Seeds!

A seeder is a big deal!  The seeder gives you all of the potential you will ever have to produce a great crop.  This spring we invested in a new-to-us seeder, which means there is a learning curve as we get the seeding tool set up to work with our tractor and seed cart.  Since every farm is unique, our seeder needed some changes to adapt it to our farming practices.  For instance, we changed out the granular fertilizer set up to a liquid fertilizer set up.  There were also some logistical changes required, like the length of hydraulic hoses necessary to make all of the connections.

After about a week of making changes, and then changes to the changes, the completed seeding train has been hooked together and tested.  Of course, the true test comes when we pull into our first field and start putting seeds in the ground.  To a certain extent, farmers feel that buzz and anticipation every year.  However, having a different seeding tool adds another dimension to the anticipation.  We know how much is at stake, so we want to be sure that we get things right – the seeder is where it all starts.

Various Vallotton Farms seeding combinations 2010-Present

Happy seeding.

PLS Focus Group Reflections

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Peer-to-peer discussions are valuable for many reasons.  It is important to learn about other perspectives, priorities and values and it is interesting to me when this information comes through in a discussion about farming practices.  After participating in a focus group hosted by Precision Land Solutions I left feeling energized and positive about the future of farming. 

My biggest take-away from the conversations today was this: Farmers are concerned with being good stewards of the land.  Regardless of what motivates this priority, it was very evident that farmers are invested in practicing environmental stewardship and environmental sustainability.  This was evident in the fact that we took time out of our usual schedules to participate, and evident in the content of the conversations.

Water management has a huge impact on soil health, and naturally, soil health is a large factor in determining crop health.  Therefore, farmers make time to learn and navigate the laws and regulations, obtain permits and complete paperwork.  This also means investing in conversations with neighbours and spending money on infrastructure, in order to improve soil health.  Solution-oriented, peer-to-peer conversations help each of us to reflect on our practices and learn from others.   Although PLS commissioned this focus group to ensure that their vision and services align with farmer needs, the conversations were just as valuable to each of the producers in the room.

I learned about land and water resource management, and of equal benefit was the positive energy and optimism of the conversation.  Spring is in the air and we can’t wait to get started on another crop year.

Water Management

Soil is one of the three critical elements to healthy plants, so optimizing soil conditions is a high priority for farmers.  There are a lot of elements of soil health that are beyond control, like soil temperature.  However, managing water and salinity have become increasingly important on our farm.  This has lead us to start investigating our options.

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Last summer I began listening to the Hefty brothers talk about the importance of tile drainage.  Essentially, tile drainage is a series of underground pipes designed to manage excess water by routing it intentionally, thus lowering the water table to below the depth of the tile line.

Their message was still loud and clear at the soils clinic held in Winnipeg last month – tile drainage is the highest-impact, long-term investment you can make in your land.  They point to these five benefits of tile:

  • Tile reduces erosion

  • Tile reduces flooding

  • Tile improves downstream water quality

  • Tile improves roads

  • Tile helps farmers maximize production on current farmland, which leaves non-crop land for relaxation and recreation

However, tile requires dedicated time and planning: obtaining permits and developing land maps for the tile installation is a process.  Due to the extensive nature of this pre-installation work, this is an opportunity to work together and build trust with companies offering mapping and/or tile services.  Once this phase is complete, the actual installation requires significant investments by landowners and their financial institutions.

The mole plow seeks to address the high cost of tile, by providing a lower cost alternative.  Essentially, mole tile is a subsurface tunnel, without the infrastructure of the pipe.  So, while the planning stages are similar to that of tile, the infrastructure cost is much lower.  In exchange, the lifespan of mole tile, is also shorter, and is very dependent on the soil type and consistency.  In January, at Ag Days  in Brandon, we investigated this option for some of our fields, particularly those located alongside a natural ravine.   

Keep reading to keep learning along with us, as we continue to do our homework about tile, irrigation and their relationship to each other as part of our overall water management strategy.