Wednesday brought to a close our annual Ag Advisor Breakfast Meeting series for 2021, the second year we have done it virtually. Thanks to all who have contributed to the meetings the last two months. The contributions of all are important to the core purpose of these meetings of sharing intelligence and thoughts across our regions to ensure we are all best able to support our cropping community. We will be back to all for input on how to move forward in 2022.
There are many good crops across the regions but weather is having a significant effect in many areas and will become more critical if significant rainfall is not received shortly. There is great anticipation of the forecasted rain for the coming weekend.
Weather continues to be the big news in the East and East Central regions of the province, primarily the lack of and spottiness of the precipitation received to date. Many locations are well under average rainfall amounts for both May and June and it’s showing in the crops. While we felt early on that we had great conditions for planting and it progressed well, things are sneaking up on us now would suggest maybe things were a little unfit soil-wise or equipment-wise this spring.
We are seeing more compaction issues than we would have expected, especially where its exceptionally dry. Both weight compaction and side wall compaction is evident. There have also been equipment depth issues in terms of monitors maybe not telling operators true depth of seeding. It emphasizes the importance of getting off the tractor and checking seed spacing and depth. If you have always got off the tractor to check this in the past, then the impact today can be much more dramatic when we have moved from 6 to 16 row planters.
As of the date, we still have excellent crops across much of the area, but the heavier and lighter soils are showing the effects of current moisture status or fitness of ground earlier when equipment was put into the field.
With precipitation being so variable, it’s hard to get a handle on how much rain has fallen, and where. There are lots of weather stations across the province, but the networks are often islanded and thus we don’t get a good feel for the distribution of the rainfall. The CoCoRaHS network (Figure 1) relies on volunteers to report precipitation events. Information on how to get involved is available on their website.
Figure 1. CoCoRhas Precipitation Network
Agricorp which tracks 350 stations across the province for their Forage Rainfall production insurance program. The data has about a two-week time delay but is useful for overall precipitation patterns. Its available under the Forage Rainfall section of their website.
Figure 2. Agricorp Forage Rainfall Data.
A 3rd resource is AAFC Drought Watch Agroclimate mapping pages where you can build your own maps as shown in Figure 3 below. AAFC also relies on volunteer Agroclimate Impact Reporters to fill out a 10-minute survey each month of the growing season about weather conditions on farms. Among other things, this data feeds into initiating risk management programs for producers, so the input (normal weather or otherwise) has a real impact on the sector.
Figure 3. AAFC Drought Watch Agroclimate Precipitation Mapping
Towards the east on heavier soils, soybeans have struggled alternatively or sequentially because of tillage, frost and lack of rainfall among other stresses. Residue management has been a continued problem where less tillage is used. A significant acreage did get frosted and has been replanted. Some of those replants especially on no-till and heavier ground happened twice since the first replant suffered significant slug damage. Rainfall and temperature extremes have hit the crop in terms of vigor and growth. This has resulted in many acres of “yellow beans” where root systems have been slow to develop and corn and other residue is tying up available soil nitrogen prior to nodulation overcoming this issue.
The ground was hard at planting due to lower then expected rainfall so planting depth is variable and contributing to variable stand population and uniformity.
Majority of soybeans that escaped the frost are in the 3-4 trifoliate stage and some have even started flowering. More details on start of flowering available here.
Weed control continues to be an issue based on resprays needed and wind. We are at or near the end of the dicamba window for those soybean types.
Significant acres of 1st cut hay ground are being planted into soybeans. With the dry conditions this has been challenging for the soybeans so far and rainfall is needed to get those seeds germinated and emergence happening. Staying on top of hay control to reduce competition stress especially under the dry conditions is critical. Other soybeans planted green into rye are also hurting this year. Planting green is a great practice, but it can be tricky depending on the interaction of soil type and spring weather.
While the main conversation was on one problem field in central region, soybean aphids can be found in many areas but at this point well under threshold. There is no threshold level during vegetative stages of soybean development because research found no yield benefit to spraying in the vegetative stages. Spraying vegetative soybeans can kill natural enemies of insect pests and create a need for a second spray later in the R stages. In fields that are significantly stressed due to dry conditions and are close to flowering, the traditional thresholds of 250 aphids per plant on 80% of the plants can be used. In healthy fields where plants are lush, wait until the R1-R5 stages and populations can get closer to 500 aphids per plant before a spray is needed. If in doubt, use the Aphid Advisor App that will help determine if aphid populations will continue to build and require spraying or if the natural enemies will keep up. More details on soybean aphids and management can be found here:
In some areas we continue to see magnesium and sulphur deficiencies. Many fields with low test levels of these nutrients as well as manganese. There is not a lot of research to support management decisions, but more consideration of fertilizer mixes that address shortfalls in such nutrients. Depending on soil conditions, some forms of fertilizer ingredients should be favored. Magnesium deficiency can be easily confused with soybean cyst nematode. Check this with a shovel to look for the tiny white nodules, but low Mg levels in dry soils are often connected to symptoms being seen.
In many cases the crop is looking significantly better than one would expect given the lack of rainfall. Where rain has occurred the crop looks great. Much of the main planted crop is in the V8 (10+ leaf) stage. But even good corn is variable in stand and stage. Side dressing and spraying are finishing up. Rainfalls to date being low volume means that soils are not getting wetted to rooting depth. This is impacting crop growth and making 2×2 starter fertilizer not readily available to plants as it’s sitting in a dry zone. Some P deficiencies are showing up and can be attributed to lack of rainfall too. Small root systems, dry starter fertilizer and poor soil climate for weathering of soil P mean it’s just struggling to get enough.
The “toughest” crop seems to be that from the April 25-27 planting window when temperatures were unseasonably cold. Those fields have struggled all along.
In this dry year, lower tillage is causing issues, but so is too much tillage. It is always hard to find the balance when the weather factor comes into play. Seeding depth has been identified as something that needs more attention. This is evident throughout the two regions. Seeing evidence of compaction layers and sidewall compaction as people went early into what they thought was great fit soil. Maybe in the end, it wasn’t quite fit!
Soils east that are clays, and central that are sands are really seeing the impact of the lack of rainfall. On the sand of central region, lots of fields on lighter soils showing pineappled corn during the days the last week or so.
In the east there has been reports of bird damage that is impacting final plant populations. Thought to be wild turkeys and geese.
There was a lot of corn that was exposed to frost but very little replant and most has recovered.
In the central area and despite the dry conditions, farmers are still experimenting with in-crop cover crop seeding so this will be interesting to watch given current soil moisture and precipitation conditions.
Spring canola in the central region got a great start but is also suffering drought stress and will impact yield if it continues through anticipated soon to happen flowering. Swede midge is now present in some areas. Winter canola is progressing rapidly. Check out this article on preharvest herbicide use in canola if a desiccant is being considered.
Further east very little winter wheat but what is there has been looking okay. In the central region, cereals on lighter soils, especially knolls are really hurting. There are lots of spots that are completely done on these fields. While the maximum yield potential has been lost, the expected rainfall this weekend will help finish this crop during this ever-important grain fill period.
While winter wheat yield may be impacted on some specific soils, the straw yield should be good. This will be important since spring cereals are tending to the short side.
Some cereals, mainly winter wheat, have gone down with winds but the area is limited.
Most dairy producers are approaching second cut within the next week. Yield expectations for 2nd cut have been tempered by the dry conditions. Intensively managed hay and pastures are looking better than low management stands. Producers are considering annual forage options to boost inventories. When possible, work with the producer and their nutritionist/feed rep to develop a forage crop plan that really meets their needs for yield and quality.
Starting to see Potato leafhopper and Alfalfa Weevil are evident and need to be monitored. Thresholds are lower for smaller plants and for regrowth but slow 2nd growth under the dry conditions is struggling to keep ahead of the weevil. Weevil can often be managed by cutting timing in established stands but new seedings are much more susceptible and require careful monitoring. Stands with higher management will grow more vigorously and are often better able to stave off the impacts of weevils. They grow quicker which keeps them ahead of the damage and approach cutting maturity faster.
Magnesium deficiency symptoms were reported in East Central region. This is not unexpected for the area traditionally lower in Mg soil test levels and which also shows up in forages especially under dry conditions. More attention needs to be paid to forage fertility beyond Boron and Potassium. Mg and sulphur are two to especially be thinking about. Alfalfa has the highest sulphur demand of any field crop grown in Ontario.
The lack of rainfall is significantly impacting pastures. That being said, the group was surprised pastures look as good as they do given the lack of moisture. This will change quickly without rainfall soon and could eat into the stored feed inventories.
With the lack of rainfall and advanced stage of some weeds, weeds being less susceptible to post emergent herbicides as they have “hardened off”! Its taking longer to see control and the level of control is below expected.
We are entering the period when farmers are finding weed escapes and the canopy is closing and weeds are getting beyond label stages. While it placates farmers to try “anything” at this stage it really doesn’t gain them anything. This period is when farmers are looking for off label instructions, and they just don’t exist because the precautions on the labels are a function of the efficacy and tolerance of the products.
Bear in mind that it seems to be the year of the bugs! This is often the case in dry springs. Regardless of the crop, we are seeing lots of problems identified widely across various parts of the province. To keep on top of insect related happenings and agronomic advice, keep tuned into the Baute Bug Blog on Field Crop News for advice on scouting, thresholds, control strategies, and networks to engage in or monitor etc.
Get involved or keep current with the various survey projects that are underway. These include:
Stink bug was another insect found in egg stage in the Alexandria area, so another one to keep an eye on. The egg masses can be confused with other insects. Note these ones were found on a Proso Millet plant.
Figure 4. Stink Bug Egg Mass
Tracey Baute and Albert Tenuta were featured on the GFO Grain Talk Webinar this week. It should be posted shortly at https://gfo.ca/agronomy/agronomy-resources/ .
June 30th is the last day for reporting final acres. Its also the last day for soybean planting in much of the area, Peterborough is a little early at June 20th. While the early spring was relatively quiet for Agricorp, the frost, insects, and dry conditions have led to many more calls lately. Adjustors are busy handling these cases.
Links to other area Breakfast Meeting Notes:
- Exeter-Mt. Forest, June 22 – here
- Cover Crop Seminar Series – noon on June 25, 29 and July 6 https://www.ontariosoilcrop.org/events/list/
- Where to by “Bug Nets” – it’s a bug year, check out fieldcropnews.com for various articles on how to monitor and control field crop insects. Bug nets are available in Ontario through:
Solida is the Canadian supplier based in Quebec and Ontario. Phone: 418-826-0900. Make sure it is a 15 inch diameter net. Product# 301Y015 SWEEP NET / 15″ $43.50, Website: https://solida.quebec/index.php/2019/06/25/culture-maraichere/?lang=en