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SPRING 2021

IN CASE OF FIRE

Jody Wacowich, executive director of AgSafe Alberta, expects dry conditions may be the norm in the near future, which makes fire safety and awareness a priority on the province’s farms. “That’s something we have to plan for” she said. “At this time of year, we don’t have that green grass growing yet. Everything is dry and combustible. The wind picks up a spark and a fire can go for miles before anyone can do anything about it.”

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STUDY EXAMINES FUEL EFFICIENCY AND TAX REDUCTION

A three-year Team Alberta study on grain conditioning has just produced its second-year results. The research project will assess the efficiency of various grain drying systems used by a selection of Alberta farmers. Initially inspired by the potential impact of federal carbon taxation, it will also analyze how various methods and fuel types can diminish the bite it takes from the farm bottom line. 

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ATTACK OF THE LEGENDARY LOCUST

It defies imagination. A biblical-scale plague of locusts an estimated 500,000 square kilometres in size swept across the U.S. Midwest and into parts of Western Canada in 1875. The ravenous insects ate virtually everything in their path from crops to cloth. Described as a living eclipse of the sun, it is believed to have been the largest insect swarm in recorded history. Perhaps even more extraordinary, within 25 to 30 years of this legendary natural event, the Rocky Mountain locust (Melanoplus spretus) was declared extinct.

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GENETIC ADVANCES MULTIPLY

Two research projects funded by the Alberta Wheat Commission (AWC) have made significant advances in cereal crop genetics. Overseen by Pierre Hucl of the Crop Development Centre (CDC) at the University of Saskatchewan, the first of these examined the viability of a new dwarfing gene in bread wheat. Secondly, Nora Foroud of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) developed new wheat and barley lines with improved resistance to Fusarium head blight (FHB).

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CARBON TAX PUSHBACK

Issued in 2019 as part of the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act, the federal carbon tax directly and unfairly punishes farmers who use propane and natural gas to dry their grain. However, I am hopeful positive change can be made on the issue.

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RESPONSIBLE GRAIN RAISES QUESTIONS

A number of questions have been raised during the ongoing consultations on Responsible Grain. The new code of practice for Canadian grain production is now being developed by the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Crops (CRSC). Farmers ask, why is the industry doing this and why now? There are three broad drivers behind the development of Responsible Grain: to build public trust, support market access and prevent excessive regulation.

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SAFE WORDS

Canada participates in a web of global food supply chains that is one of humanity’s greatest trade success stories. We remarkably enjoy products from across the globe due to the expertise of farmers, processors, logistics companies, retailers and many others that comprise this complex system.

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BUG BARRIERS

Naturally, pest-infested grain will be discounted, but there are less obvious reasons creepy crawlers affect the marketing of your grain worldwide. Farmers and grain companies strive to deliver grain that has zero or very little insect content. However, much of Canada’s grain is exported and bugs, actual or imagined, worm their way into market access issues.

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THE 411 ON VAC

Canadian breeders have produced a promising suite of new malting barley varieties. Registered in recent years, varieties such as AAC Connect, CDC Bow and CDC Fraser are successors to older cultivars such as AC Metcalfe and CDC Copeland.

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BITTEN BY THE FARMING BUG

Edible insects are not to everyone’s taste. It turns out, however, a surprising number of people purchase powdered crickets as a protein supplement. Claudio La Rocca and his partner Silvia Ronzani operate Camola Sustainable Foods in Edmonton, a business that produces the food ingredient as well as cricket-powder enhanced foodstuffs.

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