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Volume 39, Number 6 | MARCH 4, 2013



Soybean cyst nematodes Soybean cyst nematodes have been a long-time problem in U.S. crops. Mario Tenuta says it’s inevitable that we’ll find them in our fields BY REBECA KUROPATWA


oybean cyst nematodes are a very big problem in the U.S., accounting for over double the loss of soybean crops as compared to any other soybean disease. In 1987, Tom Welacky, field crops biologist for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, was one of two scientists who discovered soybean cyst nematodes (SCN) in Canadian farmers’ fields. “SCN is a minute microscopic, worm-like tube called ‘vermiform,’” says Welacky. “You have to multiply it by some 40 times to see them under a microscope. They survive in the soil by the female nematodes forming a lemon-shaped cyst full of eggs (with 20 to 200 eggs), and they can survive in the soil anywhere from two to 14 years. “You can see the lemon-shaped

couple years of ago is what we call sudden death syndrome, which is another root rot organism — one of the few variants common in legumes, as well as being specific to soybeans and closely related to SCN. “The last few years, we’ve also been looking at the impact of SCN on edible beans, like white, kidney and black beans. When we sample the soil, we look for these lemonshaped cysts and count the eggs. “Once they’re in the soil, if there’s a food source available (such as soybeans, edible beans and some wheat roots), if the root’s there, they’ll become activated, hatch, go into the root, form a feeding site inside the root and suck the nutritional fluids out of the root.” Welacky says often, SCN brings very little damage. “I’d say 80 to 90 per cent of the time, damage to soybean or edible bean fields is

“Once you get it, you have to learn to live with it.” — Tom Welacky

cysts with the naked eye — if you dig the root, put it in a bucket of water, or shake it gently — and they look just like Christmas lights.”

FIGHTING SOYBEAN CYST NEMATODES Once soybean cyst nematodes were found in Canada, Welacky says, “We took quick action to try to find resistant varieties, motivated to at least reduce the impact and spread of it as quickly as possible. Once you get it, you have to learn to live with it.” Welacky has been working with breeders to develop soybean lines that are resistant to the nematode. “The pathology part of it is in relation to root rot diseases, especially the root rot of soybeans. Another disease we just started working on a

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minimal (without any major symptoms expressed except maybe a little patchiness, which requires soil testing to find out if there’s a problem). “The two best crop-control tools we’ve found are rotation and growing resistant varieties. Once you find SCN, there’s nothing you can do that year or that crop, but in following years, you can rotate a non-host crop. “Here, we sometimes recommend four years of no soybean or edible bean crops, depending on how severe the field infestation is. If there’s a fairly low infestation, the usual recommendation is twothree years of non-host crops. “I’m very hopeful, from various scientific studies and sources, that we’re on the verge of a breakthrough in the genetics for resistance. We’ll be seeing, especially seed

You can see the lemon-shaped cysts with the naked eye. companies, developing real sources of resistance through molecular biology, to the point of suppressing the SCN population.”

THE LIFE OF SOYBEAN CYST NEMATODES Mario Tenuta is a professor of

soil ecology at the University of Manitoba’s Department of Soil Science. “With SCN, the female nematode buries herself partially into the root, where she feeds to produce eggs within her body,” says Tenuta. “She eventually dies and

In This Issue


her body becomes protection for dozens to hundreds of eggs of new worms. The overall structure of the dead female with protected eggs inside here is called a ‘cyst.’ “Male nematodes feed, for a short time, on soybean roots to grow and


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


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


Crop Advisor’s Casebook


Columns ........................... 27 Machinery & Shop ............ 33 FarmLife ............................ 40

Pod sealants


Shop class: brake line SCOTT GARVEY PAGE 34

Cattleman’s Corner .......... 44



MARCH 4, 2013

Wheat & Chaff STAMPEDE




“It’s why they call it ‘team-roping’ Flo! We’re supposed to be a team”


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arch 10 to 16 is Canadian Agriculture Safety Week. You’ll see some safety features on the next page, and a special safety section on pages 20 to 23. I know what you’re thinking. “I don’t read Grainews to learn about safety. I’m skipping ahead to find out whether or not I should buy pod sealant for my canola.” (Page 10.) Read the safety section anyway. Maybe it will trigger something that will keep you and your family safer this year. Freelancer Shanyn Silinsky has written about a few different aspects of farm safety. One is personal safety. This piece gave me something to think about. While there are still places where everyone has known all of the neighbours forever, those places are becoming harder to find. There are more and more acreage owners, oilfield workers and general newcomers moving to rural areas. In areas where farmers didn’t even bother locking their front doors 10 years ago, farm families now have to take as many safety precautions as city people. Now, we not only have to pay attention to general farm-safety practices (like never walking behind a horse), we also have to think about things like locking up our bicycles and bringing out valuables in from the car. If having strangrers in your area is still somewhat new for you, make sure you think about your personal safety. If you’re one of those farmers who isn’t even sure where to find the key to your front door (because you haven’t used it since you built the house) maybe this is a good time to dig it out of the junk drawer. And don’t forget about the rest of the articles in the safety section, and the other important steps to accident prevention on your farm. Some of the smartest farmers I know have been hurt in farm accidents. Don’t let this be you. Still on the topic of farm safety (sort of) this is what happened on our farm last month: my husband and son left me home alone for 10 days in January.

HOME ALONE: THE FARM EDITION You wouldn’t think this would be such a big deal. I lived on my own in the city for years before I moved out here. “But you weren’t on a farm,” my husband said. I lived in downtown Regina before I moved to the farm. That part of Saskatchewan doesn’t usually get credit for being a haven of safety, but I suppose my huband had a point. There are a lot of things to worry about out on the farm

here that city people never think twice about. Things like the water supply, the sewer or a possible power outage. Farmers have a whole level of independence that city people only experience at their cottages (if there). But I’m a grown-up. I’ve been living here for more than 10 years. I was sure I could manage on my own for 10 days. “What are you going to do about the snow?” he asked. “What if you can’t drive out of the yard?” So far, I haven’t learned to run the snowblower. On the plus side, at least there’s one machine in the yard that I haven’t had an accident with. The problem is, I can’t clear snow on my own. Luckily for me, we have good winter tires on our SUV, and it didn’t snow a lot while my husband was gone. Even then, around Day 5, I came home from town to find the snow packed flat in the driveway. I phoned a neighbour. “Don’t worry about it,” he said.” I was going by anyway.” With a tractor? My husband had asked him to come by. It’s hard to be independent on a farm. Maintaining a rural yard takes a lot of time and investment. My friend “Lanette” has seen this from a different perspective. About 10 years ago, a new family moved to an acreage near Lanette’s farmyard. “I don’t know what they were thinking,” Lanette said. “They didn’t buy a snowblower, or any kind of equipment to move snow.” That first year, on a really snowy day, Lanette’s husband took his tractor over and blew the snow out of their new neighbour’s driveway so the school bus could get into their yard. The new neighbours continued to not own a snowblower, and soon the whole “being neighbourly” thing got out of control. Lanette’s husband got tired of being a nice guy. The second winter, he helped out when he could, but the job was getting to be a bit much. “One day they phoned up and asked when he could get over there and move snow,” Lanette said. “They were barely even polite, just upset that they’d been stuck in the yard for two days.” Once you get into a situation like this, it can be hard to get out gracefully.

the bins at the back of the yard. Our electrician’s home phone number. How to put extra diesel in the generator, in case the power went out for more than three days. How to de-ice the door lock. The secret password questions for his bank account, in case he didn’t make it home. After reading that endless list, I was afraid to get out of bed the first morning he was gone. But I soldiered on, bravely. Everything went well. The dog stayed alive. The power stayed on. The biggest problem I had during the week was a hot-air popcorn popper breakdown. I was reduced to microwave popcorn. Around Day 8, a strange man came to the door, wearing a hard hat, and talking on his cell phone. (That’s right. He rang the bell while he was talking on the phone. When I opened the door, he raised one finger to signal me to wait until he was done. This raises bad cell phone manners to a whole new level, but that’s not the point.) When he was done with his call, he greeted me with, “I need to talk to your husband.” When I told him my husband wasn’t home, he left as fast as possible. I wasn’t sure if I felt safe, or offended. He’d asked for some directions to another farmer’s house, and whether that farmer had a tractor, so I assume he was looking for someone to pull some oilfield equipment out of a ditch (that happens quite a bit around here.) I was a little put out by the way he automatically assumed I wouldn’t be able to help him. This is 2013. Women are allowed to vote and even wear pants. I could have got the tractor out of the shed. As long as he didn’t need me to move any snow. Everything was just fine when my husband came home. “How did things go?” he asked me at the airport. “Just fine,” I said. I considered telling him the vacuum has broken while he was away. It wouldn’t have been true, but it would’ve explained a lot. When we got back home, I could tell he was trying not to be obvious as he checked out everything from the dog’s health to the ice-free door lock. But then he got inside. “Did you remember to water the plants?” That was not on the list.


Our machinery editor Scott Garvey has filled the machinery section with items he spotted at the Brandon Ag Show in January. If missed the show, here’s your chance to catch up. Also in the machinery section, you’ll find a story sent in by an Alberta farmer who created his own “Super 900” air cart by hitching two smaller carts together. If you’ve found a creative solution to a problem on your farm, let us know. We’d love to feature it in a future issue. Leeann

When I was left home alone for 10 days, my biggest worry was the dog. Our dog is on his last legs. He takes pills for arthritis and a stomach problem. He can barely bark. It’s only a matter of time, but since my husband spends much more time with him the dog than I do, I don’t want to be the one to make the call. My husband was worried about his dog. But that was just the beginning. He wrote up a list of directions as long as my left arm. Where to find keys for


MARCH 4, 2013 /

Wheat & Chaff FARM SAFETY

Taking action on farm safety


armers have a reputation for being “strong, silent types.” Growing up on a farm and getting my hands very much dirty alongside my father, I don’t disagree with some of this “salt of the earth” mystique, but I also think it’s time to move beyond the stereotypes. Farms nowadays can be complex, highly industrialized businesses with product to develop and markets to access. But I know you know that already. What you might not know is how important communication is in this new world of complex, production agriculture. When working with farmers on developing written health and safety plans, I always tell them that safety policies, standard operating procedures, and other critical workplace safety documents are not worth the paper they are written on if they aren’t communicated effectively to employees and contractors. It seems sensible but it’s harder said than done. The best bet for achieving outstanding communication is to start off on the

right foot. Stress that employees are valued and their health and safety is a priority. Ensure they understand the importance of working safely. Ask them about their previous work experience. Did they receive any training? Remember to get copies of any certifications or accreditations they may have for your records. If they are a new hire, check their references to ensure they have a positive safety record. Set a positive example. Make sure your safety policy is communicated to new hires and is posted openly for everyone else to see too. As a farm owner, you set an example for health and safety on the farm. So be clear about your responsibilities and live up to them. Safety is a two way street though. Workers will invest in a safe workplace if they feel comfortable raising questions, contributing to safety solutions, participating in safety inspections, and openly discussing safety concerns, incidents and near misses. If you make pre-operational checks on tools, machines, and equipment

non-negotiable, and insist on providing your workers with adequate safety education and training, safety will become a part of your everyday workplace culture. In the event of a near miss, don’t forget, reflect. Conduct an investigation and ask your workers several questions: Who was involved? Where did the incident happen? When did it happen? What were the immediate causes? Why did the incident happen? And how can a similar incident be prevented? Everyone has a role to play in ensuring the safety of your farm, so cultivate an open, positive working relationship with your employees based on communication and trust. For more information on communicating farm safety information or developing your own written health and safety plan, visit †

Get with the


by gord.coulthart

Carolyn Van Den Heuvel has spent the last year helping farmers implement the Canada FarmSafe Plan as a Canada FarmSafe Advisor for the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association (CASA). This article was produced in support of Canadian Agricultural Safety Week.


Get with the plan


his March, the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association (CASA), the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA), and exclusive corporate sponsor Farm Credit Canada (FCC) want to encourage farmers to “Get with the Plan!” just in time for Canadian Agricultural Safety Week, March 10 to 16, 2013. Canadian Agricultural Safety Week (CASW) is an annual public education campaign focusing on the importance of practicing safe agriculture. In 2013, organizers want to inspire farmers to develop their own written health and safety plans by hearing about the struggles, and successes of other Canadian farmers. “It’s not just about connecting the dots. It’s not even just about managing business risks or becoming a preferred employer, although those are all great benefits of safety planning,” says Marcel Hacault, executive director of CASA. “It’s about making a commitment to safety. That’s why it’s important for farmers to hear from other producers that have faced injuries, or achieved success with their own safety planning, because produc-

ers can learn from one another and motivate each other in the process.” “As a farmer myself, I can vouch for the importance of on-farm safety. It makes good business sense, but it’s also a responsibility we have to ourselves, our families and employees. We encourage all farmers to develop a safety plan and to take advantage of the resources available through CASA, including the FarmSafe Forums,” says CFA president Ron Bonnett. “With an industry that’s growing, there’s even more need to ensure safety in our business practices,” says Remi Lemoine, vice president and chief Operating officer at FCC. “We’re committed to helping Canadian producers stay safe at work, and encourage thoughtful planning through written health and safety plans. This year’s Canadian Agricultural Safety Week is a great forum to be inspired, and make safety a priority.” Canadian Agricultural Safety Week takes place every year during the third week of March. This year, CASW runs from March 10 to 16, 2013. For more information about CASW or FarmSafe Forum events, go to † From the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association — — with files from and www.


GIVE US YOUR BEST SHOT This photo was taken by Deanna Ricard on a “prairie mountain” in their pasture near Mariapolis, Manitoba. Deanna says that when the weather is mild and her family is heading to the hill they text all the neighbours. “Sometimes 25 to 30 people come bearing sleds, crazy carpets, toboggans, GT racers, snow boards and even calf sleds! As you can see from the photo, even the old wooden toboggan can whiz down the hill.” Deanna and husband Dwayne use their tractor pulling a trailer to get the crowd back up to the top after each run. “It’s great fun for kids and do-able for the adults!” Deanne says, “In this photo, my daughter Erica is in front — looking terrified and mid-scream. Deanna’s cousin Avery is in the middle and seems to be enjoying the ride a little bit more. Avery’s younger brother Brad is the one at the back who’s had enough and trying to dismount — intentional or not — hard to tell!” The Ricards and Deanna’s family Ricards family both run dairy farms, so they don’t have much time to travel for vacations. But, as Deanna says, “ Who needs to travel when great fun like this is lurking in the back 80?” If you’d like to see your photo on this page and receive $25, send your best shot to 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

I think we all understand this. So who wants to teach our owner?




MARCH 4, 2013

Cover Stories Insect management » CONTINUED FROM PAGE 4 1 6 6 6 D u b l i n Av e n u e , W i n n i p e g , MB R 3 H 0 H 1 w w w. g r a i n e w s . c a

soybean cyst nematodes


Bob Willcox

become an adult. Then they leave the root to find a female attached to roots to mate and deposit sperm, which she uses to produce eggs.” Damage from soybean cyst nematodes often appears as patches of stunted, yellowing leaves (chlorotic symptoms). Roots will have black/brown lesions (necrotic symptoms). Tenuta says yields can be decreased from zero to 30 per cent, maybe higher in heavily infested fields. “Soybean acreages have recently expanded in Manitoba and we haven’t examined fields for the presence of the nematode,” Tenuta says. Last fall, researchers started surveying southern Manitoba soybean fields for soybean cyst nematodes. Tenuta says they’re currently processing the samples. “I believe it’s inevitable we’ll have SCN in Manitoba,” Tenuta says. “We need to know when and where it’s present to make farmers aware of control options like rotations and tolerant varieties.” Tenuta suggests farmers scout their fields; where there are poorperforming patches, there may be SCN. “Also farmers should be aware soybean may produce its own nitrogen but not other nutrients. Definitely don’t forget to pay attention to phosphorus fertility.” Another line of defence, Tenuta says, is to “keep good rotations and know your field’s issues.” Tenuta’s lab is also developing rapid, accurate molecular tests for identifying and quantifying SCN, in partnership with Actlabs in

Associate Publisher/ Editorial director

John Morriss

Edi tor

Leeann Minogue field Edi tor

Lisa Guenther Cattleman’s Corner Editor

Lee Hart Farml ife Edi tor

This photo shows larvae in roots. The soybean cyst nematodes must be magnified about 40 times to be seen.

Sue Armstrong Machinery EDITOR

Scott Garvey

Soybean crops damaged by soybean cyst nematodes.

Produ ction Dire ctor

Shawna Gibson Desi gner


Lynda Tityk

Ci rc ulat ion manag er

Heather Anderson H e ad O f f i c e 1666 Dublin Avenue, Winnipeg, Man. R3H 0H1 Phone: (204) 944-5568 Fax: (204) 944-5562 Adv ert isi ng Sa l es

Damage from soybean cyst nematodes often appears as patches of stunted, yellowing leaves. Ontario and Agriculture and AgriFood Canada (AAFC) Growing Forward. These tests are expected to be commercially available in the next couple of years, giving farmers more options when it comes to testing fields accurately and tracking whether the nematode is present.

“We hope to develop rapid tests for races (‘HG types’) of SCN too,” said Tenuta. “This is important, as the selection of tolerant soybean varieties is determined by HG type.” The SCN survey in Manitoba is sponsored by the Manitoba Pulse Growers Association (MPGA)

Cory Bourdeaud’hui Phone: (204) 954-1414 Fax: (204) 944-5562 Email: Adv ert isi ng Serv ices Co -ordi nat or

and the Canadian Agricultural Adaptation  Program  (CAAP) through the Manitoba Rural Adaptation Council (MRAC). The molecular tests are being supported by Actlabs and AAFC Growing Forward, via the CAAP. †

Arlene Bomback Phone: (204) 944-5765 Fax: (204) 944-5562 Email:

Rebeca Kuropatwa is a professional writer in Winnipeg, Man.

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EXTENDED OUTLOOK FOR THE PRAIRIES Weather Forecast for the period of February 24 to March 23, 2013

Southern Alberta

Peace River Region February 24 - March 2 Seasonal but mild spells. Bright skies but with scattered heavier snow, chance of rain on 2 to 3 days this week. Windy at times. March 3 - 9 Seasonal temperatures overall with a couple of milder days in the south. Generally fair, but snow or rain falls on a couple of occasions. March 10 - 16 Expect changeable weather this week as fair, pleasant days interchange with windy days and periodic snow or rain. Variable temperatures. March 17 - 23 Seasonal to occasionally milder with some thawing. On two windy, cooler days look for some heavier snow or rain. Colder, often snowy in the north.

-15 / -3 Grande Prairie 18.6 mms



February 24 - March 2 Seasonal, but mild spells bring thawing on a couple of days. Bright skies, but with scattered snow and a chance of rain on 2 to 3 days this week.

February 24 - March 2 Sunny on a few days with changeable temperatures and minor thawing in the south. On a couple of occasions expect heavier snow and a chance of rain.

March 3 - 9 Seasonal temperatures overall with a couple of milder days with thawing. Generally fair, but snow or rain falls on a couple of occasions.

March 3 - 9 Bright, mild days interchange with unsettled, windy and cool outbreaks this week, bringing occasional snow mixed with rain in the south.

March 10 - 16 Expect changeable weather this week as fair, pleasant days interchange with windy days and periodic snow or rain. Variable temperatures.

March 10 - 16 Thawing on several days this week in spite of a couple of cooler, windy outbreaks and sub zero lows. Sunshine dominates aside form scattered snow or rain.

March 17 - 23 Seasonal to occasionally milder with some thawing. On a couple of windy, cooler days look for some heavier snow or rain.

March 17 - 23 Seasonal to occasionally cool although thawing occurs on a few days. Look for sunny skies to alternate with periodic snow or rain.

February 24 - March 2 Blustery at times with drifting snow and changeable temperatures. Minor melting in the south and sunny, aside from snow and a chance of rain on a couple of days. March 3 - 9 Bright skies and some melting alternates with a few unsettled, windy and cool days. Occasional snow, possibly mixed with rain in the south. March 10 - 16 Sunny but snow and some rain falls on 2 or 3 days. Temperatures on the cool side, but thawing takes place on a couple of milder, windy days. March 17 - 23 Pleasant on a few days this week with thawing temperatures, but a couple of colder, blustery days bring snow or rain to the south.

Precipitation Forecast -14 / -2 Edmonton 17.0 mms

-16 / -5 North Battleford

-9 / +2 Jasper

15.7 mms

-9 / +2

21.5 mms

-14 / -2 Red Deer 16.5 mms

-19 / -6 Prince Albert

17.3 mms

16 / -6 Saskatoon 16.0 mms

18.2 mms

-20 / -9 The Pas

23.6 mms


-17 / -6 Yorkton

-17 / -5 Dauphin

-19 / -7 -16 / -5 25.6 mms 25.7 mms -14 / -4 Gimli Regina 22.6 mms -13 / -3 Moose Jaw 16.5 mms Swift 18.1 mms -16 / -5 14.7 mms -10 / +2 -17 / -5 Current Portage -16 / -6 -14 / -4 Medicine Hat Brandon 26.3 mms Winnipeg 19.5 mms Weyburn 20.5 mms cms Lethbridge 16.019mms 23.1 mms 16.8 mms -14 / -4 26.0 mms 26 cms -9 / +3 Estevan Melita -17 / -4


-10 / +1 Calgary

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


19.9 mms

25.0 mms

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Precipitation Outlook For March Much Above Normal Below Much above normal normal below normal normal

Temperatures are normals for March 1st averaged over 30 years. Precipitation (water equivalent) normals for March in mms. ©2013 WeatherTec Services

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MARCH 4, 2013 /



Liquid versus granular Your crop will take up nutrients in either liquid or granular form. How you decide to provide those nutrients is up to you BY TOBAN DYCK


istory, routine and that’s the way it’s always been done. The smartest, most savvy farmers among us are susceptible to ruts, mentally and practically. The liquid versus granular fertilizer debate, if there is one, is, at its core, a question of science, finances, tradition and geography. Crops need specific nutrients during specific stages of growth. And those nutrients need to be available, whether they exist in granular or liquid form. The conclusion of the agronomist this article references is that the difference between liquid and granular fertilizers is negligible, at least when it comes to yields and crop health. The bigger focus is the four Rs of fertilizer: right form, right place, right time, right rate. But, there are some considerations when weighing one against the other

GRANULAR FERTILIZER With granular fertilizer application, the phosphate granules, or any other nutrient granule, may be too far away from the plant when it needs it most, a problem Richardson Pioneer agronomist Terry Moyer says does not exist when using liquid blends.

Many agricultural sources say liquid fertilizers contain less salt and, as a result, are the better choice for putting down directly with the seed. The lower salt content limits potential seed burn and tissue damage. Corn growers often prefer liquid to start their crop, citing reasons of placement, consistency and “pop-up effect” giving corn a better start than any form of fertilizer. Also, corn growers often find alternative, more affordable means (often manure) to topup nitrogen levels in their fields, making the cost of a simpler liquid formula worth the tank, pump and hose infrastructure worth it.

EMERGENCE The agriculture community is close to unanimous in saying the difference are too small to form a conclusion. The Government of Alberta, however, put to test the claim from liquid fertilizer suppliers that their product increases emergence during seeding. The experiment tested four different openers on four rates of liquid and granular fertilizer on various barley sites. Emergence was not affected. Moyer agrees, but says, “Liquid users will tell you their

crops got out of the ground a little quicker,” a sentiment explaining much of why people choose one over the other: Because that is the way they’ve always done it.

LOGISTICAL CONSIDERATIONS The infrastructure needed to handle liquid fertilizer is not extensive, but many farms are already set up for granular fertilizer application. And much of the implements sold in Canada leave the lot ready for granular. In general, “unless you’re setup for liquid, you don’t use liquid.” The costs involved in retrofitting for liquid may not be worth it. The price of granular is close to

liquid, but is often cheaper on a per unit of nutrient measure, when considering a phosphate or sulphur source. Granular is easier to store, and is, at this time, available in a wider range of custom formulations. And, for those considering a switch, yes, liquid fertilizer is readily available, though in less formulations, at most retail outlets. But, in the end — and to a large degree most agronomists would agree — it comes down to the equipment you already have and the practices that have worked best for you. † Toban Dyck is a freelance writer and a new farmer on an old farm. Follow him on Twitter @tobandyck or email


In general, “Unless you’re setup for liquid, you don’t use liquid.” “The plant needs nutrients at different stages,” he says. “And when the plant intercepts certain nutrients at different stages, they may not be available, spatially, with granular.” Granular and liquid both contain and provide for the crop the needed nutrients to survive and thrive, but one main difference between the two has less to do with form than placement and coverage. Banded, nitrogen and potassium granularfertilizersmayburnyourseed due to a higher salt content, Moyer says. And, in other cases, the growing plant will steer its roots away from the nitrogen-banded granules of fertilizer. In starter blends, the nitrogen component may be “too hot” for the plant to access the phosphate granules in the band.

Most planters coming out of the U.S. come ready for liquid.

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LIQUID FERTILIZER Unlike granular, liquid fertilizer is a homogeneous blend — every drop contains the desired mixture. The granular market knows and understands the benefits of coverage consistency and is steering research and development dollars towards homogeneous blends, Moyer said. A prime example of this technology coming to the market in a new product is MicroEssentials by Mosaic.






Follow us on Facebook. Always read and follow label directions. EVEREST and the EVEREST 2.0 logo are registered trademarks of Arysta LifeScience North America, LLC. “Flush after flush” is a trademark of Arysta LifeScience North America, LLC. Arysta LifeScience and the Arysta LifeScience logo are registered trademarks of Arysta LifeScience Corporation. ©2013 Arysta LifeScience North America, LLC. ESTC-209



MARCH 4, 2013





t the beginning of August, I received a call about a wheat field in serious trouble. Ken operates a 2,900-acre grain farm near Norquay, Sask., consisting of wheat, canola and oats. He called my office when he spotted darkened heads throughout his maturing wheat field. “It has to be some sort of disease, but I’ve never seen these specific symptoms before. I need to know what it is so I can fix it. Do you have any idea what it could be?” Ken asked. After discussing Ken’s management strategy for this field, it was clear that he had conducted good management practices at seeding. He had treated the seed, sprayed a fungicide at the flag leaf stage and had a sound fertility program. To determine what was happening with Ken’s wheat, I decided to visit his farm to assess the damaged field. When I first arrived, I noticed many wheat heads were covered in a black substance. These affected plants appeared in patches which were scattered sporadically throughout the field. I also noticed the wheat field was starting to turn and would soon be ready to desiccate. In terms of diseases that cause black heads within a crop, smut,

bunt and glume blotch came to mind. On further inspection, I noticed that some heads were entirely affected. The most mature heads were visibly worse than immature heads. In fact, the young heads that were still green appeared to be unharmed. However, smut, bunt and glume blotch were not to blame in this situation because there were no false wheat kernels, the black specks appeared to be on the glumes, the glumes themselves were not discoloured and the symptoms only appeared on the ripe heads.

Smut, bunt and glume blotch came to mind Ken was right — these were very unusual symptoms. The two facts that allowed me to diagnose what was causing the damage in Ken’s field were, first, the symptoms appeared only on prematurely ripened heads and, second, the tissue surfaces of the heads, kernels and glumes were not discoloured. I took some pictures and sent them to an agronomy manager to confirm my diagnosis. What’s caused the blackened



nexplicable bald spots in a field of durum prompted a Regina-area producer to give me a call mid-July, 2012. Randy, who is an experienced farmer with a 5,000-acre operation comprised of canola, peas, lentils and durum, had seeded a newly-rented 320-acre field with two different varieties of durum in mid-May. When he returned to check on his crop a month later, he found his field scattered with barren patches where nothing had emerged. Areas outside of the patches were at the three- to four-leaf stage and healthy. “I think the problem might be the seed, even though I bought both seed varieties, exhibiting good germination and vigour test results, from a certified seed

grower,” Randy explained to me when I visited his farm. According to Randy, the field had previously been seeded to oats, although the field had not been seeded for two years since that time. This information, in consideration with the amount of precipitation that had fallen on the field during the past two years, led me to believe herbicide residue could not be the cause of the patches. Fertility was also not the issue because the patches were irregular in occurrence. Soil tests had not been performed before seeding and seed treatments had also not been used, raising the possibility that soil issues or seedling disease was causing the problem. I dug up and examined a healthy plant specimen located outside of the damaged areas. The roots, stems and leaves of


Many wheat heads were covered in a black substance; the symptoms only appeared on prematurely ripened heads.

Tess Strand wheat heads in Ken’s field? Send your diagnosis to Grainews, Box 9800, Winnipeg, MB, R3C 3K7; email leeann.minogue@ or fax 204944-5416 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 best answer, along with the reasoning which solved the mystery, will appear in the next Crop Advisor’s Solution. † Tess Strand is a sales agronomist for Richardson Pioneer Ltd., at Canora, Sask.

The tissue surfaces of the heads, kernels and glumes were not discoloured.

HIGH SODIUM LEVELS CAUSED PATCHES the plant appeared normal and healthy. Inside the patches, the soil was so hard I could barely get my shovel into the ground. I dug up seed and germinating seedlings and discovered everything was dead. Some seeds hadn’t germinated and had simply rotted, while other seeds germinated but then died immediately. It was clear there was something wrong within the soil profile. Soil tests revealed the cause of the barren patches in Randy’s durum wheat field. In the dead zones, the sodium levels were very high at 300 parts per million and 7.2 per cent of base saturation. When the sodium number climbs over 100 ppm it will disable the uptake of nutrients and water into the seed or plant — the seed will either germinate and die later on or will not germinate at all. When the base saturation of


sodium is greater than five per cent, it is hard to grow anything, even weeds. High sodium levels would also explain why the soil was so hard — when sodium levels increase, the soluble calcium decreases. Soluble calcium gives soil its friable, loamy, permeable structure. As sodium levels increase the soil structure deteriorates, the compaction rate increases and drainage is impaired. Soil tests from an area outside of the patches indicated sodium levels were low at 40 ppm and the base saturation of sodium was 0.96 per cent. By the time we received the test results, it was too late to help mitigate the damage in the field. At harvest the yield came in well below average for the area. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much Randy could do to improve the

qualities of the field. He does not have access to irrigation water to leach the sodium down into the soil profile and applying gypsum was not a feasible option because of the difficulty with sourcing it; for example, Randy would need to apply a large amount, the cost would be high for transport and application, and its efficacy would be questionable for a number of years. My advice to him was to look for a better soil profile when considering renting land and to make sure to test the soil before planting. It is essential to growing a healthy crop to know the field’s complete history of crop inputs and performing soil tests should be your number one priority upon obtaining a new parcel of land. † Ashley Hiduk is a sales agronomist for Richardson Pioneer Ltd., at Corinne, Sask.

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MARCH 4, 2013 /



CFIA regulation changes As the CFIA backs away from regulating fertilizer efficacy, Chris Holpzafel recommends that farmers look to third-party research BY LISA GUENTHER


he Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) will stop regulating efficacy for fertilizers and supplements in April 2013. Whether loosening the regulations will benefit farmers by lowering costs and allowing sellers to bring new products to market quickly, or allow some companies to sell products without backing their claims, remains to be seen. As an interim measure the CFIA now requires companies to prove fertilizer efficacy using Canadian or foreign trial data, or scientific articles. But the agency expects to amend the regulations in April, dropping all efficacy requirements. Instead the agency will focus on making sure products are safe for humans, animals, plants and the environment.

COST COMPETITIVENESS Bob Friesen applauds Minister Ritz for changing the regulations. He says farmers are business professionals with access to industry experts and a wealth of knowledge.

“And so we believe that farmers are professional enough not to be duped into using what some people have called snake oil kind of tactics,” says Friesen. Friesen is the CEO of Farmers of North America’s Strategic Agriculture Institute, which focuses on research, policy and regulation. The United States doesn’t require efficacy testing in fertilizer or pesticides. Friesen says it’s a cost competiveness issue. “You can’t have an integrated industry such as the CanadianU.S. grains and oilseeds industry, and then have onerous regulations that prevent our farmers from being cost competitive.” “The point of the matter is that it takes more money. It takes more time. And we know that the disadvantage of the additional time and the additional cost usually accrue back to the farm gate,” says Friesen. Friesen isn’t concerned about products that may be effective in other regions, but ineffective in Western Canada, being sold here. “Everybody is aware of that. Farmers themselves are aware of that. So that does not mean that someone is going to try to

sell a product in a climate zone or soil zone that doesn’t work because it’s in a different zone,” says Friesen. Chris Holzapfel is the research manager at the Indian Head Agricultural Research Foundation. The foundation, based out of Indian Head, Saskatchewan, studies new technology, products and farming practices. Holzapfel says CFIA’s efficacy requirements did ensure fertilizer products worked as intended and placed restrictions on the label claims companies could make. But most farmers do their homework before spending big bucks on novel products, Holzapfel says. “Ultimately, at the end of the day, will there be much impact? I don’t know.”

TESTING NEW PRODUCTS “If you want to evaluate that your investment is providing some type of return on investment, (on-farm testing) is the best way to do it, short of having third-party replicated data,” says Holzapfel. He adds that third-party data isn’t necessarily better than on-

f a r m r e s e a rc h , b u t o n - f a r m research requires commitment. “Done properly, the results are probably as or more valid. It’s just that you’re limited in the types of data you can collect.” Yield maps and other technologies allow farmers to test new products themselves. Not everyone can do four or more replications, but Holzapfel says some level of replication is critical.

“Farmers in Canada are not stupid.” — Bob Freisen

Holzapfel has developed a guide for farmers evaluating new products through on-farm research. The guide includes worksheets, sample calculations, and illustrations of possible field layouts. Farmers can also download a spreadsheet to statistically analyze the research results. The guide is available at

Holzapfel says there isn’t any question about previously registered products working. “The question really becomes under what circumstances are we likely to see a benefit?” Holzapfel thinks many companies realize that farmers want data to see how products work under different systems. As well, most companies that were working with Holzapfel and his colleagues before the regulatory changes were announced are still supporting trials using their products. “Their feeling is that the market will still demand it so they really have no intentions of changing their research plans, I guess,” says Holzapfel. Friesen says most companies aren’t going to try selling products that don’t work to farmers. “Yes, there may be some that try — some fly-by-nighters — but they’re not going to last, number one. And number two, farmers in Canada are not stupid. They’re professionals, they have a wealth of knowledge, and they’re not easily duped into buying something that isn’t going to work.” † Lisa Guenther is a field editor with Grainews based at Livelong, Sask. Contact her at Lisa.


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MARCH 4, 2013


Cover crops becoming more popular With our short growing season, we have several options for cover crops in Western Canada. Kevin Elmy’s been trying some new ones on his farm BY KEVIN ELMY


cross the United States, cover crops have been increasing in popularity. Between drought, delayed seeding, the high cost of putting the crop in, long growing season, high levels of inputs and leaching concerns, cover crops are taking hold. Most farmers planting cover crops are finding fewer nutrients in water run off, less erosion, less input required for the next crop and cooler soils during the growing season. With the amount of unseeded acres across the Prairies, some farmers tried cover crops this

year for the first time. Instead of letting the fields sit for up to three years without any production, some were willing to try cover crops.

STEEP LEARNING CURVE In Western Canada, since we are just starting with the cover crop strategy, there is still a fair amount to learn — which species to use and when, relay cropping, grazing, greenfeed, seeding into the cover crop and taking out the cover crop are some questions that come up. Because of our short growing season, we do not have a lot of options that will grow fast enough to produce

enough benefit to make it worthwhile. One way to find out what works it so do trials. We seeded seed of different species — some in the garden, and others in a couple of blends that we seeded in the field. I was unsure about RootMax Annual Ryegrass and Crimson Clover. I didn’t even know what Phacelia was, never mind how it would fit into a cover crop blend. It is very interesting to replicate something someone else has done elsewhere. In our case, we seeded out six-foot (two-metre) strips in our garden to see what the different species looked like and how they performed.

Most varieties looked weak or maybe ordinary. Put them in a blend, and they looked better than expected. Trevor Lennox and Shannon Chant with Saskatchewan Agriculture at Swift Current, Sask., did some trials and found the same thing. In pure stands, most species looked ordinary or weak. In a blend, they exhibited stronger growth.

SPRING OF 2012 This spring, because we were wet, again, and seeding was delayed, we decided to reduce our canola acres as it was getting to the end of May. There

were fields we could not get on and seeding canola in June, plus getting them off in time to get winter cereals in, just does not happen. It continued to rain through June. By the first part of July, we were able to get into the fields to get the ground prepared for seeding. There were ruts in the field, saturated pieces that needed to be aerated, and straw to be managed. We seeded a mixture of 10 pounds of crown millet (white proso millet) with one pound of Tillage Radish between July 9 and July 13 with our Bourgault airseeder, with no seed placed fertilizer. Two of the fields we seeded had just come through two years of soybeans with lots of volunteer canola. The other field had been seeded with fridge forage winter triticale. We were concerned about the nitrogen levels on the triticale stubble, but being as wet as it was we just wanted to use up soil moisture. Soybean ground had adequate levels of nitrogen for the millet.

Cover crops are going to be included in our rotation The last summer rain we received came on July 19. The other field we seeded to cover crop is where we planned on seeding corn. With the excessive spring moisture, we only seeded five acres of the 40, so we seeded some strips into the 35 acres on July 13, using three Cover Crop Solutions blends, and one that we put together. The three Cover Crop Solutions blends we tried were: Indy (includes Tillage Radish, RootMax Annual Rye, and CCS Crimson Clover); Daytona (includes Tillage Radish and CCS Crimson Clover); and Bristol (includes Tillage Radish, RootMax and Annual Rye). Our own blend included Tillage Radish, RootMax Annual Rye, CCS Crimson Clover, natto soybeans, and fridge forage winter triticale. Our goal was to seed fridge forage winter triticale that BY DAN PIRARO

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MARCH 4, 2013 /



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THE RESULTS Germination was good on all the fields. It may have been more stressful if the rains continued, but the dry weather worked in our favour. Ground cover occurred quickly. The seeding rate of the Daytona blend was a bit low as it never covered the ground as nicely, or the mix just needs some grass in it to bulk it up. The green feed mix of crown millet and Tillage Radish was cut on August 27 and baled soon after. We Averaged 1-1/2 bales per acre with 1,200 pound bales. Having Tillage Radish in the mix bumped up the protein from 8.3 to nine per cent, calcium from 0.19 to 0.32 per cent and relative feed value from 96 to 102. On its own, Tillage Radish is actually too rich to feed, with protein over 25 per cent and a relative feed value over 275. After the crown millet/Tillage Radish blend was baled, the crown millet died, where the Tillage Radish regrew. When the fridge forage winter triticale was seeded into the stubble, establishment was much improved over seeding into canola stubble. The soil was mellower and had better moisture than canola stubble. The cover crop strips in

NEXT YEAR The fun thing with cover crops is that there are always more potential species to use. Next year we are going to do more experiments with species and blends to see what works. Definitely cover crops are going to be included in our rotation. This will reduce our rotation risk, spread out our workload, help conserve moisture and improve our soils. Plus we can also get our winter cereals seeded on time, into better stubble with better moisture. † Kevin Elmy operates Friendly Acres Seed Farm, along with his wife, Christina, and parents, Robert and Verene, near Saltcoats, Sask. Contact him at 306-744-2779 or visit



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MARCH 4, 2013


Pod sealants to prevent shattering Looking for a way to keep canola pods from shattering during the harvest? Pod sealants may not be a magic cure, but they could provide peace of mind BY ANGELA LOVELL


hen pod sealants arrived on the market in Western Canada a few years ago there was considerable interest from farmers who were experiencing problems with pod shatter in canola. Pod shatter is a big concern when straight combining canola, especially if harvest is delayed. There have been reported yield losses up to 50 per cent relative to swathing in some straight-combined canola crops due to pod shatter.

manager with UAP, which markets Pod-Stik, manufactured by Pod sealants are sprayed on Loveland Products Inc., one of the crop to form a coating that only two pod sealants currently is designed to reduce the risk of available in western Canada. “But pod shatter as the seeds inside earlier is better because if you are mature. It’s generally recom- going in with a ground rig you mended that pod sealants be run the risk of some seed shatter applied when approximately 30 on the more mature pods.” to 40 per cent of the pods have Research done to date in both changed colour, but are still pli- North Dakota and Saskatchewan able and not brittle. has not been able to prove any “Our product label states that significant benefits from the use it should be applied between of pod sealants in straight-comgrowth stage 80 (seed green, fill- bined canola crops. There are ing pod cavity) until growth stage some obvious advantages, one 89 (fully ripe, seeds are black and being that the cost of the product, T:8.125”plus application is similar to the hard),” says Dale Ziprick, product


cost of swathing and can be done more quickly than swathing. But in terms of saving yield by preventing pod shatter, results from recent trials in Saskatchewan haven’t been all that promising.

SASKATCHEWAN STUDIES Studies were initiated in 2009 and 2010 at four locations; Melfort, Indian Head, Scott and Swift Current. The field trials included five canola cultivars and four harvest treatments: swathed, straight-cut with no pod sealant, straight-cut with

Pod Ceal DC (a product formerly distributed by Brett-Young) and straight-cut with Pod-Stik. The study showed that total seed losses due to pod shattering and whole pods dropping, just prior to harvest, ranged from less than one per cent of the total yield to over 22 per cent at one site at Melfort in 2010 when extreme conditions (snowfall prior to harvest) were encountered. The pod sealants did not have a measurable effect on shattering losses, even under moderate to high shattering conditions. On average, losses for all cultivars were six per cent of the total yield at the time of harvest. Straight-combining resulted in a small but consistent and significant increase in seed size (six per cent on average), but pod sealants did not appear to have any effect on seed quality.

Pod sealants are not a silver bullet, but they do offer another risk management tool for farmers to consider


The study did detect a positive impact on canola yield, but only at one site. “We saw a positive yield response to pod sealants at one of eight sites and the increase was on the order or 15 per cent,” says Chris Holzapfel, research manager at Indian H e a d A g r i c u l t u r a l R e s e a rc h Foundation, who was involved in the study. This benefit was observed at a site where moderate but not excessive shattering losses occurred. “However, because we did not see a response almost 90 per cent of the time and I see no real way of being able to predict the likelihood of seeing that type of response [with any regularity], it is difficult for us to recommend using pod sealants based on this data.” UAP held its own side-by-side trials in 2008 with 26 farmers BY DAN PIRARO

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MARCH 4, 2013 /



Growth stage eight — ripening



he growth stages Dale Ziprick refers to in this article are described on the Canola Council of Canada’s website. These numbers are part of the BBCH decimal system — a standard approach developed by BASF, Bayer, Ciba-Geigy and Hoechst. The system divides plant growth into the following categories. • 0: Germination • 1: Leaf development • 2: Development of side shoots • 3: Stem elongation • 4: Not key to canola development • 5: Inflorescence emergence • 6: Flowering • 7: Seed development

going to be disappointed with the results.” UAP’s side-by-side trials incorporated different application methods at different water volumes. Based on that data, Ziprick recommends that farmers do not go lower than 10 to 15 gallons per acre with a ground sprayer and no lower than five gallons by air. Applying a higher water volume is essential as the density of the crop canopy increases to ensure good penetration and coverage to the pods situated on the lower part of the plant. “To maximize coverage you also need to use a nozzle that will give a medium quality spray,” says Ziprick.

Choosing the right variety is probably a more important factor of resistance to shattering than the use of pod sealants. In Holzapfel’s study there were significant differences in shatter resistance between varieties. He suggests that choosing high yielding cultivars that are relatively resistant to pod shattering will offer canola growers considering straight-combining a greater advantage than using pod sealants. Ziprick agrees that pod sealants are not a silver bullet, but they do offer another risk management tool for farmers to consider, especially when Mother Nature doesn’t co-operate. While the focus with pod sealants has been largely been as a

Dale Ziprick sees pod sealants as an option for farmers who swath canola. across Western Canada. UAP’s results showed an average yield increase of two bushels per acre in canola across all the sites, with a positive yield response in 14 of the 26 sites and no response in 11 sites. Only one site showed a negative yield response.

POD SHATTER IN CANOLA It’s important to remember, says John Mayko, a senior agricoach with Agri-Trend, that pod shatter in canola has a lot to do with the whole crop condition. “Generally speaking, what we recommend is the crop has to be a good candidate for straight cutting,” he says. “It’s got to be a crop that’s healthy, disease free and is well knitted together, not a light, spindly crop. If you are already behind the eight ball with a crop that is more at risk of shattering, I don’t see that spending money on a pod sealant is a good investment.” Pod shatter can sometimes be mistaken for other problems, especially if there are disease problems in the crop, adverse weather conditions or other conditions that can cause pod loss. “Another risk that people generally don’t talk much about is pod drop,” says Mayko. “That’s where the pod breaks off at the stem that attaches it to the main stem of the plant. People look at seed loss and assume that most of it is due to pod shatter, but there is also pod drop and pod sealants aren’t going to help with that.” Holzapfel’s data suggests that pod drop losses can frequently contribute to up to 50 per cent of the total environmental seed losses that occur under field conditions, which may partly explain why they didn’t see a yield benefit very often. Ziprick feels that there has definitely been some confusion in the marketplace about what pod sealants are designed to do. “The biggest thing that we have to remember with this product is it’s not a be-all, end-all solution that stops shattering in its tracks,” he says. “Pod-Stik is a latex based product, that when applied to the plant, will provide a netting over the pod preventing it from splitting, while allowing moisture to move freely for normal maturity development. What it

doesn’t do is eliminate the risk of the pods physically dropping off the plants. When these products were brought to the market I think they weren’t completely understood in that context. PodStik will remain effective for up to eight weeks post application, but the best advice I can give is to harvest the crop as soon as it is ready to do so.”

APPLYING POD SEALANT It’s important to know how to properly apply pod sealants, adds Mayko. In his experience some farmers have had disappointing results, which he attributes to not getting enough coverage from the product. “It’s generally recommended that these products have to be applied with 15 to 20 gallons of water,” says Mayko. “It’s a contact product, so the more water you can apply the better coverage you will get. If you are going to be cheap on the water then the suggestion is you don’t bother applying these products because you are

Trait Stewardship Responsibilities

Notice to Farmers

Monsanto Company is a member of Excellence Through Stewardship® (ETS). Monsanto products are commercialized in accordance with ETS Product Launch Stewardship Guidance, and in compliance with Monsanto’s Policy for Commercialization of Biotechnology-Derived Plant Products in Commodity Crops. This product has been approved for import into key export markets with functioning regulatory systems. Any crop or material produced from this product can only be exported to, or used, processed or sold in countries where all necessary regulatory approvals have been granted. It is a violation of national and international law to move material containing biotech traits across boundaries into nations where import is not permitted. Growers should talk to their grain handler or product purchaser to confirm their buying position for this product. Excellence Through Stewardship® is a registered trademark of Excellence Through Stewardship. ALWAYS READ AND FOLLOW PESTICIDE LABEL DIRECTIONS. Roundup Ready® crops contain genes that confer tolerance to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup® brand agricultural herbicides. Roundup® brand agricultural herbicides will kill crops that are not tolerant to glyphosate. Genuity and Design®, Genuity Icons, Genuity®, Roundup Ready®, and Roundup® are trademarks of Monsanto Technology LLC. Used under license.

10623A_MON_GEN_stewardship_legal_grainnews.indd 8/20/12 2:47 1 PM

• 8: Ripening • 9: Senescence No. 8, ripening, is further divided into several distinct stages: • 80: ripening begins — seed green, filling pod cavity • 81: 10 per cent of pods ripe, seeds black and hard • 82: 20 per cent of pods ripe, seeds black and hard • 89: fully ripe, nearly all pods ripe, seeds black and hard Find full descriptions of all of these growth stages on the Canola Council of Canada’s website (www.canolacouncil. org.) This information is in Chapter 3 of the Growers’ Manual. † Leeann Minogue

tool for straight cutting canola, Ziprick sees an opportunity for farmers who still choose to swath all or some of their canola to use Pod-Stik just prior to swathing. “The fact that more farms are growing larger acres of canola, trying to manage the timing and the variability that exists within fields and between varieties, we see this as an excellent risk management tool if used correctly,’ says Ziprick. “At the end of the day it adds that layer of insurance to the whole approach of managing harvest losses.” † Angela Lovell is a freelance writer, editor and communications specialist living and working in Manitoba. Find her online at

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REAL Results! “We trialed Awaken ST on a field of CDC Utmost. The crop was seeded in early April and yielded exceptional results. “The wheat emerged evenly, grew vigorously and never looked back. In June, the growing conditions got very wet in our area, but the crop that was treated with Awaken ST was deeply rooted and well established. It continued to grow very well through the wet season and there was very little drowned out area on the trial field. “The wheat that was treated with Awaken ST was the most consistent and even wheat crop that we have ever produced on this field. We plan to treat all of our wheat with Awaken ST in 2013. “I am excited to awake my crop to its full potential!” Inland Seeds Corp. Tim Pizzey, Binscarth, MB Always read and follow all label directions. Awaken is a registered trademark of Loveland Products Inc. UAP Canada is a member of CropLife Canada. 01.13 13003



MARCH 4, 2013


Swede midge Agronomists are finding swede midge in Prairie canola fields. Add this new pest to your 2013 field-scouting list BY SHANNON MCARTON

T In these Ontario canola plants, swede midge damaged the growing point.


he Swede midge, a gall midge native to Europe and Asia, was first identified in Ontario in 2000. In Europe, Swede midge is a common threat to cruciferous vegetable crops like broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower. Its first discovery in Ontario was in vegetable crops, and it has been closely monitored since because of its potentially devastating impact on marketability of produce.

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Over the past decade, Swede midge has become widely evident in Ontario and Quebec and has been identified in other provinces, including Saskatchewan. Although most commonly found in vegetables, canola is another potential victim for this cruciferous-loving pest.

SWEDE MIDGE SIGHTINGS Canadian Food Inspection Agency personnel caught small numbers of adult Swede midge in pheromone traps in the northeast (Nipawin and Melfort) and east central (Yorkton) areas of Saskatchewan in 2007. Jumping larvae were first sighted in northeastern Saskatchewan in 2007 and 2008, but the first documented damage in Saskatchewan that resulted in a financial impact was in 2012. “The fact that damage was found on fall-seeded canola may indicate that timing is a factor,” says Scott Hartley, Saskatchewan Agriculture. “Swede midge overwinters in cocoons in the soil, similar to wheat midge, so timing and weather conditions both play big roles.” Swede midge is a Hessian fly, from the same family as the more familiar wheat midge. The adult is a tiny, light-brown fly, often hard to distinguish from other closely related midge species. First-generation adults typically emerge in the spring from mid-May to mid-June, with peak emergence in the first week of June. Females will lay anywhere from two to 50 eggs in clusters, usually near the growth point of the youngest, actively growing vegetative tissue. During their short life span of two to four days, each female will manage to lay approximately 100 eggs. Larvae hatch after three days, small maggots about 0.3 mm long that start feeding near the plant’s growing point. Depending on the weather conditions, larvae can reach full development within three weeks. At maturity, they can reach three to four millimetres in length and are a bright yellow colour, easily visible. Research done in Ontario indicates four to five overlapping generations. Pre-pupae of the last generation overwinter in cocoons in the soil and hatch the following spring, but a few individuals may overwinter a second season before becoming adults. Swede midge adults can be seen until early October and larvae may be in evidence on plants until mid-October. The adult Swede midge isn’t capable of long distance flight but movement over several hundreds of metres does occur, so spread from an old infested field to a new planting is a very real possibility. The potential for survival in the soil for two or more years makes crop rotation the most

MARCH 4, 2013 /




In these Saskatchewan plants, the florets were affected by swede midge. Fused florets are shown clearly on the right, typical of the damage done in 2012. effective preventative measure. With multiple generations and a high reproductive rate, midge populations can grow quickly under multiple plantings of the same crop. High numbers of overwintering larvae could cause significant problems for the next growing season.

SWEDE MIDGE DAMAGE “Damage is usually done to the growing point of the plant, resulting in a ‘bouquet’ of pods,” says Hartley. “But it’s important to remember that some types of herbicide damage can result in a similar bouquet effect, so you have to be able to distinguish between them.”

Other symptoms can include aborted flowers or flowers with petals fused or glued together, and deformed, stunted or missing pods. Experience in Ontario, where the pest has been monitored for much longer, indicates that evidence of damage depends on the growth stage of canola during peak feeding, as well as the intensity of feeding. If pre-bolting canola comes under attack the growing point may be damaged to the point that bolting doesn’t occur. Damage to a bolting stem is what causes the “bouquet” effect, a shortened raceme crowned with a bouquet of pods radiating out from one point rather than along a typical raceme. Canola yields are not affected after full flowering.

Larvae start feeding near the plant’s growing point. They can reach full development within three weeks.

Documented damage in 2012 was represented by fused florets. When the florets were separated, larvae were exposed. The fused florets died, resulting in reduced yield. “High moisture, existing populations and favourable temperatures are all factors,” says Hartley. “There’s been limited evidence in Saskatchewan and even less in Manitoba so far, so we’ll have to wait and see what happens. A lot will depend on the weather.” Plans are in place for increased monitoring in Saskatchewan in 2013, to measure both presence and impact. So far, the movement pattern has been more easterly than northern-moving. The bug’s inability to fly long

distances should dictate a relatively slow advance, but there’s just not enough evidence yet to reliably predict its habits and movement patterns. While the impact of a large infestation could be devastating, Hartley counsels a wait and see attitude. “It’s been here for five years and to date, financial losses have been very small,” says Hartley. “Total eradication just isn’t realistic, but it will be possible to keep it below the economic threshold. Decisions will have to be based on the same kind of logic applied to other pesticide treatments for things like wheat midge and bertha armyworm. You’ll never eliminate them completely, so you

have to weigh benefits against cost of treatment and make the best decision.” Learning to read the signs accurately will also be key. Some of the newer chemical formulae need to consume tissue in order to be effective, resulting in small amounts of tissue damage. “Don’t automatically assume tissue damage is from midge,” cautions Hartley. “Treatments that act on tissue are very different from some of the old standby products that worked quickly and effectively with no tissue damage. Get to know the difference in plant reaction so you make a better diagnosis.” † Shannon McArton is a grain farmer and freelance writer from southern Saskatchewan.

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MARCH 4, 2013

Features SEEDING

Seeding canola at low rates Some canola growers are thinking about seeding rates in terms of plants per acre rather than pounds of seed per acre BY MARK VAN VEEN


uccessfully seeding and establishing hybrid canola can be achieved at lower seeding rates by carefully selecting the canola variety, choosing the right equipment, and paying attention to machinery settings and operation. Other steps to successful canola seeding are: • Targeting final plant stands according to seed size. • Handling the canola in the most efficient and gentle manner possible. • Placing the seed in exactly the correct spot in the seedbed. Some canola growers are starting to contemplate optimum seeding rates in terms of final plants per acre (PPA), rather than pounds of seed per acre. Farmers working on lowering seeding rates tend to aim for between 250,000 and 300,000 PPA with some trial work at the 200,000 PPA level to check where the consistent bottom end is. Right now there isn’t enough evidence to verify that rates as low as 200,000 PPA can be successful in all soil and climate conditions and with differing genetics. The Canola Council of Canada recommends seven canola plants per square foot — 304,920 PPA.

the air stream to see how high the seed goes over the top of the hose. If the air carries the seed six to eight inches up over the edge of the hose, there is enough air. If the seed is propelled two to three feet up past the end of the hose, the air volume needs to be reduced. If a single fan feeds the seed air stream, this is as simple as dialling the fan back. If the fan services both the seed and fertilizer air streams, baffles will need to be adjusted to concentrate most of the air to the fertilizer stream. Rough edges and contact points inside the air delivery system need to be reduced or eliminated. Tower lids need to be cushioned or spiralled to give the seed gentle

turns at the top of the towers. On very wide drills that require large air volumes to get to the outside edges of the wings, seed brakes might be contemplated to eliminate the possibility of seed bounce at the bottom of the trench.

KNOWING YOUR SEEDBED HELPS MANAGE MORTALITY One of the biggest challenges to reducing seed mortality is the exact placement of seed in a warm, moist seedbed. If your seedbed is freezing cold, saturated, covered with a two-inch crust, or hard as a rock do not attempt to seed at low rates. You will be flirting with disaster.

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Low rate canola seeding machines must have parallel linkages on each row for precise depth control. Without individual row depth control, seed depth cannot be controlled accurately enough to give consistent results. Consistent seed placement at one-quarter to one half an inch into firm, moist, warm soil has shown to give the best results. Accurate seeding depth is best achieved (in order of accuracy) by double disc, single disc and knife style opener systems that are individually depth controlled.

WATCH YOUR OPENERS Opener closing systems are also extremely important. Gentle pack-

ing without excessive pressure assures the seed a good home to germinate from. Opener performance in heavy residue can be an obstacle to maintaining proper seed depth. Conditioning and evenly distributing residue will improve seeding accuracy. Opener depth adjustments are required to compensate for a half-inch layer of chopped cereal straw. Double disc and single disc precision drills are required for zero tilling canola into heavy residues such as corn, sunflower or stripper header combined cereals and flax. These heavy residues require the additional clearance of disc drills to maintain seeding accuracy without plugging. With careful attention to detail, precision air seeding systems can give uniform high yielding stands. † Mark van Veen is a territory representative at Salford Farm Machinery. Contact him a (519) 619-6171 or email mark.vanvenn@

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FOCUS ON NUMBER OF VIABLE PLANTS Seed planted don’t equal viable plants per acre. Some current seeding methods have seed mortality rates as high as 50 per cent. With high vigour seed, gentle handling, precision seed placement, and good seedbed conditions, seedling mortality rates of 10 per cent can be achieved. The size of canola seed greatly effects how the seed will be metered. Treated canola seed size can vary from 6.0 grams/1,000 seeds (75,000 seeds/lb.) to 3.8 grams/1,000 seeds (112,500 seeds/lb.). If a 90 per cent survival rate can be achieved this would translate to seeding 3.7 lb./acre (with seed at 75,000 seeds/lb) to 2.47 lb./acre (with seed at 112,500 seeds/lb.) to achieve a 250,000 final plant stand. This is a significant difference in seeding rates. If a large seed size of 75,000 seeds per pound were planted at 2.47 lb./acre, final stand would only be 166,725 PPA, assuming 90 per cent survival. Especially at low seeding rates it’s important that meters can deliver precisely the number of seeds per acre, and distribute them evenly across the field. Uneven metering that distributes bunches of seed or leaves unseeded patches will lead to reduced yield.

ENSURE UNDAMAGED SEED In the air distribution system too much air volume or too much air velocity can damage seed and reduce your final number of plants per acre. One simple method to check if there is enough air volume is to remove a hose from an opener and point the hose straight up. Then hand crank some seed into




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MARCH 4, 2013 /



Spraying at first light may cost you herbicide efficacy Just because you can use autosteer to spray at any time of the day or night doesn’t mean you should. New research on spray timing may surprise you BY HELEN MCMENAMIN


utosteer allows you to do anything at any time,” says Ken Coles, Farming Smarter manager. It’s not far from that thought to figuring that spraying in the dark should give better results. “It’s cooler, so herbicides remain on the leaves and are absorbed better,” says Coles. “And maybe the stomata that close during the heat of the day are open at night, possibly allowing more herbicide absorption. And there’s no risk of photodegration with chemicals that can be degraded in sunshine.” Currently Farming Smarter, a research organization representing farmers in Southern Alberta, is looking into the benefits of nighttime spraying. By assessing both in-crop and pre-seeding burn-off herbicides, and separating out the ingredients of premixes, they’ll be able to see which ones might be affected by changing conditions of mid-day, midnight and dawn spraying. So far, Coles has been “astounded” by the results. It seems, unexpectedly, that from one year of comparisons of spraying times that most herbicides are most effective when sprayed in the middle of the day, as opposed to spraying late at night or early in the morning.

EARLY MORNING LEAST EFFECTIVE As part of its project, Farming Smarter looked at herbicides as pre-seeding burn-off and in-crop. The preseeding trials looked at glyphosate alone (Vantage Plus), saflufenacil (included in Heat), carfentrazone (included in CleanStart) and fluorasulam (included in Prepass). Early in the season, each one was used at 75 per cent of the rate in the recommended rate of the commercial mixture so the herbicide would have less than ideal conditions

Effects of spray timing on mustard. that would highlight small differences in effectiveness. Later, when weeds were bigger, the researchers figured that would be enough of a challenge for the herbicides. The researchers were surprised to find the least effective spray time was at 4:00 to 5:00 a.m. “Two weeks after spraying, the early morning-sprayed plots were definitely the worst,” says Coles. “We were astounded to see such big differences. We don’t often see such clearcut differences as we saw in this trial. “CleanStart (carfentrazone) was the only herbicide that didn’t show big differences. Its performance in the early morning was very similar to when it was sprayed at noon or midnight. Maybe we saw a loss of activity for that chemical sprayed at mid-day when it can be degraded by the sunshine.” Differences among the three times of day were even bigger when weeds were cut from each plot 35 days after spraying.


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Vantage Plus performance dropped by as much as 19 per cent when sprayed between 4 to 5 a.m. Prepass ingredient, fluorasulam, was around 13 per cent less effective in the early morning and saflufenacil (the Heat ingredient) lost four or five per cent early in the morning. Carfentrazone (Heat ingredient) had similar activity at all three times. Weather around the time of spraying, of course, has a huge impact on herbicide efficacy. This spring was generally cool and very humid, so that at the coolest, most humid time of the day (the 4 to 5 a.m. spraying time,) plants would be thoroughly chilled. At the first spraying for the Farming Smarter trial, May 4, the temperature was 2 C. The second burn-off spray day, May 22, wasn’t so cold, but the pattern of herbicide performance was similar.

IN-CROP PERFORMANCE Farming Smarter and applied research associations at Bonnyville

and Falher also compared the performance of in-crop herbicides sprayed at the same three times. Liberty-Link canola was sprayed with Liberty (glufosinate) or Lontrel and Select (clopyralid and clethodim) and Roundup Ready canola with Vantage Plus (glyphosate). Peas were treated with Odyssey (imazemox and Imazethapyr) or Select (clethodim). Four herbicides or tank-mixes were tested on wheat: OcTTain XL(fluroxypyr and 2,4-D). Axial and Infinity (pinoxaden, prasulfotole and bromoxynil), Everest (flucarbazone) and Barricade (thifensulfuron and tribeuron). The herbicides in the trial include chemicals from Groups 1, 2 and 4, as well as 6, 9, 10 and 27. Rates of all chemicals were cut to 75 per cent to highlight differences in performance. Coles and the other researchers haven’t analyzed their results yet. But their preliminary reviews of the in-crop herbicides don’t show the clear differences they saw in the burnoff chemicals.

Even though some chemicals were as much as 19 per cent less effective when sprayed at dawn in this trial, the difference may mean little if label rates are used. “Herbicides are formulated to perform well at label rates under almost any conditions,” says Coles. “But, at least for most of the burn-down chemicals, it seems you don’t need to be out at first light.” Rather than looking to autosteer to allow herbicide spraying in the dark, as originally planned, Coles is now looking to spraying technology for better herbicide performance. “With low-drift nozzles, we can now spray in winds over 20 km per hour,” he says. “So, getting out early, before the wind comes up, is becoming much less important.” This article originally ran in the Fall 2012 edition of “Farming Smater” magazine. Learn more about this organization at www. † Helen McMenamin is a freelance writer based in Alberta.

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MARCH 4, 2013

Features Insect management

Better insect management

Want better insect control on your farm? Here are seven things to consider this growing season By Jason Casselman


hen we talk about insect control we start to appreciate that it is a complex problem. There are many factors, like economic threshold, optimum application timing, pre-harvest interval, effect on beneficial insects, and making the crop less of a target for pests. Most of my discussions with farmers are focused on spraying as a direct control measure.

Don’t overlook everything else that must be done as part of an integrated pest management program before taking the last option of using in-crop insecticides. Here is a list of things to consider as part of your insect management plant.

1. Acceptable population levels Before you spray, make sure you know the acceptable level of

the pest population — a few pests will always be present. Make regular field observations to monitor the pest population and properly identify most of the insects.

2.  Farming practices

photos: jason casselman

Bertha armyworms are stripping these canola plants near Rycroft, Alta., on August 22 — very close to swathing time.

Are you presenting a smorgasMaking the crop less of a target bord of food with no barriers to should be at least19, one2012 goal when 912152A01_FCB Nov. the incoming pest invasion or do managing insects. Esso_26535_2012 Hockey Goals & Assists you have prevention program in I would like to see more use of M0219_Mag_D_ST place that makes the neighbours’ trap crops in insect management. fields an easier target? A trap crop may be a strip of

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alfalfa seeded on the edges a canola field as a trap crop for lygus bugs. Instead of spraying the canola, monitor the alfalfa strips and spray it for insects. Alfalfa strips may also be used as a breeding ground for beneficial insects that can help keep pest populations in check. Healthy crops may be another part of the plan. An observation from the field is that crops under stress take a bigger hit from pest insects than those that are not showing signs of stress. Higher insect counts are more likely in areas of the field that are growing poorly than in heavy crop. Does good plant nutrition have an effect on the crops response to insect pest attack? We do know that plant stresses are cumulative. Plants that are already suffering from adverse weather, lack of nutrition and then added insect damage the plants will have a hard time recovering or growing through it. We believe that if canola is not getting enough boron it may cause terminal bud death and will try to branch out around that bud. The question might be does a temporal nutrient deficiency plus a few too many lygus bugs at budding stage have a combine effect that causes a greater problem?

3. Economic thresholds Economic thresholds for insect control change based on current crop value and anticipated control cost. A higher value crop requires fewer pest insects to make it worthwhile to apply a control measure that reduces the potential damage to the crop. Economic threshold charts are available online. Look for updated versions with current crop prices.

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Scout fields at regular intervals and check that populations are building if planning to spray insecticide. Consistent checks in the same areas and at similar time of day will help. Windy days may give you different counts than on calmer days, temperature is a factor when scouting for insects, and insects are usually less active at cooler temperatures. The key is to control insects when they have reached at economic threshold counts on average counts across the field. When scouting for insects don’t miss the forest for the trees. It is very easy to be focused on looking for a specific insect pest when using the sweep nets or walking in the field. You might miss other insect activity that is going on

MARCH 4, 2013 /


Features around. Other insects that are not pest are likely beneficial insects helping with the whole crop ecosystem — pollinators, or insect predators that hunt for and prey on other insects.

5.  Application timing Optimum application timing of insecticides can make the difference between money well spent and crisis averted or basically a revenge spray that kills the pest but long after the damage has been done. One discussion regarding application timing is about spraying an insecticide on canola at budding, especially for lygus bugs. Our experience seems to provide evidence that if lygus bugs are present at the bud stage and the canola plants struggle to produce proper flower buds, spraying an insecticide does relieve some of the pressure on the plant so that it can produce flower buds. The key is to check canola at the bud stage and determine if budding and flowering is progressing properly and, if not, what might be holding it back. We do see quite a few farmers doing prophylactic spraying for flea beetles in canola who maintain they are also controlling other insect pests like lygus bugs and diamond back larvae early. The question is how many insect pest predators also get wiped out when spraying for pest insects that may or may not be there that early?

We did see aster yellows in many fields but many farmers were not aware of what was happening to the plants in the field until much later, when infected canola plants were producing pods that looked like deflated bladders instead of seed filled pods. A guaranteed economic return from spraying for leafhoppers is doubtful, even vegetable farmers who spray insecticide on a weekly basis for leaf hoppers will still get some aster yellows infection. There is a lot of work done to prepare forecast maps and provide information to the pest monitoring networks, use them as a resource to plan ahead. Make an insect management plan that assess factors like economic threshold, optimum application timing, pre-harvest interval, effect on beneficial insects, and making the crop less of a target for pests to help take the uncertainty out of your decision making. † Jason Casselman is a partner and agronomist with Dunvegan Ag Solutions Inc. (www. at Rycroft, Alta.

These parasitic wasps were caught in Jason Casselman’s net when he was sweeping a canola field in the Wanham, Alta., area in August, 2012.

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6.  Population data Forecast Maps and Monitoring Networks provide calculated information on many insect pests based on pheromone bait traps, insect count surveys, and early warning monitoring sites. Check this information as standard practice to prepare for anticipated problems along with your own in-field monitoring program.

7.  Pre-harvest interval In 2012, many farmers checked their canola for swathing stage and realized they had a bertha armyworm outbreak. We had several calls from farmers in this situation, wondering what insecticide they could use, or if they should even be spraying at all, that late in the season. The pre-harvest interval is the numbers of days between product application and either swathing or straight cutting the crop. With bertha armyworms the damage can be pretty severe and not controlling them even for a few days will cost you some yield. If you didn’t realize you had significant berthas up to a week before the crop is ready to swath, you’ve have lost yield potential. If you think you’re more than seven days from swathing or straight cutting the crop you have insecticide options that will fit in the pre-harvest interval, check the label to make sure.

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Aster yellows In 2012 monitoring intelligence at the end of May reported high numbers of leaf hoppers moving into the Prairies from the Midwestern states — travelling on wind currents and settling down onto canola and cereal crops with the potential to spread aster yellows disease.

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MARCH 4, 2013

Features SEEDING

1,000 kernal weight seeding Still seeding “a bushel and a half” per acre? Try moving to 1,000 kernel weight calculation for more precise seeding rates BY DANELL VAN STAVEREN


very spring Prairie farmers wait to head to the field to begin spring seeding. The drill is ready to go, and the seed is loaded. The seeding equipment heading to the field has likely been updated from 20 years ago, but has the amount of seed needed calculation also been updated?

WHAT’S IN A BUSHEL? “We’ve seeded a bushel and a half an acre forever and ever,” says Greg Gerry, a farmer and agronomist. “What’s in a bushel and a half?”

If you walk into Gerry’s office at Precision Ag Services near Griffin, Saskatchewan, he will be happy to explain 1,000 kernel weight for calculating seeding rates, as he feels it is an efficient way to calculate bushels needed for seeding. What is 1,000 kernel weight? 1,000 kernel weight is the weight in grams of 1,000 seeds. It will vary with seed size — this will cause variation in the number of plants produced by a pound or bushel of seed. The desired plant population is the number of live plants growing per square foot in a seeded field. Desired plant populations have been determined during

many years of trials and research. Desired plant population can be affected by crop type, growing

1,000 kernel weight is the weight in grams of 1,000 seeds conditions, region, and end use of the crop. Fields with lower plant populations may compensate by

increasing branches or tillers, and growing larger heads or flowers producing larger sized kernels. Fields with higher plant populations may be more competitive with weeds, however, the size of kernels produced may be reduced. Seed survival rate must also be taken into account when calculating seeding rates. Seed survival rate includes germination, 1,000 kernel weight, and mortality rate of seedlings that germinate, but do not survive to become plants. Gerry reminds farmers buying seed to ask their dealers for the germination percentage and the 1,000 kernel weight. If a farmer is not purchasing seed from a dealer,


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she must test for germination and weigh 1,000 kernels for herself. The mortality is more difficult to calculate. Each year is different, as is each field. Factors that influence mortality include disease, insects, seeding depth and weather conditions. Cereal crops typically range from five to 20 per cent mortality. Canola crops typically range from 30-60 per cent mortality.

CALCULATING SEEDING RATES Calculating seeding rates to achieve the desired plant population with the following steps: 1. Select a desired plant population. Information on desired plant populations for all varieties can be found at, or (search for “seeding rates”). 2. Count out 1,000 seeds and weigh them in grams, or use the 1,000 kernel weight given by your seed dealer. 3. Estimate the seedling survival rate. (Germination minus seedling mortality) 4. Calculate the seeding rate in pounds for acre or kilograms per hectare. “By not using 1,000 kernel weight to calculate seeding rates, guys are leaving money on the table,” says Gerry, “Seed only what you need to seed. The bushel and a half doesn’t cut it anymore.” † Danell van Staveren farms and writes near Griffin, Sask.

Doing the math The calculation: To calculate the seeding rate using the 1,000 kernel weight use the following steps. 1. Multiply the desired plant population per square foot by the 1,000 kernel weight in grams. 2. Divide that by the seedling survival rate (in decimal form). 3. Divide by 10 to get pounds per acre. An example: Let’s use barley as an example: 1. Multiply desired plant population (30 plants per square foot) x the 1,000 kernel weight (31g) = 930 2. Divide by the seeding survival rate (0.91) = 1,022 3. Divide by 10 = 102 pounds per acre. Using this calculation to seed 150 acres of barley, 15,300 pounds of seed would be required. For feed barley, at 48 bushels per pound, this would mean 319 bushels of seed. To find seeding rate charts, and more information on 1,000 kernel weight, go to, or to Alberta Agriculture Food and Rural Development (at, just type “1000” into the search box). † Danell van Staveren

MARCH 4, 2013 /



New “apps” website geared for farmers Paul Muyres hopes to help farmers find the right ag apps for their smartphones BY LEE HART


n the exploding world of smartphone apps, Paul Muyres hopes a new Internet web-based service he has developed will help farmers sort the wheat from the chaff when it comes to finding agriculture apps that are useful and really do what they’re supposed to do in terms of helping with farm management and crop production. Muyres, an Edmonton-area crop consultant, has developed a website called www.agriapps. ca. provides access to agriculturally-related apps will be found. Muyres also has technical services to help anyone with a good app idea to develop an application; he also plans to offer a farmer- or peer-reviewed screening service, so that if a farmer sees an app on website they can have reasonable confidence that it really does work.

known as Android systems, all are now capable of running apps. Existing agriculture apps (or applications) have been designed to give producers hand-held, out-in-the-field access to a wide range of farm management tools. Apps have been designed for field sprayer guides, sprayer nozzle selection, field mapping, field scouting, networking with machinery and other farmers, weed management, seed selection, soil sampling, grain handling, crop rotation planning, marketing, and farm fuel budgeting to name a few. “The key is to first find the app that you want or at least have easy access to a site where you can see what apps have been developed and may be of value,” says Muyres. “Apps aren’t partic-

ularly expensive. Some are free, and others may range from $1 to $4, but the key is to first find the app and then find one that really works. That’s why I think it is important to have farmers testing and reviewing these apps and providing feedback on how well they work. The idea behind this website is to filter out the noise and showcase the ones that are viable.” Muyres is open to anyone company or individual who would like to list their app on the website and also interested in helping anyone with a “great app idea” to develop new apps. For more information visit † Lee Hart is a field editor for Grainews in Calgary, Contact him at 403-592-1964 or by email at

Paul Muyres demonstrates apps on his own smartphone.

SMARTPHONE APPS “It is just a very confusing market out there when producers are looking for cell phone apps that are supposedly designed to help them with farm management and crop production,” says Muyres who owns the consulting service Solid Ground Solutions. “You go on the Internet and you can spend hours looking, and still not find what you want, or you find apps and wonder if they really work.”






The key is to first find the app and then find one that really works A quick Google search of the terms “agricultural” and “farm apps” turns up hundreds of links to potential app websites that include everything from supposedly useful farm management tools to a wide range of games that involve zombies or Smurfs. “What I would like to become is a verified warehouse of useful agricultural apps from all companies or individual developers,” he says. “And I will be working to implement an evaluation system, so that if an app is listed there producers know it does do with it supposed to do.” For anyone fairly new to the apps world, “App” is short for “application” — which is another name for a computer program designed to operate on smartphones and tablet computers. Apps can let a phone or tablet do almost anything that the programmers can imagine, within the technical limitations of the device. Apple’s iPhone was the first smartphone to use apps. Now, reportedly more than 500,000 apps for business, social and personal applications have been developed for the iPhone alone. Competitors such as Blackberry, Windows, Nokia and other more generic smartphone platforms

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MARCH 4, 2013

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Family safety in the shop Sometimes farm safety starts in the workshop. Take these tips to heart and save a life on your farm BY SHANYN SILINSKI


e often think of the “big” dangers on a farm. Cows. Tractors. Trucks. Combines. We too often forget that there are small and yet quite deadly dangers lurking in plain sight. Working in your farm shop doesn’t sound dangerous. It may even feel safer than being out in the field. But there are dangers there that can catch you off guard with tragic consequences.

• Remember, even a small leak of some gasses can accumulate and ignite with a spark. Is your welder or torch too near flammables? • Have you checked the condition of your valves, gauges and hoses? • Do you have propane or butane torches stored too near a heat source? • Do you have a shop barbeque? Is it in a safe spot for all weather use? • What about your ventilation? If you are warming up a piece of equipment make sure

Something that trips you in the shop can cause a serious injury VISUAL INSPECTION Take a look around your shop: • Do you have open pails of grease or oil? These can easily trap and kill an animal or a child. • That bucket of spare parts, covered in lubricant and grease, is highly toxic to children and can be a choke hazard as well. • Chemicals are toxic and need to be stored properly. Store empty containers properly and then recycle them at your local depot.


can impact with your breathing and hearing. Remember what your Grandpa said: “take care of your tools so they can take care of you.” • Are you wearing the proper protective gear every time? • Your air compressor is a surprisingly dangerous tool. There are many stories of producers over inflating a tire and having it and the rim blow up. This can be a fatal error. • Check your non-powered handtools. • Take a look at your hammers. Are the heads loose, the grips loose or the fibre cracked? Discard them. • Check your screwdrivers, sockets, wrenches and other tools for wear.

• Check your power tools. Rechargeable ones too. Look for wear, melted areas, cord fraying and lose housing parts. These can all indicate wear that could lead to failure, and that failure could lead to injury. For most farmers, even a relatively small injury that keeps you away from your work can have a serious impact on your operation.

MORE SHOP SAFETY Make sure everyone on your farm — family, workers, helpers and guests — knows the proper use for your tools and how to put them away properly. Something that trips you in the shop can cause a serious injury. That includes cords, hoses,

tools and scraps from grinding, cutting and welding. Have recycle and trash bins handy and keep them empty. An overflowing bin is as much as hazard as no bin. Keep your floors clean. Grease or oil spills, ice and water are all serious slip hazards. Check for chips in your concrete or gaps. Maintain your buildings like you would your machinery and they will be safer work places. If you have a staff room or kitchen in your shop make sure it is away from any chemicals, dust and exhaust. Make sure you have clean water and a well-stocked first aid kit. Take a first aid course and know what to do in an emergency. The way to save a life is knowing what to do while you wait for emergency services to arrive. Practice your plan and be prepared. Let someone know when you are in the shop, what you are doing and set a check in time. † Shanyn Silinski is a writer, speaker, rancher, mom and advocate, currently working as the national coordinator for the Animal Emergency Working Group. Find her blog at choretime.

you are not subjecting yourself to those high doses of deadly carbon monoxide. If it is too cold to keep the doors open, be sure to have an exhaust hose piping those fumes safely outside the shop, and away from other buildings and animals.

SAFETY AND SMALL TOOLS Even small tools in the shop can be very dangerous. Grinders are a good example — sparks and bits of metal fly into unprotected eyes but also

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Get with the

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Ten steps to working safely alone Working alone on the farm can be deadly. Follow these 10 steps to keep yourself safe BY SHANYN SILINSKI


any farmers work alone. Whether in the field or in the shop, there are many dangers for a solo farmer. There are some things we can do for our own safety while working alone.

1. USE TECHNOLOGY We have technology on our side in the ongoing struggle to farm safely. Cell phones, iPads and even iPods can connect to the internet and give you a life saving link to help. As you already know, much of Canada’s farm country does not have wireless Internet coverage but most have some degree of cellular phone service, and

even in marginal areas texting can work. It might be hard to get some older farmers to use this technology but it could be lifesaving for them. Encourage them to try it. It will increase their margin of safety.

2. PUT ON THE BRAKES Always make sure to never leave a machine, truck, quad or gator in gear while you are not operating it. Put on the brakes with it in neutral.

3. WATCH THOSE ANIMALS Never get in a pen or trailer with animals while you’re alone. More than one farmer has been killed by his pet cow or kicked by a trusty old horse. Most North American livestock

handling systems are not meant to be safely operated by a single person.

that you can do things by yourself to save your life. Remember to keep the first aid kit handy!



We know the obvious dangers of augers and open belt run machines. The graphic reminders are at every farm show safety booth. And yet they still cause injuries. Make it a farm rule to never get close to an open working machine with no guards. Make it a farm rule to turn it off before you work on it. Sure, it takes longer. But if it keeps your farm injury free the time is an investment, not a cost.

Don’t miss your check-in with family or neighbours. If someone is supposed to check in, and they don’t, check on them! A check in doesn’t work unless both people do their part.

5. FIRST, FIRST AID Know first aid. Practice doing first aid on yourself. Understand

Farmers, especially older farmers, can be independent and stubborn. They may not want to admit they might need help, after all they have done the work they love all their lives.

10. WATCH THE WEATHER Farmers rarely need to be told this, but keep an eye on the sky. Deadly weather can sneak up on us.

7. DRESS FOR SUCCESS Dress the part. Wear proper work clothes — including safety gear if you are working with chemicals, in dust or welding. Make sure your gloves and other clothing are in good condition and will do their part to keep you safe.

8. NO SHORT CUTS Don’t use anything that is worn, torn, frayed or a catch hazard when you are working on machinery. Trust your instincts — if it feels like a bad idea, it probably is. Many people who have had farm accidents have said, “I knew that wasn’t a good idea, but I did it anyway.” Their reasons range from being in a hurry, thinking a short cut would save time or just not paying attention.

9. BE NEIGHBOURLY Be a good neighbour. If your neighbour is working alone, check in on him. Just stop by to see how things are going.


If it feels like a bad idea, it probably is Being caught unaware by severe weather, with no one there to help you, increases your chances of needing rescue. The old axiom that “the hurrier you go the behinder you get” seems to be true. We see storm clouds coming and we rush to finish the hay or to finish loading the bins. Hazards like lightning can strike from a seemingly blue sky many miles away from their parent storm. If there is a weather warning respect it, and be alert. As much as you love farming, your family and friends love you more. Stay safe when you are working alone. † Shanyn Silinski is a writer, speaker, rancher, mom and advocate, currently working as the national coordinator for the Animal Emergency Working Group. Find her blog at

by gord.coulthart

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MARCH 4, 2013

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Personal safety Resource development, urban sprawl and new acreages has brought new people to farm country, and also new risks BY SHANYN SILINSKI


ersonal safety on the farm is something that is becoming more and more of an issue for many of our farmers. Farms are increasingly surrounded by acreages, large lots and growing urban sprawl. We have to learn to get along with our new rural neighbours who come from the city. They don’t know that farms are noisy, smelly and that animals have outdoor sex. They don’t understand that machines need to run during “off hours” and that dirt roads get dusty when farmers are moving into different fields during the season. We can be good neighbors with our non-farming newcomers. And most of us are. We clear their driveways, pull them out of ditches, loan them our generators when the power is out and wave when they drive by the yard. But with more expensive equipment, more detachable technology and a larger population of newcomers, farmers are facing a whole new set of challenges to our personal safety.

OPEN DOOR POLICIES It used to be that “the door is always open” was a pretty safe policy in farm country. Someone could use the truck (bringing it back fuelled up),


the tractor if they were stuck or come inside the house, shop or barn to borrow a tool or get a glass of water. For the most part, we knew our neighbours and they knew us. We knew who had an unfriendly dog or a loud donkey. We also knew who was always there to help. We knew who went to bed early and who had the lights on well into the night. It was a very ad hoc safety system but it worked. If something was even a little bit “off” people knew. We don’t have that luxury in many parts of farm country any more. We don’t know our neighbours. There has been an increase in home invasions, robberies and thefts. Our personal safety on the farm has a new added human element. Instead of just worrying about dehydration during haying or about equipment injuries we now have to consider the safety of our families, animals and property. Volunteer and community driven organizations like Rural Crime Watch and C.O.P.S. do wonderful work, but we still need to look to our own farms and determine what we need for personal safety and security. It might mean more motion sensor lights, a guard dog on night patrol, gates, better doors and even locks, storage of easily moved items like GPS units and iPads. Keeping chemicals and tools stored behind locked doors is also important.

It goes against our nature. We recently moved from an area which was facing some serious rural crime challenges. I can assure you that it is not unique and it is a growing challenge. We will, as farmers, always want to help our neighbours, but we have to be sure our farms are secure from threats. Human threats, not just weather, markets, breakdowns or lost time. Farm safety is becoming about keeping farmers safe from offfarm dangers as well as those we find close to home.

WHAT CAN YOU DO? • The first thing is to not be ruled by fear. Just as our urban friends have to know what is

going on in their neighbourhoods, we do as well. • Know what is your “new normal” for traffic. Pay attention

We have to be sure our farms are secure from threats to any unusual vehicles making stops, staying in one place for a long period of time, or people driving in the yard and asking for directions that don’t make sense • Write down these things as you notice them, take times and license plates if you can.


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• Ask someone from your local police service to come and do a security assessment on your farm. • Install locks where you need to, review windows and access points to ensure they are secure. • Investments in things like motion sensor lights, cameras, dogs, fences and gates as well as making friends with new neighbors will go a long way to making your farm safer. Some farms have had home invasions, which are terrifying. Others have had break-ins while they were away. If you are ever concerned about your safety, or are threatened, contact your local police immediately, make a report and speak to an officer. Don’t be afraid to ask for someone to come and check your farm if you are uncomfortable. Ask for advice on farm security. Be proactive and keep on farming! † Shanyn Silinski is a writer, speaker, rancher, mom and advocate, currently working as the national coordinator for the Animal Emergency Working Group. Find her blog at

MARCH 4, 2013 /


Get with the

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Small but still deadly Nothing is more important than keeping our children safe. Make sure you’re following these suggestions on your farm BY SHANYN SILINSKI


o many things on our farms are small in size. Yet their size can hide their danger. This is especially true for our children. Something we would not consider a hazard to an adult can be deadly to a child.

GET A NEW PERSPECTIVE If you look around your home, shop, barn or equipment try this experiment. Look at it from your perspective. Tall, strong, adult. Now get down on your knees, or lower, and see it from the eyes of a child. Remember to be curious and touch oriented. Remember most young children need to feel, and taste things. If it goes in

their hands, it will find its way to their mouths. Did you see those cords hanging down that could snag a small person? How about that brightly coloured wrench handle just over the edge of a workbench? Not quite out of reach, but if it fell on their head or face it could cause serious injury. How about that bright light from the welder, or those sparks from the grinder? The bucket of water, grease, used oil or bolts is no danger to you. But it is a drowning, toxin and choking hazard to a child. Sprays of paint or lubricant seem very interesting but are also terribly unsafe in little hands. As are livestock tools such as tattoo guns, ear taggers, medicines, medicated tags and vet supplies like needles.

LITTLE HELPERS Our little farm helpers want to be big farmers, and don’t understand they are not old enough or strong enough to do what Grandpa, Daddy, Uncle or Mama do. We have to keep them safe while we teach them about their farming heritage and get them ready to safely work on the farm one day. You know about not letting children near PTOs, augers, belt operated machines or letting them drive equipment. But what about being “helpers” when we fix things? Most safety gear is not made for children — the majority of it. With good reason. Our children shouldn’t need it, they shouldn’t be in

harm’s way. But if they are helping you on the farm they need to wear the proper gear. That means well fitting clothing in good condition. Nothing frayed or worn that can get caught in tools or machines. Closed toe shoes. Hats and safety glasses. Hair needs to be kept back. Children should not help when you are working livestock. Let them watch from the truck or outside the pen on their trusty horse with an adult supervising them. Children can be seriously injured by livestock, and they can cause a distraction you don’t need when you are being safe with animals. Make sure your children wash up properly after being out with you farming. Chemicals can be absorbed much faster in little people than adults. When you are working, keep your children safe from the elements. You might be able to tough it out, but they shouldn’t have to. Keep them, and yourself, hydrated. If you are working in extreme temperatures remember your children will be impacted harder and quicker than you. If you are feeling it, you know they are. Have snacks and breaks to relax and have fun. When they get tired, get them back to the house. When you get tired, you should rest too

SMALL THINGS The small things can make all the difference when we are


family farming. That can mean watching out for small but deadly hazards, and it can mean making time together with the small farmers in your family safe and memorable. Teaching good farming habits should include safety.

Make sure they understand the rules are to keep them, and you, safe Watch safety videos, make sure your children know they are important. Set rules, and consequences, and keep both. Make sure they understand the rules are to keep them, and you, safe. Be creative — use turf paint to mark “no go” zones around equipment like augers and PTO’s. Use flags or flagging tape. Make sure they have a safe area to play and be children. Ask someone to watch them when you are doing dangerous jobs. The most precious resource we have in farming is our next generation. Keep them safe. † Shanyn Silinski is a writer, speaker, rancher, mom and advocate, currently working as the national coordinator for the Animal Emergency Working Group. Find her blog at

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MARCH 4, 2013


Glyphosate tolerant flax on the horizon Prairie farmers will soon have the option of adding a new glyphosate tolerant flax variety to their crop rotations BY LEEANN MINOGUE


he Flax Council of Canada has been working with Cibus Global, a California-based private research company, to develop glyphosate tolerant flax since 2010. Canadian flax has been shut out of the European Union market since 2010, when trace amounts of Triffid, a herbicide tolerant genetically modified (GM) flax variety, were found in Canadian exports. To rectify this problem and flush the system, the Flax Council is asking that all farmers clean out existing flax stocks and buy new Triffid-free certified seed in 2014. These new glyphosate tolerant varieties shoudn’t cause similar problems. Cibus is developing glyphosate tolerant flax using a method the market will accept — its Rapid Trait Development System, a non-GM technology.

RAPID TRAIT DEVELOPMENT SYSTEM Venkata Vakulabharanam, Saskatchewan Agriculture’s provincial oilseed specialist, a Flax Council board member and advisor to the Saskatchewan Flax Development Commission (SaskFlax), says, “Cibus is a com-

vious methods, and has a higher chance of success.

MARKET ACCEPTANCE Because varieties developed using Cibus’ RTDS technology are not genetically modified, no market access problems are anticipated. Dave Sefton, chair of the Flax Council’s communications committee and SaskFlax board member says that, to date, RTDS “has never raised any issues in the European Union, so I don’t know why this would.” While the EU and U.S. will not need to provide special approvals for glyphosate tolerant flax developed with RTDS, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and Health Canada will consider the new varieties to be PNTs — plants with novel traits. The Canadian regulatory system doesn’t consider how a plant was developed. The CFIA regulates the release of any plant with a new trait that doesn’t already exist in the current plant population. Health Canada assesses the safety of all novel foods. Given the still-lingering troubles with Triffid, some flax growers may argue that this is not the best time to introduce new glyphosate tolerant flax. Vakulabharanam points out that when the Flax


Glyphosate tolerant flax will not be a genetically modified product.

“Pollen in flax is heavy. It’s not going to blow as far as canola pollen.” — Venkata Vakulabharanam

pany that has its own technology.” This technology is the Rapid Trait Development System (RTDS). RTDS is not genetic engineering. Through genetic engineering, genetic material from one species is inserted into another, creating genetically modified (GM) organisms. RTDS uses only the cell’s own material, creating new mutations of the previous plant. RTDS is also known as “directed mutagenesis.” It relies on plant mutations — the changes that happen from one generation to the next. RTDS forces mutations to happen more quickly and in more specific locations than they would naturally. Researchers cause intentional damage to specific parts of the plant’s genetic material; mutations arise when the plant uses its natural genetic repair process to fix the damage. Advances in gene mapping have made it possible for researchers to force mutations in specific parts of the DNA where benefits can be expected. Even with the increased control, however, Vakulabharanam says, “It’s not going to work with every plant.” Researchers experiment with many seeds, growing them out and observing their traits. Scientists have been creating mutations for a long time using various chemicals and radiation in almost every crop. RTDS technology is more specific than pre-

Council first entered into this alliance with Cibus, “we did not have the problems of Triffid.” As well, “Three years ago there was no Roundup Ready resistance in Western Canada.”

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AGRONOMY Some farmers have raised concerns about potential problems controlling glyphosate tolerant flax volunteers. Dave Sefton says the Flax Council is working to address this. “Before they get released, there will be an agronomic package to look after the volunteers.” Many Prairie farmers have problems with volunteer Roundup Ready volunteer canola. However, Vakulabharanam says glyphosate tolerant flax issues will be less severe. Canola is a cross-pollinating plant. Canola pollen can outcross to other nearby plants. According to the Canola Council of Canada’s online Growers Manual, Argentine canola has 20 to 30 per cent outcrossing. Flax is self-pollinating. Outcrossing normally happens between 0.03 and 2 per cent of the time. As well, when flax does outcross, Vakulabharanam says, “Pollen in flax is heavy. It’s not going to blow as far as canola pollen.”

» CONTINUED ON PAGE 25 19459-01UP DAS_Stellar_13.167X9.indd 1

MARCH 4, 2013 /


Features Crop nutrition

Enhanced efficiency fertilizer Enhanced efficiency fertilizers optimize nutrients By Julienne Isaacs


nhanced efficiency fertilizer (EEF) is a blanket term referring to products that optimize nutrient uptake and prevent nutrient loss by controlling the speed of release or altering soil-fertilizer reactions. EEFs intended for agricultural production are commonly nitrogen products, although the technology has been applied to other nutrients such as phosphorous. While agricultural use of EEFs is not widespread in Canada — until recently they were more commonly used in the turfgrass and horticultural sectors — interest in the potential value of EEFs for maximizing profit and benefiting the environment is increasing. “Depending on the product, what enhanced efficiency fertilizers generally do is release the nutrient in a controlled pattern that matches with crop uptake,” says John Gibson, western sales manager for Agrium Advanced Technologies.

Agrium produces Environmentally Smart Nitrogen (ESN), a temperature controlled-release polymer-coated nitrogen fertilizer. ESN protects against the three loss mechanisms for nitrogen — leaching of nutrients below the root zone, denitrification, or loss of nitrogen to the atmosphere in the form of nitrous oxide, and volatilization, loss of nitrogen in the form of ammonia gas. According to Gibson, ESN is the only product in the market that protects nitrogen against all three loss mechanisms, with the added benefit of maximized yield and quality. “When we have these loss events, whatever nitrogen is in the soil in the nitrate form is susceptible to that leaching down through the soil, or it can volatilize as it converts to gas,” explains Alan Blaylock, manager of agronomy for Agrium. “ESN allows only a small amount of that nitrogen to be released at a time.” ESN uses a polymer coating to deliver the fertilizer slowly, with

the rate controlled by temperature and moisture. “Depending on the enhanced efficiency fertilizer we’re talking about and its effectiveness in preventing loss, we may be able to achieve the same result with one application that we might achieve with multiple applications,” says Blaylock. “In many cases it’s recommended that you split nitrogen applications into several applications, but that costs the farmer more fuel, more labour. With ESN we’re substituting fertilizer for mechanical applications.”

Field Trials Agrotain is another type of EEF, a nitrogen stabilizer which can be blended with urea and liquid nitrogen UAN fertilizer, and which works by blocking the enzyme urease, slowing nitrogen loss. Stewart Brandt, field research manager for Northeast Agriculture Research Foundation, has worked on field trials with Agrotain and

ESN, testing how much product can be applied with the seed. “With Agrotain, early indications were that you could apply more, and the research that was done at that time substantiated that. With the polymer coating the amount you could apply was three times higher than what you could apply with untreated urea in the seed row with the seed,” he says. Brandt believes EEF products have merit particularly in situations where farmers only have equipment that places fertilizer in the seed row, their only alternative being to broadcast the fertilizer on the soil’s surface. According to Brandt, EEFs are a good fit for growers using zero-tillage farming, unless they’re using banded fertilizer in advance of seeding. “Most growers are adapting their management systems to the conventional forms of fertilizer nutrients, so they don’t need to apply nitrogen on the soil surface—most of it is banded in some form but is not applied with the seed,” he says. “For seed growers, for example, if you need to apply nitrogen in that situation something like Agrotain might be beneficial because the option doesn’t exist to apply that with the soil—it has to be applied on the soil surface.”

Benefits EEFs tend to be pricey, and farmers might question whether they’re worth the premium. But according to Gibson, evidence has shown great results. “Depending on the inclusion rate, ESN costs anywhere from nine to 15 dollars more than the conventional rate, but typically we get a three to six bushel increase on spring cereals, an eight to 10 percent increase on canola and the potato data is so good you’d call me a liar if I told you,” he says.


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Soybeans are another self-pollinating crop. Vakulabharanam says, “There’s a lot of co-existence between conventional and Roundup Ready varieties.” Vakulabharanam also says that although many farmers are concerned with volunteer canola, “We have seen that it’s not the Number 1 weed on our list.” In fact, an Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada survey of Saskatchewan’s top weeds in canola in 2012 rated canola at Number 24 — ahead of kochia, but well behind several more troublesome weeds. The  bottom  line, Vakulabharanam says, is that, “If somebody is not interested in growing glyphosate tolerant flax, they don’t have to grow it. It’s going to be one of the options available for growers.”

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The future of flax The Flax Council will have quite a bit of time to estab-

1/7/13 7:12 AM

A clear benefit of EEFs is the protection they offer against the risk of environmental damage through leaching, denitrification and volatilization. But that’s not the only benefit. According to Blaylock, EEFs save producers from losses long-term by increasing use efficiency. Whether or not products like ESN show dramatic yield increases, less nitrogen lost through leaching is less nitrogen — bought and paid for — lost to a farmer’s pocketbook. And farmers make fewer trips to the field, saving on gas and labour. “Anything we can do to prevent [nutrient] losses should have a positive impact for the farmer,” says Blaylock. “Stopping those losses doesn’t always influence yield, but we get more of the nitrogen we apply into the crop, and we get a better crop. Or we can grow that crop with less fertilizer. If we’re reducing the loss we can grow that crop more efficiently.” However, Blaylock warns against using EEFs as a blanket solution. “There are many different products and different modes of action and they don’t all work the same and they are not interchangeable,” he says. “EEF is a broad umbrella term that includes a lot of products. In the end you need to understand the mode of action of the product and match it with the problem you’re trying to solve.” EEFs have a role to play within the 4Rs of nutrient stewardship — using the right product, at the right rate, at the right time and in the right place — and may be a good bet for farmers looking to improve efficiency and minimize potential impacts on the environment. † Julienne Isaacs is a Winnipeg-based freelance writer and editor. Contact her at

lish and promote an agronomic package for new flax varieties before glyphosate tolerant flax is released. The chair of SaskFlax, Erwin Henley, says that Cibus is not quite ready for commercial flax production. “They’re hoping that by June they’ll actually have a plant.” It will also take time to grow out seed supplies. Vakulabharanam believes this is just the beginning of exciting changes in flax production. “This technology is going to be the basis for a lot of other things in the future,” Vakulabharanam says. “I see this as a medium, or a platform where they can start adding other traits using RTDS technology.” One trait that may interest flax growers is increased yield. Vakulabharanam says, “We’ve never really had yield increases in flax like they’ve seen in canola.” Vakulabharanam thinks Prairie farmers will be eager to accept new glyphosate tolerant varieties. “Whenever they have a new tool they are willing to use it, and they adapt the technology accordingly.” † Leeann Minogue is the editor of Grainews.



MARCH 4, 2013

Features Land management

Minimizing soil compactions Soil compaction can compromise your crops. Here are some ways to avoid it in your fields By Ross McKenzie


oil compaction occurs when particles are compacted and the soil becomes more dense. In a normal soil, the soil particles and pore spaces are very close to 50/50, but through agricultural practices, cultivation and wheel traffic, those soil particles can become compressed closer together. In the same volume you have more soil and less pore spaces. When soil particles (such as sand, silt and clay) and soil aggregates are forced closer together, the balance between solids, airfilled and water-filled pore spaces are dramatically altered. When the density of the soil is increased, water infiltration and root penetration are compromised. The more severe the soil compaction, the less water can infiltrate and the harder it is for roots to grow and spread.

Farming practices to minimize compaction There are a couple of farming practices that can contribute significantly to soil compaction — tillage and wheel traffic. When

farmers cultivate fields when the soil is on the wet side, the cultivator shovels put quite a bit of pressure on the soil and a compacted zone or plow pan will form at the base of the cultivar shovel. In the case of wheel traffic compaction, the weight of the equipment, especially if the soil is wet, can actually cause compaction down to a depth of 18 to 24 inches. To minimize soil compaction, schedule farm operations to avoid working fields or using heavy equipment on fields when the soil is wet. Ideally, the soil should break easily and crumble at the deepest depth if it is to be tilled. Reducing or eliminating tillage will help to keep soil compaction to a minimum as every tillage pass reduces soil aggregate structure and if wet, can potentially increase soil bulk density. Farmers should also remove excess weight from their equipment and only use enough ballast to reduce wheel slippage. Another way to reduce surface pressure is by reducing tire pressure or by using lighter axle loads Improved surface drainage can help reduce risk of being forced to work wet fields. Fields need to be handled individually to ensure

that the correct drainage methods are employed for the area, the soil type and the slope of the field. Good crop rotations can be a long-term beneficial practice that can help reduce soil compaction. Crop rotations should include deep rooting crops such as alfalfa. Sub-soiling or ripping to alleviate soil compaction problems should be used only when soil is dry and crumbles to the tillage depth. The operating depth should be no more than a few centimeters below the zone of compaction — any deeper uses more energy and increases the potential of deeper compaction.

Be careful with deep tillage Use deep tillage with great caution. Although deep tillage can be beneficial under specific soil conditions, its use can also have very serious negative effects on soil quality. The use of deep tillage must be considered carefully. Some potential concerns: •  Some rippers cause greater mixing of surface soil with subsoil, B:11.5” which results in the deterioration of soil structure, reduction in soil T:11” organic matter, reduced soil ferS:10.25” tility and increased potential for

surface soil crusting. These conditions can be much worse than minor soil compaction problems. •  Loss of plant-available moisture can occur. •  Soluble salts in subsoil can be intermixed with surface soil, increasing salt levels and reducing crop yield potential. •  Subsoiling can make the ground surface rough and lumpy and can pull rocks to the surface. •  A subsoiled field will often have a poor seedbed the following year due to an uneven and soft surface soil and reduced soil moisture conditions. •  If high or excessive amounts of moisture are received after subsoiling, the fractured soil zones can become waterlogged and unmanageable until dry. Before attempting to deep rip a field, carefully consider the potential negative consequences. Ideally, try ripping in several test strips in a field to evaluate the benefits and risks over one or even two years before deep ripping an entire field.

Prevent soil compaction Ideally, farmers should design their soil management and cropping practices to ensure the prevention of soil compaction:

•  Use direct seeding practices to increase soil organic matter content, which will optimize soil structure. •  Reduce the potential for the development of compacted soils by eliminating cultivation and reducing traffic in fields, which will increase crop yield potential. •  Take advantage of the natural soil processes of “wettingdrying” and “freeze-thaw” cycles to minimize the effects of soil compaction. •  Use a combination of fibrous and taprooted crops in a rotation to penetrate soils, develop deep root channels and add organic matter to soil For more information on soil compaction see Alberta Agriculture  Agdex  510-1: Agricultural Soil Compaction: Causes and Management. You can find this on-line at www.agric., just type “510-1” into the search box. This article originally ran in the “Prairie Steward” the newsletter of the Saskatchewan Soil Conservation Association. Learn more about the SSCA at † Ross H. McKenzie PhD, P.Ag. is an agronomy research scientist with Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development at Lethbridge, Alta.

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MARCH 4, 2013 /


Columns Guarding wealth

The changing bond market Bonds: government issues will tumble, but foreign and corporate bonds make sense By Andrew Allentuck


he bond party is ending and may not return for many decades. After enduring the inflationary 1970s, the worst single decade in the last hundred years, bond prices — what people will pay for a buck of interest — rose nearly every year from 1982 to 2012. That’s a 30-year run, about the longest in the last two hundred years. Investors who held strip bonds in that three decade period were able to increase their stake by as much as 500 per cent. There was zero risk of default in federal bonds. The only risk was a sustained rise in interest rates. It did not happen for three decades.

etary policy was tightened in several episodes from 1981 to 2009, real average yields on 30-year government bonds rose 2.5 per cent. This will be a modest recovery, so bond research and management companies like Canso Investment Counsel Ltd. of Richmond Hill, Ontario figure the gain will be just one to two per cent. The current yield of the DEX index, 1.6 per cent less the average management fee on Canadian bond mutual funds, 1.8 per cent, implies a negative real yield of 0.2 per cent. Corporate investment grade bonds will do better and, Canso notes, still at levels comparable to levels following the 1981 interest-rate induced recession, the

1992 real estate crisis, the 1998 Long-Term Capital Management Crisis, and the post-2000 dot com collapse. Just as stock investors rushed to bonds as equity markets froze in the last 10 years, the same investors are going to be looking to flee bonds when the end of quantitative easing happens. However, that process is already underway. The Fed has said it has stopped trying to drop long interest rates. As the recovery speeds up, the demand for loanable funds and anxiety over rising inflation will push up interest rates. The market will speak and staying in government bonds as rates rise will be like trying to stop a freight train with a feather.

Abandoning bonds Should one go forth and abandon bonds altogether? Not at all. Though U.S. and Canada federal bonds are likely to be losers for the next year, there is still a strong case to be made for holding global bonds hedged to the Canadian dollar, Canadian investment grade corporate bonds, and even a dusting of high yield U.S. bonds. The central banks of Canada and the U.S. will be raising interest rates within 12 to 18 months and capital markets will anticipate the moves well before. That case is clear. But other countries are still dropping their interest rates. So a position in global bond mutual funds or global emerging markets bond exchange traded funds makes sense. I’d suggest not too heavy a weighting — say 10 per cent at most in these critters. Buying corporate bonds is a complex task involving credit analysis and reading bond covenants. Bond fund managers can

do it or a couple of corporate bond exchange traded funds will provide exposure with low fees. Finally, high yield bonds, though equity-like in their dependence on corporate earnings growth, still offer a yield premium over investment grade bonds. The spreads on these things are approaching relatively low levels, so it’s best not to have more than 10 per cent of a bond portfolio in them. Bonds remain portfolio stabilizers and investors are wise to keep a position in bonds for the times that stocks sag. The boom and bust cycle of stocks and bonds may be rotating in favour of a stock boom or, at least, a boomlet. For the down periods, a bond portfolio weighted with high grade corporate bonds in A to BBB+ space with maturities of no more than 10 years will provide safe harbours in stormy seas. † Andrew Allentuck’s latest book, “When Can I Retire? Planning Your Financial Life After Work,” was published in 2011 by Penguin Canada.

Changing market The risk of rising interest rates is at hand. The end of U.S. quantitative easing is in view. If real interest rates that have been held down since 2008 by the U.S. Federal Reserve Board and the Bank of Canada playing follow the leader start to rise and gain perhaps three per cent, then on top of the Bank of Canada target inflation rate of two per cent, the real return would go up to five per cent. Real yields have been negative for years. The implication is that existing bond prices would fall until their trifling interest coupons divided by market price equals five per cent. It will be a bloodbath for anyone holding bonds with terms to maturity of seven years or longer. Bond investments through bond mutual funds got to be hugely popular in the last decade. Stock market returns ossified and bonds, thrived. Ordinary investors made heaps of money in short dated bonds in 2008 and 2009 as short rates collapsed. Then in 2011 it was longer government bonds that thrived. In 2012 corporate bonds took off turning in a return about three times the 2.1 per cent return of the broad Canadian bond market index, the DEX. There were a lot of bond market casualties along the way. Life insurance companies’ share prices tumbled as Manulife Financial and Sun Life Financial charged less than expected bond interest against corporate earnings. Seeing their bond returns crumble, big insurance companies sold bonds into the market, further driving down their prices. The smart guys who were not insurance companies bought and made handsome profits as rates continued to fall. That insurance companies sold at exactly the wrong moment was the result of their accounting, which looked mainly at falling interest rates and not at total bond returns of interest plus price, and partly because management suffered from interest rate myopia. They did not see what the future held.

The future We can use a little perspective on what the Fed and the Bank of Canada have in store. When mon-

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MARCH 4, 2013

MARCH 4, 2013 /



Some lessons in charting

In this edition, Andy Sirski chatters about charts and provides updates on his portfolio

ome believe that reading charts is like reading tea leaves. Other investors rely on charts to help them decide when to buy and sell stocks. I’m a bit in-between. Learning how to read charts does need some understanding and, of course, the market or an individual stock can always turn and bite us. Nothing is foolproof, but I have proven over and over to myself that charts can help me make better investment decisions.

should even put in a stink bid of $3.96 and see if the market will come to me. When I look at a candlestick chart of TCM, it has gone sideways for a couple weeks (a candlestick chart shows stock prices, and also how prices have moved during a given time interval). Odds are if investors thought the stock was going to head down, they’d have been selling by now. I did a bull put credit spread for March on 5,000 shares of TCM and so far that trade is okay. That’s where I sold a put strike $4 and bought a put at $3 strike and kept the difference. As long as shares stay above $4 I won’t have to buy the shares but even if I do I think I can make this work.



One of my favourite charts is the 10-day moving average (10 dma). For several years now the overall stock market has been edging up from its low in early 2009. But most stocks have gone up and down during the past four years enough to make it worthwhile to at least look at a chart of the price of the shares. By that I mean even though shares have gone up more than they have gone down, they are still volatile. We can put that volatility to work if we want to learn how to read charts. In a few words, most stocks go up, then investors decide to sell them and rotate money from the higher priced shares into lower priced shares. Often before the year is over that money could rotate back into the original shares. I call it rotation, rotation, rotation. More volatile stocks often have similar characteristics: after the shares have gone up significantly, the price drops through the 10 dma and keeps falling until the shares hit some bargain bottom price. Most of the time we have three or four days to notice and react to the price at both tops and bottoms. I don’t worry too much about buying at absolute bottoms but I sure would like to improve my skill of selling near tops. More and more I like to sell at least some shares as the daily price crosses the 10 dma going down.

I started buying OSK about three years ago, the week the company was granted a permit by the province of Quebec to start a new mine. The price was around $8. I watched those shares go to around $16 and then down again to $8 and down some more to under $7. We own 1,000 shares (in my wife’s TFSA), and since OSK dropped as much as it did my wife isn’t very happy. I have been a bit of a sucker for punishment on this one.



THOMPSON CREEK METALS (TCM: TSX) Take Thompson Creek Metals as an example. My cost per share was right around $3. Shares went up and up to about $4.55 and around January 23 they made a double top and started to edge down. Double tops often are dangerous so I watched. In two or three days the daily price crossed the 10 dma going down at $4.20. I sold all 7,000 shares for a profit of $1.20 per share. Shares continued to drop and as I write on February 6, the price is hanging around $4.01. That doesn’t seem like much but 17 cents is 17 cents. I will buy shares of TCM again and it doesn’t really matter if I pay $4.01 or $4.10. Maybe I

just a bit above the low hit in May, 2012. The price dropped to around $6.40 three times as I’m writing on Feb 8 so maybe the sellers are exhausted. I still own my 1,000 shares.

FIRST MAJESTIC (FR:TSX) This stock has made me a lot of money but the company did use some shares as currency to buy another lower grade mine, so some investors might put a lower value on the shares. Still, from what I can see the company will mine more silver next year than last year and that pat-

strike price of $18 and collected around $2.40 or around 12 per cent. The shares dropped during the summer doldrums so I bought them back for $0.35 and sold a call for October with a strike price of $18 for $1.60. They cost $3 to buy back but I sold a call for April with a strike price $18 for $5.40. In early February the calls cost around $1 to buy back, as the shares dropped to around $18. If you do the math, you’ll see that selling calls has brought in around $5 per share of cash, while the shares are up a buck. As of February 8, I’m waiting for the shares to go up a bit more.

or $587 net. I bought the put for the same month with a strike price of $40 same month for $0.26, or $242. So the net was $342 for about five weeks, a 20 per cent return. That deal used about $1,700 of margin. If shares stay over $42 that will be clear cash. I chose POT because the chart showed a candlestick with a long wick under it, and the relative strength index (RSI) dropped to 50 and turned up. Both are bullish signals.

BULL PUT (CREDIT) SPREADS So far I’ve done three bull put (credit) spreads in February, all for


Freedom from wild oats

Doing these bull put credit spreads is all education for now Let’s take a look at the sell signals because there certainly were a bunch of them. All I had to do was believe them and act on them. The two-year chart shows OSK hit a top of $15.50 or so in the summer of 2011. The price crossed the 10 dma going down shortly after and dropped to under $13, then did a head fake and went up to $15. In early November the price dropped below the 200 dma and mostly has used the 200 dma as a ceiling ever since. The price has come up to the 200 dma at least twice since then and dropped. The price now is under $7 and just a bit above the low seen May 2012, down around $6.50 per share. Pretty dumb, eh? That account is down 30 per cent from my cost and about 50 per cent down from its high. Another sell signal could or should have been when the shares dropped 15 per cent from their high of $15.50 or right around $13. In the meantime the company has had a fire, the open pit mine had lower grade ore, the police took records from the company’s office and it just seems like one thing after another has haunted OSK. Why am I so patient? Now the price is around $6.50, or 1 888-283-6847 or contact your Bayer CropScience representative. Always read and follow label directions. Varro™ is a trademark of the Bayer Group. Bayer CropScience is a member of CropLife Canada.

tern should continue for a few more years. I finally cashed out my Grainews pension money in August 2012, the day after the market dropped a bunch. My $39,000 pension had dropped to $36,000 had dropped to $32,000 by the time the money ended up in my self-directed account. I goofed somewhere and the value dropped another 10 per cent to $29,000. Finally I bought 1,600 shares of FR in January, 2012 at about $18. Then I sold calls as far out as I could go for July with a

They are around $19 and the March, and collected $1,942 net call for July with a strike price and used around $7,000 of margin of $18 is around $2.30. In other money. That’s a nice return. words, when I sell a call for July TCM and POT are above my SBC13019.Varr 2-13-2013 4:25 PM my total cash from premiums strike price while Sherritt (S:TSX) Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, will be over $7 — 38 per cent CALMCL-DMX8127 in has dropped below. I might have Marsha Walters a year and a half. those 5,000 Sherritt shares put ORIGINALLY GENERATED: Marianne 100% to meNone at $6. SPEC Sherritt is starting a 12.9167” x 8” SAFETY: None TRIM: 12.91 new nickel mine in Madagascar POTASH CORPORATION OF Helvetica Neue LT Std (75 Bo so there might be some setbacks, SASKATCHEWAN, INC. (POT:TSX) but it has many other businesses Around February 8, POT was around the world and it pays a $42.50 or so and I had margin dividend of around 2.6 per cent. room to do more bull put (credit) I hope you understand that spreads. So for March, I sold a put » CONTINUED ON NEXT PAGE with a strike price of $42 for $0.61,


MARCH 4, 2013 /



Firing staff Whether on the farm or in the office, we all have to do things we don’t want to do TOBAN DYCK


had to fire someone, a fellow writer, about a year ago, and it was a moment that defined me as a man and changed the course of my life. “He must be exaggerating.” No,

he is not. This was indeed such an experience. Okay, the defining me part may be pushing it, but the moments leading up to having to sit this person down and let him go were so intense I barely remember them. I was a puppet to the script I prepared (I’m very thankful I prepared one). From that moment on, knowing now what such situations feel like, I have been able to summon the courage needed to be honest with

people who need a dose of it and face challenges that would have sent pre-firing me running for the hills. (Prairie joke: What hills?) I was his boss. I sat across from him for about eight hours a day. I knew I would have to fire him a week after I hired him. My wife knew it, too, and she didn’t even work with me. I let the situation fester for quite some time, way too long. My then-sheepish self desperately wanted him to leave on his own volition, perhaps after he read my mind and knew my torment. No. He could not read my mind. He would have to be told. When he arrived for work the next morning, I let him go. That one-minute dialogue used up every molecule of my confidence. I was so scared I nearly blacked out. And, in the end, I think he was grateful. And I think most are


when they are confronted with sincerity and honestly.

DO WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE I don’t enjoy being viewed a terrible person, and I don’t enjoy delivering news that makes a person feel like their life has been temporarily destroyed. I am proud of myself, though, in this case, for pushing through the near-paralyses and doing what needed to be done. Trust your gut and never let things fester — sage advice endorsed by me but not credited to me. Every day has its challenge. You can always do more market research. There is always a list of odd jobs too small to designate time for and, all together, too large to start. There is always that one phone call you don’t want to make, or a hired hand who needs a performance evaluation.

“Git ’er done” is hard to hear, especially as someone who just wants all those proud, self-proclaimed rednecks to realize and be comfortable with the fact that they are not so different than the rest of humanity. Nike’s “just do it” is really no better. The city version of the same, I guess. But, what this perversion of a phrase does have going for it, is its ability to sum up, in fewer words, my main point: Know your challenge, face it, and git ’er done. For the record, I’ve mastered none of this. But I am less likely to run or procrastinate than I was, say, two years ago. One foot in front of the other is how I plan to tackle this whole farming thing. I’ll face the challenge, whatever the outcome. † Toban Dyck is a freelance writer and a new farmer on an old farm. Follow him on Twitter @tobandyck or email


Appquest: iScoutCrops This app from Ag View FS is a great scouting sidekick




on 5,000 shares of Sherritt and so far they are under water. doing these bull put credit The RSI turned down about two SBC13019.Varro.8.4C spreads is all education for now. days after I did the trade and Varro.8.4C.indd Grainews I believe this will turn out to be so far I’m faced with buying Date: March 4, 2013 ellow, Black awesome skill that I will learn Insertion to 5,000 shares of S at $6 while the CropScience do well. So far I think two gen- Bayer price is $5.70. I did collect about PAGE: 1 eral rules apply. One is that we $0.20 BCS13026 cents so my actual cost M: 12.9167” x 8” Bleed: None should not do spreads on stocks would be $5.80. d (75 Bold, 55 Roman; OpenType) we don’t want to own. Second it However from a chart point looks to be a lot safer to do put of view, shares have dropped to credit spreads on stocks that you around $5.60 twice and almost Production Contact Numbers: 261 7161 403 time 261 7152and jumped right like that have dropped403some, a third and the RSI has bottomed and back up. Shares might be formturned up. ing a bottom here. I’m close to I did bull put credit spreads $10,000 selling calls and puts


since January 1, so if I give up a grand or two along the way, that’s okay. Andy will hold a hands-on workshop in Steinbach in the afternoon of March 6. Call 1-204-268-6094 to register for this free session sponsored by Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives. † Andy is mostly retired. He still drives his Datsun in the summer, gardens, travels with his wife and of course plays with granddaughters. Andy also manages his own portfolio and publishes an electronic newsletter titled StocksTalk. If you want to read it free for a month email Andy at sirski@



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ield scouting is always an important part of every successful crop year. But sometimes remembering though what is going on in each field can be a challenge when spread over many acres and kilometers. iScoutCrops can help you with that by remembering all your important field information for you. With this app you can field scout different fields, saving information to your iPad or even emailing it to yourself, other people involved in your farm, or your customers for later use. You can choose from four different crops: wheat, bean, corn and alfalfa. The only thing this really affects is the name at the top and the little picture so nothing that keeps you from tracking other corps. From there you just input the field, date and acres. You can also enter the crop stage, and soil condition. This allows for you to keep track of a field easily through different points of the year.

The weeds are categorized into grasses and broadleaf weeds. You select these weeds from drop down menus. There is also a density and condition menu that allows you to track weeds after spraying, and menus to input insects and disease. Lastly it tracks the family of herbicide used. The only downfall of these menus is that they are not totally complete for all insects or diseases that are more common in Western Canada. To get around this you can always just make additional notes in the comment section. The app even allows you to take photos of the field so if you have questions about a certain weed or bug you can just attach the photo to the report and email it directly to your weed guru. Lastly it is easy to save or view different scouting reports due to the simple nature of the app. Just click view or save in the top menu and away you go. Though not the most complete app iScoutCrops is easy to use and a great starter app for your field scouting needs. Price: free † Jay Peterson farms near Frontier, Sask.



MARCH 4, 2013


Tile drainage to reclaim saline soils

Tile drainage may solve your soil problems, but sometimes it will just pass them on to someone else


n July I received a book order and letter from a farmer south of Brandon. His question was: “Would the 18 inches of rain we get here be enough to provide the ‘leaching’ part of the drainage and leaching to reclaim saline land?” We discussed the matter in a phone call and I did not have a very definite answer. With the past two dry years, soil salinity is “in your face” on more Manitoba farms. Consequently, it was my great pleasure to give an address on saline soils to the Manitoba Agronomists Conference at the University of Manitoba, in Winnipeg last December. It was actually a tag team presentation. When I was done, John Lee of AGVISE Labs in North Dakota presented 11 years of data from a field that had been tile drained in 2002. The site was 25 miles west of Grand Forks on a sandy loam to loam-textured soil with four to 5.5 per cent organic matter. John had some excellent photos of the crops, year by year, starting with patchy soybeans in 2003 and including a very good corn crop in 2008. The photos were accompanied by yearly soil test data (zero to six inches and six to 24 inches). He also had monthly rainfall data. The five-year average rain (from April to October) was 17.2 inches and it varied from a low of 13.9 inches in 2012 to a high of 22.5 inches in 2002. Some main conclusions John Lee presented were: 1. Topsoil salt levels decreased over the years as long as excessive rainfall was received. 2. Subsoil salt levels take longer to be decreased. 3. High subsoil salt levels do not affect crop growth as much as high topsoil salt levels. 4. Salinity stayed the same or increases in dryer years, even with tile drainage. John Lee also reported on several years of data showing that elemental sulfur and gysum addition is no answer to saline soils.


hold the salty water back. Maybe some day — but not now. So, a big consideration is “where is the salty drain water going, and is the recipient going to like it?” Often not. †

**Gr Figure by the late Paul Brown, Montana


After John was finished it occurred to me that if I had installed tile drainage in my nuisance salinity at Dundurn, Sask., around 2008, the soil would be much improved by now. But my drained water would deliver to a neighbour’s ravine (also saline), and about three miles away it would dump into Blackstrap Lake. Not a good idea. It might be possible for a group of neighbours to get together and dam the ravine to

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.









So the answer I should have given the Brandon farmer is that excess rain is required to do the leaching, and that excess rain will vary a lot from year to year. A series of wet years will be good, but a series of dry years could result in some backsliding. And, the chances of getting enough rain are much better in Manitoba and North Dakota than it is in Southern Saskatchewan. or 1 888-283-6847 or contact your Bayer CropScience representative. Always read and follow label directions. Bayer CropScience is a member of CropLife Canada.

MARCH 4, 2013




Alfafa to intercept road ditch salinity



S:16.24” /

photo: les henry

To get this drill rig onto the summerfallow field in the Saskatoon subdivision we had to “borrow” a few ties from the railroad to float in the heavy rig.



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hen I was at the Manitoba meetings in December, Don Flaten, soil science professor at the University of Manitoba, alerted me to a situation in Manitoba. After many wet years and now a drier spell, salinity is being observed along the edge of some road ditches. There was a good example of road ditch salinity near Saskatoon I showed students on field tours. The extra water sitting in road ditches can be enough to raise the water table so salinity can form in the field next to the ditch. Don said some farmers are planting alfalfa to “sop up” some of that extra water to arrest the spread of the salty area. I can not quote chapter and verse of an example where the remedy has worked but it makes sense — provided the salinity is not too high. Alfalfa is not a very salt tolerant plant, but it is a huge “pig” for water and will result in large water table drop after a few years. The classic diagram illustrating the ‘alfalfa’ effect on soil water is the one by Paul Brown (deceased) of Montana. Paul was our very gracious host in the 1980s when busloads of Saskatchewan farmers toured Montana to look at saline soils. It is not that alfalfa sucks much more water per day than any other crop, but it takes up water for longer. When the snow goes, alfalfa is soon green and “sucking,” and it continues until the first serious frost in September. In 2007 I had a good example of that in a new subdivision in eastern Saskatoon. The engineers could not figure out why the water table was so low (greater than 16 feet) in a few test wells. Of course it was the alfalfa. On an August weekend we had four inches of rain and it had no effect on the water table under alfalfa. The wetting front was only a couple of feet below surface. Adjacent summerfallow land would have a water table rise of about four feet. So, the alfalfa strips on field edges in Manitoba should suck up a lot of water, provided the soils are not too saline. † Les Henry



MARCH 4, 2013


Volume and open interest Understanding volume and open interest can help you make better pricing decisions BY BRIAN WITTAL


et’s continue where we left off with regards to noncommercial speculation in the futures markets. Some terms you’ll hear are “volume” and “open interest.” Volume is the total number of trades made on a futures or options contract, usually on a daily basis. Open interest is the number of futures or options contracts for a commodity in a specific contract period that do not have an offsetting position or been delivered against, or have expired yet. Simply put, it’s the difference between the total number of offers to buy and the total number of offers to sell. If open interest is high it indi-

cates that the majority of contracts being offered are on one side of the market (either buying or selling). This can help you determine which way markets are expected to go. You will find volume and open interest numbers on charts and graphs for any futures contracts traded. This helps you and everyone else determine how active a futures contract is trading. Now, let’s look at four scenarios: 1. High volume, low open interest. If volume is high and open interest is low, buyers and sellers are transacting business by completing a buy and sell contract. This would suggest that a fair market value has been established; both sides are willing to do business. 2. Low volume, low open interest.

If volume is low and open interest is low, there are not a lot of buyers or sellers in the market at this time. Some business is being done, but it’s very limited. Buyers may have enough supplies for now and or sellers may be waiting for a better price. 3. Low volume, high open interest. If volume is low and open interest is high, that would suggest that there are few contracts are trading, and that there is more willingness on one side of the market than the other. Price may be low so buyers are trying to buy, but no sellers want to sell. Or it may be the opposite: prices are high and sellers want to sell, but no buyers are willing to buy. In the second case, you’ll see a

lot of sell orders but no buy orders, so open interest is high. 4. High volume, high open interest. If volume is high and open interest is high there are a large number of contracts trading. There are also a lot of offers to either buy or sell that are not getting filled, thus the high open interest. This would suggest that there is a lot of speculators trying to buy or sell into a contract because they believe there is opportunity to make money. The high volume is like adding fuel to a fire, it inspires speculators to be aggressive, believing they will make even more money. This helps to push the futures higher or lower than usual because of the sheer volume. Like a snowball rolling down the hill, it builds on itself and it is hard to stop until it gets to the bottom or hits a wall.

WHEN TO SELL? It’s important to understand the fundamentals and the technical signs, so you can ask questions

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like: Where are the resistance and support levels on the chart? Have we broken through those levels? Will we? If we have, what is the next level of support or resistance? Have the fundamentals (supply and demand) changed to any great degree that could be driving this market move? All this will give you some very good insight. The great unknown is at what price will one of the non-commercial speculative traders decide to liquidate their contracts for profits? They will be following the charts and technical signals but they know everyone else is as well. They will want to sell before everyone else — the first seller usually makes the most profit. When one starts liquidating it usually triggers the rest to do the same (snowball hitting the wall). Taking all of this into consideration and keeping emotion out of the decision you need to decide what price you will start selling at, and sell a percentage of your volume at that price. Then as the market goes higher sell another percentage of your crop. Continue this strategy until you’ve priced all the grain you intend to price. If the futures start to fall before you’ve sold all your grain in this scale up method, you’re best off to pull the trigger and sell the rest at the first sign of the futures falling. It has been proven over and over that selling into a rising market will average you a better price than waiting for the top. The top is most often missed, and you end up selling into a downslide, ending up with a lower average price overall. † Brian Wittal has 30 years of grain industry experience, and currently offers market planning and marketing advice to farmers through his company Pro Com Marketing Ltd, online at

High futures, low prices

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omething you need to be aware of is the fact that the futures may be running higher but the price at the elevator may not be changing or may be getting worse! Why? And how do you avoid that scenario? The “why” is because the basis is widening out as the futures go higher. The grain companies are taking more risk premium through the basis to protect themselves. You may want to sell them your grain at the higher futures price but if they can’t sell it at those high prices they’re at risk, so they widen the basis. This gives them a cushion so they can sell the grain at lower futures values later if necessary, without losing money on the sale. The best way to not get caught in this situation is to have locked in a basis contract earlier when values were narrower. If you didn’t do that then you may want to consider locking in the futures only for now at these high levels and leave the basis un-priced. The theory is that the basis levels will narrow again once this run on the futures ends. Then you can lock in a better value. † Brian Wittal

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MARCH 4, 2013 /


Machinery & Shop Planters

Monosem planters move into the Western Canadian market Kansas City-based Monosem thinks its NG Plus custom planters can offer canola growers a seeding advantage By Scott Garvey


he main advantages to using a planter to plant canola would be improved depth control and consistency (even seed spacing),” says Brian Sieker, territory sales manager for Monosem, a planter manufacturer. “With consistent depth you get even emergence. And your plants aren’t competing with each other.” By being able to provide consistent seed depth, singulation and accurate plant spacings, planter manufacturers are hoping to convince Western Canadian canola growers to make the switch from air seeders to planters. But air seeders are the current industry standard, so planters will have to prove their advantages to gain a significant market share.

Monosem Monosem, based in Kansas City, is one of those planter manufacturers willing to move into the west and go head-to-head with competing air seeder technology. The company’s pull-type line of NG Plus planters can be configured exactly to suit the needs of an individual canola producer, including those practicing min-till and zero-till. Each Monosem row opener rides on an independent-linkage system, and a beefed-up version with a shorter and heavier linkage is available specifically for no-till fields. The NG Plus models are vacuum-style planters, which means pressure differential inside the metering body helps draw single canola seeds into a rotating stainless steel disc that singulates and drops them down the seed

photos: scott garvey

Kansas City-based Monosem offers a line of custom-built planters capable of handling small-seeded crops it thinks Western Canadian canola growers will like. tube at specified intervals. The result is very consistent spacing along the seed row. Each crop type requires the use of specific singulation discs. The planter’s vacuum pump is available with hydraulic or PTO drive. “The vacuum — versus a mechanical system — just allows for that much more accuracy,” says Sieker. And a range of singulation discs is also available for each crop type. “It’s based on population, A higher population disc has more holes. So we match the population desired and the size of the seed to determine which disc to use.” “With our planter, a big part of it (the features) is the stainless steel plates and the aluminum metre,” Sieker goes on. “That allows us to singulate the canola seed down to one a lot more accurately and then drop it straight down the seed tube and maintain that even spacing when it hits the ground.”

The company offers both single and twin-row openers. The twin-row design places seed in paired rows, staggering the location of seed in each. That helps increase seedbed utilization and minimize nutrient and moisture competition between plants. Monosem claims this can improve yields. Pull-type planters are available in widths up to 60 feet with various row spacings. They can be ordered with the traditional seed box on each opener or a central seed tank that feeds all the openers. “The bulk seed system is a 50-bushel hopper,” says Sieker. “We can do up to two (tanks) on a pull-type tool bar.” That provides a maximum on-board seed capacity of up to 100 bushels. The Monosem planters can also apply fertilizer on the same seeding pass. “We have liquid systems already developed,” says Sieker.

Monosem offers a row opener that will plant a twin seed row, which it claims can improve yields. “We’ve done dry fertilizer in-row and we’re working on mid-row banding, currently,” he adds. But owners will need to source their own cart to carry fertilizer blends. The question remains, however, will prairie canola growers see potential in planters? According to Kellen Huber, owner of Tri Star Farm Services at Regina, a Monosem dealer, the answer is a definite yes. “It’s like holding onto a flag in the wind,” he says of the strong demand he’s seen for planters. So far, the 40-foot model is the most popular working width leaving his dealership. Huber believes it offers the best value for investment and meets the needs of most producers. He’s also convinced Monosem offers the planter design best suited to the needs of canola growers. “The big thing with Monosem is they’ve been in the vegetable market for the last 30 years,” he

explains. “So they designed that entire machine around small seeds. Everyone else designed theirs around corn and soybeans; large seeds. It’s very hard for a large-seed meter to work with fine seeds.” Huber also notes the plugging problem some planters have with fine seed hasn’t been a problem on the Monosem planters. “We’ve never really had a problem with it,” he explains. “But Monosem heard about it and just eliminated that factor by putting in a secondary air system.” Huber has been working with Monosem to offer new features on planters that should further increase their appeal to prairie farmers, and he expects to be able to introduce some of them later this year. “Come to Farm Progress (in Regina in June),” he says. “You’ll like what you see.” † Scott Garvey is machinery editor for Grainews. Contact him at

Speed King’s Seed Box Tote designed for planter filling


s many Western farmers consider adding a planter to their equipment fleet, Reginabased Tri Star Farm Services, a short-line retailer, has seen a need to introduce a seed tender to the market that is designed specifically for filling planters and small air seeder carts. Speed King’s Seed Box Tote mounted on a tandem-axle trailer can carry two or four seed totes and load a planter directly from them. “There is a two-box tote and the next one is a four box, so they carry two or four 2,000 pound tote boxes,” explains Kellen Huber, owner of Tri Star Farm Services. “The twobox retails for about $16,000 with trailer, the four-box for about $22,000.” The Speed King tote uses its own small engine for power, and unloads via an eight-inch conveyor belt running through

a six-inch tube. Because it has no need for an external power source, it can be pulled behind a pickup. “It will unload an average of about 12 bushels per minute,” he adds. “It has good capacity for unloading into planters. That’s were it really comes into play.” In its standard configuration the Seed Box Tote is only capable of unloading into smaller air seeder carts, but an unloader extension tube is available to give it extra reach to handle larger versions. “We have to lift it up and put it on a different trailer (for large air carts),” says Huber. “You can put a four-foot extension on there but we just have to get it a little higher up.” For more information on the Seed Box Tote, visit” † Scott Garvey

photo: scott garvey



MARCH 4, 2013

Machinery & Shop SHOP CLASS

Not all safety glasses are the same There are different varieties of shop safety glasses available. Use eye protection that matches the optical quality and level of protection you need for each job BY SCOTT GARVEY


Regular eye glasses aren’t a replacement for proper shop safety glasses like these. There are many approved types on the market that sell for reasonable prices.

can remember stumbling into the local medical clinic unable to see out of one eye because I had relied on my regular eye glasses to protect me from flying debris when using a powered mitre saw. Fortunately, some anaesthetic eye drops to kill the pain and a few days rest put me back in good-as-new condition.

But, it was a lesson learned. Ordinary eye glasses won’t keep you safe in the shop, no matter what style frames you wear. They just aren’t designed for it. Today, my workshop is stocked with several pairs of proper safety glasses. However, they’re not all the same, and one isn’t good for everything. Some are better than I expected, and some are just useless.

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TYPES OF GLASSES If you buy a new power tool, the package may also include a pair of cheap, plastic safety glasses to wear when using it. But wearing some of those glasses can leave you pretty frustrated. Their lenses often have a poor optical quality. So your workpiece looks wavy or blurry; it’s like looking through 100-year-old window glass. Not a good thing around power tools. Wrap-around style generic safety glasses from and industrial supplier are a better choice. Their price seems to range quite a bit. About $35 will get you an average pair from a variety of retailers. If they’re approved for shop safety purposes, there will be a safety organization approval rating on the package. But even though most of today’s safety glasses are designed to wrap closely around a face, they don’t actually provide as much protection as you’d think. I’ve felt grinding fragments hit underneath them. They are okay for general protection in the shop, but if you’re using any tool that throws debris — like a grinder — you should still wear a full-face shield.

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You can purchase an insert to fit around some brands of shop safety glasses that allow them to fit quite tightly to your face, which prevents debris from being thrown up underneath them. But these may not always be an adequate substitute for a full-face shield, which will protect all of your face from scratches or hot sparks. Whichever type of eye protection you choose, the key is to ensure there is no visual distortion. That way you can see exactly what yaou’re doing. You need safety glasses that allow you to see clearly under all circumstances, even when doing fine detail work. That may mean going to an optometrist to get a pair with the correct prescription lenses if you normally wear glasses. And keep a micro-fibre cloth and cleaning solution in your shop. Safety glasses tend to get dirty quickly and rubbing them with a shop rag or Kleenex will put scratches in the lens, which ruins them. Make sure you always use some type of eye protection in your shop. Driving to town for medical help using only one eye is tough; trust me. † Scott Garvey is machinery editor for Grainews. Contact him at

MARCH 4, 2013 /


Machinery & Shop AG DAYS COVERAGE

Electric tailgate control for trucks

Chute Max offers an easier way to control grain flow out of a truck tailgate BY SCOTT GARVEY


ired of leaning over a running auger and getting a face full of dust to open and close the grain chute on a truck endgate? If so, Lakeshore Manufacturing has the answer. That small Saskatchewan company builds the Chute Max, which will convert the grain gate on the back of your truck to electric control. Once the Chute Max kit is installed on your truck, just stand back with the remote control and watch it work. Chute Max is available in two models, standard and heavy duty. Deciding which one best suits your needs depends on how much force it takes to open and close the grain chute on your truck. “It depends on the application,” says Shaun Gelsinger, owner of Lakeshore Manufacturing, which builds the Chute Max. “The standard chute is typically what we sell. It has a 660 pound push-pull actuator. That will mount on a fairly new box, something that has got an easy-sliding end gate. The heavyduty is basically meant for the older three tons that have a wider, three foot endgate that are rusty and a real struggle to pull. That’s 1,200 pounds (of push-pull).” Both systems run off the standard 12-volt electrical systems found on any grain truck, and no modifications are necessary to the elec-

Convert the grain gate on the back of your truck to electric control trical system. A typical alternator can easily keep the truck’s battery charged when the Chute Max is in use. “When this is operating, the heavy duty (model) only draws 22 amps at start up and goes down to about 11,” notes Gelsinger. “The little one fires up around 10 and goes down to, like, three and a half. There’s very little power draw.” The Gelsingers have been manBY DAN PIRARO


ufacturing the Chute Max since 2001. But Shaun says the idea to build Chute Max began about two years prior to that. “About ’99 we were looking around to buy a kit for our own use, but we found them to be quite expensive. So, Pop said let’s try and manufacture our own. And we did.” Eventually, neighbours and friends saw the design and asked the Gelsingers to build and sell kits to them. “The next thing you know we’re in full-blown manufacturing,” he adds. Installing a Chute Max on a farm

truck will take the average person about three or four hours and require only basic hand tools and a half-inch drill. The kit comes complete with all the necessary hardware and fasteners. Gelsinger recommends connecting the Chute Max’s power source directly to the truck’s battery. Chute Max is available from a variety of retailers on the Prairies. To find a dealer or contact the company directly, call 306-539-3418. † Scott Garvey is machinery editor for Grainews. Contact him at


The Chute Max electrically-controlled tailgate opener can be controlled from a distance using a small, wireless remote control. The system can be installed on any farm truck.



MARCH 4, 2013

Machinery & Shop AG DAYS COVERAGE

Auger Hog fits into tight spaces Solving a problem on the farm led to an innovative auger hopper design BY SCOTT GARVEY


he need to solve a problem on his farm led Gary Schreiner of Saskatoon to come up with his own design for an auger hopper. “I had hopper bottoms (bins) that sank, so I wanted something that was adjustable so you could get underneath them and right up to the bottom of them,” he explains. That led to the creation of the Auger Hog, which uses a collapsible design allowing it to be slid into very tight spaces — like under Schreiner’s sinking bins. Yet, it can be lifted up to fit tightly against a hopper bottom. When folded down, the Auger Hog is only a few inches higher than the auger barrel. Once in place, the collapsible hopper extends upward with the push of a lever. “It has a pivot point so the front comes up as well as the back,” says Schreiner. When raised into working position, the Auger Hog’s design also helps minimize spitting, keeping

grain from being thrown out and wasted. Schreiner says the shape of the hopper maintains an even flow into the auger helping maximize its capacity. Attaching the Auger Hog to a grain auger is a simple procedure, Just slide it on the auger barrel and insert a single hitch pin. “It’s quick to put on the grain auger,” he adds. “You use a hidden hitch on the back, so it’s attached solidly.” He now sells the Auger Hog through Gatco Manufacturing of Swift Current, Saskatchewan. It’s available for eight-, 10-, 12- and 13-inch augers. Retail prices start at $1,095. The Auger Hog is available from a variety of retailers across the Prairies and comes with a one-year warranty. For more information or to find a dealer, go the Gatco website, “Once you use one, you don’t want to give it up,” says Schreier confidently. † Scott Garvey is machinery editor for Grainews. Contact him at


Inventor Gary Schreiner explains the advantages of the Auger Hog to a show goer at Manitoba Ag Days in Brandon.


The lump buster This new farm invention from Rainy Day Fabricating could take some of the frustration out of seeding BY LEEANN MINOGUE


his winter was Keith Putnam’s first year on the farm show circuit, and he seemed to be having a good time at the Brandon Ag Show, talking about his new “Lump Buster.” The Lump Buster is a machine that fits into a special-made hopper under your bin — just the right spot to break up fertilizer lumps between the bin and your auger. Putnam says the Lump Buster will break up fertilizer lumps to about the size of a pea, and without turning your fertilizer to powder. The Lump Buster consists of steel fingers welded onto a number of rotating shafts. The small units have 420 of these steel fingers. The rotating speed is variable, for use with different sized augers. The hydraulics for the Lump Buster are designed to be run with a bin sweep motor, which many farms already have.


The unit comes in three sizes: small for six-, seven- and eightinch augers, medium for eightand 10-inch augers, and a large unit for commercial use.

The Hopper is made of 15-gauge metal and two-ply belting. They’re manufactured by KEJA Farms at Assiniboia, Sask.


The lump buster will break up fertilizer lumps to about the size of a pea The Lump Buster is designed to be used with “The Hopper” — a grain hopper specially designed to mould itself to the bottom of a hopper bin to stop grain from spilling and avoid wind when you’re moving grain. It attaches to most types of augers with ratchet straps.

Like most farm innovations, the Lump Buster was created by a farmer who saw a need on his own farm. “The whole thing came about when I had an idea,” Putnam says. “On a rainy day one fall, we got a sheet of metal and started making the first one.” As you can guess, that’s where they got the company name, Rainy Day Fabricating. The next spring, Putman says, “We seeded a thousand acres and never had to screen a ton of fertilizer.” The smallest Lump Buster unit, in black iron, costs $5,400, plus $750 for The Hopper. The stainless steel Lump Buster sells for $7,400; a stainless steel Hopper is $950. † Leeann Minogue is the editor of Grainews.


Rotating fingers in the Lump Buster break up lumps in fertilizer to the size of peas.

The Hopper, attached to this Lump Buster, helps you avoid wind and spills when you’re unloading grain.


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MARCH 4, 2013

Machinery & Shop Keep it going

How to increase air cart capacity on a budget Pairing two smaller carts together gave this Alberta farmer a significant increase in seeding efficiency without a major investment in new equipment By Nelles Madsen


n the winter of 2010-11 I spent some time thinking about how to improve seeding efficiency. We had been direct seeding and top dressing after with our own floater truck. But I wanted to change to a onepass system to cut down on man hours, machinery and maintenance. To do that I needed an air cart with enough compartments to hold all the different products we store on the farm. I also wanted to cut down on the number of times we stop to refill the drill so I could seed more acres in a day. That would allow us to get by with one tender-truck driver and one operator in the air drill. I was also not interested in spending a lot of money to buy a brand new, large-capacity air cart. At that time the largest on the market was 700 bushels. I managed to achieve all those goals by purchasing a used 6550 Bourgault air cart at an auction and pairing it with my existing Bourgault 5350. We now refer to these two as our “Super 900” air cart, which is hitched behind my 75-foot Bourgault 3310 air drill. The “Super 900” has been in use for two seeding seasons, and it’s provided many advantages over the previous small-capacity, single-cart arrangement. First, of course, is the sheer volume of product we can carry; the 6550 alone carries 550 bushels. We use this tank for our phosphorus and potassium blend, canola seed, and granular sulphur. The 5350 carries 350 bushels of straight urea. When we seed cereals, the seed goes into the compartment that carries the sul-

photo: nelles madsen

Nelles Madsen of Mayerthorpe, Alberta, increased the on-board seed capacity of his drill by connecting two used carts together, giving him a 900 bushel load. phur and that gives us 290 bushels of cereal seed. We now have a total of seven metering augers, which gives us lots of flexibility when seeding to change products between compartments; and we’ve greatly increased the number of acres seeded between fills. We now typically cover 120 to 130 acres.

In the field Because the two carts follow each other, we can mix products from the lead and rear cart, sending them into the same air stream to the drill. This can only be done when both carts follow each other. The process of hooking them together and making it all work was really quite simple. First, we

removed the High output fans from the 6550. We then manufactured a hitch and attached it to the existing connecting points on the rear of the 6550. We then hooked the 5350 behind it. The original fans on the 5350 were removed and the high output fans from the 6550 were installed in their place. Next, we attached the two main air delivery tubes together. Bourgault uses two air tubes for main delivery: one line for the mid row banders and one for the seed openers. Hydraulic lines were rerouted to drive the fans in their new location on the 5350. I ordered a new wiring harness that just lays across the tillage tool. It is routed across the 6550

to power the rear cart. Basically, it just required plugging in connectors and rerouting; that’s it. In my tractor I have an X20 monitor for the 6550, and a 491 monitor for the 5350. We had to disable the fan speed warning alarm in the X20 so it wasn’t constantly ringing now that there are no fans on the 6550. Electronically, the carts operate as two separate units, and everything functions as before, with the exception of the fan speed warning. But all hydraulic functions — calibrating, fill augers and fans — perform as if you were just pulling one cart. This unit handles extremely well and tracks one behind the other, even in the corners. For 2013 I plan on installing a camera

on the rear cart to let me see any traffic following behind, which will improve transport safety. This is a much better seeding system than I had before, and it has surpassed all of my expectations when it comes to seeding efficiency and ease of operation. It has also provided a cost saving for my farm. Editors note — Nelles wrote to us about his on-farm seeding system innovation. If you’ve been creative in developing a mechanical solution to increase efficiency or you just keep an older machine operating, let us know and we may feature your machine in a future issue of Grainews. Just send an email to Scott Garvey. † Nelles Madsen farms at Mayerthorpe, Alberta.

Bin yard equipment

Weighing in Axle pad scales make accurate truck loading possible By Scott Garvey


oading grain trucks often involves a little guesswork. Experienced farmers can usually make a pretty good guess when estimating load weights. But even the best occasionally get it wrong, and a guess is never 100 per cent accurate. Putting on the biggest possible load minimizes the number of trips to the terminal, which is important for saving fuel costs and cutting down hauling times. But putting on too much can be a costly error if the Highway Transport Patrol catches you on the road when you’re overweight. One way to eliminate the guesswork is to weigh the truck before you leave the farmyard or bin site. Saskatoon-based Massload offers a range of platform scales suited for that kind of installation. The company claims their scales will read to within 0.25 per cent accu-

racy even in temperatures as low as -40 C. “The Massload axle pad scale works fine in -30 C outdoor weather and is holding up to a high volume of use,” says Rod Swystun of Blaine Lake, Saskatchewan, who uses one in his farming operation. “Accurately weighing the load on a triple-axle, B-train semi-trailer before it goes to market can prevent an overweight ticket that could pay for the axle pad scale.” Massload uses a sealed, doubleended, shear-beam load cell with no moving parts. Everything is electronic, which eliminates error caused by mechanical wear and tear. The scales have a low six-inch profile and are available up to 168 inches in length (4.26 metres). That’s big enough to get an accurate weight on a set of tridem axles in one group. For more information see www. † Scott Garvey is machinery editor for Grainews. Contact him at

Massload’s on-farm platform scales are long enough to weigh tridem axle groups.

photo: massload

MARCH 4, 2013 /


Machinery & Shop Combine accessories

Houston Seed Saver minimizes header losses See-through shield keeps kernels and dust in the header By Scott Garvey


hen Bill Houston set up the exhibit for his invention, the Houston Seed Saver, at Manitoba Ag Days in Brandon, he chose to display a couple of telling photos. One picture showed the top of a combine feeder house covered with chaff. The caption claimed the accumulation reached that level after only six hours of normal harvesting. The second picture was of a combine that had been working with a Houston SeedSaver (HSS) attached to the header. This time the feeder house was completely clean. “That’s after 36 separator hours,” proclaims Houston as a couple of show goers study the second image. “It’s never been cleaned, swept or blown. That’s how they stay (with an HSS installed).”

Houston SeedSaver The HSS is a shield designed primarily to prevent seed loss over the back of the header. To keep kernels from being flung out over the header by the auger fingers, the HSS hangs forward overtop of the feeder house intake. Its design allows it to lay horizontally, suspended over top of the header auger, but the operator’s view isn’t obstructed by it, because the HSS is made of clear Margard (coated Lexan) in an aluminum frame. Houston says the Margard won’t discolour over time. Along with keeping kernels and chaff contained in the header, the HSS helps minimize dust too. “I asked guys who have this system what they like best about,” he continues. “They say the (lack of) dust.” Preventing dust from blowing up over the header keeps the cab windshield cleaner, making frequent stops during the day to wash the windshield unnecessary.

Design of the HSS is relatively simple. It’s made of an aluminum frame that supports the clear Margard panel, and it can be attached to any brand of combine. “It fits any head on the market,” says Houston. “The belting is the key to it. The belting seals it to the table along the back and we drop belting in the front, because so much seed gets shot forward off those fingers. Now we’re containing all that seed loss under the panel — and all the dust generated by that auger. So we eliminate the dust and we eliminate the seed loss.” Getting the HSS installed on a combine is just a matter of drilling a few bolt holes in the top of the rear header rail and mounting it with the supplied hardware. Houston says another benefit of the HSS is it speeds up the process of reversing a plugged feeder house on some combines. It helps prevent the crop mat from being drawn back into the feeder house by giving the header auger a better chance to grab the plug and pull it away. “With the panel system on, the material pushes up the panel but there is enough weight on it that it gives the auger flighting a chance to grab (the crop).” he says. “Nine out of ten times with your first go on the reverser, you’ve got it.” As Houston discusses his invention with another visitor to his booth, he asks, “What do you think you lose in a 50 K wind with all those pods flying off the top of the swath?” He explains the HSS is especially helpful in limiting losses when combining on very windy days. As it turns out, at least one of his customers has found that to be true.

On-Farm experience Brad Hanmer, whose family operates Hanmer Seeds Ltd. at Govan, Saskatchewan, confirms that has been their experience. “It prevents swaths from blowing

photos: bill houston

The Houston Seed Saver is especially helpful in limiting losses when combining on very windy days. up (off the header) on a windy day,” he says. The Hanmers have an HSS installed on all their combines, and Brad believes the HSS has provided value for the money by preventing seed loss from the header. Their combine windshields also don’t require cleaning as often as they did when

running without it. “We like the product,” he adds. “We run it on all our combines.” The HSS can be ordered directly from Bill Houston at Southey, Saskatchewan, for $1,250 plus GST and courier costs. “It’s all aluminum construction to save weight during shipping,” He explains. “They come in a box



Troy Eliason WRENTHAM, AB USING 682-ASY-0711G & 12G ON A NEW HOLLAND 440

“I have used these side band openers for the last couple of years. The wear has been really good and should easily last another couple of years. Regardless of which make and model you pull in the field, we manufacture ground engaging tools to meet your seeding, fertilizer and tillage applications.

1 800 878 7714 The Houston Seed Saver is designed to mount on combine headers to prevent seed loss. It also helps keep the top of the feeder house clear of chaff and reduces the amount of dust that sticks to the cab windshield.

But don’t take it from us, ask one of your neighbours.

52x32x7 (inches). They weigh 81 pounds, boxed, so the bus or courier has no problem handling them. For more information or to order an HSS, contact Bill Houston at 306-726-5788 or email him at † Scott Garvey is machinery editor for Grainews. Contact him at



MARCH 4, 2013


Lessons from tornado hunters and young farmers What’s really happening on your farm and are you giving hope to the next generation? ELAINE FROESE


ith great delight at the Saskatchewan Young Ag Entrepreneurs (www. meeting on the coldest night in January, I met Greg Johnson, Canada’s Tornado Hunter ( As farmers we are all skywatchers, and Greg’s photos did not disappoint. He has now compiled his adventures into a wonderful well-documented book called Blown Away. Greg’s message to the young farmers was to follow their passion, as he explained being caught up in a business for 10 years with 23 employees, and all the outward trappings of success, yet he felt sad, depressed, and trapped. Here was a man before the audience who has had near-death experiences being caught on the wrong side of a tornado, telling young farmers not to settle. Johnson is also well rooted for adventure and exploration with the role models his travelling parents have set, and his 80-some-

thing grandfather who was known to cycle close to 60 miles a day. I am just curious, are you settling? Are you feeling trapped after a long winter of heaps of snow, cloudy days, and no hope of things changing much on your place? Depression is a story that I share with Greg’s history, and we both encourage farmers to seek medical attention and get treatment for depression. Depression can also result from being stuck in nasty circumstances, and that is the other lesson that I learned from some of the young farmers who shared stories of concern for family and neighbours. Where is it written in the farm family code of conduct rule book that the next generation has to suffer, like their parents or grandparents did? By suffering, the younger farmers hear, “We suffered through as young parents, and you will have to get used to it.” WHY? Just because your folks went through difficult dynamics, lack of communication and disrespect with their folks, do you have to suffer the same circumstances? No!!! Some folks are never going to be ready to change. You should be the fly on the wall in my office as I get weekly sad tales of 80-some-

thing folks who have all the power and control and decision-making clout. Or the mother who will not accept the fact that she is going to have to make room for a new family member when her child marries soon. Greg’s expertise as an extreme weather-watcher is honoured by Environment Canada meteorologists, because Greg gives them what he calls “ground truth.” The fancy technology and radar can figure out what is going on 100 feet up, but someone needs to be clear about what is really happening on the ground, and that is where Greg’s courage and insight shines. What is the ground truth at your farm? Are you willing to have those courageous conversations to shine new light and hope for the next generation? I have met young men who don’t have a farm to run, and they would love to be adopted in a joint-venture project by a family who cares about their passion for the future of agriculture, and models healthy family and business dynamics. Call me and I will give you Brad’s name. He gave me permission to put the alert out. Don’t accept storms repeating themselves over and over. Sometimes Greg will read all the warning signs right on his special-

ized laptop and race to where the tornado should be, sometimes he does a lot of waiting, and other times he takes advantage of the amazing green, black or lightninglit sky even when the “real storm” does not materialize. Agriculture needs storm-watchers who are willing to provide the “ground truth” of what is acceptable behaviour for family business and what is just plain nuts. I am in the process of developing a training program for farm family coaches who want to do the work I have done for the past 10 years across the Prairies. The demand for someone to sit in the sacred space of silence doing the heavy lifting, and giving a safe framework for clarity and certainty is not going to sputter out. In Greg’s book he quotes Steve Jobs, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.” If you are feeling that you are never good enough or can never please the founders or other team members on your farm, take a look in the mirror. What can you change? What are you avoiding? What choices are you making? My biggest desire for the SYA group was to instil a sense of

hope for them, that as they learn great conflict resolution skills to manage their business risks, and communicate clearly, they will have an awesome future in agriculture. One young farmer admitted that his passion for summer storms had kept him up all night watching the amazing light show in the heavens. He didn’t do too well at work the next day after only two hours of sleep, but he was still very happy he had the experience. We all want to be happy. We get out of bed quickly in the morning when we have purpose and passion. What lessons do you need to learn from watching the storms on your farm? What is the ground truth that you need to write into your farm family code of conduct? I would love to hear your story. Remember, it is your farm, your family, and your choice. † Elaine Froese is a thought leader in agriculture whose passion is to give farm families practical tools for better communication and conflict resolution. Enter “Farm family Coach” on YouTube and Facebook to “like” Elaine’s work. Call her for coaching via Skype or to challenge your farm group to change at your next ag event. Order her book for your farm team at Be thankful that Canadians usually sleep under a glorious sky of peace.

Greenhouse grows year-round produce Hydroponics operation supplies Saskatoon-area market BY EDNA MANNING


efore Chris and Rachel Buhler established their hydroponics operation near Saskatoon in 2007, they had conducted research into food security in Saskatchewan. “We learned that this province produces only about 4.7 per cent of its own vegetables, compared to Manitoba and Alberta, which produce close to 50 per cent. Our climates are similar, so why are we so far behind?” asks Chris. “That inspired us,” says Rachel. “We wanted to go into yearround production, something that’s not very common in our cold climate.” With the growing movement towards buying local, a hydroponics greenhouse operation would help to supply fresh produce to the Saskatoon-area market all year. The taste of a tomato ripened on the vine doesn’t compare to one that’s been picked green and spent many days in transport. The brother and sister team grew up on a dairy farm near Osler, north of Saskatoon. Both wanted to stay on their grandparents’ farm and work at something viable other than grain or dairy farming. Rachel has a master’s degree in plant sciences, and Chris studied greenhouse management. In 2009 the Buhlers wrote up a business plan and entered it into the University of Saskatchewan

BioVenture Business Plan Challenge. They won the $50,000 grand prize, that helped procure financing to establish their hydroponics greenhouse business called Floating Gardens Ltd. “It’s been slow going,” said Chris. “We did a number of things different when we constructed our greenhouses. First, we built the structure for year-round production, and our greenhouses can handle more snow load than the average one. We also put screening on all the vents and all entries have a double-door entrance, to keep out insects as much as possible. We have a wood-fired boiler and use waste wood products, although we have a backup gas boiler. That’s also part of our interest in being carbon neutral — we’re attempting to move in that direction.” Chris and Rachel grow their plants in reusable plastic pots filled with coir, a biodegradable, soil-like substance made from the ground-up ripe husks of coconut. The operation is high tech with a computer controlling all of the venting and heating, and computerized fertilizer machines injecting the correct nutrients at the right time for each crop. “Different crops each need different nutrients at different times. Not only does a tomato need different nutrients than a cucumber, but at different times during its growing stage,” said Rachel.

As part of their integrated pestmanagement system, the Buhlers use insects like ladybugs and parasitic wasps to control harmful insects. They also purchase bumblebees to pollinate fruiting crops like cucumbers, tomatoes, strawberries and eggplants. Chris and Rachel currently market their fresh produce, including tomatoes, mini-cucumbers, eggplant, greens, herbs and edible flowers at farmers’ markets and various restaurants. “We’re very careful about food safety. We take great care to market only fresh, clean, delicious produce. We usually pick it the day before we take it to market and our tomatoes taste like a tomato grown in a backyard garden. We grow only a Persian mini-cucumber that’s about six inches long — very fresh and crisp, and not seedy. Arugula is very popular and we harvest it at its optimal age,” said Chris. Launching into the greenhouse operation has been somewhat of a learning curve for the Buhlers. “Something as simple as sourcing a particular piece of equipment can mean a two-day research project,” said Rachel. “But it’s a brand new industry in this province, and one that’s exciting and fun to be in,” she adds. For more information, contact Chris or Rachel Buhler at greatpro † Edna Manning writes from Saskatoon, Sask


Chris Buhler releases ladybugs as part of the pest-management system.

MARCH 4, 2013 /


Home Quarter Farm Life FROM THE FARM

Grow your own sprouts


very year by the end of February the urge to eat something, anything, fresh and green starts. Lettuce from the store just isn’t the same as from the garden, not to mention the cardboard tomatoes. We are extremely happy that we still have a stash of dehydrated tomatoes to get us through the rest of winter since it is just too cold in Manitoba to start gardening. Or is it? It is too early to plant a real garden but growing some sprouts can satisfy some cravings. If the satisfaction of being able to eat something fresh and green isn’t enough to try sprouting there are many more healthy reasons to give home sprouting a try. In the life of a plant, sprouting is a moment of great vitality and energy. Sprouting magnifies the nutritional value of the seed. It boosts the B-vitamin content (especially B2, B5 and B6), triples the amount of vitamin A and increases vitamin C by a factor of five to six times. Starches are converted to simple sugars, making sprouts very easily digestible. Carotene increases, sometimes eightfold. More importantly, sprouting grains neutralizes phytic acid, a substance present in the bran of all grains that inhibits absorption of calcium, magnesium, iron, copper and zinc; sprouting of seeds neutralizes enzyme inhibitors that are present in all seeds. These inhibitors can neutralize our own enzymes in the digestive tract. Complex sugars responsible for intestinal gas in starchy seeds such as beans are broken down during sprouting so they are more easily tolerated. Sprouting inactivates aflatoxins, potent carcinogens found in some grains, plus numerous enzymes that help in digestion are produced during the germination process. Sprouts are rinsed two to four times a day, depending on the climate and the type of seed, to provide them with moisture and prevent them from souring. Each seed has its own ideal sprouting time. After three to five days the sprouts will have grown to five to eight centimetres (two to three inches) in length and will be suitable for consumption. If left longer they will begin to develop leaves, and are then known as baby greens. A popular baby green is sunflower after seven to 10 days. Refrigeration can be used as needed to slow or halt the growth process of any sprout. For me, it isn’t just about eating the sprouts all fresh and crunchy. I thoroughly enjoy the excitement of waiting and watching as the little roots burst out of the seeds and quickly become little edible morsels of delicious greenness. Just about any seed can be used to make sprouts. One word of caution about alfalfa — this seed has higher-than-usual amounts of an amino acid called canavanine, and some research studies have associated canavanine with worsening of inflammatory conditions including rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus. Individuals with chronic inflammatory condi-

securely fits over the mouth of. Secure the tea strainer with elastic bands. Rinse a couple times, then fill the jar three-quarters full with pure water, room temperature, and soak six to eight hours or overnight. Drain soaking water. Rinse two or three times in cool water. Invert jar and prop at angle in sink or bowl to drain and to allow air circulation. Rinse two or three times twice a day in cool water. Ideal sprouting temp is 55 F to 70 F so the room temperature of the average house is perfect. In one to four days the sprouts will be ready. Rinse well, shake out excess moisture, and place a breathable cover on jar. Store the sprouts in the refrigerator. Sprouts are enjoyable on their own or as a garnish. Beans and lentils are much easier to digest now, but should be cooked before consumption. We have noted they

it gets to late winter and they just don’t feel like eating hay anymore. Good luck with sprouting and if interested there will be more pictures posted at www.chikousky as time permits. † Debbie Chikousky farms at Narcisse, Man.

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tions, including autoimmune conditions, may want to avoid alfalfa sprouts for this reason. The most important thing to ensure is that they have not been treated with any chemicals. We get our certified organic wheat and certified organic spelt for sprouting from Gerry and Marie DeRuyck in Notre Dame, Man. 1-204-836-2755. Their grain is not only fantastic for sprouting, it can also be used for making flours if desired. There are lots of sprouting kits online but specialized equipment isn’t really necessary. Supplies: Canning Jar Elastic Tea strainer Grain or seeds Unchlorinated water Fill a mason jar one-third full with any grain or seed. We use a canning jar that the tea strainer

cook much faster after sprouting. We also enjoy them as crackers. We have had very good luck sprouting Suraj brand fenugreek seeds from the ethnic aisle in SuperStore. Sprouted Grain Crackers (Nourishing Traditions) 3 c. sprouted soft wheat berries 1/2 c. sprouted small seeds such as sesame, onion, poppy or fenugreek 1 tsp. sea salt 1 tsp. dried dill, thyme or rosemary Place all ingredients in food processor and process several minutes to form a smooth paste. Form into balls and roll into rounds on a pastry cloth, using unbleached white flour to prevent sticking. Place on a buttered cookie sheet and leave in a 150 F oven (or a dehydrator) until completely dry and crisp. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Before long we will be able to plant cool-season vegetables in cold frames but till then the sprouts should keep us going. I definitely have sympathy for the cows when



MARCH 4, 2013


Life’s secrets, according to you… JANITA VAN DE VELDE


ere’s what I’ve learned about fear — as adults, most of us walk around cloaked in it, whether we know it or not. ALL. OF. THE. TIME. We’re scared of what others may think, of what the future holds, what could happen to our kids, going insane, being a burden, pain, mortality, abandonment, not finding meaning in life, imminent death… the list is endless. We live in a state of fear, not trust. It’s this thing called our amygdala… it’s always on guard for our protection. It’s our very own personal alarm system, an inherent defence mechanism, rearing its tiny wee head and scanning the environment for anything that may pose a threat to us. Threat identified? Then game on, baby — it’s fight or flight time. Let’s take the fear of snakes as one example: Some would argue that this fear is built in, because snakes can be dangerous. Don’t believe me? Just ask Eve. Others would say that’s a load of crap; if you’re scared of snakes, then you’ve likely had a bad experience with them. If you call being chased around the yard by your brothers who were flinging snakes at your head like their collective lives depended on it a bad experience, then yes, I’ll subscribe. There’s another type of fear — the fear of the unknown — our mortality, running out of time, the concept of eternity, the thought of something happening to our

children that would rob them of life. Here’s the thing though: Your fears can often rob you of living your life to the fullest. Where we can, we need to act on our fears because sometimes, circumstances permitting, we can be part of creating a different outcome. If you’re worried about not being a good parent, or not telling your loved ones exactly what they mean to you, then do something about it before it’s too late. Live your life in such a way that your fears don’t morph into regrets, because therein lies a completely different kind of fear — the one of knowing that you had the knowledge required to approach life differently and alter the course, but you lacked the perseverance and courage to do so. Here forthwith, are your worst fears: Death. One of my kids dying… not knowing if he was going to make it. Surviving my children or grandchildren. Mortality, and the concept of eternity, terrifies me. Dying too young and missing out on all the fun. A painful, agonizing death. Snakes. One of my children or spouse leaving this life before me. Dying with regret. I don’t want to be on my deathbed saying: “I wish I would’ve…”

That I will lose my kids or my husband. My dad died when I was young, so I’m terrified that something will happen to my husband too. And I have a deep fear of failing but that’s between me and my therapist. Being a burden to my family. Time. Being old and unable to care for myself. I can’t stand the thought of it. Going insane. My worst fear is to not be here to see my children grow up. My worst fear is getting Alzheimer’s like my dad did and becoming a burden to my kids and others. The ultimate fear is loss of memories and moments in time I have locked in my heart. Burying my far-too-young husband. Losing my faith. My worst fear is losing one of my greatest loves. Heights. I almost had a panic attack at the gorge in Colorado last year when I was faced with the possibility of going across the great abyss in a tiny cart suspended by only a cable. That I will do something totally stupid and annoy my children and they will no longer want to visit me. My parents dying.

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Car crash. I have no fear of dying, I only fear that I will die and leave no legacy behind. And spiders… those little suckers. Abandonment. My worst fear is that my children will lose me. I would never wish the feelings I’ve experienced since my dad’s passing, on them. I understand my husband better, knowing that he had to go through that loss as a very young child. Something bad happening to my children. That, or something happening to me and them not truly understanding just how much I love them. In my efforts to keep the family farm together, I’m not certain all my children will still talk to each other in years to come. This is my greatest fear. Being old with no children of my own. My worst fear is dying alone or nor experiencing all that I want to. I sometimes have panic attacks of: “I’m running out of time!” Never finding that one person to spend the rest of my life with and never having someone to start a family with. Also, losing someone I love scares me to no end. Disappointing others. Getting older. That I will be alone for the rest of my life. Not alone as in ‘I have no friends,’ but I want to have a life partner, a husband who I can call my best friend, someone who I can share my life with. I want to feel loved and accepted for who I am. I dream of living in a home, sharing meals together, taking family on road trips, and even someone to curl up with on a Friday night to watch hockey. And yes... I’m even excited about the fights, arguments, disagreements — all that comes with love and marriage. But I’m so scared I won’t have it. That I’ll be ‘the friend/sister/aunt’ who lives alone and who’s invited to functions and events simply out of sympathy because I’m alone. Drowning.


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My worst fear is probably fear itself. And heights. To become like my mom. She prays a lot but is still full of anger and hurt. I find it hard to be around her. My worst fear is something awful happening to my daughter… things I can’t even type, you the know the stuff you read about that makes you vomit. Or something happening to me too early for her to be able to deal with. Losing what I take for granted. Failing as a parent.

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That my children do not feel accepted or loved. That at some point in time, those I love will be the target of pain.

Dying and not having accomplished anything, or touched anyone in a special way, and being remembered for someone I once was in my past. I don’t let my past dictate who I am, but it’s part of what I have become. That I’ll never truly understand the meaning of life, nor pursue what I was meant to do to lead a fulfilling one. That takes a level of courage I’m not certain I possess. I definitely don’t like being around bats. Ghost hunting. My greatest love is my wife. My greatest fear is my wife. Screwing up in parenting and not finding the words that lead the way to truth. One of my children being abducted — not knowing where they are, who has them, how scared they are and how much pain they are in. The not knowing would kill me. I fear how the world will be for my children when I am long gone. It already scares me the way it is now. That people will see me as I see myself. Not the myself that I put out there… but the myself I see when I am naked alone in the bathroom, or the myself I see when I lay in bed reviewing all the choices I made and the things I said. My worst fear is totally unidentified. Cancer. My worst fear is my children or grandchildren becoming incapacitated. My sister became a quadriplegic at a very young age and I don’t wish that upon anybody. She does remarkably well in her life… it just makes her life harder. My worst fear is me. Fear of failure, as I was unsure of myself and lacked support from my father as our relationship was completely dysfunctional. That was then and I can confidently state that his opinion or anyone else’s has no effect in my decisionmaking process. This was the one question I was asked during my cancer treatments and the answer came very easily at the time and remains the same today. I actually have two — one is causing tremendous pain to my family if I should die young and the other is the fear of being forgotten. Being alone and cut off from those I love. Being forgotten. † Janita Van de Velde grew up on a farm near Mariapolis, Man. She holds a bachelor of science degree in agricultural economics from the University of Manitoba, and has worked for a financial institution since graduating. She lives in Regina, Sask., with her husband Roddy and their children Jack, Isla and James. Her first novel, Postcards Never Written, was the recipient of the Saskatchewan Reader’s Choice Award and also listed by CBC as one of the top funny books in 2009. She donates a portion of proceeds from the sale of her book to World Vision to help those less fortunate. For more information, or to order her book, visit her website at

MARCH 4, 2013 /


Home Quarter Farm Life SINGING GARDENER

Looking for water on your land? Check with a water diviner or maybe you have this gift yourself TED MESEYTON


eaders who follow me on my Singing Gardener page should have a good idea of my subject material after I let “the cat out of the bag” in the February 25 Grainews issue. I don’t write only “pour passer le temps” (French) i.e. to pass the time; but write because it’s part of my makeup. Gardeners and farmers are sort of “terrae filius” (Latin) i.e. sons of the soil. Water is more precious than liquid gold and the land has been called black gold. Both are so absolutely essential to life and our survival. We thank teachers who taught the ABCs to us, but also thank farmers and gardeners who put food on our tables.

LOOKING FOR WATER ON YOUR PROPERTY? Then — look for a dowser. Believe it or not, that’s what some old-timers said and did when they wanted to find a spot for a well with a good supply of quality water. I, Ted, have dabbled a bit as a water dowser myself, but have met only a handful so far. If there are a lot of them out there in this vast country, they’re certainly keeping to themselves. It seems word of mouth has been the primary mode of advertising as to engaging one of these dowser guys who’ve also been referred to as water diviners, switchers and witchers. The ability to be a dowser probably applies to about one person per dozen. Most people don’t realize they may have the gift primarily because they’ve never tried it. Dowsing is probably as ancient as humanity’s need for water. Call it what you will, but some individuals have that uncanny ability to find underground streams and even their depth and volume. Let it be known that neither trickery nor petty foolishness is ever applied by a bona fide dowser, although some non-believers have been known to describe them as a fake.

It is known that wild animals in the jungle and forest are able to smell a waterhole that’s many kilometres away. Perhaps in humans the ability to dowse for water is an ancient ancestry instinct that only some people still possess. Another way is to think of it as a natural, innate and freely given talent that some people are born with. Such sensitivity has been called radiesthesia and described as a movement of invisible energy waves that emanate between earth, minerals, water, people and other things around us. I’m neither a scientist nor a specialist in this area, but in simple terms that’s how I understand it. We’ve all heard of Albert Einstein who also apparently had a profound interest in dowsing. It’s little known, but folklore had an intriguing connection to the practice of dowsing. Folklorists say the power is inherited by a son from his mother or by a daughter from her father. Others say the gift of divination is granted from above to only a few.

AN EMAIL FROM A WATER DIVINER … arrived at my inbox in January. Thanks to Dan Ohler for his willingness to share. He writes: Hi Ted, I trust all is well for you. I enjoy reading your articles in Grainews. Thanks for the great info and insights. I was curious about your recent article asking about water diviners. I do it, and have done it successfully (100 per cent), although I’ve not much experience. I’ve only had the opportunity to have the sense confirmed four times for water wells. However, I use the same technique quite regularly to help people find power, sewer, gas, pipes and water lines. I usually use two welding rods bent in a 90-degree angle. To make them more sensitive, I have small plastic beads on the part I hold in my hands, so the rod turns inside the beads, similar to a bearing. I’ve also used a willow “Y.” The most interesting experiences I’ve had with willow are in the spring

(when the sap is flowing). When I squeeze the branch really hard, a strong, underground water force will tear the bark off the wood as the long part of the “Y” bends toward the ground. With warmest regards. Have fun! Dan Ohler Sangudo, Alta. (one hour west of Edmonton)

THERE’S A REASON BEADS ARE LOOSE Simply stated, the beads prevent the dowser’s hands from touching the rods and there’s less friction. It also discourages anyone from suggesting the practitioner is somehow engaging the rods into movement. As Dan pointed out “since the diviner’s bare hands do not touch the rods, skeptics (and there are some) cannot say otherwise.” He keeps his rods in the back of the truck or under the seat, or fits them into a backpack. I asked Dan how he got started and here was his reply. “When I was a boy on the farm in southern Alberta, I watched a guy do this and thought it was really interesting. I practised it a bit but thought it was kind of airy-fairy crap. When I got a bit older, my dad and I were deciding where to drill a well on some pasture land. Dad had a friend who used rods, sticks, crowbars, and even hung a pendulum over an aerial map. We all went to the pasture and I walked around with a couple pieces of #9 wire. I agreed with the general vicinity of where the other guy thought it should be, but to this day, I believe if we’d have drilled 20 feet or so away, there would have been more and better water. Another diviner walked around later and said he agreed with me, although we didn’t drill another well.” Time has since passed. Dan tried it here and there, but never really had the chance to test it again for a few years. Then he continued: “My dad retired and was building a new yard site. A local diviner told him where to drill. I disagreed and had my place marked out. Dad naturally drilled where the ‘professional’ advised. He got water, but very bad water that ate faucets quickly and was full of sand. Dad decided to drill again and hired a

Dan Ohler from Sangudo, Alberta converted these welding rods into a pair of water dowser rods. According to Dan, welding rods are normally used for oxyacetylene welding and can be purchased at rural hardware and farm supply stores. He uses elastic bands at the top of the beads because holes were too large, thus preventing them from slipping around the corner and falling off. Dan suggests a small washer can be glued or welded right at the point of the bend to serve the same purpose. Note the hook at the opposite end. local well driller who also did some divining. He drilled exactly where I had marked and had great water.” Now a youthful 55 year old, Dan is in their new location west of Edmonton. He told the following about drilling a well in a clearing in their forest. “We were planning a building site there but realized that water was the key issue. I measured my spot from nearby markers, so someone else wouldn’t know. The well driller came and did his divining. His choice was exactly where I had chosen and we got a great well there — very deep (315 feet) but good water.” Dan also had the opportunity to do this for another neighbour with success. He went on to say, “It’s just something I play around with. It’s fun to feel the energy through my body. And it’s really fun to have other people try it without results, and then walk behind them with my hand on their shoulder. They are amazed to see what happens.”

SO YOU WANT TO BE A DOWSER? Then let’s get started. For simplicity sake, we’ll use a Y-shaped or forked red willow bark branch. Harvest a pliable piece so it bends easily rather than one that breaks when the pointer end is pulled

down. Remove any small twigs. This is approximate only. Try to find a branch about the thickness of a pencil and about 45 cm (18 inches) long. Decide whether you want it thicker or longer. Grasp the two prongs a few inches from the tips with palms facing up and fists clenched. Rest your fists firmly against your hips or hold fists a few inches to the front in which case your elbows are tightly pressed against sides of your body. Walk slowly over area to be dowsed, feet close to the ground without shuffling and focus on what your intention is. (i.e. finding cool, clear water). When you come to an underground stream, the end of the willow will be suddenly pulled down earthward in a vertical position by a force of energy. You might consider approaching the spot from several different directions. Often the gravitational pull is so strong that the bark rips off and breaks away from the wood. Sometimes the Y-shaped willow rod even breaks. Once you’ve determined the point of greatest pull, pound in a stake or identify it with a marker of some sort. This may be an oversimplification but should provide some insight whether or not you are a dowser. Incidentally, if using welding rods or coat hangers, the exact spot is found where they cross each other to form an “X.” †


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, Man. R3H 0H1. Phone 1-800665-0502 or email susan@ Please remember we can no longer return photos or material. — Sue


Shown is the way this water dowser holds his piece of Y-shaped red willow when witching for water.

This is Ted Meseyton the Singing Gardener and Grow-It Poet from Portage la Prairie, Man. For those gardeners with indoor houseplants, here’s a Ted Tip that gels into plant goodness. Dissolve one envelope of plain, unflavoured gelatin in hot water and stir until it’s no longer granular or gritty. Then, slowly mix in four cups of cold water. Use this plant food monthly, even on outdoor plants and have the most wonderful results ever. Bulk granular gelatin is available at some health food and scoop-and-save stores and usually is less expensive than packaged envelopes of unflavoured gelatin. Prepare only as much as needed at any given time. My email address is>



MARCH 4, 2013

Cattleman’s Corner RANGE MANAGEMENT

Proper management improves range health HYLAND ARMSTRONG

everything I needed to create the grazing plan.



ontinuous seasonlong grazing is often cited by range management professionals as a major factor contributing to deterioration in range health. Rather than addressing the factors causing the deterioration in range health, these same professionals promote a form of rotation grazing as an effective method to restore range health. I do not agree with either of these assumptions. I believe season-long continuous grazing is an effective resource management tool. The first time I got an opportunity to implement my theory was in 2005. Ducks Unlimited (DU) and Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) leased a field of fescue grassland to the ranch. DU and NCC wanted to achieve three specific goals 1) improve the overall range health of the allotment; 2) improve the duck nesting and rearing capabilities in this part of the Cypress Hills; and 3) improve the elk winter habitat. After signing the deal, DU indicated they wanted me to develop a grazing plan using a deferred rotation grazing system. I said I would get back to them in a couple of weeks. Since I had access to the area, I rode across it several times to do a visual inspection. I then studied an aerial photograph to get an overall impression of the allotment and reviewed the initial range-health assessment completed by NCC. I now had

At our next meeting, I had the plan ready. I gave them the number of cattle, the entry date and the exit date. DU then stated they were willing to contribute to the cost of cross fencing. I expressed sincere gratitude for their generosity but explained rotation grazing was not part of my grazing plan. I pointed out to DU cross fencing the section was not a practical option. I pointed out to DU and NCC, in addition to the fencing costs, additional money was required to develop reliable water for grazing purposes (the only permanent water was located in the NW corner). I also pointed out the cross fencing this area would deter elk from using this area. Instead, I offered an alternative based on a season-long grazing program. My plan involved two components. The first step was to allocate the grazing resources evenly between elk and cattle. Since the ultimate goal was improving wildlife habitat, the plan allocated approximately 50 per cent of the grazing capacity for livestock summer grazing. The second step was to develop a plan that would evenly distribute livestock in the allotment. I achieved this by choosing underutilized areas in the field, placing salt in these areas and then moving the cattle to these sites. I referred to aerial photographs and range-health assessments to help me determine the areas I wanted to put the cattle. Initially, I purposely chose sites over a mile away from the water for salt placement. Once I got the


Proper management of cattle, which may involve a daily ride on pasture to move cows, will help to achieve proper distribution of animals and more even range use. cattle moved to a particular site, I would settle the cows and calves in that area and leave (cattle were not moved until mid-morning since this gave them a chance to have a drink of water; making it easier to settle the cattle). Since cattle would return to the dam by evening, I moved the cattle on a daily basis for the first four weeks of the grazing period. Once this process achieved the desired level of utilization, I moved the salt to a new location. When and for how long cattle remained in a particular area depended upon the range health of the site. For example, cattle grazed the “healthy” range sites first and used between 40 and 50 per cent of the available forage. Cattle grazed the “unhealthy” sites later in the season, leaving a relatively higher proportion of carry-over on the range site.

RANGE HEALTH IMPROVED The results of this grazing program mirrored other continuous grazing programs I initiated. Within five years of initiating this program, there was a significant improvement in the health of the riparian areas and upland range sites on this allotment. In addition to an improvement in range health, there was an increase in grazing capacity, giving the ranch an opportunity to run more cattle on the allotment. It is ironic, but as the health improved the use of this allotment by elk declined. When it comes to managing heterogeneous landscapes, research clearly shows the type of grazing system “is not a significant factor” in improving or maintaining range health. Stocking rates

and livestock distribution are the sole factors that determine the effectiveness of any grazing system. From my perspective, as long as stocking rates are within the carrying capacity and livestock are evenly distributed in the allotment, season-long continuous grazing is just as effective as any rotation-grazing scheme. In addition, unlike rotation grazing, season-long continuous grazing is more flexible than any form of rotation grazing. Season-long continuous grazing allows the range manager to develop a grazing program based on the grazing behavior of cattle, rather than that of a calendar. † Hyland Armstrong is a consultant and retired rancher from the Cypress Hills, Alta. with a long educational and career background in animal science and range management. He can be reached at lightningbutte@hotmail. com or 403 528 4798.


Beef market flat until at least spring JERRY KLASSEN MARKET UPDATE


ed cattle prices in Alberta have been rather flat so far in 2013, trading in the range of $115/cwt to $117/ cwt. Despite the slower slaughter pace and tighter beef supplies, wholesale prices have come under pressure since the January highs, which has tempered buying interest for slaughter cattle. At the same time, retail ground beef prices are up about 10 per cent over year ago levels while consumer food spending has increased by approximately five per cent. The beef market is clearly rationing demand with higher prices. Looking forward, this trend will likely continue in the second quarter of 2013. The feeder cattle market has also remained stagnant with negative feeding margins limiting demand for replacement cattle. Barley and feed grain prices have stayed firm and it appears feedlots will continue to suffer red ink until later in spring with the current values

of the live cattle futures. Given the current economics in the cattle and beef complex, it is difficult to forecast longer-term values because there is no major influence to change the overall dynamics of the market.

HEAVIER CARCASSES, MORE BEEF Earlier in January, U.S. first-quarter beef production was expected to be down from last year, but current projections from the USDA show a marginal increase. Carcass weights are running 14 pounds above last year so despite the marginal decrease in slaughter pace, beef production has exceeded earlier projections. Second-quarter production could also increase if the trend this higher trend on carcass weights continue. We only see a noticeable decrease in quarter production from July forward with a sharp year over year crop in the final quarter. In Canada, for the week ending February 9, the total slaughter and beef output is down approximately 13 per cent from last year. U.S. pork and chicken production for 2013 is forecasted to be up 200 million pounds over last year, which will make up some of the shortfall in beef production.


DEMAND WEAK Looking at the demand equation, first-quarter consumer spending is coming in lower than expected. Usually, retail and restaurant spending dips in January and February and then surges in March. However, in 2013 we may not see the seasonal surge in March for two main reasons. The average U.S. consumer is taking home less pay due to the increase in social security tax. Secondly, consumer confidence has remained flat and people are choosing to save rather than increase spending. It appears that the average American has learned from the recent recession not to overextend their credit card. Retail ground beef prices are up approximately 10 per cent but at-home and away-from-home food spending is only up five per cent and 5.7 per cent respectively. Looking at upcoming projection, analysts don’t see this trend changing until the third quarter. Therefore, it will be difficult for wholesale and retail beef prices to make a significant move to the upside which would ultimately translate into higher cattle prices. Fed cattle prices will likely remain in the range of $115 to $120 with the market reach-







Real GDP






Real Consumer Spending






US Quarterly Beef Production (million pounds) Quarter




































ing the upper end of the range in late March and early April. It will be difficult to sustain higher prices unless consumer spending moves near the 2.5 per cent per quarter. Feedlot margins have been struggling in red ink throughout the fall and winter, which has tempered strength in the feeder cattle market. Barley supplies are expected to drop to historically low levels by the end of the 201213 crop year, which will keep feed grain prices firm. In the fall and winter, feeder cattle exports to the U.S. were up sharply over year-ago levels keeping the mar-

ket firm in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. However, the U.S. feeder market has recently come under pressure whereby the U.S. premium over Canadian values has eroded. We may not see the export pace continue in March and April if U.S. feeding margins don’t improve. I’ve tempered my outlook for feeder cattle prices from the January issue and expect the market to remain flat into the second quarter. † Gerald Klassen analyzes cattle and hog markets in Winnipeg and also maintains an interest in the family feedlot in southern Alberta. For comments or speaking engagements, he can be reached at or call 204 899 8268.

MARCH 4, 2013 /


Keepers & Culls The ongoing “best beef” research LEE HART


ho produces the best beef in the world? I am beginning to think that may depend on whose farmyard I am in on any given day. Last summer I was on Vancouver Island and visited Colin and Ross Springford who along with their families run Springford Farm, a commercial Hereford beef operation at Nanoose Bay ( They were a purebred beef operation for many years, but switched to commercial cattle and began farmerdirect marketing of beef about 10 years ago following the BSE meltdown. They’ve built a thriving meat business, which includes sales of beef to several restaurants. And one I visited was the Pink Bicycle in Victoria. Odd name, but it is a gourmet burger joint — all kinds of exotic burgers and

Mike Munton — Benchmark Angus sale coming March 12. all beef burgers are made from Springford Farm beef. I had the Blue Flame beef burger — Hereford beef spiced up with a hot chili mayo and topped with rich blue cheese. It was excellent. I would definitely recommend their beef and also a visit to the Pink Bicycle.

And then in February I visited Benchmark Angus near Warner in southern Alberta ( Mike Munton operates this family-owned purebred Angus operation, the largest in Canada with a 500-head Red and Black Angus cow herd. The cow herd and up-and-coming breed-

Ross and Colin Springford — top Hereford beef. ing stock roam over a 10,000-acre spread of mostly native grass pastures most of the year. Munton sells about 200 head of yearling and long yearling bulls annually, and any cattle that don’t make the purebred market are finished on farm and marketed through their own

direct-marketing network as beef at the retail level and also in several Lethbridge and other southern Alberta restaurants. Mike forced me to go for lunch at the Warner Hotel in beautiful downtown Warner, where



Good trace mineral status in cows leads to good rebreeding economics PETER VITTI


rofitable cow-calf operations achieve a calf crop of more than 90 per cent, while herds struggling to meet a threshold calf crop of 85 per cent will likely not meet most production expenses. The root of reproductive success often lies in cows consuming proper post-calving diets, which encompass a good supply of essential trace minerals. As part of this post-partum trace mineral package, there are four principal trace elements which are very important for good cow reproduction — copper, zinc, manganese, and selenium. All too often in nature, they are either low or marginally deficient in soils and forages or are bound up by inorganic antagonistic compounds that make them “biologically unavailable” to even the most fertile cows.

NO GETTING AROUND IT For example, even the most promising cows truly marginally or clinically copper-deficient will often suffer from poor first-service conception rates and poor embryonic survival. Some of these copper-deficient cows may actually show normal estrus behaviour, but normal ovulation does not occur

and may lead to future estrus retardation. Such erratic heat cycles might also be caused by antagonistic minerals such as molybdenum or high levels of zinc affecting copper metabolism. Unfortunately, producers could have a hard time pinpointing copper, and the other three essential trace mineral deficiencies, because of many nutritional and other unrelated reasons that cause poor reproductive performance. Sometimes, cow trace minerallinked reproductive problems are caused by producers not providing on a regular basis of a well-balanced commercial cattle mineral fortified with bio-available copper, manganese, zinc and selenium. Failure to invest as little as 15 cents per cow per day to assure good trace mineral status after calving, and into subsequent breeding season has dire consequences.

MEANS LOST MONEY It may start with a good portion of the cow herd having one delayed estrus cycle by 80-85 days post-partum. The delay of only one heat cycle offsets the birth of their respective calves by a corresponding 21 days. Because they were born later, these calves lose a potential 21 days of growth and if they should have gained two lbs. per head; results in 42 lbs. of lost weaning weight on any specific sale date. Assuming $1.55/lb. for a 600-lb. weaned calf translates into

$65 of lost revenue per late-born calf. These calves from delayed mothers might still be sold at a targeted weaning weight at a later date, but there is always a likelihood of off-season discounted markets. Fortunately, producers can still recoup some revenue from selling late-weaned calves, but if the same cows continually fail to cycle due to poor mineral status, they may become “open” cows. A cow that does not cycle, conceive and produce a calf for the fiscal year produces no revenue and her feed and management costs become a financial burden to the rest of the herd. We might choose to illustrate an un-pregnant cow’s liability to rest of the operation in the following way: (1) assume it costs about $2 to feed a brood cow during a 200day winter, and $1 per day to feed her on summer pasture and these feed costs account for 65 per cent of her total costs (housing, medical, fuel, etc). Consequently, the total costs per cow would be about $870 per year, (2) we pencil in that X per cent calf-crop produces: X multiplied by 600-lb. calves = sold lbs., and (3) there is no open cow salvage value. By using only these three parameters and regardless of the sale price of the present calf crop, the “additional” cost of keeping open cows, which must be covered by actual sold lbs. of weaned calves, increases dramatically; 90 per cent calf-crop = $0.16/lb.:

85 per cent calf-crop = $0.25/ lb.: and 75 per cent calf-crop = $0.48/lb.! This is an undesirable trend that dictates: as the herd’s calf crop shrinks, an open cow’s liabilities dramatically increases and inherently must be covered by diminished revenues.

AVOID THE DRAMA How easy it would be to prevent such reproductive drama and chaos, if a good mineral-feeding program was established in the first place! Consequently, the following nutritional and management suggestions are helpful in assuring that fertile cows build good trace mineral status for the breeding season, when commercial cattle mineral is poured into their feeders: • Target cow herd mineral consumption. The best well-formulated mineral containing adequate copper levels cannot do its job unless cattle eat it. Target the above mentioned 50-100 grams per head per day. If cattle are not eating enough or too much, add 1/3 portion salt to the mineral mixture. • Know the dietary trace mineral sources in your mineral. This is particularly important when purchasing cattle mineral. For example, knowing copper’s final concentration of your cows’ diet without knowing the source of supplemental copper is of little

value. Copper comes in many forms such as copper oxide, copper sulphate, and chelated copper forms, which respectively have relative biological availabilities of five per cent, 100 per cent and 125-150 per cent in cattle. • Feed a “breeder mineral” all winter long. Some producers feed a more fortified breeder mineral (with more bio-available organic trace minerals) all winter long. The cost-difference between a basic gestation and calving/breeding mineral calculates to about $4 per head premium for the first half of the winter. • Fill your mineral feeders regularly. Mineral feeders should be filled every two to three days and hardened old mineral should be removed. It’s also important to remove snow and debris that prevents good mineral consumption. Success of taking such conscious trace mineral-feeding actions to build good trace mineral status for good rebreeding in cows is easily visible; post-partum cows cycle one or two times before a limited breeding season actually begin and tend to get pregnant by breeding bulls within weeks of release. These cows also tend to give birth and nurse healthy calves, which in turn are heavier and thus more profitable on an established weaning date. † Peter Vitti is an independent livestock nutritionist and consultant based in Winnipeg. To reach him call 204-254-7497 or by email at



MARCH 4, 2013

Cattleman’s Corner RANCHER’S DIARY

Cold temps and health issues part of a busy month HEATHER SMITH THOMAS



e had a couple weeks of cold weather (-25 C every night). The old cow with the frozen calf we thawed out is enjoying life in a pen by the barn, where she gets pampered with all the hay she can eat, and some good alfalfa. Her calf, which we named Popsicle, is not very lively; it gets up to nurse but spends most of its time sleeping in the deep bedding, trying to keep warm. Popsicle has been dull and grinding her teeth, so for a couple days we gave her Kaopectate to coat and sooth the gut. She’s doing better now, and eating hay, even though she’s only two weeks old. Chores take longer every morning, breaking ice on the creek for the cows and in the bull pen, and getting ice out of all the horse tubs. In the cold weather two of my plastic tubs were so brittle they broke when I was thumping the ice out, and I had to replace them. In the cold weather Breezy and the two fillies have been chewing up the pole fence between them — where they could reach between the electric wires and get to the poles — and one night they chewed a pole completely in two. Rick helped Lynn put a new pole there, and rearranged the electric wires so the horses can’t reach the fence. Andrea took Emily to her hockey tournament at Sun Valley and we took care of the other kids. Dani went with Lynn and me up to Michael and Carolyn’s house to take the blankets off their two old horses (Molly and Chance) and put wood in their stove. On


The flat deck trailer badly twisted in an accident a few weeks ago has been repaired and is stronger than the original. the days Carolyn works, she has to leave before daylight, and in this cold weather that’s too early to take the blankets off. When Andrea and Emily got back from the hockey trip we had a belated birthday celebration for Sam (who just turned 10) and Emily (15). I was asked to write one of the chapters for a new book on wolves in North America. That book will be coming out later this year, so I’ve been trying to write a little on that chapter every day in between my other article deadlines and chores. I had a doctor appointment on Tuesday for a checkup and pneumonia shot, and the doctor also tried to freeze off some big plantar warts (on the balls of both feet) that I’ve had for 40 years. Even heavily bandaged and with double socks, it’s painful to walk! The last couple days the weather has been warmer. Rick and Andrea chopped through the thick creek ice in Fozzy’s pen and re-established his water hole. They also dug out some gravel to spread on the slippery bank so he will be brave enough to step down to the creek. The ice was almost a foot thick and I’d given up on keeping that water hole open during our

Lynn, in the hospital to correct heart problems wears his cap to keep his head warm.

two weeks of cold weather and was carrying him water in buckets.

FEBRUARY 8 For a few nights during the cold, stormy weather we continued to put Popsicle and her mother in the barn at nights. With the deep snow, elk are coming into our neighbour’s alfalfa stack every night. Michael drove home from North Dakota last Tuesday, and got here at 3 a.m. The day after he got home, another cow calved, in their herd in our lower field, but the weather was warmer and the calf is doing fine. Michael is trying to get caught up on all the urgent things that need to be done during these few days he’s home. Last week our big tractor was finally ready to come home, after several weeks of repair. The total cost of fixing it after the wreck was more than $8,000, so we borrowed money to pay that bill. Michael bought more hay for their cows, and borrowed a flatbed trailer to haul it. He used our tractor to load hay. He and Carolyn hauled several loads to the upper stackyard. While Michael was home we were also able to borrow a friend’s heavy-duty transport trailer and

hauled our wrecked flatbed trailer to be fixed. Even though it was “totalled” in the wreck, a friend who is an expert welder thought he could straighten the twisted frame and tongue. Two days ago Michael and Carolyn brought their cows and calves up to our corrals and fed them in the hold pen so they could be sorted and hauled the next morning. The county truck sanded our road so it wouldn’t be so slippery. Early yesterday morning they hauled three loads of cull cows and last summer’s calves down to a neighbor’s place to put on a semitruck to haul to the sale at Butte. That afternoon they vaccinated their remaining cows and calves, and Andrea helped. This morning Michael and Carolyn hauled those cows and calves to the upper place, putting the big herd in the field above the corrals and the three cows with young calves in the Wild Meadow. They were able to vaccinate the old gentle cow and Popsicle right in the pen by the barn before they took that pair around to the corral to load up. It was good to see that little calf finally feeling well enough to run and buck when they went to the main corral.

FEBRUARY 18 Michael left early Monday morning to drive back to North Dakota for his job driving trucks. Michael bought some alfalfa hay in big square bales, and the rancher delivered it on Monday. Lynn unloaded it in our barnyard. Fortunately we didn’t have any new snow and the hay trucks were able to drive back up our driveway. We will trade some hay with Michael, since our round bales work better in his bale processor, and these new square bales can be fed more easily off our feed truck. On Tuesday Lynn and I both went to see the doctor — me for another freeze treatment on the plantar warts (I’m hobbling around with sore feet again) and Lynn to ask about stronger medication for his asthma attacks in the mornings. Ever since our cold weather, he gets a sudden tightness in his throat that shuts off his breathing, and a pain in his chest and left shoulder. The inhaler he uses for asthma (prescribed last fall after his breathing became impaired from the thick smoke we breathed all summer) helps a little, but not enough. The doctor was concerned that this was more than just a respiratory problem. She scheduled an appointment for him to see a heart specialist in Missoula, for a test where they put a dye in the heart and send a probe up through an artery in the groin, to go inside the heart and take a look. On Wednesday we talked to Michael briefly on the phone while he was driving truck in North Dakota. In the afternoon Lynn went to town for mail and groceries, and his new asthma medication, and on the way home he got our flatbed trailer. It looks as good as new. The welder used an ingenious way to straighten out all the warps and twists. He also used some reinforcing metal and says it’s stronger than it was before. Early Thursday morning Andrea drove Lynn to St. Patrick’s Hospital in Missoula. Rick helped me feed our cows that morning. Lynn’s heart procedure lasted all afternoon. The doctor put stents in the major blocked arteries to open them up. The first stent collapsed (and Lynn had a minor heart attack when that happened) and the doctor redid it, and put in two more. Lynn was dizzy and nauseated afterward, so they kept him in the hospital overnight. He also had a large blood clot where blood leaked from the artery they’d used for getting up into the heart. There were clamps on it to keep it contained. Yesterday morning I talked to Lynn on the phone and he felt much better. The blood clot had dissolved, and the doctor released him. Andrea called about an hour later. She started to bring him home, but they hadn’t gotten very far when Lynn suddenly became very sick and dizzy again. She took him back to the hospital, and they put him on IV fluids and gave him more anti-nausea medication. Rick helped me feed our cows again this morning, and when we talked to Andrea on the phone she said they would be coming home today. So hopefully all goes well and Lynn will actually make it home today. † Heather Smith Thomas ranches with her husband Lynn near Salmon, Idaho. Contact her at 208-756-2841.

MARCH 4, 2013 /


Cattleman’s Corner HERD HEALTH

Tips for keeping bull battery at full power ROY LEWIS ANIMAL HEALTH


erd bulls are often the most neglected part of cattle operations. Great emphasis is put on them just before and during the breeding season, but the rest of the year bulls are often ignored. Producers must be ever-mindful of the huge genetic potential bulls bring to their herds. It is important to protect that investment. The easiest way is to think of your herd bulls every time you process the cows. Decide then whether the bulls need management attention. People often shy away from handling bulls as they are larger and can raise havoc with even sturdy corrals. There is also the issue of bulls fighting and re-establishing their pecking order each time they are moved and handled. This can be minimized with good facilities and having a large pen or pasture to return the bulls to. Exercise at all times of the year keeps the bulls more fit and their feet and legs in good shape. The vaccination program should correspond to that of the cow herd. All respiratory and reproductive vaccines as well as blackleg should be given to bulls. Bulls can be the source or spread of disease especially the reproductive ones like vibrio, leptospirosis, or trichomoniasis if those diseases are a problem in your area. We also recommend an additional foot rot vaccination for bulls too. A lame bull at breeding season is not desirable. This vaccine only protects for one cause of lameness in bulls but the foot rot organism can gain entry through cracks in the bulls’ feet. It is a small investment considering the bull is half of the breeding equation. Administer the vaccine at the same time bulls are brought in for semen evaluations. Deworming and delousing should be done in the fall with a pour-on endectocide plus a drench dewormer such as Safeguard. Internal parasites are becoming more of an issue and can build up, especially in run-down breeding bulls. Use the right dosage for the weight of the bull and don’t skimp. The bulls always are the sentinel animals when it comes to lice. Hair loss may indicate lice, but often lots of scurf — dry, dandruff-like flakes — will lead to scratching especially on hot days.

possible at semen-evaluation time such as ear tagging if necessary, taking a hair sample in case genetic testing is necessary, or checking the eyes for scarring. Get all lumps and bumps and scuttle lameness checked out as well. There is never a more ideal time. Many bulls are culled because of feet and leg problems. As bulls mature and get bigger, tremendous pressure is put on their feet and legs, especially in the breeding season. Preventive maintenance on their feet by trimming may extend their useful life as well as preventing lameness during the breeding season. Again, lots of exercise on hard terrain (not peat moss) goes a long way towards keeping the toes short. Many hereditary conditions involving the feet can be selected against such as corns, spiral and corkscrew claws. Even

when young bulls with great feet are selected it may be necessary to trim them in their later years. Look very closely at your bulls’ feet every year. Trimming one to two months before breeding season is ideal. The trimmer can then be more aggressive knowing the bull has several weeks to recover before being turned out.

NUTRITION AND FLY CONTROL Summer fly control is imperative for bulls. If not treated you will notice hundreds of horn flies feeding on the backs of your bulls. Flies have more of a predilection for the bulls so treat with an insecticide in order to reduce irritation, blood loss and gadding. Cy-lance, a pour-on product, is quite effective against flies for 60 days. Otherwise fly tags or back oilers or rubbers may be used.

Nutritionally, again treat the bulls like your cows by providing trace minerals. Maintain a condition score of 2.5-3.5. A rising plain of nutrition prior to the breeding season is a good idea. A crude protein level of 12 per cent or higher in their diets is ideal. A leaner bull is more desirable than a fat bull at breeding season. Fat, especially in the scrotum, can impair fertility for a considerable time. Remember when bulls are pulled out after breeding season, their nutritional requirements decrease substantially. Since a good breeding bull is always a large investment it is one worth protecting. If breeding pastures have a lot of bush make sure bull nose rings are removed. If hardware in the gut (peritonitis) is a problem when a bull is first purchased, placing a goodquality magnet in their stomach

(reticulum) may be good insurance. Most illnesses with bulls come on subtly and weight loss is often the first sign. When checking bulls during breeding season pay particular attention to their gait or walk. Wobbliness or knuckling may be the sign of a back problem. Swelling on the sheath from cuts or broken penis require immediate bull replacement. By implementing these strategies hopefully a long reproductive life can be attained from your bulls. Always buy your bulls from reputable purebred breeders and make sure they have had their initial breeding soundness evaluation done. It will pay off in the new calf crop. † Roy Lewis is a practising large animal veterinarian at the Westlock Veterinary Center, north of Edmonton, AB. His main interests are bovine reproduction and herd health.

Peak Dot Ranch Ltd.

Spring Bull and Female Sale

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

At the Ranch, Wood Mountain, Saskatchewan


1300 open commercial replacement heifers for sale

Selling 130 Progeny from SAV Eliminator 9105 Peak Dot Eliminator 800Y

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Many large uniform one-iron groups. Buyers of heifers receive a $5 per head credit to be used at the Peak Dot Ranch April 3, 2013 Bull Sale. (ex: 100 heifers x $5 = $500 credit) Call for details Carson... 306-266-4414

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SEMEN EVALUATIONS Semen evaluations most often are performed after winter, but before breeding. Producers want evaluations done before bull sales in case decisions have to be made as to new purchases. If insurance was taken out on a bull it is wise to test before the policy expires in case something has happened over the winter. If a bull has been sick, had swellings develop in the sheath or testicles, or had cows returning to heat, then a fertility check should be made in case a replacement is needed. Older bulls (five years or greater) have an increasing likelihood of becoming infertile because of testicular degeneration. Cover as many procedures as

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View Sale Book and Sale Cattle Photo Gallery at or phone Carson Moneo 306-266-4414 Clay Moneo 306-266-4411



MARCH 4, 2013


Keep proper records, and then use them Memory starts to fail between spring calving/lambing season and fall weaning DEBBIE CHIKOUSKY


rather unconventional thought crossed our minds this spring — “why don’t we plan our culling and replacement protocols (for cattle, goats and sheep) as they go through the birthing cycle this year instead of in the fall?” What prompted this discussion was our need to take shifts checking a particularly bad vaginal prolapse on one of our ewes. No one is enjoying shoving this back in and it triggered a distinctly unpleasant memory of our first uterine prolapse last year. (As a side note, one does not automatically preclude the other). This triggered the memory we had of a nine-year-old cow that suffered from a particularly bad vaginal prolapse also last year and we in fact had bred her again. Which in turn caused my husband to ask two very important questions: 1. Was this the ewe that had the uterine prolapse last year? No. 2. Did we breed these animals again this year? Yes. Then the discussion ensued. The reason we bred the ewes before culling was because the rams kept breaking down the fence and after three days of fighting my husband just opened the gate. In retrospect this wasn’t a great management decision but at the time… The cow was different. The cow had twins, both about 80 pounds, so the vet believed delivering a fairly large pair of calves caused the cow’s prolapse. She also had a vaginal prolapse and not a uterine prolapse, which would have resulted in an immediate cull decision. So, why did we keep the ewe? The ewe prolapse was forgotten until months after the rams had been with the ewes.


Making notes at calving, lambing and kidding season will be a good guide for culling decisions later in the year. The conversation continued with “Please tell me that we didn’t keep goats that did this too?” In fact, we have no goats that prolapsed but we do have a group that was supposed to be sold as meat does, but we found no buyers last fall. They milk enough to feed kids but not enough to make it worthwhile to milk for lotions. This will mean more kids to sell, but it also means we have to market harder next year. And we’ll have to split the herd for kidding in order to not overcrowd does with nursing babies and feed those groups accordingly. So, this will also add another issue at kidding time. We started discussing how this happens and why we aren’t organized about culling and choosing breeding stock, as we should be. We realized although we do make notes in the baby record books that information is not referred to again later in the year. Although it is hard to believe that someone could actually forget, if only for a moment,

the effort of working a uterus back into a prolapsing ewe. It actually does happen. People are busy with haying and other parts of the production cycle so unless there is a glaring issue we don’t pull out those record books until the next baby season.

THIS YEAR WILL BE DIFFERENT I have inventory sheets on the computer so this year as we go through baby season we will be writing in RED any issues that occur. Then as I transfer the information to the computer I will highlight that animal so we know to cull her and not keep replacements from her. This prolapse problem is genetic. We never used to have it and we don’t want it anymore so we will be shopping for a ram from a flock where the owner keeps records about these things also. Another observation is the dam’s personality. We simply cannot keep cows that overtly try to kill humans when they calve. We haven’t had any seri-

ously aggressive mothers, but last season we definitely had a few that were not charming. Again, not making notes on animal behaviour is a lack of management on our part. No notes in the calving record books meant we had no information when deciding which cows were staying and which were going. In reality, for our farm, the ability to handle an animal safely is equally as important as the size of her calf. We also cannot keep ewes that despise their or any other ewe’s lambs. Along with our new computer records it was suggested culls receive a special ear tag. We use blank tags, so we will be writing CULL on them, which can easily be seen while sorting. This is a very good idea for those who do not consult computer records often.

MORE MANAGEMENT NOTES This “baby season” is also the time to make a note of how well the ration performed. Were the

young born vigorous? Did the dams retain placentas? How well did milk come in? Was there more than usual dystocia (birthing problems)? The answers to these questions will point to what needs to change or stay the same next fall. Last year we noticed it takes our cows longer than six weeks to cycle back for rebreeding after calving. We are feeding the best hay we can afford so we will try a different protocol at calving. As each cow calves they stay in the barn until the calf is dry and it is eating well. Then she will be processed through the head gate and receive A-D injectable, selenium/vitamin E injectable, and a Kmar heatdetection strip (turns red when she is rode in heat) will be applied to her tail head. Heifers were the worst for rebreeding, which is logical since they are still growing, and is also why it has been suggested we boost their vitamins. The nutritional reserves from last pasture season are low and their bodies are trying to heal from calving plus get ready to grow a new fetus. The Kmar strip is to help us identify heats. We plan to AI some of the cattle, which will reduce the workload on our bull, and it should also help tighten up the next calving season. A production cycle for livestock rearing can be broken into seasons, but to be a successful manager the seasons need to be treated as a whole. For example, a successful baby season is dependent as much on how we start our calves as it is on how we prepare our cows for rebreeding. Keeping this in mind should help to keep us organized and on top of culling, which will definitely decrease the stress levels on our farm and hopefully on yours too. † Debbie Chikousky farms with her family at Narcisse, Manitoba. Visitors are always welcome. Contact Debbie at debbie@


Write, E-mail or Fax Contact Cattleman’s Corner with comments, ideas or suggestions for and on stories by mail, e-mail, phone or fax. Phone Lee Hart at 403-592-1964 Fax to 403-288-3162 E-mail Write to CATTLEMAN’S CORNER, PO Box 71141 Silver Springs RPO, Calgary, Alta. T3B 5K2



we both had a great bowl of soup, followed by the Warner Burger. (We were going to have Benchmark steak sandwiches, but wouldn’t you know they ran out that day — it is so hard to find a good meat supplier.) We didn’t have to “settle” for a burger, it was an excellent second choice. Cheese and bacon on top of a very generous and flavour-

able Benchmark Angus burger. It was excellent. I would definitely recommend the Warner Burger at the Warner Hotel. Just to be sure of the consistency in meat quality, I stopped at Munton’s retail meat store on the north side of Lethbridge and bought some fresh beef and beef sausages. Aside from my expert grilling techniques, these filet steaks were probably the most tender and flavourful that I’ve had. Well-marbled Angus steaks that you could cut with a fork. Great stuff. (And if you are in the mar-

“Earl says he had no idea ground could come up that fast!” ket for a good bull, Benchmark Angus is holding its 17th annual “Makin the Grade” sale at the farm March 12. They have more than 100 head up for bid that day in a nice, new sale pavilion. And I understand Mike’s wife who is a Red Seal Chef by training will be catering the lunch, so I am thinking I might go buy a bull just to get in on the

lunch. Visit their website for details.) And back to the “great” beef research, I can’t forget that earlier in 2012, I bought some steaks from butcher Clarence Den Boon at Fort Macleod and this was beef produced by Dennis Guitton, an organic beef producer from Claresholm (www. and they got the excellent rating too.

Which leads me to suspect any tough beef I’ve eat must be coming from Brazil. So far I would say my research is telling me, there may not be great beef everywhere, but it appears there is great beef wherever I’ve been. † Lee Hart is editor of Cattleman’s Corner based in Calgary. Contact him at 403-592-1964 or by email at

Les Johnston knows his beef a lot better now - thanks to BIXS.

So, What’s Your Beef? Here’s just a few reasons why Johnston reckons BIXS is the best thing to come along in years to help his ranch business. “I need accurate carcass data on my cattle so I can effectively market them to buyers. BIXS delivers the information I need to take my marketing program to the next level, especially for branded beef programs… I figure I pay for those RFID tags so why not pocket some payback from that by registering them onto BIXS and getting good information in return like detailed carcass and grade data. And as an added bonus I age verify them through BIXS, which helps us tap into cull cow premiums... In just a short time on BIXS I’m confident that now I can guarantee to a buyer that 60 percent of my animals will grade AAA with high yields. Before BIXS I lacked confidence in that kind of claim, I didn’t have the data to back it up… How can I improve something I’m not measuring? BIXS is my measuring tool. Some folks may be leery of the information BIXS provides on their cattle, but they mislead themselves in my opinion. To me it’s all about mapping my cowherd genetics and the specifics on the beef I produce so I can take control and manage my business and future and provide my consumers with a positive eating experience….” - Les Johnston, Nisku Land & Cattle Co., Filmore, Sask.

The power of individual animal and carcass data is just a click away. For more information and to register onto BIXS visit the website at For quick registration go to To advertise on the BIXS website and database portal e-mail us at:

Funding for this project has been provided by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada through the Agricultural Flexibility Fund, as part of Canada’s Economic Action Plan.

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