GrainsWest winter 2016 - page 8

throughout Alberta in 2015 was not
conducive to starting crops off well or
keeping them going. On top of this, a long
mid-summer drought allowed pests to get
ahead of some crops. However, in most
cases, weather conditions last season did
not allow pests and disease to reach epi-
demic proportions or severely affect yields.
“Right through into July, growers were
fairly pessimistic about the possibilities
for their crop,” Canola Council of Can-
ada agronomist Keith Gabert said. “The
surprising message for the year from the
Canola Council’s perspective is that a lot
of growers came back saying they had
better yields than expected from the way
the year shaped up.”
While pests always present a struggle,
the major issue last season was a thinner
crop lacking in stand establishment. This
gave weeds a chance to grow up and out
of the crop more than usual later in the
“Weeds were there to take advantage
of some extra space and nutrients where
normally the crop would’ve choked them
out later in the season,” Gabert said.
“This made deciding when to spray more
On top of thinner crops, the dry con-
ditions made drought-tolerant perennial
weeds more troublesome.
“Jimson weed became evident in late
fall when it began to tower over the crop
and drew attention from farmers while
swathing,” Alberta Agriculture and For-
estry weed specialist Nicole Kimmel said.
“While most cases were found in canola, it
also showed up in some other crops.”
Kimmel cautioned growers about
jimson weed’s ability to spread if not
addressed, and encouraged them to report
occurrences to their local fieldperson or
Alberta Agriculture (1-403-310-FARM).
When removing the plants, producers
should take the following precautions:
wear gloves and long sleeves to minimize
toxin exposure, double bag for landfill
disposal, and do not compost or burn jim-
son weed. In terms of best management
practices, it helps to employ a canola-
cereal crop rotation.
Like weeds, insects and their potential
for destruction are also tied to the envi-
ronment. When the weather stunts plant
growth, insects can have more prevalent
effects than normal. For canola, Gabert
said that the striped flea beetle was a
concern last year, although this varied
field by field.
“Flea beetles are an expected issue in
some areas every year. The problem was
that the crop didn’t grow fast enough to
get ahead of them. Usually a few bites
won’t cause difficulty, but in some cases,
with the year’s slowly established crop,
flea beetles were able to gain an advantage
over it,” he said. “This would probably be
the single largest insect pest of the year.”
Flea beetle bites may appear worse than
they really are upon first glance, especially
in cases where a single leaf has multiple
bites. However, canola crops can take up
to 50 per cent leaf damage and still come
“I sometimes joke with growers that it’s
easier to have an outsider assess for flea
beetle damage because the threshold for
controlling action is at about 25 per cent
leaf damage, and this can look a lot worse
than it really is,” Gabert said.
Further concern with flea beetles
comes in abnormally cool, windy grow-
ing seasons when the insect moves down
along the soil to warmer temperatures and
chews on stems. Farmers are encouraged
Incidences of clubroot were on this rise this year due to adverse weather conditions.
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