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Ontario canola acreage down by 47 per cent

November 28, 2014 – OMAFRA’s Brian Hall reflects on the growing year in Ontario for canola and edible beans, including incidence of pests and diseases, and provides tips for 2015 management.

Seasonal Summary - Canola
The 2014 canola acreage declined by 47 per cent from 2013 to an estimated 22,000 acres. Northern Ontario farmers reduced plantings the most by nearly 70 per cent, to 5600 acres. Much of the acreage decline can be attributed to the risks posed by swede midge, although a drop in canola price was also a factor. This year was characterized by cooler temperatures and above average rainfall. Good field work and harvest days were often hard to come by. The season started out cold and wet, which delayed spring planting. Only 20 per cent of intended acreage was planted by the second week of May. Northern areas experienced soil conditions that were just the opposite; soil conditions were often very dry, resulting in delayed and uneven emergence.

In southern regions, heavy rains and soil crusting also resulted in reduced stands and uneven emergence. Cool and damp conditions continued through the summer, which improved vegetative growth and secondary branching, which helping to fill in thin canopies. Flowering was extended, often lasting 3 weeks, which was ideal for seed set and fill. Maturity and harvest were delayed by the late spring planting, cool growing season, slow crop dry down and wet fall weather. Harvest only got underway in September and was not fully completed until the end of October. Stubbornly high seed moisture required drying. Yields were average to above expectations at 1 to 1.5 t/ac, except for in northern areas where severe swede midge damage pulled back yields to 0.5 - 0.75 t/ac. Green seed content was higher than normal due to uneven maturity. Provincially, the average reported yield stands at 1 t/ac (2193 lb/ac), which is 17 per cent higher than the long term average of 0.86 t/ac. Some acres remain in the field in Northern Ontario.

Pests and Diseases - Canola
Flea beetle populations were much lower than that experienced the past several years. Swede midge emerged in late May-June, which is later than in previous years. Populations were often lower than in 2013, except for northern Ontario where populations were extremely high. Early season damage to canola was particularly problematic in the Dundalk highlands area and in northern Ontario. Control often appeared inadequate and significant injury to canola in the rosette stage was evident. Subsequent growth and recovery of damaged canola was better than anticipated, owing to good growing conditions and compensatory growth.

Canola plants often branched extensively to compensate for damage and stunting of the main raceme. Swede midge did have significant impact on yields where pressure was greatest, reducing yields by 20 to 50 per cent. Affected fields matured unevenly due to the extensive secondary branching. The incidence of sclerotinia white mould was higher this year, with the greatest yield reductions occurring in late planted canola.

2015 Management - Canola
Plant canola early to lower the risk of damage from swede midge. April planted canola escapes serious damage because plants are in late-rosette to bolting stage when the first peak of overwintering midge emerges. Depending on your area, it may be best to plant canola first. Swede midge can survive in the soil for at least 2 years. In infested fields, consider rotating out of canola for 2 to 4 years, also canola should not be planted close to previous year’s fields. Dupont’s new Lumiderm insecticide seed treatment will be of benefit to broaden control of flea beetles, including stripped flea beetles. 2014 strip trial comparisons with this new seed treatment did not show stand improvement or yield benefit, although flea beetle populations were generally low.

Seasonal Summary - Edible Beans
Edible bean crop had high expectations, and in the end yields were a mix of outstanding, average and ugly. Acreage rose sharply on attractive contracting opportunities, lower prices for corn and soybeans and fewer acres of winter wheat being seeded. Acreage of white beans was up 52 per cent over 2013 and close to historical levels to 65,000 acres. Coloured bean acreage also increased, but to a lesser extent.

Final acreage of all coloured bean classes’ increased by 21 per cent over 2013 to 52,700 acres. The biggest acreage increases in coloured beans were in kidney and Japanese/other category. The majority of the crop was planted on time and into good soil conditions. Emergence was generally excellent, except where soil conditions were very dry. Heavy rainfall, and saturated soil conditions following emergence stressed the crop and root rot became a common problem. Cool summer conditions with good soil moisture helped the crop recover, producing lush canopies and subsequent good seed set and grain fill. Harvest started 2-3 weeks later than normal.

Yields were average to excellent where timely harvest occurred. Seed size and quality was quite good and held up reasonably well throughout harvest. The introduction of Eragon herbicide proved very timely with the delayed harvest this season. Growers were pleased the effectiveness and speed of desiccation it provided, allowing harvest to occur in 7-10 days following application.

Insects and Diseases - Edible Beans
There were few insect issues in 2014. Leafhopper pressure was low, but there were more reports of damage by western bean cutworm. Conditions for white mould development were ideal and some fields received 2-3 applications of a white mould fungicide. These same weather conditions were ideal for anthracnose, although the disease failed to develop, a testament to the value of certified anthracnose ‘free’ seed.

Bacterial blight was more prevalent this season, although it did not significantly affect yield or seed quality. Bacterial brown spot appeared for the first time in many adzuki beans fields in early August, infecting leaves, stems and pods,
resulting in serious plant decline. Rain, fog and moderate temperatures provided ideal conditions for spread of the disease through adzuki bean fields. Some adzuki growers tried spraying a bactericide (i.e. copper hydroxide) to try and limit the spread with mixed results. Subsequent warm and dry weather conditions helped limit the spread. Both yield and quality were seriously reduced in heavily infected fields.

2015 Management - Edible Beans
Wet field conditions this fall present a challenge in finding fields without compaction issues, which will be suitable for edible beans in 2015. The effects of deeper compaction cannot necessarily be fixed by tillage alone and its effects often last for more than one season. Root rot is the number one disease limiting edible bean yields on compacted soils. There are few management options other than crop rotation and improving soil tilth (quality), organic matter levels and dealing with soil compaction.

Edible beans are very susceptible to the effects of tillage, soil compaction and poor soil structure. Soil management that builds soil structure and minimizes crop stress through the use of cover crops, the maintenance of a 3-4 year crop rotation (all crops), the management of residue and the addition of organic amendments, like manure, all reduce production risks and increase bean yields. There is continued interest in trying direct harvest large seeded coloured bean types. This works best where plants are upright, with good pod height in uniform and level fields with adequate seed moisture at harvest. Further work on modifying harvest equipment and practices (e.g. crop lifters etc.) need to be explored. Edible beans only cover the soil for 3 months of the year, predisposing the crop and soil to damage and serious erosion.

A number of farmers have successfully adopted strip and reduced tillage systems for growing edible beans. Reduced tillage and strip tillage systems need to be studied further and adoption encouraged.