From FCC Express
By Owen Roberts
The exceptionally warm weather recently in Ontario is coaxing the hardiest and most stubborn plants out of the ground early.
Canada fleabane, for example, already looks like it’s the dominant species in some winter wheat fields. Observers have taken note.
“People are saying that some Canada fleabane fields are having a problem with winter wheat crowding it out,” says Dale Cowan, senior agronomist with the AGRIS and Wanstead Co-op.
That’s a tongue-in-cheek statement, but it’s also an accurate assessment. Winter wheat was typically overseeded last fall, resulting in dense but thin-stemmed stands. Canada fleabane is a viable competitor against such stands.
But that’s not all. Cowan is also concerned the weak stems will result in lodging. He’s encouraging producers to not even think about early nitrogen applications, which will further promote tall growth.
“It’s too early… wheat doesn’t need nitrogen now and the risk of environmental loss is too high,” Cowan says. “Delay your nitrogen application until you can get rid of some of the tillers.”
No one can blame producers for wanting to do something out in their fields, given the amazingly warm weather. And of course the desire to plant early weighs in, too.
Early planting often means higher yields, and since September 2015 through to February 2016, the average temperature in Ridgetown – a key corn- and soybean-growing region in Ontario – was 6.1 C. For the same period in 2014-2015, it was 1.6 C.
The weather there has also been appreciably drier, with 90 millimetres less than between September 2014 to February 2015, and 150 millimetres less than the average. Comparatively, dry fields will further tempt producers to get out on them. But Cowan warns unnecessary tillage will take its toll on thirsty land.
“Conserve the moisture for germination,” Cowan advises.
He has a couple of alternative suggestions for outdoors work.
First, he says, spend some time in the shed – maybe open the doors – and get the planter ready. If the warm and dry weather continues, early planting could well follow towards the end of April.
Second, scout fields for early-emerged weeds – such as the Canada fleabane he mentioned, which is getting a head start on the season. Be prepared to adjust weed management plans, depending on what other weeds make an early appearance.
And don’t be too surprised by the early arrival of more unwelcomed greenery.
“We’re all solar powered when the sun shines,” Cowan says. “Canada fleabane is enjoying the weather, just like the rest of us.”
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