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Agronomy

CLEARED FOR TAKEOFF

Crop breeders test thousands of plant lines every year in small, individual test plots. Assessing these plants involves both quantitative and qualitative analysis, but new software aims to substantially refine the process. PlotVision is a new software service that collects data using unmanned aerial imagery (UAI) captured by drones. The data may help researchers predict harvest yield and assess disease resistance, accelerate the plant breeding process and the production of new crop varieties.

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AN AGTECH PIONEER

Over seven-plus decades, Alberta farmer Charles Sherwood Noble developed and promoted new farming practices and technical innovations. Of these, the Noble blade cultivator was used around the world as a low soil disturbance weed control tool. For his work, he was named a Member of the Order of the British Empire in 1943.

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STRAIGHT OUT OF SCI-FI

Pushing the technological envelope, the streamlined tractor cabs of today increasingly resemble the cockpits of Hollywood science fiction space ships. Luxuriously ergonomic and digitally decked out, they are often described by big manufacturers as control centres. The term suggests once you’ve eased into the seat of a cab, the universe is yours to conquer. GrainsWest talked with three manufacturers about how technological change is reshaping tractor cab features and controls.

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REAL-TIME REVELATIONS

In Canada’s short growing season, having the ability to make quick decisions based on accurate information is a plus. In recent years, revolutionary new sensor technology has come to market. Its aim is to aid grain farmers in making decisions that improve crop production and quality. These new technologies allow farmers to assess soil quality and fertility in real time and evaluate the results of their fertility plans. This writer attended Agritechnica 2019 in Hannover, Germany, and discovered three such systems that may have applications in Western Canada.

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THE PLUGGED-IN FARMER

Until recently, the concept of a digitally connected farm seemed far off. In fact, it is the emerging reality for modern farming. From sensors that offer constant soil analysis, to software programs that provide real-time crop data for tractor cabs, the technology is at a farmers doorstep, bringing with it a host of opportunities and challenges.

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EXPERT INSIGHT

If you thought being the new kid in school was a lot of pressure, try being the new research chair at a place of higher learning. With the support of industry groups, three agricultural chairs recently appointed by western educational institutions are tasked with prioritizing and planning research efforts. As they take a seat at the farm research table, they aim to contribute to the betterment of the Prairie grain industry.

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DIGITAL INFORMATION AND OBSERVATION

The digital realm is rich with information resources of practical interest to agriculture professionals. We have collected a variety of such interesting and informative apps, websites and newsletters. The area of ag research is particularly well served in this selection. Of course, information can flow both directions, as it does in the case of the citizen science app and insect-themed social media account we’ve included here.

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IN-BIN OPTIONS

Low-tech air drying of grain may be a farming practice tailor made for these wet, financially constrained times. Multiple tough harvests have increased grain drying demands on Alberta farmers at a time when average farm income is down substantially. Can natural in-bin airdrying or natural aeration help Prairie farmers cope, and at an attractive price? Employing differing airflow levels, both involve blowing air into grain bins to dry harvested grain.

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A HARD ROW

Familiar to most farmers, that blue seed tag indicates a grower has produced the high-quality product that will be used to produce the year’s crop. Seed growers are the foundation of Canada’s agri-food industry, helping to maintain the robust selection of crop varieties farmers rely on to grow the best crops possible.

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