Crops Diagnostic School gives a hands-on approach to staying updated

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Southwest agronomists and producers had a hands on opportunity to learn about the most recent crop development issues at last week's Crops Diagnostic School.

Producers and agronomists from across the Southwest had a chance to go back to school on July 23 and 24 during the debut of the Crops Diagnostic School.

Hosted at the Semiarid Prairie Agricultural Research Centre, the two single day sessions attracted Ministry of Agriculture Regional Crop Specialists from across the province to lead this hands-on opportunity and chance to hear the most up-to-date information regarding crop development issues.

Both day long sessions had eight focus areas: insect scouting and identification, weed identification, fertility, nodulation in pulses, disease scouting and identification, crop establishment, herbicide injury symptoms, with participants also having a diagnostic exercise.

"I talked to a lot of the attendees, and some of them have been in the area for quite a long time, and they said this is a great refresher. You don't see some things every year. So everyone really enjoyed the day. We had a really good mix in the crowd," explained Shannon Chant, Regional Crop Specialist Swift Current Regional Office.

The Crops Diagnostic School had daily maximum registrations of 75 participants, and they were further split into three groups of 25 while participating in the 45 to 60 minute sessions in each area.

"It was just to give them a better learning experience," Chant said of their instruction structure. "We kind of wanted to keep it a fairly small group just because then you have more one-on-one time."

Swift Current hosted sessions at SPARC last Tuesday and Wednesday, with additional sessions hosted in Indian Head earlier this week. Chant admitted as organizers they were happy with their first time hosting this type of event.

"The bottom line is we're trying to get to the agronomists because they are dealing with lots of producers on a regular basis. And for some of the producers it's something that makes it easier for them to go and say 'I've seen that before. I know what this is.'"

Information presented during Swift Current's event was both Southwest specific and soil zone specific.

"We tried to focus on different things. For the herbicide injury for example, we just went with crops that are common in the area."

Disease Identification was one of the focus sessions, led by a Canola Council of Canada specialist talking about canola disease, as well as provincial disease specialist talking about diseases in lentils and peas. SPARC, which contains a rust nursery to better understand this plant disease, shared details on ways to identify problems such as stripe rust, stem rust, and leaf rust.

"Especially for some of the producers today and the agronomists today, it's really to give them an idea of what they're looking at, because before you can figure out how to fix it, or what to do about it, or if you can do anything about it, you have to figure out what it is."

The school's fertility session showed what happens if you put too much fertilizer with the seed, what kind of damage can there be, and visually seeing how it appears.

Their weed identification station showed a variety of different weeds, and challenged participants how to tell the difference between commonly confused weeds.

Similarly, an insect station was designed to show people how to properly sweep, how to properly collect insects, and then properly identify the insects.

"Similar to disease, if you don't know what you have you can't do anything about it, or you may do the wrong thing," Chant said.

Participants had an exercise booklet to use during the school, but organizers developed a take home hand book because there was a lot of information squeezed into a single day. Instead of being overwhelmed by all the information, they were hoping producers and agronomists can use the handbook resource when they go out into the field.

"I was really excited to be able to develop something like that," Chant said.

"It doesn't go in depth, or have some of the oddball things, but it does cover a lot of the basics fairly well. We just wanted to put something like that together so you can take one book, instead of four or five usually."

Organizations: Semiarid Prairie Agricultural Research Centre, Ministry of Agriculture Regional Crop Specialists

Geographic location: Swift Current, Indian Head

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