Saskatchewan Bulletin

Saskatchewan Bulletin

SaskCanola research results feature

How does in-row seed spacing and spatial pattern affect canola yield? Vegetative ground cover is key

Optimum canola crop yield is directly related to vegetative ground cover, according to research by the University of Saskatchewan and the University of Manitoba. The study indicates that seeding rate and row spacing are key factors in maximizing vegetative ground cover which in turn maximizes the solar energy plants need for seed growth.

Steven Shirtliffe, professor in the Department of Soil Science, University of Saskatchewan, is lead researcher on the project.

“Think of your crop as a solar panel,” explains Steven Shirtliffe, professor in the Department of Soil Science, University of Saskatchewan, and a researcher on the project. “Plants are collecting solar energy from the sun to create plant energy, which they put into growing seeds. The quicker a crop can build the layer of vegetation needed to collect the solar energy, the healthier the crops and the higher the final yield.”

The study was conducted in the dark brown soil zone and semi-arid climate of the Saskatoon, Saskatchewan region and the black soil zone and sub-humid climate of the Carman, Manitoba area from 2019-22. It produced similar findings at both locations. After reviewing plant growth responses to planting arrangements, the study recommends that canola growers seed at least 60 seeds per square metre (5.5 seeds per square foot) and have row spacing of 30 cm (12”) or less.

“Canola was able to compensate for low seeding rates by increasing branching and number of pods, but this delayed flowering,” explains Shirtliffe. “The row spacing effect was minimal compared to seeding rate, however wider row spacings always trended to lower maximum yields than narrower row spacing.”

Crops with the highest yields were those that had achieved and maintained full canopy coverage earlier in the growing season.

“The sooner you can get the plants growing, the faster they will turn to seed growth,” says Shirtliffe. “If the canopy is thin the crop will stay in a vegetative stage longer.”

Shirtliffe encourages producers to get as close to the recommended seeding density and row spacing as possible. However, he recognizes the significant cost and investment needed to purchase new equipment. He stated that information from this study can help in modifying existing equipment and inform future purchasing decisions.

“When turning over equipment, producers should look at what will achieve good emergence. If wide row placement is being considered to save seed and if you are only getting 30 per cent emergence, seed is being wasted and yield is being lost,” Shirtliffe says.

“If row width is pushed really wide to 30” or 36” by seeding with a row crop planter, those rows never filled in the space between the rows,” he says. “Any time the canola canopy didn’t fill or was delayed in filling in, the yield wasn’t as high.”

To read the full report, visit SaskCanola’s research database.

KEY FINDINGS: This research found that canola yield is maximized when seeding rate and row spacing result in the longest duration of vegetative ground cover. It is also confirmed that existing recommendations to establish five to eight seedlings per square foot with row spacings of 12” are adequate to achieve maximum yield.

PROJECT TITLE, PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATORS: “How does in-row seed spacing and spatial pattern affect canola yield?” Steven Shirtliffe, University of Saskatchewan, and Rob Gulden, University of Manitoba

FUNDING: SaskCanola

SaskCanola launches NEW texting service for farmers

In October, SaskCanola announced the launch of its new communications platform – an interactive texting service!

The addition of this platform aims to enhance efforts to communicate more directly about the ongoing, diverse ways that the commission is providing value to farmers by sharing real-time, customized updates.

To subscribe, text keyword SASKCANOLA to

Farmers who subscribe can expect to receive:

  • A weekly oilseeds market outlook report featuring insights from market analyst Marlene Boersch who provides updates on domestic and globa influences on canola market prices
  • Canola Watch, a weekly (during the growing season) canola
    production newsletter
  • Plus event notifications and urgent news/alerts

Farmers will also be able to engage directly with the SaskCanola team by texting the dedicated number to initiate a two-way conversation.

“Our intention with launching this new texting service is to provide farmers with timely information that empowers them to make informed decisions to optimize their farm businesses,” said Tracy Broughton, SaskCanola’s executive director.

By texting SaskCanola, you agree to receive promotional messages from SaskCanola sent via an autodialer. This subscription is not a condition of any service. Estimated 10 messages/month. Message & data rates may apply. Reply STOP to unsubscribe or HELP for help. Terms and Privacy Policy can be found at

Save the Date for Top Notch Farming Meetings

February 6 – Spiritwood
February 7 – Unity
February 8 – St. Walburg
February 13 – Melfort

Mark your calendar and plan to join SaskCanola, SaskFlax and SaskBarley this winter for one of our joint rural extension meetings. Visit to view agendas and register!