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Precision ag Step 1: soil maps

The most important part of precision agriculture is the soil maps of your fields

My first work on precision agriculture was actually in the 1960s and colleagues had been doing work on the idea before that. Back then it was all about identifying specific soil profile types in a field and trying to determine if their variable properties could be managed differently. Some things were clear: 1. Leached (white […] Read more


FHB: a disease of even-numbered years

It seems unlikely that FHB strikes every second year, but the data backs it up

This is an update of a piece about fusarium head blight (FHB) we did about one year ago now. To be honest, much of it is actually “cut and paste” from last year. I’ve never done that before, but it seems appropriate for this situation. We are just adding another year of data. In agronomy […] Read more



What exactly is sustainability?

There are many ways to farm sustainably, and many ways to discuss the issue

A lot of recent farm press talks about sustainability. When I look up “sustainable” in Webster’s it says: ‘… a method of harvesting or using a resource so that resource is not depleted or permanently damaged…” The first time I remember that term used with respect to agriculture was when a respected farmer on Sceptre […] Read more


D3: The digital dumbing down

Not all information is better in the digital age. Especially data about the weather

We are now in “the information age.” Information, mostly good but sometimes sketchy, is literally at our fingertips. As I wrote this piece if a spelling error occurred, my software program underlined it in red. Then I quickly opened a web browser and put my spelling of the word into Google and up popped the […] Read more



Highlights from the Crop Production Show

Annual farm shows are a chance to catch up — with friends and technology

Early January is a special time for me. In Saskatoon we are favoured with the Crop Production Show and Crop Week. The Show has exhibitors showing the latest in big and fancy equipment and all manner of crop inputs and advisers. Crop Week is the annual meetings of farm groups and commissions with speakers on […] Read more


canola flowers

Cooler July, thanks to farmers and canola

Swift Current temperature data shows different long-term trends in January versus July

This piece is a result of the Canola Discovery Forum at Canola Days in Saskatoon in December, 2017. Jay Whetter, former editor of Grainews and now communications manager with the Canola Council of Canada, invited me to address the issue of precision agriculture with specific reference to the role soil maps might play. My contribution […] Read more



Soil moisture: the old and new stories

Know your subsoil moisture and your chance of rain to make seeding decisions

The first freeze-up stubble soil moisture map was made in Saskatchewan in 1978. Readers with Henry’s Handbook of Soil and Water can see it on Page 109. It showed a lot of “very dry” and “dry” space. Red ink was common in the 1980s. The maps below show the situation in fall 1987 and fall […] Read more


Stubble soil moisture map, November 1, 2017

Les Henry’s annual map of fall soil moisture going into the winter months

The November 1, 2016, fall soil moisture map was, in a word, wet. In Manitoba and much of Saskatchewan all soils were at field capacity (holding maximum available water) and many areas were so wet that water tables were near enough to surface to be a factor. When the water table is within about five […] Read more



Exhibit 1: Weather cycles — Willowbunch Lake

Over the course of 30+ years at the University of Saskatchewan I collected about 5,000 35 mm colour slides. Many were taken by me while pounding pavement but I also “inherited” slides from folks who retired or moved. I also have a slide cabinet at home with hundreds of slides from junkets to Tanzania, Swaziland […] Read more


Diary of a pea crop

This season was too wet, then dry, but it’s left a promising start for next year

This is the story of the pea crop on my farm near Dundurn, Sask., in the 2017 growing season. August 21, 2016 Last year we combined an 82 bushel per acre malt barley crop on this field. The soil was well supplied with water at seeding time and the May to July rain was 10.5 […] Read more