Manure application – new technology from the old world

by Matt McIntosh, Farm & Food Care

The European-style dribble bar applies manure in a wide pattern low to the ground

The European-style dribble bar applies manure in a wide pattern low to the ground

Manure plays a vital role in maintaining soil health, but getting the right amount of manure to the right places at the right times can be challenging, time consuming and expensive. Growers in parts of Europe have been under intense pressure to develop equipment that strikes the right balance between environmentally responsible placement and maintaining application rates that allow the farmer to get the manure onto their fields economically. Continue reading

Does it have to be today?

Why farmers spread manure when they do

By: Patricia Grotenhuis, sixth generation farmer

Spreading liquid manure on a field in the spring.

This summer, one of our neighbours asked us a favour, and we just couldn’t grant it.

One Saturday morning at approximately 9:30 a.m., we heard a knock at the door. Our neighbour had a request – could we please not spread manure that day, since he was having a family reunion and was afraid the smell would be too strong. We were left in an awkward position. The request seems simple enough to grant. There are always jobs to do on the farm, so simply switching a day of spreading manure for a day of doing other jobs is surely easy, right? Wrong. Continue reading

Changing the way we approach cover crops

By Micah Shearer-Kudel

Mapleton, Ontario – Sam Bradshaw, Environmental Specialist with Ontario Pork is working with Jake Kraayenbrink, an Arthur area farmer to determine if planting cover crop seeds into growing corn and wheat will improve the establishment of cover crops and protect soil from erosion and nutrient loss during winter months. Greg Stewart, OMAFRA Corn Specialist and Anne Verhallen, OMAFRA Soil Specialist are also involved in the new project.

Ontario’s late fall leaves little or no growing season to establish a cover crop post-harvest. The objective of the Ontario Pork project is to explore cover crop planting techniques into growing crops before they are harvested, so the cover crop is firmly established before winter.

This project is one of 28 Water Adaptation Management and Quality Initiative (WAMQI) projects improving water use of agricultural water resources and to improve management of nutrients.

The project consists of planting cover crops seeds (clover, alfalfa, rye) into growing crops (wheat and corn). The project compares three different seeding patterns using a small air-seeder mounted on a modified manure applicator. Seed is planted as manure is being applied and is broadcast, ahead of a manure tanker, behind it, or directly into the manure application trench. The project will determine the success of these methods in establishing a cover crop. It is expected that by combining cover crop planting with nutrient application to the host crop, that cover crop adoption may become more widespread in corn production as a practical strategy to control erosion and build soil structure.

Cover crops protect soil from winter erosion by wind and water and reduce the potential for runoff of nutrients such as phosphorous. Erosion and nutrient runoff cost farmers money, and farmers are continually working to reduce the potential for these issues to occur.

“We are trying to establish three crops in wheat and four in corn‎ – clover, crimson, red clover, alfalfa, plus rye in corn. We believe planting them with manure will help get them established,” explains Sam Bradshaw. Sam adds, “Cover crops historically have been difficult to establish. We are trying to get them started earlier in the season by planting them in living crops along with manure.” More cover crops on the soil surface will reduce the potential for runoff events to carry nutrients from the field and for the soil to be eroded by water and wind. The approach is unique, but if successful, it may change the way farmers look at cover crops.

The technology available to farmers allows them to do things that previous generations were unable to do. “We are using two pieces of equipment, a German designed disk applicator in wheat and a Nuhn injector in corn” Sam explains of the technology used for the project. Kraayenbrink has been on the forefront of emerging manure application and soil compaction reduction technologies and hopes that the practical use of cover crops will assist him with his objectives of improved soil health and fertility.

WAMQI is administered by Farm & Food Care with funding provided under Growing Forward 2.

For more information on any of the 28 WAMQI projects visit: and click on the Environment button.

Planting time is here!

After a long winter, Ontario’s farmers are in their fields, or will be as soon as the land dries.  Spring planting is a busy time on the farm, with a lot of work to be done but no knowledge of how long the good weather will last.  Here is an infographic to show what farmers are doing right now in the fields.

If you would like more information on tillage, click here. Continue reading

Test plots on farms

By Patricia Grotenhuis

One day a friend came to visit me, and as she walked in the door, the first words out of her mouth were “why does the field down the road have so many little blocks in it?”  As someone who used to work as a research summer student, I’ve gotten quite used to seeing these fields, but it occurred to me at that time how strange these test plots must look to other people.

Whether a new variety of crops are being tested, or a new crop protection treatment is being tested, the companies need to have several years worth of data from field tests on that particular new product.  To show how the new product compares to existing products, they need to have data from side by side trials. Continue reading

What do farmers do in the winter?

by Patricia Grotenhuis

Winter on a crop farm is a time to plan ahead for the coming season.

Many people think farms slow down in the winter.  Even though the crops are off and most animals are inside, there is still a lot to do.  As far as the crops, it is not as simple as just going into the seed store and picking out what you will plant right before planting.

Farmers are researching the many different options to make sure they buy seed that is right for them.  They review data on many different varieties of the crops they grow to make sure they make a sound decision.  Some varieties perform better in the heat, while others are more tolerant to drought conditions.  Some perform better in a specific soil type.  Then, of course, there are the insect resistant or herbicide resistant varieties in the mix. Continue reading

Every day is Earth Day on the farms of these 4-H members

4-H leader Jeanine Moyer asked her 4-H members this summer, how their families make every day Earth Day on their farm. All are members of the Eramosa 4-H Beef Club in Ontario. Here are the responses she received from these young environmentalists:

Fergus 4-H Beef Club

Luke, age 14
We make every day Earth Day on our family farm by registering for an Environmental Farm Plan and by recycling all materials that are recyclable. There are just a few examples of ways we make our farm environmentally friendly.
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Greenhouse flood bench system reduces water use

By Lilian Schaer for Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association

Efficient water use is a growing priority for Canadian farmers. This is particularly true for those who irrigate their crops, like greenhouse flower growers or other horticultural producers, who must ensure a steady supply of water and nutrients for their plants to flourish.

Now, new technologies are helping farmers to grow better, more plentiful crops, while also reducing agriculture’s environmental footprint.

Gerard Schouwenaar

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