Soils and Crops Conference Offers Agricultural Research Findings On A Plate

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

If you are looking for the latest developments in soils and crop issues in agriculture—and technical details are something you never get enough of—this may just be your kind of thing.

The Soils and Crops Conference taking place at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan on March 2 and 3 promises to quench your thirst for knowledge.

Adrian Johnston, Northern Great Plains Director with the Potash and Phosphate Institute of Canada (PPIC) in Saskatoon, helped to organize this year's program.

“This is an event that we put on annually with the assistance of the Extension Division at the University of Saskatchewan," he says. "It is intended mostly for researchers and agricultural practitioners in the field, and it is a great opportunity for graduate students to deliver research papers, but it is certainly open to the agricultural producer community as well. Many of the presentations will have practical applications that crops advisors can take home; others will set the direction for future research on soils and crops in the years to come. It is basically an update on crops and soils research and development activities in Saskatchewan.”

The format of the conference is typical of the academic milieu, with 20-minute concurrent presentations on anything from forage opportunities, fertilizer futures and organic trials, to the search for new herbicide chemistries or strategies to improve crop recovery of manure nutrients.

“We also have some invited speakers who are allocated half-hour sessions. They will include experts like Penny Pearse, the Provincial Plant Disease Specialist at Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food (SAF), and Les Bohrson, a senior agrologist with SAF who works with irrigation resources.”

There are also people likeSaskatoon commodity analyst Larry Webber who will share his perspectives on farm income and returns.

The Saskatchewan Institute of Agrologists (SIA) and the Certified Crop Advisor (CCA) programs recognize this event as a professional development opportunity.

The registration form can be downloaded here.

To register, call: (306) 966-5539.

Zehner Couple's Retirement Project Yields Profits

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Duane and Margaret Rose’s Shepherd’s Cottage Wool may have started out as a retirement project, but it is turning into an agricultural success story for the sheep wool industry in Saskatchewan.

“We originally started to look for an animal that was raised specifically for the fibre. We found information on Shetland sheep, and as it turned out, there was a flock at Fort Qu’Appelle that would be for sale in the next few years, and we eventually acquired it.

Shetland sheep are unique in a number of ways. They are a small, primitive breed, but the wool is very nice to work with, explains Margaret. It can be of 11 different colours. The Roses have Shetland sheep that are black and grey, and light grey and white, and brown, and light brown and very dark brown.

"It is quite a marketing asset to have the natural colours," explains Margaret.

From their initial 19 ewes, the Roses now have 85. The purebred Shetlands are being registered with the North American Shetland Sheep Association (NASSA).

“We shear them each March,” explains Margaret. “They quite enjoy it because they start getting really warm with a year’s worth of fleece on them. This can be quite a long fleece in the Shetland—six to eight inches. In the last few years, we have been breeding for shorter fleece because the mills have a hard time working with the long fleece. The long fleece is good for people who like to hand process the fleece or hand spin it.

“When we had only a few sheep, I did some of the processing myself—that means washing the fleece, picking and spinning it, but now we send it to a fibre mill to be processed. They turn it into either yarn or into spinning fibre called roving, and then the yarn is sold as either knitting or weaving yarn. The best way to add value to it is to turn it into finished product. Hand knitting, as you can imagine, is not a speedy process. So it takes quite a bit of effort to knit a sweater, but I do have knitters who knit for me.”

At Shepherd’s Cottage Wool, the farm retail shop, the Roses sell wool products from their sheep that include yarn, spinning fibre and the finished products like sweaters, mitts, hats, scarves, slippers, socks and other things.

“We also sell knitting-related products, such as spinning wheels, knitting needles, knitting bags, knitting baskets and carders," Margaret points out.

Her husband and business partner Duane is quite proud of Rose Farm’s accomplishments.

“We are pretty much self-sufficient in that we grow our own grain, barley or oats. We have grown field peas in the past, as well. We have our own hay field and our own pasture—we own a quarter section. So we have a place for the sheep for summer and winter. We have several barns and corrals to manage them and the equipment to do all this, to put up the hay and harvest the crop.”

After a rewarding career in education, Margaret and Duane needed to undertake a project that would enable them to stay engaged in lifelong learning.

“Our parents were farmers,” says Margaret. “We grew up around Swift Current, but we were living in Regina and looking for a way to get out of the city and to do something interesting. I always wanted to farm.

“We advertise in the tourism literature. People drop in during the summer time. We have an event at our farm called Country Critter Fibre Fair every September—this will be our third one coming up.”

Duane proudly recites the list of other Rose Farm tenants. “We have two donkeys—we run them with the rams in the summer time. We have two llamas and we use them with the ewes. We have a livestock guardian dog and we are getting another, and we have a farm dog. Plus, we have our cats, and they are very important because without them, the mice just ruin our haystacks.

“The cats serve an important function. One summer we had just one cat and we lost about 1,000 bales. The mice just chew the strings off. We ended up just turning it into compost and spreading it on the field. Now we have good pest control officers.”

According to Duane, the whole operation now pays for itself. “We actually do quite well at it. We don’t have to buy a membership at the gym because we are forced every morning to go out and do chores. In the winter—in past winters, anyways—there is always snow to move and farm work in the summer.

“With the wool business—given the stage of life we are at,” concludes Margaret, “we keep it manageable for us, first and foremost. I have gained enough experience that, if I were 30-something and had lots of energy, there are a lot of things we could do with the wool and the sheep. I see lots of potential.”

Margaret and Duane Rose
Shepherd’s Cottage Wool
Rose Farm
(306) 789-3763

New Agricultural Economy Requires Better Equipped Board Members

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Organizations want to have productive and effective boards. They want to make the best possible use of the time and expertise of those who sit around their board table. The Saskatchewan Council for Community Development (SCCD) has recognized this need, and offers the Board Basics Workshop.

This workshop is now an approved course under the Canadian Agricultural Skills Service (CASS) program, so those who qualify under the CASS program may be reimbursed for the workshop fee, according to SCCD community development co-ordinator Lisa Erickson.

“The Board Basics Workshop will be of interest to those involved with the boards of agricultural organizations and businesses. New agricultural and agri-food businesses and organizations will gain the information they need to thrive, and existing organizations will learn how to further strengthen the effectiveness of their boards.”

Developing strong boards is vital for growth and leadership in the agricultural sector, explains Erickson. This workshop will equip board members, potential board members and staff who work with boards with the skills and knowledge to maximize their productivity and effectiveness.

The workshop is delivered by Donna Bruce and lawyer Sam McCullough. Bruce has 20 years of experience working with university, government and co-operative institutions. She is a consultant who guides people and organizations through strategic planning and leadership.

“Donna will handle the morning sessions, where she will talk about effective board practices and governance, while Sam takes over in the afternoon to cover the legalities and liabilities associated with boards," Erickson says. "Participants get a chance to spend a good part of the day with a lawyer and get their board-related questions answered. Often, many legal questions arise.”

Past participants have included delegates from the Saskatchewan Flax Development Commission and Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food, as well as livestock groups.

It is a one-day workshop. Included is a manual on effective board practices that participants get to take home.

The workshop takes place on March 8 at the Regina Travelodge Hotel. It runs from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The cost is $150, which includes coffee, lunch and a Board Basics manual.

A full brochure and registration form can be accessed at by clicking on “Board Basics.” For more information or to register, contact Lisa Erickson at (306) 975-5960 or e-mail her at:

For more information, contact:

Lisa Erickson
Community Development Co-ordinator
Saskatchewan Council for Community Development
(306) 975-5960

Forecast Show Conditions Ripe for Wheat Midge Infestation

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Wheat midge populations are back at levels that could pose a significant risk to wheat producers in Saskatchewan.

The 2006 Wheat Midge Forecast Map indicates that densities of this insect pest have increased over much of the eastern half of the province, according to Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food Insect Pest Specialist Scott Hartley.

Wheat midge have been a serious problem for wheat producers since 1983, when they first appeared in Saskatchewan. This insect pest has gradually spread from the eastern half of the province to affect western regions, including North Battleford and Lloydminster. It has also expanded into Alberta.

“We had huge numbers during the late 1990s. In the early 2000s, the population was still high, but there has been a decline since, until now,” Hartley says.

“For the past few years,” Hartley goes on, “we haven’t had very high numbers, which has moved the wheat midge off the radar as a serious pest. In the 2005 forecast, we started to note some higher populations of wheat midge again, largely in the south-east, but also northward along the Manitoba border. So we are back up to very serious infestation levels.”

How these forecast maps are compiled is worth noting. Hartley explains that, in the fall, the survey is carried out by collecting soil core samples.

“The soil samples are washed; wheat midge cocoons are extracted and then dissected to check for parasite levels. Results show that, even after being corrected for parasitism, there are some high wheat midge populations, largely in the east central and south-east regions, and along the Manitoba border. It looks like midge will pose a reasonable threat to wheat producers across much of the eastern half of the province in 2006.”

This rise in wheat midge levels can be attributed largely to climatic conditions that are more favourable to the midge, according to Hartley.

“This insect likes moist, cooler conditions. During 2001 to 2003, we had mostly hot, dry conditions that were probably responsible for the reduction of midge numbers. There are probably other factors, as well. For 2004-2005, the climate has been more conducive to a resurgence of the pest.”

The 2006 forecast map is not very encouraging, although the forecasting techniques themselves are improving by leaps and bounds, notes Hartley.

A recent innovation is the identification of a wheat midge pheromone—a chemical that is released by a female to attract male midge. The research involved a joint project through Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Saskatoon and Simon Fraser University in British Columbia.

Hartley explains how this team has developed a monitoring system based on pheromone-baited traps set in the fields that would attract male midge and provide an indication of the prevailing midge levels.

“We are excited about this, as it is a positive step and an affordable tool for the future. The manufacturer, Phero Tech, is now working on establishing an economic threshold that could tell producers at what level spraying would be required.”

Hartley advises producers who want to find out more about wheat midge identification and control to consult the FAQs on the SAF website or to call the Agriculture Knowledge Centre at 1-866-457-2377.

Additional 2006 wheat midge forecast information, including the map, may be viewed on the SAF website under Crops/Integrated Pest Management/Insects.

For more information, contact:

Scott Hartley
Insect Pest Management Specialist
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
(306) 787-4669

Society for Range Management Benefiting Saskatchewan

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

As Saskatchewan agricultural producers increasingly turn to rangelands as a means to add value to beef, some people, like Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food Forage Development Specialist Dale Weisbrot, hope that a greater number of range management interveners will become active in the Society for Range Management (SRM).

“It is a professional organization for folks directly and indirectly associated with range management in the larger sense: rangeland, forage development and forage use. Those are the people who carry out direct research and make recommendations in the province as to guidelines and policies that promote the wise use of rangeland and forage resources.”

The society started in 1948, and is mostly made up of Americans, but it has a number of Canadian members, as well.

“In Saskatchewan during the last 10 to 12 years, we have paid a lot more attention to our range resources,” says Weisbrot. “A number of range management professionals are working with landowners and land managers throughout the province to try to develop good, proper land management practices.”

Range management professionals are employed by Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food, the Saskatchewan Watershed Authority, the University of Saskatchewan, non-governmental organizations like the Saskatchewan Forage Council, Ducks Unlimited Canada and the Nature Conservancy of Canada, as well as the federal government through Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's research arm and the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration (PFRA).

"Chances are, the next time you pick up literature or attend a seminar, tour or workshop that deals with pasture management and forage in general, an SRM member has been very involved in its development," says Weisbrot.

Some range managers have taken their professional certification through the Society, notes Weisbrot.

“They have obtained the Certified Professional in Rangeland Management (CPRM) designation. Once you have that, you embark on a continual learning process through regular personal and professional development.

“Normally, those who would become certified would be graduates of an accredited academic institution. There is a testing procedure where applicants can demonstrate their competence and receive the certification.”

Rangelands comprise almost one-half of all the land in the world. They are extremely important to society for the goods and services they produce and for the ecological services they provide.

“The SRM is dedicated to the conservation and sustainable management of rangelands for the benefit of current societies, as well as future generations," explains Weisbrot. "The Society for Range Management promotes international development, the dissemination of range management knowledge and the sound management of rangelands worldwide.”

The SRM is organized by function through committees and by geopolitical and local functioning through sections and chapters. If need be, special task groups or partnerships can be established for a specific role from time to time.

“The SRM is divided in geographical areas that are subdivided into sections. We are in the Northern Great Plainssection, which includes Saskatchewan, Manitoba, eastern Montana and North Dakota,” he explains. “Within that, we have the Prairie/Parkland chapter, which includes Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

“The organization is an active partner in the Saskatchewan Prairie Conservation Action Plan (PCAP), and takes part in the annual Native Prairie Appreciation Week by co-hosting a seminar and tour. This year's plan is to highlight the historic Matador and Beechy area on June 20 to 22. The SRM also administers the Gerald Sharpe Memorial Scholarship, which goes to a rangeland science student at the University of Saskatchewan.”

The 59th annual meeting of the SRM just took place in Vancouver, British Columbia, on February 12 to 17. It is a major event attended by about 2,000 participants, and again this year had significant representation from Saskatchewan. Canada has hosted the annual meeting twice before, in Alberta.

The meeting features educational, technical and scientific programs and symposia that showcase the dynamics of range management and the interrelationships between the natural processes that form our diverse rangeland ecosystems.

Visit to find out more about the Society for Range Management.

For more information, contact:

Dale Weisbrot
Forage Development Specialist
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
(306) 787-9476

Crop Opportunity and Scott Research Update in North Battleford

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Saskatchewan producers and industry are invited to attend the Crop Opportunity and Scott Research Farm Update at the Western Development Museum in North Battleford on February 23.

“The mandate of the Western Applied Research Corporation (WARC) is the transfer of technology from researchers to Saskatchewan producers, and the evaluation of the economic implications of technology for Saskatchewan producers," says Sally Germsheid, WARC administrator, "which this meeting will bring forth.”

Sherrilyn Phelps, a regional Soils and Crops Agrologist with Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food (SAF), who also oversees WARC, will open the meeting with introductions and a short history of WARC. The first speaker of the day will be John Buchan, SAF Bio-Products Co-ordinator, who will talk about biodiesel and ethanol, explains Germsheid.

“We will also have a session on energy use on the farm with Ken Rosaasen, who is an agricultural economist with the University of Saskatchewan. He will talk about energy efficiency for producers.”

Following that will be a session on managing cropping decisions with high input costs with Stu Brandt, a researcher with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

This will be followed with a session entitled “What is New in Weed Control” with Eric Johnson, a weed biologist with AAFC. Penny Pearse, the Provincial Plant Disease Specialist with SAF, will help guide participants through disease issues for 2006. There will then be a session on Opportunity for Pulses and Livestock Feed with Michelle Fleury of the Saskatchewan Pulse Growers Association.

“The day will conclude with a Grain Market Outlook for 2006 with Ron Styles, who is with Union Securities. He will provide a market outlook for grain and cattle,” says Germsheid.

Over 100 participants attended this event last year. The event runs from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Registration is $20.00, with lunch included.

WARC benefits from funding from the SAF Agri-ARM (Agriculture Applied Research Management) program.

For more information, contact:

Sally Germsheid
Western Applied Research Corporation
(306) 658-4321

Custom Grazing a Real Opportunity for Landowners

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Custom grazing is a real opportunity for forage producers to earn some extra revenue, without actually owning cattle.

Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food (SAF) Forage Development Specialist Trevor Lennox sheds light on this increasingly common practice:

“Custom grazing arrangements for livestock make sense when producers have more pastureland than they have cows to graze it. As the amount of land being converted to perennial forages in the province continues to expand, we are likely to see an increase in custom grazing because many producers end up with more forage than they can use for their own livestock. This is where custom grazing can work—where one producer has the land, water and grazing expertise, and another person owns the cattle.”

Custom grazing allows landowners to have a more stable income each year, whereas cattle ownership can have large income fluctuations from one year to another due to market situations.

It is worth keeping in mind that there are business people and individuals who will invest in cattle, and will pay someone else to look after them. For these people, custom grazing is financially attractive.

“Custom grazing activities are generally a business arrangement, governed by a contract that outlines what each party is responsible for,” explains Lennox.

The grazing contract is important. It outlines an agreement between two parties to perform certain functions over a certain time period. Some grazing contracts work on a daily rate, while others operate on a rate/pound of gain.

For an inexperienced custom grazier, Trevor Lennox recommends a daily rate because it guarantees income levels, whereas the rate/pound of gain stipulation is for more experienced graziers who want to generate the most profit from their land.

“In essence, custom grazing minimizes the capital investment required to generate an economic return from land ownership by grazing cattle on contract,” he says. “In many instances, land that is unsuitable for grain production is capable of producing quality forage that can be used to graze cattle and generate a return to the owner. Grazing can also be an important land improvement tool, by maintaining a permanent vegetative cover to recycle nutrients and improve overall soil quality over time.”

Experts like Lennox believe that grazing is more sustainable than making hay.

“Nutrients are returned to the soil in the manure; organic matter is built up over time, and the entire soil ecosystem is regenerated, instead of nutrients being steadily depleted by haying.”

But Lennox warns that contract grazing is not a casual business venture. It requires a thorough knowledge of both pasture and animal husbandry. Parties must agree on who is responsible for the veterinary treatment of sick animals, or the loss of animals. These are important considerations that must be agreed upon initially.

Bear in mind that if you own cattle and intend to enter into a custom grazing agreement with a landowner, it is well worth making sure your animals are healthy. This is why it is preferable that they come from a single source and not directly out of a sale barn.

More information on grazing contracts can be found on the website of the U.S.-based National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service:

For more information, contact:

Trevor Lennox
Forage Development Specialist
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
(306) 778-8294

New Lentil and Caraway Resourecs on SAF Website

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Turn to the Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food (SAF) website when looking for the latest information on Saskatchewan crops. SAF has recently enriched its lentil and caraway sections with valuable new information for growers.

Provincial Specialized Crops Specialist Ray McVicar outlines some of the new content:

“There has been diversification in the lentils industry in the last few years, as demonstrated by the increased interest in red lentils. Canada has recently become an important producer and exporter of red lentil, and our website information now reflects this.”

Red lentils account for more than half the world trade in the crop, and they are sold in either whole seed or split form. Processing facilities capable of de-hulling and splitting red lentils for the world market have been built in Saskatchewan, according to the updated website information.

There have also been advancements in varieties and crop protection products for lentils, and McVicar says the information provides guidance on these developments as well.

“Another crop on which the website now focuses is caraway,” McVicar explains. “Caraway is a spice crop. It is well adapted to the more moist areas of the province in the east—the black soil zones.”

Caraway is used to flavour foods such as bread or sauerkraut. The seed contains 2.5 to 4.5 per cent essential oils. The oil is used to flavour meats, mouthwash and liqueurs. Carvone is the principal traded constituent of caraway oil (52 per cent), with limonene making up 45 per cent of the oil.

Caraway is cultivated everywhere from northern temperate to tropical climates, including northern Europe, Russia, Jamaica, India, Canada and the United States. Caraway production in Saskatchewan has ranged from 4,000 to 8,000 hectares (10,000 to 20,000 acres) from 1999 to 2005.

“Our website contains information about disease control on caraway,” says McVicar. “There is a very serious disease that affects caraway, blossom blight, which was a particular problem in Saskatchewan last year.”

McVicar believes producers should know about the breadth of information available in the crops section of the SAF website.

They can access the caraway section by looking under Crops/Special Crops/Production Information on the SAF website.

The lentils information can be accessed by looking under Crops/Pulses/Production Information on the SAF website.

For more information, contact:

Ray McVicar
Provincial Specialist, Specialized Crops
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
(306) 787-4665

Great Sand Hills Area Producer Makes Waves in the Flour Mill World

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

On the western edge of Saskatchewan’s Great Sand Hills, Arnold Schmidt is making waves in the flour mill world.

“I started farming in the mid-1940s and then, in 1980, I started farming organically," he explains. "I started selling wheat at first in bags. Then we went into flour. I was looking at stone mills. I decided they were too slow and started to develop my own mill, and eventually got into building mills for other people.”

Schmidt Manufacturing and Schmidt Flour are located at Schmidt’s farm, 30 miles north of Maple Creek, on the north side of Big Stick Lake, 3.5 miles off the #21 highway.

Through the years, Schmidt’s mills have evolved in terms of efficiency and suitability for various needs.

“They can do almost anything. We can do white flour. The new mills will be able to de-bran and mill all at one time. With other mills, you have to do the de-branning first and use other equipment to do the milling," he says. "We sell the mills all over the world. We have them in the Philippines, China, Australia and all over the United States. We've sold quite a few right here in Canada, also. They are more efficient than most mills.”

Some are used in bakeries; some are used for general flour milling to feed local populations.

“We are working on a deal in North Africa for 900-horse units. They will be big capacity—4,000 pounds per unit per hour. The whole mill system for that is worth millions of dollars. I just do the mill.”

How did Arnold Schmidt become so proficient in mill design?

“I am mechanically minded. I have always been that way," he says. "Nutrition and mechanics have been my major interests. I don’t have that high an education, but I do a lot of research.”

Schmidt also taps into local talent.

“Some smaller mills are produced by guys who used to work for me—they started a shop right in Maple Creek building mills—but the final touch is done here. They weld them together for us and we work on them. We have an 80-foot-long, insulated quonset hut at the farm. Usually we have two or three people working full time here. We gear up more if we get a big order.”

Over the years, Schmidt has made substantial investments in mill research and design. It now seems his investment in mills is paying off, to the point where he is now developing high-nutrient breakfast cereals made with rye, hemp and flax, due to be market-ready in the spring.

You may have guessed it: Schmidt is not planning to retire anytime soon.

For more information, contact:

Arnold Schmidt
Schmidt Manufacturing Ltd.
(306) 666-4800
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