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From the Editor: February 2012

The 2011 corn growing season was like a seasonal grab bag in the sense that you got a little bit of everything, but not necessarily in the right order.


February 9, 2012
By David Manly


Topics

The 2011 corn growing season was like a seasonal grab bag in the sense that you got a little bit of everything, but not necessarily in the right order. We experienced a wet spring, which delayed planting, and an unseasonably dry summer that caused a bit of stress for producers and consumers alike. But, overall corn yields were surprisingly good.
According to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), the corn yield will easily surpass the five-year average of 149.1 bu/acre. In fact, some farmers almost doubled that, with yields surpassing 300 bu/acre in parts of Ontario. Yet even with yields and overall production up, the industry still saw its share of challenges.

It is imperative that producers be aware of all the difficulties facing corn production this coming season, which is why this issue of Top Crop Manager East has a focus on corn, from  planting through disease management and crop protection.

In “Corn planting dates and yields,” Carolyn King questions the rigidity of planting dates for corn. She interviews an expert from OMAFRA about the 2011 season, and says that while earlier is still best, it does not mean yields cannot be good if you plant later than usual.

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Also in this issue, we have two articles that delve into diseases that can cause major headaches for corn producers: Gibberella ear rot and the Western bean cutworm.

Treena Hein tackles “Giberella ear rot: the latest on hybrid offerings” on page 6 and discovers that, while chemical and biological control options are limited, hybrid corn varieties can help protect your crop.  Crossbreeding different varieties of corn that have shown resilience against the mould can allow farmers to nip the infection in the bud and give them a fighting chance.

Meanwhile, on page 12 Blair Andrews paints a picture of what farmers can do to fight a growing threat in “Western Bean Cutworm: What to expect in 2012.” With the pest slowly increasing its range across Ontario and Quebec, there are only a few options for growers to stop its spread: Insecticides, natural predators and careful monitoring of crops. All the options have costs and different levels of effectiveness, but the choice of which to use falls to the farmer.

Corn growers have much to celebrate. Corn yields have steadily increased in the past few decades thanks to new breeds, pest control and practices. The average corn yield in Ontario 50 years ago was only 64 bu/acre, not even half of today’s 144 bu/acre average, and prices are solid. And yes, farmers managed to pull the proverbial rabbit out of the hat with 2011’s impressive yields.

Still, none of this is reason to rest on our collective laurels.

Innovation and the willingness to experiment have driven the corn sector forward for the past few decades, and they will continue to do so in the next few decades. 

Anyone for an over 400 bu/acre average by 2062?