Independent canola variety trials cancelled

Canada’s Prairie Canola Variety Trials (PCVT) have been cancelled for 2010 for lack of canola varieties entered by seed developers.

The three Prairie provinces’ canola grower commissions said in a release last week that the “refusals” of a number of Canadian canola seed developers to enter the PCVT was “extremely disappointing.”

“This data is the most sought-after information by canola growers in developing their annual crop plans,” Wayne Bacon, chairman of the Saskatchewan Canola Development Commission and a farmer at Kinistino, Sask., said in the release.

“To only have company-created data is unacceptable to every single grower that our organizations have ever talked to about this.”

The PCVT, co-ordinated by the Canola Council of Canada, are designed to compare the genetic potential of canola seed using “randomized, replicated small plot trials” across the Prairies.

“Some of the companies have raised concerns that the PCVT do not adequately represent their herbicide/seed combinations while others are unhappy with the size of the plots,” said Elgin, Man. farmer Rob Pettinger, who heads the Manitoba Canola Growers Association.

“The industry had been discussing these concerns over the winter and exploring options. We were shocked by the decision of so many participants to all pull out of the program at once.”

While the three canola grower groups didn’t name any of the companies that pulled out of the PCVT, seed firm Pioneer Hi-Bred, which submitted most of its product line last year, confirmed in the April 15 Manitoba Co-operator that it would not participate.

Pioneer technical services manager Dave Harwood of Chatham, Ont., was quoted in the Manitoba farmers’ newspaper as saying the company invests a lot of money in its own trials on large-scale field plots to evaluate different varieties side-by-side using commercial production practices.

“Robust contrasts”

Small-scale plots such as those used by PCVT don’t generate adequate data, he said.

“It was our conclusion that that source was not generating robust contrasts of performance. The results were not well correlated with what we experience on a field scale,” he said.

Monsanto Canada submitted one of its product lines for the now-cancelled 2010 trials, but company spokesperson Trish Jordan agreed that the small-scale plot data is “not accurate in terms of yield and yield performance,” although she said the small-scale data is a “a good predictor.

“Our goal is to give growers accurate data on performance of the varieties and when you scale up,” she told the Co-operator.

Others in the canola sector, however, contended in the Co-operator that companies’ larger field-scale trials are spread over land with more variability, making it more difficult to get uniform plots. In-house trials won’t be standardized in the same way as the PCVT trials, they added.

MCGA’s Pettinger told the Co-operator he hoped PCVT could return in a way that accommodates seed companies. “We shouldn’t just throw everything out and have no independent testing.”

The three Prairie canola growers’ groups described the PCVT data as “the mainstay of the various provincial seed guides” and “the only source of independent, science-based, third-party canola variety comparison data in Canada.”

The groups said they would work with the canola seed industry to ensure the PCVT continue in 2011.

“Certified canola seed is a significant expense for growers,” Kevin Bender, a Bentley, Alta. farmer and chair of the Alberta Canola Producers Commission, said in the groups’ release.

“Growers need an independent source of information to help ensure their investment in canola seed is a wise one.”

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