This year’s canoLAB put a sharp focus on canola rotations and expanded the scope slightly, beyond a single crop.
“This year we are not only looking at canola but crops that would be in rotation with canola, so it is intended to be a holistic or systems approach to farming,” said Angela Brackenreed, agronomy specialist with the Canola Council of Canada (CCC) and event organizer.
This year’s sessions focused on rotational considerations, including cover crops, soybeans and corn, as well as sprayer technology, residue management, integrated weed management, understanding soil tests, disease, insects and DNA and diagnostics.
“This year I really wanted to bring in the rotational aspect because there are a number of issues where the solution may be to extend your rotation, which is easy to say but in practice is not quite as easy,” said Brackenreed.
“The question is, what are the crop options for these rotations and how do I grow them? So, that is really what we are looking at today, if you are trying to diversify your rotation, what are some things you need to consider from a systems approach?” said Brackenreed
Dennis Lange, farm production adviser with Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, ran a session at the event about considering soybeans in canola rotations.
“We were asked to come in as an alternative because growers who are growing a lot of canola are now moving into soybeans and we wanted to try and bring in some discussion on the relationship to the two crops when it comes to fertility, how they are both big users of phosphate and some of the differences between the two crops as well,” said Lange.
Lange says that phosphate levels should be a consideration when looking at working different crops into your rotation cycle.
“Soybeans are really good scavengers for phosphate but we really need to look at how we manage the rotation for phosphate, and with all of our crops, not just soybeans,” said Lange. “There are definitely some differences between the two crops but at the end of the day, we try to fit it into the rotation where possible and it all seems to work well.”
Soybean acres in Manitoba have seen a steady increase in recent years and are being implemented into canola rotations more and more throughout the province.
“Early projections right now, we could be somewhere around that 1.5 million acres of soybeans in Manitoba. Still chasing canola and still chasing wheat, but two million acres aren’t that far off anymore,” said Lange.
For those interested in moving into soybean production, Lange suggests to first start by researching which variety is best suited for your growing region, looking specifically at plant maturity.
“Focus on maturity to start, making sure you get a good plant stand and look at your overall fertility. That is going to be the biggest piece when adding anything into rotation,” said Lange.
Organizers said the event continues to be well attended and generates significant interest every winter.
“This is the fourth year we have hosted this event and we are proud to offer an event that has a direct benefit to the farmers we work for,” said Roberta Galbraith, member relations co-ordinator with the Manitoba Canola Grower’s Association (MCGA).
The one-day, hands-on workshop, co-hosted by the MCGA and CCC, saw 21 industry experts in Brandon for two consecutive sessions Mar. 9 and 10 at Assiniboine Community College.
Attended mainly by agronomist and industry members, a few producers also took a part in what was said to be a great opportunity to sharpen diagnostic skills.
“Our participants are a bit of a mixed bag. The CCC represents the entire value chain so we really encourage all folks in the industry to take part,” said Brackenreed. “With our train-the-trainer mandate, this is a really good crowd because each agronomist who attends can filter the knowledge and disseminate it to a large group of farmers.”
The workshop offered eight different sessions and was limited to 84 participants to ensure an interactive environment.
“The major benefit I see to this event is that you can get your hands right in there and see a plant in a setting where there isn’t a lot of pressure,” said Brackenreed. “It gives you a chance to prepare for the growing season and learn in an environment where you aren’t under pressure to have answers right away.”
CanoLAB will run again next year in the early weeks of March. For those interested in participating, organizers suggest subscribing to Canola Watch for updates on registration: canolawatch.org.