As the spraying season recedes in the rear-view mirror,
it’s a good time to think about how the season went and
what the most memorable moments were for you. Did
you have a drift issue? A tank clean-out mistake? Did
your products work as expected, and if not, do you know
why? Did you lose too much time getting the sprayer
filled, or unplugging nozzles?
Noting these events might give you an idea what to
research over the trade show season, and what you might
be able to change for next year. Some of our biggest
struggles in spraying involve the start and end of each
spray day. These are prime candidates for improvement.
At the end of a spray day, we should ideally clean the
sprayer. During that process, we may struggle with
where to put the waste product, including large rinsate
amounts, and of course, the uncertainty of whether the
job is actually done (since clean water looks exactly the
same as contaminated water).
If we’re not prepared to clean the entire sprayer
plumbing, we should at least rinse the boom with water.
This can prevent future problems, especially with
products formulated as suspensions or emulsifiable
concentrates which can settle and cling to various
When starting a new field after the sprayer is cleaned
and the boom has water in it, we need to prime the
boom. Air purge is very useful in those instances. But
without air, the question is how long to purge for, and
where best to do this (pro tip at end of article).
These straightforward tasks are complicated by the
increasingly convoluted plumbing featured on modern
sprayers. Ask someone to explain their sprayer’s
plumbing system to you one day. It’s a long story! Better
engineered systems would be welcome.
because the latter allows spray rinsate to accumulate
in the tank, making dilution less effective.
The wash-down nozzles have to be able to handle the
incoming water rate and still function as intended.
This will likely require some observation and
When the clean water tank is empty a few minutes
later, the main tank will be rinsed and the rinsate in
the return lines and boom will be very dilute, more
dilute than even a triple rinse would have achieved.
And the whole process didn’t require any stopping and
dismounting of the sprayer.
Additionally, give this pump the option to deliver water
just to the boom without using the wash-down nozzles.
Now it can be used to rinse water through the boom.
Continuous rinsing is just one of the steps in sprayer
clean out. Cleaning strainers, boom ends and other
sprayer parts are just as important.
3. Boom ends. We’ve mentioned this part of the
boom many times. Boom ends that extend beyond the
last nozzle on each end of a section must be flushed
regularly to get rid of product and debris that gets
stuck there. Many producers install ball valves to
achieve this, but must do so regularly. A simpler way
is to use the Express Nozzle Body End Caps from
Hypro. These bleed air continuously, and also prevent
accumulation of dead-end contamination. They do need
to be flushed, and this can be done by pulling a plug or
rotating the turret to an open (no nozzle) position.
4. Recirculating boom. This is a significant
change, but worth considering. Conventional plumbed
booms are separated into 5 to 13 sections. Each has
two ends at which the spray stops and where air and
contamination can accumulate (see point #3). Each
section feed has a shut-off valve, controlled via the rate
controller. Once the spray mixture leaves the pump and
bypass valve, it is committed to leaving the sprayer.
In a recirculating boom, the boom is a single section
and its entire volume can become a part of the tank.
In other words, the liquid can return to the tank if
desired. Spray is pressurized and fed to one or both
ends of the boom. Valve positions determine its flow,
either forcing it out through the open nozzles, or
returning it to the tank. Sectional control is achieved
with individual nozzle shut off, either using air or
(a) the boom can be primed with new product
without spraying. The surplus goes back to the
(b) the boom can be flushed with water without
spraying while material is still in tank, and
without spilling anything on the ground. Again,
the surplus goes back to the tank.
(c) high-resolution sectional control with
individual nozzle shut off is a byproduct of this
design. Fast response, high res, saves money.
This design does have some challenges. In designs
where the boom is fed just from one end, a significant
volume of spray mix is returned to the tank for
dilution. Designs where the boom can be pressurized
on both ends address this issue.
Steel lines. Steel cleans easier than plastic, and
this material makes a lot of sense for booms. But
it also makes sense for the boom feeds, currently
handled by black rubber hose. This hose is a literal
black box. We can’t see inside it, and we don’t know
if and where potential contamination resides. It has
considerable surface area. Consider replacing portions
of your feed lines with steel. The boom is the obvious
candidate. Aside from easier clean out, it also helps
with faster nozzle shut off because it doesn’t expand
A word about dumping the tank remainder on the
ground. It’s a bad practice for many reasons. Let’s
examine just one of those. When you spray a product
at 10 gpa, you actually cover each square metre with
about 10 ml of spray mix. When you flush your boom
ends on the ground, you’re probably dropping two or
three gallons in the same area. That’s 1,000 times the
label rate at each boom end, 10 to 26 times per boom.
If you dump your tank remainder and all the hoses,
say 20 or 30 gallons, that’s 10,000 times the label rate
if it covers one square metre. That’s leaching, run-off,
residual potential, and not a good story.
Many of the changes outlined above help prevent that
from being necessary.
To find out how much water your plumbing (from the pump to the boom ends) holds, do this:
After cleaning with water (and without an air purge) use an EC formulation as a marker. ECs have a white milky appearance (some crop oils are ECs). Reset your sprayed gallons on your rate controller. Start spraying and watch for the last nozzle on your furthest and longest section
Start spraying and watch for the last nozzle on your furthest and longest section last nozzle on your furthest and longest section to spray white.
Stop spraying and check your sprayed gallons. That’s your volume. No matter the size of nozzle or application volume, it stays constant.
To be sure the boom is primed with a new mix, spray until those gallons are reached and you’re set.v
By Eric Smyth
Canada has an arable land base like no other. It’s the
second largest country on Earth and is well known for
its wide and open spaces. So, it may come as no surprise
that when the 2016 Census of Agriculture was released
by Statistics Canada, the country’s farmed land had
increased. Canada had 92.7 million acres of field crops
and hay in 2016, a 7 per cent spike since the last census
in 2011. It may also not come as a surprise to know that
83.3 per cent of all crops acres originate on the Prairies.
One Prairie farmer is Sarah Hoffmann, who, with father
Garry Weigum, runs Alect Seeds, a pedigreed seed
business in Three Hills, Alberta. She is part of a growing
cohort: a farmer under the age of 35.
For the first time since 1991, farmers under 35—
measured in clusters of under 25, 25-29 and 30-34—have
begun to trend upwards. The relatively modest bump of
3 per cent gives reason to be optimistic that the numbers
may increase again in 2021, and 32-year-old Hoffmann
can see why.
“The general agricultural scene was good,” says
Hoffman, of her move to rejoin the farm fulltime in 2011.
“I felt like I was coming back to the business, and it
was profitable and well managed. We had a good seed
business established. In the ‘80s, everyone left because it
was bleak. I’m benefiting from farm economic trends.”
Hoffmann had a wide range of job experience before
migrating back to Three Hills as a 26-year-old, including
stints as a head cook of a tree-planting camp, and time
as a communications professional in an MP’s office in
“I learned what I liked and didn’t like,” says Hoffmann.
“It sounds silly, but cooking for a tree planting camp
helped me learn a lot about decision making and working
without much information—and that’s a lot like farming.”
With Hoffmann and other young Canadians earning a
living on the farm, it may seem counterintuitive that the
number of farms and farmers has shrunk.
Census data shows that there are 193,492 agricultural
operations in Canada, which represents a 5.9 per cent
drop from 2011. Likewise, the 271,935 farm operators
represent a decrease of 7.5 per cent. StatCan analyst
Ellen Bekkering explains that this is mostly because of
“Farms are bigger than ever,” she says. “We’ve seen a 6
million acre increase since the last census. It’s at an all
The average farm size has increased, as well. Today,
a Canadian producer tends to an average of 820 acres,
up from 779 in 2011.Farmers in Alberta look after
1,237 acres, while Saskatchewan is the highest Prairie
province at 1,784. Manitoba sits at 1,192. Cropland as
a whole sat at 58.8 per cent of total farm area in 2016.
According to Bekkering, part of the increase in acres
is because farmers are bringing pasture land and
other previously non-farmed areas into production.
Summerfallow area in 2016 was down 57 points from
the same period five years earlier, a sure sign that
farmers are maximizing more of their land. Recorded
data demonstrated that 48.2 million acres, up 16.8 per
cent since 2011, were seeded using no-till technology,
which has been heavily adopted by Prairie farmers.
The continued trend towards smarter and more precise
farming indicates the growing popularity of on-farm
technology. The census revealed that operators under 40
years of age have an 80 per cent uptake of technology,
which includes a great number of things such as GPS,
autosteering, GIS soil mapping, smartphones and tablets
as well as automated animal feeding technology.
“Farms are bigger than ever,” she
says. “We’ve seen a 6 million acre
increase since the last census. It’s
at an all time high.”
“By having all my farm documents in cloud storage, I
access information from inventory to sales to crop plans
wherever I am at,” says Hoffman. She says technology
has been particularly helpful when she’s on the road.
Hoffmann also farms with her husband Curtis, two-anda-
half hours away near Oyen, Alberta. “When I am there
working with him, it’s incredibly important that I can
retrieve the information I need for daily management.”
A dollar a day
Simply told, farming in Canada continues to be more
lucrative than ever before. Gross farm receipts across the
country totalled $69.4 billion in 2015. Recent economic
data showed that in 2013, the agriculture sector
contributed 1.5 per cent to Canada’s GDP. That number
is boosted to 4.4 per cent when you factor in related
agricultural industries such as agricultural input and
service providers, primary producers, food and beverage
processors, agriculture food retail and wholesale industries.
The value of earning a dollar in Canada fluctuates
province to province, but all farmers still come out
ahead. Saskatchewan has the biggest profit margins. In
order to earn $1 in the rural rectangle, Saskatchewan
agricultural producers put in just $0.78, compared to
Nova Scotia where producers spent the highest amount
of $0.89 to earn that same $1. Alberta and Manitoba
paid $0.84 and $0.81, respectively.
"The value of earning a dollar in
Canada fluctuates province to
province, but all farmers still
come out ahead."
The number of farms earning big dollars is rising, too.
Just over 14,700 farms earned $1 million or more in
annual sales, a figure that jumped 8.2 per cent since
2011, and when it came to which type of farm registered
more sales—crop or livestock—it was nearly a tie with
53 per cent crop and 47 per cent livestock.
The value of our farmland has gone up dramatically as
well. With a 38.8 per cent increase in per acre value, the
average acre of land and buildings is now worth $2,696.
The most valued land is in Ontario, where one acre
will set you back $9,580, which is more than triple the
national average. On the Prairies, the prices tags look
more like Boxing Day deals by comparison. An Alberta
acre is $2,354, Saskatchewan registered $1,210 and
Manitoba was in between the two at $1,919.
Farmland and the future
With the cost of land soaring, so has the amount of
rented acres. Today, more than 40 million acres are
rented, a 6 million acre increase over the last decade.
The trend of greater farm income has brought about a
corresponding greater value in farmland itself, according
to J.P. Gervais, vice-president and chief economist at
Farm Credit Canada (FFC).
“There’s continued strength in the ag sector. In the
Prairies, we’re still seeing strong rates of increases,”
he says, adding that even though levels of growth have
slowed in recent years, agriculture is still trending
upwards, and that’s a good thing.
“What is important to monitor is the relationship
with farm income and farmland values,” says Gervais.
“Farmland is a local asset, and not all farmland is equal;
just like real estate, location is important.”
Gervais notes that Saskatchewan was a curious case in 2016.
“The east and west [regions of Saskatchewan] may be
related to some of the enthusiasm coming into 2016 with
pulse crops. The expectations didn’t quite necessarily
materialize,” he says. “Turned out 2016 wasn’t that great
a year from both a production and price standpoint, but it
emphasizes the regional differences even within a province.”
According to FCC’s 2016 Farmland Values Report,
Saskatchewan increased its overall value by 7.5 per
cent. However, the province’s south eastern and east
central regions saw a 0 per cent increase, while the south
western and north western regions saw gains of 16.6
and 10.3 per cent, respectively. “If you’re a producer or
business owner, you have to really understand the local
market,” he says.
In 2016, all Prairie Provinces continued to be valuable,
based on FCC findings. Alberta (+9.5 per cent),
Saskatchewan (+7.5 per cent) and Manitoba (+8.1 per
cent) all recorded positive gains.
For Gervais, what he’s keeping tabs on isn’t farmland
values in the near future, but interest rates. This past
summer, for the first time in seven years, the Bank of
Canada increased its interest rate from 0.5 per cent
to 0.75 per cent. “There’s no reason to panic, but it’s
certainly something that we can think about going
forward—interest rates going up and what the impact
would be on farmland,” he says.
With the costs of farmland increasing, it does beg the
question about the next generation and who may step
in to fill the gap. For Hoffmann and others, succession
plans are a necessity.
However, StatCan reports that less than 20 per cent of
any type of farm, from dairy to crops and everything
in between, has a formalized succession plan. The low
number doesn’t shock farm family coach Elaine Froese,
but she wishes farmers would place more importance
on the future. She says, probably half the farmers she
speaks with have a plan, but less than 15 per cent have
that same plan written down and documented.
“The reason farmers aren’t getting it done is because
they’re anxious and overwhelmed,” she says. “They are
avoiding conflict. Younger people need the ability to
leverage equity in operations since they can’t necessarily
afford to purchase the farm,” Froese continues, adding
that farmers need to have good financial planners in
addition to their accountants. “The reward of getting it
done is huge.”
There’s an opportunity that, if operations continue to
change hands from generation to generation, the 2021
census may show more men and women under 35 in
upwards agriculture trends
According to the old adage, a farmer is a jack of all
trades but a master of none. While that’s perhaps
truer than ever, producers are increasingly turning to
professionals to fill the gaps where they lack expertise.
How do you decide what to do yourself and what to hire out?
Some beautiful farm shops have been constructed in
recent years. I toured one last spring that carried a price
tag of about $500,000. These producers obviously believe
they can do enough on their own equipment repair and
fabrication work to warrant this investment.
Others look at the increasing electronic complexity of
modern equipment and have their dealership(s) on speed
dial for whenever anything goes awry.
There’s no right or wrong answer. People have different
abilities and affinities. The difference in recent times
comes in the range of services you can hire.
How many of us do our own tax returns anymore?
Especially if your farm is incorporated, there is a lot
to know and understand. I gladly pay for professional
accounting services and while it isn’t cheap, the tax
savings pay the bills many times over. Tax laws are
On top of that, the financial analysis and advice is
valuable. If your accountant is simply figuring out your
taxes, find someone who can provide greater value.
Estate and succession planning is a process, not an
event, and it requires strong financial analysis.
While accounting has long been a natural for
most of us to hire, other professional services are
Agronomics is an area that has seen massive growth and
change. Whether it’s a big firm like AgriTrend, or a local
agrologist providing a crop scouting service, a growing
number of producers are paying for professional advice
on what and when to spray, as well as their soil fertility needs.
The growth in acres has been a
driver. You might not have the time
to physically scout all your fields in a
timely manner. The other consideration
is expertise. Can you keep track of all
the herbicide and fungicide products
available? Have you followed the latest
research on fertilizer placement and
Field monitoring has become more
sophisticated. Leaf tissue testing is
sometimes valuable. So are drones and
even satellite imagery. Some scouting
services will install weather monitoring
stations because rainfall and soil
moisture can vary greatly from one location to another.
"There’s no right
or wrong answer.
and affinities. The
difference in recent
times comes in the
range of services you
A traditional source of information has been your farm
input supplier. You tell them about your weed, insect
or disease problem and they sell you a solution – but do
they supply unbiased advice? Many producers like the
idea of guidance from a qualified individual who has no
vested interest in what or where you buy.
Some producers love marketing their grain and couldn’t
imagine taking advice on how much to sell where and
when. Others hate marketing and feel they often make
poor decisions that cost a lot of money.
All sorts of market reports are available for free and by
subscription, but if that doesn’t turn your crank, you can
hire a firm to work with you on a marketing program
specific to your needs. Some firms will even want to
know your financial situation so they can monitor cash
flow needs and factor that into sales timing.
Will they make you money? Can
anyone really know where grain prices
will go over the course of a marketing
year? That’s something each producer
has to assess.
Some producers are excited by the
potential of precision farming with
variable rate application. There
are professionals who can help you
with that. If predictions are correct
and we’re truly moving into an era
of robotic, remote-controlled field
equipment, many producers will be
turning to outside expertise.
As farms grow, more labour is required. Is human
resource management part of your skillset, or could you
use help in recruiting and retaining good people? Does
everyone on your team have a clear job description?
Have they received adequate training on the equipment
they’ll be operating?
Mechanic, agronomist, accountant, manager, marketer –
a lot of different hats. Meanwhile, you’re balancing the
needs of the farm business with family considerations
and trying to establish some work-life balance.
Given these factors, it isn’t surprising that the range of
professional services available for hire continues to grow.