It’s rock-paper-scissors time again for canola seed choices, as growers get ready for the 2016 season in a few months.

The Big Eight seed and life-science companies already have at least 16 new canola varieties to release, according to Grainews* for Oct. 21. Added to what’s already on the market, choices will be tough.

West-central Saskatchewan growers have a somewhat easier choice than “cousins” to the east, west and north, says Pat Toner, senior sales agronomist and certified crop advisor for Emerge Ag Solutions, Eston.

“Canola, in the past 10 years, suddenly came from a crop reserved for the Parkland to a very solid alternative for our west-central region,” Toner says. “Genetic modifications through the mustard family made for a much more heat-hardy, drought hardy plant that can carry on with producing seed through the arid conditions in our area in July. Until then, the heat blast in July wasn’t conducive to canola flowering and podding.”

It replaced high-value durum as the crop of choice on summerfallow when markets changed about five years ago, and as growers became comfortable with the agronomic choice to grow mustard-type canola north of the South Saskatchewan River.

“Our summerfallow acres are on the decline, and canola as a stubble crop is still viable but, with it has increased risks along with the potential rewards,” Toner says for 2016.

Durum wheat remains the lead crop in the Eston-Kyle region, with lentils in a strong second place. Canola probably had 10 to 12 percent of the 2015 acres. Durum and lentils may trade places as growers make their selections for 2016, but canola is likely to remain in third place as a good alternate.

Canola proved itself this year, he says.

“It had a tough start due to drought compared to the others, but it’s a resilient plant. It’s been bred to get over adversity, and that it did. We had yields we really didn’t expect this year,” he says.

Canola pod-shatter and straight-cutting are the lead end-of-season topics in early November coffee-shop talk, Toner says.

“Straight cutting canola as a harvest method is suddenly very popular and will soon be the harvest method of choice,” he says.

“By straight-cutting rather than swathing, we’re finding the plant has time to mature naturally, to plump the seed a little more into its finished state. That begets higher yields. Better colour, seed quality, oil content, all get enhanced with the straight-cut approach.

“The drawback is, timeliness. It takes a little longer in the stand than swathing and hurrying it up mechanically. For infrastructure, you need proper headers with the right apron and right header auger. Sometimes guys purchase a header just for canola. That’s a deterrent but once you’ve got it, it will work for all crops.”

Pod-shatter resistance became the talk of the shop after Bayer CropScience Canada launched InVigor L140P in 2014 – the first in a new line of varieties.

The “P” for pod-shatter-resistance trait is in high demand for 2016, but there are other good canola hybrids and other traits to consider, Toner says.

“Other varieties that are touted to be higher yielding (than L140P) have been straight-cut successfully as a harvest method. Two of those are InVigor L252 and L130. DEKALB 74-44 also has been successfully farmed with a straight-cut approach,” he says.

To help make the best choice for next year, as always, plan to get information from meetings, from trials, from seed companies. Saskatchewan Oilseed Producer Meetings will be held in five locations, Nov 16-20. [[]]

These meetings will be the first opportunity to review data from the Canola Performance Trials for 2015. Those results also will be posted on the Canola Council of Canada website,

So what does Toner say for sorting out the canola choices?

“I ask, first, what production system do you like? Then, does yield potential mean more than maturity? And, does disease resistance mean more than yield potential? We sell the growers what they need, based on what they see as important in their operation. But, rock-paper-scissors, one priority might trump another no matter how many times you ask. Every variety has its strengths.”