The 2021 drought certainly took its toll on growing conditions this year, and we will see lasting effects in many areas of the province next season as well.
For herbicides to properly break down in the soil, soil microbes need adequate moisture and temperatures at the right time during the growing season. For soil microbial growth to be supported and herbicide breakdown to occur, more than 150 mm of rainfall is needed from June 1 to September 1. If less than 150 mm of rainfall has fallen, herbicide carryover risk is much higher. If areas haven't seen adequate rainfall for more than one year, this risk may increase further - see the Ministry of Agriculture’s herbicide carryover maps.
Herbicide Carryover: Risk and Considerations is a collaborative publication created by SaskCanola, SaskPulse and SaskWheat to cover herbicide carryover risks and considerations for growers following drought conditions. View the document here.
Soil fertility and nutrient management
Now is an ideal time to soil test to get accurate information on which to base fertility decisions for the 2022 growing season. Warren Ward, CCC Agronomy Specialist at Springside, SK, says that if fall soil testing, you should test as late as possible to give an accurate assessment of what the nutrient levels will be in the spring. Soil testing should be done as close to freeze up as possible when the soil is cool (below 10C).
“Waiting until soil is cool helps reduce nutrient content changes due to microbial activity that may occur prior to seeding next spring. If you band fertilizer in the fall, it can give you a good idea of the rates you need to apply. Testing in the spring provides the most accurate assessment, but it can leave very little time for planning.”
Ward emphasizes that it’s especially important to soil test after the growing season we’ve just experienced. In addition to the regular benefits of soil testing for nutrient planning, poor crop growth in 2021 has led to higher than normal residual nutrient levels in the soil for many farms. The best way to measure what your residual nutrient levels are in the soil is through soil testing.
“Nitrogen is one that in many cases has higher than normal carryover because it was so dry. To a large extent, it wasn’t used by the plants it is still just sitting there. Testing is relatively cheap compared to the fertilizer bill, so you might as well test for soil nutrients. Otherwise it’s just a guessing game and with today’s fertilizer prices, that’s not the wisest strategy.”
Ward recommends that agronomists start with understanding what the farm customer wants to get out of the soil test and what they’re capable of doing with it. Is it a general aggregate field sample analysis? If the grower wants to account for more variability and different zones within a field, you should consult field maps and sample throughout the field at the upper slope, mid slope, and lower slope.
“Another questions to ask is if the farm has variable rate capabilities. That will make a difference in how you decide to soil test.”
With the results, agronomists can help growers decide what to crop next year, as well as identify target yields, nutrients required and the amount and types of fertilizer to apply.
Proper soil sampling is necessary for meaningful soil test results. A sampling error in the field is usually much greater than the analytical error in the lab. Ensure soil samples accurately reflect the overall field, or zones within the fields for more intensive management.
Nutrient content in soil varies over years, between fields and there is even inherent nutrient spatial variability within fields that appear uniform. Although soil testing is just an estimation, it can help give reasonable guidelines for profitable fertilizer application as part of the right rate considerations when following the 4R nutrient stewardship practices.
Ward encourages every agronomist to become 4R designated, which will support growers participating in the 4R Stewardship Program. Training for 4R is offered through Fertilizer Canada or CCA.
The new University of Saskatchewan (USask) Insect Research Facility (USIRF) will be the first of its kind in a western Canadian university and one of only a handful of facilities in the country specifically designed to conduct research on arthropod plant pests and beneficial insects.
Funding for the design and construction of the USIRF will be provided from a variety of sources, including $70,000 from the SaskCanola. The USIRF will be led by Dr. Sean Prager (PhD), the first entomologist at USask’s College of Agriculture and Bioresources.
“This new facility will add substantial research capacity to the University of Saskatchewan,” said Prager. “It will allow us to work with the USask Crop Development Centre, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and USask plant breeders to identify problematic resistance traits to pests that are yet to be established. This provides a massive head start when you consider the time it takes to breed new varieties and cultivars."
New blackleg genetic resistance options now available for growersBlackleg is a devastating disease that can have a major impact on crop growth, productivity and profitability as well as limit global trade opportunities. There are several management strategies (like crop rotation, scouting, and proper fungicide stewardship); however, the most effective practice for managing blackleg is to include crop varieties with the appropriate disease resistance genetics.
Major resistance genes within canola cultivars need to match up to the specific avirulence genes within the pathogen to create effective control against a particular race. There are several varieties of blackleg disease races and one of the dominant blackleg disease races found in stem samples from Saskatchewan canola crops is AvrLm11. Until now, Rlm11 resistance was not available to growers in any canola variety.
Recently, Dr. Hossein Borhan and Dr. Nicholas Larkan from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (through funding from SaskCanola, ADF and WGRF) completed genetic mapping of the Rlm11 resistance gene and development of breeding markers. This research led to the introduction of the resistance trait Rlm11 into B. napus. See the research results here
The Rlm11 genetic marker information will be shared with the industry and canola breeders so that the Rlm11 gene can be bred into new canola varieties and made available to Saskatchewan canola producers. Bringing the gene into canola means growers will have one more tool to keep blackleg levels down in their fields once they know the races of blackleg in their fields.
To further support growers, SaskCanola, in partnership with Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture, released a new blackleg race ID monitoring program in 2021. It is designed to get producers the information they need to decide which canola variety to use against dominant races found in their fields. The combination of race testing and enhanced suite of resistance genetics mean Saskatchewan canola growers have more ways to manage this disease.
Top Crop Manager Podcast
Click here to listen to the latest podcast: Harvest on the Prairies – looking back to look ahead with Jeremy Boychyn, Alberta Wheat and Barley Commissions, and Kaeley Kindrachuk, SaskCanola.