Optimal plant density is required to improve plant phenological traits and maximize seed yield in field crops. In this study, we determined the effect of plant density on duration of flowering, post-flowering phase, and seed yield of canola in diverse environments. The field study was conducted at 16 site-years across the major canola growing area of western Canada from 2010 to 2012. The cultivar InVigor® 5440, a glufosinate-resistant hybrid, was grown at five plant densities (20, 40, 60, 80, and 100 plants m-2) in a randomized complete block design with four replicates. Canola seed yield had a linear relationship with plant density at 8 of the 16 site-years, a quadratic relationship at 4 site-years, and there was no correlation between the two variables in the remaining 4 site-years. At site-years with low to medium productivity, canola seed yield increased by 10.2 to 14.7 kg ha-1 for every additional plant per square metre. Averaged across the 16 diverse environments, canola plants spent an average of 22% of their life cycle flowering and another 27% of the time filling seed post-flowering. Canola seed yield had a negative association with duration of flowering and a positive association with the days post-flowering but was not associated with number of days to maturity. The post-flowering period was 12.7, 14.7, and 12.6 d (or 55, 68, and 58%) longer in high-yield experiments than in low-yield experiments in 2010, 2011, and 2012, respectively. We conclude that optimization of plant density for canola seed yield varies with environment and that a longer post-flowering period is critical for increasing canola yield in western Canada.
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