Volunteer canola as a crop? High risk, low potential!

With fields too wet to seed, growers in Manitoba and parts of Saskatchewan may be tempted to leave volunteer canola and harvest it as a crop.

There are many reasons to avoid this:

  1. It may violate your contract with the seed company. Is one poor-yielding volunteer canola crop worth risking this business relationship? Talk to the seed rep before investing time and money on this crop.
  2. Yield potential is likely to be very poor, probably around 25% of your typical crop based on Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives experience from 1999 and 2005.
  3. The stand is not uniform. Volunteer canola is often way too thick in some places (windrows) and too thin in others. This will means highly variable plant sizes and maturity, creating a challenge for disease control and harvest timing.
  4. No seed treatment. Flea beetle losses could be huge. Will it pay to spray insecticide on a crop with low yield potential?
  5. No fertilizer. Canola has high nutrient requirements. Without a fertilizer top up, yield potential is very low. Is this crop worth a fertilizer investment?
  6. No crop insurance. In Manitoba, MASC will not insure a volunteer crop but growers are still eligible for excess moisture insurance. SCIC in Saskatchewan will not insure volunteer canola. If you can control the volunteers and seed a proper crop before the crop insurance deadline, this is the better option. Check with your local insurance agent for details.
  7. F2 traits uncertain. Second generation canola (F2) from hybrid seed will not have hybrid vigor and not all plants will have inherited the herbicide tolerance trait. The first spray will wipe out these susceptible plants.
  8. High blackleg risk. On fields that had blackleg last year, the disease may have already infected seedlings. Early season fungicide may be required to keep the disease from wiping out the volunteer crop and preventing a huge spike in blackleg inoculum for future canola crops.
  9. Rotation risk. Given the lower yield potential for canola on canola, leaving the volunteer crop may contribute to an increase in many pests and diseases. This has the potential to compromise the economic viability of canola on those fields in future years when conditions and yield potential may be much better.