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Lentil Seeding

Lentils are well suited to a direct seeding cropping system, and seedlings tend to be vigorous and can emerge through crop residue. For best results, follow the recommendations in this section on selecting a site, seeding management, residue management, and fertilization.  For control of weeds, please seed Weed Control.

Site Selection

PLAN AHEAD

  • Lentil is a management-intensive crop. Before planting lentil, many issues need to be considered, which will often affect the crop you grow before lentil. These issues could also determine whether lentil is desirable in your rotation at all.
  • Lentil has a greater risk of developing sclerotinia stem rot if it follows canola, mustard, sunflower, field pea or faba bean in your rotation, so lentil should follow cereal crops.
  • Volunteers from previous crops can reduce lentil yield and quality:
    • Volunteer canola and tame mustard can be difficult to control with herbicides.
    • Volunteer barley and durum wheat are difficult to separate from large-seeded lentil.
    • Volunteer hard red spring wheat is difficult to separate from small-seeded lentil.
    • Failure to control volunteer cereals can result in reduced lentil grade.
  • Lentil should not be grown on the same field in consecutive years because of the risk of severe ascochyta blight infection:
    • Ascochyta can spread from lentil stubble from last year’s crop to adjacent fields containing the current year’s crop.
    • Ascochyta blight can also be spread by infected seed.
    • Anthracnose can be transferred by wind-blown dust between adjacent lentil plantings or lentil plantings and adjacent lentil stubble.

CHOOSE

  • Choose fields that are level and free of stones or dirt clumps. Because the crop canopy is not very tall, choosing a smooth field will make harvest easier.
  • Lentils prefer well-drained soils and will do better on lighter textured fields
  • Use a land-roller between seeding and the fifth node stage to level the field and push down stones.
  • Studies conducted at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada demonstrate the benefits of producing lentils on untilled stubble and the influence of the previous crop stubble height.
  • Lentil yield increased significantly as the stubble height of the previous crop increased. While pre-worked fields produced the lowest yields.
  • Seeding lentils into tall standing stubble helped reduce soil moisture evaporation, particularly prior to flowering, resulting in greater water use efficiency (amount of grain produced per unit of water used) by the crop.
  • As stubble height increased, the height of the lowest pod also increased, easing harvest operations and possibly reducing shattering losses.

AVOID

  • Avoid rocky fields. Harvest operations are usually done close to the soil surface, and rocks can damage a combine.
  • Avoid poorly drained fields to reduce the incidence of seed and seedling diseases.
  • Heavier soils with a high percentage of clay prone to crusting following precipitation can cause emergence issues in lentils.
  • Avoid soils with high N content prior to seeding, as these soils will inhibit nodule formation and are unsuitable for lentil production.
  • To reduce risk of Aphanomyces root rot, do not plant lentils on fields that have had a lentil crop within the last 6-8 years.  Consider alternating pulse crops in your rotation between lentil and faba bean/soybean/chickpea (all resistant to Aphanomyces) to maintain a 4-year rotation containing a pulse crop. 
  • When planning rotations, avoid seeding lentils into canola stubble due to increased risk of Sclerotinia.  Options for control are limited in lentil.  If you are going to grow these two crops in sequence it is advisable to plant lentils and then follow with canola as you have more options for Sclerotinia control.

MAINTAIN GOOD RECORDS

  • Keep good records on herbicides used in previous crops – some leave residues that will injure the lentil crop. Always read the herbicide label and pay close attention to re-cropping restrictions.
  • If a residual herbicide problem is suspected, check the manufacturer’s label (if the label does not clearly state whether lentil can be grown in the given situation, contact the manufacturer directly).
  • Lentil lacks the number of effective herbicide options that some other crops have (for example, no herbicides offer in-crop control of Canada thistle or perennial sow-thistle in lentil) – only fields free from these weeds or fields with sufficient control measures (pre-harvest glyphosate) the previous cropping season are suitable for lentil production.
  • Reduced germination and vigour can also result from herbicide residues.

 

SEED MANAGEMENT

 

Lentil Seeding Recommendations

Seeding

SEED

  • Use seed with both high germination and vigour.
  • Lentil seed is very susceptible to mechanical damage during seeding, harvesting, cleaning and storage operations (especially with dry lentil seed at 14% or less moisture) – although damage is often not visually apparent.
  • To avoid germination and vigour problems, all samples should be tested for germination, seed vigour and seed-borne ascochyta blight, and use certified seed.
  • Early lentil seeding results in taller plants that hold their bottom pods higher off the ground, which facilitates easier harvesting with higher yields and often better quality.

SEEDING DATES

  • Mid-April (southern Alberta), late April (central Alberta), early May (northern Alberta) usually results in the highest yields and quality.
  • Lentil seedlings can tolerate light frosts and will regrow (with a resulting delay in maturity) if damaged by heavy frosts.
  • Avoid excessive soil moisture at seeding because these conditions will increase stand loss due to seed or seedling rots.
  • Later seeded crops (mid- to late-May) of short-seasoned varieties will develop quickly in warm, moist weather and can sometimes catch up to an earlier seeded crop – the trade-off is that while crop development speeds up at higher temperatures, lentil can experience heat stress and slower crop development.
  • Temperatures exceeding 27˚C will often reduce the seed set of later seeded crops.
  • Always seed lentil into moisture because of its relatively large seed size. Avoid excessive spring tillage. Lentil can emerge from relatively deep seeding, although lower plant vigour, greater incidence of disease and lower yields may result. Optimum seeding depth under normal moisture conditions is 1 to 2 in. (2.5 to 5 cm) with seeding depths of 2 inches or more if you plan to use the herbicide Sencor®.

SEEDING DEPTH

  • 1–2 inches (2.5–5 cm)

SEEDING RATE CALCULATOR

SEEDING RATES

  • Seeding rate of 105–147 plants per square metre.
  • Thousand Kernel Weight (TKW) varies within market classes and between market classes, in general ranging from 30 – 80 grams.
  • Recommended seeding rates for lentil are 40 lb./ac. for small-seeded types and 80 lb./ac. for large-seeded types – rate is based on desired plant stand density of 10 plants per ft2 or 108 plants per m2.
  • Actual seeding rate should be calculated based on seed germination and vigour tests – it will be necessary to increase seeding rate to compensate for poor quality seed.
  • Like other crops, low seeding rates of lentil will result in poor crop competition with weeds, reducing yields.
  • Do not seed more heavily than the recommended rate, because densely populated stands encourage disease development.

SEEDS PER POUND

  • 5,600–15,000

SOIL TEMPERATURE

  • Seeding can begin when soil temperature is 4-5˚ C or warmer at depth of seeding.

Other Considerations

TYPE OF EQUIPMENT

  • Lentil is well-suited to most types of conventional seeding equipment.
  • When seeding lentils with an air seeder, keep in mind that high air velocity can damage dry seed (less than 14% seed moisture), so air velocity should be just high enough to avoid plugged lines.
  • If seed is to be treated with fungicide and/or inoculated with seed-applied inoculant, calibrate seeding equipment with treated seed, since seed coatings will affect the metering and flow of seed through equipment.
  • Large-seeded lentil is more prone to damage than small-seeded types – use belt conveyors to move seed; if using conventional augers, run them as slowly and as full as possible.
  • Mechanical damage to dry lentil seed (less than 14% seed moisture) can be reduced by seed moisturizing.
  • If seeding equipment has on-row packing, no further packing is usually required practices.
  • Seeding with discers or air-seeder units without packing wheels should be followed with harrow packing.
  • To prevent crusting, avoid packing operations on wet soils – seed needs oxygen for germination.
  • Any harrow packing operation should be done immediately after seeding because lentil emerges quickly.

LAND ROLLING

Land Rolling

  • Rolling fields to improve seed-to-soil contact and improve harvestability is very important.
  • Roll lentil fields soon after seeding and when the soil surface is dry.
  • Since lentil is harvested close to the ground, smooth soil surfaces and stone-free conditions are desirable.
  • A land roller can be used between seeding and the fifth node stage (no later) to level fields and push down stones.
  • Be mindful of crop staging; rolling after the fifth node stage can damage stems and branches and can seriously reduce yields. Water ballast is not needed, since packing is not the goal of this operation.
  • Do not roll:
    • before emergence if soil is excessively wet and/or prone to crusting – heavy clay soils are especially prone to this.
    • after emergence if a frost has just occurred, which may cause crop damage and yield loss due to increased crop stress.
    • when plants are damp from rain or dew – in these conditions, plant leaves adhere to the roller and tear, spreading diseases like ascochyta.
  • To avoid possible yield reductions and crop damage due to stress, leave at least a two-day break between rolling and herbicide applications.
  • Herbicide application is the recommended first operation if a choice has to be made between the two. The damage to yield by weed competition will be more severe than losses associated with a crop that has not been rolled.

Resources:

GROWTH STAGES

SEED TREATMENT

  • It is recommended to apply a fungicidal seed treatment when planting lentils, several products are available. Refer to the Alberta Blue Book to select the product best suited to your farm.
  • Be aware that some seed treatments are not compatible with lentil inoculants.

 

Seed Quality Testing and Evaluation

Lentil Seeds

GERMINATION TESTING

  • Germination testing is one method for evaluating seed lots for quality.
  • Germination addresses the seed’s ability to develop into a normal, healthy plant under favourable field conditions.
  • This testing can be misleading because seed may germinate well in the lab due to optimum conditions being present or to the fact that the seed has every opportunity to develop into a normal healthy seedling.

VIGOUR TESTING

  • Vigour testing, another method, assesses the seed’s potential to withstand unfavourable field conditions by assessing certain factors that influence seed quality.
  • While vigour results represent the lowest germination obtained from the lot, germination testing represents the highest result. Actual field germination would normally fall between the two.

VARIABLES IMPACTING SEED QUALITY

  • Germination and vigour are influenced by the physiological well-being and anatomical completeness of the seed plus its interaction with a wide range of environmental conditions.
  • Seed vigour is affected by:
    • genetic constitution
    • seed size and weight
    • mechanical integrity and soundness
    • deterioration, aging, and stage of maturity
    • pathogens
    • climatic conditions.

COMBINED TESTING

  • In years where unfavourable weather conditions prevail, it is best to combine a vigour test with a germination test to determine seed quality and performance more accurately.
  • Be sure germination results include adequate categorization of the seedling defects and the seedling’s ability to survive adverse conditions.
  • It’s impossible to predict post-seeding conditions with a vigour test, so seed is placed under a variety of stressful conditions, simulating climatic conditions as closely as possible, including:
    • cold temperatures
    • wet conditions
    • micro-organisms
    • seed soaking
    • accelerated aging.
  • Under these conditions, the seed must demonstrate the ability to germinate into a vigorous seedling.

Evaluation

  • Testing for vigour is an important tool if it is suspected that seed has sustained some injury or that the soil environment will impose stress on the seed.
  • Mechanical injury, such as small seed coat cracks, results in rapid water intake that leads to dead seed cells – this dead tissue then becomes a source of food for invading pathogens
  • Vigour tests must be combined with germination tests to predict field performance.
  • The seed may also require 1,000 seed weight and disease tests to completely assess the seed’s total quality.

 

Residue Management

FALL PRIOR

  • Use of proper straw and chaff management in the fall before seeding a lentil crop is critical.
  • Heavy straw conditions can create seeding problems such as hair pinning with disc openers or plugging between the shanks of an air seeder.
  • Hair pinning refers to a condition where the seed is pushed down onto the straw layer by the opener, creating a wicking effect, where there is poor seed-to-soil contact and, as a result, patchy or poor germination of the lentil crop.
  • Thick layers of chaff may also cause phytotoxicity to the next crop. 
  • Phytotoxicity is the phenomenon of reduced growth and yields of the next year’s crop due to toxic compounds leached from the residue and/or microbial activity that produces toxic compounds during breakdown of the residue.

Direct Seeding Considerations

  • Direct seeding is usually defined as seeding into standing stubble, but can also be referred to as reduced tillage.
  • Even and wide distribution of residue with a durable straw chopper and chaff spreader is vital.
  • To avoid plugging shanks, stubble height should be the same or less than the shank spacing of the seeding tool.

ROTATIONAL PLANNING

  • Proper rotational planning can also assist in managing heavy residue:
    • avoid planting high-residue crops back-to-back
    • include forages in the crop rotation
    • periodically bale and remove straw.