Here are the Canola Council of Canada’s Top 10 agronomy goals for 2016.
1. Target a healthy, uniform population of 7 to 10 plants per square foot. When growers achieve only four or fewer plants per square foot, canola cannot achieve its yield potential and opportunity is wasted. Take care at seeding to achieve this target. Acres per day is not the only (or even most important) measure of success. Watch a new Canola School video on canola stand establishment.
2. Fertilize for current yield potential, not historic. Yield potential of canola genetics is probably quite a bit higher than the average fertilizer rate would suggest. It may be time to test a higher fertilizer rate on some fields or parts of fields to provide a reassessment of yield potential on your farm. Test an increase of at least 10% and perhaps as much as 50% in a couple trials. Many areas are capable of supporting yields of 60 bu./ac. or more, with reports of 70 bu./ac. averages on some farms the past couple of years. This is not currently achievable economically in all zones, but it is fair to say that all zones are probably not reaching their economic yield potential. Note that key nutrients for canola are nitrogen, phosphorus and sulphur. Make sure these are not limiting before investing in other nutrients.
3. Control weeds early. The best return on weed management is from pre-seed and early in-crop applications. Early in-crop is at the one- to two-leaf stage of the crop where growers get the biggest yield benefit. Extra in-crop sprays on later-emerging weeds rarely provide an economic return, especially if the crop is off to a good start. Leaving these few later weeds also provides some biodiversity that favours beneficial insects.
4. Scout carefully, especially before and after seeding and before harvest. Smart scouting means better management decisions. Scouting also provides early warning for new diseases, insects and herbicide-resistant weed patches.
5. Use clubroot-resistant canola varieties, especially if clubroot is in your community and the disease has not yet taken firm hold in your fields. Using genetic resistance at these early stages of clubroot introduction will help keep clubroot levels low for longer.
6. Base sclerotinia spray decisions on the moisture situation before, during and after flowering. All canola is at risk, no matter the region or variety. If soil and canopy is moist (from rain or dew) through this period, infection is likely and a fungicide application is more likely to provide a return on investment.
7. Spray insects only when pest thresholds are exceeded. We have economic thresholds for all major insects in canola. These thresholds represent the breakeven point for a spray. Avoiding a spray unless absolutely necessary will encourage natural enemies (“beneficials”) that can keep many insects below economic levels.
8. Keep it Clean. Follow pesticide labels for timing and rates. Apply products based on their registered uses AND industry approved uses based on market access factors.
9. Check thoroughly for harvest losses. What conditions lead to higher losses? And how can you manage around the conditions to limit losses?
10. Assign a bin champion. Growers have full control of what happens in the bin, yet too many bins are still heating and spoiling, wiping out a quality harvested crop. Consider assigning someone on the farm the task of “bin champion” so we can end these unnecessary losses.