Staying out of the Weeds: The Benefits of Herbicide-Tolerant Canola
The prairies are especially beautiful in the summer months when the fields turn golden yellow. And did you know that this beautiful flowering crop covers approximately 20 million acres in Western Canada? Still, it’s not easy growing these golden fields, and one of the greatest challenges Canola producers face is separating the crop from the weeds. In this blog post, we’ll share how the introduction of herbicide-tolerant canola has allowed for a healthier crop production, and better results for both the economy and the environment.
Production technologies have changed over the years and the Canola industry has seen both economic and environmental benefits from the introduction of herbicide-tolerant (HT) canola variants since the 1990s. In the past, farmers used strong tillage practices to remove weeds. However, they found these practices were damaging to the soil, drying it out and reducing its fertility. The application of herbicides continues to be used as a means of protection from the pesky weeds that can overtake crops in the early stages of growth. Thankfully, we’ve seen a reduction in the use of herbicides with the introduction of the herbicide-tolerant canola plants.
From an economic standpoint, the industry has seen tremendous results with the new herbicide-tolerant canola, producing billions in annual net direct and non-direct benefits for Canola producers. Part of this was attributed to lower input costs, and partly to better weed control. Concerns around whether or not the herbicide-tolerance could transfer to the weeds have been largely dismissed, and in fact, weed control improved once these HT plants were introduced.
Additionally, there are important environmental benefits as a result of the herbicide-tolerant canola. The use of tillage is one of the ways herbicide-tolerant canola has improved land management practices. In fact, according to albertacanola.com, “much of the tillage associated with HT canola production has been eliminated as 64% of producers are now using zero or minimum tillage as their preferred form of weed control.”
Finally, there has been a significant change in the application of herbicides for managing weeds in the Canola industry. Research shows that there has been a 53% decrease in the toxicity of agro-herbicides and the producer exposure to chemicals as a result has decreased by 55%.
While there are always improvements to be made to farming technologies, the introduction of herbicide-tolerant crops has allowed the Canola industry to move towards more environmentally and economically sustainable practices.
For more information visit www.albertacanola.com
Written By Elisa Valade
Photo Credit: Alberta Canola