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Winter canola tours feature improved varieties, tech

Posted by | May 27, 2016
Growers, industry representatives and researchers tour oilseed fields in Douglas County.
Growers, industry representatives and researchers tour oilseed fields in Douglas County.

Northwest dryland and irrigated growers, industry and faculty learned about new canola varieties, agronomy and technology in Washington Oilseed Cropping Systems-hosted field tours held in May in Douglas County, Odessa and Pomeroy, Wash.

Odessa tour

At the Schibel farm southwest of Odessa, University of Idaho research scientist Jim Davis led the crowd through seven-foot tall winter canola to the UI variety trials, and presented on current varieties as well as other varieties in the breeding pipeline with higher yield potential and cold tolerance.  Barring any major weather events, Davis estimated canola in the area will yield very well this year.

Ben Rathbone of Cascade Agronomics launched a drone with infrared cameras, and explained how results from petiole sampling, coupled with readings from the drone, guided micronutrient applications in Schibel’s canola. Cascade and Redox will continue their study through harvest to determine if the added nutrients result in improved yield.

At Odessa, researchers dicussed how and why to submit samples to the WSU Plant Pest Diagnostic Clinic, and examples of recent potato, wheat, and alfalfa diagnoses; an intriguing account about horned larks destroying spring canola seedlings near Lind, and the battle to eradicate the birds.

Pomeroy tour


Despite a windy and chilly morning, 60 attendees arrived at Brian Scoggin’s winter canola field near Pomeroy on May 19 to learn about canola production strategies, varieties, and best practices.

Frank Young, a USDA-ARS research agronomist based in Pullman, has conducted winter canola variety trials in the Pomeroy area for several years, and was fortunate to have representatives from three seed suppliers present to talk about their entries in the trial. Producers heard about new varieties available starting this fall, with higher yield and better tolerance to cold and heat stress.

Katie Reed, a representative of seed supplier Croplan, explained how tissue testing can be an excellent tool to detect nutrient deficiencies in canola, especially paired with soil testing.

Blackleg, a disease of canola, has been getting more attention in Washington recently due to a crucifer quarantine enacted in eastern Washington counties last year. Tim Paulitz, Pullman-based USDA-ARS plant pathologist, showed photos of symptoms, and emphasized the importance of buying seed that is certified blackleg-free and is treated with a fungicide to ensure the disease does not get established here.

Attendees were able to see stand establishment differences between spring canola that was drilled versus broadcast in nearby fields, and Beau Blachly, also of Croplan talked about advantages and disadvantages of each.

According to Steve Starr, a representative of Pacific Coast Canola, the canola and vegetable oil market outlook is “looking bullish at this point” due to world and local demand, and other market factors. Mike Stubbs, president of the Washington Oilseeds Commission, provided an update of recent activities and noted that Dr. Young’s variety trials were funded in part by assessment monies from the commission.

Douglas County

Frank Young, USDA-ARS Pullman, speaks during the Douglas County tour.
Frank Young, USDA-ARS Pullman, speaks during the Douglas County tour.

The Douglas County canola tour had a new twist this year, featuring not only canola, but several other crops and cropping strategies including triticale, peas, sunflowers, cover cropping, blackleg management, and chemical fallow weed management.

Frank Young, USDA-ARS Pullman, is retiring this fall and was recognized for his dedicated efforts to promote canola production in the region for the last nine years.

The tour started at a canola field of Tom Poole’s; he has grown canola for a number of years, and is convinced that despite the challenges of learning about the crop, the benefits are far-reaching.   Reduced weed and disease pressure in his winter wheat crop, and not relying only on the wheat market are just a few of the many benefits Poole noted. Sunflowers and triticale are new to Douglas Poole’s crop rotation this year, with triticale as a rotation crop and to rebuild residue after losing portions of fields to the Chelan complex fire last summer. He is also experimenting with cover crops to improve soil organic matter, soil microbal activity, and provide rotation benefits to the following winter wheat crop.

Dan Cavadini is using cover crop acreage for grazing his cattle and likes what he sees so far.  Winter peas are another crop option in some of Douglas County, and Howard Nelson of Central Washington Grain Growers reported that winter wheat following a pea crop has a nitrogen source due to increased soil microbial activity during fallow.

The final stop on the tour included a demonstration of the Weed Seeker spot spray system and the potential it has to reduce total herbicide use. Ian Burke, WSU weed scientist, and a graduate student are exploring strategies to maximize weed control in chem fallow, particularly with weeds that are becoming glyphosate resistant.

Other information presented during the tour included updates from Jeff Schibel of the WA Oilseeds Commission, Rachel Bomberger from the WSU Plant Pest Diagnostic Clinic, and Karen Sowers from WSU-WOCS.

The Washington Oilseed Cropping Systems project team would like to thank Jeff Schibel, Dennis Swinger, Ben Rathbone, Jim Davis, Rachel Bomberger, Karen Sowers, Bill Schillinger, Steve Starr, Brian Scoggin, Tom Poole, Douglas Poole, Aaron Viebrock, Dale Whaley, Frank Young and his crew from USDA-ARS/WSU, Beau Blachly, Katie Reed, Tim Paulitz, Mike Stubbs, the Washington Oilseed Cropping Systems Project, sponsors Cascade Agronomics and Redox Chemicals, lunch sponsors Croplan by Winfield, Pomeroy Grain Growers, WSU Douglas Co. Extension, and all who attended the tours.