BY LEE HART
Man, if I could remember everything I’ve heard about growing canola I’d be a shoe-in for that 100 bushel Canola Challenge prize, as long as it also rained on the right days during the growing season.
I thought the now retired Alberta Agriculture canola specialist Phil Thomas had put everything you needed to know about growing canola in the Canola Production Manual I had on my office shelf in 1988….but apparently there is more.
Yesterday I attended the Canola Discovery Forum organized by the Canola Council of Canada. It is a two-day conference, focused on mostly canola production topics, this year being held in Canmore, AB.
Here are a few tips or news items I heard yesterday — in no particular order…
- the average canola yield in Western Canada is about 35 bushels per acre. The Canola Council of Canada has set a goal to push that to 52 bushels by 2025. AgriTrend Agrology is running a three-year contest to see if someone can reach 100 bushel yield and get a really nice John Deere prize. There’s quite a spread between 35 and 100 bushel yields. One southern Alberta farmer I talked to thought the 100-bushel goal on dry land was silly, while a southern Manitoba farmer I asked thought it was doable. I’ve had a few Prairie farmers tell me this year their canola yields were in the 50 to 60 bushel range. Ross McKenzie, a retired Alberta Agriculture soil scientist said he talked to one farmer at High River, AB (south of Calgary) who harvested 74 bushel canola this year.
- Official advice on seeding rate doesn’t seem to change. Aim for five to six pounds of seed per acre, expect about a 50 per cent germination rate and target a plant stand of between seven to 10 plants per square foot.
- On that point, few farmers apparently make the effort to do a plant (stand establishment) count after the seed is in the ground. Get a hoola hoop and count how many plants are inside the circle.
- No conclusive answer about why usually only 50 per cent of seeds germinate. The seeds could be planted too deep, often moisture is lacking for germination, and now researchers are investigating a new issue called secondary dormancy. Appears some percentage of canola seed goes dormant for some unidentified reason or perhaps for any number of reasons — here comes some more research to figure that out.
- While there is the “official” seeding rate recommendation some farmers like Craig Shaw at Lacombe, AB says he has had pretty good success using a vacuum planter seeding 1.5 to three pounds of seed per acre. More precise seed placement, produces higher more even germination and just a very nice stand of canola.
- When targeting higher yielding crops keep the fertility up. NPKS are still the big ones to pay attention to, advises Ross McKenzie the recently retired Alberta research scientist. Micronutrients have a role, but it can be limited and sometimes hard to identify. Follow your soil test recommendations and supply the crop with what it needs, not with something that someone wants to sell you.
- And at harvest, when looking at swathing or straight cutting canola, Kevin Serfas who farms with family in southern Alberta say they still prefer to swath their 7,000 acres of canola. Gives them a seven to 10 day head start which is important when heading into a three-month harvest window with 16 combines…shatter losses are negligible.
- On the straight-cutting side, James Humphris with Bayer Crop Science says their new InVigor variety L140P with a pod shatter resistance trait is rated very well among growers looking at straight cutting canola. And over at PAMI, Nathan Gregg says preliminary results from their research looking at different header types used for straight cutting canola shows not a lot of difference in shatter losses between a draper header, rigid auger header and a varifeed header with a vertical knife used to straight cut canola. The varifeed with vertical knife might be performing just a tad better in terms of reducing shatter loss, but the research is ongoing.
And there is more…much, much more, but I will stop there for now and report on more later. A person can only handle so much canola information in a day.
Lee Hart is a field editor for Grainews in Calgary, Contact him at 403-592-1964 or by email at [email protected]