Early January is a special time for me. In Saskatoon we are favoured with the Crop Production Show and Crop Week. The Show has exhibitors showing the latest in big and fancy equipment and all manner of crop inputs and advisers. Crop Week is the annual meetings of farm groups and commissions with speakers on current topics.
The real highlight of the week for me is when readers come along and let me know that they enjoy and learn from my scribblings. My reply is always a sincere thank you and “when I quit hearing that I will quit writing.” It really means a lot to this old fossil.
The week kicks off with the Saskatchewan Agricultural Graduates Association reunion on the weekend before Crop Show. The five- and 10-year anniversary classes each do their own thing and then get together for one large banquet. The clear highlight this year was the 75-year grad who stole the show. Harold Chapman graduated with an ag degree in 1943 and is now 100 years old. He came to the mic and spoke with the enthusiasm of a new grad. Great inspiration for kids like me who are starting to plan our 55-year grad for January 2019.
The Saskatchewan Soil Conservation Association held its 30th annual meeting and education program during Crop Week. SSCA is a farmer-driven group that came together in the dry 1980s to further the adoption of zero till and continuous cropping. SSCA programs were so successful that within a generation, zero till was widely adopted.
Rather than fade into the sunset, SSCA has repurposed under the banner of soil health. Once again, farmers are leading and research is running to catch up.
The highlight of the day for me is always the excellent farmer panels. Intercropping, cover crops and diverse pasture mixes are a big part of the new way to farm. Cattle are often part of the mix and I was happy to see folks experimenting, with stubble jumpers and cowboys working together to their mutual advantage.
On-farm research on field scale
The SSCA farmer panel included Adam Gurr a Brandon, Man., area farmer who has developed a system of on-farm research that works. Garden patch agriculture is OK but no matter how sophisticated the experiment and statistics it still applies only to that garden patch (small plot).
What greatly impressed me was that the Gurr farm has embraced Controlled Traffic Farming (CTF) for the past several years. That is much more than just a compaction issue. With coordinated widths it is easy to harvest what has been seeded and sprayed and keep treatments separate.
The experiments include replication of field strips. Several locations and years of data are obtained before a firm conclusion is drawn. It is then possible to do statistical analysis to determine if differences are real or do to chance. If, and only if, the differences are real, then economics is applied.
I have always argued against the use of “significant” to describe research results. Canola is the best example. At $12/bu. a five-bu./ac. difference is enough to pay for the seed. That is “significant” in my books. So let us now replace “significant” with real (versus due to chance).
Agritruth — the agronomic research company that Gurr has set up along with his father and brother-in-law — does research right. I intend to register as a member with Agritruth and spend more time looking at their results. I have no financial interest in Agritruth and had never met Adam Gurr before the SSCA meetings. Read about Agritruth online at www.agritruth.ca.