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10 ways to drought-proof canola

Farmers can’t control the weather but they can control their weather preparedness. Can farmers actually “drought-proof” the crop? No. A long drought will result in significant yield drop no matter what. The following steps can however give canola a better chance at moderate success when dry conditions occur.

1. Leave tall stubble.

Research from the Prairies shows that, in dry conditions, moisture from snow trapped in stubble increases until stubble is about 12” tall.

2. Seed between the stubble rows.

This works in tandem with tall stubble. Precision seeding tools that work between the rows of tall stubble will result in fewer complications from the tall stubble. Farms get the moisture gain from the snow trap without the issues of poor seed placement. A combine that achieves uniform residue spread also helps.

3. Choose weather-tolerant cultivars.

Cultivars that yield consistently well in a broad range of conditions may provide an advantage when drought conditions occur. Ask around to see which cultivars performed best in recent dry seasons. More on choosing the right cultivar for each field.

4. Select fields with low herbicide carryover risk.

Canola is extremely sensitive to Group 2 herbicide carryover. Areas with moisture accumulation through the previous June, July and August of 4” or less will be at highest risk of herbicide carryover. That risk will be even higher in areas with multiple dry years in a row. Residual herbicides need moist soils and warm temperatures for breakdown to occur within the expected time frame. Listen to an episode of the Canola Watch podcast on herbicide carryover risk.

5. Provide balanced nutrition.

Crops with access to an adequate supply of all necessary nutrients will have lower stress and increased health. Recent research from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada shows that adequate sulphur can improve results in drought conditions. Read this Canola Watch fundamentals article on ‘how much fertilizer does canola need?

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