimately improved yields. 2. Focus on integrated crop management. Projects aimed at better management of weeds, diseases and insect pests. Some of the Results WW 225: Japanese and downy brome (“The interaction of herbicide selection and timing of application on suppression of Japanese and downy brome in winter wheat.”) • Evaluated Velocity, Simplicity, Everest (granular, liquid) and new chemistries pyroxasulfone and flumioxazin (aka Fierce, for soybean, not yet registered) in CDC Falcon (shorter variety, 300 seeds/m2) with less than optimal stand. • Some fall applications showed phytotoxicity (Everest), or reduced control (Simplicity), and performed better when applied in the spring. It’s important to apply early. • New chemistries show promise but need more data before registration.

20

Farming Smarter / Spring 2013

Mike Gretzinger is taking biomass samples and “bending the wheat.”

WW 212: Managing weeds in sub-optimal stands of winter wheat with novel wheat herbicides. • Looked at new chemistries pyroxasulfone and flumioxazine, Axial and Trophy (tank mixed), and Simplicity. • Plots were seeded with low (150 seeds/ m2) and optimum (450 seeds/m2) seeding rates, and also plot underseeded with wild oats and cleavers. • Observations to date suggest that new chemistries have promise, particularly in less than ideal stands. WW 221: Seed treatments (“The interaction of seed-applied dual fungicide and insecticide with seed size and sowing density on winter hardiness and plant health of winter wheat.”)

WW 211: Effect of seed treatments and fall-applied foliar fungicides (“Determine the influence of seed-applied fungicides and insecticides on fall stand establishment and overwintering survival of winter wheat, and interaction with foliar-applied fungicide.”) • Evaluated specific chemistries for seed treatments and the interaction with foliar fungicides. Plots had no seed treatment, fungicide 1, 2, insecticide, or a combination of the three. Treatments were either sprayed with fungicide or left without. • There were heavy stripe rust infestations in fall 2010 in the Lethbridge area, Scott, Sask., and Melfort, Sask. • Proline (foliar) applied in mid-October significantly improved grain yield at those sites with confirmed cases of stripe rust in fall. Improvements to incidence of powdery mildew has also been observed at sites irrespective of stripe rust presence, but the effect on grain yield has yet to be elucidated. • Fall application of fungicide is recommended if stripe rust infection is observed. The plan is to continue selected trials with proposals to GF2, as well as some new experiments. 

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21


Growing New Ideas

The future isn’t about building a better yesterday Farmers should tap into “pioneer spirit” to meet future challenges / By Lee Hart

I

f farmers want to change or better prepare for the future they need to get out of the rut of traditional thinking, says a human relations specialist. Trying to tweak the way things have been done for generations isn’t the same as making meaningful changes for the future, says Vik Maraj, an Edmonton-based consultant. “Our thinking can’t be about ‘surviving’ the future,” says Maraj, the keynote speaker at the Farming Smarter conference last December. “We can’t try and make a better yesterday. What we need to do is to ‘create’ a new future. Create a game changer for tomorrow.” In a thought-provoking talk with wide-ranging examples, Maraj said the pioneers who settled Western Canada were game changers. They were walking into the unknown in a bid to create a better tomorrow. They weren’t trying to make a better yesterday. “That was the spirit and the thinking that built Western Canada and built the agriculture industry we have today, but somewhere along the line we have lost that thinking,” he says. “Too often we are stuck because we try to make a better yesterday.” Too often in agriculture and other business, he says people do things one way because that’s the way they have always been done. They may make minor changes thinking that is being innovative, but really it is just a new version of yesterday. A visual example of the “thinking” he described were pictures of two toddlers. One toddler was a 12 month old and he was standing on two feet and looking unsteady as he held onto a chair and the wall. The other toddler from the U.K. was six months old and standing and walking. Maraj said both of these toddlers will walk — the difference is when. The 12-month toddler was holding onto a chair and a wall and that toddler was really only trying to “survive” walking — he wasn’t trying to walk, he was trying not to fall. The six-month-old toddler, one of about seven babies in the U.K. that were walking at six months of age, was actually trying to walk. He

22

Farming Smarter / Spring 2013

Jamie Puchinger and Ken Coles of Farming Smarter meet with Vik Maraj (centre) after his presentation on changing perspectives, at the organization’s annual conference in Medicine Hat in December. Photo: Farming Smarter

wasn’t thinking about not falling, he was thinking about learning to walk. And Maraj says there is major distinction between the two lines of thought. “Riding a bike is a game changer — it is not a different way of walking,” he says. “We have to distinguish those thoughts in our mind. Creating a change in the future, is not about building a better yesterday.” Maraj, who has a master’s degree in genetics from the University of Alberta, is not a farmer himself, but his wife grew up on a family farming operation near Ponoka, Alberta, so he has a direct connection with the agriculture industry. He says farmers need to be prepared for the changes in agriculture. The average age of a farmer in Canada is 58 years. Over the next 10 years, there will be an estimated $50 billion transfer of assets between generations. An estimated 70 per cent of young people have left the farm. What will happen to these assets, who will farm the farm? On a global stage, one clear trend is an everincreasing demand for food to feed an ever-

increasing world population. China, for example, needs 550 million tonnes of wheat annually to meet its domestic grain consumption. It is currently struggling to feed itself, and will have to turn to the world market for more wheat. Even if China only comes to the world market for 20 per cent of its wheat needs, that represents 50 per cent of the wheat available in the rest of the world. How does the agriculture industry meet this growing demand? To meet future challenges the agriculture industry has to be prepared to change, says Maraj. Old thinking and old practices will not provide new solutions. He urged farmers to make a family consultation process. He urged farm families to sit down and discuss “What are the challenges ahead?” and to discuss where and how their farm can be a part of future. He said they will need to find some of that pioneering spirit and head out into unfamiliar territory. The focus must not be “trying not to fall” but on “learning to walk.” More about the speaker can be found at vikmaraj.com 

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Growing Knowledge

Need answers? Visit Farming Smarter Technology, events and a good read all ways to tap into information stream / BY CLAUDETTE LACOMBE

F

arming Smarter wants to be one of those tools every southern Alberta farmer keeps within reach at all times and uses at least once daily. “Farming isn’t a simple industry. Things change daily and successful producers need to keep on top of a lot of information. We’re going to make it our job to make that easy for them,” said Ken Coles, Farming Smarter General Manager. There are three pillars Farming Smarter will continually reinforce: Growing Knowledge, Growing New Ideas and Growing Stewardship. These pillars will guide all the work Farming Smarter tackles. Said simply, Farming Smarter does research and extension work related to crop production in southern Alberta, but that is a huge can of worms, to use an old adage. Growing Knowledge means research into production practices, products, equipment and conditions, but it also means sharing the results with people who can use the information. Growing New Ideas incorporates Farming Smarter’ ability to take on a question from southern Alberta producers and explore it for them. “Our night spraying project is something that came from producers. We can run a trial project for three years without damaging our bottom line and give people a reasonable result they can trust to make decisions,” Coles said. Growing Stewardship will offer the same reliable information about techniques or projects that actually work before producers take them on themselves. Often, stewardship activities initially cost producers and some of the costs can be quite high. Many landowners are interested in activities that might decrease adverse environmental impacts on their land, but need to know in advance the extent of benefits the time, money and work might deliver. Growing Knowledge will be the most visible part of the program. Farming Smarter wants its followers to have pertinent answers and relevant information at their fingertips day and night. To achieve this, it is building an information system using expertise and technology that will make

24

FARMING SMARTER / SPRING 2013

“As we develop and expand what we do, we will focus on what the producers tell us they want, find useful or really enjoy… Because in the end, it’s all about them.” Ken Coles

Crop walks, field school, summer tours and the annual conference all offer “see it with your own eyes” learning opportunities. PHOTO: FARMING SMARTER

research results, immediate alerts for growing season issues and things to plan for in the near future readily available. The website, www.farmingsmarter.com, will be the hub for producers to access the knowledge that is growing rapidly. Today’s technology will allow producers to access relevant information at their leisure. “It’s not going to matter where a producer is at any given moment. If they can reach the Internet, they can reach all our information,” Coles said. He emphasizes that communication technology is only one way to reach producers. “Nothing compares to seeing results with your own eyes,” Coles points out. The crop walks, field school, summer tours and the winter

conference all offer superb opportunities for learning. “Our goal is to offer our members information they want in whatever way works for them.” It’s not all about high tech either. Farming Smarter members will still receive Farming Smarter magazine and mail invitations to big events. There is still something to be said for a good read in hand. “Producers will shape what we offer,” Coles said. “As we develop and expand what we do, we will focus on what the producers tell us they want, find useful or really enjoy. We will know this through the feedback and analytics that we track through various sources. Because in the end, it’s all about them.” 

Farming Smarter’s website will be a hub for producers to access new and relevant information at their leisure.

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FARMING SMARTER / SPRING 2013

25


Growing Knowledge

Keep an eye on Bertha armyworms and wheat midge this year Check out Alberta Crop Insect Update 2012 for surveillance data / By Donna Trottier

I

nsects were happy campers in many crops throughout Alberta in the 2012 growing season, according to the Alberta Crop Insect Update 2012, compiled by Scott Meers, insect management specialist with the Pest Surveillance Branch of Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development. The Pest Surveillance Branch managed the crop insect monitoring program once again in 2012. Surveys are conducted to determine the location of the insects and areas of concern, based on infestation. “The surveys are very much a team effort, carried out through co-operation of the industry as a whole, with insect monitoring conducted by a network of agricultural fieldmen, applied research associations, private companies, agricultural consultants and Agriculture Canada and Alberta Agriculture technicians,” says Meers.

Pea leaf weevil numbers rebounded in 2012. Photo: Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development

Elevated levels of Bertha armyworms were found in central Alberta in the 2012 growing season. Photo: Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development

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Farming Smarter / Spring 2013

“The big insect event of 2012 was the Bertha armyworm outbreak in Central Alberta with elevated levels of risk centred in Two Hills and Minburn counties.” Scott Meers The big insect event of 2012 was the Bertha armyworm outbreak in Central Alberta with elevated levels of risk centred in Two Hills and Minburn counties. Meers anticipates that Bertha armyworm populations will likely to be present in damaging numbers in 2013. “Farmers will need to be cautious with Bertha armyworms for at least one more year. Monitoring will be extremely important so we will be keeping a close eye on the annual traps in June and July 2013,” says Meers. Pea leaf weevils and cabbage seedpod weevils were low in numbers in 2011 but rebounded to higher numbers in 2012. Cabbage seedpod weevil numbers were above economic thresholds for spraying throughout southern Alberta and spraying of crops was common south of the Trans-Canada Highway. Grasshoppers numbers and concerns relating to damage were generally low across the entire province. The orange wheat blossom midge survey showed increased numbers and indicated the potential for midge to be a bigger issue in 2013, mostly in southern Alberta. Wheat midge has started in the Peace River area. “Wheat stem sawfly numbers are the lowest we’ve seen since we started surveying, with areas of concern remaining in the Foremost area and the MD of Acadia,” says Meers. Diamondback moth numbers were very strong but seemed to have disappeared by the time the canola started to bloom. The reason

for the population drop is still puzzling entomologists. The results from several smaller crop insect surveys performed in 2012 are also summarized in the Alberta Crop Insect Update 2012, as follows. Cutworms were not as common this year but cutworm damage was noted from all crop production areas. Several fields in southern Alberta had very severe damage and Meers warns that producers and agrologists will need to be diligent in scouting in 2013 to avoid future cutworm damage. Striped and crucifer flea beetles caused damage in parts of the Peace, but damage was minimal in the rest of the province. Reports of high flea beetle numbers this harvest may be a foreshadowing of things to come next year. Lygus bugs were found in moderate to high numbers in early flowering canola in southwestern Alberta with numbers increasing in these fields as swathing approached, resulting in a lot of acres being sprayed for the pest. The cereal leaf beetle numbers approached the economic threshold amounts near Bow Island and Taber, Alberta. Leafhoppers were more numerous in canola fields, including aster leafhoppers, which created the high number of aster yellows in many fields. The Pest Surveillance Branch is working hard to keep its finger on the pulse of insect issues across the province and endeavour to turn monitoring information into a usable format. The communication of Alberta crop insect information has been enhanced and is accessible through radio on Call of the Land, meetings, YouTube, emails, the Bug Counter blog hosted on RealAgriculture.com and on the new Insect Pest Monitoring Network webpage: www.agriculture.alberta.ca/bugs-pest. Insect survey results and 2013 insect forecast maps are available on the bugs-pest webpage. Meers invites growers to send their questions or comments to his email, bugs.r.us@gov.ab.ca or follow him on Twitter, @ABbugcounter, for the latest bug news. 

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Farming Smarter / Spring 2013

27


Growing Knowledge

Growing Forward 2 invests in agriculture’s future Research dollars flowing through AgriInnovation program / By Madeleine Baerg

T

he new Growing Forward 2 (GF2) framework, announced September 14, 2012, hopes to set the stage for future growth in the Canadian agricultural industry by supporting innovation, competitiveness and market development. The biggest news for Farming Smarter, and for the industry as a whole, is the influx of dollars to research and development. “Overall, I’d say the Growing Forward 2 policy is good news for the industry,” says Ken Coles, Farming Smarter’s General Manager. “There are some cuts to the income stabilization program, but I’m happy about the significant increase in research funding.” GF2 is designed to take over when the original Growing Forward policy framework ends on March 31, 2013. Like its predecessor, GF2 is a joint federal and provincial agreement that outlines how key agricultural programs will be costshared over the next five years. Compared to the original program, GF2 commits $435 million less to business risk management tools, including the AgriStability, AgriInsurance and AgriInvest programs. Of this savings, approximately one quarter will be redirected into strategic priorities. All told, the government reports that GF2 will represent a $3 billion investment over five years in strategic research, innovation and marketing through the newly announced AgriInnovation, AgriMarketing and AgriCompetitiveness programs. “Certainly the cuts to income stabilization won’t make farmers happy, but a lot of those programs weren’t working well anyway,” says Coles. “A lot of people are asking, ‘Why would you change the Business Risk Management programs again?’ The truth is, we invest a ton of money into the income stabilization programs, which often help a farmer who might not be doing things right. It doesn’t really necessarily promote innovation, which is what our industry needs.” Up to $468 million new research dollars will be available under the AgriInnovation

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Farming Smarter / Spring 2013

Up to $468 million in research funds will be available under the government’s new AgriInnovaiton program. Photo: thinkstock

program banner, announced December 7, 2012. AgriInnovation will be a federally-lead research and development program that provides nonrepayable financial support to two types of projects: large scale, national-in-scope projects called agri-science clusters; and smaller scale, more regionally focused projects called agriscience projects. The projects will be initiated and lead by industry groups, and government will carry up to 75 per cent of the total cost. “As just an example, the WGRF is working on putting together an agronomy cluster that focuses on projects related to rotational and multi-crops research, which I’m really excited about,” says Coles. “This project and others like it will be extremely important to keeping our industry competitive.” AgriInnovation will also provide repayable loans to support commercialization of agri-products, including elements such as bench-scale testing, piloting, and pre-commercial demonstration. Applications are currently being accepted for all components of the AgriInnovation program, with project selection to begin April 1, 2013.

The second major component of GF2’s commitment to research will come under the banner of bilateral agreements made with each of the provinces. Under this portion of the program, the federal government will give money to the individual provinces. Though there will be qualifiers as to how the provinces can use the money, there will be room left for each province to decide the specifics of where and how to spend the funds. “I’ve heard that the money will be focused on applied research and extension, and that some of the money will go to producer incentives to help people purchase (newer innovations) like double walled fuel tanks,” says Coles. “Any dollars invested in research will pay themselves back many times over, so again, we see this as good news.” “The government is never going to be able to make everyone absolutely happy,” says Coles. “However, we see Growing Forward 2’s commitment to agricultural research as a move in the right direction and an important way to support agriculture today and tomorrow.” 

GROWING NEW IDEAS / GROWING KNOWLEDGE / GROWING STEWARDSHIP


Growing Knowledge

Producer support needed for Farming Smarter to meet the growing research gap Organization poised to grow in the direction that farmers need / By Madeleine Baerg

I

nnovation and research are vital to keeping Canadian agriculture competitive in a global marketplace. As government ag research dollars and capacity continue to shrink, there’s an increasing need for the agricultural industry to take up the slack. The good news is Farming Smarter is ideally suited to — and already proven in — conducting skilled, unbiased, quality agricultural research. However, the organization cannot meet the agriculture industry’s research needs alone: growing Farming Smarter’s research capacity will require commitment, investment and buy-in from producers. “Farming Smarter has been experiencing pressure to grow as research capacity has been diminishing federally and provincially,” says Farming Smarter’s General Manager, Ken Coles. “Quite frankly, the government has taken good care of producers over the last 100 years. That’s changing. Producers need to take ownership and be investing in the direction of their industry going forward. Things that have been taken for granted in the past, we don’t want to see them go away.” Evidence of the government’s shrinking research capacity is increasingly obvious. Few new researchers are being hired; aging existing researchers are not being tasked with succession planning. Farming Smarter’s biggest new client is none other than Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada itself, which has sought out support because it no longer has the internal capacity to complete the work required. “It’s been a conscious choice on their part to have a policy of attrition,” says Coles. “Because of that, there is more and more need for research capacity. I thought we were at the crest of the wave, but the wave keeps going higher.” In response, Farming Smarter has grown significantly over the past five years. Today, it has clearly outgrown existing infrastructure: five staff share one of Farming Smarter’s phone lines; research land is rented, which limits researchers’ ability to complete long-

Farming Smarter is ready to expand — it just needs more capacity. Photo: Farming Smarter

term projects; the provincial government has allocated office space for Farming Smarter at the Lethbridge Research Centre. These logistical constraints are hobbling the organization’s ability to grow its research capacity. “With growth comes growing pains. But, obviously, we’re no longer up to snuff as to what some would consider a professional research organization. We’re asking the questions: do we need to invest in some land to get an office of our own? Do we need to start hiring additional researchers?” says Coles. “We are at a juncture. We’ve seen the writing on the wall that we need to grow to meet these demands. We now need to make decisions on how to do this.” In addition to research, Farming Smarter’s growth will also depend on building other organizational capacities, including communication. “Not enough farmers know about what we do. I would like to see us brand our name and get known more. Informed farmers, the leaders, the ones on the edge of new technologies, they know us. But I think all farmers need to

GROWING NEW IDEAS / GROWING KNOWLEDGE / GROWING STEWARDSHIP

know what we do on their behalf,” says Kent Sande, Farming Smarter’s Board Chair, who says that informed farmers will be more willing to support investment in the organization’s work. Growth, of course, will be somewhat dependent on where dollars come from. Currently, Farming Smarter is funded from provincial and federal grants, producer associations that initiate specific research projects, and corporate dollars. “Companies do hire us to do research like product comparisons on their behalf. That kind of corporate work is not ideal, but it’s inevitable that we do some of those projects,” says Sande. “But, if we can increase producer-funded projects, we can achieve our priority, which is to be there to do research for farmers, and we can grow in the direction that farmers need.” To that end, both Sande and Coles encourage all producers to become outspoken advocates for Farming Smarter. “If we have producer support,” says Sande “we will fill any research void that is out there, and make sure what needs to be done is done for farmers.” 

Farming Smarter / Spring 2013

29


Growing Knowledge

Farming Smarter auction boosts 4-H Funds help revitalize judging program / By Helen McMenamin

T

he silent auction at Farming Smarter conference in 2011 funded a whole program for 4-H in southern Alberta. The judging program was in jeopardy, but now, thanks to Farming Smarter, 4-H in this region has had funds for 2012 competitions and for the next two years. The program isn’t about old-fashioned livestock shows. It’s all about making reasoned choices, comparing options and presenting reasons for their choices — life skills for all of us every day. “The judging program is a mainstay of 4-H,” says Ginny Smith, 4-H program coordinator for the southern region. “It’s very much about our members learning and developing confidence in selling an idea. They’re expanding their communication skills and they’re having fun learning.” “All of us involved in 4-H really appreciate the funds from the Farming Smarter silent auction and from Tom Droog, who donated his speaker fees from that conference as well. All the funds are definitely needed and earmarked for a great program.” In the judging competitions, the 4-Hers judge a range of classes, depending on the group organizing the competition, says Smith. Last year, at the two events in this region, well over 200 members judged feeder pigs, eggs, ranch horses, Red Angus bulls, yearling ewes, eggs, rib-eye steaks, sheep fleece, miniature horses and two-year-old dairy heifers that were the same animals as were in the competition last year. Each class has four items — animals, packs of eggs, steaks or whatever. The kids rank the four animals or things, and then give their reasons to the judges in a short speech. “This program is not about matching the judge’s opinion of the best,” says Smith. “It’s about confidence and communication skills.” “We usually hold a clinic in the morning to teach members who are new to the program how it works, and how to explain their decisions. We all make comparisons every day.

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Farming Smarter / Spring 2013

4-Hers in Claresholm participate in a critical thinking exercise, judging eggs. Photo: 4-H

This program teaches kids to do that and to be confident in presenting their opinion. They can agree or disagree with the judge’s opinion — it’s how they do it that really counts.” “It’s a great opportunity for growing and learning. And, judging events are open to all 4-H members, no matter what sort of project they’re doing.” The competitions are all-day events and include lunch for competitors, parents and families, volunteers and judges, so costs add up. Facility rentals and lunch are the biggest costs, but there are small stipends or travel expenses for judges and the costs of awards. Sometimes there’s a cost to having people haul in animals to the competition. Winners at local events are sponsored to go on to regional and provincial events. The southern region has around 1,300 4-H members between nine and 20 years old, and 350 to 400 leaders in about 65 clubs across the southern part of the province with Bindloss, Bassano and Nanton towards its

northern boundaries. Clubs offer 39 different projects from woodwork to performing arts and veterinary science to welding, as well as the traditional livestock projects. “All the projects involve communications, record-keeping and community service,” says Smith. “If members get these life skills that build confidence and leadership, we hope they’ll be lifelong volunteers and key members of their communities.” 4-H families, volunteers and Smith, as well as some Farming Smarter members, donated and collected items for the silent auction in 2011, and for the one at the 2012 Farming Smarter conference in Medicine Hat in December. It was over $10,000 in 2011 and around $8,000 in 2012. “We really do appreciate this contribution,” says Smith. “We’d be hooped without our volunteers — they’re wonderful people instilling great values into some pretty awesome kids. But, we need money too. Thank you Farming Smarter and all the donors.” 

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31


Growing Knowledge

FarmOn committed to supporting agriculture one young farmer at a time High-tech tools, such as webinars and e-magazine, help time-constrained farmers get the information they need in less than 10 minutes / By Madeleine Baerg

S

ome say you can’t make a living farming. We respectfully disagree.” Front and centre on the FarmOn Foundation’s website, these words are both a challenge and a commitment to young farmers, a dare to strive harder and not give up, and a promise that, not only is success possible, but FarmOn can help one find it. “Ag is in a crisis globally because we’re losing the young farmer demographic. In fact, in the last 20 years, we’ve lost about 70 per cent of young farmers,” says Jackie Northey, executive director of FarmOn, who spoke at Farming Smarter’s annual conference last December. “Agriculture is pretty vital, so we need to reverse that trend. But the question is, how? We think one of the answers is to support young farmers by equipping them with the tools, knowledge and hands-on skills needed to increase the profitability of their agricultural businesses.” Build it, and they will come FarmOn’s solution is a high-tech version of the “teach a man to fish, you’ll feed him for a lifetime” principle: an engaging, interactive and highly educational social learning website-oriented to agribusiness success. The site currently includes more than 100 three-to-eight minute, immediately applicable, expert-lead video webinars, as well as an e-magazine that contains numerous blogs and articles. Intended to inspire conversation and connection among young farmers, the Farm Masters webinars and blogs are “wrapped” in social media, providing forums for viewers to digitally comment or ask questions about any of the topics. The site also hosts an online facilitator who is available to answer young farmers’ questions, connect them within the industry, and otherwise provide resources to support the success of their businesses. FarmOn is the ultimate in grassroots enterprise. A non-profit based out of a

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Farming Smarter / Spring 2013

Jackie Northey from FarmOn speaks at Farming Smarter’s conference, highlighting the new avenues available to young farmers to quickly access valuable information. Photo: Farming Smarter

rural hamlet in the heart of Alberta’s grain country, FarmOn was formed five years ago by seven young Albertan farmers who recognized their own need for information and decided to be part of creating a solution. “We’ve done a lot of research on how to present content that our target audience — the under 40 year old farmer — will choose to consume. We know the younger generation is not generally picking up paper; they’re mostly relying on digital devices. So that was our starting place,” explains Northey. Time is a hot commodity While developing the profile of their audience, FarmOn also confirmed what many might already guess: for most young farmers, time is a commodity in very short supply. Currently, more than 60 per cent of young farmers supplement their income through a second job.

“We learned that almost all young farmers would desperately love to farm. But, there is the problem of the cost: if a young farmer can’t take over from his or her parents, how can he or she get started? Usually, it means getting an off-farm job. What is frustrating about that is we don’t ask a new baker or a new retail store owner to go out and get a second job to make their business work. It doesn’t make sense, given that young farmers are so vital to the industry, but that’s the reality.” Add the fact that most young farmers’ time is further stretched by young children and community commitments, and it becomes very clear why young farmers have little time to hone the skills and knowledge for agri-business success. “We found that the only chance young farmers have to do any kind of extension learning to complement the work they are doing on the farm is when they go on

GROWING NEW IDEAS / GROWING KNOWLEDGE / GROWING STEWARDSHIP


Growing Knowledge

Google at 10 o’clock at night. So, that’s what we built our site around,” says Northey. Tune in, grow your business The Farm Masters webinars cover every conceivable  agricultural  topic,  from crop and livestock production insight to business concepts like bookkeeping and financial planning. Presenters, who include bankers,  accountants  and  commodity group representatives among others, offer an enormous variety of expertise. “The Farm Masters series are not exciting. They are dry and business oriented. But, it’s the information that is going to make you money, because it’s the stuff you need to know to do a good job of your business,” says Northey. The e-magazine content, on the other hand, is lighter and more fun, designed to showcase innovation and inspire young farmers. According to Northey, FarmOn is the only website in existence today that

offers such width and breadth of agribusiness information oriented specifically to young farmers. FarmOn plans to grow the library of webinars substantially over the coming months. In order to capture the most and best information, they hope to establish partnerships with existing commodity groups,  agronomy  associations,  and other agribusiness experts. Additionally, FarmOn intends to finalize partnerships with corporate funders. Though still a relatively new Internet resource, FarmOn is building impressive viewership statistics. Between July and November 2012, more than 6,500 people visited the website, for a total of more than 22,000 page views. Of this traffic, almost 60 per cent of visitors were new to the site. Given the wide-open nature of the Internet, it might be no surprise that FarmOn’s readership extends far beyond Canada’s borders. Though intended primarily for an

GROWING NEW IDEAS / GROWING KNOWLEDGE / GROWING STEWARDSHIP

Albertan audience, FarmOn is now being seen in offices and living rooms from the Netherlands to Japan. “Having people from around the world interested in our content really makes you aware that some of the challenges young farmers in Alberta face are universal,” says Northey. To date, almost 500 people have signed up for membership, allowing them access to the complete library of video and e-magazine content. With full access costing just $9.95 per month or $120 per year, FarmOn is inexpensive compared to any other forum of extension learning. “Our sole mission is to benefit young farmers and help them succeed,” says Northey. “Really and truly, FarmOn is a noble cause. It’s not about making money. It’s about trying to reverse the trend for young farmers, and helping them see there are alternatives and options. It’s about sharing innovation and building community.” 

Farming Smarter / Spring 2013

33


Stewardship in Action

Alberta Conservation Association eager to work with producers Healthy riparian areas contribute to the bottom line / By Sarah Sutton

S

tarting with this issue, Farming Smarter will be running a series called Stewardship in Action. These Q&A-style articles will highlight the efforts of stewardship and conservation groups working in southern Alberta. First up, we contacted Mike Uchikura, a biologist with the Alberta Conservation Association in Lethbridge, to help answer some of our questions. While Uchikura works on habitat conservation throughout the region, he focuses primarily on riparian areas. He also shares a seat on the Oldman Watershed Council’s Rural Team with Farming Smarter’s Jamie Puchinger. What is the Alberta Conservation Association? As a non-profit established in 1997, the Alberta Conservation Association (ACA) directs levy dollars from fishing and hunting license sales towards the conservation of some of Alberta’s most precious habitats. It also puts funds towards biological studies and land acquisitions. The organization has three branches: wildlife, fisheries and land. What’s new this year with the ACA? The riparian areas are now under the land management branch, rather than fisheries. For me, that means I will be doing more work in the Prairie zone, and ultimately more interaction with agricul-

ture producers. When the riparian program was under the fisheries branch, the focus of my work was more on the active sport fisheries. How do you collaborate with Farming Smarter and agriculture producers? By sitting on the Oldman Watershed Council’s Rural Team with Farming Smarter’s Jamie Puchinger, we are able to collaborate there to secure funding for riparian or stewardship projects. Through the land branch of the ACA, we have the unique opportunity to work one-on-one with producers in southern Alberta. Implementing stewardship projects requires a lot of understanding of agriculture, knowing about crop diversification, and coming up with a collaborative strategy that will benefit wildlife, habitat and the producer, without impacting the bottom line. Many producers don’t know that the ACA can offer financial assistance for getting conservation and stewardship projects off the ground. What are the Alberta Conservation Association’s goals for 2013 in the southern region? We want to keep building relationships with agriculture producers across the region through education and awareness programs. The land management branch is always looking for landowners who want to be involved in projects. We will also be looking at land acquisition to set them aside for conservation while keeping them open for public use as well.

“We work with a lot of livestock producers who know the importance of healthy streams and we can help them through ACA programs.” Mike Uchikura

The Taber Pheasant Festival is ramping up interest in pheasant hunting and habitat conversation. Photo: Roger Hill

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Farming Smarter / Spring 2013

How can the agriculture community be involved? Ideally, when producers feel that wildlife is important, then they take ownership of their conservation. The biggest issue for us is keeping up communications. Landowners aren’t always aware of what kind of programs are out there. It’s really about getting out to as many landowners as I can, and spreading the word. Even a simple riparian program on a farm or ranch requires financial injection, and those dollars are easily accessible through the ACA. We work with a lot of livestock producers who know the importance of healthy streams (better for cattle to drink clean water, animals gain more weight on clean water) and we can help them through ACA programs.

GROWING NEW IDEAS / GROWING KNOWLEDGE / GROWING STEWARDSHIP


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Do you have any species-specific projects going on this year? Under the wildlife branch, we have a big wolverine project going on. It’s province-wide in areas where wolverines should be present, and supported by the Alberta Trappers’ Association. Wolverines are primarily associated with mountainous and forested terrain, and there is not a lot data on them. The trappers want to know how many there are to determine whether the set quota is impacting wolverine populations. 

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Tell us about the Taber Pheasant Festival Within the first hour of registration, every spot filled up for the Taber Pheasant Festival, held in October. The popular festival is in its third year running — a joint endeavor by the Town of Taber, ACA, the Alberta Hunter Education Instructors Association and local Fish and Game clubs. It began as an effort to spur up interest in pheasant hunting, which used to be very popular in the 1970s and 1980s. Unfortunately due to a loss of habitat, pheasant numbers in southern Alberta have decreased. Now, the week long Taber Pheasant Festival is generating interest in the fowl once again. The free event brought in around 500 hunters, generating spin-off income for businesses in Taber. We buy the pheasants and release them on the hunting sites, encouraging youth and newcomers to come out and try hunting, while promoting a strong habitat message. If we don’t have everyone’s support in maintaining pheasant habitat, we won’t have the birds here anymore.

GROWING NEW IDEAS / GROWING KNOWLEDGE / GROWING STEWARDSHIP

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Farming Smarter / Spring 2013

35


Growing Stewardship

It pays to look after the good guys Know the economic thresholds of crop pests to help protect beneficial insects / By Lee Hart

T

hink before you spray! That message can apply to many aspects of agriculture, but for researcher Hector Carcamo, it is particularly important in protecting the hundreds of beneficial insects that help to control a wide range of crop pests in Western Canada. Carcamo, a researcher at the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Lethbridge Research Centre, isn’t suggesting insecticides never be used to control crop pests, but he does urge farmers to give second thought to whether a treatment is necessary. “Insecticides do have a role,” he says. “But producers also need to look at the economic thresholds of each pest to determine if spraying is warranted. Is there a sufficient number of pests present in the field, is the estimated yield loss sufficient to justify the expense of an insecticide application? And I believe more farmers are paying attention to these thresholds.” The issue is, he points out, as farmers apply insecticides to control a particular crop pest, the treatment can also eliminate or greatly reduce populations of beneficial insects that play a variety of roles in overall crop health. And there are hundreds of beneficial insects in Western Canada, aside from the commonly known honeybees and ladybugs. Researchers have identified more than 200 species of ground beetles, more than 300 species of spiders, numerous rove beetles (staphylinids) and dozens of parasitoid wasps which play a role in controlling not only insect crop pests, but also weeds and crop diseases.

Strategic moves Carcamo is one of several crop entomologists in Western Canada who believe strongly in the benefits of Integrated Pest Management (IPM). IPM involves using at least two or more cultural, production and management tools — and yes, even applying insecticides as needed — to help control crop pests. “As we look at Integrated Pest Management, the key point is that there is more to controlling pests than applying pesticides,” says Car-

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camo. “Spraying is one of the tools, but there are a number of cultural practices that can be applied that help prevent the pest from getting established, or help reduce its numbers.” Much about the IPM approach is to first give nature a chance in managing crop pests. And there are a number of cultural and management tools that can be used in a cropping season. An Integrated Pest Management strategy can include aspects such as seeding rate, seeding date, crop residue management and planting trap crops; it can include biological control measures such as conservation of natural crop enemies through reduced tillage and less spraying; it can include use of more pest resistant crops, such as Lillian and Eatonia wheat varieties with improved resistance to wheat stem sawfly; and it can include crop rotation choices by seeding non-host crops to discourage a particular pest. While researchers may not have identified a beneficial insect for every crop pest, they are aware of dozens that can play a role in helping control many of the most common insect pests. Many are naturally occurring, and their populations can often be influenced and encouraged with proper management practices. First defense A parasitic wasp, Macroglenes penterans, for example, discovered in 1984 can be effective in controlling wheat midge. Researchers were able to measure significant savings in farmer spraying costs — as M. penetrans populations increased, the need for field spraying was dramatically reduced. Populations of the parasitic wasp can be conserved by adjusting field spraying operations to accommodate an important few days in the wasp’s reproductive life cycle. Another wasp, Bracon cephi, has been found to be a natural and effective enemy of the wheat stem sawfly. The wasp’s population can be protected by reduced tillage and by leaving taller stubble.

Hector Carcamo talks how beneficial insects can help fight field pests at Farming Smarter’s Crop Walk. Photo: Farming Smarter

And the adult beetle as well as the larval stage of the Tetrastichus Julius parasite has been found to be effective in controlling cereal leaf beetle. “And right now we are looking at a beneficial wasp, Peristenus, which appears to be effective in controlling lygus bug,” says Carcamo. “The species has been released in Eastern Canada and we are just doing tests now to ensure it has no adverse affect on other beneficial insects in Western Canada, and then we hope to release it in Alberta as well.” One weakness of biological control and beneficial insects is that if there is a sudden outbreak of a particular crop pest, the beneficials can’t respond quickly enough to provide effective control. “And that’s where the proper use of an insecticide is effective,” says Carcamo. “But if we are applying management to encourage the development of beneficial insect populations, hopefully more pests can be held at background levels. I encourage producers to be familiar the economic thresholds of different pests so they know when spraying makes sense.” 

GROWING NEW IDEAS / GROWING KNOWLEDGE / GROWING STEWARDSHIP


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Farming Smarter / Spring 2013

37


Book Review

Go from good to great Jim Collins’ latest book offers businesses and individuals the tools to succeed / By Claudette Lacombe

I

t is immensely easy to be good at what you do. If you pay attention, learn from mistakes (yours and others) and stick with it, you should do well. Jim Collins would caution you though that good could be a trap that holds you back from greatness. What if you want to be great? What if you want to be consistently great for a long time? Try developing a Hedgehog Concept. This is actually a familiar tactic that translates as pick a core function and stick with it. Jim Collins, however, builds a case for a definitive path to sustained greatness based on deep research in Good To Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t. I found that although his research team focused on companies, the advice translates right down to the individual if you’re interested. Certainly, any business of any size has things it could learn and concepts it can apply from this book. As one might suspect, a strong leader is important, but not in the traditional sense fostered in North American culture. Collins describes how a Level Five Leader operates and why that works. Level Five Leaders surround themselves with open-minded people that know how to focus and then foster collaboration on a company-wide scale. The research found that it takes the right people on the team to ensure sustainable greatness. Who those right people are depends more on how they fit with the team than the skills or expertise they may bring with them. Once you have a strong team, decide what it is that you can be the best in the world at doing or providing, and don’t forget to also decide where you are not going to be great. This is where the research found discipline becomes important because not all opportunities will fit on your path to greatness and recognizing this is paramount. Collins also outlines the traditional approaches and thinking that doom a company or organization. The chapter entitled “The Flywheel and the Doom Loop” explores how lasting great companies evolve over time through gradual development. The research showed that flash-in-the-pan greatness is an illusion failed companies tried to snatch… often on their way down… face first. Collins lays out the research and its findings very clearly in this book. I found myself excited by the verification of intuitive knowledge, but taken to a level I hadn’t reached through my thoughts. He also talks about the findings that he and his team didn’t expect. For instance, the research showed that “technological change is never the primary root cause of either greatness or decline.” Rather,

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Farming Smarter / Spring 2013

it was thoughtful and creative application of new technologies in line with the Hedgehog Concept that played a role in the greatness of a company. Before he lets us go, Collins ties in this more recent research with the concepts found in his first book, Built to Last, about companies with really long success behind them. Not having read Built to Last, all I can say is that Good to Great seems to have built upon the findings from his previous research. If you strive for greatness in yourself or your organization, I highly recommend this read. 

GROWING NEW IDEAS / GROWING KNOWLEDGE / GROWING STEWARDSHIP


Alpine K-Thio™ Yields Spark Interest When Doug Erickson heard that just 1 L/acre of Alpine K-Thio™ foliar fertilizer triggered a 4.8-bushel yield response on lentils during a recent plot trial in Saskatchewan, he decided to test it on his own farm. ALPINE K-Thio™ is a foliar blend of liquid potassium and sulphur. “Peas and lentils are heavy potash users. ALPINE K-Thio™ seemed like an easy way to apply some high quality potassium to our pulses and potentially boost yields” says Erickson. “We figured if we can achieve even a 4-bu/acre increase on all of our lentils, that would put an extra $50,000 in our pocket,” says Erickson, who grows 7,000 acres of lentils, peas, wheat, and canola with his father and brother near Birsay, Sask.

A 2.9-Bushel Advantage Over Dry Phosphate Spring-seeded wheat plots near Winkler, Man., treated with 3 gal/ acre of Alpine G22™ yielded a 2.9-bushel advantage over strips treated with 40 lbs/acre of seedplaced 11-52-0 dry phosphorus – and a 4.5-bushel advantage over rows with no applied phosphate. Spring wheat plots on the Schmaus farm near Viking, Alta., – also treated with 3 gal/acre of seed-placed Alpine G22™ – emerged two days faster, matured sooner, and yielded 2.2 bu/acre more than rows with dry, seed-placed phosphate in the same plot.

Advanced Maturity “We would have seen a even bigger yield advantage with Alpine G22™ if we hadn’t been struck by hail in late July,” says Jordan Schmaus, who farms 5,000 acres with His brother and

Erickson sprayed one half of a lentil field with Alpine K-Thio™ at early flower this past spring, and the other half without. “Everything else was the same on both sides of the field,” says Erickson, noting he seed placed Alpine G22™ on the whole field and sprayed 2 L/acre as a foliar with his herbicide – like he does on all crops. As harvest approached, there was no visual difference on the test field, but the yield monitor told a different story. “We ended up with a 6.6-bushel advantage on the Alpine K-Thio™ half of the field – much higher than we expected. It’s just one year of results, but we replicated the results from the previous plot trials so we’re going to use it on all 1,500 acres of lentils this spring, and test it on other crops,” says Erickson.

father, and has been using Alpine G22™ on their wheat, oats, peas, and canola crops for over five years. “The wheat seeded with the Alpine starter was about three days ahead on maturity than the rows seeded with dry phosphate, so it shelled out worse from the hail because it was riper.” “The Alpine-treated wheat had bigger heads, a 25 to 30 per cent larger root mass at the three-leaf stage, and was more advanced throughout the growing season.”

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“The low salt index, low impurity levels, and neutral PH in Alpine G22™ make it safe to place right next to the seed with no risk of seed burn – so it’s available in those first few critical weeks when phosphate requirements are highest for strong, early root growth.”

Spring wheat treated with ALPINE G22 in the seed furrow (on the left) emerged two days sooner, matured faster and delivered more bushels than rows treated with dry phos and rows with no phos (on the right).

It’s just one year of results, but we replicated the results from the previous plot trials so we’re going to use it on all 1,500 acres of lentils this spring, and test it on other crops,” says Erickson. “With wet growing conditions causing disease problems in lentils lately, the potassium and possibly the sulphur in Alpine K-Thio™ could be helping build disease resistance –simply increasing overall plant health- which could also be impacting yields,” adds Weatherald. Noting Erickson had not previously fed sulphur or potassium to their lentils.

Dry phosphate is often placed away from the seed to prevent burn due to the high salt index – forcing the roots to go searching for it.”

Cold Soil Advantage The yield response with Alpine G22™ tends to be greatest in cold, dry spring soil. That’s because of its 70 per cent orthophosphate content – the form of phosphate that plants take up – making it immediately available, unlike other forms of phosphate, says Chris Cox, Alpine’s DSM for Manitoba and Southeastern Saskatchewan “While the Winkler plots were already high in phosphate, the soil has to warm up before it becomes plant available,” explains Cox, noting the plots were seeded on April 23. Dry Phosphate has to break down and dissolve before the roots can absorb it. Polyphosphates have to convert to orthophosphate to be plant usable. In cold, dry soil, that can take up to a month.

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The seedling on the right shows the strong growth advantage of seed placing ALPINE G22 compared to dry seed-placed phosphate (middle) and no phosphate (left). ALPINE G22™ gets phosphate to the roots right away for aggressive, early growth, a stronger plant and higher yields.” While growers in Western Canada typically see up to a 3- to 5-bushel advantage on most crops seeded in cold, spring soil with Alpine G22™, the convenience factor is still one of the main reason farmers switch from dry phosphate to Alpine G22™ says Cox.


Meet the new Canola Council of Canada agronomy specialist for Southern Alberta!

Autumn Holmes-Saltzman

Stay connected! www.canola.ab.ca/connect The Alberta Canola Producers Commission is proud to be a core funder of the Canola Council of Canada

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