Seed-based canola sales unlikely

Significant innovation needed before companies would sell by seed count

Canola isn’t going to be sold the same way as corn or soybeans anytime soon, says a major seed company.


Growers on an Agriville.com chat room are speculating that it won’t be long before canola is sold by seed count rather than weight.


George Shelswell, director of marketing for oilseed crops with Bayer CropScience Canada, expects that will eventually happen, but growers shouldn’t hold their breath.


Significant innovation would have to occur in crop breeding and seeding equipment before companies would consider selling the crop that way, he added.


Corn and soybeans are sold by seed count because plant emergence is greater than 90 percent, partly due to large seed size allowing seeds to germinate under a wide variety of conditions.


Seed companies can confidently recommend targeted seeding rates for corn and soybeans because of the predictable emergence rate.


However, Shelswell said germination rates for canola can be 30 to 90 percent, depending on weather, planting techniques and seed bed condition. And that’s germination, not emergence.


“The challenges that we have in canola is the agronomics that we have to get over,” he said.


Shelswell suspects the growing popularity of corn and soybeans in southern Manitoba is prompting grower interest in buying canola by seed count.


Farmers are becoming familiar with precision planters and want to use them to seed their canola.


He believes the canola industry will eventually go that route, but canola is where the soybean industry was 20 years before it switched to unitized seed sales.


In the meantime, Shelswell would like to see more grower awareness of the importance of achieving targeted canola plant populations.


The Canola Council of Canada says the ideal plant stand for yield potential and uniform growth is seven to 14 plants per sq. foot.


Shelswell said the problem is that canola seed size can vary by as much as 200 percent within the same variety, depending on the seed lot.


According to the council, thousand kernel weight for canola seed can range from less than three grams to more than six grams. 


A six gram hybrid seeded at the standard five pounds per acre results in 8.7 seeds per sq. foot. 


The council says that at 60 percent seeding survival, it would result in 5.2 plants per sq. foot, and that is a high survival rate under average conditions. It is below the safe minimum stand, which could result in decreased yield potential.


Shelswell said recent survey results indicate that 60 percent of canola growers don’t know what the plant population is in their fields.