East Central Agribusiness Breakfast Meeting Minutes – May 15, 2019

Thank you to James D’Auost and Pioneer for sponsoring breakfast. The next meeting will be May 29th at 7:30 am. If there are any suggestions on how to improve the meeting, or topics to discuss if you cannot attend, please let Ian McDonald or Christine O’Reilly know.

Cool temperatures are causing slow growth in overwintering crops. About 90% of the heat in an Ontario growing season occurs June through August, so we really aren’t missing out yet. Crops will go through their vegetative stage faster with a delayed planting date. However, fields are wet. Sprayers and even lawn mowers have been stuck in places where it has never happened before.

Much of the light ground in the region will take 4-5 days to get fits and heavier soils up to a week. It all depends on the heat and wind that are needed to “wick” away moisture from these saturated soils. Planting progress in the USA nationally was 29% last week and 26% the previous week. A change of 3% in one week means they are not that far ahead of us relative to their usual situation.


Safety always must be your highest priority. In a condensed, delayed spring field season, the pressure is high, the hours long, and the chance for breaks are far and few between. Regardless, you must remind yourself and those around you to be safe, cautious and calculated in the decisions and actions they are taking. Don’t cut corners to save a few minutes. The cost of doing so can be catastrophic.

With extended hours, less sleep, and the added stress, its important to keep in contact with your team continuously. Setting up a “Check In” protocol is recommended. With everyone having phones today, its easy to take a couple of minutes several times during the day to make sure everyone is “good”! This is especially true during night time but applies throughout the day. It also applies to farmers, retail trade and others who are working hard to keep up to the farmers.

Factors beyond anyone’s control often cause a lot of stress and anxiety. The group had some suggestions of ways to keep morale up amongst clients and colleagues as the wet weather continues.

  • Only make farm calls when you are in a positive frame of mind
  • Surround yourself with positive people
  • Be sure to have something positive to say on farm visits
  • Keep farm visits short and upbeat
  • Be a listener when you go on farm
  • Small acts of kindness, such as bringing coffee for others, go a long way!
  • Encourage producers to explore their marketing options that often have some desirable opportunities this time of year
  • Avoid reading, watching or listening to the news; they tend to cover negative stories

This may be a good time to review the crop plan and prepare to adjust as conditions evolve. It acts as a reminder to stay the course where appropriate, and to develop a Plan B that can be used if certain conditions, such as a calendar date or weather event, are met. Having confidence in a plan offers reassurance.

Growers worried about meeting obligations of forward contracts should contact the person they contracted with. Often a solution can be reached to address conditions outside the grower’s control.

The Ontario Mental Health Help Line is 1-866-531-2600, or you can dial 211 to be connected to mental health support in your community.

We have never had a year where a crop has not been planted in Ontario (south of the Canadian Shield). Other seasons have challenged the industry and we have always pulled through and will do so this year as well.


Planting deadline for spring cereals has been extended from May 15 to May 20th for Lanark, Ottawa, Prescott-Russell, Stormont-Dundas-Glengarry, Leeds-Grenville, Niagara, Hamilton, and Haldimand. Deadline for corn is June 15th, soybean is June 30th. The deadline for forage new seeding is August 31stInsured wheat fields taken out are entitled to a $114/acre reseeding benefit. If you sprayed it off to plant another crop and can’t get to it, you do not qualify for Unseeded Acres Benefit. In this case it is best to put a cover crop in and plant wheat in good time this fall. The cover crop provides a place for manure application from full storages and can act as additional forage, while avoiding soil compaction this spring.

The deadline to report acreage to Agricorp is June 30, however if growers finish before then they are encouraged to call in to avoid high call volumes. If growers think they will still have unseeded acres by June 30, they are encouraged to call Agricorp before June 15.

Edible Beans

With the combinations of weather and global markets, there is talk of more edible beans in the area. Some are already sold out on their edible contracts while there might be some opportunity with other buyers.


There are still decisions to be made on whether to keep or release some of the wheat fields. The wet weather delays are affecting these decisions because growers may not have time to take out wheat fields and plant other crops in a timely manner. If fields are questionable the consensus is that they should be taken because they have compromised ability to deliver a profitable yield. An option for those questionable fields that will be left is to plant alfalfa or other forages as there is likely to be a local demand for hay this fall.

Wheat stage is highly variable in the region both within and between fields. This needs to be accounted for in scouting and staging of other crop inputs.

The group estimates 50-60% of the wheat crop has had nitrogen. Most of the fertilizer that has been applied went onto healthy wheat acres. Response to the N hasn’t been as much as we hoped to date, but cool damp weather means the plants aren’t growing to access the N. However, on fields where spreading got interrupted, its easy to see where the fertilizer was applied. With the cool, wet spring, sulphur deficiencies may become an issue. It is easily mistaken for nitrogen deficiency. Fields that received ammonium sulphate this spring look very good. Wheat can respond to foliar applied S so be sure to diagnose nutrient deficiencies accurately.

Weed control will be very important and timing is critical. The best time is as soon as the sprayers can get on the fields, and after N application in most cases.

While people struggle to put additional inputs into poorer crops, those crops are often the ones that need the protection most. As straw is likely to have higher value this fall, fungicides should be considered to promote straw yields and quality. Scouting will be important since disease severity may be reduced in lower stands where there is a lighter canopy.

Most of the intended spring cereal acres are still not planted. The Agricorp planting deadline of May 15th has been extended by 5 days. Planting beyond that date will be a function of feed and straw need. Delayed planting puts flowering into traditionally hot temperatures and this impacts yield potential.

If you are going need bedding this fall, book it early either locally or through a broker who will be securing inventory already. Corn stalks can make suitable bedding. Nutrient removal of corn stalks baled in spring is low, as P and K have leached out of the stover during the winter. There was discussion about alternative crops like switchgrass. This perennial, warm-season grass can make good bedding. See Switchgrass Production in Ontario: A Management Guide for more information.


Winterkill is a widespread issue this year. Some producers have lost over 50% of their alfalfa. While the word is getting out, there are still concerns that not everyone growing alfalfa is aware of their situation. See Check Alfalfa Stands this Spring and Make a Plan for more information. Fields that were scouted early should be checked again because continued wet conditions mean those plants may not have survived. The planting season is still ahead of us, so producers have plenty of options for alternative forage crops, including:

In fields with less than 50% damage, growers could patch with red clover and/or grass (Italian ryegrass or typical perennial forage grasses). For best results, use a no-till drill. Once the alfalfa is over 15 cm (6 in.) tall, the plants are generally too competitive for new seedlings to establish well. In this case growers may have better success taking a first cut and then over-seeding into moisture. Plan to terminate and rotate patched stands in 2020.

Alternative forage crops can make great feed. The trick is to not manage them like alfalfa. Most are ready to harvest in 60 days or less, they don’t dry down well enough for hay, and they may require specific management to prevent animal health issues. See the articles linked in the list above for more information.

Because of widespread winterkill in alfalfa and winter wheat, seed for spring cereals and alternative forages may be hard to find. Producers are encouraged to place their orders as soon as they can and be aware they may need to shop around.

Discussion on whether 1st cut dairy hay will occur last week of May as usual. This will be field dependent due to the staging of the grass and alfalfa and amount of winter kill. Either way its likely that first cut will yield lower than expected. The only way to judge harvest date is to be scouting those fields continuously as we approach the 3rd week of May.

The OntarioHayListings.ca website is a free classifieds database for producers looking to buy or sell hay and straw.

Pastures are off to a slow start. Even though there is virtually no feed in pastures yet, some livestock have already been turned out because winter feed is in short supply. With the wet conditions this poses a pugging/poaching risk, and the early grazing will reduce overall yield for the year. Conventional wisdom says for every day of grazing too early, a pasture loses three days’ worth of grazing in the fall.


Probably less than 1% of intended acres are planted.

The biggest issue with soybeans right now is the impact of delayed planting on wheat planting date and the yield potential of that crop. Fields intended for wheat should have the shortest maturity beans and should be planted first. Under the tough conditions of this spring, soybean populations should be increased unless the weather really turns around and row widths should be narrowed to get early interception of sunlight by the later canopy.

Soybeans are usually more tolerant of being “mudded in” than corn. Think about planting soybeans first to give corn fields more opportunity to get “fit” prior to working and/or planting.


With the field conditions, there will be decisions made to change timing on operations: i.e. reduce tillage, plant direct, pass on burndowns, or delay fertilizer until after planting. All of these are options, but they need to be planned so they can be addressed once the crop is planted. Probably less than 5% of corn acres have been planted. There are fields that were dry enough to plant on knolls but getting to them was going to cause too much damage.

Lots of questions are coming in about switching hybrids. The switch date for the region isn’t until May 26th, but a lot can change in a short period of time, so everyone is trying to be prepared. Growers considering switching should talk to their seed suppliers. Suppliers should frame this conversation around the grower’s risk tolerance to Grade 4 corn and matching hybrids to the soils that are most suitable given the available planting date. Switching hybrids is about season length and flowering date. Changing for short differences in overall maturity will get the earlier flowering date which at this point is the important consideration. Hybrid differences must be 200 CHUs or more to make a real difference in the field. Yield expectations also must be managed.

Flowering date is a critical milestone for corn yield potential. Despite the delay in planting there will be some catch-up over the vegetative stage of corn growth. We have not likely lost as much as we think we have in terms of maturity potential relative to heat accumulation.

The switch date for silage corn is one week after grain corn. Corn silage hybrids should be chosen to give yourself some breathing room on harvest date to account for poor weather during some portion of the corn silage harvest window.

Do not “mud in” corn. Plant soybeans in tougher conditions first to give corn fields a bit more time to get fit! Also, pay attention to hay crop maturity, and consider cutting before you finish planting corn; for every day of delay, forages lose quality faster than corn loses yield potential.

There will be those trying to plant at higher speed. It depends on the planter and the conditions (i.e. rocks, soil clods, etc.). If your planter is not equipped for this, higher speeds lead to depth and skip problems that can hurt you. The target is a uniformly planted depth and population that emerges simultaneously.

There was considerable discussion on plant populations given the current spring. Some saying lowering the population could gain you some CHUs and give those lower number of plants more access to nutrients and sunlight. Others thought you needed to keep the populations up since the tougher conditions mean you need more plants available to compensate for a given % of those plants that might not make it under these conditions.

Regardless of the soil conditions, the group was adamant that planting depth should be 1.5” at minimum to ensure good establishment of the plants. More flexibility in soybeans. Make sure planters are equipped to attain and maintain the correct depth.

Weed Management

Next to no spraying has occurred. Rigs have been dedicated to N application.

Advisors need to set expectations if growers start changing their management plans, particularly in soybeans. There are not a lot of options for fleabane post-emergence in IP soybeans.

While weeds in the wheat crop need weed control now, weeds in other acres seem to have been delayed which makes sense based on cool temperatures and wet soils. This is causing a problem where some early germinating weeds (fleabane, ragweed) are getting ahead while others are just starting. On reduced-tillage fields this may result in two burndowns being used. Scouting will dictate that.

Even if we can’t plant based on soil conditions, we can often spray reasonably well so that is where people should be concentrating. Weeds are small and lush, so coverage and efficacy will be good under these conditions. This works especially where sprayers are equipped with proper tires for the conditions. Too many sprayers with narrow or old road tires will do a lot of damage under current soil conditions.


There are a lot of anxious people with large volumes of manure needing to address near-full storages. A wet fall and this spring have exacerbated the problem. Conditions are not fit for manure application across most acres. Waiting on soils to be fit for this will further delay planting but applying too early can do considerable damage to the soil from compaction.

Where possible, make sure spreaders are equipped with the best and biggest tires you can afford or fit under the unit. Inflation/deflation systems should be explored as the reduction in soil compaction is substantial. Get out only as much as you need to get you through and apply it on the fields that can withstand the stress the most. Save the rest for after hay cutting or cereal harvest. Some people are adapting to spreading into planted or standing crop if they have or have access to the equipment (draghose, big volume tires with inflation/deflation systems, in-crop application/narrow flotation tires with inter row injectors for corn).

Another opportunity that more should explore is selling/swapping manure with cash crop farmers. Both can benefit from these options.

Funding Opportunities

Canadian Agricultural Partnership intake closed May 5th. There were lots of applications submitted from the region. Best of luck to all applicants.

The Ottawa Valley Seed Growers Association is pleased to offer up to four $2,500 scholarships to recognize interest, knowledge and achievement in the Eastern Ontario agricultural community.

The scholarships are available to youth of Eastern Ontario enrolled in at least the second year of studies at any post-secondary College or University and planning to pursue a career in agriculture. Application form is available at: http://ottawafarmshow.com/youth-scholarship/

Please send your application before 4pm June 28, 2019

Upcoming Events

July 9th – Forage Expo West, Pendora Dairy, Ltd. 6447 Road 164, Monkton, ON

July 11th – FarmSmart Expo, Elora Research Station

July 12th – Ontario Soil Network Tour/Frontenac SCIA, Forman Farms, Seeley Bay

July 16th – Forage Expo East, Vosbrae Farms, 140 Skyline Road, Oakwood, ON

July 18th – Eastern Ontario Crop Diagnostic Day, Winchester Research Farm

August 8th – Compaction Day, Sheddon Fair Grounds

August 21st – Frontenac SCIA, car tour of apple production

August 29th – Compaction Day, Winchester

September ? – Ontario Soil Network Tour, Kaiser Lake Farms, Napanee