Soggy canola fields still salvageable

BRANDON — Is a waterlogged canola field worth keeping and harvesting, or should farmers just plow it down?

Results from a quick study the Canola Council of Canada conducted on saturated Manitoba fields this year suggests farmers should keep it.

“I definitely would not write it off right away,” said canola council agronomist Kristen Phillips.

“Canola is one of the most resilient crops that we have, and it definitely fights back and branches out.”

The study found that a typical saturated field, with some parts waterlogged and higher parts just soaked, had yield reductions of 60 to 70 percent.

That sounds bad, but 30 to 40 percent of a typical Manitoba crop isn’t something to throw away.

Average yields appear to have been 55 bushels per acre in many parts of Manitoba.

“A 60 percent reduction is still a 20, 25 bushel crop,” Phillips said. “That’s still a good canola crop.”

Thousands of Manitoba quarter sections looked like disasters this summer, with seeded fields covered with water and unworkable by heavy machinery.

Emergence after flooding was variable and plants-per-sq.-metre counts were low.

Root systems were undeveloped and plant size was typically small.

However, the crops stabilized later in the season and grew to their reduced potential.

This allowed farmers, who had already invested in seed, inputs and seeding, to get much better than a writeoff.

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