East Central Agribusiness Breakfast Meeting – June 26th, 2019

This is the last meeting for the East Central group until a season wrap-up in December. Thanks to everyone who made time to come out and participate in the discussions and those that take time to read and comment on the minutes!

As always, if there are any points included here that need clarification or amendment or addition, please contact Ian or Christine.

For annual crops seeded this spring, we recognize that many went into less than ideal ground conditions in terms of soil moisture, fineness of seedbed, no burndown, etc. To date things have looked okay because of continued wet/damp conditions that have kept soil from crusting and allowed for more uniform germination and emergence than we might have expected.

There are some reports of crops starting too look a little “tough” as it begoms to driy out, warm up and plants start to grow. We may see more crops struggle as the season progresses. Crops will have to be scouted routinely to watch for symptoms of poor performance and action taken where possible to correct an issue or protect remaining yield potential, i.e. timely herbicides, fungicides, insecticides, interrow tillage etc.

In this relatively livestock intensive region, feed inventories continue to be of primary concern to producers and those who support them.


Planting deadlines have been extended to July 5th for soybeans in the region. New forage seedings can be insured up to September 1st, and this coverage is available for annual and perennial forages; see the full list here. Growers are reminded that summer seeding of alfalfa is most successful in early August as temperatures start to cool down. New alfalfa seedings should be planted into good conditions, because the consequences of stressful growing conditions during the establishment phase persist over the lifetime of the stand.

It remains unclear how many acres of crops within the region and across the province have not been planted. Significant progress in soybean/edible bean planting and even corn (primarily silage) has occurred in the last few days. Over the last 3 weeks, about 3 periods of 3-4 days of workable time has been available to get on the land. Even so, many crops are going into less than ideal conditions and we may see this show up as weather conditions change to more seasonal. There remain people who have not seeded anything and this is obviously of concern, especially for those in need of feed.

The Unseeded Acreage Benefit (USAB) is based on a producer’s average farm yield, dominant crop, and whether they selected a fixed or floating price for the crop. Where previously the dominate crop was the highest acreage insured crop for the farm, choosing the dominate crop is now up to the farmer. The farmer should work directly with their Agricorp adjustor to determine how best to utilize the USAB benefit. This means that the claim benefit amount varies by individual, and growers should contact Agricorp if they are thinking about using USAB. Growers do not have to wait until the planting deadline to decide to take USAB. Growers may change their dominant crop prior to making a claim by contacting Agricorp. Farmers can elect to take USAB and still plant an uninsured crop prior to the planting deadline, such as cover crops, cereals, corn for silage/baleage, etc. Cereals can still be insured currently if intend for as an alternate forage crop. More information on USAB is available here.

Watch for separate articles on www.fieldcropsnews.com that will address cover crop options for unseeded acres and alternative forages.

The group expressed how appreciative they are of Agricorp’s willingness to work with people this season and support farmers in their struggles to get the 2019 crop into the ground.


Many winter wheat reseed claims where the fields were released in the area didn’t get planted due to the continued poor field conditions. These open claims are still insured as winter wheat and the original production insurance remains in effect.

A limited number of fields in the region got a fungicide application, due to weather conditions that prevented most spraying. Staging was relatively uniform for the early planted crop but much more variable in the later planted crop, further challenging fungicide applications.


It is surprising and frustrating to the group that many people were just waking up to how much winter kill damage had occurred in their forage fields when they got there with the mower. Reports suggest first cut yield in the region is about 60-65% of average. This is a combination of winter kill damage and cool, overcast conditions across much of the region. No data is available on quality yet.

Typically, first cut hay on dairy farms usually happens over a 7-10 day period. This year that harvest has been almost a month long, further affecting crop quality.

Now that it is the end of June, the group agrees that there is too much risk to trying to establish alfalfa. Farmers are much better to wait until the first week of August to ensure better establishment conditions for a crop that they want in place for the next 3-4 years.

On fields that were newly seeded this spring, growth has been slow and weeds are getting ahead of the forage in many cases. On new seedings, clipping is often used as a primary method of weed control. The timing doesn’t seem to be working this season. Caution should be used with herbicides with respect to forage species crop stage to avoid injury.  Follow product labels recommendations carefully.

On fields where a nurse crop was planted, ensure the cereal is harvested timely so as not to compromise the perennial forage. Too much shading and competition for water can reduce the yield potential of alfalfa before it even reaches a production year.

Sorghum-sudangrass acreage in the region is estimated to be at least double from last year. While this crop sometimes has a reputation as not making dairy-quality feed, it can be done if managed properly. First cut should be taken before boot stage to maximize quality, and growers should leave at least 10 cm (4 in.) of stubble to encourage regrowth. Stand density affects stem density: growers looking for tonnage should plant at a rate of 25-30 lbs/acre, while those aiming for dairy quality should consider 40-50 lbs/acre to encourage fine stems. Be sure to test sorghum-sudangrass at harvest and before feeding for prussic acid and nitrates; prussic acid generally breaks down during fermentation, while high-nitrate forage may need to be diluted in the ration. It is essentially impossible to make dry hay out of sorghum, it just wont dry under Ontario conditions.

While yield potential is less than at an earlier planting date, silage corn can still be seeded and growers in the region are continuing to plant silage corn when conditions allow. Since silage corn is insured under the grain and oilseed program with Agricorp, silage corn planted after June 17th is not eligible for crop insurance.

Fungicides will be important in both grain and silage corn this year to prevent fusarium and DON.

Alfalfa autotoxicity prevents new seedlings from establishing in existing alfalfa stands. While a fall 2018 seeding could be over-seeded with alfalfa (or terminated and re-established), anything planted spring 2018 or earlier is likely to pose autotoxicity issues and other forage crops should be considered to patch or replace the stand. If alfalfa-based forage stands have seen significant winter kill but grass density is still adequate, application of nitrogen fertilizer can be used to ensure optimizing the yield potential of the grass based stand especially where forage for stored feed is urgently needed.

Many pastures have been overgrazed, reducing yield potential, or selectively grazed, reducing forage utilization. It’s never too late to start rotationally grazing, or to subdivide existing paddocks. Either can provide pastures with a longer recovery period and encourage more even grazing pressure throughout the field. Grass pastures benefit from a nitrogen application of 50 kg N/ha (45 lbs/acre) after each grazing to boost regrowth.


With so much hybrid switching, and moving to soybeans and all, its very difficult to determine what the final acreages and planting dates of corn across the region and the province is. This should become clearer in the next couple of weeks as seed companies get a better handle on what seed went in the ground. It will be interesting to see what acreage targets went in by region across the province.

The corn side-dress nitrogen survey is underway. 62 samples have been taken from fields across the province. The average was 8.6 ppm N. For 6 samples taken in the area, the average was 9.3 (range 6.5-13.17). These numbers are low for the season and the date based on previous soil N tests. The sites will be resampled next week to determine if organic N mineralization has “kicked in”! The report for the 2019 Ontario Soil N Test is available here.

We are in uncharted territory for many things this season, including recommending N rates. We have delayed planting, cool wet soils, reduced yield potential and a wide assortment of fertilizer application timings and methods. There are concerns that early N has leached or denitrified depending on soil types. Typically, there is less of this than people expect, but again, it’s a very different year. The group thought staying with the Corn N Calculator recommendations was the best approach and using a realistic yield potential and taking account of fertilizer costs and corn prices in the calculator are important. The Corn N Calculator App can be accessed here. The downloadable excel worksheet is available here and the online calculator is available here. There was discussion about whether there would be value in splitting the nitrogen at this point, with some earlier and some later when we have a better idea of the yield potential, ie silking timing, weather for pollination, etc., and see how the early vegetative performance has been when much of the crop was seeded under less than ideal conditions.

In some areas, corn that was “mudded-in” is now showing Zn, Mn and other micro nutrient deficiency symptoms. The crop may grow through these as we begin to get some heat. However, it could also be an early warning that plant roots are stuck in a smeared seed trench and struggling to get out and access nutrients in applied starter fertilizer or available in the soil.

Fungicides will be important this year to prevent fusarium and DON. There are two main fusarium concerns in corn, whether grain or silage: ear moulds and stalk rots. Fungicide applications at silking are most effective on ear molds. Stalk rot management primarily starts with hybrid selection based on data present in the seed catalogs. Because this infection is within the stalks and primarily start at the base of the plant, fungicide applications are less effective in season but can still contribute to reducing the severity. Fungicides for ear rots at silking have the biggest impact on those hybrids that are more prone to ear mold infection as shown in UG Ridgetown and US trials.


When it comes to crop protection products, always read and follow the label! Not only is it important to check the crop and staging, but also look at the precautions. When tank mixing, remember WAMLEGS!

Much of the soybean crop has been seeded late, with the vast majority planted over the last couple of weeks. Research has shown a yield loss of 10% with planting after June 5th, 20% after June 15 and 30% after June 30. Since we don’t know what kind of season we have ahead of us, its not a predictive tool for yield, rather a guide to the potential yield loss that could be experienced. The yields of soybeans have been up the last 5 years so the loss may be less than using an average yield estimate might suggest. As with all crops, it remains as difficult as ever to predict yields on crops until the combines are in the field.

Weed Control

Limited acres of corn and soybeans received burndown treatments and even pre-herbicide programs. This will mean a lot of pressure on everyone to get sprays on timely. Yield impacts can happen quickly with weeds and crop growing together. This is a function of soil moisture, weed species, weed density and soil type. The biggest problem weeds in terms of impacting crop yield are those that emerge before or with the crop. Timing should target these weeds.

With the inability to get pre-emergence herbicides down and the later emergence of the crops and weeds with delayed planting, crops and weeds are going to grow quickly. This means both will “blow” through herbicide label restrictions on plant size/stage quickly.

Crops that are planted where the seed trench does not close should be considered “emerged”. Pre-emergence herbicides applied in these situations are likely to cause injury.

READ the herbicide products label. OMAFRA’s Pub 75 is not the label, it does not contain all the important information. Product labels are written to optimize herbicide efficacy and minimize the possibility of crop injury. Applying outside of the label recommendations will reduce the product’s efficacy and potentially lead to more crop injury.

This year crop and weed stages are extremely uneven, further complicating the application timing decision. Target those weeds and crop plants that are the majority from the staging perspective. Be realistic in your expectation of performance based on these many factors that have and are impacting this year’s crops.

Take Home Learning From A Difficult Spring:

What Works

  • Crop insurance – Agricorp has worked closely and with conviction to help farmers this year.
  • Burndowns – fields that had it are looking much better than those that didn’t.
  • Seed Companies, Input Suppliers and Crop Supply Retailers – a tremendous amount of extra effort has been made this year to try and address the many issues that this season has brought to the crop year so far, everyone appreciates the extra efforts by the ag community this year.
  • Patching up forages with annual rye drilled in early (when the problem was identified).
  • Rolling soybeans to enable harvest of all pods, since low pods add substantially to yield and can’t be reached if rocks or uneven ground prevents low cutting.
  • Tile works – even in difficult year where climate and a high water table slowed soil drying, systematically tiled fields did better.
  • We have corn that will not black layer – so long as it will brown layer it will make good high moisture grain for feed on farm as long as DON is low.
  • Farm equipment that is well maintained and correctly setup performs better – take the time in the shop to get it right ahead of time so you don’t have to deal with it during seeding or suffer the results that happen from its under performing use.

What Doesn’t Work

  • Not reading pesticide labels – you need to know timing, pest spectrum, and prioritize weeds to target.
  • Tank mixing herbicides after flowering has started in soybeans – too much potential for crop injury.
  • Magic potions don’t work – in tough years lots of things come out of the woodwork promising to boost the crops that have been held back by weather and other factors – if they don’t have 3rd party data to back up their claims, be suspicious.
  • Wrong Seeding depth – too deep on forages doesn’t work, to shallow on corn and soybeans doesn’t work (a lot can be said about optimizing seeding depths and the reasons why – for another day).
  • Planting wet (especially on heavier soils – don’t close the seed trench, compaction smearing of seed trench walls, etc.).
  • There is no tillage implement built to work ground wet – where it was too wet to plant, it was too wet to till.
  • Soil compaction – happened in every scenario this year, even 1st cut hay harvest has done severe compaction in many fields.
  • There was no one tillage system or general practice that worked better than another this year, it was very situation dependent. People can make any tillage system work, but the tillage needs to be considered within the context of the overall management system.

There was a lot of discussion of how to address some of the issues we have been dealing with this year especially but over the past number of years in general. Crop management is about water management and then how to optimize production by making the right decisions around crop rotation, tillage, seed selection, planting conditions, pest control, etc. Water management is about reducing erosion, making the soil a better water bank, tillage and crop rotation, keeping ground covered in living plants throughout the entire calendar year, etc. One of the simplest solutions to water management and reducing soil erosion is getting more forages back in the rotation. There is a lot of work to determine how to do that so that there is an economic incentive to foster it both in terms of direct revenue from a forage crop and realizable economic benefits through positive impacts on other annual crops in the rotation.

There will be another meeting planned for early December as a seasonal windup. Also of note is that the Exeter Breakfast meeting group has decided on a mid-August breakfast meeting to track issues up till  then and discuss management options and awareness for the upcoming harvest. Is there an appetite for that in East Central? Let Ian McDonald, 519.239.3473 or Christine O’Reilly, 705.324.5855 know.

Upcoming Events

July 11th – FarmSmart Expo, Elora Research Station

July 23rd – Forage Expo East, Vosbrae Farms, 140 Skyline Road, Oakwood, ON (watch for change of date announcement shortly based on the concern over forage regrowth to accommodate the event).

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

August X – Ontario Soil Network Tour/Frontenac SCIA, Forman Farms, Seeley Bay, this event will go forward but they are still working out a date and details based on the issues associated with the difficult spring

August 8th – Compaction Day, Sheddon Fair Grounds

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

August 21-22 – Hastings County Plowing Match and Farm Show

August 29th – Compaction Day, UG Winchester Research Station

September 5 or 6 – Ontario Soil Network Tour, Kaiser Lake Farms, 4102 County Road 9, Napanee