Canola School: Managing salinity

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Canola gives growers a little bit more leeway compared to other crops when it comes to growing in saline soil conditions. However, proper management of these areas is still needed to make sure they don’t get worse as the years go on.

On this Canola School episode, we are joined by Ken Wall, grow team advisor for Federated Co-operatives Ltd. He takes us through different areas that require management of salinity issues including water management, and when to make the call to plant some areas with forage to prevent saline areas from growing.

First and foremost, thankfully, canola (along with barley) is a crop that does tolerate saline conditions better than others; however, moisture becomes even more important, especially around seeding time.

“The problem with growing canola in some of these saline areas is we seed it really shallow and it’s in the top inches where most of the salt accumulation occurs. So from that standpoint, canola sometimes has a tougher time germinating and getting going,” explains Wall. “However, if you can seed a canola crop in a slightly to moderately saline area, and you get a couple of showers right after seeding, it will flush those salts down a little bit and allow the canola to germinate. Once it’s germinated, it actually does quite well.”

Salinity issues are really water issues, he notes, and growers need to know where the water is coming from and – in lower areas of the field – where the water table can more easily come up.

“In 2016, we had a lot of these lower areas where the water table came up and as the water table comes up, now you’ve got saturated conditions between the water table and the surface of the soil. As the water evaporates, it keeps pulling water and salts up, water evaporates into the air and leaves the salts at the surface. So that’s really what causes salinity,” explains Wall.

In these areas, growers may find a big benefit of growing forage or alfalfa, which can help neutralize these saline prone areas.

Wall says in some cases, producers may need to have these alternative crops in for five or six years, broken up with a year or two of annual crops, but stresses the fact that unless the water accumulation is managed, it will be an ongoing issue.

Watch the full episode below and click here for all of our Canola School episodes on RealAgriculture.com

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