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Whether it is more formal, measured research plots, side-by-side strips or field-scale evaluations, here’s a sample of what some farmers are comparing this year

Do you run your own on-farm trials?

We want to know how they went! Contact the editor at [email protected]and let us know what you’re evaluating this year.

With a new growing season underway, many Prairie farmers will be paying attention over the coming weeks to see what works or doesn’t work with their own version of variety and on-farm research trials.

Farmers contacted for the June Farmer Panel are all evaluating some sort of new product or treatment this summer. For some it’s a simple as seeing how well chickpeas do this time around, while others have well-established and monitored field test plots to determine the effectiveness of fertility treatments.

Panel members, interviewed in late May, where at various stages of their seeding operations. Some had been done for a month, others had just finished that day, and others were only at the half way point, hoping to get a few more acres done before another spring storm over the May holiday weekend moved across Alberta and parts of Saskatchewan.

All reported good to excellent moisture conditions at time of seeding, although the experience of 2009 wasn’t far from their minds — relatively good moisture for seeding, then conditions turned cool and dry, or in some parts of Manitoba cool and wet.

Here is what treatments or varieties June Farmer Panel members say they will be evaluating during the 2010 growing season.

RICK RUTHERFORD GROSSE ISLE, MAN.

Pedigreed-seed producer Rick Rutherford, who crops about 3,500 acres at Grosse Isle, just northwest of Winnipeg, says in particular he will be watching the performance of new soybean and wheat varieties this growing season.

Rutherford Farms is a producer of certified wheat, oats, barley, canola, soybean and pea seed.

“We are usually evaluating one or more new varieties, and this year we probably have more emphasis on wheat and soybeans,” says Rutherford.

On the soybean side for example, he has established both field-scale and research plot-size trials on Monsanto’s new Roundup Ready 2 (RR2) soybean varieties.

The RR2 varieties, which are the next generation of breeding technology, replacing the RR1 lines as they come off patent, are touted to be seven to 12 per cent higher yielding than existing Roundup Ready varieties.

Rutherford has established field-scale plots that will be harvested and measured with a combine yield monitor, as well as research size plots (four rows wide and 40 feet long), which will be combined with the yield measured by weighing.

On the wheat side he has established field-scale plots of the new Carberry hard red spring wheat, which was developed and registered by Agriculture Canada’s Semiarid Prairie Agriculture Research Centre (SPARC) at Swift Current, Sask. in 2009.

Carberry is a significantly improved wheat variety offering 15 per cent higher yield than AC Barrie, higher protein than Superb, and with ‘significantly’ improved fusarium resistance over other leading varieties. It is described as being moderately susceptible to FHB.

Rutherford will pay close attention to quality and yield, measuring the performance of Carberry with a combine yield monitor.

LINDA NIELSEN STARBUCK, MAN.

She may not be the biggest farmer in Western Canada, although that may come, but Linda Nielsen of Starbuck, Man., keeps an eye on opportunities for new varieties on her grain and oilseed farm.

Nielsen, who has farmed with her mom for the past six years, crops about 500 acres. This year she’s trying about 180 acres of a new identity-preserved wheat from Richardson Pioneer called WR859 CL.

“Two of the main features is that it is supposed to have improved fusarium resistance and it can also be used with a Group 2 herbicide, which helps with your herbicide rotation,” says Nielsen.

Nielsen seeded the wheat April 19 and appeared to be producing a nice stand at the time of the Farmer Panel interview in late May. The oats and canola were seeded by the end of April, but Nielsen says with cool wet conditions, the Roundup Ready canola was just emerging and she wasn’t sure what to make of the oats. “They haven’t done much and may be waterlogged,” she says. “Some of the neighbours have been reseeding. I will have to decide what to do.”

Nielsen has grown both AC Barrie and Kane wheat in the past, but is hoping the new variety will have improved resistance to fusarium head blight. WR 859 CL is a non-GMO, awned, Canadian Western Spring wheat variety with very good resistance to leaf rust, common bunt and loose smut, and has a good resistance rating for fusarium. In variety trials it yielded 103 per cent over Superb and was two days earlier in maturity.

As a Clearfield variety it can be treated with Altitude FX herbicide in-crop for control of grassy and broadleaf weeds, including volunteer barley and other cereals in wheat.

CHARLES SCHMIDT CHINOOK, ALTA.

There hasn’t been too many times over his farming career that eastern Alberta farmer Charles Schmidt can say they have had better moisture for seeding than areas like Lacombe, but so far this season moisture wasn’t a limiting factor on his Chinook-area farm.

After an extremely dry midsummer growing season in 2009, they received four inches of rain in August, and now this spring they have already experienced three storms with heavy wet snow, and more rain was in the forecast a few days after the interview.

“When we started seeding, I could push the moisture probe down three feet which is phenomenal for this part of the country,” says Schmidt, who along with his family crops about 10,000 acres in a 50/50 summerfallow rotation.

Schmidt, who works closely with the local Chinook Applied Research Association (CARA), was planning to repeat nutrient trials on his farm this spring. Last year results were skewed because of the extremely dry mid-season growing conditions.

The nutrient trials involve seed and foliar treatments with Alpine, Omex and Power Rich products. The trials compare four or five different products all intended to enhance crop root development and nutrient uptake.

The 60-foot wide, one acre plots will include side-by-side comparisons of treated and untreated wheat, with the yield to be measured with a CARA weigh wagon.

“Last year it was so dry that even though I feel we did have improved root development, there wasn’t enough moisture to support the crops,” says Schmidt. “Now this year it maybe so wet that roots won’t have to do any work at all. We have moisture now, but you never know what the rest of the season will be like.”

Schmidt says it is important to demonstrate the importance of nutrient management in an area where many farmers do not fertilize at all.

Along with the CARA project, Schmidt hopes to also have a test field on a new oilseed crop, camelina. Produced under contract, with a 50-acre minimum, it is regarded as a drought-tolerant crop, that can do well on marginal land.

At the time of the Farmer Panel interview, May 20, he had about 2,500 acres seeded and was looking for a good week to finish the remaining 2,500 acres.

LAURA REITER RADISSON, SASK.

Laura Reiter, who farms with her family at Radisson, northwest of Saskatoon, Sask., says as they were midway through seeding, they planned no specific seeding trials this year. But, they do plan to do some side-by-side comparison of products during the spraying season.

Reiter crops about 4,000 acres with a rotation that includes half the farm in hard red spring wheat, one-quarter of the acres in canola and one-quarter in yellow peas. They had about 2,000 acres seeded by May 20 and were hoping for good weather to complete the project. Rain was in the forecast, however.

“We have really good moisture at this point, this year,” she says. “We had some personnel changes this year, which we are adjusting to, so other than one 40-acre strip trial with a new canola variety, we aren’t evaluating any other treatments at seeding.

“However, depending on growing conditions, we will likely be evaluating some new chemical products this year.”

Reiter says they may be looking at some of the new herbicides or fungicide treatments in peas and wheat, as conditions warrant. In testing new products they do side-by-side strip comparisons of treated versus untreated. “And with the yield monitors on the combines these days, it makes so much easier for farmers to do their own on-farm research trials,” she says.

SHERRI GRANT VAL MARIE, SASK.

Part-way through the 2010 seeding season, Sherri Grant says the only trial planned on their southern Saskatchewan farm this year is a field of chickpeas.

Sherri and her husband Lynn are cropping about 3,500 acres this year, with another 2,000 acres in summerfallow, along with an extensive cow-calf operation at Val Marie, south of Swift Current, just north of the Montana border. With a mostly dryland operation, with some irrigation, durum is the main cereal crop, along with feed barley, which is either combined, cut for green feed or cut for swath grazing.

“We had grown chickpeas about six years ago, but we ran into problems with diseases such as ascochyta and then prices were poor, so we quit the chickpeas,” she says. “We did some number crunching this winter and they looked like they might be an option again, so we hope to try a few acres (about 80 acres) if the weather co-operates.”

The Grants, working with provincial organizations, have been involved with variety trials, particularly on their irrigated land in recent years, but nothing was planned for 2010.

“In that last 10-day rain event in early May we got about one and a half inches of rain, so we have really nice moisture right now,” she says. “Last year it was just terribly dry. We can just hope for a good growing season. Even if we don’t get a lot of rain, as long as it is timely, that is the main thing. That’s on the cropping side. On the grass side plenty of rain is always welcome.”

Lee Hart is a field editor for Grainews in Calgary, Contact him at 403-592-1964 or by email at [email protected]

About the author

Field Editor

Lee Hart is editor of Cattleman’s Corner based in Calgary.

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