Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Becoming an Agronomist


Over the past month or so I received some messages from some high school and university individuals who are curious about becoming agronomists. The questions have ranged from “What makes a good agronomist?”, “Do I have enough experience?”, “What schools are good?” and more. I also saw a tweet from @trouttroller (Jack Payne), an agronomy instructor at Olds College that got me thinking too. Before I start, I want to say I am probably not the best person to answer this, being a new agronomist myself, there are probably more qualified people, but I’ll give my 2 cents on what I did to learn more, what i think is important  and what others have told me is important, and hopefully some comments from other individuals will come along as well. 

The first question I wanted to touch on is one I got asking if they were experienced enough to even consider going into an agronomy program. My answer is, if there was a qualification to get into the agronomy profession I definitely wouldn’t have qualified. The only interest I had in agronomy up until 4 years ago was climbing on the chemical boxes when I was a kid (my dad works for Viterra). If you were to tell me 5 years ago I would work in the Ag Industry I would have laughed and walked away, if you told my friends and family they probably would have laughed even harder. The day before I started my first scout job the only thing I knew was that you wanted to kill dandelions (seriously). So to put it simply, NO, there is no experience needed before considering majoring in agronomy. You get a basis in school and the real experience will come in the summers, and acquiring more experience wont stop until you are retired. Just to touch quickly on the school question, obviously there are the strong schools like the University of Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba in Western Canada and University of Guleph in Ontario. But I think at the end of the day school choice is what you make of it. You do more learning in your summers and spare time than in school a lot of the time. Plus, I look at someone who is a well respected agronomist like Steve Larocque who went to the University of Lethbridge (and Olds College I believe), a school which isnt considered strong in agriculture necessarily. I went to  Lethbridge College and the University of Lethbridge personally and will say the College was a great experience and wouldn’t tell anyone to write off going to a 2 year diploma program (most have the option for University after anyways).

The next thing I got asked is “What makes a good agronomist?”. This is going to be answered differently by anyone you ask, and Im probably going to miss some things cause it isnt one simple characteristic or trait, but here are some things I consider important. The first thing I notice about good agronomists is that they are curious. They want to continually learn, ask questions, ask why, talk to new people, cross reference information, dig deeper and more. The one thing I have realized is the more I learn, the less I seem to know.  It always seems like once I learn something I find myself with more questions to try and explain why. It is a constant circle and one of the reasons I love agronomy so much. Next, being observant is something I notice in good agronomists. My first boss with Cargill, Scott Knutt, taught me how important this is. When you are in the field, don’t take anything for granted, check things, dig them up, ask questions, google it etc. Scott always seemed to know how certain varieties for example would react to certain situations. Things like that can only be noted by physically being in the field and paying close attention to even the most miniscule thing. It doesn’t have to be just varieties either, noting soil texture variance in the field or crop turgor after certain weather events and more can go a long way to helping you understand why a plant may be doing what it is doing, and end up helping you solve a problem later on. Lastly, I think passion is what seperates a good agronomist from an average one. The people I learn the most from are the ones who love agronomy, are happy to help you, excited to be there enhancing grower yields and their knowledge base. You could add in problem solver, people person, organized and more as well, but those are my top 3.

The last question, or better termed, concern, that was brought to me was a young guy saying its tough to gain experience. Not meaning necessarily a job was tough to come by, but the same concern I had in that there was a feeling of being “behind”  when starting and knowing you cant just fast forward to the next growing season right away so its tough to continually learn. Here are a few of the things I did when I was a summer student to soak in as much experience and knowledge as humanly possible in a short period of time:

First thing I did was make up fake, but possible situations, research them and then write down a solution and give it to my boss (Scott) to give me feedback on. I would do this with rotation examples a lot to really understand why you want a rotation a certain way. I also made up cards with a bunch of different weeds and weed stages, would pull 3-7, then pull a card with a crop and stage on it and go through the Crop Protection Guide figuring out possible herbicides and tank mix options, write them down and then go ask which would be the best and why. This lead into learning which actives were stronger on certain weeds or species (eg: Lontrel (clopyralid) products on Canada Thistle), crop safety etc. I did this with fungicides and diseases, insects and insecticides, seed treatments and diseases and the list goes on.

Next thing I would do is study something, then go to a field and search high and low for it and not allow myself to head home until it was found. I remember reading about Cereal Leaf Beatle and going to a field by Bow Island and deciding I am not leaving till I find the larvae, the beetle and some damage. I also did it with diseases like rust and Sclerotinia too. This keeps you in the field searching and a lot of the time finding other new things. Another rule I had was you cant leave a field without making a new observation, whether it be the effect of deep seeding on wheat vigor early season or a varieties height later in the season. Going touring later on in the summer (Late July-August)  is prime time for doing something like this.

Lots of the time it is easy to just ask questions when you don’t know something. But make  it a goal to try and get atleast an idea of what something is before asking a question. This usually involves flipping through numerous books and is quite time consuming. Lots of the time it was tough to find things when starting out, but as I kept flipping through books looking for weeds for example, you take notice of the ones you aren’t looking for too and low and behold you eventually run into those weeds and say “hey I saw that last week when I was looking for milkweed, that’s Canada fleabane”. That extra time you take searching isnt wasted, it eventually pays off. With all that said, it is still good to sometimes take in things like weeds to confirm or get more info cause generally those older, experienced agronomists have fun facts like where it typically grows, what kills it etc. I have a number of other “games” I used to make up to try and learn more, but those were some of the ones I think I got the most value out of. Make up your own, everyone learns differently so keep that in mind.

Hopefully some aspiring agronomists gained something out of this and especially the individuals that asked me the questions. The last thing I want to say is simply try and learn a couple new things every day whether it be from reading, scouting or talking to a farmer about his year and asking a question like how his Lillian wheat was to harvest compared to his Waskada for example. There will always be something new to learn when it comes to agronomy, sooner you realize that, the better off you’ll be.

Monday, 26 November 2012

2013 New Product Line Up

Every year there are new products released from the chemical companies, sometimes these products are tough to keep up with. Now a days a lot of the time you will see old products just topped up with a new active ingredient that has just gotten registered in Canada. Going into the growing season it is always useful to have a handle on what is out there and how it can help your operation. I’ll go over some of the new products that have been registered in Western Canada for the 2013 growing season.
BASF is releasing a couple new products this year, one seed treatment and one foliar fungicide. The seed treatment is Insure and what it has going for it is the same active ingredient as Headline, pyraclostrobin (fung group 11). The other actives in this product are triticonazole (fung. gr. 3) which is strong on fusarium species such as seedling blights and metalaxyl (fung group 4) which is excellent on pythium species of root rots. The pyraclostrobin component of this seed treatment will give some of the plant health benefits known with strobilurin fungicides (gr 11) including increased cold tolerance in the spring, giving your crop a better chance against those May frosts. This is done, in short, by creating a healthier plant that allows for a higher degree brix (sugar content in plant) which is more tolerant to freezing. Pyraclostrobin also beefs up the activity on most of our seedling disease species such fusarium, cochliobus and some others. In trials this year, I did notice a little more “pop up” effect or vigor compared to the competitor treatment,  about a 2 day faster emergence give or take half a day. Note: The pyraclostrobin is a different type of concentration than what you would buy in Headline, potentially being toxic to seed for anyone who was thinking about just buying Gemini or the like and throwing the Headline in.
Next, BASF has a new foliar fungicide called Priaxor DS. This product is a combination of Headline (pyraclostrobin, gr 11) and an active which BASF coined “Xemium” (fluxapyroxad, gr 7). This product is meant for use in pulses to control anthracnose, aschochyta as well as suppress white mould, and can be especially effective on chickpeas when you are applying 3+ fungicide applications, resistance to strobilurins can be an issue, this product really helps out there. I have seen it in trials the past two years with some great results, not just against the check, but against other products such as Headline. I have personally seen as high as 6bu/ac increase in Peas over a check and 3bu/ac increase over Headline in Lentils over the past couple of years (Note:  these may have been different rates of active ingredient vs. what is registered for the 2013 season). Some of the benefits of fluxapyroxad is the increased Ascochyta activity over and above what the pyraclostrobin already offers. It also offers some suppression of white mould as well. The length of protection is also supposed to be slightly longer than Headline by itself. Lastly, resistance to strobilurins is a real concern, having a group 7 fungicide can go a long way in fighting this concern and lengthening the shelf life of the strobilurin fungicides in Canada.
Couple more notes on BASF products, Twinline (metconazole+pyraclostrobin) fungicide for cereals will be available in larger quantities vs. being limited supply in 2012. Lastly, Viper ADV (imazamox+bentazon) will now be available in a pre mix liquid form, where as prior it was a granular and a liquid. Note: UAN (28-0-0) will still be separate.
Syngenta has came out with a new active ingredient known as sedaxane which they have put into their Cruiser Max product line. I will mainly touch on the cereal Cruiser Max line, but this new active will also be in their Pulse line up for sure. It will also be added into their Helix Vibrance seed treatment on canola. Rhizoctonia has been a growing concern for root disease in Western Canadian soils for the past little while and this active is one of the best on it. There are a number of different AG groups (essentially different “pathogenicity” groups or different sub species within the rhizoctonia family) in western Canadian soils and this product is strong on some of the most commonly occurring species. Another note is that one knock against using Dividend or Cruiser Max Cereals from Syngenta in the past is the lack of True Loose Smut control, sedaxane fixes this problem. Other actives in this product include difenconazole, metalaxyl and thiamethoxam (insecticide). It will be known as Cruiser Max Vibrance Cereals.

Final note, Syngenta will also be releasing their fusarium head blight fungicide in larger quantities this year. Their product is called Fuse with the same active ingredient as Folicur from Bayer (ai: tebuconazole, gr 3).
Just after talking about one new rhizoctonia active ingredient, I will touch on another. Prosper EverGol from Bayer will be the new seed treatment on their canola seed for 2013. The new active is group 7 again (lots of new group 7 fungicide products in the pipe) and is known as penflufen. This actives claim to fame is the rhizoctonia control. I haven’t had any experience with this product, but in my research it seems it will be a good option to stay on top of rhizoctonia in your canola. The other actives in Prosper EverGol are Clothianidin (insecticide), trifloxystrobin (gr 3) and metalaxyl (gr. 4) on top of the penflufen. This may be an active that Bayer works into a pulse seed treatment in the future.
Monsanto has went a unique route in their newest seed treatment by adding a biological component. The biological is bacillis subtillis which may be familiar as it is in other companies fungicides or stacked inoculant products. What this means for your crop is enhanced stress tolerance and decreased disease susceptibility through the biologicals ability to stimulate a plants Systemic Acquired Resistance (similar to our immune systems). This response increases specific hormones or phytoalexins (eg: salicylic acid) that help plants overcome these situations.  In my small scale experiences with this product it did seem to enhance early season vigor, but I did not personally see/get any info on a yield bump. Other actives in this product known as Acceleron include difenconazole (gr 3), fludioxinil (gr.12), metalaxyl (gr.4) and thiamethoxam (insecticide).
These are the new products that are currently registered for the 2013 season that offer newly registered or released actives, there will be new generics of other products released as well I am sure. I did touch on a lot of seed treatments this time around and sometimes it is tough to follow exactly what every active is offering you for control, see my seed treatment write up from May to help clear some of this up.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Increased Cereal Seeding Rates

Increasing Seeding Rates in Cereals

When it comes to seeding I often find alot of growers who consistently seed their wheat or durum at 75lbs/ac, or somewhere in that range. This may achieve a decent plant stand, but opens you up to a few factors as I will discuss later. Plant stand density achieved through a seed rate like that is going to depend on several factors such soil temperature, whether the seed is treated, depth etc. What should be happening is growers are sending away their seed for a seed test to get levels of disease as well as their, germ, vigor and thousand kernel weight. What you can do with this information is plug it into this thousand kernel weight formula ((lb/ac) = desired plant population/ft² x 1,000 K wt. (g) ÷ seedling survival rate (in decimal form such as 0.90) ÷ 10.4) and play around with your target plant stand density to get an accurate seeding rate. What I want to talk about today are some of the benefits of targeting an increased plant stand density of something like 28-35plants/ft2 vs targeting 20-24plants/ft2.

The first thing I like about a higher seeding rate is the "insurance" type aspect. With wireworms levels climbing in alot of areas across the prairies and suppression options that need them to feed on 1-2, even 3 seeds before it knocks them out, you can still lose a significant percentage of your stand in some situations. If you target 32 plants per foot square then you can afford to lose a couple plants in a foot squared area, where as if you only have 20 plants to begin with, you are losing yield potential.

The next benefit is increased weed competition. This allows your crop to choke out weeds vs. it being the other way around. A vigorous stand with more plants is going to more efficiently cover that ground and out compete weeds. This is even more helpful if you are held up a few days or more at in crop herbicide timing.
This increased competition is evident within the crop itself as well. More plants forces them to actively scavenge for nutrients and water, and this forces them to grow at a faster rate to capture sunlight. What this means is that you are pushing your crop along at a faster rate, decreasing time to maturity. I had a producer in my area this year do a trial where he seeded at the rate he normally did (85lbs/ac) and then do part where he seeded at about 130lbs/ac. The maturity difference was about 6 days. This could be huge in years with an early frost or years where seeding is pushed back late.

Increased plant stands typically show increased stage uniformity across the field. The reason for this is that when you have a lower stand, you increase tillering. Sometimes tillering is inconsistent and it takes an extra 3 days or so (give or take a day) for extra tillers to develop. If you have areas of the field producing an extra tiller that puts your staging difference at around 3-4 days. Doesnt sound like much, but all of a sudden you are looking at spraying for fusarium head blight and this can significantly affect efficacy because of the off timing in parts of the field.

I just touched on fusarium head blight and another area that increased seeding rates help with quality and length of time susceptible to stresses such as insects or disease. If you have increased tillering (say 1 main stem, 4 tillers) that means you have an increased length of time that your crop is  in anthesis and therefore susceptible to wheat midge, ergot or FHB.  If you only have 2 tillers, then that decreases your length of susceptibility by atleast 5 days or so (compared to 4 tillers).
On top of this you typically get 50% of yield from your main stem, and 25% of yield from each of the next 2 tillers. This adds up to 100% of yield potential. Are you willing to lose quality for zero gain in yield? To put even more emphasis on this, why would you want your crop uptaking more nutrients to put into a 4th tiller when you arent gaining from it? It is a waste of energy for the plant.

There has been wetter years recently and more plants does help in cases of excessive moisture. Under drought conditions is the only time where you may see a negative drawback on higher density levels.

Some may have good luck with low seeding rates (I was in a durum field seeded at 45lbs/ac this year, 6 tillers per plant), but I would highly reccommend giving a high seeding rate a try on atleast one field. I talked about my trial earlier and this grower will be seeding everything heavier in 2013. It is a reletively inexpensive investment per acre and has some real benefits.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Soybean Hype


Soybean Hype

Soybeans have been getting a lot of hype over the past couple months with acres in western Canada estimated to rise significantly for 2013. Soybeans are one of my favorite crops to deal with ever since I worked with some my first couple years of scouting. Soys do have significant upside for return, especially with the prices, but I want to talk about some things that seem to fly by the way side when I hear about soybeans lately.

Heat Units

We all know the benefits of soys in Saskatchewan for example, low disease pressure, lower input costs than canola, Roundup Ready trait, rotational benefits and the list goes on.

But we have to remember that breeding varieties suited to our Saskatchewan and Alberta areas is relatively new, and there still isn’t any really short season varieties. Our shortest varities are sitting in the 2325-2350 Heat Unit (CHU’s)  range. Generally speaking, there are some areas across Saskatchewan and Alberta that receive these sorts of numbers, but remember these aren’t CHU’s from May 1st, they are from May 15-25, once soil temperatures are in that 12-18 degree Celsius range! Now there will be some variation in varieties due to day length and other specialized traits some varieties have, but overall you want to get as close to those CHU’s as possible to achieve maturity with a decent yield. You would still get some yield if you only got 2150CHU’s for example, but the yield would be reduced along with the quality.

Moisture

Soybeans will use a good amount of water under ideal conditions, and aren’t deep rooters so scavenging for water is limited. The other consideration is that their peak water use occurs at later flower-pod development sort of time frame, for Saskatchewan and Alberta growers this is going to fall in that late July-early August time frame, which happens to be a typical dry time for us. The negative if we do happen to get a rainier than normal July is that could mean cool, damp conditions which aren’t what we want for our soybeans to reach physiological maturity.

Market

Soybean price is influenced in part by the USA, as we all know. Their drought is the main contributor to the large price jump of soybeans that sparked the increased interest in non-typical growing areas such as Saskatchewan and Alberta. We can’t be sure that the prices for soybeans are going to be as strong as they are now. The first reason being the largest ever seeded soybean acerage in South America (Brazil) and the forecast for good growing conditions (it is still early and a couple more months will tell how the weather affects them). This could significantly affect the price and bring it back down well below $15/bu. The other thing often forgot about is that the Americans will still be putting in another soybean crop around the same time as ours will be going in. The size of their acerage as well as conditions are ultimately going to play a role in where the price goes. Not that it’s a surprise to be a slave to the markets, but in talking with guys one thing that sparked interest in soybeans was the price. If large crops come off in S. America and the USA in the next 12 months then soybeans may be closer to $10/bu than 20$bu, and all of a sudden that 25 bushel an acre bean crop (which would be a high end average for a 2100 CHU, average moisture year, growing area) isn’t as profitable as once thought. Plus the risk of that early frost taking out a large chunk of your yield is always there.

I do believe that once the breeding is farther along and we can knock another 100-200CHU’s (or more) off of the shortest season varieties without sacrificing much yield we can grow soybeans with a consistent profit. There are even some areas across Saskatchewan and Alberta that can grow soybeans right now on a consistent basis. I am not trying to scare anyone away from soybeans, just play devils advocate to all the hype. I do hope producers still try some soys, but on a 20, 40, maybe 80 acre basis to start vs. an entire section. Trying small acreage now can get you the experience with them and develop a comfort level with producing them that allows you to be successful soybean grower once some shorter season varieties, more suited to your area are released.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Dont Forget About Sulphur


When I first started working in the agriculture industry I spent my entire month of May blending fertilizer. At this point in time when a grower came in and asked for a “34-17-0” blend, I was a pretty happy guy. It meant effort and less chance of screwing up, win-win for me as an 18 year old trying to make a few bucks in my first summer job. Now a days when someone asks for that blend, I cringe.

 Plants need numerous nutrients for proper health and development, some being required, others being beneficial. All of these nutrients are important, but macro nutrients tend to be the ones needed in the largest quantity. These nutrients include nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium and sulfur (and calcium and magnesium depending who you talk to). I want to focus on the importance of sulfur today.

Having a proper fertility package is one of the most important things when starting off your crop in the spring, but it is very often overlooked. I like to put it into terms of us as people, we have 3 essential macro nutrients being protein, carbohydrates and fat. If we were only to eat carbohydrates and proteins, we would begin to run into a whole world of problems due to malnutrition from lack of fat. This occurs with plants as well, even if we don’t see obvious deficiency symptoms, the plants are still weaker and losing yield because of it. Leipigs Law of the minimum shows us that a plant/crop can only produce as much its most limiting factor will allow it. If we only have sulfur in the soil for 30 bushels of wheat, you will be hard pressed to get any more out of that crop due to the lack of sulfur. Sulfur has some key benefits in plants, including being a component of amino acids and enzymes.

Canola is the first crop I would like to touch on why it is important. Many are aware of this due to its promotions by groups such as the Canola Council and many agronomists. What is often left out is why is canola such a heavy user of sulfur? Many growers never ask, and a lot of individuals that promote sulfur don’t really know the specifics behind why canola needs so much. This isnt going to get technical, just some basics and the basics come down to the plant family canola is a part of, Brassicaceae. This family of plant also includes mustards and even vegetables like cabbage and cauliflower. This family of plants has secondary metabolism compounds known as glucosinolates. These compounds are made up mainly of sulfur. The main reason these compounds are important is due to their ability to increase a plants defense system/stress tolerance against pathogens or insects. If we under fertilize sulfur on a canola crop, these compounds begin to be broken down by an enzyme so the plant can use the sulfur else where in the plant, meaning the plants defense system is taking a back seat to other basic physiological processes. This can open your crop up to increase disease or insect risk and increased susceptibility to stresses such as heat. Sulfur is also a component of phytoalexins which are part of the systemic acquired resistance of a plant, or part of its natural defense system There is more that sulfur does in canola as well, but this is the quick and dirty version. Remember, ratio’s of nitrogen to sulfur are important as well. 5:1 (N:S) being the range you want to be in simply because for every 5 lbs of N your crop is going to use 1 pound of S under ideal conditions to achieve the yield you want.

Wheat is often overlooked even more so than canola when it comes to sulfur fertilization. Again, understanding the importance of sulfur in wheat is important. I stated earlier that sulfur is important in amino acids within plants, amino acids are constitutes of proteins and usually a higher protein in wheat means a higher premium. The most common practice to increase protein in wheat is with a late N application, which is fine and consistently works. But since we know protein in a plant isnt made up of only nitrogen, but sulfur as well we can see that sulfur may be the magic trick to bumping yield a bit along with protein. Ratio’s for wheat of N:S are ideally in the 7:1 range.

Lastly, I want to note the importance of sulfur in pulses. All to often I run into growers who don’t fertilize their pulses at all, then there are a few that put down phosphorous, but consistently the few I deal with who put down a full, balanced nutrient package with their pulses have the highest pulse yields. Pulses are high in protein, and as just said with the cereal section, sulfur is a key component of proteins within the plant. The reason many individuals aren’t aware of is its role in activating enzymes that are important for nodulation and nitrogen fixation. Being able to more efficiently fix nitrogen, especially once plants get to flowering when pulses are really needing N and the plant isnt focusing as much on rooting or nodulation can be that extra few bushels of yield you are looking for.

To calculate a range of sulfur your crop will need here are some uptake numbers:

0.25lbs of sulfur/bushel of wheat
0.6lbs of sulfur/bushel of canola
0.25lbs of sulfur/bushel of peas
0.13lbs of sulfur/bushel of lentils
Simply put if you want a 100 bushel wheat crop, your crop is going to need about 25lbs of sulfur per acre (100 bushels * 0.25lbs/bushel/ac)

 Remember to keep sulfur in mind when doing your fertility planning for next year.

Going to try and focus a little more on some nutrient importance over the winter when writing as I feel this is the area where many growers could get major yield bumps from. Properly balancing your macro's and then going in and touching on your micro's is a tactic that I think has the most influence on yield, especially in comparison to some like which seed treatment to use. Nutrients each have many roles in the plant, but I want to try and focus on key factors that a nutrient might have in a specific crop.
Note: Try and do a soil test to see where sulfur levels are in your fields and remember sulfur is very mobile in the soil so you may have 7lbs in one spot and 32lbs in another. Also, I am sure you have heard that sulfur comes down with rain and irrigation water, but it is still great practice to monitor levels and try sulfur on your farm if you havent already.

Source: Marschners Mineral Nutrition of Higher Plants

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Fall Herbicide Applications


Post harvest glyphosate applications are a very effective method to gain control of perennials and winter annuals before heading into the winter. Controlling them in the fall is effective because weeds such as Canada thistle, dandelions etc are beginning to shut down for winter and therefore actively translocating sugars to their roots to over winter, the glyphosate gets translocated efficiently down as well, killing the plants at their roots. This leaves a much cleaner field come spring to seed into and reduces the headache of trying to get rid of these difficult to control weeds (Note: fields should still be considered for pre burn applications in the spring).

With all of this said, the temperature fluctuations and potential frost threats in the fall make spray timing a more difficult task, so it is best to follow some simple guidelines when it comes spraying at this time of the year.

Glyphosate (like most non-residual actives) is a product that can be touchy if sprayed at a time when it is not readily absorbed and translocated within the plant. This means to watch time of day spraying (glyphosate is notorious for being less effective sprayed in the late evening or early morning) and conditions before and after the frost, on top of the weed species you are targeting and the severity and length of the frost. Lots of growers believe that if a killing frost has already hit, their post harvest spray season has ended, but that isn’t necessarily the case.

If you have a hard frost of (-4 degrees C or colder) then you must wait before going into spray any weeds. It is best to wait anywhere from 48-72 hours before going into assess the severity of the frost damage. If you go out and see the plants are still remaining over 50-60% green, there are signs of active growth and the weather conditions have begun to be more favourable, then aiming to spray the next day once temperature have risen to above 10 degrees C for over 2 hours would be your next opportunity to hit that field. Remember, there shouldn’t be frost in the forecast for the next couple days either.

If there was simply a light frost (0 to -3 degrees C), this only slightly affects perennial and winter annual weed control. With that said, time below freezing can come into play and it is still good to go out the next day and assess the plants. Typically, if it was a light frost like this and you go out and spray the following day once temperatures have reached 10 degrees for a couple of hours (and no frost in the forecast) then you should be safe. Giving the plants an extra 24 hours after a light frost can be an effective strategy though.

It is best to spray glyphosate in the middle of the day, especially late in the season like this. If you can catch a warmer, sunnier day, then it is even better. To further it even more, if you get a nice shower, go in the next day and you will see an increase in efficacy as the fall moisture gives the plants a big perk and from what I have seen significantly helps fall glyphosate effectiveness. As for rates, I personally don’t like to see less than a 1L equivalent of glyphosate used when trying to take down any perennials or winter annuals.

I always recommend putting a second chemical in with the glyphosate such as 2,4-D, Express, Dicamba, Florasulam etc. as having a second mode of action is effective in decreasing the potential of glyphosate resistance and also because these products all have a residual in some capacity. I am not going to touch on these to much as the date they are used, rates, soil texture, soil moisture, soil temperature, organic matter and more come into play when determining what can be seeded there next year, if you have any specific questions feel free to ask or talk to your local agronomist as they will be aware of what products will be effective for your situation in your area. I will note that florasulam and Express (tribenuron) typically have strong activity on asteraceae family weeds which is what family our thistles fall into.

Dandelions are generally considered to be the most frost hardy, while Canada thistle, sow thistles and perennial/winter annual grasses are thought to be less frost tolerant. Also, keep in mind if you were late harvesting you must assess the plants regrowth and you should see new leaves being put out by the plant before spraying.

Spraying in the fall is the most effective way to clean up the perrenniels/winter annuals in your field so if you can take advantage of that you’ll be happy you did come the next season.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Canola Variety Considerations


With companies starting to roll out their early booking canola information, I figured I’d put together a quick checklist for determining what variety will be best for your farm. The top varieties are also the first to sell out, so if you know what you want it is best to book them right away.

The first thing most guys look at is yield. Ultimately this is the deciding factor for a lot of growers. Don’t always listen to the seed companies themselves as sometimes I find their yield numbers to be a bit higher than you might see on your farm. Take a look at the third party canola council data, check with local retails and research programs and you should get some good answers. Lastly, talk to your neighbour, knowing what variety grows well in your area is key. Just because a variety yields like crazy in Manitoba, doesn’t mean it will yield the same in southern Saskatchewan.

Standability is something that has come to be noticed a lot this year. A variety that stands better is a lot easier to swath or straight cut and also is less prone to main stem sclerotinia infections than a variety that is laying over. I have always noticed Bayer’s Invigor 5440 to stand up well, even under high inputs (eg: fertilizer). Talk to some neighbours and see what they have noticed with varieties. Some other varieties I have noticed that consistently had good standability are VT 500, Canterra 1900 series, Brett Young 6060 and Invigor L130 and L120.

Shatter resistance is another thing to watch for when choosing a variety. This is especially true for those that want to try some straight cutting. This trait is one that a lot of breeders are building up in their lines as losses due to shattering show up not just in loss bushels, but weed control in the years to come.

Disease resistant is becoming talked about more and more every year. Almost all varieties these days come resistant to Fusarium Wilt and Blackleg. With that said, when it comes to blackleg ratings there is something to note. The first off is that even an ‘R’ rating can still have up to 30% infection of blackleg (this is why you will hear company reps saying it is a “strong R rating”, meaning their variety will only have up to 10% infection vs a weaker R rating having 27% infection). Moderately resistant or ‘MR’ can have anywehere from 30 to 49% infection. On top of this blackleg strains continue to develop and evolve in western Canada and can overcome some of the resistance genes that are put into our canola. These different strains belong to different pathogenicity groups or PG’s, this is important because you may have a variety that is resistant to a couple PG’s, but not another one which is potentially the strain of blackleg you will see develop in your canola. On a side note, Dekalb is coming out with an exciting variety called BL 74-44 which has multi group black leg resistance. Sclerotinia resistance is becoming talked about as well in a number of varieties, I have minimal experience with them, but be aware they come at a premium cost and are only resistant up to about 65% (meaning under a high risk year you can still have up to 35% infection). This means you may still have to spray a fungicide. The other concern I have been hearing is a yield drag, meaning to get the Sclerotinia tolerant gene into the variety they may be giving up some of the superior yield genetics you would find in a non resistant crop. With that said, I have read plenty of research without any indication of yield drag, so something to look into more. Club root resistance has been developed into varieties for a couple years now with the Peace River region being the main target. If you are concerned with clubroot at all, these varieties may be good candidates to look into. Remember, disease resistance genes are not a substitute for a good rotation.

Herbicide tolerance is something else to consider, you may want to mix up the herbicide groups on your farm so an Invigor variety that is tolerant to Liberty (glufosinate ammonium group 10) might be a good route for you. Some growers may have had a group 2 residual issue from having lentils or peas on the land the year before, but want to put canola on that piece. A Clearfield (group 2 tolerant) variety will grow through the group 2 residual with no issues. Then there are the group 9 glyphosate tolerant varieties which allow for a very effective herbicide product to be sprayed on a piece allowing you to do a good job of cleaning up a dirtier field.

Last thing to note are premiums. Some specialty oil varieties such as Nexera and the new Invigor 156H offer premiums based on a per bushel or per tonne basis. This can be very lucrative, but remember try not to give up to much yield potential if you do opt to go this route. An extra dollar a bushel is always nice, but if you can grow a variety that may yield 10% more, you may see a higher return from that variety on the yield vs. the variety with the yield and the premium, so keep that in mind.

One quick thing to watch for, especially if seeding begins to drag out is days to maturity. A variety like Invigor L120 is going to save you a number of days vs an variety like L150.

The amount of research going into canola these days is extremely exciting. Yield potential is going up and variety traits such as drought tolerance and increased herbicide tolerance are right around the corner meaning higher yields, less susceptibility to yield threats and more money in your pocket.

Here is a list of 3rd party data from 2011 to check out: