Barley Production in Alberta: Seeding

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 Zero Till or Minimum Till Production | Barley production on fallow land | Barley production on stubble land | Post seeding operations in barley

Zero Till or Minimum Till Production

Most barley is now planted into non-tilled soil, usually after a pre-seed burndown with a broad spectrum herbicide and in-crop weeds are controlled with selective herbicides.

Postharvest volunteer grain growth and weeds are controlled with wide-spectrum herbicides. Barley grown as a no-till crop in rotation with other cereals may contain volunteer grain of other species and varieties. Because soils under no-till culture are often cooler than tilled soils, some limited tillage may be necessary to warm up residue covered soils. Particularly in some central and northern parts of Alberta where the growing season too short. Seeding shallow into the usually moist soil that no-till land management creates will help offset much of this delayed maturity effect. Properly managing crop residue by evenly distributing straw at harvest is critical to the success of a no-till/direct seeding program.

Seeding barley into aterminated, forage field with a zero till drill requires good openers and depth control and additional nitrogen fertilizer to aid in the breakdown of the forage roots. It is important that the drill place the seed in the mineral soil with good, seed-soil contact. For more information on sod seeding go to this article: Removing Forages from the Rotation in a Direct Seeding System.

Barley Production on Fallow Land

Good fallow land intended for barley production the following year can be prepared and maintained with a wide range of tillage implements operated alone, or in conjunction with broad- spectrum herbicides. Where crop residues are sparse, it may be advantageous to control initial weed growth with fall or spring-applied herbicides, since tillage normally reduces protective crop residue that conserves soil moisture. Tillage should be as shallow as possible, on all normal soils, consistent with good weed control. Sufficient trash cover must be maintained on all fields to protect the soil from erosion and structural damage throughout the fallow period. Plowing buries all surface residue and will leave the surface subject to erosion.

Disc-type tillage implements reduce trash covers by about 50 per cent with each operation. Heavy duty cultivators, or blade cultivators, reduce trash covers by only 10 to 15 per cent with each operation, and therefore, leave the surface soil reasonably well protected from erosion.

When breaking up grass or grass-legume sod, such breaking should be done before July to allow time for mineralization of the nutrients in the newly incorporated plant material. Late fall tillage of the broken sod may provide good control of any grass regrowth and should leave the soil in a satisfactorily rough condition to resist winter erosion. Yields of barley on land broken from grass sod the previous year usually decrease with a delay in breaking beyond July 1st. This effect can be partially overcome by the use of higher rates of nitrogen fertilizer.

In the fall of the fallow year, appropriate soil samples should be taken from all fields, in all areas, to determine fertilizer requirements for the intended barley crop.

Spring tillage of fallow should begin soon after the soils thaw or when weed growth appears. Early tillage often helps to dry wet surface soils and allows them to warm, Early cultivation with a properly adjusted disker and packer, or heavy duty cultivator and rod-weeder, or cultivator and harrow, generally provides good weed control and moisture conservation. Tillage with these implements is satisfactory for preparing a suitable seedbed for barley on fallow.

A good seed bed should be worked to a depth of about 58 cm (2-3 in.), but the soil should be left firm to allow for shallow seed placement.

In some areas, on "droughty soils" (sandy soils), or where soil moisture is readily lost through tillage, fallows may be tilled and seeded simultaneously, with an air seeder or a disker-seeder followed by packers or harrows. In such cases, no pre-seeding spring tillage for weed control is done, but postemergence weed control with herbicides can be expected. This is a good example where a pre-seed herbicide application would fit in.

Barley Production on Stubble Land

Fall operations
Land preparation begins during harvest of the previous crop. Cereal and oilseed crops should be harvested high enough to leave erect standing stubble to catch snow and to protect the soil against wind and water erosion, particularly in southern and east-central Alberta. In central and northern areas, if practical, shorter stubble that will hold less snow may be left as an aid in drying fields in early spring. Unless straw and chaff is to be baled and removed for feed or bedding, combines should be equipped with efficient straw choppers and spreaders to spread crop residues evenly over the field, as an aid to subsequent tillage and seeding. This is critical using direct seeding and no-till practices.

Before freeze-up, appropriate soil samples should be taken from all fields to be cropped the following year, to aid the farmer in determining fertilizer requirements for the intended crop. Without soil tests crop nutrient removal can be estimated using the Grain, Forage and Straw Nutrient Use Calculator. Where soil tests indicate a need for nitrogen fertilizer, anhydrous ammonia may be shanked or knifed in when soil temperatures, at the 10 cm depth, are less than about 10 degrees Celsius. Conversely, prilled urea or liquid UAN can be applied as a band near the seed or broadcast. Surface application of nitrogen fertilizer is a risk of volatilization if not incorporated. Apply appropriate herbicides to control susceptible weeds such as Canada thistle and wild oats.

When crop residue is excessively heavy, i.e., after a 4 t/ha crop (about 75 bu/ac) if harvest was early, fall tillage of stubble with a heavy duty cultivator will help to reduce straw cover and may facilitate seedbed preparation in the spring. Excessively heavy residue may reduce yields of barley unless they are adequately fertilized with nitrogen and phosphorus. Shallow cultivation, done shortly after harvest, covers weed seeds and scattered grain, and promotes fall germination of such seeds. Deep cultivation tends to bury weed seeds and aggravates the problem posed by dormancy in wild oats and other weeds which germinate later, when subsequent tillage lifts them near the soil surface. Excessively deep cultivation also allows for loss of critical soil moisture in areas of limited precipitation.

Deep tillage to fracture real or imaginary mechanical or chemical hardpans is seldom necessary on any but some solonetzic soils in Alberta and provides no long term benefits. Winter frosts will generally fracture any consolidated soil masses in most other agricultural soils.

Crop stubble should never be burned. This practice is now rarely done. Burning reduces soil organic matter, damages soil structure and reduces plant nutrient availability. Straw contains 80% of potash used in the crop. Initially, yields of cereals grown on burned stubble land may be increased slightly, but repeated burning will reduce yields.

    Spring operations
    Most producers use a pre-seed application of herbicide to control seeding and winter annual weeds. Under wet conditions some producers till the land as early as soil moisture will allow, to try and warm the soil and stimulate weed seed germination.

    Spring tillage is used as an alternative or in addition to a pre-seed herbicide application, usually to control weeds that do not respond well to the herbicide. Initial shallow tillage with disc-type implements will incorporate about 50% of the surface plant residue, and sweep or blade cultivators, followed by packers or harrows, about 10-15% of the surface residue. Either will provide good weed control under reasonably dry weather conditions.

    Where soil moisture is abundant, tillage must invert or bury weed seedlings to obtain reasonable control. Under such conditions, superficial tillage may merely transplant weed seedlings.

    Where wild oats are a major problem, secondary tillage, and hence, seeding, may have to be delayed to allow for wild oat emergence unless appropriate herbicides have been, or are to be used. Delayed seeding to control wild oats is a rather inefficient and costly method considering the availability and price of today's wild oat herbicides. Delayed seeding is therefore a very questionable economic weed control procedure.

    Granular and liquid nitrogen fertilizers may be banded or broadcast on stubble fields, and incorporated before seeding but neither are as effective as banding the fertilizer close to the seed row.

    Post Seeding Operations in Barley

    Usually a harrowing or combination harrow-packing operation is advantageous. This operation not only preserves soil moisture and increases seed-soil contact, but helps level and smooth the land surface so that subsequent spraying and fall field operations are easier.

    A survey of barley producers showed that 90 per cent of the top producers did a harrowing operation after seeding in conventional tillage operation. In zero and minimum tillage fields, seed row packing is very important.

    Other Documents in the Series

      Barley Production in Alberta
    Barley Production in Alberta: Selecting Varieties
    Barley Production in Alberta: Seeding - Current Document
    Barley Production in Alberta: Fertilizing
    Barley Production in Alberta: Plant Development
    Barley Production in Alberta: Crop Damage
    Barley Production in Alberta: Pests
    Barley Production in Alberta: Harvesting
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    For more information about the content of this document, contact Harry Brook.
    This document is maintained by Brenda McLellan.
    This information published to the web on August 20, 2002.
    Last Reviewed/Revised on April 10, 2018.