Prep your 2021 crop plan

As growers develop their plans, industry experts reflect on the 2020 season and highlight new product offerings for 2021.

by Taryn Milton

The 2020 crop year taught us many lessons about canola and wheat. While we anticipated some challenges, like the continued rise in clubroot and fusarium pressure, other hurdles, like the surge in wireworm pressure, were unexpected.

Building on their experiences in 2020, growers can try to improve their plans for the next season. Producers can also incorporate some new products into their crop management plans.

This month, we speak with industry representatives about what 2020 taught us and the latest options for canola and wheat. We discuss the pests growers should scout for, and share some tips to help producers get a jump start on the 2021 crop season.

The 2020 season

This year, farmers started out by wrapping up a long-delayed 2019 season. Across much of the Prairies, farmers could not finish harvest before the end of 2019.

“The weather in Canada is highly unpredictable and harvest can drag into the following year,” says Wade Stocker. The 2019 season “really highlighted the importance of our patented pod shatter reduction technology in a tough year.”

Stocker is the canola seeds and traits marketing manager at BASF. He is based in Calgary.

Canola field
    Mary Wandler/iStock/Getty Images Plus photo

The pod shatter reduction technology was key for crops that growers had to leave to overwinter in the fields.

“We heard a lot of comments from growers that they still had very good yields, in most cases, when they had the pod shatter reduction technology versus not having it,” Stocker tells Better Farming.

The carry-over from 2019 prompted producers to think about what varieties of wheat they wanted to seed this year.

Some areas “saw an uptake of varieties that were earlier maturing and with stronger straw strength in an attempt to get the crop off faster and in better condition in 2020,” says Brent Derkatch.

He is the director of the pedigree seed business unit with Canterra Seeds and is based in Winnipeg.

The ag industry also faced difficulties as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The biggest challenge was ensuring retailers and farmers received the canola seed they ordered in time for seeding,” says Lorri Keyowski. “These challenges reinforced the need to have a solid support system and people a farmer can rely on to deliver the products and services required.”

Keyowski is the director of sales with Canterra Seeds and is based in Saskatoon.

Once producers seeded their crops, some growers in eastern Saskatchewan and western Manitoba had to deal with the wind.

High winds caused erosion, leading to the loss of seed, fertilizer and soil, says Jade Delaurier.

She is the manager of agronomic services for the east Saskatchewan division at Nutrien Ag Solutions. Delaurier covers eastern Saskatchewan and western Manitoba.

To help deal with a recurring scourge on the Prairies, many canola growers seeded clubroot-resistant hybrids in 2020.

“Clubroot isn’t going away anytime soon and it is certainly evolving. We need the whole industry to pull on the same end of the rope. That includes producers, which means really taking steps towards a clubroot integrated pest management approach. Clubroot-resistant hybrids are a part of that, but certainly not the entire solution,” says Stocker.

Producers also faced the pressure of flea beetles this year.

“The major areas, including southern Alberta, saw such high flea beetle pressure that farmers actually had to replant. There was a lot of spraying going on. It wasn’t really a good situation in some areas,” Christian Hansen tells Better Farming.

Hansen is a market development representative at Bayer CropScience and is based in southern Alberta. As part of his role, he runs a research farm outside of Calgary. In his operation, Hansen had to spray twice for flea beetles this year and still had them in his fields in early June.

New seed offerings

As growers fine-tune their plans for 2021, they can consider both some new seed options and some tried and true hybrids and varieties.

Many new canola hybrids are coming to the market. Corteva Agriscience, for example, is launching nine hybrids, says Kerry Freeman. He is the company’s canola category leader and is based in Calgary.

“It’s exciting and a big shift in our portfolio as we launch four new Roundup Ready hybrids between two brands. We’re launching two new LibertyLink hybrids and we’re launching three Clearfield hybrids. We’re launching HarvestMax as our harvest management trait in five of those hybrids and we’re launching sclerotinia trait in one of those hybrids,” Freemans tells Better Farming.

Canola hybrids that offer management flexibility traits are becoming increasingly important, says Keyowski.

“Canterra Seeds’ new CS2600 CR-T provides enhanced flexibility in spray rates with TruFlex technology, which enables better weed control and crop safety to maximize yields. The challenging harvest conditions in 2019 reinforced the need to consider selecting multiple varieties with a range of days to maturity to match harvest capabilities,” she tells Better Farming.

BASF has two new InVigor canola hybrids coming to the market in 2021. Both hybrids have high-yielding pod shatter reduction technology. One hybrid is geared to growers who aren’t as concerned about clubroot yet, while the other hybrid has first-generation clubroot resistance, says Stocker.

“There is a little bit of protection there for growers who are starting to become concerned about clubroot and this hybrid also has some really nice agronomic advantages like strong standability,” he says.

Brett Young Seeds has some new canola products for 2021, says Eric Gregory. He serves as the director of marketing and canola product manager and is based in Winnipeg.

“A new Clearfield canola product called BY 5125CL is an exciting product for us because it will likely be the highest-yielding Clearfield product on the market in 2021. This hybrid has first-generation clubroot resistance and a very vigorous blackleg-resistance package,” he tells Better Farming.

Nutrien Ag Solutions has three new canola hybrids (PV 761 TM, PV 660 LCM and PV 681 LC), says Derek Flad. He is the manager of agronomic services for southern Alberta at Nutrien Ag Solutions and is based in High River.

“We're introducing a new harvest management variety in the PV 660 TM. We have trials in several locations in southern Alberta with this seed. It gives growers an extended window in terms of swathing and straight cutting the crop,” he says. The PV 681 LC preforms well in “areas like southern Alberta or northwestern Saskatchewan that run into frost semi regularly.”

As for wheat, seed companies also have some new options for 2021.

Canterra Seeds launched two spring wheat varieties with its key breeding partner Limagrain Cereals Research Canada in the Seed Variety Use Agreement pilot program. The varieties are CS Daybreak, a Canadian Western Red Spring wheat, and CS Accelerate, a Canadian Prairie Spring Red wheat.

“These varieties are available to farmers as certified seed but are subject to an evergreen contract requiring the farmer to pay a royalty on farm-saved seed use if/when they save and reuse seed on their farms in future years. The royalties collected will contribute to rewarding the breeder(s) for the use of the improved varieties,” says Derkatch.

Tools to fight diseases and pests

In 2021, farmers will have access to new products to handle some disease and pest pressures.

To help battle wireworms, for example, BASF will offer its Teraxxa F4 product, say Chris Hewitt. He’s the marketing lead for seed treatments in Canada for BASF and is based in Calgary.

Teraxxa F4 is “a combination product. It’s a formulated fungicide plus insecticide all in one. The unique thing about Teraxxa F4 is it’s a completely new mode of action coming to the Canadian market. It’s based on the active ingredient broflanilide, which is a new class chemistry that provides exceptional control for wireworms,” Hewitt tells Better Farming.

wireworm on top of soil
    Chris Hewitt photo

“Growers can expect an unprecedented level of wireworm control in cereals with this product,” he says.

BASF awaits approval for this product from Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency. If the product is approved in time, farmers can expect Teraxxa F4 to be available for the 2021 season, says Hewitt.

Another common challenge wheat producers battle on the Prairies is fusarium head blight (FHB).

It “probably has a little bit more importance versus some of the leaf spotting diseases because FHB can affect yield and grain quality,” says Troy Basaraba. “We need to ensure we’re keeping tabs on it and being diligent in our efforts to keep fusarium head blight at bay.”

Basaraba is a market development representative at Bayer CropScience and is based in Manitoba.

Some wheat varieties offer a degree of resistance, says Flad.

“We don’t have any fusarium resistance for wheat in Western Canada. So, if you have a history of fusarium in your area, it’s critical you look at something that has an intermediate or moderately resistant rating to fusarium to give your plants the best chance of survival and maintain seed quality in challenging growing conditions,” he tells Better Farming.

CNH Industrial Magnum 240 & Precision Disk 500T in field
    CNH Industrial photo

Growers can use several tools to reduce FHB. These strategies include seed testing, early seeding dates, and extended crop rotations, says Delaurier.

Turning to canola, clubroot is one of the biggest disease concerns. Many resistant hybrids are available.

close up of rape flower
    ajma_pl /iStock/Getty Images Plus photo

“Growers in intense clubroot areas really need to pay attention to the next generation of clubroot-resistance options that are available,” says Gregory. “Growers who know clubroot has been detected in the area, but the disease is not necessarily on their farm, should consider using at least first-generation resistant products.”

Breeders create first-generation hybrids to have resistance to the predominant clubroot pathotypes in Western Canada at the time of product registration. Next-generation hybrids have additional resistance genes that help the crop fight more clubroot pathotypes.

Many companies are hard at work to deal with the clubroot challenge.

“At Corteva Agriscience, we have a great pipeline and great portfolio. We have three clubroot sources commercialized today that farmers can rotate between and have a full pipeline of new sources coming behind those three,” says Freeman.

Canola growers also battle sclerotinia, he says.

“It’s probably the disease that has one of the broadest impacts on canola yield,” Freeman says. “So, using a sclerotinia tolerance trait like we have in our portfolio or how farmers use that in concert with a fungicide program are key things to think about.”

Growers also need to consider the threat of blackleg.

“At Corteva Agriscience, we have a portfolio with really strong adult plant resistance, which is important for baseline genetics to battle blackleg. Then there’s the opportunity to look at specific traits and see how they can help support managing blackleg,” says Freeman.

Turning to canola pests, flea beetles continue to be a concern. In 2021, Bayer CropScience will offer a new product called BUTEO start, says Hansen.

“It’s a brand-new insecticide and it is not a neonicotinoid,” he says.

The product had strong results in field trials during 2020, says Hansen, who used it on his farm.

“I had trials on my farm where the BUTEO start- and Prosper EverGol-treated strips were the only canola left. We had untreated plots and we had commercial offerings that are on the market now. This product is pretty much the only thing that survived the extreme flea beetle pressure. It was the only strip that I didn’t have to have to spray twice,” says Hansen.

Tips for 2021

While 2021 is a new year, diseases, pests and other challenges from previous years will re-emerge. Two of the best ways to mitigate risks are using a good rotation and scouting often. For example, to reduce disease spread, growers shouldn’t plant canola on canola or wheat on wheat, says Delaurier.

Producers should consider splitting their InVigor canola acres among more than one InVigor hybrid to help manage risk, says Stocker.

Another important step for success is knowing what your end-use buyer will accept, says Flad.

In the past, growers sprayed “glyphosate as a pre-harvest aid on cereal crops. The last few years, we’re seeing more and more buyers turn away from that,” he says.

“It’s critical to reach out to those end-use buyers to make sure you know what – if anything – is acceptable for a pre-harvest aid. Then manage your plans accordingly.”

Keeping track of how the crops progress is also helpful in making your decisions a little easier when it is time to plan for the next season, says Basaraba.

“It’s not something that farmers sit down one day and think all about. This is something I think farmers have to be constantly monitoring and considering,” he says. “If they do that, then they should set themselves up for success.” BF

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