2011 Cereals Seasonal Summary

Table of Contents

  1. Summary
  2. Management: Winter Cereals
  3. Management: Spring Cereals

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.


Fall plantings in 2010 reached 1 million acres of winter wheat, which went into the winter in excellent condition. Unfortunately, prolonged wet conditions throughout April and May significantly impacted both winter and spring cereal crops, reducing acreage and delaying planting of spring cereals, and causing spring kill in winter cereals. Final yields ranged widely, from growers with the best crop ever to growers with the poorest crop in 50 years. Overall, yields were disappointing and below trend line: winter wheat 75.6 bu/ac (5.1 t/ha), spring wheat 49.3 bu/ac (3.3 t/ha), and spring cereals (barley, oat, mixed grain) averaging about 60 bu/ac (2.8 t/ha). Quality was excellent for the majority of the wheat crop, with not even one report of fusarium in the winter wheat crop, and only isolated hotspots in the spring wheat crop. Test weight was a challenge in the spring grains, with late planting and leaf disease reducing test weight in many instances.

Fall 2011 conditions were very poor for winter cereal plantings, with only 575,000 acres of wheat planted by Oct 31st, with a portion of these acres being "tile run" wheat. Significant acreage continued to be planted into the first two weeks of November, despite being past the Agricorp deadline. These acres had better soil conditions and excellent weather during the first half of November. Final winter wheat acreage is estimated at 650-675,000 acres.

Spring cereal acreage continued to decline in 2011: Spring Wheat 80,000 acres (-29%), Oat 55,000 acres (-21%), Barley 110,000 acres (-39%) and Mixed Grain 90,000 acres (-14%). The need for straw is becoming a significant driver to maintain cereals in the rotation.

Figure 1: Tile run wheat fall 2011

Figure 1: Tile run wheat fall 2011

Management: Winter Cereals

The majority of winter cereal acres were managed at a higher level in 2011, using data developed in the SMART wheat research project. Many producers ramped up nitrogen rates by 30 pounds (120 N), and made sure to use at least one fungicide spray (T3 or fusarium timing). In some cases, producers moved to even higher N rates and multiple fungicide applications. The outcome of these increased management inputs was variable. In areas of the province with more favourable spring conditions, growers reported excellent yields, often the best ever. In areas with up to 3 times normal rainfall in May (Lake Erie shoreline region), wheat actually died from water logged conditions as it headed out, and yield increases from added inputs were non-existent.

Nitrogen losses in water logged areas were extremely significant, with some research trials indicating as much as 50% of April applied nitrogen was lost due to denitrification on heavier soils. This is definitely an abnormal loss level. Additional nitrogen applied in these situations in late May increased yields by 8 to 10 bu/ac. Other acres did not have N applied due to wet soil conditions until the very end of May. Response to this late planted N was much greater than anticipated and proves how much cereal crops can compensate when given the chance. In both of these situations, recommendations in the future will be improved by what was learned this year.

Sulphur deficiency was positively identified this year, after some initial suspicions in 2010. Yield trials showed an average of 5 bu/ac yield response to applied sulphur. While not every site responded, sites that did respond returned significant economic gain. Further research will be conducted over the next two years, but the addition of 5 to 10 pounds of sulphur as a standard fertilizer addition is likely.

Management: Spring Cereals

Delayed planting proved again to have a major yield impact on cereals, although in true cereal areas (Northern Ontario, upper Ottawa valley, Dufferin County) high yields were obtained despite late planting. Any management option growers can employ to plant cereal crops earlier (drainage, frost seeding, stale seedbed) will improve yields significantly.

Weed control of late planted cereals was a significant concern, particularly with grass weeds. Broadleaf herbicides worked well, but thin canopies due to reduced tillering from late planting allowed grass weeds to become competitive in fields where grass weed pressure was normally not a concern. With late planting of cereals, grass weed control is required.

Late planting conditions proved to increase the potential for leaf disease and resulting yield impacts. Oat rust continued to be a major issue in southwestern and eastern Ontario, with unsprayed oat crops yielding very poorly and having very low test weights (< 20 lbs/bu). Barley showed tremendous yield response to fungicide applications this year, with up to 30 % response in some research trials.

Research is ongoing to find improved management techniques for cereal crops, to make them more competitive in Ontario cropping systems.

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