Think big — as in ‘52 bushels of canola per acre’ big

Is a 50 per cent jump in canola yields by 2025 possible? 
The Canola Council of Canada says, ‘You bet’

Stay slow and steady, fertilize appropriately, and cut down on your harvest losses.

These and other strategies can increase your canola yields, and help the Canola Council of Canada achieve its ambitious target of an average of 52 bushels per acre by 2025.

“It’s not an easy target,” said Clint Jurke, the canola council’s agronomy director. “But we believe that by setting stretch goals, it rallies the entire industry to be creative as to how we can go about doing that. I’m cautiously optimistic we can get there.”

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Yield average for the past five years is about 34 bushels an acre.

“In the last couple of years, we have been higher than that,” said Jurke. “We are hopeful that the trend is going to continue. There were some bad years where we might see that derail, but the long-term trend is positive.”

Farmers tend to lose yield during plant stand establishment because the average number of plants per square foot is too low.

“Don’t cut your seeding rates, and ensure that the precision of the planting operation is as good as possible,” said Jurke.

Producers should aim for about 10 plants per square foot, and check behind the drill to ensure there’s a uniform planting depth of one-half to three-quarters of an inch, he said.

“It means spending a bit of time on hands and knees, which isn’t often a fun thing to do. But it’s really critical to ensure that you are getting the optimal plant stand.”

Going at higher speeds, especially while pulling a large drill, increases variability in the planting depth and that weakens the stand.

“We often think of plant stand as crop insurance,” said Jurke. “You want to have enough plants per square foot to achieve your yield potential and to have a bit of a buffer because things are going to get bad at some point in the year, either due to insect pressure, disease, or bad weather.”

A lot of growers are underfertilizing, which also reduces yields.

“Every place is a bit different, so a targeted approach on a per-field basis is appropriate,” said Jurke. “We could get better yields with better fertility placement, making sure that there isn’t too much going down with the actual seed to cause more seed damage.”

Timing herbicide applications to control of weeds is essential.

“The earlier you can get in with your first herbicide application, the better your yield potential will be. There’s a lot of science that shows that.”

Of course, scouting for disease is critical but Jurke recommends a good scouting regime not only in the canola crop, but in the non-canola years as well.

Finally, take care during harvest. Often, two to five bushels of seed are lost out the back end of the combine when they could be going into the hopper. That can be prevented by setting the combine appropriately for each field.

“On every field, the seed size will be a bit different, so the combine settings are going to be a bit different,” said Jurke.

The “In pursuit of 52 by 2025 initiative” brings together the federal government and three provincial canola grower organizations to fund projects to boost canola yields. In the next 10 years, the canola industry is poised to gain another 10 to 15 per cent yield increase through improved varieties. Researchers will also be focused on major disease issues and insect pest management.

“There’s a whole wealth of research that covers the whole range of the canola-growing spectrum to ensure that we do have all the tools available to get to that 52 bushels,” said Jurke.

About the author

Reporter

Alexis Kienlen lives in Edmonton and has been writing for Alberta Farmer since 2008. Originally from Saskatoon, she has also published two collections of poetry and a biography about a Sikh civil rights activist. Her freelance work has appeared in numerous publications across Canada.

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