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Come Walk the Crops with Us - Current projects at Scott research farm

Isabelle Piche, Crops Summer Student & Autumn Lawson, Livestock Summer Student

What kind of research is going on near you?

On July 10, our Crop Walk took place at the Scott research farm, looking at various research plots and how they are beneficial to producers. Here are a few of the ongoing studies.

Twelve-year continuous canola

This 12-year continuous canola study came about in response to producers claiming you cannot make as much money by including other crops in rotation with canola. The study is taking place at the Lacombe and Lethbridge research stations in Alberta, as well as the Scott, Melfort and Swift Current research stations in Saskatchewan. The study has four treatments: canola, barley, peas; peas, barley canola; barley, canola, peas; and continuous canola. Each treatment contains both Round-Up Ready and Liberty Link canola varieties.

This study has an emphasis on yield and economics, but also looks at weed, disease and insect pressure. The findings highlight that for every year the canola was rotated out, yield increased by five bushels. A one-in-two-year rotation increased yield by five bushels and a one-in-three rotation had a yield increase of 10 bushels. The preliminary economic analysis has shown that growing canola in rotation is just as profitable as continuously growing canola. In terms of weed, disease and insect pressure, the highest weed pressure was seen with a one-in-two rotation with canola and barley. Growing canola in a one-in-three rotation had less blackleg disease than continuous canola, even with the use of blackleg-resistant cultivars. There was also less root maggot damage when using a rotation.

Pea and canola intercropping

In the second video, the ADOPT project focusing on pea and canola intercropping was discussed. The treatments were based on seeding rate with peas going in at 40 seeds/m2, 80 seeds/m2 and Clearfield canola seeded at 54.33 seeds/m2. The plots received a mid-row band blend of 0-40-20-20 fertilizer and the canola monocrop received 80 lb. of nitrogen through broadcasting. The pea monocrop received no nitrogen and the intercrop received 40 lb. of nitrogen. To seed the intercrop plots, the canola was seed-placed and the peas were side-banded. The double-row approach was taken to avoid having to mix the seeds in the tank. The results so far have shown that the field with 80 pea seeds/m2 had slightly more disease, but not enough to be an issue. Overall, having a lower seeding rate of canola at 54 seeds/m2 was beneficial because of how competitive canola is. Peas are still recommended to be seeded at 80 seeds/m2 to keep the yield at a desirable level.

Fertilizer placement in canola

One video focused on a research plot that studied fertilizer placement in Canola. It highlighted phosphorus fertilizer placement and rate in combination with high rates of nitrogen and sulphur fertilizer placed in the mid-row band or side-banded. One of the plots looked at 367 lb. of 49-0-0-51 in the side band combined with different rates of phosphate (0, 10 and 50 lb./ac of P2O5) applied seed-placed. The preliminary results show that an early-season vigour response occurred when there were 367 lb. of nitrogen and sulphur in the mid-row and 10 lb. of phosphorus in the seed row. This was the result of the starter phosphorus being close to the seed and thereby available for early-season seedling growth. Mid-row banding of the nitrogen and sulphur also allowed it be readily available to the plants shortly after emergence, but did not cause seedling toxicity. Other treatments were 50 lb./ac of phosphate and 367 lb./ac of product nitrogen and sulphur in the side band, which caused high ammonium toxicity. This resulted in a reduction of plant stand and a lower overall plant health.

For producers, it is important for those who are side banding near the seed row to watch how much total fertilizer they are putting down to avoid crop injury. The amount of seed-placed phosphorus used should also be within the safe rate guidelines to avoid significant seedling damage.

Sclerotinia assessment tools

Throughout Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and Quebec, there are 10 trials taking place looking at sclerotinia in canola. In these trials, they are testing earlier fungicide application, which is currently practiced in the United Kingdom. Application is taking place when the buds are yellow, right before they are about to open. There is a week between each application until late bloom.

They are also assessing the inoculum load of the sclerotinia fungus in the area. To do so, they are using Sporenado spore traps, which is a passive method that relies on the wind to blow through and place the spores on a plastic trap, which then goes to the lab to get tested. The problem with this trap is that it does not show how the trap results relate to disease pressure. There is currently another spore trap being used that has rotating sticks with adhesive ends, which calculates the amount of spores per unit of time. The last method being used is molecular-based technology; in this method, petals are collected and put into vials, then sent to a lab to determine the infection and risk.

Within these trials, there is constant monitoring of relative humidity and temperature within the canopy and above the canopy. With high humidity and temperature for a long period of time, there is a high risk of infection. To do a practical assessment, look at the sclerotinia risk maps, look through the sclerotinia stem rot checklist from the Canola Council and look at past disease history. Another way to assess risk is to physically look for the apothecia in the field. One way to tell if the environment is favourable for the disease is the do the "wet pants" test. If the soil and the canopy are dry when you're walking in the field at 8 or 9 a.m., there is a low risk of the plant getting the disease, but if the soil and the canopy is wet "up to your knee or thigh" when you're walking in the field at 3 or 4 p.m., it is a high-risk area.

Fusarium head blight assessment tools

Assessing fusarium head blight can be difficult. Right now there are resistant varieties, crop rotation and fungicide application management tools. However, even varieties that have a moderate resistant rating can still have fusarium head blight. Rotation is an effective method in reducing fusarium head blight. A one-year break from growing a susceptible crop does not allow for enough time for residue that contains fusarium to break down; therefore, a rotation that includes more than a one-year break from a susceptible crop should be used. Lastly, fungicides can suppress up to 95 per cent of disease pressure on other crops, but with fusarium it can only suppress up to 50 per cent. This shows that you should not rely solely on fungicides for fusarium head blight management.

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