Neil Whatley

Neil Whatley

Crop Specialist at Alberta Ltd

Location:
Consumer Investigations Unit 3rd Floor, Commerce Place 10155 - 102 Street, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Company:
Alberta Ltd
HQ Phone:
(780) 427-2711

Recent News  

Neil Whatley of Alberta Agriculture talked about growing lentils in Alberta's semi-arid regions during a field day sponsored by the Chinook Applied Research Association in Oyen. | Barbara Duckworth photo
OYEN, Alta. - The brown soil zones present challenges to producers, but modern farming techniques make it possible to grow a wider range of crops. "It is a drier area of the Canadian Prairies, but nonetheless we can grow a lot of crops in these regions," said Neil Whatley of Alberta Agriculture. "It is not just the yield on these crops, but it is the positive rotational effect of having a legume in the rotation," Whatley said. Whatley said red lentils have adapted to Alberta's variable growing conditions, especially in the brown, dark brown and thin black soil zones.

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"The region has gotten some good heat lately and when mixed with those drying winds over the last few weeks, it really helped get farmers into the fields," said Neil Whatley, crop information specialist with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry.
"With the exception of some of the really wet and low areas, the crops are coming along really nicely." Just under 99 per cent of the overall crop is reported as seeded in the region, while the provincial average is sitting at slightly more than 91 per cent - up 12 points from the previous week though behind the five-year average of 99.5 per cent. Whatley added that peas have been finished for a while and are looking good as they emerge. Meanwhile, spring wheat and canola are nearly done with the fields that have been completed growing nicely. "With the amount of moisture on some fields, many of those with spring wheat and canola that typically take around 108 days before harvest are seeding shallow and adding fertilizer - all of which will help cut the time it takes for the crop to pop up," he said. Pasture and hay fields in central areas remain good to excellent, according to Whatley, at 86 per cent as many fields that were marginal last summer have rebounded because of the better moisture levels over last year.

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The pulse crop's capacity to fix soil nitrogen and make it available to next year's crop is just the start, says Neil Whatley, a crop specialist with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry (AAF).
By extending rotations, pulse crops positively impact disease and weed pressures. Because pulses are more shallow-rooted than cereals and oilseeds, their root systems improve soil moisture penetration and the soil's capacity to hold water. Pulses are also a good fit with conservation tillage practices. "The decomposing roots and nitrogen fixing nodules on the roots create a nitrogen flush for the next crop," says Whatley. As for what it takes to grow pulse crops in Canada, there's no question these crops demand different field strategies, says Whatley. Whatley says floating or flex headers are an industry staple for harvest and producers know they have to roll pulsecrop fields after seeding. The rolling pushes rocks into the soil, making harvest easier. He recommends seeding into fields with good drainage, since water-logged soil isn't good for legumes. "I tell guys to think about seeding early, too. Make your pulse crop your first crop so it can grow to the flowering stage before the July heat causes the flowers to abort." And seed inoculation is critical, adds Whatley.

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