Clint Jurke, an agronomist with the Canola Council of Canada, was in Swift Current Mar. 1 for Canola Day at the Semiarid Prairie Agricultural Research Centre to offer his thoughts on the impact of lessons learned through four major crop events in 2012 and to discuss how producers can make the best use of that knowledge in 2013.
A hot dry July that wilted flowers in the middle of bloom, diseases like Sclerotinia and Aster yellows, Bertha Army Worms and gale force winds last September that scattered swaths and flattened standing canola, resulted in challenges that spanned several months and resulted in cumulative yield losses for some producers.
“A good chunk of the yield loss was relatively beyond our control. So particularly in this region of Saskatchewan, we had quite a few days that were exceeding 30 degrees in July during the flowering period. That blasts flowers off pretty readily and plants don’t really recover that yield very easily.
“To avoid the heat, that’s a tricky one. What we recommend to growers is to seed as early as possible and hope that the heat doesn’t come early. If they can get most of the canola in before May 1 in this part of the world it would be a pretty good thing.”
Seeding for a good plant stand is another hedge against losses, Jurke said.
“Getting a good plant stand is very key to be able to buffer all the other bad weather events that Mother Nature is going to throw at us, whether it’s frost or bugs or something like that. Achieving a good plant stand, seven to ten plants per square foot, is the best number.
“It’s just so that you’ve got enough plants that when you lose 50 per cent of them due to the weather, you have enough plants to continue your yield. It’s like crop insurance. Your seeding rate is all about crop risk management. It doesn’t really increase your yield potential but it ensures that you’ll have something to yield at the end.”
Jurke noted that in the case of those four major events, crop rotations would not have had a significant bearing on the outcomes.
“For each one of those yield loss causers, rotation doesn’t come into it at all. Aster yellows is blown in with bugs from the US. Rotation has very little impact on Sclerotinia. It’s funny, everyone thinks rotation impacts Sclerotinia. No. Almost 95 per cent of its disease expression is due to weather, the amount of moisture that we had. We had a wet year. Every time we have wet conditions like this we can expect Sclerotinia, regardless of your rotation.”
To be prepared for Sclerotinia, Jurke suggested budgeting for fungicides.
“It doesn’t matter where people are growing canola on the prairies, they should be budgeting in a fungicide. Rather than trying to convince themselves to use that fungicide, they should try convincing themselves not to use it. Budget for a fungicide and if the weather turns dry at flowering, then they can return it.”
Bertha Army Worms and the Cabbage Seed Pod Weevil are the biggest insect threats anticipated in 2013.
“In terms of bugs, Bertha Army Worm was very high in Saskatchewan and we expect that it probably will be high again this upcoming year as well.”
Jurke doesn’t recommend any one particular canola variety, but does emphasize that hybrids have shown a much better performance in southwest Saskatchewan than open-pollinated varieties.
“The hybrids manage stress a lot better, and that’s why they’re making more inroads into the southwest part of Saskatchewan. What we’ve found is that the hybrids are performing very well in the southwest.
“They can handle the dry conditions better than the old open-pollinated varieties that we used to have. They can handle the heat a little better, they can hold onto their pods a little better, their yield potential is certainly a lot higher, so that’s why the crop is actually doing quite well in an area where people didn’t think canola was adapted.”
The best overall hedge against disease and insects, Jurke said, is still diligent scouting.
“They should be scouting, particularly for growers if they are in tight rotations. It’s so important. You have to be watching for all the bugs, the onset of disease, and getting ready to take remedial action if they do find anything.”