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Editor’s column

Farmers across the Prairies are looking out at snow-free fields, worrying about drought and generally preparing for a dry growing year in 2012. Since this issue focuses on weed management, Grainews asked Angela Lovell to write an article for the cover about the challenges we might face when we’re trying to control weeds in a dry year.

This seems completely ridiculous. Last year, snow was piled up to the top of our trees for most of the winter. In the spring, it rained and it rained and it rained. It was way too wet for us to get into the field. (With the exception of 4.8 acres Brad managed to seed before he got stuck — on top of a hill.) We were canoeing in the back of the yard. I have photos.

And yet, it’s dry. At a family wedding last weekend, a whole crowd of farmers who’d driven to Saskatoon from west-central Saskatchewan gathered at the back of the banquet room, shaking their heads and looking worried about soil moisture.

Even here in the soggy southeast there’s been very little snow all winter. What little spring run-off there’ll be seems to have already ran. With the warm weather, the water level in our dugout has fallen as some has soaked into the soil already. On windy afternoons we’re already seeing great clouds of dust when oilfield trucks drive by our farm on the gravel road.

If it doesn’t rain, at least here in southeast Saskatchewan we still have a good deal of soil moisture to start things out. Something good has to come from last year’s fiasco. But that won’t be the case for everyone.

A normal year

As Angela Lovell has written, weed management becomes more challenging in a dry year. Many weed control products are designed to work while the weed is growing. If it’s too dry for the weed to grow, the herbicide can’t do its job. Crop competition also plays a big part in weed management. If the crop can’t find enough moisture to grow, it’s not going to be a very strong competitor.

For those of us who dealt with floods last year, whether it’s wet or dry in 2012, last years’ water may have left behind some special weed-control challenges. On page 10, we have an article about this, written by Danell van Staveren, one of my neighbours whose farm was also affected by flooding last year. Danell has interviewed local agronomist Greg Gerry, who suggested several things to think about in a year following a wet year like 2011. (For the interested — our farm is four miles south of the Schurko farm pictured on page 10).

Another problem that will make weed control more challenging for some farmers is the confirmed emergence of herbicide-tolerant kochia in Alberta. Some farmers are directly impacted. But even farmers who don’t have an immediate problem with kochia resistance are paying more attention to potential resistance situations. Grainews field editor Lee Hart has written an article about this — it’s featured on page 6.

What these articles have in common is that they all provide suggestions for dealing with weeds in conditions that are different from “normal.” But really, after the last few years, it’s very difficult to be sure what “normal” is. So, I suppose that means that 2012 will be a very normal year. Farmers will deal with quickly changing weather conditions, and keep the recent past mind as they make decisions about what to do this year. Being wary of herbicide tolerance and taking time to learn more about how different products work together will become one more thing that farmers do automatically.

There are all kinds of ways that adjusting to constant change has become the new normal. One day herbicide tolerant weeds are making the news, the next day the headlines are about Viterra. We constantly invest in new machinery, and new technology to install in the machinery. Canadian Wheat Board changes are shifting the way we sell wheat. Would your great-grandparents even recognize the job you’re doing today?

Fun with social media

As the fill-in for Lyndsey Smith (regular Grainews editor, currently out on a maternity leave), I’m trying to do the things Lyndsey would do if she were here. I’m making arrangements with freelance writers, trying to make sure we have relevant content for upcoming issues. I’m dealing with the production staff in Winnipeg to be sure the text and photos get onto the right pages on time. I’m writing a few articles of my own and attending industry events to keep up-to-date. All of this is a challenge. So far, about four months in, it’s great fun. And your paper is still showing up in the mailbox.

But I have to admit, I’m not amazing anyone in the social media department.

As “@grainewsgal,” Lyndsey has hundreds of Twitter followers and enjoys tweeting regularly and keeping up with others’ tweets. To date, I’ve sent exactly two tweets from my “handle” (“@grainmuse”). I haven’t yet figured out how to tweet from my phone, and my original plan to update daily using Hootsuite is still just a distant dream.

There are all kinds of farmers and ag organizations using Twitter. I’m not quite one of them — I’m still lurking on the edges, reading the discussion. These farmers are sharing news, trading opinions, and asking each other technical questions about crop production and machinery.

Just because I can’t get the hang of this doesn’t mean that Grainews isn’t providing you with high-quality Twitter content. You can follow “@AGCanadadotcom”. This comes straight from Farm Business Communications — the publisher of Grainews, Country Guide, Canadian Cattlemen, le Bulletin in Quebec, Manitoba Co-operator and Alberta Farmer. is quick on the draw when it comes to posting news about Viterra’s future, or the Saskatchewan agriculture minister’s decision to step down from the cabinet in the next shuffle. It’s a good place to get news on the go.

In case, like me, you’re not hooked on Twitter (yet), I’d like to point out that a couple of Twitter regulars have recently posted comments about the Grainews app. Taylor Synder, a farmer from Glendon, Alta., who tweets as “@FarmerBoy9870” tweeted that he’d just downloaded the Grainews app. “Finally starting to get some decent ag apps,” he tweeted (using, as required, less than 140 characters.)

Another regular Saskatchewan tweeter who calls himself “dirt farmer” and goes by “@michwoll” says, “Just received an update from the rather excellent Grainews app reminding me that the markets reached $600/t.”

So don’t worry — you don’t necessarily need Twitter to keep on top of the news. If you have a smartphone, you can always try getting yours from the free Grainews app. I’ve just downloaded it onto my Android phone. I suppose I’m biased, but I think we’re providing a great service.

As for tweeting — my other work is going to slow down to a more reasonable pace over the next few weeks. I’m sure you’ve noticed that during the winter months Grainews appears in your mailbox more frequently than it does in the summer. That’s because we suspect you have more time to read during those long winter nights. As you start to head back into the field, we’ll gear down and send you a bit less reading material. As compared to four issues in March and two in April, you’ll see one single issue in May, one in June, and then one July/August summer issue before we pick up speed again with monthly issues in early fall. Perhaps I can use some of my extra time before Lyndsey comes back in August to finally figure out what and how to tweet.


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