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The past year started with great promises of putting the COVID-19 pandemic behind and reasonable moisture for the spring. Then, through the summer, inadequate precipitation and sustained high temperature created havoc on all crops in the region. The resiliency of MARA staff and the Board enabled the team to continue our work to serve producers, grain crops and livestock commissions, the industry, private and government agencies.

MARA continued Alberta’s first organic regional variety trial for field peas which produced quality data for the organic farmers’ fraternity in the province. In addition, MARA commenced testing breeding lines of the novel crop, camelina. Also, MARA expanded its research base via collaborating with post-secondary institutions in Canada, and other private and government agencies to address issues relating to soil health, variety selection, nutrient management, pest and diseases management, forages, grazing, and carbon sequestration, moisture management, regenerative farming, and precision farming and knowledge transfer to serve a wide range of farmers in the county…

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Perennial Forage Trial (PFT) was initiated in 2016 by the Applied Research Associations in Alberta to fill the knowledge gap of perennial forage data available for producers in the region. This study was completed in 2018 and 2nd phase of the project to study long term survival of PFTs was initiated in 2019 and implemented in 2020 which is funded through Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP).

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As with many things in the past year we are all in unfamiliar territory. This is the first for that we have held an AGM virtually, and hopefully the last. The past year has been a year of highs and lows for MARA as well as the farming community in Mackenzie County. After many years of prolonged drought, we finally got some very timely rains and most of the crops in the region turned out good to excellent. Then came the fall and we got to experience what the rest of the province has been going through with a very wet and prolonged harvest. Though in the end with high parts bills and much extra work most of the crops made it to the bin…

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Soil provides nutrients for plant growth, absorb and hold rain water to use during dryer periods, filter and buffer potential pollutants from farm fields, act as the foundation for agricultural activities and habitat for soil microbes creating symbiotic ecosystem to keep the ecosystem running smoothly.

Soil as an ecosystem; regulate water, sustain plant and animal life, filter and buffer potential pollutants by microbes and minerals, cycling nutrients, medium for plant growth…

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Key for the Future of Agriculture

Smart farming is a farming concept involves advanced technologies inte- grated into existing agricultural practices to boost production quality and efficiency. Farmers in this century have access to GPS, soil scanning, data management, and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies. This tech- nology can measure field variations more precisely, allowing producers to use herbicides, insecticides, fungicides and fertilizers more effectively and selectively to the required areas. Similarly, livestock producers can moni- tor the needs of individual animals and adjust their nutrient requirements correspondingly, thereby preventing disease and enhancing health.

Smart farming requires knowledge , capital (can start from low capital investment smart phone applications) and more knowledge and skills. To- days farmer is not only a farmer with passion for agriculture but also a legal expert, a part-time data analyst, economist and accountant (who is making a living from agriculture produce requires bookkeeping skills, knowledge of market chains and price volatility)

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COVID-19 & MARA Extension

We cancelled our extension events scheduled for March and April to compliance with Alberta health recommendations. As an alternative we started virtual meetings/ webinars since last April to make sure producers in the region are up to date with the new information. Producers have the opportunity to directly interact with the expert/speaker during Q & A. Your laptop computer, desktop with a head set and smartphone can be used to join these meetings. We hope everything will be back to normal so that we can do field tours.

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The past year has been a difficult year for Agriculture in Mackenzie County and the province of Alberta. Starting with the boycotts in China that resulted in depressed prices of major crops and progressing to major weather extremes in the province the past season will be remembered. Our region was effected dramatically. Early and late frosts resulted in delayed maturity, loss of yield, (dramatic in some cases) and lower grades in others. Another summer of low rainfall resulted in low yields while rainfall in September downgraded many crops and made for a difficult harvest. Though we were more fortunate than many regions of the Province in that in the end the majority of the crops were harvested…

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WHAT IS A SOIL QUALITY CARD?

  • A soil quality card is a simple, non-technical method to assess soil quality in the field.
  • It uses sensible, farm level indicators and descriptions that qualitatively measure soil quality.
  • It allows soil quality to be assessed without the use of technical or laboratory equipment.
  • It is a tool to raise awareness of soil quality and increase the working knowledge of soil.

WHY SHOULD I USE A SOIL QUALITY CARD?

  • Assessing soil quality is important to the development, performance and evaluation of sustainable land and soil management systems.
  • Regular (every 1 to 5 years) use allows assessment of current soil quality conditions, records changes in soil quality over time, identifies potential problem areas, and provides a measure of soil quality to compare fields and management practices.
  • The soil quality card can be used to make informed management decisions.