7 Tips for Seeding Under Dry Conditions

FBN Network

Mar 01, 2024

Seeding is the first and one of the most critical steps in producing a successful crop. For Canadian farmers, dry soil conditions can inevitably add challenges, risks, and extra precautions for seed sowing. 

The main concern when seeding into dry soil conditions is achieving even emergence. Inconsistent crop emergence has season-long implications, including variable crop development, lower yield potential, more weed issues, timing concerns for in-season crop protection applications, and harvest challenges. 

The following seven tips can help mitigate the effects of seeding into dry conditions. 

1. Consider More Drought-Tolerant Crops

If your fields are consistently dry at seeding time, consider a crop plan that includes more drought-tolerant crops. Checking soil moisture before planting and using historical records can help you build a strategy that aligns with seasonal conditions. 

2. Be Mindful of Herbicide Carryover

Residual herbicide carryover is always a concern when soil conditions are dry. Generally, microbes in the soil break down herbicides over time, but when conditions are dry, those microorganisms are less active. Many crops may be sensitive to carryover from Group 2, 4, and 27 herbicides, specifically.

Evaluating residual herbicide carryover risk isn’t an exact science, but you can assess the risk on your farm by reviewing the previous season’s rainfall amounts. Generally, if rainfall amounts from the time of herbicide application through September are less than 150 mm, you may encounter herbicide damage in subsequent crops.1 Herbicide carryover injury may not show up immediately, but it will be evident after a soaking rainfall event when soil particles release bound herbicide and it washes into the plant’s root zone.

3. Push Seeding Depth

It’s no secret that seeds need adequate moisture to stimulate the germination process. Variable soil moisture can cause germination and emergence issues that limit a crop’s yield potential. Planting seeds deeper may help plants access more consistent moisture, leading to improved emergence. 

A rule of thumb is not to exceed 30% of the deepest recommended planting depth for a particular crop. For example, the recommended planting depth for canola is 0.5” to 1”, so plan to seed no deeper than 1.3” for best results.

If you do plant deeper, consider the risks. For example, planting deeper to chase moisture means cooler soil conditions for the seed. Cooler soils may slow germination, putting seeds at greater risk for more prolonged exposure to soil pathogens and insects. 

The extra distance required for emergence may also induce plant stress and burn through a plant’s energy reserves, resulting in reduced seedling vigor. Anticipate higher seed and seedling mortality rates as planting depth increases and adjust seeding rates accordingly. 

An effective seed treatment that contains fungicide and insecticide active ingredients can help mitigate the risks of deeper planting and is especially beneficial in fields with short rotations that may harbor more seedling pathogens. 

4. Split Fertility Applications

Dry soil is not ideal for most fertility applications as it increases crop injury risk and reduces nutrient availability in the root zone. The drier the soil, the greater the risk of fertilizer burn, especially for in-furrow applications. 

The amount of fertilizer that can be safely applied to dry soils depends on several variables, including: 

  • Crop species

  • Fertilizer source and rate

  • Soil type

Splitting fertility applications for nitrogen and sulfur under dry conditions may reduce crop injury risks and increase nutrient use efficiency. Applying 60 to 70% of a crop’s nitrogen upfront and following up with an in-season application when soil moisture is more favorable can be an effective fertility strategy in a dry year.1 

Adding products, such as soil prebiotics or biostimulants, to the fertility application may also help improve fertilizer uptake and efficiency. Avoid cutting back on phosphorus and potassium even when conditions are dry, as this could limit crop yield potential. 

5. Add Nutrients to Herbicide Applications

When conditions are dry, you may be tempted to reduce fertilizer rates or forego them entirely. However, adequate nutrition is even more important for plant health under stressful conditions. Giving plants the necessary nutrients can improve their drought tolerance and increase resilience after a stress event. 

  • Zinc, silicon, and magnesium increase antioxidant concentration and drought tolerance in plants.2

  • Phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, and zinc improve root growth, which increases water and nutrient uptake.3

  • Potassium and calcium help maintain plant tissue water potential under drought conditions.3

  • Boron aids in seed germination, pollination, and sugar transportation.4

Consider adding these nutrients with in-season herbicide applications to give crops a boost and help them manage the stress of a dry season. 

6. Take Advantage of Technology

Technology can help you make more profitable decisions when dry conditions challenge your plans. For example, soil moisture probes can help you assess how much moisture is available in fields and at what depth to help you make more informed seeding decisions. Soil moisture sensors can also help you optimize irrigation schedules and, when used with predictive weather models, can help you build a long-term strategy for managing drought conditions. 

7. Optimize Crop Protection Applications

Dry conditions may reduce the efficacy of some crop protection products, including herbicides. Under dry conditions, weeds produce more wax in their cuticles and grow more slowly. These factors limit herbicide absorption and activity in the weed, reducing control. 

Adding an effective, labeled adjuvant to the herbicide tank mix can help optimize spray characteristics for dry conditions. With every spray application, ensure you use appropriate water volumes to maximize coverage, reduce evaporation times and avoid chemical photodegradation. 

Buy Adjuvants from FBN Direct®

FBN Direct has a comprehensive selection of adjuvant products to optimize spray application performance in dry conditions, including:

  • Co-Pilot, a water conditioner that can reduce herbicide tie-up in hard-water tank mixes.

  • Falcon®, a surfactant that lowers water pH and reduces off-target drift.

  • Icon®, a non-ionic liquid wetting and spreading agent.

  • Accu-spray®, a deposition and drift aid that helps get more product on and into the target plant. 

With 24/7 digital shopping access, direct-to-farm delivery, transparent pricing and savings opportunities, and detailed label information for each product, FBN Direct offers everything you need to maximize your crop’s potential this season.


1. Manitoba Crop Alliance. Seeding wheat and barley into dry soils.

2. Malik M, Wani A, Mir S, et al. Elucidating the role of silicon in drought stress tolerance in plants.

3. University of Connecticut. A primer on plant nutrition.

4. Shireen F, Nawaz M, Chen C, et al. Boron: functions and approaches to enhance its availability in plants for sustainable agriculture. Int J Mol Sci. 2018. 19(7): 1856.

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FBN Network

Mar 01, 2024

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