Plant counts, flea beetles, and growing out of hail damage: A LIVE! canola Q&A with Autumn Barnes


It’s our first RealAg Q&A LIVE! in studio at RealAgriculture headquarters in Lethbridge, Alberta!

Today’s guest is none other than Canola School superstar and agronomist with the Canola Council of Canada, Autumn Barnes. She sits down with host Shaun Haney to talk about all things canola — from plant stand counts, to throwing wrenches, to the planter vs. seeder debate, and much more.

  • Plant stand counts — focus on individual plant establishment and number.
  • When should you be evaluating the canola stand count? Goodness, as often as you can beginning 10-14 days post seeding. Start using the hula hoop once you’ve got plenty of cotyledons to count
  • Then head back in at the 2 to 4 leaf stage or after the first pass of herbicide and get a handle on stand counts
  • Be random! Throw a wrench or throw a hula hoop, because we are drawn to the best and worst spots and it’s easy to set up a bias
  • Where to get hula hoops? You can make them! A basic cable formed into a 56 cm across (diameter) circle, or buy a plastic one and zip it down to size. Check out Canola Watch for the specifics on what size to make them.
  • Is it too late to re-seed? We’re well into June, so it depends where you are, but this is late. And hail damage may only have knocked off leaves,  not the growing point. So be a little patient. What’s your crop insurance deadline? Canola is quite weedy, if you think about it. It’s elastic! And will compensate and branch.
  • Hail and frost can be patchy, and maybe you need to manage one patch/part of the field separately. Do you have problem weeds in that area? Control them or over-seed that patch.
  • Flea beetle pressure: there is an action threshold — 25 per cent damage on cotyledons (not true leaves). 50 per cent is economic damage, so mobilize when at 25 per cent. Don’t only scout the approach or next to the shelterbelts!
  • 25 per cent is worse than you think. Don’t only be drawn to the bad spots. And we’re well into June, the adult flea beetles are starting to die off. If you have some true leaves coming, there’s a good chance pressure is starting to ease. Be careful, you don’t want to take out beneficials
  • Early plant damage doesn’t totally equate to blackleg infection, though it may be related. There are other factors to consider, perhaps first do an overall blackleg risk assessment, and remember the window for control may already be past
  • Plant counts over 100%? Maybe you’ve got some volunteer issues, eh? After herbicide application will help determine actual plant numbers, for sure, but there are other signs, like plant size and between the rows
  • If new growth is flea beetle free, you might be in the clear
  • Sclerotinia: dry weather is good, but the pathogen and host are omnipresent. Sclerotinia likes a wet canopy. Irrigated growers nearly always have to pencil in a fungicide, but for dryland maybe go with the wet pants test. Thick canopy in the middle of the day still makes your pants wet? Well, pencil in a fungicide, potentially.
  • What about wind drying out the canopy? All depends on how much rain and soil conditions.
  • Cutworms: very regional. If you’re missing patches, get to the root of why. Cutworm or wind? Dig around. Often more so in fields with late green plants last fall. Side hills, too
  • Crusting! Check out this Canola School on the topic.
  • Wet feet — can increase the root rot pressure, for sure, but there’s not a lot you can do for it
  • What’s weighing on farmers’ minds? Frost, wind, good conditions…maybe just take a breath and let the crop grow.
  • If you need something to do, go walk your fields and try and figure out if you drove too fast, went in too soon, less than ideal conditions, etc.
  • Think about plants per square foot established, not just seeding/planting rate
  • Clubroot: use resistant varieties, pull plants every time you’re out there. Especially at swath timing, and don’t be afraid to admit you have it, send soil tests, and more

You can watch RealAg LIVE every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 3pm eastern or 1pm mountain time.  If you have any feedback or comments please email Shaun Haney at [email protected] or call the RealAg listener line at 855.776.6147

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