By Harry Brook
Alberta Agriculture has changed their website and moved a lot of good information around but there are still some very useful tools available to producers. You just have to look a little harder.
There is a long-existing application called the Soil Information viewer on the government pages. It has proven invaluable for real estate agents, plumbers, oilfield reclamation, farmers and anyone else who needs soil information. It is a compilation of all the soil surveys done over the years in the agricultural parts of the province. There are a number of functional tools that allow you to measure areas, mark up the photos and export them to either the printer or as a computer file.
The link to this program is https://soil.agric.gov.ab.ca/agrasidviewer/. Soils take a very long time to change so this information is still very valid. The program also gives detailed soil reports on the different types of soils present in an area, the percentages of those soils, where they are found and even a layer-by-layer breakdown of the soil. A search feature can be used to select particular types of soils.
Another link that is pretty handy is the Alberta Climatic Information Service (ACIS). This is a site where 450+ weather stations are available with near, real time weather data. The number and pattern of weather stations tries to ensure there is a station within 20 miles of any place in the province. Interested in finding out the average frost free growing period for a particular area? It is available. Looking for historical weather data going back to 1961? For any part of the province? You can find it here. There are over 26,000 weather maps available with features focusing on growing degree days, corn heat units, wind, temperatures and precipitation.
From an agricultural point of view, knowing where, when and how much the wind was blowing is very useful if you are investigating a potential spray drift issue. Using 50% frost probabilities can give an idea when, over the long-term, it is safe to seed and minimize risk from a killing frost. A number of the weather stations even have soil temperature and moisture probes which can prove helpful when looking at times to begin seeding. Of course, knowing what is happening on your own land is preferable, but these stations give reliable information. There are links on this site to give the current radar and a forecast for your area. You can reach ACIS at https://acis.alberta.ca/. Actually, ACIS is now an app and can be downloaded to your phone and set to the station closest to your location.
There are other tools still on the internet that can help with volume measurements, seeding rates, financial management and fertilizer application and utilization. These are all available at https://www.alberta.ca/agriculture-and-forestry-decision-making-tools.aspx#toc-0. All of them can provide useful information to the producer to help them manage on the farm. There are a number of small programs that can help in estimating bushels of grain in a bin or the amount of silage in a pit. Check it out. Information is power. They can make life easier. If you need any help with these programs, please don’t hesitate to contact me. You can reach me at 780-384-4138.
As this is the last column for 2020, may you have a Merry and healthy Christmas.