Research and innovation growing at Wheatland Conservation field day

Staff ~ The Southwest Booster
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Visitors inspect portions of a test crop during the Wheatland Conservation Area field day on July 17.

The Wheatland Conservation Area (WCA) showcased their most recent test results at their July 17th Field Day just east of Swift Current.

Guests got a look at intercropping and soybean agronomy tests, as well as Brassica Carinata (Ethiopian Mustard Seed) trials and fungicide trials geared towards cereal crops.  The area’s straight cutting canola project was also on display.

“Every year there are always some surprises,” WCA farm manager Bryan Nybo said when asked about the results.  “Quite often it kind of works the way we had hypothesized.  We’ve got a pretty good idea of what’s happening, but there are the odd things.”

Nybo said growing a successful crop is good, but it’s not their main goal.  Field days like this one are as much about showing what doesn’t work as what does.

“Sometimes we get good results and sometimes we don’t, but the bad results are just as good,” Nybo explained.  “If the producer seeds 1,000 acres and gets a bad result it’s a big deal, but if we set up plots and have a failure and can show them that this doesn’t work… that’s really an advantage to them as well.”

It’s about trying to find that works, and that system is most apparent in the soybean tests.

“Everything is a surprise with soybeans,” research agronomist Garry Hnatowich said.  “We just don’t have a history of production for it.  It’s anew crop for us and we are certainly on an upward learning curve with it.”

Hnatowich, who works at the Canada Saskatchewan Irrigation Development Centre in Outlook, said soybeans have become a popular crop in Manitoba and Eastern Saskatchewan.  However, Southwest Saskatchewan’s dry climate is making it difficult to adapt the crop to this part of the province.

“There are all sorts of challenges with this crop, and quite frankly, the jury is still out as to whether this is a viable crop,” he said.  “Are we there yet for soybeans?  No, I don’t think so.”

However, Hnatowich said there is hope for the crop in the area.  He cites canola and chickpeas as two crops that were thought to be unsuited for the province but can now be found in the area.

Other tests, such as the intercropping technique, seemed to be yielding better results.  The test involved growing rows of chickpeas in between other crops such as flax, wheat and canola, and they researchers are pleased with the results.

“Things look pretty good,” said Shannon Chant, a regional crop specialist based in Swift Current.  “It’s standing up fairly well and not too bad for disease, so I’m happy with the way it looks.”

Intercropping involves picking two different crops that are easy to separate after harvest, and planting them together.  Ideally the two crops will benefit each other, increasing the yield.

Chant said they will need to see what kind of yield they get in the fall before reaching any conclusions, but so far she likes the direction things are going.

“I think it’s something that could be done (in Southwest Saskatchewan),” she said.  “Definitely, if people are interested.”

Organizations: Mustard Seed, Canada Saskatchewan Irrigation Development Centre

Geographic location: Wheatland Conservation Area, Swift Current, Southwest Saskatchewan Manitoba Eastern Saskatchewan

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