Five Saskatchewan crop commissions seek director nominations
SASKATOON (June 14, 2021) – The nomination period for director positions with five Saskatchewan crop commissions is now open. The commissions seeking nominations include the Saskatchewan Barley Development Commission (SaskBarley), Saskatchewan Wheat Development Commission (Sask Wheat), Saskatchewan Pulse Growers (SPG), Saskatchewan Mustard Development Commission (Sask Mustard), and Saskatchewan Winter Cereals Development Commission (SWCDC).
SaskBarley is seeking nominations for three of six director positions, while Sask Wheat is looking for nominees for four of seven director positions. Eligible nominees for SaskBarley and Sask Wheat must be registered producers, which is any producer who has had a barley or wheat check-off deducted since August 1, 2019, and has not requested or received a check-off refund in the last fiscal year (August 1, 2020 – July 31, 2021). All nominations must include contact information and signatures from at least two registered wheat or barley producers supporting the nomination.
SPG is seeking nominations for three of nine director positions. Registered pulse producers (i.e., those who have sold a pulse crop and paid a levy to SPG at any time since September 1, 2018) are eligible to stand as director nominees. Two other registered pulse producers must sign nomination forms.
Sask Mustard is taking nominations for one of six director positions. All producers who have paid a levy to Sask Mustard in the past three crop years and have not requested a refund in the past year are eligible to stand as director nominees. All nominations must include contact information and signatures from at least three registered mustard producers supporting the nomination.
SWCDC has three of five director positions open for nominations. Registered producers, which are those who have paid a winter cereals levy within the 2019/2020 or 2020/2021 crop years and have not requested a levy rebate for that period, are eligible to stand as nominees. Three registered winter cereals producers must support each nomination.
The deadline to receive completed nomination forms for all five organizations is Friday, September 3, 2021, at noon. Should the organizations receive more nominations than available director positions, elections will be declared and held this fall.
Interested producers can find nomination forms and election information on the websites of each commission:
When emerged cereal crops experience night-time temperatures below 0°C, the question of crop survival is never far from a producer’s mind. In general, wheat is relatively resilient to frost as compared to crops like canola. Wheat leaves can survive air temperatures down to -8°C to -10°C, however, leaves may see some leaf tip burn. This is indicated by recent research investigating ultra-early seeding of CWRS wheat (Collier et al., 2021). Barley is less resilient and will exhibit frost damage at temperatures closer to -4°C to -6°C (R. McKenzie, personal communication). Minimal frost tolerance research on barley has been conducted. However, the chance of plant death is low at these temperatures, especially when soil temperatures are warmer. Warmer soil, and especially moist soil, is buffered from temperature changes which helps to protect the growing point of cereals from late spring frost. This is due to wheat and barley plants having their growing point under the soil surface until stem elongation (begins after the 3 leaf stage and tiller initiation) when the inflorescence, or developing head, begins to move above the tillering node. The growing point of the plant must be damaged for the plant to die. For this to happen, extended time periods below freezing would need to occur. If only the leaves are damaged, the plant can grow back from that protected growing point, but the crop will be delayed.
It is also possible for plants that have already encountered cold environmental conditions (hardened-off) to better tolerate frost due to changing the plant’s physiology and biochemistry to increase cold tolerance. Most frost damage is caused by ice crystals that injure cell membranes. Even if plant tissue is frozen, it does not necessarily mean that the tissue is severely damaged (Forbes and Watson, 1992). Some damage can be avoided by the plant moving water outside their cells so that ice crystals form between cells (rather than within cells) which causes less damage to cell membranes. Spring wheat can concentrate salts in their cells to lower the freezing point slightly below 0°C. Acclimatized winter wheat can survive temperatures well below freezing by forming ice crystals between cells and creating a high solute concentration in their cell sap which acts as an anti-freeze. Consider this the plant’s natural defence system.
It is important to keep in mind that frost’s impact on crop survival will vary greatly due to factors such as: soil texture, soil moisture, topography, speed of temperature drop, duration of freezing temperature, residue coverage, crop growth stage, etc. Additionally, minimal research has been done looking specifically at what temperatures are required to cause plant or leaf death under these various factors. Due to all of these factors, it is extremely difficult to identify thresholds of risk for wheat and barley crops.
When do I start assessing damage after a frost?
After experiencing cold temperatures, it’s important to assess the impact. Patience is needed before you can provide a proper diagnosis of the damage. Leaf and below-ground plant material may take three to four days to display the full impact of frost damage. Scouting the field too soon can give misleading results as the first few days after a frost may not display damage.
Checking plant stand and survivability
Wheat plants affected by frost will turn a dark green colour and appear water-soaked after a couple of days. Following this, leaves will begin to turn necrotic and die. However, this does not mean the plant is dead. If the plant has survived, it will begin to produce new leaves after four to five days in warm conditions. If you dig up the plant, you may also see new root development. During overcast and cool conditions, it may take a few more days to see regrowth. If you are not seeing new leaves develop, dig up plants and check for survival at the growing point. When you pull up the plant, look at the crown of the plant (the area where the leaves and the roots meet) and check to see if the area is white and alive with plant tissue (Figure 2) or dark brown and soft/wet. If the crown is dark brown and soft/wet, the plant will not likely survive.
If you find a large number of plants that haven’t survived, you will want to assess your plant population and determine if action needs to be taken.
How does a reduced plant stand impact yield and quality?
Research conducted on spring wheat can provide us with an indication of yield loss due to decreased plant stands. Research by Chen et al. (2008) indicated that a plant stand of 89.3 plants/m2 (8.3 plants/ft2) was 15.7% lower yielding than 249 plants/m2 (23.1 plants/ft2). Research by McKenzie et al. (2011) indicated that a CPSR wheat plant stand of 76 plants/m2 (7 plants/ft2) resulted in a 15.7% decrease in yield compared to 272 seeds/m2 (25 plants/ft2). The same study also demonstrated that a CWRS wheat plant stand of 76 plants/m2 (7 plants/ft2) resulted in a 10% decrease in yield compared to 272 plants/m2 (25 plants/ft2).
For barley, research has indicated that lower plant stands may be less impactful to crop yield. Research conducted by McKenzie et al. (2005) indicated that a plant stand of 109 plants/m2 (10.1 plants/ft2) only decreased yield by 5.6% compared to 190 plants/m2 (17.6 plants/ft2). In a separate study, O’Donovan et al. (2012) saw a yield decrease of approximately 10% at a seeding rate of 100 seeds/m2 (9.3 seeds/ft2) compared to 300 seeds/m2 (27.9 seeds/ft2).
Although the reduced plant stands display yield decreases that are not large in magnitude, there are high risks involved with low plant populations. First, consistency in crop performance drops at low seeding rates. In other words, you can expect much more year-to-year yield variability with low plant stands. This was demonstrated by Collier et al (2021) where seeding rates of 200 seeds/m2 (18.5 plants/ft2) compared to 400 seeds/m2 (37.1 plants/ft2) had lower yields, greater yield variability, or both (Figure 3).
The yield losses from the reduced plant stands, as mentioned above, are collected from small plot research. In these small-plot scenarios, weeds are kept to a minimum to reduce plot-to-plot variability. Therefore, the management of yield-robbing weeds does not reflect what may be seen across an entire field. The impact on yield that frost-induced variability can cause may not be fully realized within small-plot research.
With lower plant stands, one can expect the crop will be less competitive against weeds. For this reason, a field with a low plant stand will require even more attention to detail and timely herbicide applications to reduce the risk of weeds impacting crop performance. Additionally, , lower plant stands will extend the amount of time a crop takes to reach maturity and increase the number of tillers present on each plant. These factors, depending on how the rest of the season plays out, will impact the timing of a pre-harvest herbicide application, the timing of harvest, and may also impact quality. Make no mistake, higher plant stands provide higher yields, more consistent yields, better quality and more weed competition more often than lower plant stands.
Keep in mind that the calendar date needs to be considered when discussing reseeding of wheat or barley. According to McKenzie et al. (2011) CWRS wheat and feed barley crops lose an average of 0.8% and 1.3% yield, respectively, when seeded after April 30. So, if you are reseeding a CWRS on May 23 that was originally seeded May 3, you stand to lose 16% of your CWRS yield. For barley, that yield loss would jump to 26%. This is due to decreased moisture availability, less solar radiation captured through the season, increased heat during flowering time, and increased risk of insect pressure. Malt barley seeded later is also at higher risk of being rejected due to quality issues that arise from late seedings such as late tillers, harvest challenges, and lack of uniform seed production. These factors can all lead to reduced malting quality.
If the assessment of the frost-injured crop indicates a low plant stand, it is also important to consider the distribution of the damage. Likely, frost damage will not occur uniformly across the field. Rather, the damage will be present in areas that are more prone to frost damage (this will vary due to the various factors listed in the above introduction). Therefore, one must assess the percentage of the field that has very low plant stands compared to areas that still have an acceptable number of plants per square foot. If the damaged area is only a small percentage of the field, it may be best to manage that area differently rather than implement a full reseeding management plan.
In summary, if the average plant stand for a wheat or barley crop is below 100 seeds/m2 (9.3 seeds/ft2) after a frost event, it is recommended to bring out an experienced agronomist to assess reseeding decisions. Before any reseeding decisions are made, producers should contact their crop insurance provider, consider yield loss associated with a late seeded crop as well as assess fertilizer, volunteer, and pesticide decisions required for a new crop.
Crop coverage information for AFSC can be found here.
Establishment information for Saskatchewan Crop Insurance can be found here.
Information on annual crop insurance from Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation can be found here.
Chen, C., Neill, K., Wichman, D., and Westcott, M. 2008. Hard red spring wheat response to row spacing, seeding rate, and nitrogen. Agronomy Journal 100(5): 1296-1302.
Forbes, J.C. and Watson, R.D. 1992. Plants in Agriculture. Cambridge University Press. 355 pp.
McKenzie, R.H., A.B. Middleton, and E. Bremer. 2005. Fertilization, seeding date, and seeding rate for malting barley yield and quality in southern Alberta. Can. J. Plant Sci. 85(3):603-614.
McKenzie, R.H., Bremer, E., Middleton, A.B., Pfiffner, P.G., and Woods, S.A. 2011. Optimum seeding date and rate for irrigated cereal and oilseed crops in southern Alberta. Can. J. Plant Sci. 91(2) 293-303.
O’Donovan, J. T., Turkington, T. K., Edney, M. J., Juskiw, P. E., McKenzie, R. H., Harker, K. N., Clayton, G. W., Lafond, G. P., Grant, C. A., Brandt, S., Johnson, E. N., May, W. E. and Smith, E. 2012. Effect of seeding date and seeding rate on malting barley production in western Canada. Can. J. Plant Sci. 92: 321330.
Article written collaboratively by the Alberta Wheat and Barley Commissions, Sask Barley, Sask Wheat, and the Manitoba Crop Alliance.
USask to pay tribute to honorary degree recipients
The University of Saskatchewan (USask) will honour five remarkable individuals proudly associated with the university who have gone on to make significant contributions to their communities and to Canadian society throughout their careers.
During this year’s virtual USask Spring Convocation online celebration beginning May 31, the university will award honorary degrees to celebrated writer, Elder and community worker Maria Campbell, world-renowned barley breeder Dr. Bryan Harvey (PhD), award-winning author and social justice advocate Trevor Herriot, innovative entrepreneur and philanthropist Dr. That Ngo (PhD), and distinguished legal scholar Ed Ratushny.
USask President and Vice-Chancellor Peter Stoicheff said he is looking forward to the university recognizing the extraordinary achievements of these five individuals.
“We are proud to celebrate the impact these honorary degree recipients have made throughout their remarkable careers,” said Stoicheff. “Their respective achievements span a broad spectrum of fields and disciplines, and most importantly, they have all been committed to the concept of community and service. We are grateful to have this opportunity to bestow the University of Saskatchewan’s highest honour on them during this year’s Spring Convocation celebration.”
Here is a brief look at this year’s recipients:
Honorary Doctor of Letters
A dedicated volunteer, activist and advocate for Indigenous rights and the rights of women and children for more than 40 years, Campbell opened doors for Métis writers when she authored her best-selling autobiography, Half-breed, in 1973. She has since written eight books and dozens of stage plays, including Flight, the first all-Indigenous theatre production in Canadian history. For the past 30 years, Campbell has been a mentor for young people, including USask students, and is the cultural advisor at USask’s College of Law after previously being an Indigenous scholar and writer in residence, and working as an assistant professor and lecturer in the College of Arts and Science. Campbell was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2008 and named to the Saskatchewan Order of Merit in 2005.
Honorary Doctor of Science
A world-renowned barley breeder, Dr. Bryan Harvey (PhD) spent four decades contributing to the field of plant science and to the Canadian agriculture economy through his work with the Crop Development Centre at USask. During his time at USask from 1966 until retirement in 2005, Harvey bred or co-bred more than 60 varieties of barley. Harvey’s lifetime of achievement was recognized with appointment to the Order of Canada in 2007, induction into the Canadian Agricultural Hall of Fame in 2020, and being awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012. Harvey was also inducted into the Saskatchewan Agriculture Hall of Fame in 2006 and received the Saskatchewan Order of Merit in 2005.
Honorary Doctor of Letters
An award-winning writer, social justice activist and influential naturalist from Regina, Herriot has authored six books, and has had several stories, essays and articles published in the likes of the Globe and Mail and Canadian Geographic magazine. He has produced radio documentaries for the CBC, is a regular guest on media broadcasts, has appeared in and consulted on several video/film documentaries and has taught university creative writing courses. Herriot, who earned a bachelor’s degree with honours in English from USask in 1979, has received multiple awards and honours, including the prestigious Cheryl and Henry Kloppenburg Award for Literary Excellence in 2017.
Honorary Doctor of Science
After earning his bachelor’s degree and PHD in the 1970s at USask, Ngo went on to become a celebrated biochemist, researcher scientist and innovator, serving as president and CEO of a number of companies in Canada, the United States and China. Ngo has published more than 140 researcher articles, edited seven books, and holds 14 different industry patents, and was the co-inventor of the Ngo-Lenhoff Assay, a groundbreaking technological procedure that benefits diabetes patients worldwide. In 2016, he was selected one of the USask College of Arts and Science’s Alumni of Influence and now opens doors for other enterprising students after establishing the That Ngo Fund for Study Abroad at USask.
Honorary Doctor of Laws
A nationally regarded legal scholar, author and certified NHL hockey agent, Ratushny earned bachelor’s and law degrees at USask in the 1960s before embarking on an award-winning legal career. He became a trusted advisor to public servants, administrative tribunals, cabinet ministers and Chief Justices from across Canada. In turn, these symbiotic relationships imported broader experience and deeper understanding into Ratushny’s classrooms and his related academic writing. His professional achievements have been recognized by the Order of Canada, the Order of Ontario, an honorary Doctorate from the Ontario Law Society and a variety of additional, prestigious legal awards.
Honorary degrees are the highest honour USask can award, and acknowledge the worthy and unique contributions recipients have made to their community and to the world. The university recognizes individuals who have achieved outstanding accomplishments in research, scholarly and artistic works; performed exceptional public service; contributed greatly through their professional or philanthropic activity; and demonstrated extraordinary athletic prowess. To view past recipients, visit: https://library.usask.ca/archives/campus-history/honorary-degrees.php
The plant growth regulator chlormequat chloride (Manipulator) has been updated to Yellow/Be Informed under Keep it Clean for use on all Barley in Canada (malt, feed and food). Malting barley had previously been classified as yellow. This classification is a signal to producers to check with their grain buyers before using Manipulator on barley to ensure it will be accepted. Most malting companies and some grain companies have signalled they will not accept barley treated with Manipulator. Manipulator is classified as green/acceptable for wheat and oats.
Researchers on the Prairies have been working with chlormequat chloride (Manipulator) and trinexepac-ethyl (Moddus) to evaluate effectiveness on barley. Agronomists at Alberta Barley, Manitoba Crop Alliance and SaskBarley summarized the results and best practices.
Saskatchewan producer coalition delivers joint submission as part of Canada Grain Act review
April 30, 2021 – On behalf of Saskatchewan farmers, a coalition of producer organizations are calling on any changes to the Canada Grain Act to incorporate the Canadian Grain Commission’s (CGC) continuation of mandatory outward inspection, maintenance of its current mandate and governance model, and an emphasis on improved export sales reporting.
The Canada Grain Act authorizes the CGC to create regulations and administer services that protect the commercial interests of grain producers and establish quality standards for grain handling within Canada and export markets.
“The Canadian Grain Commission plays a key role in maintaining the reputation of the Canadian brand and increasing the transparency of market information,” said Sask Wheat Chair Brett Halstead. “Sask Wheat’s objective is to maintain the value of the Canadian brand, improve market efficiency with better information, and have the CGC work in the interest of farmers to protect farmers’ interests from those the CGC is meant to regulate.”
The coalition includes the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan (APAS), the Saskatchewan Barley Development Commission (SaskBarley) and the Saskatchewan Wheat Development Commission (Sask Wheat), who together represent the majority of grain producers in the province.
As Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada considers our producer coalition’s joint submission, we ask that any changes reflect the priorities of Saskatchewan agriculture, which represents approximately:
40% of Canada’s total crop production
47% of Canada’s total field crop area
50% of all licenses primary and process elevator storage capacity
54% of the total value of the Canadian Grain exports in 2020
“This review is an opportunity to reaffirm the Grain Commission’s mandate to act solely in the interests of farmers,” said SaskBarley chair Matt Enns. “Any changes to the Act must emphasize transparency and accountability to the needs of producers.”
The producer coalition highlights three key areas in its joint submission to the consultation reviewing the Canada Grain Act.
Mandate and Governance – The producer coalition strongly supports the mandate of the CGC as it protects the interests of producers in Canada’s grain industry. The purpose of the mandate is still as relevant and essential today as it was when the Canada Grain Act was established more than a century ago. All three organizations also believe the current governance model recognizes the importance of western Canadian crop production and exports. The producer coalition fears a change in the governance structure would limit producer influence and create challenges since the CGC is a regulator.
Outward Inspection – The producer coalition believes it is essential that outward inspection remains a function performed by the CGC to protect the Canadian brand and Canada’s quality assurance system. Producers face the most severe financial risks when there are perceived quality concerns in international markets, which is why the coalition does not support moving to a third-party inspection.
Export Sales Reporting – The producer coalition sees the review of the Canada Grain Act as an opportunity for the CGC to expand its responsibilities in terms of collecting and disseminating data to improve market transparency. The coalition wants to see improved market transparency. More information for producers will allow them to better assess market dynamics and give them opportunities to improve their profits.
“The mandate of the CGA represents support and protection for Canadian grain farmers, and that must continue,” said APAS President Todd Lewis. “The protection provisions are just as relevant today as they were 100 years ago when the Act put in place.”
RE: SaskBarley Submission to the Canada Grain Act Review
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
1341 Baseline Road
Ottawa, ON K1A 0C5
Submitted via: email@example.com
April 30, 2021
RE: SaskBarley Submission to the Canada Grain Act Review
To whom it may concern,
The Saskatchewan Barley Development Commission (SaskBarley) welcomes the opportunity to provide feedback to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) on the review of the Canada Grain Act (CGA) and operations of the Canadian Grain Commission (CGC).
A comprehensive review of the CGA has not been completed in 50 years and the economic landscape for Canada and the agricultural sector has significantly changed. There is a continuing need for regulatory oversight in areas such as weights and grading, payment protection, dispute resolution and licensing requirements. These areas need to be updated to reflect the current state of the industry and the future needs of the producers.
We recognize that several submissions will be received for changes to the CGA, but we request that AAFC complete a thorough analysis with a comprehensive benefit-cost analysis for producers prior to any recommendations being implemented.
While there are many areas of considerable importance in this review, including those mentioned above, SaskBarley has highlighted areas of the greatest urgency to the barley producers we represent.
The mandate of the CGC
As legislated in the CGA, the CGC’s mandate is…
“… in the interests of the grain producers, establish and maintain standards of quality for Canadian grain and regulate grain handling in Canada, to ensure a dependable commodity for domestic and export markets.”
SaskBarley firmly believes that this mandate must remain in service of “…the interests of the grain producers.” Without adherence to this core tenet, any subsequent changes to the CGA or shift in the operations scope of the CGC will
not be in the best interest of the farmers that they serve.
In fact, the adherence to this mandate must direct this review process and its outcomes – rather than feature as an element of it.
The reasons for this are as simple as they are existential. Farmers are uniquely affected by the imbalance of market power within the industry they operate in. This lack of countervailing power leaves no options other than government regulation to protect them from the market power of input and marketing firms.
Saskatchewan’s barley farmers are price-takers, and ultimately bear the cost of user-fees and licensing in the prices that they receive for their grain. They are at the behest of these outside forces and, therefore, require a regulatory mechanism that acts and preserves their interests in the face of those who seek influence.
Recommendation: Preserve the intent of the CGA and the CGC’s mandate to act in the interest of grain producers. All recommendations considered during this review, should be evaluated under this framework.
This current review represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity for Canada’s agriculture sector, especially our barley farmers. Barley does not have a price discovery mechanism available to producers. With recent market disruptions, changes in trade patterns, and lagging information on supply and demand dispositions, Canadian farmers need critical marketing information to maximize returns and improve profitability. A comprehensive data reporting program is essential to producers and would benefit the Canadian economy.
At our January 2021 Annual General Meeting, a resolution by our farmer members was brought forward to…
“… advocate for a meaningful price discovery mechanism that allows all parties to have access to information through the establishment of a national sales reporting program – where data is reported daily and compiled weekly.”
SaskBarley has advocated for this before, including as a key recommendation in the Saskatchewan Producer Coalition’s submission to the Canada Transportation Act review in 2015. However, this past crop year has been one of the most dramatic demonstrations as to why timely sales reporting is needed.
The recent report commissioned by the Saskatchewan Wheat Development Commission by Mercantile Consulting Venture Ltd. Entitled “Data Requirements for a Transparent Market” provides a comprehensive overview of data gaps in grain markets and the solutions required to put producers on an equal footing when planning their cropping decisions and marketing their production.
The lack of information in Canada has prevented our producers and market analysts from accessing the same level of information needed to make informed marketing decisions as other players in the industry. The competitive disadvantage that results from this information asymmetry is harmful for our farmers and represents a missed opportunity to put Canadian farmers on a level playing field.
Recommendation: In collaboration with existing reporting, we recommend CGC implement a data reporting program to reduce information asymmetry currently experienced by producers to assist in their marketing decisions.
A sustainable and predictable funding model
The central challenge for the CGC’s operations model is to turn it into a more responsive framework for the needs of the modern agricultural industry. For SaskBarley, these changes must be initiated through the CGA review and result in an actionable strategy that:
(a) Reduces the reliance on user-fees to cover operational costs
(b) Secures predictable and sustainable funding that can support longer-term initiatives
These amendments for CGC’s funding are critical to achieve the next step towards modernization.
SaskBarley remains concerned about an overreliance on user-fees by the CGC to cover operational costs. The user-fee model has obfuscated the need for a predictable and sustainable funding from the federal government that can support CGC services and programs that serve a clear public good. These include grains research, market development, and maintaining quality assurance programs that support Canada’s competitiveness in international markets.
A key aspect of these CGC services that remains significant for barley producers is the Grain Research Laboratory. The laboratory provides a vital service when it comes to research related to crops, including the assessment of grain harvest quality and analysis of how grading factors affect end-use properties. They also evaluate new varieties as part of the variety registration process, and develop methods used to assess the quality and safety of Canadian grain. These services are a vital element of the Canadian barley value chain and require a stable source of funding to remain relevant and responsive to the needs of farmers.
As it stands, the federal funding level of between $5-6 million annually represents about nine per cent of the CGC operational budget. By comparison, 33 per cent of the US Federal Grain Inspection Services budget is funded by government. This represents an area where the CGC’s funding has not kept up with the needs of the industry – let alone the rate of inflation.
The reality is that our nation’s grain exports have grown considerably, whereas the funding for CGC’s services remains at odds with the federal government’s goal of reaching $75 billion in agricultural exports by 2025.
Recommendation: Funding for the CGC must be sustainable and predictable with a recognition of the ‘public good’ that many of its services provide.
In closing, we appreciate the opportunity to contribute to this review and echo the sentiment that this review and actions resulting from it must never compromise in prioritizing the interests of Canada’s grain producers.
Please get in touch with our Executive Director, Jill McDonald, at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 306-370-7237 should you require further clarification or additional information.
Alberta Wheat Commission, Alberta Barley Commission, Saskatchewan Wheat Development Commission, Saskatchewan Barley Development Commission, Manitoba Crop Alliance
In the prairies, seeding into dry soils is inevitable in some years. These dry seeding conditions require careful seeding best management practices to help reduce risk. However, much of these considerations rely on eventual rainfall, so not all risks can be mitigated. Additionally, not all considerations fit on each farm. Assessing the practicality of each potential management practice, on your farm, will help you make the best decision.
In general, the main concern with seeding into dry soils is emergence. Lack of, or variable moisture, can lead to uneven emergence. Uneven emergence leads to variable crop development throughout the field, lower yield potential, more weed issues, less than ideal timed in-crop management, and harvest challenges leading to lower quality grain. This article will address minimizing the potential of variable crop germination and emergence.
It should be noted that bumper crops are no less likely when seeding into dry soils as compared to seeding into moist soils (assuming even emergence). After consistent germination and emergence, it is the rainfall and available soil moisture during the rest of the plant’s growth that will impact the final yield. Therefore, the main goal of seeding into dry soils is to provide the best opportunity for even germination.
There are three scenarios to approach seeding wheat and barley into dry soils.
Scenario 1: Seed at normal depth (1-2”) into dry soils and wait for rain
Scenario 2: Seed deep (>2”) to reach soil moisture
Scenario 3: Wait for the rain, then seed at normal depth
Scenario 3 is typically the least desirable. Although waiting for rain can help ensure that you have a greater chance of seeding into moisture, there are risks involved with waiting. First, when rain does arrive, it may continue to rain and delay seeding or limit field access and passability. The next risk is yield reduction due to delayed seeding. Research by Mckenzie et al. ( 2011) compared seeding dates of various crops including CWRS wheat, durum, SWS wheat, CPS wheat, feed barley, triticale, malt barley, barley silage, canola, and flax. Research indicated a downward trend of 0.6 to 1.7 percent yield loss per day after April 30th. This yield loss is due to less solar radiation being received by the crop, increased soil moisture availability, increased tillering, decreased disease pressure, and reduced maximum temperatures. Additionally, O’Donovan et al. (2012) indicated that delayed seeding of malt barley can reduce kernel plump while increasing protein. Finally, Collier et al. (2021) indicated that seeding CWRS wheat at 2-6°C provided the greatest yield and yield stability when combined with high seeding rates and dual seed treatments. Therefore, having the seed already in the soil when rain does occur allows the crop to emerge earlier than if seeding is delayed until after rain has already occurred.
Scenario 1 and 2 are the more common approaches to seeding in dry conditions. Deciding between the two requires careful consideration of current soil moisture depth. Although recent research on seeding depth is few and far between, there are some assumptions we can make. These assumptions are that deeper seeded cereals require more energy and time to emerge. This presents a few problems. First, increased risk of the seed running out of energy or reaching the soil surface with low energy reserves. This increases the risk of seed and seedling death. Additionally, there is an increased chance of disease or pests killing or otherwise negatively affecting the seeds before emergence. Duzek and Piening (1982) investigated the effects of deep seeding vs intermediate vs shallow seeding in spring barley. In most years, deeper sown seed lots proved to yield less. However, in drier years, deeper sown seed yielded higher. Earlier emergence of the deeper sown seed lots due to moisture access was the likely cause of higher yields. However, the higher amounts of tillage used in this study likely increased the depth that soil moisture could be found. This demonstrates the relationship between seeding depth and emergence timing. Gan and Stobbe (1995) also looked at varying seed depths on the emergence and yield of spring wheat. Their results indicated that the highest yields were found at shallow seeding depths. One can anticipate a reduced level of crop competition with weeds if emergence is delayed (Lafond and Harker, 2011). Knowing that delayed emergence can arise from seeding shallow in dry soil or from seeding too deep, addressing current soil moisture is a vital step before seeding. If targeting deeper seeding, using increased seeding rates and seed treatment is recommended. This will be especially important in fields that do not have extended rotations. Fields with short rotation are more likely to harbour seeding diseases that will impact emergence.
As mentioned above, uniform and even germination are important when we discuss crop establishment. When we are seeding into soil that is dry on the top couple of inches and moisture can be found below, there is a high likelihood of variable moisture through the top of the soil profile. For example, depth to moist soil may be 2-3″ in low areas and 3-4″ on knolls. There is no optimum seeding depth and emergence will be uneven. The remaining seeds will be stranded in dry soil. If this occurs, crop maturity will vary across the field. Attempting to place all of the seed into moisture may result in very deep seeding and some seedlings never emerging. Conversely, if the seed is sown shallow (1.5-2″) but above the level of soil moisture, when rains do occur, it is more likely the rainfall will evenly wet the soil to depth. Although germination may be delayed while waiting for rainfall, the seed is more likely to germinate and emerge evenly across the field.
It would be valuable for producers to walk some of their fields to determine soil moisture depth and variability of depth. Those fields that have moisture only below 2″ may be better off seeding shallow and waiting for rain rather than seeding deep and risking variable germination. For fields that have a consistent moisture line between 1.5-2″ may benefit from seeding closer to 2″ if each seed is expected to be placed into moisture.
One question that needs to be considered when seeding into dry soils is “How much moisture is required to achieve germination?” Although germination of wheat and barley can occur at 35-40 per cent of field capacity (FC), 50 per cent FC is more likely to achieve even germination. A soil’s FC is the maximum amount of water a soil can hold. Different textured soils hold different quantities of water before reaching FC. Taking time to walk fields to assess soil moisture can provide an indication of soil moisture at different depths across the field. Using a soil probe, collect soil and different depths and locations. The number of sample locations will vary based on field variability. Eight to 12 sample locations provide a good idea of field variability. Fields with higher variability may require more sample locations. After collecting a sample, use the visual hand-feel method to determine per cent FC. A guide on implementing the visual hand-feel method to determine per cent FC can be found here. The information collected can then be used to help determine the appropriate seeding depth.
Additional considerations to mitigate risk when seeding into dry soils:
Split nitrogen applications
Fertilizer seed safety
Seeding and mortality rates
Seeding into dry conditions adds stress to the germinating seed. Therefore, higher mortality rates may be expected. We can combat this by increasing seeding rates and expected mortality in our seeding rate calculation. Targeting higher seeding rates provides yield benefits for both wheat (Beres et al.,2011, Beres et al., 2020, Collier et al., 2021, and Isidro-Sanchez et al., 2017) and barley (O’Donovan et al., 2012 and Perrott et al., 2018). To help maintain target plant stands, increase your seeding rates to minimize the risk of a low population plant stand.
Split nitrogen applications
One option producers can implement when seeding into dry conditions is reduced nitrogen (N) rates at the time of seeding. Applying 60-70% of normal N and planning to follow up with an in-crop application can reduce the risk of nitrogen going unused in a dry year. However, considerations around equipment, available labour, and timing of an in-crop N application around rainfall all need to be considered. If an in-crop nitrogen application cannot be completed, and rainfall returns to more normal levels, yields will be lower due to limited nitrogen availability.
Fertilizer Seed Safety
Recommended maximum nitrogen rates in the seed row are based on good soil moisture (75% of FC). However, if seedbed moisture is poor (less than 50% of FC), seed placed nitrogen should be reduced by 50% from the recommended rate. Applying rates above this will increase the risk of seed death due to fertilizer injury. For information on your N seed safety rates, locate your provincial recommendations. Alberta recommendations can be found here in Table 4. Saskatchewan recommendations can be found here on page 1. Manitoba recommendations can be found here.
As mentioned previously, seeding into dry conditions or seeding deeper will increase the risk of seed and seedling mortality. To reduce mortality risk, dual (fungicide + insecticide) seed treatments can be used. Dual seed treatments that include both an insecticide and a fungicide have been shown to increase the abiotic resistance of seedlings (Beres et al., 2016 and Larsen and Falk., 2013). This means that a seed treated with a dual fungicide will have a greater chance of surviving dry or deep seeding conditions.
Herbicide Carryover and Pre-emergence Herbicides
Although not directly related to seeding, herbicide carryover and the use of pre-emergence herbicides must be considered. For herbicide carryover, many crops are vulnerable to Group 2, 4, and 27 herbicides. When considering whether herbicide carryover is a risk on your farm, look at the in-season rainfall after herbicide application time into September. Once soil temperatures drop in the fall, little herbicide breakdown occurs. Herbicide breakdown requires adequate soil moisture, temperature, and time. Breakdown occurs via soil microbes which require ample time under adequate soil moisture and temperature conditions. Herbicide carryover injuries may not show up until after a soaking rainfall event, which releases the herbicide from soil particles and washes it into the rooting zone. If rainfall after the use of herbicides in these groups is less than 150 mm, one can expect some risk of herbicide damage. More information on herbicide carryover risk by area, in Saskatchewan, can be found here.
Pre-emergence herbicide use has been on the rise for the past decade. This is due to several factors including implementing multiple modes of action on-farm to combat herbicide resistance. However, some pre-emergence herbicides require ‘working’ the product into the soil through some form of tillage such as heavy harrows. When soil conditions are already dry, incorporation of pre-emergence herbicides through tillage (even light tillage) will further reduce the soil moisture. Additionally, breaking up already dry soil may lead to increased wind erosion of the soil as well as increased risk of seedling damage from blowing soil particles.
Information on herbicide carryover risk in Manitoba can be found here while information from Saskatchewan can be found here
Seeding into dry soil conditions creates added challenges and risks to the already complex process of seeding. However, taking the time to assess soil moisture can help to make the best decisions to increase the chances of an evenly germinated crop. Additionally, assessing the benefits of adjusted seeding rates, fertility rates, fertilizer seed safety, and seed treatments can provide some added measures to reduce risks for the seed and seedlings.
Beres, Brian L., et al. “Integrating spring wheat sowing density with variety selection to manage wheat stem sawfly.” Agronomy Journal 103.6 (2011): 1755-1764.
Beres, Brian L., et al. “A Systematic Review of Durum Wheat: Enhancing Production Systems by Exploring Genotype, Environment, and Management (G× E× M) Synergies.” Frontiers in Plant Science 11 (2020): 1665.
Beres, Brian L., et al. “Winter wheat cropping system response to seed treatments, seed size, and sowing density.” Agronomy Journal 108.3 (2016): 1101-1111.
Duczek, L. J., and L. J. Piening. “Effect of seeding depth, seeding date and seed size on common root rot of spring barley.” Canadian Journal of Plant Science 62.4 (1982): 885-891.
Gan, Y., and E. H. Stobbe. “Effect of variations in seed size and planting depth on emergence, infertile plants, and grain yield of spring wheat.” Canadian Journal of Plant Science 75.3 (1995): 565-570.
Lafond G., and Harker N. “Seeding Rate and Seeding Depth”. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. Presentation.
Isidro-Sánchez, Julio, et al. “Effects of seeding rate on durum crop production and physiological responses.” Agronomy Journal 109.5 (2017): 1981-1990.
McKenzie, R. H., et al. “Optimum seeding date and rate for irrigated cereal and oilseed crops in southern Alberta.” Canadian Journal of Plant Science 91.2 (2011): 293-303.
Larsen, R. James, and Duane E. Falk. “Effects of a seed treatment with a neonicotinoid insecticide on germination and freezing tolerance of spring wheat seedlings.” Canadian Journal of Plant Science 93.3 (2013): 535-540.
O’Donovan, J. T., Turkington, T. K., Edney, M. J., Juskiw, P. E., McKenzie, R. H., Harker, K. N., Clayton, G. W., Lafond, G. P., Grant, C. A., Brandt, S., Johnson, E. N., May, W. E. and Smith, E. 2012. Effect of seeding date and seeding rate on malting barley production in western Canada. Can. J. Plant Sci. 92: 321330.
Perrott, L. A., et al. “Advanced agronomic practices to maximize feed barley yield, quality, and standability in Alberta, Canada. I. Responses to plant density, a plant growth regulator, and foliar fungicides.” Agronomy Journal 110.4 (2018): 1447-1457.
SaskBarley official position on CRSC Code of Practice
The Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Crops (CRSC) is currently leading the development of a Code of Practice, to showcase to consumers and buyers of Canadian agriculture products that our crops are sustainably produced.
The CRSC is a member-based organization made up of federal government, industry, customer and environmental organizations. SaskBarley is not a member.
SaskBarley is opposed to the current draft as is it written. SaskBarley believes in sustainability from an economic, environmental and social perspective, and that these measures of sustainability should apply across the entire value chain. While we understand there is another round of consultations scheduled for November 2021, we feel this should only happen if the current draft has been significantly revised.
Furthermore, we request that the following criteria be used in any evaluation of a ‘code of practice’:
1) A Code of Practice should deliver value to producers that choose to adopt it.
2) A Code of Practice should encompass the entire Canadian agricultural industry and value-chain.
3) A Code of Practice should drive end-user demand and enhance the reputation of our products providing real economic value for our farmers and value chain.
4) A Code of Practice should be a living document, incorporating industry best practices and science-based recommendations.
RE: Recognition of Farmers’ Carbon Sequestration Contributions
April 16, 2021
Hon. Scott Moe
Premier of Saskatchewan
Room 226, Legislative Building
2405 Legislative Drive
RE: Recognition of Farmers’ Carbon Sequestration Contributions
Dear Premier Moe,
The Saskatchewan Barley Development Commission (SaskBarley), Saskatchewan Canola Development Commission (SaskCanola), Saskatchewan Flax Development Commission (SaskFlax), Saskatchewan Oat Development Commission (SaskOats), Saskatchewan Pulse Growers, and Saskatchewan Wheat Development Commission (Sask Wheat) are producer-led organizations established to provide leadership in identifying and supporting research, market development and advocacy that contributes to profitable and sustainable crop production for Saskatchewan farmers.
The commissions believe that farmers have a key role to play in helping the Provincial Government meet its climate change goals. Through zero-till practices, Saskatchewan farmers are sequestering approximately 9 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year. However, the current proposal from the Ministry of Environment for Saskatchewan’s Carbon Offset Program would not recognize these sequestration efforts due to “business as usual” clauses and a forty percent adoption rate threshold.
These clauses are purely policy decisions and have no scientific backing. The commissions continue to support the position of the Saskatchewan Soil Conservation Association (SSCA) which advocates for separate regulations for agricultural carbon sink protocols that would not be subject to non-scientific factors such as “business as usual.” As it is currently structured, the Saskatchewan Offset Program provides no opportunity for Saskatchewan farmers as early adopters and leaders of zero-till technology.
At the majority of our 2021 Annual General Meetings, a resolution was passed calling for commissions and associations to lobby to have Saskatchewan farmers recognized and rewarded for carbon sequestered through continuous cropping and reduced or zero-till practices that correlates to the price of pollution set by governments. Farmers are concerned about the impact the federal carbon tax has on their competitiveness. A balanced approach would see farmers provided credit for conservation practices with that value returned to the farmgate.
The commissions strongly encourage our elected officials to ensure Saskatchewan farmers are recognized and compensated for the new and incremental carbon sequestered each year from zero-till and continuous cropping practices.
RE: Saskatchewan Offset Program and Protocol Development
The producer commissions of SaskBarley, SaskCanola, SaskFlax, SaskOats, Saskatchewan Pulse Growers and Sask Wheat would like to submit the following comments on the two discussion papers released by the Ministry of Environment on the Saskatchewan Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Offset Program and on Offset Protocol Development.
The commissions believe that farmers have a key role to play in helping the Provincial Government meet its climate change goals. Through zero–till practices,Saskatchewan farmers are sequestering approximately 9 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year . However, the current proposal from the Ministry of Environment for Saskatchewan’s Offset Program would not recognize these sequestration efforts, due to additionality requirements and a forty percent adoption rate threshold.
Concepts such as start dates, additionality, and adoption rates are purely policy decisions. The commissions continue to support the position of the Saskatchewan Soil Conservation Association (SSCA) which advocates for the separation of regulations for biological sinks from industrial and point source regulations. This would remove the need for these non–scientific, policy factors and provide farmers with recognition and compensation for the new and incremental carbon sequestered each year from conservation practices such as zero–till and continuous cropping. As it is currently structured, the Saskatchewan Offset Program provides no opportunity for Saskatchewan farmers as early adopters and leaders of zero–till technology.
At the majority of our 2021 Annual General Meetings, a resolution was passed calling for commissions and associations to work to have Saskatchewan farmers recognized and rewarded for carbon sequestered through continuous cropping and reduced or zero–till practices. This is a major concern for Saskatchewan farmers, and the commission surge the Ministry of Environment to continue working with the Saskatchewan Soil Carbon Sequestration Protocol Working Group to develop a made–in–Saskatchewan offset protocol for the sequestration of carbon in agricultural soils for adoption in the federal and Saskatchewan GHG offset systems.
The commissions acknowledge that the Ministry is planning on developing a protocol related to crop production for implementation in 2022. While we are awaiting further details on the area of focus for this protocol and the timelines, we strongly recommend that the Ministry of Environment engage early in the development of this protocol with farmers to ensure the protocol is practical and will provide value to farmers.
Value and practicality are both important concepts for the Ministry to consider in the development of the Saskatchewan GHG Offset Program regulations. For example, current concepts like a 100–year reporting period to ensure permanence of sequestration projects will severely impact the attractiveness and practicality of participating in an offset program for farmers. A balance needs to be found with a flexible approach that addresses the risk of sequestration reversals while still providing enough value for farmers to participate in the protocol.
Market transparency is another important factor for the Ministry to consider while developing these regulations. To provide the most value to farmers, the offset program needs to include farmer ownership of carbon credits, a registry that allows farmers to bank their credits, an effective price discovery mechanism, and full transparency of basis costs.
We appreciate the opportunity to provide feedback on the discussion papers and look forward to further discussions to develop offsets that recognize and return value to producers for their sequestration efforts.