Whether muddy or bone-dry, keep soil where it belongs
Weed seeds and aggressive soil-borne pathogens causing clubroot and verticillium stripe are ready and waiting to hitch a ride on equipment as it moves field to field. Investing a few minutes to knock debris and soil clumps out of drill shanks, spray off mud, or brush off dust – yes, contaminants can travel even in dust – can save huge future headaches. Fully sanitize using bleach or Spray Nine as often as possible (ideally between each field; at a minimum after working in higher risk areas). In over-wet areas, keep both contamination and compaction front of mind. Soil compaction on wheel tracks will negatively impact soil health and reduce the long-term productivity of the soil. (Controlling clubroot disease) (Equipment sanitation why and how) (Compaction impacts on canola establishment)
Well-prepped drills allow maximum yield
Is that drill prepared to optimize seeding? Take time while seeding the first field to check on placement, metering and opener condition. Fertilizer burning is a major risk when worn openers do not create the desired separation between seed and fertilizer bands, especially in dry soil. We always recommend farmers run a short fertilizer-free check-strip to test if poor separation has impacted seedling emergence: though the results won’t help this year, discovering a hidden problem can improve future yields.
(Top 10 reasons for patchy fields) (How to increase canola seed survival rates) (Measuring seed depth)
Does seed size matter?
An AAFC study “Seed size and seeding rate effects on canola emergence, development, yield and seed weight” (2014) led by Neil Harker concluded that seed size (thousand seed weight) did not have any significant effect on emergence, yield or seed quality. Knowing seed size is a key step in setting a seeding rate that will achieve the target of 5-8 plants/ft2. More important is to take steps to ensure high seed survival, which will improve the economic return for all seed – no matter its size. (Canola seeding rate calculator) (Canola plant density calculator)
Make time for seedbed prep, even this year
This spring’s slow start and moisture extremes mean producers may struggle to find time to balance proper seed-bed prep with getting seeds into the ground. Seedbed prep is a priority: optimizing soil temp, soil moisture, nutrient availability, early weed control and field residue are critical to successful crop emergence. If considering harrowing, remember: while harrowing/vertical tillage can help dry over-wet soil and warm up cool soil, be prepared for a big flush of post-harrowing weeds. And, though standing stubble might look messy, it flows better through a seeder than spring-harrowed residue. (Residue management in the spring)