FarmTech highlights: lean agriculture, canola seeding rates, and drying grain

Another conference has come and gone in the blink of an eye. One of the trickiest things is catching all the speakers: with concurrent sessions and panels, visiting tradeshow booths, and all the people to catch up with — there’s a lot going on.

Towards the end of the final day of FarmTech this year, I had the opportunity to sit down with Jay Whetter, the editor of Canola Watch and Canola Digest, to see what some of his favourite moments and highlights from the conference were. We had a few laughs along the way while breaking down his three main highlights: canola agronomy and seeding rates, drying grain, and “lean” agriculture.

Lean Agriculture

Sweden’s Ove Karlsson was one of the presenters during the concurrent sessions, and although he spoke on many things, the one that stood out for Whetter was the conversation about waste — in the form of time.

“Think about all the things in your operation that may be waste — wasted time, wasted money, etc. But one of the pictures that really resonated with me was the slide of this workshop, and it was like a pegboard for all of the tools. And he would outline where the wrench belonged, and all these tools. And I thought, my uncle Whetter, from Manitoba, had that exact same thing in his shop 50 years ago, and he could’ve come and been ‘A Man Called Clint’ (like the book, A Man Called Ove),” he says.

Although we got a good laugh about Clint Whetter and his processes, it brought up a valid point. How much time do you spend, and ultimately waste, looking for tools? Maybe outlining your tools could be an option in your shop.

Canola Agronomy and Seeding Rates

BASF had a panel looking at the Invigor Rate System — the system that focuses on seeds per bag, and how many seeds you should have, etc.

“I actually had a conversation with a person right after the panel on how to test if your drill is seed placing consistently. He said to make sure you are looking at three rows concurrently — not random ones — but three in a row because then you are going to get a front, middle, and a back opener,” says Whetter in the interview below.

“And then he said he hammers a big spike in, right to ground level, and then like a foot apart. And then when you dig for your seed, you want to see whether they are level with the tops of those spikes because then you can actually see how your drill is variable. So if you slow down, then you are going to take away some of that variable down the row. So you’re going to get a more uniform seed placement, which is just so critical for canola. So some drills and some soil conditions can do that at 7mph and some at 3mph. There’s no hard and fast number anymore.”

Grain Drying

2019 was the year of the grain dryer if there ever was one. The central and northern parts of the province really saw a need for drying their grain, and that became evident very quickly through conversations and presentations at FarmTech.

“What really impressed me was when Scott Keller asked the room how many people have a grain dryer, and half the rooms’ hands went up. So I went OK — we’re in a bit of a transition mode here. And it makes sense because there have been some tough harvests in a row in this part of the country, where the grain dryer is really starting to make sense,” he explains.

This inspired Whetter to start a thread on Twitter, to see if people were sharing dryers at all. If your neighbour has one, would you share it? A lot of the comments that arose from this was that the timing is so critical, that you want to be able to get it in there and get it dried as soon as possible. So waiting for your neighbour to finish drying all of his grain isn’t always an option.

Check out the full conversation between Jay Whetter and RealAgriculture’s Kara Oosterhuis, below:

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