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Strip tillage and precision planting for Canola

Farming Smarter Project

Project Timeline: 2020 – 2023

Project Contact: Ken Coles


Conservation tillage practices including no-tillage and reduced tillage have been widely adopted in the Canadian prairies. However, proper residue management of the previous crops is challenging, which may lead to cold and wet seedbed conditions and improper seed to soil contact during seeding. Despite the availability of high-quality canola (Brassica napus L.) seeds, initial crop establishment in the fields has been observed to be variable and low (approx. 50%). Lack of residue management can further impact canola emergence and seedling survival. Higher seedling emergence is required for improved canola yield and seed quality. This study proposes to test the efficiency of management practices including strip tillage and precision planting in managing crop residues and improving canola emergence, growth and yield.


Strip tillage will be compared to zero-tillage and conventional tillage practices for their effect on crop emergence and seed yield of conventionally sown and precision-planted canola on dryland and irrigated farming systems.

In addition, precision planting of canola will be compared to conventional seeding methods including 1-inch narrow knife opener, a 3-inch hoe opener, and a disc-hoe opener.

  • Parameters associated with canola emergence, growth, and yield components will be measured.
  • This project will inform the producers of best management practices to be followed to obtain maximum seed yield and quality for canola crop production.
  • Furthermore, project outcomes may help determine if the inclusion of planters, especially for small seeded crops, is warranted for the agricultural systems in southern Alberta.


Small plot field trials will be conducted for three years under dryland and irrigated conditions at two locations in dark-brown and brown soil zones, respectively. This study will consist of three tillage systems – strip tillage, no tillage and conventional tillage. Four seeding methods will be tested, including precision planting and three conventional seeding methods.

  • Conventional seeding methods will employ commonly used air drill openers on 10-inch row spacing with varying levels of soil disturbance and seed bed utilization (SBU).
  • This will include a 1-inch narrow knife opener (10% SBU), a 3-inch hoe opener (30% SBU), and a disc-hoe opener (10% SBU).
  • Split plot RCBD design will be used with the tillage systems as the main plot and seeding methods as the subplots.
  • Precision planting will be done by using a Monosem vacuum planter (Monosem Inc., Edwardsville, KS).
  • Canola will be seeded at 1.3 cm (0.5 inch) depth at 30.5 cm (12 inch) rows spacing targeting a seeding rate of 60 seeds m-2 .

Prior to seeding, soil samples will be tested for nutrient content to determine fertilizer requirements at each site. Herbicide spray applications will be performed as per the recommended schedule for the region at each site.  


Data will be collected and statistically analyzed to assess the effect of treatments on the following metrics –

  • Crop emergence: Initial determination of stand density will be done approx. 2 weeks after sowing (at approx. 30% emergence on visual inspection). Stand density will again be assessed at the end of the growing season, to estimate crop survival. Stand density will be estimated by counting plants in two, side-by-side, 1-m rows at two representative places in each plot.
  • Canopy cover will be determined weekly after the crop emergence is visually estimated to be more than 85%. Canopy cover will be determined by measuring fractional green canopy cover (FGCC) using the Canapeo Android App (Patrignani and Ochsner 2015).
  • Days to start and end of flowering and days to maturity for the crop will be recorded.
  • Nutrient deficiency symptoms during crop growth period, if any, and crop lodging and harvestability rating will be obtained prior to harvesting
  • Soil moisture measurement using moisture probe up to 1m depth (at 20 cm depth increments from the surface). Evapotranspiration (ET) and water use efficiency (WUE) will be estimated by using soil moisture measurements at separate intervals.
  • Soil temperature will be recorded using temperature loggers (Thermochron iButton) installed at the depth of 2.5 cm in each plot
  • Canola yield will be determined with plot combine harvest master system (load cell)
  • Five plants will be sampled at random from the plots to determine the yield components – number of branches per plant, number of pods per plant, number of seeds per pod, and 1000-seed weight.
  • Rainfall and temperature data at each site or from nearby weather stations.

Data will be statistically analyzed by using linear mixed model analysis using lme4 package in R software. Analysis of variance (ANOVA) and Tukey’s test for post hoc analysis will be used to detect treatment effects.


Return in 2023 for results!


Return in 2023 for results!


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