Recent History – 2000
March 2, 2000
By Maurice Fines and Raymond Verboven
DAWSON CREEK — In recent years the development of new Argentine canola varieties has increased the choices available to farmers. The wider range of varieties makes the decision-making process more difficult — or does it?
In the BC Peace River region, new varieties are tested every year by the BCGPA Variety Trials crew. The testing is done at two locations; Fort St. John and Dawson Creek.
As new varieties are developed, this type of testing is essential to determine suitability to our unique growing conditions. For a crop such as Argentine canola that requires a longer growing period, this is even more critical given our short growing season. The potential that these new varieties have shown in other areas may not prove possible under the more variable conditions found in this area. Testing programs such as the Regional trials have provided local information, but the appearance of so many new varieties of argentine canola is beginning to overload the system.
To fairly assess a variety, you should have several years of data in order to determine an average result. This should cover any below or above average crop years with regard to weather. Three years of data from one site or a combined total of six years from the two sites is a good minimum average. Caution is advised if the data is based on less than this.
For example, 1999 was a very dry year for the B.C. Peace and the spring was dry and cold. A new variety may not have done well under these conditions, and may need a more typical crop year to show its potential. That opportunity may not arrive as it may be dropped from the trials to make room for newer varieties.
The steady introduction of new varieties often translates to shortened time in the trials and a scenario where supply of a variety is discontinued before a reliable estimate of performance can be achieved. Over the past three years, the number of entries in the argentine canola trials has risen from 29 to 49, with over half the varieties being first-time entries.
Less than 20 per cent of the current varieties have more than two years of local data available. Field peas have also experienced an explosion of new varieties with less than 10 per cent of current entries having more than two years of local data. Compare that to hard red spring wheat with over 75 per cent of currently tested varieties with more than two years or more of local data.
Without enough regional testing, producers may miss out on the full potential of the best new variety for their farm or assume the risk of growing a variety that may not be entirely suitable to their growing conditions. This situation is currently most acute in peas and argentine canola, two crops which farmers use to diversify their rotations.
Results from the 1999 Variety Trials Program are now available in the publication ‘Field Crop Variety Performance’ at your local Ministry of Agriculture and Food offices and grain elevators in the B.C. Peace.