Wheat School: Exploring the potential of precision planting durum

(Kara Oosterhuis/RealAgriculture)

Success in certain crop systems can sometimes translate to other cropping systems; for example, using a planter in corn adds precision and accuracy to maximize yields and improve agronomic management. In recent years, not a lot of progress has been made in the area of irrigated durum wheat yields, and Farming Smarter is looking at this corn example for ways to change that.

Ken Coles, executive director at Farming Smarter, is in the third year of a durum precision planting trial challenging durum yields, and he joins Kara Oosterhuis for this Wheat School episode.

“If we use planters here in durum, maybe that’s an opportunity to use that same type of approach — can we look at the distribution of seeds relative to each other, can we play around with row spacing, and what agronomic benefits would come from that?” says Coles.

Durum is the most susceptible cereal to fusarium head blight, and under irrigation is where the most FHB is found, which is a significant issue. A combination of management practices were trialed at Farming Smarter, in a sense “throwing the groceries” at durum, says Coles, in combination with using a planter.

If a more even crop can be established, then timing for fusarium head blight control, as well as plant growth regulator, becomes easier and more effective.

See the video for the full conversation, story continues below:

“In many sense the growth regulators will give you a stronger straw, and allow you to put more irrigation down, too,” says Coles. “The preliminary results so far in the first two years is that we actually are seeing an advantage to the planter.”

Coles has found a yield range of 105 bu/ac to 125 bu/ac, depending on the combinations of practices employed. There’s definitely an opportunity to push durum yields.

Not all of the data is put together yet, and Coles would caution that the data needs to be scaled up to fully apply to Western Canadian situations and not to run out the door to switch seeding equipment just yet.

“Planters are a totally different world, and it takes a totally different skill set in how to use them,” remarks Coles. “Not a lot of folks have actually seeded wheat with a planter, so being able to get the right discs, the right speed, the right vacuum settings, planters are finicky machines.”

Coles does appreciate certain features of a planter versus a seeder, such as the parallel linkage, the seed firmer, and the way seed is placed, adding that there’s huge potential to use a planter.

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