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Agronomy

UNDERGROUND UPGRADE

Healthy soil is the foundation of thriving, sustainable grain production. Soil health management is crucial for healthy crop development and also reduces erosion, improves nutrient cycling and maximizes water infiltration. Bettering soil health can even help farmers lower their input costs. With this in mind, agribusinesses and agronomists alike work to provide farmers with the soil knowledge, data and equipment they need to cultivate long-term resiliency.

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EASY DOES IT

Farmers naturally gravitate toward equipment that simplifies their work and is easy to use. The products featured here are intended in some way to make farm operations more convenient and less complex. Some are brand new, while others were launched ahead of their time and have since evolved. 

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THE MORE THE MERRIER

Farmers need to know if new agricultural systems and practices are worth the investment. Canada’s smart farms have stepped up to provide answers. These crop, livestock and horticulture facilities study the use of technologies, data and digital tools as well as advanced practices and philosophies to increase overall productivity, profitability and sustainability. “Smart farms within the Smart Farm Network follow this definition but also have the added mandate or goal of sharing information with all stakeholders,” said Joy Agnew, vice-president of research at Olds College.

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PROOF OF CONCEPT

Too often, the testing and development of ag products and systems is carried out in bite-sized plots, which leaves farmers to imagine how the results can be put into practice at their farm. The brainchild of Enterprise Machine Intelligence and Learning Initiative (EMILI) and Farm Credit Canada (FCC), Innovation Farms Powered by AgExpert provides clarity.

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NEW STARS IN THE AG SKY

In mid-2024, Vancouver-based EarthDaily Analytics is set to launch EarthDaily Constellation, the world’s first superspectral Earth observation satellite array. The 10-satellite grouping will deliver imagery of every agricultural acre on the planet. Dave Gebhardt said it will give farmers and agribusinesses the most powerful “change detection tool” on the planet. Gebhardt is general manager of the EarthDaily agriculture division, EarthDaily Agro, headquartered in Maple Grove, MN. “The agriculture industry needs more and better information. Our constellation will deliver a whole new level of accuracy.”

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CLEAR FOR TAKEOFF

The use of drones has become commonplace in agriculture. The Olds College Centre for Innovation (OCCI)uses them in applied research activities. In the 2023 growing season, more than 10 such projects required drone flights to capture high resolution images and create datasets using cameras and sensors.

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DYNAMIC DUO

To protect the midge tolerance gene and ensure it continues to do its job, tolerant wheat must be sown as a varietal blend, 10 per cent of which is susceptible to midge. This limited sacrifice to the insect ensures it does not evolve countermeasures. Breeding these all-but-identical pairings is a tricky task, but they are needed now more than ever.

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A CALL FOR SCIENCE-BASED POLICYMAKING

Insect pests such as grasshoppers and flea beetles pose a significant perennial threat to western Canadian farmers. Once again, this year, they threatened to wreak havoc on Prairie grains, oilseeds and pulse crops. And one of the most effective pest management tools, lambda-cyhalothrin (branded as Matador and Silencer) was not much help, as it has become the latest victim of a federal bureaucracy that is in many ways out of touch with agriculture.

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SUSTAINABILITY PROJECT GATHERS ON-FARM INPUT

Farmers tend to roll their eyes at mention of the word “sustainability.” It’s a topic the whole world wants to address lately, but farmers generally feel they’ve been left out of the discussion. In a July report by the Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute (CAPI), farmers take the lead in a rethink and reset of the ag sustainability agenda. GrainsWest spoke with CAPI managing director Tyler McCaan about the guidance provided by the 720 Canadian farmers who contributed to Navigating the Path to Sustainable Agriculture.

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VARIETAL PURITY MATTERS

For the last five years, Canada has averaged third place among the world’s top malting barley and malt exporters. Across the globe, Canadian barley and malt are considered premium products. Naturally, the varietal purity of malting barley is a cornerstone of Canada’s value proposition for domestic and international maltsters and brewers.

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