Rain needed for germination

But don't seed too deep to find it

Despite dark clouds and much thunder, the May long weekend weather failed to deliver the dust-settling, crop kick-starting rain many farmers are anxiously awaiting.

“So it’s some but it’s not really enough to make a big difference that’s for sure,” he added, noting most areas of the province need between half an inch and an inch of rain to germinate dry seeds.

“Crop is still coming up in areas and so it does depend a little bit as to where you are in the southwest as to how severe the situation is,” Kaskiw said. “But south of the No. 2 Highway, there is a pretty good demand or need for rain fairly shortly just to get the crop germinated.”

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The adviser said that in areas that were seeded early with cereal crops germination has been uneven, with seeds sprouting in lower areas but not higher and drier areas of fields.

“So we are getting to the point where we need the rain to get that stuff to germinate,” he said.

But he said farmers should avoid the temptation to seed small-seeded crops such as canola and flax more deeply to reach moisture.

“I still think if you can lay oilseeds (canola and flax) in about an inch it’s maybe a little bit above the layer where the moisture is, but it won’t take much for the two levels to meet if we get a decent rain,” Kaskiw said. “Then it will be up and take off fast. Trying to sink it into the moisture is always risky… (because) a seed may not have enough energy to get to the soil surface. That is when we’ll get some really spotty crops.

“If we don’t get rain you won’t have to worry about it.”

Some American weather models suggest that southern Manitoba could get a half- to one-inch rain around June 1, Kaskiw said.

“As long as we can get it in the next two weeks it would be definitely beneficial,” he said. “Some areas are still not too bad. I was talking to a producer in the Birtle area and he is seeding right into moisture. So it depends a bit on where you are.”

Department of Agriculture weather records show parts of Manitoba’s northwest and Interlake regions had close to normal to above-normal rainfall since May 1. For example Gilbert Plains and Roblin as of May 15 had 227 and 115 per cent of average rainfall having received 50 and 31 millimetres, respectively. However, both regions have a number of stations reporting below-average rainfall.

It’s even drier in the central, eastern and southwest regions, the data shows. For example, since May 1 Winkler has received just only about five per cent of average precipitation. Morden, Gretna, Elm Creek, Carman and Pilot Mount aren’t much better.

Not only are many places dry, but most stations across agro-Manitoba are also reporting warmer-than-average temperatures — some well above normal. For example Drifting River, north of Gilbert Plains, has recorded 147 per cent of normal corn heats units so far, while Arborg and Gladstone are 135 and 131 per cent of average.

Lower-than-normal snowfall, followed by high winds have helped to dry the topsoil in many Manitoba fields. Spotty germination makes it hard to control weeds and to harvest because plants will be at different stages, Kaskiw said.

“We had those days with 60- to 70-kilometre winds that dried out the soil to where you disturbed it,” he said. “And we just haven’t had much rain since so some of those areas are just getting too dry. Some spots to the south (of Souris) here guys stopped seeding a week ago because it was just too dry already.”

The good news is several years of wet conditions have resulted in adequate subsoil moisture in many areas.

“If we can get this crop germinated and the roots going down they will get into moisture,” Kaskiw said. “I really think even if it is a dry year, on average, we will still get an average crop because of the subsoil moisture we have in reserve. It’s just to get it germinated and get it growing. That’s the big thing.

“Most people I talk to say you don’t have to go down very deep and there is moisture there.”

While checking on seed germination Kaskiw has come across some pests, including wireworms, which feed on cereal seedings, and dingy cutworms that feed on seedling leaves.

“Wireworms are out there but I don’t think they are too severe,” Kaskiw said during the CropTalk Westman webinar May 18. “Usually we don’t see a lot of damage unless the numbers are really high.”

Farmers should be scouting for flea beetles in canola now too, he said. With dry conditions and spotty germination the insects could swarm canola plants overwhelming their insecticidal seed treatments.

“That’s something to be watching for… because they could do a lot of damage to the plants that are up,” he said. “They could do more damage than the plants can handle.

“Now is a good time to be watching because they are all out and the canola is just going to be nicely coming up and it will definitely be in a vulnerable stage during the first week or so as it comes through the ground.”

Some farmers may regret having not done a pre-seed weed burn-off this spring, Kaskiw said. Weed activity started slowly but winter annuals are starting to flower and set seed now, he said.

“You will be kicking yourself later on if you don’t do the burn-off because when it comes time for in-crop (weed) control the things are going to be huge and the expense of controlling them will be a lot more,” he said.

Kaskiw said he has seen some yellowing winter wheat and believes it’s because there hasn’t been enough rain to get spring-applied nitrogen into the root zone so the plants can use it.

All that said, he added that the line between wet and dry can be a fine one.

“If we were to get a long weather event where we got two or three inches of rain, we’d be in a situation where we’d be getting too wet again,” he said. “Because we do have a lot of subsoil moisture, it’s just right now when you’re putting that seed in an inch or inch and a half of soil that’s so dry that causes problems.”

About the author

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Reporter

Allan Dawson is a reporter with the Manitoba Co-operator based near Miami, Man. Covering agriculture since 1980, Dawson has spent most of his career with the Co-operator except for several years with Farmers’ Independent Weekly and before that a Morden-Winkler area radio station.

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