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Old Enough To Be Good

I was at an Agriculture Canada retirement recently and enjoyed visiting with many I had not seen for a while. During lunch the discussion included the need for old fossils to make sure valuable information was in a place where future generations could use it, i.e. a place where it will pop up when Google is queried.

It was pointed out that it is now policy in that branch that information older than five years is garbaged. I guess they must not be producing keepers. It was a bit scary to me. In the years I have left it is a big priority for me to get information where it can be accessed in the future.

In Saskatchewan, the best information on soils on any specific quarter section is the old assessment sheets that were produced in the 1960s and ’70s. The University of Saskatchewan’s copies of that data were to be pitched to make shelf room a few years back and I said, “Over my dead body.” They are now housed at U of S Archives, and I hope we can get them scanned and posted on a website someday.


It was my great thrill to have a very real example of the value of good albeit “old” information. Gordon Kent, irrigation farmer from Riverhurst and former winter instructor at U of S, asked me a question about the effect of Diefenbaker Lake on aquifers in that area. His brother had a well not used or inspected for years and when it was inspected it was flowing. Could the lake have any influence on that aquifer?

I knew that the Ardkenneth Formation was beneath the dam and that there were flowing relief wells just north of the dam. We had measured the chemistry of those wells when doing soil salinity work in the area in the 1980s. But, I knew my reference file contained a golden oldie Inland Waters Publication by one Bob van Everdingen that dealt with the subject. We dug out the following publication from my “Golden Oldies” file:

“R. O. van Everdingen, 1972. Observed changes in groundwater regime caused by the creation of Lake Diefenbaker, Saskatchewan. Technical Bulletin 59, Inland Waters Branch, Dept. of Environment (Canada).”

Imagine our surprise — not only was the Kent well in question a part of the 1970s study, but van Everdingen had also predicted that it would start to flow some years down the road.

Saskatchewan Watershed Authority has taken over management of the dam from PFRA so I made sure that they now have a copy in their library as well. Inland Waters produced many valuable documents about groundwater in the prairie region and those old government documents are indeed “old enough to be good.”

Instead of Inland Waters we now have the federal Fisheries and Oceans which seems to be anything but popular with most farmers I talk with. Fisheries management is a provincial responsibility and it is a long time since there has been any Ocean on the Prairies. Could this be an easy way to trim the federal budget?

In today’s world of instant communication and sending anything a few years old to the dump, we must remember that good solid information is timeless and does not quickly go out of date.

J.L.(Les)Henryisaformerprofessorand extensionspecialistattheUniversityof Saskatchewan.HefarmsatDundurn,Sask. Herecentlyfinishedasecondprintingof Henry’sHandbookofSoilandWater”,abook thatmixesthebasicsandpracticalaspects ofsoil,fertilizerandfarming.Leswillcover theshippingandGSTforGrainewsreaders. Simplysendachequefor$50toHenry Perspectives,143TuckerCres,Saskatoon, SK,S7H3H7,andhewilldispatchasigned bookposte-haste

About the author


Les Henry

J.L.(Les) Henry is a former professor and extension specialist at the University of Saskatchewan. He farms at Dundurn, Sask. He recently finished a second printing of “Henry’s Handbook of Soil and Water,” a book that mixes the basics and practical aspects of soil, fertilizer and farming. Les will cover the shipping and GST for “Grainews” readers. Simply send a cheque for $50 to Henry Perspectives, 143 Tucker Cres., Saskatoon, Sask., S7H 3H7, and he will dispatch a signed book.



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