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Plant Stands, Insects and Weeds in Dry Conditions

By Kaeley Kindrachuk, TechAg, Crops Extension Specialist, Outlook

May 2021

Cotyledon flea beetle damage on canola
Cotyledon flea beetle damage on canola

Dry conditions across the province have led to delayed and uneven crop emergence. Crops in low spots in fields may have emerged faster due to residual moisture and crops in higher elevations may be experiencing a delay. Not only are there decisions to be made about whether or not the seed that has germinated will contribute to a healthy stand, but the slow growth can have an effect on the crop competition with weeds and insects as well.

Plant stand densities are affected, but as long as most of the plants have emerged you may have a stand that will produce a viable and profitable crop. The table below shows the plant stand numbers (plants/square yard) for each crop to aid in determining whether the crop is established, where it is uncertain, or if it is not established.

Crop

*Not Established

*Choice

*Established

HRS Wheat

Less than 70

70-110

110+

Durum Wheat

Less than 70

70-110

110+

Barley

Less than 70

70-110

110+

Oats

Less than 70

70-110

110+

Flax

Less than 100

100-150

150+

Hybrid Canola

Less than 12

12-40

40+

Fall Rye

Less than 45

45-63

63+

Sunflower

Less than 3

3-4

4+

ESRS Wheat

Less than 70

70-110

110+

Mustard

Less than 25

25-40

40+

Field Peas

Less than 25

25-35

35+

Lentils

Less than 30

30-50

50+

Canaryseed

Less than 70

70-110

110+

SWS Wheat

Less than 70

70-110

110+

Spring Rye

Less than 70

70-110

110+

Triticale

Less than 70

70-110

110+

Winter Wheat

Less than 45

45-63

63+

Faba Beans

Less than 10

10-15

15+

Dry Beans

Less than 10

10-20

20+

CPS Wheat

Less than 70

70-110

110+

Coriander

Less than 55

55-85

85+

Chickpea (Desi)

Less than 25

25-35

35+

Chickpea (Kabuli)

Less than 15

15-25

25+

Soybeans

Less than 25

25-35

35+

Canola

Less than 25

25-40

40+

*Based on the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture recommended plant densities and seeding rates.
Table courtesy of Saskatchewan Crop Insurance Corporation

Insects can cause significant losses to crops in the spring if the crop is growing slower than usual. Frequently monitoring and scouting for early season insects like flea beetles, cutworms, and wireworms will help in determining how much damage they are causing. Be on the lookout for damaged plants, patches of missing plants (which may not be caused by slow germination), and the insects themselves. A rapidly growing crop is usually able to withstand and outgrow any damage caused by insects, but a stressed crop growing slowly may be affected by lower insect populations. Economic thresholds for each insect and crop differ. For flea beetles in canola, the action threshold is damage to 25 per cent or more of the leaf area (Figure 1). Cutworms can damage a range of crops and thresholds will vary depending on the species of cutworm and the crop being affected.

Flea beetle damage chart
Figure 1. Visual to help determine action threshold and economic thresholds for flea
beetles in canola. Picture courtesy of Canola Council of Canada.

Staging these fields can be tricky throughout the growing season, especially when trying to spray an in-crop herbicide. Not only will the crop have several stages within a field, but you may also see weeds of various sizes. The lack of moisture may inhibit weed seed germination as well, so targeting certain weeds can be challenging, as they will germinate later in the season if moisture is received. For most producers, it is too late to consider a pre-seed burnoff, as most of the crops have been seeded. However, for some producers, there may still be time to do a post-seed, pre-emergent herbicide application if weeds are actively growing. For others, waiting for an in-crop herbicide application is the next step. For crop staging, look at several areas within the field – high and low areas, different slopes – until you have a good idea as to what the range of staging is. Be sure to check the plants carefully as the growing conditions may have stunted the plants, yet they could still be at an advanced stage. This is where it gets tough to make a decision, but we recommend that you spray according to the staging across the majority of the field. The herbicides listed in the Guide to Crop Protection will give staging ranges for the crops they can be sprayed on and in some cases also indicate weed sizes. Have an idea as to what herbicide you will use ahead of time, so you will know when to start staging your fields. While staging the crop, be sure to have a look at weed types, stages, and sizes. Like the crop, some weeds like kochia could be very short, yet also advanced.

Read more about economic thresholds of insect pests or contact a crops extension specialist near you. You can also visit Saskatchewan Crop Insurance Corporations’ website for information on establishing benefits.

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