The Canadian Prairies are no stranger to weather extremes and natural disasters. Floods and droughts here are among the costliest natural disasters in Canada, causing billions of dollars in damages to infrastructure and industries such as agriculture. These events are becoming more frequent and widespread as our atmosphere changes due to increased inputs of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases since the industrial revolution in the 1800s. Since the turn of the 21st century, the region has experienced some of the most devastating extreme events in its history, setting records in terms of damage, costs, severity/intensity, and spatial extent. Conditions have also oscillated between opposing extremes of flood and drought in a very short period of time and in close geographical proximity or at the same locations. These recent extreme events have been unprecedented in over a century of observations – a record-breaking summer flood devastated the Assiniboine River Basin (ARB) in 2014 while a severe, widespread drought impacted large areas across Western Canada in 2015. Both events cost billions in damages and highly impacted agricultural producers. Events such as these are occurring against a backdrop of rapidly changing environmental conditions, indicating that extreme flood and drought events will be more frequent and severe.
Given the rapid environmental change the Canadian Prairies are experiencing, our historical understanding of water patterns and flows are no longer applicable to the future, let alone the current state of the region. Improving our understanding of the factors that contributed to the recent extreme flood and drought events can provide insight into the water futures for the Canadian Prairies. The following provides a brief overview of the 2014 ARB flood and 2015 drought and gives insight into what may be expected in the future on the Canadian Prairies.
Last issue, we introduced the concept of Pulse Width Modulation (PWM), described how it works, and identified the main commercial systems available in North America. This issue will contain practical information on how PWM can be implemented on a sprayer on your farm.
What can PWM do?
Spray Quality: Since PWM systems can alter flow rate without affecting spray pressure, the user can select a spray pressure that meets their spray quality goals and expect this spray quality to remain constant throughout the field, regardless of travel speed.
Spray Drift Control: Although PWM does not by itself have any unique capabilities to reduce spray drift, it does make spray drift management easier. For example, the most accessible tool for reducing spray drift is to increase droplet size by reducing spray pressure. In a conventional system, the reduction of spray pressure can only be achieved with a reduction in travel speed because the lower spray pressure also reduces the overall flow rate. With PWM, the loss of flow with a reduction in spray pressure can be compensated by an increase in duty cycle (DC). As a result, lower pressures do not require a reduction in travel speed provided there is sufficient DC capacity in the system. Also, PWM systems use larger orifice nozzles, which naturally produce larger droplets.
At the start of a new year, a typical and prudent management activity for most farm operators is to reflect on the past year and examine what went right, and what went wrong. This “look-back” is focussed on looking for areas of improvement in their business and also alignment with tax season.
Though such a “look-back” exercise usually involves a comprehensive review, the focus of this article is on a very basic part of the financial position for any farm operation, but yet is also an area that is greatly misunderstood and often described in error. I am referring here to cash. On the surface, cash is a simple asset, arguably the simplest asset.
In the world of business, cash is just one of the many assets a farmer needs to manage. With the help of some basic financial management principles and insight from producer clients that I have worked with in the past, the remainder of this article focuses on the following: defining cash, understanding your short-term capital position and possible solutions for managing cash related problems.
First, let’s dispel some myths and address some often-asked questions. Does profit equal cash? Not really. A producer can grow a crop that is worth more than the expenses, but that does not mean the producer has cash. Does net worth mean you have cash? No, the result here is that a farm operator may just have more assets than debt.
So what is cash? I define it as actual cash in the bank account and assets that will become cash within one year. In the accounting world, this category is called current assets. This category of assets includes grain on hand, deferred grain tickets, pre-purchased inputs like fert/chem/seed, market livestock and accounts receivable. The measurement used to determine the adequacy of cash is a working capital calculation.