Should canola seed companies give farmers unable to seed wet fields this spring a break and forgo their contracts fees on volunteer crops?
The Keystone Agricultural Producers (KAP) is asking itself that question.
Butch Harder, a Lowe Farm-area farmer and director of the Manitoba Canola Growers Association (MCGA), raised the issue here July 22 during KAP’s general council meeting. His resolution from the floor said KAP should ask Monsanto to drop its TUA (technical use agreement) on volunteer crops of Roundup Ready canola being grown because farmers couldn’t get on the land to seed.
After another KAP delegate suggested the resolution should be amended to include all canola seed companies, the resolution was tabled and referred to KAP’s Grains and Oilseeds Committee to work on the wording.
KAP president Ian Wishart said he understands the issue needs to be dealt with quickly, presumably because harvest is getting closer.
If Monsanto is going to charge farmers $15.65 an acre for a volunteer canola crop, then it should pay to remove Roundup Ready canola from other crops, Harder said in an interview.
Monsanto does just that, company spokeswoman Trish Jordan said. If a farmer has never grown Roundup Ready canola or has not grown it on the field in question for four years, Monsanto will remove any volunteers, she said.
Monsanto doesn’t want farmers taking volunteer crops to harvest because it’s agronomically unsound, Jordan said. Hybrid volunteers are highly variable, including maturity. And while sometimes it appears to be a good crop, volunteer crops yield and grade poorly, according to Jordan.
“Anybody who has actually tried it realizes it’s not a good idea,” Jordan said.
Manitoba farmers who did it in 2005 – another wet spring – harvested less than six bushels an acre and their crop graded No. 3, she added.
Monsanto is charging farmers with volunteer crops the same price – $15.65 an acre – as if they had seeded Roundup Ready this spring partly to discourage the practice, but also to be consistent with the terms and conditions of Monsanto’s Technical Use Agreement, which prohibits farmers from saving Roundup Ready seed and planting it in future years.
The deadline for farmers to register fields of volunteer Roundup Ready canola was July 17, but Monsanto will still allow late registrations, Jordan said.
Seventeen farmers have registered 1,700 acres of volunteer canola, she said. One of the farmers is from Manitoba, 12 are from Saskatchewan and four from Alberta.
Meanwhile, Bayer isn’t giving farmers the option to grow their Liberty Linktolerant canola as a volunteer crop, Derrick Rozdeba, Bayer’s communication’s manager, said in an email.
“The practice of leaving volunteer canola the following year for a crop is not a sound agronomic practice,” he wrote. “Research has shown that this practice very seldom is successful enough to make a crop and in most cases is tilled under or sprayed out later in the year.”
About 15 per cent of the volunteer canola plants will be susceptible to Liberty herbicide and 10 per cent won’t produce pollen, he said.
“Growers applying Liberty to these fields and harvesting seed from these fields will be in breach of their Liberty Trait Agreement (LTA) and/ or bag licence,” Rozdeba wrote. “Growers in breach of the LTA and/or bag licence risk being audited and could forfeit their LTA agreement in the future. Bayer recommends that growers in this situation spray out the volunteer canola field with an application of glyphosate plus a Group 4 (phenoxy) product.”
Earlier in the meeting, KAP delegates passed a resolution to investigate preparing a contract to offset some of the liabilities farmers face now when they sign an agreement with seed companies.
Chuck Fossay, a District 6 representative who farms at Starbuck said the contracts farmers sign before being about to buy herbicide-tolerant crops needs to be fairer. Now some contracts say farmers themselves must pay the costs of an investigation into whether they are in breach of the contract. Fossay said farmers should be considered innocent until proved guilty.