New Canola performance Trials launching
By Bruce Barker
Sixty-plus canola varieties and counting. The new Canola Performance Trials (CPT) will help canola growers sort through performance data to make better variety selections for their farm. In the end, that should improve canola yield and profitability
“Variety selection has one of the biggest impacts on yield and profit at the end of the day. The Canola Performance Trials give unbiased data on how each variety performs in each growing zone,” says CPT 2011 governance committee chair Franck Groeneweg, a Saskatchewan farmer and a SaskCanola board member.
The three Prairie canola grower groups – Alberta Canola Producers Commission, the Saskatchewan Canola Development Commission (SaskCanola) and the Manitoba Canola Growers Association – are funding the program. Seed trade companies that participate pay entry fees. The BC Grain Producers Association is conducting trials in the Peace River region as its means of participation. A governance committee oversees the program and the Canola Council of Canada is delivering the program on the committee’s behalf.
“The cost of the trials is about $10 per farmer,” explains Groeneweg. “The information gives me a huge advantage in trying to figure out which variety is right for my farm. With seed costing $30 to $60 per acre, I want to make sure I am selecting the right variety.”
The CPT replace the defunct Prairie Canola Variety Trials, which were suspended due to declining industry participation resulting from dissatisfaction with certain aspects of the plot design and methodology. The seed trade felt that the old PCVT method of using only small plots treated within the same agronomic system did not adequately represent how varieties performed within specific herbicide-tolerant systems. And because it relied on only small-plot data from the three growing zones – short, medium and long – the depth of the data was less than ideal.
Derwyn Hammond, resource manager with the Canola Council of Canada at Winnipeg, says the grower organizations, the seed industry and the council worked together to develop a scientifically based trial program that addressed the shortcomings of the old program and added value to the new program. The new CPT include both small-plot trials and field-scale trials.
The 26 small-plot trials include varieties with the greatest market share and soon-to-be-introduced varieties. Varieties are lumped together according to the herbicide systems in order to remove drift injury as a confounding factor for variety performance. For example, all Roundup Ready canola will be grown in the same small plot area. Previously, the different herbicide systems were randomly scattered throughout the entire small plots, making it difficult for researchers to grow the varieties using the herbicide-tolerant system of choice.
“There are some new statistical analysis approaches that allow us to segregate the herbicide systems in the small plots, but still have statistically sound comparisons,” explains Hammond.
Data are collected on factors such as lodging, shattering, maturity and yield, and weather data are also recorded. Disease ratings are supplied from registration trials.
Participants in the small-plot trials include line companies, independent retailers and seed companies, including Viterra, Bayer CropScience, Monsanto, Dow AgroSciences, Cargill, Canterra Seeds, BrettYoung Seeds, FP Genetics and SeCan.
The field-scale trials incorporate seed trade strip trials. To ensure the field trial data are relevant, an independent audit of the protocols used for conducting the trial data analysis and reporting is conducted. The field-scale trials provide additional information on the varieties in a setting where the varieties are grown according to typical farming practices using farmer equipment and agronomic practices.
Groeneweg says growers can have confidence that the field-scale protocol was conducted in a scientifically sound manner and that comparisons are appropriate. The audit process involves qualified professionals with extensive experience in conducting field-scale research trials.
For 2011, Monsanto, Bayer CropScience, Canterra and Dow AgroSciences are participating in the field-scale program.
The data will be available through an online interactive tool on the Canola Council of Canada website using links from provincial grower group websites, as well as in a printed booklet format. The data will be presented in a way that allows growers to explore many agronomic factors, and they will be able to search for trial data in specific geographic areas near their farming operations. Data from CPT 2011 is not comparable to data from the former variety trials program. Comparable data will accumulate in future years.
Yield data will include whisker graphs, showing the variability in performance. Two varieties may have the same average yield of 40 bushels per acre, but one might have a range of 10 to 60 bushels, while the other, 35 to 45.
“Farmers will be able to look into the data to determine the differences. Depending on their risk tolerance, one farmer might go for the more consistent variety while another farmer might want to gamble and grow the other variety,” says Groeneweg.
The publication of the CPT data is targeted for November, but will depend on harvest and data analysis.