Canola School: Comparing the results of different planter setups and settings

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There’s been a fair amount of interest in comparing the results of canola seeded with a drill versus a planter over the last decade, but as the percentage of acres sown with planters has increased, farmers and agronomists are also looking to compare different planter setups.

This Canola School episode takes us to a planter demonstration trial near St. Jean-Baptiste, Man., where Brunel Sabourin, of Antara Agronomy, discusses variations in canola emergence in a series of plots looking at different planter setups and settings.

“A number of growers in our area have been using planters now, or specifically justified their planters by using them to sow not only their corn and soybeans, but their canola as well. So one of the biggest advantages to using a planter is the placement of the seed. It comes down to germination percentage, and we’re getting a lot better germination with our canola — this small seed — by precisely placing it in the ground where it goes,” he explains.

As part of the emergence trial, Antara compared seven different planting variables or settings, using a Horsch Maestro SV planter with 22″ row spacing:

  • Population (from 150K to 250K seeds per acre) — Sabourin says the percentage of seeds that emerged was consistent across all rates. He notes water availability has been a limiting factor in previous years, so he’s curious if wetter conditions in southern Manitoba this year might show different yield results when comparing seeding rates.
  • Speed (from 5 mph to 9 mph) — Antara did not see any difference in emergence when comparing planting speeds this year, but the caveat is the trial was planted into warm soil on the 18th of June and emerged within three days. “We had ample soil moisture and it was next-to-ideal conditions, so it would be very interesting to try this again, when we typically seed it in early May, to see if we could see a difference. We went up to nine miles an hour here and did not see a difference in emergence,” he says.
  • Depth (from 0.5″ to 1.5″) — “When we started working with planters, some of the pioneers of planted canola, being as dry as it was, said ‘don’t worry about it, chase the moisture. Go to inch and a half, inch and three quarter if you have to. It’ll be just fine.’ And lo and behold, sure enough. I was expecting that we would be seeing a lot of problems going that deep with emergence, but I think with the planter we don’t have that on-row packing, the seed is all placed at consistent moisture, and we have that nice even table-top emergence.”
  • Downforce (Horsch’s auto, 550 lb, and “water hole” settings) — Too much downforce can cause sidewall compaction, inhibit root growth, he notes, but in a dry year, more down pressure can also provide better seed-to-soil contact.
  • Row cleaners (with or without) — While row cleaners are meant to move crop residue away to prevent hair-pinning, Sabourin says they’ve found row cleaners have also helped in moving dry topsoil aside to plant into moist soil, improving emergence. In a wet spring where the field was over-worked, as was the case in 2022, he says the row cleaners helped clear clay soil “marbles.” “We didn’t see much of a difference in the plant stand, but the emergence was much more even, which is also key.”
  • Row firmers (with or without) — “When we think of the the seed tab, which is just kind of a piece of plastic that drags along in the ground, it will ball up with mud and cause all sorts of problems with seed placement, but some of the newer planter styles have rubber wheels that tend to accumulate less mud. So it’s not every spring that we can run seed firmers, but when we can, they generally do make a big difference.”
  • Row spacing (22 inch vs 11 inch) — “22 inch rows are a little bit too wide to maximize the sun’s potential in terms of converting soil nutrients into seed or yield. So by going with 11 inch rows, now we’re covering the ground faster. We should have less moisture loss, more weed control, and swathing on 22 inch rows can be scary at times too, because there are fewer plants there to anchor that swath. It’s more susceptible to rolling in the wind. There could potentially be a significant yield advantage to narrower row spacing, so that’s what we’re trying to determine if it’s worth running over the field twice.”

Check out the video below for more with Brunel Sabourin of Antara Agronomy, discussing these planter setups and settings and canola emergence:

Other Episodes

Canola School (view all)Season 14 (2022) Episode 3
Episodes:

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