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Pesticide free production sytems for flax, wheat and oat

Project code: PRR03-230

Project Lead

Byron Irvine - Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada


To establish pesticide free production (PFP) systems for three field crops, oats, wheat and flax

Summary of Results

A major goal of organic farming systems is to produce a crop which has not been treated with pest control products, thereby reducing the risks to human and environmental health. The current system for organic production, however, relies on intensive tillage to control weeds, a practice which destroys waterfowl habitat, reduces soil microbial diversity and increases the potential for soil erosion by wind and water.

In collaboration with researchers at the University of Manitoba, research has been undertaken by Dr. Byron Irvine and his team to establish pesticide free production (PFP) systems for three field crops: flax, wheat and oats. Under this system, pesticides are not applied to the growing crop, but rather zero tillage using a glyphosate herbicide prior to crop emergence is allowed in order to control weeds and conserve soil.

Using this system, oats have been successfully produced without the use of herbicides for seven consecutive seasons using a wheat-canola-oat-pea rotation. Liberty Link canola prior to oat, combined with high oat seeding rate and delayed seeding resulted in excellent management of all weeds. However, according to other published research, delayed seeding of oat reduces yields.

Flax, a poor competitor with weeds, was also evaluated under the PFP system. The impact of shallow disturbance, delayed seeding, and practices to increase preplanting weed seedling recruitment and thus deplete the seedbank for that season were evaluated. In all treatments, wild oats were a significant problem, due in part to very moist conditions, and thus this strategy cannot be recommended for moist area of Eastern Prairies. Likewise, wild oat numbers increased significantly in a wheat-canola-oat-pea rotation when both wheat and oat were grown without herbicides.

A CD-ROM of information on "Producing PFP Oats Reducing Pesticide Risk" was developed under this project and is available from Dr. Byron Irvine of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. This CD provides a starting point for producers interested in growing oats without the use of in-crop chemical pest control methods. The CD outlines the guidelines to producing a PFP crop of oats in a simple, accessible and interactive way. Information on preparation, establishment, performance, and effects on the following crop is presented. Also described are the key management practices needed to grow PFP oats successfully, including crop rotation, weed control, chaff collection, variety selection, and seeding and fertilization.

In addition, more general information about Weed Management Options which Reduce Pesticide Risk has been compiled and made available through the University of Manitoba and Pest Management Centre (PMC) websites.

By producing crops in a PFP system, growers may be able to reduce pesticide risk to the environment and at the same time reduce input costs without sacrificing yield.

For more information, please contact:

Byron Irvine,, PhD.

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