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K-State Agronomy eUpdates

Department of Agronomy

Kansas State University

1712 Claflin Rd.

2004 Throckmorton PSC

Manhatan, KS 66506

785-532-6101

agronomy@ksu.edu

Extension Agronomy

Canola summary for the 2013-2014 growing season

It was a year of many challenges for winter canola in Kansas. Ironically, this is how I started last year’s summary of the growing season in the Agronomy eUpdate. While 2013-2014 was a repeat of many of those challenges, we did learn a great deal about the adaptability and resiliency of winter canola to the environmental conditions of Kansas and the southern Great Plains.

For a second year in a row, we started with producers seeding record acres of canola in Kansas and the southern Great Plains. August was anything but dry in parts of central Kansas; however, September turned out hot and dry. Areas that did not receive the August rains had canola fields that failed to germinate and/or had very erratic emergence. This was a particular problem in the south central counties and most of Oklahoma. Nonetheless, some producers received timely rains that aided germination and establishment.

Dry soil conditions led to delayed planting. As a result, aboveground biomass was limited going into what was a record cold winter. Aboveground biomass is important because the plant needs a large leaf area, a thick stem, and an extensive root system to survive our winters. Snow cover can benefit survival too, but what snow fell did not last long. 

In 2013, soil moisture conditions improved in the spring. This did not happen for many in 2014. Dry conditions, coupled with the cold winter and a slow start to the growing season, severely limited plant biomass production and this is what ultimately reduced yields across the southern Great Plains. Plant height, branching, pods per plant, and pods per area were all reduced because of reduced biomass production.  

Additionally, several late spring freezes affected the crop in the bolting and early flowering stages. Because of its indeterminate growth, canola has the ability to recover from these freeze events but dry soil conditions resulted in poorer recovery compared to the freeze events of 2013. In many fields, producers observed blank areas on the main and secondary branches where pods were aborted by the freezes. This significantly reduced yield potential.

Where the spring rains fell, the crop recovered better and resulted in fair to good yields.  However, where the crop was severely drought stricken, the rains fell too late. This resulted in significant secondary growth and flowering just before and after swathing in June. From previous years’ observations, regrowth appears to be worse when rains fall later in the growing season on a crop that has been negatively affected by drought. The regrowth potential of canola can be a benefit, for instance, after an early spring hail event, but it can also be a challenge to manage. Regrowth of secondary branches is generally less productive than the initial branches, resulting in lower yields. 

Producer canola yields in Kansas averaged around 20 bushels/acre, with a yield range of about 5 to 35 bushels/acre. There were producer fields that yielded 0 bu/acre from the combined effects of drought, winterkill, and late spring freezes.

Yield trials that included commercial winter canola varieties were harvested at Belleville, Garden City, Hutchinson, and Manhattan. Kiowa was lost to delayed emergence and winterkill. Erratic fall stands and poor survival led to abandonment of the Andale plot. A five-year yield summary is provided in Table 1.

Location

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

4-yr Avg (2014 excluded)

Yield (bushels per acre)

 

 

Andale

36

12*

26*

58

Winterkill

33

Belleville

N/A

N/A

80

59

10

70

Garden City

47

46

46

Hail

(In process)

46

Hutchinson

41

Herbicide damage

Drought

42

23

42

Kiowa

Herbicide damage

21*

42

Drought

Drought

32

Manhattan

41

46

44

67

35

50

Marquette

41

42

15*

Freeze

N/A

34

Average by year

42

34

42

57

23

 

*Trial negatively affected by drought or severe weather

 

 

Table 1. Summary of yields (bushels/acre) of K-State Research and Extension trials including commercial winter canola cultivars, 2010-2014.

 

We reinitiated canola testing at Belleville in 2011-2012 to test how far we have come in improving winter survival. Two mild winters resulted in very high seed yields and a two-year average of 70 bushels/acre. We got the winter hardiness test we were seeking this growing season, with winter survival ranging from 0 to greater than 90%. Five of the top 10 varieties for both yield and winter survival originate from the K-State canola breeding program. While the site averaged 10 bushels/acre, the top K-State experimental line, KS4506, averaged 31 bushels/acre. 

Hutchinson was impacted by drought and winterkill. Spring rains arrived before and after swathing and caused problems with getting the crop out in a timely manner. Nonetheless, average yields ranged from 0 to 58 bushels/acre, with a site average of 23 bushels/acre. Although winterkill was observed in Manhattan, the trials that survived benefited from timely rains and cool temperatures at grain fill. This resulted in a site average of 35 bushels/acre. 

Careful variety selection is very important for harvesting a successful winter canola crop, and that has never been more apparent than in the 2013-2014 growing season. Watch future eUpdates for a review of winter canola varieties and suggestions to help with variety selection. In addition, with a little assistance from the weather and the use of good farming practices, producers will realize the full potential and profitability of winter canola. Even though weather had a huge impact on the 2013-2014 crop, many producers are encouraged by the resilience of winter canola and the benefits it provides to our cropping systems.

 

Mike Stamm Canola Breeder
mjstamm@ksu.edu