Producers can salvage a crop with shallow seeding

Late snow melt? Cold soil? Too much rain? Tough seeding into mud? Short growing season?

It doesn’t mean this year’s canola crop necessarily has to be a crop failure.

Agronomists say there’s one opportunity to rescue the canola season, and if it isn’t done right the first time, there won’t be another chance until 2014.

That single opportunity is the seeding operation.

High yields are still possible this year if a producer has a mindset to pull out all the stops and put down the best seeding operation possible. It will also help if a somewhat normal summer follows.

Shawn Senko, the precision seeding specialist for the Canola Council of Canada, said setting up seeding equipment is more important than ever in a year like this one.

Canola plants have more leeway and are more forgiving of seeding goofs in a perfect year. However, the delicate canola plants have little tolerance for those same goofs when winter lingers too long.

Senko, who grows canola on his home farm east of Saskatoon, said it’s too easy to let the weather and circumstances get the upper hand before seed even goes into the cart.

“We already know we’re looking at a short growing season because we’re seeding so late,” Senko said.

“And we know we’re seeding into wet, cool soils.”

Perfect seed placement is not possible in mud, but there is plenty of time to work on air drills and seeders while waiting for fields to be dry up.

Senko said shallow seeding is the only way to deal with what farmers are facing this year.

“If you place the seed deep, there’s more compaction, cooler soil temperatures and thicker crusting the plants have to break through. A lot of seeds won’t germinate and many of those that do germinate won’t get through the crusting,” he said.

“In wet soil conditions, if you put the seed .5 inch to .75 inch, you know for sure there’s good moisture close to the seeds and higher soil temperatures than deeper into the soil.”

Senko said that depth is only slightly shallower than the one inch normally recommended.

There’s no guarantee what the weather will do, but shallow seed placement at least gives better odds of quicker and more uniform germination and emergence.

“With deep seeding, even if some of those seeds do germinate to form plants, the wide range of emergence dates through the field will present challenges all season long for timing pest management, swathing and combining.”

Seeding rigs sink further into wet soil than they do in dry soil.

A machine might be set for .5 inch but the seed is being dropped into the bottom of a trench that’s an inch or more deep.

This depth accuracy problem is especially prevalent in machines with gang packers.

Producers who have invested in the high-tech precision seeding machines generally agree their drills give them a distinct advantage in wet conditions than do older style drills.

Levelling the drill side-to-side and front-to-rear is especially critical in wet conditions. The main consideration is finding a firm, level surface. The rest of the setup is in the operator’s manual.

Once the drill is set, Senko said producers should stop often and dig to the bottom of the seed trench with their seed depth tool to determine the actual placement depth of the seed. Check different rows each time.

“You want to check seed depth at a spot where the drill would have been moving at full speed. That way, the seed depth measurement accurately reflects what the drill is really doing.”

For more information, contact Senko at 306-270-9307 or visit

Producers can salvage a crop with shallow seeding Agriculture  Crops   via The Western Producer

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