CANOLA SEED SELECTION
Unlike cereals, farmers are quick to try out new varieties. The pace of canola seed companies’ new offerings is unheard of for wheat, oats and barley, mainly because of differences in plant physiology and, arguably, investment structure. Also unlike cereals, successful canola production hinges on slight changes in several production variables — from seeding rate and opener type, to speed at seeding and consistency of seeding depth. Let’s face it, cereals are just more forgiving.
And that unforgiving nature makes selection of a new or new-to- you canola variety an incredibly important decision. It also means that a third-party, scientifically stringent variety testing protocol is a key step in minimizing the genetic variable of canola production.
John Mayko, who many of you will recognize from his many years of work with the Canola Council of Canada, has been gracious enough to take time out from preparing for his own seeding season and do up a few articles on canola production. In this issue, he outlines the key factors at play in choosing the right canola variety (see more on page 11). Only part of that decision is based on yield potential of the seed lot, but after the Prairie Canola Variety Trials (PCVTs) went kaput last year, comparing genetic differences has lacked a certain amount of objectivity.
NEXT-GENERATION TRIALS IN THE WORKS
The Canola Council of Canada, canola seed companies and the three Prairie canola groups are working hard at rolling out the next generation of PCVT-type trials (see item on opposite page). I spoke recently with Jody Klassen, chairman of the Alberta Canola Producers Commission, and he says that there’s quite a bit of work to do yet, but that all those involved are committed to getting a rigorous, scientific protocol in place in time for seeding trials in 2011.
There are still details to iron out, but Klassen says there are already some key components in place for the new protocol that should make farmers happy. A move to system-based trials, for one, should give farmers a much more accurate view of how a variety stacks up to others containing the same herbicide-tolerant gene after being sprayed with the appropriate product. It looks like most, if not all, seed companies are on board. Trials will continue on a small-plot scale, but the plan is to include some mediumsizeplots as well.
For Klassen, who also farms at Mayerthorpe, Alta., having third-party trials to draw from is incredibly important to at least provide a benchmark to work from. Admittedly, the plot-sized trials aren’t foolproof or necessarily gospel when it comes to what to expect from field-scale applications, but, as he says, it’s a starting point.
“At the very least, I can compare tested varieties with what I’ve grown on my farm, with my production management,” he says. “Without trials, there’d be nothing but variables. This way, I can look at days to maturity, an important factor on my farm, and compare varieties from different companies in one place.”
Getting trials going is imperative to building more dependable data, as well, Klassen says. “The more years of data to draw from the better.”
SMELL IT OR SELL IT
When’s the last time you checked all your canola bins? The Canola Council of Canada reminds you to get out there and do it now. And, yes, that means every bin and a thorough check — not just a poke in around the door or roof hatch (but that’s a start). Spoiling canola does have a telltale odour, but if you can smell it, you’ve likely already lost some.
Canola that went in the bin with high green counts, high dockage, a little moist or any combination of these factors can and will heat, given the right conditions. The larger the bin the higher risk of undetected pockets of spoilage ruining your hard-earned production. The council reports farmers losing entire bins to heating and spoilage; don’t be one of them.
The cold winter months do keep bins relatively stable, however warming trends and the increase in sunlight creates warming fronts in the bin. For clean, dry canola bins, that’s not a problem, but for those at risk of heating, temperature fluctuations can accelerate spoilage at a surprising rate. Canola put up dry and cooled quickly and thoroughly can be stored safely for years, but still needs to be monitored.
What can you do? Get out and check each bin by removing at least a third of the volume. Only probing at doors or hatches won’t give an accurate measure of what’s happening at the centre or sides of a bin. As average bin size increases, the advantage of temperature and moisture probes and monitoring sensors quickly outweigh the costs. If you already have a sense of which bins are at risk, check those first — it may be prudent to turn the entire bin. With canola prices where they are, it’s no exaggeration to say that even a significant investment of time and energy could save you thousands of dollars.
BURN, BABY, BURN
It’s sometimes tough, when working in magazines, to remember that you’ll read this magazine weeks after I put it together. In some ways, it makes time fly by, as I’m constantly thinking one to two months ahead. In other ways it can make some things, like the arrival of spring, take forever. Here I am, knee deep in pre-seeding and seeding discussions and it’s only late February. The promise of green shoots and the first winter annuals peeking through on fields seems very far away, but for you, it’s likely early to mid-March now and you’re likely itching to get going in the fields.
Not everyone had the waterworks season that I experienced here near Regina, but many in Manitoba and Saskatchewan have told me that some unseeded acres also went unsprayed. A wet fall also meant that plenty of postharvest burn-offs didn’t happen either. All of that adds up to a whole lot riding on a complete spring burn-off ahead of the growing season.
It doesn’t take much to convince farmers that a spring burn-off is money well spent (but don’t get me started on fall spraying, that’s for another issue). Two interesting things have happened — the price of glyphosate has hit, presumably, rock bottom, which is good. However, this product alone is also not cutting it much of the time, which is less than good. Beyond controlling Roundup Ready canola, this spring farmers may need to add in a tank mix to wipe out large perennials, winter annuals, tough-to- kill weeds and, yes, I’ll say it, the potential of glyphosate-resistant biotypes. No, there are none confirmed yet in Western Canada but a) that doesn’t mean they don’t exist, and b) killing all weeds, all at once with two modes of action will extend glyphosate’s useful life. We’ll be talking more about the risk and management in an upcoming issue ofGrainews,so stayed tuned.
In this issue, both Bobbie Bratrud and Jay Peterson tackled the issue of glyphosate’s effectiveness, cost and tank mix partners. Bobbie’s always good for a decent table, and she’s done a fantastic job of compiling costs and considerations for upping rates or adding in a tank-mix. For more, see page 18. Jay, who farms near Frontier, Sask., was doing some digging into just what impact variable concentrations of glyphosate active ingredient well and truly has on different brands of glyphosate. In doing his research, he came across a few other variables that have a much larger impact on the level of performance of any given glyphosate product. Read more on page 10.
THE CALL OF THE RAILS
If you and I ever get a chance to share a cup of coffee, at some point you’ll discover my love of all things logistics. Trust me, I get bugged about it all the time, but who knew railways and trucks and ocean freight and container movement could be so fascinating? Well, I do, but I’m special.
Either way, you have to know that about me to appreciate just how giddy I was when field editor Lee Hart sent me the story on page 16 about a group of farmers, businesses and local citizens who pitched in, put their money where their mouth is and started a short-line railway. High five, is all I can say, high five.
And with that, I reach the end of the allowable limit for this space. Happy crop planning and may the month of March be kind to us. Lyndsey