Bees Tending Canola Blooms

bee tending canola

The air is buzzing with all these hives around my canola fields! Back and forth the bees fly and work. Canola pollen is very good for the bees at around 24% protein, plus other goodness that I already mentioned here.  I’ve been told to expect yield increases of 10-20% from the more complete and rapid pollination.

By early may we will get the first honey from these hives, some of which we hope to sell at Yoder’s Country Store, Morning Sun Market, and area farmer’s markets. Since canola honey naturally crystallizes quickly we will be making it into Creamed Honey, which is pure honey that has had some already-crystallized honey added which had specially selected small, oval shaped crystals which feel pleasant to the tongue.  Creamed honey can have a wonderful texture and the benefits of easy spreadability and less “stranding” to clean up.

Fun facts:

  • One pound of honey is produced from around 2 million flower visits.
  • A bee, it is said, flies around 50,000 miles to produce one pound of honey.
  • Canola in the South-east is planted at 200,000 seeds per acre, which is 6.5 times the population of corn.
  • Each plant may produce 100 flowers which will make seed pods.  That’s 20 million flowers per acre!
  • Canola honey is lighter in color than honey from any other blooms or blossoms.

It’s getting yellow around here

canola dogwood bloom

Blooming canola sure is pretty, and this crop still has a long way to go. As it approaches 10% bloom, the pollen that the bees aren’t capturing is blowing around and landing on everything, which isn’t so pretty.  The best is yet to come in a couple of weeks when it is in full bloom!

This week I scouted the canola with a crop-scout from the seed company, Rubisco.  We discovered white mold on the stalks at the base of the leaves on about 20% of plants.  This is common, but detrimental to yield.  As soon as it dries back out we will spray with a two fungicide combination, Proline (a curative), and Quadris (a preventative).  The chemical will be in a suspension of about 18 gallons per acre of water with a surfactant to help it spread across the leaves of the plants and also Justified, a drift retardant and deposition agent, because I plan to use AI Turbo Twinjet tips for medium droplets and maximum coverage. More on drift control and spray tips in this post.

The dogwood trees are also blooming, which, according to my grandfather, means it time to plant corn.  The more “scientific” test is whether the ground temperature is above 52 degrees and the proximity to the last frost date in my zone is about gone.  But if God made the dogwood trees to sense the temperature well enough to wait for blooming until the ground is 52 degrees, then you could say they are just a different kind of soil thermometer.

We got about 600 acres sprayed this week so the weeds will die back and allow the ground to warm and dry from the sunlight easier.  Next week, we may put some corn in the ground if it dries up enough.

Bees!

bee children

My first custom pollination job has arrived!  It is truly exciting for my family to have 288 hives of honey bees brought in to help pollinate our canola crop.  Although canola is known as self-pollinating, field tests from other countries have shown a pretty good yield increase from bee assisted pollination when the numbers of hives are great enough.

open hive old

These bees came straight to my farm from California almond groves, where their work is hard and the pollen is not very good for them, but that is a crop where bee keepers make their money.  Crops like canola are an excellent source of protein, fat, and sugar rich pollen to bring tired, weak, de-populated colonies back into a state of prime strength.

bee hives built once

After the bees had only been at their new home on my farm for a week, the bee keepers came and built up the hives with extra boxes full of foundations for new honeycombs.  It won’t be long before the beeswax combs will be built and filled with honey.  I am planning to bottle and sell some of the honey in May.

 

Canola is preparing to bolt

 

First Canola Bloom

Spring always seems early to me.  This year a new flower bore the welcome sign, a bright yellow canola bloom!  It won’t be long before the whole field is bursting with blooms which will be visited by another new sight on the farm, commercial bees!  They aren’t my bees, but I am hosting them for a few weeks while my crop feeds them valuable pollen in return for what I expect to be an increase in yield that could reach 15%.  This type of canola, brassica napus, is known to pollinate just fine on its own, but studies show a valuable increase in yield and maturity.  The bees do what the wind would otherwise do, except faster and more thoroughly.  It may prove to speed maturity enough to be able to harvest a day or two sooner in June, which will also carry value because we will be able to get the double-crop soybeans in that much sooner.  Soybeans need to be planted in a specific window depending on their relative maturity in order to maximize their use of long summer daylight hours.

Later this week, when the effects of 6 inches of rain are mostly gone, I plan to give this crop a does of nitrogen and sulfur as 28% UAN to last it through the critical fast growing period and reproductive stages ahead.  I thank the Lord that this rain came before I applied the nitrogen rather than afterward because nitrogen leaches into the soil or runs off to a ditch about as easily as water making it wasted money and potentially harmful to fish downstream.