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Novel crop rotation study has novel results

Are you itching to try a novel crop in your rotations? Maybe a little something to boost profits in these turbulent market times?

Hemp volunteers proved tricky to control in peas

While Farming Smarter doesn’t have definitive answers from year two of its study, Research Manager Mike Gretzinger can offer some insights from the 2019 season.

“To recap we had the following: Barley, canola, corn, drybean, durum, hemp, pea, quinoa, wheat in a huge rotation block. In 2018, we planted the blocks in north/south plots. In 2019, we planted the blocks in east/west in plots effectively planting each crop into the residue of every crop from the year before,” he explains.

“I don’t yet have all the yield data. The grain corn is still in the field.”

It’s important to point out that this study is also taking place in central and northern Alberta and Indian Head, Saskatchewan. All locations just came through season two of a four-year study. This means it’s early to offer definitive answers.

That said, Gretzinger saw some promising trends.

“Everything except quinoa looked good after dry beans. If disease isn’t an issue, the cereals look like the best all-purpose residue crop. We didn’t see the best results following the cereals like pulses, but we certainly didn’t see the worst results either. There’s a reason why generally try to seed our research plots into wheat whenever possible. They offer low residue/trash issues; easy to manage volunteers; decent fertility and good uniformity for trials. We also tend to prefer cereals for crops like hemp and quinoa because usually grassy herbicides are safest on a specialty broadleaf crops,” he says.

Some challenges also caught his eye. For example, hemp volunteers lived up their name weed.

“Hemp control in peas was an issue. We’re used to spraying Odyssey, but the hemp variety (Katani) was quite tolerant of the Imazamox. A better choice next year will be Viper as the Bentanon will kill off hemp when its small.”

“It was difficult to time the preseed burn off and seeding for quinoa. We had no weed control options (but we were expecting that). Volunteer canola was a big issue in those plots because we didn’t get the normal flush of weeds to spray at the burn down timing,” he says.

Some of the affects visible in 2019 included

  • All the crops except quinoa had really good biomass after drybeans, even better than after the peas. We will see if that translates into yield
  • Many crops had low biomass after hemp e.g. this is a similar effect to corn and canola.
  • Quinoa on quinoa had the lowest crop biomass and the highest weed biomass. Quinoa on canola was also an issue due to volunteers.
  • Quinoa was hardest to establish on quinoa, canola, drybeans and hemp. It looked to be best on durum.

Gretzinger wraps up by explaining, “We expected crop residue to be a bigger deal. There were definitely some stand reductions on the corn and hemp, but we didn’t have hair-pinning and trash buildup issues with our seeders (Monosem and air drill with pillar laser disc-hoe). We expected more herbicide residue issues (like canola on peas) but our clay-loam soils and partial irrigation really help buffer against that.”

Gretzinger will present this project at the Farming Smarter conference in December when all the technicians have more data  crunched from the various locations. Also, there are two more years of learning to go into this project, so watch for updates in the coming years.