Oftentimes after seeding is finished there is a push to move right into herbicide mode, but you should be getting into the habit of checking out plant stands as soon as possible. How a crop emerges and establishes tells the story of seeder settings, soil management or early insect pressure, so it is a great practice to get into the field and look around. There may be answers as to why seeds aren’t coming up, or it may be time for an insecticide application, or maybe you can catch a situation where a re-seed is a viable option. Here are some of the things you should watch out for:
Depth: Patchy stands are caused by a laundry list of things. Too often we suspect only disease or insects, when really it’s a man-made problem. Seeding depth can be overlooked; seeding too deep can cause patchy stands and hurt yield. Seeding too deep can starve a plant of energy and make it more susceptible to disease or insect pressure. Seeding too shallow may can also cause an inconsistent stand from a lack of moisture in the top half-inch of soil. Inconsistent planting depth should have been assessed at seeding — but recognizing it after the fact will at least serve as a reminder for next year.
Fertilizer Placement: Check germinating seeds and roots and ensure they are all healthy. If a side band wasn’t placed properly due to speed, for example, you may end up with a toxic amount of fertilizer in the seed row and it could severely cut emergence.
Trash Issues: Seed bed prep starts in the fall. Mismanaged straw from the previous year is often a limiting factor when it comes to seedling emergence. While there isn’t much you can do about it after finding it, it can lead you on a path of coming up with a plan for the coming fall so that you aren’t in the same situation for next growing season.
Insects: Wireworms are a growing concern across Western Canada, and can be a huge issue in achieving your target yield. If you are finding significant damage from them look into an insecticidal treatment for next year. Flea beetles also tend to be an issue this time of year, if you are noting damage on your canola, a foliar applied insecticide may be economical (if 25%+ leaf area damage). Lastly, cutworms can be a huge crop eater in the spring. They can wipe out entire areas of plants in no time flat, so be out watching for them!
Overpacking: This doesn’t seem to get monitored as much as it should, but it can really take its toll on a crop. If the plants struggle to push through at the soil surface they can lose vigor, be more prone to disease and leaf damage or not emerge at all.
There are many things to monitor before moving into the herbicide mindset; being prepared and getting into the field is going to eliminate any surprises that may pop up later in the year. At the very least if there is nothing you can do about it at the present time, it allows you to create a plan moving forward for the years to come.