Weed frequency in canola rotations

Weed frequency in canola rotations

With increases in canola production demands and the needs of emerging markets, canola crops are often included more frequently in rotation.

Coming to a crop near you

Coming to a crop near you

Bill Gates predicted that every home in South Korea would have a robot by 2015, says Medhat Moussa

Barn fires are devastating to all involved

Barn fires are devastating to all involved

John Maaskant, a chicken farmer from Clinton, Ont. writes a letter in response to media hype about recent barn fires and loss of animal life.

Barley breeding update

Barley breeding update

Barley is the fourth-largest crop in Eastern Canada, after the standard rotation crops of soybeans, corn and wheat.

New ARS bee genebank

New ARS bee genebank

The Agricultural Research Service is organizing a national bee genebank as part of the agency's response to ongoing problems facing U.S. beekeepers.

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With the world's population increasing exponentially and farmland staying the same, BASF took to the streets to ask consumers if this trend is sustainable.

Sustainability

Air pollution is a mixture of elevated concentrations of potentially harmful gaseous chemicals and very small particles (particulate matter or particulates) that result from emissions from both human sources, like motor vehicles or industrial smoke stacks, and natural sources, like wildfires or volcanoes. The air we breathe:

February 10, 2016 - Air pollution is a well-known, much-documented problem in the industrialized world. Those who do not live in major cities see media images of thick, dirty air and crowded streets of people wearing masks over their noses and mouths. Linked to increases in heart disease, respiratory disease, lung cancer and a host of other health complications, air pollution plays a role in 3.7 million premature deaths each year, according to 2012 data from the World Health Organization. Contrary to the popular portrayal, however, the effects of air pollution are not limited to urban environments. Michigan State University (MSU) AgBioResearch toxicologist Jack Harkema is studying the impacts of air pollution on rural populations. Air pollution is a mixture of elevated concentrations of potentially harmful gaseous chemicals, like ozone and nitrogen dioxide, and very small particles (particulate matter or particulates) that result from emissions from both human sources, like motor vehicles or industrial smoke stacks, and natural sources, like wildfires or volcanoes. If inhaled these pollutants may cause injury to our lungs or other organs like our heart and blood vessels. Airborne particulates are defined according to their size into three basic categories: coarse, fine and ultrafine. Fine particles range in size from 2.5 to 0.1 microns in diameter, and ultrafine particles are less than a tenth of a micron in diameter. Both are invisible to the naked eye and even the largest size of fine particles are still 30 times less than the diameter of a human hair. The larger coarse particles with diameters greater than 2.5 microns and smaller than 10 microns are common to rural atmospheres. Fine and ultrafine particles are commonly emitted by automobiles, power plants and industries, while coarse particles are more likely to originate from organic compounds commonly found in the earth’s crust. “In agricultural settings, you see some of the highest airborne concentrations of particulate matter due to dusty conditions generated by common agricultural practices,” says Harkema, university distinguished professor in the MSU College of Veterinary Medicine and the Institute for Integrative Toxicology. “A lot of people think air pollution is just an urban issue, but we now know that it causes real problems in rural settings, too.” Harkema’s work in this area blossomed in 2011, when an $8 million grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency  (EPA) established the Great Lakes Air Center for Integrated Environmental Research (GLACIER). Combining the multidisciplinary expertise of researchers from MSU, the University of Michigan, Ohio State University and the University of Maryland, GLACIER is one of four EPA Clean Air Research Centers established to study the health impacts of air pollutants. Each center has a distinctive focus within this research area. GLACIER focuses on understanding the health effects of air pollutant mixtures, especially in susceptible populations like those suffering from chronic cardiovascular, respiratory or metabolic conditions. Though much of their work has focused on urban air pollution — primarily in communities in and around Detroit — recent research has shifted to rural environments. Air pollution can be simulated to a degree in the laboratory, but collecting data in the field provides a much clearer picture of the conditions that people are likely to face. Boarding semi-trucks converted into high-tech mobile laboratories, Harkema’s team traveled to Dexter, Michigan, an agricultural community west of Ann Arbor, to study the effects of coarse particle exposure on heart rate and blood pressure in healthy individuals. Harkema’s long-time collaborator Robert Brook, a cardiologist in the School of Medicine at the University of Michigan, was the principal investigator of the study in Dexter. Together, Brook and Harkema coauthored a seminal scientific paper, reporting for the first time that brief exposures to real-world coarse particulate matter in a rural community can cause elevations in heart rate and blood. These effects on the cardiovascular system were similar to those they found in human subjects after short-term exposure to fine particles in an urban industrial community near Detroit. Though these cardiovascular changes did not compromise the health of these healthy subjects, the investigators speculated that such particle-driven health effects could potentially have detrimental consequences in people suffering from chronic heart disease. “We’re now finding, like other laboratories, that air pollution affects many other organ systems in the body and may exacerbate pre-existing chronic diseases, such as diabetes and obesity,” says Harkema. “Originally, for example, we thought cigarette smoke caused only lung cancer, but we’ve since learned that it also contributes to breast cancer, coronary heart disease and other systemic problems. I think particulate matter could work in a similar way.” As areas of the developing world continue to scale up their agricultural industries, Harkema said coarse particulate matter will only become a more serious environmental issue. Fortunately, scientists like Harkema are working to find ways to mitigate its adverse health effects. Every five years, the EPA conducts a review of all of the data on air pollution and its health effects, updating its standards accordingly. Brook and Harkema’s recent findings on particulate air pollution will help it set the air quality standard for particulate matter that aims to protect the health of susceptible populations. “We’re now trying to understand how exposure to small amounts of fine and coarse particles triggers alterations in blood pressure and heart rate,” says Harkema. “This is not just a small regional problem, it’s worldwide. The work we do here has an impact on protecting human health in urban and rural communities around the world through better air quality standards and guidelines based on sound science.”

Production

Rye grass, shown here at the Elora research station,  typically thrive in a cool, moist climate, but new varieties are doing well in Ontario. What’s new in forages

  More and more producers are starting to recognize the benefits forages provide in terms of improved soil quality and reduced erosion, notes Jack Kyle, the pasture and forage specialist at the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. But, Kyle notes, “there are still many who don’t manage their forages to the optimum.” The main – and significant – benefits of forages to the crops that follow is in added organic matter and improved soil tilth. However, Kyle warns that perennial forages must be managed correctly for benefits to be fully realized. “A well-fertilized relatively young stand of forage can be very productive,” he says. “But if there is limited fertility or the stand is old, you will not see optimal results.”   New offeringsKyle suggests new varieties of annual and perennial ryegrass may be of particular interest to growers because these species are higher in energy than the other cool season grasses and therefore make excellent forage and pasture. While the challenge in the past has been winter survival, he says, newer cultivars and blends of cultivars are showing not only better persistence, but also higher growing season productivity. “Rye grasses prefer a cool moist climate,” Kyle notes, “but through breeding and selection, there are now blends that are doing well in Ontario.” Another species that is relatively new is festulolium, a hybrid forage grass developed by crossing Meadow Fescue or Tall Fescue with perennial ryegrass or Italian ryegrass, which Kyle says can be used where ryegrass might also be considered. Matt Anderson, manager of product development at DLF Pickseed Canada, says festulolium combines the best properties of the two types of grass. “The fescues contribute qualities such as high dry matter yield, resistance to cold, drought tolerance and persistence, while ryegrass is characterized by rapid establishment, good spring growth, good digestibility, sugar content and palatability,” he notes. “The individual festulolium varieties contain various combinations of these qualities, but all are substantially higher-yielding than their parent lines.” DLF Pickseed has developed a substantial breeding program in festulolium that has produced a unique range of varieties.   On the legume side, Kyle says there is currently quite a bit of interest in sainfoin, in Western Canada anyway, because a new higher-yielding variety called AC Mountainview was recently developed in Lethbridge, Alta., by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) scientist Surya Acharya. “There is a renewed interest in grazing and wanting to maximize the productivity of the pastures,” Kyle says. “Alfalfa is excellent from a forage productivity standpoint but the risk of bloat in grazing livestock discourages its use. However, sainfoin is non-bloating, and if you include it in a mix, its non-bloat characteristics would counteract the bloat-inducing qualities of the alfalfa.”  Sainfoin (from French words “sain” and “foin” meaning “healthy hay”) is a centuries-old forage from Europe and western Asia. The plant contains a fair amount of condensed tannins, which help a cow’s digestive tract more efficiently process plant protein, preventing build-up of gas in the rumen (bloating). AAFC trials are ongoing in western provinces and may take place in Ontario in future. Forage cultivation – fertilize and think short-term“I think one of the biggest mistakes with forage management is the lack of fertility applied to fields,” Kyle notes. “There is a significant amount of phosphorus and potassium leaving a hay field with each harvest. Often this is not replaced with commercial fertilizer or manure. Over a few years, the fertility in the soil is reduced, resulting in reduced plant vigour and shortened stand life.” Grass hay fields and grass pastures specifically, he says, need adequate nitrogen for good plant growth and productivity. Kyle says most forage fields reach their peak production in the third year and then productivity starts to make a significant decline, yet producers often look for five to 10 years from a forage stand. Shortening the life of the stand to two or three years instead, he advises, will result in increased productivity and the positive impact on the succeeding crops will be maximized. Anderson completely agrees. “In pastures, the biggest opportunity to increase productivity is to rotationally graze the pastures so that the forage plants get grazed over a short time period (a few days) and then give them sufficient time to recover and regrow,” Kyle notes. “Pasture fields should be managed in the same way as hay fields – harvest at the opportune time as quickly as possible and stay out of the field until there is sufficient growth to harvest again.” Double crop foragesDouble crop forages are forages that follow a cereal crop and are allowed to grow from mid-late summer through to a killing frost in the fall. With this scenario there is going to be ground cover during much of that time, Kyle explains. “This is what forages are all about – adding organic material to the soil through ground cover and also through root growth,” he says. “It reduces soil erosion and provides improved yields in succeeding crops. And the combination of ground cover and added soil organic matter provided by double crop forages is similar to what perennial forages provide, but on an annual basis.” When planning double cropping with forages, Kyle advises a close look at the growth characteristics of the species that you are considering in the forage mix. “Find out whether or not the species will set seed in the fall, and if so, ask yourself if you can you manage it as a volunteer next year,” he says. “The same goes for any species that might over-winter – how are you going to control it next spring?” Kyle also urges growers to ask themselves if there is a sufficient growing season for the species to gain reasonable root and top growth, and whether or not they wish to harvest some of this crop as forage. “If yes, what considerations will be necessary given that harvest is going to occur at a time when drying conditions are poor and frequent rains may well be occurring?” he asks. Also ask if it makes sense to pasture the cover crop. “I think this is a real opportunity for cover crop utilization,” Kyle says. “By grazing, the nutrients stay in the field, you don’t have to deal with harvest issues and you have a very low-cost livestock feed, with added benefits to the soil. It’s a win all around.”    

Equipment

 The 2016 Canadian Truck King Challenge compared four trucks in the full-size half-ton pickup truck category. The best of the bunch

For the past nine years, veteran automotive journalists have donated their time to act as judges in the only annual North American truck competition that tests pickup and van models head to head – while hauling payload and also towing.   The Canadian Truck King Challenge started in 2006, and each year these writers return because they believe in this straightforward approach to testing and they know their readers want the results it creates. I started it (and continue to do it) for the same reason – that, and my belief that after 40 years of putting trucks to work I know what’s important to Canadians. Now, that’s a long list of qualifications, but in a nutshell it’s the concept that a truck can be pretty, but that alone is just not enough. It had also better do its job – and do it well. This year, nine judges travelled from Quebec, Saskatchewan and across Ontario to the Kawartha Lakes Region where we test the trucks each year.  All the entries are delivered to my 70-acre IronWood test site days before the judges arrive so we can prepare them for hauling and towing. In the meantime they are all outfitted with digital data collectors. These gadgets plug into the USB readers on each vehicle and transmit fuel consumption data to a company in Kitchener, Ont. (MyCarma) that records, compiles and translates those readings into fuel economy results that span the almost 4,000 test kilometers we accumulate over two long days.   These results are as real world as it gets. The numbers are broken into empty runs, loaded results and even consumption while towing. Each segment is measured during test loops with the trucks being driven by five judges – one after the other. That’s five different driving styles, acceleration, braking and idling (we don’t shut the engines down during seat changes).   The Head River test loop itself is also a combination of road surfaces and speed limits. At 17-kilometres long it runs on gravel, secondary paved road and highway. Speed limits vary from 50 to 80 km/h and the road climbs and drops off an escarpment-like ridgeline several times; plus it crosses the Head River twice at its lowest elevation. The off-road part of our testing is done on my own course at IronWood. Vans are not tested on the off-road course, though it’s noteworthy that the Mercedes Sprinter was equipped with a four-wheel drive system this year. This is the third year that we have used the data collection system and released the final fuel consumption report that MyCarma prepares for the Truck King Challenge. It’s become one of our most anticipated results. But how do we decide what to test? Well as anyone who’s bought a truck knows, the manufacturers never sleep, bringing something different to market every year. As the challenge looks to follow market trends, what and how we test must change each year too and the 2016 model year proved no different. We had a field of 14 contenders at IronWood this year covering four categories. They were as follows: Full-size half-ton pickup truck Ford F-150, Platinum, 3.5L, V6 EcoBoost, gas, 6-speed Auto Ford F-150, XLT, 2.7L, V6 EcoBoost, gas, 6-speed Auto Chevrolet Silverado, High Country, 6.2L, V8, gas, 8-speed Auto Ram 1500, Laramie, 3L EcoDiesel, V6, diesel, 8-speed Auto Mid-size pickup truck Toyota Tacoma, TRD Off-Road, 3.5L V6, gas, 6-speed Auto GMC Canyon, SLT, 2.8L Duramax, I-4 diesel, 6-speed Auto Chevrolet Colorado, Z71, 3.6L V6, gas, 6-speed Auto Full-size commercial vans Ford Transit 250, 3.2L Power Stroke I-5 diesel, 6-speed Auto Mercedes Sprinter 2.0L BLUE-Tec I-4 diesel, 2X4 Mercedes Sprinter 3.0L BLUE-Tec V6 diesel, 4X4 Ram ProMaster 1500, 3.0L I-4 diesel, 6-speed Auto/Manual Mid-size commercial vans Ram ProMaster City, SLT, 2.4L Tigershark I-4 gas, 9-speed Auto Nissan NV200, 2.0L I-4, gas, Xtronic CVT Auto Mercedes Metris, 2.0L I-4, gas, 7-speed Auto These vehicles are each all-new – or have had significant changes made to them. However, this year, the Truck King Challenge decided to try something else new by offering a returning champion category. This idea had been growing for a while and had everything to do with the engineering cycles that each manufacturer follows. Simply put, trucks are not significantly updated each year and to date we have only included “new” iron in each year’s competition. However, we started to think that just because a truck is in the second or third year of its current generational life shouldn’t make it non-competitive. Certainly if you watch the builders’ ads it doesn’t!   So, this spring we decided that for the first time the immediate previous year’s winner (in each category) would be offered the chance to send its current truck back to IronWood to compete against what’s new on the market.   This year the invitation was sent to the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel, Ford Transit 250 and Nissan NV200 – all previous winners that accepted the offer to return and fight for their crowns. They, along with the new vehicles, took the tests over two days with the judges evaluating everything from towing feel to interior features. The judges score each vehicle in 20 different categories; these scores are then averaged across the field of judges and converted to a score out of 100. Finally the “as tested” price of each vehicle is also weighted against the average (adding or subtracting points) for the final outcome. And this year’s segment winners are... Full-Size Half-Ton Pickup Truck – Ram 1500 EcoDiesel – 82.97 per cent Mid-Size Pickup Truck – GMC Canyon Duramax – 76.30 per cent Full-Size Commercial Van – Ford Transit 250 – 73.90 per cent Mid-Size Commercial Van – Mercedes Metris – 75.69 per cent The overall top scoring 2016 Canadian Truck King Challenge winner is the Ram 1500, Laramie, 3L EcoDiesel, V6 diesel, 8-speed Auto. Congratulations to all the winners and to the two repeating champions – the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel and the Ford Transit 250.

Research

 Viacheslav Adamchuk is comparing and optimizing the use of three soil sensor systems, including the Veris MSP3, shown here with Eric Lund (left) of Veris Technologies and Paul Hermans (right) of DuPont Pioneer, who uses this system in Ontario. Sensing soil variations

  Information on how the soil varies across a field is helpful in determining management zones for variable rate applications of crop inputs. As soil sensor services become more common in Ontario, interest is growing in the use of these sensors to map in-field soil variability. Now, Viacheslav Adamchuk, a precision agriculture engineer from McGill University, is leading a project to compare three different soil sensor systems and to optimize their use for Ontario conditions. For precision agriculture, a key advantage of these sensor systems is that they usually provide much denser soil information across a field than a county-scale soil map or a traditional grid soil sampling approach. “We have legacy soil maps that were created starting in the 1940s, with the last update in late 1990s to early 2000s. The soils are mapped at a reconnaissance scale that is useful for land-use planning but not necessarily appropriate for site-specific applications,” explains Nicole Rabe, a land resource specialist with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA). “Soil sensors like SoilOptix, the Veris MSP3 and Soil Information System are available for use in the province. They can help towards understanding our soils better and map soil at a scale that is more reasonable for precision agriculture applications – variable rate seed, variable rate nutrient management, etcetera.” “As input costs and land prices increase, variable rate applications help optimize inputs to maximize crop performance on every acre. That led us to a soil sensor tool that can identify the spatial variability on a much finer scale than a traditional soil test,” says Paul Raymer of Practical Precision, a company based in Tavistock, Ont. Practical Precision provides sensor services, including SoilOptix and GreenSeeker (which senses crop vigour for use in determining on-the-go nitrogen rate recommendations). “Let’s say you’re doing 2.5-acre grid soil sampling, then you have one sample point per 2.5 acres. Compare that to 335 points per acre [with our soil sensor]. I’m not saying that every data point is perfect, but we have a lot more points to be able to see the trends within the field. That gives us more data to use in making prescriptions that can be uploaded into an applicator that is readily available in today’s marketplace, or even sitting in a lot of growers’ sheds.” These soil sensor systems involve placing a sensor near, on or in the soil. Each type of sensor has its own particular approach to sensing soil variation. In most systems, a user drives the sensor over a field in a series of parallel passes, as the sensor continuously maps the variation in whatever properties are being sensed. The sensor information also needs to be supplemented with lab analysis of targeted soil samples collected from the field. That soil sample information is used in calibrating the sensor readings for the field’s specific conditions, to allow modelling of in-field variations of different soil characteristics. The three soil sensors being compared in Adamchuk’s project are Dualem-21S, the Veris MSP3 and SoilOptix. “They represent the most common sensing methods, covering over 90 per cent of publicly available proximal soil sensing services,” explains Adamchuk. “The Dualem-21S is an electromagnetic induction instrument that measures apparent soil electrical conductivity. In Ontario in most cases, this reveals differences in soil texture. It has an effective measurement depth down to three metres. It is a Canadian-based instrument and is very similar to that used by Soil Information System [from Trimble], which is another sensor service available to farmers.” The Dualem-21S is pulled over the soil surface using a specially developed sled; the researchers are using a John Deere Gator to pull the sled. The Veris MSP3 is a mobile sensor platform with three different sensors and is pulled by a tractor. One sensor measures apparent soil electrical conductivity using a galvanic contact approach, and is a type of instrument that has been used for a long time in soil sensing work. A second sensor measures subsoil optical reflectance (simply put, the soil’s colour), which is then related to soil organic matter content. The third sensor directly measures soil pH. When Adamchuk was at Purdue University, he and his research group developed this pH sensor and licensed it to Veris Technologies. He notes, “It is the only commercially available chemical sensor for on-the-go measurement at this time.” SoilOptix, which is from the Netherlands, measures naturally occurring radiation from the soil, determining the levels of certain common isotopes of gamma ray radiation. Adamchuk says, “By its ability to differentiate those very low levels of radiation, we can characterize differences in soil texture and soil mineralogy close to the surface.” SoilOptix is carried above the soil surface on a Kubota ATV. Raymer notes that Practical Precision calibrates the SoilOptix data to provide 17 different maps showing predicted variations in the levels of such soil properties as texture, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, pH and organic matter. All three systems produce high-resolution elevation maps. “Each system uses RTK-GPS, so we always get field topography with elevation resolution of plus or minus three centimetres,” Adamchuk explains. He is collaborating on the project with people from OMAFRA, Practical Precision and DuPont Pioneer. The project runs from 2015 to 2018 and is funded by OMAFRA’s New Directions program. Along with comparing and validating the performance of the three sensors at different field sites, the project is exploring whether using several sensors to map a field might allow better differentiation of the field’s variability. Adamchuk explains, “The different sensors are looking at the soil from different perspectives, measuring different physical quantities. Various factors, like soil texture, organic matter and moisture, affect every sensor but to a different degree. So our hypothesis is that when we use sensors with different measurement principles, we can remove some of those effects and really see what is happening with soil texture, soil water-holding capacity, soil nutrient-holding capacity, potential productivity, potential soil organic matter available for mineralization, and things like that, which affect productivity.” Another component of the project seeks to optimize the soil sampling procedures by fine-tuning factors like how many samples are needed and where to take them. “We know that, by using sensor data, we can better place our samples and in many cases significantly reduce the number of samples needed,” he says. Adamchuk’s research group at McGill has already developed several prototype software programs for optimizing soil sampling and sensor use. In this project, they are collecting data from a diversity of Ontario fields, including some with very unusual features, so they can test the software and ensure it is robust enough to handle data from a wide range of conditions. In 2015, the researchers started collecting data from about two dozen sites in southern and eastern Ontario involved in a Grain Farmers of Ontario study, as possible sites for Adamchuk’s project. Out of those sites, they will choose the six that would be the most challenging for their software and that would provide the most information on the differences between the sensors. In addition to the three commercial sensor systems, the project is also testing several prototype systems that Adamchuk and his group at McGill are developing. Also, at one or two sites, the project team hopes to try some additional sensors, like an on-the-go soil moisture sensor. “We have found that for Quebec and Ontario soil moisture is a quite useful layer of information because a lot of variability here is due to differences in water. Topography helps a lot with that, but not always,” Adamchuk explains. The researchers will also be relating the soil sensor maps to yield maps and field imagery captured by satellites or drones. Also, OMAFRA’s soil science personnel are digging some soil pits to provide detailed soil profile information. One challenge in mapping Canadian fields with these sensors is that the mapping season is short. “For instance, you need to do the mapping when the crop is not present and when the soil is not prone to compaction and things like that,” Adamchuk says. “However, there are some ways of using those sensors together with other operations.” Fortunately, most of the data collected by the soil sensors remains about the same from year to year, unless major impacts occur, like land levelling, very heavy manure applications or severe erosion events. For the researchers, this means that any sensor data they weren’t able to collect in 2015 can be collected in 2016. For a farmer, it means a field’s soil sensor data will be good for many years. Using soil sensor informationInformation from soil sensors can be used in combination with other information sources, like yield maps, topographic maps, agronomic research results and the farmer’s own experience, to help in making decisions on variable rate management. “If you have all those various pieces of information, it helps you make stronger and better decisions,” Raymer says. He explains that every information source has its strengths and weaknesses. “For example, not every grower has a yield monitor on their combine. And if they do have a monitor, then they may not have set it up correctly or maybe they haven’t taken the time to get it properly calibrated. And if they are just starting to use a yield monitor, it is a little risky to base management zones on one or two or even three years of yield data. Three is a nice start, but I’ve heard a rule of thumb that you should have at least seven to 10 years of good yield data to be able to filter out the effects of things like weather patterns.” Rabe points out that combining information from elevation maps, soil sensors and crop sensors often reveals similar patterns, with better crop growth and yields in the lower parts of the field. “We need the topographic information because soil moves downhill over the years with tillage practices,” she says. So soil tends to be eroded from the upper slopes and deposited in the low spots. “In your soil mapping, you should see those low spots with a thicker A horizon,  higher organic matter and likely more mineralizable nitrogen. The crop almost always performs well in those low areas, unless the growing season is very wet and there is some water standing. The top-of-knoll positions are usually more eroded, with a more disturbed A horizon, less organic matter and less mineralizable nitrogen [so the crop usually doesn’t perform as well].” “What’s really interesting is when you see anomalies that don’t follow that story. Then you need to investigate those areas further to understand what is going on,” she adds. Rabe is particularly intrigued by the potential benefits from combining soil sensor and crop sensor information. “When you marry those pieces of information, it tells a more powerful story over time.” “It has always been in the back of my mind to do interfacing of soil sensor information with, let’s say, a GreenSeeker from a nitrogen perspective,” Raymer notes. “Let’s say we know some properties of the soil, like organic matter and the water-textural relationship, that influence nitrogen, and the field has a sandy area where we know the vegetation level is going to be low. The GreenSeeker might say there is an opportunity to put more nitrogen there. But nitrogen may have a tendency to leach out of those sandy soils, and it could be a poor performing part of the field. So it wouldn’t make economic or environmental sense to apply extra nitrogen there. We could create a prescription to override the GreenSeeker in that part of the field, and tell it to just apply 10 gallons, or whatever rate. So we could get the strengths of both systems by bringing them together.” Adamchuk suggests a couple of possible approaches to using soil sensor maps. For instance, you could use regional research information on managing low productivity areas and high productivity areas, and then use the map to target the appropriate practices. He gives an example: “In Ontario, we know that a low elevation, high electrical conductivity soil might benefit from a higher seeding density. And on a low electrical conductivity or high elevation area, if the area has historically had lower yields, then a lower seeding rate will not affect the yield data but the farmer will save the cost of a few extra bags of seed.” Another possibility would be to set up a small trial to see if variable management of an input on a particular management zone would make a difference. “You could manage the entire field the way you usually do, but then in those specific areas, you could apply a little less or a little more. If you have variable rate control equipment, then setting up research plots is relatively simple. It’s just a few minutes to draw a polygon on the screen, and then you would say for this area I want to lower the seeding rate, for example,” he explains. “Then, with your yield map at the end of the season, you could see whether or not you have a yield reduction on that area. And the rule of thumb is that, if you don’t see any difference, then for the next season you do what is cheaper. If you do see a difference, then you can calculate the costs and benefits and see what makes the most sense.” Adamchuk adds, “With pH maps, using the information is very straightforward: you just don’t lime areas with neutral and alkaline soils.” That’s a real advantage compared to applying lime at uniform rate across a field, with some of the lime going on areas where it is not needed and either provides no benefit or is harmful. “If lime is applied on soil that is already slightly alkaline, you may end up with phosphorus and micronutrient deficiencies, which may create some additional problems in the long run.” Rabe concludes, “It’s an exciting time for soils, and Ontario is pretty lucky to have a number of soil sensor options to look at and review, and to have the expertise of people like Viacheslav Adamchuk.”   

Business/Policy

 The 2016 Canadian Truck King Challenge compared four trucks in the full-size half-ton pickup truck category. The best of the bunch

For the past nine years, veteran automotive journalists have donated their time to act as judges in the only annual North American truck competition that tests pickup and van models head to head – while hauling payload and also towing.   The Canadian Truck King Challenge started in 2006, and each year these writers return because they believe in this straightforward approach to testing and they know their readers want the results it creates. I started it (and continue to do it) for the same reason – that, and my belief that after 40 years of putting trucks to work I know what’s important to Canadians. Now, that’s a long list of qualifications, but in a nutshell it’s the concept that a truck can be pretty, but that alone is just not enough. It had also better do its job – and do it well. This year, nine judges travelled from Quebec, Saskatchewan and across Ontario to the Kawartha Lakes Region where we test the trucks each year.  All the entries are delivered to my 70-acre IronWood test site days before the judges arrive so we can prepare them for hauling and towing. In the meantime they are all outfitted with digital data collectors. These gadgets plug into the USB readers on each vehicle and transmit fuel consumption data to a company in Kitchener, Ont. (MyCarma) that records, compiles and translates those readings into fuel economy results that span the almost 4,000 test kilometers we accumulate over two long days.   These results are as real world as it gets. The numbers are broken into empty runs, loaded results and even consumption while towing. Each segment is measured during test loops with the trucks being driven by five judges – one after the other. That’s five different driving styles, acceleration, braking and idling (we don’t shut the engines down during seat changes).   The Head River test loop itself is also a combination of road surfaces and speed limits. At 17-kilometres long it runs on gravel, secondary paved road and highway. Speed limits vary from 50 to 80 km/h and the road climbs and drops off an escarpment-like ridgeline several times; plus it crosses the Head River twice at its lowest elevation. The off-road part of our testing is done on my own course at IronWood. Vans are not tested on the off-road course, though it’s noteworthy that the Mercedes Sprinter was equipped with a four-wheel drive system this year. This is the third year that we have used the data collection system and released the final fuel consumption report that MyCarma prepares for the Truck King Challenge. It’s become one of our most anticipated results. But how do we decide what to test? Well as anyone who’s bought a truck knows, the manufacturers never sleep, bringing something different to market every year. As the challenge looks to follow market trends, what and how we test must change each year too and the 2016 model year proved no different. We had a field of 14 contenders at IronWood this year covering four categories. They were as follows: Full-size half-ton pickup truck Ford F-150, Platinum, 3.5L, V6 EcoBoost, gas, 6-speed Auto Ford F-150, XLT, 2.7L, V6 EcoBoost, gas, 6-speed Auto Chevrolet Silverado, High Country, 6.2L, V8, gas, 8-speed Auto Ram 1500, Laramie, 3L EcoDiesel, V6, diesel, 8-speed Auto Mid-size pickup truck Toyota Tacoma, TRD Off-Road, 3.5L V6, gas, 6-speed Auto GMC Canyon, SLT, 2.8L Duramax, I-4 diesel, 6-speed Auto Chevrolet Colorado, Z71, 3.6L V6, gas, 6-speed Auto Full-size commercial vans Ford Transit 250, 3.2L Power Stroke I-5 diesel, 6-speed Auto Mercedes Sprinter 2.0L BLUE-Tec I-4 diesel, 2X4 Mercedes Sprinter 3.0L BLUE-Tec V6 diesel, 4X4 Ram ProMaster 1500, 3.0L I-4 diesel, 6-speed Auto/Manual Mid-size commercial vans Ram ProMaster City, SLT, 2.4L Tigershark I-4 gas, 9-speed Auto Nissan NV200, 2.0L I-4, gas, Xtronic CVT Auto Mercedes Metris, 2.0L I-4, gas, 7-speed Auto These vehicles are each all-new – or have had significant changes made to them. However, this year, the Truck King Challenge decided to try something else new by offering a returning champion category. This idea had been growing for a while and had everything to do with the engineering cycles that each manufacturer follows. Simply put, trucks are not significantly updated each year and to date we have only included “new” iron in each year’s competition. However, we started to think that just because a truck is in the second or third year of its current generational life shouldn’t make it non-competitive. Certainly if you watch the builders’ ads it doesn’t!   So, this spring we decided that for the first time the immediate previous year’s winner (in each category) would be offered the chance to send its current truck back to IronWood to compete against what’s new on the market.   This year the invitation was sent to the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel, Ford Transit 250 and Nissan NV200 – all previous winners that accepted the offer to return and fight for their crowns. They, along with the new vehicles, took the tests over two days with the judges evaluating everything from towing feel to interior features. The judges score each vehicle in 20 different categories; these scores are then averaged across the field of judges and converted to a score out of 100. Finally the “as tested” price of each vehicle is also weighted against the average (adding or subtracting points) for the final outcome. And this year’s segment winners are... Full-Size Half-Ton Pickup Truck – Ram 1500 EcoDiesel – 82.97 per cent Mid-Size Pickup Truck – GMC Canyon Duramax – 76.30 per cent Full-Size Commercial Van – Ford Transit 250 – 73.90 per cent Mid-Size Commercial Van – Mercedes Metris – 75.69 per cent The overall top scoring 2016 Canadian Truck King Challenge winner is the Ram 1500, Laramie, 3L EcoDiesel, V6 diesel, 8-speed Auto. Congratulations to all the winners and to the two repeating champions – the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel and the Ford Transit 250.