Farmers keep canola secrets under wraps

Agri-Trend’s Canola 100 challenge is supposed to be competitive — at least to a point. But it also aims to bring together growers who use cutting-edge growing techniques so they can share knowledge, which benefits the entire industry.

“The spirit of the contest is one where the competitors will learn from each other,” said Rob Saik of Agri-Trend.

But while competition is good, some of the competitors are, well, very competitive.

“I spent a lot of money, thousands of dollars experimenting around and I’m not really prepared to give out free information to other guys to come in. Why do I spend this money and there is no benefit to me?” said Joel Miller, who farms 4,000 acres near Avonlea, Sask.

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Miller, who had his crop yield verified in the Canola 100 contest, said sharing knowledge works in theory, but he is concerned that if everyone starts growing 100 bushel an acre canola, the price will drop and growers will make less money.

“If I can figure it out and there is more land that comes up for rent or to buy, then I might be able to pay more based on being able to grow more bushels. So I’m not just willing to give free information to help other guys to benefit them,” Miller said.

Janel Delage of Delage Farms near Indian Head, Sask., competed in the Canola 100 challenge and is also unwilling to share her agronomic advice.

“How do I say this nicely? The things that we do on our farm, we would kind of like to keep to ourselves. So we’re not going to share,” Delage said.

Saik said when growers enter the contest, the deal is that they will share their information.

“Some of the information has not yet been filled in, but you can’t win the contest; you can’t participate if you don’t fill the data in. So we’ve got some work to do to backfill this,” he said.

Saik said the competitive nature of the farmers, which he actually admires, is driving the secrecy.

However, he said it’s in everyone’s interest to share and learn from one another.

“I’d love to be able to share the results of the competition with the competitors themselves so they can see their fellow competitors. Sharing with the wider public should be done on more of an aggregated basis,” Saik said.

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