Too Early to Panic Over Dry Soils

April 30, 2016

With maps of moisture extremes popping up across the prairies, and predictions of another dry year, it’s hard to know what to make of seeding. But, as Murray Hartman, oilseed specialist with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry points out in this episode of the Canola School, there isn’t much sense in panicking. Not yet.

Moisture Extremes to Persist on the Prairies — Drew Lerner’s Western Spring Outlook

(click to enlarge)

(click to enlarge)

“I think one of the big points is that it’s still really early,” says Hartman, “so to be worried about putting seed into dry ground…it’s less of a concern right now than say middle to late May.”

At this point, if soil moisture is below an inch, there isn’t much sense chasing it.

“If you go deep, you’re predisposing that seed to colder soil, you get a longer hypocotyl, and we know that when there’s a long hypocotyl — the stem under the ground — it predisposes it to more seedling blight diseases.”

“If you put too much fertilizer with the seed — even if you’re banding away from the seed, but your separation isn’t good — in a dry year, that will hurt emergence and germination.” But, if you think you should do a separate pass, that’ll dry the soil out even further. Both situations could aggravate an already dry soilbed.

And if you like the idea of cutting back on fertilizer, well…

“You’re kind of accepting losses right away then,” says Hartman, “and then if the conditions improve, now you’ve got to try to put more nutrients on in-crop, which is generally less efficient.”

Overall, Hartman — alongside guest host Dan Orchard of the Canola Council of Canada — suggests increasing on-row packing pressure and going ahead with seeding-as-usual.


Canola School videos are produced by Real Agriculture.

You can find all of the episodes on Real Agriculture's Canola School page

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