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Grower keen to see what canola can do

It wasn’t a 100-bushel crop, but Merle Klassen is getting closer and enjoying the challenge

A fleet of new green machinery around the farm would probably look good, but Merle Klassen says if nothing else comes of the Canola 100 contest, at least he’s enjoying the challenge of trying to optimize canola yields on his south-central Alberta farm.

Klassen who has been involved in both the 2016 and 2017 years of the contest looking for a Canadian canola grower who can produce a 100 bushel per acre canola yield on a 50-acre plot, says he didn’t achieve the magic 100-bushel yield yet, but he’s had fun trying. “The challenge isn’t a hobby,” he says. “Farming is what I do for a living. But I’m always interested in a challenge and trying something different.”

Klassen farms with family members near Linden, about an hour north of Calgary. Klassen Agri Ventures is a diversified farming operation producing grain and oilseed crops and certified seed along with a beef feedlot. Merle Klassen focuses on the cropping operation.

The Canola 100 challenge is a contest launched in 2016 jointly by Agri-Trend Agrology, John Deere Canada and Glacier FarmMedia — publishers of Grainews. Farmers can register for the contest in late winter, and then they can decide part way through the year to opt to have the yield from their designated plot cleaned, and weight verified by third party auditors.

Klassen says on his 50-acre contest plot he achieved his highest canola yields yet on the farm. The raw yield of the plot checked on a legal scale showed an average yield of about 86 bushels per acre for straight cut canola, but then it still had to be cleaned and weight verified.

Klassen selected one of his best quarter sections for the Canola 100 challenge plot. He applied a few extra treatments to about 80 acres and then narrowed that down to the best 50 acres to be combined for the challenge.

The field selected had received manure and compost which is fall applied. The first treatment involved a spring pre-seeding burndown with glyphosate tank mixed with Pardner. That was followed by seeding an InVigor canola variety — L233P — at 4.9 pounds per acre (based on 1000 seed weight count) with a target plant stand starting with nine seeds per square foot.

Using a John Deere 1835 air drill, the fertility program included 120 pounds of nitrogen, 10 pounds of phosphorus, 25 pounds of potassium and 30 pounds of sulphur. Fertility applied at seeding did not factor in any nutrients supplied by the manure. Of the total fertilizer program, about 25 lbs. of N, 10 lbs. of P, five lbs. of K, and five lbs. of S was included in the seed row, with the remainder placed beside the seed row.

In crop, the canola was treated with one pass of Liberty Link herbicide tank mixed with Centurion. He also made four fungicide applications during the growing season. He included a bit of the micronutrient boron with the fungicide. And to top up fertility he dribble banded some UAN pre-bolting. With some Diamond Back moth pressure on the field he also applied an insecticide.

“I know a lot of areas were dry, but we actually did not do too bad for moisture,” says Klassen. His farm received about 12 inches of rain during the growing season.

He applied a glyphosate treatment August 29 to desiccate the crop and then straight cut the crop about 10 days later. “The canola seed itself was dry but the stems were still a bit green, so it was a bit tough combining,” he says.

While most of his 1,700 acres of canola is swathed, he has been increasing the amount of straight cut crop in recent years.

Klassen says he didn’t go overboard with extra nutrients on the Canola 100 plot, but the program did include extra fertility and more fungicide treatments than his canola crop would normally receive.

“Overall I was pleased with how the season went and crop performance,” says Klassen. “We didn’t make the 100-bushel mark, but it is the highest yield we’ve ever had. I don’t know if I’m ready to apply this program to the entire canola crop yet, but it is interesting to see what this crop can do.”

About the author

Field Editor

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

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