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Ontario producers explore cover crop options for unseeded fields


Some Ontario producers are turning to planting cover crops on unseeded fields after wet weather delayed the growing season and left some fields with less-than-optimal planting conditions. Winter wheat producers that suffered poor winter survival are also looking into their cover crop options.

The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) published a resource on cover crop options for unseeded fields.

For fields that will be planted to winter wheat in the fall of 2019, OMAFRA recommends oats, a combination of oats and leftover soybean seed, or a combination of oats and daikon radish. Joanna Follings, cereals specialist with OMAFRA speaking at the Southwest Crop Diagnostic Days in Ridgetown, Ont., explained that oats limit disease carryover and are an economical option for growers. Follings also said peas were an option but not a well-rounded alternative such as oats.

OMAFRA states that while growers have the option to plant nothing and leave the field bare, planting cover crops in combination with herbicide application is an effective way of managing weeds and protecting the soil until the fall. Weeds controlled through herbicides or tillage (without cover crops) won’t protect the soil from rain and sun damage, and are less effective at managing weeds.

For fields where winter wheat will not be planted in the fall of 2019, OMAFRA recommends a combination of oats and clover in addition to its previous recommendations.

In addition to the above, OMAFRA shares that cover crop sensitivity to herbicide residues can be a concern in some fields. Cover crop seed availability is also variable across the province, so growers are encouraged to check with local suppliers. The full resource on cover crop options for unseeded fields is available online.