By Garth Massie, Corporate Agronomist, Morris Industries Ltd.

In Western Canada, we’ve left no stone unturned in researching how to maximize canola yields. Whether you’re talking about a new canola hybrid, pest control product or fertilization technology, even a tiny increase in yield gets everyone’s attention.

However, in our search for higher canola yields, we may have one more stone to turn over: the survival of canola seed or the percentage of seed that develop into plants.

Last fall I attended a Canola Discovery Forum organized by the Canola Council of Canada on canola stand establishment. I came away from the event with two significant takeaways:

  1. 40-50% canola seed mortality is still considered normal for farmers planting canola with air seeding systems.
  2. Agronomic recommendations going forward set canola seeding rates at 10 seeds/ft2 with the goal of establishing 5-6 plants/ft2.

This surprised me. My experience measuring canola emergence with Morris independent opener drills has led me to expect a higher survival rate. Crop emergence counts in customer fields have ranged from 70% survival in dry springs up to 87% survival in small plot replicated testing under optimal planting conditions.

Plant survival matters because canola seed is expensive. As farmers, we aim to establish a uniform plant stand to maximize yields. If we can achieve the same plant stand with less seed, we are spending our crop input money more effectively. Check out the example below:


Canola seeding rate (seeds/ft2) Canola survival (%) Plant establishment (plants/ft2) 5 g/1,000 canola seeding rate (lb/acre) Cost per acre (@$12/lb seed)
8 70 5.6 3.84 $46.08
10 55 5.5 4.8 $57.60


Based on this information, there is the potential to reduce seeding rates by almost 1 lb/acre resulting in $11.52/ac in cost savings.

The cost per acre of a mid-sized independent opener drill according to the Saskatchewan Government Farm Machinery Custom and Rental Rate Guide for 2018-2019 is $12.13/acre. Comparing this against the potential saving in seed costs outlined above, the economics of using Morris Quantum and Contour drills look highly favourable.

Certainly, it’s time for Morris independent opener drill customers to re-assess their canola seeding rates.

How can you improve the canola seedling survival on your farm (aside from stepping up to a Morris Quantum drill)? I would focus on three key areas – optimizing soil-seed contact, fertilizer-seed separation and consistent depth control. This is the Morris recipe behind the outstanding seedling survival performance of our independent opener air drills.

For over 10 years Garth Massie has worked for Morris Industries Ltd., developing farmer-inspired, superior technology both in Canada and for the global marketplace. A farmer himself, Garth and his family run a mixed farm operation 100 kilometers west of Saskatoon.