GFM Network News


A soil core showing the dry layer from one- to three-foot depths. In this situation, the only plant-available water is in the top foot. Roots will not penetrate the dry layer to access the moist soil beneath. Sufficient rain must fall to wet up the dry layer before the deeper moisture comes into play.

Les Henry: Soil moisture and rain

One plus one does not always equal two

Soil moisture as a soil management issue has finally come into its own with the advent of tech savvy young folk using soil moisture probes to get real information in real time. Thanks to those who provide me with information to help make the annual, three-province, Soil Moisture Map as of freeze-up. To make a […] Read more

Les Henry: The ground beneath our feet

To understand soil, we must understand what is beneath it

Hang on tight — this could be a rough ride. I will take you down some very deep gopher holes and hopefully stretch your mind a bit in the process. We are not talking about those claustrophobic tubes that run underground in places like Toronto or New York or about criminal activities. We are talking […] Read more


Design No. 105 on page 98 of The Radford Ideal Homes: 100 Houses Illustrated, 1910.

Les Henry: Catalogue houses of the past. Who were the actors?

Many houses thought to be Eaton’s have turned out to be from some other company

Yesterday’s version of online shopping was the catalogue. In Canada, the T. Eaton Company Ltd. catalogues were most common. Many Santa Claus lists were fulfilled via Canada Post from the T. Eaton catalogue. For Western Canada, the Eaton’s catalogue came from Winnipeg. The range of goods available was extensive — all the way from clothing, […] Read more

Figure 2. A field of Weyburn loam soil association.

Les Henry: The importance of naming soils

Let’s peel away the fancy stuff and boil it down to something useful at the farmgate

[UPDATED: Oct. 30, 2020] Naming (classifying) soils is not the same as naming plants or animals. Plant classification can be a purely scientific endeavour and they name a plant by genus (Triticum = wheat) and species (Triticum aestivum = bread wheat). Classifying soils is a complex affair not always understood. In this short piece, we […] Read more


The slough next to my farmyard July 29, 2013. See below how it looks seven years later.

Les Henry: New information on the water table and crop yields

Sloughs do tell a story about water tables

In recent years, this column has talked a lot about higher water tables and the role they play in harvesting good crops on years with low rainfall. The United States has maintained the system of land grant universities that are directly tied to the land and deal primarily with research that has a bang at […] Read more

Alhambra is a pretty little place with stately spruce trees and lilacs in bloom in June. The photo is a street view from Google Earth. Now, many readers know where Alhambra, Alta., is.

Les Henry: Thank you to my readers

Over my many years of communication with farmers, I often get more than I give

Writing is a fun game, but it means little if there are few readers. The only way writers know if people are reading their work is by the letters, emails, etc., that are received. It is a big thrill and encouraging to hear from readers. What follows are a few examples from recent years. The […] Read more


Les Henry: Geography of acid soils in the Prairie provinces

It’s important every farm knows where it’s at on the pH scale

Acid soils have a low pH. The H is for hydrogen. The p means it is a negative logarithm, which means the lower the number the more acid. The logarithm means that pH = 6 is 10 times more acid than pH=7. Soils can be acid from the original geologic material or they can become […] Read more

Shown here is a FlySask air photo of subject land taken about 2008. That was a drier period and shows nice flat land with no obstructions and perfect for farming as a half section unit. What we see in the photo fits with the soil survey and assessment data (i.e., no sloughs). The soil survey was done in the 1960s when it was dry.

Les Henry: To own a piece of ground

How to learn about a piece of ground before you see it

To own a piece of ground, To scratch it with a hoe, To plant seeds and watch the renewal of life, This is the commonest delight of the race, The most satisfactory thing a person can do. Charles Dudley Warner (1829-1900) That piece is the introduction to Chapter 4 of Henry’s Handbook. I do not […] Read more


What we did not  realize  was  canola  had  the  rooting and uptake ability to suck the soil P to very low values.  
A few years of big yields with big N and big water and P becomes the limiting factor.

Les Henry: A recipe for 65 bushels per acre of canola

Some lessons learned many years later

When cleaning visuals from talks of years gone by, I stumbled on one from 1978 — the year canola was born. It showed what it took to produce 65 bushels per acre of canola in garden patch agriculture (i.e., small plots). In 1978, the highest average RM yield of canola in Saskatchewan was 29 bushels […] Read more