Seeding/Planting
Favourable spring conditions are giving soybean and corn farmers in Southern Ontario hopes for another good year.

Environment Canada forecasts an average spring which would be good for wheat, corn and soybeans, the most important crops in the region.

Though the forecast says April will be warmer than normal, with temperatures already hitting 20  C compared to the seasonal average of 6.8 C, meterorologist Peter Kimbell says precipitation is expected to be around the usual 83 millimetres for the month. | READ MORE
Parts of Canada’s prairies will be wetter than normal in the last two weeks of April, costing farmers “significant” field work delays at the start of planting, says Joel Widenor, an agricultural meteorologist with Commodity Weather Group in Bethesda, Maryland. | READ MORE
Row spacing for various field crops on the Prairies, particularly in no-till and higher residue cropping systems, continues to be a big area of focus for researchers and growers. Understanding how wide is reasonable, what the benefits and drawbacks are and associated risks remain top priorities.
Moving to wider row spacing for no-till wheat can make it easier to direct seed in between rows and can create better seedbed conditions. Generally, narrow row spacing is expected to give the greatest potential grain yields for the majority of crops, however narrow row spacing requires more openers, more draft, more energy, more cost, more maintenance and more residue clearance.
Field pea is generally thought to be relatively heat tolerant, but there are limits. Research by PhD candidate Yunfei Jiang in the department of plant sciences at the University of Saskatchewan is delving into how heat specifically affects pollination, seed set and the processes associated with pollen fertilizing an ovule to form an embryo and seed.  
Leading edge research, led by Art Schaafsma, at the Ridgetown campus of the University of Guelph, has confirmed that seed treatment dust from planters is responsible for most seed treatment chemical escapes into the surrounding environment.

“After three years of research studying multiple pathways and movement of dust from air/vacuum planters, our goal should be to reduce all residue escapes by 90 per cent,” Schaafsma says.

Based on the research, Schaafsma identified five recommendations to farmers:

1.    Ensure pesticides stay on the seed by using approved fluency agents and polymers.
2.    Avoid abrasive seed lubricants.
3.    Filter and redirect planter exhaust dust into the soil.
4.    Ensure clean air flows through the vacuum intakes.
5.    Practice conservation tillage to minimize soil movement.

Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency recently released a proposed re-evaluation decision, which would see Imidacloprid phased out in three to five years. In referencing this action regarding this commonly used seed treatment, Dr. Paul Sibley, scientist and toxicologist at the University of Guelph says “Intermediate solutions and options must be considered to allow the industry to adjust and adapt to new technology.”

Schaafsma further indicates there are new developments in the works with planter filters, cyclones to filter and stabilize dust, as well as polymers to more firmly attach pesticide product to the seed. He is also encouraging farmers to collaborate with industry to work on restricting dust movement.

Many industry partners have been looking forward to results of Schaafsma’s research in an effort to better respond to public concerns over pollinator health, aquatic insects and environmental concerns.

This project was funded in part through Growing Forward 2, with the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement being a key partner.
The Canadian Seed Trade Association (CSTA) celebrates Canada’s first national Agriculture Day (February 16th, 2017) with the launch of its Better Seed, Better Life program.

Seed is the start of it all, the entire agriculture and agri-food value chain. Through Better Seed, Better Life, CSTA plans to engage with Canadians on the role of seed as the foundation for the foods and drinks we enjoy, the clothes we wear and the fuel in our cars. This program is based on materials created by the American Seed Trade Association and is a collaborative effort between the two associations. 

CSTA’s Better Seed, Better Life program starts with the launch of the fact sheet, “The A to Z of Garden Seeds.” This is the first of a series of fact sheets to be released over the next months, connecting the seeds produced by CSTA members and the crops grown from those seeds to the products used in everyday life. The fact sheets are available at cdnseed.org. Profiles of CSTA members and a video will be added over the year to complement the fact sheets.
Prairie farmers seeded over four million acres to pea in 2016. In 1975, peas were grown on about 10,000 acres. Peas have become a very important crop over the last 40 years, and Canada has become the world’s largest exporter of both yellow and green pea. As western Canadian pea acreage has grown, so has the demand for information on agronomy and nutrient management to achieve optimum production.
Generally researchers try to stay ahead of farming practices, but lately they find themselves chasing an explanation for an emerging one.

One of the key challenges for winter canola production is very basic: crop survival into the spring. So a project with multiple sites in Eastern Canada has been evaluating the overwintering success of today’s winter canola cultivars, as well as testing several factors that might improve the crop’s survival and yield.

“I knew researchers had worked on winter canola in the past and found that it could work but didn’t work often enough. I wanted to see if there had been improvement enough in the genotypes that we might be looking at a better situation now,” says Don Smith, a professor in the plant science department at McGill University, who is leading the study.

The project started in 2013 and ran through two winters at five sites, for a total of 10 site years. All analyses and reporting are now nearly completed. The project is part of the canola and soybean research being conducted under the Eastern Canada Oilseeds Development Alliance (ECODA), jointly funded by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) and industry. Smith is the scientific director of ECODA’s research network, involving more than 20 research agencies across Eastern Canada. His winter canola project was funded through AAFC’s Growing Forward 1 and Growing Forward 2 programs.

“A number of things came together in terms of increased interest in spring and winter canola in Eastern Canada,” Smith says. “The cash value of some of the small grain cereals that producers grow sometimes has been pretty low, so they were looking for cash crops that might pay better and they were interested in canola. Also, a few years ago a major oilseed crushing plant opened at Becancour, Que., providing easier access of oilseeds produced in Quebec and the Maritimes to crushing facilities; before that, the nearest crushing facilities were in southern Ontario. Also the St. Lawrence River at Becancour doesn’t freeze so you can bring in oilseeds by boat year-round, which is much less expensive. So that changed the economic landscape for oilseed production around here.”

ECODA focuses mainly on spring canola, with only a small amount of research on winter canola. “Winter canola is always a higher risk, with Canadian winters being what they are,” Smith explains.

Although winter canola is not as winter-hardy as crops like winter wheat, it does have some potential benefits for growers. “When winter canola survives the winter, it can yield quite well. Also, it provides ground cover through fall, winter and spring, protecting the soil from erosion,” Smith notes. “And winter canola starts to grow much earlier in the season [than spring-seeded canola].” Earlier growth means earlier maturity, which can be an advantage, for example, if fall frosts come very early or if the summer turns hot. He says, “Canola is a temperate zone crop so when temperatures get above about 25 C, the crop starts to get into problems caused by heat stress, such as floral abortion.”

One component of Smith’s winter canola project compared four varieties to see which ones performed best at each site. The five sites included one in Ontario (Ottawa), two in Quebec (west end of Montreal Island and south-east of Montreal), one in Prince Edward Island (Charlottetown) and one in Nova Scotia (Truro). Researchers in the ECODA initiative managed the sites.

There were small differences in variety performance from site to site, but no variety was dramatically better than another. “We found that we don’t yet have the genotypes that can survive our winters very well. We had survival in about one year in three or four, which is just not enough,” Smith says.

“We only had good winter survival when there was enough snow cover. A good snow cover will insulate the plant against the more extreme weather conditions in the atmosphere. So you could have plunging air temperatures of -25 C or -30 C, and – although it depends [on the snow pack’s characteristics] – the temperature might only be a few degrees below 0 C at the soil surface under a thick covering of snow. Without a snow cover, it can be much colder for the plant and that can be a challenge.”

He adds, “Winter survival can be tough, but spring survival can also be difficult. With the transition from winter to spring, you get transitions back and forth across 0 C. So you get melting snow and pooling of water in low spots because the water can’t trickle down into the frozen soil, and then the puddles freeze into ice. That is very hard on the plants.”

The project’s sites included a range of conditions, so overwintering success varied from site to site and from year to year. The site at McGill’s Agronomy Research Centre near Montreal had some of the best winter survival. Smith explains, “At the McGill site, the winter canola plots were in a small field ringed by fairly tall trees so the snow catch was generally good. The message that comes out of this is that it’s about snow catch.”

All of the five sites used conventional tillage systems. So a possible next step in this research would be to try no-till canola because the standing stubble from the previous crop has the potential to increase snow trapping.

The project’s results also confirmed that winter survival is affected by seeding date. Seeding has to be early enough for the plants to become sufficiently established before the first killing frost. The recommendation from Ontario’s agriculture department is that winter canola plants should have about four to six leaves and a root system large enough to withstand some frost heaving and drying winds. If you seed too late, then the plant might be too small to make it through the winter. However, if you seed too early, the plant might bolt in the fall and would not survive the winter.

For the study sites in Smith’s project, seeding dates in the first 10 or 15 days of September were usually the best. He notes, “That can vary, of course, from year to year. In 2015, warm weather persisted and persisted, so in a year like that you might be able to plant into the first week of October and it would still be okay.”

The project also compared several fertilizer treatments, including different rates and timings for sulphur and different rates for boron. Smith explains that canola has higher requirements for these two nutrients than many other commonly grown field crops. However, none of the fertilizer treatments produced clear differences in winter canola performance.

Another component of the project assessed the suitability of winter-seeded spring canola. Smith explains, “You can seed spring canola just before freeze-up in the fall or just before spring melt so the seeds don’t germinate immediately because the weather is too cold. When the snow melts in the spring, they’ll germinate right away. So the crop starts growing much earlier than spring-seeded canola.” So, like winter canola, winter-seeded spring canola would have potential advantages over spring-seeded canola due to earlier maturity.

“However, in our trials, very late seeded or very early seeded (onto frozen soil in both cases) spring canola had reasonable survival one year of the two when it was evaluated, which is not really good enough,” he says. Canola’s growing point is at or above the soil surface as the plant emerges, which makes it very vulnerable to early spring frost damage if the plant starts to grow during a warm spell and then gets hit by a cold snap. Cereals like wheat and barley protect their growing points by keeping them below the soil surface during their early growth stages.

Smith also experimented with applying microbial compounds to winter canola to see whether these compounds would help the plants survive winter stresses. In previous research, Smith found that these compounds promote growth in several other crop species; in particular, the compounds can help plants withstand various stress conditions. But with winter canola, the benefits weren’t as strong. Smith says, “Across years, when the plants were treated with these compounds, survival was numerically higher most of the time but not statistically higher most of the time.”

Overall, Smith concludes, “We’ve learned that winter survival of winter canola is not there yet. But I think sooner or later breeders will develop winter canola varieties that have the right stuff and we’ll get there.” 

 

July 4, 2016 - The month of June saw highly variable amounts of precipitation fall in Alberta, from near excessive amounts of 150-250 per cent of normal in the Peace region, to above average quantities of 100-200 per cent in the northwest to below average of 50-100 per cent in the northeast, and dry conditions to the central and south regions at 35-50 per cent of normal.

According to the June 28 Alberta Crop report, regional crop condition ratings reflect these moisture differences. Crop ratings declined in the south and central regions due to the continuing dry conditions, were unchanged in the northeast, and are reflecting the effects of the wet soil conditions on growth in the northwest and Peace regions.

As at June 28, crops provincially are rated 79 per cent in good or excellent condition, compared to last year at 30 per cent, the five year average of 73 per cent and the long term average of 70 per cent.

READ MORE.
July 4, 2016 - Warmer and drier weather conditions were welcomed by Manitoba producers over the past week. According to the Manitoba crop report, all crop types, particularly the warm season crops including grain corn and soybeans, are benefiting from the warmer weather.

The more favourable weather conditions are allowing some acres impacted by excess moisture to recover. However, continuing wet field conditions and symptoms of excess moisture continue to be noted across most regions. As fields continue to dry, the impact of the excessive moisture to yield potentials become more evident.

READ MORE.
June 22, 2016 - Over the past week, widespread thunderstorm activity has provided adequate moisture to most of Alberta, although some western parts of south and central regions have received less than 60 mm of moisture since the start of growing season. While these areas have received enough moisture to sustain growth in recent days, they are still in need of more moisture.

Provincially, crop growing conditions across the province improved by two per cent and are now 82 per cent good to excellent, compared with the five-year average (2011-2015) of 73 per cent. About 83 per cent of spring wheat, 79 per cent of barley, 90 per cent of oats, 82 per cent of canola and 81 per cent of dry peas are in good to excellent condition. In terms of crop development, most cereals across the province are in the stem elongation stage.

READ MORE.

June 16, 2016 - Seeding in Saskatchewan is expected to be completed this week, according to Saskatchewan Agriculture's weekly Crop Report. While there are few fields of oats and flax, as well as some greenfeed and silage, being seeded at this time, 99.5 per cent of the crop is in the ground. The five-year (2011-2015) average for this time of year is 94 per cent seeded.

READ MORE.

 

June 9, 2016 - Seeding has essentially wrapped up in Saskatchewan with 98 per cent of the 2016 crop in the ground, according to Saskatchewan Agriculture's weekly Crop Report. The five-year (2011-2015) average for this time of year is 89 per cent seeded. Many producers have completed seeding operations and are working on in-crop herbicide applications.

READ MORE.

 

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