Next-generation canola hybrids combine new traits with high yield

BY JENNIFER BARBER

After the hot, sunny summer of 2014, Alberta canola growers were ready to harvest a great crop. By the end of the first week of September, canola fields were in swath over much of the province. Combining was under way. Expectations were high.

Then the snow fell. Lots of heavy, wet snow. Unseasonal weather events seem to be happening more often during the month of September across the prairies. In 2012 high winds split and tore pods from countless canola fields, leaving the seeds — and profit — on the ground. But a new technology from the InVigor hybrid family is tailor-made for this kind of weather.

“When we planned for this year we knew it would be difficult to get everything swathed by early September,” says Glenn Muller, who farms at Hussar in southeastern Alberta. “So we decided to try InVigor L140P to give us more options at harvest. We knew we could spread our workload and leave the crop standing while retaining pod shatter protection against wind damage.

As things turned out, the weather in September was really bad, he adds. “It was a thick, heavy crop, but even where snow knocked over the plants, pods stayed in place where they should be.” InVigor L140P has a patented pod shatter reduction technology to give growers greater flexibility by allowing them to delay harvest, or straight cut, while minimizing the risk of pod shatter from late season wind or high moisture. In addition, while a grower may choose this hybrid with the intention to straight cut, he can make a decision on whether to swath depending how the fall looks, how the crop is ripening or how the stand appears.

Because the crop had more time to ripen, Muller expects his InVigor L140P to get a higher bushel weight, as well as extra yield and lower green seed count. He applied a desiccant at about 70 to 80 per cent seed colour change. The plan was to harvest five days later, but because of wet weather he had to wait a few extra days to straight cut. No stranger to this practice — he currently straight cuts wheat and malt barley on his 6,000-acre farm — Muller feels confident that this flexible harvest timing will benefit both his yield and time management.

“InVigor L140P can pay for itself with its high yield potential, and by the possibility of removing a swather from the equation,” says Blaine Woycheshin, manager, oilseed crops, InVigor seed with Bayer CropScience Canada. “Right now less than 10 per cent of canola is straight cut, but as more growers look to get the most from their crop they find that delayed swathing and straight cutting have the potential for higher returns.”

AGRONOMIC TRAITS BUILT INTO SEED
InVigor L140P was one of four new Evolution InVigor hybrids introduced in limited quantities in 2014. Both InVigor L140P and InVigor L160S, the new sclerotinia-tolerant InVigor hybrid, represent a different way to choose what canola hybrid fits best on any specific farm. Both have specific agronomic traits built directly into the seed. With InVigor L140P, that means pod shatter reduction technology. With InVigor L160S, it means sclerotinia protection bred into the genetics of the seed.

Sclerotinia hits growers’ wallets hard. According to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, it cost the average Canadian grower just over $38,000 in 2012. Go back a year further, and nearly 80 million bushels were lost to the disease across the prairies, for a total estimated cost of almost $900 million.

“We have lots of sclerotinia on the prairies and growers told us they wanted a hybrid that would help protect their canola from the very beginning,” says Woycheshin. “This hybrid is the first defence in sclerotinia control as it has sclerotinia tolerance bred into the plant. And all four new Evolution InVigor hybrids have the next level of blackleg resistance bred into them, too.”

MORE OPTIONS FOR BIGGER YIELDS
Bayer CropScience also introduced two mid-maturing hybrids this past growing season — InVigor L252 and InVigor L261. Both had exceptionally high yields in the variety trials, with noted standability and lodging resistance.

“So far we’ve been pleased with the performance of all four new Evolution hybrids,” says Woycheshin. “We had limited amounts of seed in 2014 and sales for all four hybrids exceeded our expectations. In Manitoba, for example, InVigor L252 was one of the top three canola hybrids seeded in the province.”

Muller seeded InVigor L252 as he was looking for a medium-height hybrid with mid-maturity. “We use a high level of inputs in our canola and decided if we were going to invest that much in a crop, we should chase high yields,” he says. “We seeded some to dryland and some on a single pivot, and despite a rough start with frost after seeding, the InVigor L252 caught up in a hurry and filled out really well.”

He said the crop was easy to swath and combine, staying nice and straight with no real lodging. “We had four hail storms on that field and the way it stood up to the hail was really impressive,” adds Muller. “Yes, it took a beating but it looked much better than the wheat field across the way. Pods weren’t knocked off and the crop was really dense. Our insurance adjuster said we had hail damage to 63 per cent on that canola field, but we still did better than 50 bushels/acre.”

High yield and standability are key selling features of InVigor L252 and InVigor L261. “Crop stand is one of the critical selection criteria when we develop a new hybrid,” says Allan Eadie, market development manager with Bayer CropScience. “When we trial new hybrids we look for those that will stand up against lodging. The feedback we received on all four new hybrids this year is that they were extremely easy to swath because of their uniform stands. Growers could just set their swather and go.”

Muller adds that his dryland canola also fared really well, despite a very dry and hot summer. He sprayed Proline for sclerotinia control, saw no signs of disease in the crop and had very few insects to contend with this year.

Woycheshin says all four new hybrids are finding a place on prairie canola operations because they answer needs that growers have identified. This kind of targeted technology offers an expanded choice of hybrids not only on a farm-byfarm basis, but on a field-by-field basis as well.

In 2015 all four varieties will be in full production to meet high grower demand. Full yield results for the 2014 growing season will be available online at www.invigorresults.ca FF