Our Publications

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The 2006 Annual Report is dedicated to the memory of Andrea Vavrek.

Andrea was the former NPARA Research Coordinator / AESA Rural Extension Staff (MD 22). She was a collaborative partner with MARA on the 2006 Diagnostic Field School, Farm Safety Day, Rancher Days, Nutrient Management workshops and AESA program.

Andrea was fatally injured while on the job on January 3, 2007 and passed away on January 8, 2007. Her gift of organ donation has helped more than 80 people have a better quality of life.

Andrea’s enthusiasm, sense of humor and expertise will be missed.

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A sound seed base is necessary for optimum crop yield. Tests are available for seed pathogens. There are several cereal seed treatments to reduce pathogen induced losses. The decision to use a seed treatment depends on many factors: environmental conditions at seeding, crop rotations, pathogen exposure, cost, seed source and personal preference.

The risk of disease generally is reduced when proper crop rotations and a good seed source are used. Providing that seed source does not have a seed-borne disease, the most likely conditions when seed treatments would be effective are early seeding in cold soils with suboptimal moisture conditions (too dry or too wet).

Current information on different seed treatments is available in the Blue Book and on websites of companies manufacturing the chemicals. However, unbiased comparison of different seed treatments on crops in a given area helps producers to make informed decisions.

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The most productive and widely adapted forage species is alfalfa. Alfalfa is a perennial plant and has been known to live longer than five years or more. The Experimental Farm in Fort Vermilion recently sod seeded into an Anik alfalfa stand that was estimated at twenty years of age. Thus decision to produce alfalfa and choose an appropriate variety may have long-term consequences.

There are over 230 alfalfa varieties in North America and every year this number increases by 20-30. Varieties differ substantially in regards to winterkill. Varieties with resistance to diseases (bacterial wilt, Fusarium wilt and root rot) and high winter hardiness can reduce chances of winterkill. Planting high yielding and well-adapted varieties ensures good yields due to healthy, vigorous and long-lasting stands. Severe winter conditions in Mackenzie County make variety hardiness a primary consideration in variety selection.

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Winter wheat offers producers several advantages. It provides soil cover during the fall and winter, reducing the potential for wind and water erosion; spring moisture is not lost from seeding disturbance; seeding and harvest dates are off-set to different times of the year; and it often out-competes spring emerging weeds. Winter wheat lines have been found to vary in winter hardiness, e.g. SM-8323 is considered resistant to snow mold.

The production of winter wheat is concentrated in the southern areas of Alberta. Its area in northern areas of Alberta is limited due to poor winter survival and susceptibility to snow molds.

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Turnip (Brassica rapa L.) is a root crop that has been used for livestock feed for over 600 years. There are several types of turnip on the market, which are classified in leafy-type and bulb-type categories. As for cattle use, it depends on the adaptability of the variety to a particular region and the time that the forage is grazed. Both leafy and bulb types have been grazed in the Peace region.

Turnips produce high-quality forage. With adequate rainfall for re-growth in northern Peace region they can be grazed 1-3 times in a season. In previous trials around Fort Vermilion, they have proven to be drought and cold tolerant, though establishment and re-growth is challenging. Late planting can provide extended grazing periods well into winter as cattle can pull turnips from the frozen ground.

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Seeding and nitrogen rates can influence crop establishment, seed yield and seed protein level. Optimizing these factors had also demonstrated enhanced crop competitiveness to weeds.

For barley, a plant population of 22 plants/ft² is generally considered the optimum for weed management and yield. The change in grain protein content of barley seeds influences malt quality. The optimum level of protein for malting barley is between 9.5 and 11.5 per cent.

For canola, plant population in a range of 7 to 17 plants/ft² normally had very little effect on the final yield. Also, over this wide range the crop competes very well with weeds. However, differences in days to maturity may be negatively affected and the effect on maturity may be more pronounced in the weather conditions of northern Peace region.

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Deterioration and aging cause the loss of seed quality. Careful handling of seed is especially important for large seeds. For example, mechanical damage can occur readily on low-moisture peas and cause faster spoilage. Frost damage caused by freezing temperatures during final developmental stages will lower seed quality. Heating damage, which may be linked with fungal activity, can be very detrimental as well. Other factors that will affect seed quality include insects, fungi and other pathogens. Good crop management starts with getting as much information on the quality of your seed.

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Due to being energy dense feed, high yielding and palatable, corn is an excellent forage crop. Corn is also capable of utilizing large amounts of nutrients from soils receiving frequent manure applications, and grow well even in areas that may cause problems for cereal crops. However, intensive management, sufficient soil fertility, adequate water and sufficient heat must be available for a successful corn crop.

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Sunflower is one of the few crop species that originated in North America. Records indicate that the western Native Americans domesticated the crop as early as 1000 BC. Its strong taproot and phototropic broadleaves allows the plant to increase light interception, photosynthesis, and resource use from soil. Although typically harvested for its seed, sunflower can also be used as a silage crop when seed crop is not possible due to early frost or other reasons. Earlier research has indicated that sunflower yields are generally less than corn but the nutritional quality is often higher.

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The Peace River region of Alberta offers most challenging conditions for canola stand establishment in Western Canada. Only 20 to 40% of B. rapa (polish canola) and 25 to 30% of B. napus (Argentine canola) seeds can be expected to produce plants in the Peace region compared to 40 to 60% in most areas of western Canada (Canola Growers Manual). Low organic matter soils of the Peace region are prone to crusting and short growing season forces producers to seed canola in cold soils. Therefore, this area offers ideal conditions for assessing the effects of differences in seed quality on the establishment and yield of canola under field conditions.

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Seeding two crops together (intercropping) that can utilize soil resources and sunlight during different parts of the growing season may improve forage production in terms of yield, quality and, and utilization. When grown together, the spring cereal can be cut for silage, usually shortly after heading (about 65% moisture), and the winter cereal may grow quickly in the absence of competition from the spring cereal for grazing later in the fall. The silage crops may suffer some yield loss but the silage and pasture yields may add up to produce more forage per acre than either one grown separately. The cereal combinations that can be useful for such purposes in the Peace region include spring seeding of spring barley or spring triticale intercropped with fall rye or winter triticale.

One obstacle to integrating winter cereals into a silage production system in the northern Peace region is the winter survival. Past research done at the AAFC Experimental Farm in Fort Vermilion, AB showed better winter survival from the winter cereals seeded into stubble rather than summer fallow.

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On February 21, 2006 the Fort Vermilion division of the North Peace Applied Research Association became officially incorporated as the: MACKENZIE APPLIED RESEARCH ASSOCIATION Although our name has changed, we will continue to work with producers, research groups, funding organizations and industry to provide applied research and extension to the Municipal District of Mackenzie #23.