Seedling Vigor

Factors affecting seedling vigor include soil temperature and moisture, planting depth and accuracy, fertilizer placement and pest control.

Soil Temperature

Prairie soils often reach 5 to 10°C in early May. Many consider this the minimum planting temperature for oilseeds, such as canola or flax. Cereal and pulse crops can be planted in somewhat cooler soils, but will emerge faster in warmer soils. Warm soils are more able to breakdown nutrients into plant available forms and there is increased activity of beneficial organisms.

Planting Depth and Accuracy

Planting depth is dependent on the crop being grown. You should plant shallow to ensure quick emergence, but deep enough to ensure access to soil moisture. Small seeds should be planted as shallow as possible to ensure good soil contact. Seeds should be placed at a uniform depth to ensure uniform emergence from the soil. There should also be a firmly packed, consistent depth of soil on top of the seeds.


Fertilizer Placement

Poorly-placed fertilizer can delay emergence or even kill seedlings before they emerge. Always check your provincial or state guidelines for safe rates of seed-placed fertilizer such as granular phosphate. While it is believed to be seed safe by many people, studies have shown that even light rates of seed-placed phosphate can delay emergence. The following graphs, taken from the Canola Growers’ Manual, demonstrate the damaging effects of seed placed phosphate.

More about fertilizer safety

Effect of seed-placed P fertilizer on canola emergence



Pest Control

Pest control early in a plant’s life can contribute to a higher yielding crop. Pests can include insects, bacteria and fungi that feed on the seedling or nutrients nearby. Commercial seed treatments are available and should be used where possible. These treatments often include a combination of insecticide and fungicide. Using certified seed and having seed tested for disease before planting can also help decrease pests’ presence.


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