GFM Network News


A new approach to phosphorus applications

With variable-rate application at soil-building rates, Scott Keller’s investment in phosphate fertility is paying dividends in higher yields, improved nutrient use efficiency and fewer days to maturity

Reading Time: 5 minutes Scott Keller didn’t fully appreciate the benefit of phosphorus fertilizer until he ran out a few times at seeding. If the drill tank petered out of prills part-way along a pass, he’d continue to the end of the field before filling up. It was phosphorus after all, not nitrogen. “But these missed strips stood out […] Read more

The long-term strategy for P management relies on building, maintaining or depleting soil P, based on soil test P concentration. Medium (M) would be around 15 ppm. High (H) would be around 30 ppm. Source: “4R Management of Phosphorus Fertilizer in the Northern Great Plains: A Review of the Scientific Literature,” by Cindy Grant and Don Flaten.

Phosphorus 101: The basic BMPs

Here are the basic best management practices for phosphorus fertilizer

Reading Time: 3 minutes Soil tests The Olsen (bicarb) test is effective across a wide range of soils, including the high pH calcareous soils common in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, while the Bray test is effective only in neutral to lower pH non-calcareous soils, as are found in parts of Alberta and Saskatchewan. Kelowna and modified Kelowna tests are also […] Read more


Dallas Timmerman uses a Leon scraper to put topsoil back on his eroded and degraded hilltops. He also adds manure. These measures don’t take a lot of time and have led to a large yield increase on those acres.

Timmerman trains the Tiger Hills of Treherne

A Manitoba farmer has seen major yield improvement by recapping his hills with topsoil from his lower land

Reading Time: 5 minutes Dallas Timmerman farms in the Tiger Hills around Treherne, Man., and sometimes those tigers need training. “We have a lot of hills and sometimes you need to be aggressive with them,” he says. Timmerman’s chair and whip are a Leon scraper and Versatile 4WD. He started training his hills over a decade ago, working on […] Read more

Dr. Edward Cocking of the University of Nottingham discovered sugarcane bacteria which are now being sold as crop treatment.

Capturing nitrogen from thin air

Has a U.K. scientist found the nitrogen-fixing bacteria we’ve been waiting for? If he has, it could be great news for nitrogen-hungry crops

Reading Time: 5 minutes The air around us and in every nook and cranny between soil particles is 78 per cent nitrogen, yet farmers pay billions per year for N fertilizer. Wouldn’t it be great if we could find efficient, low-cost, hard-working bacteria to convert nitrogen in the air into an available form of N for any crop — […] Read more



“A seeding rate that targets five to eight plants per square foot is like yield insurance,” says Autumn Barnes with the Canola Council of Canada.

What’s the best seeding rate for canola?

The optimal rate balances seed cost, in-season management costs and yield potential. Here's how farmers can set the ideal seeding rate for each field

Reading Time: 6 minutes If you want the ideal, uniform, early-established canola stand of five to eight plants per square foot, don’t rely on a scale. “When it comes to setting a seeding rate to achieve that stand, the common five pounds per acre is not precise enough,” says Autumn Barnes, agronomy specialist and stand establishment lead for the[...]
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It doesn’t always work. It has to be based on science. Not every little flying creature is beneficial. For comparison, this is the newly identified canola flower midge, which is similar in size to the two beneficial wasps shown on page 30. But as a fly, it only has two wings compared to the wasps’ four. AAFC canola flower midge specialist Boyd Mori says counting wings would be difficult without a hand lens or microscope. Mori describes the midge as “delicate looking and light in colour (usually beige to light brown). Female’s wings are covered in tiny hairs, which gives them a mottled appearance.”

Protect the mighty Microgastrinae

More and more, we’re learning that farmers can save a lot of money in both the short and long term by taking advantage of opportunities to help the insect world police itself

Reading Time: 5 minutes Hector Carcamo was in a southern Alberta canola field in 2018 sweep-netting for cabbage seedpod weevils when what did he find? Little black wasps. Lots of them. Same thing in the next sample site. And then the next. Field to field. “We were consistently finding them. With every set of sweeps we found three, five,[...]
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James Oberhofer took this picture at noon on August 15, 2018. With the smoke-dimmed sun, lights were essential in the yards and fields and on the highway.

Canola growth stalled under a shroud of smoke

Alberta canola farmers dealing with another late harvest in 2018 estimate that smoky skies in August delayed their crop by at least 10 days. Is that possible?

Reading Time: 5 minutes It was an eerie orange noon on August 15 and James Oberhofer needed to turn his truck lights on. When the agronomist for Six Strong Agronomy tried to scout under a canola field canopy, he saw only darkness. Things were in a stunning standstill as Alberta suffered the worst day in what had been a[...]
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Soil pH is often highly variable within fields, as demonstrated in this map of a single central Alberta field. The range is from red (pH of 4-4.5) to dark lime green (pH of 7.5-8). That is why grid sampling is an important step in lime application.

If you have low soil pH, should you lime?

It can take tonnes of lime per acre to move soil pH from 5 to 7, but improved fertilizer availability for all crops, better nodulation for pulse crops and alfalfa, and reduced risk from clubroot in canola can make the investment worthwhile

Reading Time: 5 minutes “Finally.” That word got special emphasis when Doug Penney was asked about liming. “It has become a hot topic… finally.” Penney, a long-serving Alberta Agriculture fertility specialist and now semi-retired crop consultant, says many fields in Western Canada — especially in Alberta — probably would have benefited from lime a long time ago. Fields most[...]
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Peas provide a pulse option in the black soil region but recent wet years have increased disease problems.

Pulses. More than a break crop in your canola rotation

Tours and events this summer will help you check which pulse crops can diversify your farm’s rotation

Reading Time: 6 minutes Rob Stone says red lentils “drive the bus” on his farm at Davidson, Sask. Granted, he says canola does quite a bit of driving too. But the point is this: his pulse crop is so much more than just a break crop for canola. Stone seeds about one-third of his land to lentils, on average.[...]
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