When I look back at news, tweets and notes from last year, the general mood among the ag community was a lot less positive. In 2019, spring conditions and late planting kicked off the year on a poor note and delayed winter wheat harvest, and an early cold snap and November snowfall paused harvest season, with some fields still unharvested at Christmas.
This year, by contrast, has presented its own challenges – high insect pressure, cold weather in May and a mid-September frost, for example. But generally speaking, dry conditions this fall have been favourable and harvest is progressing as normal, as I write this in mid-October. And while lots of things about 2020 are different from 2019, this change is welcome – and much needed.
If you’ve been farming for a while, you undoubtedly have several years’ worth of notes, data and memories from your previous seasons. I bet you can recall a bumper crop year, or a mid-summer hailstorm that devastated your fields. Keeping track of this information and comparing trends and changes year-over-year not only makes for interesting shop talk, but it’s also helpful when it comes to making decisions for the future. Perhaps your strategies have stayed the same for several seasons, with weather being the only variable factor from one year to the next, but looking back at how you reacted to the challenges in your way can greatly impact how you move forward. Your barn may be full of equipment and supplies, but your farm data is a valuable tool to keep on hand too.
In this issue, we introduce Shift, a special supplemental section to the magazine with a focus on farm and agronomic technology. This section is meant to highlight some of the ways technology – including data – is impacting modern farming, and how the industry is adapting. Check out the story by Carolyn King on page 10 about the new developments in smartphone-based soil and crop analysis tools.
Just as your farming conditions change from one season to the next, technology does too. As you shift (pun intended) into the next phase of your year, keep in mind how data and technology can impact what you do next spring. While you’re looking back on previous years, you may find new ways to look forward, too.