Aerial seeding a last resort

Some growers in Manitoba and southeastern Saskatchewan are considering seeding by plane or helicopter. There are no studies on aerial seeding of canola. It has been done in very wet springs, but if growers have to seed by plane because the field is too wet for a broadcast floater, that means it’s probably also too wet for weed control, fertilizing and harrowing — each important to a profitable broadcast canola crop.

Fields too wet for ground equipment have probably been wet for a month or more. That means most of the nitrogen reserves have been lost. Since fertilizer is too heavy to apply efficiently by plane, the canola seeded by plane will not get a nutrient top up until the ground is firm enough for ground equipment. Canola needs fertilizer early, and ideally at the time of seeding, to reach its full yield potential.

Canola emerging in wet soil will also be oxygen deprived. This is not a hospitable environment for seedlings. Seeds may germinate, but the roots will likely die.

Think about your agronomic plan before considering aerial seeding. Will you be able to get across the field in a timely fashion?

Emphasis for the important harrowing step: After broadcast seeding, including aerial seeding, fields must be harrowed to loosen the soil surface and provide seed to soil contact. Canola seed is very light and does not embed into the soil, even if dropped from an airplane at high speed. This is especially true for seed broadcast onto stubble. Crop residue can be a barrier preventing seed to soil contact. Seed applied by airplane or helicopter will not push through this layer.