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Time Heals Some Wounds

You don t always have to spend more money to fix a problem with your crop production. A reliable diagnosis and good

advice can save you money.

Last year, a farmer approached me for a second opinion on a remedy for his unhealthy canola plants. Jarod, who farms 1,500 acres of canola, wheat, barley and timothy under irrigation south of Nobleford, Alta., called me mid- June with concerns about his field of canola. The plants were small and stunted, and the leaves were cupping and turning yellow and purple. I ve been told my field may be suffering from nitrogen deficiency, and I should spray a foliar application of nitrogen. I d like a second opinion before I put more money into this crop, he said.

Jarod s field was extremely wet; it had been saturated with water for weeks. In fact, there was moss growing on the surface of the soil. It had not rained for a few days, but the soil was still saturated. A nutrient imbalance or deficiency was possible, but there were other factors that could be damaging Jarod s crop, such as stress caused by the cool, wet growing conditions or, perhaps, herbicide carryover.

Jarod had planted timothy the previous season, and records indicated no chemicals had been used on the field that would damage canola, so herbicide carryover could be ruled out.

Certainly, many crops in Alberta and across Western Canada were stressed due to the environmental conditions in the spring of 2010 excessive precipitation and soil moisture and unusually cool temperatures resulted in poor plant development but that didn t explain the cupping, purpling and yellowing plant leaves in Jarod s canola field. These were classic symptoms of sulphur deficiency.

The necessary soil tests had

been performed on Jarod s field prior to seeding the canola crop, and he d followed the recommendations that had been made to him. We checked his fertilizer application rates and blend, and we found everything to be correct. His plants should have had enough nutrients. I was ready to make my recommendation.

Do nothing, I said to Jarod, who looked a little doubtful of my advice.

I explained that the field was so saturated with water the plants were not able to take up any nutrients present in the soil. Fertilizer deficiency appeared to be the problem, but not for lack of putting fertilizer on the crop, but lack of oxygen in the soil.

The forecast for the next few days was for warm and breezy weather conditions that might give Jarod s field a chance to dry out. After a few days of sunshine, the oxygen in the soil should start to move again, allowing the plants to take up nutrients, grow and develop normally. But would Mother Nature cooperate?

For the next few days, Mother Nature smiled upon Jarod s canola, and soon the plants were looking healthier and beginning to grow.

At harvest time, Jarod s crop produced an average yield, even with the setback in June. He was very happy with these results and that he hadn t spent more time or money than was necessary on this crop.

ShaneShermanisalocationmanagerat RichardsonPioneerLtd.atNobleford,Alta.

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