In part one of this cereal seeding piece, I discussed a few important things to keep in mind before letting the drills hit the dirt. It included the importance of starting with quality seed that has been tested and applying a registered seed treatment along with a properly done thousand kernel weight assessment to target a competitive plant stand. The next three things to consider can often be overlooked as well.
- Choose varieties based on more than yield. Yield obviously is very important, but many of the other traits a variety has or lacks can actually be detrimental to yield potential. Growers in areas with higher disease presence should be looking at the disease packages closely; growers really pushing the yield envelope should carefully weigh lodging potential. There are a number of other things to look at from class and end-use potential, to height, and more. Determine what you need on your farm and the market the crop is headed for and go from there. These factors may make you money in the forms of quality, saved time at harvest and ultimately yield! Talk to your local agronomists, neighbours, retailers and reference the seed guides to gather information.
- Feed the seedlings, but keep seed safety in mind. Starter fertilizer is always an important component when it comes to seeding. Putting too much down can hinder plant stand counts, putting too little may harm stand establishment and yield potential. Hitting that sweet spot can be done by understanding Seed Bed Utilization (SBU) — a percentage that determines how much of the seed bed the fertilizer will be spread over and helps you hit a safe rate that can be applied with the seed. SBU is calculated by: Width of Spread, divided by Row spacing multiplied by 100. The higher the percentage, the more fertilizer that can be put down with the seed safely. Different types of fertilizer have their own specified rates. For example, according to Sask Ag you can put 50 lb (actual) phosphorous with the seed plus 25 lb (actual) urea (per acre) with a cereal on medium textured soil with a one-inch spread and nine-inch row spacing (11% SBU). Rates also vary by form of fertilizer, for example you can put down slightly more UAN (28-0-0) than urea (46-0-0). Double checking your rates to ensure there will not be any significant root burn or injury can save you from looking at a patchy mess all season. For more see Sask Ag’s helpful guide: http://www.agriculture.gov.sk.ca/Default.aspx?DN=e42316e3-15ea-4249-ac0e-369212b23131
- Seed at optimal depth. This topic gets a lot of attention in canola, but I feel seed depth falls by the wayside in cereals. Cereals only have so much stored energy, and if they run out of that energy before reaching to surface they are going to die or become much more susceptible to diseases. Next, their protective sheath around the first leaf often is only two-inches long — if it is seeded deeper than the sheath length then the seedling will incur damage and may not make it to the surface or will be hurt and again more susceptible to diseases. Getting that cereal seed at an optimal one-inch depth is going to go a long way in getting a healthy, vigorous stand that can hit those target yields. Don’t be afraid to hop off the drill every hour and dig around. It will pay off in the long run.
There is no silver bullet for high yields, it is the combination of good practices that separate the big yields from the average. Starting out your crop right with some of these quick checks can help out 2013 cereal crops.