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A different look to the Valley’s landscapes

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No doubt about it, Harvest 2017 in the Swan Valley is well into production, with swathers and combines plodding away at taking up the season’s crops for a couple of weeks already.
Some quarters have already seen their wheat fields reduced to stubble, while others grow crops that may still need another week or two before the harvester can come through.
The Swan Valley is well-known for its bountiful agricultural land, but given its northern latitudes, it is restricted by a shorter growing season as spring melt comes later and killer frosts descend sooner.
Traditionally, farmers haven’t diverged far from standard crops such as canola or cereal grains such as wheat, barley, and oats. But, in the last few years, there has been a little more diversity in our farmlands as agriculture technology develops and crops that were once considered risky and unsustainable are now popping up in more fields every year.
“Ag companies are continuously researching and developing new varieties that fit different needs of the grower,” said Nicole Clouson, Farm Production Extension Specialist for Manitoba Agriculture. “A lot of producers in the area have jumped on with a few of the new crops and as they have positive experiences, they may add more acres of that crop to their farm, or a neighbour may be convinced to try it.”
Soybeans are one such crop that has risen in popularity in recent years, and Clouson reported they first became an insurable crop in this risk area through Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation (MASC) in 2013.
“With a handful of growers trying it out that year, soybeans have now made it into a large number of farm acres,” she added. “New, shorter season varieties have been fitting in great with the shorter growing season that we have up here.”

One of the benefits of introducing new crops to the region is having more options for crop rotation, which is important for the overall health of the land.
“Resistance has become a growing concern,” said Clouson. “Growing the same crops and using the same herbicides year after year increases the risk of herbicide resistance, which no producer wants. Adding diversity to a crop rotation and using multiple modes of action is a more sustainable approach.
“Some crops may have had their challenges still, but these are also being hammered out. Dealing with hemp residue can be a challenge as the plant has very strong fibres. But, there are a couple of companies within the Parkland that are developing a market for this plant fibre.”
As producers have been individually responsible for finding their own markets since the close of the Canadian Wheat Board, this has required a closer eye on the dollar value of a crop at any particular time. Markets are changing all the time, and an increase in consumer demand has allowed niche crops to grow, such as quinoa, a pseudocereal, gluten-free alternative to other grains.
Something that has made a change in the local market is mega-retailer Costco selling NorQuin – a quinoa product grown in Canada and based out of Saskatoon.
Local producers Chad and Dennis Badowski have jumped on the bandwagon, experimenting with a quinoa crop along the banks of the Swan River.
The Badowski brothers reported that one of the biggest challenges in growing this new crop is the lack of options when it comes to weed management. Finding the right chemicals that will get rid of the pestilence and leave the crop unharmed is still an experiment.
Chad Badowski predicts that even with the challenges, the harvest should be relatively smooth, and from what he has heard from others, he should be able to obtain a lucrative yield.
“Market is a key factor at the end of the day when a producer is making his decision,” said Clouson. “They’re not going to grow something if they’re going to lose money.
“So much information is available at the tips of your fingers, and producers and the Ag Industry are more aware.”
With the rise of soybeans, faba beans, peas, hemp, corn, and now quinoa in the Swan Valley, it will be interesting to see what other kinds of developments in crop diversities that innovative producers are going to be able to pull out of the rich farmlands of the region.

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Jeremy Bergen
REPORTER
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