“Planting when the soil is too wet will lead to soil compaction, which can decrease yield much more than planting a few days later.”
The later a crop is seeded the lower its potential yield, but Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives (MAFRI) says there are things farmers can do to make the most out of a bad situation.
Excess rain through much of Manitoba has drowned thousands of acres of seed crops, killing some outright, while damaging others. And another estimated 750,000 acres have been too wet to plant.
With the crop insurance June 20 seeding deadline just three days away, farmers’ crop options are limited to cereals, flax, and in some parts of the province, canola, but with reduced insurance coverage.
Greenfeed and green manure are also options.
But before any seeding is done, the soil should be dry enough to do a good job. MAFRI recommends against “mudding” in a crop.
“Planting when soils are too wet is not advised, regardless of the date,” MAFRI says in one of its publications. “Planting when the soil is too wet will lead to soil compaction, which can decrease yield much more than planting a few days later.”
Some cultivars mature earlier than others. Farmers can check maturity dates in Seed Manitoba (www.seedmb.ca).
Most canola varieties are well within the maturity range that we normally experience in Manitoba (94 to 101 days), a MAFRI publication says.
MAFRI recommends against planting earlier-maturing Polish-type canolas because they yield less and tend not to be herbicide tolerant.
“If still concerned with maturity, look in Seed Manitoba for the days to maturity, then using a typical first fall frost date, count back the days to maturity to get to the safe seeding date.”
Time is short, but it doesn’t pay to seed too quickly either, according to MAFRI. Seeding at more than five m. p. h. results in uneven seed placement, including depth.
Shallow seeding into moist soil will result in faster emergence and crop establishment.
The recommended seeding depth for cereals is 1.5 to 2.5 inches. For canola it’s 0.5 to one inch and 0.5 to 0.75 of an inch for flax.
MAFRI also recommends increasing the seeding rate to speed maturity and compensate for less tillering.
Target plant populations per square foot are:
Spring wheat – 23 -28.
Oats – 18 -23.
Barley – 22 -25.
Canola – 7 -14.
Flax – seed 40 to 45 pounds per acre.
The later a crop is planted, the less nitrogen it’s going to use.
As soil temperatures rise a crop’s response to phosphorus fertilizer declines since warm soils permit plant roots to explore and access more soil phosphorus.
MAFRI also says farmers should recalculate their costs of production based on lower yield expectations.
Pam de Rocquigny, MAFRI’s provincial cereals specialist, says it’s important to have a market for whatever crop is grown.
That’s especially true when a non-livestock producer grows greenfeed, which is also insurable until June 20.
Cool, season cereals such as wheat, barley and oats can be planted for greenfeed until the end of June or early July (without crop insurance coverage), MAFRI’s forage specialist Glenn Friesen said in an interview.
Ideally, cereal greenfeed will be cut for feed when in head to add energy. That might not happen if seeded too late in the season.
A later-season alternative is either proso or foxtail millet. The former is better for baling, while the latter is best for swath grazing, Friesen said.
COMMON SIGHT: A farmer draining his field of water near St. Claude.
Millet is a C4 crop, which means it grows best under warmer conditions such as those seen in mid-July.
Millet doesn’t need to be in head to make good greenfeed.
Reynald Gauthier, president of Millet King Seeds of Canada Inc. in St. Claude, says millet is a good late-season crop option. The seed can be sold in the bird food market for about 10 cents a pound. However, the crop insurance seeding deadline for millet grain has already past.
Besides making cattle feed, millet makes a good green manure crop, Gauthier said. A cover of millet will dewater soils, control weeds and capture nutrients that can be worked back into the soil.
Gauthier, who is developing food products from millet, says he has enough seed for sale to cover 45,000 acres.
Ideally a green manure crop should include an annual legume to add nitrogen to the soil, unless there’s already lots of residual nitrogen, Friesen said. Sweet and red clover are two moderately priced options. [email protected]