Volume 38, Number 8 | March 19, 2012
PRACTICAL PRODUCTION TIPS FOR THE PRAIRIE FARMER
Guidelines for seed treatment It can be hard to know if you’ll get value for the money and time spent treating your seed. Information from the Saskatchewan’s plant disease specialist may help BY LEEANN MINOGUE
reating your seed before you put it in the ground is a bit like buying an insurance policy. There will always be times when you treat seed that maybe didn’t strictly need to be treated, but there will also be years that treating seed pays off in a big way.
MAKING THE DECISION The Saskatchewan Pulse Growers (SPC) holds regional pulse meetings across Saskatchewan every winter. Faye Dokken-Bouchard, Saskatchewan Agriculture’s plant disease specialist, recently spoke at one of these SGP meetings in Weyburn, Sask. As part of her presentation about integrated disease management, Dokken-Bouchard talked about using infection thresholds to decide whether to treat infected seed, and whether it should be planted at all. The two tables on page four are a summary of that part of DokkenBouchard’s presentation (you can see the entire presentation online at the SPG’s website at www.saskpulse.com). The numbers in the tables are just guidelines — there are no firm rules or researchbased recommendations when it comes to planting infected seed. However, along with these guidelines, your decision about whether to use seed should be based on a number of factors. according to Saskatchewan Agriculture’s seed-borne disease fact sheets: • The cost and availability of disease-free seed with good germination. If you’re buying pedigreed seed, the seed certificate of analysis will tell you if disease is present. If you’re using your own seed, have it tested. • The cost and availability of registered seed treatments. The provincial seed guides list recommended treatments for various crops and diseases.
• The weather conditions and disease pressure typical for your region or soil. Temperature can have a big impact on disease. If you’re seeding into soil that’s cooler than 5 C, emergence may be delayed. This gives soil- and seed-borne disease a chance to establish itself. • The class and/or variety of seed. Some varieties are more resistant to certain diseases that others. • The type of disease pathogen. If the disease is likely to cause significant yield loss or downgrading, seed treatments will make more sense. • Availability and potential application of foliar fungicides. In some cases, pathogens can be dealt with later, if they appear in the field.
ROOT ROT One of the diseases included in the guideline tables is root rot. This pathogen is soil-borne so won’t show up in your seed lot, but you may wish to protect your seed with seed treatment anyway. Dokken-Bouchard says, “If you’ve had problems in the past, you might want to treat it.” Many Prairie farmers may have problems. Dokken-Bouchard told the Weyburn audience that root rot was observed in 88 per cent of lentil fields surveyed in 2011. If you’re concerned about root rot, you might want to give extra consideration to treating kabuli chickpeas, low-tannin lentils and damaged or cracked peas.
PHOTOS: CANADIAN GRAIN COMMISSION
When wheat is damaged by fusarium, kernels will appear thin or shrunken. This photo appears courtesy of the Canadian Grain Commission. and seedling emergence. And, as Dokken-Bouchard pointed out in her presentation, using infected seed can introduce fusarium into a field where it hadn’t been before. It can linger there, and cause problems later. Among the various strains of fusarium that can cause fusarium
Here are four recommendations for coping with fusariuminfected seed. 1. If you live in a region where fusarium graminearum is not common, don’t bring seed into your area from a region that already has the infection. 2. If your seed lot is infected
FUSARIUM IN CEREALS: Whether or not to use their seed can be a tough call for farmers with fusarium-infected seed lots. Seed with a high level of fusarium could still have a high level of germination, in cases where the infection hasn’t penetrated all the way to the seed embryo. There is (so far) no evidence that planting fusarium-infected seed will increase your risk of fusarium head blight that same season. However, planting fusariuminfected seed will decrease tillering
Seed treatments won’t help a seed lot that has a high level of dead, damaged or infected seed. head blight, fusarium graminearum causes the greatest yield loss in cereal crops. When you’re assessing your potential for problems with fusarium head blight, fusarium graminearum requires special attention.
with more than five per cent fusarium graminearum or 10 per cent other fusarium species, don’t use it as seed. 3. If your seed has less than five per cent fusarium graminearum or 10 per cent other fusarium species,
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it’s still ok to plant. However, you should make sure it has a high level of germination, since emergence may be reduced with high fusarium levels. 4. If you’re planting infected seed, guidelines suggest using a seed treatment if your seed is greater than two to three per cent infected with fusarium graminearum, or greater than five per cent infected with other fusarium species. Research is still on-going as to the effectiveness of seed treatments in the fight agatins fusarium head blight. Studies in Saskatchewan and Manitoba reached different conclusions. Treatment effectiveness will depend on weather, seed variety and seeding conditions. Researchers recommend using a seed treatment as a form of insurance against seedling diseases, however, keep in mind that this won’t keep you from getting
» CONTINUED ON PAGE 4
Wheat & Chaff ..................
Crop Advisor’s Casebook
Columns ........................... 36 Machinery & Shop ............ 44 Cattleman’s Corner .......... 48
Getting started with drainage BRUNEL SABOURIN
National Farm Machinery Show
SCOTT GARVEY PAGE 44
FarmLife ............................ 53
MARCH 19, 2012
Wheat & Chaff LEEANN MINOGUE
In this issue of Grainews we focus on planning for seeding, and farm finances
“I let them ride together. They have the same interests; eating, sleeping and barking”
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Viterra and DUC Partnership
iterra and Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) have renewed their partnership for their forage incentive program in 2012. Through this unique partnership, Viterra and DUC are offering eligible farmers an incentive to plant forages for pasture and hayland. Additional money may be available to landowners who are also willing to restore small wetlands. “We are pleased to play a pivotal role in providing product
and program incentives to help Prairie producers realize the benefits of growing our innovative forage varieties on their land,” said Kevin Hallborg, vicepresident, marketing, sales and country operations, agri-products for Viterra. “Our partnership with DUC reflects our company’s ongoing commitment to sustainable agricultural practices. Through collaborations like this, we will make lasting contributions to the environment.” † Ducks Unlimited Canada
Some farmers live for harvest. The smell of the grain. The urgency of getting the crop in before the weather turns. And of course the satisfaction of getting the crop safely into the bin — my father-inlaw says he likes to see the money coming in. But other farmers, like my husband, say seeding is their favourite time of year. Brad says “Everything’s full of promise at that time of year.” Seeding is a time for imagining the potential of your farm. It’s also a time when you have to invest a lot of money in hopes of a good return later. We make our most important decisions at seeding time. Sure, spray and fungicide and splitapplication fertilizer can come later in the season — if you planted the right seed and it all came up. As well as being “full of promise,” seeding is “full of expenses.” Every decision is a risk. Some will pay off. Some won’t. Trying to decide if you need a seed treatment? Or maybe you have a little bit of fusarium in your seed and now you have to figure out if you’re going to seed it at all? We’ve got some stories in this issue of Grainews that might help you make your expensive seeding decisions. Most of the information in the cover story about seed treatments came from Faye Dokken-Bouchard, Saskatchewan Agriculture’s plant disease specialist. Faye was very helpful as I put together some charts. She has worked hard to make a lot of information available to farmers on the Saskatchewan Agriculture website, and I’m sure she’s exhausted after travelling around the province giving presentations at pulse and canola meetings all winter. The numbers in the charts are guidelines to help you decide whether or not you need a seed treatment or if you should be shopping for some alternative seed. A lot of people think of seed treatments as “cheap insurance.” That makes sense to me. But I was lurking on an online farming message board (at www.thecombineforum.com), and saw that one wellinformed farmer who comments
regularly on the site is not wild about this line of thinking. “You hear people marketing to farmers always saying ‘cheap insurance”, he wrote. “I hate that term. Cheap for who? Cheap insurance for the consultant who doesn’t have to put his neck on the line saying ‘No, I don’t think you need that.’ Instead of a comment like that, give me a tool, or a model, to predict the situation and assess the risk and let’s base our decision on that.” These charts do exactly that — provide some guideline thresholds to help you make decisions. Every presentation about crop disease and weeds includes a discussion on rotation. Rotate crops — moving between crops gives diseases time to break down in the soil. Rotate chemicals among herbicide groups to prevent weeds from building up resistance. And at the regional Saskatchewan Pulse Growers (SPG) meeting in Weyburn, Faye DokkenBouchard took it one step further. “We can think about rotating our varieties in addition to rotating our crops,” she said. She also reminded the audience that different crop varieties have varying levels of resistance to diseases. If you’re still deciding which variety to seed, it might make sense to look that up.
FINANCIAL PLANNING There’s a special section on farm financial planning on pages 30 to 35 of this issue of Grainews When it comes to planning, Jarrett Olson makes a really good point on page 34. We farmers pay much more attention to debt than we do to investments. Not that we have a lot of cash for offfarm investments, but just like people in any profession, we need to remember to set some money aside for our future. I also learned a few things reading Sharon Elliott’s article on filing on page 30. You might think an article about something basic and dull like “filing” isn’t going to be a very interesting read. I’ve come to think that if you don’t get the filing right, you won’t get the finances right. I started looking after the books on our farm about a year and a half ago. I have terrible filing skills, so for me, organizing receipts and invoices was the hardest part. Sharon’s article puts forward a good suggestion for farmers getting started with accounting software like AgExpert. Get your accountant (or someone on your accountant’s staff) to come to you. Many offices have a bookkeeper on staff who’ll come to your house and set up your system. Or, if you have a laptop, you can take it right to them. This won’t be free. But you’ll save money in
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the future when you do the work at home instead of paying someone at the accountant’s office. As well as saving money, doing your own books helps get a better handle on your farm’s cash flow, expenses, and long-term profitability. That’s happened for me. But before I could look at our cash needs, our revenue projections, or any of our financial ratios, I needed to figure out how to use the filing cabinet.
MAP PROFIT, NOT YIELD Agri-Trend held meetings across the Prairies this winter. Warren Bills, president of Agri-Trend’s GeoSolutions, was on the agenda, talking about variable-rate technology. Bills showed the crowd a standard yield map. I’m sure you’ve seen one, if not on your farm with your own yield monitor, then in a magazine or at a meeting. Then he took the map to the next step. He used the software to divide it into acre-sized squares, and calculated the per-acre revenue across the field. That was pretty simple — yield multiplied by the per bushel price. It was informative, but since the per-bushel price was the same across the field, it didn’t change the shape of the map. For the next step, he looked at per-acre costs across the field. This wasn’t quite so simple, but it was where things got interesting. The variable-rate technology had tracked inputs on a per-acre basis. Costs were lower where less fertilizer was applied. The final step was to put the whole thing together and create a profit map. Bills had every square of the map colour coded to show how much profit that acre generated. It was similar to the yield map, but not exactly, since it accounted for the fact that less fertilizer was applied to some acres. Once you have this map, Bills said, you can ask yourself, “What parts of the farm are making me money?” He pointed at one area of the map where the profit level looked a little grim and joked, “Maybe you want to rent this north part of the field out to your neighbour.” It was clear that some areas of the field were generating much more revenue than others. These different areas require different management styles — even beyond just applying different rates of fertilizer. And these differences were just within one quarter section. Taking a good hard look at every acre on a widespread farm would really give you more information. The old days of seeding, spraying and heading off to the lake to relax are gone. It’s going to take dedication and time to pay this level of attention. Some Grainews readers are probably already doing this at home. We make yield maps on our farm (although we’ve had some harvest days when the yield monitor didn’t work, so our records are less than complete.) This year, we’ll try variable-rate fertilizer for the first time (we would have started in 2011, if it hadn’t been too wet to seed). I’m looking forward to trying out new software so we can make some profit maps of our own. Leeann
MARCH 19, 2012
Wheat & Chaff Farm safety
Start your engine — Get with the Plan!
s a farm owner, operator or manager, you are responsible for the safety and health of everyone who lives, works or visits your farm or ranch. Everyone. That means you need to get with the Plan! The Canada FarmSafe Plan, developed by the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association for you, no matter what sort of farm you run. Anywhere. The Canada FarmSafe Plan is a business risk-management tool. The Plan’s best practices recommendations provide you with guidance on developing an effective health and safety program for your farming operation. It takes commitment. It delivers security. It could save lives.
The Canada FarmSafe Plan goes way beyond hazard assessment check lists. It’s a living document with tools to make safety part of every plan and action on the farm. You’ll find clear instructions for: • composing a general policy statement for safety and health for your farm; • identifying hazards; • controlling hazards, including documenting standard operating procedures for all work on the farm; • outlining emergency actions, conducting training and investigating incidents; • communicating responsibilities; and, • reviewing the plan. You can print, sign and post Plan doc-
uments to underscore the safety commitment of all who manage and work the farm. Download the core Canada FarmSafe Plan at no charge at www.planfarmsafety.ca. Members of the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association can access the entire Plan for their private use at no cost. The complete Plan contains the core Plan plus supporting documents such as templates, sample scenarios and planning tools. Join online at www.planfarmsafety.ca and call CASA for your copy — 1-877-4522272. † From the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association — www.planfarmsafety.ca
Richardson to buy SE Alta. business Cargill handling CWB grain
family-owned ag retail business in eastern Alberta is set to become the latest addition to the Richardson International crop input network. Winnipeg-based Richardson, Canada’s second-biggest grain handler, has signed a deal to buy CJS Agro Services, operating at Hussar and Acadia Valley, Alta., for an undisclosed sum. CJS Agro’s location at Hussar, about 90 km east of Calgary, is a “full-service crop input centre” that sells retail ag chemicals, ferti-
lizer and seed, Richardson said. The company’s other outlet at Acadia Valley, about 100 km southwest of Kindersley, Sask., sells seed and crop protection products. CJS employees at both sites will be “offered the opportunity to join the Richardson team.” “Through this acquisition, we continue to grow our crop input business and expand our Richardson Pioneer network into new geographic areas,” said Darwin Sobkow, Richardson’s vicepresident, agribusiness operations. Richardson Pioneer’s closest
grain handling facilities to the two centres include an elevator at Oyen, about 30 km northwest of Acadia Valley, and another at Carseland, about 75 km southwest of Hussar. Richardson has made a few plays into the ag input business in recent years, buying three crop input locations in Alberta’s Peace region in 2010 and four more in eastern Saskatchewan with its purchase of North East Terminal last spring. †
he Canadian arm of U.S. agrifood firm Cargill has become the first Prairie grain handler to commit elevator and port terminal space to an overhauled CWB. The deal marks CWB’s first for grain handling services since the federal government moved to wind down the former Canadian Wheat Board’s single marketing desk for Prairie wheat and barley, effective August 1 this year. “We are very pleased that Cargill, with whom we’ve part-
nered very successfully in the past, has become the first player in the Canadian grain industry to find innovative ways for us to work together,” said CWB CEO Ian White. Farmers who market through the CWB will get access through this agreement to Cargill’s 30 Prairie grain handling facilities, plus “critical” port access at Vancouver, Thunder Bay, Ont. and Baie Comeau, Que., White said. † AgCanada.com
John Deere Sets World Record with food combine
ohn Deere’s Project “Can Do” created a full-sized combine made entirely from food — 308,448 cans of food and 11,268 bags of food to be exact. According to Guinness World Records, Project “Can Do” is by far the largest sculpture ever built from canned food, more than doubling the number of cans used in the previous record set two years ago. The combine can-food sculpture, which is 60 feet wide, 80 feet long and 16 feet tall and weighs approximately 170 tons, was created to recognize the vital role that America’s farmers play in feeding the world. The sculpture depicts John Deere’s new S-Series Combine harvesting corn and showcases how new equipment and technologies are helping farmers meet the growing world demand for food by delivering more productivity and efficiency to their farms. The sculpture was on display at the John Deere Pavilion in Moline, Illinois, until December 12 when it was dismantled and all the food was donated to River Bend Foodbank. † John Deere
GIVE US YOUR BEST SHOT Michelle Campeau sent in this photo of Paul Campeau and his dog Rocky. Michelle says: “Manitoba has been experiencing one of its warmest winters on record and we have been enjoying it! Many days have been spent outdoors. Here is a shot of one of those days.” Thanks so much Michelle! A cheque for $25 is on its way to you. Send your best shot to leeann.minogue@fbcpublishing. com. Please send only one or two photos at a time and include your name and address, the names of anyone in the photo, where the photo was taken and a bit about what was going on that day. A little write-up about your farm is welcome, too. Please ensure that images are of high resolution (1 MB is preferred), and if the image includes a person, we need to be able to see their face clearly. — Leeann
MARCH 19, 2012
Cover Stories Seed » CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1
Guidelines for seed treatment fusarium head blight from neighbouring fields.
Seed treatments for pulse crops Pulse crops may need some special attention when it comes to seed treatments. 1. Apply treatments carefully. Because of the large size of some seeds, they can be easily damaged during treatment. 2. Fungicide first. Many farmers will also be applying rhizobium inoculants to pulse seed as well as a seed treatment. In this case, experts recommend applying the fungicide first, letting it dry, and then applying the inoculant as close to the time of seeding as you can. 3. Check compatibility. Make sure your inoculant is compatible with the seed treatment you’re planning to use.
SEED TREATMENT THRESHOLD GUIDES FOR PULSE CROPS Disease (Pathogen)
Seed rot & damping off (Pythium and/or Phytophthora )
Seed rot & seedling blight (Botrytis + Sclerotinia + Fusarium)
Action if Over Threshold
Use seed treatment IF: history of disease; seeding under cool-moist conditions; kabuli chickpeas, low-tannin lentils, damaged or cracked peas.
Use seed treatment
Ascochyta complex (pea)
Associate Publisher/ Editorial director
Lyndsey Smith (on leave) Leeann Minogue
Use seed treatment
Do not use as seed
Do not use as seed
Pr oduction Director
Cattleman’s Corner Editor
Ascochyta lentis (lentil)
Ascochyta rabiei (chickpea)
Fusarium spp. Ergot
Action if Over Threshold
2-3% or higher
Use seed treatment
Do not use as seed
Use seed treatment
Do not use as seed
Downgrading, clean seed, ergot viability decreases
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wand. Seed treatments won’t help a seed lot that has a high level of dead, damaged or infected seed.
Advertising Services Co-ordinator
In 2008, the Alberta Winter Wheat Producers resolved to study the viability of an allwheat commission in Alberta. For all wheat’s prominence in Alberta, only two small classes (winter wheat and soft white wheat, which account for just five per cent of the province’s entire wheat production) have been represented by a producerrun commission. After market research found considerable support for the notion of a new all-wheat commission for all nine classes of Western Canadian wheat (Red Spring, Red Winter, Extra Strong, CPS Red, CPS White, Amber Durum, Soft White Spring, Hard White Spring and General Purpose), a producer-led steering committee was formed. For the past year, we’ve been part of working to form the Alberta Wheat Commission. The commission would have one pri-
MARKETING/CI RCULATION Director Circulation ma nager
Leeann Minogue is the acting editor of Grainews
Shawna Gibson Steven Cote
Threshold on Seed
For more detailed information about the guidelines shown in these tables see www.agriculture. gov.sk.ca. There are two very helpful documents: “Guidelines for SeedBorne Diseases of Pulse Crops” and “Guidelines for Seed-Borne Diseases of Cereal Crops.” The easiest way to find these is to type “seed-borne disease” in the search box. †
SEED TREATMENT THRESHOLD GUIDES FOR CEREAL CROPS Disease (Pathogen)
Arlene Bomback Phone: (204) 944-5765 Fax: (204) 944-5562 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Printed in Canada by Transcontinental LGM-Coronet Winnipeg, Man.
These fusarium-damaged Canada Western Red Spring wheat kernels have a white or pinkish fibrous growth that can only be seen under magnification. When wheat is damaged by fusarium, kernels will appear thin or shrunken.
A group of Alberta farmers are working to organize an Alberta Wheat Commission to improve farm returns on wheat
Use seed treatment
A voice for Alberta’s wheat producers
n the past 150 years, wheat has played a significant role in the settlement of the Canadian Prairies and the development of Western Canadian agriculture. Canada became the “bread basket of the world” because of the quality and quantity of wheat it supplied to countries around the globe. In more recent years, western Canadian wheat producers have struggled to compete with other crops and wheat-producing countries. Although wheat remains one of Canada’s most important cereal crops, new varieties and traits are needed to make it a sustainable and profitable crop option for Prairie producers. In Alberta, we’ve felt for some time that wheat producers need to have a stronger voice and more concerted industry focus.
by Kent Erickson and Lynn Jacobson
1 6 6 6 Dubl in Ave n ue , W in n ipe g, MB R3 H 0 H1 www. g ra in e ws . c a
Winter weather This has been a warm winter across most of the Prairies. It would seem that these higher temperatures might be giving disease pathogens a chance to thrive in the ground, but that’s not necessarily so, said Dokken-Bouchard. “To us it feels like a warm winter, but not to a pathogen,” she said. A general lack of snow has given many fields less insulation than in a “typical” winter. For pathogens, this winter may have actually been quite chilly, so problems may not be any worse than usual. Experts are always careful to warn that, although seed treatments can help get your crop off to a good start, they aren’t a magic
Threshold on Seed
mary objective: to improve farm gate returns on wheat. It would also be committed to working collaboratively with all participants in wheat’s value chain. Our steering committee has developed a strategic plan to realize these goals. The plan currently calls for the new commission to begin operating on Aug. 1, 2012, and to generate the majority of its revenue through a checkoff fee (service charge) of $0.70 per tonne on all classes of wheat produced in Alberta. Checkoff dollars will be deducted from producer payments at the point of sale. Of the estimated $3.5 million that would be raised through checkoff dollars each year, a direct investment of $3 million would be made annually into research and market development and pursuing partnerships that leverage this investment into projects worth millions of dollars more.
In March, our steering committee will wrap up the many meetings and consultations we’ve been having with Alberta wheat producers about the commission’s plans. To date, the response has been very supportive, with more than 80 per cent of producers saying they favour forming the commission. This support is crucial for two reasons: to gain legislative approval from the Province of Alberta to form the commission; and to demonstrate that farmers are willing to invest in their industry. With so many changes on the horizon for Western Canadian wheat, we see the Alberta Wheat Commission as one way for our province’s wheat producers to be better able to respond to the opportunities and demands of domestic and international markets and users. † Kent Erickson and Lynn Jacobson are co-chairs of the Alberta All-Wheat Commission Steering Committee
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MARCH 19, 2012
Rhizobia inoculation vital for pulse crops Pulses aren’t new to the Prairies anymore. Since many soils already contain high rhizobia populations, some farmers wonder if they really need to add more BY FRAN WALLEY
n Western Canada, inoculating pulse crops with rhizobia to add nitrogen is routine for most farmers, but questions still linger about whether inoculation is essential for all pulses, in all crop years. Rhizobial inoculants — applied as a liquid, peat-based powder, granular soil implant, or pre-inoculated seed can enhance root nodulation and thereby improve nitrogen supply. But many soils already contain high populations of rhizobia. Is it really necessary to add more? Unfortunately there isn’t a “one size fits all” answer.
picky about which rhizobia they allow to enter their roots. Chickpea, for example, has specific rhizobial requirements. In contrast, some legumes such as field pea are considered “promiscuous” and can form nodules with a wider range of rhizobia. Even among the different groups of rhizobia that nodulate specific legumes, there are many different strains. These strains differ in their ability to fix nitrogen, survive, and persist in the soil. Rhizobial strains can also differ in their ability to compete for suitable infection sites. Inoculant manufacturers do a lot of research trying to isolate the best rhizobial strains, and their job is not easy. They need to find rhizobia that are: excellent nitrogen fix-
lations of those introduced rhizobia. Over time, however, introduced bacteria can lose some of the characteristics that made them superstars in the first place, due to the nature of bacterial DNA. Most genetic information within a bacterial cell occurs in a single coiled piece of DNA, called “chromasomal DNA,” which codes for all of the essential cellular functions. However, in some rhizobia, the genetic information that codes for nitrogen fixation occurs on mobile islands of genetic material within the rhizobial cell, called “plasmids.” Unlike chromosomal DNA, plasmids typically contain genetic material that codes for non-essential functions, and these little independ-
RHIZOBIA Rhizobia are particularly important bacteria because they occur naturally in the soil and, in association with a suitable host plant, can convert atmospheric nitrogen gas (which exists in the soil pores) into a form of nitrogen that plants can use. Even before agriculture was established on the Prairies, these bacteria nodulated native leguminous plants, adding nitrogen to the soil. Curiously, the rhizobia bacteria are only capable of nitrogen fixation once they have infected a host plant. Without the specialized membranes and enzymes within the root nodule, nitrogen fixation cannot occur. It is rather amazing that Mother Nature allows rhizobia bacteria to infect plant roots. After all, roots have developed pretty good defences against bacterial invasions that otherwise could cause disease problems. However, rhizobia and legume plants have developed very precise chemical signalling pathways that enable them to recognize one another as suitable hosts and friendly invaders. The signalling pathways are precise and only rhizobia that are specifically compatible with certain hosts can cause nodulation to occur. Types of rhizobia are categorized in part on the basis of the legume plants they nodulate — some hosts are very
Bottom line — although you may have used an inoculant containing a superior nitrogen fixing bacteria, these superstar characteristics may be lost by the time the next compatible pulse crop is grown. ers (an obvious requirement); able to survive during storage; effective competitors with indigenous rhizobia under field conditions; and amenable to production that requires the multiplication of the bacteria in large quantities. Typically, rhizobia that make it to the market in good quality inoculant products are superstars of the rhizobial world, having made it through many different screening processes.
THE ROLE OF INOCULANTS Inoculants can impact both the crop and the soil. After harvest, nodules containing thousands of bacterial cells break down and release the rhizobia into the soil where they may persist for many years. Consequently, the rhizobial population in soils that previously have grown an inoculated pulse crop is certain to contain fairly high popu-
ent islands of genetic information can be easily lost or transferred. Relatively recent research suggests that in addition to nitrogen fixation genes, some rhizobial plasmids also have a role in microbial “fitness,” so losing a fitness plasmid can result in a loss of overall competitive ability. Bottom line — although you may have used an inoculant containing a superior nitrogen fixing bacteria, these superstar characteristics may be lost by the time the next compatible pulse crop is grown.
RHIZOBIA SURVIVAL Aside from the possibility of losing superstar plasmid characteristics, the ability of introduced strains to compete and survive in the presence of native rhizobial strains is influenced by many factors, including weather (notably temperature and moisture
availability) and soil characteristics such as pH (with acid soils being particularly problematic), organic matter and soil texture. Not all inoculant rhizobia are isolated locally. They may perform very well in the first year of application, but they might not be very well suited to long-term survival in Prairie soils, especially during extreme winter months, or in flooded soils. Moreover, since survival can depend on specific soil characteristics, some introduced strains may persist very well in one field, and not in another. Although frustrating, it is nearly impossible to predict whether or not an introduced rhizobia will survive and if its nitrogen-fixing abilities will be retained. Instead it is still a very good idea for long-term pulse growers whose fields already contain rhizobia to use an inoculant to ensure that a high population of rhizobia is placed near the emerging roots. Using a fresh inoculant ensures that nodulation with an effective strain occurs early in the growing season and nitrogen fixation benefits are maximized. The added rhizobia bacteria are not very mobile in soil so nodules containing inoculant rhizobia normally form near the point of application. (Seed-applied inoculants tend to form nodule clusters close to the seed placement, whereas granular products applied either in the seedrow or below seed placement tend to form nodules on the lateral roots.) If there is a highly effective rhizobial population already in the soil, the crop will benefit from this established population by also forming nodules on the lateral roots. Thus, all is not lost — previously applied rhizobia can confer benefits, but it is best not to count on these populations exclusively. Pulse crops are high protein crops and need nitrogen to support high seed and protein yields. Nitrogen supply for a pulse crop is too important to leave to a potentially fickle population of native or previously introduced rhizobia bacteria. † Fran Walley is a Professor in the Department of Soil Science at the University of Saskatchewan. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This article was originally published in the Saskatchewan Pulse Growers magazine, “Pulse Point.”
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MARCH 19, 2012
Features CROP PRODUCTION
CROP ADVISOR’S CASEBOOK
TROUBLE IN THE SUNFLOWER BELT
BY DANIELLE HUEBNER
unflower production is important for some southern Manitoba farmers, who grow over 90 per cent of Canada’s sunflower crop. Joe, who farms 2,200 acres of sunflowers, wheat, canola and rye near Melita, Man., asked me to visit his operation one morning in early June after he discovered patches of missing plants in one of his sunflower fields. “I haven’t scouted this field since I planted it,” Joe told me. “I’ve been so busy with seeding and spraying, I didn’t have the time.” He thought poor seedling emergence was to blame for the missing plants, but he wasn’t sure because he hadn’t checked the crop’s progress directly after seeding. “I suspect the problem’s poor germination or my seeding equipment,” he said. “I also adjusted my fertility program this year.” Plants in this field were missing in patches, most notably on hilltops and south-facing slopes. Sections as long as six feet in a single row were missing all but a couple of plants. Other plants were wilted, and I also noticed damage to the leaves in the form of small holes and notches. However, in my opin-
Danielle Huebner ion, the damage was not yet too severe or widespread. Poor germination could not be the cause of the missing plants, I explained to Joe, because of the patch-like appearance of the affected areas. Joe’s other sunflower fields, which he had seeded before and after seeding the damaged field, had developed normally so far. Therefore, I concluded neither seeding depth nor fertilizer application were the causes of damage, because Joe had used the same equipment settings and fertilizer rate on all of his sunflower fields.
CROP ADVISOR’S SOLUTION BY JOEL FINLAY
n 2010, Jack, an Eston, Sask., farmer, hadn’t taken much notice of the condition of his neighbour’s crop growing next to his own field. When a problem began developing in Jack’s own field the following year, he realized he’d seen the grey fuzzy mould now growing on his lentil plants in his neighbour’s crop the previous year. Had Jack known a fungal disease had infected his neighbour’s field, he could have taken precautions to prevent its occurrence in his own lentil crop. Jack called me at the end of June in 2011 with concern about his field. “My lentil field is dying off and I don’t know
if it’s anthracnose, root rot, or what,” he said. “This is a critical time for my lentils, and whatever is happening in my field is going to affect my final yield,” said Jack. Scattered patches of browncoloured plants that appeared to be dying were developing in Jack’s field. Cream- to tancoloured spots were spreading across the plants’ leaves — whole plants were changing colour, and even the pods were turning light brown. Some plants were completely dead. A grey fuzzy mould was also growing on the leaflets and lower stems of the plants. It appeared as though the damaged plants were infecting healthy plants within their proximity forming the patches,
PHOTO: JOHN GAVLOSKI, MAFRI
Joe may have some unwanted visitors in his sunflower field. It was at that point that I happened to notice the occasional sunflower plant carcass lying inches away from the damaged rows. I crawled around in the dirt and found more plant carcasses, then examined the leaves of a plant still growing in a row adjacent to an affected area. I stood up, beaming at Joe in triumph. “There are small bite marks on the margins of some of these
leaves,” I said, as I showed Joe the evidence. “Look, over there is a stub of a stem, just above the soil surface. That stem has been chewed off! You may have some unwanted visitors in your field.” What insect pest is eating Joe’s sunflowers? Send your diagnosis to Grainews, Box 9800, Winnipeg, MB, R3C 3K7; email email@example.com or fax 204-944-5416
c/o Crop Advisor’s Casebook. Best suggestions will be pooled and one winner will be drawn for a chance to win a Grainews cap and a one-year subscription to the magazine. The answer, along with the reasoning which solved the mystery, will appear in the next Crop Advisor’s Solution File. † Danielle Huebner is an area marketing representative for Richardson Pioneer Ltd. in Antler, Sask.
WHEN MINDING YOUR NEIGHBOUR’S BUSINESS IS NOT A GOOD THING and also spreading the disease along the rows. As a result of the dying lentil plants, the plant density was lower within the patches when compared with the surrounding areas. The infestation appeared to be much worse as we moved closer to Jack’s neighbour’s field. Considering the warm, moist spring we had experienced and the higherthan-average humidity levels, I was not surprised by the development of this fungal disease. Jack’s field had been invaded by the pathogen Botrytis cinerea, which causes botrytis grey mould. We checked with Jack’s neighbour, who confirmed that he’d had a similar infestation the previous year. It is likely that
infected stubble from his neighbour’s field had been blown onto Jack’s field, and the warm and moist conditions that spring had provided an environment conducive to the growth, proliferation and spread of the disease. Jack could have sprayed his field at this point, although spraying was uneconomical for Jack at this time and would not prevent the reoccurrence of the disease because the pathogen can be soil-borne. Crop rotation is critical to the prevention of botrytis grey mould. Producers are advised to allow four-year rotations between lentil crops, and to avoid planting lentils in fields adjacent to those planted with lentils the previous year. Burning or burying
stubble affected by the disease is also effective in preventing another infestation. When growing pulses, or any crop for that matter, an awareness of the crops and their conditions in the fields surrounding your own — and this includes your neighbours’ — can help to prevent yield losses. The botrytis grey mould infestation in Jack’s lentil crop resulted in lower yields than he had anticipated. However, best management practices, including crop rotation and the awareness of what’s in his neighbour’s fields, will help Jack prevent future fungal disease outbreaks on his farm. † Joel Finlay is a sales agronomist at Richardson Pioneer Ltd. in Swift Current, Sask.
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Individual results may vary, and performance may vary from location to location and from year to year. This result may not be an indicator of results you may obtain as local growing, soil and weather conditions may vary. Growers should evaluate data from multiple locations and years whenever possible. Monsanto Company is a member of Excellence Through StewardshipSM (ETS). Monsanto products are commercialized in accordance with ETS Product Launch Stewardship Guidance, and in compliance with Monsanto’s Policy for Commercialization of Biotechnology-Derived Plant Products in Commodity Crops. This product has been approved for import into key export markets with functioning regulatory systems. Any crop or material produced from this product can only be exported to, or used, processed or sold in countries where all necessary regulatory approvals have been granted. It is a violation of national and international law to move material containing biotech traits across boundaries into nations where import is not permitted. Growers should talk to their grain handler or product purchaser to confirm their buying position for this product. Excellence Through StewardshipSM is a service mark of Excellence Through Stewardship. ALWAYS READ AND FOLLOW PESTICIDE LABEL DIRECTIONS. Roundup Ready® crops contain genes that confer tolerance to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup® brand agricultural herbicides. Roundup® brand agricultural herbicides will kill crops that are not tolerant to glyphosate. Tank mixtures: The applicable labeling for each product must be in the possession of the user at the time of application. Follow applicable use instructions, including application rates, precautions and restrictions of each product used in the tank mixture. Monsanto has not tested all tank mix product formulations for compatibility or performance other than specifically listed by brand name. Always predetermine the compatibility of tank mixtures by mixing small proportional quantities in advance. Genuity®, Genuity and Design®, Roundup Ready®, Roundup WeatherMAX®, and Roundup® are trademarks of Monsanto Technology LLC, Monsanto Canada, Inc. licensee. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners. ©2012 Monsanto Canada, Inc.
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MARCH 19, 2012
Features Crop production
Cutting rotations with soybeans Farmers growing soybeans in areas where they’re relatively new are having good experiences with back-to-back soybean rotations. This may not be sustainable in the long run By Rebeca Kuropatwa
hen Manitoba production advisor, Dennis Lange, first began seeing local farmers growing soybeans in 19992000, there were many new growers wanting to put soybeans backto-back. Lange farms near Altona, but also provides agronomic advice to Manitoba farmers. He is currently a farm production advisor for Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives (MAFRI) and an acting pulse specialist.
The thinking behind growing soybeans back-to-back concerns soybeans being a crop that responds well to rhizobia bacteria. Rhizobia inoculants form nodules on roots, providing nitrogen for the plant. In turn, the plant provides the bacteria with carbohydrates. When farmers are growing soybeans in soil that have never seen soybeans before, it’s vitally important to use an inoculants to get rhizobia bacteria into the ground. Lange explained that farmers can do this by “putting bacteria in the
soil the first year, and some in the second year (but not as much).” In subsequent years, there will be some rhizobia in the ground. What farmer doesn’t want to save on the cost of the inoculants, and get a good soybean yield? The drive to plant soybeans back-to-back is particularly strong when soybeans are at an attractive price compared to other crops.
ing to say you’ll only do it for one year, but then you might do it again and again. Eventually you’ll get some disease build-up. And when the disease hits, you’ll immediately lose some yield potential. “Putting soybeans in back-toback won’t give you the same benefit and might have more detriments when it comes to other diseases, like root rot.”
As promising as this may sound, Lange says, “When markets dictate crop rotation, it’s very tempt-
In 2011, Lange saw instances of root rot in Manitoba — and it was much more pronounced in
fields where rotations were cut very short and had a longer history of soybeans. Lange is continuing to advise growers to put soybeans into their rotations only once in three years, or even once in four years. (Conventional advice for canola is to give your fields a three-year break between canola crops, only growing canola in a field once in four years.) “Everything must be considered in your long-term rotation planning,” he said. “Root diseases stick around in the ground for a number of years.”
Nitrogen in rotation Rotating from soybeans to another crop will provide benefits to that next crop. “When it comes to crop residual (from a well-inoculated crop), for every bushel yield of soybeans, you’ll get roughly one pound of nitrogen back,” said Lange. “With a 30 bushel crop, you’ll have 30 pounds of nitrogen back in the soil.” This can lower your fertilizer bill. “If you’re planting a cereal crop, like wheat, the following year, your nitrogen application will go down a bit.” With three years between soybean crops, how much rhizobia will still be in the soil when it’s time to plant soybeans again? Lange says, “We’re still trying to determine how long the bacteria will survive in the soil.”
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Soybeans and inoculant Inoculants are key for farmers growing soybeans for the first time, but also for long-time growers. “We’re recommending producers put down inoculants as insurance,” says Lange. “Soybeans need a lot of nitrogen to produce a crop. If you’re looking at a 35 bushel yield, the plants are probably using 150 to 200 pounds of nitrogen. It would be very expensive to apply that nitrogen to the crop. But putting inoculants in while you’re seeding, you’ll have nitrogen availability throughout the season.” Even if you’ve been growing other pulses, first time soybean growers need to use inoculant. Lange says, “Bacteria used in pulse crops have various strains. If you’re rotating edible beans and haven’t yet grown soybeans, the bacteria in the soil won’t benefit soy. Cereals, canola, and corn would follow nicely.” Last year in Manitoba, soybean yields were reduced from the previous year — yielding 26.3 bushels per acre last year, after an average of well over 30 bushels per acre in 2010. As of yet, Lange has not heard from any soybean producers wanting to switch to other crops. We’ll see what happens in the spring. Last year was a good hot summer which is great for soybeans.” †
*Contact control only **Contact control with 900 gae/ha of glyphosate only. Always read and follow label directions. PRE-PARE and the PRE-PARE logo are trademarks of Arysta LifeScience North America, LLC. Arysta LifeScience and the Arysta LifeScience logo are registered trademarks of Arysta LifeScience Corporation. All other products mentioned herein are trademarks of their respective companies. ©2012 Arysta LifeScience North America, LLC. PREC-099
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MARCH 19, 2012
Choosing the Right Sprayer Nozzle There are lots of sprayer nozzles on the market. Find the right one for your operation by Angela Lovell.
here is lots of selection when it comes to spayer nozzle designs and makes on the market, but most will achieve the same thing. “The same spray qualities can be achieved with any of the newer low-drift nozzles with just a small pressure adjustment,” says Thomas Wolf, a research scientist at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s (AAFC’s) Saskatoon Research Centre. “There isn’t a magic nozzle out there.” That said, nozzles are probably the most important part of the sprayer. They largely determine the efficacy obtained from the product being sprayed, the amount of drift produced and the final result of the spray operation. The most important thing to remember about nozzles, especially to reduce drift potential, says Wolfm is to aim for as coarse a spray as you can and then select the nozzle to achieve what you want. That also means that farmers need to understand how spray quality changes with pressure. Higher pressures create a finer spray and vice versa. “The applicators need to match their driving speed and application volume to the nozzle so they spray a certain pressure that matches the nozzle requirements,” says Wolf. “For example, let’s assume somebody is spraying a herbicide and they are planning to use 10 U.S. gallons per acre (g/a), travel at 15 miles per hour and want a coarse spray. To achieve 10 gpa at 15 m.p.h. either a 11005 nozzle at 40 or 50 psi, or a 11004 nozzle at 60 psi will work. The next step is to consult with a specific manufacturer’s spray quality chart to make that decision.” Standard tables listing the average spray quality achievable with different nozzle types at different pressures are available from most nozzle manufacturers. Spray qualities are colour coded as follows: fine (orange), medium (yellow), coarse (blue), very coarse (green) and extremely coarse (white). These colours should not be confused with the standard colourcoding for nozzle flow rate. “Pay attention to pressure range and select a pressure near the middle of the available range. The most common reason for performance complaints is when the spray pressure of a low-drift nozzle is too low, resulting in poor spray distribution between nozzles,” says Wolf. “If your sprayer cannot produce sufficiently high pressures, you should not be using these nozzles.”
Using coarser sprays Coarser sprays will require more water volume for application for two reasons. 1. There must be enough droplets per square centimetre available to hit the target, especially when applying a pre-seed burnoff, where weeds are small and lowvolume coarse sprays will likely miss the weeds entirely. 2. There must be sufficient coverage of the target for the pesticide to work effectively, especially
when using contact herbicides, insecticides and fungicides. Wolf recommends using five to seven gpa for in-crop herbicides and 10 to 12 g/a for fungicides. “The taller your crop canopy, the more water is required,” he says. The spray pattern is also important when using lowdrift nozzles and coarser sprays. While finer sprays from conventional nozzles can be re-distributed by turbulence or wind and cover up a poor spray pattern, the low drift, coarse spray will go where it is pointed. “For coarse sprays, try to achieve a nozzle pattern width that is twice your nozzle spacing at the target height,” says Wolf. “Do this
by selecting wider angle nozzles, increasing pressure, or adjusting boom height. This will ensure that the coarsest droplets at the pattern edge are mixed in with the more abundant, finer droplets found in the middle of a pattern.”
4 spray nozzle types There are four main types of spray nozzles available: 1. Conventional Flat Fan: finest spray, reliable performance, drift prone, use at 20 to 60 psi. 2. Pre-Orifice: reduce drift 50 per cent, reliable efficacy at low volumes, use at 30 to 60 psi or higher. 3. Low-Pressure Air Induced: reduce drift 50 to 70 per cent, use
at 30 to 60 psi or higher, more than four g/a. 4. High Pressure Air Induced: reduce drift 70 to 90 per cent, use at 60 to 80 psi or higher, more than seven g/a. If you use a nozzle at a pressure lower than the minimum recommended, the spray pattern will not be fully expanded and the nozzle will not operate properly. Choose your “target” pressure by selecting a mid-point between the lowest and highest practical pressures for the nozzle. This midpoint provides an optimal pattern and spray quality and also offers some room to move up or down in pressure as required when travel speeds change.
Spray quality The relative droplet size indicates the spray quality of the nozzle, which gets coarser at lower pressures. Minimum volumes refer to the amount of water required to achieve acceptable coverage, which increases with coarser sprays. The actual spray quality of the nozzle at the pressure it is operated under will also have a bearing on the water volume required to apply the product. With some grassy and broadleaf weeds such as lambsquarters, kochia or cleavers, larger » continued on next page
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MARCH 19, 2012
Features mobile info » CONTINUED FROM Previous PAGE
AgReaderMobile now available for Android phones Alberta Farmer Express or Manitoba Co-operator, provides: • daily news headlines with links to the AGCanada.com network; • prices from all major North American agricultural markets, available on a 15-minute delay; • an alert feature which notifies the user when a futures price reaches a selected level; • opening, mid-session and closing text market commentaries from Commodity News Service Canada; • twice-daily Farm Market News radio broadcasts from Commodity News Service Canada.; andreal-time weather information from more than
800 WeatherFarm stations in Western Canada. AgReader, billed as the most widely available and accessed agri-
cultural app in Canada, is also available at Apple’s App Store and BlackBerry App World. † AgCanada.com
Application rates When applying chemicals at eight to 10 g/a, any nozzle will give good results at the correct pressure. But at four gpa or lower, only nozzles which give coarse or medium sprays should be used. Fine or very fine sprays should not be used, as they have dramatically increased drift potential. Pressure and boom height should be sufficient to generate 100 per cent pattern overlap.
Nozzle orientation Wolf recommends that nozzles generally be pointed backwards to reduce spray drift, but at slower speeds they can be pointed forwards for herbicide application. To penetrate dense, mature canopies, nozzles are best pointed downwards. Coarse sprays that are pointed backwards seem to have better spray patterns although on vertical targets better deposition is achieved with forward facing nozzles. Double nozzles generally require a lower boom height because of the spray angles, and they can improve coverage on vertical targets such as wheat (for fusarium control) or grassy weeds, but not on horizontal or low lying plants.
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Boom Height Boom height directly affects the potential for spray drift — higher boom heights cause more drift than lower boom heights. It is crucial to understand how each nozzle type functions at different boom heights. There is often a trade off between uniformity of the spray pattern and spray drift. Conventional nozzles with 80 degree fan angles operate best at around 18 inches above the target, whereas 110 degree nozzles can operate at 14 inches. To obtain good uniformity, lowdrift nozzles generally require higher heights — an additional six inches, or enough to achieve 100 per cent overlap. However, drift potential is increased by the additional boom height. Farmers should aim for the lowest boom height which still allows sufficient overlap.
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ur free mobile app, allowing you to keep track of Canadian farm news, weather and commodities on your smartphone, is now available for the Android platform. AgReader Mobile, developed for the Farm Business Communications family of publications, became available Thursday through the Android Market (search for “agricultural news”) and is also available by using an Android phone to visit our site at AgReader.ca. The AgReader service, branded with your choice of Grainews, Country Guide, Canadian Cattl-emen,
droplets don’t stick to their surfaces very well. Smaller or younger plants are also difficult to target with large droplets. These require either finer sprays or higher water volumes. Groups 6, 10, 14, 22 and 27 herbicides also require higher droplet densities so higher water volumes or finer sprays should be used with these products.
Here are three steps to improving canopy penetration. 1. Use higher volumes of water to deliver the product. 2. Travel at a slower speed. 3. Air assist nozzles have also been shown to improve penetration. Farmers should always check with nozzle manufacturers or their local distributor to make sure product specifications are correct and will meet their needs. † Angela Lovell Angela Lovell is a freelance writer, editor and communications specialist living and working in Manitoba. Find her online at www.angela.lovell.ca
MARCH 19, 2012
Features CROP PROTECTION
Group 1 herbicide resistance Not all Group 1 herbicides are created equal. Your wild oats may be resistant to “fops,” but not to “dims.” Make this work to your advantage BY LEEANN MINOGUE
erbicides in Group 1 are known as “ACCase inhibitors.” This is because Group 1 herbicides kill weeds by blocking the ACCase enzyme, which helps in the formation of lipids (fats). These are used in the plant to form membranes, cuticle (waxy coating on leaves) and other structures. Within Group 1, the chemistry of the herbicides is divided into three sub-groups, known by the shortened nicknames fops, dims, and dens, based on the last three letters of the active ingredient names.
since found differences in crossresistance patterns between the various dims. Clethodim tends to be more robust (that is, it controls populations that may be resistant to other dims). Sethoxydim and tralkoydim are very similar to each other in their cross-resistance patterns. Brenzil says fops are generally less robust. “Nearly all mutations result in fop resistance. The only exception is one out of roughly a dozen mutations where clodinafop will control the target weed where the others will not.” So far, Brenzil says, pinoxaden (Axial), a den, appears to have
more mutations in common with fops than with dims that result in resistance. “As a result,
still out, as far as I know, on tepraloxydim and whether it is more robust like clethodim or similar to other dims.”
MUTATIONS AND RESISTANCE
“Nearly all mutations result in fop resistance.” — CLARK BRENZIL it will have cross-resistance patterns more closely resembling fops than dims. The jury is
Plants become resistant to some Group 1 herbicides and not others due to the way the herbicide interacts with the target site on the ACCase enzyme. A plant’s metabolic pathway acts much like a manufacturing production line — each enzymatic reaction is just one station in the production line, and the enzyme at that station is the worker.
CROSS-RESISTANCE Just because a weed is resistant to a Group 1 fop herbicide, it may not be resistant to a Group 1 dim herbicide. Researchers refer to this as “cross-resistance.” Clark Brenzil says, “We initially found differences in Group 1 crossresistance when we started to look at the proportion of populations that were resistant to the two original sub-groups (fops and dims) we found that all Group 1 resistant wild oat populations were not universally cross-resistant to both sub-groups. We found some populations were resistant to both fops and dims, but others were only resistant to one or the other of the two sub-groups.” The wild oat population ratios broke out roughly like this: • Resistant to both fops and dims: about 40 per cent. • Resistant to fops only: about 40 per cent. • Resistant to dims only: about 20 per cent. That is, roughly 20 per cent of Group 1 resistant populations could be controlled by fops, and roughly 40 per cent of resistant populations could be controlled by dims. To be more specific, Brenzil says, “This is when sethoxydim was used as the dim test compound and when fenoxaprop is used as the fop test compound. What this told us is that there was more than one mutation that was responsible for the development of resistance in wild oat.”
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Since that study, more work has been done. Researchers have
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Brenzil explains it like this, “An enzyme is basically a catalyst. A catalyst is something that makes a chemical reaction between two other things easier. An enzyme is a catalyst that promotes a reaction in the plant’s metabolic system. “To simplify things, picture these reactions as either one where two parts come into the enzyme to be joined into one new part, or one part comes in to be split into two. A herbicide works by binding strongly with the enzyme, or tying the hands of the worker, and preventing the normal reaction from taking
» CONTINUED ON NEXT PAGE
MARCH 19, 2012
Features Crop protection
Group 1 herbicides for broadleaf weeds Rotating chemicals helps prevent weed resistance. With so many products on the market, it’s hard to keep track of which chemicals belong to which group By Leeann Minogue
here’s a lot of discussion about herbicide rotation. Rotating — using different chemicals every year — helps prevent the development of weed resistance. There are all kinds of products on the markets. Changing from one brand name to the next doesn’t always mean choosing a different active ingredient.
Gerald Pilger put together a comprehensive list of Group 1 herbicides registered for use in cereal crops. This list was published in the February 6 issue of Grainews. Clark Brenzil, provincial weed control specialist with Saskatchewan Agriculture, has helpfully supplied a list of Group 1 herbicides registered for use in broadleaf crops. It’s not a long list, there are only a few regis-
Group 1 herbicides for use in broadleaf crops: Clethodim
Select, Centurion, Arrow, Shadow RTM
Assure II, Yuma, historically Muster Gold
Poast Ultra, historically FlaxMax, and Pursuit Ultra
Equinox, as well as the DLX in Odyssey DLX and FlaxMax DLX
Source: Clark Brenzil, Saskatchewan Agriculture
tered, readily available products using each of the four Group 1 active ingredients. These are included in the table. In addition to the chemicals listed in the table, Brenzil points out that, in the past,
the active ingredient fluazifop has been available in products such as Fusilade, Venture and Fusion (co-packed with fenoxaprop). † Leeann Minogue is the acting editor of Grainews
» CONTINUED FROM Previous PAGE place. As a result the essential components for growth are not produced at the end of the pathway (production line). The plant runs out of whatever that essential element is and initially cannot continue to grow. Eventually it cannot repair itself from ongoing environmental damage and the plant dies.” Herbicide resistance occurs when a mutation changes the enzyme. Brenzil says, “The mutations create a target site enzyme that still functions correctly, but is different enough at the ‘binding site’ that the herbicide is not able to bind to the enzyme. The enzyme is still able to function properly in the presence of the herbicide.” Unfortunately for farmers, when the enzyme can function properly, the weed in the field can keep on growing. Brenzil says, “There are lots of mutations that are not successful, in the sense that the enzyme fails to function, but we never see these plants with unsuccessful mutations because they don’t survive very long.” Differences in mutations can explain why a plant population could be resistant to one subgroup and not another. Brenzil says, “Different mutations result in different herbicide associations with the target enzyme. The different herbicide molecules may or may not have a ‘shape’ that is compatible with the mutation. The more specific the herbicide is to the functional part of the enzyme, the more specific (and rare) the mutation needs to be in order to block the herbicide from binding to the enzyme.”
Two practical tips
N O IT C-60-03/12-BCS11080-E
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Once you know about crossresistance, how can you use the information to your advantage? The first recommendation is, if you have resistance to some Group 1 herbicides and not others, use the remaining herbicides sparingly. Brenzil says if you have documented Group 1 resistance to one sub-group of herbicides, but you can still use another sub-group from Group 1, protect that working herbicide like a precious gem, and use it only when you have no other options. This doesn’t mean using less than recommended rates! The advice is to use herbicides from other herbicide groups as often as possible. Always keep in mind Brenzil’s warning: “It may be the only Group 1 option you have left and it may not take too many more uses until it is gone too.” The second recommendation is to mix a herbicide from an alternate group with that working Group 1 herbicide. If you have a specialized weed like quackgrass or foxtail barley in a broadleaf crop and you need to use a Group 1 herbicide to control it, make sure you mix in a herbicide from an alternate group. Mixing herbicides from different resistance groups has been shown to protect against the development of resistance even better than rotating. The key to making this work is that the added herbicide needs to control the weed that’s at risk of developing resistance to the working Group 1 herbicide. † Leeann Minogue is the acting editor of Grainews
MARCH 19, 2012
Features LAND USE
Getting started with water drainage Excess moisture caused significant economic losses in many regions of the Prairies in 2010 and 2011. Many famers are looking to drainage to solve moisture problems BY BRUNEL SABOURIN
hiskey is for drinking; Water is for fighting over.” — Mark Twain
TOO MUCH WATER Water plays a vital role in growing food and feeding the world. But like anything else, too much of a good thing isn’t always good. There’s a fine line between too little and too much. A large part of our success growing a crop in any given year is dependent on the weather. Drainage is a hot topic these days, following two record wet years in many parts of the Prairies. We should also recognize that excess moisture has been causing issues in some areas for many more than a few years. There have been localized issues with excess moisture in many regions, but the problem appears to be growing with improved drainage in outlying areas, moving water off the land that much quicker. Water that once sat in sloughs and swamps and slowly percolated into the ground, ultimately recharging aquifers, is now finding its way into the river system. Sometimes this causes overland flooding, and there is sometimes potential for recurring floods over the course of one season.
We have a few options to minimize the effects of excess moisture. These usually involve draining water off the surface or through the soil profile. Before we can deal with excess moisture, it’s important to study the problem and identify possible solutions. Is the problem localized on a few acres or is the entire field involved? Is there a place to send the water if you drain it off your field?
SUBSOILING Excess moisture is most often an issue in heavy clay soils. These soils do not allow water to move through the soil profile very well, instead
allowing it to accumulate at the surface. Excess moisture inhibits nutrient uptake in plants and can cause nutrient loss to the environment. In the lake bottom areas of the Red River Valley, these clay soils can be more than 200 feet deep. But in other areas, there may be some coarser materials under a thin layer of clay. In these instances, compaction may be the cause of moisture problems. Compaction can prevent water from draining properly through the profile. Subsoiling might be a good fix. Sub-soiling is often considered a short-term fix that doesn’t address the real issue but it may be the most economic option, and the choice that makes the most sense. In areas
DRAINAGE TOPICS In this, the first part of a threepart series of articles about drainage, I will look at some of the economic losses attributable to drainage problems. In part two, I will delve into the different ways of draining water from a field, such as surface drainage or tiling, if the economics make sense. In specific instances where compaction is the cause, sub-soiling might be the best way to go. With new technology such as RTK guidance, we can be much more accurate and efficient at draining water, and do a much better job in shorter time. Lastly in part three, I will look into some different strategies for properly draining a field such as: Where do you put the dirt? I will also look at some of the negative effects of improved drainage. With all the improvements in drainage these days, the water is coming off the fields at a much faster pace and overwhelming many rivers and lakes causing overland flooding and irreparable damage to farmland, property and riverbanks. In areas where flooding is a recurring problem, the answer might lay in stacking or containing the water into smaller areas and slowly releasing it throughout the year instead of all at once.
On and Off YOUR fIeLd.
Wild oats • Broadleaf weeds Crop rotation flexibility • Tank mixes
DRAINAGE OPTIONS There are many tools these days that can help us identify problem areas, assess the severity and make good water management decisions based on sound economics. Although we cannot totally eliminate the risk of unfavorable weather, there are things we can do to manage it.
PHOTO: BRUNEL SABOURIN
Excess moisture in relatively flat land near Morris, Manitoba.
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MARCH 19, 2012
PHOTO: BRUNEL SABOURIN
Some of Brunel Sabourin’s fields were easier to seed than others. that cannot be fixed with sub-soiling, draining the surface water off the field is the only solution.
ELEVATION AND YIELD Before we can decide on the best way to fix the problem, it’s a good idea to quantify some of our losses to figure out if the benefits of additional drainage will outweigh the costs. Drainage has the potential
of doing more harm than good if not done properly. I am reminded of something that happened to some neighbouring farmers. The first farmer had a water problem on a field. After studying the issue, he figured the most natural course for the water was for it to flow through a neighboring piece of land. After getting the second farmer’s permission to drain water through his land, the
PHOTO: LEEANN MINOGUE
Excess moisture also caused significant problems in southeast Saskatchewan in 2011.
first farmer eyeballed the cut, made the ditch and hoped for the best. The land around here (in southern Manitoba) is fairly flat — there’s only a few feet of elevation on the mile. Once the ditch was dug, rather than draining his water, the first farmer ended up taking more of the neighbour’s water on to his own land. A good lesion about being exact when it comes to elevation. When looking at field drainage,
I like to start with aerial photographs to assess the lay of the land and find potential problem areas. This can be as easy as turning on the computer and looking at Google maps (find it online at http://maps.google.ca). When using Google maps, it’s important to keep in mind that not all Prairie fields have been photographed at a high enough resolution to evaluate drainage.
I like to study aerial images because they are usually taken in early spring after snow melt and before seeding. In flat areas, the pictures can really show where water accumulates — look for the rings of straw and chaff. Areas where high resolution photos have been taken are detailed enough to show soil color (texture) as well as all existing drains. I also like to zoom out and look at things from higher up, to try and figure out the natural lay of the land. I find the best way to assess the effects of poor drainage and excess moisture is a combination of elevation and yield maps. In areas with rolling land, if you have a yield map it is fairly easy to assess the effects of elevation and how they relate to production. Most yield maps will include elevation data. It’s not perfectly precise, but it’s often accurate enough. In flatter areas or to really fine-tune your drainage you will need to pay for sub-inch accuracy in the form of an RTK- type signal. RTK (realtime kinematic) provides a more precise form of GPS (geographic positioning system) information. Combining elevation information with yield maps, we can see exactly how elevation and moisture impact our fields, what the bushel differences are between good areas and bad and how many acres of each make up the field. If we know that moisture problems are costing us $30 per acre on average, that information can help us decide how much we can afford to spend addressing draining issues.
CROP BIOMASS Another tool in the toolbox can be satellite imagery that measures crop biomass. Looking at these maps, we can often see drowned out areas of a field, and we make a reasonably accurate estimate of the size of the areas that are visibly affected. The problem is that affected areas often extend well past what is visual. Providing information that isn’t visible or immediately obvious is where yield maps shine, but if they aren’t available, satellite imagery can fill the gap. Images will not tell you specific yields, but they are useful in measuring acres. In the next instalment in this series, I’ll evaluate some of the equipment and technology available for surface and subsoil drainage. This will touch on everything from blades to rotary ditchers, looking at pros and cons for each, as well as machine control technologies for reducing human error. I am guessing a lot of readers will be most interested in the iron. †
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Brunel Sabourin is a location agronomist with Cargill AgHorizons at Morris, Man. Contact him at 204-746-4743 or at brunel_sabourin@ cargill.com
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MARCH 19, 2012
Features Crop production
Negotiating the glyphosate jungle With so many different glyphosate products on the market, it can be tough to know which one to choose By Gerald Pilger
here are 128 glyphosate products currently registered for commercial (primarily agricultural) use in Canada. Not all of these products are available for purchase in Western Canada, or anywhere in Canada for that matter. Some are older products which are no longer manufactured or have been improved through new formulation. Some are products which are available in the U.S. but which are not available through the retail chain here — however they may be available through importation for your own use. And
there are a number of products which have recently received registration that are not yet on the market. The Alberta Agriculture herbicide selector website lists 23 glyphosate products which were available for agricultural use on the prairies last year. (Find this online at www.agric.gov.ab.ca — type “herbicide selector” in the search box.) Most of these 23 products will likely to be available again this summer. Plus, there will probably be a few more “new” glyphosate products added to the list. So how do you decide which glyphosate is the one you should use?
Glyphosate considerations First, not all glyphosate products are the same. While all are non-selective weed killers, there can be differences in the concentration of the glyphosate acid equivalent (active ingredient), in the salt used in the formulation of the product, and in the adjuvants. These factors will impact how much of the product is needed for controlling weeds. For example, to apply 360 grams of acid equivalent per acre using a product with 360 gram active ingredient (a.i.) would require one litre per acre of product (commonly referred to as the one litre rate).
However, you would only need to apply 0.75 litres if the product has 480 grams a.i., or 0.67 litres of a product with a concentration of 540 gram a.i. to get the same amount of active ingredient per acre as applying one litre of the 360 gram a.i. product. The salts and adjuvants will have an effect on the uptake and translocation of the glyphosate into the plant. They may also limit your selection of tank mix partners for use in non-crop area applications. Most importantly, never combine glyphosates with different salt formulations in the spray tank. There may be label differences. Some products are not registered
for pre-harvest application in certain crops. A few glyphosate products are not registered for use in Roundup Ready crops. Obviously, the company making and/or selling the product makes a difference. The service and the warranty offered on the product varies greatly from one manufacturer/retailer to another. Quality control of the product could be a concern, especially for off-shore manufactured products. There may be loyalty programming offers on the glyphosate product or other herbicide products that a farmer can take advantage of by purchasing glyphosate from a particular company. Container size varies between
REGISTERED GLYPHOSATE PRODUCTS Company(1)
Product (2) name/PCP number/ First date of registration
a.i. /L (3) Salt formulation
Available Container Sizes
Roundup Ready Crops
Adjuvants Plus Inc (Reg by MEY Canada)
Wise Up, PCP 29126; Jan 13,2009
356 g/l isopropylamine
Various sizes 20-750 litres
Clearout 41, PCP 28322; May 11, 2006
360 g/l isopropylamine
9.5, 30, 113, 940, 1040 L
Canola, corn, soybeans
Glyphosate Soluble Concentrate Herbicide, PCP 26828; Sept 24,2001
356 g/l isopropylamine
10, 115, 450, 1000 L & Bulk none
Glyphos, PCP 27287; May 13, 2003
360 g/l isopropylamine
10, 115, 450, 1000 L & Bulk none
Maverick III, PCP 28977; Apr 15, 2008
480 g/l dimethylamine
7.5, 10, 115, 450, 960 L and Canola, corn, soybeans Bulk
W,B,P F C, L, DB,SB,For
Vantage Plus Max II, PCP 28840; Feb 6, 2008
480 g/l dimethylamine
7.5, 10, 115, 450, 960 L and Canola, corn, soybeans Bulk
Polaris, PCP 29479; Oct 27,2009
360 g/l isopropylamine
10, 450, 1000 L
Canola, corn, soybeans
Factor 540, PCP 27988; July 20, 2005
540 g/l potassium
Canola, corn, soybeans, sugar beets
480 g/l dimethylamine
10, 115, 450, 1000 L & Bulk Canola, corn, soybeans
360 g/l isopropylamine
9.5, 30, 113, 940, 1040 L
Canola, corn, soybeans
356 g/l isopropylamine
10, 115, 450, 750 L, Bulk
Canola, corn, soybeans
Canola, corn, soybeans
540 g/l potassium
10, 115, 450, 800 L
540 g/l potassium
10, 115, 450, 800 L, Bulk
540 g/l potassium
10, 115, 450, 1150 L, Bulk
356 g/l isopropylamine
10, 100, 1000 L Bulk
Canola, corn, soybeans
Canola, corn, soybeans
356 g/l isopropylamine
10,115, 450 L
W,B,P F C, L, DB,SB,For
450 g/l isopropylamine 450 g/l isopropylamine
10, 115, 450, 1000 L - Bulk 10, 450, 1000 L - Bulk
Canola, corn, soybeans Canola, corn, soybeans
W,B,P F C, L, DB,SB,For W,B,O,P,F, C,L,DB,SB,For
500 g/l potassium
10, 115, 450 L - Bulk
Canola, corn, soybeans
500 g/l potassium
10, 115, 450, 946 L
Canola, corn, soybeans
356 g/l isopropylamine
Various sizes 10 - 1000L
Various sizes 10 – 1000L
Canola, corn, soybeans
540 g/l potassium
Canola, corn, soybeans, sugar beets
W,B,O,P,F, C,L,DB,SB,For, CP,FB,Lu
540 g/l potassium
Canola, corn, soybeans, sugar beets
W,B,O,P,F, C,L,DB,SB,For, CP,FB,Lu
DuPont (reg by Nufarm)
Libertas Now Inc MANA
New Agro Inc
Sygenta UAP (reg by Loveland Products Inc.)
Viterra (reg by Monsanto)
Matrix, PCP 29775; June 8,2010 KnockOut Extra, PCP 29266 Mar 20, 2009 Glyphogan Plus, PCP 29219 Jan 28, 2009 R/T 540, PCP 28487; Oct 11, 2006 Roundup Transorb HC, PCP 28198; Nov 2, 2005 Roundup WeatherMax, PCP 27487; Oct 17, 2003 MPower Glyphosate, PCP 29290; Sept 25, 2009 Credit, PCP 25866; Jan 26, 2000 Credit 45, PCP 29124; Nov 26, 2008 NuGlo, PCP 29470; Oct 20, 2009 Touchdown Total, PCP 28072; Aug 24, 2005 Traxion, PCP 29201; Dec 30, 2008 Sharpshooter, PCP 28631; Apr 5, 2007 Sharpshooter Plus, PCP 28623; Apr 5, 2007 Roundup Ultra2, PCP 28486 Oct 11, 2006 StartUp, PCP 29498; Nov 30, 2009
360 g/l isopropylamine
Canola, corn, soybeans, sugar beets Canola, corn, soybeans, sugar beets Canola, corn, soybeans, sugar beets
W,B,O,P,F, C,L,DB, SB,For, CP,FB,Lu W,B,O,P,F, C,L,DB, SB,For, CP,FB,Lu W,B,O,P,F, C,L,DB, SB,For, CP,FB,Lu
(1) The company which has registered or is marketing the glyphosate product. (2) The name of the glyphosate product, the PCP registration number, and the date the product first received registration. (for further information, including a copy of the label, you can search the registration number on the Health Canada website at www.hs-gc.ca .) (3) The active ingredient concentration in grams per litre and the salt used in formulation. (4) W - wheat, B – barley, O – peas, F – flax, C - canola, L - lentils, DB – dry beans, SB - soybeans, For - forages, CP – chickpeas, FB – fababeans, Lu –Lupins)
MARCH 19, 2012
Features New Glyphosate Registrations since July 2009. Not all are available in the marketplace. Reg #
Syngenta Canada Inc.
Touchdown Pro Herbicide
Global Ag Brands Inc.
Cheminova Canada, Inc.
Glyfos Bio Herbicide
Libertas Now Inc.
Cheminova Canada, Inc.
Glyfos Bio 450 Herbicide
Dow Agrosciences Canada Inc.
Depose herbicide solution
Nufarm Agriculture Inc.
Nufarm Glyphosate 450 Herbicide
Dow Agrosciences Canada Inc.
Durango herbicide solution
Nufarm Agriculture Inc.
Monsanto Canada Inc.
Mon 76431 Liquid Herbicide
Libertas Now Inc.
Monsanto Canada Inc.
Mon 76429 Liquid Herbicide
Libertas Now Inc.
Nufarm Agriculure Inc.
Credit Xtreme Herbicide
Libertas Now Inc.
Dow Agrosciences Canada Inc.
Vantage XRT Herbicide
Dow Agrosciences Canada Inc.
Loveland Products Canada Inc.
Mad Dog Plus
Dow Agrosciences Canada Inc.
Prepass XC B Herbicide
Alligare Glyphosate 4+
Chanoix Trading Inc.
Monsanto Canada Inc.
Global Ag Brands Inc.
Interprovincial Cooperative Limited
Vector Herbicide Solution
More information about each of these is available on Health Canada’s website. brands and companies. Some companies charge a deposit on containers and require its return. Others don’t. And of course, price varies between brands.
Registered glyphosate products The table shows a list of glyphosate products available in Western Canada last year. Products are compared by company, the grams of acid equivalent (active ingredient) per litre and the salt that is used in the formulation, available container sizes, if the product is registered for use in Roundup Ready crops, and the crops listed on label for pre-harvest application. Due to wide variation in regional availability and pricing, I have not included the factor many farmers consider the most important in selecting a glyphosate: Price. Price is something you need to compare for the glyphosate products that are available in your area. Also, note that the tables do not include glyphosate products which are co-packed with another herbicide for use in spring burn down or chem-fallow. Such products include: PrePass, Takkle, CleanStart, Eclipse III, Pace, Rustler and Spike-Up.
Recent Registrations The table on this page shows a list of new glyphosate registrations issued by Health Canada since July 2009, as listed on the federal website. In some cases, this new registration may simply reflect a renewal of the registration of an existing glyphosate product under a new name. It may reflect a label change such as a new container size or the addition of another crop on the label. In most cases it may reflect a company’s interest in introducing a “new” glyphosate product into the Canadian market. Some of these products may already be available. Some may never be introduced into the Western Canadian agricultural market. The table shows the huge interest in the sale of glyphosate and corporate competition for a share of the glyphosate market. This listing will simply provide you with some company and glyphosate product names to watch for in the future. †
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MARCH 19, 2012
Features Crop production
A new spin on potato rotation New study results show four-year rotations may provide the best results for potato growers By Julienne Isaacs
rop rotation can grant farmers major benefits over the long-term. However, it demands time and careful management — and the willingness to take some risks. Many potato growers see crop rotation as a mandatory practice for growing healthy tubers, and aren’t surprised at the continuous stream of research indicating its benefits for improving soil and limiting disease. But to say rotation is complicated would be a vast understatement — so many variables, and infor-
mation, crowd the process that making crop rotation decisions is often a difficult process. Growers must decide whether they have the land, or can rent sufficient land, to make proper rotations feasible; they must factor in the availability of cropspecific planting and harvesting equipment; and they must assess which crops to seed based on their benefits for the main potato crop, their compatibility with soil and topography, and ultimately, their market value. For many growers, their final decision on crop rotation must hinge on the latter — but what makes sense for the pocketbook
may have unexpected impacts on the land.
Surprising Findings One of the longest-running studies of potato rotation in Western Canada, led by Ramona Mohr, has been ongoing in Carberry, Man., since 1998. Researchers have looked at twoyear, three-year and four-year rotations of, respectively, potato-canola, potato-wheat, potato-canola-wheat, potato-oatwheat, potato-wheat-canolawheat and canola underseeded to alfalfa-alfalfa-alfalfa. They’ve analyzed each rotation’s effects
on disease, soil and crop yield and quality. “This whole study had several aspects to it — certainly yield and quality were going to flow out of this, but we were also [looking at] soil quality issues and monitoring weeds, as well as looking at other microbial aspects other than pathology,” says Byron Irvine, an agronomist and the research manager of the Brandon Research Centre. “From the beginning we had a good idea that the most risky rotations would be the shorter rotations. When this started there was belief that brassica species would suppress disease. The canola trials were key,” he adds.
But the canola trials presented one of their most surprising findings. The researchers found that by 2007, the potato-canola rotation was exhibiting a lower yield than the other rotations, and more than 75 per cent of these plants were affected by vascular wilt. Though research studies emitting from the United States and elsewhere have indicated that brassica species are disease-suppressing in rotation with potato, the Carberry study has shown something else over the long-term. “What we found was that rotation length made a difference, as did the type of crop,” said pathologist Debra McLaren. “The twoyear rotations were not sustainable, and interestingly, 13 years after establishment, the threeyear rotation with canola is starting to show disease at about the same level as the potato-wheat rotation. Highest disease levels are still evident in the potato canola rotation. It hasn’t given us the disease suppression we had expected, but preliminary results from 2010 suggest that the development of disease-suppressive soils over the long-term is not out of the question.”
Canola in rotation
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Irvine says that some of the studies that pointed to brassica species as excellent rotation crops might have used canola as green manure, which would account for the positive results. But according to Irvine, canola may not be ideal in rotation for more reasons. “It’s often difficult to get canola to establish well immediately after potato, so in some ways that’s the worst case scenario for a two-year rotation. It’s probably not a rotation that I would recommend, but I think you’ll continue to see canola in rotation here unless disease becomes a lot worse,” he says. In terms of the best-case scenario for crop rotation from a disease standpoint, Irvine and McLaren both recommend cereal crops in at least a three-year rotation. They make the recommendation cautiously, however, asserting that growers must judge their own circumstances before making rotation decisions. “Rotation strategies are one of those things that are climatic and soil specific, and certainly By Dan Piraro
MARCH 19, 2012
Features we understand principles can be translated to different situations, but growers should have these conversations with local agronomists,” says Irvine
SOIL AND WATER Studies have shown that rotation can improve not only disease rates, but the overall health and water and nutrient-holding capacity of the soil. A potato crop contributes very little organic matter or humus to the soil, greatly increasing the need for expensive inputs unless rotations are used and other best management practices observed. Beside the effect on yield, a lack of available nutrients in the soil can lead to lower quality tubers and thus lower marketability. Poorly structured soil can also become compacted under the wheels of heavy farm equipment. This may cause the soil to lose some ability to retain water.
Adriaansen has found canola to be a valuable rotation crop for its impact on the soil. “We like canola before potatoes on the heavier soils — it seems to mellow the soil structure for planting. Many people in our area choose this for their rotation,” he says. With regard to soil moisture, Adriaansen has had less luck with pulse crops in rotation. “In the bean rotation, soil organics are not restored, making the soil have less ability to absorb moisture. The result of this is a much harder time with clods of soil at harvest,” he says.
THE FUTURE OF ROTATION According to the results of a study prepared by the Eastern Canada Soil and Water Conservation Centre, multiple factors limit the adoption of crop rotation as a standard best management practice. Among them are limited land avail-
ability, land tenure discouraging growers from investing in sustainable practices, farm debt and the long transition period involved in establishing an effective rotation. As the Carberry researchers point out in the study “Effect
tion… few treatment effects were evident,” the authors of the study note. “In fact, it was not until the tenth year after treatments were imposed and beyond that strong and consistent effects of rotations occurred annually.” This time lag can be costly for growers.
Studies have shown that rotation can improve not only disease rates, but the overall health and water and nutrientholding capacity of the soil. of Crop Yield and Quality in an Irrigated Potato System,” rotation has little effect on yield and disease control for the first three to four years, and it may take even longer before the effect of rotation becomes predictable. “During the transitional phase of the rota-
However, Tupling believes the cost of land is the biggest factor preventing more growers from using crop rotations. “You’ll hear farmers say, ‘What’s the point of me growing alfalfa when I only gross $100 an acre with that land?’” Tupling says. “Land prices
in this particular area are probably between $7,000 and $10,000 an acre. At that price, to grow alfalfa for a livestock operation is not profitable. They can’t sell the rotational crop for enough money.” Nevertheless, many farmers believe the risk to be worth it. And Tupling sees the risk itself as inevitable for any profitable operation. “Rotation comes with challenges in marketing, challenges in how to handle additional residue — you have to do it more than once,” says Tupling. “Everything you do, you have to have a market, and if you don’t have one you have to go find one. “Farmers, in order to survive, have had to learn the little challenges that come up. Part of that is taking risks, and knowing how far in the risks to go,” he says. † Julienne Isaacs is the coordinating editor of Spud Smart. This article was originally published in “Spud Smart,” a magazine for the Canadian potato industry. Find Spud Smart online at www.spudsmart.com
FARMERS’ EXPERIENCE Bert Tupling farms 1,250 acres of potatoes in a 3,500 acre operation in south-west Ontario with his two sons, Andrew and Aaron, and uses two-year and three-year rotations. He also rotates potato varieties, using different varieties in each field to ensure that the land “does not become too accustomed” to any single variety. For Tupling, crop rotation has made a huge difference in yield and overall soil health on his operation. “The number one benefit in my book is yield. That yield is gained from more organic matter built in the soil,” he says. “That organic matter, in our particular soil, has to do with the absorption or retention of moisture. In terms of the soil health, it allows more aeration, and thus oxygen (to reach the plants).” According to Paul Adriaansen, who grows potatoes on 2,500 acres near Wellwood, Man. and maintains a three- to four-year rotation, the practice makes common sense. “I see crop rotation as a necessary tool for responsible farming, not a hindrance at all. Almost all of our irrigation rotates with the potatoes. Quality disease-free potatoes is the key to success in the marketplace for us, as well as for the processors who represent our joint product.” Adriaansen says he always uses cereals in the rotation after potatoes. “We have had very good success with rye after potatoes on light land, low inputs and as of late good returns,” he says. Despite the researchers’ findings for canola in rotation,
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MARCH 19, 2012
Features GRAIN STORAGE TECHNOLOGY
New remote bin monitor A lot of different things can go wrong with stored grain. IntraGrain has a new way for you to keep track of your bins even when youâ€™re on the road BY LEEANN MINOGUE
magine this: Youâ€™re golfing in Palm Springs and about to tee off when your phone beeps. You check the screen and itâ€™s a text from home. Itâ€™s your grain bin, just getting in touch to let you know your canolaâ€™s heating up.
This remote-bin-monitoring service is now available from IntraGrain, a new Regina company. IntraGrainâ€™s Bin-Sense customers will be able to use smart phones or the Internet to monitor stored grain from anywhere in the world. While many bin sensors require you to clip yet another remote sensor to your belt, this one lets you use the phone youâ€™re already carrying around. Bin-Sense customers receive a package of wireless sensors to install in each bin, along with a master unit. These sensors gather information and transmit it straight to IntraGrain. Customers can access their own bin information on the IntraGrain website anytime â€” checking in on the temperature inside of the bin from the comfort of the living room or a Las Vegas casino. Customers can also set thresholds that will trigger a text message to let you know if thereâ€™s a drastic change in the temperature inside the bin, or even if sensor batteries run low.
A screen shot from the IntraGrain website.
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Even if youâ€™re not really interested in this service, itâ€™s kind of fun to take a quick look at www. intragrain.com. The â€œget a quoteâ€? option allows you to drag and drop icons to create a graphic map of your farm. Once you send in the drawing, IntraGrain will take a look, determine how many sensors and master units you need, and get back to you with a quote. Prices vary depending on your yard set-up and how many bins you need to track. As of a few months ago, a quote for a very simple yard set-up with eight bins and one master unit was just under $5,500 plus another $10 per month for the ongoing service.
INTRAGRAIN Saskatchewan-born Kyle Folk, president and founder of IntraGrain Technologies Inc. was doing a brisk business at the Crop Production Show in Saskatoon in January. Lots of farmers were showing an interest in this new system. â€ Leeann Minogue is the acting editor at Grainews
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MARCH 19, 2012
Long term results of zero till After running a 14-year old zero-till trial, Garry Ropchan had the soil tested and found big differences between conventional and zero-till plots. Find out what he learned BY GARRY ROPCHAN
n the March 12 issue of Grainews I described the 14-year tillage trails I was involved with in Alberta. From 1994 to 2007, I worked with Otto Toerper on his farm about 15 miles south-west of Spirit River to study three different seeding systems. We used a 20-acre plot, divided into nine strips a little over two acres each. We worked with three different systems: conventional till (two or more spring tillage passes), minimum till (only one spring tillage pass) and zero till (no tillage passes, weed control with 0.5 litres per acre of Roundup burnoff herbicide). Having data from a 14-year trial is something of an oddity. I don’t think that this point can be emphasized enough. Soil is a very complex environment that develops over thousands of years. We have been tilling and damaging soil in Western Canada for about 100 years. We are now employing a system that should be beneficial for the soil, but how long will it take before we start to see benefits? I often compare this to a person who takes drugs. Their body, like soil, becomes used to having things done in a certain way. Once they stop taking drugs (or tilling) their body (or soil) does not immediately return to the condition that it was in before the drugs (or tillage) were first used. It takes time, and I believe this will be the case with soil. Stopping tillage and the damage it causes won’t improve soil structure and increase organic matter overnight. Most of us will be farming for 40 or 50 years, but even this is a very short period of time in the life of soil. During our trials, as I explained in the last article, our yields were higher on the zero-till plots than
on the conventional plots. But I also wanted to learn more about the long-term effects of zero till on the soil.
SOIL SAMPLES In the spring of 2003, I gathered soil samples from each of our plots. This was done with the goal of being able to look at differences in the soil over time between the three different seeding systems. The costs of having soil tests done from each of the nine strips would have been too expensive, given my budget. I’m grateful that Norwest Labs (Doug Keyes and Roger Andreiuk) supported this extensive
Improvements in soil quality can be achieved by zero till in a 10-year period. soil testing activity. Sampling the plot area in this fashion it allowed us to perform a statistical analysis to see if any differences we found were significant or not. We gathered zero- to six-inch soil samples from each of the areas to test for differences in soil after 10 years of study. The results are shown in the table. There were significant differences in the rates of available nitrogen and sulphur, as well as organic matter. There were no significant differences in the rates of available phosphorus or potassium. As a result of the soil tests and recommendations, the cost of the fertilizer required on the zero-till land
Soil test results after 10 years, Toerper Site Available Nutrients Treatment
This photo was taken of the test plot in 2003. The left hand side, with all the quackgrass, is a minimum-till strip. The right hand side is the zero-till strip. was between three and four dollars per acre less than the on the minimum or conventional till land. These results should serve to illustrate that improvements in soil quality can be achieved by zero till in a 10-year period, and that nutrient cycling can be improved through zero till.
END OF THE EXPERIMENT It was a deep personal loss when Otto Toerper past away in 2001. Otto had contributed to my program in such a big way. It is this type of rare individual that makes my work such an easy thing to do every day. Shortly before Otto’s passing he came to see me, and we talked about the future of his test plot. I told him that the plot was serving as a means to give other farmers the confidence to make the move to zero till. He said that while he would not be farming any longer, I was welcome to continue to use the site to continue to gather information. This is Otto’s greatest gift — the willingness he had to help others before himself. † Garry Ropchan is research coordinator for the Central Peace Conservation Society and, along with his son Aidan, operates a grain farm near Grimshaw, Alta. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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MARCH 19, 2012
Features CROP PRODUCTION
Choosing a tillage system A University of Minnesota researcher talked about the effects of tillage on farm fields at MAFRI’s Grain Information Day BY SCOTT GARVEY
odi Dejong-Hughes has an unusual tag line at the bottom of her email messages. It reads, “Don’t treat your soil like dirt.” DeJong-Hughes is regional educator for crops at the University of Minnesota, and she was invited to Selkirk, Manitoba, in January to speak to farmers at MAFRI’s (Manitoba Agriculture Food and Rural Initiatives) annual Grain Information Day. Dejong-Hughes still lives on a farm in southern Minnesota, and she says many farmers in that part of the country prefer traditional tillage practices to the zero till wave that has washed across most of the prairies in both the U.S. and Canada. There are a variety of reasons behind the resistance to change in that region that also seem to resonate with farmers here. “When choosing a tillage system, there are lot of different things (to consider),” she said. “There’s tradition. There’s also the average age of our farmers; in Minnesota it’s 57. So how many 57-year-olds, if they don’t have kids taking over the farm, are going to invest in new (zero till) equipment? It also depends on your cropping system.” But the strongest of those driving forces behind continued tillage may be farmers’ perceptions of what good fields look like. “A lot of people were raised with it (a plow). They were told if they left their soil black that was good farming; if you left that trash on the field you’re not farming correctly.” But farmers need to understand what’s at stake when choosing to continue with intensive tillage. DeJong-Hughes says conventional tillage comes at a price. Reduced organic content in the soil and nutrient loss could be costing farmers more than they realize in lowered production potential. The U of M has conducted research into just what happens when farmers practice intensive tillage. “Structure is vital in helping soil maintain its productivity,” she explained. The type of implements used have different effects. “The most destructive is the disc.” Loss of structure has a variety of negative effects, which includes making soils more prone to compaction problems. “Soil structure is your number one defence against compaction,” she added. “Tillage destroys structure. It physically tears apart those little aggregates.” Loss of organic matter is also linked to poor soil structure. So another key element in maintaining healthy soils is keeping — or rebuilding — soil organic content. Intensive tillage can prevent that from happening. Farmers looking to rebuild soils need to park their cultivators and discs. “Reduce your tillage and maintain at least 30 per cent residue cover after planting,” advised DeJongHughes. Eliminating tillage entirely could accelerate improvements in soil organic content. Using tillage to incorporate crop residues, which contain carbon,
may seem like a good way to work toward improving the carbon-tonitrogen ratio in the soil. But that isn’t the case. “If I till that residue into the soil, most producers think they have fed the soil” explained DeJong-Hughes. “But what actually happens is in one cup of productive soil you have about six billion microbes. What they do is eat carbon out of the residue and respire it off as carbon dioxide. Because you tilled, you fed them a carbon rich food source, warmed up the soil and introduced oxygen, making the soil microbes very happy. They inter-
cept the carbon from going into building organic matter because they take that carbon in and respire it off as carbon dioxide. What happens to a gas? (It goes) back up into the atmosphere.” The other major problem with tillage is erosion. “A single raindrop can move soil particles three feet. The more tillage you do and the less residue you have, the more potential you have for erosion. Residue is the number one, important factor in stopping this.” But just because a little residue is a good thing, a lot isn’t necessarily a lot better. “Am I saying have 100 per cent residue? No. No. No,” she
PHOTO: SCOTT GARVEY
Not all producers have chosen — or been able — to move away from conventional tillage. says. “With water erosion about 30 per cent (residue) really brings down how much soil is lost or moved from that field. If you look at wind erosion, 30 per cent really knocks it down. If you have standing residue versus flat, it even helps it more.” As bad as the risk from wind
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and water erosion is, erosion from tillage is even worse. “Tillage erosion is worse than wind and water put together,” she said. “Tillage can move soil particles much faster than Mother Nature ever could.” † Scott Garvey is machinery editor for Grainews. Contact him at email@example.com
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MARCH 19, 2012
Features Crop production
Focusing on soil health boosts profits This North Dakota farmer has taken an holistic approach to crop production, and he says it’s paying dividends By Scott Garvey
ould growing corn with a total input cost of $1.30 per bushel or wheat at $1.88 per bushel improve your bottom line? Most conventional farmers have significantly higher expenses than that. However, Gabe Brown, a mixed farmer from Bismarck, North Dakota, says those were exactly his direct costs of production last year. After four consecutive weatherrelated crop failures, Brown was feeling the financial pinch and needed to make big changes on his operation. “I had to learn how to be more productive on our own farm using less inputs,” he says. A switch from conventional production practices to zero till in 1993 and to an holistic approach with cover crop use in 1995 significantly lowered his production costs and improved profitability on his farm. I n e a r l y F e b r u a r y, B r o w n addressed a group of farmers at Arcola, Saskatchewan. “I learned I was disconnected from the land,” he told the crowd. His new approach to farming is to correct that problem by focusing on soil health to maximize.
“We have to open our mind to a different way of thinking if we’re really going to concentrate on taking care of that degraded resource and regenerating our land,” he says “This (holistic management) is really simple; it’s farming and ranching in nature’s image. Soil is not just a medium to hold plants upright. It’s a living system.” Brown says a move away from tillage is the first step in improving soil health. “Tillage of any kind is destructive to the resource (soil),” he says. “There’s no way farmers can improve (soil) if they till. A lot of people think they have to till, but they don’t. If you really want to concentrate on advanced soil health, tillage is the first thing that has to go.” In the last two years many Prairie farmers have actually taken a step back from strict zero till regimes and reincorporated limited tillage into their production practices again. Drying out saturated soils or incorporating extreme residue build ups have been the main driver behind that trend. But Brown argues those farmers are not treating the underlying cause. “They’re just treating the symptom,” he says. “I can do the same thing that piece of iron does with
Gabe Brown is an holistic farmer from Bismarck, North Dakota. He spoke to producers at a seminar in Arcola, Saskatchewan, in February. living organisms.” By seeding a variety of cover crops in fields along with a cash crop, the added biodiversity brings the carbonto-nitrogen ratio of the soil into balance, which increases the rate residue breaks down. “It’s just a matter of figuring out what nature is trying to tell you,” he says. “We also found that with cover crops, once you use cover crops your no-till soils will warm up much faster than with B:10.25” conventionally-tilled ground.” T:10.25” An increase in respiration from
microorganisms in the soil is the primary cause, according to Brown. Using cover crops is a key element in his operation. In some fields he will seed a mixture of up to 11 different plant varieties over the course of the year, although not all will be harvested. The more diversity in plant species, the more microorganisms and insects are able to exist in fields, including insects that prey on detrimental pests that commercial growers need to kill with pesticides. Brown’s experience shows that the need for chemical inputs declines as plant diversity in farm fields increases. Nutrient reserves in his fields have also increased dramatically, and his rate of fertilizer application has dropped off. But initially, he cautions, growers who decide to adopt this kind of holistic approach will need to increase fertilizer rates during the transition until soil conditions improve and a farmer gets to reap the advantages. Brown says anyone interested in converting to an holistic system should experiment with it first. “I would discourage anyone from jumping in whole hog, so to speak,” he says. “Set aside (a few
acres) whatever fits your operation and just say we’re going to try for the next five years to get a diverse rotation, get some cover crops and not take off any of the biomass other than the cash crop. You have to leave it on the land; get cattle out there to harvest that. Commit yourself for five years and you will be sold.” Livestock make a good fit with grain production, he says. “We’ve found the grazing of plants increases root densities. We’ll use mob grazing to harvest some of these cover crops. If you have livestock, it’s a win-win situation.” Focusing on any extra yield possible through high-input agriculture rather than profit is a mistake from Brown’s point of view. Brown believes the example his own farm provides proves there is a viable alternative to the commercial production paradigm. Aligning a farm’s growing practices with the natural model can create sustainable profits with minimum inputs. “So often in production agriculture we’re trying to outsmart Mother Nature,” he says. “Maybe we should work with her.” † Scott Garvey is machinery editor for Grainews. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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MARCH 19, 2012
Features FARM FORUM
New crops and new varieties figure into seeding plans With decent prices for most commodities, farmers are hoping conditions for spring seeding don’t turn too wet or too dry
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ew crops, new varieties and new equipment are all on the minds of Prairie farmers contacted for this Farmer Panel. Field conditions can always change between March and seeding, but most were optimistic as they head into spring that moisture conditions were promising for the coming seeding and growing season, and prices of most commodities appeared strong, as well. A shortage of moisture hasn’t been a concern in southern Manitoba and southeast Saskatchewan the last couple years. Parts of southern Manitoba were very wet in early 2011 and then turned very dry later in the year. Subsoil moisture is good, and snow received in early March this year should provide moisture for good germination and stand establishment this spring. Parts of southeast Saskatchewan were very wet through most of 2011, but a relatively dry winter is encouraging producers there they will be able to get a crop seeded this spring. And in Alberta, with low snowfall in many areas this winter, adequate spring moisture was a concern, but early March snow hopefully will provide some soil moisture for seeding. With the weather out of their control, most farmers are planning some management and production changes for the coming year. Here is what this month’s Farmer Panel had to say about their spring seeding plans:
ERIC FRIDFINNSON ARBORG, MAN. With reasonable commodity prices almost across the board this year, Eric Fridfinnson plans to stick with most of his usual BY DAN PIRARO
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crop rotation in 2012, although he may add grain corn to the mix. Fridfinnson, who along with his brother Brian, crops about 5,000 acres, at Arborg, in eastcentral Manitoba, north of Winnipeg, says excessive moisture the past couple years is one reason he is considering corn. “We tried a conventional openpollinated corn variety a few years ago and it really didn’t have the right fit,” says Fridfinnson. “However with newer hybrids and genetics now producing varieties within the heat unit range of soybeans we’re interested in giving it another try.” Fridfinnson says in travels last year through Manitoba and northern U.S. states he was impressed how well corn did in areas that were wet. “Corn needs a lot of moisture anyway, and even in wet areas it seemed to grow successfully,” he says.
I was very impressed with a new Polish variety I tried last year. — ERIC FRIDFINNSON He is looking to line up rental equipment or have corn custom seeded this spring. He’d also like to try a new high yielding flax variety, Prairie Sapphire developed by Agriculture and Agri-food Canada at the Morden Man. Research centre. It has higher oil content and improved disease resistance over check varieties. “And I continue to play around with Polish canola, as well,” BY DAN PIRARO
MARCH 19, 2012
Features says Fridfinnson. “I was very impressed with a new Polish variety I tried last year and will look at it again for 2012.” Fridfinnson says while Polish varieties aren’t has high yielding as hybrid Argentine varieties, they have made yield gains, and the cost of production is lower. “You have to look at the net return and they are not far off,” he says. Aside from adding corn, Fridfinnson will continue with a 10-crop rotation that includes several forage seed varieties, as well as soybean, flax, canola, winter wheat, barley, oats and spring wheat.
KELLY KABERNICK SANFORD, MAN. Kelly Kabernick isn’t planning any changes to his southern Manitoba farm crop rotation. He introduced soybeans to his rotation three years ago, and says the crop has done extremely well, even though it is seeded with conventional equipment. “I plan to put in 640 acres of soybeans this year,” says Kabernick, who crops about 3000 acres, southwest of Winnipeg. “I had thought about going to wider rows, but I seeded the crop with a Flexicoil air seeder on nine-inch spacing the first year and yields were excellent, so I see no reason to change. While late summer and fall of 2011 were very dry in his area, Kabernick says March snow should provide the moisture for seeding and good germination. And there is plenty of subsurface moisture once the crop gets growing. “Lack of moisture has never been a concern in this area,” he says. His usual rotation includes oats, wheat, flax, canola and soybeans.
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JOSH FANKHAUSER CLARESHOLM, ALTA. Josh Fankhauser will be looking at some new wheat and canola varieties on the family run Lamb Farms at Claresholm, northwest of Lethbridge, this year. He’ll be looking at wheat varieties with improved insect and disease resistance and also evaluating some of the new Roundup Ready and Liberty Link canola varieties. “I find with new genetics, canola isn’t difficult to grow,”
says Fankhauser. “Where I really have to pay more attention is improving agronomics with wheat production. Wheat seems to present more challenges.” Fankhauser says he is paying particular attention to seed
And he’ll also be growing some AC Unity VB, a hard red spring wheat variety with improved tolerance to the orange wheat blossom midge. The VB denotes AC Unity is a varietal blend of 90 per cent AC Unity and 10 per cent AC Waskada. The
Fankhauser says he is paying particular attention to seed treatments on wheat, as well as disease and insect control. treatments on wheat, as well AC Waskada, a midge susceptible as disease and insect control. variety, provides a refuge area for That’s why he is looking at new non-virulent midge to survive at wheat varieties. low levels, which extends the useAC Waskada has performed well ful life of the Sm1 midge tolerance on his farm, but this year he will gene found in AC Unity. also be trying AC Carberry which B:8.125” To assist him with protecting the along with high yield has improved crop from pests, Fankhuser is also T:8.125” resistance to fusarium head blight. excited about a new 120-foot New
Holland SP 365 front boom sprayer he’ll be taking to the field this year. It replaces a 100-foot home built sprayer, which has worked over about 30,000 acres each year for the past several years and “was simply wore out,” says Fankhauser. “We’re paying closer attention to new wheat varieties, and to disease pressures,” says Fankhauser. “We use seed treatments, but last year for example, we saw things like stripe rust in the crop. And you have to spray as soon as you see it. You have to move very fast. Last year we tried to treat 3,000 acres in two days, and it was a challenge with the old sprayer.” While he has used general yield monitor information and mapping for limited variable rate fertilizer application in the past, Fankhauser also hopes to evaluate full variable rate fertilizer technology on about 480 acres of the farm this year. † Lee Hart is a field editor for Grainews in Calgary, Contact him at 403-592-1964 or by email at email@example.com
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Rick Procyk, who farms near Fillmore, southeast of Regina, says soybeans will replace peas as a legume in his crop rotation for 2012. Procyck says he has never had much luck with peas, but has talked to several area farmers who have had good results with soybeans. He plans to grow about 160 acres of a Roundup Ready variety and will produce it with conventional seeding and harvesting equipment. After getting only about 10 per cent of his 4,000 acre farm seeded in 2011 — the first time that has happened in his farming career — Procyk says he hopes ground conditions are dry enough to get the seeding done in 2012. “We had very good soil moisture,
almost excessive, going into fall and now this winter we’ve had virtually none,” he says. “So I am hoping we will be able to seed this spring. I never thought we would miss seeding a crop because of too much moisture, but that’s where we were last year. I am hoping this year we can off to a reasonable start.” Procyck, says along with soybeans he will be growing lentils, canola, spring wheat, flax and barley this year.
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MARCH 19, 2012
4 tips for using production contracts Saskatchewan farmer Jay Peterson describes his experience with production contracts, and shares 4 things he’s learned from using them BY JAY PETERSON
igning production contracts before seeding creates benefits that last all year. Production contracts can smooth out cash flow, reduce risk in an ever-volatile market, and create a situation where a farmer can sleep easier at night. Once you’ve sold your crop at a price that allows you to pencil in a profit, you can stop worrying about marketing decisions, and focus on growing the best crop possible. Production contracts allow a farmer to sell a set amount of production on a set number of acres for a given crop. There are many reputable companies out there offering these deferred delivery contracts. Many farmers are wary when it comes to production contracts.
What if the price of canola skyrockets and they miss out on capturing the higher value? The thing to remember is that contracts don’t usually cover the entire crop produced on every acre. If the year is above average or even average, you’ll have plenty of extra bushels you can sell later in the year to take advantage of the higher price.
MY EXPERIENCE In my experience over the last four years, the early contracts that have been available in the winter have been some of the highest prices of the year (in the top 10 per cent). This is a very good place to be. Until things change in the marketplace I feel confident that the production contracts put out in the winter will not disappoint.
However, I don’t always see everything coming, and I do make mistakes in estimating future prices. Thinking about all of the different factors that can cause fluctua-
I believe that maximizing your production contracts really maximizes your chance at having a more stable situation. tions in the market can make your head spin. But if you’ve signed a production contract, you don’t have to worry about volatility until your crop’s safely in the bin
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and you’re deciding what to do with the overage. Having that overage to sell later in the year also removes some of the price volatility from your farm
business. Since the production contract will not cover your whole crop, you can still take advantage of a sharp upward trend, raising your average price. If the market takes a dive, you can wait for the price to rally, since you’ve already sold much of your crop at the early higher price. Or, even if you do sell your overage at a lower price, you’ve still achieved a higher average price than a farmer who waited to sell all of his crop. In my opinion, in either of these situations having a production contract is a win for the farmer.
WEATHER FAILURE No one goes into a year planning to have the weather fail them. However, a little insurance can guarantee that you’ll breakeven in a worst-case scenario. The Saskatchewan Crop Insurance Corporation offers a Contract Price Option, insurance coverage with a blended price based on your contract price, the amount of crop contracted, and SCIC’s base price. (This option isn’t available for all crops.) Each spring, SCIC sets the maximum allowable Contract Price Option based on prices offered by primary contractors in the province. Sure, it will cost you a little more to buy insurance at a higher grain price, and this method doesn’t guarantee you the highest profit, but if you’re going into a year that’s uncertain because of abnormal weather the year before (drought or flooding), insurance can lower your risk. This method is most effective if you’re dealing with high-value crops that are worth spending a little extra on protection. Signing a production contract can help you manage your cash flow. Companies don’t usually sign
production contracts with farmers unless they have an end buyer in mind. They want to get the product to the end buyer and finish their sale as fast as they possibly can. This means it’s in the company’s best interests to move your production as soon as possible. Of course, all situations are different, but this is one of the things I’ve enjoyed in my experience with production contracts.
FOUR TIPS Here are some things I’ve learning through using production contracts. It’s important to get an Act of God in your production contract to cover yourself from crop failure due to circumstances outside of your control. This will keep you from having to buy out your own contract and cost yourself money. 2. Because your contract won’t cover the full production on every acre included, to maximize the amount of crop you can sell at the price you’re offered, try to include as many acres as possible in the agreement. 3. Research the company before you sign an agreement. Many farmers worry about dealing with a company that goes into bankruptcy and never takes the product. You don’t want your product sitting in the bin a year later, still waiting for movement. Luckily, I’ve heard of very few cases like this. 4. Take time to build a relationship with the company offering you the contract. A strong relationship can lead to more contract opportunities in the future. In business, solid relationships can help you get along in years when the circumstances may not be optimal.
MAKE THE BEST DECISION It’s a terrible feeling to sign a contract, than watch the price climb throughout the year. This will happen on occasion, and when it does, it’s important to remember that you made the best decision you could at the time with all the market information available to you. In conclusion, there are many benefits to production contracts. I believe that maximizing your production contracts really maximizes your chance at having a more stable situation in which to run your operation. † Jay Peterson farms near Frontier, Sask.
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MARCH 19, 2012
Three types of insurance every farmer needs It’s easy to procrastinate when it comes to insurance, but it’s a key part of farm financial planning. Here are three types you’ll wish you had, if the worst should happen BY CRYSTAL PALMER
f you farm, you have a willingness to take on a variety of risks. It’s in your job description. Insurance transfers financial risk and protects your farm investments in the unfortunate event of a loss. That’s why it’s important to make sure your farm is adequately covered with the right type and amount of insurance to fill your individual needs.
INSURANCE NEEDS “It’s essential for farmers to talk to their brokers about their specific needs, risks and coverage requirements. It doesn’t take much for farmers to be under-insured,” said Dean Schous, a product manager specializing in commercial and agro lines at SGI. “They should also make sure they review their coverage often. Equipment, building and machinery value can change from one year to the next, due to recent purchases, depreciation or an increase in construction costs, leaving potential coverage gaps, especially if your insurer hasn’t been updated on the changes.” There are three main types of insurance every farmer should have and keep up to date.
It’s a good idea to keep a list of all belongings, pictures of them and receipts for your major purchases in a safe place in case anything happens. Once a major loss has happened, it can be hard to remember every item and what it’s worth.
3. FARM PROPERTY INSURANCE Quonsets, barns, shops, granaries and sheds are essential to your farm operations, protect your other property and machinery, and require upkeep. That’s why it’s important to have appropriate farm property insurance coverage from fire and other damages, especially for your larger buildings or ones of higher value.
This type of insurance covers more than just buildings. It covers equipment used by your farm and products coming from it, whether
A farm is a business and every business needs liability coverage. it’s grain, machinery, livestock, hay, fodder, tools, chemicals or anything else essential to the farm’s livelihood. This is important coverage to have in case these things are lost, damaged, destroyed or stolen.
ADDITIONAL TIPS AND CONSIDERATIONS Insurance covers all sorts of things in all sorts of situations. That’s why it’s important to talk to your broker about exactly what is and isn’t covered and under what circumstances. The nature of farm business offers situations that don’t often come up in other types of business. For instance, do you have coverage for your machinery if it’s damaged while you’re helping or working for a neighbour at harvest? The answer depends on the terms of the agreement you have with your neighbour and your own individual policy. Co-insurance is also something
to consider. Certain types of property insurance require that you insure a certain amount of the building’s or item’s value (on either an actual cash value or replacement cost basis). If the insurance amount is not to the correct percentage, you’ll have to pay a portion of the loss on your own. This could lead to an unexpected significant expense. “It’s good business sense and sound financial management to make sure all your farm property has enough coverage,” said Schous. “Keep good records, keep your broker up to date and you’ll have the peace of mind of knowing your livelihood is protected.” † Crystal Palmer is a communications specialist at SGI in Regina, Sask.
1. LIABILITY COVERAGE A farm is a business and every business needs liability coverage. Liability coverage helps protect you if your negligence results in any damages your operation makes to people or property in the course of the work they do. There are many cases where farmers may find themselves suddenly in need of liability insurance. For instance, you or your employee might over-spray chemical onto another farmer’s crop, or injure or damage someone or something while moving machinery. Your livestock could get out and be hit by someone’s vehicle. As part of your liability coverage, you should have farm employee coverage if you have people working for you. Farm employee coverage protects you if your negligent actions result in one of your employees getting injured — or dying — while working on or for the farm. For instance, if your employee is injured when you accidentally back a tractor into them, you and your operation will be protected.
2. DWELLING AND BELONGING INSURANCE A farm is more than just a business. It’s the place you and your family call home. And every home, regardless of where it is, needs insurance protection. Dwelling and belonging insurance covers your home, its contents and their value. It protects you from damages and misfortune such as fire and storm damage, and can be tailored to meet your specific needs. There are certain limitations to dwelling and belonging coverage. Special belongings, such as boats, jewellery and seasonal dwellings (like a cabin at the lake) will need to have additional coverage.
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MARCH 19, 2012
Features FARM FINANCES
5 ways to organize your filing system The very first step in farm financial planning is good record keeping. Organizing and maintaining your income and expense records will help you lower your accounting fees and minimize your tax bill BY SHARON ELLIOTT
he way farmers keep track of farm income and expenses has “improved in leaps and bounds,” according to Danielle Mytopher of Wheatland Accounting in Fillmore, Saskatchewan. “People are realizing the need for strong business planning and cash flow management. It’s amazing how far it has come,” Mytopher says.
BENEFITS OF GOOD RECORDS Ross Breen is a chartered accountant with Breen & Associates, Chartered Accountants in Saskatoon and has literally trained his customers to keep their books updated and accurate as much as possible and it works. “The more organized you are means less time for us to do your return, and that means you will save with accounting fees,” Breen says. According to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) website on farming income, five main benefits come from keeping complete and organized records:
1. When you earn income from many places, good records help you identify the source of income for each deposit. If you keep proper records, you may be able to prove that some income did not come from your business, or that it is not taxable. 2. Keeping good records will remind you of expenses you can deduct when it is time to do your income tax return. 3. Good records will keep you better informed about the past and present financial position of your business. 4. Good records can help you budget, spot trends in your business, and assist you in getting loans from banks and other lenders. 5. Good records can prevent problems you may run into if the CRA audits your income tax returns.
KEEPING RECEIPTS When it comes to keeping receipts, Breen notes that it is always best to start by getting a general knowledge of what CRA requires from farmers. If you’re familiar with the types of rev-
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he Canadian Canola Growers Association (CCGA) began accepting applications for the 2012-13 cash advance program on March 1, 2012. “Having the application forms available early in the spring is just one way we can help farmers who will soon be facing a busy field season,” says Rick White, general manager of CCGA. Farmers wanting to know more about how CCGA will handle wheat, durum and barley advances will be pleased to know they can now apply for all their cash advances, depending on the province of operation, using just one form and in many cases paying just one administration fee. CCGA’s website includes a fact sheet that answers many of the questions that wheat and barley producers are asking.
Through the Advance Payments Program, farmers are eligible for up to $100,000 interest-free and an additional $300,000 at CIBC prime. Producers can apply for a cash advance on a wide range of commodities, including 25 commodities in Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan and 15 commodities in Manitoba. While CCGA is accepting early applications now, the 2012-13 program officially begins April 1, 2012 when CCGA will begin issuing payments on approved applications. Farmers wanting to apply immediately can call 1-866-7452256 to complete a telephone application, download a form at www.ccga.ca or pick up a form at many local elevators. † For more information see www.ccga.ca
MARCH 19, 2012
Features enues, expenses, and capital items that are reportable to CRA, you will be aware of what receipts (income, expense, capital) are required in the first place. There are two online guides that Prairie farmers may find helpful. For farmers in Saskatchewan, Alberta, and B.C.: “RC4408 Farming Income and the Agristability and AgriInvest Programs Guide.” Find it on the CRA website (www.craarc.ca) by typing “RC4408” in the search box. For Manitoba farmers: “RC4060 Farming Income and the AgriStability and AgriInvest Programs Guide.” At the CRA website, type “RC4060.”
5 TIPS Whether you are using a ledger, a computer program, or have your books done by a professional, a good filing system for your receipts can help you save time and money. Here are 5 tips from our experts to help you organize your records:
“Most people are interested in saving money, and sorting receipts yourself will save you two to three hours of paid professional help,” says Mytopher. A good practice is to set aside the same time each week to pay bills and organize your files.
TIP 3: FILE RECEIPTS Keep receipts in an organized file. Gone are the days when a client brings an accountant a full year’s worth of wrinkled receipts in a shoebox. “It’s amazing how far it has come,” says Mytopher. “Farmers can be amazingly organized. More and more farms are becoming corporations and then you have to be very organized and have everything balanced.” Breen agrees. “If you are a large operation, consider yourself like a commercial business. If you are small business, you can get away with keeping your receipts in an accordion file and
it’ll work fine. If your books are in order, there is no need to even bring your receipts to your accountant,” he notes.
The key is to keep receipts for each transaction and enter them to the expenditure. TIP 4: FILE BY MONTH File by month. Farmers can pay by cash, cheque, or credit card. When writing cheques, keep them in order. The key is to keep receipts for each transaction and enter them to the expenditure. Do this monthly. It is helpful
to mark the receipt as “entered.” Then, file receipts by category of the purchase — that is, fuel, capital purchases (equipment), seed, fertilizer, etc. At the end of the year, look at your totals for each category to see if anything is out of place. For example, if you only have $100 for fuel expenses, look for missing or misfiled receipts. Keep bills for disposition (anything that is sold or traded) separately, as these items involve depreciation. Payroll is an emerging area. It is important to have all the information for your employees on file, and track monthly statements.
TIP 5: GET HELP Ask for help. In the past few years, Mytopher has started doing home visits, often to help set up the farm management software program: AgExpert Analyst. “Overall, I’m pretty impressed
by people’s filing systems,” says Mytopher. Breen also says that his staff are often called upon to set up software programs for customers and to correct any problems early on. While there are up-front costs to calling in a professional for this sort of training, it will help you save time and money later on.
A SYSTEM “The key is to have a system in place where you can find the bills when you need them, and that you are able to prove the numbers in your books are accurate,” says Breen. If you do it yourself and stay on top of your finances, your accountant will have fewer questions for you later on, state our experts. Now that’s information worth filing. † Sharon Elliott is a member of the Professional Writers’ Association of Canada. She is a freelance writer living in Weyburn, Sask.
TIP 1: GET RECEIPTS Always get a receipt. Expenses are many and varied in the agriculture business and it can be easy to miss a transaction. If you’re paying cash for hay from a neighbour, you really do need to formalize this agreement. Get a receipt and clearly mark the date and how you paid. If the item triggers GST, the GST number must be listed on the receipt in case of an audit. Every time you make a deposit, use a bank book. The advantage to this is that there will be three copies: one goes to the bank, one to your accountant, and a copy for your records. Be thorough when filling out a deposit slip as it’s easy to forget the specifics a few months down the road. If you are the neighbour selling the hay, note this in your deposit slip. Without a receipt or a deposit slip, it is harder to track income and expenses. This will cost you time and money at the accountant’s office.
TIP 2: SORT AND ORGANIZE Sort receipts and organize them according to category — machinery, fuel, seed, etc. Many farmers are very good at handling their own finances and like the hands-on approach. “Farmers are working on this on a day-to-day basis and are in a better position to allocate their expenditures properly,” Breen says. Those who rely on a bookkeeper still would do well to do some initial sorting.”
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MARCH 19, 2012
Features FINANCIAL PLANNING
10 steps to financial planning for farm families Farmers often spend a lot more time focusing on short-term debt than on longterm investments and financial planning. An investment advisor can help you put together a plan BY JARRETT OLSON
e all have a “life team” composed of family, friends, mentors and family physicians — people we turn to for advice when we have a difficult decision to make or require health care. And yet, when it comes to making important investment decisions, many of us try to do it on our own.
FINANCIAL PLANNERS One reason people shy away from working with an investment advisor or financial planner is the perceived cost, or the idea that only people with a lot of money needed financial planning advice. These days, individuals and families and of all circumstances — including lowincome earners — are turning to financial professionals to help them take charge of their future with debt planning and investment planning. Sounds great, you may say, but what if you are in a situation where you feel like you can’t even service your monthly debts, let
alone put money in a Registered Retirement Savings Plan? Here again, a financial professional can help get you back on track and take control of your financial future. Many people who own a business or family farm are already involved with an account manager at their local bank and are familiar with the process of reviewing the business plan, identifying goals and setting a plan for debt structure and repayment options. Including investment planning as part of this process is a natural fit. A trained financial professional (certified or professional financial planners are recognized as CFP or PFP) can guide you in the creation of a realistic plan, for example, to reduce debt and begin setting aside money for your child’s education, a family trip or longer-term retirement and succession planning. In addition to helping you bring clarity to your financial goals, a financial advisor can help you avoid making costly investment mistakes such as saving for your retirement before eliminating debt. Since an excellent financial advisor can make all the difference
toward achieving your dreams, it is important to choose your partner wisely.
STEPS TO TAKE Here are 10 steps to ensuring you include financial planning as part of your family or business farm plan.
Choose to make investment planning as important as debt planning. 1. Select a financial organization that offers trained professional expertise for financial planning and find partners you trust who take time to understand your needs. 2. Choose to make investment planning as important as debt planning. 3. Set goals and start small or big — whatever you can manage. It is never too early or too late to start saving money.
4. Understand risk tolerance and rate of return, and know what level of risk you and your family are most comfortable with. 5. Make your money work for you wisely. Use tax sheltered savings and take full advantage of government programs like Registered Education Savings Plans. Don’t leave free money on the table. 6. Review your plan and goals regularly — change is part of life. But keep focused on the long-term benefits of investment strategies that take advantage of accumulating interest, reinvesting dividends, or dollar-cost-averaging with an investment plan that rides the market fluctuations. 7. As you and your plan mature, use all your assets wisely to balance retirement and farm or business succession planning. Just as very few homeowners plan to sell their house to fund retirement, there are many options for business owners and farmers to consider. Get good advice. 8. Successful retirement may not be retirement. Use creative thinking to find one or more revenue streams to fund the life you want to live.
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9. Be involved, understand your plan and process, ask questions, take time to learn and reflect on what you really want to achieve for yourself and your family and what this means financially. 10. Be flexible. There is no sure-fire guarantee on financial markets or the economy. But it all starts with a professional partner who knows what you want to accomplish. A well developed plan including diversification will provide the optimum measure of success for meeting your goals and the financial future of your choosing. As an agricultural account manager working with many different types of clients and operations, I appreciate that one of the most important factors in financial planning to make sure you feel comfortable with the person you’re working with. If there is no rapport, there isn’t likely to be a lot of trust either. This defeats the whole point of having an expert financial advisor on your life team. † Jarrett Olson is an agricultural account manager at RBC Royal Bank in Morden Manitoba and can be reached at 204-822-2360 or Jarrettt.firstname.lastname@example.org
MARCH 19, 2012
Using deferred delivery contracts DDCs offer farmers a guaranteed price, but they also limit upside potential. Neil Blue has some information to help you decide if they’re right for you, and seven questions to ask yourself before you sign a DDC BY NEIL BLUE
deferred delivery contract is the most popular type of grain marketing contract provided by grain buyers. A DDC, as they are often called, locks in the price for a specified quantity of a base grade of grain to be delivered to a definite location at some future date.
DEFERRED DELIVERY CONTRACTS The advantages of DDCs are: • they lock in prices to protect you against possible downside price risk; • they provides certainty when you need to meet cash flow commitments; and, • they provide a delivery opportunity. The possible disadvantage of a DDCs is that, once you’ve made a commitment to deliver a certain quantity of a certain grade to a buyer, if the price rises, you won’t be able to take advantage of the higher price on the quantity you’ve got under contract.
the changes. If the changes that you suggest are not mutually acceptable and those concerns are important enough to you, perhaps you should decide not to sign that contract.
SEVEN QUESTIONS TO ASK Here are some questions to ask yourself before you sign a deferred delivery contract. 1. Will the price provide an acceptable profit margin above my costs of production? 2. Will this sales commitment help me meet some of my cash flow needs at the time of settlement?
3. Is the quantity priced in this contract consistent with my expected production? For example, some farmers price no more than 50 per cent of their expected production before harvest. 4. If the contract does not provide an “act of God” clause, how will a contract shortfall be handled? Also, what will happen if the grade you produce is different from the contract base grade? 5. Is the contract price based on my analysis of current market information? 6. How is a delay in grain delivery from either party handled? 7. If there is a dispute over the
contract, how will that dispute be resolved?
SELL FUTURES For those commodities with a futures market, pricing grain via a “sell futures” may offer advantages to the farmer over a deferred delivery contract, particularly if available basis levels are “weak”. I discussed using a “sell futures” position in more detail in the February 27 issue of Grainews. A “sell futures” position locks in the futures part of price without creating a physical delivery commitment to a particular
buyer. The farmer can still shop around to various buyers for the best basis relating to the grade of grain actually produced. Also, a “sell futures” can easily be offset in the case of a production shortfall or weather-induced downgrading. The disadvantages of a “sell futures” are the need to have a commodity futures account and the possibility of margin calls if the price rises above the entry point. Keep in mind that a higher futures price also implies a higher cash selling price for your commodity. † Neil Blue writes from Vermillion, Alta. Contact him at 780-853-6929
PROJEC QUILT O
PUBLICA GRAIN N
It is natural to want the best price, but it’s almost impossible to pick the top price for a crop in any year.
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Some farmers who have priced part of their grain production before it was harvested later questioned their decision. That regret may have been because of a production shortfall, because prices rose higher than their contracted prices, or both. Regarding the concern of a production shortfall, farmers may have to “buy out” the portion of the contract that can’t be delivered, particularly if the price of the contracted grain rises above the contracted price. Regarding the concern of missing out on a higher price than the contract price, it is natural to want the best price, but it’s almost impossible to pick the top price for a crop in any year. A goal of having the average price for a given year’s crop in the top third of the year’s price range is more realistic.
SIGNING THE CONTRACT Before signing a deferred delivery contract, it is a good idea to get an unsigned copy of the contract, read it and understand it, with the help of legal counsel if necessary. If you have concerns with the contract, have those concerns addressed before you sign. An amended contract is still valid if both parties agree to
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MARCH 19, 2012
Columns ANYONE CAN START FARMING
Make your own lamb bars There are several reasons to feed baby goats artificially, but it can be timeconsuming and expensive. However, once you decide to do it, it’s not so bad DEBBIE CHIKOUSKY
aby goat season on our farm is always fun. This year we are embarking on a mission with our goats that will truly make things a bit hectic. We have decided, for several reasons, that we will artificially rear the majority of our kid crop.
CAPRINE ARTHRITIS ENCEPHALITIS The usual reasons for artificially rearing kid goats on a commercial meat operation are: the dam cannot feed a large litter (triplets, quads etc.), the dam died, or the dam rejected the young. But in recent years there have been a growing number of seed stock breeders artificially raising kids to prevent the spread of diseases such as caprine arthritis encephalitis (CAE) in their herds. CAE is an economically significant goat disease caused by a virus. It is believed that a serumpositive doe can pass this virus to her kids through colostrum and milk. Documented studies show that if the kids are taken at birth and raised on cow colostrum, from a healthy cow, and subsequently isolated from the adult herd, the offspring from a serum-positive doe can remain virus-feel. This takes a large amount of dedication, but it can be worthwhile in the end, since infected animals have a very short lifespan. When goats are infected with CAE, arthritis symptoms will usually start at about age two. Their udders will be hard, also known as “hard udder,” when they freshen. If serum-positive does raise their own kids, these kids are at risk for neurological disease.
ECONOMIC DECISIONS In our case, economic (not health) reasons prompted the decision to prove each doe’s individual milking capability. Normally, we milk a percentage of our does so we can prove their
PHOTOS: DEBBIE CHIKOUSKY
Debbie Chikousky’s lamb bar pail. milking ability, and because most of my children are allergic to cows’ dairy products. We milk our Jerseys, which are free from diseases such as Johnes, to feed our baby goats and baby lambs. The remainder of the goat herd raises their own kids. Despite the work we have done with genetics and nutrition we still have does in our herd that have kids that are not the size we like them to be at weaning. Our goal is to run our goats and sheep on our heavy bush pastures from May to fall, with their young. The problem we have had is that not all of them seem to be able to sustain a milk supply past three months. Since we don’t want to wean the young at that point, it’s causing a weight gain issue. By milking the does, we’ll know if a doe stops milking at three months from kidding or not. If she does she will be culled. The decision to artificially raise a young animal has a large economic impact. It requires a large amount of time and feed. For some farms, it makes better financial sense to sell the orphan to someone that is willing to take the risk. When this is the choice, a responsible breeder ensures that the baby has its colostrum and any vitamin shots before it’s sent to its new home. This isn’t the first time we will be feeding a large number of animals like this
so we know that it is important to find a way to feed more than one kid at a time.
LAMB BARS We started with what is referred to as a lamb bar pail. They come in a few different varieties — ours is a square three-gallon pail with nipples at the bottom. They can be purchased ready-made and with nipples or you can use a
Debbie Chikousky’s son made this bottle holder, the Chikousky’s favourite feeder. Instead of a communal pail, this holder allows each kid to suck on its own bottle, making it easy to measure exactly how much each kid is eating. or the bottle is empty. Although many people use the communal method with no problems, I prefer our bottle method because it allows me to know exactly how much each kid is eating.
FEEDING REGIMEN Our feeding regimen simple. Upon birth the immediately brought where we have an old
is fairly kids are indoors crib set
The decision to artificially raise a young animal has a large economic impact. recycled pail, drill suitable holes with a hole saw and purchase nipples. The other popular design is to have the nipples at the top of the pail with the milk coming up tubing when the kid sucks. These nipples are easier to find than the ones we used for our pail. Last year my son made us a holder that fits eight one-litre pop bottles, which we use Pritchard nipples on. We have found this to be our favourite feeder. The children hang the feeder on the side of the pen and let out eight baby goats at a time. Each kid sucks off its own bottle until it’s full,
up for them to live in until they come readily for their bottles. We allow them to eat as much colostrum as they desire every four hours for the first twentyfour hours. If disease is an issue, many breeders use heat treated colostrum, clean cow colostrum or freeze dried colostrum instead of the colostrum from the dam. After the first twenty-four hours they’re weaned onto Jersey milk four feedings a day, as much as they desire, up to two cups per feeding. When they are wanting more, we switch them to three feedings a day with a three-cup
limit. When they want to drink more than that, they’re moved to two feedings a day with a one litre a feeding limit. We usually full feed kids for three months then wean them to just the skim milk, whey or buttermilk that we can mix into their peas. We feed our goats pea screenings. As soon as the kids move to the pen in the barn we give them a pan of screenings to nibble at, a pan of salt/mineral, a pail of fresh water, and hay. It doesn’t take these little ones long to start eating. Eventually, we can usually mix milk into their pea screenings to make porridge — they then don’t need the bottles. This worked very well last summer because as they matured we managed to use whey and buttermilk, not just fresh milk, and they grew very well. Although this project will add some chores with the addition of more lamb bars and buckets it shouldn’t be that bad. The added advantage is that the does will be able to pasture in areas that wouldn’t be safe for them with kids along. Plus, we will have extra milk for other projects. We have the supplies ready, the barn ready, all we need now is the baby goats and we’re in business! † Debbie Chikousky farms with her family at Narcisse, Man. Visitors are always welcome. Contact Debbie at debbiechikouskyfarms.com
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MARCH 19, 2012
Columns OFF-FARM INVESTING
Minimize investment losses We can’t always make money in the stock market. But at the very least, we can keep our losses small ANDY SIRSKI
ou need to be an optimist to run a farm or it would drive you nuts. However, when it comes to investing in stocks it often pays to be a bit contrarian, a bit pessimistic and a realist. Farming is full of irreversible decisions. Once you put that seed and fertilizer into the ground you cannot change your mind. So you might as well be an optimist. But if you have thought out pric-
es, rotations and moisture, most years most farmers win and win often enough to keep going. The advantage of stocks is that they operate under reversible decisions, but most people do not use that classic advantage often enough. Most investors know most stocks go up and then down. Most investors believe they can choose stocks that go up, down and back up again. That is where optimism can work for us or hurt us.
NOT DAY TRADING I’m not talking about being a day trader. I am talking about taking advantage of tops and bottoms with stocks. Instead of being
hurt by tops and bottoms, we can learn to put them to work for us. Many investors are good at buying at tops and selling near bottoms. If we can reverse that we can build wealth with stocks and — better yet — keep it. Many investors don’t take the time to learn how to buy near bottoms and sell near tops. They take the default strategy and become buy and hold investors. Buy and hold means basically hoping and turning your stocks over to the market and the corporate management. That worked for years, from 1982 to early 2010, but it has not worked nearly as well since then. Over the past 10 years or so, many stocks have gone up and gone
down more times than we care to think about. In fact, if we look at a stock like Silver Wheaton (SLW), just during 2011 the stock went up and down significantly enough that buy and hold investors made very little money while investors who figured out how to sell near tops and buy near bottoms could have made $18 per share or more during the same year. The stock ranged in price from under $30 to over $45 per share. Even Canadian bank shares have been volatile enough that investors who sell high and buy low could have doubled their money over the past few years. Buy and hold investors could
have made four per cent dividends per year on bank stocks since October, 2007. Their shares would have dropped in half and then climbed up somewhat, but not to previous high. Determined buy and hold investors with Canadian bank stocks may not have lost any money since the stocks peaked in October, 2007, but they sure haven’t made much. And the determined holder of Tech Resources (TCK.B) saw his shares go from $50 to $4 to $50 and now to $38. So no gains with that stock during one of the best bull markets in the history of copper and coal.
» CONTINUED ON NEXT PAGE
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MARCH 19, 2012
Columns » CONTINUED FROM PREVIOUS PAGE While the new rules may not be permanent, they have been around long enough that big money had learned how to deal with them. What are those rules?
RULE 1 The first rule is that big money rotates in and out of stocks. Very few stocks go up and up year after year. One reason is that the market has been compressing price earnings (P/E) ratios these days while between 1982 and early 2000 the market was expanding price earnings ratios. Price earnings ratios are simple measures. If a company earned $2 per share and the P/E ratio was 10, the stock would trade for around $20 per share. If the market was optimistic about the stock and pushed the P/E ratio to 15, the share would go up to $30 (that is, $2 per share X the P/E ratio of 15). And, if earning rose to $2.25 during that time, share prices could go even higher ($2.25 per share X 15 = $33.75). The combination of rising earnings and rising P/E ratios pushed the price of shares up dramatically during the technology boom. The NASDAQ went to 5,200, dropped and now is around 2,900. Many P/E ratios dropped from lofty 50 to a very conservative 10 and so many share prices dropped accordingly. If a company was earning $1 per share and its P/E ratio was 50, its stock might trade near $50 per share. As the P/E ratio dropped, the same company earning $1 per share would likely have a share price closer to $10 per share. With a P/E ratio of 50, earnings would have to rise to $5 per share to match the old price.
Since big money knows this stuff, it often will buy a beaten up stock near its lowest price (support price), wait for the market to drive prices up five or maybe eight per cent, then start to take profits and sell some or all of those shares to lock in gains. The money would leave one stock and go looking for another cheaper one to repeat the process, meanwhile waiting for that first stock to drop back to its old lows so they can buy it again. This rotation causes stock prices to go up and down and up but basically nowhere. There is a good chance that the market is going to raise the P/E ratio, meaning that maybe, just maybe, the era of compressing P/E ratios might be over for now. I doubt P/E ratios will be rising for long but if you check closely, the P/E ratio of Microsoft has climbed from under 10 not so long ago to 11.33. Microsoft has trailing earnings of $2.76 per share. With a P/E of 9.6 the price was $26.50. At a P/E of 11.33 the stock would trade at $31.27. If earnings come up, that could move the stock up a bit more. See what I mean?
sell the industrials and buy the consumer stocks. As you know from working with farm commodities, it doesn’t take a big drop in supply to cause prices to jump up nor much of a surplus of canola or wheat for prices to drop. The same goes for stocks. It doesn’t take many sellers near tops to cause stocks to flatten. That gets more inves-
How can we deal with these fairly obvious ups and downs? A dedicated “buy and hold” investor might just say “that’s life: my stocks will come back up,” and not worry about it. That’s okay if the shares do come back up, but what if they don’t? Or what if they don’t come back up soon and you get discouraged and sell near the bottom? One reason many investors do not sell out near tops is that most investors fear missing out on a profit more than they fear
Big money has figured out that, statistically, many stocks go up and down with the seasons. Many industrial businesses slow down during the summer as people take holidays or factories shut down for maintenance. Investors who understand this sell as these industrials peak in the spring. Business picks up for companies that make chips, beer and gasoline as summer comes around the corner. So investors
losing money. The other fear many investors have is that if they sell at a small loss, the stock will jump up and they will miss a chance to break even or better. That’s possible. But I know people who owned Saskatchewan Wheat Pool, Nortel, Rim, Air Canada, Microsoft, Dell, Cisco and many other stocks that dropped slowly, giving shareholders lots of time
We don’t need rocket science or a team of analysts to prevent big losses. tors to sell, and then prices start to really drop. They drop until investors start to think they’re a bargain. Then they bottom and start to inch back up. To raise money, big investors sell consumer stocks at a profit and buy industrials while they’re cheap. This is rotation by sectors. Some call it seasonality.
DEALING WITH UPS AND DOWNS
to sell at a small loss. Many didn’t, and are either still holding the shares, or sold them at a much bigger loss. We don’t need rocket science or a team of analysts to prevent big losses. We can learn how to sell at small losses and reduce the odds of losing big bucks on our stocks. We can start by buying shares at a good price. What is a good price? For many stocks these days there is what is called support price — a price a stock has dropped to in the past, risen from, and then fallen to again. If investors seem to start buying at that support price, maybe there is something to it. Patience can pay. If a stock purchased at a good price keeps falling, some judgment might be needed. Will it keep falling, or go back up? I don’t know. When I face that sort of decision, if I sell half I look like a genius. If the shares stop falling and go back up I’m smart because I kept half. If they keep falling I’m smart because I sold half.
MY PORTFOLIO As I wrap up this column in late February, most of our resource stocks peaked in September, 2011, bottomed in late 2011 and now are about half-way back up. This includes Silver Wheaton (SLW), Osisko (OSK), Copper Mountain
(CUM), Barrick Gold (ABX), First Majestic (FR) and others. I own and have sold calls on most of these and have locked in between 10 and 11 per cent profit for half a year. I started to buy Tourmaline (TOU) and Canadian Natural Resources (CNQ) near recent lows, Cameco (CCO) because I expect the price of uranium to rise and Magna (MG) because car sales look to be improving. I also bought some TEVA when the drug Lipitor came off-patent but the rising Canadian dollar has eaten up most of my gain. Lately, I’ve bought shares in Westport Innovations (WPT) because it is heavily involved in the business of building engines that run on natural gas. If or when these resource stocks come up a bit more I will be buying my calls back and selling some of the shares to lock in (I hope) a return of around eight per cent for a couple months. Then we’ll wait for the next downturn. I’m trying to have the courage to sell near tops. If some major country announces another quantitative easing program then all bets are off and I likely would load up on resource stocks and not sell calls on them.
TWO CHEAP STOCKS Two stocks have caught my eye lately. One is Sandstorm Resources (SSL.v). It went to $1.62 or so, dropped, traded around $1.62 for a couple days and is $1.68 on February 22. That’s what caught my eye. If the stock manages to break out above that old high it might have some upside. We own a few thousand shares of SSL. Another stock is A123 Systems (AONE) which was $27 or so, dropped to under $2 and now appears to be trying to form a bottom. This company makes lithium batteries for all uses and shapes and sizes. I’m just getting to know this one but do not own it. † Andy is mostly retired. He plays with his grandchildren, keeps his Datsun running, writes a bit and manages his own investments. Andy also publishes a newsletter called StocksTalk where he tells what he does with his investments, win or lose. If you want to read it free for a month go to Google and type in StocksTalk.net and follow the clicks or email Andy at email@example.com
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MARCH 19, 2012
Columns MANAGEMENT MINUTE
Where do I go from here? Iben Workentoohard is not enthusiastic about estate planning. Not having a plan could lead to high tax bills for the estate BY ANDREW DERUYCK AND MARK SLOANE
here do I go from here?” were the words that come from my youngest child’s curious line of morning questioning last week. I thought he was curious to know where he’ll go once he’s mastered the alphabet, colouring, and the almighty controlled skid on his two-wheeled bicycle. But it turns out his little mind had spiralled far further into philosophy than I had anticipated. He was asking where he goes when he dies. I began to recall the work that we have done for many of our clients. Many of our clients that are 55 to 70 are still in good health and anticipate retiring from farming at some point, but often don’t have all of their plans firmly in place. There are two distinct sides to this discussion as was evident when we met with two 63-yearold farmers, Iben and Shirley Warkentoohard. He said, “I’ve worked hard all of my life so that I can feel this comfortable in business. I don’t want to feel overwhelmed with planning for an event that I’m really not looking forward to.” She said, “If you’d quit smoking and drinking in your thirties like I suggested, maybe we wouldn’t be having this discussion just yet. But what happens if you die tomorrow?” Iben replied, “I won’t be here to worry about it then either, will I? Besides there’s enough on the farm that you can sell to look after things.” “Problem is that you’ve wiggled and squirmed your whole farming career to avoid paying tax. How can we slow this taxdeferring freight train down?” Shirley asked. “No worries,” Iben said. “The accountant told me I’ll have to start slowing down and that’s exactly what I intend to do. Someday.” This is where we jumped into the discussion — partly because the only thing more difficult to deal with than retirement on the farm is divorce. We started by reassuring Iben that considering some basic tax implications if, God forbid, he should pass on, was not an opportunity to imagine life without him, but a chance to manage the tax liability associated with his retirement income stream. After updating Iben and Shirley’s balance sheet, we identified that they will have four main income streams or funding sources for their retirement: • net income from farming operations. • income from government sources (Canada Pension Plan, Old Age Security). • income from registered retirement savings plans and investments. • income from the sale of farm assets. In this series of articles, we will examine Iben and Shirley
Warkentoohard’s options, and the implications and considerations associated with their choices.
DEATH AND TAXES The importance of making this plan a priority became very clear when we examined the potential immediate tax liability should something happen to both Iben and Shirley without a plan in place. Even assuming that the capital gains exemption was fully available and adequate to address the gain on the sale of the land, more than half a million could be pay-
able in tax upon their immediate passing. This was enough of a threat that Iben and Shirley Warkentoohard are determined to develop and understand their estate plan. Stay tuned as we work with the Warkentoohards, their lawyer, and their accountant to fine-tune their estate plan in our next few articles. † Andrew DeRuyck and Mark Sloane manage two farming operations in southern Manitoba and are partners in Right Choice Management Consulting. With over 25 years of cumulative experience, they offer support in farm management, financial management, strategic planning and mediation services. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com or 204-8257392 and 204-825-8443
Warkentoohard’s balance sheet Current Assets Crop inventory
Current Liabilities Operating line
Warkentoohard’s potential tax liability Sale of crop inventory, prepaids
Disposal of RRSPs, AgriInvest
Recaptured depreciation on machinery and buildings
Total taxable income
Potential tax liability
This calculation assumes that all assets are transferred or disposed of in one year.
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Always read and follow label directions. AgSolutions and HEADLINE are registered trade-marks of BASF Corporation; AgCelence is a trade-mark of BASF SE; all used with permission by BASF Canada Inc. HEADLINE should be used in a preventative disease control program. © 2012 BASF Canada Inc.
12-02-09 1:37 PM
MARCH 19, 2012
Columns SOILS AND CROP
Soil classification and soil maps In the second of a 3-part series on precision agriculture, Les Henry discusses soil classification and the need for a consistent framework BY LES HENRY
oil maps of the Canadian Prairies, for the most part, are not useable at the quarter section level. Period. Add to that the fact that soil classification is a messy business with a language all of its own. So, what use can soil maps be in precision agriculture when we want to know exactly what soil is on every acre? What the soil maps and classification system does is provide a framework in which to think and a way to transfer knowledge and techniques from one area to another. And that concept is nowhere more important than in precision agriculture.
Consider two types of land, Weyburn loam and Regina heavy clay. These types of land are very different. When folks are communicating results of a precision agriculture practice to the rest of the world would it not seem logical to first explain the land type you are working with? What works in one case will be of little value in the other. All of the research work I did while at the U of S was within a uniform framework of soil classification and mapping that was produced in two classic documents (“Soil Survey Report #12 — up to township 48; Prince Albert” and “Soil Survey Report #13 —north of Township 48”).
When a piece of soil fertility or other work was communicated at a conference the opening salvo
zone (brown, dark brown, black, thick black, grey black and grey) and the type of soil parent mate-
If the knowledge is gained piecemeal with no common threads, progress will be slow — as it has indeed been. was the soil type(s) the work was done on and two words were all that was required, for example, “Weyburn loam.” The framework was the soil
rial (glacial till, sandy, silty and clayey water-laid deposits and wind-blown sands and silts. Soils were named within the above framework. Whenever a research
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LET’S TAKE A LOOK The soil map shown here is from Soil Survey #12, in the Saskatoon area. Once we’re familiar with the map, one quick glance and we know a lot about the land types in the area. The yellow colors are sands — light yellow = dune sands, darker yellow = sandy soils. The dark blue color with northwest to southeast hatches is Weyburn loam on rolling topography. The various shades of orange are good silty soils on level topography. The pink is the best — the good clay (gumbo) land Saskatchewan is famous for. Now you know where the expression “in the pink” came from. In my years at U of S the #12 and #13 soil maps were on the wall right next to the phone. When a phone call came in from an agriculture representative or farmer the first question was where they were from — north or south of town x. “Oh, so you’re in the good clay land,” was my retort. They all thought I had it in my head but it was on the wall for quick reference. Such are the tricks of the trade! There have been newer and better soil maps made in Saskatchewan but not presented in a unified way. The new maps give some information on the soils within the landscape but in a general way only. Once again, even these newer soil maps are not useable at the quarter section level. When it gets down to mapping individual soils within a quarter section of land — that’s the bread and butter of precision agriculture. The soil (land) maps will be the framework we can think in and the way we can communicate about approaches that work on one land type or another. All of the soil maps produced in the last many years for Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba BY DAN PIRARO
When the Martin family wanted to raise the productivity of their dairy business, they turned to Dalton Potter for guidance. Dalton is a seasoned TD Canada Trust Agriculture Specialist and a farmer himself, and with his help, the Martins were able to buy a new farm in a prime location. Our understanding of agriculture and financing, combined with a personalized approach, is how we’re helping families like the Martins get exactly what they’re looking for. For more information, visit a branch or go to www.tdcanadatrust.com/agriculture
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project was planned it was within that framework. Soils were selected to get a cross section according to the objectives of the experiment. When work proceeds on precision agriculture, that or some other suitable framework should be utilized so knowledge can build and grow. If the knowledge is gained piecemeal with no common threads, progress will be slow — as it indeed has been. The technology has grown by leaps and bounds but the productive use of that technology in precision agriculture has been slow with many false starts.
8/26/11 11:52 AM
MARCH 19, 2012
Regina heavy clay on nearly level topography.
Weyburn loan on rolling topography.
Soil Survey #12, in the Saskatoon area.
are available at http://res.agr.ca/ canis/. Click “Soil Reports” under Publications.
CLASSIFYING SOILS It is unfortunate that soil classification has so much jargon attached but the soil Association (Weyburn) and Texture (loam) leave all that behind and are that is really needed to provide the framework to plan a strategy for precision agriculture on any piece of land. In Manitoba and Saskatchewan soils are named on the basis of land type (“association” is the name used). In Alberta individual soil types are named — but mapping gives only the percentage of various soils in an area, not soils mapped out individually. There is a good reason why Alberta did it differently. Much of Alberta has very thin glacial deposits and there’s not much “pothole country.” Take a look at the picture of Weyburn loam. The pattern of soils is a catena (a connected series of related things). It’s repeated again and again throughout the field — the soils are not a random act. Eroded knoll, normal mid-slope soil, thick lower slope soil and sloughs. Repeated over again and again. The individual soils from hilltop to slough all have fancy names, but it’s their properties we are after. In the 1970s the soil survey folks from Saskatoon and Swift Current Research station co-operated on a project to study catenas of soils in a landscape like this north of Swift Current. In land like this, where there is constant variation, there is no doubt that variable rate fertilizer is the way to go. But the variation should be based on a map of individual soils based on the soil profile characteristics. Soil testing of individual soil types will determine organic matter. pH, salt content (electrical conductivity) and available nutrients. The next article in this series will deal specifically with variable rate fertilization. † J.L.(Les) Henry is a former professor and extension specialist at the University of Saskatchewan. He farms at Dundurn, Sask. He recently finished a second printing of “Henry’s Handbook of Soil and Water”, a book that mixes the basics and practical aspects of soil, fertilizer and farming. Les will cover the shipping and GST for Grainews readers. Simply send a cheque for $50 to Henry Perspectives, 143 Tucker Cres, Saskatoon, SK, S7H 3H7, and he will dispatch a signed book post-haste
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MARCH 19, 2012
Columns Farm financial planner
A financial plan for farm succession Successful succession requires forethought. Herb and Lily are putting together a plan to pass on their farm, fund their retirement, and compensate their non-farming child by Andrew Allentuck
n Manitoba, a couple we’ll call Herb (62) and Lily (54) have farmed for forty years. Their son, who we’ll call Edward, joined them ten years ago. Another son, Matthew (28), has an off-farm career and is not interested in joining the family farm. The farm has become a big operation with 7,000 acres, 6,200 acres of which is rented land. Annual gross sales vary from $2.2 million to $2.5 million. The family’s net worth, about $1.5 million, has been built on $500,000 of long-term debt and operating credit lines that rise at times to $1 million. ADvERTISEMENT
New seed-applied nutrient technology Awaken® ST enters Canadian market
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The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has approved a new liquid nutrient seed treatment for use on wheat, oats, barley and corn. Awaken ST is manufactured by Loveland Products and available from UAP Canada Inc. as part of its Nutritionals portfolio of products. Awaken ST is a patented, seed-applied nutrient that includes 6-0-1 and 5% zinc plus boron, copper, iron, manganese and molybdenum. “Awaken ST puts nutrients where a germinating plant needs them – on the seed,” says Eric Gregory, Western Product Manager with UAP Canada Inc. “It’s a unique, nutrient-based product that helps develop a larger, more extensive root system, quicker emergence and greater plant biomass for improved plant health and vigour. All of this supports the goals of progressive growers in pursuit of maximum yield and return on their crop inputs investment.” In independent research and CFIA registration trials, Awaken ST increased stand establishment, biomass and yield. Research conducted in 2009 at North Dakota State University on hard red spring wheat showed a significant
Awaken ST pushes root hair development and increases plant biomass.
Gregory explains that the patented zinc ammonium acetate compound found in Awaken ST is the key driver behind both the plant and soil effects of the product. In the plant, zinc boosts auxin production, which promotes cell division and increased lateral root growth. “Improved lateral root growth means more root hairs. In terms of nutrient and water uptake we know that root hairs do all the heavy lifting,” says Gregory.
Awaken ST on HRS Wheat
Awaken ST on HRS Wheat 75
70 Plants/2 ft row
60 55 50 45 40
65 60 55 50 45
Awaken ST Source: Dr. Joel Ranson NDSU 2009
Research at the University of Wales showed that the zinc complex found in Awaken ST stimulates 44 percent more auxin production in the plant than other forms of zinc. Zinc and the other micronutrients in Awaken ST are also essential in the photosynthetic process of the plant to help maximize growth and yield. Ammonium acetate acts as a soil extraction agent releasing nutrients that are tied up in the soil. Together, the zinc ammonium acetate complex provides increased plant growth and improved nutrient uptake from the soil, ultimately providing improved plant health and vigour.
Future income and exenses Six years from now, Herb and Lily will have a total monthly income of $4,840. This amount will be made up of: Herb’s Old Age Security benefit ($540 per month), $300 from revenue property, CPP benefits totalling $700 per month, $800 from the couple’s Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIFs) and $2,500 in cash from the farm. Their expenses should be modest — just $3,000 per month. They will be cash flow positive, Forbes says. The income flow will be simple enough, but most of it ($2,500 per month) will depend on the continuing viability of the farming operation that Edward will run. If the farm were to fail, Herb and Lily’s retirement would be severely impaired.
30 Days after Emergence increase in plant emergence and an 8 percent yield increase when compared to untreated seed.
Herb and Lily are looking to the future when Edward can take over. The generational transfer isn’t going to be rushed and is not immediate. Herb figures that Lily will retire in six years when she reaches 60. By then, he will be 68 and will have become much less active. The farm will be transferred to Edward. Matthew is not going to get as much of a legacy as Edward, the parents say, because, in a sense, he has already gotten some of it in the form his parents’ payment for his university education. The problem, therefore, is in designing a transitional plan that will move the control and operation of the farm to Edward. That plan, prepared by Don Forbes, head of Don Forbes & Associates/ Armstrong & Quaile of Carberry, Manitoba, will help sustain their income in retirement while assuring that the farm has the capital and management it needs to continue as a viable operation.
applied with traditional seed treating equipment, and is a seed safe, low dust-off formulation. “We know there aren’t any mixing issues with Rancona® Apex, and the other popular seed treatments all look very good, too,” says Gregory. Proposed mixtures should be evaluated in a jar test before full scale use. Awaken ST is packaged in 2 x 9.46 litre jugs per case with one case treating approximately 180 bushels of wheat seed.
Easy to use Awaken ST is available in a convenient, easy flowing, clear liquid. It may be applied on its own, blended or applied sequentially with traditional fungicide and/or insecticide seed treatments. It can be
Source: Dr. Joel Ranson NDSU 2009
Awaken ST is a registered trademark of Loveland Products Inc. and Rancona is a trademark of Chemtura Canada Co/Cie. UAP Canada is a member of CropLife Canada. 02.12 12009
Farm incorporation There are several things Herb and Lily can do to make their retirement income more dependable. One of these is to incorporate the farm operation to build a succession structure. An incorporated farm may take advantage of a low capital tax rate — about 12 per cent — to be used in future with tax-paid corporate capital. Farm land owned personally would be kept outside the farm By Dan Piraro
MARCH 19, 2012
Columns corporation. That would enable Herb and Lily to use the $750,000 Qualifying Farm Property Credit Capital Gain Tax Credit. Assets to be incorporated would include all operating assets such as farm equipment, cattle, inventory, and, of course, operating loans. Herb and Lily would do an estate freeze on their portion of those assets which would then be transferred to the new farm corporation. They would receive fixed value preferred shares as payment for the transferred assets. Edward’s part of his equity in operating assets would also be transferred to the farm corporation, but he would receive common shares as payment instead of preferred shares. Then he would be the recipient of all gains or declines in the value of the farm corporation, Forbes says. Edward should take a major role in the design and expansion of the farm for he and his wife will be the winners or losers depending on the way the farm is run in future. Were Herb to receive his payment in the form of some redeemed preferred shares, perhaps $30,000 per year from the corporation, he would pay little or no tax on it, especially after he reaches age 65. These share transfers would gradually reduce his proportion of ownership of the farm corporation while, at the same time, adding to Edward’s proportion of ownership. This plan would see Lily continue her present annual contributions of $5,000 to her Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) for another six years. She will have built up a total of $160,000. That capital, growing at three per cent per year over the rate of inflation, would support payments of $800 per month for the next 35 years, Forbes estimates. The annual contributions to Lily’s RRSP would generate a 36 per cent income tax savings while her relatively small RRIF withdrawals will have low or zero tax after she is 65. Note that the pension income credit will effectively make the first $2,000 of these RRIF payments tax-free. Both Herb and Lily should continue making Tax-Free Savings Account contributions. The $5,000 per person per year contribution limit will allow the two partners to save $60,000 each over the next dozen years. Even modest interest earnings of two per cent per year would boost the accounts to a total value of $150,000, Forbes estimates.
illness and disability policy that would provide $1 million should Edward die, $125,000 for defined illnesses, and $2,500 per month disability. This policy is relatively inexpensive. It would cost $125 per month for the first ten years, then $272 per month for the next ten years, Forbes says. The combination life, illness and disability policy is a relatively good deal. Standalone disability coverage for farmers is expensive. The life component could be assigned to creditors to cover their interests. That would probably make loans cheaper. Finally, were Edward to die prematurely, the $1 million life insurance benefit could be used to pay out his wife’s interest in Edward’s common shares. Edward’s wife would then no longer be part of the farm. This feature of the insurance would have to be accompanied by a compulsory buyout agreement funded by the life part of the policy, Forbes says. Herb and Lily have the capital to build a legacy for both of their
children, to ensure continuation of the farming operation in Edward’s hands, to finance their retirement in a style they like and understand, and to build a ring fence of incorporation, life-insured investments
with a $500,000 death benefit will cost $21,000 per year for the next 35 years. To be old and shopping for insurance is not an enviable position. But Herb and Lily
There are several things Herb and Lily can do to make their retirement income more dependable. One of these is to incorporate the farm. and life insurance guarantees in the event of the untimely death of their successor. Currently, the parents have $500,000 of life insurance, with Matthew (the non-farming son) as beneficiary. One policy on Herb’s life will end in three years. A replacement policy
still have several options available to them. They have the time to make a plan, the time to construct their corporation and to structure the transfer mechanism to Edward and to buy insurance coverage for what would wreck the plan — Edward’s untimely death.
PLANNING FOR SUCCESS They cannot guarantee the farm’s success forever, but they can guarantee their own financial future, an assurance of the farm’s transfer to the next generation, and a good deal of financial insurance for the son who will take over the farm. It’s a lot of paperwork, but considering the benefits, it’s worth it, Forbes says. “Planning today can eliminate worries tomorrow,” he says. “Even if Herb and Lily don’t take all of these recommendations, the process of reviewing them will show what their financial risks are and demonstrate how they can be controlled. They have built an enviable success of their business. All that I have done is to show them how they and their son can improve their odds of keeping it.” † Andrew Allentuck’s latest book, “When Can I Retire? Planning Your Financial Life After Work,” was published in 2011 by Penguin Canada
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INSURE FOR SUCCESS There is more that the farming corporation can do to assure its success. One step is to take out a key person life insurance, critical BY DAN PIRARO
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1/19/12 5:47 PM
MARCH 19, 2012
Machinery & Shop NATIONAL FARM MACHINERY SHOW
Brands show more new equipment Even though all the major manufacturers introduced extensive new product lines last summer, most kept something up their sleeves to impress visitors at this year’s National Farm Machinery Show in Louisville, Kentucky SCOTT GARVEY
T PHOTO: JOHN DEERE
PHOTO: RAY BIANCHI, CLASSIC FARM
The National Farm Machinery Show is one of the largest annual agricultural machinery shows in the U.S. It is held in Louisville, Kentucky.
Case IH introduced its Farmall 100A model utility tractors. There are four models of these “ultra-value” tractors ranging from 90 to 115 PTO horsepower.
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he annual National Farm Machinery Show, held in February in Louisville, Kentucky, is one of North America’s premier machinery exhibitions. And although the major brand names introduced an exceptionally large number of new machines at dealer conventions last summer for the 2012 season, most kept a few things under wraps to create some buzz at their displays during this year’s National. Ray Bianchi was Grainews’ eyes and ears on the show floor. Here are some of his picks for this year’s highlights.
23/02/2012 8:14:57 AM
The two brands united under CNH Global ownership, Case IH and New Holland, each had their own version of a new 90 to 115 PTO horsepower utility tractor line to show off. The tractors wearing red paint add to the top end of Case IH’s Farmall line. These Farmall 100A tractors are what the company describes as “an ultra-value option,” and there are four models. “The Farmall 100A Series tractors are the value solution for price-conscious customers,” says Denny Stroo, Case IH marketing manager for loaders and mid-range tractors. “These tractors are easy to operate and can be configured to meet customers’ needs.” The Farmalls offer a 3,273 kg three-point hitch lift capacity. Hydraulic flow comes from a fixed-displacement pump with a 31 gallons per minute (118 litres per minute) flow rate. The two smallest tractors in the series use a 4.5-litre engine, while the larger versions get power from a 6.7-litre engine. Both turbocharged diesels use mechanical fuel injection. Power is routed through an 8F X 8R power shuttle transmission. You can select an optional 8 X 8 synchronized mechanical reverse or a 16 X 8 power shuttle transmission instead. The New Holland TS6 tractors offer nearly identical specifications, with the addition of a fourspeed creeper range available on any of the three transmissions and an optional nine gpm (34 lpm) auxiliary hydraulic pump to boost oil flow to an implement. And just like the Farmalls, the TS6 models are available in twowheel drive or MFWD and cabbed or open-station versions. But if you want to go upscale in specifications, New Holland is also introducing the T6 Series models which top out at 120 horsepower. These tractors use similar engines but with electronically-controlled, commonrail rail fuel injection, and they
MARCH 19, 2012
Machinery & Shop can route power through your choice of four transmissions with three different gear options: 16 X 16, 17 X 16 or 24 X 24. They also have high-speed, 50 kph capability. Three-point hitch lift capacity also gets bumped up to a maximum of 6,118 kg.
John Deere John Deere introduced its 6R line of tractors last summer. At the Louisville show it debuted three additional 6R models that address the gap at the lowhorsepower end of that tractor series. The 105, 115 and 125 engine horsepower ratings on the new models make them a replacement for the previous 6030 Premium Series. “We’ve made the cab 20 percent larger and added the GreenStar 3 Command Center with touchscreen display,” says Scott Hessel, product marketing manager for the 6R line. “We’ve also included Triple Link and Adaptive Hydraulic Cab suspension. In addition, we’ve increased the hydraulic lift capacity by 20 per cent and added new 50 km/h transmission options that give this spacious utility tractor the functions of a much larger machine.” All three 6R models come standard with John Deere’s 4.5litre PowerTech PVX Interim Tier IV diesel engines with Intelligent Power Management, which provides an additional 20 horsepower during transport and nonstationary PTO applications. A 24-speed AutoQuad Plus ECO Transmission is standard. The16speed PowerQuad Plus and IVT Transmissions are optional. IVT and AutoQuad Plus configurations are available with up to 50 kph transport speeds. “The new 6R Series Tractors have row-crop tractor features with utility tractor functionality and versatility, which makes them ideal for almost any farm, livestock operation, or property maintenance job,” Hessel adds.
Kinze Iowa-based Kinze Manufacturing used the show to introduce its new line of grain carts with an externally-mounted, forwardangled corner auger, which can pivot up to 10 degrees and features an adjustable spout. Those design elements are intended to make emptying the cart easier by letting the tractor operator clearly see the auger’s unloading point. The carts also feature a second, horizontal auger inside the tank. These new, larger carts are available in four models with capacities ranging from 900 to 1,500 bushels. The three largest versions use a 22-inch diamater unloading auger that can deliver up to 750 bushels per minute, and that rate can be adjusted from the tractor seat. For those interested in minimizing compaction problems or looking for improved floatation, Kinze offers several wheel and track options. In addition, Kinze carts come with a powder coat finish and options such as electronic sale packages, dual camera systems and electric rollup tarp. For more information, visit www.kinze.com. † Scott Garvey is machinery editor for Grainews. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
photo: ray bianchi, classic farm
John Deere has added three new models to its 6R tractor line. With 105, 115 and 125 PTO engine horsepower, these tractors replace the previous 6030 Premium line.
photo: ray bianchi, classic farm
Kinze has introduced a new line of 900 to 1,500 bushel grain carts with a forward unloading auger.
MARCH 19, 2012
Machinery & Shop CLASS PROJECT
Project F-250, part six This time we prep the pickup for a completely new look BY SCOTT GARVEY
t the start of Project F-250 we were just going to complete a series of small touch ups that would improve the overall look of the pickup. If you’ve been following along, you could use any step we’ve shown you on its own to make an improvement to the look of your truck. But as things progressed with our project, we ended up with a case of the “you might as wells.” Because we’d gone this far changing the look of the F-250, we thought we might as well just go all the way and give it a completely new paint job, rather than try to color match the touch-up paint that had to be applied over the rusty sections we fixed. The blue and grey paint the truck was wearing looked okay, but it was a little drab. The truck needed some personality. A new paint scheme will make Project F-250 stand out from the crowd.
YOU CAN DO THIS AT HOME We didn’t forget we promised to make this an entirely do-it-yourself project that was practical for anyone to do in the farm shop. That hasn’t changed. We’re finishing the truck off exactly that way, with a full paint job anyone can do. Here’s how we did it. First, we removed all the exterior trim. Most modern trims strips are just held on with an adhesive. Using a putty knife, we peeled it all off and threw
it away. We’re changing the truck’s look, so we won’t need it again. We also carefully removed the grille, taillights, door handles and mirrors along with the chrome windshield trim and cab marker lights. Doing that is just a matter of removing screws and pulling off the pieces. Taking all those parts off is easy and makes for a better finish than masking each one and trying to paint around them. To remove door handles and side mirrors, take off the door’s interior panel, then reach in and disconnect the mechanical and electrical linkages.
paper to prep it for the new paint. There was no option here but to roll up our sleeves and get to it. Everything we do at this stage determines how well the final finish will look. With painting, prep is everything, so don’t cut corners at this stage. We wanted to “jamb” the truck, which means paint the door jambs, too. When the new color continues that far, it makes for a better look when you open the doors. However, we want the interior of the cab to
stay blue, so the new color can’t show inside the cab when the doors are closed. Accomplishing this will require some extra efforts when masking. Once again, we went cheap and relied, in part, on old newspaper for masking material. We also used a roll of thin poly to cover the larger areas. After all the sanding was completed, the truck needed another wipe down to remove the dust. A final once over with a special tack
cloth and the body is ready for paint — finally. At this point, we were three weeks into the project and looking forward to seeing some color on the truck. Next issue you’ll get to see that, too. The cost for this stage of the project was about $35, which covered the sanding and cleaning supplies. Add a few dollars more if you have to buy masking material. † Scott Garvey is machinery editor for Grainews. Contact him at email@example.com
The blue and grey paint the truck was wearing looked okay, but it was a little drab. Next, we washed the entire truck thoroughly, then hit it with a wax and grease remover. Our F-250 is a pretty big vehicle with what seems like acres of body panels, covering all that area that involved some elbow grease.
THE HARD PART But here’s where the hard works really starts. The whole body now needs to be scuffed with a red Scotchbrite pad or 400-grit sand-
PHOTOS: SCOTT GARVEY
Masked and ready: After a full sanding and final wipe down, Project F-250 is masked and ready for paint.
Jamb mask: We want to spray the new body color on the door jambs as well, so the interior of the door and cab are masked off to prevent overspray.
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Handles removed: The door handles and side mirrors were removed to make for a better quality paint job.
MARCH 19, 2012
Machinery & Shop WELDING
Two new welders hit the market John Deere and Thermal Arc have each introduced new welders that offer a little extra innovation
here are two new welders on the market that might catch farmers’ attention.
THREE-IN-ONE WELDERATOR If you can’t get enough John Deere green on your farm and you could use some portable power, the company recently released its innovative “Three-inone Welderator,” which is ideally suited for service vehicles. It combines an air compressor, generator and welder all in one unit, hence the three-in-one moniker. With this system in the back of a pickup truck, farmers can use any typical workshop tool in the field during emergency repairs. Of course, it’s suitable for use inside a shop as well. Power comes from the 404cc Subaru Industrial engine, mounted on top of the 30-gallon air tank. At low throttle the engine runs the air compressor and is capable of generating an airflow of 16.3 cubic feet per minute (CFM) at 100 pounds per square inch (PSI) and 15.7 CFM at 175 psi, which is more than enough for any air tool. At full engine throttle, the generator portion is capable of producing 5,000 watts of electricity and delivers it through two 120 volt, 20-amp AC outlets. In welder mode, the Welderator can produce a 50 to 170-amp arc, and that’s suitable for most on-farm welding needs. At 585 pounds, it’s much lighter than many portable welders, and comes with a two-year warranty.
THERMAL ARC’S FABRICATOR Thermal Arc’s new Fabricator 252i model also combines several functions into one machine. In this case, it gives you three welding processes, MIG, TIG and arc, in one welding unit. At only 66 pounds it’s small, easily portable and will run off any generator capable of producing at least 6.6 kW of power. It provides 5 to 300 amps of output, making it good for any steel thickness up to half an inch. MIG and gas-shielded flux-cored outputs provide maximum productivity in the shop. The stick BY DAN PIRARO
and self-shielded flux-cored processes work better in windy, outdoor conditions, as well as on rusty or dirty metal. The DC TIG process enables users to weld stainless, copper, nickel, bronze or brass alloys, and it’s the best choice on applications that require precise control over heat input and weld bead placement. The retail price for the 252i is a pretty reasonable $2,509. For more information see the company’s website, www.thermalarc.com. † Scott Garvey is machinery editor for Grainews. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thermal Arc’s 252i is a single unit capable of welding in MIG, TIG and arc modes with a reasonable $2,509 price tag.
The John Deere Welderator is a gas-powered, portable air compressor, welder and electrical generator all in one unit.
p u v e R WIN! to
Win your CO-OP® 2012 Spring Lube Purchase!
T S E G G BI
BY SCOTT GARVEY
! R A E Y E H T OF
15 lucky farm or commercial customers from across the west will win! Maximum of $5,000 retail value. Minimum purchase of 200 litres. Contest ends May 18, 2012. Draw date is June 30, 2012.
See your local Co-op for details.
MARCH 19, 2012
Cattleman’s Corner Livestock Management
Proper handling of livestock pays Researcher says all sectors of the livestock industry need to realize more can be accomplished with a carrot than a stick when handling cattle BY RIC SWIHART
mproved handling of cattle is a major shift in the North American livestock industry, says an award-winning professor from Colorado State University. In an interview at the annual Lethbridge College Tiffin Conference Series earlier this winter, Temple Grandin said people are beginning to realize that good handling of cattle really pays, and it makes handling of cattle safer for people. Weight gains also improve and sickness is reduced when cattle are handled properly, she said. It pays when cattle are handled quietly. Grandin has built her career around a simply stated principle. “I think using animals for food is an ethical thing to do, but we’ve got to do it right. We’ve got to give those animals a decent life and we’ve got to give them a painless death. We owe the animal respect.” Grandin said that when she started promoting optimum cattle handling at all phases of a cow-calf to feedlot operation in the early 1970s, she estimated about 20 per cent of producers were doing a decent job of handling their animals. “It’s probably over half (the producers) now,” she said. “There still a bottom 10 per cent that are not doing a good job.”
Design and education Grandin said finding ways to improve cattle handling involves improving design features of facilities and human knowledge. Improved handling includes lots of good-traction flooring, and erecting solid sides on corals and chutes at strategic locations. Improved handling also involves proper training of people, and better understanding of livestock behavioural principles. “I also advocate measuring animal handling,” she said. “A lot of people get gung-ho going to cattle handling workshops, there are a lot of people teaching low-stress handling. But a year later, many slip back into old bad habits. “The problem is they don’t realize they have done it,” she says. “The screaming slowly comes back. The electric prod use slowly slips back.” Grandin advocates measuring handling. “For instance, how many cattle fell during handling? I hope none,” she said. “How many cattle did you poke with the electric prod? I want cattle walking and trotting out of that squeeze chute, not running. You can measure that and then you can see if it is increasing or decreasing.” Grandin said cattle get trained when they are being handled. You can train cattle to be wild or train cattle to be calm.
The same goes for cattle handlers. “The first thing people have to do is calm down,” she said. Grandin pointed to a monitoring system introduced to the packing industry in 1999, which allows plants to compare animalhandling principles. “That resulted in more change than I had seen in my entire career,” she said. “You have got a major customer (McDonald’s) telling the industry you have to do a better job. Then when they actually did it, two things happened. Some plant managers were stupid and they resented it. But other managers felt it was good to do things right. They became believers. They were amazed how quietly you could handle cattle and keep up with the production line.” Grandin said purebred producers have always done a better job of handling their cattle. People in the purebred business are really serious about what they do. There are still too many people who rough up animals, she said. Auctions are still a problem.
Poor communication Another big problem for agriculture is communicating with the public, she said. It is frustrating. “In the past 10 years I have done a lot of work to fix slaugh-
photos: tony kok
University of Colorado livestock behaviour specialist, Dr. Temple Grandin, emphasizes the importance of proper livestock handling. terhouses, and the public doesn’t know about it,” she said. She pointed to Cargill, a major meat processor in North America, which has installed cameras to allow auditors to view its plants to ensure everything is being done properly. Consumer awareness of proper care of animals is increasing, said Grandin. However, there are still many reports about mishandling animals, but fewer about the progress that has been made. Agriculture has done a really poor job of telling the good things
it has done, she said. As part of her education efforts, she puts videos of proper cattle handling on YouTube. “I think we have to open the door electronically,” she said. “We need to show how cattle are being handled, and then explain how things work. If agriculture is doing something now that makes you squirm at the thought of showing it to your wedding guests, then maybe you shouldn’t be doing it.” † Ric Swihart is a long-time agricultural writer based in Lethbridge, Alta.
Is it time to expand the herd? While calf prices are good, increasing the cow herd in 2012 might be three years too late BY GERALD KLASSEN
’ve received many inquiries from cow calf producers asking if this is the time to expand their cow herd. The feeder market has been making historical highs and profitability has improved over the past year. Many cattle producers focus on inventory numbers and cattle-on-feed data to project future price activity. However, an oldtime cattle producer told me to be successful in the cattle business long term, producers and analysts should focus on demand and consumer spending patterns. Consumer spending is largely influenced by interest rates and using this information to plan five years forward can be very profitable. The accompanying chart shows live cattle futures from 1965 through January of 2012. I have blocked three examples, with showing how the cattle market responds when the U.S. business cycle moves from the trough of the recession to the peak of the expansion. A one per cent increase in consumer spending results in a one per cent increase in beef demand. If 300 million Americans each eat one more pound of beef because they have additional income, demand obviously increases by 300 million pounds. If income
decreases so that instead of eating out weekly, each American only eats out once per month, beef demand can decrease by over 600 million pounds. Obviously this doesn’t go to waste but the market has to absorb additional supplies at a lower price.
Trends over 47 years In Example 1 — November 1970 to November 1973 — cattle futures moved from a low of $28 to a high $54. Interest rates in November 1970 were at seven per cent and dropped to 4.5 per cent by February 1972. This stimulated the economy so consumer spending would increase. Cattle prices were basically in an upward trend from 1972 forward. It is important to realize interest rates moved up to 12 per cent by August 1974, which basically stemmed additional consumer spending. The cattle market then consolidated or moved sideways. The next major economic expansion occurred from March 1975 to January 1980, which I show as Example 2. Cattle futures moved from a low of $41 to a high of $77, which is an 87 per cent increase. By the end of 1976, interest rates were about six per cent, which is down from 12 per cent from August of 1974. More recently, interest rates
reached nine per cent in March 2000 and then dropped to four per cent by March 2003. Notice in Example 3, cattle futures went from a low near $60 in 2002 to a high of $100 in 2007. The Dow Jones Industrial Average reached an all-time high in November 2007, when interest rates were 7.5 per cent. By 2009, the U.S. Federal Reserve had lowered rates to 0.25 per cent. The U.S. economy took about one year to digest lower rates. Economic expansion occurred in 2010, at the same time cattle prices started to recover.
Record prices We now see cattle prices at all-time record highs. Those producers who have read my articles through the 2009 recession know I encouraged heifer retention and herd expansion at that time. Unemployment rates are decreasing and equity markets have made fresh 52-week highs. Consumer spending is about 70 per cent of the U.S. economy and will continue to increase over the next year. During 2008 and 2009, the correlation between the Dow Jones Industrial Average and live cattle futures was 0.6. This correlation increased to 0.9 from January 2010 to the end of 2011. When we see this relationship decrease, this is a signal
photo: tdtn prophet x
While overall the chart shows an increase in live cattle futures prices over nearly 50 years, there are peaks and valleys of prices during the decades. Right now we may have crested the hill. that the cattle market has stalled out. Despite comments from the Federal Reserve, we could see interest rates start to increase in 2013, which will temper additional upside in cattle and beef markets. In conclusion, the time to expand the cattle herd was during the recession of 2009. If producers are going to buy cows or bred heifers when prices are at historical highs, make sure debtto-equity ratios are quite strong because additional upside in the cattle market is likely limited. To be successful long term,
producers have to have a five- to 10-year plan to expand the herd when the economy is contracting, not expanding. This is when cow prices are at historical lows because of lower feeder cattle prices. However, prices only stay at the lows for a couple years. Major changes in interest rates have a large effect on consumer spending patterns and beef consumption. † Gerald Klassen analyzes cattle and hog markets in Winnipeg and also maintains an interest in the family feedlot in Southern Alberta. For comments or speaking engagements, he can be reached at email@example.com or 204 287 8268
MARCH 19, 2012
Cattleman’s Corner Calf management
Treating crooked and broken legs Don’t guess at the problem, and treat only if you are sure BY HEATHER SMITH THOMAS
ccasionally a calf is born with crooked legs. Some or these will straighten with time and exercise, while others require intervention. A few defects are so severe the calf must be euthanized. In other situations a newborn calf may suffer a fractured limb, which needs to be cast or splinted for proper healing. Dr. Mark Hilton, a clinical associate professor of beef production medicine at Purdue University, says that if producers are familiar with repeat conditions such as contracted tendons where the leg is knuckling over, they can probably be dealt with by massaging the legs and stretching the tendons. However, if producers aren’t sure of the problem, they should call a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis. Hilton recalls one case where the producer called to say the joints in a new calf were a little lax and the calf was walking on the pastern. “The cow was from a bloodline I knew had some genetic leg problems, so I told the producer to keep the pair in a small pen where the calf wouldn’t have to travel much,” says Hilton. Although the vet offered to make a farm visit, the producer decided to wait a couple of days to see what happened. About five days later the producer called to say the calf wasn’t better, and in fact was worse. “I went out there and discovered the calf’s leg was broken,” says Hilton. “It was an open fracture and infected. Treatment cost him hundreds of dollars. If I’d gone out the first day, I could have helped fix the problem without complications.” The point, says Hilton, is that if a producer is absolutely sure of the condition apply treatment, but if not, call for a diagnosis.
cow should not be kept as a breeding animal and may mean culling the sire and dam,” Hilton says. “If a calf needs human intervention for the first several days of life for some reason, this animal is too highmaintenance. We want animals taking care of themselves, not us taking care of them.”
Splint or cast? Accidents sometimes occur, however, such as the cow stepping on her calf and breaking a leg. And the cause may not always be obvious. Young calves have a tremendous
Typical stance for a calf suffering from contracted tendons and unable to put weight on front legs. ability to heal if the fracture is properly supported. “Success rate is excellent in the ones that are not open fractures, and without infections,” says Hilton. “It will also depend somewhat on whether the break is high or low on the leg. If it’s low we can usually splint it, though some veterinarians will cast those, too. The treatment
will depend on whatever the vet thinks is the best therapy for that particular calf and break.” Different types of materials can be used as splints. Sometimes a plastic dog splint, wrapped with stretchy tape to hold it in place, will work for a high break on a hind leg. On a young calf this can often support the hind leg enough
Heather Smith Thomas ranches with her husband Lynn near Salmon, Idaho. Contact her at 208-756-2841
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Genetic issues Lax tendons are not as common as contracted tendons. “Laxity occurs in some breeds more than others,” Hilton says. “Contracted tendons are common in all cattle. We usually work with the owner and make a decision as to whether conservative therapy (grabbing the leg three or four times a day and stretching it out) or more aggressive therapy will be best. We may need to apply splints on and off several times a day to help stretch the tendons. Call your veterinarian for a proper diagnosis.” There are many degrees of abnormality. Most calves get better (and the legs straighten) after they start putting weight on the leg, stretching the tendons. Time, and the calf’s own activity, will often help a leg straighten. “But it’s good to have a plan to know how to help these calves,” says Hilton. In some cases a leg problem is genetic. In these situations producers should consider changing bulls, or culling the cow — or not breed her to that same bull. “If a calf is not born normally, can’t get up and suck normally, or can’t get off to a normal start, the
to keep the fracture immobile while it heals. It may not work with older and heavier calves. Often a specific length of PVC pipe, cut in half lengthwise, will work as a splint. Rolled cotton can be used as padding between the pipe and the limb. “If it’s a splint for a hind leg we use a propane torch and heat the PVC pipe to bend it so it will curve at the hock, at the same angle as the leg,” says Hilton, who has several pre-cut sections of pipe ready as needed. “We just heat the half pipe at the proper spot and push the end of the pipe on the ground until we get the correct angle. Then we hold it for a couple minutes at that angle until it cools.” If a producer hasn’t experienced calves with limb problems before, it always pays to consult with the veterinarian. In many cases, there may be some simple options for treatment. †
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MARCH 19, 2012
Keepers & Culls A message that isn’t going away LEE HART
here is a recurring message in the livestock industry and in agriculture in general and that’s that farmers and ranchers need to get on the ball with the public and consumers with their message about being good operators. It is a message that tells consumers and the public they are good stewards of the land, do their best to protect the environment and treat their livestock properly and humanely. In this issue, Jeff Simmons, president of Elanco Animal Health (page 52) talks about
“fighting the fringe” element. Also in this issue, Lorne Rossnagel, a beef producer from Plumas, Manitoba (page 51) talks about the value of having an environmental farm plan. He doesn’t sound like a born-again tree hugger, but a good producer who sees value in these things. I also liked the quote from the renowned animal behaviour specialist Temple Grandin (page 48) during a talk in Lethbridge earlier this winter. “If agriculture is doing something now that makes you squirm at the thought of showing it to your wedding guests, then maybe you shouldn’t be doing it.” In our March 12 issue, Hyland Armstrong, a rancher and range specialist from Cypress Hills, Alta. talked about the importance of developing co-ordinated
resource management plans — it is not only a good way to manage pasture and rangeland, but it is great PR. I remember a year or so ago, Preston Manning, former leader of the Reform Party, now one of those think-tank guys, telling farmers in Medicine Hat that agriculture has to come up with really great 30-second sound bites for the media, that all sectors need to work co-operatively and they need a really convincing spokesperson like former U.S. vice-president Al Gore (not Al Gore, but someone like that) to be the front man for the agriculture industry. I run into a lot of industry people who grab this whole idea very well, and I also know there are a few/some/several who resist the notion of changing
Cranbrook farm wins award
nd back to the environmental theme, the city of Cranbrook in southeastern B.C. has won a national award for its 35-year-old effluent spray irrigation project known as the City Farm. The project, which was launched in mid-70s, uses water from the sewage system effluent to irrigate one-time rangeland to produce forage and graze cattle. The city took this route rather than build a mechanical treatment plant and discharge waste water into a river. The project has grown over the years, to today where it covers about 1,600 acres of irrigated pasture and hayland, produces on average about 3,600 tonnes of hay per year, and seasonal grazing for as many as 1,200 cow-calf pairs owned by area ranchers. These cattle produce as much as 750,000 pounds of beef for the Canadian meat industry. At nominal rates, just the hay and beef, alone have value of more than $1.5 million annually. While the project has received different awards over the years, the most recent was the 2012 Sustainable Communities Awards presented by The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM). The award recognizes municipal projects across Canada that demonstrate excellence in environmental responsibility.
Write, Email or Fax Contact Cattleman’s Corner with comments, ideas or suggestions for and on stories by mail, email, phone or fax. Phone Lee Hart at 403-592-1964 Fax to 403-288-3162 Email firstname.lastname@example.org Write to CATTLEMAN’S CORNER, PO Box 71141 Silver Springs RPO, Calgary, Alta. T3B 5K2 their ways, changing practices, and prefer to ignore critics as a bunch of whiners. I think most consumers are complacent. They just want good-quality food that tastes good and is relatively cheap. The sector that is particularly sensitive to critics are the McDonald’s restaurants, the Costcos and the Wal-Marts who really care about their image, and will use every marketing trick in the book to protect their image and bottom line. It is a global marketplace and if they can’t buy product in Canada from producers trying to be good stewards of the land, who are environmentally sensitive, and treat animals humanely, they will find someone in the world who is, and they will keep laughing all the way to the bank.
I NEED DETAILS PHOTOS: LEE HART
About 1,600 acres of alfalfa and grass forages is cropped annually at the City Farm.
City Farm masterminds in 1973, from left, Dick Fletcher, EPEC engineering, Fred Crashley, Cranbrook city engineer, Don Sherling, alderman and George Haddad, provincial MLA inspecting construction.
A man goes to a shrink and says, “Doctor, my wife is unfaithful to me. Every evening, she goes to Larry’s bar and picks up men. In fact, she sleeps with anybody who asks her! I’m going crazy. What do you think I should do?” “Relax,” says the doctor. “Take a deep breath and calm down. Now, tell me, exactly where is Larry’s bar?”
Livestock Identification Services have laid charges after a two year investigation relating to allegations of theft and fraud of cattle in the Ardrossan area of rural Strathcona County. H o w a r d S c h n e i d e r, 5 7 of Ardrossan, Alta. has been charged with 14 counts under the Criminal Code for alleged fraud and theft related offences and one count under the Livestock Identification and Brand Inspection Act for transporting livestock out of Albert without inspection. Schneider is scheduled to appear in Sherwood Park Provincial Court March 21, 2012. Strathcona County RCMP received the original complaint in March 2009 that indicated a central Alberta producer was missing 138 head of purebred Angus cattle, which he alleged were illegally removed and sold. There are still 84 head unaccounted for and the investigation is continuing. As the investigation is continuing, anyone with information on this crime is encouraged to contact the Strathcona County RCMP at 780-467-7741 or call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-2228477. Crime Stoppers will pay up to $2,000 for information leading to an arrest in this matter. You do not have to reveal your identity to qualify for an award. † Lee Hart
Strathcona County RCMP (just east of Edmonton) and the “K” Division Livestock Investigation Section, with the assistance of
Buying a roast shouldn’t be a crapshoot BY STAN HARDER
ew issues relating to the table are as exasperating as having paid good dollars for a food item only to find it’s the absolute pits on your plate. Since beef is in direct competition for market share with other meats it is incumbent upon the industry to deliver consistent-quality products. This, in my view still remains an elusive objective rather than being a laudable reality. I can’t remember a time when our assorted beef associations have not been agonizing about market share, yet they appear to be not only loathe but almost hostile to the concept of marketing standardized product lines. As shoppers we can toss dairy, poultry, fish (and to a great extent pork) products into our grocery carts without reflecting on the potential worth of our purchases. We can rest easy
one package is much the same as another. These suppliers have done a marvelous job of homogenizing their customer ready merchandise. Consumer confidence is clearly their “job one” and they are doing it well. Beef, not so much. For ourselves, we wouldn’t dream of walking up to a beef counter and simply accepting the top package on display. Not all steaks are created equal. Steaks readily show traits from overall plate size (natural or sectioned) and thickness to marbling, bone and gristle and it is up to us to make a judgment call as to whether each meets what we are looking for and confirms what we are prepared to pay. Experience dictates relative success, but at least we are given the option of elemental choice. (Some folks even claim to be able to distinguish one breed’s
cut from another but other than size per se I’m not sure what criterion could reliably be used that would be at all meaningful, certainly not significant enough to warrant suggestive comment. Besides, anyone writing an article on beef proposing one breed’s meat may be superior/inferior to another had perhaps best find another hobby, and soon.)
BUTCHER’S LIMITATIONS Our issue with beef as a food staple has been selection of roasts. We prefer to have butchers cut to our specs as we have found they are almost invariably proud craftsmen or women and each roast is personally handed off as a confident product of their craftsmanship. But even this has its limitations. On far too many occasions, once we get our hands on the roast its all over but the crying. Butchers
can only do what their base material allows. They can’t make it more tender or remove every vestige of gristle and have anything of consequence left to sell. Why the industry has been unable and or unwilling to introduce a formula guaranteeing beef quality beyond the vague and overly flexible “A’s” is a mystery. Branded beef has long been touted as remedy and certainly this would go a long way toward developing customer loyalty if such branding was at all reliable. Consumers need to know what they are paying for, where this or that product stands on a recognized scale of merit. If I am asked to pay top dollar for any product I want to be assured its comparative value is justified. There should be some standard for tenderness and percentage of waste readily understood by buyers, and priced accordingly.
Hamburger has its regular, lean and extra lean. We have a choice. Would it be too difficult to extend this type of designation to roasts? Tender one, two or three. Waste, one two or three. You get what you pay for. Different circumstances may call for varying grades of quality but this should be an intellectual choice not a crapshoot where prices are identical but product quality is not. We’ve had roasts unbelievably tender with flavour to die for, as well as roasts whose only viable disposition was to shave slice cold and use for sandwiches. The rub is you don’t know what you’ve got until its too late to make a change. The bottom line here is consumer confidence and in beef roasts the industry has yet to make its mark. † Stan Harder is a mostly retired Angus breeder living at St. Brides, Alta. You can email him at email@example.com
MARCH 19, 2012
Cattleman’s Corner Farm management
Manitoba EFP is a work in progress After developing the original environmental farm plan in 2005 this Manitoba producer keeps revisiting the document to keep it current and remind him of projects to be completed Part 2 of 4 BY ANGELA LOVELL
orne Rossnagel was one of the first Manitoba producers to develop an Environmental Farm Plan (EFP). “We always were fairly environmentally conscious and even when we were clearing land for pasture and fence lines we always left strips of bush in each paddock and shelter for the cattle,” says Rossnagel, who along with his wife Deborah and family farms in south-central Manitoba. “We tried to keep the cattle out of the low spots so they didn’t damage wildlife habitat.” When the EFP workshop was first offered in Gladstone in 2005, it was a natural fit for Rossnagel, who already had plans to incorporate more intensive rotational grazing. The EFP process helped him develop a plan, as well as access cost-shared funding to cross-fence pastures into smaller paddocks, fence off dugouts in low-lying riparian areas and install three geothermal watering units, which have allowed him to improve management of his wintering sites. “We always fed our cattle on pasture in the winter and spread the manure that way,” says Rossnagel, who farms about 3,300 acres in the Plumas/Gladstone area, northwest of Portage La Prairie. “But once I took the course it made me think more seriously about the run-off and where it goes. You don’t always realize in winter, when driving around in two feet of snow and feeding cattle in a low spot, the spring run-off will end up downstream. Now, we tend to stay away from feeding in those areas in the winter months.”
Manure valuable Rossnagel’s interests are not just about water quality — it’s also about making the most use of valuable resources to improve productivity. “If you put the cattle out there, in part so manure can fertilize the pasture you want it to stay on the pasture,” says Rossnagel. “We look at it as a terribly valuable resource. You want it to stay at home.” In conjunction with the EFP,
Rossnagel has developed a more intensive grazing system on the farm. He took a few large pastures and subdivided those with cross fencing into about 60 grazing paddocks. While cattle previously spent most of the summer in one pasture, they now are moved about every six days to a fresh paddock. The rotational grazing system keeps new forage in front of the cattle, and allows grazed pastures a chance to regrow. “Through proper management we have basically doubled our pasture capacity,” he says. But it’s not all about capacity and production, either says Rossnagel, it’s also about reducing the environmental impact of production practices. “Rotational grazing naturally encourages better growth above ground, but that’s directly correlated to the root growth below ground, which improves water infiltration and helps ensure nutrients stay where they are needed instead of running off into waterways,” he says. Rossnagel is also a peer reviewer for the EFP program. He feels most producers are more comfortable with having another farmer review their completed workbooks, and that it helps make the process more interactive. “It’s amazing the amount of really good suggestions you get from producers as far as content of the workbook,” says Rossnagel. “These are the people out there on the front lines with some tremendous ideas in their workbooks. It’s good material which we take back to our advisory committee.”
Ongoing review As Rossnagel renews his own EFP, he says it is important to look at the plan as a work in progress and constantly revisit it to keep it relevant and useful. “There are always things I don’t get done, so I wanted to make sure there was something to urge me to open my manual once I’d finished my EFP plan,” he says. His solution was to add things to the binder he uses frequently, like land use and capability maps, pasture and bin diagrams. As he flipped through the EFP binder, it helped remind him of projects in progress or still to be done.
Lorne and Deborah Rossnagel and family, from left Alyssa, Lorne, Deborah, Andrea, Aaron and No.1 cow dog, Peaches. Some projects include subdividing more pastures, riparian areas to be protected, and creating more winter watering sites in areas with less natural shelter by using portable windbreaks. These will all be a part of the renewed EFP for his farm. There is always more that can be done, says Rossnagel. “There’s one part of the workbook where
people check off choices about why they think it’s important to do these things,” he says. “By far the vast majority of people say it’s for future generations. A lot of people have put their life into their land and they want to be good stewards so that whether it’s their family that takes it over or somebody else, they want to leave a legacy to carry on.”
Angela Lovell is a freelance writer based in Manitou, Manitoba
WEST COUNTRY SHORTHORN BULL SALE
26TH ANNUAL EDITION
Date: Sat. April 14, 2012
Place: Eionmor Stock Farm at the Morison Farm
Eionmor Stock Farm
Time: Viewing of the Sale Offering 10:00a.m. Dinner @ noon, Sale @ 1:00 p.m. On offer 30 yearling bulls, and 30 open yearling heifers At the farm 26 miles west of Innisfail on Highway 54, watch for signs
Intensive grazing has doubled the carrying capacity of pasture on the Rossnagel farm.
For more information on the EFP program in Manitoba visit the Manitoba Agriculture website at: www.gov.mb.ca/agriculture, click on Production and Economics and then the tab for Agri-Environment or go directly to: www.gov.mb.ca/ agriculture/growingforward/gf_ programs/aaa19s16.html. †
Downsview Shorthorns Willow Butte Cattle Co. Shepalta Shorthorns
or for more info, call Ken @ 403-728-3825 sale day: 403-877-3293 . 587-876-2544
MARCH 19, 2012
Cattleman’s Corner Herd Management
How genomics works on the farm Identifying which bull is doing the most work and producing top calves, is one benefit of DNA testing Part 2 of 2 BY SEAN MCGRATH
n Part 1, (Grainews March 12, page 38) I attempted to fully confuse people with the basics of genomics, but the reality is we just need to understand the potential applications to determine whether it is useful for our own operations. The analogy I use is the GPS in your car or tractor. We don’t need to know which satellites send signals, or what frequency is used, we only need some degree of confidence the directions we get are correct. Genomics is the study of DNA, the molecule that determines your upper potential by controlling which proteins and body functions are produced. DNA is what makes each of us unique, and provides the blueprint for the cow. DNA also presents challenges to beef production. I hope we can all mostly agree on what the basic features of a cow are (four legs, a rumen, for example). Where we get into debate revolves around what type of cow or whether she is any good. These differences are all controlled at the top level by DNA. It allows supporters of different breeds to argue they have the best cattle, since DNA is what creates the differences between breeds. With genomics, a lot of work goes into “validation.” Basically this means because the basic cow is fairly standardized, (there are differences between breeds), we need to make sure DNA that might be tied to a
trait in one type of cow, also works in other types of cows and combinations in between. Validation ensures the predicted differences between animals, when looking at their DNA, show up in real-world production. The validation aspect is one of the key areas where some earlier DNA tests were weak, as earlier knowledge of the cow’s DNA assumed a cow is a cow. We now know better, and tests emerging are vastly improved as a result.
Real potential Simple tests such as polled/ horned, red/black may have some commercial value, however the potential for low-cost parentage validation through technology known as SNP, is much more exciting. Having DNA available on sires has great potential for seedstock and commercial producers. For seedstock operations it opens the opportunity of multi-sire pastures, potentially improving grazing management, reducing costs and creating larger contemporary group sizes. For commercial operations it may provide the same type of opportunities, but it is also very useful to determine which sires are the most effective/active when mating cows, or to determine if problems such as calving difficulty are coming from specific sires or are a result of broader-scale management. Of greater benefit is the ability to identify sires producing superior progeny. Sire verification of heifers over time results in a cow herd
with a documented pedigree where individual animal decisions can be based on the best information possible. This can allow running of different breeds in the same pasture while ensuring replacements are only kept from those bulls best suited to that purpose. It is important to remember that DNA SNP testing does not replace the hard work of seedstock production such as taking birthweights, weighing and ultrasounding calves, and semen testing. It augments these activities to produce more accurate genetic proofs (EPDs) on the cattle. The most practical application of DNA technology, early in an animal’s life, helps to improve accuracy of the traits we can already measure. We can obtain information on traits that normally take much longer to collect such as longevity, or are difficult to gather such as meat quality.
Best fit An improved genetic prediction does not make an animal better or worse, but it helps to place it into situations where it is more likely to excel. More knowledge means fewer mistakes when selecting breeding stock for whatever program we are working in. Generally, fewer mistakes means a better bottom line. Genomics may also offer options for cattle not destined for the breeding herds of our nation. Using DNA to sort cattle into “like potential” groups may add value to feeder packages. Feedlots really
like being able to clean pens out in short order and hit their target market commitments. I believe cow-calf producers have the power to be proactive here and test and sort cattle prior to offering them to the feeding industry. This could be for gain, marbling ability, disease resistance, meat tenderness, or other traits. Depending on sample types, testing for BVD-PI can often be done at the same time. The other taboo topic genomics helps us with is genetic defects. The ability to rapidly develop and inexpensively deploy tests for a variety of defects is a great boon to the industry. The see-no/hear-no/ speak-no-evil approach can be a very expensive proposition. DNA technology is currently in the same stage as the computer industry a few years ago. Prices are rapidly declining and technology is rapidly improving. It is important not to get stuck in a technology rut and compare testing options. Price is likely the first consideration, but it is also important to look at the applications in your own operation. Is knowing parentage of benefit? How about improving your grazing through multi-sire pastures? Are there time savings to be had by using DNA technology? What is the value of knowing which sires carry the load for your operation? Can DNA open marketing opportunities and what are those worth? What is the value of identifying traits such as heifer fertility or cow longevity in yearling bulls?
Simple process Testing is pretty simple. Pull a sample from the animal that contains DNA (tissue, blood, hair), send it in with some money and get a result. With any investment there is some degree of uncertainty, however familiarity and experience tends to reduce this. It is quite possible to engage the process on a small scale initially through something as simple as collecting samples on your herd sires in the event you want to test them or their offspring later on. If working towards improved accuracy of prediction, the testing process may be coordinated through your respective breed association. DNA provides the blueprint for the animal and SNP DNA technology is the way we read that blueprint. Even though an animal may have potential to achieve a production target, as managers we have the potential to screw that up. The extreme analogy could be a calf that has the potential to gain 10 pounds per day on feed, and we fail to feed it. The most powerful application of the technology will be using the SNP technology to help us find the blueprints that fit what we are trying to build. Questions to ask include costs, benefits, who owns the data, is the sample stored/saved (to use for better tests in the future), and how valid is the test for the group of cattle you are working with. DNA testing is not going away any time soon and it is worth looking into for seedstock and commercial operations alike. † Sean McGrath is a rancher and consultant from Vermilion, AB. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (780)853-9673. For additional information visit www.ranchingsystems.com
Livestock industry needs to fight the “fringe” Farmers need to use technology and the media to get their message out to consumers
he pork industry needs to fight against “the fringe one per cent” and champion technology to create a more prosperous industry and — more important — a better and more sustainable world, says Jeff Simmons, president of Elanco Animal Health. It’s lofty stuff, but it’s also reality, he says. And the sooner pork producers and other livestock industry players realize just how critical their role is, the better they can become the leaders the world needs to truly drive progress. “You are the leaders,” says Simmons, speaking at the 2012 Banff Pork Seminar, attended by over 600 industry players from across North America and around the globe. “You need to believe more and know where you fit in this global issue. You’re dealing with the greatest issue this century. Have pride in what you do.” Feeding tomorrow’s world — the theme of the 2012 Seminar — may seem like a complex problem, says Simmons. But when it’s boiled down, the challenge and the solution become very clear. “My father always says if you can’t go into a coffee shop and tell it on a napkin you can’t tell it. The napkin speeches are what we need
when we talk about our industry and what we do.” The reality is simple — food is an issue for half the world’s current population of seven billion and that number is projected to hit nine billion within the next four decades. Simmons has a napkin-speech based around three numbers that sums up what’s at stake and what’s needed. He calls it the “50-100-70” speech. “In the year 2050, the world will require 100 per cent more food and 70 per cent of this food must come from efficiency-improving technology,” he says. There is increasing awareness of the 50/100 part, but not many people know about the 70 per cent solution, he says. “Nobody talks about the 70. And that’s a number from global organizations such as FAO and WHO, supported by economists the world over. All the knowledge out there says technology is where 70 per cent of the doubling has to come from.”
Industry needs to lead That’s a message that needs to get out, and no one is better equipped or more needed to deliver it that people within the livestock industries who represent
the means by which it can happen, he says. “We can boil it down our message to four words: safe, abundant, affordable food. That’s what we’re about and what we work on every day.” The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, for one, has stated that farm productivity is the beginning of the solution to feeding the world and alleviating both poverty and hunger, he says. It’s not just about plant-based food. “There’s greater demand now on the meat side than the plant side. The data shows there are three billion people every day that are trying to shift more from plants, more from rice and get milk, meat and eggs. It’s a huge demand driven heavily by rising GDPs, and it’s not in the population that’s coming, it’s in the population that’s here right now.” So where do the perceptions come from that people don’t want more technology applied to food, that vegetarianism is on the rise and that more precautionary constraints are needed on technology innovations? Simmons says a lot of information comes from flawed surveys and the voices of a small minority becoming overblown. The best science-based data in fact
shows 95 per cent of consumers are food buyers who are either neutral or supportive of using efficiency-enhancing technologies to grow food. Another four per cent are “lifestyle buyers” who choose foods based on lifestyle factors such as ethnicity or vegetarianism. Only a tiny percentage wants to eliminate food choices by banning specific agricultural technologies or methods. “We can’t allow ourselves to get thrown off by the fringe one per cent,” says Simmons. “The vast majority of consumers want safe, affordable, tasty food, and choice in what they purchase.”
Stand up, speak up Another napkin speech is this — livestock industries stand for “three rights,” he says: food, choice and sustainability. “Tell it to the coffee shop. Tell it to your neighbor. We also need to take these messages forward at the big, global level.” A silver lining of the global recession is that it has brought more logic to the global food system, says Simmons. “It makes it easier to see what’s important.” The time is ripe for livestock industries to be active, outspo-
Jeff Simmons, president of Elanco Animal Health. ken leaders in addressing the food issue and championing technology solutions, he says. “This is not a time to let up. We need to be more activist-like in our thinking and engage in the debates that are out there in all corners. When you consider what’s at stake, I say ‘bring it on.’” Too aggressive? Not at all, he says. “One thing about activists: their fire is hot. We need to be activists too.” † Article courtesy of Banff Pork Seminar and Meristem Land & Science, Calgary, Alta. Phone 403-543-7420 or visit www.meristem.com
MARCH 19, 2012
Home Quarter Farm Life SEEDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT
“Grandpa, do you want to finish well?” Use your years of experience and common sense, be adaptable, and trust your advisers ELAINE FROESE
wasn’t able to talk for over two years about what happened with my grandfather,” a young farmer confides as he describes a bitter battle over the transition of land titles from his father’s father to him. I am concerned about the many threads of conversations across farm audiences this winter that weave a sad tale of loss, grief and exasperation with those farmers who are over 80 and are not finishing their farming careers well. Leaving a lasting legacy as a farmer is not just about money and land. It also involves how you wish to be remembered for your character, and how you want to resolve conflicts before your passing. Do you want a family tree that is broken, or flourishing? Do you realize that the next generation and the younger farmers are just as passionate about being a great farmer as you were in your late 20s? What is stopping you from gifting and transferring with a warm hand, an open, generous hand on top, rather than a clenched fist? I have my hunches. 1. Money equals security. You are afraid that you will not have enough to live on for the next 20 years, even though you have
$500K in the bank, and shares in the company. You aren’t even enjoying the wealth you have now because your health keeps you housebound. Ralph Waldo Emerson had something when he said, “your health is your wealth.” Your pension income, your debt-free living, and your personal wealth will keep you going. Why not transfer those farm assets and see the pride of ownership shine on your grandson’s face? Great family relationships ensure that even if you are close to dying broke, your loved ones will not “put you out on the street… or gravel road!” 2. Losing control is hard. Your friends are all dying and you certainly cannot control that. Facing death is hard for you, so you deny the invitations to update wills, and invoke the power of attorney that will protect your affairs with your trusted adviser now. Is holding on for you the only thing that gives you a sense of power and control over your own destiny? Yikes. I would choose to be rich in relationship over being a lonely land baron any day. Families are supposed to be a sanctuary of love and nurture, not nasty fight centres of conflict avoidance and deep hurt. How about extending the hand of forgiveness and forging a new, reconciled chapter in your family? How about dying without any regrets? 3. Hard times could happen
again. You recall the Depression as a young person who struggled. You are proud of the wealth you have built. You might sense that others see you as greedy, but you don’t care anymore. Your heart is so hardened that not even your wife’s pleading for family connection and harmony can get you to budge. Your word rules the day. You think interest and debt is evil, but do you realize that transfer of assets to your son, daughter, and grandchildren, could be a big boost to debt-servicing capacity of the next generation? Your young grandchild can get young farmer rebates and loans that he or she can manage. They weren’t born in the early ’80s to remember high interest rates, but they are financially astute and smart managers. Please trust them! 4. Communication is hard to restart once broken. You are desperate to have some form of communication, but unfortunately the chaotic conversations of TV sitcoms replace the voices of your family members. We honour the fact that you have worked hard, struggled, and overcome many of the stresses of agriculture. We don’t see workaholism and family dictatorship as a badge of honour. The younger generation is much more collaborative in their approach. If you do not wish to help them get started in building equity with transfer of your asset, they will seek nonfamily joint-venture partners. 5. Character and legacy. What do you want written on your
headstone? How would you like to be remembered? Are there special possessions like a gun collection, tools, or cars that you might like to share stories about with your beneficiaries? There is a song that says, “when it is all said and done, things will just not matter.” Pinball Clemons spoke to the Canadian Young Farmers Forum 2012 AGM, and he said farmers are superheroes. He also noted that strong, healthy families are the foundation of everything else going right in the world. Our rural towns need strong families and farm businesses in order to be sustainable and thrive. Imagine if every farmer in their 80s took their legacy to heart, and did the things to finish well. What would it look like to have grandparents celebrating the success of their farming children and grandchildren? 6. It is not all or nothing. Wealth can be transferred in stages, but a plan needs to be legally binding and well thought out for tax planning and meeting expectations of all generations. It is not a “you win, I lose” type of scenario. There are many creative options available when you use a great team of advisers who understands your intent and why you are making or avoiding certain decisions. Farmers are fiercely independent entrepreneurs. The new crop of leaders is going to use a collaborative approach, team up with non-family and seek out new innovation. 7. It is not cool to be a laggard. Remember how good it felt
to finally get that new or “gently used” piece of equipment to make your farm tasks easier and be more efficient in your work? The folks who seek new tools early are called the early adaptors, and they are the ones who see profits first, long before the laggards, the last ones to change or even know what happened. Be cool. Be someone who is ahead of the game, rather than the unwise one who is left behind. Use common sense and your wisdom of your years, to be adaptable and trust your team of advisers to help you finish your farming career well. 8. There is still a place for you on the farm. You will never fully retire from farming, but your role as you age is now different. Take on the position of an elder mentor. Be the fellow who folks like to come to for a historical perspective on how to be resilient, and yet practically optimistic about the future of agriculture. I have some very wise, well-balanced, over-70 farm coach clients. I just wish I could clone their skills and personalities to inject a sense of hope for those younger farmers who are feeling so stuck with a grandparent who refuses to finish well. What is your choice going to be? Choose to resolve conflict and leave a great farm family legacy. Elaine Froese is a certified farm family coach who creates safe spaces for difficult conversations. She farms in southwestern Manitoba on the Froese family farm with her husband and son. Sign up for her newsletter at www.elainefroese.com or call 1-866-8488311. Show love and respect to your elders. Earn their respect
Not your average farmer Childhood accident never held him back BY CHRISTALEE FROESE
e’s your typical dad who can be found tying skates at the rink, coaching on the soccer field or playing catch in the backyard. His day-to-day life is that of a typical farmer as well — daily chores feeding the cattle, spring seeding, fall harvest and everything in between. Despite his insistence that he’s just your average guy, Keith Englot forgets that he has done things with just one arm that many people find challenging with two. “Whenever somebody tells you that you can’t do something, you always work harder to do it and that’s what I did,” said the Candiac, Sask. mixed farmer. There were several things he was told he’d never do, like getting his Class 1A licence. While taking his driver’s test at age 16, the examiner told Keith he’d never be able to qualify to drive a semi. But with a firm belief that he had been given the same opportunities as everyone else, Keith proved the examiner wrong several decades later, having the same person test him for his 1A licence in 2001 who tested him for his driver’s licence in 1981. He passed. “You just go on with life like it was normal,” says the 46-year-old
farmer. “If something comes up that you can’t do, you better sit down and think about it, because you can do it.” His parents, who farm alongside Keith, agree that their son has never let the loss of his arm stand in his way. However, if they could take back the day that it happened, they would. Keith’s dad Frank was making chop when he saw his four young children heading over to check out what their dad was doing. He immediately sent them back to the house, but three-year-old Keith only made it partway back with the other kids before he turned around again and made his way toward the auger. “I was up on the truck levelling it off and the first thing I knew, he hollered.” Keith’s arm had been severed almost instantly. “He stood up without an arm. I couldn’t even think; we just ran for towels.” A frantic scene ensued, with Keith being taken to the nearest hospital, then transferred to Regina where he stayed for many weeks. “I think he went into shock because he didn’t cry or anything,” said Keith’s mom Gladys. The family adopted a practical approach to the accident early on, solidifying the fact that Keith
could achieve anything he wanted to in life. “I remember clearly that they told me to just treat him like the rest of the kids and not spoil him or baby him, so that’s what I did,” said Gladys. “He just had to learn to survive with one arm.” Keith doesn’t remember a time that he thought he couldn’t do something because of his disability. “Having the accident so young kind of made it easier,” said the father of two young boys. “If it took two hands, you just figured out another way to do it.” One difficult part of the process was when the bones in Keith’s arm would grow, which would happen one to two times a year until he was in high school. An operation would be required each time to accommodate the skin and tissue around the growing bone. Keith felt like he was in the hospital most of the time, but again, that didn’t hamper his enthusiasm for life or his ability to participate in everything his siblings were a part of. He played hockey until age 12 and was a star pitcher for many fastball teams throughout his life. As for accommodating a baseball glove, Keith improvised, as he was used to doing. He’d place his glove on the ground, pitch the ball, then pick up the glove as quick as he could to
Keith Englot says that his two sons don’t seem to notice his prosthetic arm. accommodate any fielded balls that might come his way. If he was in the outfield, he’d tuck his glove under his arm when it was time to throw. “I only had a problem once when an ump wouldn’t let me have my glove because he told me it couldn’t be on the ground while I pitched.” While he did try different kinds of prosthetic arms, the hook worked best and is still something he wears about 70 per cent of the time. When it came time to become a parent, having one arm wasn’t even a consideration for Keith
and his wife Bonnie. The couple adopted Tamirat and Chareuh from Ethiopia three years ago. Walking around the farmyard, Chareuh usually takes the hand side, while Tamirat walks hand in hook with his dad. “It wasn’t an issue with the boys. I don’t think they even noticed.” The Englots warn farming parents to always be vigilant about where their children are at all times. Keith said his injury is warning enough for everyone who comes to their farm that safety must always come first. † Christalee Froese writes from Montmartre, Saskatchewan
MARCH 19, 2012
Home Quarter Farm Life
Keeping the family well fed Here’s some tips to help save time and money DEBBIE CHIKOUSKY
eeping a family fed is always challenging. We have noticed the last while that as our fam-
ily is growing it isn’t getting any easier. Now along with farming responsibilities there are clubs, jobs and health issues to deal with when planning meals. Never mind the financial constraints that simply will not allow purchasing pricey convenience or fast foods. This spring with the added workload of artificially raising all our kid goats my daughter
and I decided that we just had to streamline meal planning. The first food group we attacked was protein. We usually keep our fridge stocked with our homemade cheeses and hardboiled eggs for quick snacks, so that was covered. We decided that cooking in bulk would be the answer for the rest of our meat demands. It takes just as
much hydro to cook 10 pounds of stewing beef or loose ground beef as it does one, for example. But what do you do with that much precooked stewing beef or loose ground beef? Basically, cook the meat with basic spices such as garlic granules, salt and pepper then refreeze in dinnersize packages. If there is a lot of time the meat can be frozen on cookie sheets in a single layer to avoid it freezing in a lump. This makes it much easier for the cook to prepare it, even from frozen, into a quick casserole, chili or stew. All that is needed is some sauce and spice ideas and dinner is well on its way to being cooked. This sauce has been used on everything from goat to chicken, at our house. It is particularly good with a big roasting pan full of beef ribs. Fill the roaster with meat (weighed first), cover with sufficient sauce, and leave at 250 F for the day.
KEITH’S FAVOURITE SAUCE For 1 lb. of meat: 2 tbsp. soy sauce 1 tbsp. dry sherry 1 clove minced garlic 1 tsp. ground ginger 6 green onions, chopped 1 tbsp. cornstarch 1/2 c. hot meat broth When the garden is growing we have been known to add assorted greens to the sauce and simmer. We always prepare large stockpots of soup for lunches. We have found that if it is placed in canning jars while boiling it keeps in the fridge for several days without spoiling. Another idea is to allow it to cool then freeze it in recycled yogurt-type containers. To reheat, run the container under hot water, turn it upside down over the pot and push on the bottom. The soup will pop out easily. Heat at low so it doesn’t burn. The cooking-in-bulk theory works with pasta, rice and mashed potatoes so carbohydrates were a breeze. We bake large batches of bread, biscuits and muffins and freeze them during a time when animals are not having
Wheat berry salad.
Are you having trouble managing your farm debt? We can help. Mediation may be the solution. The Farm Debt Mediation Service helps insolvent farmers overcome financial difficulties by offering financial counselling and mediation services. This free and confidential service has been helping farmers get their debt repayment back on track since 1998. Financial consultants help prepare a recovery plan, and qualified mediators facilitate a mutually acceptable financial repayment arrangement between farmers and creditors. To obtain more information about how the Farm Debt Mediation Service can help you: Call: 1-866-452-5556
LOVE HEARING FROM YOU Do you have a story about a farm or home-based business? How about some household management tips? Does someone in the family have a special-diet need? Share some of your meal ideas. Send them to FarmLife, 1666 Dublin Ave., Winnipeg, Manitoba R3H 0H1. Phone 1-800665-0502 or email susan@ fbcpublishing.com. Please remember we can no longer return photos or material. — Sue
babies, so we are well stocked. It just requires training. To prevent boredom we often make a Wheat Berry Salad. Most of our guests concur this a fantastic substitute for pasta salad and freezes very well.
WHEAT BERRY SALAD 1 c. wheat berries 3/4 c. brown rice 1 c. pearl OR pot barley 4 green onions, thinly sliced 1 sweet red pepper, diced 1/3 c. raisins 1/2 c. toasted cashews, chopped (optional) 1/2 c. sunflower seeds (optional) Dressing: 1/4 c. canola oil 1/4 c. soy sauce 1/4 c. lemon juice 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard 2 cloves garlic, minced 1/4 tsp. EACH salt and pepper In saucepan of boiling salted water, cover and simmer wheat berries until tender but firm, about 1-1/4 hours. Drain. Meanwhile, in separate saucepan of boiling salted water, cover and simmer rice until tender and most grains are split, about 45 minutes. Drain. Meanwhile, in third saucepan of boiling salted water, cover and simmer barley, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain. Dressing: In large bowl, whisk together oil, soy sauce, lemon juice, mustard, garlic, salt and pepper. Add wheat berries, brown rice, barley, green onions, pepper and raisins. Toss to combine. (Make ahead: Let cool. Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.) This salad also freezes well. If using them, stir in cashews and sunflower seeds just prior to serving. What about veggies? Easy. We buy in bulk and have an extra fridge to keep the unprocessed vegetables. As they are needed we chop them and keep them in containers in the fridge that we eat out of. Frozen vegetables are also quite convenient and useful. We have often added a cup of frozen mixed vegetables to the pan while reheating rice for example. Not only does this add colour, it adds nutrition. Our oldest prefers it when there are the components of a meal in the fridge and all he has to do is take them and put them in a container for work. We have found that they are less likely to snack on unhealthy foods when food is ready to grab. For some reason that we haven’t figured out, produce purchased in case lots stays fresh longer than the ones bought off the shelf, so that helps to minimize waste. Another way to minimize waste is to talk a neighbour into sharing. We have concluded that to eat as healthy as possible with the least amount of effort we need to buy and cook in bulk. It is much easier when everyone involved pitches in to help and from my experience this is very doable. Once we changed some of our practices it was surprising how much less time it took to make meals and it does save money! † Debbie Chikousky farms at Narcisse, Manitoba. Email her at email@example.com
MARCH 19, 2012
Home Quarter Farm Life POSTCARDS FROM THE PRAIRIES
Want to learn more about the world? Try hanging out with my sister and I for a day Also known as the art of confusion… JANITA VAN DE VELDE
was recently contacted by a lovely gentleman named Ralph Clark. Ralph is a retired minister, and he called me to say: “Janita, you are so clever and wise… your articles are the highlight of my day. You remind me of Jesus.” No, he didn’t actually say this. But I suspect he was thinking it. At any rate, he wanted to check in with me about my understanding of the word “meek.” I had used this term in a previous article, referencing: “Blessed are the meek and humble, for it is they who shall inherit the earth.” Back in 1949, Ralph started studying Greek and Hebrew through the United Church. His Hebrew professor was a southern Baptist, who worked on the Revised Standard Version of the scriptures. Through him, Ralph learned that the word “meek” actually means “teachable”; many people assume it means being submissive, passive, compliant and obedient. (Incidentally, all of these terms make me shudder. Violently.) So, I was extremely happy to hear that meek means teachable. Blessed are the teachable. Blessed are those people who are not afraid to admit when they don’t know something, but rather stop to learn from those who have been there before them, those who have more wisdom, those who haven’t just learned something from a book, they’ve actually lived it. I’m sure we’ve all encountered people who have no desire to learn from others, or to see things from a different point of view. Heck, I’ve sometimes been that person (Why, hello teenage Janita… indeed, you were a nightmare). So I leave you with this — be intelligent, be teachable. Thank you, Ralph. Those are very wise words. I really enjoyed our chat. Now please, I beg of you, quit calling me Jesus. It’s bound to go to my head. This conversation got me to thinking about my knowledge of the world in general, and how I still have so much to learn. For the most part, I’ve never stopped to think about this too much; heck, I know enough to get by. But I tell you, when “Jeopardy” is on, and my husband is rattling off the answers like “Rain Man”, I start to wonder: “How the hell does he know all this stuff?” I feel like a mere babe in his presence (for various reasons) — I stare at him in awe like he’s a Nobel Peace Prize recipient or something. It got me to thinking that it must have something to do with our educational differences. I’m the proud product of the public school system and he’s the proud product of a British boarding school. At his school, since they were all virtually locked down on campus, they had nothing to do but play sports and spend an inordinate amount of time learning about a variety of subjects such as history, geography and politics. I recall taking the odd geography and history class, but for the most part, it focused
on North America’s involvement in events that helped shape the world. My husband learned about the world first; how their country was involved came second. Simply put, their focus was not exclusively inward, it was inclusively outward. Big difference. There are limits, of course, on the merits of receiving a better education. Case in point: As he was learning Latin, I was learning how to do things like type (he’s still a two-fingered pecker) and operate a three-ton grain truck whilst perched on a phone book. So take that, in your face. All this to say, when it comes to world knowledge, I concede — he’s a lot smarter than I am. (I pray he’s not reading this. Oh, his grin. Oh, my horror.) To help illustrate my point, I’m going to share a few excerpts from the year my sister came to live with us in Regina. My husband and I had just purchased our first home when my sister decided to move to Regina. We told her to come live with us — we had plenty of space and there was no need for her to rush into buying a home until she was comfortable with the city (translation: my husband wanted access to her big screen TV and I, her wardrobe). So, it was settled. I also had a partner in crime to make fun of my husband when he prattled on about historic events and the significance of geographical disputes. It’s important to mention here that although I feel my knowledge in a lot of these areas is weak, my sister makes me look smart like NASA scientist… I think perhaps she missed those meagre classes altogether. Not to mention, since becoming an adult, I read the odd magazine, newspaper and book. Her, uhm, not so much. When I recently asked her what her favourite book of all time was, she responded: “skinny ones.” When it came time to watch a movie, and it was my husband’s turn to pick, he would spend a fairly lengthy amount of time setting it up for my sister; the background of the movie, why it was important, its significance and so on. One particular evening, the movie in question was “Good Night, and Good Luck.” The movie portrays the conflict between veteran radio and television journalist, Edward Murrow and U.S. Senator Joe McCarthy. It speaks to media responsibility, specifically, showing what happens when the media openly disagrees with the government. Anyway, after five minutes of detailed pre-analysis, I was kind of getting excited to watch it because his commentary made the whole thing sound quite exciting. He pressed play and within seconds, my sister bellowed: “Why is this movie in black and white?” To which my husband replied, “Because it helps to bring us back to that specific point in history, to help us relate.” Her response? “Well, that’s just *&^$ing stupid. I’m going to bed.” A few other chestnuts that have happened over the years: Example one: Me: Helen of Troy… you know, the face that launched 1,000 ships.
Sister: I have no idea what you’re talking about. Are you talking about my hair straightener? ’Cause now that you mention it, I think mine’s called Helen of Troy. Example two: Me: This is like Pandora’s box… all we have left is hope. Sister: Who? Is she an adult film star? I really don’t see the connection to this conversation. Example three: Me: Wake up!!! OMG. I think that’s Vladimir Putin! (lying on a beach chair in Mexico, punching my sister to wake her up). Holy crap! Does that ever look like Putin! Sister: Snore… repeat punch… snort… What! What! Did you just say poutine? Hell, I’m hungry. Is it at the buffet? Me: No, I said Putin. That guy who just walked by, who you missed incidentally, looked like Vladimir Putin. Sister: Who the hell is Vladimir Putin? Me: Tell me you’re jok… never mind. He’s the president of Russia. Sister: I wouldn’t know him if he came up and punched me in the face. And another thing? If you ever wake me up for something that ^%$#ing stupid again, I’ll kill you. Example four: Husband: That song by REM called “What’s the frequency Kenneth?” is actually based on a real-life incident. One night, Dan Rather, who’s a CBS news correspondent, was walking down the street when he was punched from behind and thrown to the
ground. His assailant kicked and beat him while repeating, “Kenneth, what is the frequency.” This inspired REM to write a song about it. Me: Are you serious? How cool is that! I mean, I’m glad he’s OK. I had no idea that song actually meant something… I really like that song, too. What’s the frequency, Kenneth, uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huuuuuuuuuuh… da da da da da da. Husband: Please stop singing. Sister: (Only half-listening, wanders into room…) So, what you’re trying to tell us is this Dan Rather guy says the news for CBS and he’s a singer with REM? Cool. How old is he? (My husband was speechless after this shocker. He clocks it as my sister’s all-time best.) And I’ll end by sharing my own baffling shocker: Example five: Husband: Are you going to watch the election results with me? Me: No, I’m not really into that. I’ll just read while you watch it. Husband: You should really be more interested. Me: Yeah, yeah. I’m sort of listening. Minutes pass, hours, days for all I care… Me: What’s the nationality of that candidate they just read out? Husband: What? Me: That candidate. Juan something or other. Sounded like quite the handle. Just wondering what nationality he is. Husband: Are you referring to Esquimalt — Juan de Fuca?
Me: Yeah, him. What’s his nationality? Husband: Silence, of the deafening sort. I swear I heard a cricket fart. Me: Nervous to look up from my book. Husband: That’s a riding! In your country… you know, Vancouver Island… in British Columbia. Does any of this ring a bell? Me: Hm. Good to know. I thought that was someone’s name. I shall store that information away for future reference. Locked and loaded. Husband: You have no shame, do you? So you kids out there, remember the importance of learning — be intelligent, be teachable. As an adult, it’ll make for much easier discussions and it will also help you understand social references in movies, art and literature. Or, you can choose not to worry about it and be the one who provides all the cheap entertainment. The world needs those types of people, too. † Janita Van de Velde grew up on a farm near Mariapolis, Man. She holds a bachelor of science degree in agricultural economics from the University of Manitoba, and has worked for a financial institution since graduating. She lives in Regina, Sask., with her husband Roddy and their children Jack, Isla and James. Her first novel, Postcards Never Written, was the recipient of the Saskatchewan Reader’s Choice Award and also listed by CBC as one of the top funny books in 2009. She donates a portion of proceeds from the sale of her book to World Vision. For more information, or to order her book, visit her website at www.janita.ca. Follow her blog at www.postcardsneverwritten. blogspot.com. It’s her yet-to-be-rated material. Consider yourself warned
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MARCH 19, 2012
Home Quarter Farm Life SINGING GARDENER
Now that’s a big pumpkin What drives you to try and grow a giant? Tell us and share some of your growing tips TED MESEYTON
ot being an expert at growing giant pumpkins, I decided to reach out to others who are well versed in this form of specialized gardening art. It’s challenging but has its rewards and successes.
DO GARDENERS LIKE TO BRAG A BIT? I say: Why not once in a while? There’s something to be said for bragging rights. Most home gardeners, especially menfolk like to toot their horn now and then. Have you ever been beckoned to grow something fantastically big such as an oversized squash? Many who’ve been bitten by a desire to do so have responded to the call. But what drives a guy to want to grow giant pumpkins? Now pardon me all the way to Vancouver and the East Coast and back if there are lady gardeners out there who also like to grow the biggest of the big.
THERE ARE SOME BASIC ESSENTIALS … to achieve a good measure of success in the pumpkin patch. They are: the right seed, skill, location, luck and good weather. Now we can’t do anything about the last two so let’s focus on the others. Giant pumpkin growers have their own methods to achieve monster-size specimens, especially if entering a competition is their primary goal. Many of course are reluctant to share their individual secrets and I suppose in a way you can’t blame them. But… sharing is what I do on this Grainews page. Please send along a tip or two about how you grow big pumpkins or anything else.
GET THE RIGHT SEED The granddaddy of them all when it comes to giant pumpkins began with Dill’s Atlantic Giant developed by Howard Dill of Windsor, N.S. This variety has shattered all previous records and is still in demand by both curious and competitive growers. Check out seed displays at local garden centres for Dill’s Atlantic Giant. It’s also listed in numerous seed catalogues, a few of which are as follows, starting from west to east: • West Coast Seeds, Delta, B.C., phone 1-888-804-8820 • Early’s Garden Centre, Saskatoon, Sask., phone 1-800-667-1159 • McFayden Seeds, Brandon, Man., phone 1-800-205-7111 • T&T Seeds, Winnipeg, Man., phone (204) 895-9962 • Dominion Seed House, Georgetown, Ont., phone 1-800-784-3037
• Stokes Seeds, Thorold, Ont., phone 1-800-396-9238 • Ontario Seed Co., Waterloo, Ont., phone 519-886-0557 • Veseys Seeds, Charlottetown, P.E.I., phone 1-800-363-7333
TECHNIQUES TO HELP OUT Start seeds indoors in soilless mix with bottom heat. You may want to soak seeds first in water for a couple hours. I suggest the following best planting dates according to the moon not only for pumpkins and squash of all types, but also watermelons, cantaloupe and tomatoes: March 25, 26, 29, 30 and 31, April 5, 6, 7 and 8. Select two or three of your strongest seedlings. Transplant them during the waning moon (decreasing in light). This helps root growth as the moon’s energy is channelled into the lower part of the plant. Individual well-hardened-off pumpkin transplants can go outdoors about mid- to late May weather permitting, or even early June. Prepare a mound that’s about a foot high in a large, wide-open space that catches full sun. Sandy loam with plenty of organic matter worked in and soil pH that measures between 6.5 and 7.0 with good drainage are an ideal combination. It takes a lot of soil preparation. Dig a hole about 10 inches or deeper; throw in two shovels of wellrotted manure resembling dark soil and same amount of compost. Add plenty of water and give it time to drain down completely. Refill the hole with the soil that was removed. You might even want to add a dozen grains of oat seed to help draw up nutrients from deeper down. Insert a well-hardened-off pumpkin transplant on top of each prepared mound. A shelterbelt of shrubs or trees around the periphery of the area is a bonus and provides protection from strong wind gusts.
HAND POLLINATION … is strongly recommended instead of leaving it to pollinating insects. How is it done? Male flowers, mostly in the centre of a flowering vine have a very long stem. Female flowers have a very short stem with a small pumpkin about the size of a large marble underneath the flower. All petals are carefully removed off the male flower. Usually three to five male flowers are taken from one plant to ensure successful pollination of each female blossom growing on a different plant. Grasp the male stamen from the underside and insert it down into the stigma of the female flower to get as much pollen as possible in there. Repeat the procedure again using the additional male blossoms with petals removed. Do this very early in the morning before bees are present. Petals of the female blossom are then gently tied together at the top with a piece of soft cloth or string. Eventually it dries and falls off after the pumpkin
shows signs of developing. This ensures the true pedigree of the seed variety chosen is not compromised. Aim for keeping about two or three hand-pollinated female blossoms on each plant. Note that some growers transfer the pollen by using a cotton-tipped stick. Secondary vines will develop off the main vine and their roots can be well mounded with soil. More vines will grow off the secondaries and they are called the third stage or tertiary vines. It is these tertiaries that must be regularly pruned off from the secondary vines to retain maximum nutrients to feed the forming pumpkins on the pollinated female blossoms. Vines should be trained nice and straight. When they are about 10 to 12 feet long, start pinching out any new blossoms that appear. Vines are juicy and moisture laden, so can break very easily. If movement of any vines is necessary, be careful and do it early in the morning. Eventually each plant spreads to about 9x9 metres (30x30 feet) or more.
PUMPKIN VINES NEED LOTS OF ATTENTION … so don’t plan on taking a vacation. If it’s a dry season you can do the “Rain Dance” provided you know how; otherwise a lot of watering is required. Believe it or not, up to 100 gallons of water is given to each pumpkin plant when conditions dictate. As well, on a weekly basis, both seaweed extract diluted to label directions is sprayed on the foliage and also applied to the soil. Avoid being too generous with N-P-K fertilizer whether granular or soluble as it can burn plants. Do foliar and ground feeding very early in the morning so the giant leaves dry off quickly, reducing the chance of mildew. I’m told some growers feed their pumpkin vines with skim milk via injections, but have nothing definite to report. One of the most recent innovations is to mist plants with a dilution of 1/2 cup pure maple syrup and 4 litres of warm water every other week. Manure tea is another form of plant food that’s been around for years. Some well-decayed, blackened manure that’s at least 10 years old is soaked in water for several days, then diluted down with more water if it’s very concentrated. Covering the giant pumpkin with a shade structure during extreme summer heat and burning sunshine is beneficial. It looks something like an open square tent that you’d see at an outdoor farmers’ market, with a slightly tapered roof of durable blue plastic or canvas material. This keeps the pumpkin skin nice and soft and helps resist scorching and cracking. Some sort of platform under the gourd made from wood or Styrofoam material will help prevent decay spots that may form from contact with soil. When temperatures dip, the same structure retains heat and gives protection from chilly nights and frost.
PHOTOS: TED MESEYTON
Have you got a long-standing ambition to grow some hefty-size squash? Alex Makarchuk is proud as punch with this example of what he grew in his Manitoba pumpkin patch.
The sport of growing giant pumpkins has become quite an international competition. In 2011 Canada became the pride of the pumpkin patch, having recaptured the title to the biggest gourd in the whole wide world. Triumphant Canadians are the father and daughter duo of Jim and Kelsey Bryson from Quebec. Their awesome heavyweight pumpkin was confirmed at a weigh-off in Ontario. It set a new record at 825 kilograms (1,818.5 pounds). That’s a full eight pounds heavier than the 2010 official prizewinning specimen.
Shown is another giant squash grown by Alex Makarchuk.
GROWING GIANT PUMPKINS … can be very challenging, but also provides great fun and even entertainment. Many say you can actually see the pumpkin grow from one part of the day to the next. Rapid fruit growth of more than 20 pounds per day during the first month after pollination has been recorded and is not unusual. It’s confirmation you’ve succeeded and are well on the way to a big one. Our hot and bright summer days across much of Canada with up to 18 hours of sunlight allow pumpkins to reach their ultimate potential rapidly. When it gets close to competition and judging time, some growers say they actually get nightmares ranging from somebody stealing to destroying their giant pumpkins or lightning striking. Fortunately, those dreams don’t come true as a rule. In Atlantic Canada and else-
where including the Prairies, giant pumpkin growing is taken quite seriously. In Nova Scotia, big, solid ones are entered into a pumpkin boat regatta during autumn. A single seed from a private grower can fetch a good price. Interested? You can buy a giant pumpkin seed for $5 each plus $5 for handling and shipping including growing instructions from: Will Neily, Box 62, Paradise, N.S., B0S 1R0. Keep me posted on your progress and join me again next time when we’ll go for another walk along the Grainews garden path where good things are always happening and giant pumpkins growing. † This is Ted Meseyton the Singing Gardener and Grow-It Poet from Portage la Prairie, Man. Here’s a verse from an old poem I came across. When I’m an old man I’ll live with each kid, and bring so much happiness just as they did, I want to give back all the joy they provided, returning each deed. Yes! They’ll be so delighted. (That is, when I’m an old man and live with my kids.) My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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