Think Carefully Before Growing Out Volunteer Canola

Crops that were broadcast seeded before the crop insurance deadline but produce an uninsurable stand are eligible for Excess Moisture Insurance (EMI) payments, said David Koroscil, manager of Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporat ion’s (MASC) Insurance Projects and Sales.

However, crops that were conventionally seeded before the deadline but have failed due to excess moisture are covered under regular crop insurance and that generally results in a payout that is considerably greater than through EMI.

The deadline to apply, without penalty, for EMI payments was June 22. The deadline to file Seeded Acreage Reports to MASC is June 30. Crops broadcast seeded should be noted in the Seeded Acreage Report, Koroscil said.

Farmers should also report acres that were too wet to seed in the “too wet to seed column” of the report, rather than as summerfallow because the latter will be ineligible for payments if there’s an AgriRecovery program in response to this year’s excessively wet fields.

While MASC will insure broadcast-seeded crops if the resulting plant stand meets insurance coverage, volunteer crops are uninsurable under any condition.

That’s just one of the many reasons why volunteer crops need to be carefully considered, Kristen Phillips, an agronomy specialist with the Canola Council of Canada, said during a webinar June 15.

Taking a volunteer canola crop to harvest is a “high-risk, low-potential” venture, she said.

It could also be illegal. Under Bayer CropScience’s Liberty and Trait contract, it’s illegal to save seed from an InVigor crop for any purpose, including as a volunteer crop.

Monsanto is making a special exemption for its Roundup Ready canola in 2011. Farmers will be allowed to harvest a volunteer canola crop if they are otherwise unable to get into the field to plant a new crop and/or spray out their volunteers, said Monsanto spokeswoman Trish Jordan.

Farmers must contact their local Monsanto representative or call its CustomerCare line at 1-800-667-4944 and request a Volunteer Technology Use Agreement for the number of acres they intend to harvest. They must register before July 15 for a voluntary TUA and the forms must be returned to Monsanto no later than August 6.

The cost is $16.34 an acre, which is based on the 2011 technology fee of $7.20 per kilogram at an average seeding rate of five pounds an acre. Monsanto will bill the farmer directly.

“Harvesting a volunteer canola crop without a volunteer Technology Use Agreement is a violation of the Technology Stewardship Agreement between the farmer and Monsanto and could result in Monsanto terminating the agreement,” Jordan stated in an email. “Without a TSA, a farmer would be unable to purchase Genuity Roundup Ready canola technology in the future.”

It’s rare for volunteer canola crops to have the right plant population of 16 to 20 plants per square metre. In most fields, plants are too thick in some areas and too thin in others, Phillips said.

Plant growth stage also varies making harvesting difficult and a volunteer crop is also vulnerable to insects and diseases because the seed hasn’t been treated.

Typically a volunteer crop will yield 25 per cent of a normal canola crop, Phillips said. Farmers need to ask themselves whether they want to invest in fertilizer and pesticides for a crop with such a low-yield potential, she said.

LIONEL KASKIW, MAFRI

Lionel Kaskiw, a farm production adviser with Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives in Souris, cites the example of a farmer who averages eight bushels an acre, and grosses $96 an acre at $12 a bushel. However, operating costs would probably be around $103 an acre. Obviously taking the $50-an-acre EMI payment would put that farmer far ahead with less effort or risk.

By opting to grow a volunteer crop you’re also taking that field out of canola production for next year when the yield potential will be much higher, Phillips noted.

A volunteer crop can serve another purpose though – to suck up the excess soil moisture, thereby increasing the field’s yield potential next year, she said. It’s important, however, to kill the volunteer crop before it goes to seed, Phillips said.

The terminated volunteer crop can also provide the stubble needed to enhance the winter survival of fall-seeded winter wheat.

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About the author

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Allan Dawson

Allan Dawson is a reporter with the Manitoba Co-operator based near Miami, Man. Covering agriculture since 1980, Dawson has spent most of his career with the Co-operator except for several years with Farmers’ Independent Weekly and before that a Morden-Winkler area radio station.

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