John Mayko: canoLAB 2017

February 28, 2017

By John Mayko, Director,  Alberta Canola

On behalf of Alberta Canola, I had the privilege of attending canoLAB in Vermilion on February 22 & 23. This was the sixth year that Alberta Canola and the Canola Council of Canada have hosted canoLAB, which is a hands-on diagnostic event featuring hundreds of live canola plants and insects held during the winter. The farmers and agronomists are divided into small groups that work their way through eight diagnostic stations taught by some of Western Canada’s leading research scientists and agronomists. Following are some of the highlights and take-home points from each of the information stations.

Canola Storage

  • We learned the difference between aeration (just to cool, 0.1-0.2 CFM/bu) and natural air drying (to cool and dry, 1-2 CFM/bu).
  • Aeration fans should be chosen to be suitable for bin size, height of grain and type of grain (canola and other small seeded crops are much more difficult to push air through)
  • 8% moisture and 15 C or less required for safe long term (>5 months) storage.

Temperature Inversions

  • This causes off-target movement of fine spray particles (<200 microns)
  • The greatest risk for inversions starts from late afternoon and rises till shortly after next daybreak
  • Signs of inversion risk include:
    • dust or humidity hanging in the air
    • smoke will not rise
    • odors are more intense and sound waves travel farther and are louder,
    • clear skies or no cloud cover
  • >10% cloud cover and/or wind >4-6 km/h will tend to mix air and reduce the risk of inversions

Insect Pests

  • Cabbage seedpod weevils continue their march northwards, everywhere south of a line from Red Deer to Provost should be diligently monitoring for their presence
  • Do 10 sweeps per location, in a minimum of 4 locations in the field, a pair of sweeps separated by a minimum of 50 m with a second pair elsewhere in the field gives 97% confidence, suggested economic threshold of 3-4 weevils/sweep.
  • Swede midge not yet present in Alberta, presence in NE Saskatchewan at relatively low levels, crop damage similar to some herbicide damage, stunted racemes, capable of 4-5 generations/year in Ontario.
  • A previously unknown midge related to swede midge has been identified in canola this past year 2 parasitic wasps may be helping to control one or both of these midge on the prairies.
swede midge at canolab17

Boyd Mori from Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada discussed Swede Midge and other insect pests at canoLAB 2017.

Herbicide Action & Injury

  • The live plant demonstrations showed damage from several herbicides applied at low rates to mimic off target herbicide drift, and at these low levels, damage is not always consistently the same as what can be seen when full rate of herbicides are applied for control of volunteers.
  • It is important to investigate cropping, spraying, and sprayer history to help pinpoint likely causes of damage.

Soil Fertility

  • The discussion focused on phosphorus rates, placement and forms. Fertilizer applications are not generally keeping up with crop uptake and soil drawdown, resulting in mining of soil P across much of western Canada.
  • Canola removes 0.9 lb of P2O5 per bushel of crop harvested, and canola is sensitive to amounts of seed placed fertilizer.
  • Rule of thumb is to apply a maximum of 20 lb/ac of P2O5 seedplaced and the next best placement is side banding.
  • However, when applying higher P rates for soil building or maintenance other application methods such as midrow banding or broadcasting also are suitable. When soil applied, form of P fertilizer such as ortho or poly phosphates are equal in effectiveness.

Beneficial Insects

  • An estimated 500+ species of beneficial insects easily identifiable on any given farm on the prairies: carabid and rove beetles (egg and pest consumers), parasitoid wasps (specific to certain pests) spiders, native pollinators such as bumblebees and solitary bees.
  • There are thousands of species of beneficial insect distributed across the prairies.
  • Only spray insecticides when pest thresholds are above economic thresholds to preserve beneficial insect populations, which help to control pest species and pollinate canola crops.

Stand Establishment

  • Revised investigations show that a move from 7-10pl/ft2 to 4-6 pl/ft2 is appropriate for economic reasons. However, this is only appropriate when plant stands are uniform.
  • Residue management, seeding depth and speed, amount of seed placed fertilizer and fan speed are all important factors influencing stand establishment and these are all factors within your control.


Ralph Lange discusses blackleg resistance and common misdiagnoses of canola diseases.

  • Plant pathologists have developed a new rating system in Canada for identifying and classifying major-gene blackleg resistance present in canola varieties (using letters from A-H in addition to the existing field-resistance ratings (R, MR,MS, and S) ratings.
  • This will help growers chooses varieties based on their levels of blackleg disease present within their fields and to help in rotating varieties with different resistance genes, which may help reduce the risk of new races of blackleg in their fields.
  • It is important to properly identify blackleg, not to be confused with sclerotinia, fusarium wilt, root rots or verticillium stripe.

Overall, the event was very informative for producers, industry agronomists and students from Lakeland College who were helping throughout the day. Thanks to all who facilitated and participated in the event!

Alberta Canola Connects is your window into the activities of the Alberta Canola Producers Commission as we work both locally and globally to help contribute to the long term success of canola farmers in Alberta. 

view more Alberta Canola Connects postings

Upcoming Events

Know Your Grade for Canola

Join our mailing list to receive important news and event updates!

Subscribe to our newsletters