Albertan researchers ask: How early is too early to seed wheat?
Albertan applied research associations collaborate to determine whether ultra-early seeding could prove successful for wheat producers in this province.
May 3, 2022 (Forestburg, Alberta) The growing season in much of Alberta is short, which makes sowing and harvesting many crops a race against the clock. Ultra-early seeding provides upside benefit at acceptable risk in some crop and regions. Now, researchers at multiple Albertan applied research organizations are growing test plots to determine how planting ultra-early (at a ground temperature of 4°C) compared to more conventionally (when soil reaches 10-12°C) might impact certain varieties of wheat in multiple zones around Alberta.
Very early-planted seedlings gain access to maximum available soil moisture, have a leg-up on weeds, and often suffer less damage from foliar and head diseases. An early-seeded crop also allows earlier harvest, potentially decreasing the negative impact of damaging heat, late-season drought, or early-fall frosts. That said, early planting also carries risk including increased likelihood of spring frost damage, higher opportunities for seedling diseases, and other yield robbing factors.
Between 2019 and 2021, seven applied research organizations from around Alberta (CARA, SARDA, GRO, LARA, NPARA, MARA and BRRG) planted AAC Brandon and AAC Connery, at 200, 300 and 400 seeds per square meter at each of two timings: ultra-early (when soil reached a minimum temperature of 4°C), and normal (when soil temperature fell between 10-12°C, or 10-14 days after the ‘ultra-early’ date). Led by the Battle River Research Group and funded by CAP, RDAR and the Alberta Wheat Commission, the project sought to determine yield, thousand kernel weight (TKW), test weight and protein content differences between the varieties, seeding rates and seeding timings.
Results varied around the province, which was exactly the point of the study.
“This research covers a huge area with many different climatic and soil zones. Our goal is to develop regional data according to the unique climatic and soil conditions of each area.”, says Dr. Khalil Ahmed, Manager at Battle River Research Group at Forestburg in east-central Alberta.
Even in regions where test weight, TKW and yield proved better in normal-seeded stands, early-seeding decreased risk of crop loss: a benefit that offsets the yield dip, says Dr. Nasima Junejo, research manager at Battle River Research Group.
The work is only a starting place, she adds.
“There are so many varieties and classes of wheat, and then so many other crops in addition to wheat, that we need to continue research to see how different crops and varieties respond in different regions and under different treatments and weather conditions. But we have a starting place and that’s very important,” says Junejo.
For more information about these studies, please contact Nasima Junejo at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Battle River Research Group
The Battle River Research Association (BRRG) came into existence after the amalgamation of the Battle River Forage Association and the Battle River Applied Research Association in 1993. We are located in Forestburg, Alberta, allowing us to easily serve the east-central region of Alberta.
Battle River Research Group’s vision is: beyond sustainability through innovation in agriculture. Its mission is advancing agriculture as an independent, producer-driven resource.