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Canola 100 Challenge: The contest might be a personal challenge to see what it takes to produce top yield

Kris Mayerle says a 100-bushel canola yield just doesn’t fall into your grain cart.

While cranking the nutrients onto a 100-acre field on his northeast Saskatchewan farm did increase yields in 2016, he’d still like to find the practices that are needed to hit or at least close in more on that elusive high-yield target.

Mayerle, who along with family members operates KRM Farms at Tisdale, Sask., says a roughly 60 per cent increase in fertility helped increase yields on a field-scale plot he selected for the high-yielding canola contest. But it wasn’t enough to hit the 100-bushel goal. He’s interested in trying again next year.

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Mayerle was one of about 80 some farmers from across Canada who registered for the Canola 100 challenge — a national contest sponsored by Agri-Trend Agrology, John Deere Canada and Glacier Farm Media. The contest threw down the challenge to Canadian farmers to produce a plot of canola with a verified yield of at least 100 bushels of clean canola seed per acre. Grand prize to the first farmer to hit that yield over the three-year term of the contest is 100-hours of free use of a fleet of John Deere equipment — everything from seeding to harvest. That’s roughly a $300,000 to $400,000 value.

Of the 80 who registered, 21 farmers actually saw the contest through to the final harvest verification stage. Farmers needed to produce a 50-acre block of canola to be harvested, and yields verified by third-party auditors. The yields from those 21 farms will be in the running for the prize in 2016. If there is no 100-bushel yield recorded, the contest continues through the 2017 and 2018 growing seasons. Results will be announced December 7.

“I am not sure if a 100-bushel yield is possible, but if it is it may not come easy,” says Mayerle. With a decent growing season, even though July and August were wet, he says it isn’t unheard of for producers in his area to be hitting 50 to 60 bushel yields with fairly routine practices. He stepped up “the groceries” on a 100-acre field he had selected for the Canola 100 challenge, and marked out a 50-acre block to be harvested for the actual contest — yet it fell short.

The process

Mayerle direct seeded Invigor L252 variety into oat stubble in the spring of 2016. In the previous three years that field had been seeded to faba beans, canola and hemp. The fall of 2015 he applied 100 pounds of nitrogen in the form of anhydrous ammonia, which is a fairly standard practice on his farm. It wasn’t until this past February he decided to enter a field in the Canola 100 challenge.

Spring operations included a pre-seeding burnoff with a 1/2 litre rate of glyphosate to control weeds. At seeding, based on a 1,000 kernel count, he used a Seedhawk seeding system to put down seven pounds of canola seed per acre. He also side-banded another 39 pounds of nitrogen, 21 pounds of phosphate, 73 pounds of potash and 128 pounds of sulphur per acre.

In-crop he made two herbicide applications with Liberty, tank mixed with a product to improve wildoat control. Later he applied a fungicide for sclerotina control. In one of the herbicide applications as well as in the fungicide treatment he also added a foliar liquid nutrient product at the one litre rate to further enhance fertility.

In total, the Canola 100 field received 212 pounds of nitrogen, 63 pounds of phosphate, 73 pounds of potash and 128 pounds of sulphur.

Specifically targeting the higher yield, “that’s considerably more fertilizer than I would normally apply to canola,” says Mayerle. In a more typical program key nutrients would include about 130 pounds of nitrogen, 35 pounds of phosphate and 25 pounds of sulphur.

After all in-crop treatments, he followed with a desiccant in September and then straight combined the canola before the first shot of “winter” hit in October and stopped all further harvest operations. Although conditions were tough, with the return of nicer weather in November, he was back out combining again, hoping to wrap up the last 20 per cent of his crop mid-way in the month.

“It was a wet July and August here again, but overall that 100 acres looked pretty good,” says Mayerle. “Considering all the nutrients applied it didn’t look dramatically different than the rest of the crop. And when it came time to harvest it was really a long ways from that 100-bushel mark.

“Growing a 50 to 60 bushel canola crop in this area may not be the average, but it is doable,” he says. “But looking at this canola challenge field I have to wonder how much extra a person has to spend to achieve that 100 bushel yield. What attracted me to this contest is to see for myself what I can do with canola — see what potential it does have. I’m interested to continue with the contest another year to see if I can get there.”

About the author

Field Editor

Lee Hart

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

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