Latest articles

Growing potatoes without chemicals

Organic potato production on a commercial scale is a challenge, but one Ontario grower is meeting it

Isaiah Swidersky offers a careful answer when asked if organic potato production is a risk worth taking. “To some degree it is, but there’s a reason I haven’t expanded it to 200 or 300 acres,” Swidersky says. “It’s a challenge to grow organic potatoes. But I’m optimistic. It’s a good challenge.” Swidersky’s operation, Rose Mountain […] Read more

Sunflowers need a hybrid lift

With Western sunflower acres dropping sharply in recent years, new varieties are needed to claw acres back from easier-to-grow soybeans

There are fewer sights more appealing than a field of mature sunflowers, but this golden vision is growing rarer. The reason is simple — sunflowers are losing out to soybeans. In Canada’s biggest sunflower province, Manitoba, acres dropped under 62,000 this year, with a little more than half the crop going to black oil and […] Read more

‘Farmscaping’ for profitability, sustainability

Applying some of the same principles from kitchen design can improve the environment and the workflow on the farm

“Farmscaping” might be a new term for many western Canadian producers, but it’s shorthand for a familiar set of ideas: building features like shelterbelts and perennial strips into the farm landscape to best utilize their ecological goods and services. In other words, taking a “whole-farm” approach, with the goal of maximizing profitability and sustainability. Joanne […] Read more

Give your insect friends a home

Leaving some non-crop areas with a diverse range of perennial vegetation can save you money on insecticide

What do shelterbelts, pivot corners and field margins have in common? No, they’re not unprofitable or “wasted” areas. As natural habitats for beneficial insects, including pollinators and predators of crop pests, those non-cropped areas may be worth their square footage in gold. Alejandro Costamagna, an assistant professor in the University of Manitoba’s department of entomology, […] Read more

Going beyond NPK in your fertilizer program

New tests get closer to helping producers build soil health

What’s involved in a soil health assessment? And what makes soil “healthy” in the first place? Researchers at the Chinook Applied Research Association (CARA) in Oyen, Alta., are keen to answer these questions for western Canadian producers. The association is launching a new lab in the CARA facilities that will collect and analyze soil samples […] Read more

Is climate change making leaf diseases worse?

Durum quality took a beating last year, and climate change could see more of the same

It is difficult — even impossible — to define the precise relationship between climate change and disease incidence and severity in Western Canada. But new research from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Swift Current Research and Development Centre is contributing a few pieces to the puzzle. Research scientist Myriam Fernandez says breeding for resistance to the […] Read more

The more you spend, the less they work

If you want to keep using herbicides, give them an occasional rest and try a winter cereal or a heavier seeding rate

Neil Harker says that when you no longer have the big hammers in the tool box, it’s time to use the little ones. For the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) weed scientist, wild oat herbicides are the big hammers, and the little ones are integrated weed management practices. Harker says that although western Canadian producers […] Read more

Halting the feed barley decline

Many growers still take a yield penalty in hopes of a malting premium, but breeders say feed varieties offer advantages

Feed barley has some tough competition. Once the second-largest crop by far on the Prairies, in recent years it’s had to compete for acres with canola and pulses. And while malting premiums are still tempting some growers, feed barley has to compete with cheap U.S. corn and corn gluten. As for the formerly touted qualities […] Read more

Peaola continues to show promise

On their own, the peas and canola may only produce 60 per cent of normal, but that still adds up to a 120 per cent yield

Intercropping sometimes gets a bad rap from producers. For one thing, crop insurance often doesn’t cover intercropped mixtures, so if one or both crops fail, they’re out of luck. For another, yield benefits don’t always outweigh the extra legwork required at planting and harvest. But the promise of intercropping is that some crops can be […] Read more

A genetic solution to fusarium?

Across the country, several researchers are studying fusarium from every angle, from pathology to agronomy

In the early ’90s, farmers in the eastern Prairies started to ask questions about odd white “tombstone” wheat kernels. When they received the answer, some wondered whether the name would refer to the tombstone on the grave of the wheat business, especially when there was a huge outbreak in Manitoba in 1993. Near-panic ensued, as […] Read more