07 April 2020, 8:00 am
Due to COVID restrictions, ag breakfast meetings will be paired and held virtually by video conference on the “zoom” platform in 2020. The first 2020 Ridgetown-Simcoe virtual ag breakfast meeting was held April 7 with about 60 participants.
Given COVID restrictions, majority of communication with growers this spring has been by phone, e-mail or video conference. Despite restrictions, input companies and retailers expect no supply or logistic disruptions for crop inputs at this point. Demand for on-farm deliveries has been earlier and stronger than usual as growers want product on hand. The only supply issue noted has been delayed arrival for some sulfur products for some retailers, though many also report full stock with no issues.
Significant alfalfa planting has occurred with the good weather this past week.
Nitrogen (N) topdressing on winter wheat started in earnest this past week. Progress is variable, with some applicators nearly done, while others in later regions or heavier, wetter soils just starting. The winter wheat crop, particularly early planted fields, appears in excellent shape and much better than spring 2019. Only challenges reported have been in very late planted fields on heavier clay soils. Agricorp has received some damage reports for these fields, though much lower than 2019.
There was significant conversation about split applications of N in winter wheat. There are a couple motivations for this:
- promote/maintain spring tillering of late planted winter wheat
- reduce early season N to reduce top growth and lodging risks in thick, early planted wheat, especially where N rates are pushed to take advantage of high yield potential
- move some N closer to uptake to reduce potential losses
Participants commented that split applications still represent fewer acres than single applications. As April progresses, more growers shift to single applications as time between applications becomes increasingly shorter and corn and soybean planting and applications take priority.
Data on the efficiency of split sulfur (S) applications is limited. The consensus is to apply S with the first application as S mineralization is likely limited early and applying sulfur as ammonium thiosulfate (ATS) on more advanced wheat increases burn risk versus UAN alone.
Plant growth regulators (PGR) were discussed as another strategy to reduce lodging potential in high risk wheat fields (early planted, excessive top growth, high seeding rates, higher nitrogen rates, susceptible variety). Manipulator is now registered for wheat in Ontario. Optimum application timing is Zadok’s growth stages 30-32 (start of node elongation to 2 elongated nodes in stem). Applications outside these stages may impair its ability to reduce lodging. All applications must be made before heading. While Manipulator is also registered in spring grains, maximum residue limits (MRLs) have not yet been established so growers should verify with end users before making these applications.
Nitrogen stabilizers for winter wheat were also discussed. Stabilization is considered when N is applied in a form, placement or timing which leaves it susceptible for loss. Nitrogen can be lost through volatilization (gaseous ammonia), leaching (water-soluble nitrates moving below root zone) or denitrification (nitrate converted to nitrogen oxides by soil microbes under saturated conditions). There are a variety of means of stabilizing nitrogen:
- Physical Protection – granular coatings slow the physical release or dissolution of fertilizer into soil (eg. ESN or other coated ureas)
- Urease Inhibitors – delay enzymatic conversion of urea to ammonia (ammonia can volatilize) for surface applied urea (granular or urea in UAN) until it has washed into soil where volatilization losses are less likely (eg. Agrotain (various formulations))
- Nitrification Inhibitors – delay microbial conversion of ammonium (stable) to nitrate (can leach or denitrify) in the soil (eg. eNtrench, N-Serve, Centuro)
- Combinations – some products combine urease inhibitors with nitrification inhibitors (eg. Agrotain Plus, Super-U, Tribune)
It was commented that research has generally not shown strong economic returns for nitrogen stabilizers in winter wheat. Some reasons may be that urea applications (granular urea or urea in UAN) are made when temperatures are cool (slower volatilization), rainfall to wash urea into soil is likely, and that soil profile saturation required to leach nitrates below the root zone becomes increasingly unlikely as evapotranspiration increases into the growing season. Denitrification may be an issue on heavy texture or poorly drained soils that can become saturated for extended periods of time, particularly as soil temperatures warm. It was commented that surface applications of ESN may be a risk for off-target movement because granules are persistent (don’t quickly dissolve) and float so can be transported with surface water.
Spring cereals (spring wheat, barley and oats) have started to be seeded in various parts of the province. Growers in southern Ontario should aim to plant their spring cereals by April 10th to avoid the hot, dry periods during pollination. Central and eastern Ontario should target April 15th and northern Ontario should target May 10th.
With sunshine and above normal temperatures the past week or two, some ground preparation has started for 2020. Growers are commenting that soil conditions are better than any opportunity in 2019. There are reports of the odd field of corn planted, with some growers pushing for very long season hybrids given the window. A forecast transitioning to wet, below seasonal temperatures for the next two weeks is expected to temper further progress. Most with ground conditions which would allow them to start planting have opted not to. This winter, there were indications of a slight increase in corn planting intentions for 2020. With reductions in gas/ethanol demand reported from reduced driving due to COVID restrictions the past couple weeks, some last minute switching out of corn has been reported, but overall rotations are expected to stay close to normal at this point.
Growers should consider risk management at planting time. Those planting ultra early can manage risk by not committing all corn acreage to ultra early planting windows. Diversification – growing multiple hybrids or a range of maturities, may reduce scale of impacts should hybrid-specific issues arise (leaf or ear disease, standability) and stagger flower timing to reduce potential of entire crop flowering under stress (drought, excessive heat) or conditions favourable for ear mould establishment.
There are reports of at least one soybean field planted already this spring. The group was asked the benefit of planting soybeans ultra early if fields are fit now. In the past, ultra-early soybean planting has generally not produced higher yields than soybeans planted early within the normal soybean planting window (eg. late April, early May). With weather forecasts expecting 2 weeks of wet and below normal temperatures, risks of planting soybeans now are expected to be higher than potential benefits relative to early planting within the normal planting window. Group consensus was to not plant soybeans yet.
Input reps reinforced the importance of mixing order when tank mixing crop protection products. Always read and follow product labels for proper mixing order. The Purdue University publication entitled “Avoiding tank-mix errors” is an excellent resource that provides guidance on appropriate mixing order and can be downloaded at: https://ppp.purdue.edu/wp-content/uploads/files/PPP-122.pdf A common question from growers, it was commented that ammonium thiosulfate (ATS) should always be added after Primextra, refer to the article “sprayer loading and the jar test” https://sprayers101.com/loading-jartest/ for more information about such a scenario.
Ontario weed control guidelines for field and hort crops are provided in 2020 Pub 75A and 75B, respectively, available online:
Field Crops, Pub 75A: http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/crops/pub75/pub75A/pub75Atoc.htm
Hort Crops, Pub75B: http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/crops/pub75/pub75B/pub75Btoc.htm
There was discussion around specific weed control options:
Chickweed in Winter Wheat – In research conducted by Dr. Peter Sikkemma, products containing the active ingredient tribenuron generally provided best control for in-crop applications in winter wheat. A participant noted winter wheat fields which received Eragon as pre-plant last fall appear to have very little chickweed pressure this spring. It was commented that the high rate of fall pre-plant Eragon can provide some residual control of select fall-annuals such as chickweed through the earlier part of spring (early to mid May).
Waterhemp Resistance – Waterhemp is a highly adaptable weed found in 11 counties in Ontario, of which 4 were first observed in 2019 (Elgin, Norfolk, Northumberland and Bruce) (Figure 1). It has developed resistance to several active ingredients (imazethapyr, atrazine, metribuzin, glyphosate, lactofen) found within several herbicide groups (2, 5, 9 and 14) in Ontario, including various cross-resistant combinations. Waterhemp resistance surveys have been ongoing, with results provided by University of Guelph, Ridgetown Campus M.Sc student Christian Willemse through work he has been doing with his advisor Dr. Peter Sikkema and OMAFRA Hort Crop Weed specialist Kristin Obeid (Figure 2).
Of interest to note for group 5 herbicide resistance:
- some populations are resistant to atrazine but not metribuzin (enhanced metabolism resistance)
- some populations are resistant to both atrazine and metribuzin (altered target site resistance)
- metribuzin resistant populations are largely found around Petrolia, with an additional 2 in Essex and 1 in Middlesex County
There are several examples in Ontario where Waterhemp appeared to transfer field-to-field through equipment (isolated patches at field entrances or where equipment was cleaned out adjacent to fields, confined strips consistent with opening passes of combines). If waterhemp is present in fields you will be operating in, it is imperative to i) thoroughly clean all equipment between fields or ii) leave fields with waterhemp last where equipment will be cleaned between crops or for storage. Given pressures at planting and harvest, the most realistic approach is likely to operate in fields with waterhemp last.
Control options for resistant waterhemp were discussed. Dr. Peter Sikkema provided a summary of his research looking at control options for waterhemp in corn and soybeans (Figures 3 to 6).
Evaluating weeds for herbicide resistance is traditionally completed by bioassay (collect seeds, grow plants, apply herbicide doses) which can take months. New technologies allow for resistance screening by molecular/genetic methods providing results in days. One such example is Harvest Genomics, a company formed by employees from the University of Guelph Department of Plant Agriculture (https://harvestgenomics.ca/).
Hort Field Crops:
Recent weather has been great for sugar beet planting, with substantial progress this past week. Ontario acreage is expected to meet it’s maximum allotment of 10,000 acres.
Greenhouse transplants have started for warm seeded hort field crops such as tomatoes. Scheduled start of tomato field transplanting is typically May 6-10. There has been some movement towards auto-transplanters, particularly European models. Some growers not satisfied with auto-transplanter performance and have decided not to transition. While there has been declines in demand for tomato products from the food service industry due to COVID closures, this has been offset by very strong demand for tomato products from retail.
Growers have been taking advantage of good weather conditions for applying manure this spring. Manures with high pH (eg. liquid hog manure) have higher risks of ammonia volatilization, and N loss when manure is not incorporated soon after application. With ongoing risks of PED virus on hog farms, manure applicators are reminded to exercise caution and follow biosecurity protocols if they are visiting multiple farms. Some custom applicators alternate between dairy and hog farms to reduce risks of carrying virus between hog farms.
The Agricorp call centre is very close to returning to and providing our normal service levels as we work into our Business Continuity plan related to COVID – 19. Clients should continue to contact Agricorp by phone or fax to report any damage or inquiries. All Production Insurance clients will receive a confirmation number and an Adjuster will follow up as quickly as possible and normally within 2 business days. The Agricorp website has up to date information on all programs and any news items that are applicable to the Programs delivered.
For Essex. Chatham-Kent & Lambton Counties there were 70 damage reports affecting approximately 5,000 acres for the 2020 winter wheat crop. In the Simcoe Region which encompasses 2 Agricorp Regions, there were 14 damaged reports affecting 1,270 acres of winter wheat.
Next Ridgetown-Simcoe Virtual Ag Breakfast Meetings:
April 21, 8:00 am
May 5, 8:00 am
May 19, 8:00 am
June 2, 8:00 am
June 16, 8:00 am