According to the latest Canadian Agricultural Injury Reporting (CAIR) information, agriculture-related fatalities are declining.

From 1990 to 2001, an average of 116 people died due to an agriculture-related incident. From 2002 to 2012, the average number of agriculture-related fatalities declined to 85 per year. Also encouraging is the fatality rates of all age groups saw decreases in this period.

“The decrease in the fatality rates is encouraging,” says Marcel Hacault, the Executive Director of the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association (CASA). “It means that we are moving in the right direction.”

Between 2003 to 2012, farm machinery continued to be involved in most agriculture-related fatalities with runovers (18 per cent), rollovers (18 per cent) and being pinned or struck by a machine component (9 per cent) accounting for the top three ways people were fatality injured.

Fatality rates due to rollovers and from being pinned/struck by a machinery component also declined. Rollover fatality rates decreased an average of 3.6 per cent annually and fatality rates from being pinned/struck by a machinery component decreased an average of 7.8 per cent annually.

Published in Corporate News

Mar. 16, 2016 - According to the Canadian Agricultural Injury Reporting (CAIR) program, 13 per cent of farm-related fatalities across Canada are traffic-related, and most involved tractors.

During the busy spring season, farmers often travel long distances between fields, and this requires transporting equipment on public roads throughout rural Alberta. Farm equipment is oversized and slow compared to other vehicles using the roads and when certain procedures are not met, this can lead to collisions and other incidents.

"Maintenance is a contributing factor to the safety of transporting farm equipment," says Kenda Lubeck, farm safety coordinator, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry (AF). "Poor maintenance of equipment such as brakes or tires can lead to loss of control of the vehicle."

Check all tires for air pressure, cuts, bumps and tread wear. Always lock brake pedals together for highway travel as sudden braking at high speeds on only one wheel could put the tractor into a dangerous skid. Equip heavy wagons with their own independent brakes.

The number one cause of farm-related fatalities in Canada is machinery roll overs. To minimize the risk of severe injury or death to the operator, all tractors need roll-over protective structures (ROPS)," says Lubeck. "In addition, operators should always wear a seatbelt as ROPS are ineffective in a roll over without this restraining device."

To avoid traffic collisions between motorists and farm equipment, farmers should ensure their equipment is clearly visible and follows all regulated requirements for lighting and signage. This will ensure approaching traffic has time to react to a slow-moving vehicle. Use reflective tape and reflectors in the event that large equipment is required to travel in dim lighting conditions. In Canada, reflective material should be red and orange strips. You can purchase tape in kits or by the foot at local farm or hardware stores.

Dust-covered signage and lights make farm machinery less visible to motorists and dust-covered machinery causes poor visibility for the operator, who may not see oncoming traffic. Be sure to clean farm equipment prior to transportation to minimize the risk of collision due to poor visibility.

"It's important to note that regulated requirements for lighting and signage on public roadways include the use of a slow-moving vehicle (SMV) sign," explains Lubeck. "The SMV sign must be properly mounted, clean and not faded. It must be positioned on the rear of the tractor or towed implement and clearly visible. SMV signs must only be used on equipment travelling less than 40 km/hr."

For more information on the safe transportation of farm equipment on public roads, see AF's Make it Safe, Make it Visible or go to for more information on farm safety.


Published in Maintenance

Mar. 31, 2016 - Much of the tracks-versus-wheels debate on farms has focused on compaction and the ability to drive in wet conditions, but what about differences in fuel consumption?

Testing done in southern Manitoba in 2015 confirmed long-standing research showing tracks require less energy to move in field conditions, dispelling a lingering misconception that implements on tracks require more horsepower to pull than wheeled units.

Research conducted near Altona — the home of track-maker Elmer's Manufacturing — found fuel savings of 11 to 15 percent when pulling a grain cart on tracks instead of wheels.

"We used a grain cart and compared wheels to tracks at the same weights. We tested on fresh tilled ground, tilled and then dried for a few days, untilled canola ground, and concrete for a reference." explains Mike Friesen, general manager and lead engineer at Elmer's.

While wheels pulled easier than tracks on concrete, there was less resistance pulling tracks in all three field scenarios.

That's because tracks "float" or stay higher on top of the soil, reducing what engineers describe as "rolling resistance." Since tires generally create deeper ruts, they have a greater rolling resistance than tracks on soft soil, as explained by researchers AJ Koolen and H Kuipers in Agricultural Soil Mechanics back in 1983.

"In plain English, the tracks don't have to continuously try to get out of the rut they are digging like the wheel does," explains Friesen.

Hartney, Manitoba farmer Tim Morden's experience pulling large capacity Bourgault cart on Elmer's TransferTracks supports the findings.

"When we had duals on the back of the cart, dirt would build up in front of the wheels and slow it down, making it hard to pull," he says. "This didn't happen with tracks."

Morden explains the biggest difference he's noticed with switching to tracks is the reduced compaction and rutting, especially in wet conditions.

"The number one fact is it doesn't really leave a rut at any time, unless it's really wet, but it's significantly less than tires," he says. "We have much more confidence on the field with the track."

The study also compared energy required to pull Elmer's large tracks versus Elmer's smaller TransferTracks, which concluded that, while both tracks pulled easier than wheels, the TransferTracks required less horsepower at weights below 35,000 lbs per wheel making it the ideal candidate for use with an air-seeder cart, small grain cart or a rolling water/fertilizer tank.

The reduced energy requirement not only results in improved fuel efficiency, but it could also allow a grower to optimize their existing horsepower in other ways, such as driving faster or pulling a wider drill with the same tractor during seeding.


Published in Tractors

Harvest is the time of year when farmers reap the rewards from a season of hard work, worry and risk. They treasure the perfect harvests when the weather co-operated and yields surpassed expectations. The worst years serve as useful reminders of the challenges of farming.

Crop yield is the measurement of crop production on a given area of land. It refers to the average of the field and is usually stated in bushels per acre or tonne/ton per acre. Average yield is the benchmark to compare with neighbours, assess management decisions and report for crop insurance. Average yield tells you only part of the story, since it is product of the area of maximum yields and the area of minimum yields within the field.

Prior to combine yield monitors, farmers relied on subjective assessments to determine the best management decisions for their geography. People tend to rely on subjective information from magazine articles, comments from neighbours and their judgment on what seemed to work last year. Field assessments and summer crop tours are also useful to compare and assess crop input options. Each of these is a source of information, but farmers really need accurate and measurable results to make informed decisions.

Years ago, I was launching a canola variety in a large strip-trial comparison with 10 other varieties. A top yielding variety was assigned as the “check variety” for the site. This check variety was replicated with a strip on each side of the field. My variety was located near the end of the site and it placed second when it lost the comparison by 4 bu/ac. While reviewing the raw data, I noticed a 6 bu/ac yield difference between the two strips of the check variety. From that moment on, I realized the impact that field variability can have on future management decisions.

Precision agriculture utilizes data and measurement techniques to enhance traditional decision-making. The data required depends on the questions you want answered. Yield data can consist of general information, such as historic average yields, or the average yield for a specific field. GPS coordinates can also define areas within a field where the combine collected yield data every second. Each type of data is valuable and can be useful to answer different questions.

Combine yield monitors
Combine yield monitors have been around for years, but many farms don’t take the steps to turn that data into valuable information. Logging yield data is easier than many people think. The combine operators must enter some variation of farm/field/crop type into the controller and indicate where to save the data. If farm/field/crop type is not entered, you may watch the controller display yields, but yield data is not saved. Many combine brands require a USB or compact flash card inserted into the yield monitor to store the data during combining. John Deere yield monitors have internal memory to store the data once the controller is set up.

Combine calibration
Many operators don’t calibrate the combine yield monitor during harvest. So even though they watch yields during 200 hours of harvesting, they know the data is not accurate. Inaccurate yield data can still be useful because it can be corrected from a known number. For example, the truck weights or bin measurement might confirm the combine yield monitor was +4 bu/ac high (on average). Newer yield monitors can reformat a prior field’s yield data to the corrected values from a calibration. Post-harvest data analysis can also correct inaccurate yield values. The final option is to just keep the inaccurate yield data knowing it is +4 bu/ac overstated. Either way, you can still make decisions with inaccurate data just like farmers have been making decisions for generations with no data at all. But a quick combine calibration can accurately capture the year’s final results.

I encourage farmers to install a GPS receiver on every combine to provide a GPS signal to the yield monitor, enabling advanced yield data analysis. Combines usually collect yield data every one to three seconds depending on the combine model. The GPS coordinates aid the merging of yield data from multiple combines and even multiple combine brands in a field. Auto-steer or GPS guidance is an option on combines, but a basic GPS receiver can provide a GPS signal to the yield monitor at minimal expense.

Do-it-yourself yield software such as APEX, AFS, SMS, FarmWorks and Yield Editor is available to process your yield data into yield maps. If you didn’t process your own yield maps by Christmas, consider hiring an experienced technician to do it for you. Yield data is like a Christmas present; you really should open it.

Yield maps
During harvest 2015, a new record wheat yield of 16.5 t/ha (245 bu/ac) was achieved in England. The media article didn’t say what the minimum yield of the field was, but a maximum yield of 342 bu/ac was mentioned. What future decisions can you make on this information? World records are interesting but without more information and yield maps to review, the information is not that useful.

Yield maps identify where your opportunities are and where improvements can be made. The farmer, the equipment operators and anyone involved with the farm can review each field after harvest to identify learnings prior to the next crop year. Was there a crop input comparison or unintended crop input comparison in the field? Perhaps there was no difference in yield from the additional crop inputs, or you identify a +5 bu/ac difference that was not noticed during crop scouting. Reviewing past years’ yield maps and/or satellite imagery can also identify chronic yield differences within a field that Grandpa could probably tell you a story about. From my experience, reviewing combine yield maps will always identify something interesting.



Published in Precision Ag

Faced with lower commodity prices, farmers are looking for any edge to improve productivity and crop performance. As the 2015 growing season gets under way, experts say one of the most effective ways to improve yield is to minimize soil compaction by using tires that can operate at a lower air pressure.

Farming equipment, including tractors, sprayers and combines, has grown larger and heavier in recent years, allowing farmers to cover more acres per day but also making soil compaction a much greater challenge.

"Lower-pressure tires produce a larger tire footprint, which distributes the weight of the machine over the largest area possible to reduce compaction," said James Crouch, farm segment marketing manager for Michelin Agriculture tires. "In addition, a larger tire footprint provides excellent traction in the field, which can improve fuel economy by reducing slippage."

Academic research has demonstrated the benefits of lower-pressure tires that provide higher flexion than standard radial agriculture tires, thus reducing soil compaction. "Topsoil compaction is caused by high contact pressure. To reduce contact pressure, a load needs to be spread out over a larger area. This can be done by reducing inflation pressure," states a Penn State University Extension report.1

Harper Adams University in the United Kingdom recently completed a three-year study involving Michelin's Ultraflex IF (Increased Flexion) and VF (Very High Flexion) tires that demonstrated a yield increase of up to four per cent compared to standard radial agriculture tires.2

Additional recommendations from Crouch and other experts to help farmers minimize soil compaction include:

• Check and maintain proper tire pressure as temperature changes throughout the growing season, particularly in the spring if new tires or equipment were purchased the previous fall or winter. Every increase of nine to 10 degrees in ambient air temperature can raise tire pressure by one psi, or lower it by that same amount as temperature decreases.

• Reduce total axle load by operating the lightest possible equipment for each application that still efficiently transfers horsepower to the ground with minimal slippage. Ensure total machine weight conforms to manufacturer specifications.

• Minimize the number of trips over the field and reduce the area of the field on which equipment is operated. Limit heavy machinery to the same lanes through the field each season. Only the controlled traffic lanes become compacted, sparing soil between the lanes.

• Use duals and large-diameter tires, since the larger surface area can help reduce tire pressure against the soil.

• When additional machine weight is needed, use cast iron ballast instead of filling tires with liquid ballast. Liquid ballast changes the flexion of the tires, resulting in a smaller footprint.

"Proper tire management and other practices can help reduce soil compaction, even though it can't be eliminated totally," Crouch said. "Protecting the soil is one of the best investments farmers can make to improve their crop performance and their bottom lines."


Published in Tractors

Sept. 26, 2014 - Golden fields of wheat and the sight of trucks full of grain are sure signs that the harvest season is upon us once again. Every harvest season there are collisions between farm equipment and passenger vehicles resulting in expensive repairs, injuries and sadly even deaths. However by taking a small amount of time to discuss how to safely transport agricultural equipment, farmers and their equipment operators can minimize the risk of a collision.

Glen Blahey is a Health and Safety Specialist with CASA. "There are three common types of collisions involving farm equipment and a typical road vehicle: Rear-end, passing and left-turn collisions."

Farm equipment moves much slower than regular highway vehicles. A typical tractor travels less than 40 kilometers per hour. Farm machinery is long and wide. Motorists can underestimate the length, width and speed of farm machinery, often with disastrous results. Rear-end collisions occur when motorists come up on farm equipment too quickly. Passing collisions often occur because motorists attempt to pass without having a clear view of oncoming traffic. And left-turn collisions happen because motorists often think the equipment operator is pulling over to allow the vehicle to pass but the operator is actually making a wide left turn.

So what can farmers do to prevent these types of collisions? The first step is having a conversation with
all equipment operators and truck drivers about how to safely and efficiently move farm machinery on public roadways.

In March, the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association (CASA) and the Canadian Federation of Agriculture launched "Let's Talk About It!", a Canadian Agricultural Safety Week campaign focused on encouraging farmers to talk about farm safety.

As a part of "Let's Talk About It!", CASA developed the Toolbox Talks, a series of brief, informal talks that help farmers discuss with their workers and their families about safely conducting farm tasks, including the operation of farm equipment on public roadways. "By having a conversation with equipment operators and truck drivers at the beginning of the harvest season, farmers can lay out their expectations and procedures on how to safely move farm equipment," Blahey says. "CASA's toolbox talks are an excellent way for farmers to effectively communicate these expectations in clear and comprehensive way."

Some quick and easy tips to remain safe this harvest season are:

Be Visible. If motorists know that slow moving farm machinery is on the road with them and how that machinery is likely to move, the chance for a collision is greatly reduced. All slow moving farm equipment must be equipped with A Slow Moving Vehicle (SMV) Emblem. This emblem is a triangular, bright orange sign with a red border. It must be placed at the centre or to the left of centre of all slow moving farm vehicles and equipment. Make sure that the SMV emblem is clean and visible. Lighting is also important to make sure that your farming equipment is visible to motorists. Tractors and other self-propelled equipment must have at least two headlamps visible from the front, two red tail lamps visible from the rear and two flashing amber warning lamps visible from both the front and the rear of the machine. Proper turning signals should be available and used at all times so that motorists can anticipate what the farm machinery is going to do. Some provinces have other lighting requirements, check with your provincial department of transportation for these regulations.

Be Cautious. When operating farm machinery on a public road, be sure to drive as far to the right as possible to give motorists room to pass, but stay on the road. Travelling on the shoulder presents its own hazards – it may be soft or have obscured hazards like culvert openings or depressions. Equipment operators should never allow extra riders on farm machinery. If something goes wrong, the extra rider is the most likely person to die. And always remember to buckle up your seat belt, even a low speed equipment crash can result in a significant injury.

Be Alert. Only properly trained and licensed drivers should ever operate farm machinery. While it goes without saying that no one should ever operate farm machinery under the influence of drugs or alcohol, it's also true that anyone who is overly tired should also avoid driving.

By following these guidelines, farm workers will minimize the chance of a collision or other incident while travelling on public roadways in a farming vehicle.

For more information on the Toolbox Talks, visit



Published in Maintenance

Aug. 25 2014 - The Canadian Agricultural Safety Association (CASA) has developed a new online tool that gives farmers an opportunity to express their concerns about possible hazards with farm equipment. The Speak Up For Safer Equipment tool is intended to provide a way for farmers, manufacturers and standards organizations to talk about safety concerns with agricultural equipment manufactured within the past five years.

"We decided to develop this online tool after routinely receiving calls from producers who were frustrated that their concerns weren't being heard," says Glen Blahey, agricultural health and safety specialist for CASA.

The online form handles safety concerns where farm equipment is being used for primary agricultural production. It is not intended to handle cases where legal proceedings are taking place, where there are labour relations concerns or issues related to financial transactions.

Once a farmer has filled out the online form, CASA will review the safety concern and either will forward the issue directly to the appropriate manufacturer or, if the concern is a universal issue, forward it to the Canadian Standards Association (CSA). As well as providing information to manufacturers and the CSA, the Speak Up for Safer Equipment tool will give CASA data on potential safety-related trends affecting farmers.

"The tool isn't designed to hurt the reputation of any manufacturer or individual," says Blahey. "Speak Up for Safer Equipment will foster better communication and education between farmers, manufacturers and standards organization and will ultimately reduce the potential for injuries."

The Speak Up for Safer Equipment online tool will be available in August on CASA's website at Concerns can also be reported by phone at 877-452-2272.

Published in Corporate News

Three prototype HSD systems being tested. Photo by Michael Walsh.

In Australia, the development of multiple herbicide resistance in some of the most serious annual weeds has been the catalyst for the development of new agronomic practices. Researchers and industry have developed new non-chemical weed control techniques focused on weed seed capture and destruction during commercial grain crop harvest.

“Herbicide resistance in problematic weeds is extensive across the Australian crop production zone,” explains Dr. Michael Walsh, research associate professor at the University of Western Australia, in Crawley, Western Australia. “It is particularly severe across the western Australian wheat production region (10 million hectares) where 98 per cent of annual ryegrass populations are resistant to at least one mode of action herbicide.” The majority of populations are now multi-resistant (i.e., have multiple resistance mechanisms), with the resistance problem consistently severe across all cropping systems and crop types.

The biggest problem weeds infesting Australian cropping fields are annual ryegrass, wild radish, wild oats and brome grass. Walsh explains that these annual species all have high genetic diversity, boast prolific seed production, can establish high population densities and have relatively short-lived seed banks. They also retain a significant portion of their seeds at maturity, meaning that many seeds remain attached to the upright plant and are collected during the grain crop harvest. Walsh and his colleagues have developed alternative weed control strategies or harvest weed seed control (HWSC) systems used during commercial grain harvest operations to minimize fresh seed inputs to the seedbank and lower overall weed populations.

 “The clear message now emerging from our research is that all feasible and practical means need to be used to drive weed populations to the lowest possible levels in crop production fields,” explains Walsh. “Very low weed populations are not just about avoiding or managing herbicide resistance, but more about improved crop production systems. When weeds are not dictating the cropping practices, the production system becomes much more flexible and profitable. More specifically though, we have learned that adding HWSC at the end of the growing season to target weed seeds perfectly complements herbicide-based weed control programs to deliver very low crop-weed densities.” 

HWSC systems significantly reduce weed seed
Walsh and his team have developed and tested HWSC systems in Australia including narrow-windrow burning, chaff carts, bale direct and the Harrington Seed Destructor. These HWSC systems target the weed seed bearing chaff material during commercial grain harvest. The research program, part of the Australian Herbicide Resistance Initiative (AHRI), also provides growers with best practices for adopting and implementing these systems (

Narrow-windrow burning is currently the most widely adopted HWSC system in Australia and is used by about 70 per cent of crop producers in Western Australia. This simple, effective and inexpensive system uses a grain harvester mounted chute to concentrate all of the chaff and straw residues into a narrow-windrow (500 to 600 millimetres, or 20 to 24 inches). “These narrow windrows are burned after harvest, with weed seed kill levels averaging 70 to 80 per cent and as high as 99 per cent for both annual ryegrass and wild radish in wheat, canola and lupin chaff, and straw residues,” says Walsh. “Narrow windrows are ideal because they burn hotter and longer, killing the weed seeds and minimizing the area burned, which keeps residue on the fields to minimize erosion risk.”

Chaff cart systems consist of a chaff collection and transfer mechanism attached to a grain harvester that delivers the weed seed bearing chaff fraction into a bulk collection bin. The collected chaff must be managed properly to prevent returning the weed seeds to the field. The chaff is usually dumped in heaps in a line across fields to be burned or used for livestock feed. A Bale Direct System consists of a large square baler directly attached to the harvester that constructs bales from the chaff and straw residues exiting the grain harvester. Although both are efficient systems, the post-harvest management requirement for chaff and the lack of markets for baled materials has currently limited the adoption of these systems.

The Harrington Seed Destructor (HSD) was developed in 2007 by an innovative Australian crop producer, Ray Harrington, as a system to process the weed-seed bearing chaff during the harvest operation. The HSD technology went into commercial production in 2012 and comprises a trailer-mounted cage mill, with chaff and straw transfer systems, and a diesel motor as a power source that is hooked to the rear of the combine. Evaluation of this system under commercial harvest conditions by AHRI over a number of seasons determined that HSD destroyed at least 95 per cent of annual weed seeds during harvest. The cost of purchasing an HSD system is approximately $240,000 (AUD).

“We have established estimated costs for these systems here in Australia; however, they may not necessarily be the same in other countries such as Canada because of the differences in cropping systems and production capacities,” explains Walsh. Based on a typical 4,000 ha cropping program in Australia, the costs for using HWSC systems per ha are roughly as follows (these numbers do not include the cost of nutrient removal):

  • Narrow-windrow burning    $2/ha
  • Chaff cart     $6/ha
  • Bale Direct     $18/ha
  • HSD    $16/ha

Research results confirm value of HWSC
Peter Newman, an AHRI colleague, evaluated the combined impact of herbicides plus HWSC over 10 consecutive seasons from 2002 to 2012, and found that targeted low weed densities were only achieved in fields where both early-season herbicides and HWSC were routinely practised. The research, conducted on fields where annual ryegrass densities were very high (35 to 50 plants per square metre), compared trials with herbicide treatments alone and trials with both in-crop herbicide treatments and late-season HWSC treatments. The goal was to reduce annual ryegrass populations to less than one plant per square metre. The annual ryegrass populations in the study were not herbicide resistant to the herbicides used in these studies.

As expected, effective herbicide treatments reduced in-crop annual ryegrass populations to less than 10 plants per square metre within five consecutive growing seasons, with populations averaging four plants per square metre for the rest of the study. The combined treatments of early-season herbicides and HWSC reduced annual ryegrass populations from an average of 35 plants per square metre in 2002 to 0.5 plants per square metre in 2011.

“Our research results confirm that the real value of HWSC systems is as part of a system that includes early-season weed control practices on weed seedlings, such as herbicides, and HWSC on late-season mature seed-bearing weeds to lower weed populations and minimize seedbank contributions,” says Walsh. “Low weed densities in cropping systems not only provide flexibility in crop choice, seeding time and herbicide use, they also play a critical role in sustaining herbicide resources for the ongoing control of crop weeds.

“Restricting weed population densities to very low levels also reduces the potential for resistance evolution to our remaining highly valued herbicide resources,” he adds. “Herbicide preservation is essential for sustaining future crop production so the addition of HWSC and other control strategies is absolutely necessary in supporting the ongoing efficacy of herbicides.”

Walsh says he believes the HWSC systems have potential as a new non-chemical weed control tool not only in Australia, but also in other major crop producing countries with similar crop weed populations, such as Canada, the U.S., Spain, Italy and Argentina. “The HWSC system is a tool to help achieve herbicide sustainability, to improve diversity and to help avoid exclusive reliance on herbicides for weed control,” he notes.


Published in Desiccants

The large, air-filled spaces, or "macropores," in untilled soil often resemble the branching vessels of the human circulatory system. Taking advantage of this similarity, a team of Nordic researchers led by Per Schjønning ( combined computed tomography (CT) scanning with traditional measurements of air exchange to "diagnose" the long-term impacts of soil compaction on the hidden, but vital, soil pore network.

In farm settings, soil can become compressed and unnaturally dense when heavy farm machinery is driven over it. But what the system of pores looks like in compacted soil hasn't been well studied.

When the Nordic scientists examined cores of compacted, heavy clay subsoil from a research site in Finland, they found the macropores were greatly affected compared with a non-compacted, control soil. In particular, the compacted soil contained mostly long, vertical "arterial" pores, or pipes, with significantly fewer "marginal" pores branching from them.

The findings appeared in the Nov.-Dec. 2013 issue of the Soil Science Society of America Journal.

Compaction also reduced the size of the vertical arteries, and just as in the human body, this constriction of the soil's "circulatory" system can have ill effects. Blocked and narrowed pores likely impede the diffusion of air through bulk soil, the scientists say. The dominance of vertical pipes in the compacted soil also suggests that water flows mostly downward, with relatively little reaching the surrounding soil matrix.

Both of these changes can reduce crop productivity. But most troubling to the researchers was how lasting the impacts of compaction appear to be. In the study, the group examined soil cores taken from a depth of 0.3 to 0.4 meters (0.9 to 1.2 feet) in plots where 30 years earlier a heavy tractor-trailer drove over the ground four times in an experimental treatment. (Only smaller farm equipment was used in subsequent years.)

Despite all the elapsed time, macropores in the compacted subsoil were still highly altered compared with control soils, indicating a poor ability of this heavy clay soil to recover its original structure. What's more, the damage was done by wheel loads (3.2 Mg per tractor rear wheel and 4.8 Mg per trailer wheel) that are considerably lower than those used in agriculture today.

What this all says is that while subsoil compaction is easy to ignore because it's hard to see, it definitely deserves more study, say the researchers. And what better to help diagnose this hidden problem than CT—a medical instrument that detects equally stealthy problems in the human body?


Published in Soil

Jan. 7, 2014 - Lemken is set to unveil the new Rubin 12 compact-disc harrow in Canada. The new harrow allows farmers to work the soil at deeper depths to incorporate heavy crop residue, according to a news release.

Designed to work at depths of 5 to 8 inches, the Rubin 12 delivers intensive, uniform mixing and crumbling in one pass – even in very heavy soil – making it an ideal primary tillage tool for corn growers in the fall.

"We also see many grain, canola, pulse, and vegetable growers across Canada dealing with more and more trash who want to work the soil deeper for better residue management. The Rubin 12 is perfectly suited to those types of operations," says LEMKEN Canadian sales manager, Laurent Letzter. "The penetration depth and large disc diameter on the Rubin 12 are also ideal for breaking pastureland," he adds.

The Rubin 12 offers 29-inch serrated discs. As well, a new Central Hydraulic Depth Adjustment allows farmers to set the working depth of the discs from their cab. The Rubin 12 combines multiple tillage functions in a single pass. An impact harrow behind the front row of discs is followed by a levelling harrow and depth guiding rollers, which pack and level the soil to help prevent erosion and moisture loss. Farmers have the option of removing the rollers if they wish.

Six Rubin 12 models will be available in Canada with delivery beginning in July 2014. The Rubin 12 is offered in widths ranging from 10 to 20 feet with a variety of hitch options including a mounted, semi-mounted and trailed version. The semi-mounted version features a Uni-wheel, which mechanically lifts the roller and reduces the weight load on the rear tractor axle when the implement is raised for easy road transport and manoeuvrability on the headlands.

Published in Tractors
Many Manitoba farmers struggle yearly with wet, compacted soils and high residue situations. Crop producer Greg Smith is no different: his farm is situated in an area with very heavy clay soil that, when wet, compacts quite a bit, causing water infiltration and root growth issues.

Along with three brothers and a son, Smith – a pedigree forage seed producer in the Oakbank/Dugald area – farms about 3300 acres. Smith’s Honey and Seed Farm produces perennial ryegrass, meadow fescue, timothy, orchardgrass, alfalfa and birdsfoot trefoil, along with rotation crops winter wheat, spring wheat, oats, canola and soybeans.

The Smiths’ forage seed production is under contract and, typically, the length of the contract for seed varieties is three to five years. These are generally the most productive years, and if left longer, weeds become more of an issue. Smith says many of the forages tend to produce a wonderful crop the first year, a good crop the second year, but by the third year the yield drops off dramatically.

“The timothy yields fall off less than some of the other grasses,” he says. “Meadow fescue can produce a wonderful crop the first year. The second year is okay, and then it really takes a nosedive.”

Smith felt the drop in productivity might be because of his heavy clay soil. As a result, several years ago, he decided to change up his tillage system. “We decided to try tillage to rejuvenate these fields with a deep tiller that has a narrow point,” he says. “But as soon as we’d get in there, we’d start creating a field that was extremely rough with sods. We did see a slight improvement, but not anything to write home about.”

So two years ago this fall, Smith tried using a demo vertical tillage unit in the forage fields. “I went into portions of a grass field and ran around some drains [shallow ditches] that were extremely rough with ruts from the sprayer going up and down to see what would happen to the field,” explains Smith. The next year, the timothy and orchardgrass crops showed great improvement.

In spring 2012, Smith purchased a Salford 41 foot Independent 2100 vertical tillage unit. “I went out that spring and did some more passes – going up and down the field on an angle, doing part of the field and then leaving the rest,” he says. “Come harvest, in the orchardgrass field, you could see where I went up and down the drains and where I worked the one side of the field the previous fall. The crop actually produced more heads; you could see a big difference. At that point, we figured we were on to something.

“Now, we’ve gone in and harvested the crop and worked our fields in the fall after harvest – going in and working it twice with the vertical tillage unit.”

Smith admits to being new to the many benefits of using a vertical tillage unit, but is so far very impressed with the results. “I have a meadow fescue going into its third year of production and we have gone through it twice with the vertical tillage after harvest,” he says.

Most of Smith’s forage grasses are harvested relatively early – anywhere from the end of July to the end of August – and this is followed by chopping and spreading the crop residue. After about a week, when things become dry, Smith goes back in to do another pass with the vertical tillage unit. To date, he hasn’t seen any crop damage or other negative impact from vertical tillage on the grasses when it comes to over-wintering – only improvements.

Although still on a learning curve, Smith says some of the benefits of using the vertical tillage unit he has seen so far include getting more water infiltration into the soil by opening up the soil. “We’re also getting rid of some of the sod-bound conditions, possibly forcing the plants to grow some new roots.”

The biggest production issue Smith has experienced over the last two years is having very dry weather, which affects his yields. But overall, Smith says, “We think we’re on to something here, and I’d like to see other people try it too and confirm what we’re getting out of it.

“This machine works well without making a mess on the field. It’s also something we can use elsewhere on the farm with our regular cropping practices.”

Smith uses the vertical tillage unit in several of his other fields to break out the sod, effectively getting the field back into what Smith calls “a conventional cropping system.”

“It does a nice job of finishing the field off for next spring for seeding, making a really nice seed bed,” he notes. “We’ve switched to a disc drill seeding unit which doesn’t move any dirt, as we’ve found it to be very important to have a properly prepared seed bed. The vertical tillage unit works well in this area.”  

Smith uses vertical tillage in his alfalfa fields in spring as well, which he says has helped in managing the previous year’s residue and in smoothing out the soil. “We’ve never baled the alfalfa,” he notes. “We chop and spread it, working it in with the tillage for residue management in the spring.

“In the grass fields, it gets rid of the trash well enough for us that we no longer need to bale any of the grass seed fields. So we’re not losing nutrients from our straw. Not baling also reduces compaction.”

Smith hopes that, by using the vertical tillage unit to maintain his forage fields, he will get three or four years of consistent production. “At this point, the stands look good. Time will tell how we do from here.”

Published in Tillage
By now, most Canadian farmers are familiar with Tier 4 regulations, the reasons behind them and the technology involved. For us here in North America, it all began in 1996, when the U.S. government passed laws forcing off-road heavy equipment makers to gradually reduce the pollutants and particulates in engine exhaust. These laws – starting with Tier 1 and phasing through stricter and stricter Tier 2, 3 and 4 regulations throughout the years – are aimed at helping to reduce smog and acid rain, as well as associated crop damage and respiratory problems. The U.S was following Europe’s lead, where heavy equipment manufacturers were already developing emissions-reduction technologies to meet legislative changes there.

Canada got on the Tier 4 bandwagon in 1999, when the federal government passed the Off-Road Compression-Ignition Engine Emission Regulations, which fall under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. These standards were applicable to 2006-and-later diesel engines such as those found in agriculture and construction machinery.

“The standards, which are aligned with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards, were amended to include the EPA Tier 4 emission standards starting in 2012,” says Danny Kingsberry, a media relations officer at Environment Canada. “The upgrade to Tier 4 emissions standards for off-road diesel engines provides significant benefits in terms of improved air quality and reduced exposure to air pollutants and toxic substances.”

At this point, manufacturers already must meet Tier 4 Interim standards for some horsepower ranges, and must meet Tier 4 Final by Jan. 1, 2014, for equipment larger than 175 hp. They have an additional year to make sure equipment between 75 to 175 hp meets the regulations.

These are the two emissions-reduction systems being used:
  • With Cooled Exhaust Gas Recirculation (CEGR), exhaust is fed back into the combustion chamber. This reduces the formation of nitrogen oxides. A Diesel Oxidation Catalyst (DOC) and Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF) are used to reduce particulates.   
  • With Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR), exhaust gases pass over a catalyst in the presence of Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF, an ammonia-and-water-based substance), and nitrogen oxides are broken down into harmless nitrogen and water.
Which technology is used generally depends on what is required of the engine and the process that the machine is intended for. CEGR is well suited to steady engine RPMs, where fairly constant exhaust temperatures aid in the reduction of particulate matter. SCR is better for engines that must meet variable demands. It provides ongoing fresh air to the engine, allowing it to run at peak performance through the full RPM range.

Tractor engines fall somewhere in between, with steady RPMs needed for jobs like spraying a uniform field but variable power demands required for other tasks. For that reason, and because the Tier 4 Final standards are so much stricter than Tier 3, some tractor manufacturers like John Deere will likely employ both CEGR and SCR for Tier 4 Final.

Roger Hoy, director at the Nebraska Tractor Test Lab (the officially designated tractor testing station for the United States), says, “Cummins has confirmed with me that they will use both.” He notes that full power can be achieved with either SCR or CEGR individually, but that CEGR uses a little more fuel.

AGCO is another company using both types of technology to meet Tier 4 Final requirements, but it is using its patented SCR with only a small amount of CEGR to ensure nitrogen oxides are reduced in the cylinder. “This combination provides our customers fuel economy benefits, lower fluid consumption (fuel and DEF), longer engine service intervals and longer engine life,” says Conor Bergin, AGCO’s product marketing manager for high-horsepower tractors.

Other tractor makers, including New Holland and Case IH, are using only SCR. Leo Bose, commercial product training manager with Case IH, says his company chose SCR over CEGR because carbon in recirculated exhaust can be deposited into engine oil, creating the possibility of wear. “Using our patented SCR system allows our high-horsepower tractors and combines to lengthen service intervals,” he says, adding that it also keeps things simpler in terms of overall design to use only one system.

Operation and maintenance
The development and physical cost of any new add-on technology such as SCR or CEGR is, of course, passed on to the customer. On the positive side, however – besides the benefit of cleaner air – there is good news in that no action is needed to manage Tier 4 technologies by the tractor operator during ongoing operation.

During ongoing CEGR operation, the DPF filter is automatically “regenerated” (the particulate matter in the filter is reduced to ash) in three ways. The emissions-reduction interface in the cab lets the operator know what’s occurring. Passive regeneration occurs during ongoing operation, and active regeneration occurs when sensors detect that particulate matter has accumulated to a certain level in the filter. Diesel fuel is injected into the exhaust to increase its temperature. Sensors also indicate when forced regeneration is required. The engine must sit idle while the engine control unit conducts a very high temperature cycle. The ash that remains is not combustible and must be cleaned out. However, regulations require that this situation occur only after at least 4,500 hours of engine use, and some manufacturers claim it need only be done once or twice in the lifetime of the tractor. Low-ash engine oil with a CJ-4 rating is a must. The only maintenance required with SCR systems is checking the DEF filter and refilling the DEF tank when needed.

Companies are touting Tier 4 tractors as the most fuel-efficient ever, but that has nothing to do with Tier 4 technologies. As Barry Nelson, John Deere’s media relations manager, agriculture and turf division, points out, Tier 4 emissions technologies consist of after-treatment exhaust systems. He says fuel efficiency gains have been made through things like electronic fuel injection, more efficient transmissions integrated with engine performance, and other cutting-edge electronic systems that adjust fuel usage according to many engine factors on a second-by-second basis.

Published in Tractors
Oct. 28, 2013, Langbank, SK – Seed Hawk is a founding sponsor of NO-TILLville, a newly-launched global forum community for farmers, researchers, agronomists and others in the agricultural community who share a desire for soil conservation through modern no-till seeding practices. NO-TILLville is a place to share ideas and experiences in a global forum with regional, national and international perspectives on no-till seeding.

"When I look back on my experiences growing up on the farm seeing the effects of soil erosion on the land, I understand how important no-till practices are in decreasing soil erosion," says Patrick Beaujot, one of the founders of Seed Hawk in Langbank, Saskatchewan. "As my parents, brother and I moved our family farm over to no-till seeding practices, we saw how productivity could be improved while increasing profitability and providing benefits to the environment."

NO-TILLville is a site where the no-till community can follow and chat with global experts and researchers in no-till, who will be blogging about current issues and trends in no-till. Users will be able to share their experiences with the global community, ask questions, and seek answers to their particular challenges in the discussion forums. The site will be set up with agronomic, equipment and regional forums initially covering Australia, Canada, the United States, Europe and Russia.

"As no-till evolved in western Canada, what I saw as an important component in moving the practice forward was the interaction of farmers, researchers, agronomists and industry in community town hall settings. That is the idea behind NO-TILLville, except in an online, easily accessible format where farmers from around the world can learn from experts and each other," says Beaujot.

NO-TILLville will officially launch to the global no-till community at Agritechnica in Hanover, Germany.

Visit NO-TILLville.

Published in Tractors
Combining the benefits of both conventional and zero tillage, strip tillage involves only tilling strips of about 10 inches in every 30 inches of field. It’s become a popular option for corn and soybean crops in traditional U.S. Midwestern growing areas and is being researched in Western Canada.
Published in Tillage
Sept. 9, 2013, Devil's Lake, ND - Summers Manufacturing has introduced new Narrow-Transport Diamond Disks, available with 28.5-foot cutting widths. Combining high-performance residue management with the ability to fold to 15.5 feet wide for transport on narrow roads, the new models were developed to meet the tillage needs of growers everywhere.

The Diamond Disk is a proven tillage concept designed to alleviate some of the issues associated with traditional disks. The diamond configuration of the disk gangs allows the unit to float over rocks without damage, and it also eliminates ridging, skipping and gouging effects. Other features of the Diamond Disks include a floating hitch to prevent side draft and ensure consistent depth control. The units are also equipped with Super-Flex™ C-shanks and ductile cast spools to absorb shocks and maximize the service life of the implement.

The new Diamond Disks are available with two blade options, both of which are mounted on thick, 2-inch shafts. Model DK9630 comes with 26-inch-diameter full concavity blades for aggressive soil mixing, and model DT9530 comes with notched, 25-inch-diameter low concavity blades for superior residue sizing and use in wet conditions. Both models are offered with two finishing options, including three-bar mounted harrows or rolling baskets with patent-pending internal mud scrapers.

All Summers products, including the new Diamond Disks, are available at a variety of authorized dealers throughout Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. To find the nearest dealer, visit

Published in Tractors
Aug. 20, 2013 - Trimble has introduced the Connected Farm Fleet app built to serve managers and technicians by enabling them to access their fleet information from any location.

Using smartphones and tablets, the app enables the fleet management portion of Trimble's Connected Farm Web solution to go mobile. With the app, managers can track the location of vehicles, receive geo-fence and curfew alerts, analyze vehicle status, and view historical positions.

The app can display current status information such as whether the vehicle is idling, moving working or delayed. This information flows into the Connected Farm Web solution, which allows managers to analyze the efficiency and productivity of their fleet.

The free Connected Farm Fleet app is expected to be available in the third quarter of 2013 and is compatible with a variety of smartphones and tablets using an iOS or Android operating system. To download the app, go to the Apple App Store or Google Play Store or visit:

In order to view their fleet's information on the Connected Farm Fleet app, customers will need to purchase Trimble's vehicle management service as well as a DCM-300 modem with data cellular service for each vehicle that will be tracked. Customers can use a demo function to explore the features provided before subscribing to the service. Contact a local Trimble dealer at for more information.

Published in Precision Ag
July 25, 2013 - Massey Ferguson is introducing a new line of mid-range tractors, the 6600 Series, with standard features such as a spacious cab and four-wheel drive; and optional upgrades like a front three-point hitch and advanced hydraulic systems.

The 6600 Series tractors are powered by 4.9-liter, four-cylinder engines from AGCO Power, ranging from 100 to 125 PTO horsepower. The engines offer an intercooled turbo-charger, electronic engine management, four valves per cylinder and high-pressure common-rail fuel injection, and feature AGCO's e3 clean-air technology with second-generation selective catalytic reduction (SCR) to ensure the 4.9 L engine meets strict Tier 4-interim emission standards.

The 6600 Series offers three transmission options:
- Dyna-4 offers four gears and four ranges for a total of 16 forward and 16 reverse speeds. Operators can shift through all gears and ranges on the roll, electronically with the push or pull of a hand lever. The left-hand three-function power control lever allows the operator to change direction, upshift and downshift, and clutch with just fingertip movement.
- Dyna-6 provides additional working speeds, with 24 forward and 24 reverse speeds, each available without using the clutch pedal. The Dyna-VT continuously variable transmission provides an infinite number of operating speeds, also without the use of a clutch, as Dynamic Tractor Management minimizes RPM and optimizes fuel consumption.
- Dyna-VT has fewer parts than comparable power-shift transmissions to prevent internal parasitic loss and ensure longer component life for reduced downtime and maintenance costs.

Three available hydraulic systems offer farmers a choice when it comes to remote valve controls and flow rates. The standard system has isolated twin gear pumps operated with levers in the side console. A 15 gallon-per-minute (GPM) auxiliary pump is dedicated to the loader and implements, while an 11 GPM pump is dedicated to the three-point hitch. The Twin Flow system offers growers the ability to combine the hydraulic flow of both pumps with the press of a button, pushing 26 GPM to the up-to-four mechanical remote valves.

The highest-performing system delivers up to 29 GPM to implements and remote valves driven by a variable displacement piston pump that delivers oil flow only when needed for quick response, reduced horsepower demand and higher efficiency. This system can be controlled using fingertip remote valve controls in the armrest and right-hand console or an optional electronic joystick.

Addition 6600 Series features include a large cab and the choice between rigid cab mounts, spring-over shock mounts or hydraulic cab suspension; a six-post design with an optional Visio cab roof, which allows operators to view a fully raised bucket without having to lean forward; and engineered convenience and functionality in the control layouts, with a new dot matrix display on the dash and an optional armrest console with integrated transmission, hydraulic and loader controls.
Published in Tractors

June 24, 2013 - John Deere has updated its entire lineup of 5E Series Utility Tractors (45-100 horsepower) with new Interim Tier 4 engine models and more cab/open operator station and transmission options. This new 5E Series Tractor line now includes the new 85 and 100 horsepower 4-cylinder tractors, which replace the previous 83, 93 and 101 horsepower models, and four 3-cylinder models ranging for 45 to 75 horsepower.

The new 5085E and 5100E feature Interim Tier 4 emissions-compliant PowerTech diesel engines with the 12 Forward / 12 Reverse PowrReverser™ Transmission and 540/540 Economy PTO in base equipment. They can be ordered with either a comfortable, ergonomic climate-controlled cab or with an open operator station, an option not previously available on the larger 5E models.

Two of the most popular options many customers have asked for on the 55 to 75 horsepower 3-cylinder 5E tractors are a cab and the 12/12 PowrReverser Transmission. The electrohydraulic PowrReverser Transmission with 12 forward and 12 reverse gears makes back and forth chores like loader and blading work easier. With the PowrReverser Transmission, the operator does not have to clutch or even slow down to go from forward to reverse.

The new cab configuration on the 55 to 75 horsepower 5E models creates the ideal chore tractor for customers working in colder climates or dusty conditions. In addition, fuel-saving 540 Economy PTO comes standard on all PowrReverser-equipped models to reduce engine noise, wear, and vibration when using powered implements.

All 5E models can be matched with a wide variety of John Deere and Frontier implements to make them even more useful in getting work done. For more information on the complete line of John Deere 5E Series Tractors, visit your local John Deere dealer or visit


Published in Tractors

Apr. 17, 2013, Drummondville, QC - Soucy International Inc. has launched a new product in its line of Soucy Track agricultural track systems: the S-TECH 800, designed for high-power tractors.

The S-TECH 800 is a brand new platform with a central geometry developed using castings, preventing the accumulation of debris and offering durability and flexibility. The most significant technological advance is the addition of independent lateral tandems on the support wheels. These tandems enable the wheels to follow ground contours while providing comfort and better load distribution, which increases traction, flotation and the system's lifespan.

The S-TECH 800 is currently available for John Deere 8030 and 8R series tractors. It will also soon be available for Case, New Holland and Fendt tractors.


Published in Tractors

Apr. 12, 2013, Olds, AB - Olds College is hosting the 60th World Plowing Championship July 19 and 20. This international event is a major part of the College's Centennial celebrations.

The match will feature 60 competitors from up to 30 countries vying for the prestigious title of World Champion for 2013.

While plowing is the cornerstone, there is much more going on during the two days at Olds.

"Plowing is nearly a lost art on many Alberta farms, but Plowing Matches are big events. They're a great way for farmers from around the world to get together and celebrate what they have in common – agriculture," says Olds Plowing Match chairman Mark Kaun, who has attended world matches in New Zealand, and last year in Croatia.

Vintage organizers confirm some 400 pieces of antique farm equipment from as far away as Montana, North Dakota, Manitoba and Saskatchewan will be at the site, along with an antique tractor pull, and a daily parade of old tractors, machinery, trucks and cars. There will be demonstrations of plowing with tractors and steam, and some draft horse plowing as well.

Registrations from international visitors have been pouring in to the Olds Plowing match office.

"We've already got over 400 people signed up to come for the entire 10-day package," says coordinator Kerry Moynihan. "There's a large group from Austria, lots from the U.K. and New Zealand, and Sweden too. These top competitors are like rock stars in their own countries, and they have fans that follow them wherever they compete.

"This year, for the first time ever in the history of the World Plowing Match, we have two female competitors, representing Austria. They're so serious; they're arriving in Canada in mid-June to practice."

Canada will be represented at the World Plowing Match by Barry Timbers and Brian Fried, both from Ontario.

Competition is keen when the plowing begins, with several international competitors even shipping over their own tractors and plows. There is plowing with both conventional and reversible plows, on stubble and grass. Judges use a scorecard to assess the finished plot, which contestants have had to keep straight and accurate with every pass up and down the plot, using mid-sized tractors.

Another highlight will be the unveiling of the World Peace Cairn, designed by Olds College students and including a stone from every participating nation.

Anyone interested in being part of this historic event as a volunteer can contact the Olds College Centennial office.

To get more details, head to the website


Published in World Outlook
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