Behind the Lines - May 2011

Ian Barker, a retired professor of wildlife diseases from Guelph, calls Lyme disease, also known as Lyme borreliosis, “the most political disease in North America.”

Farmers who spend their time in tractor cabs aren’t likely to get it. Those who work in woods and fields in the summertime are vulnerable.

Diagnosis and treatment of the disease are steeped in controversy, as our writer Mary Baxter found out. She talked to farmers and others who have been diagnosed with Lyme and have lost faith in the health system. Doctors on both sides of the many issues, and the Public Health Agency of Canada, agree that Lyme disease, once limited to the southern fringe of this province, is spreading north with ticks carried by wildlife. Thus, it is a potential threat which farmers need to be on their guard against.

More than a decade ago, in the pages of this magazine, we wrote about a rare sighting of the Henslow’s Sparrow. Under the federal Species At Risk Act, the farmer-owner of the field was forbidden from harvesting his hay crop until late summer, when it was deemed useless and hauled away.

Flash forward to 2010, when the Bobolink, a once common bird in southern Ontario which lives in hayfields, is designated as “threatened” because of rapidly declining numbers. Early harvest is good crop management but threatens the Bobolink’s nests and habitat. Under the provincial Endangered Species Act of 2007, anyone who messes with a named species is subject to possibly crippling fines. However, an apparent solution is on the way, thanks to farm groups who worked with both the provincial government and wildlife groups. Editor Don Stoneman writes about this, starting on page 44.

Readers will recall that the Crop Scene Investigation published in our March issue was a departure. We asked readers to suggest a possible cause of a “crop square” found last October in Perth County. Because there is no “right” or “wrong” answer, we departed from our tradition of picking from the pool of correct answers and drew a name from all of the suggestions to win a Wireless Weather Station. Congratulations go to John Good of Baden. For some of the theories advanced, look at Bern Tobin’s CSI column on page 50. We may never know what actually created that “crop square.”

In our April issue, we challenged readers to guess “which pest invaded Jeffrey’s corn field.”

Gord Jones of Centralia correctly identified corn earworm. CSI doesn’t appear in the summer months, but Bern Tobin and his experts will be out looking for new problems to stump you with when this popular feature returns in the fall.

This month marks the debut of a new series by Mike Mulhern. It sprang from comments received on Pat Lynch’s column on a demonstration at Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show last fall. With so many new innovations in tillage and no-till available, we thought we would look at this essential act of farming in the past, present and perhaps even into the future. Mulhern’s series begins on page 56. BF



Better Farming - May 2011