Winter canola adds diversity to the rotation, avoids Swede midge

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If you could move a chunk of acres to fall planting, diversify the crop mix, and get a jump on herbicide-resistant weeds, would you? All of that is an option with winter canola, but the crop isn’t without its challenges.

Currently, there’s only one registered winter canola variety for Ontario growers, says Eric Page, research scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, based at Harrow, Ont. Page is running winter canola variety trials, planting date trials, and looking at optimal residue and establishment of the crop.

Page says the key challenge for the brassica is surviving the winter — much like winter wheat. “You don’t want the crop going in to the winter like a big cabbage,” he says, adding that the growing point stays above ground all winter, so you do need some growth ahead of freeze up.

There’s a yield advantage to winter canola, yes, but part of the draw to growing the fall-seeded version is that it flowers very early in the year. At Harrow, the crop might be flowering by early May and harvested in late June to early July. The benefits would be that it largely avoids the dreaded Swede midge from stealing yield, and it opens up double cropping options for growers.

What’s more, Page says, a fall-seeded, broadleaf, competitive crop can help in the fight against herbicide resistant weeds, including Canada fleabane. The crop adds diversity — to growth patterns, to herbicide application timing —and diversity is the enemy of resistance.

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