‘King Wheat’ has been deposed by ‘Queen Canola’ on the Canadian Prairies in terms of being the big-acres crop, and of course in gross dollars generated.
The reasons for the switch over the last half decade, or so, are numerous, including the world appetite for vegetable oil, the unique characteristics of canola oil, the dollars the crop generate, and seed technology in particular herbicide tolerant varieties.
The result is that in the summer the colour yellow is seen in areas that a decade ago farmers would have been reluctant to risk growing the crop.
And as gross dollar returns remain strong farmers have been pushing rotations to the limit, and increasingly past what has long been considered reasonable.
We now see many instances where canola is being planted into fields that grew the crop the year before. That reality inches the growing of canola closer to a monoculture system, and that would seem to hold a high level of risk for canola down the road.
There is, for example the risk of weed pressure build up, because the same crop tends to have the same chemical packages to work with.
Certainly, herbicide resistance in a growing number of weeds is becoming a problem producers must be aware of.
The first herbicide tolerant weed was discovered in 1975, BASF Technical Marketing Specialist Bryce Geisel told those attending a BASF Knowledge Harvest event held in Yorkton recently.
Since then the number of herbicide tolerant weeds has shown “a pretty strong trajectory going up,” he said at the event, adding “I’m pretty sure the line will keep going up as years go on.”
Additionally, canola has always been a crop where the risk of disease has been a factor, in particular blackleg and sclerotinia stem rot.
More recently clubroot has emerged as a growing issue.
The harder rotations are pushed, the less years between canola plantings, the greater the chance for disease build up. That is common sense, and something producers have long known, even if they have chosen to push those rotations.
In fact, producers have pushed things so far there are now voices suggesting some pretty stringent procedures to protect the industry.
In a recent Western Producer Keith Downey, one of the researchers who created canola, told the Canola Council of Canada convention March 8, measures may need to be taken.
Downey said in the article he worried the current three resistant genes “are not going to be enough,” and that new ones might not be soon enough. He suggested that existing legislation allowing municipalities to require adequate rotations could be used to stop some farmers from growing canola too often and creating the conditions for chronic clubroot infestation and other problems.
It would be a dramatic step should RMs become involved in legislating what farmers grow, and when it is grown on a piece of land, yet protecting the ‘Queen” may require such steps if producers are not willing to police the situation themselves.
Calvin Daniels is Editor with Yorkton This Week.