On a drive from Brooks to Lethbridge in mid-May, retired provincial agronomy researcher Ross McKenzie was literally stopped in his tracks by dust clouds. Carried by high winds across drought-stricken fields, the dirt was so thick it obscured the road ahead. Disappointed, he snapped a few photos and posted them on Twitter with a desperate plea for rain. McKenzie isn’t alone in his observations. Across the province, but especially in southern Alberta, farmers have noticed the return of this agricultural scourge once thought resolved.
General observation suggests more farmers have been using some degree of tillage in recent years. It’s not a landslide movement toward full-tilt conventional tillage, nor the season-long black dirt of summer fallow days, but farmers are looking at various tillage operations to fix certain field problems such as smoothing ruts, managing heavy crop residue, controlling weeds and breaking up compacted soil.