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What goes up must come down, unless it continues to go up. That about sums up the tale of fertilizer over the last two years. After all, it was only two years ago in Western Canada that urea sold at $400 per tonne.

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On a drive from Brooks to Lethbridge in mid-May, retired provincial agronomy researcher Ross McKenzie was literally stopped in his tracks by dust clouds. Carried by high winds across drought-stricken fields, the dirt was so thick it obscured the road ahead. Disappointed, he snapped a few photos and posted them on Twitter with a desperate plea for rain. McKenzie isn’t alone in his observations. Across the province, but especially in southern Alberta, farmers have noticed the return of this agricultural scourge once thought resolved.

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At the Olds College Smart Farm, we have concluded a two-year project trialing the suitability of satellite imagery to build in-crop variable rate (VR) prescriptions. The project assessed the software used to access normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) imagery captured by satellites. It built VR prescriptions based on the imagery and we then applied that prescription in the field. We identified multiple benefits that include product savings, increased field productivity, opportunities for increased water rates and quick turnaround times to produce prescriptions. Additionally, we noted a few key conclusions.

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In Western Canada, the threat of herbicide resistance has grown like a weed in recent years. Behind the United States and Australia, Canada has the third greatest number of unique herbicide-resistant weed biotypes. The number of weed species in this country that have developed resistance has grown steadily since the 1970s and stands at about 80. No new meaningful modes of action have been introduced since the 1980s, and the selection pressure that produces resistance is expected to continue.

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With the help of a $10.8 million grant from the federal government’s Digital Technology Supercluster, a consortium of Canadian companies and one university intends to create the world’s first interactive planning software for both autonomous and precision agriculture applications. The intent is to design a program that tracks and displays vital agronomic and geographic information in a single easy-access platform. Dubbed the Standard Data Platform for Autonomous Agriculture (SDPAA), its builders include Lethbridge-based Verge Ag, Terramera, QuantoTech Solutions, i-Open Technologies and Simon Fraser University.

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Massive resources are poured into agricultural research. It’s the goal of industry organizations to present this rich body of fresh agronomic information alongside established knowledge and make it easy to understand for farmers and agronomists. This communication process is commonly referred to as “extension.”

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Two recently published reports conclude no single investment delivers greater ROI than varietal development. Both were authored by Richard Gray, University of Saskatchewan professor and Canadian Grain Policy Research chair. The barley report was published in July 2021, the wheat report in March of this year.

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From new grain aeration technology to green energy equipment, our annual gear roundup features devices and equipment aimed to make farming faster, safer, greener and more efficient.

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