Rainfall amounts ranged from 18 to 35 mm over Sunday-Tuesday. For the first time in a long time, the rainfall fell more evenly over a wide area. In the east central area this was welcome as things were getting dry. To the south and east where more rainfall has occurred over the spring, it added to some existing logistical issues with finishing planting and sprayer activity.
Weather has been the big impactor this spring. The window for planting has been very tight and getting herbicide programs installed has been a challenge. This is continuing to be an issue as operators are having to decide between spraying corn (herbicide and post N), weed control on soybeans, and weed control, PGRs, and fungicides on cereals.
Soybean spraying is behind in places like the upper Ottawa Valley because of wet conditions. Where farmers depend heavily on custom farming support the weather has added delays and logistical challenges. Some of those areas only have about 25% of the soybean crop with herbicide program applied. While likely less than 5% of the soybean acres are left to be planted, this can represent 100% of acres for some farmers.
Along Lake Ontario from Brighton eastward is also struggling to complete both planting and herbicide treatment.
Elsewhere the crop is in and is anywhere from yet-to-emerge to early 2nd trifoliolate stage. There is some crusting and some of the crop went into tough soil, but for the most part things are good. Only a small number of reseeding claims have been received by Agricorp.
With a condensed planting season due to earlier rains of as much as 4 inches, and soils slow to dry out, soybean spraying is behind. Soybeans planted during the heat of a couple of weeks ago emerged very fast and beat the sprayers. Many of these acres also did not receive a pre-plant burndown because of the tight planting window. This is most critical on IP beans where post-emergence options for tough weeds like fleabane are not available. In RR beans with dicamba resistant varieties, winds are giving people some pause in their spraying over drift concerns.
A lot of farmers in the region continue to rely on single or double shot glyphosate weed control programs. The continued variability of weather and logistics of spring activity and spread of herbicide resistant weeds means more people have to understand the importance of addressing weed control in fall and spring and using contact+residual herbicide programs.
There has been a lot of interest in rolling soybeans. It is safe to do before emergence, and after knuckling/hook stage up to the 3rd trifoliolate stage. The optimal time for rolling is at the 1st trifoliate stage as per this article from Horst Bohner. Many growers don’t know soybean staging especially where they don’t spray their own soybeans post-emergence, so it’s important they get good advice on this operations timing.
Most of the corn has been in for a couple of weeks and doing well. Crop stage in general ranges from 3 to 6 leaf. There are a couple of small pockets where people were trying to complete planting last week, mostly where corn was planted after 1st cut hay or rye. While corn planting went well for the most part, the uniformity of crop stage is a concern in some fields. Planting depth is the most likely culprit. The group thought it traces back to planter setups that are not uniformly planting corn seed at the intended depth (i.e., aiming for 2”, but getting 1 to 2.75”), and growers intentionally seeding too shallow to try to get corn to emerge faster. Seedbed quality is the other major contributor. Warm temperatures in April prompted some growers to plant or work fields that weren’t quite fit and to compromise by planting shallow. Others were stressed by the unfit conditions that followed for the next few weeks before another planting window opened and rushed operations before the soil was fit. Corn should be planted at 2” and operators need to get out of the cab and check the actual planting job routinely without always depending on the monitor.
The ground has to be fit when worked. The old saying of plant early is a two-part equation where the second part is often left off. Optimum Yield = plant early as possible + when the ground is fit! Where the full formula was followed, corn is looking excellent across the region.
On the nitrogen front, most farmers stayed with their original program although early on some made product switches to ensure they had access to fertilizer and to chase some price differences. Corn and soybean acres mostly did not shift, and nitrogen programs stayed with similar rates and plans. There will be no Ontario pre-sidedress N (PSNT) survey this year as we revaluate how better to evaluate soil N supply given the change in the early season N programs used by many farmers. Samples currently submitted to labs for N testing are showing higher than normal available N levels. If you want to adjust your N top-up program based on this and the cost of N, you are advised to quickly submit a field sample to your preferred lab. Remember that the PSNT is calibrated based on field scenario where a maximum of 30 lbs N/ac has been applied only in the starter band, which should not be sampled. Where N fertilizer or manure has been broadcast across the entire fields, the PSNT values will not be calibrated to recommendations.
There are some reports of black cutworm so people are advised to scout. Info on managing black cutworm is available here.
There are a few wireworms and grubs being observed in certain corn fields but mostly in low ground only. Little to be done for control based on thresholds, products and timing. The crop will likely outgrow them without significant damage.
Cereals, especially winter wheat, look better than elsewhere in Ontario. Most of the crop is at optimal timing for T3 fungicides to control fusarium head blight. Spraying advice for timing, risk, and product selection is available here and here. Some areas are struggling to get sprayers in fields with the wet soil conditions, especially as sprayers are being switched to narrow tires for row crop spraying. Of intended acres across the region only 25-30% have been sprayed, mostly at optimal timing. There have been comments made about not seeing pollen shed in the wheat. That is not the trigger for application, it’s head emergence. With the backward weather slowing spraying, significant control still occurs with fungicide treatment over a broader window than the optimal timing (up to day 8).
There was a discussion about cereal populations. Cereals typically lose 10% of plants relative to seed sown and losses can routinely be 30%, especially for winter cereals. Loss percentage tends to increase with higher populations because of the density and the fact higher populations are most often seeded on tougher soils. Unlike corn and soybeans, a 95% stand is the exception, but the crop compensates for stand loss by tillering. The real judge of yield is heads per square foot and fertility in the head that results in high yield and quality. The spring wheat target is 50-60 heads/ft2 and we often settle for 45-50 heads/ft2. Good winter wheat is over 80 heads/ft2 and optimal is 110-120 heads/ft2. This year across the province winter wheat is more in the 80 range and 50 where tile run is obvious. This may also lead to lower yields of straw in these areas.
With fertilizer prices what they are, people are asking how much is straw worth? Straw value on page 112 of OMAFRA Publication 811: Agronomy Guide for Field Cropsgives some clarification on understanding straw pricing. Nutrient removal in wheat straw can be found in table 9-15 on page 237 of Pub 811. Even with increased fertilizer prices, the nutrient value of straw remains within the $0.02/lb range.
Spring cereals are looking really good. Weed control timing is top of mind in these fields. Also, with the growth being seen, some fields will need to be considered for a PGR. Evaluate fields to monitor growth and determine if all or some of a field would benefit from this application.
Forage harvest for high quality dairy feed started last week – most as silage but a bit as baleage. Some of these acres were harvested early where farmers are intending to no-till in soybeans. However, frequent rains have slowed first cut, so more forage harvest will begin when the weather breaks. Weather conditions have been ideal for grass growth. Heading in grasses is driven mostly by day length, and most are entering their reproductive growth stages. Quality declines quickly when grasses start heading out, so cutting mixed stands should be based on grass maturity rather than alfalfa for high-quality forage.
Good yields are being reported. High managed fields with fertility and newer stands yielding 5200-6000 lbs DM/acre on the best fields. Compared to less managed field yields in the 2000-3000 lbs DM/acre, this shows the value of heightened forage management. This year fields are really responding to past and current fertilizer. On those big yield fields, especially where heavy rainfall occurred there is some lodging.
Alfalfa weevil has been found in some areas at below-threshold populations. Cutting is the best management, since it removes the weevils’ food source which reduces the population. Alfalfa and mixed stands with weevils at threshold should be cut if the planned harvest date is less than 10 days away. Cutting is preferred because insecticide treatments can impact beneficial insects in our forage fields and lead to more insect pest problems later in the season. More information on scouting, thresholds, and management options can be found here.
Potato leafhopper has been found in eastern Ontario, but populations are currently low. Potato leafhopper is typically the most damaging insect pest to alfalfa in Ontario, and has a big effect on second and subsequent cuts. Leaf hoppers arrive in Ontario each year usually on thunder storm fronts. More information on scouting, thresholds, and management options can be found here.
There have been a few calls on replanting, likely no more than 2000 acres in corn and soybeans in the east. These have been isolated to further east where heavy rains and standing water occurred often on rolling ground.
The acreage reporting deadline for Grains & Oilseeds and spring-seeded New Forage Seeding is June 30th, and people are advised to report ahead of the bottleneck of the last day.
Interested in sending in some samples for free soil health testing? The OMAFRA Soil Team is finalizing a Soil Health Assessment and Planning tool (SHAP) and would like your help to finish building our database of results for interpretation. Email Sebastian Belliard (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more details.