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Western Canadian farmers looking for unbiased canola variety comparisons to aid in variety selection received an early 2011 Christmas present with the release of the newly developed Canola Performance Trials (CPT) booklet in mid-December. The new Canola performance trials replace the discontinued Prairie Canola Variety Trials.

“The trials are based on commercially available varieties and have been consistent with actual production practices,” said CPT governance committee chair Frank Groeneweg in a news release announcing the program.  Groeneweg is a Saskatchewan farmer and a SaskCanola board member.

Information from the Canola Council of Canada (CCC) indicates that variety performance data is the number one ranked agronomic information that farmers view as essential to the effective operation of their businesses. A survey conducted in January 2010 of 1,359 growers found that variety data was the third most important information need, superseded only by weather and commodity prices. The new CPT will help them better manage the risk of selecting new varieties by helping to ensure the variety will perform in their local area.

A grower-funded and grower-driven initiative, CPT 2011 is a next generation canola variety testing program. The three Prairie canola grower groups – Alberta Canola Producers Commission, the Saskatchewan Canola Development Commission (SaskCanola) and the Manitoba Canola Growers Association  – are funding the program and seed trade companies that participate pay entry fees. The BC Grain Producers Association is conducting trials in the Peace as their means of participation. A governance committee oversees the program and the CCC is delivering the program on their behalf.

The CPT incorporates both small plot and field scale components. The small plots component involves both varieties with the greatest market share and soon to be introduced varieties used with the corresponding herbicide systems that are also commercially available to growers. Management of the small plots has been addressing some of the shortcomings of former trials through plot design, data delivery and harvest management. For that reason Groeneweg cautions that the data from CPT 2011 is not comparable to data from the former variety trials program. Comparable data will accumulate in future years.

The field scale component involves a review of the seed trade field scale projects through an audit of the protocols used for conducting the trial data analysis and reporting. This is ensuring that growers can have confidence that the protocol was conducted in a scientifically sound manner and that comparisons are appropriate. The audit process involves qualified professionals with extensive background in conducting field scale research trials.

Detailed reporting on agronomic characteristics such as yield, height, lodging, maturity and economic performance, and site specific performance variables including weather, soil type, crop nutrition, seeding and harvest management. Disease rating (blackleg) from the Western Canada Canola Rapeseed Recommending Committee will be included in the CPT 2011 reporting data.

Participants in the small plot trials include line companies, independent retailers and seed companies including Viterra, Bayer CropScience, Monsanto, Dow AgroScience, Cargill, Canterra Seeds, BrettYoung Seeds, FP Genetics and SeCan. For 2011, Monsanto, Bayer CropScience, Canterra and Dow are participating in the field scale program.

“The whole CPT 2011 process has provided an excellent opportunity for the entire industry – including the seed trade, growers and provincial seed specialists – to work together to ensure useful and timely information is available to the growers so they can make informed seeding decisions,” says Groeneweg.

Economic calculator will provide contribution margins

The Canola Council of Canada is working on the release of an economic calculator that will calculate the contribution margin for each variety. The free calculator will be available on the Council’s website early in 2012, and producers will be able to use their own cost of production for seed, fertilizer, chemical, fuel and fixed costs to determine their net profit from different varieties.

The calculator will also make it easier for farmers to compare contribution margins for canola varieties.  Because some canola varieties come with premiums, the economic calculator will help farmers determine the most profitable variety – not just the highest yielding.