Farmer Focus Arable: Surreal spraying for Seth Pascoe

This month I had a very surreal experience, applying Roundup to a growing canola [oilseed rape] crop. Needless to say I was rather nervous as I unfolded the booms!

However, at the risk of raising a few eyebrows back in England, I have to say I fully support herbicide-tolerant crops. They are excellent management tools for controlling populations of problem weeds that build up in the rotation.

June weather started off poorly with snowfall and frosts. An older farmer told me he has seen snow in Taber in every month except July and recalled snowfall lodging crops and halting the harvest in August one year.

Luckily our crops survived, with just some blackened leaf margins on the potatoes as evidence of the cold. Since then temperatures increased and we have had a three-week period where daytime temperatures have rarely dropped below 22C and frequently exceeded 30. Crop growth has been remarkable, with all crops racing through their growth stages.

It is remarkable to see such an absence of disease in the cereal crops. A large percentage of crops are grown without any fungicide applications whatsoever. I decided to apply a half rate of Headline (pyraclostrobin) onto the winter wheat at flag leaf. The ‘green-leaf’ effect from the strobilurin combined with careful irrigation management ought to keep the crop growing for longer, increasing yields.

The whole countryside around Taber is dominated by irrigation pivots. We are keeping on top of our own irrigation, although it can be a challenge to manage the balance between application rate/pivot circle time and crop evapotranspiration rates.

It is strange how crops can grow very differently. Back in England I knew timothy grass as an important part of a sward, included for its drought tolerance. Here, irrigated timothy is a lush leafy grass that grows above waist height and is cut and baled for hay, then exported to Asia.

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