GFM Network News


Soil scientist David Lobb has criss-crossed the country to talk about soil health, but the issue isn’t getting nearly the attention it deserves, says the University of Manitoba professor.

Soil degradation the forgotten issue

Reducing tillage and summerfallow hasn’t fixed a problem that is costing farmers billions every year

Soil degradation in Canada is causing a huge economic loss — but few people are paying attention. That includes farmers, even though degraded soil is significantly reducing their yields, according to University of Manitoba soil scientist David Lobb. “Soil erosion accounts for a loss of about 10 per cent,” he said. “Farmers are only getting […] Read more

Dwayne Beck is a frequent visitor to Alberta and while he has seen some progress over the years, the soil health guru says the province’s farmers face a looming disaster if they don’t change their approach.

Stop fighting Mother Nature — because you’re going to lose

Most farmers in Alberta still love tractors more than biology and are heading for big trouble, says Dwayne Beck

Like a voice crying in the wilderness, Dwayne Beck has been beating the drum of soil defence as the foundation for a healthier farming system for decades. To some, the longtime research manager of the Dakota Lakes Research Farm is a wise prophet and caretaker. For others, his message is radical and uncomfortable — something […] Read more


Government grants available for manure handling

Funding available for controlling run-off, relocating a storage site and other projects

Grants are available for producers wanting to reduce the environmental impact of livestock manure. There are three categories of grants available from the Environmental Stewardship and Climate Change Producer program, which is part of the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, said Chris Ullmann, agri-environmental extension specialist with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry. One is Category B: Manure and […] Read more

There’s no shortage of data on today’s farms but the most important number — profit per acre — is not easy to determine.

The search for a ‘win-win’ solution to unprofitable acres

Precision agriculture meets precision conservation in ongoing profitability mapping research

Farming and farmland conservation sometimes seem at odds with each other — a win for one is seen as a loss for the other. After all, taking land out of production for conservation purposes is seen as a loss of productive farmland, while the ecological community sometimes views intensive ag production as a threat to […] Read more


Greg Paranich of Performance Seeds in Blackfalds describes some of the advantages of cover crops.

Clearwater County aims to cook up successful cover crop recipes

Cover crops offer many benefits but what’s the right mix of grasses, brassicas, and legumes?

Clearwater County has started experimenting with cover crops, and outlined some of their benefits during its recent West County Ag Tour. “It’s a great year to talk about cover crops because in order to maintain our moisture in the soil, we are going to need organic matter, which cover crops build. We are going to […] Read more

Irrigation generates $3.2 billion for the Alberta economy and has expansion potential, says a report from the  Alberta Land Institute.

Report looks at the benefits of irrigation expansion

Study says irrigating dryland would produce big economic benefits but would need government support

A recent report from the Alberta Land Institute highlights the economic benefits of expanding Alberta’s irrigation system and offers improved forecasting of agricultural and irrigation needs. The report, entitled Systems modelling for sustainable land and water policy in Alberta’s irrigation sector, was prepared by Evan Davies, an associate professor in civil and environmental engineering at the University […] Read more


An array of sensors allow researchers to monitor water movement in different soil types within beds sown to alfalfa.

Bringing crops indoors generating research insights

Indoor beds allow scientists to take ‘a peek underground’ to see how subsurface drip irrigation works

Indoors’ doesn’t usually come to mind when thinking of applied irrigation research, but it has its advantages. “We have to be careful (with field studies) because you might harm somebody’s crop or interfere with whatever the farmer had planned,” said Willemijn Appels, a hydrologist and soil physicist. “You can’t push systems and the crops growing […] Read more

Cover crops can get cattle back onto cropland — where they belong, according to one soil health specialist.

Cover crops ‘essential’ to in-field grazing

Producers need to more closely mimic nature to avoid long-term soil health issues, says USDA conservationist

Got cows? On your cropland? Jay Fuhrer certainly hopes so. The soil health specialist believes cropland and large ruminants are a natural fit. He advocates turning animals out of the barn and onto the land whenever possible. “Soils, plants, and animals evolved together,” he said at the recent Dairy Farmers of Manitoba conference. “And we […] Read more


Understanding how plants search out nutrients, and react to weeds and pests could have a huge impact on farming in the coming decades, says biologist JC Cahill.

Listen to your crops — the plants are talking to each other

They’re also ‘foraging’ for nutrients, deciding where to put their roots, and calling for help when under attack

You might think it’s crazy — but plants talk to each other and act in ways that are similar to animals and humans. “Step away from the idea of plants as factories and start to think of plants as individuals,” biological sciences professor JC Cahill told attendees at the Western Canadian Soil Health and Grazing […] Read more

If you had low yields, you may be able to cut back a bit on fertilizer for 2018, but only a soil test will tell you for sure.

Balance your soil nutrient budget this fall through soil testing

Nitrogen prices have reached lows not seen in over a decade

Your soil keeps a budget for nutrients, and how much you will need next year depends on how much you took out this year. “Most of the time when it comes to assessing what soil nutrient levels might be like, typically what you can do is look at your yields,” said provincial crop specialist Mark […] Read more