Canada’s canola industry is launching a new variety testing program to replace one that was cancelled a year ago.
Called a “new-generation” canola variety program, it contains some major changes from a previous one which collapsed because of seed company dissatisfaction with it.
One difference is that growers will now partially fund the program. Previously, the industry paid for it.
Another is that the program will be “systematic,” meaning varieties will be treated with the chemicals specifically intended for them.
A third new feature involves an economic analysis for “contribution margin.” It crunches expected cost and revenue figures to give growers an idea of a variety’s potential profitability.
But the results will still be collected and audited by an independent third party, just as in the previous program. A yet-to-be- formed governance body will choose the third party.
Growers consider objective third-party involvement critical to the integrity of the information which the program generates.
“You’re not just going on company data,” said Bill Ross, Manitoba Canola Growers Association executive manager. “This will be the best data a grower can use.”
The new program’s predecessor, the Prairie Canola Variety Trials, ended abruptly in 2010 when a number of participating seed companies pulled out, unhappy over the way it was run.
“Some companies felt that the way the tests were being run before weren’t reflective of the potential of their varieties,” said Brian Chorney, MCGA research chair.
Specifically, companies said the small test plots used by PCVT to evaluate varieties did not reflect actual field-scale conditions.
Another complaint was that the evaluated varieties were not treated with commercially associated chemicals.
The new program will now include both small plots and large fields, said Denise Maurice, vice-president of crop production for the Canola Council of Canada, which coordinates the project.
Small plots will involve only commercially available varieties, while whole fields owned by the companies will include up-and-coming ones. In both cases, the program will audit those trials for data to ensure the approach is scientifically correct, she said.
Also, the new systematic approach means that crops will be treated with the herbicides and seed treatments for which they were genetically engineered. Roundup Ready canola will be sprayed with Roundup, LibertyLink with Liberty and so on.
“It pretty much addresses all the concerns,” Maurice said.
The governance body formed by the canola council to manage the program will include representatives from grower groups, the seed trade, oilseed specialists and the council itself.
The trials will begin this year. Yet-to-be-determined sites will be in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta.
Growers and the industry will split the cost of the program. The proportion of funding has not been established yet, Maurice said.
Manitoba producers will pay their share through MCGA’s commodity checkoff. The association has budgeted for the required amount, Ross said.
Chorney said growers are glad to see variety trials return because they depend heavily on data from them.
“We believe this information is of great value to producers when they’re trying to decide which varieties to use,” said Chorney, who farms near East Selkirk.
“Not having this information available makes it tough for growers to make decisions as to what varieties to grow.” [email protected]
– DENISE MAURICE, CANOLA COUNCIL OF CANADA