Canola School: What to do with those variable-stage fields

(Kara Oosterhuis/RealAgriculture)

For many parts of the Prairies, it’s been a challenging growing season — especially when it comes to canola.

A late spring, high-speed winds, hail damage, and too late and then late moisture have made for canola fields that have numerous stages in the same field.

Whether producers are swathing or straight-cutting their canola, they seem to all have the same question — when on earth do I get into this variable-stage field?

Shawn Senko, agronomy specialist with the Canola Council of Canada, tells RealAgriculture’s Kara Oosterhuis in this Canola School video that this year especially, it’s important to be checking more than one spot in every one of your fields.

“On a year like this, we talk about majority of the field – that typically is 90 per cent of the field. In this case, it might only be 60 per cent of the field, and we’ve got the 30 to 40 per cent that is nowhere near that. On a year like this, you might want to wait for those later parts of the field to fill in, because cutting canola in that 30 to 40 per cent can be 10 per cent or more yield loss, versus the 60 to 70 per cent. So it really comes down to how much of that field is variable and later, versus how much is ready to go.”

He adds that if you can, you want to base your timing on the latest part of your crop, especially if you are growing a shatter-resistant variety, to prevent shatter loss on the more mature parts of the crop.
Watch the Canola School below, filmed in Swift Current, SK, Story continues below:

“It really depends on the variety you’ve got, and just watching that field. If you’re starting to see that variety dry down. If you walk in there, and you give it a bat with your hand, and you are starting to see some shelling, you probably don’t want to wait for the rest of the field as your losses in the more ripe area could add up to more than the actual losses in the not-mature area. There’s really no good answers to it, but it’s going to vary from field to field. Just getting out there and looking is the main thing,” explains Senko.

Growers may be tempted to “even out” the variability in moisture by going through the field with a desiccant or late season herbicide application, but as Senko notes, this can pose a risk to market access if the proper guidelines aren’t followed and doesn’t offer much benefit.

“For something like glyphosate, you have to be below that 30 per cent seed moisture. Which doesn’t make a lot of correlation to producers walking into a field looking for 30 per cent seed moisture, because you can’t measure that. But it tends to be in about that 50 to 60 per cent seed colour change. We tend to say swathing at 60 to 70 per cent, so the timing you should be applying glyphosate is really close to the time you’d be swathing the crop.”

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