The Agronomists, Ep 11: Brian Beres and Peter Johnson on ultra-early seeding and soil temperature triggers


How early is really early when it comes to seeding?

For this episode of The Agronomists, Brian Beres, research scientist at AAFC Lethbridge, and RealAgriculture’s Peter Johnson weigh in. Does it pay to deviate from the seeding date prescriptions?

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  • “Ultra-early” and “soil temperature triggers” were the catch phrases that Beres and colleagues termed years ago after a trip down to Montana, as Beres was going to a wheat stem sawfly meeting.
  • Dry weather on the Prairies, this is the kind of year that people are thinking “I have to get a head start somehow.” Don’t want to miss early moisture in Western Canada and same kind of situation in Ontario.
  • Wheat School: Use a soil temperature trigger for ultra early seeding
  • What temperature is too risky to seed at? Zero, 2 °C, 4 °C, 10 °C? Beres’ research is extensive on this subject with seeding wheat at different temperatures, in a variety of sites. Dawson Creek, B.C. all the way down to Lethbridge, Alta.
  • Ok, so what about other kinds of crops? It’s kind of a novel concept. There aren’t any weeds to hit yet, so no pr-seed burn down going on yet
  • Does a fertility approach change with early seeding? Fall fertilizer application.
  • Higher yield potential means supporting that yield with a little more N, more P, more S. Seed-row P will become quite critical, so perhaps no changing the recommendation to rate from Johnson.
  • Crop becomes more competitive with spring annual weeds. Fall weed control will become more critical for perennial or winter annuals. Shift in perspective.
  • The process will start in the fall, long story short.
  • “Flex wheat” option in the future?
  • What depth is the soil temp taken at? For Johnson, they drill into frost. For Beres, at two inches, when the temp is 0 °C, they seed (they also tested seeding depth, one inch vs two inches)
  • Does Johnson pull a power move by wearing a suit jacket?
  • Frost seeding forages into winter wheat or winter barley, to get a hay crop established. (Eeeeeastern Canada question!)
  • How do other cereal types compare to a regular spring wheat? More research needed. Beres is thinking they’ll use durum in the research next. Interactions with seed treatment? What would canola do? What would another crop do? Is there the right design in the cropping sequence?
  • Johnson’s research: HRSW, Barley, Oats. Yield differences. If seeded late, barley handles heat stress better.
  • When Pete met Shaun, Wheat School: Frost seeding wheat
  • What are the conditions necessary for trying out frost seeding? “A skiff of frost,” says Johnson. Maple syrup weather he says. Nighttime temp: -3 °C. Need to be a bit of nighthawk to do it. Drill has to have enough down pressure to punch through the frost.
  • Does seeder opener make a difference? Tough to frost seed with a hoe drill. Disc drill or knife opener.
  • Seeding speed? Johnson says no issue with speed, 5 to 5.5 mph. Beres also says no difference.
  • What about peas or lentils? This situation calls for the experimentation says Beres; however both our panelists say proceed with caution and start with cereals.
  • Non-vernalized winter wheat could be an option to try out.
  • Corn or soybeans? Soybeans will take early seeding (not in Manitoba, guys, don’t try it). Depends where you live in Ontario too, the circumstances Johnson talks about were in Michigan. Corn? A “delicate flower of a crop,” and won’t compensate as well.
  • Ok, urea or ESN for cereals in this ultra early seeding situation in western Canada? What’s your seed-bed utilization, consider blending un-coated and coated. Going in and top-dressing would probably be beneficial. Have to consider the potential for losses though.
  • Depth. Let’s circle back to that. Eastern Canada: an inch. Don’t go more than an inch and a half because emergence will be slowed. But not less than three quarters of an inch.
  • Last words: use a seed treatment for goodness sake. Don’t double your seeding rate, but don’t shave it either.

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