Crop producers updated at conference

Stettler welcomed about 320 crop producers and researchers to the annual Agronomy Update 2010 at Stettler Community Hall on Jan. 19 and 20, hosted by Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development.

Getting to the root of agriculture – Ag Info Centre crop specialist Harry Brook (from left) speaks with Agronomy Update 2010 speaker Karla Bergstrom

Getting to the root of agriculture – Ag Info Centre crop specialist Harry Brook (from left) speaks with Agronomy Update 2010 speaker Karla Bergstrom

Stettler welcomed about 320 crop producers and researchers to the annual Agronomy Update 2010 at Stettler Community Hall on Jan. 19 and 20, hosted by Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development.

“All this information will help crop producers optimize their crop production and profitability,” said Harry Brook, crop specialist with the Ag Info Centre based in Stettler, and leader of the local organizing committee.

“Everyone got something useful from the conference.”

“It’s a big provincial conference that alternates between Stettler and Lethbridge and this annual two-day event covers the latest in crop research.”

Leading researchers and extension professionals presented updated information on field crop production and soil management.

With drought-like conditions in Alberta in the past few years, delegates learned that different crops need various amounts of precipitation to grow.

“Different crops have different water requirements and respond differently to water stress,” said Ross MacKenzie, Agriculture Alberta research scientist from Lethbridge.

“Crop sensitivity to water stress varies from one growth stage to another.”

“However, soil water conservation practices such as minimizing soil tillage, direct seeding of crops, seeding as early as reasonable in spring and using crop rotations that include higher-versus-lower water-using crops, should be considered to maximize crop water-use efficiency.”

Closing out the conference, delegates were informed about meeting economic changes with a presentation Evaluation Change – Profit-Driven Decision-Making by Karla Bergstrom, a production crops economist for Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development, based in Edmonton.

“Managing your farm for profitability isn’t about finding that one key thing and doing it right – it’s about understanding and managing all those many little things and doing your best with each,” said Bergstrom.

“Good management information in the first and most important step in managing for profitability.”

“Producer profitability is the most comprehensive measure of progress,” she added.

According to Bergstrom, the financial side of the farm business must be managed as carefully as the production and marketing sides.

“One of the biggest problems in managing a business is that change keeps occurring,” she said.

“Change is inevitable – growth is optional.”

Businesses that have a strategic plan to deal with change, likely know the risks before it’s too late.

“If you don’t stay with your ‘technical edge’ in managing these elements (seed, fertilizer and chemical), you likely won’t continue to be profitable.”

“For crop producers, your return to equity is affected by everything that you do from your investment decisions, capital structure, overheads, risks and managing your primaries.”

Topics covered during the two days included dealing with drought, fertility, latest crop varieties, benefits from growing pulses, integrated crop production and rotations, updates on important crop insects and diseases and a pesticide updates, long-term effects of crop rotations, nitrogen benefits of pulse crops, effects of drought on herbicide carryover, risks and benefits of ESN fertilizer, and updates on various varieties and disease.

Canmore biologist Karsten Heuer was the guest speaker during the first evening of the event when he shared his experiences of following caribou.