Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Nice and Toasty

I sure appreciate fleece sheets in the winter.  That extra layer of warmth makes sleeping so much more enjoyable.  Our alfalfa and wheat crops enjoy the same protection under the fleece protection provided by a thick layer of snow.

A good look at the effect of snow cover vs soil temperature comparing 2013 to 2014 can be seen at

Since I have trouble relating to Fahrenheit temperatures I summarized the chart data as follows.
In 2013 when air temperatures dipped to -20, soil temperatures went as low as -15C which is the threshold where damage to alfalfa crowns would occur.  Soil temperatures fluctuated dramatically with little snow cover.
In 2014 despite air temperatures routinely around -30C, soil temperatures stayed around -6C with very little fluctuation.
This is not a big surprise because we all know intuitively that snow is a good insulator, however I find the data to be enlightening.  It also is well known in Ontario that March is usually the month when most winter injury occurs.  Most years snow cover starts to disappear in March and air temperatures can still be quite cold.  Looking out the window leads us to believe the probability of snow cover disappearing in March to be very remote.
All this leaves the alfalfa and wheat crops in comfortable slumber mode for the foreseeable future.


Thursday, February 20, 2014


Youngest daughter Melissa upon returning from a Habitat build in Nicaragua last November adopted the spanish greeting Hola! as part of her regular vocabulary.
Cathy and I took a few days away to soak up some sun in Mexico and when we entered our room we were greeted the same way.  I figured that since I took a few weeks off from writing this blog it is only appropriate to extend this greeting to all my readers.  Hola!!! 
One sign that spring is around the corner occurred two days ago.  Our allotment of Bayer's Fluency Agent found its way to our doorstep.  
To refresh everyone's mind, the PMRA banned the use of talc and talc/graphite mixtures in planters for this coming spring.  The fluency agent is taking the place of talc.  Fluency agent has been proven to reduce the amount of neonicotinoid insecticide exhausted by negative vacuum pressure planters, John Deere being the primary user of negative vacuum technology.  Dust flying onto pollinating trees is a primary source of contamination because honey bees actively forage in flowering tree species at planting time.  It has also been decreed that seed representatives and dealers like yours truly, are the only source of fluency agent.  The equipment dealers are out of the loop. 
A full set of best management practices regarding bee protection and neonic treated seed can be found at www.healthcanada.gc.ca/pollinators
Additional information can be found at Bayer's website.

Over the past few years talc use has been diminishing thanks to better seed polymer coatings which improve seed flow ability.  Some growers have even ceased using talc.  Should those growers not using talc now use fluency powder?  I really don't know.  That comparison was not done in research conducted this far.  Cost is not an issue.  At label rate the fluency powder costs 20 cents per acre.  

The most important point to remember is very simple.  Honey bee deaths linked to neonicotinoid poisoning need to go down.  If the deaths do not go down we will lose this insecticide.  We all need to do our part in this regard or we will lose a valuable tool in protecting crops from soil borne insects.