Plant now or wait for warmer soils? That is the question canola growers are asking.
With wildly fluctuating temperatures, and a record-breaking warm spell in March, some producers are asking, how soon is too soon?
The Canola Council of Canada advises producers to consider a number of factors before pulling out the planter.
“This is always a game of weighing out the risks and assessing the rewards,” said Angela Brackenreed, an agronomist with the council. “We know from our data that the greatest probability for gaining the highest yield comes from early seeding, and when we say early seeding, that’s typically late April or early May. But things are different every year.”
And while the calendar isn’t everything, it is something producers should keep in mind.
“You don’t want to weight the calendar date too heavily, but at the same time, it always needs to be in the back of your head,” said Brackenreed. “It was in the middle of March there, when it was looking like spring and I would have thought we could have been seeding within a couple weeks… but that weather didn’t stay.”
The reality is that Manitoba often sees snow in March and even into April, she said. However, what really drives canola emergence is the temperature of the soil.
“We’re kind of behind the 8-ball with canola even going into ideal conditions,” said the agronomist. “It’s not that unusual to see only 50 per cent survival and emergence, so if you’re seeding into really cool conditions and a poor seedbed, you’re putting that seed at risk for even more loss. And the longer that it takes to germinate and the longer that it takes to come out of the ground, the more susceptible it is to diseases.”
Brackenreed suggests producers take soil temperatures in both the morning and afternoon for at least three to four days to determine where their soil is at. Ideally canola seeds would go into soil that’s around 10 C.
“But nobody really wants to wait that long, so 4° or 5° would be a good starting point,” she said. “You really want to make sure you get it right the first time, you only have one chance to seed, and it really sets you up for the entire season.”
What happens after planting is also key, so producers need to pay attention to the forecasts. Seedlings are hardy enough to withstand light frost, but Brackenreed noted lower temperatures or a hard frost can be devastating.
At the moment, warmer and drier weather are positive signs for producers.
“I think everyone is hoping for an easy seeding season,” she said. “But we could always get more rain and we could get more snow.”