To grow more canola on the same land base, choose cultivars with disease resistance that matches the needs of the farm, use a fertilizer rate that supports the field yield goal, and prepare the land for strong emergence.

Three key considerations

This is very much a Coles Notes version of my recommendations to grow more canola on same land base. Three very important considerations are variety choice, fertilizer rate and land preparation.

Variety choice. Most hybrids have good yield potential. It can be hard to pick a variety that will yield better than another. So farms will want to look at other factors, like disease resistance that matches the needs of the farm. I’m in a clubroot area, so clubroot resistance is important. An effective practice is to choose a long-season variety for the best fields, and seed them early.

Fertilizer. Use a blend and rate based on soil tests, field history and environmental conditions. Use 4R practices and come up with a rate that will support the farm’s yield goal. I recommend deep banding fertilizer, at least two inches down and away from the seed, applied at the time of seeding. Adjust rate based on needs for each field. For canola, include starter fertilizer in the seed row – a little monoammonium phosphate.

Land preparation. This includes weed control. Consider pre-emergent burnoff as a base for herbicide-tolerant canola. I work in a “full tillage area” because farmers say they couldn’t start seeding until the middle of May with the higher moisture. Farmers use a high-speed disc to evenly distribute residue, but you don’t want the soil too loose. A well prepared seedbed will help with uniform seed depth placement and even emergence, which are very important for canola.

Other important considerations

Use a seeding rate that will achieve a target canola stand of five to seven plants per square foot. Set seeding rates based on thousand seed weight. Use a seed depth that puts seeds 1/4” into the seedbed moisture. Seed should also be independently checked for germination percentage and vigour. Seed as early as possible, taking into consideration frost conditions in spring.

Pest management for higher yields includes early weed control and the consideration of spraying crop twice. Apply fungicide at 15-20 per cent flower and again at 60-70 per cent. Fungicide for sclerotinia stem rot is one practice that farmers often miss, either applying too late or not at all, and it can cost them a lot of yield. Control any insects that are at or past economic thresholds. Of course clubroot issues and blackleg can also can affect maximum canola yield. Be sure you know what s going on in your field, including controlling volunteer canola from previous years that may have disease on it. Scout lots.

As for harvest, straight cutting usually produces the highest yields. Swathing too early is another practice that can cost farmers a lot of yield. If farmers are swathing canola, I recommend they hold off until 80 per cent seed colour change on the whole plant, not just the main stem. A lot of farmers don’t take side branches into consideration. If pre-harvest is needed, I usually recommend Heat LQ and glyphosate with water volume of 20 gallon per acre or more. This water volume is very important to get chemical to bottom of the canopy. Be sure combine settings are correct for the canola. Check behind the combine to see if there is much canola in the trash.

I checked with Russell and Brian Kushinski, farmers I work with in Calmar, Alberta. They added some invaluable insight around harvest:

  • The whole year starts in the fall with the combine, they say. The Kushinskis replace the combine chopping knives every year to completely spread out chaff and straw behind the combine.
  • Stubble height is important as it affects how straw is managed
    out the back of combine.
  • When swathing, have sharp cutting knives and take the time
    to do an excellent job.

In the future, I would like us to try fall seeding again to take advantage of the whole growing season. I know we tried it before, but I don’t think we should give up on it. When it comes to high canola yield, we’re newbies compared to Europe. They’ve figured it out.

Canola Digest - January 2024