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Start your canola out right

Jeff Caldwell 08/16/2012 @ 3:03pm Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

Want to get your canola crop off on the right foot? Time it right and get, one expert says.

The best time to plant canola in the fall is 6 weeks before the first killing frost, says Kansas State University Extension canola breeder Mike Stamm.

"Planting at about this time will allow for enough time for plants to have the right amount of growth for good winter survival and canopy development," he says. "If winter canola is planted too late, you'll likely end up with small plants that may not have enough food reserves to survive the winter well. If it is planted too early, you may end up with too much growth that can deplete soil moisture and nutrient reserves."

But, late planting isn't the only worry; if you plant too early, the plant's growing point can be too high, making it more susceptible to winterkill, especially when there's heavy residue present from the previous crop, Stamm says.

Planting depth and speed are also key to getting the crop off on the right foot, too.

"In general, you'll get the best germination if you place seed one-half to one inch deep. Under drier conditions, you may have to plant deeper to get to moisture, but don't plant canola more than one-and-a-half inches deep. If you have to plant it that deep, you can expect delayed emergence and reduced vigor. Also, soil crusting following a heavy rain can result in a poor stand," Stamm says. "Producers must plant slower when planting canola than when planting wheat -- preferably five miles per hour or slower."

Finally, spacing is just as important. Adds Stamm: "As a general rule, yields may be reduced by about 10% when planting in 30-inch rows instead of 15-inch rows under dryland conditions. However, producers are able to reduce their seeding rate from five pounds per acre to between two-and-a-half and three-and-a-half pounds per acre, eliminating some inner row competition among plants and saving on seed costs."

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