Canola group wants to improve input data

Program to include crop protection data from large-scale prairie farmers to expand scope of evaluations

REGINA — Farmers are now able to add results from their on-farm trials to the Canola Council of Canada’s research program.

The council’s Ultimate Canola Challenge has evaluated crop protection products in small research plots since 2013, but this year it has also incorporated data from larger-scale on-farm trials.

“We wanted to develop a protocol that can be used by growers in Western Canada to test these products and see for themselves if there is a benefit and under what conditions they would see a benefit, whether it’s yield or quality,” canola council researcher Nicole Philp told a grain forum at Canadian Western Agribition in Regina.

Alberta Agriculture helped the council develop the protocol.

“If we can have a co-ordinated effort to have multiple sites across Western Canada, then that becomes a very powerful data set,” Philp said.

“That can really give us a good picture of product performance across various geographies and various weather events throughout Western Canada.”

The protocol was developed to test the efficacy of boron treatments in canola, but it can also be used of other products, including fungicides.

The protocol describes best management practices that producers must follow, including how to manage residue and residual herbicides, and practices for establishing an acceptable number of plants per sq. metre.

They should also look for uniform fields when selecting where to perform trials.

“If you have fields that are highly variable, whether it’s low spots or hills, those types of variability can affect the outcome of your treatments,” she said.

Avoid headlands and field edges because extra compaction and fertilizer application often occurs in those areas.

Use the same seed variety and seeding rate, depth and speed for the entire trial when testing additives.

“It’s really important to treat your field the exact same way except for your treatment,” she said.

Inputs need to be applied uniformly outside of test areas.

Soil testing is part of the best management practices and may help canola council scientists in their analysis.

Markers are helpful when examining the trial plots, even though GPS will often be used as well.

Check strips are a key component of the crop testing procedures and should not be on field edges or areas that are not typical of the field.

Replication is an important aspect of any scientific analysis, and the Ultimate Canola Challenge requires participants to have multiple test plots.

This year’s participants were asked to replicate both the test and treatment strips at least twice. Next year they will be asked to have at least three test and treatment strips.

“The reason behind that is for stats,” Philp said.

“It helps us determine where there is a yield difference or a product performance difference and helps us understand a little bit more about how the treatment will perform across different geographies and conditions.”

Participants can also randomize the test plots if they want.

“You can flip a coin and determine what strip is going to be a check strip and which is going to be a treatment,” she said.

“By replicating, and by randomizing, you’re just helping to avoid bias from management practices.”

The sprayer used in the trial needs to be wider than the swather and combine.

In-crop spraying in a variety trial or one that tests granular products during seeding should be done perpendicular to the direction of seeding. This helps ensure wheel tracks are consistent across all strips in the trial.

The check and test strips should be harvested on the same day, and all treatments should be harvested at the same speed.

Producers need to use a calibrated weigh wagon or grain cart to measure yield.

“Make sure the combine header or swather lines up with each treatment to have full or complete harvest passes,” Philp said.

“Leave a buffer on each side. Take the combine or swather up the middle of the treatment, then come back later to swath or straight cut the buffers.”

A data collection sheet is available on the canola council’s website producers for keeping track of treatments and rates.

It also provides extra information such as soil types, previous crops and seeder style.

Weather records such as rain, hail, frost, excessive heat and humidity may also be important data points that help the canola council understand the efficacy of the product being tested.

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