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Prairie farmers continue to deal effectively with grain diseases of all kinds. This is due to an efficient new variety pipeline, access to certified seed and a host of crop protection products and cultural practices. Reassuring as this is, farmers must remain vigilant in the fight against crop diseases such as Fusarium head blight, rust, bunt and smut. Likewise, researchers work to produce resistant varieties and create tools so farmers can curb incidence rates.

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While school exams can cause anxiety, testing seed can net valuable quality information and peace of mind. “Testing of any seed at harvest, as well as testing throughout storage, is very important,” said Sarah Foster, president and senior seed analyst at 20/20 Seed Labs in Nisku. “Seed is at its prime when it first comes off the field. If you store it at the right moisture level, dry it when necessary and monitor it in the bin, you can maintain it in prime condition.”

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Farmers have long endured the stereotype of being stoic and aloof, completely self-reliant. Today, one of the hottest trends in agriculture is turning this notion on its head. The radical idea is … wait for it … talking.

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Whether it’s pernicious pests, an unpredictable climate or increasing costs, threats to cereal crops constantly evolve. To build and maintain a sustainable system for cereal production in Canada requires the ability to adapt. There are few better examples of adaptability in agriculture than the efforts made by plant breeders to assist farmers. 

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Chief provincial plant health officer since October 2022, Krista deMilliano is only the second person to hold the job since it was created in February 2019 within the Crop Assurance and Rural Programming branch of Alberta Agriculture and Irrigation. Following scares such as the appearance of jimsonweed in 2015, the Province created this dedicated position to co-ordinate preparedness and response for situations that involve weeds, insects and plant diseases.

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When Rayann Campmans signed up for the Picture Butte High School agricultural program, she and her fellow students knew they had to take an active role in directing and building the new initiative. They loved the idea of farm-based learning, but feared the program would be discontinued if it didn’t go over well. They pitched in to support the project. 

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A new program aimed at Canada’s agriculture sector can help prepare farms for the impacts of climate change and global demand for reduction of carbon emissions. BMO is Canada’s first large-scale financial institution to introduce such a program.  

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Under the latest five-year Sustainable Canadian Agricultural Policy (SCAP) framework, each province must develop its own ag insurance initiative to promote a best management practice (BMP) that produces an environmental benefit while it reduces operational risk.  Farmers who employ the practice could receive a benefit through their premium calculations. In Alberta, program development falls to the Agricultural Financial Services Corporation (AFSC), which partners with the provincial and federal governments to create and deliver farm insurance products. “Every province has been given free rein to do whatever they feel is impactful in that province,” said Jesse Cole, AFSC manager of insurance products and product innovation.

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For 27 years, farmers and entomologists have co-operated to record insect data for the Prairie Pest Monitoring Network (PPMN). This has produced a unique scientific resource not available in other parts of the world, said Meghan Vankosky, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada entomology research scientist and PPMN co-chair. Her peers in countries such as Australia have not surveyed the ebbs and flows of insect populations as widely or for as long as the PPMN. “Having so much information from such a huge geographical area over such a long period of time is very unique from what I understand,” she said.

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