Big fertility package produced a big canola yield

Liquid fertilizer blends seemed to make a difference for this Saskatchewan farmer

Florian Hagmann threw everything he had into producing a quarter section of canola that topped 116 bushels per acre and averaged 111.3 bushels per acre last year.

The Saskatchewan farmer, who farms near Birch Hills, northeast of Saskatoon says the input costs pushed his comfort zone, but the real point was to “push the limits” and “see just what this crop can do.”

Hagmann, who recorded yields of 84 bushels per acre in a targeted 2013 canola field, says reaching the next yield level in 2015 was a combination of good seed, good moisture, a somewhat unique nutrient package, and perhaps some extra, unexpected help from Mother Nature.

“We had excellent stand establishment — I figure about 80 per cent seed survival — and that was followed with not excessive, but some timely rains,” he says. “One thing I believed helped just as the crop was into flowering was a fairly heavy haze from forest fire smoke which hung over this part of Saskatchewan for about three weeks. I believe that haze saved the crop from being burned by the sun and prevented heat blast of the flowers. Some people have said even the smoke can carry some nutrients with it too. I believe that haze helped, but it is certainly something you can’t count on or control.”

Hagmann, along with family members, crops about 15,000 acres of grains, oilseeds and some corn at two locations. The main farm is at Birch Hills and the second is southeast of Saskatoon near Semans. This high-yielding canola crop was at the Birch Hills farm, which has good black soil with six to seven per cent soil organic matter.

He seeds in total between 5,000 and 5,500 acres of canola each year using varieties from Pioneer Hi-Bred, Bayer’s InVigor hybrids and some Dekalb canola as well. For the past few years he has participated in a Pioneer Hi-Bred Canola Yield Challenge and won it three out of the past four years.

“Every year I take a few acres and try something new and push the limits,” says Hagmann. “I can’t afford to do it on the whole farm, but I usually plan on 500 to 600 acres and really give it that extra care.” In 2012 he won the challenge with a 57 bushel average yield, in 2013 he won again with an 84 bushel yield average, and in 2014 he applied the inputs, had a great-looking crop, but it was flooded out. In 2015 he binned the 111.3 bushels average on 147 acres of a quarter section.

Believes in liquid products

While he starts with a soil test recommendation to plan the fertility package, for the past few years he has been working with a Nebraska-based fertilizer company to apply a unique package of liquid fertilizer at time of seeding as well as top dressings during the growing season.

Kugler Co. makes all-liquid, low-salt macro and micro fertilizer blends says Jae Fielding who is with Kugler based in South Dakota. He has worked with Hagmann on fertility and agronomy for the past four years. Hagmann applies several specialty Kugler fertilizers at different times during the growing season. They include KQ-XRN a 28-0-0 slow release nitrogen. It can be soil applied at time of seeding or foliar applied in-crop.

KQ342 is another liquid blend of N-K-S-Zn that can be side banded next to the seed row. Kugler’s ATS 12-0-0-26S (ammonium thiosulfate) is also applied at seeding — intended to improve nutrient use efficiency. While Kugler’s LS 624 (6-24-6) high-phosphate starter product is applied below the seed row at seeding. Kugler’s KS1022 (10-20-2) can either be used as a starter product or later in the season as a top dress, and KS2075 is a combination of quick and slow release nitrogen fertilizer

“I like the liquid products and I like to see them applied as close to the seed row as possible so they are readily available to the crop,” says Kugler. He seeds the crop with a 76-foot wide Bourgault 3320 air drill at a five miles per hour. Bourgault even designed a new opener for Hagmann to try. The opener has a two liquid hoses — one for sidebanding fertilizer, the other for placing the starter product below the seed row.

So for 2015, on these challenge fields he directed seeded, May 23, Pioneer 45H33 Roundup Ready canola into barley stubble at a rate of five pounds of seed per acre. The canola had a Lumiderm seed treatment. There was reasonable moisture, with seed placed at one-half to three-quarter inch deep into a moist, firm seed bed. The field had a pre-seeding glyphosate treatment with a half litre of Roundup Transorb, tank mixed with a half-gallon of the KQ-RXN slow release nitrogen product.

Based on a soil test recommendation, targeting a higher yield, the nutrient package at time of seeding included the following dry and liquid products that went into or near the seed row:

  • 21.5 pounds of ESN 44-0-0 slow 
release fertilizer
  • 21.5 pounds of S15, a blend of 13-33-0-15
  • 35 gallons of the KQ342
  • 2 gallons of the ATS product
  • 14 gallons of KS 1022
  • .11 gallons of KS Max micronutrients
  • .11 gallons of 20 per cent humic acid 
(it helps to buffer against salts)

“We had excellent emergence and stand establishment,” says Hagmann. “At times during the growing season we were almost getting a bit dry, but we had timely rains.” Overall the crop got about 4.25 inches of rain.

In-crop treatments

While there was a good fertility package at time of seeding, three more in-crop treatments were to come.

June 16 at the three to four crop leaf stage, Hagmann applied another half-litre of Roundup Transorb tank mixed with one gallon of KQ-RXN slow release product. Then again on July 2, pre-bud stage, he applied the third half-litre Roundup Transorb treatment, this time tank mixed with two gallons of KS2025 (fast- and slow-release product). July 22, after flowering, two more products were applied — 1.5 gallons of the KS1022 mixed with KQ XRN and 0.11 gallons of the KS Max micronutrient blend.

That was the final fertilizer treatment. No fungicides were needed or applied to the crop.

“It was a healthy vigorous stand for the full growing season,” says Hagmann. He swathed the crop Sept 5 and about three weeks later it was combined with a Claas 670 combine. The yield monitor showed a top yield of just over 116 bushels per acre and an official check with a DuPont Pioneer weigh wagon determined an average yield of 111.3 bushels over 147 acres.

“I’m no smarter than anyone else, but I do like to try new things and just see how far this crop can go,” says Hagmann. “Over the rest of our canola crop, with a more average fertility we had some areas that went as high as 80 bushels per acre and some down around 40 bushels, but overall we averaged 50 to 55 bushels per acre.

“It is nice to try all these nutrient products but right now I couldn’t afford to do the whole farm,” he says. “I still made money on those Challenge acres, but the risk is too high to do the whole farm.” Hagmann says the fertilizer for the Challenge fields themselves cost $270 per acre, plus seed and equipment costs. For the bulk of his canola acres fertilizer costs are more in the $200 to $210 per acre range.

And he plans to test the limits again in 2016 to see if he can do a repeat or if there are still more bushels per acre to be had. “I will push a few acres again, although I am not exactly sure what the program will be,” he says. “Someday I may be confident to apply this program to the whole farm, but you have to walk before you run. This past year, everything went in favour of the crop. We had timely moisture, the weather co-operated, I believe that smoke haze helped the crop. I believe the key, no matter what you are growing is to provide balanced fertility. And I like top dressing nutrients, I believe it helps — I have been doing it with one product or another my whole farming life.”

About the author

Field Editor

Lee Hart is editor of Cattleman’s Corner based in Calgary.

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