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A southern Alberta grower’s 20 year yield and quality mission

May 2016 - Jan Drost first began farming in Bentley, Alta. about two decades ago. Back then, just as today, Drost was always looking to improve the quality and yield of his crops. One of the ways he focused on doing that is to minimize disease pressure through good crop management, use of inputs and careful planning of his rotations.

"We deal with a short season here, so we try to get the most benefits from the crops and keep them as healthy as we can," said Drost. "The more wheat we grow, the more disease problems we create – especially when the rotation window is narrow."

In recent years, Drost grew approximately 2,200 acres of wheat on his farm which is located in an area of particularly dark soil. While the soil on his farm is well-suited for wheat, canola and potatoes, Drost is aware that it is also conducive to disease pressure which can cut yields and quality. He also knows this from his upbringing in The Netherlands, which prompted Drost to be an early adopter to spraying fungicides.

"After doing some trial work on my wheat, I found there were always benefits to spraying a fungicide like Twinline and Caramba," said Drost.

Drost is convinced the input costs of applying fungicides in cereals – especially with higher market prices for cereals in recent years – pays off on his farm and it will for others too. "We don't hesitate to spray (fungicide)," said Drost. "It is worth spraying. The crop is healthier and we get a plump kernel. A lot of growers here now spray for fungus in wheat."

Regardless of the weather pattern any particular year, "I would definitely recommend using a fungicide for a good, full wheat crop," said Drost. "We know the margins can be small, so we have to get the most out of our yields and the health of the crop. A couple years ago we had a wet year and we sprayed one field. The one we sprayed fungicide on, we had an increase of about 10-15 bushels per acre – there was a lot of disease pressure that year. I always spray, even in a dry season. I couldn't believe the difference in yield and quality."

That's because whether a dry or wet year, and whether a hot or cool season, Drost can see healthier plants in the wheat fields he sprays. He knows this protects the quality of his wheat crop – satisfying the relentless pursuit for yield and quality he began 20 years ago and continues with even more passion today.