By Marty Vermey, Grain Farmers of Ontario’s senior agronomist
Over the past few days, as I have travelled through southern and western Ontario, it was all too evident the struggle farmers are facing with this wet spring. Some areas had a nice little bit of ground planted, and some areas had no field work done at all. If you averaged it, only about a third of the ground is planted, another third has been worked, and the rest hasn’t been touched. There has been water lying in fields in many counties.
As we see the glassy shine on the fields and know that fields are saturated with three to six inches of rain on it, our thoughts turn to how will the recently planted crop emerge. Every field will be different, and those with good soil health and porosity will fair better. But as the soils dry, we will need to keep an eye on the activity of the seed beneath the surface, evaluate if a crust is forming, and notice how tight the soils are.
If the seedling is being held back by a crust or tight soils, remediation may be required. Crack the crust once the soil starts to dry to give a point of least resistance for the seedling to emerge from. Prevent further compaction by waiting for the ground to be dry, but don’t wait too long as once the soil is baked, the damage will be done.
Cracking can be done with many different tools you may already have on the farm. If you have to, even running an empty planter with the units up and just a coulter lightly cracking the crust will help. Using a shallow vertical till machine is also a consideration.
I had the opportunity to attend the Agribusiness Breakfast Meeting hosted by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) this week. At the meeting, it was noted by Horst Bohner, OMAFRA soybean specialist, that as we get into a later timeframe for planting soybeans, we will lose 10 per cent yield with June planted soybeans. To help reduce the impact of late planting yield loss, farmers are encouraged to establish their soybean canopy as soon as possible as they will have a shorter growing window. You should focus on planting in narrow rows with a higher density to establish a canopy that pushes plants to pod higher. Later planting dates results in shorter and narrower plant development. Push seeding population by 10 per cent in early June and push to 20 per cent after June 15.
The wheat crop is also under stress in the region. Thinner stands in many fields will result in reduced yields. We will need to manage the wheat crop properly to have a marketable product. Farmers will need to keep an eye on diseases. Stripe rust has been identified in Kentucky and Tennessee, and a field has been confirmed in the Wingham area of Ontario. For tips on how to identify and manage stripe rust, see the related article at Ontario Grain Farmer.ca.
Fusarium will need to be managed closely as well this year. Wet weather at flowering will cause our greatest risk of infection. The wheat crop is at different growth phases, so keep an eye on your field, and once the majority of the field is at anthesis, get ready to spray. Consult your ag retailer for product options and application rates. More information can also be found at Field Crop News.com.