“The weeds that emerge earlier in the crop are generally the ones that cause the greatest amount of yield loss.”
– JOHN MAYKO
Before hitting the field here are 10 agronomic tips on seeding canola from John Mayko, a senior agronomy specialist with the Canola Council of Canada.
1) Make sure your equipment is ready. Check air seeders for worn hoses. Give each a quarter-turn every year to ensure even wear.
Level the seeder from front to back and side to side. Check the opener’s tire pressure and packer pressure. Grease all lubrication points.
2) Make sure your fertility rate fits with a reasonable yield goal.
Soil tests taken to 24 inches should be done annually to assess nitrogen levels and at least every three years for phosphorus and other micronutrients.
Fertilizer rates should be adjusted with seeding date. When canola is seeded later, the growing season will be reduced and so will the plant’s ability to use nutrients. Excessive nitrogen can delay maturity.
3) The amount of fertilizer there can be safely applied with the seed varies with the soil type, the spread of the openers and the width of seed rows. Wider rows, with narrower openers, generally allows for higher rates. Too much fertilizer, especially nitrogen, can damage seed.
ESN (polymer-coated) nitrogen allows farmers to increase a normally safe rate of nitrogen by threefold. So a farmer who can apply 15 to 20 pounds an acre of nitrogen can up the rate to 45 to 60 with ESN. The one caveat is that the ESN coating must be intact.
4) When direct seeding always do a field burn-off with a non-selective herbicide. “The weeds that emerge earlier in the crop are generally the ones that cause the greatest amount of yield loss,” Mayko said.
A burn-off can be done before seeding or just after, but only using glyphosate or Cleanstart. Don’t apply a phenoxy herbicide because the residue can damage canola seedlings.
In direct-seeding situations a burn-off will boost yields 10 to 15 per cent. On a 30-bushel-an-acre yield, that’s an extra three to 4.5 bushels an acre.
“It will more than pay for the burn-off application,” Mayko said.
5) Assess potential insect pressure of seedlings. If flea beetle populations were high in the field last spring or fall they could be a problem this spring and a seed treatment with extended control should be considered.
Farmers can’t control cutworms in the crop, but should be aware that they could be the reason for bare patches, especially on south slopes or where the soil is loose because that’s where adult moths tend to lay their eggs.
6) Select the right variety for your field. Consider the weed spectrum and the herbicides used previously. If sclerotinia has been a problem consider planting a sclerotinia-tolerant variety. Planting earlier-maturing varieties early in the spring can spread canola harvesting out.
When selecting a variety also consider its harvest-ability. Is it suited for straight combining or does it swath well?
7) Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. When trying a new crop input, variety or technique try it on a small number of acres and do a proper comparison using a weigh wagon or properly calibrated combine yield monitor.
8) Is the field suitable for
planting? Be sure crop residue, including chaff, is evenly spread. If it isn’t, bring out the heavy harrows.
Check soil temperature. It should average at least 4 C based on readings from several different places in the field taken at 8 a. m. and 4 p. m.
Assess soil moisture. If it’s very dry, a farmer can plant shallow and pray for rain or wait until rain is imminent.
Mayko doesn’t recommend planting deep to hit moisture, but those who do should increase the seeding rate to compensate for increased plant mortality. Consider a higher rate of
seed treatment too.
9) Calibrate your seeder. It should be done for each variety and each seed lot. Differences can affect how the seed flows.
Target a plant population of seven to 10 plants per square foot. On average across the West just 50 per cent of the canola seed planted produces a plant. That means, on average, farmers need to plant 14 to 20 seeds per square foot.
The seeding rate can be reduced under ideal conditions and where farmers use best practices, which include planting good-quality seed and not seeding too fast.
Try to seed canola between a half and one inch deep. Check seeding depth often.
“It makes a big difference in terms of the numbers of plants that end up emerging at the end,” Mayko said
10) Keep good records. Save two cups of seed from every seed lot at least until the crop is up.
Store samples in zip-lock bags in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight.
Record the seeding date, seeding depth, seeding speed, soil temperature and soil conditions.
When spraying, record the product applied, location, volume, weather conditions (temperature, relative humidity, wind speed and direction) and crop and weed stage.
And don’t forget the canola still in the bin. Make sure it’s not heating. Turn stored canola if necessary and turn fans on to remove excess moisture.