Prairies Featured Articles

Better Farming publishes nine editions of its Prairies magazine each year. After publishing each edition, we share a feature article online. Each Better Farming Prairies magazine includes much more content – you won’t want to miss it. If you don’t receive the print edition of Better Farming Prairies, but you enjoy reading the articles below, be sure to subscribe to the magazine!

Drought Could Boost Soil Nutrients

Last year’s dryness could provide higher residual nutrients in 2024.

By Richard Kamchen

Parched Prairie conditions last year may boost available soil nutrients for the 2024 growing season.

In many cases, crops with yields hindered by extreme dryness removed fewer nutrients from the soils they grew in, potentially leaving higher levels of nutrients available in the following year.

Opportunities in Carbon Sequestration

‘The best management systems for soil carbon are the ones that we don’t touch.’

By Emily Croft

Farmers are sometimes criticized in environmental sustainability conversations, but soil carbon sequestration is one opportunity to turn that around.

Carbon sequestration is the removal of carbon, in the form of carbon dioxide, from the atmosphere, where it will then be stored in another form, often in soil or plants.

Research Spotlight: ‘Floating Islands’

Cleaning Agricultural Water Naturally

By Adeline Panamaroff

Floating islands, metal-framed rafts stuffed with water-loving plants, strung across sloughs and storm ponds, are all part of the research that Olds College in Alberta is doing to clean water runoff from commercial feedlots.

How effective are these human-made islands? What maintenance do they require?

When Biology Meets Chemistry

Biological amendments – or simply biologicals – are relatively new to the conventional row crop world and can be a great way for farmers to better utilize nutrition already present in their environment.

However, most people who have been farming for a while “probably didn’t learn about biologicals in university or college, so the familiarity isn’t there to make (biologicals) top of mind in your regular crop plans,” says Brady Code, the Biologicals technical lead with Syngenta Canada.

Beware Early Grazing of Stressed Plants

‘You have to get down on your hands and knees and assess the actual grass plants.’

By Richard Kamchen

Prairie beef farmers beset by drought conditions in 2023 ought to be cautious about letting their cattle graze too soon this spring.

“The rule of thumb generally is if it’s one day too early, it sets you back three days in the fall,” says Pamela Iwanchysko, a livestock and forage extension specialist with Manitoba Agriculture.

Farm Payroll Practices

‘Do Your Best & Hire the Rest.’

By Richard Kamchen

How farm workers get compensated has become more formalized and organized, and both employees and employers are seeing the benefits.

Levi Derksen, senior manager with Saskatoon-based accounting firm Buckberger Baerg & Partners, says that payrolls have become more common as farm sizes have increased – as has their need for full-time workers.

“The trend started as farms grew, with more work being done by non-family members,” he says.

Avoiding Scammers

Education is the best way to keep your farm business safe.

By Emily Croft

Farms, like every other business, are at risk of being targeted by scammers.

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) stated that losses from reported frauds increased from $165 million in 2020 to $379 million in 2021. These numbers don’t include losses from the many instances of fraud which weren’t reported.

Cross-Canada Weather Outlook

El Niño upsetting growers’ plans across the country

By Richard Kamchen

El Niño’s threat of below-normal precipitation is of particular concern for farmers in already dry Prairie regions, but far less so to crop growers in Ontario.

Going into December, 97 per cent of the Canadian Prairies were abnormally dry or in moderate to exceptional drought, according to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Drought Monitor.

More heifers to feedlots stalls cattle rebuild

By Richard Kamchen

Beef producers have chosen cashing-in over rebuilding their herds in the wake of record cattle prices in 2023.

“There are no signs of herd expansion, and the cow herd continues to shrink,” says Brian Perillat, agribusiness specialist at More Than Just Feed.

Persistent drought remains a big concern, as do potential feed and water shortages in 2024, and high prices made the decision to sell an easier one, he says.

Business management: still room to improve

Is farming more of a lifestyle for you?

By Richard Kamchen

Despite a growing need for a more business-oriented approach to farming, few producers are adopting the tools they’ll need to ride out challenging times.

Being your own boss, working outside in nature and alongside family, and producing food for the world have all come under the umbrella of “farm lifestyle,” a lifestyle that’s lured many to farming and kept them going for generations. But lifestyle alone isn’t enough to sustain a business.