Ontario Crop Report - 2001 Seasonal Summary

Table of Contents

  1. Weather
  2. Winter Wheat
  3. Weed Control
  4. Spring Cereals
  5. Corn
  6. Soybeans
  7. Edible Beans
  8. Canola
  9. Forages
  10. Weed Management

Technical information can be obtained at the CropPest Ontario website.

Included in this report are some of the emerging challenges that field staff have identified that need to be considered in 2002. During the winter months, attend meetings, ask questions and look for answers to these or other issues.

Weather

After several mild, open winters, the winter of 2000-2001 experienced heavy snowfall, and cold temperatures. Heavy rains in January caused some flooding. Spring arrived early with warm southerly winds that dropped soil moisture levels quickly. The warm, dry spring weather abruptly changed in early May to cool and wet conditions that continued into early June. The remainder of the growing season could be summed up as dry and hot. Environment Canada reports that 2001 has been the driest summer in 54 years. Depending on the area the number of consecutive days, with less then 3 mm rainfall often ranged from 15 to 25+ days. The dry spell ran from June 25th to August 10th in much of Ontario. Some areas of the province received as little as 9% of normal rainfall for the month of July. The hottest periods of the 2001 growing season ran from July 19th through to July 25th and August 4th through to August 10th. During that period, daytime temperatures were over 30°C and nighttime temperatures above 17°C. These periods of extreme heat, combined with the lack of rainfall, hit the crops hard. Conditions remained relatively dry until mid September, at which point a wet weather system settled in and persisted until the end of October dumping record levels of rainfall in southwestern Ontario. Most areas received the first hard frost by October 8th. Overall, crop heat units were above the long-term averages.

Winter Wheat

By and large, the crop came through the winter in good shape. Nitrogen applications were generally timely. In early spring, heavy snow mould pressure was evident in areas with abundant snow accumulation. Snow mould was most severe in early-planted wheat, which provided more leaf tissue for the mould to feed on and allowed for greater plant to plant movement. Areas in fields where snow remained the longest had the highest incidences of mould. Counties along Lake Huron suffered the highest losses of wheat stands due to snow mould. In these areas, many fields were burned off and planted to corn or beans.

European chafer and cereal leaf beetle damage to wheat was minimal in the province this year. The fusarium model predicted a moderate to high disease potential for a significant portion of the winter wheat acreage. However, within a few days of this risk alert a change in the weather forecast from showers to dry weather, resulted in the fusarium risk being reversed to low risk. This created some confusion in the need to spray with Folicur fungicide. At harvest, fusarium approached critical levels in some areas, but only a few loads of wheat were downgraded. In southwestern Ontario, an outbreak of leaf stripe rust occurred near wheat harvest. Additional leaf disease control was obtained from Folicur applications this year.

Winter wheat yields were generally average to above, with good quality overall and strong prices at harvest. Many received the protein premiums on the hard red wheat varieties.

With wheat as the economic bright spot, planting intentions for wheat were high this fall. Unfortunately, delayed soybean harvest has cut into planting intentions. The 2002 wheat crop is about 60% of what was intended (similar to last year's acreage). Wheat planted early has produced excellent stands. Late planting and excess moisture has slowed emergence in some parts of Ontario.

Challenges for 2002

Weed Control. Benefits to early weed control in the spring. In no-till wheat, a burndown herbicide is a good option to control dandelions and other perennial and winter annual weeds.

Starter Fertilizer. Starter fertilizer trials have shown a benefit to the establishment, early growth and yield of winter wheat. Limited number of trials has given a positive response to 100 lbs/ac. of MAP applied at planting time. Field trials are ongoing. Evaluate this relationship to soil tests and type.

Fusarium Control. Field trials are continuing to further refine the fusarium risk prediction model and the management practices required.

Spring Wheat Variety Evaluation. Higher yielding, improved quality spring wheat varieties offer new market opportunities in shorter season (less than 2750 chu) areas. On-farm variety strip trials are needed to fully evaluate these.

Spring Cereals

Oat, Barley and mixed grain acreage stayed at about the same as previous years, where as the spring wheat acreage was up about 10 to 15 percent from last year. The majority of the spring cereals where sown in the last week of April and the first week of May. The weather for the early part of the growing season was cool and there was sufficient moisture to get the crop off to a good start. Disease pressure remained low including fusarium head blight in the spring wheat this year. The dry weather hit late enough in the life of this crop that grain fill was not affected. Grain yields were 10-15% higher then average. Quality was excellent with generally higher than average bushel weight and protein level and low to no fusarium. An added benefit was an excellent straw yield.

Corn

The second half of April was warm and dry allowing for a large acreage of corn to be planted in early May. Corn emerged evenly with many 'picket row' fence fields. The potential was set for above average corn yields. Corn, which had a well-developed root system prior to the next month of wet, cool conditions, showed the best stress tolerance. Early weed competition from weeds for nitrogen was very evident this year. Herbicide programs were challenged by all the weather problems possible, too dry, too wet, too cold, etc. Pre-plant incorporated and pre-emergent weed control programs provided good control, where soil moisture was adequate. In a few cases, lumpy seedbeds reduced weed control from pre-plant incorporated/pre-emergent programs. The dry soil conditions, and low weed pressure encouraged many to wait on post-emergent programs. However, the abrupt change to cool, wet and windy weather, through the remainder of May and into early June, placed corn under considerable stress further delaying post-emergent herbicide programs. This resulted in post-emergent programs that had to be adjusted to accommodate advanced corn and larger weeds. When warm, dry conditions returned in June, corn displayed phenominal growth, making it difficult to spray on time without injury.

Leaf disease pressure was low due to the dry weather condition. Dry conditions that persisted through grain fill resulted in reduced food storage in stalks weakening plants. Weakened stalks allowed stalk rot to set in. Combined with corn borer and high winds at maturity, stalk breakage is high in some areas. There have been few reports of ear moulds.

Harvest was delayed by wet weather. When weather did not permit harvesting soybeans, many farmers switched to harvesting corn. In areas that received rain in the 3rd week of July and less drought prone soils, growers were surprised by yields that were average to above average. Yields have ranged from 30 on the low end to over 180 bu/ac on the high end.

Challenges for 2002

Nitrogen Management.OMAFRA Field crop staff launched a 3-year project in 2001 to look at weather factors, soil and management practices that could improve nitrogen management for corn and other field crops.

Early Planted Corn. In 2001 early-planted corn that had a well-developed root system, displayed greater stress tolerance to the wet, cold conditions that persisted into June. Further, when warm weather returned in June, that corn displayed rapid recovery and growth.

Seeding Rate and Hybrid Interaction. In selecting a hybrid, what seeding rate is optimum for that hybrid that will give both the highest yield potential and good stalk strength.

European Chafer has moved from being a problem in turfgrass, to include corn and wheat. Fieldwork is investigating biology, adoption and IPM management practices in field crops.

Soybeans

The year 2001 will likely go down in history as one of the worst on record for soybeans. The year-end results can be summed up as reduced quality and yield. Some of the crop was planted in the early part of May, but the rest was delayed until late May and early June due to wet weather.

Cool, wet soil conditions provided a good environment for slugs, seed corn maggot, Pythium and other early season root rots, and brown spot. Burndown herbicide application in some no-till fields, were late resulting in weeds that were difficult to control and these weeds used valuable soil moisture. Many post-emergent programs did not provide adequate weed control, resulting in the need for pre-harvest application. Weed control in Roundup Ready (RR) beans was good, leading to increased interest this fall in planting these beans next year.

Extreme heat, dry conditions, and soybean aphids persisted into August resulting in flower and pod abortion particularly at the top of the plant. As a result, many soybean fields began to prematurely drop leaves and dry down. Rainfall the third week of August arrived too late to help most stands. Pod drop and splitting of pods were common this year, which is normally unusual. Size of beans was small, and many beans destined for Identify Preserved (IP) markets did not meet quality standards due to weathering, insect and disease damage. The ladybugs, which feed on the aphids, increased significantly in number but not before significant damage had been done.

Sooty mould began to develop on soybean leaves reducing photosynthesis.

Harvest has been significantly delayed by wet weather since mid-September and 20 to 30% of the soybean crop was still in the field at the end of October. Yields are ranging from 0 to 40 bushels/acre. The overall average for Ontario is likely to be in the low 20's, the lowest on record since 1960. A potential shortage in soybean seed supply prompted the Canadian Seed Growers Association to declare an emergency situation allowing for the re-certification of soybeans from fields planted to certified seed, provided all the requirements for pedigreed seed production are met.

Challenges for 2002

Benefits and Risks of Growing Identify Preserved (IP) Soybeans and Roundup Ready (RR) Soybeans. After a disappointing year with IP soybeans, many are weighing the benefits and risks of producing for this market. Frustration this year, with weed control, has led to increased interest by farmers in evaluating RR soybean system for their farm.

Soybean Aphids. The high level of aphids in many soybean fields had a dramatic impact, and raised concern on their potential for the future. Research is showing that only in severely dry years, will aphids have such an impact. Variety differences exist in tolerance to the aphids. Research and field trials in controlling the aphids provided variable results in control.

Potash Fertilizer on Soybeans. Elgin Soil and Crop Improvement Association is continuing with a project in its third year to evaluate rate and placement of potash on soybeans.

Tillage of No-till Soybeans

Ontario tillage research from 1997 to 2000 found that no-till soybean yields equaled that of the fall moldboard plow in twin rows and in row widths 56 cm (22.5") or less. On occasion, some farmer's report that their no-till soybeans yielded less than those grown conventionally did. Further field trials are required to explore the reasons for this and the possible benefits, to some form of light tillage or in-row tillage, at planting time on medium to heavy textured soils.

Edible Beans

Stronger prices and reports of reduced acreage elsewhere encouraged a higher acreage to be planted than originally anticipated. Overall, white bean acreage was expected to be 55,000 - 58,000 acres. Rainfall at planting time resulted in some delays. Like corn and soybeans, hot, dry weather took its toll with plants remaining short and often not filling the rows. Tarnished plant bugs late in the season caused some damage to seed. Japanese varieties of edible beans were very sensitive to the heat, with pod numbers low in many fields.

Pre-harvest treatments with glyphosate were slow acting, and farmers were reluctant to spray, given the reduced yield potential of the crop. The majority of crop was harvested under good conditions. Yields were generally a half to two-thirds of normal. Seed size is much smaller than normal. Prices at harvest, rallied for all market classes provided quality standards were met.

Challenges for 2002

Seed Treatments. Initial research trials with new seed treatments to control early seedling diseases such as root rot organisms and early season control of leafhoppers have been positive. Other products requiring field trials include Bacillus subtillus and T22 seed treatments.

Seed Size. Small seed size of the 2001 crop is an important quality factor with buyers. Are there management practices that can improve seed size?

Canola

Acreage of spring canola is estimated to be 35-45,000 acres and is continuing its drop from previous years. Costs and potential returns favoured planting either more spring wheat or soybeans instead of canola. The small acreage of winter canola survived the winter in good condition and rewarded growers with above average yields. Most of the spring canola crop was planted within a few days of May 1st. The weather, immediately following planting, remained dry and windy for several days. Although there was moisture deeper in the soil, the surface of the soil where the canola seeds were laying was dry and powdery. This resulted in slow and uneven emergence of the canola. Cool weather in late May and into June favoured canola, however, later hot, dry weather near the end of flowering resulting in some blasting of flowers and pods. The appearance of Roundup Ready canola in Roundup Ready soybean fields has raised a caution flag to plan crop rotations and weed control programs carefully.

Yields were variable across the province ranging from 40% below average to 20% higher. Prices at harvest were $100/tonne higher than a year earlier. The loss of the only registered winter canola variety, Artic was a disappointment to the industry. However, the industry is encouraged by several promising new winter varieties, with good blackleg and winter survival that are now in the Ontario Performance Testing Program.

Challenges For 2002

Primed Canola Seed. Preliminary trials with primed canola seed have resulted in more rapid emergence and establishment. In Western Canada trials, primed canola has also flowered slightly earlier. The management and economics of this practice need to be further evaluated.

Winter Canola. In the fall of 2001, performance trials were established to evaluate new promising winter canola varieties with good winter survival and resistance to blackleg. Field strip trials will be needed to test these new varieties and the agronomic practices to grow them.

Nitrogen Rates on Hybrid Canola. Research and field trials of nitrogen rates on spring canola have shown mixed results, and further trials need to be conducted to fine tune nitrogen rates.

Forages

The alfalfa winter survival was generally good. Forage inventory carry-over in the spring was generally considered more than adequate. Cool, dry conditions in early spring delayed and reduced the vigour of the initial growth. The rains in June corrected this situation. Some leaf spot and black stem resulted in first cut leaf losses. Severe alfalfa weevil infestations were reported in the southwestern part of the province. Spraying was necessary in areas exceeding threshold levels and including some second cut regrowth.

First cut yields were good to excellent - pastures and stored forage inventories were considered more than adequate at that time, and first cut standing hay prices were low. Forage quality was considered good, with laboratory analysis indicating normal fibre levels with slightly higher fibre digestibilities (dNDF). Dry conditions starting in July significantly reduced second cut yields, particularly in later cut fields. Third cut regrowth was frequently nonexistent due to lack of moisture. Alfalfa fields responded to the moisture stress by decreased number of stems, reduced stem elongation and yield, but increased leaf to stem ratio. Second and third cut forage analysis had some low fibre (NDF) and higher crude protein levels.

New forage spring seedings were less than ideal, depending on rainfall, soil type, seeding date, companion crops, and other management practices. The acreage that was summer seeded was greatly reduced due to the dry conditions. Potato leafhoppers were at extremely high levels in some areas, with the damage compounding the effects of the dry weather.

Many pastures were overgrazed by mid-July due to the dry weather and required supplementary feeding with hay. Despite this, cattle gains on rotationally grazed pastures were quite good.

Farmers re-evaluated forage inventories and developed various strategies to ensure adequate feed supplies. This resulted in increase hay and standing hay prices. Some beef calves were weaned earlier than normal and sold. Some alfalfa fields were cut well into the Critical Fall Harvest Period. This may impact on next year's alfalfa yield and some farmers may have to purchase hay.

Corn silage will be a larger part of rations. Most corn fields were damaged by the dry weather, resulting in poor grain development. Fields with poor cob development were salvaged as corn silage. Overall, corn silage quality was extremely variable, with much of it being lower in digestible energy. The dry weather made it more difficult to correctly time harvest of corn silage, sorghum or millet silage. The risk of nitrates in forage was a concern at harvest, but there were few reports of problems.

Challenges for 2002

Evaluation of Corn Silage Hybrids for Yield and Quality. Several corn seed companies have focused research efforts into developing corn hybrids specifically for silage. A limited amount of information is available on the performance of hybrids for silage. The East Central Soil and Crop Improvement Association is conducting a 3-year project on dry matter yield and quality characteristics for silage. In addition, the association is refining testing procedures for evaluating quality. Year two is now complete. Further field trials are required.

Weed Management Challenges for 2002

Weed Resistance. Weed resistance continues to be of concern. If you had weed escapes, which should have been controlled by your herbicide program and can not find a good reason for the lack of control, the possibility of herbicide resistance should be explored. The most common sign of resistance is when all the weed species are controlled except for one, which should have been controlled by the herbicide program. Resistant weeds can show up in patches or in streaks corresponding to the harvest pattern of the combine if noticed early. Over time, resistant weeds will spread across the entire field. Since 1997, redroot, pigweed, green pigweed, common ragweed and Eastern-black nightshade resistant to Group 2 herbicides (such as Pursuit, Pinnacle, Classic, Ultim, etc) have been positively identified in Ontario soybean fields.

Timing of Post-emergent Weed Control. Increased reliance on post-emergent weed control programs in corn and soybeans has put pressure on optimum timing for application. The temptation is to wait until most weeds appear before spraying, because of the wide window of application. However, those weeds, which emerge with the crop are most competitive for moisture (especially in a dry spring) and nutrients. Early post-emergent application provides a wide application window, and has little downside risk. Review your weed management program carefully.

Burndown Herbicides Ahead of Corn and Soybeans

Timing of Burndown herbicide application was delayed in a number of fields in 2001, robbing crops of valuable soil moisture and nitrogen. Larger weeds also proved to be more difficult if not impossible to control.

Soil Management

A very wet October has forced many to harvest the crop in less than ideal conditions. There was enough rain in many areas to wet the soil well below the plow layer. A number of growers deep till their fields periodically or are considering is this fall to try to undo some of the soil compaction they have caused. At this point in time deep tillage will only smear the soil and will not break up the compaction. If you are considering deep tillage it is best to plant a crop that can be harvested early and perform the operation when the soil is dry at tillage depth.

This was a year that helped to reemphasize the importance of good soil management. Fields with good soil quality yielded significantly better. It was very apparent on yield maps which parts of larger fields had better soil structure. Some of the management options for maintaining or improving soil quality are: include grain corn, cereals and forages (if possible) in the rotation, reduce tillage as much as possible, avoid compacting the soil and add organic matter in the form of manure, biosolids and cover crops when possible.


For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300
E-mail: ag.info.omafra@ontario.ca