The slogan is “52 by 2025. Keep it coming.”
With increasing demand for canola oil and meal, the Canola Council of Canada would like to see higher Canadian production, mainly through increased canola yields. The Council’s target is to increase average Prairie canola yields to 52 bushels per acre by 2025. This would be a 53 per cent increase from the current average — 34 bushels per acre.
The Canola Council is focusing on five pillars to add 18 bushels per acre to average yields. On November 26, at the third annual Grain Expo, a crop production conference held in Regina in conjunction with Agribition, Shawn Senko, the Canola Council’s agronomy specialist for northeast Saskatchewan was on stage to explain these pillars.
1. Genetic Improvement:
Between now and 2025 the Canola Council believes better genetics will increase yields by eight bushels per acre with no real change in agronomic practices. Seed companies believe the new traits coming out in the next decade will help farmers maintain yields even under environmental or disease stress.
Seed survivability is crucial. Senko says the usual seed survival rate is about 50 per cent. The Canola Council is researching ways to increase this. “We’re putting 100 seeds in the ground. How do we get to 80 to 90 per cent of those seeds producing viable plants?”
It’s important for farmer’s to know their own seed survival rates. “If you don’t know what you’re actually getting for survivability you really can’t calculate what you should be putting in the ground.”
The best way to calculate seed survival rates is to measure your fields. Senko reminds farmers that this can be done in the winter: “those plant stalks are still there.” Comparing how many plants were producing at the end of the year with last year’s seeding rate will give farmers an estimate of seed survivability.
Next year, Senko says, “you can actually do your plant counts after seeding.” This will allow farmers to know if the seeds are simply not emerging, or if plant loss is happening later in the growing season.
The Canola Council’s 2025 target calls for farmers to gain an additional three bushels per acre from improved plant stand establishment.
3. Fertility management
Another three bushels per acre can come from improved fertility management, or, as Senko says, “Making sure you’re not leaving any yield on the table.”
Senko recommends using soil test recommendations to max out your fertility.
4. Integrated Pest management
The Canola Council says improvements to pest management could bring yield up another two bushels per acre.
Senko has tips:
- Make sure the first in-crop sprayer pass takes place before the two-leaf stage. Senko says he sees many farmers getting into the field for that first pass later than the optimal time.
- Again, a competitive plant stand will help. “No product’s as good as a good crop.”
- Monitoring insects is key. Remember that economic threshold for spraying vary, depending on the price of the product and the price of canola.
- Consider the pests’ natural enemies. “You don’t want to be out there spraying if you don’t need to, because you may be killing natural enemies as well.”
5. Harvest management
The Canola Council believes farmers can increase average canola yield by another two bushels per acre just by watching harvest losses.
Some of these losses are happening due to swath timing. “Every year I see canola crops swathed early,” Senko says.
Some of the lost yield is coming out the back of the combine. We’ll never get the loss to zero, Senko says, “it’s almost impossible. You want to get to one or two per cent.” Losses can be limited, he say, by “checking your combine properly and maintaining that speed, and not pushing it.”
In a Canola Council study of harvest loss, researchers found the combine settings were key. “It really didn’t matter what brand of combine you’ve got.”
Senko suggests checking behind the combine every day during harvest, as canola losses vary by variety and by changing conditions. “Just get out behind, check your combine and see where you’re actually at for seed loss. You might be surprised.”