Unseasonably warm and dry conditions across the region this past week have resulted in ideal growing and planting conditions. Forages and winter cereals are progressing quickly and planting is well underway.
A light frost across much of the region Sunday night was not cold enough to damage cereals or forages and there were no reported emerged corn or soybean fields.
Much of the region is seeing drier than normal soil conditions, with some exceptions. Soil moisture at planting depth is generally adequate so far, though some soils are already dry to three inches. This tends to correlate with tillage practices. Many soils have dried to the depth they were worked, and “fluffy” surface soil makes it harder for soil water to wick up the profile with evaporation. For the most part, seedbeds are better than average.
Alfalfa and forages in general look very good across Central and Eastern Ontario. Early rains and warm weather are getting growers closer to first cut every day. Alfalfa Stem counts can now be done if they haven’t already – this can help determine ongoing potential for the field. If row crop seeding is still ongoing when high-quality forages are ready for harvest (e.g. winter cereals or alfalfa), park the planter in favour of harvesting forages. Waiting the extra day or three has been proven to significantly reduce quality of the forage harvested. For dairy operations, this can have a greater economic impact than lost yield potential from delaying corn or soybean planting.
Forages are important to scout in the spring. Forages, especially mixed stands, can be tricky. The green you see developing may not be what you are expecting. There were some earlier reports of alfalfa overwintering issues in the east central area and these fields should be walked to determine stand quality, yield potential, and longevity.
Winter wheat is developing well in the region. Many fields are at GS30 or GS31 (1st node), depending on the planting date.
If you are planning on applying a plant growth regulator (PGR), try to avoid the middle of the day and high temperature windows. Keeping water volumes close to 20 gal/ac will help to reduce plant stress. When selecting fields for PGR applications, take into consideration plant populations, fertility levels (including manure application) and variety. PGRs have the most impact when used on highly managed fields (early planting, high seed rates, N rates of 150 lbs/ac or more) that have a high yield potential. Consider which parts of the field are most susceptible to lodging and prioritize those areas. PGR application can generally increase the maximum N rate on cereals by about 30 lbs/ac.
Very little weed control has occurred to date. If winter annuls were controlled last fall farmers should be in good shape. If no fall herbicide was used, and weeds are present, prioritize those fields for scouting and treatment. Spring annuals are just starting to come now so the timing is right, but check the weed species, stages, and density to determine whether treatment is necessary.
It’s estimated that most growers are somewhere between 40 and 50% completed corn seeding, with some regional variability following soil types. With the dry soil conditions being reported, it is important to ensure the seed is uniformly planted into moisture to ensure good soil-seed contact to achieve rapid and uniform emergence.
It is expected that most of the corn crop and a good start on the soybean crop should be planted by the weekend. With big planters and good seeding conditions, planters can cover a lot of ground quickly. Operators should stop regularly to ensure that equipment is functioning optimally (think fertilizer rates and seed metering). Take that short break to check equipment and dig up the seed to be sure depth and spacing are optimal.
Nitrogen stabilizers are used to mitigate N loss from denitrification or ammonia volatilization. Though some products may include a combination of both, N stabilizer products are specific to the type of loss they protect against. Ensure you are picking the right product for the conditions and risk of loss. Denitrification inhibitors are unlikely to be needed given the dry soil conditions. Nitrogen applied on the surface and not incorporated is most susceptible to loss through volatilization. The highest risk conditions are surface applications to damp soil or where a light rain wets the surface but is insufficient to move the nitrogen into the soil. This dampness starts the urease transformation process that turns the nitrogen into a gas without bringing it deeper into the soil where it can be held. When considering stabilized N applications, think of the nitrogen fertilizer timing relative to when the corn needs the nutrients. Side-dress N needs to be available more quickly than pre-plant applied N because crop need and uptake are higher at that growth stage.
Soybean seeding is progressing either with corn planting, or as soon as corn planting is completed. Don’t work the soil too aggressively or deep with the current dry weather and soil conditions. It is important to get seed planted into moisture. Work shallow and place the seed into moist soil just at that point of depth where the soil has been worked to. With moisture and current weather this will result in rapid and uniform emergence.
With rapid emergence, and especially in IP beans, timing of soil applied residual herbicides is critical. This should be a top priority.
Overall, spring field work is progressing well in across the region. Remember to take breaks – spring’s a marathon, not a sprint!
Weed control continues to focus on escapes of resistant weeds, especially fleabane and waterhemp. Waterhemp doesn’t spread as easily as fleabane, but when present will be a problem to control for many years. Growers should consider waterhemp when they find large patches of escaped weeds that look like hairless pigweed. Waterhemp has been found in eastern and east central Ontario. See this map. Also, be on the lookout for waterhemp where equipment has been brought in from the US or from southern Ontario counties.
With the weather favouring planting, many have been keeping the planters running and are behind on herbicide application. With the current heat, corn (and weeds) will emerge quickly so getting those residual herbicides on is now top of mind for most. With the hot dry weather and little rain in the forecast, some are concerned about the ability of soil-applied herbicides to activate. Residual herbicides need to get into the top ½ inch of soil and into solution so that the weeds can take up the herbicide. As a rule of thumb, a good ¾-1” rain are needed to move the herbicide into the soil and activate it.
If rainfall is not received within 7-10 days after application, weeds that emerge during that time may not be controlled since the herbicide will not be taken up. Some herbicides are degraded by sun exposure, which is another reason why getting them into the soil is important. If rain is not received some may elect to rotary hoe or tine cultivate to shallowly work that herbicide in. Where those tools are not available, some may consider the harrows or rolling baskets on the back of the cultivator as an alternative. This activity will remove the “white weeds” and move the herbicide away from the soil surface. Pre-emergence herbicides must be near the surface in the zone where small weed roots or stems are emerging to be effective. Their effectiveness is reduced by dilution or lack of uptake if below the germinating weed if they are incorporated too deep. Regardless, more pressure will be on weed control this season if rain does not come shortly. Keep on top of this by scouting fields.
- Deadline to apply or make changes for spring policy coverage (Grains & Oilseeds, New Forage Seeding, and Forage Rainfall) has been extended from May 1/2022 to May 16/2022 just for this season.
- Pedigree Seed coverage is now available for soybeans, spring wheat for 2022 crop year and for winter wheat for the 2023 crop year. The premiums are similar to those for commercial production, but there are added protections including a germination test component – if the seed fails a germination test it is eligible for compensation.
- Production Insurance coverage for production loss due to on-farm labour disruptions due COVID-19 has been extended for the 2022 program year.
- Please visit www.agricorp.com to obtain up-to-date information.