Unusual weather is causing zombie canola to flower in the fall

·2 min read
Hot dry weather, followed by rainfall led canola and some other crops to resprout in fields across Saskatchewan this fall.   (Riley Laychuk/CBC - image credit)
Hot dry weather, followed by rainfall led canola and some other crops to resprout in fields across Saskatchewan this fall. (Riley Laychuk/CBC - image credit)

Seeing Saskatchewan's flowering fields of canola in October might make you take a double look at the calendar.

But it's no mistake. Matthew Struthers, a crop extension specialist for Saskatchewan's Ministry of Agriculture, said canola and other crops have experienced regrowth after rainfall in August and heat in September.

There has also been regrowth of flax, lentils, and cereals like wheat and barley.

The so-called zombie canola is a concern in nearly every region of the province. And farmers have different ways of dealing with the unusual situation.

Dealing with the conditions

"Most got out there and sprayed a herbicide on it to dry it down quickly," Struthers said. "Others kind of used the drought and the warm fall that we had to wait it out and let it dry down enough."

Canola is seeded in May and usually flowers during the middle to end of July. But this year, the canola flowered in the beginning of July because of the drought. When a plant doesn't have enough moisture to get to the end of the season, it quickens its lifecycle.

The surprise revival can take already-scarce moisture from the soil that's needed for the next seeded crop, which might cause a few issues in the spring.

For farmers who are growing a different crop than canola next year, the canola might reemerge as a volunteer weed. Producers would have to deal with this by using a herbicide or mowing it down.

Overall, provincial yields of canola and other crops are generally down this year, due to extreme drought, heat stress, wind, hail and grasshoppers.

The ministry's crop report for the week of Sept. 28 to Oct. 4 estimates a yield of 21 bushels per acre for canola.

"Moisture conditions remain a concern, with much of the province receiving minimal or below average rainfall this year along with hot temperatures and drying winds throughout the growing season," Struthers said in the report. "Significant precipitation is needed this fall and winter to replenish moisture level."

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