November 09, 2009 | Kelly Barany, Chin Ridge Seeds (en-CA)
Excerpt from the Article - "Barany practices Soil Conservation Methods", written by Ric Swihart, published in the Prairie Post West, November 6 2009:
Lawrence Barany grew up with memories of dust clouds carrying away vital top soil from his farm 20 km south east of Taber. He remembers as a child the deep piles of fine soil covering inside window sills. Those memories are some of the reasons, Barany got involved in the soil conservation movement after he returned from a stint as the first farming specialist hired by the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce in Toronto after graduating from university.
"There was nothing more disheartening than soil blowing away in the wind", he said. "It didn't matter if it was your soil or not".
It was in those days, farmers were told it takes 500 to 1,000 years to create one inch of top soil. "You can lose that much quickly in a big dust storm".
Barany welcomes the massive acceptance of conservation farming practices. After years of learning through groups such as the Southern Alberta Conservation Association (SACA), Barany let his name stand as director this year. It was time to give back to the movement.
Barany feels farm equipment manufacturers have done a good job of providing the equipment to allow farmers to take advantage of zero or minimum tillage practices, and chemical companies have developed the weed control products to allow most cultivators to be stored in a corner. Weed control is a major consideration in conservation farming, he said. "Some of the old weeds have almost disappeared", he said. "We have had a lot of help with better chemicals".
"Farmers have also learned a lot about the value of crop rotations", said Barany. "That is a very significant thing for farming". He likes to use nitrogen-fixing crops in rotation, partly because they make some of their own nitrogen fertilizer, but also because they speed the introduction of more organic matter into the soil. Conservation farming is not without challenges. "There are more perennial weeds starting to show up that I haven't seen before", he said. "And there seems to be a little more problem with hard pan soils in some areas. That's when you have to plant deep-rooted crops like alfalfa. It has given me a fresh appreciation of forage crops".
Barany is convinced technological advances will continue to give farmers more tools to improve conservation farming and to grow more successful crops. He welcomes plant breeding studies, especially with uncertain global grain markets. The biggest opportunity through variety research is increased value for farmers production. Dryland farms in southern Alberta traditionally face uncertain growing conditions. "It is a big leap of faith every year", he said. "It can be a big roll of the dice when you throw a lot of money for fertilizer and chemicals and then hope for the best".