Behind the Lines - October 2010

In the 1960s, some futurists foresaw the farmer relaxing in a rocking chair on the front porch 
of his farmhouse, watching a robot-controlled tractor go up and down his field.  

Forty or more years later, augmented Global Positioning Systems (GPS) that can steer tractors and self-propelled sprayers and harvesters up and down fields are in the province now, as writer Mary Baxter lays out in our cover story starting on page 14. These systems are trimming costs like seed, fertilizer and spray while letting tractor operators work accurately for longer hours with less fatigue. (Sitting on the porch was just fanciful imagery.) Whether this technology will encourage the trend towards larger and larger operations remains to be seen.

Ten years ago, Better Farming first published “The Sewage Double Standard,” our annual report about municipal sewage spills and bypasses. Our 11th annual report is in this issue. At the time, the fact that “storm events” overwhelmed sometimes antiquated sewage treatment systems, so releasing untreated and dangerous sewage into waterways, came as a surprise to many municipal councillors, federal and provincial politicians and the media. The provincial government ministry responsible for the environment made light of the effects of dumping essentially untreated sewage mixed with chlorine into the environment. Meanwhile, agriculture was being singled out for perceived environmental abuses.

Some time during the last decade, municipalities, non-governmental organizations and the mainstream press caught on to the issues at stake, and governments began moving to close the gaps. Still, a double standard remains, as writer Don Stoneman explains, starting on page 36. Agriculture must be vigilant as Source Water Protection regulations come into play.

In mid-2009, the Ontario Energy Board brought new standards into place and ordered power providers to deal with the contentious issue of stray voltage on farms. It seemed that a long-standing farm issue had finally been dealt with. Now, new concerns are surfacing, in particular for dairy farmers. Stoneman also writes about this, starting on page 51.

After its annual summer hiatus, our regular feature, “Crop Scene Investigation,” returns on page 50 with a challenge for wheat growers. Over the years, we’ve awarded dozens of wireless weather stations to those who have participated in this popular series. After four months, however, no one has yet submitted a solution to the problem with Art’s Alfalfa, featured in our May issue. So why not pull your May issue off the pile and see if you can win a weather station for alfalfa and another for wheat? BF



Better Farming - October 2010