Archive for the ‘agronomy’ Category

Richard Phillips – Executive Director of the Grain Growers of Canada on Biotech Wheat

June 2, 2009

This afternoon I talked to Richard Phillips, Executive Director of the Grain Growers of Canada about the possible introduction of biotech wheat to the agricultural system. The Grain Growers of Canada were members of the Biotech Wheat Coalition that is trying to push the international community to support biotech wheat.

Shaun: Why is the Grain Growers of Canada supporting the idea of biotech wheat?

Phillips: A major reason is the concern that we have over the slow rate of research development in conventional wheat vareties. If you look at the other crop types that have biotech traits, they are developing nutritional, agronomic and yield benefits. If wheat stays conventional the result could be that wheat becomes a rotation filler in between cash crops for most wheat farmers.

Shaun: What are the possible resulting benefits of biotech wheat?

Phillips: We need to send a strong message to public breeding institutions, Syngenta, and small biotech firms to bring new innovations forward to the market. These innovations could include nitrogen efficiency, heat tolerance, fusarium resistance, or cold tolerance. Non-agronomic benefits are in improvements to the milling process and further benefits to the consumer. Consumer benefits include things like health traits.

I would like to thank Richard Phillips of the Grain Growers of Canada for his time and comments. Find out more about the Grain Growers of Canada.


The Two F’s: Frost and Flea Beetles

May 28, 2009

By Garth Donald, CCA,Western Canadian Manager of Agronomy, Dynagra

I can honestly say that it has been a while since I have been on my hands and knees trying to see if there is any life left in a canola plant but this last week it has occurred more than I would like it to. When the temperature drops overnight my phone is ringing like crazy trying to figure out if there is damage to the canola seedlings. The best thing to do is to leave the field for two to three days so that you can make a sound judgement call. What is a sound judgement call? Well working with the Canola Council for over thirteen years the numbers of plant we are looking for is four per square foot.

I know most growers say that there are not enough plants but we do have to look at a few factors:

1. Most growers are growing a hybrid variety
2. Our seed to soil placement has been greatly enhanced with today’s airdrills
3. We have chemical options with the herbicide tolerant varieties that will control our weed issues.

These are some things we need to strongly look at when making a judgement decision. Price of the commodity is the last thing we should make our decision on because in a strong market those could be some of the worst decisions ever made and it could be a wreck from the word go

With the issues of frost also comes the issue of flea beetles. Remember everyone, the flea beetles have to chew on the plant to die. With that said you will see some skinning of the leaves which is normal. However, with products like Helix and Prosper there is only fourteen days of control with those products. The control guarantee starts from the time it is in the ground not from emergence. In times of cooler temperatures there is canola that may have have emerged after 21 days. With flea beetles, your head lands are the best place to start looking for damage since they do feed on host plants like stinkweed or wild mustard that are usually growing on the edges of the fields. If you start seeing what is called “shotgun blasting” on your leaves you may need to look at spraying. There are lots of options that can be tank mixed in with your chemical when you are making your first pass which can help on your application cost but if they are bad enough then you might have to spray for them alone.

If you are not sure if you have a problem, call your local seed rep, retail or consultant to get you the information you need to make a sound decision.

Those are my thoughts,

Seeding by 1000 Kernel Weight Ensures a Better Plant Stand

May 4, 2009

This article orginally appeared in the Winter 2004 edition of the Haney Farms Quarterly

Traditionally farmers have always thought of planting their crop in terms of bushels per acre. Bushels have been a unit of measure that we have felt comfortable with in the past because it was a function of pounds. For example, one bushel of barley is 48 pounds and if you seed two bushels per acre, you are seeding at 96 pounds. This was the simple convenient way because it usually was the same number every year. When you seed at the same rate every year you are not taking into consideration many of the important variables that can have dramatic affects on your yield and your bottom line.

According to Phil Thomas, Senior Agri-Coach with Agri-trend, “The optimum seeding rate will vary depending on several factors such as: length of growing season, location and potential for summer drought, seedbed firmness, moisture and temperature, variety seed size, germination and vigor, soil type, texture, pH, surface residue and tillage, depth of seeding, fertilizer placement, crop intended end us, weeds, insects and diseases.”

There are some drawbacks to this traditional system, which has spawned more agronomical based calculations for planting rates.

The problems are as follows:

  • Does not consider the germination or mortality levels of the seed
  • Does not consider the actual weight of the seed (1000 kernel weight). This is important because for example, not all barley weighs the same. Therefore you may think that you are planting 150 pounds per acre but are truly planting 125.
  • There was no realization of the desired plant population

The calculation that is recommended by researchers is to obtain a desired plant population based on plants per square foot. This calculation takes into account the germination of the seed as well as the 1000 kernel weight and the row spacing of the drill. The following example will outline this concept more clearly.
Seeding rate (lb/ac) = desired plant population/ft² x 1,000 kernel wt (grams) ÷ (germination – mortality) ÷ 10.

In a Prairie Post article, Ross McKenzie of the Research station in Lethbridge states that, “the plumper and more ideal the seed, the higher the seeding rate. Because plumper seeds weigh more, a larger sample will be required to attain the desired number of plants per square foot.”
Ross continued, “once the seeding rate is determined the farmer must calibrate his drill to dispense the correct number of pounds of seed per acre.”

At, click on the calculator tab and find the seeding rates section. In here you can enter your seed information to calculate the seeding rate that is best for you according to the variables discussed in this article. Farming in the 21st century requires accurate scientific based decisions because of lack of room for error due to decreasing margins.

Do Your Weeds Still Have Their Winter Parka’s On?

May 1, 2009

In the last two weeks I have been asked one thing constantly.

Is it too cold to spray?

Well if we are below zero every night then yes. I know that this is a problem right now but we also have to look at what we are trying to get rid of.

When it comes to perennials like a dandelion then we have to use the rule of thumb “if it is below zero then we need two days of plus 10 or greater before we can spray”. What happens is we get some minus temperatures then we get a real nice day and of course when it is nice there is no wind. So what do we do, we jump in the sprayer and start spraying like crazy to catch up. Now with the products like PrePass and Express Pro that have residual we think that they will be our saving grace or silver bullet but remember if the plant is not actively growing you are putting all of your eggs in one basket. What I mean is that if the plant is growing you are getting two modes of death. Through the leaves and absorbing through the roots. If it is not active then you are hoping that you will kill the plant by roots. With annuals and volunteer canola that will work to some degree but with things like dandelions and narrow leaf hawks beard that could be a wreck waiting to happen. So my advise is to wait till we get away from freezing at night and do the proper spraying job the first time We know what happens when we don’t get a good kill on those weeds because it tends to bite us in the you know what and costs us more money to get rid of a simple problem.

Those are my thoughts,

Garth Donald C.C.A.

Canola School: Field Selection, Seeding Speed, Seeding Rate

April 22, 2009

In this segment Matt Stanford walks us through the key points in field selection, the proper canola seeding speed and obtaining the proper seeding rate. All three things are key factors in getting a great stand. In canola growing, cutting corners can cause pain through the growing season.

Ensure Success With On Farm Trials

April 11, 2009

There is an over abundance of research that is done every year and presented to you to prove which product your farm needs to ensure success. Whether it is seed, chemical, agronomic enhancement or a miracle herbal additive, the amount of information is monstrous. There are many private research trials and public trials for all the different types of products that are available to your farm. Many of these trials are regionalized to provide more accurate information for your farm.

The one type of trial that is the best way to find out what works best on your farm is the on farm trial. When doing an on farm trial there are several things that you must remember and keep in mind to ensure successful and accurate results.

  1. Decide what you actually want to accomplish–You must set up your trial for the based on the information you need. If you want to test the drought tolerance of certain varieties then make sure the trial is not on irrigated land.
  2. You must have a check strip–You must have a standardized check to compare your test back to. It is important that the check be relevant to your test and is a fair evaluation of the normal circumstance. The check should be included in this years trial. Comparing a new seed variety to what you did last year is not a fair comparison.
  3. Replicate if possible–More samples is always better than one. If you have the time and energy, your trial results will be considered more accurate if you replicate the trial over a coupe different locations or within the same location.
  4. Test multiple products–Since you are going through the effort to have on farm trials I would recommend that you try a couple different products to see what works best for your farm. Usually there is several competitive products that justify being tested against each other.
  5. Plan to properly collect the data–Data collection is a very important step and takes time. This is usually where most on farm trials fall apart. Harvest time is very busy which can lead to mistakes as it pertains to trials. For example, I have seen where a farmer was doing a yield trial and at swathing time he swathed across the trial instead of parallel to the strips. The trial was destroyed and a lot of work and time had proved to produce no data and benefit.
  6. Ask for financial assistance–There is the possibility of getting financial assistance from the companies that own the product in the trial. There could be a donation of product, financial payment or help in running the trial itself.

There is no better way to make sure that you are using the products that work best for your farm than an on farm trial but you need to make sure that it is done right or the information is misleading and useless to yourself or anyone else.

If you think I have missed a key point please add it in the comments section.

Why Do a Preseed Burn Off?

April 6, 2009

I get asked all of the time whether a grower should do a preseed burn off and my answer is always, “when do you want to spend your money? Up front or at spraying time.” I do get a lot of weird looks when I say that reply but it is true. I have walked too many fields that have flix weed bolting and eighteen whorl cleavers at the post emergent spray time all because the grower said there was nothing growing in the field and decided not to spray. With the preseed products that are now out there we can manage our chemical bill even closer. Many growers and myself included have seen where a good preseed burn off gave them a cheaper post emergent bill where they just had to use MCPA Ester at ten ounces or 2,4-D LV700 at six ounces to cover off the weed spectrum. Now is that every time? No, but everyone is asking me how to save some money this year and this may be one way to try for it. For those of you that have the great pleasure of working with cleavers just make sure to use a product that will give you some extra punch this spring. Glyphosate along is a very poor option when it comes to cleavers and I have pulled my hair out trying to kill these multi stem winter annuals that look like they came out of a horror movie. We do have some good post emergent chemicals for cleavers but it is still easier to kill a five whorl cleaver than a eighteen or twenty whorled one.

We have some great preseed products out there so lets take advantage of them. Talk to your retail and ask what products work the best for your situation.

Just remember, your shadow is the most important thing you can put on your fields this spring because a sixty mile per hour drive by could cost you more than you think.

Those are my thoughts,

Garth Donald C.C.A