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Ontario Grain Farmer Magazine is the flagship publication of Grain Farmers of Ontario and a source of information for our province’s grain farmers. 

Field observations


July 10, 2020

Wheat harvest has begun in Ontario.  Hot and dry weather this week has created ideal conditions for thunderstorms to develop. This isn’t good for wheat, but corn and spring cereals sure could use a rain. Soybeans are fairing well in the heat, but will need their rain in August.



There is the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly out there this year for corn fields. There are so many factors that make a good corn crop, but rain is a necessity.

The “Good” fields have received the rains and were planted early and look amazing. Tassels in some of these fields are just starting to break through and will be in full tassel next week.

The “Bad” fields that have received rain just in time look okay but are variable as they may have had issues with planting timing, weed control, and/or compaction. Typically, these are the fields planted between May 4-8 that had a cold spell until May 15 and have been struggling ever since. The plants emerged unevenly so the crop will not be uniform for the rest of the year.

Then there is the “Ugly”.  Unfortunately, this crop had many things go wrong: planted wet, planted shallow, compaction from last year, missed the rains, or had weed problems taking moisture from the corn early in the season. 

Given these circumstances, we need to classify our fields and manage them properly until harvest. Good fields may still have a few challenges and if you are getting rains, be sure to protect them during pollination to prevent DON production in the grain. The ”Bad” fields will be uneven, and if dry weather is the problem, moulds will not be, but if the plant starts moving nutrients around and start robbing from the stalk and bottom leaves, the issue of stalk logging could be imminent this fall. Those who have the “Ugly” should be cautious not to spend any more money, as the chance of getting any payback is limited. You might need to find an alternative market such as silage. Be sure to call Agricorp and start a claim.

Rain at pollination is going to determine how this corn crop will be able to produce for this year. Drought stress at pollination (next two weeks) will limit the ability of the crop to initiate kernel development. Fewer kernels means less bushels per acre. Corn will try to make as much grain as possible so some kernel pollination and development will occur, but it will be limited based on the resources the plants can acquire.

Insects can pose a challenge as well. We still need to watch for Western Bean Cutworm. You should have your traps up as they should be arriving shortly.


Soybeans  are growing quickly. Now that we are past the  third trifoliate, the branching and additional trifoliates develop quickly. Flowers are now forming, and most fields are at the R1 stage (first flowers on any node). In  early planted fields, there may be plants at V2 (full flower – when there are flowers at the upper one or second node). Soybeans grown in Ontario are indeterminate type, they will continue to put out more flowers as the plant continues to grow developing pods on the lower part of the canopy and continue to produce flowers as the plant continues to grow. Dry weather for the beans now at flowering is okay as any loss in flowers can be made up in the next month. Dry weather during flowering limits white mould infection of the open flower. Rain for pod fill in August will be needed to make the crop.

Be on the lookout for two spotted spider mites. During periods of dry weather, spider mites will move into the edges of soybean fields. Do not mow the grass along soybean fields at this time as this will cause the spider mites to move into the field faster. Check out Tracey Baute’s article on spider mites for more identification and control recommendations.


Winter wheat harvest started in Essex County last weekend, with Kent County starting up on Monday. Hot dry temperatures dried the grain quickly. Low humidity on Tuesday morning prompted many farmers to start up at 10 a.m. Yields are okay as the plant stands were excellent on the early planted fields and tillering was exceptional this spring with the cooler weather. The only problem encountered on some of the crop was a rapid grain fill period in June.  The crop flowered during the first week of June and had hot temperatures and limited rainfall during grain fill, limiting the time the crop had to put carbohydrates into the kernel, limiting grain fill.  Those with limited to no rainfall in June will see the top end of their yield reduced due to smaller kernel size and aborted kernels. Grain quality to date has been excellent.  Those fields that caught timely rains during grain fill will have an exceptional crop.

The Ontario Cereal Crop Committee had their western Ontario inspection tour this week. Trial locations inspected were Ripley, Palmerston, and Elora. Crops inspected were winter wheat, spring wheat, oats, and barley. Overall, trials look good this year and it looks like we will have a good dataset. Harvest for these trials are a few weeks away for the winter wheat and not until next month for the spring cereals as the spring crops have just pollinated and are just starting the grain fill stage.

July 3, 2020

Warm temperatures are moving the winter wheat crop closer to the finish line; the crop has turned a golden colour in southwestern Ontario. Harvest will begin next week in the southern part of the province where moisture has been limited and the crop has died down.

Spotty rains have kept most of the corn and soybean crops moving along well in development. More rain will be needed in the upcoming weeks as the corn crop reaches pollination in the next 15 days.



Corn at the V11 stage is chest high and has five more leaves to emerge from the whorl before the tassel emerges. During this current heatwave we will see a new leaf emerge every three to four days. We will expect to see corn tasseling the week of July 13. Due to the variability of stress on the fields this year, we will see more fields with uneven tassel and silk emergence within a field.

The timing of foliar fungicides at pollination for control of DON will be more of a challenge in these fields. By now, the number of kernel rows on the cob has been determined (V8 -V10) and the number of kernels per row is determined at this time (V10 – V12). When evaluating ear size this fall, reflect back to the growing conditions the crop was under during ear set, as environment by genetic interactions do occur


Albert Tenuta, field crop plant pathologist with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, has found female soybean cyst nematodes (SCN) already developing on soybean roots. SCN are already active and will continue to feed on the soybean roots and rob the plant of nutrients.  The effects of SCN will be much more pronounced as the plant will be under multiple stresses as we are dealing with heat and drought stress on the crop. 

Insects to keep an eye on this summer will be soybean aphids and spider mites. The hope is that there are enough beneficial lady bugs that they will be ready to feed on the aphids. If you see a population surge on aphids, don’t spray unless you reach the threshold of over 250 insects per plant and they continue to climb above that. Spraying for aphids also removes the beneficial insects that will help to control the aphids for the rest of the year. Keep lady bugs around for as long as you can as they are doing the pest control work for you. As wheat is being harvested and dry weather persists, spider mites will be the next insect that will need to be scouted for and sprayed if the threshold of four mites per leaf is met.

The field perimeter, or areas where they move into the field, is all that needs to be sprayed.


Peter Johnson, agronomist with Real Agriculture, was looking for a wheat plant with lots of wheat heads. Pete found this plant while on the Ontario Cereal Crop Committee (OCCC) tour last week in Inwood. A single seed produced 25 wheat heads. Not bad when a plant has lots of room to grow in open space. Johnson’s next quest is to figure out how to do that with 1.4 million seeds per acre.

The OCCC wheat tour last week observed social distancing rules while inspecting the winter wheat trials from Woodslee to Centralia with stops in Tupperville and Inwood. Wheat trials look good this year and we expect to have some good data from Zone 1. Wheat tours will continue next week as the crop matures across the province.


Areas that received timely rains over the past two weeks will have a tremendous wheat crop this year. Unfortunately, there are a lot of areas that missed a rain or two and do have small wheat kernels and some aborted kernels. Top ends will not be seen by all, but the quality of grain looks to be good with very few fusarium infected heads.

As harvest will be starting up in the province, we hope all farmers will have a safe and timely harvest. Please remember to protect yourselves and those you work with by practicing social distancing when delivering grain. Contact your delivery point and ask what requirements are expected this harvest season. This may affect how you bring samples in for moisture checks or how receipts are received as most locations are not allowing people in the buildings. Plan ahead, be patient, and be safe.

June 26, 2020

THE CRACKS ARE starting to show in the 2020 winter wheat crop. Literally, the cracks in the soil are expanding greater this week as the crop is removing a tremendous amount of water from the soil as its water use is greatest now that it is trying to fill the wheat heads.

Warm and dry weather has continued across the province this week, with some isolated showers gracing a few locations.  Thunderstorms have  brought flash rains to some locations. Large areas of the province have missed several critical showers resulting in extended stress on the crops.


Dry weather has taken the top end out of the bulk of the cereal crop. Many winter wheat fields are starting to turn yellow in southern Ontario. The flag leaves are drying out as the wheat plants start to cannibalize themselves as they try to finish grain development. Fields receiving a timely rain have been able to continue to produce sugars and accumulate starch in the kernels as flag leaves are still green. Rapid senescence (death) will occur in these drier areas as harvest timing approaches rapidly.


Replanting of some crusted fields continued this week as light rains did not arrive to help soften the crust. Timely rains will help plant stand establish on the later planted fields as some seed remains in dry soil. Earlier planted fields are in the 3rd – 4th trifoliate, while the majority of the crop acres are in the 2nd trifoliate stage of growth.

Post emerge herbicide applications are being applied on fields that are experiencing weed escapes.



Corn has been growing quickly over the past week. Ideal heat and sunshine drives plant growth at this V8 leaf stage. Under ideal conditions it has been noticed that the early emerging plants of the field are producing multiple tillers. This is all driven by the environment and some plants will show more activity as they have ideal root development and plant growth .They were the first to emerge and have had the advantage of more sun, moisture, and nutrients and with this advantage are putting the extra growth into tillers. Fields with lower populations, but same or higher nutrients, will see more tillers if moisture conditions will allow. Even in dry fields this is evident as many fields struggled to emerge and emergence was so variable. Tillers do not take away yield, rather it’s an indication that the plant growth is ideal for that particular plant.

Corn fields that had been crusted over in May and were touched up with a second planting are seeing some stress conditions with the higher population. The two crops will compete all year. Ideally one of the crops needs to be removed.

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