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Precision Planting Canola

Farming Smarter Project

Study contact: Ken Coles



1. Explore yield effects of seeding canola with a planter vs air seeder.
2. Assess how much and how consistently does a precision planting system improve canola emergence and uniformity.
3. Determine the optimum seeding rate with when using planter on 12” and 22” spacing.
4. Communicate the risks and rewards of seeding canola with planters on wide row spacing.
5. Determine maximum seed-safe rate of in-row liquid P when using a precision planter.

Project Year One:

Timeline: 2016 – 2018

Funding: Canola Agronomic Research Program (CARP)

Location: Lethbridge (irrigated and rain fed sites), Medicine Hat (rain fed site)

Canola producers are increasingly adopting the use of precision planters to seed their crops, particularly in regions where they are already in use for corn and soybean.  Precision planters provide superior depth control and seed distribution than conventional seeders, and thus may improve the proportion, uniformity and rapidity of canola emergence. The primary purpose of this study is to assess the growth and yield differences between canola crops planted using an air seeder and canola crops planted using a precision seeder. 

The crop emerged very quickly in 2016, the first year of the precision canola planter trial. First year data tends to serve as an indicator of things to watch for in coming years, and is useful in assessing how to best adjust data collection practices for maximum learning potential. Differences in seasonal weather between years can also make a difference in terms of crop growth, and subsequently data collection; for example, it may have a significant effect upon the presence and severity of pest problems. 

While we did notice some visual differences in plots, and some better emergence with the precision planter, particularly at the 12” row spacing. It also translated into better yields with the optimum yield at 80 seeds/m2. During this first year, the 12” row spacing showed a 21% yield increase over the air drill planted plots at 9.5”.


12″ Spacing: 20, 40, 60, 80, 160 seeds/m2


Project Year Two:

Producers had completed plant counts for all trials at three separate times; early emergence, late emergence and full emergence. This covered the average plant density, spacing and percentage of growth. This year, we improved the procedure and quality of photos to document the canola cover. All sites were photographed at least once near the summer solstice. The visual differences among treatments are clearly there.

We scouted for differences in days to maturity, days to flowering and length of the flowering period. We took productive stems/m2 at harvests from the front and back of plots. No lodging or harvest issues occurred. All sites were straight cut, and we successfully collected yield in all trials.

Emergence decreased at all row spacings at 60 kg/ha. 12” seed rows increased with an increase in the phosphorus rate. The yield increased with an increase in phosphorous applied on the 12”, however, other row spacings did not show a similar positive response to nitrogen. Irrigated canola saw a positive response to the increase in phosphorous.

We found that reducing seeding rates in canola is safer with planters. Regarding seeding rate, we found precision planter 12” seed rows were optimal in comparison to precision planter 20” and air drill 9.5”. 12” canopy closure is better as it doesn’t completely occur at 20”. We found that 9.5” canopy closure only improves at higher seeding rates. 20 seeds/m2 was best for emergence at all row spacings as emergence decreases with an increase in seeding rate. Altogether, 40 seeds/m2 had the greatest yield potential on 12” row spacing.

Project Year Three:

This project is ongoing. Results for year three of this project will be provided when they become available.

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