Farmers told to keep it simple

There are more products available to farmers than there is good information, say the results of a two-year Canola Council of Canada study.

Trials that tested several potentially yield boosting products and practices have found that tried and true best management practices win out more often than they lose.

“It really comes down to buyer beware and encouraging growers to again look at good quality data when they’re making their purchasing decisions,” Clint Jurke of the council told a recent canola industry meeting in Saskatoon.

“I know that they’re often looking for ways of adding additional yield and adding additional profitability to their farming system, but unless they have good quality information like this, sometimes that does become a difficult decision to make.”

The canola council collected data from trial sites in Saskatchewan and Alberta in 2013 and 2014. Co-operators tested a higher nitrogen application, a higher seeding rate of 150 seeds per sq. metre and boron applications at the four to six leaf stage and at flowering.

They also tested two seed primers, a “biostimulant” and a micronutrient.

The results that Jurke presented won’t surprise growers: increasing the seeding rate results in greater emergence, and a reduction in nitrogen shows itself in lower yields.

Of the other treatments, nothing outperformed the best management practices that the canola council already recommends.

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Laryssa Grenkow, research manager for the Western Applied Research Corp., said she saw the same results at plots near Scott, Sask., although she noted it was “a relatively good growing season.”

Trials in poorer conditions might have different results, she added.

“Any of the additional products that we added really didn’t seem to affect any of the parameters that we measured, but there are some things that are tried and true,” she said.

“Even your recommended seeding rate and in some circumstances maybe using a little higher rates of nitrogen, those are the types of things (where) I think that farmers are going to get the biggest bang for their buck. It’s when you start cutting corners and not using those recommended practices that you’re going to start losing yield.”

Jurke said the trials underscore the value of nitrogen and soil testing.

Grenkow agreed. The Scott site, which yielded more than 50 bushels per acre in its plots, had low residual nitrogen on the trial site.

“The best management practices that were being followed for fertility in these trials was to do a soil test and to base your nitrogen fertility on the basis of that test,” said Jurke.

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“What those tests were recommending was actually showing that it was a good way to try maximizing your yield.… We do want to continue encouraging growers to use soil tests as an effective way to target what their upper yield potential could be.”

Loosened restrictions on fertilizer registrations have resulted in many new products on the marketplace.

“If you’re going to put the money out there, you have the right to know exactly what you’re paying for. I’d ask how it works, when it works, when it doesn’t work.… Even something like nitrogen fertilizer, you won’t get a response under certain circumstances,” she said.

“It’s important to ask all kinds of questions and ask them when and where you’ll see a response. It’s very unlikely you’ll see a response every year.”

Grenkow said farmers need to be diligent and do their homework.

“If it is a new product and you’re pretty skeptical about it, the best thing to do is try it in a small area of the farm and always leave check strips and assess it and give it a few years and test it out on different fields,” she said.

“That’ll probably give you a good idea of how it works for your particular farm, anyway.”

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Contact dan.yates@producer.com