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09282022Wed
Last updateWed, 28 Sep 2022 2pm

Morrin farm takes lead in new farming technique in Alberta

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    A farm north west of Morrin is trying out a new farming technique in Alberta on their crop this year, which has the farming community watching closely.
    The technique is Controlled Traffic Farming (CTF), where farm vehicles go down the same tracks spaced every 30 feet across the field,  in exactly the same place year in year out.
    This reduces soil compaction by confining it to the smallest possible area, leaving the remaining soil undamaged for cropping, thus improving its yield.
    Running over the same tracks also reduces fuel costs as the wheels of machines are always running on compact traffic lanes and so rolling resistance is minimized.
    Farmer and agronomist Steve Larocque, a graduate from Olds College and the University of Lethbridge, converted part of a family owned farm to Controlled Traffic Farming (CTF).
    The CTF method of farming is hoped to increase profit and improve sustainability, especially with the soil and weather conditions found in Alberta.
    Larocque, who runs a consultancy service called Beyond Agronomy, told The Mail he came across this method of farming when he was travelling New Zealand and Australia on a Nuffield Scholarship he was awarded in 2008 and also England when he returned to study the technique further.
    “I chose New Zealand and England because of the wet climate and Australia for the dry climate, and that’s exactly Canada, it’s either too dry or too wet!” he explained.
    Impressed with what he saw, Larocque decided to try the technique himself.
    Helped by his brother-in-law and his father-in-law, he converted the Morrin farm this year and he believes this is the first fully converted farm in Alberta.
    Larocque said it was a difficult system to put in place for them as they chose to modify all their wheeled equipment themselves, from tractor, drill, sprayer to combine.
    “Every sort of axles that run across the field would have to have 10 foot centres.”
    The biggest investment they had to make was the technology he said.
    Technology-wise, Larocque invested in Real Time Kinetics (RTK) guided autosteer.
    RTK give sub-inch accuracy and allows the equipment to keep to the exact same path year after year, whereas other technology available, such as EGPS, can vary up to eight inches.
    So far, the results are looking good.
    “The results are going to be a little more prevalent to our benefit, given that we farm heavy clay soil and we have minimized our compaction.”
    Fuel economy could be up to 50 per cent said Larocque.
    “We measured fuel consumption during seeding this year. Because over time, the tracks will be like cement, and not soft clay which adds a lot of rolling resistance. The producers in Australia were seeing 30 to 50 per cent reduction in fuel use across the farm,” explained Larocque, adding that they should start seeing this economy next year.
    There is a couple of drawbacks to the system Larocque is conscious of.
    One being residue management in the fall.
    “You really have to spread the residue evenly across the combine, because if you are going over the same tracks every year, you can’t keep piling up all that straw and chap on the same rows year after year.”
    Harvest logistics is another one to watch as the grain cart will need to run all the way down the field on the head land and then onto the approach.
    “I think that’s what everybody is going to struggle with. That will be hard...It’s going to take a little more time so if your capacity is already maxed out, when you’ve got one grain cart and three combines, that grain cart trying to keep up is going to be a little challenging.”
    Larocque said dealing with residue management is the next project he will be looking at.
   

Russell Brothers etch new CD

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    A Drumheller act which made it into the top 14 of 400 at the Calgary Stampede Youth Search has a new album out to accompany it's success.              The valley’s Russell Brothers launched their CD last month, July 11, and have big hopes of getting into the business.
    Alex, 18, and Matt, 16, form the two man group.
    Self-described as being of the “roots-pop” genre, younger brother Matt says the demo All I Know contains almost all loves songs.
    “It’s mostly about love, girls...  the daily joys in life.”
    He compares their music to that of acoustic soft rock contemporaries Jack Johnson and Jason Mraz.
    In the past year the band has being working on their promotion: finishing their demo (recorded in musician Bryan Adam’s studio in Vancouver), doing photo-ops, and working on their website (www.russellbrothersmusic.com).
    The business end of the industry doesn’t take backseat to creating good music.
    “We’d love for it to be a bit of both, but it’s nice to get paid,” says Matt.
    Currently, they are booked weekly at Waves Coffee House in Calgary. They perform every Thursday in the month of August.
    In case it doesn’t work out, Matt plans on pursuing studies in engineering, and Alex wants his private pilot's license.
    Their music can be listened to on their website, and demo orders can be made there as well.

Badlands Rail Company preparing final offer to purchase rail line

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    The Badlands Rail Company (BRC) is preparing to make a final offer to purchase the rail line between Lyalta and Oyen.
    This follows two proposals already submitted to CN from BRC who proposes to lease the Oyen to Lyalta rail line, and purchase the west line.
    The line would be used for grain transportation and future community and economic development.
    Their first offer was rejected, and the second one was counter-offered. 
    “The first offer was rejected with a number of areas to be improved on,” said Brad Wiebe from Palliser Regional Municipal Services.
    “A few changes were made before being re-submitted, and the second one received a counter offer from CN and at that point, the valuations were quite far apart. That’s the issue right now. “
    Since CN issued a Notice of Discontinuance at the end of December 2009, the BRC  has worked hard raising funds to accompany an offer submitted to CN.
    At the time they believed an offer would look like about $8.3 million and aimed to raise $250,000 to accompany the offer.
    Wiebe confirmed they managed to raise close to this amount, however he told The Mail, “the original idea was to get enough to be able to accompany an offer in the five or 10 per cent range it might end up being. That was based on quite a bit lower numbers than what CN is looking for.”
    He added it was going to be hard to get to a number CN was looking for, due to the numbers of risks involved -  the line contains 110 bridges to maintain - and the fact that it has been sitting vacant for about two years so its maintenance has been differed for a long time.
    “It doesn’t feel like they are helping,” said Wiebe, “They haven’t changed their offer in any way.”
    Wiebe said BRC has a grant application in through the Green TRIP (Transit Incentives Program) and they are keeping the provincial government informed, and looking for funding opportunities.
    BRC now has until August 16 to make their final offer and obtain an agreement in principle.
    If no agreement has been reached by that time, CN is then allowed to advertise the next stage of the process, according to the Canadian Transportation Act, and this is to advertise the line to the provincial and municipal government.
    If the government does not express an interest in the line, it then goes to any offers for any purposes said Wiebe.
    “That’s when it can get a little dangerous, because then it doesn’t have to be Alberta’s railway, it could be for salvage, anything can be done.”
    BRC is keen not to let the line go.
    “I really feel that if we let it go, we are going to run into serious problems down the road, with transportation, fuel prices, tourism and a lot of potential industries relying on rail for transportation. If you don’t have that option, it’s just another kick to rural Alberta.”
    “It’s been great with all the support and help that the group has had and has provided, a lot of people have put in a lot of hours into trying to make this happen,” he said.
    “It has just been a little frustrating, we don’t seem to have the major provincial support so far that we are going to need to make this happen.”

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