Well, it’s official. The busy winter conference season is upon us, and I, for one, couldn’t be happier. This week, the RealAgriculture.com team took in Agri-Trade at Red Deer, Alta., and the first-ever Cereals North America conference. Also on this week was the Royal in Toronto, and though we didn’t make it there, we did get to be the first to bring you the winning speeches from the Canadian Young Speakers for Agriculture event held over the weekend.
We’re doing something a tad different this show season, as Shaun Haney is hosting the Tech Tour, presented by Dow AgroSciences, a series of video and audio interviews, polls and more highlighting all the super cool new stuff rolling out over the winter. And did we mention there’s also a give-away? There is. Agri-Trade marked the kick off of this series, but you’ll be able to stalk, I mean, find Shaun at the Dow AgroSciences’ booth for a few hours a day at four more tradeshows: Crop Week at Saskatoon, Manitoba Ag Days at Brandon, FarmTech at Edmonton and AgExpo at Lethbridge. You can find all the coverage gathered right here at RealAgriculture.com and on the Tech Tour page.
As busy as the week was, we also managed to post some pretty good stuff (I’m biased, of course, so do let us know if you agree or disagree). Clint Jurke of the Canola Council of Canada, set the record straight on soil pH’s protective effect (or rather lack of) on the development of clubroot (please, please listen to that here). Given the recent confirmation of at least one field infested with clubroot in North Dakota, Manitoba farmers especially need to be on the lookout for this devastating disease of canola. In the interview above, I ask Clint if the war is already lost, or if there are battles still to be won. His answer may surprise you (it surprised me).
It seems a week can’t pass without agriculture getting a bit of a slam dance (not the good kind) from the masses. While this week was relatively quiet on the animal activist front, Owen Robert’s reminds us in his column that there are often small fires burning that could, if not tended, begin to rage out of control. On that note, Andrew Campbell, who you may remember from such posts as ‘Why I’m done with A&W and done with fearing food,’ focused his monthly column on the reality/perception gap of farming practices. Citing the recent W5 piece on the egg industry, Andrew relates that while it’s important that farming practices evolve in tandem with our understanding of animal health and welfare, that evolution can’t only be driven by what we THINK is better. Research and, dare we say it, reality, must be the main driver in shaping how we farm. Click here to read his column.
As noted above, the Cereals North America conference rolled out in Winnipeg this week. If you’re a long-time follower of the site, you’ll likely already know that I’m a giant agronomy geek, but not really a big fan of ag economics, as far as conference topics go (geek in this sense is not what you think. I just love agronomy, OK? I love to learn about it, discuss, learn some more and then get out in the field and dig it,. But more on that later.)
What I do love, however, are trains. No, not railways, those giant, evil beasts, but trains. OK, and logistics. The complex dance of getting trains and cargo here, there and everywhere is simply fascinating to me, though as I sat through a discussion on moving crude oil, its products and natural gas, I couldn’t help but be completely overwhelmed and feel more than a little deflated. How on earth do crops compete with such a high value commodity? Well, for starters, perhaps agriculture needs to capitalize on the safety aspect of shipping grains vs. petroleum products. Recent derailments and at the absolute rail catastrophe in Quebec are stark reminders as to the hazard of shipping explosive material via rail. The speaker at the conference said that increased safety measure are coming for railways both in the U.S. and Canada — measures that will add significant costs to tanker cars and trains moving oil and oil products. Is this a chance for agriculture to tell its good-news story to the public? Should petroleum et al. be moved through pipelines and grain moved by rail? I wish it was that simple, but perhaps this is a chance for agriculture to use the public’s outcry for increased rail safety in its favour. After all, a derailed train carrying wheat or canola may make a bit of a mess, but the major fallout is going to be fat deer, not human lives. Pardon the pun, but let’s just let that sink in, shall we?
Yours in train loving,