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Canola Counts: A science project for everyone

Five to eight plants per square foot is the Canola Council of Canada’s recommended target canola stand for maximum yield potential.

Five to eight plants per square foot is the Canola Council of Canada’s recommended target canola stand for maximum yield potential. But how many fields across the Prairies are within that range? The new Canola Counts project is a citizen-science survey to help us find out.

Through the project, we would like farm families, agronomists, certified crop advisers (CCAs) and any other interested person to count canola plants at the two- to four-leaf stage and enter results at

“We want to gather data on canola plant populations across the Prairies to compare regions, and track plant establishment improvements over time,” says Autumn Barnes, my colleague at the CCC who got this survey going. “To give a little more incentive, we’ll have draws for prizes. The more fields you enter, the greater your chances of winning.”

How to count plants

Plant counts are time well spent, and the tools needed are simple – a hoop or a metre stick. We like to use a hoop with an inside diameter of 19″ and circumference of 60″, which covers two square feet. Count the number of plants inside the hoop and divide by two to get plants per square foot. A hoop of this size captures plants from two seed rows  to give a larger sample size and improve accuracy.

To count with a metre stick, lay the stick along a row and count the seedlings within that metre. Take that number and multiply by 100 then divide by the spacing between seed rows (in cm) to get plants per square metre. Divide by 10 to get plants per square foot.

For your own interest, you may want to check every field across the farm and compare. Enter as many fields into the survey as you want.

How to input data

The program is mobile-friendly and data entry takes about a minute. Step one is take several plant counts across a canola field to get an average number of plants per square metre or square foot. Then visit CanolaCounts.caand enter the field info, including average plant density, and let the tool calculate emergence. The program provides a summary email you can share with partners, clients or staff. At the end of the season, review Canola Counts maps to see how your fields measure up to regional norms.

In an ideal world, each canola seed will germinate and grow into a seed-producing plant, but most canola fields will not see a 100 per cent emergence rate. With plant counts and emergence calculations, as well as regional benchmark information from the Canola Counts map, farmers and agronomists can evaluate seed survival rates and adjust seed placement, seeding rates and other plant establishment steps as necessary to improve the return on investment for seed.

We hope you see the value in plant counts, and share your results at We ask for your name for the prize draw, but individual names and field locations are not shared when we put together the results. This is about the canola community coming together to share results so we can all improve.

– Jason Casselman is an agronomy specialist and plant establishment lead with the Canola Council of Canada. Email