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Autumn In Victoria

Editor’s Note: Kim Nielsen, an ag fieldman for the County of Clearwater in west central Alberta, is part way through a six-month work experience visit in Victoria, Australia. He is writing regular reports for Grainews on his experiences during his stay.

It is a strange feeling, experiencing autumn in a country that boasted temperatures in the mid 40s just a couple of months ago. We still see the trademark Aussie sunshine almost on a daily basis. It hasn’t rained significantly for the last couple of months, with the exceptions of a couple of very local cloud bursts, but the air is cooler now and the night temperatures dropping to four to five degrees. Daylight Savings is erased once again and the sun sets around 5:30 pm giving the weather a startling resemblance to an Alberta mid-September day, albeit no night frosts. These cooler days combined with the sunshine are quite enjoyable and a nice break from the heat experienced earlier.

The humidity is also considerably higher and the heavy dew every morning has revitalized the plant community. A gradual greening is evident across the Western District of Victoria and folks are gearing up for crop seeding, awaiting the signals from Mother Nature that the last heatwave of the summer is behind them. Seeding too early can cause seedling mortality from a late blast of hot weather but there are deadlines just like in Alberta. Not unlike Alberta’s short growing season, the crops in Victoria need to take full advantage of the short cooler and wetter part of the year, ripening before the scorching temperatures return next summer. Seeding too late causes drought impact such as blast off or small kernels before reaching full crop development.

Work wise I have some interesting involvement with the Australian Fodder Industry Association (AFIA) which wishes to explore the Alberta Weed Free Hay Program. Back in Clearwater County, Rocky Mountain House, Alberta the Agricultural Service Board (ASB) has supported this provincial program since inception back in the early ’90s and local hay producers have enjoyed pride in growing certified weed free hay and a slight premium to the prices paid for the hay. On behalf of the province, Clearwater ASB has been the coordinator of the special program-unique twine that identifies the weed free hay for participating municipalities.

The Alberta program was adopted from the U. S.-based North American Weed Management Association and is strictly geared towards ensuring that there are

Australian workers man the booth at the Weed Stop training display at the Wimmera Field Days.

no viable plant components in the hay and achieves this via an actual field inspection prior to cutting. Upon passing the field inspection the above mentioned special twine is issued to the grower, twine produced in Salt Lake City, Utah for all or North America. Alberta Agriculture assists the program with financial contributions towards the additional cost of the special twine over that of ordinary type allowing it to be made available to hay growers at a price similar to ordinary twine and alleviating this factor being a stumbling block to participating in the program.

The Department of Primary Industries in Victoria (DPI) has a wonderful program called Weed Stop that increases the awareness of weed seeds hitchhiking to new

This John Shearer air seeder is a typical air seeding system in Australia. The company has been building seeding and tillage equipment since 1877.

places via vehicles and equipment. This program would do well back in Alberta and I will actually be able to take some training in this while here. However, the true preventative aspect of weeds spread that certified weed free hay offers, before seeds end up in vehicles and equipment, has peaked DPI’s the AFIA’s attention.

With so much of the hay harvesting happening through contractors here in Victoria, many of these contractors have become certified in Weed Stop, completing a day long course and advertising their services as “Weed Stop Certified” and supported by the Agricultural Contractors Association of Victoria (ACAV). AFIA feels that they would be in a good position to market a Victorian Weed Free Hay Program to its members in conjunction with the Victorian Department of Primary Industries. When this article appears in Grainews it may be good timing for Alberta hay growers to make inquiries into this great but often overlooked Alberta Weed Free Hay Program that is available throughout participating Municipal Agricultural Service Boards.

The six month hosting program that I am participating in continues to offer an outstanding opportunity to share experiences and programs between Clearwater County, Alberta and the State of Victoria and I am pleased to share some of the areas of mutual interest.

Kim J. Nielsen, Pest Management Officer/ Clearwater County Agricultural Fieldman, Hamilton, Victoria, Australia. Contact: Kim. [email protected]au

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