Never Say Whoa in a Low Spot

Some sayings that started with common sense still stand the test of time. This still holds true in 2015 with canola production. We as growers have a limited ability to control input costs and have no control over what Mother Nature has to offer for this growing season. It is very easy to take a pessimistic view on the profitability of growing canola this crop year.

In a year of uncertainty in grain markets what price range will canola be this fall, winter and next spring? There are lots of variables…. Acreage (the industry guess is around par to 2014), the weather (long term weather predictions have an accuracy of around 50%), Canadian dollar (will likely bounce between 77 – 82 cents), Bio diesel mandate in jeopardy, low oil prices. These are just a few examples of the many things we cannot change.

Let’s instead examine the facts and remember that time tested common sense:

  • There is a long list of hybrid canola varieties that have the genetic potential to produce over 3-4 times the provincial yield average. The majority of growers purchase these varieties now.
  • Seeding methods have never been better since the introduction of precision seed and fertilizer placement, superior packing and the ability to get more acres seeded in a shorter window.
  • Spring by all early indications will allow a more normal seeding start into excellent moisture conditions.

So….why will some growers break even if canola prices are at $9 and some pocket $200 an acre when all things were equal prior to seeding? The answer is, canola is a crop that responds to proper management.

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Seed early, seed shallow and early season weed control is essential. Use a balanced fertility program. Don’t let nutrition be the limiting factor. If not limited by moisture the biggest return on investment is maximum fertility. If equipment limitations prevent adding the 50 lbs./ac of nitrogen needed to grow the targeted 60 bu, topdressing is an option. Is your top end yield being limited by a boron deficiency? Weed control during the early growth stage is a must to maximize yields.  If conditions warrant then protect the yield that is established. Monitor insect damage. Be prepared to apply fungicide if conditions are likely to host sclerotinia. The higher the yield potential the better the return on investment. Swath near 60% seed color change. Spend that extra hour setting the combine to minimize seed loss. Climatic conditions are beyond our control but giving the crop the ability to take full advantage of them is.