Ontario crop update

SPRING CHALLENGES AND SUMMER OUTLOOK

BARLEY AND OATS
According to Craig Martin, operations manager, Cribit Seeds, planting went well, with most spring cereals planted in a timely manner. There were some situations where the seed beds dried out, resulting in some spotty emergence. The spring’s cool, dry conditions helped reduce some disease pressures, but the warm spell in May triggered some plants to start reproductive growth resulting in some shorter crops with earlier heading dates. Farmers will need to watch for disease pressure and do what they can to protect the minimal amount of plant material that is there to ensure what kernels are set develop properly.



On the marketing side, Martin says he suspects Ontario barley and oat acres are down from last year. Expectations are that yield will be off slightly as well, given the drier growing season. In addition, there seems to be some old crop around, more so on the oats then the barley in Martin’s trading area, so he advises oat growers may want to have a market lined up for their product.

CORN
“The cold weather and conditions that persisted at planting time and below the furrow depth posed a challenge,” says Ken Currah, market development agronomist, Pride Seeds. “Tillage seemed to wick this cold up to the furrow depth after planting which has resulted in gaps in stands. Cold water uptake and/or chilling injury is the cause of most of these gaps.”

Currah says the heat of May 25-28 allowed these plants to emerge late at the same leaf stage as the crop; however, this delayed emergence opened the door to insect feeding. Millipedes, grub/chafer, and wireworm posed an issue; wireworm in particular is much worse this year.

“Higher residue practises, cold soils, and no-till practises all fuel the fire,” says Currah. “This has been a year that will prove the value of insecticide seed treatments.”

Despite a cold start to the season, corn loved the heat seen in June and Currah says he’s seeing some quality corn in his area. Dry weather as we saw this year sets the plant up to be able to better tolerate drought stress during the season, which most of the long-term weather forecasts are pointing towards.

“I think many growers will have to recognize the impact of the challenging conditions at planting on yields this fall. There’s a long way to go, but so far, the growers that managed their planting operations well (timing, tillage/ planting equipment set-up, manure traffic) are being rewarded,” says Currah. 

“Cold spring conditions would have made nitrogen availability minimal prior to the V5 stage; and now that we’ve had temperature and a bit of rainfall, let’s hope this N becomes available in ample amounts during V6-VT when the plant is demanding for it.  This could be something we look back on in November when we’re trying to assess where some very impressive whole-field yields came from.”

Currah advises growers to manage for yield opportunity, particularly nitrogen management and VT fungicide, targeting fields with above-average yield potential, and a history of disease pressure. He also suggests growers watch the corn producers planting into green cover crops, terminated covers, or are utilizing in-season cover crops this year to improve soil health and structure.

SOYBEANS
J.D. McFarlane, area sales manager, DuPont Pioneer, says soybeans in his area (west of Kitchener-Waterloo) varied in crop condition and staging this spring.

The two main issues this year, according to McFarlane, are stand establishment and insect pressures which have left many growers faced with the decision to replant or not. Stand establishment was an issue due to lack of moisture across the province for the better part of May. Rain in some areas in early June brought needed moisture to germinate viable seed that had been planted more than 30 days prior. Unfortunately, some areas went without adequate moisture and farmers were forced to wait to replant. In a few rare cases, seed was planted too deep in the pursuit of moisture and resulted in early replants.

In Grey, Bruce, and north Huron County, normal planting times followed by cold temperatures resulted in issues with emergence and insect pressure, particularly seed corn maggot. The severity of feeding was dependent on whether growers applied insecticide on the seed or not. Even where insecticides were applied, some growers were still forced to replant.

“For the most part, growers are happy,” says McFarlane. Discolouring in beans seen in June will pass as the plants nodulate and start to produce enough nitrogen to meet the fast growth. “Growers should scout fields and talk to their local sales reps to make sure they apply fungicides and/or insecticides where needed and in a timely manner. Given the dry conditions we’ve experienced, we need moisture in the coming weeks, but there is still the potential for exceptional yields if we receive timely rains in August.”  

WHEAT
Both winter and spring wheat had a great start to the planting season, according to Rob McLaughlin, sales and marketing manager, C&M Seeds. Spring wheat acres are down in the province this year due to higher winter wheat acres. Milder fall and winter temperatures resulted in very little winterkill. The crop started to grow early in the spring with little stand count loss over the winter.

Stripe rust blew into Ontario in May and continued to spread through June.  So far, the province has been at low risk of Fusarium, but a heading fungicide is still a very good decision. Growers should keep their eyes open for armyworm, which will affect spring wheat more than winter wheat based on crop staging. 

Dry and warm spring conditions also affected many areas of the province, which in extreme cases could lead to significant loss. The implications of dry conditions range from a slight yield reduction due to earlier heading caused by drought or a significant yield loss and aborting of heads. McLaughlin says areas of the province that haven’t experienced drought stress or rust effects can expect higher yield potential.  Harvest began during the first week of July in Essex.

“I expect that there will be some lodging where fields were planted early with excessively high seeding rates,” says McLaughlin. “With a larger crop of wheat in the province than the previous two years, a timely harvest to ensure top quality is necessary. Growers should harvest early and avoid downgrades due to sprouting and mildew, and should heavily consider finding a way to use “seed placed” phosphorous to get the best return this fall.” •