Before growers take steps to encourage earlier maturity (some of which may hamper yield potential), they should first calculate whether these measures are necessary. Canola seeded any time in May has a good chance of reaching maturity. If you’re unsure, take the average date of the first fall frost in your area. Click your province for a map showing average dates for first fall frost: Alberta Saskatchewan Manitoba. Most fall frosts occur within two weeks either side of the average date for your area.
Next, look at days to maturity for the variety, adjusting for regional differences, and work back from the frost date. For example, if the mean date for first fall frost in northeast Saskatchewan is the week of August 31 to September 6, then a variety with 100 days to maturity should be seeded by May 20 to be at lower risk of fall frost damage.
If growers decide that measures to hasten maturity are warranted, here are steps to consider:
Switch to an earlier-maturing variety. Switching from a long-season to an early-season napus variety can gain a week. Switching to a rapa variety can gain two weeks, but rapa has lower yield potential to start with and doesn’t offer the weed control options. Also note that seed exchange opportunities may be limited give the high demand for canola seed.
Seed shallow. Canola seeded half an inch deep can emergence 3 or 4 days earlier than canola seeded deeper. It may be necessary to slow down to achieve this consistency. Because of changing soil conditions and the potential for mechanical issues with drills, check the seeding depth periodically, particularly when moving field to field.
Increase the seeding rate. A higher rate leads to a denser stand, less branching and hence earlier maturity. This can gain a day or 2.
Put phosphate with the seed. Pop-up phosphate fertilizer applied with the seed can gain a day or 2, if levels of readily available P in the soil are inadequate.
Reduce nitrogen rates, keeping in mind a realistic yield potential. Avoiding excessive nitrogen availability can reduce the duration of early vegetative growth leading to earlier maturity by a day or 2.If weather turns around and June is hot and dry, canola can make up for lost days earlier in the season. Growers may consider a post-emergence fertilizer application — as long as they’re comfortable there is still time in the season for the crop to mature.
Thanks to Murray Hartman, oilseed specialist with Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development, for help with this article.