Speed Kills And Other Tips For Canola Yields

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“The whole idea was to see which inputs could be removed without consequence and which inputs gave the most bang for the dollar.”

NEIL HARKER

AAFC

Watching your speed is a good idea when driving, and that includes when driving the tractor in front of your seeder, says Doug Moisey, senior agronomist with the Alberta Canola Growers Commission.

Moisey told a field day here last month that going slowly can help with two key problems for canola growers – emergence and uniformity.

Studies have shown that only about 50 per cent of canola seed emerges, a concern given the high cost of today’s varieties.

Moisey said that two of the main factors that affect emergence are seeding rate and depth.

“Going too fast, or not checking depth properly leads to multiple stages, which leads to problems with weed control,” Moisey said. “Slowing down and watching your depth are two things that can help enhance emergence.”

Multiple herbicide treatments

Neil Harker, a research scientist with Agriculture Canada at Lacombe, told field day participants about a study on multiple herbicide treatments on herbicide-resistant canola.

“When you have open canopies, you often end up applying herbicides more than once, which is unnecessary most of the time with canola,” said Harker.

When the crop needs a second application and the weather isn’t co-operating, producers will sometimes apply the herbicide a little later. That can injure the plants, Harker said.

The study includes all three herbicide-resistant canola systems, Clearfield, Roundup Ready and Liberty Link. Researchers will examine what happens when the herbicide is applied early, during the two-to three-leaf stage or during the six-leaf stage. The study will also look at what happens when canola is applied during bolting or early bloom.

Inputs make a difference.

Harker also described a study on whether and how much inputs can be cut without reducing canola yields.

One plot received the full package of inputs for a target of 55 to 60 bushels per acre, including a high seeding rate of a hybrid and all the recommended inputs.

Another plot was not given any inputs, had open-pollinated seed applied at a low rate without fertilizer or herbicide. Other plots were seeded with one input removed from the full package, or with one input added to the empty package.

“The whole idea was to see which inputs could be removed without consequence and which inputs gave the most bang for the dollar,” said Harker.

After four years, the results confirmed that canola is a very high-input crop and not much can be reduced without fairly high yield losses. Some of the plots seeded without fertilizers or herbicides were overrun with wild oats.

After two years, yields at many of the sites recovered from reduced fertilizer application, except for the Beaverlodge site. This is thought to be due to the type of soil.

Researchers are now assessing whether how weed control can be recovered with different types or timing or herbicides

Nitrogen sources

Lacombe research scientist John O’Donovan described a project to evaluate different nitrogen sources for canola, using a test plot with a block of with different rotations. One includes faba beans, which O’Donavan said have been shown to be superior to field peas for boosting nitrogen ahead of cereals.

The impact on a rotation with lentils and cereal crops is also being studied. Lentils do not grow particularly well in central Alberta, but they do well in other areas. There is also evidence that legume crops may not use as much moisture as some of the cereal crops, so this may be another advantage to growing canola after a legume, particularly in drier years, said O’Donovan.

In the next few years, researchers will explore the disease issues that arise with cereals in a legume rotation.

About the author

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Alexis Kienlen

Alexis Kienlen lives in Edmonton and has been writing for Alberta Farmer since 2008. Originally from Saskatoon, Alexis is also the author of two collections of poetry, a biography, and a novel called "Mad Cow."

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