Back to rotation basics with Brian Beres

Any golfer will tell you that sometimes you have to go back to the fundamentals to find success. You make sure your feet are planted in the right place and then you build from there. The same analogy works for hockey, or welding, and even farming.

RealAgRadio host Shaun Haney and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Lethbridge research scientist Brian Beres, sat down for a talk about rotation and agronomic fundamentals at the recent FarmTech conference at Edmonton, Alta.

When it comes to basics,  you can’t get much more square one than rotation, but it has become a hot topic of late. Beres understands that tension exists between the ideal of farming and the necessity of paying the bills. “There’s always going to be that challenge at the farm gate about how do we maintain profitability and also give ourselves a chance to be stewards of the land long enough to pass it on generation to generation?”

That said, farmers don’t always have the patience to talk about fundamentals and complex considerations; we want a quick fix. Dealing with fusarium is a good example of this. Farmers would like a new variety or a new spray that would simply take care of the problem with one stroke.  The trouble is, Beres says, we are not there yet. “The magic bullet just doesn’t exist with it (fusarium). It’s something though, when you talk about this principle as an agronomist, we talk about ‘genotype by environment by management.” In other words,  dealing with fusarium is much more about managing systems than trying to find individual solutions.

This is where building in  overarching principles of crop rotation comes in. A higher seeding rate, for example, is an overarching principle that can lead to multiple good results. “We want uniformity, and how do we achieve that? Well, we achieve that with high seeding rates …  as a starting point,” Beres says, “That gives us a nice uniform canopy, gives us earlier harvest, perhaps shorter flowering periods.” So, one practice — higher seeding rates — has many different benefits that provides a platform upon which to build.

Digging deeper into host/non-host crops for disease is important, too. Sometimes what we think is a rock-solid rotation actually leaves fields vulnerable to a disease outbreak because we’ve rotated crops, but not host crops. The extra work of looking at a rotation with disease, weed spectrum, and yield potential in mind will always be worth it in the long run.

See the entire interview with RealAgRadio’s Shaun Haney and AAFC research scientist Brian Beres, recorded at FarmTech, below.

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