It’s been a while since growers have been able to work their land early and seed into warm, reasonably moist soils. To make the most of it, says Dan Owen, remember the basics of good seeding practice.
1. Slow down
“I think the number one mistake I see growers make is seeding too fast, particularly with canola,” says Owen, agronomy manager with Hudye Soil Services in Norquay, SK. “The faster you go, the more the drill will throw up dirt behind it onto adjacent rows, burying the seed there.”
It’s hard not to go fast, particularly with new, more powerful equipment, and Owen understands that, but cautions growers to control the horsepower. “This should be the spring where we do get to start early, so we have time to slow down,” he says. “Four to five miles an hour is optimum.”
2. Check your seed
“Make sure you have good quality seed, test it and use seed treatments,” he says. Essentially, this is the “quality in, quality out” argument, and Owen thinks growers are responding to this more than they used to. “Guys are getting turned on to testing more. Fusarium is the big driver, and if they find it on their seed, they’re definitely treating for it.”
At Hudye Soil Services, a complete seed test, including vigour, germination, thousand kernel weight and disease screening costs about $140 per sample. “It’s pennies when you spread that out as a cost per acre,” says Owen. Test results also help growers get the seeding rate right for that particular seed lot, and ensure they’re not over or under seeding, both of which cost money.
3. Watch seeding conditions
“Ensure conditions are good for seeding; there’s no need to be mudding it in,” he says. It’s another angle on the “slow down” message, and again, Owen understands the drive to get moving, even when conditions aren’t right, but cautions against it.
“It’s human nature, really,” he says. “You see the neighbour out seeding and you think you should be out too. But maybe the neighbour’s soil is a little lighter, so he can go earlier while you need to wait a bit.”
Newer, bigger equipment can create a false sense of urgency, too. “Guys know how many acres a machine should be able to do in a day, but they need to let the conditions lead them,” he says. “Justifying the cost per acre on a piece of iron could be risking income per acre come harvest.”
4. Seed to moisture
“If it’s not a dry season, there’s no reason to put seed any deeper than where the moisture is,” says Owen. The deeper you seed unnecessarily, the more growing days you add to the season. “If you can get the crop up in five days rather than 10,” he says, “you could gain a week at harvest.”