Agronomy Questions & Answers
by Perry Weisberg and Garry Meier, Corporate Agronomists

Q: My neighbor seeded his canola the same day as me, but he got his off before the wind. Mine was still too green in some spots and ended up a disaster. What steps can I take to improve/even out my maturity?

This past season marked a year of challenge for many canola crops, but underscored the importance of plant emergence, vigor and maturity. Fields with the most uniform emergence, vigor and optimum fertility placement were better able to withstand the extremes of moisture, temperature and disease and yields generally matched accordingly.
There are a number of proven steps which can be taken prior to seeding to foster ideal germination, including the consideration of previous crop rotations, residue management, fertility management, weed control and drainage. Two critical aspects that I wish to elaborate on are: 1/ nutrient placement, and 2/ the seeding process.
Nutrient Placement
Generally speaking, N, P and S will be the primary nutrient requirements for canola. Where they are positioned relative to the canola seed plays a significant role in uniform germination and emergence.Nitrogen Placement–The importance of N separation, especially with canola, has been well documented by independent research and was confirmed in a 3 year study conducted by the Bourgault Agronomy Team. The understanding of the mobile nature of nitrogen and having the capability to provide separation from the seed will lower your risk and help ensure the most uniform emergence possible. Below is a chart that provides a good guideline of the amount of separation required from the seed in normal operating conditions on a 10" spaced system. As seed row spacing increases, minimum separation should also increase.
The Danger Zone - Minimum Nitrogen Separation
Phosphate Placement - As an immobile nutrient, phosphate has been proven to be most effective when seed-placed or close to the seed to allow for early season access. However, P benefits can be reduced when safe seed place rates are exceeded, or when combined with N levels that exceed minimum separation distances. At high rates of P, it may be beneficial to split off and otherwise position any rates in excess of what can be safely placed with the seed.
Also, when P is placed with nitrogen, the P can be trapped in the “hot band” of nitrogen. Roots will avoid the initial toxicity of the N band, thus missing critical early access to the P as well.
Sulphur Placement –Sulphur is also a mobile nutrient that can cause the risk of seed damage if applied at rates and/or placement strategies that exceed the tolerance of the crop. The chart below documents results from testing done in Carpio ND this past year.
Sulphur in the form of 20-0-0-24 was applied at 80 lb of total product per acre in three separate placements–seed placed (SP), side banded (SB) and mid row banded (MRB). Phosphate as 11-51-0 was applied at 50 lb of total product per acre in a seed place configuration. No additional nitrogen, other than the inherent amount contained in the sulphur, was applied.
 
 
2012 Caprio Canola Results
Yield increased as separation increased with the mobile nutrients of nitrogen and sulphur. This confirms the plants preference to have adequate separation from these nutrients. It also confirms the ability of the plant to safely access these nutrients in a time frame where uptake will optimize yield while avoiding the negative impacts of closer fertilizer placement strategies.
The Seeding Process
Once you fill the seeder with the optimum seed variety and appropriate fertilizer based on soil requirements, you have the next most significant opportunity to impact yield–getting each seed and unit of fertility into the optimum position in the soil, with the optimum level of soil density surrounding it.
Seedbed Integrity–The quality of the seeding job is critical. Studies have shown that canola emergence is superior when placed on a well-defined seed bed. It is therefore important to choose an opener that does not sacrifice the quality of the seedbed. Get out of the tractor often and check for problems such as soil fracturing, windrowing (stepping), or uneven seed placement.
Opener-Packer Selection–It is important to match the opener style with the packer wheel. A narrow ¾" knife typically is paired with a narrow wheel to focus packing over the narrow furrow. Likewise, a wider packer is needed for openers providing greater seed bed utilization.
Operating Speed–Openers that do a good job of preserving the seedbed also allow you to operate at higher speeds without sacrificing placement. Keep in mind that all openers have an operational speed limit for the given conditions and you must stay within that limit to achieve even germination, emergence and maturity.
Packing Force–Setting the correct packing force for the given conditions is crucial for optimal germination. Excessive packing can cause compaction and sealing in wet soils, particularly wet heavy textured soils. Too light packing may not seal in enough moisture in dry conditions.
Seed Depth–Take time to set your seed depth for optimal emergence. Farmers who adjust their seed depth to best match the soil moisture and weather conditions have commented how emergence and maturity improved in the field after the change was made.

Taken from the Winter 2012 / Spring 2013 Cutting Edge magazine. Full copy available for download from index.