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Diary Of A Surprising Canola Crop

City slickers will never understand what it means to play poker with Mother Nature and be lucky enough the win the odd hand. That s the story of 2011 for this canola crop. As always, the full story of a crop really begins with the crop that is harvested the year previously.

2010

October 1:Combined a 40 bushel wheat crop. It graded a No. 2 CWRS (15 per cent protein). The 40 bushels ended up as 36.6 net sold bushels per acre. The 15 per cent protein brought a good premium.

October 17:Applied 65 pounds per acre (lb./ac.) as anhydrous ammonia. After 20 inches of rain for the year the soil was still full of water even after the wheat crop was grown.

2011

May 2:Floated on 150 lb./ac. of ammonium sulphate fertilizer. I wanted to get sulphate fines, but they were not available so I went with this granular product. It was a nice product and went on evenly.

May 4:Mother Nature kindly provides 0.6 inches of rain to wash in the fertilizer.

May10-12:Planted five lb./ac. of Pioneer 45H29 canola treated with Helix. I plant with a museum piece (MF 360 discer) and block off every other run and add a spout to spill the canola behind in the newly turned soil. I call it my High Tech Inversion Seeder it does a good job of burning off the spring weed flush, but the fertilizer attachment is poor so it did a poor job of applying 40 lb./ac. of 12-52-0. Some left over 12-52-0 was broadcast at a high rate on eroded knolls to good advantage.

May 12-22:Canola emergence was very poor and very discouraging. Surface moisture was good at seeding time but the weather after was warm and dry and windy at times so the surface moisture quickly disappeared. Canola seeded 1.5 inches deep came up fine, but canola 0.5 inches deep sat in the dust.

May 23:Half an inch of rain fell, and on May 29 another 0.40 inches fell, which was enough to germinate the remaining seeds, but a uniformly ripening crop was not going to be in the cards, I decided.

As a side note, many seeders worth a lot more than mine ended up with similar results when seeding was done after some surface moisture was gone.

June 7:Sprayed the crop with 0.5 l/ac. Roundup Transorb. This was a little late but I was waiting for more weeds to emerge. Only one spray was done not because of cost but because the crop stage was too advanced and weeds were not a big problem. It rained only twice after this for a total of 1.6 inches.

July:By mid-summer the crop really looked good big cabbage leaves and few weeds. I agonized over to whether or not to spray to control sclerotinia, but elected not to spray. I felt the generally dry weather did not seem to pose a huge risk. I think it was the right decision as little sclerotinia was evident at harvest time.

August 18:The crop was swathed (see photo) and most of it was fairly ripe. Many of the plants were at the right stage, but some were starting to shell and some still quite green. This is the joy of an unevenly emerged crop.

But Mother Nature came through again with a light rain just as the swather was starting and it stayed cool and damp.

August 19-26:Very Hot and dry so the swaths cured and dried very quicklly.

August 27:Combined 40.2 net sold bushels on main part of quarter. Moisture was at a comfortable 7.8 per cent and no significant green seeds. Canola was trucked to elevator September 1 and sold for $12.50/bushel.

As an aside, part of the quarter has sloughs and was too wet in the spring to seed. It seeded and harvested later and not yet hauled out, but it yielded less so the final result will be in high 30s. Not bad for an old fossil using a museum piece to seed on junk land. The part I like the most? I did it myself and no one can take that away.

J.L.(Les)Henryisaformerprofessorand extensionspecialistattheUniversityof Saskatchewan.HefarmsatDundurn,Sask. Order Henry sHandbookofSoilandWater, by sendingachequefor$50toHenryPerspectives, 143TuckerCres,Saskatoon,SK,S7H3H7,andhe willdispatchasignedbookposte-haste

About the author

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Les Henry

J.L.(Les) Henry is a former professor and extension specialist at the University of Saskatchewan. He farms at Dundurn, Sask. He recently finished a second printing of “Henry’s Handbook of Soil and Water,” a book that mixes the basics and practical aspects of soil, fertilizer and farming. Les will cover the shipping and GST for “Grainews” readers. Simply send a cheque for $50 to Henry Perspectives, 143 Tucker Cres., Saskatoon, Sask., S7H 3H7, and he will dispatch a signed book.

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