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Are there cost savings to planting canola?

As Jeremy Hughes, product manager for Horsch Equipment, travels the country, he says he’s noticed a lot of variable maturity in canola crop fields across the Prairies.

“What we see today are some very inconsistent fields,” he says. “It comes back to uniformity and consistency, seed placement, depth and control.”

And all of that begins with doing a good job during seeding. Can using a planter lead to more uniform crop establishment?

“What we have seen is more uniformity and consistency in the crop,” he says of those fields he’s inspected that are seeded with a planter. And he thinks that can lead to reduced costs over the growing season, particularly when assessing the efficiency of crop protection products like fungicides.

“(In variable crops) my window of infection for sclerotinia is very wide,” he notes. “If I have part of the field at 10 per cent (bloom) and part of the field at 60 per cent, how can I control that?”

If crop stands are more evenly established and healthier, the need for fungicide could be reduced, Hughes says.

“Today we have guys not even spraying fungicide and they haven’t done it in two or three years. There’s another $25 or $30 (savings) an acre. I’m growing a healthier plant. Everything is more mature. I’m growing a stronger plant. My infection window has been dramatically shortened up. That plant can get through it.”

At least with a very consistent level of maturity in a field, fungicide use will see increased effectiveness. And reduced seeding levels are possible with a planter compared to many air drills, because of how seeds are metered.

“With the planter another reason we can cut that seed rate in half is seed mortality,” Hughes notes. “We’re a lot gentler on the seed with a planter.”

To accommodate the increased use of planters equipped to handle canola, seed companies are beginning to change how they sell their products.

“With a planter what we usually say is 2-1/2 (pounds per acre),” says Hughes. “But we have to change the way we think with a planter a little bit. A regular air seeder is a volumetric-type metering system, so we’re looking at volume per acre. With a planter we’re singulating individual seeds, so we go back to a population. So populations will range anywhere from 190,000 to 200,000 plants per acre.

“InVigor for the 2020 season said it will start selling seed by size with 4.5 million seeds per bag. So we’ve essentially entered into the row-crop world, because traditionally we’ve been buying seed by the pound.”

Hughes adds that producers he’s spoken to haven’t noticed any harvesting difficulty with fewer plant stalks in the field to hold up a swath due to lower plant populations.

“What we find going with a lesser population is you give that canola room to grow,” he says. “A lot of guys are scared of those big stalks, but there’s no difference in harvest-ability. If you’re swathing or straight cutting, no issue whatsoever.”

And how the seed is placed into the furrow with a planter also gives producers some options in drier years.

“Another question is, can you get down into moisture (with a planter)?” he adds. “Absolutely. We had guys seeding canola an inch, inch and a half deep this year with no problems because of the way that furrow is closed.”

Finally, Hughes notes that opting for a planter may result in lower investment costs, not only in the cost of the implement but also the lower horsepower requirements to pull it. And trading a planter off when it’s time to replace it may be easier than trying to strike a deal to trade in a used drill.

“We’re at 100-foot drills now, and who buys those units used?” asks Hughes. “I’ve talked to a lot of farmers with 70-, 80-, 90-foot drills now and the dealers tell them we don’t want those units (on a trade-in).”

About the author

Machinery Editor

Scott Garvey is the machinery editor for Grainews.

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