Field Crops
Across most of south-central and southeastern Ontario, there’s been 50 to 100 per cent more rain than normal,” says Scott Banks, a cropping systems specialist with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA). “It’s certainly been a challenging year. There isn’t really a silver lining to all this rain: no crops like being so wet. But growers have experienced tough years before. Outside of controlling the weather, there isn’t a whole lot they can do other than trying to minimize the issues and crossing their fingers for a warm, open fall.”
Published in Seeding/Planting
Much of our Prairie landscape has gently rolling to hummocky topography. The parent geological material on which these soils formed is often glacial till that remained after the glaciers retreated 10,000 to 12,000 years ago.
Published in Soil
Precision mapping technology is increasingly user-friendly. In fact, Aaron Breimer, general manager of precision agriculture consulting firm Veritas Farm Business Management, says some precision map-writing software is so simple a producer can segment zones or draw a boundary around a field with little more than the click of a mouse. The challenge is that the maps are only as accurate as the information used to create them.
Published in Precision Ag
A few growers in Saskatchewan are adopting intercropping systems as a way to improve yields and revenue over monocropping. Researchers at the South East Research Farm (SERF) in Redvers, Sask., are helping growers address some of their intercropping questions through small plot research and replicated trials, including demonstrations and evaluations of the potential of various crop combinations.
Published in Seeding/Planting
The U.S. environmental agency is considering banning sprayings of the agricultural herbicide dicamba after a set deadline next year, according to state officials advising the agency on its response to crop damage linked to the weed killer.

Setting a cut-off date, possibly sometime in the first half of 2018, would aim to protect plants vulnerable to dicamba, after growers across the U.S. farm belt reported the chemical drifted from where it was sprayed this summer, damaging millions of acres of soybeans and other crops.

A ban could hurt sales by Monsanto Co (MON.N) and DuPont which sell dicamba weed killers and soybean seeds with Monsanto’s dicamba-tolerant Xtend trait. BASF (BASFn.DE) also sells a dicamba herbicide.

It is not yet known how damage attributed to the herbicides, used on Xtend soybeans and cotton, will affect yields of soybeans unable to withstand dicamba because the crops have not been harvested.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) discussed a deadline for next year’s sprayings on a call with state officials last month that addressed steps the agency could take to prevent a repeat of the damage, four participants on the call told Reuters.

It was the latest of at least three conference calls the EPA has held with state regulators and experts since late July dedicated to dicamba-related crop damage and the first to focus on how to respond to the problem, participants said.

A cut-off date for usage in spring or early summer could protect vulnerable plants by only allowing farmers to spray fields before soybeans emerge from the ground, according to weed and pesticide specialists.

Monsanto spokeswoman Christi Dixon told Reuters on Aug. 23, the day of the last EPA call, that the agency had not indicated it planned to prohibit sprayings of dicamba herbicides on soybeans that had emerged. That action “would not be warranted,” she said.

The EPA had no immediate comment.

EPA officials on the last call made clear that it would be unacceptable to see the same extent of crop damage again next year, according to Andrew Thostenson, a pesticide specialist for North Dakota State University who participated in the call.

They said “there needed to be some significant changes for the use rules if we’re going to maintain it in 2018,” he said about dicamba usage.

State regulators and university specialists from Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Iowa and North Dakota are pressuring the EPA to decide soon on rules guiding usage because farmers will make planting decisions for next spring over the next several months.

Tighter usage limits could discourage cash-strapped growers from buying Monsanto’s more expensive dicamba-resistant Xtend soybean seeds. Dicamba-tolerant soybeans cost about $64 a bag, compared with about $28 a bag for Monsanto’s Roundup Ready soybeans and about $50 a bag for soybeans resistant to Bayer’s Liberty herbicide.

Already, a task force in Arkansas has advised the state to bar dicamba sprayings after April 15 next year, which would prevent most farmers there from using dicamba on Xtend soybeans after they emerge.

Arkansas previously blocked sales of Monsanto’s dicamba herbicide, XtendiMax with VaporGrip, in the state.

“If the EPA imposed a April 15 cut-off date for dicamba spraying, that would be catastrophic for Xtend - it invalidates the entire point of planting it,” said Jonas Oxgaard, analyst for investment management firm Bernstein.

Monsanto has projected its Xtend crop system would return a $5 to $10 premium per acre over soybeans with glyphosate resistance alone, creating a $400-$800 million opportunity for the company once the seeds are planted on an expected 80 million acres in the United States, according to Oxgaard.

By 2019, Monsanto predicts U.S. farmers will plant Xtend soybeans on 55 million acres, or more than 60 percent of the total planted this year. READ MORE 
Published in Herbicides
With a later than normal planting window and a summer growing season seemingly short on summer weather, some growers have been monitoring their corn growth stages and asking about gauging the risks associated with corn maturity and frost, particularly those who planted very late or have longer maturity hybrids. While there are still several weeks left to the growing season, a few things growers trying to gauge their crop stage for frost risk may want to consider include:

Crop Staging

Clearly, the closer to maturity (black layer) the crop is, the less impact a frost event will have on the crop. For quick review:

The emergence of silks is the R1 stage. As a rough guideline, once pollination occurs, it takes about 60 more days for the crop to reach physiological maturity. Thus, silk timing can give a bit of an indication of when maturity of the corn crop may be expected – a crop that pollinated around July 25th may be expected to reach maturity or black layer sometime around September 25th. While there can be some small differences across hybrid maturities, hybrid maturity ratings have a much more significant impact on the length of time in vegetative stages than reproductive stages.

The R2 blister stage occurs following pollination when fertilized kernels are just beginning to develop, while the R3 milk stage occurs when kernels are turning yellow and are beginning to fill with an opaque milky fluid. Grain fill is rapid by the R3 stage, and maturity under normal conditions would be 5-6 weeks away.

The R4 dough stage occurs when the milk solution turns pasty as starch continues to form, with some kernels beginning to dent as dough begins to turn to hard starch at the dent ends of kernels. Under normal conditions, the dough stage may be generally 3-5 weeks from maturity.

The R5 dent stage occurs when the majority of kernels have dented, and the milk line, which separates the hard starch phase from the soft dough phase, progresses from the dent end towards the cob. The dent stage may last approximately 3 weeks.

The R6 maturity or black layer stage marks physiological maturity. This occurs when a small layer of cells at the base of the kernel near where the kernel connects to the cob die and turn black, which marks the end of grain fill from the cob into the developing kernel. Maximum dry matter accumulation has occurred, so any frost or stress event after this stage will have little impact on yield unless harvestability is compromised. Black layer normally forms once milk line has reach the base of the kernel, although significant stress events (extended period of very cool average temperatures, significant defoliation) can result in black layer formation before the milk line has reached the base of the kernel.

Frost Severity

In regards to frost severity, a light frost (ie. 0°C) may damage or kill leaves, but not be cold enough, or last long enough to actually penetrate into the stem and kill the plant. While premature leaf death limits further grain fill from photosynthesis, a living stem can still translocate dry matter to the developing grain to continue to provide some grain fill after a light frost event.

In the event where temperatures are low enough (ie. -2°C), or last long enough to penetrate and kill the entire plant, there is no ability of the plant to continue filling grain, and yield at that point has been fixed.

Any frost event during the blister or milk stage would result in significant grain yield losses as significant grain fill is still yet to occur at these stages.

A light frost event at the dough stage may reduce yields by 35% while a killing frost may reduce yields by 55% (Lauer, 2004).

Yield loss in the dent stage depends on the relative time left to mature. A light frost at the beginning of dent stage may reduce yields by 25% while a killing frost may reduce yields by 40%. During the mid-dent stage, significant dry matter accumulation has occurred, and light and killing frosts may reduce yields around 5% and 10% respectively.

Estimating Time to Maturity

Time required to reach maturity can be estimated by knowing the approximate Crop Heat Units (CHU) required for each reproductive corn stage. A general approximation of CHU required to complete the various R growth stages in corn is presented in Table 1. Scouting corn for the crop stages described above and referring to Table 1 will give an indication of how many CHU are required for the corn crop to reach maturity.



Comparing the estimated CHU required from Table 2 to an estimated number of CHU available until typical first frost date gives an idea of how much CHU would be available in an “average” year, and how close to maturity the crop may be for the average expected first frost date. Typical first killing frost dates based on 30 year climate normal across a selection of locations in the Province are presented in Table 2, while CHU values can be estimated through calculation tables in the Field Scouting chapter of Pub 811 Agronomy Guide for Field Crops, or through other weather information providers such as Farmzone.com or WeatherCentral.ca.

This Report includes data from WIN and Environment Canada
Published in Corn
Though often abused and neglected, mixed forage stands can respond to fertilization. Still, some growers are hesitant to apply fertilizer to meet fertility needs, perhaps because forage yields tend to decline over time or because lack of spring rainfall can limit yield responses.
Published in Other Crops
Crowds, new ideas, research and equipment – something’s going on with cover crops in Ontario.
Published in Other Crops
When is the “right” time to put soybeans into the ground? Research in Manitoba is moving beyond the recommendations borrowed from Ontario and south of the border to develop Prairie-specific guidelines.  
Published in Seeding/Planting
Organic matter (OM) in soil is the result of hundreds to several thousand years of microbial, plant and animal residue additions to the soil. Soil organic residues are constantly breaking down and are in various stages of decomposition.
Published in Soil
This year’s “Canada 150” celebrations, marking 150 years since Confederation on July 1, 1867, have prompted reflection about the past, present and future of our country.
Published in Corporate News
While the benefits of cover crops for soil health have long been touted by extension staff, it’s been difficult for researchers to determine how exactly cover crops affect the soil. But last year, an elaborate soil health monitoring system ­– the first of its kind in North America – was installed at the Elora Research Station, near Guelph, Ont.

Prior to installation, 18 soil columns were outfitted with multiple sensors at multiple depths for sampling soil water, nutrients and greenhouse gases. The measuring devices, called lysimeters, will be used to compare the environmental impact of two different long-term cropping systems. A conventional (non-diverse) corn-soybean rotation will be compared to a diverse rotation where cover crops and intercrops are included in a corn-soybean-wheat rotation.

In addition to evaluating how cropping systems impact soil health, the project will also measure the impact of crops on soil ecosystem services.

These are the benefits to society, such as increased carbon sequestration, reduced nutrient leaching and reduced greenhouse gas emissions....

Don't forget to sign up to our E-newsletters (for free!) and subscribe to the Western edition of Top Crop Manager (print and digital) for the full story. The more you know, the better you grow.
Published in Soil
Farm Credit Canada (FCC) is offering support to customers in parts of eastern Ontario and western Quebec facing financial hardship as a result of excessive moisture during this year’s growing season.

Many producers in that area are facing a cash shortfall since they were unable to seed or were forced to replant due to extreme rainfall, while others face additional costs from having to purchase feed as a result of reduced yields of corn, soybeans and hay.

“Agriculture is the only industry we serve, so we have a deep understanding of the challenges that come with the business,” said Michael Hoffort, FCC president and CEO, in announcing the Customer Support Program.

“Excessive rainfall has certainly impacted the growing season in parts of Eastern Canada and, in some cases, caused financial challenges for farm operations, as well as personal hardship and stress,” he said. “We want our customers to know we stand by them and will show flexibility to help them through challenging times.”

FCC will work with customers to come up with solutions for their operation to reduce the financial pressure caused by excessive moisture.

Although FCC customer support is being offered in specific locations, Canada’s leading agriculture lender offers flexibility to all customers through challenging business cycles and unpredictable circumstances on a case-by-case basis.

Customers in Ontario and western Quebec are encouraged to contact their FCC relationship manager or the FCC Customer Service Centre at 1-888-332-3301 to discuss their individual situation and options.
Published in Corporate News
“Across most of south-central and southeastern Ontario, there’s been 50 to 100 per cent more rain than normal,” says Scott Banks, a cropping systems specialist with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA).
Published in Corporate News
From planting and digging potatoes to observing insects feeding on plants to learning about coloured spuds, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s (AAFC) Fredericton Research and Development Centre opened its doors and wowed visitors with plenty to see and do. Despite the rain, AAFC staff welcomed nearly 400 people for an open house held on August 19th in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the department. Curious visitors spent time touring research plots, visiting labs and learning about the science that goes into developing better potatoes.

AAFC’s researchers shared their knowledge of genetics, entomology, agronomy, hydrology and measuring carbon dioxide. Josée Owen, associate director of research, development and technology transfer at the centre, says there’s a lot of new science emerging in potato research and the open house was a great opportunity to show the public the diversity of the work that goes into creating a more resilient crop. Disciplines such as bioinformatics computing and agr-environmental resilience are areas the centre is focusing on to develop potatoes that are more efficient, adaptable and environmentally-friendly. Owen said she was “very pleased to see such enthusiasm from the public in learning about the science that goes into potato research and how scientists are addressing industry challenges."
Published in Corporate News
Jeff Schoenau, a soil scientist with the University of Saskatchewan was involved in a research study conducted in the mid-2000s that compared four tillage treatments that were imposed on no-till fields (longer than 10 years) at Rosthern (Black soil), Tisdale (Gray soil) and Central Butte (Brown soil), Sask.
Published in Tillage
In 2016, the research farm in Harrington, P.E.I., became the first Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada facility in the country to have part of its operation certified organic. Agriculture Canada now has 15 hectares in total certified on P.E.I.

"The 25 acres (10 hectares) in Harrington have been so successful and we had been essentially farming the Charlottetown farm as an organic farm since about 2013," said Jan Holmes, farm manager at the Charlottetown Research and Development Centre. | READ MORE
Published in Corporate News
After the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Centre kicked off its shelterbelt program in 1903, the Indian Head Research Station sent out more than one billion free trees to western Canadian producers.
Published in Corporate News
What if we could design a landscape that would provide a variety of nutritious foods, high-quality habitat, and ecosystem services, while also delivering a healthy profit to the landowner? According to University of Illinois researchers, it is not only possible, it should be adopted more widely, now.

“We need to be on the road to figuring things out before we get to tipping points on climate change or food security, or we could be left way behind. In future environments, people might get paid for ecosystem services or carbon credits, or food might become more valuable. If so, these systems become much more attractive for landowners,” says Sarah Taylor Lovell, an agroecologist in the Department of Crop Sciences at U of I.

Lovell believes multifunctional woody polyculture is the way forward. She and several co-authors introduce the concept and discuss their experimental design in a recent paper published in Agroforestry Systems.

Essentially, the idea is to incorporate berry- and nut-bearing shrubs and trees in an alley cropping system with hay or other row crops. The combination is meant to mimic the habitat features, carbon storage, and nutrient-holding capacities of a natural system. “We wanted to capture that aspect, but we also wanted it to be commercially viable,” Lovell says. “The trees and shrubs need to fit in perfect linear rows 30 feet apart, so you can fit equipment. That was a much more practical agronomic consideration.”

Lovell and her colleagues are three years into what they hope will be a long-term experiment on the U of I campus. Their trial consists of seven combinations of species in commercial-scale plots, from simple combinations of two tree species to highly diverse combinations including multiple species of trees, shrubs, and forage crops. “We added increasingly diverse systems so we can get a sense of how much is too much diversity in terms of trying to manage everything in a feasible way,” she says.

The researchers will measure crop productivity, management strategies, and economic potential as the experiment gets established. “We’re keeping track of all the person-hours that go into each of these different combinations, so we’ll capture the labor involved and figure out whether it’s economically viable,” Lovell says.

Farmers accustomed to traditional row crops may be daunted by the long wait associated with nut crops. Lovell says chestnuts and hazelnuts don’t produce worthwhile harvests until 7 to 12 years after planting. But, she says, the other species can bring in profits while farmers wait. Hay or vegetable crops can be harvested from the alleys in year one. And shrubs could start bearing high-value fruit crops, such as currants or aronia berries, within a couple of years.

Lovell points out that the market for some nuts is growing. For example, Nutella lovers may recall headlines about an international hazelnut shortage a couple of years ago. “It would take a while to saturate that market,” she says. But she also points out that some nuts could be used more generically for their starchy or oily products.

Another barrier to adoption may be the cost of specialized equipment needed to harvest tree nuts, berries, and row crops. “There’s a tradeoff in terms of how complex to get and still be able to manage it in a reasonable way,” Lovell says. But she suggests the potential of farming cooperatives with shared equipment as a way to defray costs.

It will be several years before Lovell will have results to share, but other trials have shown that multifunctional woody polyculture could be both economically viable and environmentally beneficial. Lovell’s article details the outcomes of long-standing experimental sites in France and Missouri, but she says those two sites are the only large-scale examples in the temperate region. “That really shows just how little research there is on this so far,” she says. “We need to invest in this research now because it’s going to take so long to get to the solutions.”

The research team is working with regional farmers to replicate small- and large-scale versions of their experimental setup on-farm. Lovell knows it might take some convincing, but points out that many farmers are willing to set aside portions of their land into the Conservation Reserve Program. “If we can provide the same benefits in terms of water quality, habitat, biodiversity, and nutrient cycling as CRP but then also have this harvestable product, why wouldn’t you consider that?”
Published in Seeding/Planting
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