The Agronomists, Ep 105: Canola establishment success with Robert MacDonald and Jack Payne

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Canola seeds are tiny but mighty. They can also be fraught with mighty problems — from high seed mortality, to early insect pressure, heat blast, disease struggles, and more. And yet, somehow this yellow crop overcomes all of that and delivers on yield. How can we set the crop up for success, despite the pressures?

For this episode of The Agronomists, host Lyndsey Smith is joined by Jack Payne, agronomy manager with South Country Co-op, and Robert MacDonald, manager of agronomic excellence for BASF, to talk about what common pitfalls can hamper canola establishment.

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Summary:

  • Canola is a cornerstone crop for the Canadian prairies
  • Seeding depth is key: there is a lack of uniformity for seeding depth – on the surface to 2″ down sometimes in the same field
  • Seed to soil contact matters. What is the probability of seed hitting residue or trash vs. hitting dirt. It’s a numbers game
  • Even with many factors all over the map you still can get a good crop
  • Payne says that even when your crop is looking bad and growers start talking about reseeding canola the crop can bounce back
  • Weed pressure!
  • Kochia is a tough nut to crack with rising resistance , there has been success with pre-seeding burn-off. Talking establishment its best to get the crop going with the best foot forward
  • We don’t want to overuse tools in the toolbox and contribute to resistance
  • He who is out of the ground first wins: early establishment is key in nutrient competition
  • Improvements in seeding tech only improve accuracy of getting seed in the ground the other factors make or break emergence
  • MacDonald says that 30 years ago that not seeing seeds at the surface meant a poor crop, now with varieties being pushed to deeper seeding depths there is more of a push for consistent seeding depth
  • Payne says that there is a wide range of recommendations for canola seeding depth, new hybrids allow growers to plant seed to moisture and have consistent emerge
  • If you are targeting a half inch depth but you have variance in your drill- as we all do!- some seeds will be on the surface. If you push deeper you can leave a buffer to protect the seed
  • Speed vs. Depth: depth has been shown to bet the more important factor. When speed increases depth decreases.
  • Clip 1: Neil Harker, 6 years ago! Optimum plant density
  • Seeding rate, 5-8 plants/square foot to get a maximum yield potential. Having a few extra plants per square foot you have a buffer if you aim to the lower end of this scale you’ll need to manage the crop more tightly with scouting, weed and pest management, etc.
  • To dial in your seeding rate you need to account for you seed size, seeds will not be evenly spaced and end up competing with each other and are more prone to lodging
  • mortality rates: it is important for farmers to recognize the mortality rate on their farm to be able to make informed seeding rate decisions
  • Residue management: controls the seed to soil contact ratio
  • How important is fall weed control? post harvest weed control can be hit or miss, wet falls can bring on lots of fall weeds
  • does seed size matter?
  • How to build consistency if canola? growers can control seeding so you have to enable the crop to have the best chance of success off the bat.
  • Fall residue management, solid rotation, and seeding — trifecta of success
  • What pest is on the radar for threatening 2023 canola: flea beetles, full stop

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