Exeter Agribusiness Breakfast Meeting Minutes – April 30, 2019

Thanks to David Townsend who chaired the meeting and to BASF for sponsoring breakfast.  Joanna Wallace has agreed to be the chairperson for the next meeting that will be on May 14th starting at 7:00 am for breakfast (meeting starts at 7:30).

Synopsis:  Rain, rain, and more rain has been the story for Ontario over the last few weeks.  Not only has it been wet and cloudy it has also been cooler than normal.  There has been tremendous soil erosion this spring.  This is a good opportunity for growers to assess problems in their fields from an engineering perspective with respect to drainage and soil erosion.  Essentially no field work has been possible this spring except for one or two days when soil conditions were dry enough to apply nitrogen to wheat in a few areas. Most of the wheat has NOT received nitrogen.  In some areas as little as 10% of the wheat has received nitrogen while others it may be as high as 25%.  Much of the discussion at the meeting focused on the wheat crop.  The consensus was that about 1/3 of the wheat is in good shape, 1/3 is questionable and will likely be kept, and 1/3 is poor enough that it should be taken out.  In some cases, wheat that would normally be taken out is being kept due to high bedding prices.  It should be noted that straw can be imported from Western Canada at competitive prices so there is a limit on how high prices are likely to get.  The condition of the wheat crop is regional and worse on poorly drained clay soils.  Eroded knolls that are well drained also look poor and the hollows are dead due to ice.  Soil health is an important factor in winter survival this year.   It was reported that in the St. Mary’s area as little as 10% of the wheat will be taken out.  In Kent county some growers are taking out 100% of their wheat crop.  There is an excellent video by Russ Barker on his experience scouting winter wheat fields this spring.  See: https://youtu.be/HY1hbqqvqI0

There was considerable discussion over the non-farming public’s perception of agricultural pesticides.  Off target movement of pesticides (especially in the US) over the last few years has brought this issue to the forefront.  The group was encouraged to pick up this discussion at the next meeting.  How can we help educate the public with respect to agricultural issues including the use of pesticides?

Wheat:  Many of the best winter wheat fields in the area were seeded after edible beans making an early planting date possible.  This is one of the benefits of having edible beans in the crop rotation.  Early wheat is now at growth stage 30 or 31.  If N has been applied how much was lost due to the rain?  Generally, it’s only about 1-2% per day if the soils are saturated, the upper limit being 5% a day.  Denitrification losses are highly dependant on temperature.  It’s been so cool that losses should be minimal.  Has the good wheat that has not received any nitrogen suffered yield losses?  In 12 “big wheat” trials from the last few years, they found that a delayed nitrogen application to growth stage 32 only showed a statistical yield loss when waiting that long in 2 of the 12 trials.  The wheat has also been growing relatively slowly due to the cold conditions so yield losses from a delayed nitrogen application should be minimal to date.

For those growers that will be taking out poor wheat fields herbicide programs should be based on the weed spectrum of the field and the crop to be planted.  One L/ac of glyphosate does an excellent job of killing the wheat.  Remember that glyphosate can be slow acting when conditions are cool.  The crop will die eventually but it will take longer under cooler conditions.  A higher rate will work more quickly.

Are there any possible disease impacts if wheat is taken out this spring planted to soybeans and then seeded back to wheat again this fall?  The answer is no, there should be no real issues with that practice.  If patching up winter wheat fields with spring wheat it is crucial that the grain at harvest is kept separate.  You cannot mix the two classes.  For this reason, some growers may opt to use winter wheat this spring to patch up fields.  This will reduce weed pressure in those parts of the field but there will be no grain and essentially no straw.  Winter wheat planted in the spring stays short, green, and will not produce grain.  If a field is patched up with winter wheat this spring it will need to be desiccated this fall.  If using red clover use single cut red clover instead of double cut.

There are weeds starting to show up in wheat fields. The good news is that winter wheat is extremely competitive and yield losses from weeds in research trials are only about 3% on average compared to a 50% reduction in corn (These are average numbers given for the purpose of comparison.  Results from individual fields will vary, depending on weed pressure, species, etc.).

Soybeans:  If a field received nitrogen fertilizer for winter wheat or even corn this spring but is then switched to soybeans does the nitrogen cause problems for the soybean crop?  Generally, there are no issues that arise from fertilizing soybean with nitrogen unless levels are well over 100 lb/ac of N.  The soybean crop will simply use the fertilizer N before it fixes nitrogen from the atmosphere.  In extreme cases where there is excess nitrogen the beans may get lush and be more susceptible to white mould or lodging but they still pod up normally.  Fertilizer N will delay nodulation if amounts exceed 50 lbs/ac.  It is theoretically possible for nodulation to be so delayed that yields suffer from insufficient nitrogen in late summer, however, field experience has shown this rarely happens in Ontario.

Corn:  When should I make the decision to switch corn hybrids?  Suggested switch dates from Pub 811: Agronomy Guide for Field Crops is presented in Table 1. These switch dates are adapted from US data and represent dates where switching to shorter season hybrids was demonstrated to result in greater returns after drying costs and test weight deductions relative to full season hybrids. Maturities should be reduced 100 CHU for every week after these dates. It is important to note these switch dates are for hybrid maturities adapted for your area. If you intend to plant hybrids with longer maturities, you should consider switching hybrids earlier. If drying costs are more concerning to you, you may want to switch on the earlier side of suggested dates.

Table 1. Recommended dates to switch from full-season hybrids across various heat unit zones (Pub 811, Agronomy Guide for field Crops).

While many are getting concerned that we are now into May and no corn has been planted, it is important to note that the planting window for high yield potential is still open.   Ontario data suggests that 95% yield potential is still attainable if corn is planted by June 1 in Ridgetown, May 25th in Exeter and May 20th at Elora (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Average corn yield response to planting date at three locations in Ontario from 2006-2009. Yield is average of eight adapted hybrids selected for each location (Dave Hooker and Greg Stewart).

 Agricorp:  There have been about 2,200 damaged winter wheat reports to date mostly from Essex, Chatham-Kent, Lambton, Middlesex and Perth counties.  Winter wheat can still be insured to May 1st but must be inspected this spring for coverage.  May 1st is also the deadline for making changes to 2019 coverage.

Stratford Crop Technology Contacts:

Horst Bohner, horst.bohner@ontario.ca

Joanna Follings, joanna.follings@ontario.ca

Meghan Moran, meghan.moran@ontario.ca

Jake Munroe, jake.munroe@ontario.ca

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The 2020 Field Research Workshop builds on the 2018 Technician Training Workshop, which was focused on technicians and supervisors in field crop breeding programs.

The 2020 Field Research Workshop is a unique opportunity for all staff involved in a field research program, including faculty members, technicians, research associates, postdoctoral fellows and graduate students, from across Ontario to learn essential skills for field crop trial management. It is being designed to address research in crop protection, agronomy and breeding.

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