27 March 2020, 9:00 am EDT (8:00 am CDT)
A virtual agricultural advisers’ breakfast meeting was held to test the “Zoom” platform as a means of continuing these valuable spring meetings under the current restrictions for face–to–face meetings. Based on results of the survey sent to attendees, breakfast meetings for 2020 will continue as consolidated regional meetings. Start dates and groupings as follows:
- Tuesday, April 7th: Ridgetown + Simcoe
- Tuesday, April 14th: Exeter + Mount Forest
- Wednesday, April 15th: Cobourg + Winchester
A decision about breakfast meetings for northern Ontario will be made after the NOFIA-led “Zoom” chat on April 2nd. Individuals wishing to attend calls in other regions can be added to those email lists by clicking the town names above.
Thank you to all the individuals who provided updates from their regions.
Everyone is hoping for an early spring. Lake Superior did not freeze this year, which suggests it might happen. Rainy River and Kenora Districts have concerns about excess water from last fall that may delay good planting conditions.
It is not business as usual across the agricultural sector this spring. While the supply chain appears to be in place, businesses are working hard to meet customer needs while protecting them and their employees through alternate business actions. Crop plans are being finalized over the phone and retailers are working hard to get seed, fertilizer and other inputs delivered quickly to the farms before the planting season starts. Retailers are especially concerned with keeping their staff healthy and safe during these times.
In general, seed supply is good, especially in soybeans. Corn supplies depend on maturity zone; due to the large amount of hybrid switching in 2019, there is less available under 95-day maturity ratings. There are also fewer triple-stacked hybrids to help manage issues in corn-on-corn scenarios. Sorghum-sudangrass seed supply is also expected to be tight.
Growers across the province are accepting deliveries of seed and fertilizer earlier than usual. They want product in place to be prepared for planting.
Please be watching for signs of stress needing intervention for yourself, your staff and your customers. Seek help from many available resources if you encounter individuals who need help.
A mild winter was good for the corn that did not get harvested last fall. In general, lodging is not too bad. In central Ontario, corn that was 30-40% moisture in the fall is reported to be under 20% this spring, and coming off grade 3-4. In the east, quality is consistent, and moisture is down. In the northwest, fields still to be harvested are being put up as high-moisture corn.
There may be more corn on corn situations this year and given corn insect issues may require more than normal scouting and management.
There is an anticipation of an early spring. Discussion that farmers need to ensure that fields are fit given all the problems of the last two years. The crop can be planted too early and too quickly. Be aware of soil conditions, potential for spring frosts and the need to stagger flowering dates to ensure resilience of the overall corn crop individually and provincially.
Acreage is up in many areas and the majority is expected to survive. Eastern Ontario has lower acreage due to fall planting conditions and historical winter survival concerns.
Overall, wheat looks excellent, with higher survival than normal. This is mostly due to timely planting last fall. Many 2019 unseeded acres went into wheat, especially in the regions with heavier soils. Expect water or ice damage in fields with poor drainage.
In many places the wheat is just starting to green up. When assessing wheat for winter survival, check multiple areas of the field, not just the worst or closest spots. Look at the number of healthy plants per foot of row. Don’t count plants that are browned off with no new growth, heaved plants even if currently green, or shallow-seeded plants hanging on by a single root, as these are not likely to survive. In fields with low plant populations, make sure the plants are evenly distributed and healthy, otherwise the field may need to be terminated.
While fields are greening up in the southwest, late-planted fields are heaved on heavy clay ground, and 2019’s unseeded acres that did not have good fall weed control are under pressure, particularly from fleabane and bluegrass. Fall weed control continues to show value this spring. While too early to assess survival in the northeast, a mild winter with good snow cover makes it likely that survival will be good.
In the southwest, probably <5% of the crop has received nitrogen this spring. Not much nitrogen has gone out yet in central or east-central Ontario. Nitrogen should be targeted on late planted fields first as they are more in need of the stimulus. This needs to be directed at those fields with a good chance of survival. Earlier planted crops that are growing well need nitrogen too, but they are more resilient at this point. Estimates are that about 30% of wheat fields have red clover.
The cereal rye cover crops that have been scouted also look good.
Winter canola fields can look disappointing early in the spring, so it is important not to give up on them too soon. When assessing winter canola survival, ask three questions:
- Is it alive? Live plants have a green growth point and healthy roots. Mushy roots and a brown growth point signal a dead plant. Leaves are not a good indicator of survival; in Essex and Chatham-Kent winter canola leaves will be retained but might be purple. In counties further north the leaves often rot off overwinter.
- Does the crop have yield potential? Cut open plants at the soil surface to assess vascular health. Plants with small holes in the center of the stem are ok but brown, rotten, and hollow stems have no yield potential. Heaved plants reduce yield potential. Winter canola needs N and S as soon as the field can carry equipment. If the yield potential is reduced, but the grower wants to keep the stand in the rotation, reduce N rates.
- What is the population of healthy plants? Populations in fields planted with a drill (narrow rows) can be counted using a hula hoop or square, while wider (15” or twin) rows should be counted along the row using a tape measure. The ideal winter canola population is 5-8 plants/square foot (220,000 – 350,000/ac). Canola has great potential for branching so 3-5 plants/square foot (130,000/ac) is likely adequate to get decent yield if plants are healthy and evenly spaced. Plants tend to be more uniform planted in wider rows which is advantageous at lower populations.
Forage inventories across the province are tight. Good agronomy in 2020 will be important to improve yields and create some buffer supplies on farms. Plant counts and root health assessments at green-up are an alfalfa grower’s early warning system. This early scouting helps identify fields that are in bad shape in time to line up seed and prepare equipment for Plan B. Remember: if the lawn is greening up and the hay field isn’t, that’s a bad sign! Stem counts are more closely correlated with yield than plant counts, but they cannot be done until there is 15 cm (6 in.) of growth.
Hay fields are starting to green up. Many of the summer-seeded fields are heaved where the soils are heavier. It is still too early to assess survival in much of the province, especially the east and north. Expect water or ice damage in fields where poor drainage resulted in ponding. While too early to assess survival in the northeast, a mild winter with good snow cover makes it likely that survival will be good.
Some growers in eastern Ontario managed to get fertilizer out on their hay fields last week when the ground was still frozen.
2020 Planting Intentions
Reminder: we will be dealing with compaction issues caused by planting last year. Growers need to be patient and wait until the soil is warm and dry enough to plant.
- More acres expected in the southwest (+5%)
- Fewer acres expected in the Golden Horseshoe and the east.
- No change anticipated in the west.
- More acres expected in the Golden Horseshoe and the east.
- Fewer acres expected in the southwest.
- No change anticipated in the west and northeast. Western Ontario expecting a noticeable shift from RoundUp Ready to more edible and IP beans. Still uncertain about intentions in east central.
- More acres expected in the east and northeast (especially oats). A lot of this is driven by straw
- No change expected in the northwest (although barley might be up a little).
- Some spring cereals were frost seeded in the west; it will be interesting to see how well these establish.
- More acres expected in the east
- No change in acres expected in the northeast.
It is challenging to put together weed control programs without in-person meetings. With last year’s weather challenges, people are anticipating rotational issues that may affect weed management. Remember that there is a greater return on investment from weed control on corn and soybeans than from any other input.
Check OMAFRA Publication 75A: Guide to Weed Control when developing plans, but always read and follow the product label.
The in-class version of the Grower Pesticide Safety Course has been cancelled. Online courses are continuing as scheduled, and more will be offered in the future. There are 1400 individuals who need to re-certify this year. Growers can check the expiry date of their certificate at www.opep.ca by entering their current certificate number, birth date, and postal code. The Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks is exploring relief for people in the process of re-certifying.
The proposed changes to the Pesticide Act regarding Class 12 pesticides are still working through the legislative process. Due to COVID-19, the Legislation and Regulations Committee is currently dealing with emergency orders. This means that industry is required to continue following the current Class 12 regulations and should not expect any changes to be in place for this growing season.