Northern Ag Breakfast Meeting- May 18, 2022

flea beetle feeding damaged canola stem

Wednesday May 18th was the second virtual Northern Breakfast Meeting of the season. Thanks to Chloe Langlois, OMAFRA Agriculture Development Advisor – Timiskaming, for chairing the meeting. There will be 2 more meetings, according to the schedule below. After short updates from the OMAFRA specialist listed, the group will discuss any current cropping questions and give updates on cropping conditions and progress across the northern regions. Contact to be added to the mailing list.

Date & TimeOMAFRA Crop Specialist Update
Wednesday, June 1 at 8:30 EDT/7:30 CDTHorst Bohner (Soybeans)
Wednesday, June 15 at 8:30 EDT/7:30 CDTBen Rosser (Corn)


Meghan Moran, OMAFRA Canola & Edible Beans Specialist, shared some reminders on things to watch for as canola develops from germination through bolting.

Flea beetle

Fast emergence helps the crop stay ahead of pest pressure and enables the crop to develop to the 4-leaf stage before insecticide seed treatments stop working. At this growth stage, canola is less susceptible to flea beetle damage. Hotter than normal conditions in northeastern Ontario have enabled fast emergence so far.

There is no growing degree day (GDD) model for flea beetle development. Flea beetles emerge once temperatures exceed 15˚C. Cooler weather in the forecast may reduce their movement in a field, but they will still be feeding. When scouting, be sure to check for stem damage as well, since stem feeding causes greater yield loss than leaf damage.

Flea beetles can cause stem damage to canola

Swede midge and pollen beetle

There hasn’t been much swede midge damage on canola in northeastern Ontario in the last couple of years. This is suspected to be due to spring weather conditions. Swede midge need spring rains to emerge. We are likely to have rains to encourage emergence in late May/early June this year so producers should continue to use swede midge pheromone traps and scout for swede midge damage.

Pollen beetle is another pest of concern in canola, which has been found in Quebec and the Maritime provinces. They lay their eggs in flower buds. When the larvae hatch, they feed on the flowers and pollen. Meghan Moran is planning to survey for it in Nipissing and Temiskaming Districts this summer to see if it is becoming an issue in northeastern Ontario. Please contact her if you have a field for her to scout.


Some research has been done in Cache Bay on phosphorus rates at seeding. The aim is to identify whether P rates can be safely increased to help speed canola emergence and early growth. Phosphate was banded in between rows as MESZ or Top Phos at rates of 0, 25, 50 and 75 lbs P2O5/acre. There were no differences in plant stand or yield, which suggests that it may be safe to increase P rates in a mid-row band. Results from similar work in Saskatchewan are available HERE.

Split nitrogen applications were also discussed. While research has not shown significant yield differences between up-front and split applied N, in theory split applied N should improve crop use efficiency and decrease environmental losses. The second application should be applied before bolting, at the 5- to 6-leaf stage.


Christine O’Reilly, OMAFRA Forage & Grazing Specialist, discussed spring scouting for alfalfa and grass hay fields.

Alfalfa plant counts are done at green-up and act as the “early warning system” if something has gone wrong over winter. The target number of healthy crowns per square foot varies with stand age (see thresholds HERE). Now that alfalfa is around 15 cm (6 in.) tall across the north, stem counts can be done to assess yield potential. These differ from plant counts because an alfalfa crown sends up multiple stems. If the stand has 55+ stems/ft2, it can reach its full yield potential. A stem count of 40 stems/ft2 has about 75% yield potential. Because harvest costs/acre remain nearly constant regardless of crop yield, maintaining high yielding hay fields keeps the cost per tonne low. Alfalfa stands with less than 40 stems/ft2 should be considered for termination and rotation. Depending on forage needs, the stand could be terminated after first cut and rotated into a short-season crop (such as sorghum-sudangrass or pearl millet) or harvested as normal this year and terminated in the fall.

There is less guidance available on assessing grass and grass/clover mixtures. Generally, we do not expect stand reductions following drought in grasses. A fall application of nitrogen is recommended to help the grass recover from drought stress. However, scouting grass fields for thin or bare patches will indicate whether overseeding may be beneficial to improve yields.

Alfalfa in the north is entering the window for fungicide applications (4-8 in. tall), if needed. Research on the impact of fungicides on alfalfa forage quality show that fungicides are most likely to pay for themselves if:

  • Weather conditions favour disease development (typically wet and warm)
  • The alfalfa variety does not have resistance traits to the disease in question
  • The harvest interval is long (35 days or more)
  • Yield potential is high

Northwestern Ontario (Kenora, Rainy River, and Thunder Bay)

Very little field work has been completed due to wet conditions. There is flooding across the region, with roads washed out and evacuation orders in place for some communities. The forecast is calling for more rain and cool conditions this week. Resources are available to help producers cope with stress and find mental health support.

Alfalfa is currently about 15-20 cm (6-8 in.) tall. Producers are waiting for drier field conditions to assess how last year’s drought-stressed pastures came through the winter.

Northeastern Ontario (Cochrane, Temiskaming, Nipissing, Sudbury, Manitoulin, and Algoma)

The last two weeks have brought unseasonably hot, sunny weather that enabled lots of field work to get done. Planting progress was reported at about 50% in Cochrane District (which is earlier than normal), and about 90% complete in Nipissing. Overall, crops are in very good condition. Frost was reported in Cochrane and Nipissing last night, but not in Temiskaming.

A request for emergency use of Avipel, a sandhill crane deterrent, on Manitoulin Island was denied. Successful corn crops in Nipissing District in 2020 and 2021 have encouraged producers there to grow grain corn again this year. Silage corn has already been planted under plastic mulch in Cochrane District.

Discussion around no-till canola concluded that it can be done if seed placement is good. The biggest risk to the crop after establishment is slug damage. Experience from Manitoba suggests that no-till planting into heavy residue increases the frost-sensitivity of canola in an early-seeded crop. Growers there get around this issue by waiting until mid-May to no-till canola.

Upcoming Events

July 21st – the Timiskaming Crops Coalition is hosting a tour of the Ontario Crops Research Centre – New Liskeard (formerly NLARS) in the afternoon, with a crop tour in the evening. More details to come.