Wheat &Chaff – for Oct. 17, 2011

NEW CANOLA VARIETIES

This second October issue of Grainewsis dubbed the new canola varieties issue. Starting on page eight, you ll find 20 new varieties to wade through as you begin crop planning for next year. It always amazes me, but yes, farmers are already buying canola seed for next year. It seems a bit rushed, in my mind, but if you have a favourite, early fall seems to be the time to secure supplies.

As editor, I get invited to many plot tours and new variety demos to take a look at the best and brightest varieties that seed companies have to offer. Many companies add in a competitor or two for comparison, and yes, they look different, but not always better or worse just different. What I found interesting this year was that a few companies are moving towards removal of certain variety favourites now that they feel they have a worthy replacement.

I found this fascinating, especially given that the farmers I spoke with weren t terribly happy to be losing access to a tried-and- true variety for their farm. I ve always thought that it was only when it came to cereals that farmers didn t want to adopt new varieties quickly, but that doesn t seem to be the case. Yes, the rate at which new lines of canola are introduced is far faster than cereals, but it does appear that even so, farmers cosy up to a star performer and don t want to let it go. And should they? Given that these new, improved varieties will also cost more, I see where there may be some resistance.

That said, if the benefits are well and truly what the company claims, you ll be happy you made the switch… eventually.

And just how do you decide which varieties to choose? For this issue s cover story, Jason Casselman has compiled his list of four tips for developing a whole-farm approach to variety selection. It s not just about picking the highest-yielding variety (although, wouldn t that be nice?), it s about staggering maturities for risk and time management, using good data to fairly assess new and existing varieties and making the most out of every bag of (very expensive) seed.

KEEP IT GOING

From the very new, we move to the old. Old machinery, that is. Hawk-eyeGrainewsreaders will have noticed Scott Garvey s occasional Keep it going segment where he features an older piece of machinery that is still working well for its owners somewhere on the Prairie landscape. These machines don t even look their age half the time, that s how well loved they are. We re looking for more stories along this line to feature in upcoming issues of the magazine, so if you ve got a well used but very usable piece of old machinery chugging away on the farm, Scott would love to hear about it. Email him at scott. [email protected] or call him at 306-435-2667.

Of course, there s also the everyday or slightly under used pieces of equipment on the farm that need some extra care and attention. In this issues Machinery and Shop section, Scott walks you through some winterizing/long-term storage tips for machinery old and new, plus he s compiled a list of tips on restarting equipment that may have sat out a season or three. Machinery and Shop starts on page 19.

OUTSTANDING YOUNG FARMERS

Fall is my favourite season for a few reasons. I don t much love extreme heat, so the warm days and cool nights suit me just fine, and it marks the beginning of conference season. Yes, I really am that silly, but I work from home. Conferences are my social life. As farmers, you must understand!

Fall also marks the naming of Canada s Outstanding Young Farmers for the year, and I m pleased to feature each of this year s finalists in this issue (starting on page 31). The awards ceremony takes place in Brandon, Man., this year in mid-December. For more on the program and the awards conference, visit www.oyfcanada.com.

In reviewing this year s candidates, I m amazed by two things: one, the number of children these very busy people manage to raise, and, two, at some point these young farmers had to take an incredible leap full on into the farming business world. The first point fascinates me, as I have one daughter and a child on the way and I can hardly keep groceries in the house, let alone start, build and manage a farming operation. Second, I m not a big risk-taker, so I would love to have been sitting around the table when a couple said, This is it. We re all in, and went from there. It s just something I don t know that I could do, sound business case or not. My hat well and truly goes off to these aspiring and inspiring young farm families.

TWITTER, TWEEPS AND TWEET UPS

For many of you, using email and financial software is about all the relationship you d like to have with your computer. For others, including me, an Internet connection at all times is nearly as important as a morning coffee. In this day of smartphones that can seemingly do just about everything, it was only a matter of time before I had to get one. Once you have a smartphone, of course, then you need to be into things like Facebook and Twitter, the so-called social media realm.

At last month s International Federation of Agricultural Journalists conference, Twitter was a huge part of sharing experiences, photos and camaraderie between the over 250 attendees who ended up in six different buses on three different farm tours. All of us tweeps could essentially carry on a very public conversation while miles and miles from each other. I also met up with people I only knew through the virtual world finding each other in a sea of people by tweeting to each other. We didn t have a meet up, we had a tweet up. Yes, really, that s what it s called. Social media is a very interesting and fun world.

It can also be far more useful than simply finding your friends in a crowd. As oneGrainewsreader (and tweep of mine) said, There s so much real-time information out there while farmers are all in the field, smartphone at their fingertips. And it s very true. One of my favourite hash tags to follow is #westcdnag. Any articles, comments or questions related to western Canadian agriculture can be marked by this tag, making it searchable by others. Farmers can follow along to ask things like, I have three wheat midge per head, should I spray? Is it too late? Or, which variety is performing best for you in your area? Is now a good time for foliar N? All of these questions and more are thrown out to a virtual community and usually there is no shortage of farmers, agronomists and even research staff willing to provide an answer in 140 characters or fewer, of course. If you re new to the Twitter world, I highly recommend checking this out and not being afraid to ask or answer questions. Lyndsey

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