Farmers have a plethora of inputs to choose from these days, but one ag retailer hopes to help farmers sort through their options by running field-scale trials in northwestern Saskatchewan.
And those trials focus not only on yield, but how likely that product is to provide a return-on-investment (ROI) for local farmers.
“Just because a product works well in a certain soil zone doesn’t mean it will work well in a different soil zone. So we really want to know — here at home, do these products work or not,” Greg Frey told farmers gathered at Cavalier Agrow’s agPROVE forum in North Battleford. Frey is the location manager for Agrow’s Meota branch.
Cavalier Agrow’s field trials were distributed around the company’s trading area, which includes Meota, Medstead, Meadow Lake and Spiritwood, Saskatchewan. Yields from each strip are weighed and compared to a check.
Running several trials in different locations cuts the likelihood of false positives (a trial generates positive results, but it’s not because of the product) and false negatives (the product actually works, but for some reason the single trial didn’t yield a good result).
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Fungicide paid in 2013
Cavalier Agrow staff and farmers ran 13 trials at Spiritwood, Meota and Medstead. They also set up a trial in Meadow Lake, but the untreated check was flooded.
The trials looked at how wheat responded to Twinline and Caramba fungicide applications, compared to an untreated check. Twinline was applied at the standard rate at flag leaf and Caramba at the heading stage, prior to flowering.
Cavalier Agrow applied a single application of Twinline or Caramba to some strips, while others received a single application of both fungicides. Applications were between 12 and 18 days apart.
Wheat treated with both Twinline and Caramba yielded best, on average, across locations, weighing in 16.19 bushels per acre over the untreated check. Caramba alone topped the untreated check by 12.86 bushels per acre, on average, and Twinline nosed ahead of the check by 11.71 bushels, Frey said.
Based on $6 wheat and a $5 sprayer cost, a combination of Twinline and Caramba provided a $61.90 per acre ROI. Caramba alone returned $56 per acre and Twinline $55.63.
But looking at soft wheat prices of $3.50, Twinline alone provided the best ROI ($26), followed by Caramba alone ($24.40). A joint application still provided a $21.43 ROI.
Frey said as long as wheat prices are greater than $2.20 per bushel, all treatments at all locations gave a positive ROI.
But treated wheat at Meota showed a much slimmer yield gain than other sites. Frey told farmers Meota’s smaller yields likely came down to variety. Hard Red Spring wheat was grown in Meota and it was also the responsive to fungicides.
Last year’s fungicide trial results gave Frey a new perspective on a trial Agrow ran a couple years ago looking at different wheat varieties.
“When we grew CPS wheat seven, eight years ago against our Hard Red Spring wheat varieties, we said ‘Why does our CPS not yield more than our hard red spring wheat?’” Frey said. “Depending on the year, I think we were leaving a lot of the extra yield on the table by not applying a fungicide.”
Cavalier Agrow also broke down results into response by individual wheat variety, but Frey cautioned the data sets were small.
But, with that caveat, Canada Prairie Spring Red yielded 42.4 bushels per acre more than the untreated check with applications of both fungicides. Canada Prairie Spring White saw a 20 bushel bump with two doses, and Canada Western Soft Wheat 14.5 bushels. Canada Western Red Spring only increased by 6.4 bushel with both treatments.
Not all products a win
Cavalier Agrow and cooperating farmers also took a look at ATP’s ReLeaf on canola last year, running 12 trials at all four locations. ReLeaf is an N-P-K product designed to “provide early season stress relief when ‘seedling stall’ can occur,” according to ATP’s website. It’s applied at the same time as herbicide.
“Overall, the trend in 2013 was ReLeaf canola was not an advantage,” said Frey.
In Spiritwood, ReLeaf averaged a two bushel gain over the untreated check. In Medstead, ReLeaf was up 0.6 bushels. But at Meadow Lake, ReLeaf was down 0.6 bushels and it dropped 2.5 bushels at Meota. Frey said field variance probably played into the small differences between sites.
Since ReLeaf is designed to counter stress, 2013’s ideal growing conditions may have played into the product’s performance, Frey said.
“Those plants were pretty healthy. I don’t think there was a lot of stress to alleviate,” he said.
ReLeaf is part of ATP’s larger agronomic package, known as R3. The package also includes PreCede, a micronutrient seed primer, and Fortify, which syncs with fungicide application. Cavalier Agrow will test the entire R3 platform this year.
Canola treated with fungicides also bore disappointing results at most of Cavalier’s locations in 2013. At most locations, any yield gained from applying Proline and Serenade was negligible and provided a negative ROI.
“At a lot of the trials, we found no disease incidents in our untreated check,” said Frey. Since fungicides prevent disease, “if the disease isn’t present, we’re not going to see the benefit.”
Hitting canola with Proline did pay at Meadow Lake, boosting yields by upwards of six bushels per acre over the untreated check. †