Q: I have the big picture planned for my farm in 2021. What else do I need to consider?
A: The winter months may seem extra long with our current situation, but as growers we need to use this time wisely. Planning for the 2021 crop is well underway but there are many important considerations one should keep in mind as the spring season rapidly approaches. While it’s important to set broader business and financial goals for your operation in 2021, we should make sure we focus not only on the bigger picture, but on the finer details as well.
Growers should be finalizing their seed decisions now — from crop type to specific varieties, right down to farm-saved seed sources. When you have a specific variety of any crop you wish to use, it is wise to secure supply early so you can ensure access to your favourite genetics.
Consider your farm-saved seed sources. Often growers will do a germination test in the fall, and it is always wise to follow up with another germination test closer to seeding. This ensures the quality of seed has not degraded in storage. There can be situations where grain is put into storage and given certain conditions, such as elevated moisture levels, germination may not hold. Always double-check.
Crop protection needs are of high importance as well. Seed treatment decisions should be made based on your planned acres. When sending in a germination sample, always have a seed-borne disease package run as well to help determine treatment options.
When reviewing last year, think about any weed concerns you may see in your operation. Catching an emerging issue, such as cleavers, or a potential resistant-weed population early, can save you headaches in the future. Considering weed concerns may lead you to look at options outside your normal “routine,” which is not a bad thing. Far too often we get stuck in doing what we have always done, and we need to adapt as our operations evolve.
Crop rotation considerations should be reviewed. This is vitally important for disease management with diseases such as clubroot in canola or root rot in field pea and lentil to ensure a sufficient break between host crops. Take some time to review the herbicides used in each field last year to ensure there are no re-cropping restrictions that could affect your current plan.
Review known weed issues in each field and ensure you have an option to control them in your planned crop. Fertility considerations should be reviewed. Consider seed safety, fertilizer placement and if you have made any equipment changes that may affect your current practices.
Resources are available and farmers are not alone in making these plans. I always recommend talking to a crop advisor as they often have resources that can help with crop planning. There are many excellent options from your retail partner to independent consultants. The time spent planning in winter is crucial for having a successful growing season, and with COVID-19 restrictions keeping many of us at home this winter, growers may have more time to take advantage of planning ahead than usual.
Scott Anderson is the manager of agronomic services in northwest Saskatchewan for Nutrien Ag Solutions.