Harvest is a great time to choose next year’s canola variety, and not just because the seed booking season seems to start earlier and earlier each year. The yield monitor is one way to evaluate how varieties perform on your farm, and being wowed or disappointed might be the first step in selecting next year’s big winner. Here’s a handy list of points to ponder while watching the yield monitor:
Yield: Yield is the ultimate deciding factor for most growers. Take a look at the provincial-grower-group-funded canola performance trials; local research programs/clubs typically have good information as well. Talk to your neighbour (they always seem to top your yields anyway) and local agronomists. The key is to find which varieties that perform well in your area on many fields. Just because a variety yields well in Manitoba, doesn’t mean it will yield the same in central Alberta.
Disease resistance: Yield is determined by genetic potential, yes, but if 2012 was a lesson in anything, it was that disease and pest pressure can stump even the best performing hybrid. Choosing a variety with a robust disease resistance package is a key to max yield, and while resistance to blackleg and fusarium wilt are important, some farmers may want to add clubroot- or sclerotinia-resistant varieties to their wish list. That said, just because varieties have resistance built in doesn’t mean you will not see any level of infection with those diseases. For example, a rating of “R” to blackleg means that the variety may have up to 30% infection (compared against Westar). Moderately resistant or ‘MR’ can have anywhere from 30% to 49% infection. This is why you will hear company reps saying it is a “strong R rating”, meaning that company’s variety may only have up to 10% infection vs. a weaker R rating having, say, a 25% 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. Remember, disease resistance is not a substitute for a good rotation or fungicide use.
Standability: A variety that stands better is a lot easier to swath or straight cut and also can be less prone to main stem sclerotinia infections than a variety that is prone to lodging. When time is tight, harvestability can make a significant difference in minimizing harvest losses before the combine ever sees the field.
Specialty Oil Varieties: Some varieties come with a premium attached to them — those with a unique oil composition — and some farmers may do well to consider looking at a specialty oil contract for added return on investment. These varieties can work really well if you end up with a specialty variety that fits your farm that yields just as well as a non-specialty canola variety.
There are other things that may be important to you as well such as height, shatter resistance or herbicide tolerant system, these are just a few things to start with. This fall, while you’re on the combine, make a list of important things to you, compare how this year’s varieties performed and try and find the variety that fits your farm.