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Closeup of a plowed field, fertile, black soil.

Carbon: the mega plant nutrient

Nitrogen, phosphorus, and carbon dioxide? CO2 is at the heart of crop production

When teaching about plant nutrition the first step was to list the various categories of nutrients starting with major nutrients and ending with the micros. For this piece I’ll reverse the order and start with micros. The typical nutrients Micronutrients: Micronutrients are required in small amounts and not often added as a fertilizer. But when […] Read more

Barbed wire fence through the tall golden grass fields

Sask. farm income and land prices

Land prices are rising but “this time it’s different.” Or is it?

Over the past decade or so I have gathered up data on wheat and land prices in Saskatchewan and converted them to current dollars. That way, we can better judge how we are doing compared to our ancestors. History has a way of repeating itself, so a look back can suggest what might return. I […] Read more

Horse pasture soil salinity: beware of new ground

Land has been left in grass for a reason. And sometimes this reason is salinity

In the mid to late 1970s soil salinity was the biggest issue on many Prairie farms. The hue and cry was that we would soon have little land left to farm. Some said salinity was increasing by 10 per cent per year but I never bought into that number. From 1975 to 1980 we held […] Read more

Finally, the well went dry

Do you know where your water table is, and what it will offer this year?

At my Dundurn farm I now have three years of records of the water table level in my asparagus crop in the yard and at two locations in the annual cropped field. Now, you may wonder why I would bother you with asparagus data. I use my asparagus patch as a surrogate for perennial forage […] Read more

Pasture water quality for cows

Make sure you know your water quality before you turn the cows out

Most of my articles about slough water have dealt with water in the sprayer and what it might do to herbicide results. But bad pasture water that killed 200 cows in southern Saskatchewan last summer has sharpened the focus on water for stock. Spring is nigh, so cowboys should be sure they know what their […] Read more

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