Interesting Weeds You Have There…

**This featured case is one example of the concerns people have brought to us. Names have been changed to protect the identity of the people involved.

Clive’s* conventional canola crop had a heavy infestation of weeds, which he identified as wild mustard. He hired a custom sprayer to apply the herbicide required for conventional canola, but most of the weeds continued to thrive. He made a crop loss claim to SCIC and an adjuster came out to view the field, but the claim was denied for uninsured cause of loss due to the heavy weed infestation. Clive appealed the decision but the appeal was also denied.

Clive believed he had used appropriate farming practices by choosing the right herbicide for his conventional canola crop and applying it at the right time. The company that made the herbicide assured him that there was nothing wrong with their product. The custom sprayer had applied the right mix of herbicide in the right conditions. Clive thought it was unfair that SCIC did not honour his claim, so he contacted our office.

During the course of our investigation, we questioned why the weeds persisted. Were they resistant to the spray? It was now the following spring, so we asked if Clive and an SCIC representative could take samples of the same young weeds that were coming up in the field again, as well as some of the weed seeds from the previous fall and submit them to the Crop Protection Laboratory for testing. An agrologist went to Clive’s farm and they collected the samples together. The lab grew the plants and examined the seed pods and sent back word that the plants were not wild mustard as everyone had assumed; they were wild radish.

This provided a whole new perspective and the question became: should Clive have been able to identify and spray for wild radish? The facts were interesting:
  • Wild radish is not a common problem in Saskatchewan and it closely resembles wild mustard, especially in the early stages of growth. Even the mature plants are similar, although one of the key features that distinguishes wild radish from wild mustard is that the pods constrict around the seeds.
  • Neither Clive nor the adjuster nor the agrologist identified the plants as wild radish.
  • If Clive had been growing a herbicide-resistant canola, a different herbicide would have been appropriate and it would have killed a broad spectrum of weeds, including wild radish.
  • Clive had chosen conventional canola because it reaches maturity quickly. His field had been wet and by the time it was dry enough to seed, it was too late to seed the other types of canola. He needed to seed a variety that would mature in 90 days.
  • Clive used the right herbicide registered for the conventional canola and the weed he believed was in his field.
  • There are no herbicides registered for use on wild radish in conventional canola. Based on these findings, we concluded that Clive had good reasons for making the farming decisions he had. Given the information he had – and could reasonably be expected to have – he protected his canola crop by taking the appropriate steps in the appropriate manner.
  • We met with SCIC officials to explain our findings and after reviewing the information the Crop Protection Laboratory provided, they agreed to pay out Clive’s claim.

Status: Resolved

*Names have been changed to protect the identity of those involved.