How to make the most of the Southwest Ag Conference next month

Here are some session suggestions that may bump up your SWAC experience

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The Southwest Ag Conference continues to be the leading crops-focused conference in the province, drawing farmers from across Ontario, but also, increasingly being viewed remotely online.

The conference, which takes place at Ridgetown College, University of Guelph, Jan. 7 and 8, 2020 will be home to 44 different sessions sprinkled over the two days.

Farmtario asked a couple of the organizers what they were looking forward to this year.

Albert Tenuta, co-chair of the SWAC committee says that he’s interested to hear about dealing with the DON vomitoxin outbreak in corn last year in a session with Aart Schaafsma, a researcher and professor at the college and Dale Cowan, of the AGRIS and Wanstead Co-operatives on what they learned about how the situation was managed and how the impact of DON can be reduced throughout the supply chain.

Matt Essick (top) and Willard Jack.
photo: Supplied

Another session Tenuta highlighted is focused on growing big corn yields, even in challenging years like this one, by Mike Essick of Pioneer.

He’s also looking forward to a session on herbicide resistant weeds, from local Ridgetown College expert Peter Sikkema, but also Willard Jack, who moved from Ontario to Mississippi to farm 30 years ago. Jack has had to change the way he farms in order to manage herbicide-resistant weeds.

Tenuta, who works as OMAFRA’s pathologist for field crops, will be sharing the stage with Dr. Kiersten Wise of the University of Kentucky, and they will be looking at new and old diseases in Ontario and their effect on the bottom line of farms.

Tenuta says the feature speakers are always popular and this year farmers will hear from Dr. Tom Deans, who will speak about succession planning.

“It’s a hot topic all farm families have to deal with soon or down the road,” he said.

Michael Landsberg, a TSN sports commentator, will talk about his challenges with depression.

Peter Johnson, who is the co-chair of the program committee for the conference, says the keynote speakers give producers a break between intense sessions relating to crop production.

Both Johnson and Tenuta are looking forward to the presentation of Dr. Larry Purcell, of the University of Arkansas. He will present the lessons he learned trying to replicate the soybean growing recipe of soybean yield champion Randy Dowdy and his 190 bushel per acre soys.

Roger Sylvester-Bradley (top) and Ruth Wade.
photo: Supplied

It’s not surprising that Johnson, an agronomist with RealAgriculture, and former OMAFRA wheat specialist, wants to hear from Roger Sylvester-Bradley and Ruth Wade, both from ADAS, UK, an agriculture consultancy company. They’ll be talking about the high wheat yields in the UK and how farmer Yield Enhancement Networks have contributed to the high wheat yields in the UK.

Prioritizing what to see when there are 44 sessions can be daunting. Johnson says to pre-plan your visit. Have alternatives if a session you wish to see is full.

“Have a plan of attack. If one session is full, plan for other options for that time slot, but also in terms of when alternatively you can attend that session as well,” says Tenuta.

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“Pick the ones that have the biggest impact on your operation,” says Johnson. “Sometimes guys just focus on corn, soybean production, but don’t miss out on ones that are a little bit less mainstream. They have really important stuff or we wouldn’t have them,” he says.

And if you can’t make the conference or all the seminars you want to, then there’s the livestream option.

Tenuta says people have logged on from Florida or other warm spots and from across the country.

This year 20 sessions are being livestreamed on Jan. 8. They will be archived so that for a set period of time, they can be viewed by attendees.

“I want to thank all of our speakers, volunteers, growers and especially our sponsors as well for helping deliver this world-class conference every year,” said Tenuta.

For more information visit the Southwest Ag Conference website.

About the author


John Greig

John Greig has spent his career in agriculture journalism and communications. He lives on a farm near Ailsa Craig, Ontario. Contact John at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @jgreig



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