Observe fields, record information and review this information annually. Paying attention to these details is critical to top yields.

Pay attention to detail

Producers have asked me for the magic bullet to grow a 70-bushel canola crop. I haven’t found one. No one management practice by itself will give top canola yields. I have found that farmers who grow top yields pay attention to detail and use the science available. The package of practices you put in each field is critical to success. Here is how I recommend you acquire that package:

Talk to neighbours. Every farm has different issues that limit yield. Soil types change. Fertility requirements change from field to field and from year to year. Soil acidity (pH) issues are showing up. Weed pressure changes from field to field. Excess water from both water tables and shallow potholes flooding impact yield. Disease pressure from blackleg, clubroot and verticillium stripe is specific to each field. As a producer, you need to know what is going on in your area. Talking to neighbours gives you a good overview of the potential problems in your area.

Hire an agronomist. Understanding what is going on in your fields is essential to growing top canola yields. An agronomist will help producers deal with issues described in the previous paragraph, and provide discipline in the scouting process. Proper scouting looks at canola fields at critical times to look for specific problems. When scouting canola, I found many issues that needed to be addressed, such as high blackleg levels, clubroot, poor weed control and poor fertility in specific areas of a field. Many times, I found these issues before the producer did.

Agronomists should help producers identify and speed up the adoption of new technologies. Agronomists are trained professionals required by their profession to update in the field they practice in. If you hire an agronomist, they should be a sounding board for any new ideas that you want to implement in your fields.

Test your soils. If you wait for visual symptoms of nutrient deficiency, it means fields have already seen significant yield loss over the past few years. If yield potential is high, I have seen good response from in-crop applications of 21-0-0-24 to deal with nitrogen and sulphur shortages. I recommend high rates of phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) fertilizer on fields with soil tests below 15 ppm of P and 125 ppm of K. If not using variable rate application, farmers need to over-apply nutrients in some areas to get top yields. Returns are good enough that banking P and K is not a bad idea.

Collect data for every field. Keeping records allows a producer to monitor the detailed data generated for specific fields. Keep results of soil tests, disease surveys and yields for every field. Satellite imagery and yield maps help track what is going on. Make sure you or your agronomist reviews these records. Having field records you don’t use doesn’t make sense. If change is happening in your fields, proper records will find the problem sooner.

Use science-based information to introduce new practices. When you see a change in the data from your fields, make the adjustments needed to maintain top yields. An agronomist can help you choose new approaches that are supported by scientific trials.

Observe fields, record information and review this information annually. Paying attention to these details is critical to top yields.

Canola Digest - January 2024