We have had an interesting couple of days with Grant McGrath staying and giving us an insight into farming on the prairies in Canada. It was a flying visit as he was just here to speak at Scottish Agronomy's technical conference, he did manage to fit in a round of golf at St Andrews though!
Grant is an old friend of Davids through curling. He was brought up on the family farm at Dodsland, Saskatchewan, before starting his career in agri-business and is now President of Western Sales, one of the largest machinery dealerships in Canada, based in Saskatchewan. Western Sales has four branches in the fertile prairie land of western Canada, and is John Deere's number one dealer in Canada.
The company also encompasses FieldSmart, an agronomy/technology service specialising in precision farming, so it has been really interesting talking to him over the last couple of days about the advancements in technology. He believes we are not far from the days of all our farm data being held in "the cloud" and accessible by machine operators as they work, saving down-time, improving yields and reducing inputs.
It is hard for us to imagine the scale of the farms in his area with huge blocks of land under rye, durum, canola or lentils. There is 33 million acres of land under active cropping in the province of Saskatchewan alone and the average farm size is just under 1700 acres.
As a portion of the world export market, Saskatchewan produces 65% of the lentils, 54% of the peas, 32% of the flaxseed, 34% of the durum, 16% of the canola seed, 17% of the canola oil and 27% of the mustard seed.
Some of Grant's customer’s farm blocks of 80,000 acres and it is not unusual to see rigs such as the one pictured of a 600hp John Deere tractor with 76m seed drill on the back and a 20 tonne seed trailer. He tells us everything is direct drilled into stubble as with only about 4" per year, keeping the moisture in the soil is critical.
A bit different from here as we are currently struggling to find fields dry enough to plough after two days of rain! Still we should be grateful for small mercies, at least it’s not -37 degrees here!