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What To Seed First

Minimum Soil Temperature for Germination (oC) HERE’S AN EXAMPLE: TA BLE 1. CROP COMPARISON OF GERMINATION TEMPERATURE AND FROST TOLERANCE

Drill Size

50 feet

Seeding Speed (mph)

4.8

Acres Seeded/hr

29

Acres Seeded/hr including fills

23

Hours seeded/day

12

This is all dependent on the size of drill, how fast you typically seed, as well as how long the tractor keeps running in a day.

Crop

Canola

Mustard

Flax

Peas

Lentils

Wheat (inc Durum)

Barley

Oats

Soybean

Desi Chickpea Kabuli Chickpea

Souce: Saskatchewan Agriculture Bratrud Ag Advisory Services

2

2

3-4

5

5

4-5

4-5

4-5

5

5 10

Acres Seeded/day

280

Acres Seeded in 20 days

5520

Acres Seeded/ft. of Drill

110

Frost Tolerance for Seedling

Susceptible in cotelydon, but harden off with 1-2 first true leaves

Susceptible in cotelydon, but harden off with 1-2 first true leaves, more frost tolerant than canola

Early tolerance of down to -3C, after 2nd leaf harden off and can survive temperature down to -8C

Seedlings tolerant to frost to -7C for short periods of time

Seedling tolerant of frost to -4C, can regrow from below the soil surface

The growing point is below the soil surface until the plant is advanced past the 3rd leaf. Therefore the seedling is quite frost tolerant in the early part of the season.

The growing point is below the soil surface until the plant is advanced past the 3rd leaf. Therefore the seedling is quite frost tolerant in the early part of the season.

The growing point is below the soil surface until the plant is advanced past the 3rd leaf. Therefore the seedling is quite frost tolerant in the early part of the season.

Can tolerate -3C, if planting into cold soil, recommend using a seed treatment.

Seedling will tolerate light spring frosts.

Seedling will tolerate light spring frosts

It won’t be long before the rush to get seed in the ground begins. Seeding is arguably the most time sensitive, critical operation in the growing season. Doing a good job seeding in regards to timing, seed placement and field selection can start off the growing season in the right direction — or not. Any mistakes made early in the growing season are hard to recover from, further emphasizing the importance of getting it right the first time at the right time.

As many growers continue to expand their land base, time for this operation is at a premium. As a farmer, we hear over and over that we should aim for seeding our crop in a 20-day window. This is no small feat for most operations, and is only made possible through advances in seeding equipment and technology, cropping options and improved varieties. Out of necessity, the seeding season creeps earlier and earlier each year.

What about this 20-day window? Higher yield potential and improved quality characteristics go hand in hand with the earlier seed gets in the ground, we’re told. Ask a canola specialist and they’ll tell you to seed that first and on your best field. Ask a wheat specialist and they’ll tell you the same thing. We know why — early seeded crops take advantage of early soil moisture, get out of the ground to compete with weeds and increases your odds of avoiding adverse weather later in the growing season during a critical growth phase. It all makes sense, but we’re still stuck with the reality that not everything can be first.

With most of us pushing our logistics in the spring and in a time crunch there are a couple of things to consider in what to plant first. The answer will be different on every farming operation.

1) DRILL CAPACITY AND LAND BASE

Rules of thumb don’t necessarily apply in simple “acres per foot of drill per hour”. There are several different formulas out there, but most should only be taken as a guideline — every farm is different. How many acres you can reasonably seed in a day depends on the size of fields, amount of labour available, number of acres seeded per drill fill, as well as the number of different crops seeded.

2) FIELD SELECTION

Given that we’re trying to complete our seeding operation as fast as possible, how quickly fields are seeder-ready makes a difference. For our farm, we know we can seed earlier when soil is “blacker”. We are a minimum till operation which values standing stubble for moisture management, so trash management is highly important.

Heavy harrowing — We tend to heavy harrow in the fall following a heavy cereal crop. This allows us to spread and break up some of the excess straw on that field preparing a better seedbed. This makes for more even trash conditions providing more consistent warming of the soil, typically resulting in more even emergence

Seed placement — With new GPS and guidance technologies available, I see large benefit in being able to seed between existing seed rows. The idea is that the ground between the existing rows warms up more quickly and act as an insulating blanket for seedling crops, protecting them from early spring frosts.

The amount and type of stubble dictates how quickly that land warms up — We often look at seeding our pulse stubble first being as it is more “black” and usually the first to firm up and warm up. Because this stubble has less trash on it, our seedlings are often more frost tolerant than those seeded into higher trash areas.

3) CROP AGRONOMICS

On our farm, the theory that early seeded fields out-yield later seeded holds true, however it’s not possible to always seed everything at the optimal time. Some crops on your farm will be seeded earlier than the ideal window in the early spring, and some of the crop will have to be the last planted. Which cropping order works on your farm will depend on a multitude of factors, one of which is what crops will tolerate cool soils and spring frost the best making it a better choice to be seeded first.

Although the above crops will germinate at the indicated soil temperatures, it’s not in your best interest to push early seeding to some of these cold temperatures. The general rule of thumb is to seed when the soil temperature reaches 10C. Planting prior to reaching that optimum temperature can have a direct delay in seedling emergence. Moisture concerns set aside, the colder the soil temperature, the longer it takes to get a healthy vigorous seedling to emerge. Seeding into too cool of soil can be detrimental as seen in Figure 1.

Ideas that have worked on our farm:

Seed into pulse stubble first — Pulse stubble is often firmed up and warmed up a couple of days earlier than cereal stubble. This also helps us utilize as much early season soil moisture as possible prior to the wind blowing and drying it out.

Stagger lentil seeding — Look at seeding lentils in two separate seeding windows. This has allowed us to help manage the lentils later through the season for both disease control as well as harvest management.

Try seeding flax earlier — We’ve typically seeded flax near the end of seeding, however research suggests yield benefits to seeding earlier and flax is quite frost tolerant. We have seen tremendous yield benefits from applying fungicide to our flax which may prolong its maturity making it a crop which may benefit from putting it in the ground earlier than has typically been the case.

Seed canola with flowering time window in mind — Canola can’t handle high temperature when flowering. Canola hybrid varieties have come a long way in their heat tolerance for petal blasting, and we have seen less of a yield drag in our later canola than we did five to 10 years ago.

The main objective is the same for all producers to obtain even, vigorous emergence of all the crops within a very tight seeding window. Each year, as we all know, the conditions and seeding dates will vary greatly. Some years, despite our best made decisions, early spring frosts have set back the crops. Planning and taking small steps to ensure that the seed goes into the ground in a timely way will help set us up for the rest of the growing season.

Bobbie Bratrud owns and operates Bratrud Ag Advisory Services with her husband Mark. They also farm at Weyburn, Sask.

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