Spring Canola for Italian Ryegrass Control with Dr. Isaac Madsen

Bumblebee on a canola flower.

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Show Notes & Resources Mentioned:

Contact Information:

Contact Isaac Madsen via email at isaac_madsen@wsu.edu or via phone at (360) 448-9081.

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Episode Transcription:

Drew Lyon: Hello. Welcome to the WSU Wheat Beat podcast. I’m your host, Drew Lyon, and I want to thank you for joining me as we explore the world of small grains production and research at Washington State University. In each episode, I speak with researchers WSU and the USDA-ARS to provide you with insights into the latest research on wheat and barley production. If you enjoy the WSU Wheat Beat podcast do us a favor and subscribe on iTunes or your favorite podcasting app and leave us a review while you’re there so others can find the show too.

[ Music ]

Drew Lyon: My guest today is Dr. Isaac Madsen. Isaac is a soil scientist and native of the Northwest. He currently serves as the extension agronomist for the Washington Oil Seeds Cropping Systems Project at WSU. He has been involved in research in soil health, plant root, soil interactions, soil fertility, and alternative crops. His current research focuses on stand establishment, soil fertility, and winter survival in canola. Additionally, Isaac is interested in alternative oilseed production methods, such as intercropping and dual-purpose canola. He hopes to see sustainable oilseed production continue to expand and bring crop diversity to the inland Pacific Northwest. Hello, Isaac.

Dr. Isaac Madsen: Hello, Drew.

Drew Lyon: So, you’ve been on the show a few times. In the past, you’ve done a lot of speaking on winter canola, and particularly winter canola stand establishment and winter survival. I wonder if you would mind sharing a little bit about spring canola research being conducted on the Washington Oil Seeds Cropping Systems Project.

Dr. Isaac Madsen: Yeah, I’d be happy to talk about that. So, we’ve got several spring projects going on. The big project that I run is these large-scale variety trials, so those are just what they sound like, large-scale variety trials. We can talk about them a bit more a little later. Dr. Haiying Tao is doing some phosphorous and zinc work, both on spring and winter canola. And she’s doing that at a plot scale and at a field scale. So, that’s kind of exciting to look at it, at the different scales. We also are doing some tissue testing within different micronutrient levels around the region in spring canola, sort of trying to establish some baselines. And then really similar to winter canola, thinking about, you know, stand establishment and that spring canola. This spring especially, it’s been one of those, you know, usually, we’re either cold and wet or we’re hot and dry and it’s been cold and dry this spring. So, I’ve seen canola plants really get hammered by a combination of drought and frost stress, even, even through into late May, having some canola, spring canola stands die due to that. So, that’s kind of a rough and really thinking about how to push that research forward and learn more. You also are working on a project that I’m really excited about with Mark Thorne, looking at herbicides and the different herbicide systems that we can include with spring canola. So, everybody, I think knows about the RoundupReady, but there’s also the TruFlex, which is, you know, higher rates or later applications, which opens up some opportunities. There’s Liberty, there’s the Clearfield varieties. And then I think you guys are even looking at some Atrazine, and that’s….

Drew Lyon: Some triazine resistant canola, or tolerant canola.

Dr. Isaac Madsen: Okay, yeah. So, those are kind of exciting efforts to look at, especially in this area where we have such an Italian rye problem sort of taking over.

Drew Lyon: Yeah, as you drive around here, I think you see a lot of spring canola, and I think a lot of that here in the high rainfall zone is driven by Italian ryegrass. And I think I just saw a field that I’ve noticed over the years, it’s had a bad wild oat problem, and they’ve now got spring canola planted. We’re starting to see resistance in wild oat to a lot of herbicides. So, it might, it might expand beyond Italian ryegrass. But I wonder if you can talk a little bit about that. The spring canola tends to be here in the higher rainfall zone. A lot of it grown, I guess the price is not bad, but also for weed control purposes, winter canola out in the drier areas. And what, just diversification, are they tackling weed issues there as well?

Dr. Isaac Madsen: Yeah, I think it’s a combination. You know, some of those areas out there in the drier area, you’ve been basically winter wheat-fallow since people tilled their ground, you know, so, going on probably a hundred years of winter what fallow in some of those areas. And that’s really, you know, you just, as in any system, if we’re just growing the same crop over and over and over, the different problems crop up that you expect, you know, so different disease and weeds that you have trouble managing. Even with that, I mean, the fallow gives you some opportunities to manage weeds that you don’t have in the annual crop region. But then I think it’s also my observation, just visiting with the growers out there, is, you know, growing wheat out there isn’t as easy as, I don’t want to say it’s easy to grow wheat out on the east side of the state, but you definitely have, you know, you have more rain, so less of a challenge there from a moisture standpoint. So, I think winter canola, you really need to put it into fallow. You can’t really, or we haven’t seen successfully people weed cropping with winter canola. And so I think there’s actually some economics there too with the growers out west. Also, when you’re looking at winter canola, predominantly non-GMO, so you’re getting a little bit of a better price as opposed to spring canola, looking at the RoundupReady primarily. That’s all GMO.

Drew Lyon: I know when I was putting together the proposal, the grant proposal for the work you mentioned earlier, I had to look into the acreage. And I was kind of surprised at the spring canola. I believe actually there’s more acres of spring canola than there are of winter canola. I don’t know if that’s always been the case, or if that’s just more frequently as we run out of options for controlling, controlling Italian ryegrass, that we’ve seen more spring canola move into this area.

Dr. Isaac Madsen: So, anecdotally, with my, what I call the 60 to 80 mile an hour survey at Eastern Washington, the real growth over the last, you know, two to three years in canola has been spring canola. Because I think a lot of the growers that sort of adopted it out in the drier sort of Central Washington area, North Central, they did it optic for different reasons. And, you know, because it made sense economically. They’re also closer to the plant where all this gets crushed, you know, so there’s a little bit of a benefit there. And then the real shift to me came with legume fried prices falling out. And so two things happened. The Italian rye just got unbearable, and the legume prices fell out, you know, because when we were sitting at 46 garbs, you know, you could, you could tolerate some weeds for that price. But now, you know, and you can correct me if I’m wrong on this, it seems like some of the group ones are less effective now on our Italian rye, and so, you know, that’s the only option really when you’re doing garbs from my understanding.

Drew Lyon: Yeah, we have pyroxasulfone, so, you know, the Zidua are still working. But that’s about it. The group ones, the group twos are all kind of history when it comes to trying to control Italian ryegrass.

Dr. Isaac Madsen: Yes, that’s, I think–

Drew Lyon: And actually wild oats now we’re starting to get biotypes that are resistant to both those groups as well, so.

Dr. Isaac Madsen: Yeah, so, and I think adding onto that weed control discussion, one of the things that I’ve noticed is that there’s also, you know, more competition from the canola than some of our spring legumes, especially say something like lentils or chickpeas, those aren’t very competitive crops. So, you know, a dense stand of canola, once you nurse it through that baby stage, can really compete really well. But, you know, if you get a June rain, which is kind of a joke to talk about a June rain I feel like this year, but if you get a May or June rain in your garbanzo beans, you can see a flesh of weeds that you’re not necessarily going to be able to deal with. You get that in canola. And if it’s a good stand, you’re going to have so much competition there. And so there’s a little bit of a difference there too. Not just from the herbicide standpoint, but from the sort of what this plant is doing to compete.

Drew Lyon: Yeah, once it starts to bolt, it’s a very competitive crop. So, you mentioned these large-scale variety trials. Can you describe the trials in a little more detail and tell us a little bit about what you’re trying to accomplish with these trials?

Dr. Isaac Madsen: Yeah, so these large-scale variety trials I would say are one of the main programs I inherited when I took over this position. And what they are, they’re just what they sound like. We go and we put in a replicated variety trial, three to four reps, and usually five varieties that we think of are, you know, regionally important varieties, and then we plant them all on a large scale, using whatever equipment the farmer is actually using. So, you know, it’s however wide the drill is and however long we can put it. So, usually somewhere between 400 and 600 feet long for a strip. And then, you know, 30 or 40 or whatever drill width we have wide. And we, originally those were sort of demonstration. This is, these came along when people said, okay, yeah, fine, you can grow canola on a small plot. But can we really do it at the field scale? And so that was the original plan was, okay, let’s get some varieties out here. Let’s get this at a large scale and really use this to demonstrate that this can be a successful crop at that large scale. And then as acreage grew and as I took over the program, I’ve kind of tried to shift this research towards more of a research focus, I would say, so we’re using these sort of now as a platform to launch a lot of research programs off of. So, we’re taking quite a few additional measurements out there. So, we’re doing things like stand count and pod count and we’re looking at even some of these microbial populations. And if it varies within the field or between the varieties more, so we’re looking at sort of spatial variance and these things, and looking at also micronutrients within and between the varieties. So, you know, what’s the shift in tissue tests across the field look like versus the differences you might get between varieties. And so that’s kind of the way we decided to take the program and really focus on, because they’re large, and we get to see how these things change over the landscape, we haven’t really got all the data compiled yet, but we’re really trying to push this sort of in I would say a geospatial direction. And as you know, things vary out here. Soil varies a lot from place to place. So, getting to see how this one variety does as it goes up and over the hill on the Palouse, so something like that is kind of what we’re looking at.

Drew Lyon: Okay, I mentioned earlier that you, in winter canola, you’ve been looking at stand establishment, which sounds like you’re doing the same thing in spring canola and winter survival and winter canola. What are some of the other things in spring canola that you’re looking at besides stand establishment?

Dr. Isaac Madsen: So, that’s really I would say the nutrients are probably the first thing. And then I would sort of break stand establishment down into a lot of different categories, I guess. So, you know, I focused my dissertation on the role nutrients could play in that. So, access uvea, essentially under the seed. But I like to think about the, you know, the insects and the herbicide carryover is still a really big one with canola. I recommend, you know, we’ve got to keep a good record of your herbicides, and you’ve got to plan, you know, with some of those, you’ve got to plan like 28 months in advance, you know, if you’re going to have canola in that field. And so I would say that side of things. And then, so insects, fertility. And then this year, the really hard things are cold and dry. And if I have to give any advice, it’s get to moisture no matter what. You know? We know canola doesn’t like being planted deep, but it really doesn’t like being planted dry. [ both laugh ] So, you know, I always say, if you have to trade off one or the other, go for wet over shallow, and you might have to bump your seeding rate up if you’re going to have to go deep, because you’re going to see some attrition.

Drew Lyon: And when you say deep, what, how deep are you talking?

Dr. Isaac Madsen: So, you know, ideal planting depth for me for canola is if we can put it an inch or an inch and a half deep. But I think we can, you can push two inches if you have to. I’ve seen canola go in that deep and come out. It looks tired when it comes out of there. You know, and there is this other aspect. It’s like, okay, at what point do you say I need to think of something else to put in here, and you’ve got to calculate all of the economics?

Drew Lyon: So you’d advise somebody who doesn’t think they can get the moisture in the top two inches maybe to go to “plan B” and stay away from spring canola maybe?

Dr. Isaac Madsen: Yeah, start thinking about something else, maybe. And I think there’s obviously, I mean, you could do a whole range of things with your drill to kind of dig down and think about relieving some of the pressure on the packers and things like that to encourage it to come from deeper.

Drew Lyon: Okay. So, what future research projects do you have planned for spring canola?

Dr. Isaac Madsen: Yeah, so moving forward, I think, I’ve talked about this in the podcast a little bit, I think this may be my second episode or first, I don’t know, somewhere in there, I talked about the pea-ola idea that was focused on winter canola. I’m really trying to get that started up in spring canola. I know several growers have tried it. And with that one looking at sort of more of an ecological approach. So, one of the really interesting findings we had at spring canola last year, spring pea-ola, so this is for those who don’t know the term, it’s an intercrop of peas and canola. You harvest them together. It’s the messiest bulk tank you’ve ever seen. So, but you need to clean it anyhow. And so you get a pea yield and canola yield. But what we started looking at is actually some of the insects in there. And it’s interesting because last year in our spring pea-ola, we saw a lot more beneficial predatory insects in the, in the intercrop than we did in the monoculture crops. So, that’s something I’m really excited about, you know, is, as far as okay, can we reduce some of our insecticide inputs on this, or if we do other inputs, and then there’s obviously a lot of logistical questions that ran a system like that, you know, you’re going to need people to clean the seed, and you’re going to have to make sure all the economics work out, and you’re going to have to make sure the opportunity costs of learning this new system, because it’s going to take time to learn, is actually worth it to get into. So, that’s, I think we’re in the really beginning stages, but just watching it grow in the field is a pretty exciting thing. It looks like the two crops were almost made to go together. They sort of, you know, the canola bolts, well, first the peas come out usually and then the canola kind of sits there and then the canola bolts, and then the peas grow up the canola. So, it’s kind of, I always just liken it to a little plant dance, the two crops going together.

Drew Lyon: Yeah, I could see where the peas, which are very good at emerging from deep depths, could help maybe the canola get out of the ground as well. And then, like you say, then after that, it’s just the dance, each one helping the other.

Dr. Isaac Madsen: Yeah, so, that’s still the, I would say the number one research area that I’m excited. I see a ton of potential, and I see a ton of difficulties, and so that’s where I want to be working right now.

Drew Lyon: Okay. Well, I certainly see a lot more spring canola growing around here than I have in a long time. And as you said, there’s probably a couple of reasons for that. So, if listeners want to go and learn a little bit more about your research and how to go about growing canola spring or winter here in Eastern Washington, where, where can they go to find that information?

Dr. Isaac Madsen: Yeah, so we have a website. We also have a Facebook page, Facebook, I mostly just use it for pictures. So, I just post things that I’m seeing out in the field. The website is csss, or css.wsu.edu/oilseeds. And it’s, we’ve been working on our reorganization. Right now there’s a lot of great information on that website. But you kind of have to dig for it right now. So, we’re hoping that that will here sometime this year kind of get that organized, probably actually more somewhere on the Small Grains page so that it’s more accessible. So, all the variety trial data is on there. Another resource that I point people to is the Lind field day abstracts, or they’re called the dryland field day abstracts, but they’re associated with the Lind field day. And we, every, you know, project that we’re working on, we write, you know, just a paragraph abstract and put the most recent data in there. So, if you’re interested in, you know, how stand count relates to yield or how pod count relates to yield, every year we’re updating those data sets, or winter survival or stand establishment, or even that insect and pea-ola work I was talking about. But it’s all there in those abstracts. And those are on the oil seeds website also.

Drew Lyon: Okay. So, we’ll make sure we get those links into the show notes so our listeners who are interested dig a little deeper. Thanks, Isaac.

Dr. Isaac Madsen: Yep. Thanks, Drew.

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Drew Lyon: Thanks for joining us and listening to the WSU Wheat Beat podcast. If you like what you hear don’t forget to subscribe and leave a review on iTunes or your favorite podcasting app. If you have questions or topics, you’d like to hear on future episodes please email me at drew.lyon — that’s lyon@wsu.edu –(drew.lyon@wsu.edu). You can find us online at smallgrains.wsu.edu and on Facebook and Twitter @WSUSmallGrains. The WSU Wheat Beat podcast is a production of CAHNRS Communications and the College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences at Washington State University. I’m Drew Lyon, we’ll see you next time.

The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed by guests of this podcast are their own and does not imply Washington State University’s endorsement.