Monday, 3 September 2012

Canola Variety Considerations

With companies starting to roll out their early booking canola information, I figured I’d put together a quick checklist for determining what variety will be best for your farm. The top varieties are also the first to sell out, so if you know what you want it is best to book them right away.

The first thing most guys look at is yield. Ultimately this is the deciding factor for a lot of growers. Don’t always listen to the seed companies themselves as sometimes I find their yield numbers to be a bit higher than you might see on your farm. Take a look at the third party canola council data, check with local retails and research programs and you should get some good answers. Lastly, talk to your neighbour, knowing what variety grows well in your area is key. Just because a variety yields like crazy in Manitoba, doesn’t mean it will yield the same in southern Saskatchewan.

Standability is something that has come to be noticed a lot this year. A variety that stands better is a lot easier to swath or straight cut and also is less prone to main stem sclerotinia infections than a variety that is laying over. I have always noticed Bayer’s Invigor 5440 to stand up well, even under high inputs (eg: fertilizer). Talk to some neighbours and see what they have noticed with varieties. Some other varieties I have noticed that consistently had good standability are VT 500, Canterra 1900 series, Brett Young 6060 and Invigor L130 and L120.

Shatter resistance is another thing to watch for when choosing a variety. This is especially true for those that want to try some straight cutting. This trait is one that a lot of breeders are building up in their lines as losses due to shattering show up not just in loss bushels, but weed control in the years to come.

Disease resistant is becoming talked about more and more every year. Almost all varieties these days come resistant to Fusarium Wilt and Blackleg. With that said, when it comes to blackleg ratings there is something to note. The first off is that even an ‘R’ rating can still have up to 30% infection of blackleg (this is why you will hear company reps saying it is a “strong R rating”, meaning their variety will only have up to 10% infection vs a weaker R rating having 27% infection). Moderately resistant or ‘MR’ can have anywehere from 30 to 49% infection. On top of this blackleg strains continue to develop and evolve in western Canada and can overcome some of the resistance genes that are put into our canola. These different strains belong to different pathogenicity groups or PG’s, this is important because you may have a variety that is resistant to a couple PG’s, but not another one which is potentially the strain of blackleg you will see develop in your canola. On a side note, Dekalb is coming out with an exciting variety called BL 74-44 which has multi group black leg resistance. Sclerotinia resistance is becoming talked about as well in a number of varieties, I have minimal experience with them, but be aware they come at a premium cost and are only resistant up to about 65% (meaning under a high risk year you can still have up to 35% infection). This means you may still have to spray a fungicide. The other concern I have been hearing is a yield drag, meaning to get the Sclerotinia tolerant gene into the variety they may be giving up some of the superior yield genetics you would find in a non resistant crop. With that said, I have read plenty of research without any indication of yield drag, so something to look into more. Club root resistance has been developed into varieties for a couple years now with the Peace River region being the main target. If you are concerned with clubroot at all, these varieties may be good candidates to look into. Remember, disease resistance genes are not a substitute for a good rotation.

Herbicide tolerance is something else to consider, you may want to mix up the herbicide groups on your farm so an Invigor variety that is tolerant to Liberty (glufosinate ammonium group 10) might be a good route for you. Some growers may have had a group 2 residual issue from having lentils or peas on the land the year before, but want to put canola on that piece. A Clearfield (group 2 tolerant) variety will grow through the group 2 residual with no issues. Then there are the group 9 glyphosate tolerant varieties which allow for a very effective herbicide product to be sprayed on a piece allowing you to do a good job of cleaning up a dirtier field.

Last thing to note are premiums. Some specialty oil varieties such as Nexera and the new Invigor 156H offer premiums based on a per bushel or per tonne basis. This can be very lucrative, but remember try not to give up to much yield potential if you do opt to go this route. An extra dollar a bushel is always nice, but if you can grow a variety that may yield 10% more, you may see a higher return from that variety on the yield vs. the variety with the yield and the premium, so keep that in mind.

One quick thing to watch for, especially if seeding begins to drag out is days to maturity. A variety like Invigor L120 is going to save you a number of days vs an variety like L150.

The amount of research going into canola these days is extremely exciting. Yield potential is going up and variety traits such as drought tolerance and increased herbicide tolerance are right around the corner meaning higher yields, less susceptibility to yield threats and more money in your pocket.

Here is a list of 3rd party data from 2011 to check out:

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