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As a team, we put together five top priority areas for 2018, building on successes, challenges and important developments from 2017.
1. Set target stands. Much of a canola crop’s success depends on an early-established and evenly-emerging stand of six to eight plants per square foot. To help set a target stand that suits field-risk conditions and a seeding rate that matches target stand, seed size and estimated seed survival, use the tools at canolacalculator.ca.
2. Choose clubroot-resistant varieties. This is an important tool to keep spore counts down in areas where clubroot is newly confirmed but still at fairly low levels. In areas with clubroot, a two-year or three-year break between canola crops is also essential to reduce spore counts between canola crops. Go to clubroot.ca for scouting, prevention and management information.
3. Scout for blackleg. Rotate R-genes if necessary. Canola growers who have noticed an increase in blackleg in some fields should rotate to a different source of blackleg resistance on those fields. Find lots more on blackleg management, including the new “Blackleg Disease and Resistance Management” video, at blackleg.ca.
4. Improve overall scouting practices. Through scouting, canola growers can identify insect, disease and weed issues before they start to cause an economic loss of yield. For comprehensive information on canola pests and other canola production-related topics, see the Canola Encyclopedia. For a quick and portable reference, download the publications “Canola Disease Scouting Guide” and “Canola Insect Scouting Guide” at canolacouncil.org and sign up for Canola Watch at canolawatch.org to get our in-season tips and updates on in-crop insect and disease observations.
5. Assess the true value of new products. For any new product, we encourage farmers to ask for replicated trial results from Western Canada and do their own on-farm testing. Protocols for on-farm trials are provided at ultimatecanolachallenge.ca.
Territory: Eastern Manitoba
The new Combine Optimization Tool (to be launched in March) at canolacalculator.ca will help farmers understand the complexities of setting the combine to balance reduced losses and harvest efficiency. For the past few years, I have emphasized the importance of using drop pans to check for combine losses and then adjusting the combine as necessary to bring losses down to an acceptable level. Whether that’s 0.5 bu./ac. or 2 bu./ac. or whatever, will depend on the farmer and the harvest situation, but the new tool helps clarify how some of those adjustments actually make a difference.
Territory: Western Manitoba
My priority for blackleg management is to help build a stronger understanding of how resistance within canola varieties works. Genetic resistance to blackleg can involve several mechanisms that work in different ways to protect the plant. Another key component will be around identifying the blackleg races within a field to help determine a suitable form of resistance to be deployed. A new labelling system and diagnostic test may be complex but, once understood, these tools will help producers make better-informed crop decisions around managing blackleg on their farms.
Territory: Northeast Saskatchewan
I believe precision farming – as it refers to varying inputs to get the most profit out of each unit of land – will eventually become a common and accepted practice, especially on variable land. I compare it to no-till or minimum tillage, which became commonplace as farmers realized the stewardship and economic benefits. While it may be a few years before precision techniques make sense for all farms, I would encourage all farms to start evaluating the practice and keep records on fertilizer rates, soil variability and other factors that could help with a precision variable-rate system. Precision farming is more than just fertilizer. Canopy density maps can be used for variable-rate fungicide applications and technology is coming along for nozzle-by-nozzle control and on-boom weed sensors that could bring the benefits of instant on-off and possibly variable-rate herbicide applications.
Territory: Southeast Saskatchewan
Clubroot is my top priority, given that it seemed to take a firm hold in Saskatchewan in 2017. I would like farmers and agronomists in my region to start adopting the use of clubroot-resistant varieties before they discover clubroot, and recognize that their region and their crops are not immune to this disease. As for fertilizer management, I will keep encouraging farms to match phosphorus applications with removal rates.
Territory: Southwest Saskatchewan
For 2018, I encourage farmers to think how they can make seed decisions that more specifically match the variety to the situation in each field. What variety traits and characteristics will help you manage acres in the most efficient way? Consider disease resistance, harvest management, days to maturity, lodging and other factors in addition to just yield potential. Use the tool at canolaperformancetrials.ca to compare leading varieties. Breeding new varieties continues to provide solutions for farmers, but genetics need to be managed with good agronomics to ensure traits are available for the long term.
Territory: Northwest Saskatchewan
Clubroot scouting and management will be a priority for my territory in 2018, given the confirmation of clubroot in Saskatchewan Districts 9A and 9B in 2017. I expect more confirmations in 2018 and will spend a lot of time in regional meetings sharing the clubroot mitigation steps shared in Dan Orchard’s priorities on pg. 22. If I put on my weeds-management hat, there is a strong tie-in to clubroot management. Control of canola volunteers and early control of all weeds is always a good economic message, but this early control also stops volunteer canola and other clubroot-host weeds from forming galls and building up clubroot spore loads in non-canola years. Common weeds such as wild mustard, stinkweed, flixweed and shepherd’s purse can all host clubroot. These weeds, if not controlled, can negate some of the benefit of crop rotation, a highly valuable clubroot management tool.
Brittany Hennig and Autumn Barnes*
Territory: Alberta South
How to mitigate the risk of clubroot will be the priority in Southern Alberta for 2018. Although clubroot was found south of Highway 1 in 2008, we thankfully have not seen the intense spread that Central Alberta has – yet. With higher clubroot spore loads creeping in from the north, we need to ensure we continue best management practices. Proper scouting for the disease needs serious attention – which includes critical judgment calls as to whether you require a resistant variety or not. Analyzing tillage requirements per field to decrease soil movement will be a crucial part of risk mitigation. Not only do we need to look at the soil moved on equipment, but also at erosion due to the wind. Clubroot spores move wherever soil moves.
*Pictured: Autumn Barnes returns from parental leave.
Territory:Central Alberta South
My priority for 2018 remains focused on maximizing basic agronomic planning. A solid plan, good agronomy-based decision making and favourable weather has consistently rewarded our growers with impressive canola yields. Clearly understanding which disease, insect and other challenges are affecting your canola crop allows you to fine-tune your crop management appropriately. Scouting remains the only way to get this done. Your shadow is likely the best investment possible to put into your crop. One pest we watch for in Central Alberta South is cabbage seedpod weevil, and scouting is now simplified with some new Ag Canada research. The economic threshold has been set at 25 to 40 weevils in 10 sweeps. Four sets of 10 sweeps (down from 10 sets of 10) is sufficient to estimate CSPW populations, as long as these rules are followed: sweeps are a full 180-degrees each; divide the four sets into two pairs; each pair has to be done in distinctly different parts of the field; and within each pair, each sweep has to be separated by 50 metres or more.
Improving sclerotinia management in wet conditions remains a challenge, year over year, but particularly for those 2018 canola fields planted on 2016 sclerotinia-infested canola. These fields may see an increase in disease risk this year with moisture. Make sure you attend a few summer learning opportunities, sign up for Canola Watch and check out fieldheroes.ca to understand what other “good” bugs are working on your behalf.
Territory: Central Alberta North
Given the confirmation of clubroot in the Peace Region and Northwest Saskatchewan in 2017 and with continued expansion of clubroot in my territory, encouraging farmers to scout for and take steps to prevent or manage clubroot stays at the top of my priority list. Steps include rotation out of canola for at least two years, using clubroot-resistant varieties, controlling host weeds and volunteer canola in non-canola years, and keeping soil movement to a minimum – as clubroot spreads when soil moves. Equipment sanitation, reduced tillage and taking care to limit all traffic on fields fall under “minimize soil movement”. I encourage all farmers to become familiar with clubroot. Read Canola Watch. Go to canolaPALOOZA and other tours. Watch the CCC video “Clubroot of canola: Disease cycle”. Go to clubroot.ca to find this video and lots more on scouting, prevention and management.
Territory: Peace Region of Alberta and B.C.
My priority message for 2018 is to consider the role that beneficial insects play in cropping success and profitability. After being part of the integrated pest management (IPM) and beneficial insect stations at the canolaPALOOZAs in 2017, I have new ideas about the current best practices on minimizing pesticide use while increasing profitability. These ideas incorporate practices that maximize populations of beneficial insects. Examples include using economic thresholds and forecasting checklists for insecticides and fungicides, maintaining buffer strips for pesticide applications, and maintaining natural spaces for these beneficial insects to live. I encourage all farmers to learn more about beneficials in 2018. Attend a canolaPALOOZA event, sign up for Canola Watch and check out fieldheroes.ca.