Winter Canola Tour Attracts 50+ Growers June 10, 2019

Direct Seeding Winter Canola, Planting, and Herbicides.
A tour of winter canola fields near , WA in late May was a great success with 54 attendees learning different information at each of the five stops. The day started at one of the Walker Farm canola fields, with Paul Walker sharing information about field operations leading up to and after planting canola late last summer. The Walkers have a stripper header they use to harvest cereal crops, and this was their first try at direct seeding winter canola into the winter wheat stripper header residue.

Residue management was a theme throughout the tour, particularly the importance of planning ahead, clearing residue from the seed row for better seed placement, and avoiding the crown of canola developing above the residue, which makes if more susceptible to freezing events. Planning was also emphasized during a brief presentation about herbicide plantback considerations by Mike Nestor of Ag Enterprise.

Canola is very sensitive to Group 2 herbicides, but now there are several varieties available that are Group 2 residual tolerant. Recordkeeping is essential for knowing the herbicide history on all farm fields, so you can make the correct variety selection.

Discussion turned to pollinators with a local apiarist and WSU PhD student explaining the value of canola as an excellent ‘forage’ crop for not only honeybees but multiple native pollinators and beneficial insects. The WSU student described the details of her field project and demonstrated how the traps that she uses for sampling pollinators work.  Stay tuned for an upcoming WSU Extension Fact Sheet based on her dissertation! 

Bill and Heather from Viterra gave a brief rundown of dockage and other quality factors to consider during harvest. They encouraged growers to contact them or Daniel Stenbakken with any questions.

Crop Rotation, Marketing Tools, and Personal Growing Experiences. 
The next stop on the tour was north of Highway 2 at one of Brett Nielsen’s canola fields. Brett has grown canola for three years and shared with the group that canola will always be a part of the crop rotation on his farm in future years. Brett’s reasoning? Canola is a broadleaf crop that provides the opportunity for him to control grassy weeds that have become a major problem in wheat. Having a local market in Warden, WA to haul the canola is another reason he plans to keep it in his rotation.

Daniel Stenbakken, the agronomist and local buyer from the Viterra facility in Warden described the marketing tools available to canola growers, including target price agreements. He also stressed the importance of calling ahead as much as possible to schedule delivery so wait times are minimized.

Tim Paulitz, a plant pathologist with USDA-ARS based in Pullman, shared the latest information and research results from black leg surveys and a rhizosphere study. The study looks at soil microbial populations in both wheat and canola to gain insight on the increased wheat yield that is often cited following a canola crop.

Jim Douglas is also fairly new to growing canola. He is growing HyClass 225 and Mercedes to try different herbicide options and to compare performance between an open pollinated variety and a hybrid. The HyClass 225 is Roundup Ready® and allows broad spectrum weed control while the Mercedes is a conventional hybrid that allows control of grassy weeds. It was interesting to see the different plant structure compared to other fields of the open pollinated ‘Claremore’ variety we saw on the tour. We’ll look forward to hearing about yield results from all of these fields! 

Beau Blachly from Winfield Solutions discussed glyphosate rates and timing. He also mentioned TruFlex™ spring canola, which will be on the market soon. It has a wider application window (up to flowering) and higher rates than other varieties. Beau also farms near Pomeroy, WA and answered questions based on his personal experience (and experiments!) with controlling volunteer and regrowth canola. Several growers expressed interest in the use of growth regulators that would enable earlier seeding dates when seedzone moisture is adequate.

Brian Caldbeck of Rubisco Seeds talked about what is and isn’t available for growth regulators currently, and encouraged the Pacific Northwest Canola Association to assist in getting approvals for more products in the U.S.  Another topic Brian explained is plant population, and he stressed the importance of calculating plant population rather than seeding rate to optimize stand establishment and production performance. Seed size is a critical component for determining plant population. You can find this information printed on the tag of every bag of commercial canola seed.

Residue Management, Grazing Study Results, and Upcoming PNWCA Activities. 
The last stops were south of Highway 2 at two of Josh Sherwood’s canola fields. Josh shared his experiences with residue management and different drills and reiterated the importance of good seed-to-soil contact in a direct seed system because the canola seed is so small. He also pointed out the difference drill settings can make in influencing canola stand establishment and encouraged growers to talk to other growers about drill modifications and what has worked best for them.

Isaac Madsen from the WSU-WOCS project spoke about dual-purpose winter canola and shared results from a grazing study. Preliminary results show promise for the system, and the research team is continuing the study again this year at two locations and with two more canola varieties.

Karen Sowers provided updates from the PNW Canola Association and encouraged both growers and industry to become members to support the organization. Based on feedback from canola growers, the PNWCA will be working with USDA-RMA to improve insurance policies for canola, looking into assisting with growth regulator registration in the U.S., and continuing to support the canola industry on the legislative front.

There were lots of positive comments after the tour, particularly about the wide range of topics and speakers.  Growers from as far away as Walla Walla, Cloverland, Ralston, and other areas were able to compare and share experiences with growers from Almira and having canola industry and university representatives was were also invaluable to attendees.

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