The Combine Forum banner
1 - 20 of 20 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,573 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Or, put it another way, convince me not to grow Canola snow Canola...
I farm in a region which has certifiably the least heat units, and most moisture of western Canada. Traditionally has been cattle country, and we still have cattle and sell excess hay, but more acres are in crop now than hay and pasture, and looking to keep it that way for various reasons.

Soil is called grey wooded, the worst would be about 8" deep, some much better, ranges from grey clay to gumbo to peat with some very mellow deep black and even some sand in places. Often all types can be found within a few acres, all gently rolling, with enough slope to have natural drainage, and subsoil that is nearly impermeable.

Based on my experience of the past few years, the crop that will do the best in our challenging environment, is short season Canola, L120 being the best currently, 72-35 RR was working very well until discontinued. It seems that no matter what mother nature throws at it, it just bounces right back. Flood it out, it turns purple, sits there looking dead, then grows on once the water leaves, saturated soils, add at little more N and it recovers just fine, hail, even at full flower, it comes back amazingly, hot dry weather, it aborts or blasts some flowers, then carries on once it rains again. Fall frost, so far, with a good canopy, hasn't caused any serious harm. Deer, moose, it just keeps making more pods to make up for what they eat. Can seed it into almost any conditions with nearly any method and it grows like a weed. Flexibility with applying additional fertilizer. In crop weed control of nearly everything. More marketing options, less storage and less freight per acre, less nutrients and tonnes removed per acre. No dust. The tap root works wonders for compaction and wicking out excess moisture. More harvesting options, once it is dry, can combine in the dew, fog, showers, 24 hrs a day, standing or swathed, or even in the spring( except the deer don't leave much)

Barley just can't handle the moisture, or lack of moisture, doesn't recover from hail, and is a complete write off in saturated soil. Deer nearly take every head. If I listed all of the reasons I prefer Canola over barley it would take pages.....

Oats do better than barley, and that is all that most people grow, but they have been nearly worthless. I did plant some this year for the first time in my career, they are currently laying on the ground with a few stems sticking up where the hail left them, so not going to know the results of that experiment.

I am growing CPS wheat, for the second year, and it does do much better than barley in wet conditions, but not quite willing to bet the farm on it either, given the short growing season, and inputs are comparable to Canola, but returns aren't.

Not willing to grow much more hay than what we consume, as my primary goal is to increase OM in the soil, and I believe that decades of raping and pillaging hay with nothing returned has been the cause of the lack of OM, it is drastic when you compare it to nearly virgin soils. Hay has a place in the rotation, but not going to be significant enough acres, and the soil which gives the most trouble with annual crops will hardly grow hay regardless. I believe, and please correct me if I am wrong, but growing crops with a large biomass, returning all of the straw and converting to direct seeding will build OM faster, or at least deplete is slower than removing everything that grows above ground year after year in a hay crop. ( there must be a magic # of years of hay, where the root mass is maximum vs. the material removed above ground?)

Right now the rotation is becoming Canola, Barley, Canola, Wheat. With experiments of back to back canola, with advice from the ACPC agronomists, with very good results so far. This area is not typically known for disease or insect pressure, no club root in the region.

I am looking for any better suggestions for a rotation that would work in wet soils and low GDU's, build organic matter, adding N would be a benefit.

I've been considering growing a green manure crop, likely red clover, on the heavier ground instead of a cereal which will would likely be a write off anyways. What would be the disease insect and weed implications of a canola, red clover, canola rotation on certain types of soil? And is there any successful way to establish the clover under the canola crop? could it be young enough to survive Rup or liberty? Would it need to be broadcast after weed control, or could it be seeded late in the fall and have enough growth the following year? We have only tried seeding it under barley or oats. It always catches, and will grow in all of our soil types and pH's regardless of the year. Usually grows much too well, chokes out everything else and is impossible to put up as hay( don't plant it anymore). I believe I would be money ahead to grow a green manure crop with very little inputs or work, than risking the inputs into a barley crop on some of this ground. This same ground also compacts very easily which makes it nearly useless for pasture or perrennial hayland, which is why I am instead trying to use it as crop land, where the compaction can be undone, and there are no feet and many less wheels on the ground.

Any other cover crop type options that could be used as a full season crop on wet ground, preferably with the potential for grazing.

What about Fall Rye, or Faba Beans? I know very little about flax, I haven't seen any grown in this area, but it was grown here half a century ago.

I haven't seen any peas do very well on similar soils locally when grown as silage, they grow on the hilltops only, but would certainly want to grow them if they could work.

I know all of the agronomic reasons why tight or continuous canola is a bad idea, but I understand it is happening quite a lot especially in the peace country. It certainly is tempting. For the future of the industries sake though, there must be a better way.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,573 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
On some of our poorer soils, we seed winter wheat than canola. Seed the winter wheat directly into canola as soon as u harvest. It does great and is early.
I would like to try that, as winter wheat is somewhat of an unknown around here. Supposedly our Chinooks in mid winter can be a problem, but it is worth a try. Would be good to be seeding into a dry seedbed in the fall, rather than fighting with mud in the spring. Plus, it would be possible to hold off some of the nutrients until the growing conditions are better known. Trouble is, we generally are finishing harvesting our canola about the day before is snows( on a good year). And seeding the day after it melts, not a very big window in the fall for doing much.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
264 Posts
What about putting some heavy fertilizer into your alfalfa (P + K)? and keep it for 2-3 years, then put your winter wheat + canola into that stubble.

Alfalfa should increase your OM. Even if you could get it bale-grazed or swath grazed it would be great.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
127 Posts
It's funny that u guys say that canola bounces back from moisture stress and other stresses. On our farm, we would push canola rotations, but over the last 6-7 years our Junes have been very wet. Cereals and soybeans take the moisture but canola just dies off or blooms when the plant is 3" tall. We are seriously considering cutting out canola altogether. This year my beans will on average out yield my canola by 20-25 bushels. Maybe I am growing the wrong canola varieties?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,133 Posts
Clubroot, Thats the only thing you need to say to me about canola on canola rotations. Go that route and you better have a plan for what your going to do when you end up getting clubroot. As for a better rotation what part of central alberta are you in?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,573 Posts
Discussion Starter · #8 ·
712alberta, I am in very west central AB, straight west of Red Deer, literally on the edge of cropping. Clubroot was reported about 20 miles east of me, so it may be just a matter of time before it gets here too.

BrianTeeAs for why I am looking for an alternative, it is to replace barley in the rotation, keep doing canola every second year, but need something that can handle the moisture and other stresses better than barley does.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,573 Posts
Discussion Starter · #9 ·
dtimchishen, I should clarify when I say that canola handles the water better. In my observations, barley takes a look around about the time it starts tillering and decides what it wants to be when it grows up, and whatever the weather or management does after that doesn't have much effect on the outcome, if it was saturated, or bone dry, it is committed to producing for those conditions. Canola is very adaptable, if conditions improve, it will make more branches/abort less, and keep going until it meets a limiting factor, water, heat, nutrients. I've seen a lot of drown outs that just bolted a single flower 6 inches off the ground, with 1" yellow leaves, then as conditions improve, it keeps branching and flowering, and by fall looks normal. whereas the cereal plant makes one head per tiller and that is it. If conditions don't improve, then yes, it is ugly.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,573 Posts
Discussion Starter · #10 · (Edited)
What about putting some heavy fertilizer into your alfalfa (P + K)? and keep it for 2-3 years, then put your winter wheat + canola into that stubble.

Alfalfa should increase your OM. Even if you could get it bale-grazed or swath grazed it would be great.
I did do that with the last alfalfa I seeded, only kept it for 3 years, where the alfalfa was thriving, the canola was terrific, where the alfalfa had already died out, crop was poor. Works well on the higher ground, but i've yet to find an alfalfa that will survive in our lower ground. If it did, that would be an ideal solution. Except I am trying to avoid exporting my OM to someone elses farm in the form of hay, and I have all the cows my wife will allow me to have already. Actually more than she will allow me to have, I'm barely out of the doghouse from the last expansion......

Where does most of the OM come from in an alfalfa crop? the roots or the above ground growth, if you remove all of the above ground growth for three years, will the root mass be greater than the straw, stubble and roots that would be returned from 3 grain crops?
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
3,107 Posts
No, grow some more canola. See if you can't bring that clubroot that is only 20 miles away from your farm, to right into the middle of your field.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
5,233 Posts
I farm in a region which has certifiably the least heat units, and most moisture of western Canada. Traditionally has been cattle country, and we still have cattle and sell excess hay, but more acres are in crop now than hay and pasture, and looking to keep it that way for various reasons.
I don't mean to come across as Captain Obvious, but your comments make about as much sense as if I was to complain I can't successfully grow sugar beets and corn at Athabasca. Is this hard to understand? Why is it that your area, which I take it is the Rimbey general area, is traditionally cattle country? Is it completely possible there is an actual reason that that area all the way up thru to Breton is known that you'll wear out lots of drills but never a combine? There are climatic conditions that have existed since the beginning of time why.

I have noticed over the last say ten years or so, there has been a increased influx of attempts of different crops being grown in that area, and there has also been a decrease in the amount of cattle as well. Does it make sense to me, nope, but then I grow or do what works best for my land and climatic conditions, not my personal dreams or what I wish I could grow. I farm quite differently here where I am now, then I did at Spruce Grove...I had to adjust;)
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
5,965 Posts
Get a timothy seed contract.


It produces organic matter up the ting yang is worth quite a bit of money for 2 years after planting and thrives in cool wet weather. It has no problem standing in water for 2 weeks



Alsike clover is another one that does well in short wet growing coconditions.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
221 Posts
Get a timothy seed contract.


It produces organic matter up the ting yang is worth quite a bit of money for 2 years after planting and thrives in cool wet weather. It has no problem standing in water for 2 weeks



Alsike clover is another one that does well in short wet growing coconditions.
I was thinking along the same lines with timothy but not seed instead export timothy. But if you want to keep the organic matter growing you need to fertilize the crop. That is the problem with a lot of guys around here they put something into hay for a long time. Always take a crop off and put nothing back.

Someone mentioned alfalfa and just fertilize with P and K. Another big element alfalfa needs is sulphur. Needs at least as much S as P and uses about 8-10x as much K.

Now organic matter is mostly built up from the roots in the soil. Canola with a short tap root and the top turns to powder after combining is good at getting rid of organic matter. I just picked up new land that is sandy that had too much canola grown on it. Now some parts have about as much organic matter as a nice beach. Time to feed the cattle on these spots.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,573 Posts
Discussion Starter · #17 ·
I don't mean to come across as Captain Obvious, but your comments make about as much sense as if I was to complain I can't successfully grow sugar beets and corn at Athabasca. Is this hard to understand? Why is it that your area, which I take it is the Rimbey general area, is traditionally cattle country? Is it completely possible there is an actual reason that that area all the way up thru to Breton is known that you'll wear out lots of drills but never a combine? There are climatic conditions that have existed since the beginning of time why.

I have noticed over the last say ten years or so, there has been a increased influx of attempts of different crops being grown in that area, and there has also been a decrease in the amount of cattle as well. Does it make sense to me, nope, but then I grow or do what works best for my land and climatic conditions, not my personal dreams or what I wish I could grow. I farm quite differently here where I am now, then I did at Spruce Grove...I had to adjust;)
You are absolutely correct, and I keep coming back to that same concept, of what the land and climate is ideally suited for. While economics forced many to diversify out of cattle over the past decade and change, it looks like the profits will be made in cattle for the forseeable future. When I say this was traditionally cattle country, I should have said mixed farming, grain has always been grown, and quite successfully, only recently have we ventured past barley and oats though.

A short list of why I don't want to get back into cattle in a big way. Still have 100 cows, which about matches the pasture land which is not suited to any other purpose.
- The same heavy clay soil and subsoil that makes life difficult for crops who don't like saturated soil, is absolutely worthless as pasture, cows are excellent compaction creating machines. Most of the clay soil has a very short lifespan as pasture, this is soil that an aerator cannot even penetrate in pasture. In a crop I can limit the compaction, and undo it and it grows quite successfully, at least until we get a 6" monsoon in June.

-The heavy clay also makes keeping and feeding animals in spring nearly impossible and inhumane to both animals and the people looking after them.

-I am located close enough to Calgary, with a mountain view, close to the west country, surrounded by rivers and lakes and it looks like solid forest in every direction( it's not) with a booming oil economy all around. As a result, everybody and his dog wants to live here. Land prices here are totally disconnected from their agricultural potential, in fact a poor pasture quarter is likely to sell for more than good farmland due to the recreational potential. Unproductive pasture just will not make the payments. And productive pasture land is rare.

- I have a young family who I am particularly fond of, and who would like to go places and do the things that other young families do. Babysitting 100's of cows is a 365 day a year, 24 hr a day job, which doesn't leave much time to keep the family happy. Plus, divorce is expensive......

- Due to years of working out in the cold, frostbite, injuries and nerve damage, my hands are basically useless in the cold weather and I suffer severely( although I am still quite young by farmer standards). But cows still need fed and require medical attention, fences and equipment still break regardless of the thermometer.

- I have other skills, trades and a degree which I can and do use to supplement my income as required, babysitting 100's of cattle really limits my options there.

-If I thought I could hire someone long term to look after cattle, sharing the responsibilities so that everyone could have a life, I would likely expand This would mean building complete new facilities on on of my few lighter well drained locations, and perhaps look for community pasture options. This is not the easiest location to hire anyone, and anyone skilled, competent and responsible is likely already making 6 figures in the oil patch where the ability to remember how to breathe without being prompted is the only requirement.

-I have had my head walked on, had two cows on top of me knock my breathe out, been pushed straight through a 5 wire barbed wire fence, been rolled, mangled, and though for sure I was a goner a number of times, usually thanks to a normally docile even friendly cow who just snaps. I think I have had enough abuse.



As for location, this is about an hour south and west of Rimbey, on a pocket of very productive land, just requires different management. The grey wooded soil is common to Breton, we get more moisture, and not sure on the heat units, likely comparable. I often refer to the research from the grey wooded plots at Breton. I have a neighbor successfully growing sunflowers, and he is trying to grow grain corn now. But in 2012 when some big operators sold their haying equipment and sprayed out every hay acre, it was apparent that the grain bubble was over, and it was time to start looking the other way.


All that said, we had 2 hail storms, thursday and again yesterday, last one hit the entire farm, and having just come back from taking a sober second survey of the carnage, the pastures and cows look pretty good compared to anything else. Barley may have 10% of the heads still standing, Wheat closer to half. The canola still has some leaves, and some places have enough flowers to look yellow from a great distance. Hay is flat on the ground but most should be salvageable. A lot less to lose with cattle, although the neighbors lost one to lightning in the same storm, and ours all escaped from a tree over the fence.

And, one more very fundamental reason why I'm not cut out for the cattle business:

-I apparently am too soft hearted for this game. Yesterday, before the hail, I lost a calf who I have been working with for over a month. That hurts much worse than the large 6 figure loss due to the hail.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,573 Posts
Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Get a timothy seed contract.


It produces organic matter up the ting yang is worth quite a bit of money for 2 years after planting and thrives in cool wet weather. It has no problem standing in water for 2 weeks



Alsike clover is another one that does well in short wet growing coconditions.
Christian and Hog 987,

Timothy and Alsike grow very well here. I haven't checked into the economic lately, but a neighbor who grows native grass seed previously told me that there was no profit in growing common grass seeds like timothy. That may be changing if everyone wants to grow cows again though, I will have to look into it, does anyone have any contacts?

I have another neighbor who sold timothy to the export market for years. I highly doubt that he fertilized for removal rates, or anything close to that, nothing was ever returned, but he has turned some of the most productive land in the county into a desert in the process. Made a lot of money doing it though.

I have found conflicting information on building OM with hay vs. grain crops, has anyone found any definitive information on this topic? Perhaps I am misguided in my thought process, and the roots really are the biggest contributor.

As for Canola breaking down so fast, that just isn't the case here, without measuring, it always looks to me like canola leaves more residue than any other crop I can grow, and it takes years to break down the stems and roots, they are still solid two and three crops later. That may be more to do with the growing conditions. It never stops growing, I've had to swath flowers in late September, stems bigger than my thumb. It leaves the land so much more mellow than a cereal too, I assume that is because it sucks so much moisture out, even late in the year, giving me a good head start in the spring.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,573 Posts
Discussion Starter · #20 ·
So if you land is that wet why don't you run some tile on your land and get it drained so you can grow other crops????
In the process, 2nd year of the experiment, results are positive so far. Just need to get the county on board, and a few more neighbors.
 
1 - 20 of 20 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.
Top