4 Ways to Achieve a Vigourous Crop

Seedlings from a foot of row seeded at 3 mph.
Seedlings from a foot of row seeded at 3 mph.

As seeding approaches, one of the most common topics I hear discussed is vigour.  A vigourous plant stand comes from a healthy seed that is out of the ground and competing in a timely fashion. This can mean fewer days to maturity, quicker ground cover, better weed competition, a more robust rooting system better able to scavenge for nutrients and the list goes on and on. The trick to making a crop more vigourous isn’t always just one thing, it can be the combination of two or more strong agronomic practices. (A vigorous crop is not to be confused with a seed vigour test — a measure of germination under less than ideal conditions).

Here are a few of the things you can do this spring to make your crop more vigourous:

Seed Quality/Depth: Starting the season off with clean, high germ and high vigour seed is one of the simplest ways to get your crop started off right. High disease and a low vigour means those seeds have a lot to overcome before making their way to the soil surface. Secondly, the most simple way to increase vigour is put those seeds at the ideal depth! Sometimes going a bit deeper to hit moisture is necessary, but if you seed too deep when there is adequate moisture you are hurting vigour. Think about how tiny a seed is — each seed as a limited amount of energy. It takes more energy to emerge from 2″ down, than from 1″.

A Safe Rate of Seed Placed Phosphorous: Phosphorous (P) has been shown to cause a “pop up effect” when it is placed in the seed row with the seed. P is key early in the season for energy production in the plant which drives root and shoot growth. This ensures the plant is rapidly growing and gets out of the ground in a timely fashion. Be sure to reference the safe seed placed fertilizer charts because too much P can actually hinder emergence.

Seed Treatment: As discussed earlier, disease can be a big detriment to the vigour of crops, a properly chosen seed treatment can give you a big boost to crop establishment. This can even be the case when you start the season off with high quality, disease-free seed. There are many diseases that run rampant in our soil that aren’t on our seed and many seed treatments do a great job of controlling these as well. Tough seeding conditions — colder than ideal soil, a wet spring — can mean a slow emergence; even healthy seed may need protection.

Consider a Seed Dressing: Seed dressings, in the form of beneficial bacteria or nutrients to make up for nutrient deficiencies in the seed/soil, may also have a fit. The bacteria can increase availability of phosphorous or other nutrients and get that plant motoring along on the path to high yields. There are also products that include small amounts of nutrients like zinc, manganese or calcium that are helpful in early season plant growth. When a plant is rapidly growing early it is trying to suck up a lot of nutrients from a developing root system so these types of products can really get that crop popping up in a stressful situation. (Click here to see a video on a 3-point plan to using micronutrients).

Having a crop that gets off to a great start is a huge benefit in achieving big yields; make sure you are doing at least a couple of these things this spring to help your crop reach the target you have set out for it.

Click here for past agronomy columns from Shane Thomas!

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