Questions for the Month

How did recent snow help the moisture situation?

The moisture outlook for the Canadian Prairies is better than it was a month ago, but the moisture deficit is still very high. Trevor Hadwen, agroclimate specialist with AAFC’s National Agroclimate Information Service in Regina, shared the following in an email to Canola Watch on March 11: 

“Drought conditions continue across much of the Prairie region. Consecutive drought years have resulted in depleted soil moisture, surface water and ground water. While Southern Alberta and much of Saskatchewan have received near normal winter precipitation, warmer than normal temperatures have reduced the snowpack, and increased moisture loss through evaporation and sublimation. In addition, warmer than normal temperatures and low precipitation in the early winter has resulted in large regions of the Prairies having exposed soils through the winter, resulting in additional moisture loss. The recent precipitation is quite literally a drop in the bucket compared to the moisture deficits accrued through the past few years. Cumulative deficits throughout much of the Prairies are over 300mm (12”) over the past three years. Significant late winter snow and early spring rainfall will be needed to help kickstart the growing season with some much needed moisture.” Read more at the Canadian Drought Monitor website.

What should I do today to plan for #plant24?

  • Re-assess fertilizer rates. Moisture has improved, even if it’s still not great. Does a new yield outlook change your fertilizer plan? How much fertilizer does canola need?
  • Run a spring soil test (on fields without a fall test). Soil sampling just prior to seeding provides the most accurate measure of nutrients available to the crop. An earlier spring could open the window for spring soil sampling before canola seeding.
  • Prep seeding tools for uniform seed placement and seed-fertilizer separation.
  • Plan to take advantage of the pre-seed spray window. Tank mixing is essential, especially with glyphosate-resistant kochia. Timing is also key. Kochia seedlings are already emerging in southern Alberta. Those seedlings will take up nutrients and moisture, and become harder to kill as they get bigger.
  • Consider how crop establishment reduces the flea beetle risk. Canola crops that establish quickly and have five to eight plants per square foot usually face minimal risk from flea beetle feeding.

Can we drought-proof canola?

A new Canola Watch Fundamentals article describes 10 tips to improve canola yield in dry conditions. Here are three of them:

  • Select fields with low herbicide carryover risk. Canola is extremely sensitive to Group 2 herbicide carryover, and carryover of these residual herbicides could be high in fields that experienced a dry summer in 2023. 
  • Use very low rates of seed-placed fertilizer. When seeding into dry soils, it may be best to keep all fertilizer out of the seed row.
  • Seed at around 1” depth. Going much deeper than 1.5” to chase moisture can result in lower vigour, delayed emergence, uneven stands and more flea beetle susceptibility. And with deep seeding, rains, when they do come, can fill in the furrows and make seed depth even deeper.

Is stored canola safe until summer?

A PAMI study shows that canola stored from winter to spring to summer is best left alone. The key conclusion: “If canola in the bin is dry and cold coming out of winter, then just leave it be. But monitor the temperature, watching for any rapid increases. Have a plan to move the seed if an issue arises.” How to check bins and bags for spoilage.