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At first glance, the farmer’s role in helping Canada reach its ambitious goal of net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050 appears simple: lower emissions and adopt technology and alternative management practices that boost soil carbon sequestration. Many believe addressing the carbon equation offers economic advantages, too. Farmers who cut back on inputs subject to the carbon tax save money, and those who adopt so-called regenerative practices may participate in the growing carbon economy by collecting and selling carbon credits. While this sounds straightforward, it is anything but.

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As the world moves toward net-zero emissions by 2050, the use of lower carbon and non-emitting fuels is expected to ramp up. The Clean Fuel Standard (CFS) provides significant opportunities for western Canadian farmers, as demand for several crops will increase with the growth of the biofuels market.

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The next great leap in digital agriculture, the adoption of intelligent technologies is a complex work in progress. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are engineered to produce agronomic insights farmers can act upon from a vast flow of information that includes precision ag field data, weather, soil and yield data as well as drone and satellite imagery.

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Farmers love simplicity. The impulse to eliminate complication drives them to innovate and create solutions to various farm problems. As farms have grown larger and advancements in plant genetics have increased yields, progressively greater crop hauls have made on-farm grain handling more complex.

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Robot vehicles and handheld crop sensors are not tomorrow’s dreams, they are agriculture’s here and now. And while such digital, high-tech innovations are available to farmers and crop researchers, agriculture is a physical pursuit that also benefits from advances in hardware engineering. The following new and improved gear represents a wide array of technological innovation on both digital and mechanical fronts.

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Two acres of James Molnar’s 800-acre family farm near Barnwell cause him continuous headaches. Just a short distance from his house, these troublesome acres contain an old oil well site. Its lingering traces of asphalt and oil prevent Molnar from planting the lot with high-value Taber corn or the tomatoes, pumpkins and other market vegetables he farms. Doing so would violate the exacting standards of the grocery stores he supplies.

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There was a time when Canadian Western Hard White Spring (CWHWS) wheat was touted as the next big minor class. Today, though, the class is virtually dead. Despite having lost its shine, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) wheat breeder Harpinder Randhawa believes CWHWS is poised to make a comeback thanks to a new, higher yielding variety he developed. While AAC Whitehead yields 21 per cent higher than previously established CWHWS varieties, industry experts believe it will take more than yield to revive the class. If the history of CWHWS has taught any lessons, it is that marketing, competition and quality all play a crucial role in determining the success of a wheat class. However, GrainsWest recently spoke with farmers and scientists who are cautiously optimistic about its return.

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Beneficial insects are old news, at least to entomologists. However, their benefits, hence the name, are in the limelight once again. This is thanks to a recent promotional campaign and the reinforcement of the notion that positive alternatives beyond blanket spraying exist.

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