Mt. Forest Agribusiness Breakfast Meeting – June 18th, 2019

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

For annual crops seeded this spring, we recognize that many went into less than ideal ground conditions in terms of soil moisture, fitenes 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 begins to dry 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.


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.

Reporting acreage deadline remains June 30th for crops and areas that have not had planting deadlines extended. Over 25% of customers have reported their final corn and soybean acres. If you have crop insurance, you are in the Risk Management Program and you will be asked questions about it when you phone in your acreage.

There have been essentially no claims for reseeding. This is primarily because people are too busy trying to get the crop in for the first time and have not had a lot of time to check planted fields. These should be checked as soon as possible since the window for replants will be tiny.

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. There continue to be brief windows of planting opportunity, but no long runs of suitable conditions to finish off planting. While many have been able to finish planting, there remains farmers who have not seeded anything and this is obviously of concern, especially for those in need of feed.

The Unseeded Acreage Benefit (USAB) deadline to indicate to Agricorp that you may have unseeded acres is June 15th. There have been over 2000 reports phoned in of people concerned they will have unseeded acres.

USAB payment 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.

Payments on the winter wheat releases has begun to occur although some are delayed as many released fields have not been addressed and may remain as production claims.

Watch for separate articles on 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.

Cereals – Winter Wheat

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. Details on this are available here.

Some fields have reached heading but are the minority, but things are quickly changing. Even so, many fields appear to be well delayed in timing of heading. For fusarium head blight control with fungicides to be effective, application timing is critical. This will continue to be troublesome in many of the later planted fields that are uneven and late tillers are trying to push out a head. In these conditions, the tiller heads contribute much less to yield and kernels tend to be smaller and lighter. Target sprays as best as possible for the emergence of the main stems head.

Central Huron and south the sprayers are out, where to the north the heading should be happening soon.

The weather conditions continue to suggest high level of FHB potential, so the T3 fungicide application is important to plan for and target accurately. Based on the variability of crop stages within a field and the yield potential that is present, some might consider two T3 sprays to protect the quality of the yield present.

This season starting right back to fall planting and even early is really showing the response to management. There will be lots of lessons to observe and gather intelligence from on management practices to explore for the future.

There are many weed control questions around these poor fields as straw is in short supply and they want that harvest. Many fields are beyond herbicide labels based on wheat stage and weeds are well advanced with respect to label leaf stages. Many don’t want to use roundup because of all the media attention, but there is not really any alternative. Some are thinking reglone but it can be slow and not fully effective. Aragon can be used but is usually accompanied by a bit of glyphosate for the grass control. Accept that weeds are going to be part of the straw mix in terms of bedding or fibre for feed. To get good efficacy keep water volumes up and spray in the middle of the day.

It is a bug year so people should be watching these fields. Cereal leaf beetle is present but not yet at threshold levels, mostly observing adults currently.

Anyway you look at it, its going to be a late fall. This will impact winter wheat planting dates. Even so, soybeans will hopefully flex and earlier planted fields should still offer a decent opportunity for planting but people will have to be ready and on top to things. Proper setup of the combine to distribute soybean residue will be critical, you wont have time for tillage. Have the drill in the field with the combine!

Cereals – Spring

Don’t forget about the spring cereals. If conditions continue there is fusarium concerns. As well foliar diseases can rob straw yield as well which is an important commodity on peoples minds these days.

In general these crops are doing better then expected. Protect their yield and quality with proper and timely management.


The majority have finished planting across the region. The amount of planted acres in the area has not changed much in the last week since many were done, while wet soils kept equipment out of the fields north of Kincardine especially. Some areas like Halton, tough soils of Peel and Dufferin and others with heavier soils some farmers have planted nothing. Planting for corn was shutting down north of Hwy 89 after the last rains. Realistically with the exception of some corn silage, corn planting is and should be done.

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.

Corn is still taking more than 7 days to emerge based on continued wet soil conditions and cool temperatures and up to 10-12 days on heavier soils. The corn is getting out of the ground and the stands look okay. Good thing in some ways that continued damp soil has reduced the incidence of crusting that we would have normally expected from seeding under these tough conditions. While the emergence is acceptable the crop has just not been growing much, again attributed to the cooler, less sunny weather. The soils are warming up now, but still not as fast as you would expect for mid June.

Corn roots have been “lazy” to date since the plants are still small and the crop was planted into wet or damp soils. Planted wet is often a problem as roots establish shallowly since water is abundant. When it dries out the crop is less able to search deeper for water.

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 the week of July 1st 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 Corn N Calculator recommendations may be 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.

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. The level of control of fusarium offered by fungicides varies widely since its influenced by many factors. While efficacy may not match responses seen with herbicides, they can mean the difference between accectpable, marginal or poor quality. Poor quality can hit you hard.  

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.


On average the area was about 90% planted but it varies substantially. Less to the south and to the far west of the region where soils remain unsuitable for working or planting (50-70%). It was a big change in a week form 70% planted to upwards of 95%. In the northern part of the region where the weather is typically cooler people need to think about shutting down planting by the 25th. The risk of finishing and fall frosts is just too high. Soybeans in the cooler areas 00, 01 just don’t flex like in other areas even within the same zone.

Some beans are struggling to emerge because the soils are “tight”! But with the current dates, it will have to be really bad for replants to be considered.

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! Some fields that received pre herbicide programs are not going to get seeded. The combination of the residual and the environmental conditions mean herbicides will not break down quickly. This will impact cover crops choices if it comes to that. Check the product labels and consult with your agronomists and company reps.

Many burndowns were missed or were happening at or just before planting so weeds are big. Manage your expectations of control efficacy based on this.

There are reports of seed corn maggot on fungicide only seed. Again, the urgency to check fields as replant window is small.

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.

Dry Beans

Planting started last week, but really got underway on the Friday. Adzukis were first to go but the weather back up on getting into fields has further been hampered for Adzuki’s because some farmers share plates. Seeding of whites and others varies considerably by area. Some say as much as 95% are planted while othes suggest very little of whites and others had started but were expected to go the remainder of the week.

Conditions continue to be marginal but people are weighing the risk and concerned with delay when they can sort of go! There are areas in central and northern Huron that have been blessed with some decent conditions and they are done planting and pleased with the conditions.

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.

Where pres did get applied they had lots of moisiture for activation but some have been in place for several weeks. With delayed planting, and slow emergence some residual herbicides will be starting to run out of protection and the crop competition has not arrived yet to hold newly germinating weeds back.

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 crop tolerance. 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.


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.

We discussed holding an early December meeting as a seasonal windup, with those attending agreeing we should pusue. 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 the Mt Forest group? Let Ian McDonald know if you want such a get together planned.

Upcoming Events

July 4-5 – Southwest Crop Diagnostic Days, UG Ridgetown Campus

July 9thForage Expo West, Pendora Dairy Ltd, Monkton

July 11th – FarmSmart Expo, Elora Research Station

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

August 8th – Compaction Day, Sheddon Fair Grounds

August 29th – Compaction Day, Winchester