GFM Network News


A clover cover crop stretches upward from the stubble.

Finding the value of cover crops for Western Canada

Cover crops are now standard practice farther south in the U.S., but do they have the same results on the shorter-season Prairies?

Reading Time: 3 minutes When Yvonne Lawley wrote her research proposal for a study of cover crops, she was specific about the wording of the title: Testing the cover crop hypothesis across Prairie Canada. It’s the word “hypothesis” that grabs you. What could be theoretical about cover crops? Some farmers have been using them for decades to help build […] Read more

Researchers with AAFC say they are close to developing a perennial grain and forage rye.

Perennial cereal rye 2.0

After setbacks with an earlier program, Lethbridge researchers are making progress in developing a dual-purpose grain and forage rye

Reading Time: 5 minutes It sounds ideal like the ideal crop. It produces grain every year, has no annual seed and planting costs, provides excellent weed control and you can also use it for forage. Too good to be true? Maybe not. Efforts to develop perennial wheat continue their slow pace with commercialization pegged at around 15 years from […] Read more


A cereal rye cover crop established after corn silage in the fall of 2018.

Pest Patrol: Planning for cover crops

#PestPatrol with Mike Cowbrough, OMAFRA

Reading Time: 2 minutes Q: I want to plant cover crops after harvest. Should I be concerned about any herbicide residues that would make it harder to get them established? A: Two important factors influence the potential for herbicide carryover that could negatively affect establishment of a desired cover crop: The sensitivity of the cover crop to herbicide residues. […] Read more

“Soil is life,” says producer Blain Hjertaas. “Our job as farmers is to be stewards of that, and improve it as we use it.”

The building block of soil

Soil scientists are putting more focus on the value of organic matter for feeding important microbes and boosting moisture-managing capacity

Reading Time: 5 minutes Without it, soil is just dirt. There’s a new recognition of the importance of soil organic matter, and not only for improving crop yields. It’s also a tool in the effort to mitigate climate change. Blain Hjertaas, a holistic management farmer and grazier at Redvers, Sask., participates in the Soil Carbon Challenge, an international “competition” […] Read more


Growers who are considering multi-species cover crops should determine their specific goals: Is it to scavenge nutrients, help cycle them from subsoil or store them for future use?

Is it time you get started with a cover crop?

Cover crops may not be as simple as we used to think. But they aren’t that complex either

Reading Time: 6 minutes The funny thing about implementing change is that it’s possible to over-think a situation and become mired in the process of simply getting started. A person becomes so concerned with the challenges of the “how” that they begin to lose sight of the value of the “why.” In other words, getting started can be the […] Read more

Four ways to increase your organic matter

A question that I hear a lot is, “How do cover crops fit into a grain operation?” Lots of grain farmers have no desire to get into the livestock business and no interest in producing hay. But many have some soil issues that need to be addressed. This can be done by buying more iron[...]
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Agritruth’s Adam Gurr (l) and Stephen Vajdik hope to generate robust, field-scale data on everything from nutrient management to varieties and product testing.

Going big with on-farm research

The plots may be supersized, but the questions that privately owned Agritruth Research looks to answer could have come from any farmer in Western Canada

Reading Time: 6 minutes If you go driving down Highway 110 east of Brandon, Man., you probably won’t notice you’re passing a research farm. There are no chemical or seed company signs dotting the field edge, nor any grids of those tiny, distinct plots that are normally a dead giveaway that agricultural research is underway. There is no small-batch[...]
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An example of a cover crop seed mixture in the U.S., where some producers are using cocktails of 20 or more species. However the U of M’s Yvonne Lawley warns about brassicas such as tillage radish, which might contribute to diseases including clubroot in canola.

Season too short for cover crops? Maybe not

They could have a fit for Western Canada, but they require just as much planning as any other crop choice

Reading Time: 5 minutes Open just about any U.S. farming publication and you won’t read for long before seeing the words “cover crop.” There’s been an explosion of interest in the practice of sowing a cheap mixture of seed to cover the soil after harvest, and then seeding directly into it the following year. The benefits go beyond soil[...]
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Canada’s soils still degrading, albeit more slowly

Reading Time: 4 minutes The rate of degradation of soils in Canada has slowed, but it still is happening at a significant rate and there is still a lot to learn. There are no soil-perfect systems yet for crop production, attendees at the Summit on Canadian Soil Health held recently in Guelph heard repeatedly. No-till farming has declined in[...]
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A giant leap for soil kind

Soil-health advocates like Jocelyn Velestuk look forward to new technology to help make better decisions to improve both soil health and whole-farm profitability

Reading Time: 4 minutes Jocelyn Velestuk did a lot of spitting the first time she met her future father-in-law. It made a lasting impression. As she describes it, Velestuk and her then fiancé and his father were touring around the farm she would soon marry into. Being a soil scientist, Velestuk scooped up handfuls of topsoil here and there,[...]
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