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Plant Stand Counts in Spring Cereals

Crop Types
  • Barley
  • Wheat

With spring cereals beginning to emerge across the province, getting out and doing stand counts can help in assessing seed germination and emergence, see areas with potential crop loss, and evaluate seed quality. The ideal time to get out and do stand counts is around 21 days after seeding. Any earlier and you may miss some plants that have not emerged yet, and any later and it may be challenging to distinguish between two plants due to tillering/advanced growth.

Low stand counts mean you are not getting full value out of your seed. This could lead to a variety of issues throughout the growing season including increased weed pressure, less herbicide and fertilizer efficiency, challenges with extended maturity, and increased disease pressure. It is important to note that there could be a variety of reasons why your emergence may not match up with germination estimates from a seed test. These include disease pressure, moisture levels, weed competition, seed-to-seed competition, residue levels, fertilizer injury, and seeding depth, to name a few.

The number of counts required to get an accurate stand estimate depends on the variability of the field. Of course, if the field is highly variable, more counts will be required to get an accurate estimate. A good starting point is between 7-10 spots. Start by determining the length of row needed to equal one ft2, then count the plant in that row.

Row Width (in) Row Length Needed for 1 ft2
  Feet Inches
6 2.0 24
7 1.7 20.6
7.5 1.6 19.2
8 1.5 18.0
10 1.2 14.4

An easy way to remember how much of a row you need to count to equal 1 ft2 is to divide 144 by your row spacing (inches). The answer is the number of inches you will need to count. Keeping track of emergence percentages, environmental conditions, and soil moisture conditions every year, can aid in seeding decisions in future years, when conditions are similar.

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Field Issues

  • Seeding