Top Crop Manager

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Pod Ceal back in canola fields

Helping growers minimize losses and maximize contribution margins.
Reducing shattering losses and green seed counts at harvest translates into higher canola yields. To help reduce pod shattering and improve straight cutting options, growers in Canada now have access to Pod Ceal DC.

November 6, 2008  By Top Crop Manager

Helping growers minimize losses and maximize contribution margins.

Comparison of untreated canola sample (top) and sample treated with Pod Ceal DC™ (bottom).
Photo courtesy of  BrettYoung.

Reducing shattering losses and green seed counts at harvest translates into higher canola yields. To help reduce pod shattering and improve straight cutting options, growers in Canada now have access to Pod Ceal DC. Used on canola and mustard, Pod Ceal was made available in limited quantities for the 2008 harvest season. Pod Ceal DC is a new formulation of a previous Miller Chemical product used on specialty crops in the US and around the world. An agreement with Miller Chemical has made BrettYoung the exclusive distributor for Pod Ceal in Canada.

“Although Pod Ceal is not the silver bullet, it is another tool for helping growers improve their harvest efficiency,” says Garry Van Den Bussche, director of marketing with BrettYoung. “Growers are facing greater demands on their time at harvest, and combined with rising fuel costs and increased acres, straight cutting canola is a good option.” Realistically many growers can seed about three times an many acres in a day as they can swath, making harvest timing a challenge.


In Europe, more than 90 percent of canola crops are straight cut, with a significant amount of acres treated with a pre-harvest Pod Ceal type application. “Canola acreage in Europe is expected to exceed Canada in 2009,” says Van Den Bussche. “In the US, straight cutting is increasing, along with the use of Pod Ceal. The introduction of new hybrid varieties with better standability and a product like Pod Ceal means growers now have more effective tools for straight cutting canola and improving competitiveness.”

Straight cutting allows more canola seeds to physiologically mature and increase in size, which results in increased yields, higher oil content and virtually no green seed, provided shattering from wind and during harvesting can be kept to a minimum. “Growers are using Pod Ceal for straight cutting and also for swathing to help out with timing,” says Van Den Bussche. “It can be difficult to swath all of the canola at the right time, so some growers will spray half of their fields with Pod Ceal and swath them last.” Growers are strongly encouraged to split fields and do a comparison to understand how to use the product properly, and to see the net benefit.

Pod Ceal DC will reduce the risk of shatter from its initial application during a period of weeks as the natural polymer slowly degrades. In some situations Pod Ceal has been a benefit for up to 40 days after application. By applying at the right stage, this natural polymer product coats the pod, which stretches as the pod grows. Shattering can still happen, but not to the same extent as without Pod Ceal, and under windy fall conditions for example, can substantially reduce
shattering risks.

“From our trial results and information from Europe, straight cutting significantly increases contribution margins, and by adding a sealant, the contribution margin will double again,” says Van Den Bussche. “It definitely pays to use a sealant to reduce some of the risk of straight cutting.” The suggested retail price (SRP) is $9.80 per acre, similar to the cost of custom cutting. Using Pod Ceal is a different way of managing harvest. Sealants tried in the past on canola had a higher costs and a shorter period of shatter protection.

“Based on the limited data available from the US trials, the product looks reasonably promising,” says Derwyn Hammond, Manitoba agronomy specialist for the Canola Council of Canada. “With only a couple of bushels per acre likely required to cover the product and application costs at today’s canola prices, using Pod Ceal is probably not a bad insurance application for growers who have already decided to straight cut.”

Hammond encourages growers to start small to get comfortable with using the product and leave checkstrips for comparison. “Using a yield monitor will give you a good idea of variation between strips,” says Hammond. “The best comparison would be a straight cut strip with no sealant, a straight cut strip with sealant and a strip that has been swathed.” The comparison of these three side-by-side areas will provide information about shattering losses and the level of protection from the product, something that is very difficult to do visually with any accuracy.

Although straight cutting is a good strategy and generally provides consistent quality benefits, Hammond cautions growers about potential frost risks in a fall like 2008. “Some growers reseeded due to spring frosts, in other areas dry conditions resulted in uneven emergence, and in others frost or mild hail contributed to uneven maturity and more branching. Under these conditions, crop lying in a swath is much less vulnerable to frost.”

Todd Sobry, who farms 3200 acres near Reston, Man., decided to try Pod Ceal on 100 acres of canola in 2008 to find out how it works. Sobry grows winter wheat, wheat, canola, peas and oats, and seeded 1100 acres of Invigor 9590 canola in 2008. “I took 100 acres out of the centre of a 280 acre field, so I can compare yields at harvest, says Sobry. He applied Pod Ceal in mid-August and plans to harvest about two weeks later, depending on the weather. “We checked a sample about 12 days after application and the crop looked great,” he says. “The standing crop is ripe with no green kernels.”

Pod sealants, such as Pod Ceal, may help growers better manage canola harvests.
Photo courtesy of  BrettYoung.

Sobry normally swaths all of his canola, but if the Pod Ceal trial works out, he will consider direct cutting more acres in 2009. He would also consider using it for swathed fields as well for managing timing. “The biggest reason I decided to use Pod Ceal is to see how much better the sample will be and if it meets the quality expected.” The seeds are supposed to be larger, blacker with more oil and less green seed than without the sealant. Sobry notes the cost of application is about the same as swathing, and because he has his own high-clearance sprayer he does not have the added $5 per acre for
custom spraying.

Pod Ceal DC Application and Timing
To maximize benefits of using Pod Ceal DC, growers need to pay attention to three critical factors including timing of application, spray application coverage and harvest timing. Typically the product is applied two to three weeks prior to harvest. “We have published a color guide that is available from local retailers or company reps to help with timing decisions,” explains Van Den Bussche. “The guide shows the ideal timing for application based on the color change in the middle one-third of the mainstem.”

Growers should also do a flex test on the pod. Select pods from the bottom third of the main stem and flex it over. If the pods split but the seeds do not pop, then Pod Ceal DC can still be applied to the crop. However, if the seeds pop when the stem is bent, it is likely too late for application.

Coverage during application is very important, for both aerial or high-clearance ground applications. Required water volumes are 4 gallons (5 US gallons) per acre for aerial application and 15 gallons (20 US gallons) per acre for ground. Van Den Bussche says growers should treat a Pod Ceal application like a fungicide application and try to get smaller drops spread out over the crop without getting drift. “The spray application was fairly easy and I didn’t experience any problems from the waxy component of the sealant,” says Sobry. “However the high water volumes needed did mean refilling more often.”

Pod Ceal is also compatible with labelled desiccants, but the key is to time the Pod Ceal application right. “If growers feel the desiccant timing fits into the Pod Ceal timing, then an application is okay,” says Van Den Bussche.

“For harvest timing, we recommend that growers do a moisture test and harvest the crop at eight to 10 percent moisture,” explains Van Den Bussche.” At this stage, the stems on the canola plant will still be green on the lower part, but the upper two-thirds of the plant will be brown. “Make sure to gently tip over the plants with the harvester and don’t hammer the crop with the bats on the header,” adds Van Den Bussche. “Also tipping the table forward one or two degrees instead of back will improve the natural flow of the canola through the header.” Following these guidelines will help growers achieve success with Pod Ceal.


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