|North view from the Pembina Museum tower|
Which is exactly why it is so startling when one comes upon a "dead field" that is a crispy pale brown:
|Dead field - note the sprayer tracks.|
|Dead field with water damage|
But even when the rains stop, waiting for a field to dry out and become till-able again is a risky guessing game. Too soon and your expensive machinery can get horribly stuck, all the while making mud balls and damaging the land even further with deep ruts. Wait too long and you'll miss the deadline. Cut off dates for planting are determined by (government-subsidized) insurance companies, and once the date has passed for planting corn (say. May 25), that's it - no corn for you.
|Planted field quickly being overtaken by weeds|
These days, a farmer faces a decision: Till it under or spray the whole field with Round Up?
|One local farmer famously insists on tilling - no RoundUp|
- Cost of diesel fuel went up and stayed there
- Cost of equipment is always increasing
- Cost of Round-Up has dropped
Accord, Aquaneat, Aquamaster, Bronco, Buccaneer, Campain, Clearout 41 Plus, Clear-up, Expedite, Fallow Master, Genesis Extra I, Glyfos Induce, Glypro, GlyStar Induce, GlyphoMax Induce, Honcho, JuryR, Landmaster, MirageR, Pondmaster, Protocol, Prosecutor, Ranger, Rascal, Rattler, Razor Pro, Rodeo, I, Silhouette, Touchdown IQ.Also, I learned that RoundUp has to "hit the leaf" of a growing weed, otherwise it won't work. The chemical actually causes cells of the plant to duplicate themselves until it essentially shuts down. (Same basic theory as making foie gras, from what I understand.)
There are ongoing debates about no-till farming, with proponents insisting that tillage causes carbons to escape, thus adding to the climate change problem. Honestly, I have no idea but this recent trend of adding even more chemicals to the soil makes me uneasy.
|RoundUp field, as seen from the local high school track|
Whether till, no-till or spray, weeds are a constant headache to the farmer - this much I know personally. In farming, there is very little control over production costs, a constant race against time, and then there's the wild card of Mother Nature - definitely a risky way to make a living. With the new generation, it seems this spray trend is here to stay, but some old timers resist the easy way out.
As one young farmer told me, "My dad still can't get used to the idea of spraying and no tilling. It's just not the way it was done in his day. He's not a fan."
That makes two of us.