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Canola going down for the count

Like Goldilocks: you don’t want too few or too many, but the count that’s just right

It’s a message being delivered with all western Canadian field crops these days, but canola seed suppliers such as BASF’s InVigor line (formerly Bayer products) are clearly making the point — know the seed count going through the air seeding system and follow that up with a plant count in the field.

InVigor, for the 2020 growing season, will be providing new canola seed packaging that will show the 1,000 TSW (thousand seed weight, also referred to as TKW, or thousand kernel weight) for that particular variety as well as recommended seeding rates to achieve the desired plant stand. Seed bags will be different sized, with different weights reflecting the different sizes of seeds. Each bag will hold enough seed for 10 acres, but the smaller seed varieties will be in smaller bags than the large seed varieties.

The basic message for producers from researchers, seed companies and crop specialists is don’t rely any longer on old seeding rules of thumb such as five pounds of canola per acre, or 1.5 bushels of wheat or two bushels of peas and hope that will produce the optimum-yielding crop stand. Corn and soybean producers have followed this seed process for years, counting and weighing seed batches to achieve optimum yield.

The goal is to achieve the optimum number of crop plants in the field to achieve the optimum yield. And with the price of good quality seed, using a by-guess-or-by-golly seeding rate can be both expensive and disappointing.

“Particularly with canola, but other crops too, seed cost is an important consideration,” says Harry Brook, crop specialist with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, based in Stettler, Alta. “Research has shown for years it is important to have to proper plant stand — the right number of plants in the field — to achieve the highest yield. So that starts with the proper seeding rate, and producers are urged to determine that 1,000 kernel or seed weight so they can figure out a seeding rate.”

Brook points to a number of calculators on the Internet, such as Ropin’ the Web on the Alberta Agriculture website or advises growers to web search “seeding rate calculators” to find a tool to help simplify the process.

In a program that was started under Bayer-ownership days, BASF continues with the objective of wanting growers to have the best experience in growing InVigor canola. The company is field-testing an unlimited number of questions about growing InVigor canola to determine management practices that produce the best results. “If farmers have a good experience growing InVigor canola then that is a good experience for us,” says Wade Stocker, with BASF.

BASF is recommending that, with all canola varieties, producers should target a harvested plant population of between five to seven plants per square foot. That’s similar to the Canola Council of Canada recommendation of aiming for six to eight plants.

Wade Stocker talked to farmers about BASF’s new seed count labelling at Ag In Motion in July, 2018.
photo: Lee Hart

Assuming a typical seed mortality rate of 50 to 60 per cent, BASF recommends seeding at a rate that delivers 10 seeds per square foot. And that leads back to the importance of weighing seed and to determine the seed count.

Starting with the 2020 growing season (available in the fall of 2019) InVigor canola will come in new packaging with a range of four seed sizes — A, B, C and D. A-bags will be varieties with smaller seed size ranging up to D-bags which will be varieties with larger seed size.

All labels will show the TSW for each variety within the ABCD ranges, and also provide a recommended seeding rate for each range, targeting 10 seeds per square foot of row. Producers can adjust specific rates up or down depending on growing season conditions, equipment and other factors. But assuming a 60 per cent seed mortality, the recommended seeding rate for smaller A-bag varieties (four to 4.4 grams per TSW) is 4.2 pounds per acre; for the B-bag (next TSW range 4.5 to 4.9 grams) 4.7 pounds per acre is the recommended rate; for C-bag varieties (five to 5.4 grams) it’s 5.2 pounds and for the largest seed varieties 5.5 to 5.9 grams), the recommendation for the D-bag is 5.7 pounds per acre.

Stocker recommends producers follow up seeding with plant counts in the field. After the first application of Liberty herbicide which will remove any non-InVigor canola volunteers, he recommends making random checks across a field to count the number of plants per square foot. And as further confirmation make a stalk or plant count again after harvest to determine the average number of harvested plants per square foot.

“Farmers are busy so taking time for plant counts may seem like extra work, but it is the best way to know if you are achieving the target plant population,” says Stocker. “It may not be something you need to do every year, but perhaps try it for a season or two just to confirm whether under those growing season conditions, and with your seeding equipment, at that seeding rate you are within the plant count range.”

BASF recommends a harvested plant population of five to seven plants per square foot. The Canola Council of Canada recommends six to eight plants.
photo: Lee Hart

About the author

Field Editor

Lee Hart is editor of Cattleman’s Corner based in Calgary.

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