Ron R's 500 words | Perspective of a small-farmer from Saskatchewan, Canada

Ron R’s 500 words | Perspective of a small-farmer from Saskatchewan, Canada

In the following story, Ron R. shares his perspective as a farmer in Saskatchewan dealing with agricultural challenges with new technology. If you would like to share your story with us, please check out our earlier post: Callout for Your Stories! In 500 Words, What is Your Stance on GMOs in Society?

Here is Ron R. telling his own story:

Hello. I’m a third generation farmer who grows grain and oilseeds on a small farm in Canada.

My firsthand experience with GMOs involves herbicide tolerant varieties of Canola.

I recall that, at the time when I started farming, before the advent of herbicide tolerant canola varieties, canola was considered to be a specialty crop, that was, in some ways, quite difficult to grow. There were limited herbicides available for the control of weeds in canola, and the effectiveness of those herbicides was also limited. A person could spray the canola field with the available herbicides, and still have a weed problem. As a result, most canola fields were quite weed infested, and crop losses due to weeds were common.

Once the first herbicide tolerant varieties appeared, in the mid 1990s, canola suddenly became an easier crop to grow. Canola fields could be kept relatively weed free, with a single effective herbicide. Which immediately resulted in greater crop yields, at a lower cost. It’s also been my experience that the cleaner canola fields even result in reduced weed control costs, for whatever crop that would be grown on that field in the following year.

The herbicide resistant canola varieties could also be seeded earlier than other varieties of canola, as the need for pre-seeding weed control can be eliminated by growing a crop that can be sprayed with one effective herbicide early in the growing season. The earlier seeding results in a reduced risk of damage to flowering plants from mid-summer heat, and also a reduced risk of damage to the crop from an early autumn frost.

I’ve also noticed that herbicide tolerant crops are a better fit into a reduced tillage system of farming, than conventional varieties of the same crops which may be more reliant on pre-seeding tillage to control weeds. Considering that many areas of the Canadian prairies may be susceptible to soil erosion, I’d argue that this is a definite environmental benefit of GMO crops. The fact that less fuel is burned, and subsequently less carbon emitted, by reducing tillage on an agricultural field, would also be an obvious environmental benefit.

Since those first herbicide tolerant varieties appeared nearly 20 years ago, canola has changed from a difficult-to-grow specialty crop, into one of the most economically important crops in Canada. I like to think that this increase in canola production is beneficial to the consumers as well as the farmers, as canola oil (whether it is from a GMO or non-GMO variety of canola) is one of the healthier cooking oils on the market, with less fat than other edible oils.

Photo credit: BASF - The Chemical Company | CC