Seeding/Planting
A research project in southwestern Ontario exploring the benefits of strip tilling is showing promising results in better managing fertilizer and improving crop yields by ensuring the fertilizer stays where it is most needed – with the plant.
Published in Tillage
Imagine being able to harvest an extra eight to 10 bushels per acre of soybeans without spending another dime. According to Kris Ehler, a seed agronomist with Ehler Bros. Seed, a family-owned business based near Thomasboro, Illinois, all you have to do is plant soybeans early.

Ehler Bros. Seed has been doing early planting soybean trials since 2009. Although the Feb. 22 planting date the company experimented with this past season may sound a little extreme, Ehler advocates planting full-season soybeans (normally groups 3.5 to 4.2, with 4.7 soybeans tossed in this year) no later than the end of April. For the full story, click here

RELATED: Dating decisions - How critical is soil temperature for soybean planting date decisions?
Published in Soybeans
The tariffs India imposed on imports of pulse crops last fall are expected to affect how much land Canadian farmers seed this year.

The Asian country is charging a 50 per cent duty on pea imports and 30 per cent on chickpeas and lentils.

Dan Mazier of Manitoba’s Keystone Agricultural Producers points out that India is the biggest importer of Canada’s pulse crops, so the tariffs are bound to have an impact.

Simon Ellis, co-owner of Ellis Seeds in Wawanesa, Man., says sales for seeds have already noticeably dropped and he expects fewer hectares to be planted in the spring. For the full story, CLICK HERE
Published in Pulses
A look at some of the new soybean varieties available to growers for the 2018 planting season.
Published in Soybeans
A look at some of the new corn varieties available to growers for the 2018 planting season. 
Published in Corn
Upping the seeding rate was the single most effective tool for increasing yield and suppressing weeds in flax grown under organic management, a University of Saskatchewan study shows.

Researchers Lena Syrovy, Yanben Shen and Steve Shirtliffe, studied seeding rates and mechanical weed control methods including using a inter-row cultivator, a rotary hoe plus an inter-row cultivator, and by adjusting the crop seeding rates in four levels from 250 seeds per square metre to 2,000. | READ MORE
Published in Weeds
Few agricultural technologies capture people’s imaginations as much as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), more commonly known as drones. Since the first day a UAV looked down on a crop field, farmers have dreamed up a million ways that a bird’s eye view and remote access could improve agricultural operations.
Published in Precision Ag
The federal government has proposed tighter restrictions around the two insecticides: clothianidin and thiamethoxam.

Under proposed changes, the product will be banned from some uses such as orchard trees or strawberry patches, and restrictions are on the way for other uses such as on berries and legumes. New measures will also require new labelling for seed treatments.

"Scientific evidence shows that with the proposed restrictions applied, the use of clothianidin and thiamethoxam does not present an unacceptable risk to bees," says Margherita Conti, an official with Health Canada's pest management regulatory agency. | READ MORE
Published in Seed Treatment
John Deere has introduced its latest advanced guidance and machine data sharing technology with the addition of three new AutoTrac applications and a new In-Field Data Sharing application for its Generation 4 Displays.

AutoTrac Turn Automation, AutoTrac Implement Guidance, AutoTrac Vision for Tractors, and In-Field Data Sharing applications are being sold as bundled activations for the John Deere 4600 CommandCenter and as bundled subscriptions for 4640 Universal Displays.

“These new applications are machine-specific bundled activations with the 4600 CommandCenter and provide late-model John Deere machine owners with outstanding technology value,” said John Misher, precision agriculture product marketing manager with John Deere. For owners of machines equipped with a 4640 Display, the applications are offered as bundled one- or five-year subscriptions.

AutoTrac Turn Automation makes end turns smooth, consistent and comfortable for operators during tillage, planting, seeding or other pre-emerge applications when using straight-track guidance modes. Mishler said the new application for tractors provides automation across the field rather than just between headlands. It allows operators to focus on machine and job performance while reducing operator fatigue.

When AutoTrac Turn Automation is activated, the machine functions previously required at the end of the field, when operating drawn implements, no longer require user input. “For example, making end turns, raising and lowering the implement, PTO control, 3-point hitch functions and speed can be established in sequences from one setup page to become automated,” Mishler explained.

AutoTrac Implement Guidance (passive) enables the tractor to move off the intended path or guidance line in order to achieve expected accuracy of the implement. Mishler said implement drift can diminish accuracy of the implement while the tractor is traveling on the guidance line. “AutoTrac Implement Guidance helps operators improve pass-to-pass accuracy by placing the implement consistently on the guidance line, helping to reduce the impact of implement drift,” he explained.

AutoTrac Implement Guidance is ideal for first-pass tillage, planting, seeding, strip till or other applications with drawn implements when using straight- or curve-tracking modes and when operating on hillsides. Differential-correction signals can be shared between the receiver on the tractor and the implement. Mishler said the application is easy to install, calibrate and operate.

AutoTrac Vision Guidance was previously released for John Deere 30-Series and newer sprayers. Now, Deere is expanding the application to include 7X30 large-frame, 8X30 and 8X30T, 7R and 8R/8RT tractors. AutoTrac Vision can be utilized in post-season crop applications to detect the crop row and provide input to the machine’s AutoTrac system to keep the tractor’s wheels or tracks between the crop rows. This level of precision can be beneficial when side-dressing fertilizer, post-emerge spraying and cultivating.

“This application is supported when the tractor is working in corn, soybeans and cotton at least 6 inches tall with up to a 90 per cent canopy. This level of advanced guidance minimizes crop damage, reduces operator fatigue and maximizes tractor productivity in fields with 20- to 40-inch row spacing,” Mishler added.

In-Field Data Sharing makes it easier for producers to co-ordinate multiple machines working in the same field. Operators can use the application to share coverage, application, yield and moisture maps along with straight tracks and circle tracks with up to six other machines.

The application helps machines to work together more efficiently, reducing skips, overlap, fuel and input costs for producers. During planting, seeding, harvesting, spraying and nutrient application, In-Field Data Sharing helps producers maximize each pass through the field.

“It’s easy to share and check maps with In-Field Data Sharing. Operators can monitor machines’ as-applied maps to see if they’re properly calibrated and performing in a similar manner, thus maximizing machine performance,” Mishler said. “In-Field Data Sharing also lets users transfer guidance lines between machines without manually moving a USB stick from one machine to another. This is a real time-saver wheral machines are working in the same field. By using the application, operators can more efficiently manage nurse trucks, tenders and grain carts while decreasing operating costs.”

Each of the four new applications is compatible with the John Deere 4640 Universal Display and with Gen 4 4600 CommandCenter displays. Activations and subscriptions are immediately available for ordering. Delivery will take place beginning in February 2018.

Producers should visit their local John Deere dealer for additional information about hardware requirements and tractor platform, display and differential-correction signal compatibility. 
Published in Precision Ag
The highest recorded corn yield is 532 bushels per acre set by David Hula at Charles City, Virginia in 2015 in an annual contest conducted by the National Corn Growers Association in the United States. By comparison, the highest yield in 2016 in Manitoba Corn Growers Association’s annual yield contest was 274 bushels per acre (bu/ac) set by the Baker Colony at MacGregor, Man. Both impressive yields indeed, given growing conditions at those locations. But how can new corn growers reach those yields?
Published in Corn
Prairie farmers continue to insure their crops for hail damage at near record levels. 2017 recorded one of the lightest hail claim years since 2009. Claims produced insurance payouts of $96 million on just over 8,600 claims in Western Canada. Producer premiums totaled just over $286 million for an industry loss ratio of 33.8 per cent.

Dry spring conditions, combined with 2016 unharvested acres, and some continued industry rate declines resulted in a five per cent decrease in producer paid premiums for 2017.

With the lack of moisture much of the western prairies received little in the way of convective storm activity resulting in hail losses.

Hardest hit was Manitoba with a loss ratio of 45.9 per cent, a figure still well below a record 2016 loss ratio of 158.9 per cent. Alberta followed with a loss ratio of 33.7 per cent, compared to 83.6 per cent in 2016. Saskatchewan reported a 30 per cent loss ratio compared to 73 per cent in 2016.

Another year of contrasts and challenges emerged for producers. Dry conditions followed what looked to be a promising planting season. The dry conditions were wide spread across the western prairies. While welcomed by some after excess moisture in 2016, record and near record dry was reported through a large portion of Saskatchewan and parts of Alberta. Manitoba producers appeared to receive more timely precipitation. In spite of the dry conditions producers were presently surprised come harvest with yield and quality.

The storm season was spread across mostly July and August. All months of June thru October reported hail, however all months showed a decrease in storm frequency from the five year average. Claim frequency or claim to policy ratio was down about 30 per cent from the five year average. Storm severity or average per claim was down about 16 per cent from the five year average.

Alberta hail claim payments decline 60 per cent from 2016

Alberta’s quiet storm activity resulted in lighter than average loss activity for the industry. The first storms were reported as early as May 13th. The dry southern Alberta crops advanced quickly with an early harvest ensuing. Areas of central and northern Alberta were still recovering from excess moisture and late seeding due to a carry-over of the 2016 harvest. This resulted in some of those areas having the current fall harvest delayed compared to their southern producers. Fall conditions allowed for nearly all crop to be harvested in 2017.

Early storms were localized to small areas. By mid-June larger more organized storms became prevalent for the summer hail season. Alberta’s most expensive storm date(s) were July 23rd costing companies over $19,000 per claim and July 27th damaging over 33,000 acres and costing in excess of $2.2 million.

Total hail payments were reported just over $25 million as compared to over $60 million in 2016. Storm severity decreased by about 25 per cent, while the storm frequency was down about 40 per cent from the five year average. The overall reported loss ratio was 33.7 per cent.

Total sums insured were down from 2016, with average charged rates showing a slight increase from 2016 after a less than stellar loss result last year. The decrease in sums insured resulted in a premium declined of four per cent.

Saskatchewan reported lower than average losses

The west central part of the province began the season with early moisture and delayed
seeding. The north east part of the province meanwhile still was trying to clean up 2016 harvest due to excess fall moisture and early winter. Meanwhile the southern part of the province awaited moisture to help start the crops.

The dry conditions gave way to some areas receiving timely mid-June moisture. Some southern areas not so lucky had spotty germination and continued drought concerns. Regardless most areas in the province produced average to above average crops with good quality.

Saskatchewan’s hail season began in early June with storms on the 2nd and 9th. Hail frequency was down about 44 per cent based on the five year average. The five year hail severity was decreased by roughly 10 per cent. Saskatchewan’s most expensive storm date(s) was July 20 and 21, costing companies $14.9 million on over 1100 claims. Total hail payments were just over $48 million compared to $125 million in 2016, a decrease of 61 per cent from a year earlier. The overall reported loss ratio was 30 per cent.

Provincial total sums insured decreased in 2017. The average charged rates also decrease for the year. Continued average industry loss results and competitive pressures likely contribute to the continued rate decline. These combined changes resulted in a five per cent decline to premiums for the year.

Manitoba recovers after a record hail year in 2016

Seeding was mostly complete by early June. Timely rains helped negate the dry conditions suffered in southern Saskatchewan and Alberta. With below average precipitation through June crops were still in good condition from spring moisture. Seasonal moisture provided great conditions throughout the growing season. This along with good harvest conditions provided Manitoba with average to above average yield and crop quality.

Manitoba’s hail season started in early June as well. With most crops still in the early stages minimal damage was recorded. The results from hail damage in Manitoba mirrored her sister prairie provinces. Manitoba’s most expensive hail day(s) appear to be July 21 and 22 costing companies over $11,000 per claim.

Hail frequency was down about 19 per cent from the five year average. Claim Severity was down about 17 per cent from the five year average. Total hail payments were just over $23 million compared to over $74 million in 2016. 2017 reported a stellar loss ratio of 46 per cent, compared to last year’s record 158 per cent loss ratio.

Total provincial sums insured had a marginal increase of three pre cent. This could be contributed to the large hail loss last year. Average charged rates also saw a minimal increase, likely from the historic loss results in 2016. These two factors would help contribute to a six per cent increase in premium for the year.
Published in Corporate News
More farmers are showing interest in and using an approach called bio strip-till, where specific cover crops are planted in individual strips after the harvest of an early season crop.

Goals for using this approach typically include a combination of creating a dark strip in the field with residue to simulate strip till, opening up the soil for cash crop root growth, to keep competitive winter annual species like cereal rye out of the cash crop planting row, and residue management to keep problematic residue out of the planting strip.

For the full story and a few examples of bio strip-till being used by farmers in North Dakota, click here.

Related: Strip tilling for higher yields
Published in Tillage
Quinoa, the ancient South American grain that’s been touted as a gluten-free superfood, is gaining popularity with Canadian farmers, but in commercial terms, it remains a small niche crop in this country.
Published in Other Crops
In the Peace River region where production of creeping red fescue, alsike clover and red clover has been a mainstay for many farmers, tighter canola rotations have gradually displaced forage seed production. While this threatens the sustainability of the seed industry, more intense canola rotations may be costing farmers profit as well. That is the finding of a crop rotation study conducted by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) at Beaverlodge, Alta.  
Published in Other Crops
India’s decision to impose a steep tariff on pea imports could jeopardize $1 billion worth of pulse trading with Canada, which may cause farmers there to trim their pea acreage by nearly one-third.

Earlier this month, India imposed a 50 per cent import tax on peas, as pulse prices fell below their government-set support levels because of record output.

The duty is expected to lift domestic pulse prices and spur farmers in India, the world’s biggest buyer of pulses, to boost pulse plantings, reducing import requirements in 2018. READ MORE

Related: Statement by the Government of Canada on pulse exports to India
Published in World Outlook
Crop growth and yield are strongly affected by sunlight, temperature and growing season precipitation. From a farmer’s perspective, temperature and water availability are the two most important environmental factors that affect crop production.
Two years ago, an unusually warm, dry, long fall across much of Ontario meant that wheat grew unusually big before winter freeze-up. Strong fall growth brings with it both pros and cons. While vigorous early growth can ultimately produce high yields, it also leaves plants susceptible to lodging.
Published in Cereals
Narrow row spacing is considered the accepted practice for maximizing grain yields for the majority of crops under most circumstances. However, wider row spacing offers advantages for dealing with heavier and taller crop residues, and reducing equipment costs and maintenance. But how wide is too wide before yield is compromised?
Published in Canola
Soil characteristics like organic matter content and moisture play a vital role in helping plants flourish. It turns out that soil temperature is just as important. Every plant needs a certain soil temperature to thrive. If the temperature changes too quickly, plants won’t do well. Their seeds won’t germinate or their roots will die.

“Most plants are sensitive to extreme changes in soil temperature,” said Samuel Haruna, a researcher at Middle Tennessee State University. “You don’t want it to change too quickly because the plants can’t cope with it.”

Many factors influence the ability of soil to buffer against temperature changes. For example, when soil is compacted the soil temperature can change quickly. That’s because soil particles transfer temperatures much faster when they are squished together. When farmers drag heavy machinery over the soil, the soil particles compact. Soil temperature is also affected by moisture: more moisture keeps soils from heating too quickly.

Research has shown that both cover crops and perennial biofuel crops can relieve soil compaction. Cover crops are generally planted between cash crops such as corn and soybeans to protect the bare soil. They shade the soil and help reduce soil water evaporation. Their roots also add organic matter to the soil and prevent soil erosion. This also keeps the soil spongy, helping it retain water.

But Haruna wanted to know if perennial biofuel and cover crops could also help soils protect themselves from fluctuating temperatures. Haruna and a team of researchers grew several types of cover and perennial biofuel crops in the field. Afterwards, they tested the soils in the lab for their ability to regulate temperature.

“I was amazed at the results,” Haruna said. He found both perennial biofuel and cover crops help soils shield against extreme temperatures. They do this by slowing down how quickly temperatures spread through the soil. Their roots break up the soil, preventing soil molecules from clumping together and heating or cooling quickly. The roots of both crops also add organic matter to the soil, which helps regulate temperature.

Additionally, perennial biofuel and cover crops help the soil retain moisture. “Water generally has a high ability to buffer against temperature changes,” said Haruna. “So if soil has a high water content it has a greater ability to protect the soil.”

Although Haruna advocates for more use of cover crops, he said it’s not always easy to incorporate them into farms. “These crops require more work, more financial investment, and more knowledge,” he said. “But they can do much for soil health.” Including, as Haruna’s research shows, shielding plants from extreme temperature changes.

“Climate change can cause temperature fluctuations, and if not curtailed, may affect crop productivity in the future,” he said. “And we need to buffer against these extreme changes within the soil.”

Haruna hopes to take his research from the lab and into the field. He says a field experiment will help him and his team collect more data and flesh out his findings

Read more about Haruna’s research in Soil Science Society of America Journal. A USDA-NIFA grant funded this research (Cropping Systems Coordinated Agricultural Project: Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation in Corn-based Cropping Systems).
Published in Seeding/Planting
Seed Hawk Inc. is pleased to announce that the company will officially be renamed Vaderstad Industries Inc. on October 31, 2017. The name change reflects the fuller integration of the Seed Hawk brand within the Väderstad Group, bringing precision and quality together.

“We are pleased to become a part of Väderstad. Both businesses are leaders in the development of some of the world’s most innovative agricultural equipment,” says Nigel Jones, CEO of Vaderstad Industries Inc., and continues, “the joining of our businesses will positively impact the advancement and availability of our equipment for farmers in North America and around the world.”

Seed Hawk and Väderstad have been working together since 2006. In 2013, the Swedish high quality agricultural equipment manufacturer took full ownership of Seed Hawk. The current name change reflects the fuller integration of the Seed Hawk brand within the Väderstad Group. This transition was signaled by the change earlier this year to red paint on all Seed Hawk seeding systems, consistent with Väderstad branded equipment.

“Väderstad and Seed Hawk have brought quality and precision together for the last ten years. Our name change to Vaderstad Industries Inc. reflects the long-term commitment we put behind this promise to our customers.” Jones says, and adds:

“The company name is changing to Vaderstad Industries Inc. The Seed Hawk seeder will continue to be sold under the same equipment name and by the same local people our customers know and trust.”
Published in Corporate News
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