The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) recently approved gene editing for use in breeding new crop varieties. Plant breeders will now be able to apply the technology to their work. Gene editing has the potential to quickly develop new varieties with greater accuracy in targeting traits such as drought and disease resistance. The agronomic and trade implications are promising for farmers.
Hedgerows, hillsides too steep for tractors to climb and even grassy margins along fencelines serve as havens for beneficial insects and birds that play a pivotal role in pest control. Since the dust bowl days of the 1930s, shelterbelts composed of trees and mixed vegetation have mitigated soil erosion by wind and water. More recently, research has been carried out to assess the additional benefits such uncropped land may provide.
Tara Sawyer has always been interested in ag politics. Even when her kids were very young, dinner conversations centred around governance and policy. She was keen to join a commodity board, but her priorities were farm and family. During this time, she attended meetings and conferences alongside her husband Matt, who has served on multiple boards. As her children grew more independent, the timing was right, she said. Five years ago, without a word to her family, she put her name forward to serve as an Alberta Barley director-at-large. “I never thought you had the right to complain if you’re not willing to put in the work,” she said. “I felt an obligation to contribute. It’s important for farmers’ voices to be at the table.” In 2019 she was elected the first female chair of Alberta Barley and now serves as Alberta Grains interim chair.
Summer wildfires are commonplace in Alberta, but this year’s unusually warm, dry spring produced an especially difficult season. Fires sprung up earlier than usual and grew larger and burned longer than normal. They also encroached on farmland where they destroyed pastures and fences and depleted food and water sources for livestock as farmers scrambled to repair the damage.
Canadian agriculture continues to suffer the firsthand effects of a shrinking labour force. The average age of Canadian farmers has been on the increase for more than 20 years with no sign of reversal. By the latest estimate, Canada will be 30,000 farm workers short by 2033. This is both a crisis and an opportunity.
Technology continues to upend agriculture. More and more tasks in a farmer’s daily routine can be carried out using recently developed technology. From input programs and crop scouting to safety logs and inventory management, farmers typically opt for convenience. Grain marketing is no different.
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.
Harvest is without a doubt the most hectic season, especially on big farms, where sheer volume compounds grain handling problems. Though workload increases with farm size, the time window to complete harvest does not. Setbacks such as labour shortage, harvest surge and inclement weather can be a major source of stress on farms of all sizes. New grain bin technology aims to alleviate such harvest pressures.
Rural Albertans are known for their support of landowner rights and the free market. However, the contracting of farmland to utility-scale renewable energy projects including solar farms has divided communities. Though these projects can create an attractive revenue stream for individual landowners and a lucrative tax injection for municipalities, they can be very unpopular with neighbours. Renewable development is unlikely to stop, but public concern may affect the way in which projects are structured and approved.
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.