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4 The Business of Ontario Agriculture Better Farming | January 2024 LETTER FROM THE EDITOR KEEP CONNECTING; OFA’S PRIORITIES Not many days pass when we don’t hear from our farmer readers. We get “well done” emails. And we get “you could have done better” messages when we could have done better – after a technical error or even a spelling or syntactic mistake. We get story ideas from our readers, and thank goodness, as these leads often become some of our most popular articles. We get farming photos sent in, and lots of letters to the editor. We even get advertising clients reaching out because we helped them grow their businesses. So in a word – thanks. We appreciate your calls and messages. As of the end of 2023, we get more comments, questions, and ideas than ever before, going back to our first edition in 1999. (This January magazine begins our 25th year, as indicated with a new logo on our front cover.) And as for reader engagement, it’s hard to beat the OFA AGM. This year’s meeting in Toronto was another productive, exciting event. Binbrook’s Drew Spoelstra was elected as new OFA president at the AGM, and quickly came out with an outline of the organization’s top priorities moving forward. Land use, urban sprawl, and the continuing and unsustainable loss of farmland; Environmental sustainability and climate-change mitigation; Threats to farm profitability, including rising input and production costs, carbon tax, and high interest rates. OMAFRA’s recent Cereals Seasonal Summary noted that winter wheat yields were again excellent in 2023, with many producers reporting average to above-average yields. Spring cereals were down in 2023 due to dry conditions from seeding to pollination, followed by persistent rainfall through maturity. Also, for those experiencing challenges completing winter wheat seeding, “fields with variable emergence or that have not yet emerged should be walked early in the spring to monitor growth. “It will also be important for these fields to have timely nitrogen applications next spring to promote tillering.” Paul Nolan Huron County’s Bonnie Sitter is building awareness of the Farmerettes, who filled the need for labour during the Second World War. Read more on Pg. 14. Courtesy of Bonnie Sitter 1-888-248-4893 90 Woodlawn Road West Guelph, ON N1H 1B2 PUBLISHER & EDITORIAL DIRECTOR PAUL NOLAN ext 202 Paul.Nolan@Farms.com ASSISTANT TO THE PUBLISHER & EDITORIAL DIRECTOR LESLIE STEWART ext 265 Leslie.Stewart@Farms.com AGRICULTURAL JOURNALIST EMILY CROFT CONTRIBUTORS TO THIS EDITION MOE AGOSTINO CAMPBELL CORK DALE COWAN ABHINESH GOPAL PAUL HERMANS RICHARD KAMCHEN PATRICK LYNCH RALPH WINFIELD ADVERTISING TEAM GLENN RUEGG JEFF McKEE JENNY LONGSTREET SCOTT FARHOOD SAMANTHA RENAUD JOAN SPIEGELBERG DESIGN & PRODUCTION TEAM TANYA MYERS GREG MARLOW SHAUN CLARK ANDREA WILLIAMS www.BetterFarming.com Better Farming magazine is mailed as a member-benefit to all farmer members of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture. If you are not an OFA member, subscribe at: 1-888-248-4893 ext 281 Subscriptions@BetterFarming.com ISSN 1498-9344 (Printed) Canadian one-year subscriptions: $41 (11 issues; includes $4.72 HST). Two-year: $74 ($8.51 HST). U.S. subscriptions: $72 annually. International: $121. Single-copy back issues are $12. GST Registration #868959347RT0001 POSTMASTER: Send address changes to AgMedia Inc., 90 Woodlawn Road West, Guelph, ON N1H 1B2. Publications Mail Registration #1156. Publications Mail Agreement #40037298. Copyright ©2024 by AgMedia Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction of any content without written permission of the publisher is forbidden. Acceptance of advertising does not constitute endorsement of the advertiser, its products or services, nor do Better Farming, AgMedia or Farms.com endorse any advertiser claims. The publisher shall have no liability for the omission of any scheduled advertising. Follow us on Twitter @BetterFarmingON We acknowledge the financial support of the Government of Canada. K Laine Photography photo, Emily Croft photo
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6 It’s Farming. And It’s Better. Better Farming | January 2024 Beyond the Barn 2023 DRY BEAN ACRES LOWEST IN DECADE A recent report from OMAFRA shared a summary of Ontario’s 2023 dry bean crop. In 2023, dry beans were planted and insured on 93,161 acres, which is the lowest acreage in the past decade. Bean acreage peaked in 2020 at 157,500 acres. White beans have traditionally represented half of Ontario’s dry bean acreage but made up only one-third in 2023 at 33,600 acres. Adzuki beans were planted on a current record number of 23,000 acres, due in part to their high price. Kidney beans decreased in 2023, while black beans and cranberry beans remained consistent relative to previous years. A dry start to the season led to some challenges, with many producers choosing to increase seed depth at planting, or delay planting to wait for moisture. Throughout July, excessive moisture became a problem. Standing water in fields led to root rot, decreased nitrogen uptake and some plant death. Wet conditions throughout the summer led to some increased disease challenge. Preventative fungicides for white mould were commonly applied twice. OMAFRA reported that producers found appropriately timed fungicide application was successful in preventing white mould. A bacterial brown spot was also found in adzuki beans later in the season. Current available varieties of this bean do not offer resistance to bacterial brown spot and the weather also contributed to increased incidence of this pathogen. Some producers saw up to 30 per cent loss in their crops affected by bacterial brown spot. Harvest conditions were ideal with warm and dry weather during September until mid-October. This allowed beans to dry down properly. Producers have reported yields of average or above average. BF A recent release from Statistics Canada detailed farm cash receipts from the first three quarters of 2023. From January to September, Canadian farms totalled $72.5 billion in farm cash receipts, which is a 7.9 per cent increase from the same period in 2022. Crop receipts increased $4.5 billion from the first three quarters of 2022 to the first three quarters of 2023 to a total of $41.4 billion. StatCan attributes this to a gain in markets, although prices were down in the 2023 period. The largest increases in crop receipts were observed in canola, wheat, and durum wheat, contributing to more than 75 per cent of the growth in this category. These crops had higher marketings in 2023 following the drought in Western Canada in 2021 and a return to normal production levels in 2022. Growth in crop receipts occurred despite price drops of 15.5 per cent for canola, 8.9 per cent for wheat and 17.9 per cent for durum wheat. Livestock receipts increased $2.2 billion in this period, to a total of $27.2 billion, due to an increase in prices in the 2023 period. This was an 8.9 per cent increase relative to the 2022 period. Increased cattle receipts contributed to more than 80 per cent of the growth in livestock receipts, climbing by $1.8 billion to a total of $9.8 billion. This was related to strong demand for cattle in Canadian and U.S. markets, as well as rising input costs. Supply-managed receipts increased by 7.2 per cent to a total of $11.2 billion. All provinces reported increases in farm cash reciepts throughout the first three quarters of 2023. Saskatchewan led these increases, rising $2.3 billion to a total of $16.5 billion. This growth accounts for 40 per cent of the national growth. BF FARM RECEIPTS STILL UP AFTER Q3 Mary Lane - stock.adobe.com
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8 Story Idea? Email Paul.Nolan@Farms.com Better Farming | January 2024 Beyond the Barn CAHRC REPORTS LOSSES FROM LABOUR SHORTAGE The Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC) recently shared research demonstrating large losses to the industry due to the ongoing labour shortage. The report, released in November, estimates that in 2022 on-farm ag businesses lost up to $3.5 billion in sales because of an insufficient number of workers. It was also found that agriculture has an above average job vacancy rate at 7.4 per cent, and 40 per cent of employers stated that they couldn’t find enough workers. This report was based on an analysis of the Canadian agriculture sector’s labour market trends and challenges. In 2022, agriculture had a workforce of some 420,000 people, including farm businesses, support services, and wholesalers. At this time, 17 per cent of workers were foreign workers, a 30 per cent increase from 2017. “We cannot solve the issues facing our sector if we do not know exactly what they are and where they exist. That is why this new data is so important,” said Jennifer Wright, CAHRC’s executive director, in a recent release. “The information tells us there is an urgent need to boost labour supply and empower domestic and foreign workers to secure the industry’s future viability. CAHRC, as it works in partnership with industry, is committed to tackling these challenges head-on through the ongoing development of its resources and projects.” With an updated labour forecasting system, CAHRC’s National Workforce Strategic Plan will have more data to support agriculture. CAHRC plans to continue releasing data about the Canadian agriculture workforce, including occupations, skills gaps, recruitment strategies, training opportunities and best practices for improving agricultural workers’ working conditions and well-being. BF - Emily Croft A new initiative from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) is designed to support Canadian innovators with ideas on how to reduce methane emissions from cattle. The Agricultural Methane Reduction Challenge will award up to $12 million to fund low-cost and scalable projects. “At the forefront of agricultural sustainability, our cattle industry in Canada is setting global benchmarks,” Francis Drouin, parliamentary secretary to federal ag minister Lawrence MacAulay, said in a recent statement. “The new Agricultural Methane Reduction Challenge will drive further innovation in the sector to help fulfill a growing demand from consumers who are asking for Canadian sustainable beef and dairy industries.” The methane reduction program will operate in multiple phases. In Stage 1, up to 20 projects will receive up to $250,000 each to support the development of a technology, practice or process that helps reduce emissions. In Stage 2, up to 10 finalists will receive up to $500,000 each to test their solutions. In the third and final stage, up to two prizes of $1 million each will be awarded to innovators who best demonstrate their ideas and solutions. At the end of each stage, an external review panel will determine which applicants move forward in the challenge. Members of Canada’s ag sector are pleased with the government’s support for methane reduction initiatives. “Dairy farmers’ progress in terms of reducing our carbon footprint is in large part because farmers embrace innovation and research,” David Wiens, president of Dairy Farmers of Canada, said in a statement. “They do not shy away from applying new technologies and progressive ideas on their farms in order to improve their production and to protect the land and the environment. The Agricultural Methane Reduction Challenge will add to our toolbox and help us on our journey towards reaching net zero 2050.” The application deadline is Feb. 7, 2024. AAFC expects to announce its 20 semi-finalists in Summer 2024. BF - Diego Flammini Reinoud Verhoef photo AAFC’S NEW METHANE CHALLENGE
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10 Follow us on Twitter @BetterFarmingON Better Farming | January 2024 The 2023 harvest has wrapped up, and as we enter the new year, many tractors, planters and combines are being put away for the winter. These months are also the ideal time for a bit of winter maintenance. It’s important to clean equipment, empty any fluids that could freeze and secure equipment against rodents that could cause trouble with wires and belts. Taking time to properly winterize equipment and check for required maintenance will have them one step closer to being field-ready in the spring. This month, Better Farming asked our readers what steps they take to winterize their equipment. Here are some of the responses. Ben, Grey County: I clean them up and drain all freezable liquid. Ernie, Wellington County: We power wash, oil and grease equipment, then list all repairs that should be done over winter. Equipment is filled with fuel and conditioner. Joan, Grey County: We blow the dust off, pressure wash and oil the equipment. Then we make a list of repairs for over winter. Steve, Oxford County: Equipment gets washed, oiled and greased. Then we check fluids and park it in the heated implement shed. Brian, Waterloo Region: We wash, oil and do maintenance in the shop sometime during the winter. Jon, Niagara Region: We do an air-blow clean and power wash on the tractors, planter and combine. For the sprayer, all the lines are blown out, filled with windshield washer fluid and then washed. Fluids and filters are changed on all equipment. Veronica, Wellington County: We pressure wash and use a diesel fuel spray to keep it from rusting. Michael, District of Parry Sound: Greasing and oiling chains. It’s stored outside, so we use tarps and put it on blocks, etc. Philip, Regional Municipality of York: We fill fuel tanks, grease equipment, put everything inside, clean everything up and put light engine oil in winter usage tractors. Tony, Lennox and Addington Counties: The summer equipment gets a once-over and is put into storage by the fall. Any major repairs required that I am aware of go on my winter to-do list. Tractors get a pretty thorough annual maintenance each October prior to hunting season. Jessica, Huron County: We make sure antifreeze is in the appropriate tractors. We add mouse or rat bait in equipment that needs it (i.e., the combine). We blow all chaff and grain off the harvesting equipment (balers, combines, elevators, etc.) before putting them in the shed. We put chains on the tires of tractors we need for the winter. Jennifer, Renfrew County: We do a full wash down, put antifreeze in anything with water and put oil spray on anything that would have had fertilizer or been exposed to salt. Moe, Essex County: Everything gets washed, greased and oiled. The radiator is checked, and RV plumbing antifreeze is run through all pumps, planter fertilizer tubes and sprayers. Small engines get treated with a fuel stabilizer. Tim, Oxford County: Anti-gel goes in the fuel. I blow out water lines in the barn and strawberry patch. I prep snow blowers and I put up snow fences. Doug, Middlesex County: On our farm we go over the tractors and pickups, checking fluid levels and tire pressures. Maintenance is done regularly year-round, so other than a check over, we are ready for winter. Larry, Brant County: I wash the equipment and grease all the grease zerks. I spray chains (if there are any) with chain oil. Some equipment I will spray with oil to preserve the finish, especially if it is left outside. I check tires for proper pressure to prevent them from sitting when flat. If there is paint missing, I will touch up with new paint. I secure hydraulic hoses, so they are not in the dirt. Patrick, Chatham-Kent: I power wash machinery down, getting all dirt, dust, corn or beans and hay hang-ons, and then grease any necessary parts and make repairs too so it’s all ready for next year’s planting. John, Prince Edward County: I check antifreeze protection in engines and try to wash down but winter usually sets in before we get that far! BF Digging Deeper HOW DO YOU WINTERIZE YOUR EQUIPMENT? Winterizing equipment can reduce field preparation in the spring. By Emily Croft Oiling equipment is a part of winter maintenance. Emily Croft photo
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12 Like Us on Facebook: BetterFarmingON Better Farming | January 2024 Ozone (O3) in the troposphere negatively impacts crop growth and development causing significant decreases in crop yield worldwide. This airborne pollutant does not come directly from smokestacks or vehicles, but instead is formed when other pollutants, mainly nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds, react in the presence of sunlight. In an increasingly polluted atmosphere, understanding what plants are tolerant of O3 is critical to improving crop productivity and resilience. In a collaboration between the feedstock production and sustainability themes at the Center for Advanced Bioenergy and Bioproducts Innovation (CABBI), researchers have studied the effects of elevated O3 on five C3 crops (soybean, wheat, chickpea, rice, snap bean) and four C4 crops (sorghum, maize, Miscanthus × giganteus, switchgrass). Their findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), indicate that C4 crops are much more tolerant of high O3 concentrations than C3 crops. “Understanding the tolerance of C4 bioenergy crops to air pollutants will help us deploy them strategically across landscapes around the world,” says Lisa Ainsworth, research leader in the Global Change and Photosynthesis Research Unit in the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) agency, and adjunct professor of plant biology at the University of Illinois. Both C3 and C4 crops are major sources of food, bioenergy and ethanol production worldwide. The difference between C3 and C4 plants lies in the carbon-fixation pathway they use during photosynthesis: C3 plants convert CO2 and sunlight into a three-carbon molecule, whereas the first photosynthesis product of C4 plants is a four-carbon molecule. Additionally, the C4 photosynthesis pathway starts in mesophyll cells that comprise the surface of the leaf, and then moves into bundle sheath cells that are deeper in the plant. This spatial separation is not present in the C3 photosynthesis pathway. Scientists have historically assumed that C4 plants are less sensitive to O3 pollution than C3 plants, but that assumption had not been thoroughly researched until this study. “Variation in size and growing season length means that it is difficult to do side-by-side comparisons of the response of C3 and C4 crops to ozone in the field” says Shuai Li, primary author on the paper and a postdoc in CABBI. “This limits accurate comparisons of the O3 sensitivity of C3 and C4 crops.” By synthesizing available literature and unpublished data from crops grown with increased O3 pollution in open-air field experiments over the past 20 years, authors performed a comprehensive analysis of the impact of O3 on crop physiology and production in five C3 and four C4 crops. “We focused on field experiments and quantified crop responses to a specific increase in O3 pollution. This new method quantitatively showed that C3 crops are more sensitive to elevated ozone than C4 crops,” Li says. The reasoning behind such a conclusion could have something to do with the differences in leaf anatomical features, stomatal conductance and/or metabolic rates between the C3 and C4 crops. In C3 plants, reactive oxygen species from O3 degradation can damage the mesophyll cells where photosynthesis occurs. In C4 plants, however, the spatial separation of the C4 photosynthesis pathway helps prevent O3 from infiltrating the bundle sheath cells where sugars are made. Also, C4 crops generally have lower stomatal conductance than C3 crops, potentially resulting in less O3 uptake in C4 crops. These factors likely account for C4 plants’ superior tolerance of O3. “This study enhances our understanding of the mechanisms of crops response to elevated O3 and highlights practical relevance for crop management and O3 tolerance improvement,” Li says. Ozone pollution is increasing in many parts of the world. This study quantitatively showed that O3-induced reductions in plant function and productivity are more severe in C3 crops than in C4 crops, likely because O3 interacts differently with the C3 and C4 photosynthesis pathways. Based on this finding, agricultural lands in polluted environments can be managed to have improved overall performance. C4 crops, particularly bioenergy feedstocks, can maintain productivity in regions with high O3. BF April Wendling is a CABBI communications specialist at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Research C4 CROPS & OZONE POLLUTION ‘It is difficult to compare the response of C3 & C4 crops to ozone in the field.’ By April Wendling Paul Nolan photo
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Farmerettes GROWING RECOGNITION FOR THE HISTORICAL EFFORTS OF THESE ONTARIO FARM WORKERS THE FARMERETTES: RENEWED AWARENESS By EMILY CROFT | PHOTOS COURTESY OF BONNIE SITTER
15 Ate Today? Thank a Farmer. Better Farming | January 2024 The Farmerettes, also known as the Farm Service Force, were created in 1941 to fill the demand for farm labour created by the Second World War. These women worked in the fields and processing factories, producing the food that fueled the war effort. Bonnie Sitter of South Huron has been speaking with past Farmerettes and sharing their stories since 2018. And her work is now creating renewed awareness of their vital, historical role. “Men in farm labour were leaving and enlisting for service, and the farmers were at a loss for how the farm labour force would be able to produce food,” Sitter says. The initiative was made up of girls between 16 and 18 years old who worked in the fields during their summer breaks. The Farmerettes recruited more than 30,000 young women to work on farms between 1941 and 1952. Many of them still reminisce on those summers as the best of their lives. The work The majority of the Farmerettes worked on fruit and vegetable farms, growing onions, peaches, cherries, tomatoes, and many other fresh foods. Some Farmerettes also worked in canning facilities or helped process mint that was grown in the fields. “The girls were not only known as Farmerettes, but sometimes they were also known as ‘camp girls’ or ‘soldiers in bib overalls,’” says Sitter, who spoke with us during a break from several related projects currently underway – a documentary film, a stage play, and a potential postage stamp – which will complement a previously published book. “They worked with pretty much every vegetable and fruit that could be grown in Ontario. Some girls left school in April to work in the greenhouses, getting seedlings started, and transplanting after that. Some girls stayed two weeks after the camps had closed and boarded with farmers so they could help finish the harvest.” These extended weeks of work were a potential incentive for the girls to join the Famerettes. If their grades were high enough, they could leave school early for the year, still receiving their course credits without completing exams. The farmers were responsible for paying wages for the Farmerettes. The girls were typically paid 25 cents an hour, which was standard pay for farm labour at the time. “The farmers started out thinking it was a poor idea, having women doing the farm labour, but what else could they do, and they accepted it,” says Sitter. “After the first few weeks, once the girls got used to the demands of the physical labour, they really worked as a team and tackled the job and got it done. “They worked hard but then they had fun. The camaraderie set in.” Sitter tells Better Farming that she believes that the Farm Service Force changed how women were seen on farms, creating more acceptance around their involvement. This acceptance grew as many of the women enjoyed the work enough that they returned for multiple summers. “I haven’t met anyone who said they wouldn’t do it again if they could go back. Most Farmerettes that I’ve spoken with say it’s a summer they’ve never forgotten, and that at the end of the season they were in tears leaving their friends,” says Sitter, noting that after the war, opportunities for men to learn trades and attend college extended the duration of the farm labour shortage. “Seven years after the war ended, they were still replacing male labour on the farm and that’s just not something women did before the Farmerettes.” Camp life During their time working on the farms, most Farmerettes lived in camps. Often the camps were dorm style, with shared sleeping spaces, a recreation space, and outdoor washrooms. Some other camps had the girls sleep in tents. Farmerettes Bonnie Sitter holding the Farmerettes photo which inspired her research. Photo courtesy of Bonnie Sitter
16 The Business of Ontario Agriculture Better Farming | January 2024 One example of a camp shared by Sitter was the converted grist mill in Thedford. The girls slept on the upper floor in bunkbeds, while downstairs there was a shared space, and the washrooms were outside. The camps had cooks, helpers, camp mothers, and labour secretaries. The labour secretaries were often girls that had previously been Farmerettes, returning after their first year of university. They were responsible for job assignments, collecting hours, and distributing pay packets. Sitter says that this was the first time many of these young women were away from their homes. “The girls did a lot of growing up. The camp staff cleaned the bedding and the camp, but girls were responsible for their own laundry. At these camps, a bell rang, and they got their lunch made, marked their name on the bag, and farmers started coming to pick them up,” says Sitter. “Often the work started at 7:30 am with maybe a 15-minute break in morning, and there’d be a lunch break and the farmer would provide water to be passed around through the group. And no one got sick, even though they were sharing the water.” Sitter says many of the past Farmerettes she has talked to describe these summers as the healthiest they’d ever been. The girls also enjoyed the friendships made in the camps outside of work hours. While most nights involved a curfew, the Farmerettes did have some free evenings and weekends to travel to nearby towns and see movies, and sometimes attend dances hosted by the camps. Lambton County Museums says that some camps had softball teams, and the girls would also write letters home, knit clothing for soldiers, or play board games. Many Farmerettes continue to look back fondly on these memories. Sharing stories In 2018, nearly 70 years after the program ended, Sitter found a photo of some Farmerettes while sorting through her late husband’s belongings. Not recognizing the girls in the photograph spurred Sitter to learn about the photo’s origins, and consequently, she discovered the Farmerette program. In her research, Sitter has uncovered just how valuable the Farmerettes were to Canada’s role in the Second World War. “Something that I think is really important to note is that people think bombs and bullets win the war, but if people can’t be fed, it doesn’t work,” says Sitter. “It all starts with food. Our allies had to be fed and our canning factories and food industries were shipping food to Britain on Atlantic convoys. “These were being blown up, but they just kept producing the food and sending it out and that’s what carried us through the war to victory. It was food.” Sitter now aims to spread the word and recognize the stories and contributions of the Farmerettes, many of whom are now 90 to 100 years old. “It is an unknown story that started with a tiny picture that was 2.5 by 2.5 inches. I saw the girls and didn’t know their story and decided to do research. I could’ve decided to throw that picture out and the story would’ve been lost.” Sitter previously released a book titled Onion Skins and Peach Fuzz; Memories of Ontario Farmerettes, and is now working on a documentary sharing the stories through interview clips. Also, the 4th Line Theatre in Millbank will be premiering a play – also titled Onion Skins & Peach Fuzz: The Farmerettes – in the summer of 2024 to honour the story of the Farm Service Force. There will be 18 opportunities to see the play in the outdoor theatre starting in July. Sitter also intends to work with Canada Post to create a postage stamp to commemorate the work of the Farmerettes. “We are feeling quite positive that Canada Post Corporation will listen to the story that’s spreading, and they will honour and recognize the service of the Farmerettes. “And I think the message will go far and wide in Canada. We just keep working at these things and hope that they get recognized. “No one taught me about the Farmerettes, but I wanted to learn about them and made a stab at it, and away it’s gone.” BF Farmerettes EMILY CROFT Emily lives on a beef farm, raising Red Angus and Simmental cattle. She holds a Master of Science in Animal Biosciences from University of Guelph, with a focus on ruminant nutrition. Most Farmerettes lived in camps.
18 It’s Farming. And It’s Better. Better Farming | January 2024 CROP FERTILITY PROGRAMS Looking at historical yield gains for both corn and soybeans across North America is exciting. Over the past 25 years, corn yields have increased by about 50 bushels per acre, and soybeans have increased by approximately 15 bushels. But are we feeding this crop adequately to maintain these high yields? Why are yields on the rise? A lot of this is attributed to genetic yield gain and the management practices growers are utilizing during specific stages of crop development to minimize stresses on plants. This allows for continuous water and nutrient uptake and the conversion to sugars, protein, and starch to make more yield. The question we should be asking ourselves is, “Are we feeding the crop enough nutrients to sustain this continual yield growth today and in the future?” To answer this, we need to look at what the corn and soybean crop needs to make a bushel of grain for each crop. For this article, I am going to focus on phosphorus and potassium. Similar principles would apply to other crop nutrients. Phosphorus is a primary nutrient. It aids in photosynthesis and cell division, which is critical for crop development. It is taken up for enhanced root development and can be instrumental in the initial stages of development of a crop. As well, phosphorous helps with crop maturity of plants. Potassium is instrumental for water regulation and controls the stomates in a plant. It also aids with stalk quality (formation of lignin and cellulose), and can help later in the season with improved lodging resistance. It assists with disease and insect resistance (think about soybean aphids that usually attack low-K soil test areas). Industry experts would refer to it as the “Power of Potash.” A 2015 survey conducted by the International Plant Nutrition Institute showed samples that tested below the critical levels for phosphorus and potassium ranged from 31 to 38 per cent for phosphorus and nine to 65 per cent for potassium for various states. Critical levels are defined as the level below which a profitable yield response would be expected in the year of application. Simply put, if you apply fertilizer, you will get a positive return on the investment that covers the initial cost and provides a return above that. This intrigued me, so I decided to investigate what soil test levels would be like for Ontario. All soil lab companies keep historical data sets. For Ontario, I recently talked with Chris Meier, Business Development and Key Account Manager for A&L Canada Laboratories based in London. Chris pulled a fiveyear history of data for Ontario, looking at soil test levels for phosphorous and potassium. On the phosphorus front, 70 per cent of samples were in the very low, too low, and medium categories, with the split almost equal among the three levels. Paul Hermans photo AN ADEQUATE, WELL-BALANCED FERTILITY PROGRAM WILL ENSURE YOUR CROPS ARE HEALTHY. DO YOUR CROPS GET THREE SQUARE MEALS? By PAUL HERMANS
19 It’s Farming. And It’s Better. Better Farming | January 2024 Looking at potassium, two per cent were in the very low range, 13 per cent in the low range and 50 per cent in the medium range. Chris commented that “generally speaking, we are seeing a downward trend in soil test levels. Some of it can be attributed to higher fertilizer costs, as growers look at only applying crop (nutrient) removal. The challenge is that we are attaining consistently higher yields, with improved genetics and cropping practices, which is potentially taking out more nutrients than once thought.” If we look at crop removal rates, OMAFRA would suggest the following for corn and soybean removal rates per bushel. One can simply do the math to see crop removal rates comparing yields from today and yields from 25+ years ago to see that we need to ensure we are feeding our crop to maintain high yield levels. In my area, soybean yields were up five to 10 bushels and corn 20 to 30 bushels in 2023 compared to the prior year – and as much as 10 to 15 for soybeans and 30 to 40 for corn over a five to 10-year period. CROP FERTILITY PROGRAMS Leslie Stewart photo Crop P205 K20 Corn .37-.44 4.6-5.2 Soybeans .8-.88 1.38-.14 Genetic yield gain and management practices have led to higher yields over years. Mental Health Training for the Agriculture Community AgricultureWellnessOntario.ca Individuals Sign up for one of our monthly virtual workshops today! Open to producers, agriculture professionals and community members. Groups Request a private training for your board, staff or membership. For teams and groups of 5-30 people. In the Know is a free workshop tailored to the agriculture community that increases understanding of mental health and wellness, normalizes conversations about mental health and reduces stigma.
CROP FERTILITY PROGRAMS DEMAND NEW HOLLAND https://agriculture.newholland.com/nar/en-us EQUIPPED FOR A NEW WORLD™ Bob Mark New Holland Sales Ltd. Campbellford • 705-653-3700 Bob Mark New Holland Sales Ltd. Lindsay • 705-324-2221 Bob Mark New Holland Sales Ltd. Napanee • 613-354-9244 Bob Mark New Holland Sales Ltd. Sunderland • 705-357-3121 Delta Power Equipment Mitchell • 519-348-8467 Delta Power Equipment St. Marys • 519-349-2180 Delta Power Equipment Tilbury • 519-682-9090 Delta Power Equipment Waterford • 519-443-8622 Delta Power Equipment Watford • 519-849-2744 Delta Power Equipment Winchester • 613-774-2887 Ebert Welding Ltd. New Liskeard • 705-647-6896 ESM Farm Equipment Ltd. Wallenstein • 519-669-5176 Maxville Farm Machinery Ltd. Maxville • 613-527-2834 McCauley Equipment Sales Orillia • 705-325-4424 Oneida New Holland Caledonia • 905-765-5011 Oneida New Holland St Catharines • 905-688-5160 Regional Tractor Sales Ltd. Freelton • 905-659-1094 Richards Equipment Inc. Barrie • 705-721-5530 Robert’s Farm Equipment Sales, Inc. Chesley • 519-363-3192 Robert’s Farm Equipment Sales, Inc. Mount Forest • 519-323-2755 Robert’s Farm Equipment Sales, Inc. Walton • 519-887-6365 Smiths Farm Equipment (Jasper) Ltd. Jasper • 613-283-1758 Stewart’s Equipment Erin • 519-833-9616 PAUL HERMANS Paul Hermans, CCA-ON is an area agronomist in Eastern Ontario with Corteva Agriscience. This alone is a huge jump in one year that results in more crop removal. The best way to determine crop needs is through a solid soil test program. Ideally, this is done either on a grid basis or, better yet, by soil management zones. Utilizing precision agriculture with yield maps, a crop removal variable rate script can be utilized. Soils can be built up to optimum levels and then maintained using simple crop removal rates. The ideal program would be to utilize variable rate prescriptions. As we all know, fields have variability and yields vary across a small area in a field. With today’s economy, variable rate fertility programs are a no-brainer. If you know me, I am an analytical type of person. Show me the money on replicated studies and I have an easier time buying into a specific principle. I will refer to some recent research done in Southern Ontario to show the value of increasing soil fertility levels. Dr. Dave Hooker and others in Southern Ontario conducted research work on this exact principle. In his research work, they drew down fertility levels in part of a plot and made sure optimum levels were applied in the other part of the experimental plot. In the portion of the plot that had below optimal soil test levels, they applied fertilizer. In essence, they were looking at what effect applying soil fertilizer would have on low fertility fields, to show the yield response to applying optimal levels of fertilizer. For optimum soil test levels, they aimed for phosphorus at 20 ppm or higher and potassium at 120 ppm or higher. Summarizing the work, they found about a four to six-bushel gain in soybeans, and 10 to 13 for corn. These types of yield gains can be used to factor in the economics of applying fertilizer at sustainable rates to maintain and/or increase long-term yield goals. The analogy that you always need three square meals a day holds true when we compare the crop to humans. You never want your crops to have a bad day. An adequate, well-balanced fertility program will ensure your crops are healthy, giving you the best yield potential year in and year out. As the old saying goes, you will pay the price today or later. My vote is to pay the price now by getting fertility in check for long-term yield gains rather than losing yield down the road. Good luck this winter. Look over yield maps from 2023 as you design optimum fertility plans for the 2024 cropping season. BF
22 Follow us on Twitter @BetterFarmingON Better Farming | January 2024 RICHARD KAMCHEN Richard Kamchen is a veteran agricultural freelance writer based in Winnipeg, Man. Tax to-dos Farmers may want to consult their tax advisors for a heads-up about the potential for additional mandatory filings. For 2023, Underused Housing Tax (UHT) and bare trust reporting promise to have massive impacts that tax experts are still working through while trying to educate their clients about how they may be affected, says Cara Noble, tax manager at Yates Whitaker LLP. UHT Many farmers may not have realized that they had to file a UHT return last year in addition to their regular tax filings, says Thomas Blonde, a partner with Baker Tilly GWD. This return may be required even for a farmhouse that they live in. CRA originally extended the deadline to Oct. 31, 2023, and then extended it again to April 30, 2024. “So, if a farmer has not filed this, they should make sure that it is filed to avoid possible large penalties – generally $10,000 per house,” Blonde says. Ottawa, however, proposed changes to the UHT in November’s 2023 Fall Economic Statement. The federal government “proposes various Canadian-owned entities to no longer be required to report on the UHT for years 2023 and onward,” says Kingston Ross Pasnak LLP tax partner Allan Sawiak. “The government is also proposing to reduce these minimum penalties to $1,000 for individuals and $2,000 for corporations, per failure.” Bare trusts Sawiak also says that bare trusts are an issue that will surprise many farmers. Previously, bare trusts were exempt from T3 filings, but for 2023, reporting is due 90 days after Dec. 31, 2023, he says. Sawiak explains the changes can affect producers in several common scenarios: Those whose land is owned personally but whose farm buildings are recorded in the farm partnership or the farm corporation; Offspring who are on the farmland title but their parents have a home on that land, or vice versa, such as if the child needed the parents to guarantee their mortgage and the parents were added to the farmland title; Elderly parents having added their adult children to their bank account as part of their estate planning. Yates Whitaker’s Noble reckons that the key scenario will be the one in which an individual is on the land title, but the farm buildings are in the partnership or corporation. “The buildings will likely be considered held ‘in trust’ by the individual for the partnership or corporation, thus creating a filing requirement,” she says. Be proactive Baker Tilly’s Blonde encourages farmers to be proactive with their accountants throughout the year rather than waiting until their year-end to engage. “Often tax planning opportunities are lost when you wait until after your year-end,” Blonde says. He suggests producers ensure their records are well organized and that they submit their information to their accountants as early as possible after their year-end. “Also, let your accountant know of any major current and upcoming projects on your farm,” Blonde advises. BF BE PROACTIVE WITH YOUR ACCOUNTANTS THROUGHOUT THE YEAR; DON’T WAIT UNTIL YEAR-END TO ENGAGE. FARMERS ADVISED OF IMPORTANT TAX REPORTING CHANGES By RICHARD KAMCHEN Jodie Aldred photo
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24 Like Us on Facebook: BetterFarmingON Better Farming | January 2024 Jessica Martin is a dairy farmer and farm mom who is sharing her passion for the farm with her children and consumers. Margrove Farms, just outside of Elmira, is run by Jessica, her husband Ian, and her husband’s parents. Jessica is also raising her children, Brodie, almost three years, and Adam, 11 months, on the farm. The family milks around 115 cows twice a day in a 12-swing parlour. The cows are housed on a compost pack. They also cash crop, growing wheat, beans, corn, rye and alfalfa. “My roles are milking, calf care and wrangling the kids,” Jessica says. “Being a mom keeps me very busy and occupied. Besides farming, my mom life takes up every other minute.” As the farm continues to progress, Jessica says one of their goals is to start looking closer at producing beef from the farm. Jessica grew up rural but had no farm experience before she got married. “I had no dairy knowledge or experience at all before meeting my husband, but now I’ve been farming for seven years and he’s taught me everything I know,” Jessica explains. Jessica, Ian, Adam, and Brodie Martin. Jessica and family crop wheat, beans, corn, and alfalfa. Here, Bloomingdale Farms helps with harvest. Jessica Martin photo Jessica Martin photo Nutrient Loss LEARNING ON THE JOB ‘Just because you grew up rural, doesn’t mean you know how a farm operates.’ By Emily Croft UP CLOSE
25 Like Us on Facebook: BetterFarmingON Better Farming | January 2024 “Thanks to his patience and my never-ending questions, he has provided me with a wealth of knowledge, and I continue to learn every day.” Learning about agriculture takes time and is easiest when fully immersed, which is the approach Jessica has taken since joining the dairy farm. “It’s a big challenge but I’m so glad I did it. The first little bit was a lot of learning, but it’s been a lot of fun.” Having joined agriculture somewhat later in life, Jessica has clear perspective on what it’s like to learn about the farming lifestyle. She also has insight into what the non-farming community might be missing out on. Jessica uses her Instagram account (@martin_jess_) to share the day-today activity on their farm, cultivating relationships between consumers and where their food comes from. She has shared facts about compost pack management, cow and calf care, harvest, and how milk is shipped. These social media posts are a daily look at the passion Jessica has for the industry and her family’s life on the farm. What is your favourite thing about being a farmer? Farming is a job but mostly it’s a lifestyle. It’s a family affair. Being able to work alongside my husband and kids every day is a bless- The Martin family milks around 115 cows. Jessica Martin photo UP CLOSE
26 Ate Today? Thank a Farmer. Better Farming | January 2024 ing I don’t take for granted, and raising and caring for animals and crops is rewarding work. The ability to work outside everyday from sunrise to sunset allows you to slow down and appreciate God’s handywork. What has your biggest farming challenge been? Personally, my biggest challenge was learning everything about the farm from having zero knowledge. It’s a big learning curve to learn how to take care of animals properly. And another big challenge was as the farm was transitioning into the new barn, which was about six years ago. The greatest but most rewarding challenge has been incorporating motherhood into farming. I don’t think there is a balance. My farming role drastically changed with the season of life I’m currently in. Going from being my husband’s main UP CLOSE That happy smile may not show all that’s going on under the surface. To really be there for one another, we need to dig deeper. Turn thoughts into conversations and talk about the tough stuff. Together, we can champion the mental well being of our agriculture community. The Do More Agriculture Foundation is here to help. Check out our website for agriculture-specific mental health support and resources. Visit domore.ag today! #talkitout BREAKING DOWN If only they knew how close I am to I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO SAY I know they’re struggling, but BETTER WITHOUT ME Maybe the farm would do Sharing a treat with a furry friend. Jessica Martin photoand alfalfa.
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