Not too high, not too low — Bayer’s canola seeding rate findings

Canola has been referred to as the “Cinderella of the Prairies,” but the story of Goldilocks might also be relevant.

Specifically when it comes to the discussion in the canola community lately about ideal plant populations — not too high, not too low, but just right.

The Canola Council of Canada has developed a target plant density calculator that takes into consideration several variables, but as a rule of thumb, the council recommends at least 7-10 plants per square foot.

To save on seed costs, some farmers have dropped their seeding rates well below that, targeting 4 to 6 plants per square foot, or even lower.

So where’s the sweet spot?

Bayer has been conducting internal research looking at seeding rates with its Invigor canola varieties over the last three years.

“We found 10 seeds per square foot to be one of the most effective seeding rates,” says Tim Gardner, senior market development specialist with Bayer in the video below.

Assuming survivability of 50 to 70 percent, that’s a plant stand of 5-7 plants per square foot.

To show growers how seeding rates from 5 to 15 seeds per square foot differ, Gardner and his team clipped the canopy off a seeding rate demo plot at Ag in Motion last week.

As you’d expect, the 5 seeds/sq ft rate resulted in more exposed ground and weed competition. Gardner says it also flowered approximately two days later than the higher seeding rates.

At the high end, the 15 seeds/sq ft stand looked great early in the growing season, notes Gardner.

“Now as we open it up and expose it, we’re finding it’s faltering more under the heat and dry conditions. The canola is competing against itself…it’s dying off a little quicker, and down the road, that can have other impacts — you could look at lodging, too many thin stalk plants, aside from having too many plants that are not developing properly,” he says.

The dry conditions this year are likely favouring the thinner stand, says Gardner, as leaves starting dropping off earlier with plants competing for moisture in thick stands.

Check out the video below for more on Bayer’s canola seeding rate research:

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Kelvin Heppner

Kelvin Heppner is a field editor and radio host for RealAgriculture and RealAg Radio. He's been reporting on agriculture on the prairies and across Canada since 2008(ish). He farms with his family near Altona, Manitoba, and is on Twitter at @realag_kelvin. @realag_kelvin

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