Top Crop Manager

Features Agronomy Seeding/Planting
Introduction: Always looking ahead, even in December

At this point in the calendar year, it is difficult not to look back and reflect on what has been, and think of what could have been. Our cover this month depicts a grower, hopefully imitating the agri-food industry, driving forward into what is hoped to be a bright and prosperous future, perhaps with only a short, reflective glance back, from time to time.


December 1, 2008
By Ralph Pearce


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At this point in the calendar year, it is difficult not to look back and reflect on what has been, and think of what could have been. Our cover this month depicts a grower, hopefully imitating the agri-food industry, driving forward into what is hoped to be a bright and prosperous future, perhaps with only a short, reflective glance back, from time to time.


When looking back at the early days of 2008, it was so encouraging to see such unbridled optimism among Western growers. Attending Crop Production Week in Saskatoon, I was overwhelmed, not just by the choice of crops with solid – and rising – pricing complexes, but also the seemingly boundless opportunities that were presenting themselves to farmers. Lentil growers heard about demands for high-protein foods on the Indian subcontinent while canola producers listened to details concerning increasing demand for canola meal from dairy farmers in various US states.


The mood was incredible, like nothing I had seen in my previous 13 years of farm writing. It was a wave that had still not reached its crest, and was unlikely to reach it in the next 12 to 18 months.

Well, as cliched as it is to “look back” on the previous year, so too is it to note that “hindsight is 20/20.”  And yet it is still an inescapable truth. It is almost always harder to go back than go forward, and that seems to be something of a truism in agriculture. If we knew then what we know now, how might growers and the rest of the industry have reacted? There were few inside or outside of the agri-food/agri-business sector that could have predicted the depth of this global economic crisis. And while it has yet to have an overwhelming impact on agriculture (unlike the US housing and North American manufacturing markets), its secondary impacts are hard to avoid. Prices are down, yet stable relative to three or five years ago, banks have become financial fortresses (extremely hard to gain access to) and consumers are wearily avoiding overextending themselves, economically.

And yet, much like this issue’s cover, the agri-food sector drives on, always having to look forward, to a future that has stumbled, but only slightly. I keep telling people that agriculture is poised on the brink of a new era, with opportunities and innovations that few could have foreseen 10 years ago, and most could never have dreamed possible. The food and fuel debate that marked the beginning of 2008 will soon be overshadowed by trade and technology, health care and industry as well as education and research, in finding new and higher value uses for the crops our growers seed, feed, weed and harvest. Those who see only barriers and hurdles will look back wistfully and worry about what they do not have, while those who see the opportunities will continue to drive forward.


At Top Crop Manager, we always look forward, whether in terms of agronomic principles, research into new crops and enhancements or trends and technology. With this last issue for 2008, we are introducing our new Machinery Manager-Precision Farming section, with a brief look at the technical specifications of various autosteer components and systems.


It is one more way in which we “drive on” and “look forward,” and, hopefully, help you keep pace with the changing times and see those opportunities instead of obstacles.


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