We’re Winter Seeding!

Last week, we did some winter seeding, part of a new project!

mike gretzinger testing soil temps winter seeding
Mike Gretzinger, Farming Smarter’s Research Coordinator, tests the soil’s temperature before doing some winter seeding.

This early seeding was done for an Ultra Early Canadian Western Amber Durum Seeding Systems trial for Dr. Brian Beres of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. We’ve worked with Dr. Beres before, so we’re beyond excited to be a part of this ground-breaking project!

Dr. Beres has already looked at ultra early plantings of hard red spring wheat, with good results. We’re applying it to durum to see its viability.

Durum markets in the area are focused on the protein & quality aspects of the grain. Because most durum in the area is processed for pasta and bread, we must ensure that the durum stays in top quality and has good, consistent gluten levels.

We are doing irrigated trials for the project; one looks at cultivars, the other at temperature. Additionally, we’re experimenting with depth levels of one-inch & three-inches.

Winter Seeding vs. Regular Seeding

A big step in any project is determining the advantages and disadvantages with alternatives processes. Winter seeding, or dormant seeding, means you’re planting the seed in the soil ahead of its growing season. The plan is to maximize the growing potential for the seed by placing it in the cool, winter soil so, come spring, the seed germinates immediately.

The advantage of this process is that the seed doesn’t sit in the soil for a few days before germinating. Additionally, this gives the seed a head start against weeds and other crops.

By intentionally waiting for the soil to cool (in this trial, we waited until it was 0-2 degrees C) before planting the seeds means it won’t grow, leaving it dormant in the snow-covered soil. Come spring, when as the soil warms back up, the seed will begin to germinate immediately.

Because we’re unsure of the survivability of the seeds, we seeded at a higher rate than normal.

Sara Gateman, one of Farming Smarter’s student employees, takes control & sows the seeds for our dormant seeding project.

Advantages with Dormant Seeding

The biggest advantage is that we’re giving the crop a good head start. While durum doesn’t have much threat in terms of weed competition (thanks to the variety of well-established herbicides), we do want to maximize the nutrient availability to the crop. Compared to fall cereal, there’s less challenges with weeds and more with staging.

Right now, our hypothesis is that the durum will establish a strong canopy & close off access to the weeds.

Difficulties & Drawbacks

The first difficulty of this project is the weather – our southern Alberta chinooks brought a stretch of warm days that made the soil too warm to seed. Thankfully, a cold days before a snowfall meant that we could seed!

Unfortunately, temperatures don’t rise and fall at a consistent rate. The two important dates for this trial are the dormant seeding date between November and January and another date in the spring, when the temperature is between 5-10 degrees C. Because weather isn’t linear, we can’t plan our spring date too far ahead.

Fortunately, we can estimate that it will be between late-March and late-April, when the temperature is at that comfortable 5-10 degree range.

What’s Comes Next

Now that the seeds are in the ground, we’re good until spring!

In spring, we’ll have to prep the field for the crop and begin measuring the temperature of the soil again.

Thankfully, there’s not much additional work after the winter seeding date. After the seeds germinate and begin to push through in the spring, it’s back to normal work until harvest – which will bring it’s own set of challenges.

Stay tuned for future updates of this exciting project!