Just when you thought 2009 was way off from average, along comes 2010.
The only really dry part of Western Canada was the
Peace region. The rest was almost washed away. Alberta was very low for Corn Heat Units (CHU), while the rest of the Prairies were close to normal until the end of August.
At Friendly Acres Seed Farm, we received about 24 inches of rain (610 mm) from April 1 to the end of September, and we were relatively dry. Some areas close to us had over 40 inches of rain (1016 mm). Normally, we receive seven inches of rain (178 mm). Our CHUs were actually slightly above normal until the start of August, then tailed off leaving us just below normal for heat. Needless to say, there were areas that were never seeded or never harvested.
The season started in a fairly normal way. Canola was seeded starting on May 10. This year we used InVigor 8440 with JumpStart on most of the acres, and an InVigor trial with 5440, 5770, 8440 with and without JumpStart, and L150. Soybean seeding started on May 18 where we started with LS0028RR with the Kinze row planter, then finished with our Bourgault air seeder. Then we seeded 29002, also with the air seeder.
Things were going fairly smoothly until we went to seed our soybean variety trial. We ended up waiting two weeks to get our plots seeded, using LS0065RR, 29004, 27005, LS0036RR, LS0028RR, and 29002 on June 2. This delay gave us some surprising results, as you’ll read near the end of this article.
THE GROWING/STORM SEASON
Spraying was an adventure. The “fat” tires were used throughout the year and it may take a couple years to get the ruts out. The Liberty Link canola was sprayed two days before it bolted. It was fairly clean because it was on two years of soybean stubble so weeds were controlled quite well in the previous years.
Then July 1 hit. The main storm cell that hit Yorkton with six inches of rain (152 mm) with hail. That missed the farm, but the storm circled back so we did not miss out on the fun. There was just under two inches of rain from the storm (51 mm) plus hail. It was a sickening sight to see how much damage there was in the soybeans. They had just started to cover the ground. Hail adjusters estimated 40 to 60 per cent hail damage, however the soybeans seemed to recover, canopying up nicely.
Harvest was delayed by the cool damp weather. The winter triticale was swathed to aid dry-down and was combined in the beginning of September. Canola harvest stretched into the end of September, and delayed the Fridge winter triticale seeding early October, where it was interrupted by the soybean harvest. Soybean harvest proved to be somewhat disappointing. There was a stand for 35 bushels per acre (estimated by a couple of farmers from Ontario) but the hail damage reduced the plant stand and caused smaller seed size, so it averaged out at 15 bushels per acre, with a hail claim averaging 45 per cent resulting in $30 per acre payment. The canola averaged 45 bushels per acre, winter triticale was at 60 bushels per acre, and winter wheat was at 75.
ROTATIONS AND ECONOMICS
Our four-year average on the soybeans is just under 25 bushels per acre, and the canola average is at 42 bushels per acre. Initially it looks like canola wins hands down. Because of our rotation of soybean-soybeancanola- winter triticale, the two years of soybeans fixes a pile of nitrogen that the canola has access to. We fertilize our canola at 60-35-35-10, estimating that the soybean residue will release 50 to 60 pounds of nitrogen. This “free” nitrogen helps the
economics of our canola budget. In 2008, we grew an oat crop on two years of soybean stubble with no added nitrogen, and averaged over 120 bushels per acre. Breakeven on growing soybeans is around 14 bushels per acre while canola breakeven is normally around 24. Reducing my nitrogen requirement drops it by about three bushels using $0.50 per pound nitrogen price. Also, there were less drown-out spots in the canola on the land where soybeans were grown.
An interesting side note on the year: we seeded our demonstration plots two weeks later than the fields, but they ended up yielding 10 to 15 bushels higher than the fields. This was due to the timing of the hail damage, as the soybeans in the fields were just about to go into flower. Hail at this time is brutal on the
metabolism of the soybean plant, and so they ended up being set back about three weeks. On the other hand, the plots were still vegetative and so recovered more quickly.
The lowest yield was 29004 at 18.8 bushels per acre, next was the LS0065RR at 21.8, next the 27005, LS0036RR and LS0028RR were all in the 23.5 range, and the 29002 averaged 29.2 bushels per acre. Our trials with row spacing did not show any yield advantage, but did have a significant pod height difference, where the 17-inch rows podded an additional one-and-a- half inches higher than the eight-inch rows. Our canola trial showed the L150 topped the trial at 50.8 bushels per acre, with the 5770 at 42.9, 8440 with and without JumpStart at 41.6, and 5440 at 36.4.
In 2011, we are planning on growing more of the 29002, and may have access to a new Roundup Ready 2 soybean, 300 acres of L130 InVigor and an InVigor trial, 40 acres of corn to be seeded into alfalfa breaking, 20 acres of sainfoin seed production and have 240 acres of pedigree Fridge winter triticale, and 40 acres of Tophand Alfalfa in production. We hoped to have soil tests done this fall but the rain and snow delayed that process.
Here is to hoping for an early spring to get rid of the excess moisture and a normal year — whatever that is.
In 2008, we grew an oat crop on two years of soybean stubble with no added nitrogen, and averaged over 120 bushels per acre