To take a plant stand count, start with a simple tool with a known area. The photo shows a small hoop with an area equivalent to one quarter of a square metre (56 cm across.)
Place the hoop into the crop, counting the number of plants inside, and multiplying by 4 to get plants per square metre. Several counts per field are required to get a good average. Growers considering reseeding should take 50 to 100 samples to be sure it is the right management approach.
A 50 cm by 50 cm square (equivalent to one quarter of a square metre) made from wood works as well as the 56cm diameter hoop.
Why does it pay to know your plant stand?
Knowing your plant stand is the best way to understand how your fields should be managed for the rest of the season. It will also help in managing your seeding rate for the future.
Stands of 100 per square metre (10 per square foot) are ideal as they provide a cushion for loss due to frost, diseases or insects. Stands of less than 40 per square metre (4 per square foot) generally cannot reach their full yield potential.
If the plant stand is less than 100 per square metre, review equipment settings, seed weights and rates, and field conditions to identify why growers did not achieve the ideal plant population. Was it directly related to the seeding operation or was it environmental factors such as frost, wind or flooding, insects or disease?
Plant stand assessment is essential information for setting seeding rates in the future. Growers who usually achieve above 10 plants per square foot under average conditions may have been able to trim costs with a lower seeding rate. But if plant populations are routinely at 7 plants per square foot or less, reducing rates could spell trouble.
Knowing how plant density is distributed for each field is valuable information as well. For example, if the stand is spotty and thin, growers should consider extra vigilance and be more conservative with thresholds for insects, weeds and diseases.