Other Crops
I call them my second herd,” says Brian Slenders, an alfalfa and canola seed and livestock producer near Scandia, Alta., and president of the Alfalfa Seed Commission of Alberta.
Diversified crop rotations are an important component of western Canadian cropping systems. Although crops like wheat and canola are the largest acreage crops, adding special crops into the rotation helps manage weed, disease and insect pest problems and potential resistance issues, improves soil health and maximizes profitability. However, determining which crop fits best in the cropping sequence remains a big question.
Tree-based intercropping – growing trees together with crops – is a historical agricultural practice. These days primarily smallholder farmers use it in tropical systems, but researchers are focused on potential applications in the temperate soils of southern Ontario and Quebec.
A recently discovered mycorrhizal fungus, Pirifomospora indica, holds promise for improving canola production. Ajit Verma, a professor in Jawaharlal Nehru University’s School of Life Sciences in New Delhi, discovered the fungus on orchid plants in the Thar Desert in Rajasthan, India. Since the discovery of P. indica, scientists around the world have been working to understand the benefits of the fungus.  
Hulless barley, pioneered at Virginia Tech, adds a new dimension to this grain. With a higher starch content and better proteins compared to hulled barley, it’s also a good choice for double-cropping with soybeans since it ripens earlier. | READ MORE
Drought-tolerant wheat may exist on some mountaintop in Nepal, but in the laboratories of wheat breeders, it is truly elusive. It’s on the priority list, but don’t look for significant changes coming any faster than climate change.
In hemp fields across Canada, farmers spend months planting, watering and weeding the hemp. But when harvest time comes, part of the plant is tossed aside, even though it’s quite valuable.

While growing industrial hemp was legalized in 1998, the plant was classified as a narcotic product, meaning it’s treated as a controlled substance. For farmers, that meant they could only harvest the plant’s seeds and tough stalk to make fibres, but could not sell the leaves containing cannabidiol (CBD).

Russ Crawford is the president of the Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance (CHTA) and calls the regulation a wasted opportunity. After doing the math, the numbers are staggering: over 2.4 billion grams of hemp containing CBD is potentially left in Canadian fields. | READ MORE
While most other crops have research dollars devoted to improving yield, pest and herbicide resistance, and input management, sorghum has been left behind in the move towards genetic improvements, better management options and pest reduction.
Farmers in P.E.I. have the warm fall weather to thank for the extended seeding season of winter wheat and other cover crops. One farmer said he was able to plant more than 1,600 acres of cover crops to help with his crop rotation in the spring. | READ MORE
It’s been a bad year for flax in Canada.

“Markets are suffering a bit across Canada,” says Brian Johnson, chair and director-at-large of the Flax Council of Canada.

Statistics Canada puts seeded acres for 2016 to 2017 at just over 900,000 acres across the country.

Johnson believes the reason for the drop in acreage is the huge increase in acreage in Eastern Europe over the last seven or eight years. “Flax is volatile – when the prices go up, we over-seed a bit. We have a much bigger carryover this July than last July, because prices were better last year,” Johnson says.

In Western Canada, acreage is down 40 per cent. Johnson says a big reason for the decrease is the explosion in lentil and pulse crops in Western Canada due to the shortfall in pulse production in India. “Lentils and flax are grown in the same area and basically a lot of farmers switched from flax to lentils,” he says.

But the picture in Ontario, where flax is hardly grown at all, is relatively unchanged from the last few years. Flax acreage in the province is down to fewer than 5,000 acres, though at its peak acreage was up to 75,000 acres, according to Mike Cowbrough, weed management field crops program lead for the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA). Cowbrough is also the organization’s de facto “flax guy” due to the fact that he grew flax on his hobby farm for a decade.

Why the lack of flax in Ontario? Conditions in the province for growing flax are good, particularly in cooler regions such as Grey and Bruce County in central Ontario, and Verner and New Liskeard in the northeast.

Cowbrough believes there are two main reasons keeping producers from planting more acres. The first is economics. “If you look at the gross revenue potential in flax and compare it to other field crop staples, there’s anywhere from a 100 to 400 per cent difference in gross margin.

“The other potential knock against flax is that it’s never been an easy crop to harvest and the straw is a bit of an issue,” Cowbrough says. “It’s tough, it doesn’t break down, it’s difficult to spread out. It’s beautiful to grow and wonderful to look at but a pain to combine.”

From a production standpoint, the crop performs well in terms of disease and weed concerns, Cowbrough says. The main problems Ontario producers have with flax are price stability and harvesting ease.

“It’s a great crop in Ontario for harvesting earlier than soybean, and wonderful to have in a rotation with winter wheat,” he says. “If we grew more flax, our winter wheat yields would benefit from that. But it’s agribusiness, and the economics aren’t there for flax.”

Potential for growth
Troy Snobelen, owner of Snobelen Farms, a private grain producing, processing and trading company in Lucknow, Ont., says the company hasn’t processed flax in over a decade. “We got out of it because we didn’t have the volumes,” he says. “We used to bring in quite a bit of it from Western Canada, but it was hard to take a western product and add value and try to ship it to a U.S. market. It was inefficient.”

This sentiment is echoed by Steve Murray, a manager at Parrish and Heimbecker – but Murray still deals in flax, primarily for Ontario’s feed market.

“Most of our flax comes from the west, although in Ontario in the last couple of years the amount has increased,” he says. “Right now, our flax is probably 95 per cent Western Canadian, five per cent Ontario. Those numbers might change but they won’t change substantially. I can’t envision a 50-50 or anything like that.”

But there are positive indications for growth in local flax production. Formerly, producers couldn’t get crop insurance on flax, so they avoided the risk, but as of a few years ago, crop insurance is available on flax across the province. Murray believes this might make a difference.

John Gleeson, a private grain processor and trader near Moorefield, Ont., says increased local production would be of major benefit to his business. “We have big problems getting flax out west,” he says. “The railway is a joke. You can’t get rail cars for love nor money. We send our own trucks out to get flax, and we’re loading those new B-trains.”

Cowbrough says new research out of the University of Saskatchewan, funded by the Western Grains Research Foundation, will have little application in an eastern context and is unlikely to stimulate flax production in Ontario.

But the Flax Council of Canada is heavily invested in research to improve flax for food, feed and other markets – and to promote its excellent nutritional profile to stakeholders across the country. “There’s getting to be a better and better understanding of the health benefits of flax. That information is getting out there and that part of the industry is growing,” Johnson says. “There’s a lot of work to be done, but flax has a lot of potential.”
Following a three-year research project at the University of Guelph, researchers now have evidence Ontario farmers can consistently produce high yielding, good quality, double-cropped cereal forages following wheat harvests.

In 2012, to address forage shortages caused by a dry summer, many farmers turned to double-cropped forages following winter wheat, the practice of planting two forage crops in the same season. Overall, the experience was positive but questions remained, according to Bill Deen, an associate professor at the University of Guelph and the lead of the project. So began a research project to look more closely at the agronomics and nutritional aspects of double-cropped forages following a winter wheat harvest.

The project was co-funded by the Beef Farmers of Ontario, the Ontario Forage Council via the Farm Innovation Program, the Agricultural Adaptation Council, the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association and the University of Guelph and Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs partnership. The project was initiated following the 2012 season, when drought caused a shortage of forage.

The trials were planted at the Elora and Woodstock research stations and 12 farm sites throughout southern Ontario in no-till, dry soils in early August during the 2012, 2013 and 2014 seasons. Over the three seasons, the researchers collected data on yield, moisture, nutrient (phosphorus and potassium) and nutritional quality and had approximately 400 samples analyzed by using wet chemistry to determine a complete range of nutritional parameters and nutrient removal rates.

The results indicate oats forage (or an oat-and-pea mixture, if higher protein forage is required) were the best crops for fall-harvested cereal forage. “Good establishment and growth occurred more consistently for oats resulting in higher and less variable forage yields compared to either barley or triticale,” Deen says. “However, from a forage quality perspective, there was little difference between oat, barley and triticale forages.”  

The researchers also found double-cropped spring cereal forages harvested in the fall have consistently good nutritional quality. “Total digestible nutrient concentrations were similar for barley, oats and an oat-and-pea mixture forages,” Deen says. He adds, with the 2014 trials that included triticale, total digestible nutrient concentrations for triticale were similar to oats or barley.  

Another finding was that including peas as a mixture with a cereal will increase forage crude protein, although adding peas does not significantly affect yield or total digestible nutrient concentration of cereal forages.

“Crude protein concentrations for an oat-and-pea mixture forage averaged 2.7 per cent higher than pure oat forage,” Deen says. “Including peas in a spring cereal forage is of benefit only if a forage with higher crude protein is required.”

In 2012, the trials were planted in early August in no-till, dry soils with rainfall occurring about one week following planting. These trials indicate high fall cereal forage yields are possible even when the spring and early summer are unusually dry.

Advice to producers
Timely planting with appropriate management and inputs is essential for successful crop production and Deen says this also applies for producing higher-yielding, good quality, double-cropped cereal forages.

“Plant the cereal forage as soon as possible following wheat harvest,” he says. “Cereal forage yields are increased by additional August growing days, which cannot be made up for by delaying fall harvest dates. Plant even if the soil is dry because the forage crop will get off to an earlier start when the rains finally arrive. Yield is based on timely planting following winter wheat.”

Dean advises planting cereal forages in no-till to preserve soil moisture, and keeping stubble heights low and straw baled to reduce the amount of straw in the cereal forage. If applying
liquid manure, Deen says producers should consider applying the manure, incorporating it into the soil and then planting their cereal forage as soon as possible.

“The moisture provided by the liquid manure, if the cereal forage is planted soon after application, may assist in quick emergence when planted into drier soils,” he says.

As for inputs, the research shows it is best to top dress 50 to 70 kilograms of nitrogen per hectare (kg N/ha) after successful emergence of the cereal crop has occurred. This is because the previous wheat crop depletes the soil nitrogen and additional nitrogen will be needed to ensure high cereal forage yields. Applying 50 to 70 kg N/ha increased oat forage yields, on average, by 70 per cent and crude protein by 0.6 per cent. Even when planted with peas, oats still require additional nitrogen, so Deen recommends applying nitrogen if planting oat and pea mixtures.

“On average, applying nitrogen increased oat and pea forage yields by 30 per cent and crude protein by 1.2 per cent,” he says. “If manure is applied, fertilizer nitrogen rates should be adjusted to account for the available nitrogen provided by the manure.”

Once established and growing, foliar disease, particularly rust, could become an issue so Deen recommends, if possible, planting oat varieties with high resistance to rust. Producers should also scout their crops and consider applying fungicide if they see rust.

As for harvest, cereal forage should be harvested by mid to late October.

“Forage yield gains by delaying harvests much beyond mid-October are small and the drying opportunities needed to make good quality silage or hay diminish quickly after mid-October,” Deen says. “Moisture content of flag to boot stage cereals is about 80 per cent and some in-field dry-down period will be required to reduce moisture content.”

“If you’re going to sell double-crop forages off farm, you need to consider nutrient removal, since double-crop forage contains one to two cents per pound of nutrients,” Deen says.  

Added value
Double-cropped forages add further value to inclusion of wheat in the rotation – something that really appeals to Deen.

“A lot of farmers think if they grow wheat, they should not bale the straw, but a corn-soybean-wheat rotation with the straw removed is still better for the soil than just a corn-soybean rotation,” he says. “Remove the straw, plant double-cropped forage and farmers can be confident soil quality is being improved.

“If they put in a cover crop and don’t harvest it, it’s good for the soil, but if they do [harvest it], it’s still good. It adds more value to the wheat system.”

Forage production in 2016 was challenging as the cool spring delayed early growth and was followed by a hot, dry summer before rains returned in August. While hay inventories are below average, most of the hay harvested was high quality. This year has seen an increase use of cover crops for emergency forage and fall grazing. More corn has been harvested for silage than originally planned. Farms that can utilize straw or corn stover are doing so in order to extend stored feed. 

Alfalfa winterkill and stand vigour
In 2016, there was very little winterkill observed across the province, mainly due to a very mild winter. The cool weather in March, April and into May reduced alfalfa growth and delayed first cut by approximately seven to 10 days. This fall saw a lot of fields cut during the critical fall rest period. Depending on when the killing frost comes, fields that were harvested up to six weeks prior are at an increased risk of winterkil. Other risk factors such as three-year-old (or older) stands, low potassium or pH, poor soil drainage, fields that had disease or insect issues, weather, ponding, and lack of snow cover, can increase the risk of winterkill and fields with multiple risk factors should be monitored in the spring.  

Fertility levels on many fields continue to cause yield drag. Phosphorus levels less than 12ppm and potassium levels less than 120ppm can significantly lower yields. Sulphur has continued to show up in plant tissue tests as a yield limiting nutrient. If plant tissue tests were completed when the alfalfa was at normal mowing height and at the late bud stage, sulphur levels under 0.22 per cent, indicate a deficiency. A soil sampling program should be implemented to monitor soil fertility levels. Fall applications of fertilizer or manure can take place up until the ground freezes or there is snow cover, but are most beneficial if applied directly after the final cut of forage.

New seedings
A dry spring provided the opportunity for new seedings to be planted into good soil conditions. However, lack of rainfall resulted in variable establishment, especially where packing for good seed-to-soil contact was insufficient. Summer seedings completed during optimum seeding dates in August appear to have been very successful as there was adequate moisture. Summer seedings do not have the yield drag associated with first year forages and will produce to their potential next year.  

First-cut yields and quality
First-cut yields were fairly average across southern Ontario. Due to the cool dry weather in April and May, alfalfa maturity was delayed by seven to 10 days. First-cut quality was excellent. The dry weather provided the opportunity to cut at the proper maturity and the majority of the first cut was harvested without rain and at the correct moisture levels.

Second, third and fourth cuts
Across most of southern Ontario, second- and third-cut yields were extremely variable depending upon precipitation which varied widely across the province but were typically below average or non-existent. Quality of hay was excellent, as rainfall did not impact harvest timing and the hay was taken off at the correct moisture. When alfalfa was allowed to go to full bloom, quality declined and yield did not significantly increase from 10 per cent bloom. After the rains returned in August, there were a lot of fields harvested one more time, and many of these were harvested during the critical fall harvest period as the need for high quality forage outweighed the risk. This cut had excellent yields for the time of year and made high-quality forage. 

This spring saw farmers having winter rye for grazing, and animals were out on those fields up to two weeks before their permanent pastures were ready for grazing. Pasture regrowth was slow this year due to the hot and dry weather and the benefits of rotational grazing were very visible as they managed to graze longer before the pastures dried out. Pastures where the growth left behind was still seven to 10 cm (three to four inches) when animals were moved after one to three days saw more regrowth over the course of the year and less hay fed. In order to accomplish this, the rest period during the summer was 45 days or more. Farms on permanent pastures were supplementing feed for up to 12 weeks while intensively managed rotationally grazed pasture were supplementing hay for two to three weeks. During July, there were reports of water holes drying up and cattle on pasture requiring additional water. Cover crops are being utilized to extend the grazing system into the fall and corn stalks are providing a forage source for a growing number of producers who prefer to graze. Grazing animals on corn stubble reduces feed costs, breaks down the stover and reduces the amount of hay required over the winter. Corn stalks can provide an excellent fibre source for non-lactating animals.

Corn silage
Corn silage production was very variable across the province, from very low to average yields. The grain content of the corn silage was also variable; with starch levels running from five per cent to 35 per cent (28 per cent is normal). Silage with low starch levels has low grain content and will require additional supplementation. Silage with high starch levels is typically associated with lower yields or a high grain:stover ratio and needs to be managed to avoid acidosis. In areas short of hay, additional acres of corn were harvested for silage rather than grain. 

Cover crops
With the reduced forage yields, there has been an increased interest in the use of cover crops for emergency forage as haylage, balage and grazing. The most popular cover crops are small grains (generally oats, but also barley and triticale) or a small grain and pea mixture. Peas increase the protein and energy content of the feed. Italian ryegrass was also used as it produces a higher quality feed than small grains and can be harvested once in the fall and again in the spring. Turnips and brassicas were added to mixtures of cover cops that were destined to be grazed in the fall.  

Fall rye and winter triticale are also seeing a boost in acres this fall as producers are looking for an early season forage. Fall rye and winter triticale can be planted following corn silage, grain corn or soybeans. They can be pastured in mid-to-late April if they are planted on dry ground, or cut for hay around mid-May.

Researchers at the University of Guelph are tapping into some ancient grains to see if their endophytes – microbes that live inside plants without causing disease – can help our modern crops. Manish Raizada and his lab have already found several endophytes that can control the fungal pathogen Fusarium graminearum in laboratory and greenhouse trials. Now they are testing these endophytes in field trials as a step toward possibly developing commercial biocontrol products.

Raizada is an associate professor in the university’s department of plant agriculture, and his research group has been studying endophytes since about 2007. They are adding to the growing body of endophyte research going on around the world, which is finding certain endophytes are able to promote plant growth by performing such functions as controlling plant pathogens, producing plant hormones and making nutrients available to the plant.

Two of Raizada’s PhD students have built a large collection of endophytes as a foundation for the lab’s further research, including the current anti-Fusarium endophyte work. To isolate endophytes from a plant, researchers sterilize the surface of the seeds, roots or shoots, and then culture the microbes from within the samples. The two students sampled mainly grain species and lines that have had to fight off pathogens without help from commercial fungicides.

“A former PhD student in my lab, David Johnston-Monje, isolated endophytes from 14 genotypes of corn from Central America, Mexico, Canada and the U.S. Those genotypes included three groups of corn: wild relatives of corn; Mexican landraces [traditional varieties] and a Canadian First Nations landrace from Quebec; and modern inbreds and hybrids,” Raizada explains. “The wild species obviously don’t grow with the use of fungicides, and farmers who are growing the traditional varieties are not usually using pesticides and fungicides. So we thought we might be able to capture endophytes that help combat fungal pathogens from those lines.”

PhD student Walaa Mousa isolated endophytes from finger millet. “Finger millet is an ancient Ethiopian crop. It is widely grown in Africa and South Asia. It is really valued by subsistence farmers because it is reported to be very resistant to a lot of pathogens,” Raizada says.

As a result of the work by Johnston-Monje and Mousa, Raizada’s lab now has a collection of over 250 cereal endophytes. Most are bacteria and a few are fungi.

Raizada and Mousa suspected finger millet might have anti-Fusarium endophytes. “Unlike a lot of cereal crops, finger millet is not susceptible to Fusarium graminearum. That is surprising given there is some evidence that Fusarium  pathogens evolved in Africa,” Raizada notes. “So we hypothesized: what if finger millet and its endophytes co-evolved with Fusarium, so there was a three-way co-evolution, and finger millet selected for endophytes that could combat Fusarium?”

Fusarium graminearum and its sexual stage, Gibberella zeae, cause tough-to-control diseases in many cereals, including Fusarium head blight in wheat and Gibberella ear rot in corn. These costly diseases reduce grain yield, grade and quality, and can produce mycotoxins, such as deoxynivalenol (DON), that limit the grain’s end-use.

Mousa tested all the endophytes in the lab’s collection by putting each one in a Petri dish with Fusarium graminearum. She found a handful of endophytes that could suppress the pathogen; some were from corn and some from finger millet, and most were bacteria.

Then she and Charles Shearer, who is now a Master’s student in Raizada’s lab, conducted greenhouse trials with five of the endophytes that controlled the pathogen in the lab. They applied the endophytes to wheat and corn as a seed coating or as a spray. The spray was applied on the corn silks at silking time and on the wheat heads at heading time. They used an Ontario corn hybrid and an Ontario wheat variety that are moderately susceptible to Fusarium graminearum. After the endophytes were applied, the plants were exposed to the pathogen.

In these replicated greenhouse trials, each of the five endophytes was able to control the pathogen, and one of the endophytes worked so well the treated plants didn’t show any symptoms at all of a Fusarium graminearum infection.

For Raizada, the most exciting results from the greenhouse trials were the endophytes’ remarkable effectiveness in reducing DON levels, which were analyzed by Victor Limay-Rios, a research associate at the university’s Ridgetown Campus. “At harvest, for whatever reason, all the samples had low DON levels, even the ones that hadn’t been treated with endophytes. Then Walaa stored the seeds for 14 months at room temperature; under those conditions, Fusarium is still active,” Raizada explains. “When Victor tested those stored seeds, he found that the DON mycotoxin levels were extremely high in the corn and wheat samples that had been exposed to Fusarium, but not treated with the endophytes. In contrast, the seeds that had been exposed to Fusarium and treated with the endophytes had very low DON levels, well below the acceptable level of DON mycotoxins, which is about 1 to 3 ppm, depending on which regulations and which conditions are involved.”

In corn, all five endophytes reduced the amount of DON to well below 0.1 ppm. In wheat, two of the endophytes reduced the DON levels to below 0.1 ppm; the other three significantly decreased DON levels but not to such a low level.

Field trials underway
In June 2015, Raizada’s lab received approval from the Canadian government to do field trials with the five endophytes. Shearer is heading up these two-year trials, which are taking place at the Ridgetown Campus. He is collaborating with Limay-Rios and Art Schaafsma, a professor at Ridgetown who is a leading expert in Fusarium.

In a field setting, endophyte applications face a couple of key challenges. One is that they may be outcompeted by microbes in the environment, so they might not even be able to colonize the plant. The other issue is how varying weather conditions might affect the endophytes.

The field trials are comparing the five endophytes in seed treatments and in-crop sprays on corn and wheat. Although a seed treatment would likely be the easiest for growers, Raizada thinks it might not be the most effective option because the endophytes might be outcompeted by soil microbes. However, the researchers are trying various ways to try to get around that problem.

Shearer is comparing different timings for the spray applications: at the same time as another product, like nitrogen fertilizer, is applied; or at the time of silking or heading. In addition, he’s testing the endophytes individually and as a cocktail of all the endophytes together.

The trials are comparing moderately susceptible and very susceptible cultivars of corn and wheat. The researchers will be assessing Fusarium graminearum symptoms on the ears and heads and measuring DON levels in the seeds. They will also be sampling different tissues from the treated plants to determine which tissues in the plant are being colonized by the endophytes. And they’ll be watching to see if perhaps the endophytes have other growth-promoting effects on the plants, such as controlling other pathogens or enhancing root growth.

In 2016, the researchers will complete the field trials and analyze the results.

Down the road
Once they’ve analyzed the field trial data, the researchers will decide on their next steps. For instance, they might investigate whether the endophytes work well in combination with a fungicide. “Of course, we’re hoping an endophyte alone will work really well, but let’s say that either a fungicide alone or an endophyte alone does not provide effective control of the pathogen. Maybe the two together might,” Raizada says.

If one or more of the endophytes seem to have commercial potential for controlling Fusarium graminearum, then Raizada’s lab will collaborate with a company, and that company will undertake the necessary tests regarding human and ecosystem safety and so on, to develop commercial biocontrol products.

Looking at the bigger picture, Raizada sees exciting times ahead for endophytes in agriculture. According to Raizada, when his lab first started working on endophytes, agricultural input companies were showing only moderate interest in such research. But since then, companies like Monsanto and Syngenta have been investing more and more into microbial products like biocontrol products and biofertilizers. “The large seed companies are now looking at endophytes and other microbes as a new frontier. Within a few years, I think growers will increasingly see microbe-based products coated onto their seeds or available as sprays.”

He adds, “Where I see the best opportunity is with microbes that have multiple functions. Perhaps a microbe that has anti-Fusarium activity is also able to combat other pathogens and also has some other activity. For example, we are intensively studying microbes that can stimulate root growth when the soil is waterlogged in the spring. If the soil is waterlogged in the spring, the roots don’t grow, and then if you have a hot period, the plants don’t do well because they never developed a good root system.”

Multi-functional endophytes are a key research area for Raizada’s lab. The researchers have screened the endophytes in their collection for several functions such as phosphorus solubilization and root growth stimulation, in addition to Fusarium control, and they’ve already found some with multiple functions.

Raizada is also looking forward to many interesting discoveries about the intriguing world of endophytes. For example, his lab has studied in great detail the relationship between a fungal endophyte species and yew trees, and has developed a step-by-step picture of how this endophyte helps the tree fight pathogens. “When a tree branches, it creates cracks, and yew trees hyperbranch; they are always branching and always creating bark cracks. This endophyte swarms to the crack, that wound site, and then it releases a fungicide in fatty bodies. So it’s no different than if you have a cut and you apply a Band-Aid with antibiotics in it. The fatty barrier is similar to a plastic Band-Aid barrier, and it’s laced with a fungicide. It is amazing.”

He adds, “I think every endophyte has a fascinating story. And any individual plant has hundreds of species of endophytes. So I think there will be many years ahead of interesting discoveries to be made and some really fascinating biotech applications."


June 23, 2016 - The later hail occurs, the higher the chance of yield loss in canola, given that the plants have less time to recover. Plants with a broken main stem will likely die. Plants at the 6-leaf stage that lose most of the leaf area on the main stem can still live, but these leaves will not regrow. The plant will be delayed, and more of the yield potential — which will be lower than before the hail — will come from side branches.

Steps to consider:

Fertilizer top up. If a lot of leaf mass has been knocked off the plant, the nutrients in these leaves are unlikely to mineralize this crop year. So if crop recovery is strong, an in-crop nitrogen application can replace the nitrogen already taken up in this lost leaf mass. Results will be better if nitrogen supply was already low to moderate. Keep in mind that added nitrogen can also extend maturity, so consider the calendar date and crop stage with an eye on fall frost risk.

Fungicide if blackleg risk is high. Canola hailed at the 4- to 6-leaf stage can get more blackleg infection through damaged tissue. Fungicide might help, but only if you were considering using it in the first place. If the field was already at high risk of blackleg, hail damage increases that risk. If blackleg was not a major risk, fungicide probably won’t help much. NOTE that the ideal time to apply fungicide for blackleg is at the 2- to 4-leaf stage. Read more on blackleg risks and the spray decision.

As with any “new to you” in-crop application, leave a check strip or better yet leave a few untreated check strips. This will allow you to assess the benefit of your rescue treatment at harvest time.

An important step with hail damage at any time of the season is to call your hail insurance provider and keep them in the loop.

Photo courtesy of Ag-West Bio.


May 25, 2016 - Richard Keith Downey, O.C., F.R.S.C., received the 2016 Saskatchewan Order of Merit, the province's highest honour, in a ceremony May 24, 2016 in Saskatoon.

Born in Saskatoon, Dr. Keith Downey earned degrees from the University of Saskatchewan and Cornell University. He joined the Agriculture Canada Research Station at Lethbridge as an alfalfa breeder, producing the world's first winter hardy, wilt resistant alfalfa variety before returning to the Saskatoon Research Station in 1958 to direct the oilseed breeding program. It was there Dr. Downey earned a world‐wide reputation as one of the "Fathers of Canola" for converting rapeseed into nutritionally superior canola.

As a plant breeder, he is associated with the release of 13 rapeseed/canola varieties and five condiment mustard varieties. His work with canola has resulted in the acreage expanding from only a few thousand in the 1950-60s to more than 20 million in 2014 and into a multi‐billion dollar industry for Saskatchewan and Canada. Equally important, canola oil is a significant factor in improving health and reducing health care costs due to its positive effect on cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes.

Dr. Downey's expertise and contributions to scientific research are recognized and in demand world‐wide. He has held numerous professional and administrative positions with a broad range of organizations. He is an inductee in the Saskatchewan and the Canadian Agricultural Halls of Fame. He is an Officer of the Order of Canada; a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and the Agriculture Institute of Canada; and holds Honorary Doctorates in Science from the
University of Saskatchewan and Law from the University of Lethbridge.

Established in 1985, the Saskatchewan Order of Merit recognizes excellence, achievement and contributions to the social, cultural and economic well-being of the province and its people. It acknowledges individuals who have made their mark in the arts, agriculture, business, industry, community leadership, occupations, professions, public service, research and volunteer service.

Read more about Dr. Keith Downey and the development of canola in Canada.


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