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What's the Right Canola Seeding Rate for Your Farm This Spring?

Posted: Apr 06, 2021

Seeding Rate Recommendations from the Canola Council of Canada

With the canola seeding season approaching in Western Canada, it’s time to think about your seeding plans before you head into the field. The question of how much seed to plant is always a key consideration – choosing the right seeding rate for your farm not only maximizes return on investment, but also helps ensure your canola crops start the season strong.

Justine Cornelsen is an Agronomy Specialist with the Canola Council of Canada. She says that this spring, you should think about the plant density you need to reach your yield targets come harvest time.

“Growers need to set seeding rates that are high enough to give them enough plants per square foot to achieve full yield potential,” says Cornelsen. “It’s a matter of how many plants you need to reach your yield targets.”

Cornelsen believes this starts with determining seed survivability – something she says will vary from farm to farm because of different issues, like soil conditions, weed pressure and pest risks. Seed survivability is also largely dependent on the amount of available soil moisture, and with the dry soil conditions across most of the Prairies, that’s something growers should be mindful of when planting their canola this spring.

“With a potentially dry season, your likelihood of achieving the seed survivability that you've had in the past is going to go down,” says Cornelsen. “You may want to consider altering your seeding rate to make sure that you're still achieving that target plant stand.”

Plant Counts are Important

So what’s the best way to determine seed survivability? Cornelsen has a few markers you can use to set yourself up for success.

Cornelsen says the best way to figure out survivability rates is to do plant counts two or three weeks after emergence – and then more plant counts later on. The goal is to see whether the amount of seed you planted achieved target plant populations, or whether it came up short.

“You can look at results from previous years and get your survivability rate based on that. For example, if you were aiming for 10 plants per square foot, how many did you actually achieve?” she says.

Cornelsen points out that survivability rates will vary from field to field due to differing terrain and soil conditions. She says that you also need to consider seeding equipment, especially if you’re using a new air drill or switching to a planter.

Another important factor is the seed you use.

Consider Seed Size When Planting

Cornelsen says when determining your optimal plant count, you need to consider canola seed size, which is measured by the thousand seed weight (TSW) numbers you’ll find on seed bags. She says growers who use TSW rather than pounds per acre as a seeding measure will be able to achieve target plant stands with greater accuracy.

“With larger seed, you need a higher seed rate than with smaller seed to achieve the same plant population,” says Cornelsen.

Risk to Seeding Early

Warmer-than-usual weather in March meant some Prairie farmers had already started planting cereal crops by month’s end. Canola producers may be tempted to follow suit and start seeding earlier than the normal planting period (which usually starts in mid-to-late May in most areas in Western Canada), but Cornelsen cautions that’s always a risk.

“We do have a lot of late-season frosts that can occur, especially throughout the month of May,” she says.

Cornelsen says one plus of having milder weather is that growers may have a larger window for planting their canola, and therefore a better chance of successfully timing their seeding with rainfall events.

Recommended Seeding Rate for BrettYoung Varieties

Rene Mabon is the Agronomic Services Manager for BrettYoung. He says that to get the best results from BrettYoung’s TruFlex™, Roundup Ready® and Clearfield® canola varieties, growers should plant at least 10 seeds per square foot.

“Any less than that and you can end up with a plant population that’s too low and a stand that’s too thin,” says Mabon. “Eventually, there is a yield cost.”

As Mabon points out, yield isn’t the only issue. Choosing the right seeding rate is also important for achieving a uniform plant stand and avoiding a wider window of maturity that can lead to grading issues and difficulties at harvest with swathing timing.

Online Seed Calculators

Seed is a big investment, so knowing the appropriate seeding rate will help provide some cost certainty for you heading into the growing season.

Mabon says that the online calculators on the Canola Council website are excellent tools for growers who are looking for some assistance with determining seeding rates and how much seed to buy.

Your first step toward finding your farm’s ideal target density is the Target Plant Density Calculator. Cornelsen says this calculator is designed to help canola producers come up with a target density for canola crops that’s best for their farm – taking into account both economic factors and risk management.

Cornelsen says once a target density value has been determined, it can be inputted into the website’s Seeding Rate & Seed Cost Calculator. This calculator also factors in seed size (the thousand seed weight measurement found on every bag of certified seed), which is another key element in the seeding rate equation.

If you would like to learn more about determining seeding rates for your farm this spring, or if you’d like support with your BrettYoung canola this season, contact your BrettYoung Regional Account Manager.

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