Four Tips For Choosing Canola Varieties

Harvest is the best time of year to decide which canola variety to plant next year. Field evaluation and variety differences are still fresh in your mind right after harvest. Now s the time to review in-season notes regarding emergence, vigour, flowering, growth characteristics, swathing timing and yield information. This information helps you start making decisions on which varieties will remain in the lineup for next year and which ones will drop off and be replaced by the latest selection of hybrids.

COMPARE, COMPARE, COMPARE

Canola variety selection is one of the primary steps in developing a successful crop plan. Decisions based on relevant information ensure the plan is sound and suitable to established yield targets. Farmers need to stick with varieties to local growing conditions and environments. Consult a range of sources for information to establish a short list of varieties to assess. These sources will include on-farm trials, local variety assessment and regional variety testing.

On-farm trials include information from your own fields or from a local farmer who is known for doing proper trials and recording accurate information. Regional variety testing is the data reported by seed companies and some third-party sources. The value in regional variety testing is the compilation of data from a wide range of locations in the data set. The performance of canola varieties can vary from region to region; evaluate information on varieties to choose ones that are best suited to their farm.

Ideally, you ll have a few side-by- side or strip trials on your own land to compare varieties. Establishing these variety comparisons and following through to harvest helps get true yield information and other important facts based on your own management and location. When harvesting, plot yield is not the only measurement to look at, however. Adjust for moisture and quality. Make notes on harvestability and other agronomic factors such as how fast one variety dried down compared to the other. Compare varieties on how each one handled growing season stress. Is one better than the other if it is too wet or did it pull through during a period of drought? Higher yielding and poorer quality is not necessarily better. An additional source of on-farm trial information is from other local farmers who have their own variety trials and side-by-side plots. When evaluating this data, make certain the trial has followed proper protocol and is a valid representation of the varieties. Comparisons between varieties that were not grown in the same field or under the same environmental conditions are not fair assessments. Seed dealers will have a good source of side-by-side trial data compiled from the local area. Look at this information and verify the results that are presented.

Greg Sekulic agronomist with the Canola Council of Canada in the Peace River region, recommends farmers also look at CVT (Canola Variety Trial) Data. Sekulic says, The data collected through the CVT program is an important resource; it does give a general sense of variety comparisons.

Sekulic says days to maturity vary for varieties depending where they are grown, so be sure to use regional information when comparing maturity. Canola in the northern Alberta Peace region will mature at a different rate than the same canola seeded in central Saskatchewan due to differences in hours of sunshine in the growing season. Another source of regional data is seed company variety trials. The performance of a variety in the field may be less than expected due to agronomic issues i.e. flooding, hail or insect damage clearly outside of the variety characteristics. Sekulic also says, That s why it s important to go look at the local variety trials the companies put on. That way you can see the relative maturities and statures. The more you see, the better decision you can make. Comparing varieties is easier when they are laid out in plots in the same field. You notice more differences in the varieties and evaluate the features that set each one apart. The seed company seed guide provides information on the varieties but having seen the varieties in the field first hand completes the picture.

GROW MORE THAN ONE VARIETY

How many varieties to grow on the farm? In short, don t put all your eggs in one basket. Consider harvest timing and workload. Too many fields at the same maturity can cause problems for swathing or harvest if they are all ready at the same time. Sekulic recommends a strategy of planting at least three canola seed varieties. Of the three varieties, split the acres between 25 per cent of canola acres in longer season varieties, 50 per cent of the canola acres with a regular season maturity and the remaining 25 per cent of canola acres to shorter season varieties. Sekulic advises farmers to start in the spring by planting some of the first fields with the early-maturity varieties then switching to the longer-season ones and finish up seeding with regular-season varieties. Sekulic adds it s a good idea to mix genetics by maturity ratings and also for herbicide and disease resistance management. Top yields are obviously important, but farmers need to be mindful of their growing season constraints in conjunction with weed and disease management.

GET THE MOST FROM ONE BAG

Canola seed has certainly increased in price in the last few years when compared to herbicides and other pesticides. There is no doubt, however, that the value of the canola seed varieties that we are now seeding has also increased greatly. Look at the whole package of crop inputs and how much more value the seed brings to the farm before balking at higher seed costs. Higher seed costs are associated with insect and disease resistance, greater stress tolerance and improved nutrient efficiency. Considering that it was just over 15 years ago thst growers started to see varieties switch from open-pollinated varieties to hybrids, seed varieties have come a long way.

That said, it s important to get the most value from that bag of seed. Get the seed count for the seed lot and do the math to seed the optimum rate per acre for each seed lot. Review notes from the previous season on emergence and plant stand to check the performance of your seeding tool. If you have a few bags of seed left over at the end of the season ask your retailer if you can return them. Each retailer will have a different policy on returned seed, but if it is done early enough and the bag doesn t look like it has been used for a floor mat, somebody else might be able to seed it. Be vigilant with seed that is kept on farm and used the following year. Do not consider seeding it unless it is stored in an area with controlled temperature and humidity. Re-check germination prior to seeding.

THINK AHEAD

Canola breeding programs work with thousands of variety crosses every year to find the right combination that will provide higher yields combined with better disease resistance, stronger vigour and a broader maturity range. Seed companies increase their investment and breeding facility capability every year to bring improved canola seed varieties to market. Improvements in varieties are driven by demands both from farmers and end users. Farmers want higher-yielding and more profitable varieties in the field. End users want products that meet their needs for food, fuel or feed. With the increased speed and capacity to develop new varieties the lifespan of a canola variety is not going to be very long. Varieties are unlikely to be around for more than three or four years. With this in mind, if you plan ahead you should have ideal qualities and characteristics required in a variety to fit your crop plan, and not just a familiar name or number when choosing a variety.

JasonCasselmanisapartnerandagronomist

withDunveganAGSolutionsInc.( www.howtogotoagsi.com), basedatRycroft,Alta.

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