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Volume 38, Number 10 | April 16, 2012

$4.25

PRACTICAL PRODUCTION TIPS FOR THE PRAIRIE FARMER

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The value of micronutrient seed dressings Micronutrient seed dressings are relatively new in Western Canada. Retailers generally don’t claim that these products will increase yield, but they may add value for some farmers BY LISA GUENTHER

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icronutrient seed dressings, already well established in the U.S., are starting to appear on our side of the border. Unlike traditional seed treatments designed to combat plant disease, seed dressings are claimed to boost returns — if not necessarily yields — by promoting better emergence and seedling vigour. One product has received official CFIA registration. Other products have been reviewed through independent trials in Saskatchewan, but with inconclusive results. Making claims for benefits of micronutrient fertilizer is something of a grey area under Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) regulations. If the micronutrients are part of a product containing less than 24 per cent nitrogen, phosphorus or potassium, then registration is required. Only one micronutrient product, Loveland’s Awaken ST, distributed in Canada by UAP, has received CFIA registration. Awaken ST is a seed-applied nutrient, with a micronutrient package including five per cent zinc plus boron, copper, iron, manganese and molybdenum. “It’s not for the faint of heart to actually pursue a registration for

these types of things,” says Eric Gregory, product manager with UAP. Gregory says it took two years of western Canadian trials plus two years of review to register Awaken ST. The product is registered to improve root development, speed emergence, and improve biomass production in cereals. Trial data showed the seed treated with Awaken ST had an increase of five plants per row foot over untreated seed in 12 separate fields. Though Awaken ST isn’t registered for yield, UAP’s trials did show yield increases. One trial in North Dakota showed a yield bump of nine bushels per acre, though Gregory says that result isn’t typical. Western Canadian trials have shown on average a five per cent yield increase over check, about a 2.5-bushel increase on a 50 bushel wheat crop.

IHARF TESTS

IHARF’s research plots during the growing season.

Tw o o t h e r m i c r o n u t r i e n t seed dressings have been tested by the Indian Head Agricultural Research Foundation (IHARF) in Saskatchewan. In 2010 and 2011, IHARF evaluated two micronutrient seed dressings — Omex’s Primer Zn on spring wheat and canola, and Omex’s Primer Pulse on lentils and

field peas. Crop establishment and yield were evaluated at plots seeded at Canora, Scott, Swift Current and Indian Head. The sites offered different soil conditions, ranging from coarse loam to heavy clays. Both 2010 and 2011 were wetter than normal, and in 2011 seeding was delayed until the end of May

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PHOTO: IHARF

in Swift Current and early June in Canora. Temperatures were cooler than normal at most sites in May, and crops at most sites were moisture stressed. IHARF research manager Chris Holzapfel said there were few differences between treated and untreated plots.

In This Issue

“When we did see an effect, they were pretty few and far between and inconsistent. I would probably say it was almost as common to see a slight negative impact on plant emergence as it was to see a positive impact on plant emergence.”

» CONTINUED ON PAGE 4

Wheat & Chaff ..................

2

Features ............................

5

Crop Advisor’s Casebook

6

Columns ........................... 20 Machinery & Shop ............ 34 Cattleman’s Corner .......... 29

10 steps to managing fusarium

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New on-farm heavy lifting options

FarmLife ............................ 39

SCOTT GARVEY PAGE 34

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APRIL 16, 2012

Wheat & Chaff LEEANN MINOGUE

What a spring. With all the warm, sunny weather, I’ve practically had to duct-tape my husband to a chair to keep him from seeding in March. I know, many Grainews readers would probably rather have see a little early moisture than all of these barely-needa-jacket days, but here in southeast Saskatchewan, after it was too wet to seed at all last year, we’re happy to bask in the sunshine. While I’ve managed to keep my husband out of his tractor, some farmers have been in the field. I’ve heard of some seed going in the ground near Minton, Sask., in March (Minton is near the U.S. border, almost straight south of Regina). Did you start seeding in March? If you set a personal “early seeding” record this spring, let Grainews know.

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SEEDING

Durum acres set to rise

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armers in the prime durum-growing area of southern Saskatchewan are expected to seed more of the crop this spring, but competition from canola may sway some last-minute plantings, according to an elevator manager in southern Saskatchewan. While there may be some apprehension over the changes to the marketing system for durum in Western Canada with the end of the Canadian Wheat Board single desk, farmers are showing good interest in growing the crop, according to Warren Mareschal, sales manager with South West Terminal near Gull Lake, Sask., about 55 km west of Swift Current. “Durum will be strong in our area, because (farmers) grow it well and they grow good quality,” said Mareschal.

Recent moisture in the region will help the crop get started, but durum will also need timely rains over the course of the growing season, he said. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada currently forecasts Prairie durum seedings in 2012 at about 4.5 million acres, which would compare with four million in 2011. However, more canola is also being grown in the durum-growing region, as the net returns are very good, said Mareschal. Also, seeding will likely start early this year, which could lead to more canola acres as canola is one of the first crops seeded. From a pricing standpoint, Mareschal said, buyers were really quiet and not offering strong newcrop durum prices just yet. † AgCanada.com

SEED DRESSINGS Micronutrient seed dressings are generating a lot of interest these days. These products are relatively new to western Canadian farmers — they were originally developed for the horticulture industry in the U.S. The corporations selling them say they’ll help your crop get off to a good start, with healthier root development. They may contain a nutrient that’s lacking in your seed. Would applying a seed dressing make the difference between a great crop and a bumper crop on your farm? Research results from the Indian Head Agricultural Research Foundation (IHARF) are indifferent at best, as you’ll have already read in Lisa Guenther’s story on the cover of this issue. These products are definitely being subjected to scrutiny, to the point where a corporate representative for one of the products started out his presentation at a recent meeting by saying, “A lot of people think we’re selling snake oil. This is not snake oil.” Research results don’t always capture what happens in your field, and just because something is new and not yet established doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile. In putting together his Farm Panel for this issue, Grainews field editor Lee Hart easily found three farmers who have been using micronutrient seed dressings and firmly believe they’re getting good value for their investment (read about them on page 24).

We might as well pay attention to this. Eric Gregory, product manager at UAP, came to talk to a few editors at Farm Business Communications about their new seed dressing product, Awaken ST. Gregory told us that a lot of pipeline technology is focused on applying product to seed. “At some point,” he said, “the seed might start looking like an M&M.”

SPECIALTY NUTRITION Eric Gregory sees the increased use of these specialty nutrition products as a coming trend, and he was able to give us a handful of logical reasons for this. His first reason was high commodity prices. When wheat is worth $3, you’re not as likely to invest much in your crop. These days, farmers can afford to spend a bit more on inputs, especially if it will increase your high-value yield. Gregory’s second reason for an increase in the use of nutrition products is the long-term decrease in the prices of other crop-protection products. For example, the drop in price of Roundup alone has probably left you with more than enough budget room to buy all the micronutrient seed dressings you could ever want. His third point was that the price of traditional nitrogen fertilizer is increasing. As that happens, farmers try to be more efficient, to get the most out of their macronutrient investment. To do this, farmers are using more “paid for” agronomy services (as opposed to services provided by companies that are selling products). Gregory said, “Today, more than ever, you’ll find it’s the paid for independent agronomists making product recommendations.”

LOW-HANGING FRUIT While micronutrient seed dressings are getting a lot of attention, they are probably not for everyone. A few months ago, the same corporate representative who said he wasn’t selling snake oil caught my attention when he told the Regina audience that the seed dressing product he was selling was for “progressive farmers.” This was the same term Eric Gregory from UAP had used when explaining his product. The rep went on to say that, for a lot of farmers, his seed dressing product would be helpful, but there’s other things they could do that might have more impact. He said his seed dressing, “probably isn’t the low-hanging fruit for all farmers.” Again, this was the very same wording I’d heard from UAP repre-

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sentative Eric Gregory. Eric Gregory had told us that, “for some growers, this isn’t necessarily the low-hanging fruit.” He said many farmers need to focus on increased nutrients and better weed control before they move on to the next step. There’s all kinds of areas where tackling the “low-hanging fruit” isn’t high-tech or complicated. Usually, when there’s something basic we’re not doing it’s because we’re just not ready to make it a priority for our time or our money. Generally, if you need to do more work in the areas of weed control, macronutrient fertilizer, bookkeeping (like calculating your per-acre variable costs), you already know what you should tackle next. This even applies to our personal lives — if you’re eating pie every day and not making any time to exercise, there’s no point taking a course to find out which kind of vegetable oil is the healthiest. Like anything else (fitness, farm accounting, technology), you need to walk before you can run. Lee Hart makes this case in his introduction to the Farmer Panel. “As one farmer pointed out, micronutrients are mainly for fine-tuning. It is important that farmers provide crops with proper macronutrients.” For farmers who still need to make adjustments to their fertilizer plan or focus on weed control, this is not likely the best time to worry about micronutrient seed dressing, or to even pay attention to the agronomists who recommend them. There was a good comment on the agriculture chat website that my husband reads regularly (maybe a little too regularly, if you ask me.) On the topic of some agronomists’ recommendations for micronutrients and other specialty products, Colin Rosengren (a farmer from Midale) wrote: “Instead of throwing a drowning man an inner tube, they threw him the whole car.” This discussion about whether or not to use micronutrients reminds me a bit about one of the neighbours near the farm where I grew up. He wasn’t bothering to go to a local farm meeting because, as he said, “I’m not farming half as well as I already know how.” Once we make sure we’ve addressed the basics, the low-hanging fruit on our farms or even in our personal lives, then it’s time to look at micronutrient seed dressings. Any maybe that brochure from the gym.

DISEASE MANAGEMENT, PRECISION AGRICULTURE The main focus of this issue is disease management. There is no end to the variety of diseases you can watch for this summer. We have articles on downy mildew in sunflowers, cereal leaf diseases, ascochyta and fusarium. While I don’t wish any of these plant diseases on anyone, I hope something in here will come in handy during the summer scouting season. We also have a few pages about precision agriculture. Whether this is your first year using variable rate technology, you’ve been using it for years already, or you don’t think it’s for you, I hope you’ll find something of interest in this section. Happy seeding. Leeann


APRIL 16, 2012

grainews.ca /

3

Wheat & Chaff FARM SAFETY

CROP PRODUCTION

Looking for farm workers? Look to the Plan!

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o you’ve decided to hire your 20-something nephew and his pal to help you get the crop in and work around the yard. You might even put an ad in the local paper or tweet for more help. You know you can’t just send them out on your equipment without training. But where to start? Get with the Plan! The Canada FarmSafe Plan. Developed for you by the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association, no matter what sort of farm you run or where. The Plan is a business risk management tool that will help you come up with Standard Operating Practices (SOPs) for each task you need done on your

farm. These SOPs become your training tool for teaching newbies and refreshing everyone else who needs to know the basics of the job, including the health and safety requirements. Remember — you are responsible for the health and safety of everyone on your farm. So prepare now before the new team arrives. Keep in mind that, according to farm injury research in Ontario, workers aged 15 to 24 are twice as likely to be victims of job-related injuries as experienced workers. And five times as likely to be hurt during the first four weeks on the job. Talk safety when you’re interviewing workers for hire. Point

CROP PROTECTION

out the importance and expectations of safety on your farm. Have them explain their understanding of your safety expectations. Be sure to check their references for a positive safety record and verify their operating certifications or accreditations. A good attitude toward safety is one of the most important attributes to look for in an employee. Choose well. The Canada FarmSafe Plan suggests that you should give every worker a thorough workplace safety orientation at the start of every season or work period. Remember, training is more than providing information. Successful training requires a demonstration that the worker has the required

knowledge or skills and can do the job safely. What do they need to know? Here’s a list to start with: • How to perform each task safely; • Hazard identification and control procedures; • Rights and responsibilities of workers; • Who to ask for help; • Where to go for first aid; • What to do in case of an emergency; and, • What to do if there is an incident. And now, if you still want to hire your nephew, check out the Plan! Download a free copy of the core Canada FarmSafe Plan at www.,planfarmsafety.ca. †

TRANSPORTATION

New active Getting around in style ingredient for fungicides

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ereal, corn, soybean and pulse growers have a new active fungicide ingredient to throw at key leaf diseases. The crop protection wing of DuPont Canada has picked up federal approval for registration of Acapela, whose new active ingredient, picoxystrobin, comes from the Group 11 (strobilurin) class of fungicides. T h e p r o d u c t ’s a p p r o v a l f r o m H e a l t h Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency covers its use against “an impressive list of foliar diseases” and for suppression of white mould in soybeans. The new product has “unique movement properties that differentiate it from other fungicides,” says Dave Kloppenburg, the company’s fungicide launch manager. “It moves across the waxy layer of the leaf surface and systemically within leaf tissues.” In cereal crops, DuPont says, Acapela is meant to protect the two to three upper leaves of the plant — including the flag leaf, whose health is “critical” for reaching higher yields — against plant ailments such as leaf rust, powdery mildew, septoria leaf blotch and tan spot. In pulses such as lentils and field peas, Acapela is to be billed as a “powerful new tool for control of major diseases such as mycosphaerella blight.” A product label for Acapela wasn’t immediately available, but the company said in a research update last year that it would submit Acapela for registration for use also on canola. The research update said DuPont would file for Acapela’s use at a formulation of 250 grams per litre. †

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arry Nerbas, a farmer near Langenberg, has been fixing up this old “van” he bought from a neighbour. Garry says, “It’s about 70 years old. These “vans” were primarily used the 40s — until 1955 or ’56 when they built roads.” Nerbas says many farmers used “vans” or “cabooses” like this to get around on roads that weren’t intended to be all-weather

roads, especially when they were snowed in. “Everybody around here had them,” he says. “They really served the purpose.” Cutters, or open sleds, were also used, but, as Nerbas remembers, “Cutters were cold.” As you can see, Nerbas’ “van” has its own heater. Nerbas plans to pick up a few more of these and rebuild them on his farm. †

Warm weather has farmers in fields

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ecord-breaking temperatures during the third week of March had many eastern Canadian farmers in the fields. That’s the news from Peter Johnson, cereals specialist with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. Much of the winter wheat crop has emerged from dormancy in fairly good shape, however, the warm weather has also imparted a false sense of security with some farmers. “There’s been a fair bit of nitrogen going on wheat, and manure going on wheat and manure in general being applied,” says Johnson. But he notes that it’s still too early in the wheat plant’s development to be applying full rates of nitrogen, which is why provincial advisors are cautious when it comes to fertilizer recommendations. Although there have been some who have thrown caution to the wind and applied their full rates, others have cut back to 30 to 40 pounds and will wait until mid- to late-April before applying their next round. The more-pressing issue facing wheat growers right now, adds Johnson, is the quick-start some of the weed species have had with this stretch of weather. Instead of worrying about “nitrogen first — and then spraying for weeds,” Johnson advocates growers always assess spraying needs based on the most-prevalent issues. For 2012, that means going after weeds such as chickweed ahead of applying nitrogen. What the warmer weather has also brought is early planting, including anecdotal reports of spring grains, particularly oats. “One grower I was talking to put in 50 acres of spring wheat (on March 21),” says Johnson. †

Ralph Pearce, AgCanada.com

AgCanada.com

PHOTO CONTEST

GIVE US YOUR BEST SHOT This issue’s winning photo was sent to us by Lineke Breen of Eastend, Sask. Lineke says, “This is a picture of my son Stacey and his son (my grandson) feeding a bum calf last spring. Ashton was so excited to be able to hold the bottle and feed the calf. It is one of my favourite pictures of the two of them.” Thanks for sharing! A $25 cheque is on its way to Eastend. If you’d like to submit a photo, please email it 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

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APRIL 16, 2012

Cover Stories CROP PRODUCTION » CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1

done in Canora in 2011. In 2010, measurements were done too late to capture emergence at three of the sites. Seeding rates differed between sites, but Hadrami said the different seeding rates weren’t accounted for properly when looking at the emergence rate. Holzapfel counters that the

THE VALUE OF MICRONUTRIENT SEED DRESSINGS Holzapfel said Primer Zn did initially benefit spring wheat and canola emergence in Scott in 2011, but overall, yields were similar, regardless of the treatment. Four composite soil samples were taken at each site each year and analyzed for macro- and micronutrients. Zinc was marginal at all the sites except for Scott. Though none of the sites had a severe micronutrient shortage, Holzapfel doubts that there was enough nutrient in the primers to make a difference in nutrientdeficient soils.

Chambers says figuring out which essential nutrients are already being provided by the seed and soil, and which ones the farmer needs to invest in is key. Chambers has talked to farmers who are thinking about substituting agro-chemicals with seed nutrient dressings to control dis-

Although Holzapfel says farmers should be cautious about purchasing micronutrient seed dressings, he hesitates to dismiss them entirely results were the same, regardless of how the data was presented. In a written response to the study, Omex said that it did not provide its products to IHARF, and that the study may have used an older version of their products.

RESEARCH CONCERNS Abdel El Hadrami, Omex’s research and development director, said he has concerns with the IHARF study. He would have liked to see more in-depth soil testing, as Omex uses soil-testing results to suggest products. “If the soil tests show a shortage of manganese, we are not going to recommend the Primer Zn, for example,” Hadrami said. He said late seeding at some of the sites affected the results, as the products are meant to be used when soil temperatures are below 5 C, when phosphorus and zinc aren’t normally available to the seed. He points to the positive early emergence results in Scott in 2011 as evidence, as seeding conditions were particularly cool and wet at that site. Hadrami also criticized the data collection and analysis in the study. Plant counts weren’t

NUTRITIONAL IMBALANCE Micronutrient seed dressing promoters are careful not to oversell their products, rather tending to note their benefits for healthy emergence and in turn the health of the crop. Jarrett Chambers, president of ATP, which is currently submitting a registration claim for its own micronutrient seed treatment, explains that micronutrients correct nutrient imbalances within the seeds rather than soil deficiencies. This nutritional imbalance is independent of environmental conditions, but when the seedling is under stress, there will be a greater response.

ease, but says they do not control disease and should never be used in lieu of fungicides. However, Chambers does see value in seed dressings. “Of all the things I’ve worked on, seed nutrient dressing is the one piece that I do that 90 per cent of the time, the growers says ‘I’m doing that again because I saw a value.’”

CONSIDERATIONS FOR FARMERS Farmers considering micronutrient seed dressings need to think about several things before choosing a product. Chambers suggests comprehensive seed testing, including a nutrient analysis. Currently there aren’t shared standards for nutrient analysis, he adds. ATP tests seeds for its clients. Chambers also recommends soil testing, as the effect of nutrientdeficient seed can be compounded by nutrient-deficient soil. Omex’s

Hadrami says farmers should consider what was grown in previous years, and what’s going in the ground this year. UAP’s Gregory says if farmers are combining Awaken ST with a fungicide treatment, they will be doubling the amount of liquid with the seed. He recommends giving the seed time to dry before seeding. Though it’s inconvenient, Gregory also suggests leaving check strips so farmers know the product is working on their farm.

MORE RESEARCH IN THE WORKS Holzapfel says IHARF plans to expand research in 2012 to five seed dressing products, once again focusing on emergence and grain yield. Although Holzapfel says farmers should be cautious about purchasing micronutrient seed dressings, he hesitates to dismiss them entirely. “There are a lot of different products and nutrients. It does seem to be a legitimate product. It’s a fairly whole new class of fertilizer, but it is a fertilizer just the same. I wouldn’t call it foo-foo dust, but we just haven’t been able to demonstrate a benefit.” Chambers does think some in the industry are trying to make micronutrients into something they’re not. “We need to calm this down. We need to get this into reality. We need to understand the role of nutrition in crop production, or the role of nutrition in plant disease. It’s part of an integrated program and it’s one important wheel in a very complicated wheel of crop production.” † Lisa Guenther is a communications specialist at Livelong, Sask. Find her online at www. brickhorse.ca

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EXTENDED OUTLOOK FOR THE PRAIRIES Weather Forecast for the period of April 8 to May 5, 2012

Southern Alberta

Peace River Region April 8 - 14 Fair overall but weather systems bring rain or snow on 2 or 3 days. Seasonal to occasionally cool and blustery. April 15 - 21 Generally pleasant with seasonal to occasionally mild temperatures. Intermittent rain or snow falls on a couple of days.

April 8 - 14 Sunny skies but a weather system brings some rain or snow. Temperatures fluctuate. Blustery.

April 15 - 21 Generally pleasant with seasonal to occasionally mild temperatures. Intermittent rain or snow falls on a couple of days.

April 15 - 21 Mild temperatures on many days under sunshine. Scattered shower activity on 2 or 3 days, with a possibility of heavier snow in some areas.

April 15 - 21 Pleasant and warm on many days aside from scattered shower activity. A weather system threatens with heavier snow on 2 days. April 22 - 28 Variable weather and temperatures. Blustery. Some heavier rain or snow.

April 29 - May 5 Sunny and windy on most days. Some snow or rain, with a chance of heavy snow or rain on 2 days.

April 29 - May 5 Sunny and windy with fluctuating temperatures. Scattered rain or snow.

-3 / 10 Edmonton

-4 / 8 Prince Albert

-3 / 10 Jasper

21.2 mms

ABOVE NORMAL

-3 / 9

32.4 mms

-2 / 9 North Battleford

22.9 mms

Banff

-2 / 11 Calgary 25.1 mms

-5 / 6 The Pas

0 / 13 Medicine Hat cms Lethbridge 26.019mms 35.9 mms 26 cms -1 / 12

-3 / 9 Saskatoon 19.7 mms

Precipitation Outlook For April

27.4 mms

22.2 mms

21.7 mms

-3 / 10 Red Deer

-3 / 9 Yorkton

-4 / 9 Dauphin

ABOVE NORMAL

-4 / 7 -2 / 11 20.3 mms 31.7 mms -2 / 11 Gimli Regina -2 / 10 Moose Jaw 20.4 mms 39.2 mms Swift 24.3 mms -2 / 10 -3 / 9 Current Portage -2 / 10 -2 / 11 Brandon 40.4 mms Winnipeg 24.7 mms Weyburn NEAR 35.4 mms 35.9 mms 28.9 mms -2 / 11 NORMAL Estevan Melita -4 / 10 33.3 mms

Subscription prices: For Canadian farmers, $46.20 per year or $72.45 for 2 years (includes GST). Man. residents add 7% PST to above prices. U.S: $43.00 per year (U.S. Funds). Outside Canada & U.S.: $79 per year. ISSN 0229-8090. Call 1-800-665-0502 for subscriptions. Fax (204) 954-1422. Canadian Postmaster: Send address changes and undeliverable copies (covers only) to PO Box 9800, Winnipeg, Man. R3C 3K7. U.S. Postmaster: Send address changes and undeliverable copies (covers only) to 1666 Dublin Avenue, Winnipeg, Man. R3H 0H1. GRAINEWS is printed on recyclable paper with linseed oil-based inks. Published 18 times a year.

Precipitation Forecast 22.1 mms

Forecasts should be 80% accurate, but expect variations by a day or two because of changeable speed of weather systems.

Manitoba April 8 - 14 Weather disturbances bring a couple of wet or snowy days this week. Otherwise, sunshine and seasonal to mild temperatures prevail.

April 22 - 28 Changeable and blustery. Scattered heavier snow or rain on a couple of days.

April 29 - May 5 Sunny skies and milder temperatures. Cooler, windy outbreaks are expected to bring rain or snow.

April 29 - May 5 Mainly sunny skies and milder conditions. Cooler, windy outbreaks will bring rain or snow.

19.8 mms

April 8 - 14 Fair skies but weather systems bring rain or snow on 2 or 3 days. Seasonal to occasionally cool.

April 22 - 28 Seasonal to occasionally cool, blustery. Scattered heavier snow or rain.

April 22 - 28 Seasonal to occasionally cool, blustery. Scattered heavier snow or rain.

-3 / 9 Grande Prairie

Saskatchewan

We acknowledge the financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Periodical Fund of the Department of Canadian Heritage.

33.5 mms

Much Above Normal Below Much above normal normal below normal normal

Temperatures are normals for April 15th averaged over 30 years. Precipitation (water equivalent) normals for April in mms. ©2012 WeatherTec Services Inc. www.weathertec.mb.ca

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Your next issue! You can expect your next issue in your mailbox about May 7, 2012

The editors and journalists who write, contribute and provide opinions to Grainews and Farm Business Communications attempt to provide accurate and useful opinions, information and analysis. However, the editors, journalists and Grainews and Farm Business Communications, cannot and do not guarantee the accuracy of the information contained in this publication and the editors as well as Grainews and Farm Business Communications assume no responsibility for any actions or decisions taken by any reader for this publication based on any and all information provided.


APRIL 16, 2012

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Features Disease management

6 steps to protect canola yields from sclerotinia Sclerotinia affects all canola varieties, all across the Prairies By Mike Gray

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tudies have shown that sclerotinia is present in all soils in Canada’s canola growing area, however, it will remain dormant unless conditions are favourable. With the proper combination of crop density and weather conditions, heavy infections can occur anywhere. The disease infects canola crops when the plants are in bloom. The onset of infection is characterized by soft watery lesions or areas of very light brown discolouration developing on the leaves, main stems, and branches. The stems of infected plants eventually bleach and tend to shred and break. There are some things farmers can do to help prevent sclerotinia.

1. Rotation Good crop rotation is essential. Sclerotinia bodies can survive in the soil from five to 10 years, so leaving a minimum of four years between susceptible crops is advised.

2.  Herbicide plan A good herbicide plan to control volunteers and weed species that are susceptible to sclerotinia

is important. Such weeds include chickweed, stinkweed, thistles and shepherd’s purse. Cereals and grasses are not susceptible and can help reduce viable sclerotia through decay.

3. Proper seeding rates It is very important to ensure proper seeding rates. Use rates lighter than or up to the recommended rate. Heavy stands tend to lodge, allowing sclerotinia to spread by plant to plant contact. A dense canopy provides ideal conditions for disease development.

4.  Varieties Perhaps farmers’ best defense is to use sclerotinia tolerant varieties such as Pioneer H-Bred’s 45S51 canola. “The variety simply reduces the transfer of disease into the stems and reduces the severity of stem symptoms,” says Ryan Carter, a farmer at Kenton, Manitoba, and Pioneer Hi-Bred representative. “It’s basically the equivalent to a non-tolerant canola variety with one fungicide application. With the 45S51 variety, one fungicide application would give you less than 10 per cent infection depending on the year, while two would leave you with virtually none,” states Carter.

This photo shows a sclerotinia lesion on a canola stem. The stems of infected plants eventually bleach and tend to shred and break. “If conditions are favourable for the disease that year, we usually go in with a two-thirds rate of fungicide,” he says. “We have had good luck with this system.”

5.  Fungicides It can be tough to decide whether it’s worth spraying a fungicide. If heavy infestation is expected and desired yields are 35 to 40 bushels per acre, you probably should. Infestation levels can be estimated using the Sclerotinia stem rot check list provided by the Canola Council of Canada in B:10.25” the Canola Growers T:10.25” Manual.

photo: canola council of canada

This is an example of a spore-producing apothecia. You can scout for these at the early blossom stage, specifically in lower lying wet areas.

Fungicide should be applied at the 20 to 50 per cent bloom stage — 30 per cent being ideal. In B. napus canola, there will be 20 open flowers on the main stem at this point, with some flowers on the secondary branches and no pod formation at the base of the main stem. “2011 showed decreased levels of infection in canola,” says Kristen Phillips, an agronomy specialist with the Canola Council. “This is definitely a positive, as levels had increased from 2007 to 2010. It’s possible the flood conditions in our area last year may have even

drowned out many sclerotia bodies,” says Phillips. When assessing damages, a good rule of thumb is that yield losses are usually 0.4 to 0.5 times the percentage of infection. For example, if 20 per cent of your field is infected, you can probably expect an eight to 10 per cent yield loss. In severely infected fields, you will want to swath in time to reduce yield losses from shattering. For more information visit the Canola Council of Canada website at canolacouncil.org. † Mike Gray is a second year Agribusiness student at Assiniboine Community College in Brandon, Man.

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APRIL 16, 2012

Features CROP PRODUCTION

CROP ADVIS0R’S CASEBOOK

FAIR WEATHER? YOUR CROP IS FAIR GAME

BY PAULETTE IRVINE

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fter the cold, wet spring of 2011, Saskatchewan farmers were once again engaged in a flurry of production activity in the fair June weather — but they weren’t the only ones taking advantage of the warmer temperatures. Insects were also on the move, as one Kelvington-area producer was about to discover. Bob, who farms 3,000 acres of peas, wheat and canola, was uptown having coffee with friends when his neighbour mentioned to him that he’d just finished settling the arrangements for a spray operator to spray his field for flea beetles. Now concerned about his own field of canola, which was located adjacent to his neighbour’s flea beetle-infested field, Bob returned to his own field to have a look-see. Then he called me. “It looks like something’s eating the plants. It could be flea beetles or cutworms,” he said. “I was out a week ago and I never noticed any insect damage at all. It must have happened within the past week.” Bob and I agreed to meet up the next day to scout the canola field for insects.

Paulette Irvine The canola plants in Bob’s field were well into the three-leaf stage. We began scouting at the edge of the field adjacent to his neighbour’s field. Some of the canola leaves had notches in them at the leaves’ edges, while the leaves’ surfaces had small circular pits. At the periphery of the field I estimated the damage to the true leaves due to feeding at around 20 per cent. As we moved toward the centre of the field these symptoms decreased dramatically. “It’s not cutworms,” I told Bob. “They sever the stems of the plants at the soil surface, so I’d expect to see severed or missing plants.”

CROP ADVISOR’S SOLUTION JORDAN LEE

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ill had high hopes for a bumper canola crop on a newly acquired quarter for his operation near Melfort, Sask. In the past, the quarter had produced canola crop yields in excess of 40 bushels per acre. With a little cooperation from Mother Nature, Bill thought, the crop’s harvest would provide a good return on his investment. The first signs of trouble appeared around the beginning of June. Bill noticed the plants’ leaves in that field were cupping and turning purple at the edges. Bill kept a close eye on his crop, and by mid-June he noticed that the plants, now at the four-leaf stage, looked worse.

“My crop looks sick,” Bill told me over the phone. “It could be a drift problem.” That morning, I headed out to Bill’s 3,000-acre farm, where he grows canola, wheat, barley and oats. The canola plants in the new quarter looked unhealthy — the cupping and purpling symptoms were present throughout the field and appeared to be more severe on knolls and hilltops. This evidence alone put an end to Bill’s theory that chemical drift was to blame for the damage to his crop, and records indicated herbicide carryover was also not the cause. The soil was sandy loam, and Bill had applied a 90-25-0-10 blend fertilizer on the field, which is standard for the area. However, several factors led

PHOTO: CANOLA COUNCIL OF CANADA

Small, black flea beetles, about two millimetres in length, were feeding on the canola leaves. “With the warmer temperatures, flea beetles are on the move — walking, flying or jumping into your field.” I searched several nearby canola plants. “Here’s one of your culprits,” I said to Bob, pointing to a small, black flea beetle, about two millimetres in length, feeding on the leaf it was perched upon. “The impor-

tant question we’ve got to ask ourselves now is does this infestation warrant spraying?” Should Bob spray his canola field to protect his yield from flea beetle damage? Send your diagnosis to Grainews, Box 9800, Winnipeg, MB, R3C 3K7; email leeann.minogue@fbcpublishing.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. † Paulette Irvine is a location manager for Richardson Pioneer Ltd. in Kelvington, Sask.

SAFEGUARD SULPHUR SOIL SUPPLIES me to believe his fertilizer rates needed to be adjusted! A consistently high-yielding field with sandy loam soil and a canola-cereal rotation, as well as the symptoms of cupping and purpling leaves — there could only be one diagnosis. The soil in Bill’s new quarter was sulphur deficient. Laboratory results from tissue tests performed on canola plant samples taken from Bill’s field confirmed the deficiency. The number of acres deficient in sulphur is increasing across Saskatchewan and Alberta. Although all plants need sulphur for proper growth, canola has a higher requirement for sulphur than other crops, and tends to deplete soil stores at a greater rate. Producers must replace depleted sulphur stores to the soil because

it is not mobile in plants and is important for plant development and growth. However, sulphate (the form available to plants) is highly mobile in the soil, especially in sandy soils, and leaching of this mineral can occur. This explains why the symptoms were more severe on the knolls and hilltops in Bill’s field. In this case, supplying 10 pounds of sulphur back to the soil was not enough to support a canola-cereal crop rotation. Sulphur taken out of a field by straw and 40-bushel per acre canola crops can take 20 to 25 pounds of the nutrient out of the ground. Bill had to act to save his crop’s yield. We decided to float 100 pounds of sulphur fines on the crop at the five-leaf stage. Two

centimetres of precipitation were forecast, so incorporation into the soil was likely. Luckily, just over one centimetre of rain fell, and the crop recovered rapidly after that. Bill’s new quarter ended up yielding 47 bushels of canola per acre! Despite the shaky start, his hopes that year for a bumper crop were not disappointed. I advised Bill to increase the level of sulphur applied with the seed to about 20 pounds per acre in that field. He also began taking soil samples from each of his fields to determine which ones were starting to show deficiencies. Optimum plant growth — and ultimately yield — depends upon adequate supplies of sulphur in the soil. † Jordan Lee is an area marketing representative for Richardson Pioneer Ltd. in Melfort, Sask.

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7

Features DISEASE MANAGEMENT

Watch for downy mildew in sunflowers Sunflower growers should watch out for downy mildew, especially if spring conditions are favourable for the disease BY LISA GUENTHER

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2011 survey of Manitoba’s sunflower fields found downy mildew present in nine out of 11 fields surveyed. “Last year was a bit of a heavy downy mildew year because of the fact that the spring was very wet. The downy mildew in general for sunflower is favoured by wet soil and temperatures around 15 C to 20 C around the seedling stage,” says Dr. Khalid Rashid, an Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) research scientist at Morden, Manitoba. Downy mildew spores survive in the soil for years — in fact, hardy spores can last for 10 years. Water allows the spores to move freely through the soil, infecting sunflower roots. Such infections are severe and systemic, and plants infected through the roots will die without producing seeds. Infected plants can also spread the disease later in the year, although secondary local infections on the leaves don’t usually affect yield. The number of infected plants ranged from trace to 10 per cent in last year’s survey. Rashid surveys sunflower fields each year, and he has seen more severe infections in the past. “Not many fields would have 40 per cent of infected plants, but there are cases where we see Manitoba fields that have 30 per cent infected plants. And in some cases I’ve seen over the years those fields were plowed under because we observed that at the seedling stage. I remember one day, one field had more than 60 per cent, so the grower just put it under and planted canola or something else,” says Rashid. A 10 per cent infection rate doesn’t necessarily add up to a 10 per cent yield loss. Though severely infected plants die, nearby sunflowers often compensate, making the actual yield loss difficult to calculate. Rashid estimates that compensating sunflowers can sometimes cut the yield loss in half, though he hasn’t measured the yield loss.

SCOUTING Rashid recommends scouting for downy mildew when the crop is three to four inches

high, especially if farmers have low spots in their fields. Infected seedlings will start to blanch, or turn yellow, from the top leaves to the bottom. If there is enough humidity, within a week or so grey fungus will be visible on the underside of leaves. Plants infected at the seedling stage may survive to grow to a half-metre, but they will be severely stunted and will eventually die. Secondary infections, spread by infected plants, can create small lesions on otherwise healthy plants. Rashid says these secondary infections are minor, though when combined with rust, sclerotinia, or other diseases, the situation is more complex.

PREVENTION Eradicating downy mildew is difficult, so farmers need to think about managing the disease. A three- or four-year crop rotation helps cut the number of soil-borne spores in the soil, reducing disease severity. The fungus that causes downy mildew only targets sunflowers, meaning other crops aren’t vulnerable to the spores. Volunteer sunflowers host the disease, so controlling weeds during the rotation is also important. Sanitizing equipment can help prevent soil-borne spores from spreading to clean fields, but the wind is likely to spread spores as well. Commercial hybrid sunflower seed is treated with a mixture of fungicides, reducing the likelihood of introducing the disease to a clean field through seed. Farmers getting their seed from another source should make sure the seed has been treated. “They can choose resistant hybrids. But then the downy mildew hybrid may not have enough resistance to rust. So they have to be very careful to choose a hybrid that has a good package of different disease resistance, not just one disease,” says Rashid.

IDENTIFICATION No Canadian labs are certified to study infected seedlings and identify races, but Rashid says his lab can handle a small

Infected seedlings will start to blanch, or turn yellow, from the top leaves to the bottom.

PHOTOS: KHALID RASHID, AAFC

number of infected samples. Interested farmers can put individual infected plants in separate paper bags and send them by courier to Rashid. Rashid adds that the samples need to be collected when the sporulating fungus starts growing on the lower sides of leaves. He suggests that farmers call him before collecting samples (his number is 204-8227220). Rashid’s lab may be able to help individual farmers identify the specific downy mildew race infecting their fields. His lab also provides information to companies developing resistant varieties. Rashid cautions farmers to watch for downy mildew even if this spring isn’t as wet as 2011. “It’s all relative terms when we say wet season. It doesn’t have to be total soil saturation… If the roots come in contact with the inoculum right away, they don’t need moisture. The moisture helps the spores to move, that’s all.” † Lisa Guenther is a communications specialist at Livelong, Sask. Find her online at www. brickhorse.ca

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APRIL 16, 2012

Features Weed management

Four steps to good weed control When grain prices were lower, Kevin Bender cut corners, sprayed only heavier weed patches and cut back on rates. Today he sprays at full rate, and often makes two passes By Harry Siemens

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ontrolling weeds, doing it right, and keeping up with what’s happening plays a big part in the success of farmers today. Kevin Bender farms west of Lacombe, Alta. Along with his brother and father, Bender farms about 5,000 acres. His portion of this is 1,500 acres, but all three operate as separate proprietorships while working together as a team. “I think with the movement to lower disturbance seeding, we have fewer weed seeds germinating than we did under more intense tillage. At least it appears that way to me,” Bender says. “Lower disturbance

means direct seeding rather than working the land once or twice before seeding. We disturb the soil just enough to get the seed in the ground without agitating the soil.”  Bender’s area is a bit different from most of the Prairies due to high rainfall and generally cooler temperatures, presenting some unique challenges in herbicide application and weed control. “We’re west of Lacombe, west of Highway 2. We can see the Rocky Mountains from here and don’t get the heat the rest of the Prairies do,” he says. “Some herbicides need more heat to work effectively. The warmer it is the better they work. We have some issues with that.”

Bender has found that a few factors contribute to a good weed control program

Step 1:  Use full rates Bender is adamant about not cutting back on rates. “Generally, we don’t cut our rates but spray the full recommended rate. Sometimes we even go a little bit above because we’re more concerned with killing weeds then spending an extra dollar or two on herbicides,” says Bender. “We make sure we spray full control and try to pick nice days to do it. If it’s a product that does better on warm sunny days, we’ll try to do that.” 

There are few ideal days, but they still try to apply the herbicide at the optimal state. Bender says they tried the false economy route some years back — saving money by cutting back herbicide rates — but not anymore. Especially with higher grain prices.  “In the past we did that from time to time. We’d cut our rate if we saw we had lower weed population or mainly for economics,” he says. “It’s easier with higher grain prices and easier to justify the extra costs. Especially on the Liberty varieties. We always spray the top rate on that and go with two passes to get a good handle on it, especially to control wild oats and cleavers.” 

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With the right advice, the Martins were able to raise more than cattle. Matthew Martin Dairy Farmer

Dalton Potter TD Canada Trust Agriculture Specialist

Step 2:  Use rotations With climate a limiting factor on some shorter season crops, the Bender farm grows primarily canola and CPS wheat, a little hard red spring and some winter and soft wheat. They’ve tried peas, and occasionally grow oats and barley. Rotation is another key factor in his farm’s weed control program. “I know in the last few years canola has really gone against that because it has been our most profitable crop, so we’ve tightened up our rotations to grow as much canola as we can,” says Bender. In keeping healthy rotations, he breaks the disease cycles a little bit, and rotates the herbicides too. “Even in the cereals we try to rotate the different modes of action to stretch out the resistance problems,” says Bender. “We try not to be repetitive in our herbicide use as much as possible.” There are some farmers who push the envelope, hoping they won’t get caught, but eventually it catches, he says. The Benders grow mostly Invigor canola hybrid varieties, but very little Roundup Ready varieties — except last year for the first time, mainly for herbicide resistance. “It looked like we had some Group 1 resistant wild oats so we went with a RR variety to get a little bit of a jump on those wild oats,” says Bender. “In general we use the Invigor hybrids because they do exceptionally well in our area.” For the most part, he gets good control with Liberty herbicide, again using the highest rate, with two passes.

Step 3:  Keep up to date Bender realizes how important it is to stay abreast of the latest seed and product information. He’s active in farm politics, currently serving as president of the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association and is a past director and chairman of the Alberta Canola Producers Commission. This involvement gets him into contact with lots of resource people and he doesn’t hesitate to use them. “We do quite a bit of research on chemicals, and my involvement gives me opportunity to keep in touch with a lot of people more knowledgeable than myself,” he says. “I enjoy doing my own field scouting, soil testing and sample analysis.” 

TD is committed to helping farmers build for the future. 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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There is another method Bender uses for controlling certain weeds, especially if there’s a huge wild oat problem. He seeds that field to barley, triticale or some crop he can silage. “We don’t use it a lot but it takes out a big chunk of wild oats, when we do,” he says. “Not a very profitable way to go, and we usually take a bit of a haircut on it, but it’s planning for the future.” † Harry Siemens is a farm journalist, freelance writer, speaker, and broadcaster in Winkler, Man. Find him at www.siemensays.com, harry@ www.siemenssays.com or 204-325-5215

® / The TD logo and other trade-marks are the property of The Toronto-Dominion Bank or a wholly-owned subsidiary, in Canada and/or other countries.

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Step 4: Try a silage crop

8/26/11 11:52 AM


APRIL 16, 2012

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Features Disease management

6 tips for better cereal leaf disease management Now is the time to start thinking about your cereal leaf disease strategy By Robert Klewchuk

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ereal leaf diseases should be preventable. You can see them coming, since they start at the bottom of the plant and advance upwards. And it’s the flag leaf at the top that needs the most protection, so it should be easy to head off anything at the pass, right? Unfortunately, the reality is not so clear cut. Weather, the tenacity of inoculum on stubble, moisture conditions and crop health, going into head, all play a role in disease outbreak and severity. Getting a handle on cereal leaf disease starts with knowing what to watch for and when to watch for it.

1. Know what to look for “The most common cereal diseases are the leaf spots,” says Faye Dokken-Bouchard, plant disease specialist with the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture. “We do surveys every year where we collect flag leaves and heads from about 150 fields across Saskatchewan, and leaf spots are almost always found on flag leaves.” Tan spot and septoria are the primary leaf spot diseases of wheat and durum, while net blotch and scald are the major issues to watch for in barley. Leaf and stripe rust are the other main diseases to watch for. Dokken-Bouchard says rust levels were up last year.

2. Watch the weather Weather has an enormous influence on disease levels. The warm, moist conditions that are good for the crop are also good for disease outbreak, so step up your scouting efforts when conditions are right. Also, watch for disease updates from the U.S., says DokkenBouchard. Rust usually blows up from the south, but it doesn’t always get here in time to cause damage. Stripe rust has been known to overwinter when there is sufficient snow cover, as it did during the winter of 2010-11, neatly hopping from winter to spring wheat as it emerged. This winter has been remarkable for its lack of snow, so this may not be a concern.

lems, choose a fungicide accordingly. “Know what disease you’re targeting and which product is most suitable,” she says. Application timing is different for leaf and head diseases such as fusarium head blight (FHB), which has the smallest application window during flowering. Leaf spots and rust have wider windows of application, and the goal is to keep the flag leaf as free of disease as possible because you can’t erase damage that occurs before spraying.

5. Water volume Water is your friend when it comes to fungicide application. Don’t skimp on volume. It can mean fewer acres covered with one tank and more trips back to the yard, but the key to fungicide efficacy is good coverage,

deep down in the canopy where disease often originates, and that can only be achieved with generous water volumes.

6. Year round effort As with all pest problems, the healthier your crop, the better able it is to cope with the stresses imposed by disease and to respond well to fungicide application. In a way, disease management should be a year round effort that includes observing good rotations, stubble management,  seed  treatments, proper nutrition, beneficial seeding practices, early weed removal and regular scouting. The more you do throughout the season to maintain crop health, the greater your harvest yield potential. † Robert Klewchuk is Syngenta Canada Inc.’s technical lead for Western Canada

Disease reaches the flag leaf when left unprotected.

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3. Scout early and often Start scouting for disease shortly after emergence. If you see some leaf spotting, you may want to include a lower rate fungicide in your early weed control application. Keep scouting as the crop matures and monitor the progression of disease up the plant. Get down into the crop and check below the canopy because what’s happening on top of the crop is not necessarily reflective of what’s going on underneath.

4. the right spray The flag and penultimate leaves are critical to grain fill, so it’s important to keep them healthy. The right timing and appropriate fungicide are critical. For example, says DokkenBouchard, stripe rust has a greater potential to attack yield than leaf spot, so if you have both prob-

*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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APRIL 16, 2012

Features CROP NUTRITION

Complete crop nutrition recommendations Developing crop recommendations is a multi-step process, taking into account field history, hopes for the coming year, and, of course, soil test results BY JASON CASSELMAN

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hile making crop plans with farmers this winter, we tried to build a complete crop nutrition solution for each crop. Our initial plans focused on macronutrients — mainly, fertilizer rate recommendations based on what was left in the soil and what we needed to add to achieve 2012 yield targets.

FIELD CONDITIONS To get an overview of the 2011 growing season for our trading area (in the Peace River region of northern Alberta) we checked the Government of Alberta’s AgroClimatic Information Service (ACIS) website (at www.agric.gov. ab.ca, type “acis” in the search box). We saw that rainfall recorded by nearby weather stations during the 2011 growing season was 2.5 to 3 times the previous three-year average. Next, we looked at the Agriculture Financial Services Corporation (AFSC) publication “Alberta Yield”, and found that cereal crops in Risk Area 19 in 2011 yielded about 40 per cent above the previous three-year

average, and canola crops yielded about 25 per cent higher. Based on the nutrient uptake and removal rates required to grow those heavy crops and nutrient losses due to saturated soil, we knew we had to take soil samples to see just how low our nutrient levels were. Soil sampling conditions were almost ideal last fall. We sampled fields to a depth of 24 inches, separating the top zero to six inches and the lower six to 24 inches. We recorded all the locations of the sample sites with GPS co-ordinates to ensure year-to-year consistency. Once we had the soil sample reports, one of the first things we looked at was the cation exchange capacity (CEC) value. These numbers give us an indication of the nutrient holding capacity of the soil. Next we compared the organic matter (OM) percentage for each soil sample with previous years’ information and trend lines. Organic matter percentages help determine the amount of nutrients that become available from soil mineralization and microbial nutrient cycling. The mineralization rate in the soil can be quite variable due to factors such as moisture, temperature, compac-

tion, type of residue and management practices. For our recommendations, we estimate only a conservative amount of nitrogen coming from the organic matter as compared to other regions, because of the shorter growing season and relatively cooler temperatures in the Peace country. We are also on the conservative side on the uptake and removal values for each crop.

SOIL SAMPLE RESULTS Soil sample results for nitrate confirmed what we expected. Nitrogen (N) levels in the soil are very low compared to accumulated reserve levels of nitrogen seen in previous years’ samples. The lower levels of nitrate nitrogen were true in both the zero- to six-inch depth and the six- to 24-inch depth. Nitrogen recommendations start with yield targets and what is required to achieve them. We account for the nitrogen that should be available to the crop and apply the difference. With a high proportion of the fields in the Peace country planted to canola, our strategy for sulphur fertilization is to apply sulphur (S) based on an N:S ratio of 5:1. The majority of the fields we

sampled this year were tested with a complete lab analysis, including micronutrients. Here is where a clearer picture of the nutrient levels of the soil became obvious. Phosphorous (P) levels seem to be maintaining, on average, a level trend. On evaluation of the pH levels of the soil, some results are giving us a cause for concern. The majority of the sample results ranged between the ideal 6.0 to 7.0 pH but there were a number of samples less than 6.0 pH, and some at the other end of the spectrum with a pH greater than 7.0. As soil nutrient availability is affected by pH, we’re concerned about the interaction of phosphorous at low pH with higher amounts of available aluminum and iron. When the pH is at the high end of the scale, we recognize phosphorous availability is limited by calcium and magnesium in the soil. The placement and rates of phosphorous we recommend is based on the soil test results and limitations to plant availability. Soil potash (K) levels are, on average, lower than previous years. Potash fertilizer application has been cut back or skipped by farmers for the past few years, since prices spiked in 2008. The

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straw material grown in 2011 was also significantly greater than in previous years. Over time, shorting the crop on potassium and mining the soil will negatively influence yield potential. For lower testing fields, we recommend applying at least crop removal rates of potassium, and we build recommendations for potassium deficient fields. This year, we decided to examine soil test micronutrient levels in depth. In the past we have disregarded these measurements, and were hesitant to make product recommendations. Of the fields we sampled, 48 per cent tested low for copper (Cu), 50 per cent tested low for manganese (Mn), 30 per cent tested low for zinc (Zn) and 70 per cent tested low for boron (B). Our strategic approach is to provide these nutrients by targeting those fields and crops with the greatest probability for response. This year, we followed a strategy of building complete crop nutrition solutions for each crop and field on the farm. I believe we’re on target to provide the crop a little bit more of what it needs to achieve yield objectives. † Jason Casselman is a partner and agronomist with Dunvegan Ag Solutions Inc. (www.howtogotoagsi.com) at Rycroft, Alta.


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APRIL 16, 2012

Features DISEASE MANAGEMENT

Breaking the ascochyta disease cycle Farmers who grow pulse crops know that ascocyta can be a serious problem. Break the cycle on your farm BY ANGELA LOVELL

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scochyta blight is a seedborne disease that can cause yield loss in peas, lentils and chickpeas. Fortunately, each strain of ascochyta is crop specific — the strain that infects your lentil crop will not impact your chickpeas. This makes crop rotation the first line of defence against ascochyta. “It’s important to start with a good crop rotation so that we are not increasing the amount of disease that we are getting,” says Faye Dokken-Bouchard, provincial plant disease specialist with the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture. “Rotation is key because the ascochyta pathogen can only survive on the residue of the specific crop that it infects, so if you give that crop residue time to break down in the soil, the disease will break down with the residue as well.” The primary source of infection for ascochyta is crop residue, so by not planting peas after peas or lentils after lentils, the specific ascochyta strain that may be present in the previous year’s residue cannot infect the current crop. Not only does crop rotation help break the disease cycle but, as part of a wider integrated management strategy, it can also help maintain resistance to ascochyta that has been bred into pulse crops for the long term. “If we continue to grow the same crop with some resistance to a disease there will eventually be a low level of the pathogen that is able to overcome that resistance and will build up,” says DokkenBouchard. “Using an integrated pest management strategy overall is a good way to deal with all diseases and ensure that resistance remains strong, because you are using more than just the genetics to deal with the pathogen. If you are also using other tactics, like crop rotation and resistant varieties in combination with fungicides, you have a much better chance of those products and varieties lasting and continuing to be useful and available for a long time.”

CONTROLLING ASCOCHYTA Farmers who find ascochyta in their crops need to take into

account the amount of disease present, the weather outlook (particularly as the crop approaches the flowering stage) and the expected yield potential when they decide whether or not to spray to protect the crop. The number one thing is to protect the flowers, says Dokken-Bouchard. “It’s important to protect the flowers and get the fungicide in there before the canopy closes, when you won’t be able to get as much of the product down into the lower parts of the crop,” she says. “The window of opportunity to spray depends on when and how long the crop is flowering for. If the crop continues to flower later in the season, you still might to continue to have a window to apply fungicides, but you will have to make sure that there is enough time for those flowers to actually produce a yield. It takes about a month to go from flower to seed, so you don’t want to wait until too late in the season either.” Ascochyta blight is favoured by wet weather, particularly frequent showers. The optimal temperature for infection and lesion development is around 20 C. If the canopy remains dense and wet into the flowering stage, lesions will continue to develop on lower leaves and stems.

SCOUTING FOR ASCOCHYTA Scouting for ascochyta should begin from the time seedlings first emerge to just before flowering to help farmers decide if they need to consider an early fungicide application. “Ascochyta has multiple disease cycles, so if you see early symptoms then you know that the disease can spread if there is rain splash or good conditions for disease,” says Dokken-Bouchard. “The biggest yield impact results from the disease infecting the plant when it is flowering. So that’s the best time to be scouting and spraying.” Consulting field histories, and not just relying on data from annual disease surveys is also important says DokkenBouchard. “Scouting now is important but it’s also about knowing what trends there have been in their own fields and what diseases they have had in the past, which will help them better prepare to target diseases that may show up,” she says.

USING A FUNGICIDE If symptoms do not move beyond the lower third of the plant canopy at the flowering stage, risk of yield loss is low and fungicide should not be applied. Fungicide control may be warranted if:

Ascochyta Symptoms PEAS Mycosphaerella blight and foot rot: Look for early symptoms as small, purplish brown irregular flecks on lower leaves, stems, and tendrils. Flecks enlarge and coalesce so that lower leaves become completely blighted. Small, dark, pepper-like dots called pycnidia may also be visible within the lesion. Severe infections may lead to foot rot, with purplish-black lesions at and above the soil line, which often causes lodging. Pod lesions are initially small and dark and may progress to give small, shrunken or discoloured seed. Ascochyta pisi: Look for tan or brown lesions with a distinct dark brown margin. Small, dark,

PHOTO: FAYE DOKKEN-BOUCHARD

There are three types of ascochyta that infect peas. This pod shows symptoms of the less common Ascochyta pisi.

This pea pod shows symptoms of Ascochyta rabiei.

pepper-like pycnidia are usually visible within the lesion.

LENTILS Check leaves, pods and stems for white to tan spots with a darker outside margin, which may contain black, pepper-like dots. Infected seed can be a brownish colour.

CHICKPEAS Check all above ground portions of the plant for dark, sunken lesions which contain rings on the outer margin. Spores (small, pepper-like dark dots) may be present in the lesions. † Angela Lovell

These pea leaves are infected with the most common type of ascochyta, Mycosphaerella blight.

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Features • at least 40 per cent of the bottom third of the crop canopy is showing symptoms and symptoms are progressing into the middle third of the canopy; and, • the weather has been humid and rain is in the forecast; and, • crop yield is expected to be high enough to justify the cost. Pea varieties rated as having “fair” resistance to ascochyta blight rarely benefit from a fungicide application. Regardless of yield benefits, seed growers may want to make a fungicide application to protect the quality of their harvested seed.

ASCOCHYTA IN FIELD PEAS Although infection can occur at any time during the season, and early symptoms are often detected on emerging seedlings, it is infection at the flowering stage which causes greatest yield loss in field peas. Yield losses of five to 15 per cent are common in regions where

the disease is established and wet conditions occur during pod development. If flowers and pods become severely infected both yield and seed weight are likely to be reduced. The stem base can also become infected causing foot rot, which can lead to lodging, making harvest more difficult. Three species of ascochyta can infect peas; Mycosphaerella blight, Ascochyta pisi and Phoma medicaginis (foot rot). Mycosphaerella blight is the most common species found in pea crops across the Prairies, although Ascochyta pisi is becoming more prevalent in the south-western corner of Saskatchewan. Mycosphaerella blight produces ascospores on crop residue that are released over the spring and summer and can be blown by wind over several kilometres to infect other pea crops, which can be a limitation to the effectiveness of crop rotation in dealing with this particular strain. Other strains of ascochyta release spores which remain more local-

ized and are transported via rain splash to adjacent plants.

CHOOSING SEED Because ascochyta is seed-borne, using the right seed can help limit damage from ascochyta. Choose a variety with some resistance to ascochyta. Some varieties of peas are rated as having “fair” resistance to the disease and some lentil varieties are listed as having “good” resistance. It’s also helpful to choose varieties with good lodging ratings and avoid fields that have received excess nitrogen fertilization — lodging can increase disease susceptibly. Ideally, it’s best to plant seed with less than 10 per cent ascochyta infection. Seed with infection levels higher than 10 per cent should be treated with a fungicide seed treatment. † Angela Lovell is a freelance writer, editor and communications specialist living and working in Manitoba. Find her online at www.angelalovell.ca

Each pulse crop is attacked by different species of ascochyta specific to that crop. Pictured is Ascochyta lentis, which affects only lentils.

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APRIL 16, 2012

Features GRAIN MARKETING

Setting the price of wheat What’s the price of wheat? At face value it seems like a simple question BY DANIEL HOLMAN

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ver the past few months Western Canadian farmers have had the opportunity to see their local grain companies’ versions of the price of Canada Western Red Spring (CWRS). There is a great deal of difference among different companies’ cash bids. Companies explain that these differences are due to marketing uncertainty, unique quality characteristics and lack of liquidity in the ICE Winnipeg futures contract. This variation is likely a temporary circumstance.

STANDARDIZED BIDS The grain industry uses two strategies to market cash bids. For commodities that are interchangeable, like generic canola, corn and soybeans, companies use standardized bids. Standardized bids are based on similar pricing and quality specs, allow easy comparison of different bids. To buy crops that aren’t as easily interchangeable, companies are using differentiated cash bids. These crops include newly open market crops like spring wheat and durum, identity preserved crops and crops with unique characteristics like

malting barley. Differentiated cash bids have company-specific pricing methodologies and quality specifications, making it harder to compare bids. Current cash bids for generic canola are considered standardized because canola is a reasonably standard product. The canola grown by farmers is similar across all regions of Western Canada and even though demand for the crop is very broad, the many diverse customers demand a similar product. Canola cash bids are typically based on one reference grade (No. 1 Canada), one futures contract (ICE Winnipeg) and one currency (the Canadian dollar). This simplifies comparisons — buyers and sellers can assume that basis bids use the same standard quality and pricing method. The factor that differs between contracts is price. Differentiated bids are more complicated because there are more variables. Cash bids for CWRS are currently differentiated based on two types of quality specifications and a number of different pricing methods. CWRS quality varies across Western Canada. End user demand also varies — CWRS customers require a much more specific product than canola buyers.

Some companies use up to three different reference grades (No. 1, 2 and 3 CWRS); different companies use different reference protein levels (13.0, 13.5 and 13.513.9 per cent). Companies’ pricing methods include straight cash bids in either Canadian dollars per metric tonne, or dollars per bushel. Futures contracts may be based on Minneapolis futures in Canadian dollars, U.S. dollars, or Minneapolis futures converted to Canadian dollars. Or, some companies may offer pooled pricing from the CWB. These differences in bids make it more difficult to compare CWRS bids among companies on any given day.

RELATIONSHIPS Standardized bids tend to result in a more uncoupled business relationship between farmers and grain companies. Farmers growing a standard crop can easily respond to changing local market conditions by changing where they sell their grain. Differentiated bids tend to result in a more coupled relationship between farmers and grain companies. It may be more difficult for farmers to change where their

grain is marketed after it’s grown, because each buyer may have a different method of calculating bids and quality specifications. In these cases, buyers typically pay a premium for that closer relationship, and expect to gain a higher premium, owing to their ability to supply a specific product. There are trade-offs between marketing grains in coupled versus uncoupled relationships. Both systems can work side by side. The coexistence of generic canola (uncoupled) and specialty canola (coupled) is evidence that farmers want choice in business relationships. Ultimately, Canadian growers and traders of CWRS have to compete against suppliers from other countries. Our customers are the world’s wheat millers. Some milling customers may find it advantageous to associate themselves with a specific grain company and farmer; other milling customers may want to be completely independent, buying from several grain companies and farmers. Grain companies that trade CWRS are middlemen between farmers and milling customers. To succeed, they will need to establish the types of relationship with farmers that their end customers want.

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A STANDARDIZED FUTURE It would seem reasonable to expect the industry to eventually move to standardized cash bids for CWRS. The ICE milling wheat contract in Winnipeg will be instrumental in creating a standardized market for CWRS in Canada, with deliverable grades based on No. 1 or No. 2 13.0 per cent protein wheat. Once the grain industry adopts this contract for spring wheat bids, we will start to see standardized bids based on one reference grade (No. 1 CWRS 13.0 per cent protein), one futures contract (ICE Winnipeg), and one currency (Canadian dollars). This standardization will make it easy to compare bids among local companies. The wheat supply chain in Canada is still trying to decide what it should be. Tools are available to standardize the industry — if the industry chooses to use them — and current systems exist if the industry chooses to remain differentiated. It will be up to farmers to choose which system they like best by delivering to companies that provide the bids they find most reasonable. † Daniel Holman is a farmer and a grain merchant with North West Terminal in Unity, Sask.


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Features GRAIN MARKETING

Understanding basis It’s never been more important to make the most of your marketing options. Neil Blue tells you how you can use the basis to improve your bottom line BY NEIL BLUE

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or crops that have an actively trading futures market, tracking the basis levels and considering basis as a separate part of your pricing decision improve your market analysis, and maybe increase your price.

DEFINING BASIS Basis is the difference between the local cash price for a commodity and the futures market price for that commodity. That is: “cash price” minus “futures price” = basis. Basis may include freight, elevation, cleaning, storage, interest, inspection fees, administration costs and profit for the buyer. Often, the largest factor in basis is transportation cost. Transportation cost differences between the location of the product and the location specified by the futures contract usually explain much of basis level. To analyze basis for a particu-

Beware the pirate of the prairies

lar grain, you need to know the grain’s basis history. For canola, basis levels range from a weak minus $50 (that is, a cash price $50 per tonne less than the futures price) to a strong plus $10 (a cash price $10 per tonne above the futures price). Of course, it is possible for canola basis levels to be outside of this range. Sometimes, relative basis levels are referred to as narrow or wide, or described in other ways. Since a “narrow basis” description begins to make less sense as cash prices move above futures prices, I prefer to use the terms “strong” or “weak” to describe relative basis levels. Basis levels reflect local supply-demand factors, and are set differently by each buyer. Grain buyers use basis levels to attract grain when they need it or discourage delivery when they don’t need it. Buyers bid only as much as necessary to attract enough deliveries to meet their sales commitments. Most of the time, all grain buyers use the same futures market

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to set prices, so the only difference in cash price among buyers comes from basis. A buyer who offers a higher local cash price than competitors on a given day is offering a stronger basis. On the other hand, a grain buyer with ample supply of a certain grain will weaken his basis, lowering the cash price that company is paying. This lower cash price will signal farmers to hold back deliveries or deliver to another buyer who’s offering a stronger basis.

BASIS AND FUTURES Basis levels do not necessarily move in the same direction as futures prices. In fact, basis and futures prices can move in opposite directions. Typically, basis levels and futures prices are both weak at harvest. However, after deliveries to meet fall contract commitments and cash flow needs taper off, farmers tend to hold grain in reaction to those weak prices. T:10.25” to be relucIf farmers continue

tant sellers, one or more grain buyers will begin to run short of product. To attract delivery commitments, one buyer will strengthen his basis, increasing the cash price bid relative to the futures price, and relative to other buyers. If other buyers also need that product, competition will be reflected in generally stronger basis levels. Once the buyers gather enough delivery commitments to satisfy their needs, they are able to weaken the basis. If futures prices rise and the basis level remains unchanged, the cash price will also rise. Farmers typically react to higher cash prices by committing more of that product for delivery. As enough product is booked to meet grain buyers’ sales commitments, basis levels can be weakened if farmers are still willing sellers. Weakening basis levels after a price run-up can be a signal that demand is weakening. A sign of a very strong market is one where basis levels remain strong while futures prices continue to rise.

SEPARATING BASIS Are there ways to separate the basis from the futures part of the pricing decision to take advantage of changes? Yes, there are! If a buyer is offering a good basis level (strong, relative to history), and you expect the futures price to increase, check to see if the buyer will offer a

basis contract. A basis contract will lock in the basis against a certain futures month, and leave the futures price open. If the futures price goes up, you can then price the product at a higher price level. At the higher futures prices, the basis level on new sales may weaken as farmers deliver more product. Meanwhile, because you have a basis contract, you can take full advantage of that higher futures price and the good basis level. Conversely, if you consider the futures price to be good, but the basis is weak, your buyer may be willing to lock in just the futures price and leave the basis open, while you target a stronger basis to complete your pricing sometime before delivery. Alternatively, if you have your own commodity futures account, you may sell futures directly. This can give you greater flexibility, as you have no delivery commitment with a physical buyer. You can still shop with all buyers for the best basis level, considering all factors, such as delivery costs and grading experience. Meanwhile, that futures position can be easily exited at your discretion, just by “buying back” the sell position. In selecting the time and place to price grain, it is useful to understand the role of basis in the market. Basis provides an important piece of information to your marketing decisions. † Neil Blue writes from Vermillion, Alta. Contact him at 780-853-6929

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Features Disease management

10 steps to managing fusarium head blight There’s no “one best way” to manage fusarium. For best results, try an integrated management strategy that includes several steps by Angela Lovell

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usarium  head  blight (FHB),  also  known  as scab or tombstone, is a fungal disease that causes yield loss and grade loss. FHB can infect most cereal crops and some grasses, especially in areas that experience humid weather. The fusarium fungus is endemic in parts of Manitoba and Saskatchewan and given the right environmental conditions, disease will develop. Weather patterns are the greatest factor in the development of FHB. The disease is most likely to develop when temperatures range from 25 C to 30 C and moisture is continuous for 48 to 60 hours when plants are in flower. In areas where there is more risk of FHB development due to generally conducive weather patterns, or where farmers have had infection in previous seasons and may be worried that the pathogen has overwintered on crop residues, farmers will be looking for ways to control fusarium. “It’s important to use more than one strategy,” says Jeannie Gilbert,  a  research  scientist  at the  Cereal  Research  Centre  in Winnipeg. “A careful choice of fungicide and optimal timing of application, along with a resistant variety and good crop rotation has shown that you can get incremental improvements in yield as well as lower DON (a mycotoxin associated with FHB) and lower FHB. By using all of these strategies you can hedge your bets and stand a better chance of getting a good crop in a year when there is disease around.” While there is no magic bullet, here is a list of 10 management choices that can help control FHB.

1.  Rotation Use  two-  to  three-year  crop rotations between cereals and grasses. Follow cereal crops with broad-leaved crops. A break of at least one year and preferably two years is advised between cereal, grass and corn production.

2. Variety selection There are currently no resistant  cultivars,  but  FHB  may  be more severe on semi-dwarf and durum wheat than on hard red spring wheat. Recently registered hard red spring wheat varieties that offer moderate resistance,

Tundra

the best available to date, include 5602HR, Waskada, Carberry and WR859 CL. Barley is more resistant than wheat to FHB and oats are more resistant  than  either  wheat  or barley. Consult provincial seed guides for details of the resistance level of different cultivars to FHB and plant more resistant varieties, especially in high risk areas. Planting two or more varieties of wheat will spread out flowering times and reduce the risk of infection. Staggering planting dates within the recommended planting period will also vary flowering dates and may reduce the severity of disease.

3.  Field preparation Although the fusarium fungus overwinters on crop residues, trying to eliminate surface debris by tillage or burning will have little effect on disease prevention and can make soils more vulnerable to erosion. Even if completely eliminated from a field, spores can still be spread via wind from neighbouring fields or nearby grassy areas. Within a field, rainsplash can disperse spores to nearby plants. Controlling barnyard grass and quackgrass in fields and around field margins is important, as these are alternative hosts for the fungus. Farmers should carry out tillage practices that would normally be used to manage stubble-borne diseases such as tan spot. Crop residue burning does not destroy the root and crown tissues, which are major overwintering sites for the fungus. Do not seed wheat, barley or other small grain cereals into cereal or corn stubble. Corn stover is a major food source for the fungus and incidence and severity of FHB can be much higher in corn growing areas. Remember, the pathogen can overwinter in any cereal residue.

4. Seeding Use clean seed that is free from fusarium infection, or if a contaminated grain sample must be used, add a fungicide seed treatment  to  protect  the  seedlings from seedling blight. Seed treatments will improve germination of infected seed.

5. Scouting As  most  infections  occur around flowering, and symptoms

photo: andy tekauz

This wheat field is infected with fusarium head blight.

New winter wheat varieties offer FHB resistance

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armers may soon have more  options  to  keep fusarium  head  blight (FHB)  from  becoming problematic in winter wheat. Two new winter wheat varieties that recently received support for registration offer resistance to FHB along with good resistance to stem, leaf and stripe rust. W454 appears to have good FHB tolerance and W478 has intermediate resistance. Both are definitely a step in the right direction, says Dr. Robert Graf, a lead research scientist with the AAFC’s winter wheat breeding program at the Lethbridge Research Centre in southern Alberta. Winter wheat acres, especially in Manitoba, have grown

in recent years in part because winter wheat crops in Manitoba generally escape FHB infection, but it’s not something to bet the farm on. “We certainly do see susceptibilities in winter wheat just as we do in other wheat classes,” says Graf. “The reality is that there just aren’t as many winter wheat varieties as there are spring wheat varieties, and some of the popular ones have been quite susceptible.” In the eastern Prairies, farmers are looking for good leaf and stem rust resistance in winter wheat varieties in addition to FHB tolerance, as these diseases all occur under similar weather conditions. “In those areas where FHB

resistance is particularly important there haven’t been a lot of good quality winter wheat varieties that have expressed resistance to FHB that are also suitable from the aspect of other types of disease like stem and leaf rust resistance,” says Graf. To date, CDC Buteo has been an exception, in that it has good quality and has demonstrated moderate resistance to FHB and leaf and stem rust. These factors have definitely contributed to its popularity with farmers in the eastern Prairies. The availability of more varieties of winter wheat, which also show these characteristics, is nothing but good news. †

can develop within three days if environmental conditions are right, scouting should generally begin at this stage, especially if weather conditions are conducive, and continue for at least three weeks after. Look for a pink or orange-col-

oured ring of spore-bearing structures called sporodochia at the base of the glumes. Partially-filled seeds will be found in infected spikelets and the shrivelled grains may appear tan to white, with traces of pink on the seeds. In barley, FHB first appears as

premature bleaching of spikelets, which contain shrivelled, chalky white seed. There may be an orange or black encrustation on the seed surface. Damaged wheat kernels may also be covered in a white to light pink mould. Fusarium-damaged kernels (FDK)

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Angela Lovell


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Features in other cereals such as barley and oats can appear healthy, so the disease is much harder to identify.

6. CONTROL Protection decisions being with assessing a crop’s potential value. “If your crop looks really good then it’s worth protecting,” says Gilbert. “If your crop is coming into flower and a rainy spell is forecast, be prepared to put the money into a single spray at flowering just to protect the crop.” Fungicide applications can be used to control and suppress FHB but timing is crucial and will vary according to what product is used. Foliar applications of products likes Proline or Folicur in wheat should be made from when at least 75 per cent of the wheat heads on the main stem are fully emerged to when 50 per cent of the heads on the main stem are in flower, according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. In barley, it is important to wait to apply until most of the barley heads have emerged, for maximum coverage and to protect the exposed florets from the risk of infection. Check provincial crop protection guides for a full listing of fungicides and their effectiveness against FHB. Recent research from North Dakota State University recommends the following application guidelines for fungicides to achieve better suppression of FHB in small cereal grains. Produce a fine- to mediumsized drop (300 to 350 microns) with an 80-degree flat-fan nozzle. Angle all (flat-fan) nozzles forward 30 to 45 degrees down from horizontal. Thirty degrees is preferred over 45 degrees. Apply fungicide at 10 gallons per acre for controlling FHB. Position angled spray nozzles eight to 10 inches above the grain heads.

it is called fusarium mould. The Canadian Grain Commission (CGC) sets grading tolerances for fusarium-damaged wheat and barley. The CGC and several companies across western Canada offer DON testing services for harvested grain and seed, and most have a minimum detection limit of 0.5 ppm. More accurate but costly tests can detect DON levels down to 0.05 ppm. It is important to send good, representative samples to the test laboratory to get accurate results. Ask your local agricultural representative for a list of companies in your area that offer testing.

FEED GRAINS Special care should be taken with feed grain and hay or straw that may potentially be infected with FHB to try and help avoid spread of the disease. The fungus in FHB-infected grain or hay is killed during passage through the

digestive system of cattle, but it’s important to minimize and clean up any spillage. If infected grain comes into contact with the soil it could establish itself in fields or ditches. Try to avoid accidental contamination from spills during loading or unloading and cover trucks with a tarp when hauling feed grains. Store feed grains covered and clean harvesting, seeding and transportation equipment thoroughly. Bedding straw represents a higher risk of spreading FHB because imported straw could have high levels of infection. If the straw is then spread on fields it can bring the pathogen in contact with the soil. Composting infected grain or crop residue (grass hay or straw) to reach a temperature of 60 C to 70 C for two weeks will kill any FHB present in the grain or crop residue. † Angela Lovell is a freelance writer, editor and communications specialist living and working in Manitoba. Find her online at www.angelalovell.ca

FHB Pathogen is changing

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cientists are currently investigating some recent changes in the fusarium pathogen population — there appears to be increasing incidence of a different, more virulent strain. The main pathogen strain which can contaminate grain with fungal toxins (mycotoxins) such as deoxynivalenol (DON), also known as vomitoxin, is fusarium graminearum. The fusarium graminearum pathogen is divided into three chemotypes based on toxin production: DON/15ADON, DON/3ADON and Nivalenol. Traditionally, it has been the DON/15ADON chemotype

that has predominated a c r o s s We s t e r n C a n a d a . More recently scientists have found increased presence of DON/3ADON. This chemotype produces more DON toxin and is more aggressive, causing more severe symptoms on the host. “Fusarium doesn’t evolve as quickly or in the same way that say, rusts do, but we are investigating what this new chemotype means to agriculture and producers,” says Dr. Jeannie Gilbert, a research scientist at the Cereal Research Centre in Winnipeg. † Angela Lovell

7. HARVEST To reduce the number of fusarium damaged kernals (FDK) in harvested grain, combine louvre openings and air velocities can be adjusted to blow the lighter, diseased kernels over the back of the combine without losing too many good kernels. In fields which are severely affected by leaf diseases, the lower test weight of the grain may make it more difficult to separate normal kernels from FDK.

I t ’ s t h e s e n s at I o n t h at c o m e s w I t h g e t t I n g an extra 3 to 4 bushels

8. STORAGE

of canola an acre.

Fusarium damaged crops must be stored properly to prevent further mould and toxin development. Wheat infected with FHB that has a moisture content greater than 14 per cent should be dried using heated air to stop further disease development. Green feed should be drier than 20 per cent moisture. Grain drying or proper ensiling in an airtight silo will stop further mould development but will not remove the DON already present. Silage contaminated with FHB should be tested for DON levels prior to feeding.

9. TESTING GRAIN Diseased heads can contain visibly affected kernels. FDK is the grading term given to visibly affected wheat seeds; in barley

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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.

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Features CROP NUTRITION

Farmers express qualified support for micronutrients There seems to be a certain amount of “gut feeling” that supports the use of micronutrient treatments on grain, oilseed and pulse crops according to western Canadian farmers BY LEE HART

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he benefits may not show as dramatic yield increases, but the crops look better, the maturity seems to even out, and if you dig in the soil, there appears to be improved root development on treated plants — those are all features that suggest that micronutrients are doing something. Some farmers contacted for this Farmer Panel say they see at least a two or three bushel per acre yield increase, and others have just put the measuring tools in place to determine if a good looking crop with a better root system actually does have higher yields. As one farmer pointed out, micronutrients are mainly for finetuning. It is important that farmers provide crops with a proper macro nutrients — nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and sulfur — and then use micronutrients to cover any deficiencies that may not even show in a soil test. In fact, in his view, if a micronutrient treatment produces a dramatic yield increase, there is something lacking in the macronutrient program. Here is what this month’s farmer panel had to say about their experiences with micronutrients:

is they affect plant health — really help to boost vigour — and that helps the crop to withstand stresses, resist disease, and even appears to help safen the effect of herbicides. And if the crop stand is healthier that has to affect yield.” Frick, along with his son Jordan, crops about 5,500 acres of wheat, barley, oats, canola, peas and flax. Initially they tried micronutrient treatments including seed

primers and in-crop foliar treatments on various crops on a few fields. Impressed with better looking stands and improved crop growth, they now use micronutrients with most crops produced on the farm. They maintain their regular crop fertility program, and use micronutrients as either a seed primer or as foliar treatments. Depending on the year and the crop, micronutrients are

applied twice in-crop with the herbicide and/or later with the fungicide application. “We concentrate on the high value crops, like canola,” says Frick. While there are a number of micronutrient manufacturers, Frick currently uses products produced by Omex Canada, but he also plans to try other formulations from other suppliers. He has found Omex’s C3 prod-

BLAIR FRICK MELVILLE, SASK. Blair Frick admits he hasn’t done any rigorous side-by-side yield trials, but in using micronutrient seed and foliar treatments for the past four years on his east-central Saskatchewan farm, he is convinced he gets a good return on investment. “We apply the products and it gives the crop a real boost,” he says. “We’ve had some wet years in this area, for example, and we’ve had fields that weren’t looking that good. We put a bit of these micronutrients on at time of fungicide application and we really surprised at how well those fields yielded. “One aspect of the treatments

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uct applied at the time of the second herbicide application has been effective on canola and he also likes to add Uptake, a 13-7-4 product with micros with the fungicide application. Frick estimates the micronutrient costs from $5 to $8 per acre per treatment depending on the application rate. “I believe with canola we are seeing at least a two to three bushel per acre increase in yield

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Features with the micronutrients, which more than offsets the cost of the product,” he says. “And I believe we see a similar response in the cereals as well. We certainly have never gone backwards. We are seeing improved plant health — you apply the product and it gives everything a bit of a jump.”

ROB GARLAND MOOSE JAW, SASK. Rob Garland is a firm believer that micronutrients used in conjunction with a proper macronutrient program makes good economic sense on his south-central Saskatchewan farm. Garland, who along with family members crops a total of about 20,000 acres, uses a micronutrient seed primer, along with other recommended seed treatments on all crops such as wheat, durum, barley, canola, lentils and yellow peas. He uses Omex Canada products along with micronutrient products from other suppliers. He believes

the products produce healthier plant stands, more even growth and maturity — much more consistent crops — and improved yields. “We use a micronutrient primer, or nutrient dressing, on all our crops across the board,” says

compatible seed treatments for seed and soil borne diseases and pests. He also uses Jumpstart, a seed applied biological, that helps improve phosphate uptake. In one canola field in 2011, on a strip where no seed primer was

“We use a micronutrient primer, or nutrient dressing, on all our crops across the board.” — Rob Garland

Garland. “To me it is just a no brainer. It is low cost and I believe it is just one more thing that gets the crop off to a good start. And that is so important. If the crop has a strong, vigorous start it is better able to handle any stresses that come along.” All crops also are treated with

applied, yields were two to three bushels per acre lower, the crop was later maturing and had more green seed. Garland also uses an in-crop application of the Omex micronutrient package C3 on all canola and he plans to try it on about 500 acres of wheat this year. That treat-

ment is applied during the herbicide application. Again he says the treatment produces a much more vigorous stand. He has also seen a dramatic response to a zinc additive with lentils. The 20 per cent highly water soluble zinc sulphate is applied as a granular with the regular fertilizer blend. “Even though our soil test showed no zinc deficiency, on one field where we had treated and untreated areas we saw a seven bushel per acre higher yield where zinc was added,” he says. On the macro side, added potash the past four years has also made a difference with wheat, even though it wasn’t indicated on the soil test. Garland has been growing AC Andrew, a high yielding soft white wheat, which is susceptible to wheat stem sawfly damage. Added potash appears to strengthen the stem, reduce sawfly damage and crop lodging, and also improves drought resistance — although drought has not been an issue in his area the last couple years.

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BRIAN SPILLER DAYSLAND, ALTA. Brian Spiller has done a lot of “digging” on his central-Alberta farm the last couple years and has become “pretty much a believer” that a seed-applied micronutrient primer is improving root development of the grain, oilseed and pulse crops he’s producing. Spiller, who along with family members crops about 4,300 acres, says he doesn’t know if that translates into improved yield, but finds when a primer is used, root development is improved. “We have done a lot of digging in May the last three years and there is definitely a difference in the roots,” he says. “And good root development is important. We live in an area were we usually have pretty good moisture in June and then it gets hot and dry in July and August. So we need that strong root development to carry the crop through. So I am fairly well convinced (the primer) makes a difference.” Spiller says to ask him again in a couple years and he’ll have a better answer as to whether improved root development translates into higher yields. The farm has just bought a weigh wagon and installed yield monitors on the combines. He’ll be doing side-byside yield comparisons of treated versus untreated seed to see if it makes a difference at harvest. Spiller has used Omex Canada micronutrient seed primers on peas, wheat, canola and barley. All of these crops seem to respond to the product. “Especially when you are seeding into cold soils, it’s good to see that extra root development,” he says. “I believe it does make a difference to root growth and whether you are using Omex or a comparable product from some other company, I believe in the future we will see more nutrition applied to the seed.” He says it is an economical treatment, costing “pennies per acre” for canola, for example. Spiller applies the micronutrient product to seed through an on-farm seed treating applicator at the same time he is applying disease and pest control products to protect seed. He is considering use of in-crop foliar applied micronutrient treatments, but is waiting until he has tools to measure yield. “The logic is there, that these treatments should have value, but it doesn’t make sense to spend this money unless you have someway to measure the results,” he says. “We’re going to keep looking at this until one way or the other we prove ourselves right or wrong.” † T:10”

G N I R B

On the cost front, Garland considers micronutrients a good investment. The seed primer for canola is about 30 cents per acre, while with larger-seed cereals it is about $2 per acre. The in-crop micronutrient treatment costs about $5 per acre. And he estimates the added zinc in the lentil fertilizer blend costs about $7 per acre. “Last year, for example, we had some of the best yields we had ever seen and I think it comes down to getting the crops off to a good start, and applying the proper fertility to keep them growing vigorously,” says Garland.

Lee Hart is a field editor for Grainews in Calgary, Contact him at 403-592-1964 or by email at lee@fbcpublishing.com


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Columns FARM FINANCIAL PLANNER

Going broke on a small fortune A Saskatchewan farm couple sells their farm and expects to live on easy street. But high taxes and poor fund performance lead them down a different road BY ANDREW ALLENTUCK

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n a corner of Saskatchewan, a couple we’ll call Jack and Roberta, both 48, were having trouble making their 1,000 acre grain farm pay. It was 2007 and an offer was on the table for $900,000. They had jobs in town paying them a total of $90,000 per year, so they decided to sell. Today, their jobs are keeping them afloat, for their farm business is a financial shambles caused by their own poor bookkeeping, high administrative fees for services and poor investment returns. Five years ago, they were offered $900 per acre and, even though the property had been in Jack’s family for generations, they took the money. They bought a new home for $500,000 and still had money left over from the sale of the land and equipment to invest. They signed up for a $500,000 whole life insurance policy with a premium over $7,000 per year. But the force was not with them. They wound up with high tax bills and low performance from their financial assets. Add that to hefty accounting fees, poor performance of financial assets and those big tax bills and the couple’s problems are clear. Their spending out of personal and corporate accounts exceeds present cash flow. They are sustained by their town jobs, but they are slowly going broke. When they retire from their town jobs, if they have done nothing to stop the flow of cash, the slide into poverty will quicken. For now, Jack and Roberta have a very reasonable agenda: pay tuition and related costs for their two teenage children at university. That’s $5,200 per year for tuition and books if the kids live at home. They want to buy a vacation home in Arizona in a few years at a cost of perhaps $100,000 to $120,000. And they want to retire fully in 12 years with $5,000 per month after tax in 2012 dollars.

THE ANALYSIS Farm Financial Planner asked Don Forbes, a financial planner with Don Forbes & Associates/ Armstrong & Quaile of Carberry, Man., to work with Jack and Roberta.

Tundra

His analysis is chilling. “If the couple does nothing to change their current tax, life insurance, investment and spending levels, then their capital will be exhausted by the time they are in their mid-70s,” Mr. Forbes says. “Then, retired, they will be insolvent.” The problem of having no money for bills has already appeared. Through bookkeeping that is perhaps less transparent than what one would like — they have mixed personal and business accounts. They have kept their farming corporation, however, it contains just investments. The passive investment income inside the corporation is taxed at a higher rate than they need pay on their personal returns, Mr. Forbes notes. Their life insurance policy is owned by the corporation but it has negative tax consequences. The problem is that life insurance premiums are a taxable shareholder benefit when the corporation is not taxable because of its deficit and if all assets can be transferred out as a return of principal. In this case, the taxable benefit costs $2,622 in extra tax liabilities in their personal returns. The couple has had to borrow money secured by their personal residence to get money to pay corporate bills.

SOLUTIONS Jack and Roberta could transfer all of the corporately owned investment assets to their personal names. That would be deemed a return of principal. It would also trigger a $150,000 capital loss if it’s a full transfer. That loss could shelter future investment capital gains, Mr. Forbes notes. They also need to review how a $313,000 operating deficit could be crystallized when they wind up their farm corporation. An accounting review would be in order, Mr. Forbes suggests. The deficit cannot be transferred but can be applied as a carryback loss for up to the past three years to recapture previous corporate income tax paid. In this case, for 2007 when the farm was sold, the corporation paid $57,000 income tax. Paying for two children’s university expenses will be feasible

if Jack and Roberta do several things to provide approximately $22,000 for four years of study for each child. Apply to the scholarship trust for tuition for the elder child ($3,000). The grant should be paid before any return of principal. Then get a return of capital. In the fall, reapply for more money for the second year. Proceeds in the next three years are not known but will be taxed in the hands of the kids. Another RESP should be taxable to the students in their first years and then should be a non-taxable return of capital to the parents.

Jack and Roberta have slipped into a pit of problems Jack and Roberta bought a $500,000 whole life insurance policy. The annual premium, $7,617, would be paid by the farming corporation. Corporate assets can be transferred out as a return of capital without tax. But if the premium is paid by the company, it is taxable benefit to the shareholders and must be declared on their personal income tax returns. At a 34 per cent tax rate, that would add $2,622 to their personal tax liabilities composed of the $7,617 premiums for total insurance cost of $10,239. If the policy were to be terminated now, Jack and Roberta would forfeit $22,000 in premiums paid to date. Best move? Transfer ownership of the policy from the company to the couple in personal names. The policy will provide a minimum legacy to their two children. Then transfer all investments in the corporation’s name to personal names.

VACATION HOME If Jack and Roberta want to buy the vacation home in Arizona, they should budget $12,000 per year for expenses and travel. They can’t afford it now and, if they want to rent it out for

income while they are not using it, they should consider the requirement that they file U.S. returns on that income. If the couple should stay too long in Arizona, they could become liable for U.S. taxes on all their world income. They could get a Canadian foreign tax credit for those taxes, but the process of filing and recapturing credits would add to the complexity of their affairs. If they do liquidate their farming corporation, they will have money for the Arizona purchase. But they need to think through the cost of owning that house for the few months of the year they are likely to be in Arizona. If they want to go ahead, they can put $120,000 obtained from freed up company assets into a bank account for the purchase. Alternatively, they could just rent a house or condo for a few months each year in Arizona and keep their lives simple, Mr. Forbes explains.

FINANCES Jack and Roberta have 36 different mutual funds in their various accounts. That breaks down to 11 Canadian balanced funds, 15 Canadian equity funds and 10 foreign equity funds. Unfortunately, this mix is not diversification as much as it is costly duplication. The funds are proprietary portfolios sold by mutual fund companies with fees that are typically about 2.8 per cent of net asset value. The funds’ performance, dragged down by fees, has lagged that of peers. There is a solution — work with a financial advisor or dealer to migrate the funds to specific and desirable stock or to exchange traded funds (ETFs) with desirable holdings. ETF fees are perhaps a tenth of those they are now paying. A professional portfolio manager could also do the job for a fee of one to 1.5 per cent per year of net asset value and create a customized portfolio with appropriate risks and tax characteristics for the couple, Mr. Forbes says. For the future, it would be important to maximize TFSA contributions for the next 12 years using money from liberated company assets. In a dozen years, the accumulated value of

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$10,000 annual contributions growing at five per cent per year could add up to $167,000. They should also maximize RRSP contributions. On top of present RRSP balances of $117,844 for Jack and $113,922 for Roberta, the contributions will build $330,000 for Jack and $300,000 for Roberta. All this will support income from a Registered Retirement Income Fund of $1,500 per month for 30 years for Jack and $1,400 per month for Roberta. In 2024, when each is 60, Roberta can apply for a company pension that will pay her $685 per month. She can convert a Locked-In Retirement Account to a Life Income Fund for another $1,185 per month. Her RRSPs can be converted to RRIFs that pay $1,400 per month. And she can take an early Canada Pension Plan benefit of $550 per month. Jack, for his part, can convert his RRSPs to RRIFs for $1,500 per month and take $500 from CPP for a reduced benefit at age 60. Their non-registered investments will be about $480,000. If those investments pay five per cent, they will add $2,000 per month to total income, which will then be $7,280 per month. That will cover expected future living expenses of $6,420 per month. If Jack and Roberta take all of these suggestions, they can retire on $7,280 per month in future dollars at age 60. At 65, they can add Old Age Security benefits, currently $6,480 per person per year. That is much more income than they have now when much of the cash flow has to support bad investments and poorly structured life insurance. “Jack and Roberta have slipped into a pit of problems which, if not fixed, will leave them broke in the middle of their retirement,” Mr. Forbes explains. “But if they take corrective action as I have suggested, they can retire in comfort and security. Provided that they take the first step of winding up their farm corporation, the rest of their restructuring will follow relatively easily,” Mr. Forbes adds. † 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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C-76-03/12-BCS12035-E


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Columns SOILS AND CROPS

Wheat protein, nitrogen and baking bread Farmers have been quick to add more nitrogen to increase the protein content in their wheat. In a new marketing era, farmers will grow what customers want LES HENRY

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n 1968 as a young upstart at the University of Saskatchewan I attended a conference at the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) Research Station at Swift Current. The topic was protein grading of wheat. The focus of the conference was to plan the research needed to be able to tell farmers how to best grow high protein wheat, in case protein grading came to pass. My contribution to the meeting was this: “The research has already

been done. When farmers get paid for protein, they can pork on the nitrogen (N) to make sure the protein is high.” I had read the literature (two key references are provided at the end for P.Ag and CCA types that may wish to look them up). My comments were politely dismissed but in private a few research folks agreed with me.

ADD MORE NITROGEN In the interim, protein grading came to pass and farmers quickly treated wheat differently than other crops. Pork on the N — if you do not get a return in yield you’ll get it in protein and either way you get paid.

For my 2010 crop, early rains leached the N but the crop rooted and took it up later. N taken up late goes to protein not yield. So I got 37 bushels per acre of No. 2 wheat with 15 per cent protein, which netted above $9 per bushel. In years gone by, Western Canadian wheat protein was determined mostly by the weather — in wet years protein was low, and in dry years protein was high. Saskatchewan was always the runaway winner for protein and Manitoba was the lowest. But in the 1970s, Manitoba started porking on the N and began growing the highest protein wheat. In 2011, wheat in Manitoba averaged 13.6 per cent

protein, Saskatchewan 12.9 per cent and Alberta 12.5 per cent. It is now interesting to ponder — have we reached the stage where we’re applying too much N? Creating a high protein quantity but not a high protein quality? I recently came across an interesting piece of information from ages ago at the famous Rothamsted Research Farm, Harpenden, UK: “High nitrogen (protein) is generally associated with good quality wheat, yet the flour made from the grain of the plots… which received the highest … N, gives rise to such a loose, unstable dough that it can hardly be formed into anything resembling a loaf.” That quote is from a book by A. Daniel Hall, 1910, Fertilizers and

Manures. The data described came from 1903 plots that received up to 129 pounds per acre of N fertilizer and other plots with about 200 lbs. N per acre as manure. As an undergraduate student I was exposed to some of the data from Rothamsted but when I looked at N rates greater than 100 lbs. per acre per year, I dismissed it as having no relevance to Western Canada. I now realize that principles of science are universal — how we apply them is local but the principles are the same. In experimental work in Western Canada, it is becoming increasingly difficult to reproduce the huge yield increase to N that we saw in the early days of soil testing. Another interesting quote from A. Daniel Hall: “The intensive farmer often becomes wasteful because, after his land is in good heart, he continues to add fertilizers at the same rate as he did when he was building up its condition.” Maybe JOB ID: the stage where we we have reached 4671-D can back off N rates — particularly on good DATE: black soils with lots of MARCHand with the zero-till organic matter farming that is now the norm. CLIENT: Some recent SYNGENTA CANADA studies have also showed that sulphur fertilization PROJECT: plays a role in wheat quality even QUILT ON CEREALS when it does not affect the yield. PUBLICATION: When the market recognizes that GRAIN NEWS in price, perhaps we will be applying sulphur even though it may DESIGNER: CB increase yield. not ( ) MECHANICAL

( ) PDF/X

FALLING NUMBER FINAL SIZE: 8.125" X 10"

In the past, a simple measure of UCR: 240% the protein content of wheat was a good of what the loaf of CLIENTindicator SERVICE bread made from it would look like. PROOFREADING Now, that is not always the case. We’re hearing more about fallART DIRECTION ing number. Falling number is a PRODUCTION measure that will predict what the baked loaf will look like. It can be increased or decreased by N fertilizer. Sprouting is a big factor in lowering falling number. The discussion about elevator testing of falling number is where protein testing was 30 years ago. So, there you have it — something to think about as we enter a new era in wheat marketing in Western Canada. † 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, Sask., S7H 3H7, and he will dispatch a signed book

More reading for the keeners

• Fernandez and Laird, 1959. Yield and protein content of wheat in Central Mexico as affected by available soil moisture and nitrogen fertilization. Agronomy Journal Vol 51 pages 33-36. • Finney et al. 1957. Effect of foliar spraying of Pawnee wheat with urea solutions on yield, protein content, and protein quality. Agonomy Journal Volume 49 pages 341-347. †

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4671-A SYN Quilt on Cereals-GrainNews.indd 1

J. L. (Les) Henry 12-03-05 11:45 AM


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Columns OFF-FARM INCOME

Favourite stock update In this column, Andy Sirski explains how stocks often rise during U.S. election years, and mentions some of his new favourite stocks ANDY SIRSKI

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istory shows that industrial and financial stocks generally do well during U.S. election years like this year. One reason for this is that economic performance statistics seem to improve during election years. Statistics like the number of jobs added to the labor force and number of cars sold may go up. We might even see house prices stop falling. We’ve seen bank stocks go up in price. The U.S. published the results of its stress tests on banks, and enough banks passed. Shares of beaten up Bank of America (BAC) are up from $6 to about $10 as I write this. With rising bank stocks and more jobs it sounds like the U.S. economy is improving. Very little is said about how the U.S. is adding billions and billions of new debt to its total debt picture. I guess the media is saving that for after the election. These improving statistics tend to push up the U.S. dollar, which usually pushes down the price of gold and silver. Financial and industrial stocks generally rally during the summer of election years.

WORLD ELECTIONS There will be elections in seven major countries around the world in 2012. Many governments might be busy pumping up their economies as the months go by. Russia already had its election. Greece and France will hold elections this spring, Mexico votes in July, and Venezuela, the U.S. and China go to the polls in October and November. Watch out world. In 2013, all these new governments will be putting out all of their bad news early in their new term. If all the newly elected parties start to try shrinking debt and cutting entitlements, I would expect stocks to suffer. I’ll try to avoid losses.

PRESSURE ON GOLD PRICES India has doubled its import tax on gold, from two to four per cent.

Farmers in India buy a lot of gold. They do not pay taxes on farm production, so after harvest they sell their crops, pay their bills, keep some money for expenses and spend the rest on gold. And, many weddings are held in the fall so jewelers buy a lot of gold after July. The increased tax might help to hold down the price of gold and silver for a few months. But as wedding season approaches and harvest ends, there could be some pent up demand for gold. We could see a nice rally in spite of the politics and high U.S. dollar. The Australian government wanted to raise taxes on mining profits by 40 to help balance budgets. Companies objected, so the government raised taxes by only 30 per cent. We’ll see if this works, then if other world governments try to raise mining taxes after their elections.

selling only twice a year. On my silver stocks I was taking in about 11 per cent on our stocks, selling five months out. That would mean two transactions a year which should not make anyone too busy. I try really hard to buy stocks at the low end of their trading range. By buying shares at the right time, I reduce price risk, and if I collect 11 per cent by selling calls for half a year, I should make some good profit. My shares of Taseko (TK) got exercised in early March so I locked in 12 per cent on that batch of money for four to six weeks. I bought more shares and sold calls on them for another nine per cent, so I’ve locked in 21 per cent on that batch of shares and it certainly did not take a lot of work.

NEW FAVOURITE STOCKS

Thank you, readers, for making this possible

I’ve added a couple of new favourite stocks to my list this winter. One is Westport Innovations (WPT). The company designs and promotes engines that burn natural gas. As you likely have heard, natural gas is cheap and there’s lots of it coming to the surface so it could be cheap for some time. With so many trucks on North American roads, this could be a big market. WPT doesn’t build engines, but it has agreements with most major engine makers around the world. GM says it will start to take orders for natural gas engines in April for some of its trucks, so it looks to me like WPT has potential. I am up 600 shares at an average cost of $45.84. The premiums on covered calls are quite generous for this stock. For example, on March 20, the shares are trading at $47 and the premium for an April strike price of $50 is $1.05. That’s over two per cent for a month on the value of the shares, and the stock has $3 of room to run up. I have not sold calls on my shares yet. If I did, it would likely be at the $50 strike price.

LESS WORK MORE MONEY This year I started to sell calls four to six months out. Many readers worry that selling calls would take too much time so I decided to test

SANDSTORM GOLD (SSL.V) Sandstorm Gold is a baby version of Silver Wheaton (SLW), which I’ve written about before. Both companies are called streamers. SLW lends money to gold miners and takes the byproduct silver as payment at a value of about $4.25 per ounce. SSL lends money to gold miners and takes a cut of the gold produced at a value of $350 to $400 an ounce. I really like this business model, but the earnings outlook for SSL is still quite low. And since no options are traded for this stock, there is no income to be made by selling calls. I bought 7,000 shares at a cost of around $1.43 —the shares are $1.88 as I write. I purchased 1,000 shares of SLW at around $36, then sold a call on them for June for over $3 at a strike price of $34. The shares are $32.10 as I write, so I might buy the calls back and sell calls at a strike price of $30. That would drop my break even cost and I could wait out the summer without losing value. The key to making money with SLW is to buy it right, preferably

near the support price which has been around $29 to $30 per share. I’m ready to buy more SLW just after the price forms a bottom.

TRIMEL (TRL)

This is what is called a wet natural gas company. “Wet” means the well spews by-products that are worth a lot more than the natural gas. My average cost is over $24, but I have picked up some cash from selling calls and will continue to do that. TOU is operated by a smart management team so this one should work out eventually. But natural gas is cheap, so I doubt the price will run away anytime soon.

This stock is new to me. Eugene Melnyk, past owner of Biovail is starting up this drug — a nasal spray hormone for women that he claims has lots of potential. The results look promising but tests will take time and cost money. I bought 1,000 shares at $3.50 but they are down 50 cents and I’m down $500 so I think I will sell half and keep my losses small. I can recover losses with stocks that have calls on them but this one does not. I often buy in stages and sell in stages so I will sell half until I can establish what the support price might be.

CAMECO (CCO)

SELL IN THE MONEY

I owned 1,000 shares of CCO when Japan got whacked with its tidal wave. My cost was around $38 and I sold out at $28 plus some profits from selling calls. The shares dropped to near $17 and I started buying at $22. I’m up to 1,000 shares now, at an average cost of $22.89 and I expect to stop there. Russia is scheduled to stop selling nuclear uranium from warheads at the end of 2012, so there will be about 10 million pounds less uranium on the market. I plan to sell calls above the price of the day to bring in cash, yet give the shares room to run up. CCO plans to open its other mine, Cigar Lake, about the time Russia stops selling. I certainly expect to make back the money I lost on CCO last year. I’m admiring another Uranium company UEC based in Texas. It just opened last year. It’s cash cost for uranium is $18 per pound, and it has been selling uranium for $52 a pound. That stock is trading at under $4 as I write.

Quite often I find I can pick up $200 to $300 per transaction for two or three weeks worth of time. For example, as I write, a decent stock — Athabasca Oil (ATH) — is selling for $11.35. But an investor could sell a call for April strike price $11 and collect $0.67 per share, netting 32 cents per share, or 2.9 per cent for a month. This is called selling “in the money” because we are selling below the price of the day. This also buys some downside protection, since the shares would have to drop 67 cents from $11.32 before we would lose money.

TOURMALINE (TOU)

SILVER STANDARD (SSO) This silver producer used to trade for $35 but its mill broke down last November and didn’t start up again until January. Shares are down to a near support price of just under $15. I expect this stock will start to go up as soon as some earnings reports come out, but it might take another quarter or two to get investors confident in the stock. I would think that as earnings return, this stock could fight a low price for silver.

THE 2012 CROP PROTECTION GUIDE IS HERE!

A PERSONAL NOTE On March 12, with deep appreciation I will receive an honorary life membership to the Manitoba Farm Writers at a meeting where I will be honoured for “years of work promoting agricultural issues and serving farmers through the media.” Thank you, readers, for making this possible. I’d also like to thank John Clark, the original editor of Grainews for teaching me how to write clearly, and my wife Pat for putting up with me during the many hours I wrote for a living. It’s hard to believe I’m getting an award for doing something I really love to do. † Andy is mostly retired. He writes, plays with grandchildren, keeps his Datsun running, gardens and manages his investments. Andy also publishes a newsletter called StocksTalk where he explains in detail what he does with his investments. Read if for free for a month by typing in “StocksTalk.net” on Google, or emailing sirski@mts.net and Andy will get you started

Visit your local Ag retail or check it out online cropprotection.viterra.ca Premium Products and Expert Advice


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APRIL 16, 2012

Columns Hart attacks

Recalling the hardship of haying Not everyone has fond memories of the smell of a fresh hay field By Lee Hart

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nyone who says hay has value is nuts. It is an evil thing. I recently had to sit through a daylong meeting in Olds, Alta. where everyone was talking about the great value of forages in general, including hay. They even came up with some fantastic number, claiming that hay and grass is worth about $2.5 billion annually to the Alberta economy. Yeah, right! As a kid in the 1960s I wouldn’t have given you two cents for a bale of hay. Considering my allowance at the time was $5 per week, even that two cents was a lot of money. Hay has never been a good memory in my life. It meant work. For a kid growing up in eastern Ontario, haying was hot, muggy, sweaty, dusty, dirty work.  I  use  to  dread  summer holidays. I loved school. That’s why I excelled as a straight “C” student my whole life. Getting out of school at the end of June meant going home and straight into the haying season. And that would continue right through until school resumed in September. We’d probably be done with hay sometime in August, but then we would move into combining oats and that meant baling straw — it never ended. As I recall, we put up about 10,000 acres of hay in those days. Not sure how that worked since my dad’s farm was only 250 acres

in size. He used to figure that after crop and pastureland there were about 100 acres of hay, but I think he was missing some decimal points. It was a lot.

High technology I  remember  starting  into  a couple of whopper 10 acre fields with an eight-foot mower and thinking “this will never get done.” When I first came on the field-work scene, we used a small-round bale Allis-Chalmers baler. Later Dad upgraded to New Holland square baler. I guess that was better. The baler would drop the bales in the field, then we’d come along later and load a wagon, then to the barn, unload them onto an elevator up into the mow. One or two people had to be in the mow to stack bales there. And many of those were 80 F — hot, humid days. The temperature inside the barn was about 4,000 degrees. I always dreamed of better things to do. One year my dad bought a bale thrower to attach to the baler. This saved the step of loading the wagons in the field, but then we had to deal with this packed rat’s nest of hay bales inside this racked wagon. That great invention didn’t last long. Then he went to the sleighstyle bale stooker pulled behind the baler. Someone had to ride the stooker and place six bales in a pyramid fashion, trip that load and make a new one. That saved a bit of time since you

The only toy we had as children was this old hay and grain elevator. Some days we played on it but This old hay hook has seen a lot of duty in moving small, mostly it meant work. round and square bales. Today it is safely in storage. didn’t have to stop and pick up individual bales, but you still had to reload the wagon. And these little stooks were always a good place for mice and snakes to hide. I didn’t like that. Then, once we got the hay in the barn, we spent all winter dragging it out one bale at a time to feed dairy cows. Who knew they ate so much? I had to do most of this work. As I recall, pretty well everyone just sat around.

A souvenir About the only souvenir I kept of the haying days was the bale hook I always used. If I had to move bales, it was my favourite tool. It looks homemade to me. It was there in the barn when I first got into the haying business and I suspect it was around a few years before that. It has seen a lot of duty. This bale hook has been on top of the cabinet in my office for many years. I wish I knew

someone with small, square, hay bales. Although I’m not sure if I’m inclined to put it to a real big test. It would be interesting to see if the hook still works. The only reason I kept it is to ensure that it was safely out of the way, so no evil farmer would find it and make some other poor little kid throw hay bales. I did it for the good of society. † Lee Hart is a field editor for Grainews in Calgary. Contact him at 403-592-1964 or by email at lee@fbcpublishing.com

Grain marketing

Enrolment opens for CWB’s new-crop programs South West Terminal signs handling agreement with CWB

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he sign-up period is officially underway for wheat, durum and malting barley growers wanting to get in on the refurbished CWB’s newcrop pool and cash contracts. On March 29 the CWB opened the new-crop pools and programs for the 2012-13 crop year, which begins August 1. “Farmers can rely on the CWB to provide them with the most effective grain-marketing strategy as they enter a new openmarket environment,” CWB CEO Ian White said in a release.

“Our programs offer competitive returns and solid risk management, with options designed for maximum choice and minimum hassle.” The  CWB,  which  officially loses its single marketing desk for Prairie wheat and barley with the start of the new crop year, will offer two pools, three cashcontract programs and malting barley production contracts. Farmers can now sign up directly with the CWB for some contracts, and choose their delivery point later, the CWB said. They may also

contract through their “preferred CWB grain-handling partners.” As of Friday those partners include Cargill’s 29 Prairie elevators (12 in Saskatchewan, 10 in Alberta and seven in Manitoba) and, more recently, South West Terminal at Gull Lake, Sask., about 50 km west of Swift Current. Handling agreements are also expected to be reached “shortly” with all other Prairie grain companies, giving farmers “a wider range of delivery choices than any  other  contract  available,” the CWB said.

Sign-up periods for the CWB’s new harvest pool and early delivery pool run from March 29 to Oct. 31 and from March 29 to Sept. 28, respectively, or until the pools are “fully subscribed,” whichever comes first. White said he expects the CWB’s pricing pools to be a “popular marketing approach” for many growers. “Our pool contracts provide simple, effective, risk management and marketing that ensure farmers will never be forced to

settle for the bottom of the market or chase an elusive market high,” he said. “With one CWB contract, farmers are covered in terms of sales planning, execution, foreign exchange and risk management — including the risk from grade spreads, which can be a significant issue for spring wheat in particular.” If market rallies occur after contracts are signed, the CWB said, “only pooling ensures that farmers continue to share in the additional revenue.” †

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Columns MANAGEMENT MINUTE

Where do I go from here — part 3 Once Iben and Shirley Workentoohard realized they didn’t want to retire and sell the farm, taking the next steps to organize their estate was much simpler ANDREW DERUYCK

PREFERRED SHARES NOTES PAYABLE SHAREHOLDERS’ LOANS

COMMON SHARES LAND

MARK SLOANE

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ben and Shirley Workentoohard called us up again last week. Iben couldn’t wait to fill us in. Shirley had agreed that they would continue farming. They’re enjoying their farming career too much to consider starting to wind down and manage their tax liability as sole proprietors. Iben and Shirley decided that they had worked too hard to establish the farm to just sell it and pay the tax. Even if their sons Luvtawacha and Nebergona decide to stay in their off-farm careers. Iben and Shirley decided they want to pass on assets and the family business, not just simple cheques. Their worry is that their legacy will last only as long as the cash. Their grandchildren and great grandchildren won’t even know their names, let alone what Iben and Shirley spend their entire lives working to build. The bottom line for Iben and Shirley was that they don’t ever want the land sold. They were not willing to spend time or effort thinking of ways to generate more cash from the sale of something they don’t want to sell. They wanted to create an environment that would allow for smooth transition of management to the

Farming Children

LIFE INSURANCE INVESTMENTS

Non-Farming Children

This diagram is one that we developed to use with many of our clients to help understand the relationship between share ownership/estate value and farming and non-farming children. Copyright © 2012 Right Choice Management Consulting. next generation. They also want to ensure that their legacy is not a burden on the next generation. They never want anyone in the family to feel trapped by ownership in the family farm.

plan to live off the proceeds for the next few years. Iben and Shirley plan to leave the farm profits within the company and purchase some new equipment to ensure they will be able continue

INCORPORATION This left Iben and Shirley comfortable in their decision to incorporate the business and continue farming. This was primarily driven by their desire to manage their taxable farm income in combination with off-farm income such as Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs), investment earnings, and Old Age Security. They decided to roll their partnership interest into a corporation that includes all their farm assets, including their land. Doing this before they turn 65 will help them avoid the Old Age Security clawback. In addition, it will allow them to take out RRSPs — they

They also want to ensure that their legacy is not a burden on the next generation farming as long as possible. Putting land into the company accomplishes their goal of leaving a lasting legacy. Their farm will, hopefully, remain intact within the family. They are unsure if anyone will farm in the future, however the structure allows them to delay

any decision to sell the farm. In their estate plan, they’ll leave an equitable stake in their estate to each of their children. The nature of that stake will depend each child’s future involvement in the farm. Children that decide to farm will receive common shares in the company; non-farming children will receive life insurance proceeds and any remaining investments. The common thread tying the family together will be the preferred shares notes payable and shareholder loans. If no one in the next generation wants to farm, ownership will be split equally. Given that there is strong equity in the farm, it can fund the estate plan internally with little reliance on long-term life insurance. The key to using this equity is a clear understanding of everyone’s position and options. This is made clear through the use of a unanimous shareholders agreement. A unanimous shareholders agreement sets out the rules by which

that equity stake in a company can be sold, transferred or redeemed. The clearer the unanimous shareholder agreement and the better the communication within the family, the less the estate plan will rely on life insurance to mitigate the risk of family disagreement following death. The moral of this story: before preparing your estate plan you must clearly understand your retirement goals, how you will fund them, and how you wish your estate plan to affect your successors. Don’t forget that there is nothing wrong with a retirement plan in which you decide not to retire at all. † 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 andrewd@goinet.ca and sloanefarms@hotmail.com or 204-8257392 and 204-825-8443

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Features PRECISION AGRICULTURE

Variable rate fungicide It’s not mainstream yet, but variable rate fungicide may be the future of disease control BY LISA GUENTHER

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ariable rate fungicide is a perfect fit for diseases like sclerotinia in canola, says an agronomist. “The heavier the canopy, the heavier the risk of disease development that you’ve got, versus the areas of the field where we’ve got variability, where the stand is thinner for different reasons,” says Craig Shand, an agronomist with Farmers Edge at Cremona, Alta. Shand says there’s not much awareness yet about the benefits of variable rate fungicide. “There would be a very small percentage of canola acres across Canada applying fungicide utilizing a variable rate technology system.”

VARIABLE RATE BENEFITS Variable rate technology allows farmers to control sclerotinia more precisely, Shand explains. More fungicide can be applied to areas with a heavy canopy. Average stands receive a regular fungicide rate, while thin stands receive less or no fungicide. “One of the biggest things I was really scared about when we started working with this technology was shutting the booms off on a portion of the field. I was scared that we were going to see sclerotinia develop where we did shut the booms off. And I can

PHOTOS: CRAIG SHAND

Variable rate fungicide on canola in July, 2010, near Crossfield, Alta. say after two seasons we haven’t seen that. We’ve seen no disease development in those lowrisk areas of the field. What we have seen, though, particularly in 2010 when we had heavy sclerotinia pressure, is parts of the field where we sprayed the higher rate of fungicide, we did not see a late secondary infection of sclerotinia show up,” says Shand. He adds that some farmers who applied conventional fungicide rates had secondary infections in areas with heavy canopies. According to Shand, variable rate fungicide has environmental benefits, such as overall

reductions in spray water and fungicide use. It also makes economic sense. “The nice thing I like about variable rate fungicide is that it takes some of the risk out of it for the producer as far as helping him control his costs a little bit,” says Shand. After applying variable rate fungicide to 3,300 acres over two growing seasons, he figures the savings added up to $4.86 per acre, compared to conventional application. The savings were due to an 18 per cent drop in fungicide use. Shand adds that these cost savings didn’t include potential yield increases. Shand

Typical scleroinia infection in a canola field, near Carstairs, Alta., in late August of 2010. was only able to collect yield data from one test strip last year, but that strip saw a yield response of 2.5 to 3 bushels per acre. He plans to put together more yield data in the future. Neil Rathgeber farms near Churchbridge, Sask. He’s been using variable rate technology to apply fungicide to his canola crops since 2009. “The first year we had big savings. The last year it wasn’t so much as a savings, but I think we still got (the fungicide) on in the right spots. It may have cost us the same in the end, with the cost of the imagery, as what it would have cost to put the Proline down right across the board… but we got more fungicide on where we needed it,” says Rathgeber. He adds that he’s been happy with the yield response since he started applying variable rate fungicide and fertilizer.

EQUIPMENT Shand doesn’t see equipment costs as a barrier to adopting the technology. Most high-clearance sprayers can accommodate vari-

It’s really quite simple, actually,” says Rathgeber. Like conventional application, preparation and agronomics are vital to making sure variable rate application goes smoothly and is effective. Before spray season, Farmers Edge sends out technicians to make sure the GPS and other technology on the sprayer work properly. Field scouting helps agronomists and producers decide whether to spray, and allows them to develop a prescription for each zone. “Also staging’s really key. You want to ensure fungicide’s being applied at the 20 to 50 per cent bloom stage of the canola crop. And ideally we’d probably want to be in that 20 to 30 per cent stage,” Shand says. Variable rate fungicide isn’t an economical choice for every cropping system, though. “I’ve had clients who have been interested in pursuing it in a cereal crop, but I guess my honest opinion right now is that, in cereal crops, the disease isn’t really dependent on the crop canopy because the disease is coming off of the previ-

“It takes some of the risk out of it for the producer, as far as helping him control his costs a little bit.” — Craig Shand

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able rate technology already, he explains. Custom applicators are often equipped as well. Farmers Edge uses satellites to take pictures of the crop shortly before spraying. These images are then used to develop zone maps, which help determine the application rates for different field zones. Rathgeber hasn’t had any issues learning to use the technology, and he says that he could manually override the system to correct any problems. “As far as ease of use, we’re running a Deere sprayer with a Deere GPS unit. Terry and Justin (Rathgeber’s consultants) put the zones onto the card, and we plug the card into the GPS, switch it the auxiliary, put the right field in, and away you go.

ous year’s crop residue. And so you can actually have some pretty serious disease issues, even where the stand isn’t as good. On top of that, the economics of the cereal fungicide, they tend to be reasonably cheap, so it just doesn’t pencil out as nicely as it does with a $20 to $30 per acre canola fungicide application,” says Shand. Ultimately Rathgeber is confident that variable rate fungicide is the right choice for his canola. “We’ve already booked our fields this year to get the pictures done because it’s a no-brainer. Maybe some people wouldn’t agree that it’s a no-brainer, but to me it makes sense.” † Lisa Guenther is a communications specialist at Livelong, Sask. Find her online at www. brickhorse.ca


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Features Precision agriculture

Now it’s variable rate irrigation Variable rate irrigation is just getting started, but it could be the future of a more efficient way to use water and manage high-value irrigation crops By Helen McMenamin

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ariable  rate  technology is already enabling more efficient use of fertilizer. “Variable rate irrigation could be as big a boost to water use efficiency.” That’s  the  opinion  of  Dana Williams-Freeman,  manager  of Oliver Irrigation in Lethbridge. “It lets us avoid over-application of water,” he says. “That means better crops, and more efficient use of water, maybe 30 per cent savings, just by not over-watering any part of the field.” Some farmers have been dividing their fields into production zones and adjusting fertilizer and sometimes seeding rates to match each zone’s yield potential. Many farmers wonder if higher margins will justify the cost and effort of zone management. Under  irrigation,  fields  tend to look more even than dryland crops, but a pivot sometimes has to run across a slough or some other obstacle. Different soil textures may affect water needs in some parts of a field. Digital control panels and GPS units on the end of pivot arms have allowed farmers to alter the amount of water a pivot puts on a particular segment of a field without having to be there at the right time to change the settings. Some use this feature to have the pivot run dry over a part of its circle, or apply different amounts of water on the crops seeded each side of a split circle by changing its speed. A few people have developed computer programs to achieve more complex watering patterns, but they’ve been limited to changing the amount of water on a segment of the pivot circle.

New technology

areas would be good for the environment as well, because run-offwould be reduced. Williams-Freeman sees huge potential for these systems as the technology improvise and farmers and irrigation companies learn to use them effectively. “The technology is still in its infancy. We need to establish a pool of knowledge to help us judge the best way to do things.” This article originally appeared in the Fall 2011 issue of “Farming Smarter,”  a  magazine  published by the Southern Applied Research Association based in Lethbridge, Alta. It is reprinted with permission. † A variable rate irrigation pivot flips some sprinklers on and off to reduce Helen McMenamin is a freelance writer at T:8.125” water in some areas of a field. Lethbridge, Alta.

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The variable rate irrigation system sold by Valley Irrigation, for which Oliver is the dealer, allows you to load a field map into the control panel and apply the ideal amount of water to each part of the field. The system has control boxes mounted on the support towers. Each box controls four to 10 valves, each one controlling water flow to a sprinkler. The control box on the tower sends signals to the valves to cycle them on and off to adjust the volume of water applied. The Valley variable rate irrigation system can adjust a quarter-section pivot to apply water for up to 145 zones. Programming the system is part of pivot setup, not something you’d need to change when you’re busy with field work. “We work out all the details as we configure the system,” says Williams-Freeman. Williams-Freeman sees better crop quality as the main benefit from the precise control of moisture levels. The big gains could be in high value crops like potatoes, but also to help avoid disease conditions in heavy crops in low areas. Lindsay Irrigation has developed a variable rate irrigation system that can be used on any pivot to control every sprinkler electronically and can be used with any manufacturer’s control panel. It’s

combined with an RTK GPS system that allows the system to change the output of any sprinkler with each quarter-inch of pivot travel. “We can avoid watering a roadway, a pond, a saline area or any other obstacle anywhere in the field,” says David Gross, of NewWay Irrigation in Lethbridge, the dealer for Lindsay Irrigation. “This system can use any prescription map. “Perhaps the biggest advantage I see is that a farmer can avoid applying water to an area, so they might be able to move some acres to another field — although that would depend on the Irrigation District.” Not irrigating non-productive


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Features PRECISION FARMING

Variable rate technology is about to take off While many farmers are talking about variable rate technology, there are still lots of farmers who aren’t using it in the field yet JAY PETERSON

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t seems that Variable Rate Technology (VRT) has found itself in a middle ground of use at the current time. The technology is there to use, but VRT has yet to have truly caught on as the next big thing in precision farming practices. From my discussions with farmer and agriculture professionals, it seems that the percentage of farmers actually

using VRT ranges from five to 20 per cent. VRT can be applied to different operations from fertilizing, to seeding or even applying fungicides. It seems to me that, given the length of time it’s been around, there should soon be a breakthrough increase in the number of farmers taking advantage of what VRT can do.

WHAT IS VRT? Many farmers are still fairly uninformed about what VRT really is. They may understand the final product, but aren’t really sure how to get there. Basically, using variable rate can

be accomplished in three steps once you have and understand the technology. First, you need detailed maps of the acres you farm. You can do this over a couple years if you want, gathering information from the acres you seed each year. Some people may prefer to do it all at the same time. At present, it’s best to get a professional company in to do this. They will gather all the information and give it to you in a form that will allow you to look at the data and identify the zones you want to use with different variable rates. The most common maps are created with GIS mapping software of some sort — it

seems to be the most user friendly technology for this application. After this, you need prescriptions for each of your variable zones. This ensures that when you’re in an area of low nutrient level, more fertilizer is added, and in areas of higher nutrient level, less fertilizer is added, giving your field a custom job. Once a farmer better understands his maps, he’ll be able to create his own prescriptions. But I think for the first time or two, it will be good to develop prescriptions with someone who really understands the process and agronomy. The last part of the process is to apply the prescriptions,

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using VRT technology. Of course, the more you do this, the more smoothly the process will go. Like any technology, at first there will be a learning curve. Getting started will take longer than you’re used to — several little things can cause problems or mistakes and keep the system from running properly.

WHY VRT HASN’T EXPLODED I’m sure many of you are asking yourself why such a valuable tool has not yet exploded into the agricultural mainstream. There are a few reasons for this, and they are quite similar to why GPS took a few years to become a common practice. First, it is not yet a highly promoted technology. There are plenty of companies involved with the mapping and prescription end of the VRT process such as Viterra, Dynagra, GeoTrends and Decisive Farming. Yet I only remember seeing one of these promoted at the Crop Production show in Saskatoon. Also, it doesn’t seem that equipment manufacturers are pushing this as a selling feature yet either. VRT seems complicated. First you have to deal with a company to get maps and prescriptions. Then, you have to process the information and program your equipment. Then, you have to run and execute the VRT in-cab and get it working properly. This seems like a lot for an industry with an aging demographic that has been known to be set in its ways. VRT still seems expensive and time-consuming for the service it provides. Farmers are not yet seeing the correlation between the cost and effort involved and the savings and yield improvements that VRT can provide. Farmers always like to see hard evidence. VRT is somewhat a more abstract concept until it is used for a couple years and the results can be seen. This situation reminds me of when auto-steer first came out. Some farmers hesitated because they felt it took too much cost and effort. Then, after five or six days in the field, they couldn’t necessarily see the effects the auto-steer, but they could feel it. They were experiencing less fatigue and getting more acres in. When farmers use VRT more and see more consistent soil nutrition across their fields, creating a situation for consistently maximum yield, more farmers will jump on the band wagon. Though VRT has not had its break-out year yet it might not be too much longer. We are just now seeing now the beginning of the information age in our industry. VRT is already on the doorstep and will be one of the first to catch on, just the way GPS was poised for its big break in 2001 and now is standard on most new farm equipment. My advice is to stay open to these things and never stop learning about technology. You never know how much better it can make you. † Jay Peterson farms near Frontier, Sask.

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Cattleman’s Corner industry trends

Beef producers need to tune into consumers Produce what the market wants and tap into the technology of how to market it BY LISA GUENTHER

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ith the percentage of income spent on  food  having dropped  steadily for several years, farmers may be tempted to convince consumers it’s time to pay more for groceries. But Brenda Schoepp, an Albertabased market strategist and beef producer,  doesn’t  think  that’s necessarily a good idea. Schoepp, who operates a consulting service BEEFLINK (www.beeflink.com) says the beef industry needs to catch up with consumer needs and shop-

ping technology, and pay attention to niche-market opportunities. “I think we should tap into what  consumers  are  spending their money on and how they are buying,” Schoepp told a recent Cattleman’s Appreciation Dinner in St. Walburg, Sask. “So basically, if you don’t have a phone app for your business now, you’re dead in the water. If you can’t sell beef virtually, you’re done. I think we’re light years behind where we need to be to reach the consumer on the platform they’re comfortable with.” Schoepp said 32 per cent of food in Europe is now bought

using  a  cellphone.  North American consumers can now buy meat online, too. An organic grocery site, EatIt.ca, sells rib-eye steaks at $41.77 per kilogram. Schoepp, who lives near the west-central Alberta community of Rimbey, had ribs delivered to her door through Amazon.com at a cost of $25 per pound. One-third of grocery sales in Canada are ethnic and Costco’s biggest selling meat product is Korean ribs. Despite this market opportunity, Schoepp said there is only one federally inspected plant in Canada that processes Korean ribs. Schoepp sees meeting the customers’ needs is key in export markets, too. In September 2010, Coles,  an  Australian  retailer, announced it would only accept beef free of growth hormones. Though initially controversial, the move helped Australia access the European Union market. “I  really  admire  the  way Australians quickly adapt and say, ‘OK, we have a country that’s dependent on trade —  if that’s what the client wants, that’s what we’ll do,’” said Schoepp.

Smaller markets important photo: lisa guenther

Beef industry consultant Brenda Schoepp told Saskatchewan producers that cellphone apps and online meat sales are all part of a new marketing era.

Canada’s domestic beef market is dropping, leaving ranchers more vulnerable to export market retractions, Schoepp said.

Canada can’t keep relying on the United States to soak up beef exports, either. “For the first time in history, the United States of America became a net exporter of beef rather than a net importer of beef,” she said. In the U.S., ground beef is the only beef product moving domestically, due to the weak economy, so other meat cuts are exported. U.S. beef imports into Canada have been increasing. Schoepp says smaller export markets are important, especially markets like China that will take byproducts such as hide, tallow, and offal. “For us to get our tallow moving into China is a really big deal,” she said. “The overall agreement is larger than that, but we’re starting with the tallow, and that’s very, very important because it’s a highend credit that allows the packing industry to spin off and stay in the game.” Schoepp sees lots of opportunity in Russia, which is looking for seedstock. Mexico is also an important market, as it buys Canada’s chucks. Schoepp sees a need to find more markets for, and more ways to package, the whole carcass.

Demand for light feeders Schoepp expects light feeder prices to stay strong for now.

She estimates the industry will be short up to 600,000 head between now and 2014, which should keep light fed-cattle prices strong. Cull cow prices are expected to stay strong as well. A  quick  market  retraction dropped  heavy  feeder  prices recently,  and  Schoepp  thinks prices will stay low for now. She adds prices may pop up briefly in June. Looking at seasonal demands, she says “two big market drivers of Canadian beef are golf courses and the Calgary Stampede. When they buy, they buy during the last week of May and the front end of June.”

Consumers/retailers drive change Ultimately, producers’ wealth comes from consumers, Schoepp said. Consumers and retailers will drive industry change as well. “Sobeys this year, at the National  Farm  Animal  Care Convention, said the days of producer-driven initiatives are over,” said Schoepp. “And that’s a pretty strong statement from a major retailer of beef in Canada, saying that ‘We (Sobeys) will drive the animal-care initiatives in this country.’” † Lisa Guenther is a communications specialist from Livelong, Sask. Visit her website at www.brickhorse.ca

Can farmers get value from good eco practices? How much is that deer or pond worth to society, and who will pay and how much to have it there? Key questions about ecological goods and services BY SEAN MCGRATH

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he sign could say “EG&S Sold Here” at the end of most farm lanes in Canada. Does this mean there’s a barn nearby full of laying hens? No. EG&S is shorthand for Environmental Goods and Services. EG&S represent a lot of the things that benefit society but don’t have any monetary value assigned to them. Another way to think of them is that EG&S represents all of the things that we won’t miss until they are gone. EG&S include broad benefits to society such as clean air, sequestration and storage of carbon, clean water, aquifer replenishment, open spaces, scenic views, wildlife habitat, species and biodiversity preservation and a host of other benefits. As an example of how we often view EG&S, let’s take clean water. Most of us take for granted that when we turn on our tap we will collect a glass of something reasonable to drink. There may be a small cost of treatment, but it does not equate to a large portion of our annual incomes. Now imagine a major oil spill or disaster in that drinking water supply. When the clean water is gone, the treatment costs go way up. The benefit is hard to sell, because the offsetting cost is hidden until it is too late. This phenomenon is part of what is termed “the tragedy of the commons.” In essence, because nobody “owns” the resource it may not be looked after, since the best way to

profit is to take advantage before someone else gets it. Society attempts to  circumvent  this  occurrence through several methods. One of the oldest and most successful methodologies is through culture. Many societies through history have developed complex systems to encourage veneration of nature into their teachings and expected behaviours. In the modern world, we are often dealing with a populace that is removed from this interaction and has limited time to realize that they truly value and require many of the things that nature provides. This removal sometimes provokes fear and misunderstanding that is often manifested in sometimes rightly and sometimes-draconian legislation. Often, even good legislation does not have enforcement attached to it.

Low-cost delivery Most farmers/ranchers I know are not exactly gung ho advocates for legislation, but we do have a significant role to play in the EG&S story, and in developing cultural and market-based solutions to the tragedy. I am often left in amazement at the environmental efforts of many producers — both good and bad — however we are starting to see that society is placing value on these efforts and may be willing to pay for the ecological goods and services. Farmers have the potential to deliver these products at ground level for a low cost.

Generally farmers are experts at growing things, finding innovative and inexpensive solutions to problems, and caring about the land. We are not so good at letting the public know about this skill set or the fact that as producers we have the same concerns and commitment to the environment as “Joe Public.” The marketplace for EG&S is evolving. Some examples of marketing EG&S include conservation easements, some provincial programs and alternative land use initiatives across the country. There have been some failures for sure, but I think that is more to due with the market mechanism than with the concept. Legislation is nearly always cost based, and people will try to avoid the cost of the legislation. If the cost is too punitive, they will fall in line (if they fear enforcement), however often the costs of implementation are high enough that people will take the risk of not getting caught. I see the emerging EG&S marketplace as providing a glimmer of being value based. Allowing the public the assign a value and payment for initiatives that benefit “the commons” encourages the folks on the ground (farmers and ranchers) to provide those services. The people who can do it for the least cost, then reap the most reward. Farmers and ranchers have a real role to play in encouraging and participating both in providing the service, but also in developing the marketplace for those services. This is a big stretch for a lot of us,

PHOTO: BY SEAN MCGRATH

From a EG&S standpoint deer and grass have value to society, but how does that translate to producers? but as mentioned previously there are several market development pilot projects on the go across the country.

ALUS Our operation and several others are involved in a couple of these, with the most prevalent being the ALUS (Alternative Land Use Services) project in the Country of Vermilion River. This approach is being replicated with various localized versions in regions across the country. It does not involve taking acres out of production in a glorious return to nature. Instead it involves using that land base to produce a different blend of goods and services. There are participants in our

local project developing pollinator habitat, planting trees, providing wildlife habitat, seeding native grasses, fencing riparian areas, and any other manner of creative solutions. The trick is and will continue to be developing the tools that enable the commons to pay for the services they want and need. Agricultural producers have a key role in encouraging the public realization that the services matter and that we are often the people best suited to do something about it. For information on ALUS go to www.alus.ca. † Sean McGrath is a rancher and consultant from Vermilion, AB. He can be reached at smcgrath@telusplanet.net or (780)853-9673. For additional information visit www.ranchingsystems.com


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APRIL 16, 2012

Keepers & Culls Time to give forage its due LEE HART

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rass isn’t just something that covers the ground until we can find something better to grow. Grass, and the broader category of forages, is a $2 billion dollar crop annually in Alberta and when you start adding its value to the entire Canadian livestock industry, the environment and society in general, well it’s value easily could run up to $10 to $20 billion across the country. That “value” message is one the relatively new Alberta Forage Industry Network (AFIN), and the Canadian Forage and Grassland Association (CFGA) are hoping to impress upon farmers, processors, researchers, government-decision makers and the public in general. Everyone oohs and ahs over the great economic powerhouses canola and wheat as being the real cash crops for Western farmers. Sure forages — pasture and hayland — are important for feeding cattle, but quite often it’s stuff that grows on marginal land that isn’t suitable for anything else — not like a real crop. And let’s face it, the forgivable nature of forages can make it a

very forgettable crop too. Throw some seed in the ground and as long as it gets a bit of rain and sunshine it will grow for years before it has to be reseeded. And even if you hammer the heck out it, it seems to keep coming back. The CFCA and provincial organizations such as AFIN, the Saskatchewan Forage Council and Manitoba Forage Council, are working to change that perception of forages. It is a true crop and it has value. Following a similar move by the Saskatchewan Forage Council, the Alberta Forage Industry Network just completed an economic analysis of forage value to the provincial economy. Report author Stephanie Kosinski says there are some areas where the value is only a good guestimate, but aside from those, there are hard numbers too. The report shows the direct value of forages in hay, silage, compressed hay, processed alfalfa, pasture, sod and other forage-related products is about $1.5 billion annually. Indirect values — where calculation gets a little fuzzy — include erosion control, protecting water quality, recreational values, carbon sequestration, and wildlife habitat. Those values are estimated at plus or minus another $1 billion. So this is no slouch of a crop. As Alberta Agriculture assistant deputy minister John Knapp pointed out

at the AFIN annual meeting, if you don’t have forages you don’t have a livestock industry in Alberta, or anywhere, really. And these are words from an old sheepherder, who earlier in his career was a shepherd in the Scottish highlands. The man understands grass. Part of the role of AFIN, its Saskatchewan and Manitoba counterparts and the national CFCA is to raise the profile of the forage industry. Research is needed to develop improved forage varieties and improved agronomics. Farmers need to be made aware that improved management of forages will increase productivity and stand longevity. These associations are also working on market development — looking to find a range of large and niche markets for a range of products and learn the quality specifications so those products can be produced in Alberta and Western Canada. These associations are also working on logistics issues — how do you get X-amount of dry forage product from Point A to Point B at a reasonable cost. The Manitoba Forage Council, for example, was looking to the Port of Churchill as a possible handy salt-water port for exporting forage products out of the eastern Prairies, but a recent report showed that is not an option without port upgrades to handle containers. But those are the sort of transportation and handling

CONTACT US

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 lee@fbcpublishing.com Write to CATTLEMAN’S CORNER, PO Box 71141 Silver Springs RPO, Calgary, Alta. T3B 5K2 issues and solutions these associations hope to address. So if you haven’t shown your forages any love lately, it may be time. Don’t get sucked into a trendy, lucrative quick fix like growing canola. Plant some alfalfa, or a good brome grass or a fescue, and discover the grass can be greener on your side of the fence. Lee Hart

SOME MORE WORDS OF WISDOM Age Because they had no reservations at a busy restaurant, an elderly couple were told there would be a 45-minute wait for a table. “Young man, we’re both 90 years old,” the husband said. “We may not have 45 minutes.” They were seated immediately.

Politics With a provincial election campaign rolling in Alberta, one critic recently speculated that the reason politicians try so hard to get re-elected is that they would hate to have to make a living under the laws they’ve passed. Final words Three friends from the local congregation were asked, “When you’re in your casket, and friends and congregation members are mourning over you, what would you like them to say?” Artie said, “I would like them to say I was a wonderful husband, a fine spiritual leader, and a great family man.” Eugene said, “I would like them to say I was a wonderful teacher and servant of God who made a huge difference in people’s lives.” Al said, “I’d like them to say, ‘Look, he’s moving!’” Life Women and cats will do as they please, and men and dogs should relax and get used to the idea. †

COMMENT

Are ranchers ready for freemarket environmentalism? BY HYLAND ARMSTRONG

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t is unfortunate, but the legislation intended to protect wildlife and wildlife habitat is making it increasingly difficult for the ranching industry to operate in the same way as previous generations. Unfortunately, most of this legislation is counterproductive; not only is there little concrete evidence showing this type legislation is saving any species from the brink of extinction, but this type of legislation is generating a great deal of fear and mistrust in the ranching industry. In fact, one could argue much of the environmental legislation has encouraged many ranchers to regard the presence of endangered species, and wildlife in general, on their property as a liability. If ranchers are to regard wildlife as an asset, they must view wildlife in a positive manner.

NEED INCENTIVES The easiest way to accomplish this goal is to give ranchers an economic incentive by paying them to manage wildlife habitat. For this strategy to be effective, determining the level of payment and the payment mechanism would depend upon

finding a method to determine the economic value of wildlife and wildlife habitat. At the same time, ranchers must be able to show the other stakeholders (government agencies, environmental groups, and non-governmental organizations) they have the skills to deliver the product. The concept of free-market environmentalism offers a plausible alternative to government intervention. However, for freemarket environmentalism to work, it is important to assign an economic value to the goods and services associated with biodiversity. While it can be relatively easy to determine the economic losses incurred by wildlife depredation or even predict the potential economic gain from activities such as hunting, it can be very difficult to determine the economic benefits of species with little or no apparent economic value (such as endangered species). Ironically, there is very little connection between the compensation a rancher receives and the actual economic value of the goods and services provided by biodiversity. More often than not, it is the economic value of the land or the economic losses a rancher would incur by relin-

quishing an economic opportunity, such as selling to a land developer or converting native grass into cropland, that determines the level of compensation a rancher receives. One of the first goals of any program designed to conserve biodiversity would be to develop economic models that reflect the true economic value and costs of biodiversity.

WHO COMPENSATES? Even if it were possible to determine the absolute economic value of biodiversity, the next task becomes one of determining who will compensate the rancher. Until now, no one has given a definitive answer to this question. Unfortunately, funding for this endeavour would come from those groups most ranchers instinctively mistrust: government agencies and environmental groups. Therefore, for free-market environmentalism to be effective the ranching community must begin working with these groups in a positive manner. Even if ranchers were to come terms with taking money from environmental groups or government agencies, this money would come with strings attached. Any group willing to hand over a large amount of money to a

producer will want have in place certain mechanisms that ensure the rancher is meeting specific ecological goals. Essentially this will involve a process allowing a third party to complete an initial survey to determine the initial ecological condition of the ranch, followed up by regular “inspection” surveys to determine if the rancher is upholding his end of the bargain. If the rancher’s management practices do not produce the expected results, the group forking over the money may begin pressuring the rancher to alter his management practices. Either way the rancher must contend with the idea of having his management practices scrutinized by someone else. As a result, the rancher must be able combine diplomacy and science to explain his management practices to those groups paying him. Governments enact legislation in response to pressure from the public to preserve endangered species and endangered species habitat. Therefore, ranchers are finding it more difficult to manage their ranches as in previous generations. An alternative is to adopt legislation encouraging free-market environmentalism to guide resource management,

thereby making it possible to compensate ranchers for their management skills.

A FEW CONDITIONS However, for free-market environmentalism to work, a number of conditions must be met: 1) the ranching industry must be willing to sit down with the other stakeholders to create economic models that reflect the real economic value of biodiversity, 2) in return for compensation they must be willing to meet certain management standards. In addition, ranchers must realize the economic models they create may have some serious drawbacks that include: 1) it is difficult to test the economic model’s assumptions, 2) finding sufficient funds to make the project worthwhile and 3) having a third party question the rancher’s management decisions. If ranchers are willing to deal with these issues in a constructive manner, free market environmentalism is a better option for the management of resources than the current policy of creating restrictive legislation. † Hyland Armstrong is a retired rancher from the Cypress Hills Alberta. He can be reached at lightningbutte@hotmail.com or 403 528 4798


APRIL 16, 2012

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Cattleman’s Corner forage production

EFP leads to more grass per acre Improved management can increase productivity of the soil and forage Part 3 of 4 BY ANGELA LOVELL

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f there is one thing about the Environmental Farm Plan (EFP) process that makes it worth doing, it’s raising the awareness of your operation’s true potential, says Dale Young, a purebred cattle producer and custom grazier from Parkbeg, Sask. “I think just to take the EFP course is a really good experience,” says Young. “You learn so much about what you can do to improve things. It made me aware of a lot of things that I hadn’t even thought to do, or knew I could do, which would help make my land more productive and at the same time more environmentally sustainable.” After completing an EFP, Young set about improving his forage land by sowing some of his custom grazing areas to permanent pasture with a mix of legumes and grasses. He avoided alfalfa in the mix, instead using cicer milk vetch to reduce risk of cattle bloating. He crossfenced another half section into 80 paddocks for rotational grazing, fenced off the dugout and installed a remote watering trough with a solar-powered pump.

talked to them about the idea this summer. I learned I can apply for a grant that will help pay for half of the cost. It takes time and money to do everything. But you make a game plan and it’s a long term process, but PCAB helps you keep moving forward.” Young has become a strong advocate for the EFP process, as he recognizes the need to be environmentally responsible to sustain his land and livelihood for the future. “Everyone is concerned about the environment these days,” he says. “We need to protect our resources and anyone who takes the EFP course will find out how important it is to do that and also how easy.” † Angela Lovell is a freelance writer based in Manitou, Man.

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Carrying capacity increased The improvements made as part of his EFP, coupled with a rotational grazing system, has increased the carrying capacity of Young’s pastures by around 60 per cent, and he estimates he is saving about $7,200 a year by being more productive on the same land base. Young, a previous RM councillor, is well aware of the water and drainage issues in his area. He knows other producers have also benefited from similar improvements on their land and takes every opportunity to persuade more farmers of the value of the EFP process. “I am really happy I took the course because it also made me more aware of what a lot of farmers are already doing for the environment,” says Young. “I would encourage more people to just take the course, even if they don’t end up with a written EFP, to learn how they can make improvements their own farm.” For Young the EFP process has only whetted his appetite for improving management of his land. He has some high-alkaline soil areas in some pastures where he wants to bale graze and use the manure to help restore soil productivity. “I am looking at some portable windbreaks so I can bale graze those areas and get the nutrients back into the soil,” says Young. “In a few years that land might start growing something again.”

Technicians will help The EFP program in Saskatchewan is delivered through the Provincial Council of Agriculture Development and Diversification Boards (PCAB), and Young says their technicians can help guide farmers in the process. “I worked with a technician who was really helpful in the planning process,” says Young. “Your ideas change as you go. For example, I didn’t think about the windbreaks at first, but I went back and

photo: file

Dale Young of Saskatchewan has become a firm believer that good environmental practices and improved productivity of the land go hand in hand.

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APRIL 16, 2012

Cattleman’s Corner Dairy corner

Pasture can work for dairy cattle Although there can be a feed savings, producers need to consider special nutrition and management requirements BY PETER VITTI

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t one time dairy cows were kicked out of the barn to graze green pastures in the spring and were only brought inside at milking time. Times have sure changed — the trend for more milk produced by individual cows consuming great quantities of ensiled and dried roughages moved most productive lactating dairy cows indoors. But in the face of modern, intense dairying, some producers are returning their lactating cows to pastures as a way of making milk. Wisdom says grazing dairy cattle in Western Canada will not be an all-year affair. However, dairy producers might be able to let cows effectively graze fields for four to five months starting in mid-May and then return them to more conventional dairy-feeding programs in early autumn. Some dairy specialists say providing good quality and quantity of pasture legumes and grasses could technically provide from 25-100 per cent of their nutrient requirements, depending on milk-production goals. Dr. Mike Hutjens from the University of Illinois estimates good-quality pasture, without grain or protein supplements, should produce 25 kg of milk in mid-lactation dairy cows. Therefore, he expends dairy producers could increase milk yields to about 30-35 kg of milk per cow per day if 50 per cent of the cow herd’s dry matter intake was supplied by good-quality pasture, with the remaining 50 per cent filled by a special well-balanced partial mixed ration (PMR).

Partial Mixed Ration

And the cons

This PMR would complement the nutrition of the existing pasture and should contain silage or long-stem dry hay to help meet “effective fibre” requirements, which is usually deficient in sprouting lush pastures early in the growing season. A PMR might also contain a high level of undegradable or bypass proteins such as distillers grains or brewers mash to offset large quantities of highly soluble protein commonly found in legumes. Furthermore, many PMRs have a proportionally higher concentrate or grain: forage ratio compared to their barnyard TMR counterparts because they function as a source of highly available energy for milk production. Finally a mineral-vitamin pack rounds out most PMRs. Advocates of PMR/pasture feeding lactating cows often promote several advantages such as improved general health and better conception rates among cows due to exercise, as well as more efficient use of land not suitable for anything else other than grazing. Frequently, they say there is a significant reduction in overall feed costs. Dairy producers who take notice of these pasture attributes, especially when the subject of saving feed costs comes up, should first figure out the actual net economics. For example, during a four-month grazing period for 100 milking cows; if the overall feed cost savings were 25 per cent of the average feed costs of $6/head/ day, then the gross feed savings would be: 25 per cent x $6 x 100 cows x 120 days = $18,000.

Such gross savings are offset by a potential loss or inconsistent milk production from pasture-fed cows due to possible lower overall dry matter intake of the lactation herd, early-lactation cows failing to meet demanding energy requirements and the cows’ preference for plants that are not high quality or lack quality uniformity. In addition, any investment needed to support dairy cows on pasture such as extra waterers, additional fences and even a new back-rubber to control flies should be subtracted from the original feed-cost savings. No economic spreadsheet will show lactating dairy cows reared on pasture also require special management compared to an enclosed dairy barn system. Consequently, it is very important to estimate the number of cows per acre that should be allowed to graze at any one time — high-quality paddocks may support from one cow per 1.5 to two acres, and as pasture quality decreases, so should the stocking rate (fewer cows per acre). Some intensely managed rotational grazing systems move cattle every day or every few days to stimulate pasture regrowth and ensure good pasture quality. Their herd managers also realize that pasture intake by dairy cows is related to the time cows spend grazing; dairy cattle are highly selective ruminants and typically graze for only six to nine hours per day. Overall forage consumption is also influenced by the amount of grassland trampled, defecated upon or simply wasted.

photo: file

There aren’t many milking dairy herds on pasture these days, but the old practice can have merit with proper management.

Seasonal quality Even if forage consumption by dairy cows of the best pasture is deemed adequate, we must always consider the effect of season upon pasture quality, because pasture energy and protein are typically higher in the spring and lower during the summer and onwards. As pasture grasses mature, digestibility by rumen microbes also significantly decrease, because total plant fibre content (as well as indigestible fibres) increase. More supplemental feeds (re: which might lower our initial feed cost savings) may be required as the season progresses. Coupled with aging seasonal pastures, we must be aware heat stress will likely hit the Prairies for several weeks during mid- and late summer and could have a significant negative effect upon milking dairy cows’ feed intake.

Heat-stressed dairy cows have little interest in grazing and tend to lie in shade or hang around waterers (double or triple their normal water consumption). Furthermore, these miserable cows not only eat less during hot weather, but they tend to divert essential nutrients away from milk production and toward basic organ maintenance. Such challenges are often a matter of routine when using pasture for dairy cows. Grazing dairy cattle takes special nutrition and management, which encompasses homework, a strategy to handle challenges and hard work. The payoff can be potentially lower feed costs, while maintaining good milk revenue and higher profits. † Peter Vitti is an independent livestock nutritionist and consultant based in Winnipeg. To reach him call 204-254-7497 or by email at vitti@mts.net

industry trends

Consumers need to trust industry AFAC release

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new culture of care is emerging around farm animal welfare that demands fresh thinking, partnerships, expectations and strategies for the livestock industry to define a successful future. And it’s coming fast, said speakers at the Livestock Care Conference hosted by Alberta Farm Animal Care (AFAC) last month in Red Deer. “We’re in a completely different environment today,” says Charlie Arnot, CEO of the Center for Food Integrity, a major U.S.based initiative spanning the broad food industry. “The world is changing and our ‘social licence’ to control how we operate is at stake. We need to build public trust to consistently earn and maintain that licence, to define a future we can compete and succeed in.” Science and standards alone are not the answer, says Arnot. “In agriculture, we’re good at science and we think if the science is on our side people will come around to our side of the argument. But our stakeholders need more than that — they need to know we share their values and are committed to doing what is right.

We’ve had the communications equation exactly backward.” Research by the centre and its partners shows perceptions of shared values and confidence are three to five times more important than demonstrating competence. “It keeps coming back to values,” Arnot says. “That’s where we need to connect with people. It’s not just about polishing our image. It’s an issue of trust that requires fundamentally different strategies. We need to be integrated in our thinking not only as a supply chain but with the values and expectations of our customers.”

Where is it from? Customers increasingly want to know more about how their food is produced and desire products that make them feel good about their purchases, says agricultural economist Glynn Tonsor of Kansas State University. If that relationship is thrown off by questions of trust or confidence the economic implications can be dramatic. “Animal welfare is increasingly a focus and it’s now in the conversation on trade. We’re seeing more and more examples where a welfare issue is creating challenges for industry, from state ballot initiatives in

the U.S targeting specific practices to iconic global brands such as McDonald’s and Wal-Mart facing pressure and driving changes.” Often the most damaging developments are high-profile media issues that damage food brands and industry sectors, he says. Research by Tonsor and others shows increasing consumer awareness and scrutiny of welfare practices often have significant impact on meat demand. “One of the emerging areas being considered now is labelling of animal welfare attributes on retail products, including potential mandatory approaches,” says Tonsor. Much work is needed before mandatory labelling discussions go further, he says. “It’s an area we need to follow closely. Clearly it has the potential to strongly influence the economic implications of various animal welfare approaches.”

HSUS partnership This new world demands new approaches, says Gene Gregory, president of United Egg Producers, an organization that has taken the bold step of directly negotiating and partnering with the Humane Society of the United States. “It’s about having a measure of control

in your future, rather than having it dictated for you,” he says. “Through this approach we were able to define terms we could live with that would allow our industry to continue to operate. We faced a lot of criticism but in the end we got a better deal than we would have otherwise, including consistency of requirements across states that was critical to avoiding costly or unworkable models.” Having some control over the pace of change is essential for industry to manage new expectations, echoed scientist Herman Vermeer of the Netherlands, who shared his experience and insight from the EU swine gestation stall phase-out. “With science we can solve problems. But often as in the case here the debate is an emotional one. We have made adjustments but it has not been easy for the pig farmers.” While public perception is increasingly the major factor driving change, industry can help navigate by keeping on top of the consumer mindset and strengthening that relationship, says consumer research consultant Theresa Dietrich. “People increasingly want to have a closer connection to their food. They want to know

where it’s coming from and to feel good about what they’re eating. What does that mean? One thing clear is the relationship between animal agriculture and the consumer needs to be an authentic relationship — that ‘authenticity’ word is really trending in what matters to consumers today.” Keep in mind activists are one end of the spectrum and don’t reflect the general consumer, advises Dietrich. “By focusing on the consumer relationship, there is an opportunity to build confidence and have a positive discussion of welfare as it continues to get more interest and profile.” Another key opportunity for industry is the progress, innovation and relationship building that is driven every day by individual producers and industry representatives on the front line. The Livestock Care Conference showcased several local examples in two sessions — one on “Progressive industry leaders” and another featuring the presentation of AFAC Awards of Distinction. † AFAC is a partnership of Alberta’s major livestock groups, with a mandate to promote responsible, humane animal care within the livestock industry. More information on AFAC and the conference is available at www. afac.ab.ca


BUILDING TRUST IN CANADIAN BEEF

Cattleman’s Corner

B.C. Trinity Ranch targets the beef customer of the future Young ranch family builds with a clear focus on marketing basics “The big thing on people’s minds is “We have always had a belief in pro- food safety. With food recalls showing ducing beef as naturally as possible, up more frequently in the news, people things like grass fed, well-cared-for ani- want confidence in their food.” mals, environmentally sustainable production,” says Natasha. “We feel that Building the brand more people today want to know where A core part of building their Trinity their food comes from and that’s the Ranch brand has been to get involved in market we have gone after. industry programs, says Natasha. That “We didn’t want to do the conven- can often help securing funding offered. tional beef operation where calves are An Environmental Farm Plan sets a basesold the traditional way, so our focus line of environmental management. The has been to develop a brand for our beef Verified Beef Production (VBP) program and sell direct to the end customer.” does the same for on-farm food safety. That value-added strategy would help “It’s important people understand them reach financial goals without hav- that we are passionate about our proing to grow as large. gram,” she says. “Our customers love Growth in customer-direct sales has the idea of VBP. It’s another sign of been slow and are still a small part of how we are doing things and that the the business. Remaining calves from product is safe.” their Angus/Simmental herd base go VBP provides very useful management through the auction service. information. Proper handling of drugs “It has taken us a while to get the and proper injection techniques provide meat processing side established,” admits confidence in doing things properly. Natasha. “We had to find the processors “It has been a simple process to be who could process the beef the way we involved in VBP and it is a big part of wanted, manage regulations and get the our brand from meat products to our timing and delivery process down. But website at www.trinityranch.ca,” says we have that figured out pretty well now Natasha. “I think some people may be and are set for growth in the future. scared off by the idea of an audit of The customer base that will pay for what they are doing on their operation, that quality has been a bit slower to but it really was so simple and seamdevelop in their northern area of the less and we never felt threatened in any province, but it’s coming, she says. As way. We were doing most of the things an example a store recently opened in anyway and we learned some useful nearby Quesnel catering to that clientele. new things as a result.” Designer customers

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here are not many marketing fundamentals more basic than those and they are the foundation of the future for the young family owners of Trinity Ranch at Hixon, B.C. Producing beef was always a dream of Natasha and Urs Reichlin. While Urs had spent some time working on farms, Natasha had no direct farm experience. Both had a longing to be involved in food production and to raise a family on a farm. Land in the native Okanagan area was out of reach financially but a beautiful spot at Hixon on the highway heading north to Prince George proved to be “perfect” and a little over seven years ago Trinity Ranch was born. Fifteen cows that first year have grown to 80 calving this year and two young children have added to the dream team.

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RALGRO Grain News QSH.indd 1

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Machinery & Shop NEW EQUIPMENT

More on-farm material handling options New Holland and JCB have introduced new telehandler models suited for different lifting jobs around the farm SCOTT GARVEY

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ew Holland has expanded its LM5000 line of telehandlers with the recent addition of the compact LM5020 and LM5030 models. Their small dimensions make them ideally suited for working in tight places like barns or corrals, but they’re still capable of providing some serious lifting capacity. “With these new compact telehandlers, accessing the tight spaces and hard-to-reach corners of a mixed farming operation, landscaping yard or municipal site is no longer a chore in itself,” says Mike Cornman, dairy and livestock marketing manager. “With tremendous lift height and capacity combined with a tight turning radius, they’re more productive than a tractor with a front-end loader and more efficient than a larger skid steer.” The smaller LM5020 gets power from an 85-horsepower turbocharged diesel engine with common-rail injection. That rating jumps to 101 horsepower on the larger LM5030, but its engine uses mechanical fuel injection. Despite their compact dimensions, these models offer reasonably high lift capacities. The LM5020 is only 1.82 metres wide and 1.91 metres high, but it can lift 2,504 kilograms (5,510 pounds). That small size gives it a turning radius of just 3.41 metres. The LM5030 is a little larger at 2.05 metres wide and 2.04 metres tall, but it has a beefed-up lift rat-

ing of 2,806 kg (6,175 pounds). It’s turning radius is slightly wider at four metres. Although they make a small package, New Holland says these models aren’t lightly built. In fact, the company claims the two new models are 10 to 12 per cent heavier than equivalent designs from competing brands. That extra

New Holland says these models aren’t lightly built weight also helps make them more stable when lifting heavy loads at full boom extension.

JCB At the other end of the size spectrum, U.K.-based JCB introduced a heavy-lift telehandler to the North American market in February with the introduction of its high-capacity 550-80 Agri Plus Loadall. This giant offers a massive lift capacity of 5,000 kg (11,000 pounds) and a break-out force of 6,636 kg (14,600 pounds). It will lift up to a height of 8.1 metres. The 550-80 gets power from a 130-horsepower JCB Dieselmax engine and delivers it through a powershift transmission. It also has a 140 l/min (37 gpm) variable-flow hydraulic system for rapid cycle times. The Smooth Ride System of boom suspension improves load stability along with creating a smoother ride for the operator. †

PHOTO: JCB

JCB’s new heavy-duty 550-80 Agri Plus telehandler is designed for the heaviest jobs on the farm. It has a massive lift capacity of 5,000 kg (11,000 pounds).

Scott Garvey is machinery editor for Grainews. Contact him at scott.garvey@fbcpublishing.com

PHOTO: JCB

Inside the JCB 550-80 Agri Plus, controls are standard. The force required to operate the joystick is low and all the controls are ergonomically placed.

PHOTO: IHARF

New Holland’s two compact telehandler models, the LM5020 and LM5030 expand the company’s current line of materials-handling products. Their small dimensions make them ideal for working in confined areas.

PHOTO: IHARF

The cabs on the New Holland LM5000 models are mounted on “silent blocks” to cushion the ride for operators. The company claims the ergonomic control layout reduces operator fatigue.


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Machinery & Shop NEW PRODUCTS

An economy, auto-darkening helmet Thermadyne offers a budgetpriced welding helmet ideal for the farm shop BY SCOTT GARVEY

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f you spend much time welding in the farm shop, one of the best tools to invest in is an auto-darkening helmet. A seasoned welder can get pretty good at nodding his head to tip a standard helmet down then strike the bead exactly where he wants it, but an auto-darkening type makes life much easier. And it is very difficult for a novice to weld very thin metals without one. Thermadyne recently introduced its new Tweco WeldSkill line of economically-priced, auto-darkening helmets with a modest retail price of U.S. $129. Price has been one of the biggest reasons weekend welders have shied away from auto-darkening models. In the past, the cost of a good one could run as high as several hundred dollars; some high-end models still do. Thermadyne’s Tweco helmets react to an arc and darken the lens in 1/30,000 of a second. They also have an adjustable delay fea-

rigours of daily fab shop use,” says Indy Datta, product line management at Thermadyne. “But with an MSRP of $129, DIY welders can also enjoy professional-grade functions that make welding easier.” To find a retailer near you, go to the company’s website, www. thermadyne.com. † Scott Garvey is machinery editor for Grainews. Contact him at scott.garvey@fbcpublishing.com

PHOTO: THERMADYNE

Thermadyne’s new Tweco WeldSkill auto-darkening welding helmet features four sensors, weld and grind modes, meets the latest ANSI safety standards and is available at a relatively low price.

Bale.

Move.

Wrap.

Relax.

“It was built to withstand the rigours of daily fab shop use.”

— Indy Datta, Tweco ture that can keep the lens dark for up to 0.8 of a second after the arc ends, allowing bright weld pools to cool before the lens turns clear again. This is pretty good feature for high-amperage welding applications. The Tweco helmet has four arc-detection sensors to trigger lens darkening, which is especially helpful when welding in difficult positions. Helmets with fewer sensors can more easily fail to detect an arc if you’re in an awkward stance, partially covering one. That will give you a nasty arc flash, and it’s happened to me — more than once! The Tweco also uses solar power so there are no batteries to replace, or fail just when you need them. Lens shade is adjustable from nine to 13, so you can set the helmet for different applications or to suit your individual level of sensitivity. Even when performing the same job, what is a comfortable lens shade for some isn’t for others. The helmet also has a grinder setting, so it can also be used for basic eye protection when cleaning off weld slag or using a grinder. “It was built to withstand the

It’s that simple. John Deere 8 Series Round Balers, Frontier Bale Carriers and Bale Wrappers are a fast, easy-to-operate system for making, transporting, and preserving high-nutrient round bales – leaving you more time to kick back and relax. Reliable 8 Series Round Balers are built to take on the biggest windrows and the toughest conditions to give you perfectly shaped round bales time after time. Put the finishing touches on your baling chores with a Frontier Bale Carrier and Inline Wrapper. Move up to ten bales quickly and easily…then line them up for wrapping at up to 120 bales an hour to seal in the quality. When it’s time to bale, move, and wrap, go with John Deere and Frontier Equipment – and relax. JohnDeere.com

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Machinery & Shop TECHNOLOGY

Topcon introduces new VRT software SGISfarm software is designed to allow farmers to easily integrate field data and create VRT maps BY SCOTT GARVEY

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opcon has introduced a new software package intended to help make precision agriculture decisions a more seamless process for farmers. Designed for use on a farm’s office computer, the company says SGISfarm is an easyto-use tool that includes mapping and drawing features. Users can integrate information from soil testing, field mapping and yield monitors to

create VRT prescription maps, using what the company calls “basic and proven recommendation methods.” These methods are built into the software as templates, allowing anyone to create application maps. “SGISfarm was developed to allow Topcon to offer full farm solutions and complete the value proposition of its many hardware products,” says Joe Tevis, director of agronomic products and services. “This specialized farm data management software

Topcon’s SGISfarm software offering is designed to help farmers create VRT application maps. specifically targets precision farming for the owner-operator. (SGISfarm can) reliably create variable rate application maps for all Topcon consoles.” SGISfarm is “capable of creating variable rate maps for virtually all of the common controllers used for application and seeding control,” adds Tevis. “It is also compatible with the harvest monitors

of other brands of combines.” It is capable of merging data when multiple combines are used in the same field. According to the company’s press release, the SGISfarm software also has “tight integration” with a number of AGCO products (Topcon is currently AGCO’s technology partner) including the X30 console. SGISfarm can be used

PHOTO: TOPCON

to take as-applied reports from Topcon consoles and print reports. The software is also compatible with DICKEY-John controllers. “SGISfarm also adds value to Topcon CropSpec sensors by providing tools to visualize field data and modify a proposed application,” says Tevis. † Scott Garvey is machinery editor for Grainews. Contact him at scott.garvey@fbcpublishing.com

TECHNOLOGY

Case IH introduces new telematics and software products Case IH has significantly expanded its AFS product line, introducing its first telematics offering and new office management software BY SCOTT GARVEY

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ack in August of 2011, Case IH announced it was forming a new division within the organization that would focus solely on creating new precision farming technology. Case IH said having a dedicated division would allow the company to step up the pace of its AFS (Advanced Farming Systems) technology development. To create new products, the company is still going to work with Trimble, its technology provider; but official comments from management last August revealed they intend to introduce new offerings that will be exclusive to Case IH, along with some that will also be available as Trimblebranded products. The introduction of new Case IH AFS products over the past couple of months suggest management is following through on its intention to put more focus on offering precision farming tools.

NEW PRODUCTS At Agritechnica in Hannover Germany last November, Case IH had a lot to talk about with its new telematics and AFS software products. At the National Farm Machinery Show in Louisville, Kentucky, in February, the company announced that as of March 1, 2012, its dealers could begin retrofitting existing fleets with the first telematics system the company has ever offered. The new AFS Connect telematics packages use a combination

of GPS and cellular technology to wirelessly link machines equipped with a Pro 600 or Pro 700 display to a farm office, transferring information in real time. Case IH is offering the system in two different packages: the basic AFS Connect

AFS Connect telematics packages use a combination of GPS and cellular technology to wirelessly link machines Manager and the higher-end AFS Connect Executive, which offers additional functions. “AFS Connect provides immediate information to aid in fleet management, performance analysis, remote file management and even support two-way messaging among other key features,” says Trevor Mecham, AFS marketing manager. Farm managers can use AFS Connect to track the location of machines and get work status overviews. The telematics packages can also alert farmers when established security features such as geo-fencing and curfew hours of use have been violated, to guard against equipment thefts. If producers upgrade to the

PHOTO: CASE IH

Farm managers can see the monitor displays from machines working in fields on an office computer to help them keep track of operations. AFS Connect Executive version, they’ll get the ability to transfer yield data from machine to farm office in real time as it is collected. That could help managers make decisions more quickly. They’ll also get two-way messaging capability between a farm office and machines in the field. Messages can appear on any machine’s display and

machine operators can respond. Farm managers also get to see a virtual display of each working machine’s monitor on the computer in the farm office, which gets updated every 15 minutes. Back in the office, all-new AFS software expands the capabilities of the desktop computer with five new packages. Managers can track farm data with customized

lists of fields, accumulate yield, moisture and application data, integrate farm financial accounts, identify optimum placement of field drainage and bundle all that data together into a portable file that can be accessed anywhere at any time. † Scott Garvey is machinery editor for Grainews. Contact him at scott.garvey@fbcpublishing.com


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Machinery & Shop TECHNOLOGY

John Deere introduces Mobile Weather On-board weather sensor attaches to a sprayer and monitors local conditions in the field BY SCOTT GARVEY

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ohn Deere recently introduced its Mobile Weather system, which is designed to be mounted on a sprayer and provide a continuous readout of existing weather conditions in a field. The company expects it will appeal to both farmers and custom applicators. Mobile Weather uses a sensor connected to Deere’s Application Controller 1120 to display realtime weather information, including wind speed and direction, Delta T (a measurement of the evaporation rate and droplet lifetime), temperature and relative humidity, on the John Deere GreenStar 2 or GreenStar 3 displays. However,

An operator can keep a close eye on changing conditions as work progresses only the GreenStar 3 2630 display is capable of logging the weather data so it can be transferred to farm management software later for record keeping. The biggest advantage Mobile Weather offers is real-time, sitespecific weather information, giving the operator an exact picture of conditions in the field around him. Because the data is being provided continuously, an operator can keep a

close eye on changing conditions as work progresses. The system can also be set to provide an alert when conditions exceed established parameters. With handheld weather measuring devices, an operator needs to stop at regular intervals to monitor weather conditions, which creates a delay in noticing things like subtle changes in wind speed. Mobile Weather eliminates that lag time. And with a record of conditions throughout a spraying operation, Mobile Weather could establish whether or not application work was carried out responsibly.

“Mobile Weather is perfect for producers or commercial applicators who need to capture weather information as part of their record keeping, documentation and data analysis, or for maintaining government compliance,” says Janae Althouse, product manager with the John Deere Intelligent Solutions Group. “It integrates easily into existing sprayer and GreenStar displays without the need for additional hand-held devices or displays to provide on-the-go weather monitoring.” † Scott Garvey is machinery editor for Grainews. Contact him at scott.garvey@fbcpublishing.com

PHOTO: JOHN DEERE

John Deere Mobile Weather uses a third-party weather sensor to display real-time weather information, including wind speed and direction, temperature and relative humidity.

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Machinery & Shop KEEP IT GOING

Using older machinery to turn a profit Linda Nielsen believes keeping an older line of equipment running is helping to keep her farm in the black BY REBECA KUROPATWA

REPAIRS

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hree miles east of Starbuck, Man., you’ll find Linda Nielsen (47) farming just under 1,000 acres of grains and oilseeds. Before venturing into farming, Nielsen was a stay-at-home mom, a part-time educational assistant at Starbuck School, picking up other part-time work and volunteering on the side. Growing up, Nielsen recalls always having helped out on the family farm. When she and her husband (also from a farming background) were married, they built a house next to her parents. In 2004, Nielsen’s father was struck with cancer. Before he died the following year, he asked Linda if she wanted to get more involved in the farm. Nielsen says, “I had one year (in 2004) of farming with him and my brother. It was a disaster year. My dad said in his 40 years of farming, he’d never seen it that bad.” In 2006, Nielsen and her brother and put their first crop on their own. Her brother owned about 1,000 acres, while she and their mother shared about 500 acres. In 2011, Nielsen’s brother quit farming, so she now manages the farm on her own. “My husband has a full-time job, and helps when he can on weekends. My son helps too.”

As a general rule, the Nielsens enjoy using older farm equipment. “With the computer stuff, it just seems like if something goes wrong you have no choice but to call in the big guns to fix it. With the older stuff, you can more easily take it apart and see how it works.” The Nielsens try to do all their equipment repairs themselves, only calling in “the big guns” when the need arises.

Although they find it a fairly straightforward machine to fix, finding parts for an older machine can be challenging. Still, Nielsen said, “The dealer for it is in Ellie, Man., which still carries a lot of its parts. “Parts being harder to come by are one of the bigger issues with using older machines. Safety concerns are also an issue, especially with kids around. You can jump off an old tractor, but there’s no cab, roll bar, or seatbelt.” Neilson has an old Massey

Nielsen says the benefits outweigh the risks of sticking with older equipment “The way we see it is you can’t put a price on your time,” said Nielsen. “It takes the local dealer only an hour to fix something that might take me four.” Cost, too, factors into why the Nielsens choose to stick with their older equipment. “We aren’t going to buy anything new, because we don’t have the money for it,” said Nielsen. “We fix things as they come up, and that’s still cheaper.” The Nielsens have one small 1967 tractor that they use for jobs like loading canola seed.

PHOTOS: LINDA NEILSEN

1985 Massey Ferguson 885 with a Macdon header. The girls in front are: (l-r) Linda Nielsen’s nieces Marissa and Jessica, and daughter Kylie.

tractor that she was fortunate enough to have come across at an auction, getting it at a great price for its value. The Nielsens use it for everything from grain carting to harrowing, fertilizer spreading, and fall ditching. Overall Nielsen says the benefits outweigh the risks of sticking with older equipment. “By using the machinery we have, we’re better able to turn a profit. You need to go big to make money.” † Rebeca Kuropatwa is a professional writer in Winnipeg, Man.

Neilsen’s 1967 International Farmall 806.

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1984 Massey Ferguson 4880 tractor pulling the 500 bushel A&L grain cart with Linda Neilsen’s son Erik on the tractor.

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1993 Case IH1688 combine with the 1984 Massey Ferguson 4880 pulling a 500 bushel A&L grain cart, with Neilsen’s son Erik supervising.


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Home Quarter Farm Life SEEDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT

You are not alone

Reach out to your support group when you need help ELAINE FROESE

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s we flipped the chart of papers from the young farmers’ seminar in St. John’s a phrase caught my eye. A young producer had shared that one of the key insights of the day was “I am not alone.” Farm families are quite surprised to hear me affirm them with the words “you are not alone” in their journey of conflict. Many families across the country are quick to hide what is really going on inside the farm kitchen door. They are proud, independent, self-sufficient entrepreneurs who have no desire to “air their dirty laundry.” The funny thing about iconic Newfoundland pictures, is that you will often see an artist’s rendering of the laundry being strung out to dry with the sea winds. As the seeding season overtakes

the brain power of your family and causes the stress of planting the crop in a timely fashion, I encourage you to process your thoughts as you let the auto steer guide you down the field. In January I heard from a Colorado farmer who was applying fertilizer, while auto steer gave him the opportunity to view my webinars, and read my blog on www.elainefroese.com. Don’t let your family issues go on autopilot and drift. Use the thinking and reflecting time on the tractor to set up a game plan to embrace your farm team in a great strategic vision session. Call your advisers, maybe the chemical rep, who today was cited as the one who actually acts as an emotional support to the lonely farmer. The reps have seen lots of scenarios, and because they are deemed to be a “perfect stranger” type who won’t share the real issues, they are trusted as confidants in some circles. Who is your emotional support group beyond the farm?

I challenge you to drop your pride filters, and reach out to folks who can help you facilitate solutions to your conflict and communication barriers and blockages. Misery does not love company. Knowing that thousands of other farm families are also trying to get their act together to do great business continuance, and work with family should give you hope that you can copy others’ success. We need to hear more happy endings and success stories. I guess that’s why I am such a big fan of Country Guide magazine and Farm Management Canada stories that show us real folks who have embraced change and innovation to create a new chapter for their profitable farm business. The assistant deputy minister of agriculture for Newfoundland, Keith Deering, is concerned about the future food security of the “Rock,” since in l951 there were over 19,000 farmers on the island and now there are less than 1,200. Mr. Deering would like to see

100 young farmers at next year’s Newfoundland Young Farmer’s Forum. Each region of our country has its unique challenges, but we can create a common bond of understanding and share resources across the miles. Can you reach out and ask for help? When you get really badly stuck with the four-wheel drive during seeding, you quickly ask for help, because time is of the essence. This year dust is more likely an issue than muck, but recall what it feels like to be stuck, frustrated and feeling helpless to get out of the mess you are in. Conflict is not bad. Being lonely and isolated is bad. Embrace outside advisers whom you trust to help you facilitate powerful conversations. The professional code of ethics that the Canadian Association of Farm Advisors adheres to ensures that your family business will not become public knowledge. Ask your professional adviser to explain what confidentiality means to them, and how they practise it.

Pretending that all is well on the farm to protect your image and feed your pride is not helping you craft the healthy legacy that will sustain a profitable farm. As agriculture producers, we are now less than two per cent of the Canadian population, which makes us a very unique culture… and a minority. Don’t whine about the “good old days,” create the great new days of 2012, and make this your best farming season ever with all the support you need to embrace the continuing change on your farm. You are not alone. Help is a cellphone call away, and a click on the Internet. Make the call. Remember, it is your farm, your family and your choice. † Elaine Froese farms in southwestern Manitoba with her husband and son. She has been privileged this winter to speak in three Atlantic provinces, and see the impact of young farmers embracing her practical tools. Find out more about the Canadian Young Farmer’s forum and their Best Management Practices program with Cedric MacLeod at cedric@macleodagronomics.com. Buy Elaine’s book for Father’s Day — Do the Tough Things Right.

Unique experience, one-of-a-kind home Historic rural home was made from plans from Eaton’s catalogue BY CHRISTALEE FROESE

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very stick of furniture in this house has a story. And so does every piece of china, every wall hanging, every room and every person who will exit the over-90-year-old door at Boxton Prairie Experience. Take for example, the harness room. This superbly decorated space, with heated floor and luxury Jacuzzi shower, is dedicated to a Grenfell, Sask. bachelor who refused to pay his school taxes. A load of grain would usually be confiscated from his property each year in lieu of the taxes, until eventually the NWMP decided to take his horses instead. A scuffle ensued and the poor bachelor lost his life. “Anybody who ends up getting shot for not paying his school taxes gets a room,” says Ruth Claxton, designer of the bed and breakfast room and owner of the Boxton Prairie Experience. The heart of this luxury inn near Grenfell, is a 1919 Eaton’s house, the only one of its kind still standing anywhere in Canada. This particular plan, ordered from the pages of the Eaton’s catalogue, was only available for a few years as its size, amenities and cost quickly put it out of vogue. Ruth Claxton and Lloyd Box had always admired the historical significance and architectural details of the massive home built by Lloyd’s great-grandfather 92 years ago. However, it wasn’t until Lloyd’s brother decided to vacate the home in 2004 that the couple made their dream of turning the Eaton’s catalogue home into a rural bed and breakfast a reality. The three-storey, six-bedroom house has been renovated from top to bottom with careful attention given to preserving the character, charm and original finishings of the historical structure.

A deep ridge in the parlour floor remains as a memory of when Lloyd’s grandparents moved their massive piano to clean it, leaving the traces for generations to come. “When people come here, they can’t wait for the tour,” said Ruth, explaining that every room in the house has a theme based on a real character from Grenfell’s past. “They love it because they start to reminisce about their childhoods, or grandparents, and it brings back so many good memories for them.” The stories are endless, with the artifacts that are part of the inn providing hours of entertainment all on their own. There’s the set of china that belonged to Ruth’s mother, then there’s the woven carpets that were in her grandparents’ house, not to mention the petit point and cross-stitch pictures that adorn most of the walls. These amazing works of art, some of which took hundreds of hours to complete, are done by a Grenfell resident who insists on remaining anonymous. Ruth goes to the lady’s basement each season and chooses from a room full of works, selecting the ones that are in keeping with the time of year and with the rooms in this historic Prairie home. Ruth and Lloyd also serve up gourmet meals, using Claxton’s mother’s china and glassware that dates back to the turn of the century. Seated at the massive dining room table adorned by numerous large candlesticks, one could feel quite regal, especially if retiring later to the royalty-themed British Empire Room. To enjoy a night at this spectacular rural B & B, or to book a gourmet meal for a group of friends, visit www.boxtonprairieexperience. com. † Christalee Froese writes from Montmartre, Sask.

Ruth Claxton on the steps of the historic home.


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Home Quarter Farm Life FROM THE FARM

Tips for raising layers

When we first started out we knew nothing about looking after chickens DEBBIE CHIKOUSKY

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hen we moved our family from the city to the farm our first goal was to be as self-sufficient with our food as possible. We decided to start our farming adventure with laying hens. Farm fresh eggs have always been our passion. Even when we lived in the city it was worth the Saturday morning trip to our egg farmer instead of buying them from the grocery store. As luck would have it the first spring we were on our farm the lady we had been purchasing our eggs from, since our move, decided to retire and asked us if we would be interested in her hens. They were lovingly cared for and as a giant bonus for us, she was willing to mentor us. It may seem easy for those who have raised chickens their whole lives but believe me when I say, we really didn’t know a thing about raising these birds. All I could remember from being a child was being attacked every

time we visited the neighbours and their daughter took me to pick eggs. That spring my husband took a week of vacation time and built our chicken facilities. The nesting boxes were strong enough for an elephant to sit in but at least we wouldn’t have to worry about them falling over. Then the lady came to inspect and we were so happy to pass. That Saturday they brought over our new birds. The children were so excited to collect those first eggs and to actually watch an egg be laid. Wow, those were the days. I didn’t even have to ask them to check the chicken house for eggs! Then the day came when we had to clean them. Now that was not a favourite chore. We didn’t have a manure spreader back then so we loaded it all onto the back of the pickup and Daddy spread it over the cow pasture from the back. The children and I drove really slowly. Every once in a while I forgot he was back there and swerved for a rock or stopped abruptly, much to the entertainment of the children, and was quickly reminded we had a passenger. That was how we got convinced that composted manure really does make

a difference on pastures because a few weeks later there was a bright-green path everywhere we had driven and broadcast the manure. Luckily, now we have a manure spreader, but it isn’t nearly as fun as before. The feeling of security that came from having a steady supply of eggs at our fingertips fuelled my youngest son’s desire to try breeding his own hens. He was gifted with some Bantam hens years ago and has, by crossbreeding them and using them to hatch chicks, developed a hardy little chicken that we are happy with. We still buy chicks in the spring to supplement our flock because these little hens don’t lay as prolifically as the commercial breeds, but they are very pretty and are quite willing to hatch eggs. With spring on the way, now is the time to order chicks to start your own egg-laying flock. A few things to remember are: • Chicks need to be kept at a floor temperature of 86 F until they are feathered and can regulate their heat. Raising the heat lamp about one inch every few days will wean them off the heat lamps when they start getting bigger. • Hens will need three to four square feet per bird so consider

that when building or renovating your chicks’ future coop. • Hens start to lay at about 20 weeks so spring chicks will deliver fall eggs. • Supplying nest boxes and roosts will help to keep eggs clean. • Consider investing in an outdoor light timer to use artificial light once the natural daylight drops under 14 hours a day. There is a school of thought that it is more natural to let the chickens rest in the winter but around our farm we can’t afford to feed chickens and buy eggs so our chickens have artificial light in the winter to stimulate their ovaries to produce eggs. A 40-watt bulb suspended about seven feet off the floor will provide enough light intensity to substitute for daylight in a small chicken coop of roughly 100 square feet (10x10 feet or so). For a larger coop of up to 200 square feet, use a 60-watt light bulb. Consistency of light is important — so if you choose to act as the timer instead of buying one, you must turn the light on and off at the same time each day. • Roosters are not necessary for hens to lay eggs but if you want to breed your hens or really love their crow the recommended ratio of rooster to hen is 1:5.

We used to use commercially prepared feeds for our hens but have switched to organic grains and mixing our own ration. This is the one that was recommended to us by Rochester Hatchery. Homemade Laying Hen Ration: The grain content of the feed should be based on the following proportions: Barley — zero to 15 per cent (hard for birds to absorb and hard on their livers) Oats — zero to 25 per cent Wheat — 65 to 100 per cent For 100 lbs. of grain, add 40 per cent poultry supplement as follows: Grower for layers — 9.5 lbs. Laying ration — 16 lbs. When our children were younger, the chicken chores were always delegated to the youngest because they couldn’t get hurt and it was easiest for them to crawl under the roosts to collect eggs that may have rolled under. Now our youngest is 19 and can hardly wait till he has nephews/ nieces to give this chore to. To be honest, I am looking forward to seeing that look of wonder on little ones’ faces when they find their first egg again. It’s been a while. † Debbie Chikousky farms at Narcisse, Manitoba. Email her at debbie@chikouskyfarms.com

Protect yourself from ad scams Classified ad websites can be big business for con artists. Know how to avoid the dangers RCMP RELEASE

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nline classified ad websites have made it easier to buy and sell all sorts of products from exercise equipment, jewelry and boats to houses. These sites have also attracted con artists who have nothing to sell or have no intention of buying your item. For example — you place an ad on a local buy and sell website and get a number of responses, but how do to tell which one is legitimate? How do you tell which purchaser is a scammer? Here’s some tips to prevent these criminals from getting into your wallet! • Be cautious — learn the warning signs of fraud: 1. Watch for incorrect grammar and spelling as these are

Tundra

indicators of a scam. Generic, non-specific responses also constitute a warning sign. Example: “Hello seller, I saw your advert and i’m interested in purchasing your quad. I will want you to get back to me with the following info, if it is still available. It’s present condition. An updated pics {if any. Your last offer. I will make payment with a money order or check if it is still available. Hope to hear from you in earnest. regards, Frank.” 2. The purchaser sends you a cheque or money order greater than the value of the listed item. Example: You list a trailer for $30,000 and the purchaser delivers a money order for $50,000. He tells you it was a mistake and instructs you to refund the “excess” to him via wire/money transfer. By the time your bank

calls you to advise the cheque was counterfeit, the scammer has made off with $20,000 of your hard-earned money. 3. The purchaser doesn’t want to see the item in person. They may say they are out of the country or away on business. Most legitimate buyers want to see the item in person. Example: You list a condo for rent. You’re contacted by a renter from out of the country who sends you a cheque or money order for the deposit and 12 months’ rent up front. This is too good to be true! Immediately after you deposit the cheque, he contacts you to say there has been an emergency and he can no longer rent the condo. He instructs you to keep the deposit and first month’s rent, and wire him the balance. Your bank calls you to

advise the cheque was counterfeit and you’ve been scammed. 4. The purchaser wants to rush the transaction. Be wary of language such as “urgent” or “quickly,” or of purchasers who pressure you to immediately remove the listing. They may insist that you keep checking your inbox for messages, and will say things like “promise to check your emails” or “don’t verify with authorities.” Pressure tactics are common with scammers. 5. The purchaser tries too hard to appear legitimate. They use the words such as “honest” and “God fearing.” They often ramble on about details irrelevant to the purchase, such as sickness in the family or religious beliefs. 6. The purchaser’s name or email address changes during the course of the transaction. Inconsistencies in names, email

Tundra

addresses and phone numbers are a red flag. • Tips to avoid being scammed: 1. Know who you are dealing with; independently confirm your buyer’s name, street address and telephone number. 2. Never accept a cheque for more than your asking price. 3. Never agree to wire funds to a buyer. 4. Resist pressure to act now. If you accept payment by cheque, ask for a cheque drawn on a local bank. Wait for it to clear! • If you have been scammed: 1. Bring all emails, correspondence and relevant details to your local police agency. 2. Report the incident to the Canadian Anti Fraud Center at 1-888-495-8501. † For more tips and to read about more scams check out: www.antifraudcenter.ca


APRIL 16, 2012

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Home Quarter Farm Life POSTCARDS FROM THE PRAIRIES

Feeling bored? Comfortably numb? Why not try something you can’t do here in the Prairies May I suggest getting up close and personal with a great white shark. Part Two JANITA VAN DE VELDE

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he frightfully small metal cage I was about to step into was dangling precariously off a rickety boat, floating on the waters of the Indian Ocean. The swaying of the boat made it difficult to get a good look at the cables from which the cage was suspended. I could only hope they were made of steel, and not from some rotten piece of rope they found lying around the harbour. It might have been useful to study these details prior to boarding. At times, my own stupidity amazes me. Our guide was chumming the waters with bait, National Geographic style, in an attempt to lure a great white shark into the vicinity for the photo opportunity of a lifetime. The smell of blood, guts and dead fish hung heavy in the air. Seagulls circled in frenzied anticipation, as if sensing something was about to get torn apart. I pictured the sharks huddled in a circle down below, exchanging wide, sharp toothy grins, rubbing their fins together and chuckling at how easy it would be to lunge up and snap the boat in half. They were just taking their time, sorting out the details of who would get first dibs at the buffet table. I felt sick. My mouth was dry, hanging open like I was attempting to catch a few insects for my last meal. I was desperate to talk to my mom and tell her that, in the end, clean underwear doesn’t matter that much. Not when you’re about to crap your entire wetsuit. And to think, all of this excitement for only $80 — what a bargain! How did I get roped into this? Deciding to dabble within the realm of reckless behaviour was not panning out to be as much fun as I thought it would be. I was scared… I didn’t want to die. Not ever actually, but especially not like this. My time on earth was about to end, and there were still so many things I wanted to do with my life. (Marinating in this wondrous epiphany, mere minutes from impending death, is really quite useless. Why is it that we only possess this level of clarity when we think it’s all over? What a waste. The only thing that was going to save me was divine intervention. And, by God, I was counting on it.)

My friend was already down there in the cage. Normally one has to wait until a shark has been spotted before they let you jump in; they don’t want you running out of oxygen while you’re down there waiting. But it had been awhile since he had been scuba diving and he wanted to get comfortable with the equipment before seeing a shark, so they let him get in the cage ahead of time. He jumped in, disappearing into the dark water. As for me, I didn’t have any scuba diving experience. I mentioned this out loud but no one appeared overly concerned. As I waited, I wrestled with the wretched wetsuit and made my way to the roof of the boat to get my underwater camera from my duffel bag. And that’s when I saw it. Looking down from the roof, I saw a grey shadow in the water and it was visible on both sides of the boat. It took a few seconds for the image to sink in, and for my mind to register the sheer size of the monster lurking right beneath us. How wide was the boat? Was

his back in the middle of the boat. Somewhere, in between the initial silence and the appearance of the massive beast, all hell broke loose. It was sheer pandemonium. The shark surfaced again, this time sinking its teeth into the side of the boat. We all shrieked like little schoolgirls. I could not believe that this thing was hanging off the side of the boat by its teeth. I have never felt so alive, and yet so close to death, all in the same moment. I was now standing at the bottom of the boat, furiously snapping away with my camera. I didn’t realize I was being pushed closer to the edge of the boat as everyone was shoving and trying to wedge their way in for a better shot. When I took the camera down from my face and realized that the lens was not zoomed in, I nearly stopped breathing. I was so close to this thing, I could have leaned over and patted this monstrous creature on the snout. When the shark dove down again, the guy beside me leaned over and said,

I was desperate to talk to my mom and tell her that, in the end, clean underwear doesn’t matter that much. it possible this thing could be that big? I already knew the answer, but I was still hoping that it was two separate sharks. Regrettably, it was not. The instructor whistled softly and said, “We’ve got ourselves a mother of a shark here, folks. She’s at least 16 feet long. Some people wait their whole lifetime to see this. What a beauty.” The boat suddenly felt very, very small. As I stealthily climbed back down the ladder to the bottom of the boat, the silence was deafening. Everyone held their breath and waited for the shark to reappear. Without warning, it breached the water and went straight for the tuna head that was now suspended above water near the back of the boat. The sheer size of this thing jumping out of the water like a glistening torpedo was enough to stop my heart. The instructor, who had been standing on the back of the boat to bait the hook with a new piece of tuna, jumped out of the way just in time and landed on

“Man, I wish I’d taken a picture of your face when you realized how close you were. Now that was a Kodak moment!” I was still trying to pull myself together when I heard a horrific screeching sound. The shark had rammed into the cage, which was now swinging dangerously from side to side. The instructors quickly pulled the cage closer to the boat. They looked relieved to see that the cables were still attached and that the cage hadn’t plummeted to the bottom of the ocean. One of them leaned into the cage, hooked his hands into my friend’s armpits and dragged him out. He collapsed in a heap on the bottom of the boat, white as a ghost. He gazed in my direction with a puzzled what-the-hell-just-happened-to-me look, leaned over to the right and projectile vomited onto the side of the boat. After staring for a few moments at the splattered remains of his break-

Exhibit A. fast, he told us that the shark had almost got him. When it slammed into the cage, he lost his balance and instinctively grabbed the bars with his hands to balance himself. The shark turned and came straight towards him, just as he let go of the cage to pull his arms back inside. Then the shark made a sharp turn and dove under him, and he swore that it was after his scuba diving flippers, which were dangling from the bottom of the cage. He did his best to keep all of his appendages inside of the cage until the shark left. Everyone was a little shaken after hearing this. The instructor looked at me and said, “I think we’re done here for today. Sorry, but you won’t be able to go into the cage. It’s just not safe. It may need some repairs after that hit.” Well, bite me Batman. If he thought there was any chance in hell I was going in after hearing that story, he was crazier than I thought. (See Exhibit A for actual photo taken by friend just as the shark spotted the cage… imagine this coming at you, just as you’re

learning how to breathe under water for the first time? Friends, I would have perished.) For those of you wondering if there’s a correlation between this activity and the fact that South Africa holds the title for the most shark attacks per year, well, let’s just say the sharks would be there regardless. We were out near a tiny land mass called Geyser Rock, the breeding ground for over 20,000 seals. Dyer Island, breeding ground to the Jackass Penguins (I’m not making this up), is right across from Geyser Rock. The area in between the two land formations is known as Shark Alley. It’s a flesh-eater’s wet dream. If I were a shark, I would hang out here too. It would not however, be a good place to go waterskiing or float on a patchedup tire tube. These activities are better suited for the beautiful lakes of the Prairies. † That’s it for me, friends! I’ll be back in October… I’ll miss your scandalous adoration and the (tiny-sandwich-Ziploc-bag full of) fan mail. Until then, follow me on my blog at www.postcardsneverwritten.blogspot.com. I promise to keep you entertained

TRIPLE or PRESSURE-RINSE

your empty pesticide containers

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™ Visit www.cleanfarms.ca to find the empty pesticide collection site nearest you.

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APRIL 16, 2012

Home Quarter Farm Life SINGING GARDENER

All about earthworms

More is not always better. If you have this problem what do you do? TED MESEYTON

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rainews readers often guide me in the direction of subject material to write about. For starters, let me inch my way in the direction of earthworms, night crawlers or dew worms as they’re sometimes called. Earthworms can be eight inches long when fully grown and often display a purplish-coloured ring. They are natural aerators and beneficial to the soil, but what is very annoying are the bumpy mounds earthworms often cast on lawns and soil surface.

AN EMAIL FROM WILD ROSE PROVINCE … gets the words rolling. Terry Alm who lives in the Peace River country of Alberta writes: Hello Ted, How are things down your way? Suppose you are looking forward to spring and all the wonderful things you can grow. Actually we are also, being grain farmers all our lives. We’ve been growing mostly wheat and canola along with alfalfa, timothy and brome on six quarters of land along with some rented land. Raymond turned 70 this year so decided to rent out our land to be cropped and we’ll only have the grasses to combine and bale. This year I’m looking forward to more help around the yard and in the new greenhouse we are building now. I’ve always had a garden, growing our basic vegetable supply and a little greenhouse to grow tomatoes and the long English cucumbers in. Years ago we did not have a problem with the earthworms and it was a joyful experience in the garden. It really does feel like spring is in the air and we’d like to get back out there growing things. We are fans of your Grainews page and we’re hoping you could help us with a problem, being so many earthworms in our garden that the soil just gets to be hardpan within a year of enriching it with well-rotted manure, and/or peat moss. I’ve always thought

earthworms were supposed to be good for the soil but it sure does not seem so here. For many years we were not bothered with these worms but now they just seem to have taken over, even in our lawn and flower beds. We live in the Peace River country of Alberta and several of our gardening friends experience this problem also. If you could shed some light on this it would be greatly appreciated. Sincerely Terry Alm Ted’s response: I touched bases with Stacey Hickman, entomologist with Natural Insect Control in Stevensville, Ont., www.naturalinsectcontrol.com and we enjoyed a nice long chat. We agreed that having some night crawlers is a good thing, but having too many can cause mowing and even walking problems. Stacey calls night crawlers “nature’s rototillers” and says, “they mix the thatch and subsoil as they do their burrowing. This is good for the turf but hard on the people who walk on it or try to mow it. Core aeration, power raking or rolling with a ballast roller will help.” Let me ask: Don’t all of us really want to help make the dream of living off our own piece of turf whether small or large turn into a reality? Let me move on to some really important lawn maintenance points. Avoid mowing grass too close or too often, especially during dry weather. Set your mower so it leaves at least 2-1/2 inches of grass or even higher. I think too much fertilizer on lawns, especially nitrogen is part of the problem. Some guys are harder on lawns than earthworms are. If you must use fertilizer, a little in spring is OK. Consider something as plain and simple as 5-10-5 instead of the really expensive stuff. Have you ever thought of liming your lawn? My personal view is lime can be more important than fertilizer on grass. I shan’t give a specific opinion on how much lime to apply per square yard or metre. Soil, climate and local conditions vary too much across the country. Check with knowledgeable personnel at garden centres that sell horticultural lime and carefully read directions

on the bag. Another suggestion is to increase the organic material. That means adding more compost and topsoil onto the lawn to help increase and retain moisture level. In Stacey’s opinion, “earthworms are often in what is known as an in-between area of dry and moist.” Here’s her remedy. Apply a halfinch or more dressing of premixed 75 per cent compost and 25 per cent topsoil evenly over the lawn and rake it in. Don’t sprinkle with any water. Stacey says to “just let the surface dressing do its thing. This helps earthworms to go down deeper a whole lot easier. Give a second application of preblended 75 per cent compost and 25 per cent topsoil over your lawn again in the fall.” One of my research sources is contrary to what is mentioned above. That source says the best way to discourage earthworms is to use a grass catcher when mowing, to avoid an excess of liming and to reduce the quantity of organic dressings. I sometimes ask myself: Whom are we to believe and what do you, our Grainews readers say? Core aerating the lawn (removing plugs of soil) is a service provided by many lawn-care professionals and can be very beneficial. Cores or plugs of soil are pulled out every few inches apart and left on the lawn surface, then disappear naturally a few days later, especially if it rains. This improves lawn surface texture and allows moisture to penetrate deeply. Or, you can buy a U-shaped manual handheld aerator with hollow tubes at the end from garden centres. The probes are also plunged into compacted lawns and remove plugs of grass and soil. This requires a good bit of foot power and manual labour, but may be less effective. Another option is to compact mounds on lawn surfaces using a heavy roller that has metal protruding spikes placed a few inches apart. Such a piece of equipment is often available on a rental basis at some garden centres and lawncare or agri-bio-eco outlets. You may have heard of redworms a.k.a. red wigglers. They are used indoors only for making compost. They do the work and gardeners reap the benefit. This non-native, sort of tropical worm

SUE ARMSTRONG

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

PHOTO: TED MESEYTON

Lemon Gem marigolds are contrasted with geraniums and petunias to set the colour décor in this park-like setting at Riverbend Orchards in Portage la Prairie. Note the large expanse of lawn area enhanced by a backdrop of evergreens and deciduous trees. cannot withstand our Canadian winters, so won’t survive outdoors beyond summer. Anyone interested in purchasing red worms or their worm castings and other gentle-on-the-earth items can contact Canada’s friendly organic and environment product supplier: Natural Insect Control, 3737 Netherby Road Stevensville, Ont., L0S 1S0 Ph.: (905) 382 2904

SAWDUST OR SHAVINGS MULCH Fresh sawdust applied as a mulch can cause a depletion of soil nitrogen. One source tells me earthworms will avoid sawdust while another claims that earthworms are happy in sawdust, ground bark and wood chips. I’ve heard gardeners mention they can’t grow blueberries. On the plus side, some claim that blueberry plants mulched with sawdust will develop a larger, more fibrous root system, resulting in an acidic soil environment that blueberries demand and a higher yield follows. Sawdust mixed 50/50 with well-rotted animal or poultry manure is said to work well around raspberry canes and ornamental shrubs. As well, I suggest scattering a little lime around canes to counteract the acidity of raspberry leaves. If you’ve had experience in any of these areas, let me know your opinion or results.

HARDY ZONE 2 ALBERTA-GROWN DAYLILIES

PHOTO: COURTESY PARKLAND PERENNIALS

Owner-operator Bob Yaremko of Parkland Perennials tells the Singing Gardener that one of his favourite daylilies is Swirling Water shown here. It grows about two feet tall and produces a good abundance of seven-inch-wide crimson-maroon flowers with white lines on petals and a yellowish-green throat. Parkland Perennials at Bruderheim, Alta., is located in Zone 2 where all ultra-hardy plants for the Prairies are grown. Bob’s daylily collection consists of over 300 cultivars.

Want to know where to get some of the toughest winter-hardy daylilies for spring and fall shipping, Siberian iris for spring shipping only, companion perennials for spring shipping only, species lilies, martagon lilies, peonies and fern leaf peonies for fall shipment only? Look to Parkland Perennials, Box 506, Bruderheim, Alta., T0B 0S0, email parklandperennials@gmail.com or

browse through their website at www.parkland-perennials.com that shows coloured pictures and descriptions of pretty well everything listed in their catalogue. A print copy will be mailed out by request to those who don’t have Internet access. I, Ted am practically enchanted by some of the dozens of daylily names including: Always A Pleasure, Big Apple, Chinese New Year, Christmas Day, Flaming Poppa, Love Those Eyes, Prairie Blue Eyes and Red Razzmatazz. (Did you notice that — there are four zeds!)

TURF GRASS SEED MIXTURES One of the very best sources is Early’s Town & Country Garden Centre in Saskatoon; phone 1-800-667-1159, or go to www.earlysgarden.com. Grasses for numerous purposes are one of their specialties including everything for the turf grass professional, cool-season areas of Western Canada, the home lawn grower and busy farmers wanting a low-maintenance country lawn or grounds. Among their dozens of formulas is Reclamation Mix that caught my eye. This improved mixture is recommended for use in reclamation and minimal-care sites and will perform well in less-thanideal conditions. A few suggested areas include lakeside cottages, trailer park settings, low-fertile dry land, rough soils and roadsides. See the good folks at Early’s. They’re helpful people and will also customize your own seed mix. † This is Ted Meseyton the Singing Gardener and Grow-It Poet from Portage la Prairie, Man. Louis Pasteur is credited with saying “Science belongs to no one country.” If we are well versed in and devoted to gardening, each of us is a scientist in our own way. A healthy attitude is contagious but don’t wait to catch it from others. Be a carrier, a leader, a lifelong promoter of things green and growing. Good health is not something we can buy. However, it can be an extremely valuable savings account. The wise gardener depends on homegrown food and exercises a lot. ’Tis better to hunt for cure in gardens, if good health is sought. My email address is singinggardener@mts.net


Advertorial

New strategies for controlling Glyphosate Resistant Kochia. Glyphosate resistant kochia is not just coming to Canada. It’s already here. Even more troubling, it is poised to spread quickly unless farmers start taking preventative measures. This past year, Agriculture and Agri-food Canada researchers confirmed the presence of glyphosate tolerant kochia plants in the Lethbridge region of southern Alberta. It is a weed that has already reared its head in several US states, including Nebraska, Kansas and Colorado.

Grant Deveson says the practice of rotating herbicides has been largely forgotten when it comes to glyphosate.

Deveson says CleanStart can be applied on its own or topped up with additional glyphosate for sharper control of larger weeds, winter annuals and perennials. Being a contact herbicide, it’s important to stick with the necessary water volume (10 gallons/acre). CleanStart can be applied pre-seed or up to three days post-seed.

Authority®: Kochia control for specialty crops. Authority® is a next generation selective pre-emergent herbicide. It is registered for peas, flax, sunflowers, and chickpeas. This soil applied residual product is activated with moisture, and forms a barrier in the soil to keep kochia out.

“Kochia is a highly competitive weed that spreads extremely quickly,” explains Nufarm Commercial Manager, Grant Deveson.

The secret is sulfentrazone: a, Group 14 chemistry that prevents aggressive weeds from emerging. Kochia, wild buckwheat, lamb’s quarters and pigweed are among the weeds Authority will control..

The agriculture industry is taking this news very seriously. There is a real concern that this new strain of resistant kochia will be hard to contain for several reasons.

“Authority is incredibly safe… but don’t let that fool you,” Deveson says. “It does a number on some pretty hard to kill weeds. That’s what makes it such a welcome option for those growing these sensitive specialty crops.”

Kochia is a highly prolific seed producer. In addition to spreading seeds through the wind, kochia is a tumbleweed. It can travel quickly and cover great distances – dispersing seeds along the way. Once pollen from glyphosate resistant kochia crossbreeds with other plants, the genetics responsible for the resistance can be passed on. Farmers and seed producers throughout Western Canada are being urged to reevaluate their burndown practices – and target kochia with products that offer a different mode of action. “Agronomists and scientists have preached the importance of rotating herbicides. But for whatever reason, this practice has largely been forgotten when it comes to glyphosate. Taking the proper steps now will help slow the spread,” Deveson says. Nufarm, a Calgary-based herbicide manufacturer, has recently introduced two new products that are proven to eliminate kochia in a spring burndown application: CleanStart® and Authority®. As Group 14 products, both provide an effective means of controlling glyphosate tolerant kochia plants.

CleanStart®: Kochia control ahead of all key crops. CleanStart® has become recognized as an advanced burndown solution for safe control of kochia and a broad spectrum of weeds ahead of pulse and canola crops. But what is not as widely known is that CleanStart is also registered for wheat, barley, flax, soybeans, potatoes, corn and oats… which makes it ideally suited for addressing glyphosate resistant kochia in most key crops grown on the prairies.

And that’s not all. Deveson notes there are a number of other Nufarm products growers can use to provide early season kochia control. Nufarm 2,4-D Ester and Amitrol 240 can both be tank mixed with glyphosate, and will take out resistant kochia. Meanwhile, Valtera™ is a Group 14 residual soybean herbicide that does an exceptional job.

Do your part to fight resistance. Herbicide rotation is an essential part of any weed management strategy. As we’re starting to realize, this applies to glyphosate as well. Ask your retailer or crop advisor about these and other options for early season kochia control.

Fighting resistant kochia in-crop. If you miss it at burndown Deveson says Nufarm has two exceptional products for taking down kochia (including glyphosate resistant plants) in cereal crops. Estaprop® is one of the best products available for controlling kochia in-crop. It is a very well established Group 4 chemistry known to clean up even heavily infested fields. Lately, there has been much talk surrounding Nufarm’s launch of Enforcer™, which contains two proven modes of action to battle all types of kochia. “Moving forward, Enforcer may emerge as the best in-crop broadleaf product for fighting the spread of glyphosate resistant kochia,” Deveson concludes.

“Because it is registered for so many crops, is easy to tank mix and is quite reasonably priced, CleanStart is being touted as the new line of defence for controlling glyphosate resistant kochia,” Deveson reveals. CleanStart is formulated with carfentrazone and glyphosate. It is the carfentrazone component that provides control of actively growing kochia plants on contact. This product provides dependable control of kochia plants 4” tall or less. In addition, CleanStart will control Roundup Ready® volunteer canola from the the 1 - 3 leaf stage, spring germinating dandelions and all weeds that are controlled with glyphosate.

1-800-868-5444 CleanStart® and Estaprop® are registered trademarks of Nufarm Agriculture Inc. Enforcer ™ is a trademark of Nufarm Agriculture Inc. Authority® is a trademark of FMC Corporation. Valtera™ is a trademark of Valent USA Corporation. All other products are trademarks of their respective owners.


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C-59-04/12-CS11082-E


GNN120416  

Only PrePass TM with SoilActive TM Technology offers superior pre-seed burndown control for up to 21 days, a 30-minute Rainfast Guarantee an...

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