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Crop Advisor’s Casebook – for Oct. 3, 2011

We d been hearing it all through July reports of stressed crops due to inclement weather. Heavy spring rain challenged the efforts of more than a few experienced farmers this season. Early on in July, I wasn t surprised to hear from Steve, who farms 3,900 acres of wheat, canola and barley near Ste. Rose du Lac, Man. He thought the excess precipitation was stressing his canola plants, or that the soil in his field it was a new parcel of land he d acquired a few years before wasn t up to scratch, causing a delay in the maturity of his plants.

What Steve found puzzling was his other crops on this new parcel of land were doing fine, and his other fields of canola were progressing well. Come out and have a look at this field. I don t know what the heck s wrong with it. The plants are behind and a lot shorter than they should be, he told me.

In general, Steve s damaged canola field appeared to be delayed in maturity. When compared with the rest of his canola crop, which had been seeded at the same time, the plants of the damaged field were at least a week behind in development. Steve said he first noticed the symptoms at the flowering stage. Up until that time the field had been progressing well.

I didn t think the heavy precipitation was the cause of the damage to this particular canola field because the area had good drainage and the rest of Steve s crops were in good shape. Since Steve had concerns about the condition of the soil in this field, we began our investigation by considering the soil test results from the previous fall, his existing fertility program and his spraying schedule that spring. We also sent plant samples to the laboratory for tissue tests.

I ve only had this land for a few years, so it s not up to my standards yet, Steve told me, but he was improving the soil each year by following recommendations made from the soil tests. We d had some good results already that spring with a foliar fertilizer applied with a Group 10 herbicide at the end of June. Also, the other crops on the new parcel of land were progressing well, leading me to believe that any nutrient deficiencies in the soil were not causing the damage. The tissue test results revealed what we d expected the soil was low in potash and phosphate however, these deficiencies were not responsible for the symptoms we were observing in the field.

Steve had recently purchased a new air drill. He told me this was one of the first fields on which he d tested the new equipment, and he thought seed depth could be causing the short, stunted canola. After checking the field, I reassured Steve that his operation of the air drill had been fine and his seed placement had been correct.

Steve and I had already scouted most of the field, but I thought it couldn t do any harm to see it all. To my surprise, we found a two-acre parcel at the far end of the field, out of sight of our original entry point, that looked as healthy as his other canola fields.

Do you mind if I check your sprayer records? I asked. This little plot of land growing healthy plants was a big clue to the cause of the damage to the rest of the field. I was pretty sure I knew what was going on and the records would confirm it.

Why is one field producing short, stunted canola plants, while the others appear to be producing healthy plants? Send your diagnosis toGrainews,Box 9800, Winnipeg, Man., R3C 3K7; email [email protected] or fax 204-944-5416 c/o Crop Advisor s Casebook. Best suggestions will be pooled and one winner will be drawn for a chance to win aGrainews cap and a one-year subscription to the magazine. The best answer, along with the reasoning which solved the mystery, will appear in the next Crop Advisor s Solution File.

RyanTurnbullisanareamarketing representativeatRichardsonPioneerLtd. atDauphin,Man.

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