| ||Farm producers realize they will be making several important agronomic decisions during the upcoming growing season. While dealing with large amounts of daily information on a wide range of agronomic topics, producers sometimes face contradictory information. Separating good information from bad information is a constant with farm producers, which can make decision-making difficult.
“Producers and agronomists now have access to a relatively new agronomy extension web-site that offers high quality, unbiased information about soils and crop management on the Canadian Prairies,” says Neil Whatley, crop specialist with Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development. “Without requiring a subscription, anyone may go online to freely access an electronic journal entitled Prairie Soils and Crops: Scientific Perspectives for Innovative Management (PS&C).Research scientists submit articles to this journal with impartial scientific knowledge on a range of pertinent agronomic issues, each year offering a different topic theme.
“Themes include the science of weeds and herbicides, the biology and management of current crop insect and disease pests, soil related concerns, etc. The most recent edition (2012) is comprised of articles about Long-term Crop Rotations in the Canadian Prairies. In a few months a new theme, focusing on Crop Physiology, will be completed.”
The 2009 edition of PC&S contains articles on the theme of weeds and herbicide management. In this edition, there are a series of articles about herbicide application management practices, weed seed banks, what was learned from Prairie weed surveys, and on the concern about herbicide-resistant weeds, which is currently a hot topic. The 2011 edition of the journal contains articles about significant insect and disease threats in the Prairie region and includes articles on recent pests in cereal, oilseed and pulse crops. For example, extension articles are available on current insect pests such as lygus bug, root maggot, cabbage seedpod weevil, pea leaf weevil, wheat midge and sawfly. Current disease issues such as sclerotinia, blackleg, ascochyta blight, Fusarium head blight and various cereal leaf diseases are addressed. Most articles are three to five pages in length and include a topic summary as well as colourful photos.
“The first in a series of articles on crop rotations in the 2012 edition is entitled Long-Term Cropping Studies on the Canadian Prairies: An Introduction,” says Whatley. “It’s interesting to read that the study of crop rotations on the Canadian Prairies emerged soon after the first settlers arrived. Since that time, farm producers and researchers have accumulated much unique knowledge on crop rotations, specific to the Canadian Prairie soil zones. While searching for the agronomic and economic implications of various crop rotations, farmers and research scientists have integrated features such as crop diversity, pest management, soil organic matter retention and soil water conservation into their experimentation and ways of farming.
“Research results that emerged in the 1940s on crop rotations included recognizing the influence of specific crops on subsequent crops, as well as discussions and questions about the underlying reasons for the beneficial effects that legume crops have on subsequent crops. The authors add that several of these questions have been answered through a multitude of studies conducted in Western Canada over the last 30 years.”
When reading individual articles on specific weed, insect and disease pests, the phrases ‘crop rotation’ and ‘cropping diversity’ frequently emerge as being integral to pest management. For example, with regard to herbicide resistance in weeds, cropping system diversity appears to be the basis for proactive weed resistance management. The author of Herbicide Resistance in Weeds says, “Weed surveys, conducted over the past decade, have shown that the risk of weed resistance is greatest in fields with only a cereal-based rotation. The risk is lowest in cropping systems that include forage crops, fallow (summer or green manure), or have three or more crop types, such as cereal, oilseed, and pulse, grown in rotation.”
“With crop diseases, most pathogens are host specific, so crop rotations are integral to improved crop management. Several serious pathogens currently affecting crops on the Prairies are clubroot and blackleg in canola, as well as Fusarium Head Blight in cereals,” adds Whatley. “The articles on these and other crop pests generally suggest that integrated approaches are necessary to properly manage the pests we deal with, pointing out that a combination of management methods are necessary for optimal control, including crop diversity.
“As an agricultural extension tool for the Canadian Prairie region, the online Prairie Soils and Crops journal is a reliable source of non-biased agronomic information that farm producers and agronomists can easily access. A wide range of topics are addressed and more agronomic themes will be presented in upcoming years.”