Ontario Field Crop Report
2007 Cereal Crop Seasonal Summary
Table of Contents
- Winter Cereals
- Fall 2007
- Spring Cereals
- Challenges for 2008
Technical information can also be obtained at the OMAFRA Field Crops Webpage and Crop Pest Ontario. Referenced OMAFRA Publications include the Agronomy Guide for Field Crops (Publication 811), the Field Crop Protection Guide (Publication 812), Guide to Weed Control (Publication 75), and Ontario Weeds (Publication 505). These can be obtained from your OMAFRA Resource Centre, or by calling 1-800-668-9938.
Winter cereal production was challenged right from planting, with wet fall conditions in 2006 resulting in a small acreage (550,000) and late planting. Lack of moisture throughout the 2007 growing season, especially in southwestern and central Ontario, further stressed both winter and spring crops. Eastern Ontario was the exception, with generally sufficient rainfall during the cereal growing season.
Despite these severe challenges and extreme yield variability, overall provincial yields were very close to average. Quality was mostly excellent, with heavy test weights and almost no downgrading. The biggest impact was on reduced straw yields which lead to price levels setting new records and shorting supply in some areas.
Excellent conditions and very high wheat prices contributed to a record acreage of wheat planted this fall with an estimated 1.2 million acres in the ground. Abnormally warm conditions throughout October, has the wheat crop in ideal condition as we approach winter.
The dry summer of 2006 gave way in September, followed by a cold wet October. Many producers fought to harvest soybeans, and planted wheat into soggy conditions as more rain fell. Thanksgiving planted wheat was the hardest hit, with most severely affected fields having "tile run" wheat long before winter closed in. Significant acreage was planted in November, and even into December, with a few acres planted in January. Much of this late planted wheat performed very well, often better than October wheat, with 90% of the late wheat being designated as acceptable stands by Agricorp in the spring 2007. Part of this impressive performance is likely due to an unreasonably warm, open season that lasted well into January.
Spring came early and dry, allowing nitrogen and weed control applications to be made on time. Survival was variable, with many fields having some barren areas. However, the bulk of the crop was left in place because of high prices and straw demand. Dry conditions limited disease pressure throughout the season, but aphid populations were extremely high and exceeded thresholds in some fields. The result was high levels of late infection from Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus (BYDV). Yields were not severely affected with the late infection timing. Several cold snaps in May did cause significant frost injury, with a near miss in many fields just prior to the early wheat heading out.
As the lack of precipitation continued, sand fields that had looked the best in May, traded places with clay fields that had looked tough early. Fusarium concerns evaporated as the dry conditions became entrenched.
Growers were amazed as harvest unfolded. Even with knolls burnt off and wet spots drowned out, yields were near average. Wagons and trucks groaned against heavy loads, with test weights often 64 to 66 lbs/bu and the quality was generally excellent. Provincial average yield was down only 2%, at 75.8 bu/ac. Straw yields were significantly reduced, with most areas reporting 2/3rds of average.
With memories of the deluge of 2006 hard to forget, in many cases growers chose to go to the field early and hard. Many growers did not hold back, with significant acreage planted by September 15th, and even some wheat planted in August. High prices have driven acres up, with a new record acreage of winter wheat being planted, estimated at 1.2 million acres. Above normal temperatures throughout October have resulted in more top growth and leaf disease pressure than normal. While the outcome of this early planted wheat and disease pressure remains to be seen, in general the wheat crop looks excellent. This crop has excellent yield potential and may break the 100 bu/ac barrier.
Dry conditions allowed for timely planting into excellent soil conditions. Uneven emergence was a problem in some fields due to dry soils and/or shallow planting.
Several bouts of cold night temperatures made timing of weed control more difficult, but most herbicides were applied in a timely fashion. Lack of rainfall kept disease pressure at extremely low levels. Oat rust scouts were on high alert, with record rust pressure on the alternate host (Buckthorn), but dry conditions meant the disease never developed. Aphid populations were well above threshold in some fields, resulting in significant BYDV in susceptible cultivars. Lack of moisture kept the crop extremely short and virtually eliminated any lodging concerns.
While the dry conditions continued in southwestern and central Ontario, eastern Ontario received significant rainfall during grainfill. Some late rust did develop in the spring wheat crop, but had little yield effect. Yields were extremely variable, with some areas below ½ tonne/acre. Eastern Ontario fared better, with yields average or above. Quality was excellent, with high test weights, although the higher yields in eastern Ontario resulted in lower protein levels in the spring wheat crop. Provincially, barley and oat yields were 4% below average at 1.13 t/ac, while spring wheat was 7% above average at 51 bu/ac. This reflects the higher percentage of the spring wheat crop in eastern Ontario. As with winter wheat, straw yields were down significantly, with many growers reporting only one-half of a normal straw yield.
Dry weather took its toll as harvest results came in. Yields were only average for the barley, oat and mixed grain crop, at about 2600 lbs/ac (2900 kg/ha). Test weights were marginal for the oat crop, indicating the importance of early planting to achieve high quality oats again being driven home. Spring wheat yields were somewhat better, about 6% above average at 49.2 bu/ac. Protein and quality of the spring wheat crop was excellent, although some downgrading due to mildew did occur in later harvested fields. Much of the improved yield of spring wheat can again be attributed to early planting, and the fact that a higher proportion of the crop is grown in the areas that were less affected by the dry weather.
As always, this report would not be complete without discussing straw yields from barley, the only reason many growers have for growing the crop. With the exception of the driest areas, most growers were pleased with good straw yields due to cool conditions, and thus, will grow barley yet again next year, despite spring wheat being more profitable.
Acreage intentions for 2007 are much increased for spring wheat, with heavy soil areas that were unable to plant winter wheat now banking on frost seeding spring wheat into those acres. As prices improve for corn and soybeans, acreage intentions for barley and mixed grain continue to slide. Oat acreage intentions appear to be less impacted by prices for these other commodities, although intentions appear down slightly. All this, of course, may change drastically by spring!
Challenges for 2008
Managing early planted wheat
"how goes the soybean harvest, so goes wheat planting". This adage has meant wide swings in winter wheat acreage from year to year, resulting in wide fluctuations in supply. It is important to have wheat acres at a more consistent level to meet market opportunities. Early planting is one area that could assist in this. However, this practice invites several potential concerns not associated with later planted wheat, including BYDV, Hessian fly, and snow mould. Management techniques to address these issues will need to be investigated, including genetic and pesticide options that will ensure that the practice does not jeopardize the crop.
Wheat in the rotation
as wheat acreage increases, there will be increased desire to plant wheat in less than ideal rotations, such as wheat following corn, wheat following barley, and wheat following wheat. The impact of these rotations needs to be assessed, along with any management options to mitigate the problems associated with these rotations.
Increased aphid pressure noted this year may become a more regular occurrence should the warm conditions attributed to climate change continue. Very little Ontario data exists to support management thresholds or techniques. New fungicide products continue to become available, some now with multiple modes of action. These fungicides gave greater response than expected in 2007. These results need to be validated, and the impact of multiple modes of action considered.
While oat rust did not developed as feared in 2007, much of the genetic resistance in current varieties has been overcome by the disease. Scouting and control methods, as well as effort on new genetic resistance, will need to continue.
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