GFM Network News


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

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 will peel away the […] 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



Lime improves alfalfa crop in Peace River Country. This photo was taken from Farming Acid Soils in Alberta and Northeast British Columbia by P.B. Hoyt, M. Nyborg and D.C. Penney.


Les Henry: Acid soils. A wake-up call

At the farm level, soil test, soil test, soil test

This piece came about because of a technical session I attended at scientific meetings in Saskatoon in July 2019. Rick Engel of Montana State University presented a paper showing soils on the Highwood Bench near Fort Benton, Mont., that had become so acidic crops like lentils and sunflowers would barely grow. The soils were at […] Read more


Les Henry: Weather and climate – more actual data

Climate data questions current frenzy about global warming crisis

Regular readers will recall my earlier column that provided annual and monthly temperature for Swift Current, Sask., from a complete record back to 1886. The data was compliments of a long line of dedicated scientists at the Swift Current Federal Ag Research Station. In this piece, we will expand the data to two other sites […] Read more

Les Henry: Soil salinity and tile drainage

Can investing in tile drainage make your Prairie soil less saline and more profitable?

The idea for this subject came from a recent phone call from a farmer in west-central Saskatchewan. He was considering the purchase of a piece of land that was priced below recent sales but did have salinity problems. He was wondering about the feasibility of tile drainage to fix the problem and make the land […] Read more