Man. plot trials reinforce role of treated canola

Agronomist says most farmers don’t scout their fields well enough to control flea beetles with spraying

It’s almost impossible to find a bag of untreated canola seed.

There’s a reason for that.

“You’d have to be braver than me,” said Canola Council of Canada agronomist Keith Gabert at Canolapalooza.

“I hope you have a skid of whatever your favourite insecticide is.”

Gabert was talking about tiny demonstration plots that showed what can happen when untreated seed produces plants that face a flea beetle onslaught at the wrong time.

The plots were not an accurate depiction of what happens in a real farmer’s field but exaggerated the differences between treated and untreated to make the point clear.

The early-seeded strips showed little difference because flea beetles were not active in large numbers until the plants were well-developed.

The late strips were starkly different, with the one using treated seed looking fine, but the untreated strip had almost no canola plants left.

“This is a phenomenal management tactic for managing an early season pest,” said Gabert.

It is theoretically possible to control early flea beetles by spraying, but that requires very early spotting of the problem and speedy application, which isn’t generally possible for most growers.

“Most producers don’t go out and check their fields aggressively enough to try to manage flea beetles with a foliar insecticide,” said Gabert.

Most seed treatments contain multiple products, with both insecticides and fungicides rolled into the package. Trying to run with just fungicides didn’t work out too well, said Gabert, recalling the days of Foundation Lite.

“They didn’t do it very long, did they?” he asked rhetorically.

However, Gabert warned against farmers assuming that seed treatments allow them to slack off with crop monitoring and management. They just give the crop a head start.

“The seed treatment is a really important part of the package but … it doesn’t fix bad agronomy.”

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