The Blue Book is Getting Even Better

by | Jun 10, 2024 | Crop Inputs, Crop Production, Crops, News, Viewpoints

PHOTO: Craig Lester is the new coordinator for the Alberta Blue Book.

After the provincial government decided to discontinue it, coordinator Craig Lester says Alberta’s crop protection guide becoming an increasingly valuable resource for farmers.

They say digital is king and print is dead. Don’t tell that to Craig Lester and readers of the Alberta Blue Book.

The beloved crop protection guide is a longstanding and trusted resource for Alberta farmers and agronomists, offering up-to-date pesticide application information. With hundreds of pages of essential crop protection details, spraying guidelines, and farm safety tips, it’s an indispensable tool for any farming operation. This comprehensive guide is collaboratively produced by three of Alberta’s crop commissions: Alberta Canola, Alberta Grains and the Alberta Pulse Growers.

Lester is the new coordinator for the book. The 2023 Nuffield Scholar was raised on a mixed beef and agriculture farm in Rolling Hills, and has been a part of the ag industry his entire life. A seasoned broadcast journalist, he is the owner of Rural Roots Canada, an independent communications firm.

Alberta Seed Guide: What’s exciting for you about the Blue Book this year?

Craig Lester: This year’s Blue Book is once again over 700 pages long, making it a very valuable resource. One of the biggest additions this year is the new beneficial insect information. We collaborated with a few researchers at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada on this, following a suggestion that we thought would be a great opportunity and a valuable inclusion in the book. We’ve added a nozzle sprayer chart at the back of the book for producers to reference. As always, one of the most popular sections is our farm safety section. This year, we’ve covered everything from first aid to various safety precautions on the farm.

ASG: Give us a brief history of the book.

CL: The Blue Book has been around for over 20 years. Originally, it was published by the Alberta government until around 2021, when the province decided to discontinue it. The three crop commissions decided to pick it up, ensuring this valuable resource remained available to producers.

ASG: How has the book changed over the years?

CL: Every year, we strive to improve the Blue Book by adding more information and making necessary edits. That’s why we always encourage farmers, agronomists, retailers, and anyone else who uses the book to let us know where additions are needed and share their experiences. Whether they’re on the farm or out spraying, any feedback is valuable to us.

ASG: What did you do different this year that you feel improved the book?

CL: One of the great things we’re doing this year is conducting surveys with agronomists and farmers to learn more about their preferences and experiences with the Blue Book. We’re curious about what they like and dislike, and how they prefer to access the information. We asked if they prefer a print version, a PDF, or an app. We found that print is still king, with around 80% of people favoring the print version. Even people who preferred the digital version told us that they liked having a print version as a backup. However, there is also significant interest in a PDF version and an app, which we are considering for the future.

ASG: Isn’t there an app already?

CL: There was an app available previously, but it has been discontinued. It was managed by a third party and is no longer updated. For now, we recommend referring to either the print version or the PDF version of the Blue Book.

ASG: To have 80% of your readers say they want a printed version is significant, considering just about everything is online now. That’s a big deal to have a printed product maintain such a devoted following.

CL: You hit the nail on the head there. Our readers are very engaged, and that’s something I really noticed this year, especially since it’s my first year in the position as coordinator. My primary job is to engage with the people using the book, and they’re always eager to provide their feedback. They’re happy to share what they think of the book, often offering great feedback and suggesting small additions here and there.

ASG: Example?

CL: For me it’s the beneficial insects section, which came about because researchers reached out to us and suggested it would be a valuable addition. During this year’s survey, we left space for farmers and agronomists to provide comments, and they gave us a whole slew of new ideas. We’ll be taking these suggestions forward as we work on developing the 2025 edition and future editions of the book. The Blue Book is always evolving, and we aim to stay current because both farmers and agronomists really rely on it. We want to make it the best resource it can be.

ASG: How can people get in touch with you and access the book in print or online?

CL: Just visit albertabluebook.com. Everything is there, including a form to order a printed copy, a free PDF version to download, and a contact form to reach us directly. Also links to the websites for Alberta Canola, Alberta Grains and the Alberta Pulse Growers. We’d love to hear from our readers!

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