Latest articles


What’s in the ground under your crop?

What is half air by volume, 50 per cent oxygen by weight, and has the capacity to grow a crop?

Is it dirt, earth, mud, sand, clay, silt, muck? Yes, it’s all of these, but what really are Prairie soils made of? There are four basic types of Prairie soil: dark brown, black, dark grey and brown. Rainfall on these soils, the prime yield-limiting factor, ranges from around 11 to as much as 20 inches […] Read more


Myths, yarns and ridiculous claims

Many long-standing popular myths about agriculture have been disclaimed by science

After 60 years of work and observations in Canadian, British and U.S. agriculture, most of it on the Canadian prairies, I still cannot believe how many farmers and scientists believe in plain falsehoods. Here are a few of those unsubstantiated myths. Manure causes lodging FALSE: If you apply 10 to 20 or more tons of […] Read more



The view from the GMO crowd

A world of contradictions, impossible arguments and badly translated chants

How many times have I seen slogans that say, “No GMOs?” I even see it in Canadian horticultural seed catalogues. Do we expect the horticultural seed catalogues to sell Roundup Ready canola, soybeans or field corn? It’s just that the gossips and fuddy duddy’s of this world have seen or heard “no GMO’s.” It seems the anti-pesticide and organic food producers have […] Read more


Herbicide drift and self-inflicted crop damage

Herbicides can damage crops in many ways. Learn to prevent loss and deal with damages

Every year across the Canadian Prairies there will be many cases of herbicide damage to non-target crops. Some of this will be due to unsuitable weather conditions such as windy weather, wind gusts or inversions. Other causes are municipal roadside weed control leading to spray drift into cropland, on farm herbicide mix-ups, incorrect herbicides such […] Read more



Check your soil for herbicide residue

Learn how to conduct plant bioassays to detect potential herbicide residues in your soil

Plant bioassays are a simple, inexpensive, accurate and direct method of determining if it is safe to grow crops on land previously treated with known herbicides or on cropland or compost with an unknown history of herbicide use. A bioassay can detect if herbicide or chemical residues are present in the soil or compost at […] Read more


Residual herbicide and crop injury

When the worst happens: what questions to ask and how to soil test for a bioassay

Your cereal, oil seed or legume crop clearly shows that it has been significantly damaged by herbicide application or residual herbicide that was applied to cropland one or more years previously. You are considering possible legal action. What do you do next? First of all, you just don’t take a few photographs, complain about significantly […] Read more



Sunset in wheat field, late afternoon in wheat field - dusk in the cereal field

Copper: For peat’s sake!

Think peaty soil isn’t worth farming? Just add copper to get better results

Peat is nature’s natural organic compost. As a field crop amendment, peat has a lower carbon-to-nitrogen ratio (C:N), 60:1, than straw or cattle manure — that’s around 80:1. Canada has 270 million — yes, million — acres of peat lands, making up 25 per cent of the world’s peatland supply. Peat is harvested right across […] Read more


Selling nutrients: the last straw

Practical Research: How to degrade productive cropland by selling the nutrients after the harvest season

Sandy soil areas are not uncommon on the Canadian Prairies, especially west and north of Edmonton, my home area. It made me wince when I saw endless lines of wheat straw bales on countless sandy fields this fall. Technically speaking, straw should never be sold on any kind of cropland unless there is a very […] Read more



Yes to peas, no to aphanomyces

Peas are a great crop for the Prairies, but aphanomyces root rot is a major threat

Peas as a human and animal feed have been around since 5000 BC. The pea plant, a nitrogen-fixing legume, originated in the cooler areas of the Himalayas and was subsequently cultivated extensively in the Mediterranean basin. Peas, dried peas in particular, were a major part of the diet in the U.K. in the 19th and […] Read more


Preventing and controlling aphanomyces root rot

Aphanomyces root rot is not airborne or seedborne, like clubroot of canola, the disease is soil borne. This fungus, like clubroot, forms resting spores that can last for 10 years in infested soil. Infection of the legume host can take place at anytime in the season but is not obvious early in the year. The […] Read more