GFM Network News


Researcher Prem Pokharel found that wheat yield was higher in soil with added biochar made from manure and wood chips rather than from the untreated products.

Harnessing the power of the rhizosphere

Biochar — heat-treated organic material — can give the root zone a boost

Reading Time: 3 minutes Have you ever noticed how lush the crabgrass can get around an old firepit? It’s a small yet compelling example of the benefit that burnt wood residue can have on plant growth. But there’s a lot more going on than meets the eye in that interchange between plant, charcoal, soil and air, and Prem Pokharel […] Read more

University’s ‘Beefier Barley’ billboard binned

Reading Time: 3 minutes A billboard about Alberta barley’s prospects under climate change in the University of Alberta’s ‘Truth Matters’ promotion — a series of ads meant to spark discussion about its researchers’ work — has been winnowed out of the campaign. Jacqui Tam, the Edmonton-based U of A’s vice-president for university relations, announced Sunday it would withdraw the […] Read more


Today, food branding often focuses on Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (FUD).

Oh FUD!

This new anti-farm marketing strategy makes even farmers feel like swearing. But here’s a better way to fight back

Reading Time: 6 minutes The food industry used to market food products on the basis of nutrition, quality and value. Companies spoke of the care farmers took to provide the healthiest, safest, best food in the world. Oh, how times have changed. Today, food branding often focuses on Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (FUD). The nutritional label is overshadowed by […] Read more

Farmers’ friends: bugs, birds and worms can eat weed seeds before they get a chance to germinate.

Weed control with small critters

Insects, birds and worms are a free – and resistance-free – method of controlling weeds before they get a chance to germinate

Reading Time: 4 minutes The dominance of zero- or minimum-tillage practices on the Prairies means lots of weed seeds are left on the soil after harvest, but it turns out that there’s help available to stop them from germinating next spring, and you don’t have to buy it at your local chemical dealer. “Lowering the deposits into the weed […] Read more


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, […] Read more

The associate dean of the College of Agriculture and Bioresources at the University of Saskatchewan says that for more than a decade there have been more women than men in the ag programs.

‘Super Keen’

Ag education is hot, and enrolment is booming from coast to coast

Reading Time: 8 minutes It’s inspiring for anyone in agriculture to talk to the principals and deans at ag-related academic institutions across the country. More than ever in history, young Canadians are pursuing careers in ag. In a nutshell, it’s because there are jobs in agriculture after school — good jobs that offer exciting and interesting career paths for […] Read more


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 […] Read more

Alexis Wagner and Cameron Olson have two different approaches about the future of food.

The youth solution for feeding the world

Young aggies like Cameron Olson and Alexis Wagner know that feeding a hungry planet will be the challenge of their lifetimes, which is why they’re so ready to listen even to those with seemingly unfriendly views

Reading Time: 7 minutes More than 1,000 18- to 25-year-olds from 95 countries submitted essays to qualify for the third Youth-Ag Summit held this past October in Belgium, with 100 delegates actually getting a ticket. Among them were four young Canadians. Sponsored by Bayer, the summit gave youth an opportunity to discuss one of the most pressing questions the […] Read more


On the Noble farm in the Peace district, parents Bob and Nora with siblings Cara, Jolene and Lee. The Nobles say brothers and sisters have a winning potential for open communication.

Honest to goodness

More brothers and sisters: For the Noble family, success means learning how to change open communication from a threat into a strength

Reading Time: 4 minutes Brothers and sisters are working together on more farms all the time. More and more too, there are multiple siblings on these farms, not just one of each. To outsiders, it can seem like so many more chances for family to get in the way, and so many chances for old rivalries to flare up. […] Read more

Linda Hall is looking for the right combination of variety choice and agronomic practices to make oats more attractive to growers in central Alberta.

The Catch-22 of oat production

Tests in central Alberta yield some useful information on N rates and the effectiveness of plant growth regulators

Reading Time: 4 minutes Linda Hall has a soft spot for the humble oat, mainly because she doesn’t think it’s really all that humble. “Milling oats are a high-value crop,” Hall says. “We’re seeing companies like Richardson buying up oat milling capacity, so the markets are there if we can grow the right kind of oat.” It all depends […] Read more