Canola growers are always looking for ways to improve yields and profitability, and that may be especially true after 2021. While drought tolerance and enhanced water-use efficiency are not available traits at this time, growers do have a few options available that could somewhat reduce production risks in 2022.
Days to maturity
Canola growers could use earlier-maturing hybrids on at least some fields to dodge challenging weather in spring, summer and fall.
“Waiting for rain, then seeding a short-season hybrid, should mean faster establishment, which will help the crop grow through the flea beetle risk period a lot faster. Earlier-maturing hybrids also tend to flower earlier, which will beat the hottest summer days — most years, at least,” says Clint Jurke, agronomy director for the Canola Council of Canada.
“And finally, they can be ready to harvest before later-maturing hybrids, which helps if fall frost and green seed are higher risks.”
Canola Performance Trials, funded by the provincial canola farmer organizations, compare leading hybrids based on several factors, including days to maturity. Find results booklets and the online comparison tool at canolaperformancetrials.ca.
“Clubroot risk is everywhere across the Prairies,” says Autumn Barnes, agronomy specialist and clubroot lead for the CCC. “For this reason, we believe there is a case for all canola growers to choose clubroot-resistant hybrids, including those who have not yet discovered a clubroot problem.”
Planting clubroot-resistant (CR) hybrids before the disease gets established will slow the pace of spore reproduction. “This will help keep spores low and local,” Barnes says. “Growers who wait until the disease has taken hold in a field before choosing CR could be stuck with challenging levels of clubroot for a long time.”
Hand-in-hand with CR is a minimum two-year break between canola crops (one in three-year rotation). This also helps keep spores low and protects the CR trait from natural selection of more virulent clubroot pathotypes that can overcome the CR trait. Dozens of CR hybrids are on the market for 2022. Find the list and more tips on clubroot prevention and management in the diseases section at canolaencyclopedia.ca.
Cutting canola at or after 60 per cent seed colour change on the main stem will usually lead to higher yields compared to cutting earlier. Hybrids with pod-shatter resistance can be cut even later — at 80 per cent seed colour change or straight combined — with lower risk and higher yield potential.
“Thinner crops like we have in 2021 always raise questions about harvest. Should I swath to prevent losses from standing crops whipping in the wind? Or should I leave it standing because swaths are going to roll without good tall stubble to anchor them?” says Shawn Senko, agronomy specialist and harvest management lead for the CCC. “Pod-shatter resistance can be especially helpful in reducing wind losses for standing crop, which adds to the yield benefit.”
Increased yield potential makes pod-shatter resistance something to consider in 2022.
Flea beetle seed treatment
After 2021, many western Canadian canola growers might be wishing for a flea beetle resistance trait. In a recent CCC survey of 1,000 growers, flea beetles ranked as the number one pest among those surveyed, and 2021 was no exception. Flea beetle resistance is not on the ticket for 2022 — or anytime in the near future — but enhanced seed treatments are an option.
“If foliar spraying is becoming regular practice on your farm, consider booking seed with an enhanced insecticide seed treatment for 2022,” says Keith Gabert, agronomy specialist and insect management lead for the CCC.
Enhanced insecticide seed treatments are not perfect, but they should make flea beetles somewhat more manageable when used in combination with other practices. These other practices, Gabert says, include higher seeding rates and seeding into standing stubble — both of which can factor into seed orders and harvest management this fall.
The recommended canola stand is five to eight plants per square foot. “Targeting eight plants per square foot allows for some plant loss without sacrificing yield potential,” Gabert says. “It also means fewer flea beetles per plant and more seed treatment per acre.”
As for stubble, Gabert says the wind protection from standing stems should trap snow, conserve moisture and may even reduce flea beetle risk. “Without that wind protection, flea beetles can take shelter at ground level and start feeding on stems instead,” Gabert says. “This stem feeding can be much more damaging than leaf feeding.”
Every farm and field will have their own challenges to productivity and profitability of canola. Seed decisions can play a big role in risk management, with successful canola crops often starting with the right traits, treatments and rates.