Crop protection guides provide vital information

What is black and white on the inside, often green on the outside and always blue throughout?

The Alberta Guide to Crop Protection, that’s what.

Also known as the Blue Book, the annual provincial pesticide tome, 628 pages in 2020, contains nearly everything a prairie farmer could want to know about herbicides, insecticides, seed treatments and foliar fungicide in the region. Few farmers in Alberta would be without one or three but they might have had to, if Alberta wheat, canola, pulse and barley groups hadn’t offered to keep it on the presses.

Alberta’s government is facing tough budget choices. Collecting data and maintaining a comprehensive guide like the Blue Book takes significant investments of time and money.

The decision to cut the 45-year-old annual from government production at the agriculture and forestry department had been rumoured for some time.

Saskatchewan and Manitoba have their own similar guides, while British Columbia has several, individual-commodity focused guides. Alberta’s version costs $12 for the hard copy, Manitoba’s is $10 and Saskatchewan provides it for free. All are available as a free PDF download.

While it might be possible to work from the registration labels, booklets and co-packaging attached to crop protection product mini-bulk tanks, boxes and bags, it’s far better to have a comprehensive guide to products and techniques so they can be appropriately applied.

Of course, the official labels on products are expected to provide the last word on their use but it is fair to assume that most producers work from the guides unless they feel something might have been left out in a recent registration update.

Alberta’s guide is more than an annual treatise on active ingredients, recommended water rates and nozzle selection. It contains information that might not come naturally to producers because they often learn their application craft on the job.

Using that information can save producers a great deal of money and can also better protect the environment and support the social licence to farm. Products, rates, timing and ultimately avoiding pest resistance are critical to profitability, which is key to sustainability of farming. The guides help producers do that.

The unbiased nature of these provincial guides is also important. And through Alberta’s Association of Agricultural Fieldmen, the Blue Book is also offered as an application on mobile devices. That’s a handy and ever more important feature.

Loss of the guide in Alberta would have been significant and difficult for the government to explain and justify. Farmers in that province have already seen the departure of many knowledgeable agriculture employees because of funding cuts and are now watching the government divest itself of its role in agricultural research.

Fortunately Alberta Barley, Alberta Canola, Alberta Pulse Growers and the Alberta Wheat Commission took up the Blue Book cause. It is a good investment in Canadian agriculture by the federal-provincial Canadian Agricultural Partnership, which is funding its continuation.

Karen Briere, Bruce Dyck, Barb Glen and Mike Raine collaborate in the writing of Western Producer editorials.

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