GFM Network News


Now there are tools that help you make better and more efficient crosses so you can focus your resources or impose selection earlier based on lab data.” — Rob Duncan, University of Manitoba

Still sifting through genes, but…

Plant breeding has always been about testing to see how one gene interacts with another, but today it can be done much more quickly

Reading Time: 4 minutes Today’s new generation of plant breeders are often called “gene jockeys,” although they’re actually more like cowboys rounding up “genotypes” into a common corral called a “genome.” Then they look for other genomes to add to the corral so they can improve the herd. Previous generations of plant breeders did the same thing, but they […] Read more

“It’s a very, very diverse ecosystem, perhaps the most diverse ecosystem on Earth.” – Jim Germida, University of Saskatchewan

Going underground for soil ecology

Soil is far more than just dirt. Are you nurturing the organisms that help it grow great crops?

Reading Time: 5 minutes A warm, early-July breeze blew through a wheat field in northeastern Saskatchewan, not far from Nipawin. The heads had just emerged and were still green, but the field was taking on that fuzzy look that you typically get with a fresh, bearded cereal. This field was unusual, however, because even though you couldn’t see it, […] Read more


The ‘ghostly nature’ of phantom nutrients

Micronutrients are the acid test of crop fertility. Some believe in them. Others just don’t

Reading Time: 5 minutes For the most part, our Prairie soils aren’t short of micronutrients. Deficiencies are rare, and they are also difficult to pin down, in part because such shortages are usually associated with highly localized soil conditions and because some of these conditions change with varying moisture or pH levels. As well, since these micronutrients are only […] Read more

Get used to seeing more agronomists with more disinfecting gear. The trend is growing.

Livestock biosecurity strategies come to canola

Canola and soybean farmers are just beginning to see the wave of biosecurity that could sweep them the way it swept Canada’s hog and poultry sectors

Reading Time: 6 minutes When Manitoba agronomist Terry Buss goes out on a call from the Beausejour office, he takes a big trunk full of plastic boot covers in the back of the pickup. There are disinfectants in the trunk too, and other cleaning supplies as well, and he uses them all. Buss has adopted a brand new form […] Read more


These steel wheels riding on a steel rail explain why railways are so energy efficient. Friction is reduced because the actual point of contact is very rigid and very small. By contrast, a rubber tire deforms, so it has greater surface contact and a larger “flat spot,” losing energy at every rotation.

The Journey: A quick history of shipping grain to port by rail

From Prairie farm to ocean port, our rail lines still shock the imagination with their engineering and bravado

Reading Time: 9 minutes It’s a trip that is so formidable, it weakened the knees of generations of politicians, entrepreneurs and engineers alike. Everybody could tell the northern Great Plains would be an ideal place for growing cereal crops, and they knew too that the world would love to eat what we grow, but getting those crops to port […] Read more



Thanks to UAVs, scouting has become much easier than only two years ago.

The farm drones are getting closer

Airframe, camera and computer technologies are rapidly evolving in favour of farmer applications

Reading Time: 5 minutes The next revolution in farming isn’t about chemistry or genetics. It’s about scouting, and the good news is that the enabling technology has come several giant steps closer in just the last two years, thanks to unmanned aerial vehicles (popularly called UAVs or drones) which offer a visual platform for scientific crop monitoring. Drones are […] Read more

At the University of Manitoba simulation lab, engineers explore how to get computers and farmers to communicate better.

Tractor simulator bridges the gap between operator and computer

Simulators are helping engineers finally figure out how best to get your brain and the tractor’s brain working together

Reading Time: 6 minutes It’s a good run with the tractor this time. The driver has no trouble piloting a straight line across the field, the machine is humming happily, and the display monitor confirms that all is well. The discs are cutting nicely through the field trash too, and the seed is getting dropped right on target. Then […] Read more


Robotic grain carts are just the first wave of a new generation of robotic farm applications.

Here come the farm robots

Robotic tractors are already in advanced field tests, and the results are producing great optimism

Reading Time: 5 minutes Phil Jennings of Kinze Manufacturing gets a big kick out of riding in their modified tractor when it’s hauling one of their grain carts during a real Iowa harvest. When the call goes out for the cart, the tractor starts chugging across the field to where the combine is working. Jennings just sits there and […] Read more

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All of that information has to feed into what is the ideal plant for meeting the requirements of that value chain.

Plant breeding basics

Plant breeding is a key driver of crop agriculture — but it’s even more complex than might first appear

Reading Time: 5 minutes The Italian pasta industry sent a ripple through Canadian agriculture a few years back when they changed the way they dry their noodles. Traditionally, pasta makers had hung the noodle for 15 hours or more at temperatures between 60 C to 70 C. Although this produced world-class spaghetti, it also took a fair amount of […] Read more