Canola crop scouting essentials

Canola crop scouting essentials

Scouting crop fields throughout the season is essential to maximize yield and profitability. Early season scouting following emergence should be a high priority as this is when we can still "fix" problems. 

Start the scouting process by going through the last year’s crop records. These records can alert you to potential pest concerns for the upcoming year – when to anticipate different types of weeds, diseases, and insect pest issues.

“You can’t underestimate the value of boots on the ground,” says Ian Epp, agronomist with the Canola Council of Canada based in Saskatoon. “Just after seeding is a good time to start checking your emergence, and scout for flea beetles and weeds. This can all be done in one scouting pass.”

How to scout

A field may look great from the road but perceptions can change when you take a closer look. 

  1. Be sure to carry a scouting kit with you. Important tools include: digital camera, small shovel, pocket knife or pruning shears, plastic bags, ties, vials and labels, rubber boots/boot covers, disinfectant, reference materials, and fact sheets. 
  2. Walk the field using a “W” or zigzag shaped approach. This will allow you to capture a more comprehensive overview of the field and potential problems.
  3. Take good notes. Record the different types, locations, and number of weeds, insects, or diseases you found in each and every field, as well as the time and date. Keep this information for future reference.
  4. Survey how individual plants look and determine their growth stage. Crop growth stage is important for determining the appropriate herbicide, and fungicide and insecticide application timing. It can also help us make decisions on replanting and top dress fertility application. Nutrient deficiencies may also show up and can be remedied early on.
  5. Identify weed species and pressure. Be vigilant in checking fields for any weed growth for the first four weeks following crop emergence. This is critical in evaluating weed pressure and to determine whether supplemental control measures are needed. 
  6. Find out if there is evidence of an insect problem. Scout fields weekly from pre-seeding to post-harvest, checking both high and low in the canopy and inspecting all plant parts, including roots. It is critical to scout for flea beetle damage when the canola crop is at cotyledon to 4-leaf stage. When insect pest numbers approach action threshold levels, sample more frequently. See the Canola Insect Scouting Guide
  7. Look for signs of disease. Accurate identification and long-term record keeping of disease information for each field will help growers better predict risk and evaluate, prioritize, and improve disease management programs in their fields. Most soil-borne pathogens strike as soon as the seed begins to take on water. Because seeds can germinate and emerge within 3-5 days under favorable growing conditions, post-planting is an ideal time to begin scouting plants for disease. For more on disease scouting, see the Canola Disease Scouting Guide.  
  8. Evaluate if replanting is necessary. Each year fields or portions of fields suffer from poor emergence or from damage after emergence by frost, hail, or insect damage. The crucial question to answer is whether reseeding will result in greater net profitability without significantly increasing risk. 

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