From the Field Editor: October 2011
By Bruce Barker
With this issue of Top Crop Manager magazine, we are launching our new look with one of the most significant redesigns since Top Crop Manager magazine was introduced as Agri-Book Magazine in 1974.
By Bruce Barker
With this issue of Top Crop Manager magazine, we are launching our new look with one of the most significant redesigns since Top Crop Manager magazine was introduced as Agri-Book Magazine in 1974. With an updated typestyle and contemporary design, the magazine is more engaging and accessible. And just as technology has progressed in agriculture, the evolution of digital photography allows us to bring you more eye-popping visuals to enliven the articles.
What hasn’t changed, though, is our focus on new research and technology that will help you farm more profitably and sustainably. Our commitment remains: bring you knowledge that you can trust. We talk to Western Canada’s network of leading researchers, agronomists, extension experts and farmers to bring you the knowledge to grow your business. We fact check every article in the magazine to ensure the information is technically accurate and agronomically sound. That is something we won’t change.
In agriculture, change isn’t something new, either. Sure, we like tradition, but since the plow broke the first acre of land, agriculture has seen constant change. My dad started farming with a team of horses and a plow in the 1930s and when he moved off the farm a few years ago, he was riding 250 horses on eight wheels and surfing the web. And Dad would be the first to say change also means progress. No more 4 a.m. mornings hitching horses or throwing thousands of backbreaking square bales by hand.
Throughout this Plant Breeding and Genetics focused issue, you’ll find many examples of how much change agriculture is undergoing. From plant breeders who are using doubled haploid breeding and DNA markers to the first FHB resistant winter wheat under development, there is plenty of change happening in the world of plant breeding.
There is much more yet to come. As part of an $8.5 million Canadian Triticum Advancement through Genomics project, Canada is participating in a new international wheat sequencing effort, with Genome Prairie managing the Canadian portion. While there was much talk about sequencing the human genome a few years ago, many crops still await sequencing – the wheat genome is five times the size of the human genome.
Understanding the DNA sequence will help some of the very plant breeders featured in Top Crop Manager magazine develop more disease-resistant, improved quality and higher yielding wheat varieties. At the University of Saskatchewan Crop Development Centre in Saskatoon, durum breeder Curtis Pozniak and spring wheat breeder Pierre Hucl are co-leading a project to map the genes in one of wheat’s 21 chromosomes.
The breeders selected the 6D chromosome because it contains genes that are related to wheat quality as well as disease resistance, such as rust. Researchers in other countries have selected other chromosomes. They are working collaboratively and hope to map the wheat genome in the next five years.
A lot of public money is going into the project, including $4.1 million from the federal government through Genome Canada and $1.5 million from the Saskatchewan government. Farmers are contributing as well, with $1.1 million coming through the Western Grain Research Foundation.
Currently wheat contributes $4 billion annually to the Canadian agricultural industry, and another $7 billion from value-added processing of wheat. The collaboration will hopefully increase the speed of varietal development, and put more cash in farmers’ pockets.
On the machinery side, one of the most rapidly growing technologies is automatic guidance, growing tenfold since 2005. But a US survey by Purdue University shows how new technology quickly becomes old. For the first time in 2011, automatic guidance grew at the expense of manual guidance with lightbars. My father’s first guidance equipment was a set of blinders on his lead team of horses.
Now that is change, and progress.