(Rural Roots Canada) – The dry conditions around Alberta this spring has many farmers planting in less than optimal conditions.

Jeremy Boychyn is the Agronomy Research Extension Specialist with the Alberta Wheat and Barley Commissions.

He says farmers should consider a number of options if they are planting into dry soil.

“We’re typically in three different scenarios. Do we see the normal depths and wait for rain? Do we dig for soil moisture and kind of hope that that seed pushes through if we go two inches plus deep or do we wait for rain and then seed?” Boychyn said.

Boychyn says if you choose to seed deep you will have to remember about moisture variability.

“If your soil moisture level is variable across your field, so at some places that it’s three inches and at some places, it’s one inch and you’re digging for moisture, what’s going to end up happening is you’re going to have variable emergence and then potentially you’re going to have a more variable crop, which we know then creates challenges in terms of maturity.”

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He adds farmers can have weed issues that come from that as well, and then harvest issues as well.

At the end of the day, farmers really want an even mature crop.

He says adjusting your seeding rate is also a good strategy.

“If you are seeding in the drier soils, think about jumping those seeding rates up a bit and this has to do with the increased amount of stress that’s going on for that seed emerging.”

“If it’s in dry conditions, it’s sitting there and it’s getting more potential to stress on it to get to grow out of that ground. So we’re more likely to see more and more mortality, so if we put more seeds in the ground, that can help overcome that mortality.”

Boychyn says you should also think about dropping the amount of fertilizer you are putting on the crop by 30 to 40 per cent, at least until there is enough precipitation.

“The other thing to think about is fertilizer safety. When we’re in these really dry conditions, if we’re putting nitrogen in with the seeds, we’re following provincial recommendations of how much to put in there.”

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He says when we’re working in really dry conditions like this farmers should cut those nitrogen level recommendations in half.

“Because when we have that lack of moisture, there’s just more risk of damage going to that seed.”

He says if planting is taking place when conditions are dry like they are in some parts of the prairies this spring a duel treatment of insectide and fungicide can help.

“That’ll help that seed get out of the ground a little bit better and deal with that stress a little bit better and hopefully establish a better crop.”

The reason it will is because the fungicide will increase the abiotic stress resistance of each seedling, according to Boychyn.

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