Make a difference with good crop rotation

Make a difference with good crop rotation

Cow-Calfenomics 2017-18 now online

One of the best tools to improve your bottom line, reduce future grief, and lower the risks of pests, disease and weeds, is by using a diverse crop rotation.

“A good crop rotation is one where there is an adequate variety of crops grown so that any one type of crop is grown only once every three or four years,” says Harry Brook, crop specialist at the Ag-Info Centre. “A rotation like this can reduce pest costs, prolong the usefulness of pest control products, and improve the bottom line. Limiting or shortening the rotation may provide short-term financial benefits but in the long-term, could severely limit future cropping options.”

One example that Brooks uses is clubroot. “It converts the canola root into a massive spore factory. It’s only spread in infected soils, but each year we see it in more Alberta fields. Once you have clubroot, it’s there for the long haul. These soil borne spores can remain viable in the soil for up to 20 years. If you have it, many counties will require the land be put on a four-or-five year canola-free crop rotation. However, resistance in a crop is not helped when the crop rotation is just wheat followed by canola.”

A variety of crop types can add to the health of the soil. “Pulses in a rotation improves soil health and reduces fertilizer costs,” adds Brook. ”Peas, lentils, and faba beans all capture nitrogen from the air and encourage beneficial bacteria and fungi that can benefit following crops. There is a nitrogen benefit left in the soil that extends up to three years after the pulse crop.”

“Permanent forages in the crop rotation provide even more benefits,” Brook mentions. “They reduce the weed seeds present in the soil, increase organic matter, and are an excellent break for crop diseases and insect pests. Also, a varied crop rotation can help diversify a farm operation, reducing financial risk. It also spreads out machinery use, making them more efficient.”

Moisture use efficiency also improves with a varied crop rotation. “Canola, wheat, and peas all root to different depths and extract moisture from different parts of the soil. A planned crop rotation can utilize soil moisture more efficiently. Permanent forages in rotation can also address soil problem such as soil salinity or acidity. Seeded in a field for three to five years, they are an excellent break from annual crops and add to the soil organic matter, which is your soil nutrient bank account. They can even reclaim some soils from salinity, over time.”

“A diverse crop rotation also naturally varies the pesticides used and reduces the chance of resistance developing to pest control products,” adds Brook. “Conversely, a tight rotation can quickly develop weed, insect or disease problems, requiring greater expense to control the issue. In the case of clubroot of canola, the only answer is resistant varieties, and that tolerance has already broken down.”

For more information, contact the Alberta Ag-Info Centre at 310-FARM (3276).

Cow-Calfenomics 2017-2018 Online

Couldn’t attend the 2017-2018 Cow-Calfenomics presentations? The sessions are now available online: Cow-Calfenomics presentation page ($Department/deptdocs.nsf/all/bus15200) and Alberta Agriculture and Forestry’s YouTube playlist (

“This winter’s presentations featured interesting topics on farm business management in the Alberta cow-calf business,” says “the Alberta Beef Producers continue to recognize the importance of engaging our youth into the industry,Rick Dehod, farm financial specialist, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry (AF). The series brought a lot of information, ideas, and opportunities for producers to add to their management “tool kit” to help them make better choices based on better information.

Topics and presenters included:

Cattle Market Situation and Outlook – Ann Wasko, market analyst from Gateway Livestock, spoke about the cattle market situation and outlook, focusing on the conditions of November 2017. Ann included a forecast of what the market outlook could hold, moving forward.

The Use of Risk Management Tools in the Beef Industry – Brenda Hagen, project coordinator for the Western Livestock Price Insurance program, explained the use of risk management tools in the beef industry. She outlined the various tools available to protect your profit, and how different tools work in different market situations.

Business Structure for New Entrants – Joel Bokenfohr, AF, presented material to benefit anyone who is entering the business. Joel reviewed what business structures could allow you to retain your profit, grow your business, and transition partners or family into your business.

Production and Enterprise Analysis – Herman Simons, AF, reminded the attendees that most farms have numerous enterprises, but sometime we do not realize which one is more profitable than another. Herman included how conducting an enterprise analysis will give you the information needed to increase the profitability of your entire farm while using the same amount of resources.

A Farmer’s Guide to Agricultural Credit – Rick Dehod, AF, spoke about agricultural credit. Agriculture is a capital-intensive business, and debt is a tool to enhance the opportunity for profit. Like any tool, you need to understand its use and features to get full benefit for your farm. Rick included what you need to consider when taking on debt, and why its cost/interest rate is not the only factor to consider before you sign on the dotted line.

The Value of Having a Mentor – Melissa Hermanson – a Canadian Cattlemen Young Leader participant, reflected on the value of having a mentor and her experiences that led her to become involved in the Canadian Cattlemen Young Leaders program. Mentorship is important to that program’s success.

Dehod adds the importance of industry in this series, “the Alberta Beef Producers continue to recognize the importance of engaging our youth into the industry, having sponsored the registration of students and producers who are 25 years of age or younger. The students and young producers expressed a big thank you to the Alberta Beef Producers.”

Alberta Agriculture and Forestry would also like to recognize our partners: Growing Forward 2, AFSC, FCC and the ARECA research groups.

The Cow-Calfenomics presentation page also includes links to tools, resources, and Cow-Calfenomics presentations from the last five years.