Production
Droughts are a part of the Prairie climate and severe, prolonged droughts can put a strain on irrigation water supplies. Improvements can increase energy-use efficiencies, improve crop yields, and enhance the sustainability of water resources. Some of these improvements are also  eligible for current financial incentive programs.
Published in Irrigation
The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs is rolling out a total of 21 new soil health publications. These publications provide best management practices to help you preserve and conserve soil while improving soil health and crop production.

The first five titles include: 
  • Adding Organic Amendments
  • Erosion Control Structures
  • Cropland Retirement
  • Soil Health in Ontario
  • Field Windbreaks

You can find these, and more titles as they are added, here.
Published in Corporate News
It’s official: 2016 was the warmest year on record. The United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports the average global surface temperature reached 14.83 C – the warmest it’s been since modern temperature records began in 1880.
Published in Irrigation
Management strategies
The Canola Council of Canada is proposing a risk assessment chart. If you have a four-year rotation, likely your risk of having blackleg is very low. We know it’s effective, but I realize it isn’t always easy to implement. [Miss part one? Click here]

Scouting is important because it gives you a sense of your risk situation. There is an easy procedure that can be used to assess risk. After swathing, pull 50 plants, cut the stems at the base of the plant where blackleg develops and assess the damage to the stem. Use the pictorial guide I developed to assess the level of disease. If you don’t have any disease or very light disease, your variety might still be holding fairly well as long as you continue with longer crop rotation. But if you have an R-rated variety with a much higher disease level than you expected, your variety may not be holding up.

If you do want to switch varieties, try to rotate to another major resistance gene. We currently don’t have enough public information from seed companies to know what their resistance sources are. The Canola Council of Canada has proposed a new resistance labelling system to show the resistance gene labelling. It is voluntary and may start in 2018.   
Slide 25
Photo courtesy of Gary Peng.

If you don’t have any issues or major blackleg damage, there’s no urgency for you to switch between resistance groups right away, but it’s always a good practice to rotate them if you know the R genes. We understand 90 per cent of growers would rotate among the different varieties today mostly for weed management options. There is a similar principle in rotating varieties for disease management.

I want to also stress that we have quite a diverse pathogen population on the Prairies. In reality, over 90 races have been detected. That means with every known resistance gene, there is a different virulent isolate out there that would be able to overcome the resistance right away. We really need to consider, if we have different R genes available, rotation of those R genes. And we also need to maintain the non-race-specific resistance, which has been serving us relatively well.

What about fungicides?
Research on various fungicide products and application timings has been conducted. One involved 17 station years across the Prairies. We used four fungicide products, mostly the strobilurins and a triazole, and a combination of both active ingredients. We looked at applications at the two- to four-leaf stage, the bolting stage, and an application at both stages.  We also compared a susceptible variety with a resistant and a moderately resistant variety.

When we put all the data from 17 station years together, the early application of a strobilurin fungicide reduced the disease severity and also increased yield quite significantly compared to the non-treated check. The average disease severity was around about 1.5. The later application did not work, which makes sense because the key stage of infection is the cotyledon. 

We further looked at the data and divided it into two scenarios: those fields with much lower disease levels of around a 0.5 severity rating, and those with a disease severity of about 2.5. In the fields with low disease severity, the fungicide application did not provide any yield benefit. Where disease severity was about 2.5, a fungicide application at the two- to four-leaf stage reduced the disease severity significantly and also increased yield by seven bushels per acre compared to the non-treated check. 

However, these results were on Westar – a susceptible variety that was used to show the worst case when an R/MR variety is losing resistance. We looked at R/MR canola varieties at the 17 site years and found none of the fungicide applications were effective in providing a yield advantage (also indicating that the R/MR varieties have stronger tolerance to blackleg impact). That means if you have a certain level of resistance in your variety, in most cases the fungicide application would not provide a substantial yield benefit.

Where a fungicide treatment might come in is if the varieties you have been using are starting to show signs of an increased amount of blackleg. You should scout crops and assess the level of disease development over time. Also consider the length of the crop rotation and other risk factors outlined by the Canola Council of Canada. If you feel you are at high risk, an early application at the two- to four-leaf stage may be warranted.
Risk chart


This article is a summary of the presentation “Managing blackleg of canola in Western Canada,” delivered by Dr. Gary Peng, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Saskatoon, at the Field Crop Disease Summit, Feb. 21-22, 2017. Click here to download the full presentation.

Don't forget to subscribe to our email newsletters so you're the first to know about current research in crop management.

Top Crop Manager's Herbicide Resistance Summit has been announced! Sign up today for early-bird pricing: https://www.weedsummit.ca/event/registration
Published in Diseases
Landscape characteristics including crop diversity or field size have less of an effect on the amount of insecticide used than the kind of crop a new study shows.

Over the past half century, food production has intensified to meet the growing demand. And as agricultural fields have become ever larger, more pesticides are required to enhance yield. | READ MORE
Published in Corporate News
World demand for food is growing and research and innovation will help Canadian farmers and food processors meet that demand. The Government of Canada is supporting science and innovation with key global partners to build the capacity necessary to take advantage of growth opportunities and create good, well-paying jobs.

As part of this effort, the Honourable Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, today joined the Honourable Christian Schmidt, German Federal Minister for Food and Agriculture, in Prince Edward Island to announce that Canada and Germany will work closer together in four areas of agricultural research:
  • Sustainable agriculture and climate change, particularly in the areas of protecting soil and water and breeding crops that are more resistant to the effects of climate change;
  • Agri-food, including crop breeding for nutrition and health and reducing food waste and loss;
  • Sharing best management practices for knowledge and technology transfer to farmers and industry; and
  • Personnel exchange, including exchanges of scientists and students between Canada and Germany to build on opportunities for collaboration.
Canada and Germany enjoy close and friendly relations, reflected in their active cooperation on the international stage as well as their healthy economic and investment partnership. Germany has been a strong science partner with AAFC for over a decade, especially in the areas of crop development and animal health.

The Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) will give Canadian farmers, processors and exporters duty-free access to more than half a billion consumers across the EU, the world's largest import market for agriculture and agri-food. This agreement will help generate jobs and grow the middle-class.

Germany continues to be a significant trading partner for Canada and is growing in importance both as an export destination and as a source of imports.
Published in Corporate News
A storied, century-old Canadian heritage barley variety called OAC 21 is being reintroduced, especially for the craft beer market. OAC stands for Ontario Agricultural College, while the number 21 refers to this barley’s row number in the research plot cultivated in 1903 in Guelph, by Canadian crop breeding icon Charles Zavitz. | READ MORE
Published in Corporate News

Small planes have been flying over local farms and taking aerial photos for decades. Now, individual farmers are able to get an aerial view of a field using a small remote-controlled drone equipped with a camera.

But Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) has been receiving information from a far more sophisticated data collection network for at least the past 30 years, according to Leander Campbell.

Campbell, a geographer who specializes in geomatics, works as a remote sensing specialist with the Earth Observation team at AAFC. He says most of his work is on the AAFC Annual Space-Based Crop Inventory. He gets his data in the form of imagery from satellites and uses it to produce an accurate national crop map.

“The crop map, the one I work on, is at a 30 metre resolution so each pixel is a 30 metre by 30 metre square. It covers all of Canada,” he explains. Campbell adds one of the crops mapped in year one of the crop inventory in 2009 was soybeans. Since then, the data has shown how the crop is spreading west and north on the Prairies.
WTCM30.1 MB soybean 2009 2012
Campbell extracted only the soybean fields (in yellow) from Manitoba crop maps for the years 2009 and 2012.
Photo courtesy of Leander Campbell, AAFC.

The network Campbell gets his data from consists of several international satellites. The American satellite Landsat-8 provides optical data to create crop maps anyone can download. In addition to these data, Campbell’s team also uses microwave data from the Canadian RADARSAT-2 satellite.

The combination of optical and microwave data has been shown to produce more accurate maps than maps created from either single source. These maps are created and validated using data collected by people in the field. For the Prairies, “we have agreements with the provincial crop insurance companies,” Campbell says. “It’s not a perfect system but we’re about 85 per cent and 90 per cent accurate and working to improve that.”

Satellites don’t stay in orbit forever and Campbell says a backup is always an asset. Canada has plans to launch a constellation of three microwave satellites in 2018, the RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM), to gather data that’s even more detailed and precise than what’s available now.

“There are more uses than I ever thought of,” Campbell says. For instance, crop placements, crop monitoring, research, commodity marketing, land use management and even flood forecasting in Manitoba.

Microwave data collected by the European SMOS (Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity) satellite allows Campbell’s team to operationally measure soil moisture in the top five centimetres of soil. He says most people don’t realize the Earth naturally radiates very low-level microwave energy and a satellite in space can pick up the variations in waves. Water absorbs microwave energy. When the microwaves radiate out from the Earth and pass through the soil, some of them are captured by moisture in the soil. 

According to Campbell, in September 2015, Statistics Canada did not do a farmer survey, opting to use AAFC climate data to complete their crop yield forecast. Satellite data can describe how agriculture land is changing or evolving over the years, whether it’s farmland expanding by eliminating small woodlots or urban expansion covering agricultural land. These phenomena can be monitored year over year using the AAFC crop maps.

Campbell has compiled maps that helped document the areas where clubroot is developing in canola. Scott Keller, a farmer from Camrose County in Alberta, contacted AAFC, asking Campbell if he could map Camrose County to determine how often canola was grown in particular fields. Keller wanted to determine which fields grew canola most often, either in a tight rotation over multiple years or in succession, in order to determine if there was a correlation between the escalation of clubroot and the rotation schedule.
Canola crop
Map created by Campbell to monitor canola crop frequency in Camrose County, Alta. 
Photo courtesy of Leander Campbell, AAFC.

That’s just one way satellite data can support crop management. Campbell says he’s confident that as computer technology and Internet costs come down, AAFC will be able to create more products from data because they can monitor specific areas once or several times over a growing season, or over years.

Campbell and his six colleagues who create the crop maps, soil moisture reports and the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) reports have an international presence as well. “I know some of our maps are incorporated into more global crop assessments for global market information, especially the NDVI maps,” Campbell says.

He explains that several nations around the world use satellite imagery to monitor their own crops. They meet on a monthly basis and compare data on major crops like corn, wheat, rice and soybeans through an organization called GEOGLAM. The group’s website states its vision is to “use coordinated, comprehensive and sustained Earth observations to inform decisions and actions in agriculture through a system of agricultural monitoring.” https://cropmonitor.org

Canadian farmers can access existing maps and data products online from the AAFC website. Because these maps are highly detailed, producers may experience difficulty downloading them on devices while in the field, but they can still view them online. According to Campbell, that’s the sort feedback he needs to hear from farmers.

“In our little world we have all these high-end computers and that works fine for us, but it may not be the most practical thing for others,” Campbell says. And, he’s looking forward to finding more ways to help farmers and make the website more user-friendly.

As satellite mapping matures, both farmers and scientists will view agriculture in new ways and Campbell is enthusiastic about the possibilities. “It’s a really exciting time to be in our field,” Campbell says.


This article originally appeared in the June 2016 issue of Top Crop Manager West

Published in Emerging Trends
Crop rotation is an important tool for our first line of defence in Western Canada. From a pathologist’s perspective, a wheat-canola-wheat-canola rotation – a single year between host crops – is not long enough to realize one of the benefits of rotation and allow decomposition of any infested crop residue. 

Variety resistance is also an excellent tool. When you have a variety with good levels of resistance, you really don’t need to spray a fungicide. The problem is that in your field you’re facing a range of diseases and it’s been very difficult to get varieties that have good levels of resistance to absolutely every disease issue that you might have in that field. If you have a tight rotation, your variety may not have the package of resistance that you need and, as a consequence, you will start to rely on fungicides. 

We like to use the disease triangle to express what a disease is all about. It’s the result of a susceptible host, a favourable environment and sufficient quantities of a virulent pathogen. The key thing to remember is that what you do in terms of crop management practices will impact the interaction of those three factors and ultimately, the risk of disease. 
Disease triangle
The disease triangle. Source: Dr. Kelly Turkington

Interation of fungicides with variety resistance
At a trial in Melfort, Sask., three barley varieties rated susceptible (Sundre), intermediate (Chigwell) and with a good resistance package (Vivar) against net-form net blotch were sprayed with Twinline (metconazole + pyraclostrobin) fungicide at the flag-leaf stage. With no fungicide application, Sundre had just under 20 per cent leaf area diseased on the penultimate leaf, but there was very little disease on Chigwell and Vivar with or without a fungicide. With a fungicide, there was a dramatic reduction in disease with Sundre.

If we look at yield, Sundre went from around 115 bushels per acre (bu/ac) without a fungicide to 145 bu/ac with the fungicide application. Chigwell had a bit of a response to fungicide application, which may be because it has an intermediate level of resistance. Vivar’s response to fungicide was basically flat. So, if you’re using a resistant variety that is giving you the protection you need, you don’t need to worry about putting on a fungicide.

General knowledge on application timing
In terms of fungicide application timing in cereals for leaf disease, it is important to know where yield and grain fill comes from. The literature suggests the wheat ear (head) contributes about 22 per cent to yield, while the flag-leaf contributes about 40 to 45 per cent, and penultimate (leaf below the flag) contributes about 23 per cent. Those are the key plant tissues that you want to protect. 

In barley, the flag-leaf is less important because it tends to be quite small in some varieties. The literature for barley suggests the head contributes around 13 per cent, the flag-leaf stem 25 per cent, the flag-leaf nine per cent and the penultimate about 20 per cent.

Overall, if you’re looking at a target as far as protecting the plant tissues that are key for grain filling and yield, the upper canopy tissues in those cereal crops are going to be your target.

Pathogen characteristics
The characteristics of the pathogen can be very important when trying to improve your ability to manage plant diseases with a fungicide. A monocyclic pathogen has one cycle of spore production, host infection and disease development, so there’s a very specific target there. Fusarium head blight (FHB) is a monocyclic pathogen.

Polycyclic pathogens cycle on the living crop more than once per growing season. These are diseases like stripe rust, tan spot, Septoria, net blotch and scald. This cycle may mean you can’t rely on a single application and may need several applications to get the level of control you desire, especially with highly susceptible varieties and under favourable weather conditions.

Stripe rust is an example of a polycyclic pathogen. It can move from spring wheat onto winter wheat seedlings in the fall. If I were advising a producer, I would note the presence of stripe rust in the fall and then be out in the winter wheat field as soon as the crop started to re-grow in the spring to see if the stripe rust fungus had survived. The stripe rust pathogen can rapidly cycle on the wheat crop: spores released from pustules on infected leaves are carried by the wind to healthy leaf tissue where they germinate, produce hyphae, penetrate plant tissue and within seven to 14 days, you’ll have symptoms – including pustules that produce a new crop of spores. So, every seven to 14 days, stripe rust can cycle on the crop well before head emergence. Thus, later on, on those upper-canopy leaves, you may see symptoms of stripe rust that can cause significant concern, especially if the disease becomes established in the crop before flag-leaf to head emergence.

Fungicide insensitivity
What about pathogen adaptation to the active ingredients in fungicides? Pathogens with a high risk of adapting to the active ingredients in fungicides have the following characteristics: they have mixed reproduction, so they reproduce sexually as well as asexually; and they also have an outcrossing system of reproduction where with they have male and female isolates – or mating types, – so you need a male and female for sexual reproduction to occur.

Sexual reproduction where different mating types are needed has the potential to create more genetic variability in the fungal pathogen, which can then be selected for when applying a fungicide. The other important thing is high genetic and pathogenic diversity in that pathogen, which increases the risk that a pathogen will adapt.

An example of a pathogen at moderate to high risk of adaptation to either plant disease resistance or fungicide active ingredients is the net blotch pathogen. In a study funded by the Western Grains Research Foundation, Alireza Akhavan, a PhD student working at the University of Alberta, found high levels of genetic/pathogenic diversity in the net blotch pathogen. It also reproduced asexually as well as sexually and with mixed mating types. Using a laboratory assay, Alireza found a few isolates that were insensitive (resistant) to Tilt (propiconazole) and, in some cases, insensitive to Headline (pyraclostrobin).

Randy Kutcher at the University of Saskatchewan is also looking at the tan spot fungus and potential insensitivity in the tan spot population.

Shifts in the fungicide sensitivity of cereal pathogens have been recognized in Europe for some time now and there have also been reports of changes in North America.

For example, in February 2015, Chris Mundt and colleagues at Oregon State University put out a disease update notice (Oregon State University, Disease Update, February 20, 2015, Chris Mundt, Mike Flowers, Nicole Anderson and Clare Sullivan), stating that, based on surveys from 2014, there were indications some fields had Septoria resistance to strobilurin (Group 11) fungicides. They also reported resistance to triazoles (Group 3) was starting to build.

Their recommendation in that part of the Pacific Northwest was to only apply a fungicide for early-season leaf disease control when stripe rust was present, because the fungicides were still effective against stripe rust. They also recommended using a succinate dehydrogenase inhibitor (SDHI) fungicide (Group 7) once per year, and for growers who did so to combine it with either a strobilurin or perhaps a triazole.

Click here to see part two: managing the tools available, including fungicide application timing trials.


This article is a summary of the presentation “Getting the Most Out of Your Cereal Fungicide: A Western Canadian Perspective,” delivered by Dr. Kelly Turkington, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Lacombe, Alta., at the Field Crop Disease Summit, Feb. 21-22, 2017. Click here to download the full presentation.

Don't forget to subscribe to our email newsletters so you're the first to know about current research in crop management.

Top Crop Manager's Herbicide Resistance Summit has been announced! Sign up today for early-bird pricing: https://www.weedsummit.ca/event/registration
Published in Diseases

Managing the tools available
Given that fungicides are an important component of their leaf disease management programs, farmers need to manage the fungicides we have by using products with more than one active ingredient and/or rotating the products they use. [Miss part one? Click here.]

When a susceptible variety is grown and weather conditions are very favourable, farmers may be concerned about early season leaf disease development. Rather than applying a fungicide with their herbicides, one option might be to look at a seed treatment and use xylem-mobile fungicides that will move from the seed up into the leaf tissue to provide some early season leaf protection.

These fungicides are mixed with other fungicides that give us good activity on some of the root rots, whether it’s Fusarium or Rhizoctonia or Pythium and so on. Ideally, one may want to use a seed treatment with different active ingredients versus foliar fungicides that may be used later on in the season, with one application of a triazole to give us some suppression of FHB and late-season leaf disease management. 

Using a seed treatment for early season leaf disease management is food for thought and may be a strategy to consider.

Nature of a fungicide influences risk of resistance
The nature of the fungicide also plays an important role in effectiveness. Some fungicides do very well in terms of particular plant pathogen groups versus other fungicides, so check the provincial crop protection guides to make sure you are choosing the right fungicide for the disease issues you are targeting. 

The nature of the fungicide also influences the risk of fungicide resistance. Fungicides with a very specific individual target (single site activity) within the pathogen are typically at higher risk versus actives that have multiple targets (multi-site activity).

Mobility within the plant also plays a role, as it influences the efficacy, persistence and period of activity. Mobility also influences application technology, so if the product is not systemic, it will be especially critical to use practices that ensure good coverage of the plant surface you are trying to protect.

Fungicide timing and leaf spot diseases
Fungicide application timing is important for cereal leaf spot management. From 2010 to 2012, we looked at the effect of fungicide timing on leaf spot diseases in barley at 13 sites. Specifically, we compared tank-mixing a fungicide with herbicide versus putting that fungicide on at the flag-leaf stage versus using a split application, a half rate earlier on and then coming in with either a half rate or a full rate of fungicide at flag-leaf emergence.

Overall, our results indicated the best leaf disease control and the highest yields were achieved where we put a fungicide on at the flag-leaf stage and where we did not delay the herbicide application and, thus, had early weed removal. 

Table 1: Yield and herbicide/fungicide treatment
slide 33
Turkington et al. 2015. The impact of fungicide and herbicide timing on foliar disease severity, and barley productivity and quality.               Can. J. Plant Sci. 95: 525–537.

Timing also a factor in stripe rust control
Another trial, led by Kutcher and Brian Beres with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Lethbridge, Atla., and conducted in Lacombe, Alta., illustrated the importance of fungicide application timing for stripe rust control in winter wheat. The most effective application for AC Bellatrix, a susceptible variety, was in the spring at the flag-leaf stage. For Radiant, a variety with some resistance, there was no need for a fungicide.

As mentioned previously, seed treatments may be an option for early- to mid-season leaf disease management. Recently, we did a set of experiments – including at Melfort – looking at the interaction of variety, seed treatment and fungicide on net blotch on barley. In 2013, we simply used a seed treatment without a fungicide and reduced the level of disease to less than 10 per cent of the leaf area affected from 30 per cent in the untreated control. If you looked at Twinline foliar fungicide applied with no seed treatment, there was very good control. Where we combined seed treatment with foliar treatment, it really didn’t improve control.

Our best yield response was where we simply put Twinline on at the flag-leaf emergence stage, whether a seed treatment was used or not. Overall, if you look at work done by research groups across Western Canada, if you have the opportunity to choose a variety that has good levels of resistance to the disease spectrum you’re dealing with, that’s an excellent tool to manage disease and will help you to avoid a fungicide application. 

However, the varieties you want grow may not have a complete package of resistance to the diseases of concern. Thus, it will be important to scout fields at or just prior to flag-leaf emergence to assess disease risk and its potential impact to determine if a foliar fungicide application is required to protect key upper plant canopy tissues. 

FHB application timing
Currently the recommendation for FHB fungicide application is to spray when you’ve got 75 per cent of the heads out of the boot – that’s when you can start – to about when you have 50 per cent of the head showing anthers in the middle part of that head. The problem with starting at 75 per cent head emergence is that 25 per cent of the heads are still in the boot. Thus, given the nature of the fungicides that we use for FHB, applications at 75 per cent head emergence will not provide much, if any, benefit for those heads not yet emerged.

Recent research from the United States suggests we may have a wider window for application post head emergence to get the most out of that fungicide application. 

Trials from the U.S. looked at fungicide timing and effect on FHB disease rating and DON content with applications at the start of anthesis (when you first see yellow anthers emerging from the middle part of the wheat head) and then either two, four or six days following the start of anthesis. Overall, results suggested that even at four and six days after anthesis, control was as good as applications at anthesis, and in some cases may actually be slightly better.

The trend was similar with DON content.

I think, in terms of getting the most out of our fungicide application for FHB, we need to look at revising our target. Maybe going a little later is something to consider so you provide protection for all heads within the crop. However, growers are cautioned that they need to follow label recommendations and the pre-harvest intervals for the products they use.

Expectations for fungicides
In terms of expectations for fungicides, it’s important to be realistic. Fungicides can certainly be effective tools for some diseases, but it’s important to use them prudently and to manage those fungicides so they remain effective tools for you over the next 10, 15, 20 years. Timing can have a huge impact. Fungicide application also doesn’t mean a completely disease-free crop and, thus, it is important to leave some check strips so that you can adequately judge fungicide performance.

Overall, farmers are encouraged not to rely exclusively on fungicides as their only defence against plant disease. Try to use the other tools in the toolbox. The more tools you have, the broader your ability to control disease and other pest and crop management issues in your crop.  By using a range of tools, including crop rotations of at least two years between host crops, you’re going to prolong the effectiveness of tools such as disease resistance and fungicides into the future.


This article is a summary of the presentation “Getting the Most Out of Your Cereal Fungicide: A Western Canadian Perspective,” delivered by Dr. Kelly Turkington, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Lacombe, Alta., at the Field Crop Disease Summit, Feb. 21-22, 2017. Click here to download the full presentation.

Don't forget to subscribe to our email newsletters so you're the first to know about current research in crop management.

Top Crop Manager's Herbicide Resistance Summit has been announced! Sign up today for early-bird pricing: https://www.weedsummit.ca/event/registration
Published in Diseases
Recent Alberta research shows that some wheat cultivars have a higher respose to more intensive agronomic management practices than others. This type of cultivar-specific information could help growers make more informed decisions on variety selection and management.
Published in Cereals
LET'S START WITH THE PAST...
In the past, disease management in field crops was largely based on major gene resistance and the use of fungicides.
Published in Diseases
Dr. Bruce Gossen discusses some of the results of his long-term cropping study and what that means for growers in Canada looking to manage crop diseases.

Click here for the full summary of Dr. Gossen's presentation.

Don't forget to subscribe to our email newsletters so you're the first to know about current research in crop management.

Top Crop Manager's Herbicide Resistance Summit has been announced! Sign up today for early-bird pricing: https://www.weedsummit.ca/event/registration
Published in Diseases

Crop rotations are designed to maintain crop and soil health to ensure long-term sustainability. Crop sequences deal with the effects of previous crops on current crop choice. A successful crop rotation encompasses many farm management components, including economics, fertility, soil biology, insect, disease, weed and pesticide considerations. The following eight questions should be asked when planning crop rotations:

1. What crops should I include in my rotation?
Diversity is key. Growing cereals, oilseeds and pulses in a long-term rotation has been shown to provide the best benefit to soils and to crop yields. Wheat grown in a rotation with oilseeds and pulses was 16 percent higher yielding than continuous wheat grown on the same land at Scott, Saskatchewan, from 1993 to 1999. Wheat yields following flax, pea, and canola were 16 percent, 11 percent, and eight percent higher, respectively, than after wheat (Manitoba Crop Insurance data, Bourgeois and Entz, 1996).

2. What are the nutrient levels in each field?
Soil testing is important, particularly after dealing with excess moisture conditions. Nitrogen level variability will also be an issue in fields with flooding of depression areas. Knowing the soil nutrient levels through soil testing allows producers to balance nutrient levels in the field with crop nutrient requirements. Oilseeds such as canola have the highest nutrient requirements of the major Saskatchewan field crops, followed by cereals and then pulses.

Pulses or legumes can fix up to 80 percent of the nitrogen they need from the air, which reduces the amount of nitrogen removed from the soil. For annual crops, fababean has the highest nitrogen-fixing capability and can fix amounts similar to perennial legumes such as alfalfa (Table 1).  Pulse or legume residue has a significant amount of nitrogen in it, which then will become available to future crops as it decomposes. Thus legumes increase the nitrogen supplying power of the soil and can reduce the requirement for nitrogen fertilizer for succeeding crops. A nitrogen credit is included in the soil test recommendation made by Saskatchewan soil-testing labs if you report your previous crop as a legume.

3. How much water is available and where are the nutrients?
Rooting patterns, crop maturity and growth stage can influence nutrient uptake and water use. The deeper the roots, the more accessible they are to water and nutrients found farther down in the soil profile. Varying crops in a sequence allows you to take advantage of the different root patterns and growth habits to access water and nutrients at different levels and at different times of the year.

Canola and mustard love water and nutrients, and are deeply rooted. Thus, canola and mustard are a good fit for wetter areas of the province as they can penetrate deep into the soil to reduce subsoil moisture and access nutrients that may have leached deeper into the soil profile. The deeper tap roots also help with improving soil aeration and drainage. Cereal crops are also deep rooted but tend to need the moisture earlier in the season and can withstand drier conditions better than canola. Pea and lentil are shallow rooted and have shorter maturities. This means that there will likely be more moisture left in pea or lentil stubble than cereal or canola stubble.

4. Are there soil biology considerations that may influence crop choice?
Soil biology is also important. For example, mycorrhizal fungi in the soil form mutually beneficial relationships with most plants. The fungi penetrate the roots and extend hyphae (threads) into the soil where they can access more nutrients and water for the plant. Thus, they serve as highly effective transport systems. Pulses form strong associations with these mycorrhizal fungi, while cereals are less dependent, and canola and other Brassicas do not generally form these associations. It is suggested that highly mycorrhizal crops may fit best after a crop that is at least somewhat mycorrhizal; for example, planting peas on cereal stubble. This may somewhat explain why crops such as peas and flax tend to do better on cereal stubble than on canola stubble.

5. What disease issues did I have in the past and when was the last time I grew this crop?
Crop rotations can be a significant management tool when it comes to residue and soilborne plant disease organisms. Leaving a rest period between certain crops can successfully reduce plant pathogen populations to a level where other disease control methods will work more effectively. Table 2 shows the risk associated with shortening the recommended crop rotation based on the disease of concern.

The general recommendation for cereals is to plant no more than two years in a row and incorporate different cereal species and varieties into the rotation. With canola, blackleg spore numbers and viability of sclerotia (sclerotinia stem rot’s resting bodies) are significantly reduced after four years. Therefore, canola should only be planted once in a four-year rotation. Sclerotinia stem rot can also affect crops such as lentil and pea so it is good practice to avoid growing pulses on canola stubble and vice versa. In fact, the recommendation is to grow peas or lentils no more than once every four years in rotation with canola.

Choose varieties that have disease resistance and consider fungicide use during the growing season. Fungicide products should be rotated (use different active ingredients in succession) to minimize development of resistant pathogen populations.

6. Are there weed issues to consider and is there potential for a high number of volunteers from the previous crop, or is the field fairly clean?
When selecting a crop it is important to consider its weed control needs or limitations. Crops such as lentils, which are uncompetitive and have limited weed control options, should be seeded into the cleanest fields. Matching weedier fields with crops that are more competitive and have better herbicide options is important.

It is not just the presence of weeds but potential volunteers from the previous crop that should be considered. Canola, for example, can be problematic as a volunteer, so having options in next year’s crops is key. Rotating cereals with broadleaf crops usually allows good control of volunteers.

7. Are there residual herbicide considerations?
It is important to know the residual properties of the herbicides you are applying in order to avoid any unwanted cropping restrictions in your crop rotation. The length of time it takes herbicides to break down can vary and is dependent upon a number of factors, including soil organic matter, soil pH, rainfall and temperature. In saturated soil conditions, herbicides that rely on aerobic microbes requiring oxygen may take longer to deactivate. On the other hand, herbicides that rely on a process called chemical hydrolysis will break down equally well in aerobic or anaerobic conditions. Some basic guidelines to follow include:

  • Herbicides with re-cropping restrictions under dry conditions will most likely have limitations under saturated conditions.
  • Fields that were seeded but that were saturated for a significant part of the season are unlikely to have seen much herbicide breakdown.

It is important for producers to check with herbicide manufacturers for recommended re-cropping options in fields that were recently saturated. Further information on soil residual herbicides and re-cropping restrictions can be found in the Weed Control Section of the current Guide to Crop Protection.

8. Does my crop selection allow me to rotate herbicides?
Herbicide resistance has been increasing in frequency, particularly with Group 1 and Group 2 herbicides. Weeds that have developed resistance to particular herbicide groups in Saskatchewan include: cleavers, chickweed, green foxtail, kochia, wild mustard, Persian darnel, Russian thistle, stinkweed, wild buckwheat and wild oat. It is estimated that over 90 percent of kochia populations are now resistant to Group 2 herbicides. Rotating or mixing herbicides from different groups on each field (on your farm) is critical to preventing the development of resistance. This is the case with all pesticides, including fungicides, insecticides and herbicides. More information on herbicide groups can be found in the current Guide to Crop Protection, at the beginning of the Weed Control section.

Planning crop rotations is complex. For more information, visit the governement of Saskatchewan's website or contact your Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture Regional Crop Specialist or the Agriculture Knowledge Centre at 1-866-457-2377.

Winter Wheat
The winter wheat crop continues to grow well. The cool temperatures have slowed growth a little. The frost on the mornings of May 8 and 9 appear to have had little impact on the crop other than some minor damage to leaf tips. Fortunately, the wheat was not in head. Some fields in the Niagara and Haldimand regions still require a nitrogen application but will have to wait until the fields are fit. A number of fields with split applications of nitrogen still require the second application as well. Red clover under seeded in the wheat is doing well as there has been adequate moisture for germination and early growth. At this point in time there is marginal benefit to applying herbicides to the wheat crop. Winter annuals have already impacted the crop and most perennial weeds (sow thistle) are not fully emerged. Late planted fields that are thinner may still benefit from a herbicide application.

Septoria leaf spot and powdery mildew continue to be the most common diseases present in the lower canopy. Wheat streak mosaic virus was confirmed in Huron County. With the rapid growth of the crop and favourable weather conditions, it is important to continue scouting to determine if fungal disease infection is progressing up the plant (especially on susceptible varieties) and is critical to determine if a fungicide application is needed and at what timing (flag leaf/T2 or flowering/T3).

Stripe rust was also found in one field in Oxford County as well as another in Stoney Point (Essex County). As mentioned last week, there are large differences in variety susceptibility to stripe rust and fields planted with susceptible varieties should be scouted and targeted first. Trace amounts of stripe rust was detected when the field was sprayed on May 3, 2017. In a week, the disease went from less than 1 per cent to 100 per cent incidence and 30-60 per cent severity where a fungicide was not applied. Fields planted to tolerant or resistant varieties need to be regularly assessed from now until heading to assess stripe rust risk. Remember strobilurin based fungicides should not be applied on wheat from the boot stage and later.

Spring cereals
Spring cereal acreage will likely be lower this year as it has been difficult to get the crop planted. If it is still desired to plant a spring cereal for feed a good option would be oats or adding peas to the oat crop to increase crude protein. Spring cereals that are planted have sprouted but not yet emerged.

Corn
The number of corn acres in the ground has changed very little in the last week as significant rainfall occurred across the province May 4 to 6. Much of the province received about 50mm (2 inches) with some areas receiving more and others less than that. In most areas the fields are draining well. Fields with less than adequate drainage or fields with poor crop rotations and lots of tillage are draining more slowly. A few days after the rain fertilizer spreaders, sprayers and some planters were getting back on the sandier soils. As planting is further delayed the temptation will be to plant in less than ideal conditions. Keep in mind what happened last year when corn was planted wet and the rain stopped. Roots couldn’t penetrate the side wall compaction and the slot opened up exposing the seed. The ideal corn planting depth is 1.5” to 2” (3.5 to 5 cm).

Chickweed and other prostrate plants are attractive for egg laying by black cutworm moths arriving on winds blowing up from the US. Trapping networks in the U.S. and Ontario are reporting a higher and earlier than normal black cutworm flight this spring. Preventative measures include delaying planting by two to three weeks after a burn down which causes the young cutworm larvae to starve, prior to the crop emerging. Prolonged wet weather like this year, reduces the chance for these preventative measures to be put in place. Take note of those fields planted shortly after burn down and plan to scout for leaf feeding and cutting injury every three to four days, once the crop emerges until it is safely past the V4 stage.

Armyworm moths are being caught in traps earlier and more abundant this year. Scouting cereals, mixed forages and emerging corn fields will need to take priority in the last two weeks of May.

Canola
A small percentage of the canola crop has been planted due to wet field conditions. Early planting of the crop is recommended to avoid Swede Midge infestations. Early planting may be a challenge this year. Ideally the crop should be planted by May 20th. Crop insurance planting deadlines range from May 31 to June 10 depending on location.

Forage and Pasture
Hay and pasture growth has been good due to adequate moisture conditions. Excess moisture has made it difficult to get livestock on the pastures and some are pulling livestock off as it is no longer fit.
Published in Corporate News
Last year (2016) marks the 22nd Census of Agriculture since Confederation. Here are some key takeaways from Statistics Canada.

Since 2011, there are fewer farms, but the farms are larger. While total farm area is down, areas dedicated to cropland rose to 93.4 million acres in 2016. The average sits at 820 acres in 2016.

Canola remains the biggest crop; accounts for more than one-fifth of cropland

One-third of Canadian agricultural production was exported in 2013.

Number of farm operators has declined, while average age continued to rise.

Despite the increase in average age, only 1 in 12 operators reported having a formal succession plan.

Proportion of operators under 35 years of age edged up for the first time since 1991.

Ag operations in Canada employed 280,315 people in 2015.

77,970 women are listed as farm operators, accounting for 28.7 per cent of the industry.

One in eight farms sold food directly to consumers.

Total value of farm machinery and equipment owned and leased by agricultural operations increased 15.4 per cent to $53.9 billion.

Ontario has the highest percentage of farms using renewable energy at 10.4 per cent

Farm profits unchanged since 2010.

You can read the full report here.
Published in Corporate News
Most eastern Canadian producers have considered whether tile drainage is right for their operations. According to Harold Rudy, executive officer of research and business development for the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association (OSCIA), more than 50 per cent of the agricultural land in southern Ontario is tile drained. In many areas of the province, tile drainage facilitates timely field operations and helps decrease the risk of crop damage during heavy rainfall events.
Published in Other Crops
Tree-based intercropping – growing trees together with crops – is a historical agricultural practice. These days primarily smallholder farmers use it in tropical systems, but researchers are focused on potential applications in the temperate soils of southern Ontario and Quebec.
Published in Other Crops
AccuWeather reports an active wildfire season is in store for the Canadian Prairies this summer, especially northern Alberta, as hot, dry weather dominates.

Meanwhile, Ontario will face rounds of thunderstorms with the threat for severe weather increasing in July and August.

Hot, dry conditions to heighten wildfire threat in the Prairies

The hottest weather of the summer will focus on Central and Western Canada, leading to an increasing drought as the season progresses.

"The drought may become much more widespread across the western Prairies during the middle and end of summer," says AccuWeather Canadian weather expert Brett Anderson.

The hot, dry weather will also contribute to a heightened risk of wildfires across the region, especially in July and August.

"If there is a region where there may be a significant increase in wildfire activity later in the summer, it would be the northern half of Alberta," Anderson said.

This part of Alberta endured massive wildfires last summer, forcing the evacuation of Fort McMurray.

While hot, dry weather will be the theme for much of central and western Canada, areas close to the Pacific coast will have temperatures that are closer to normal.

"Ocean water surface temperatures off the coast are running cooler compared to previous years, and this should keep temperatures close to normal along the coast."

This includes Vancouver, which experienced a warmer-than-normal summer in 2016.

The Canadian Rockies will also have breaks from the heat as thunderstorms frequent the mountains.

"I think there will be more thunderstorms than usual the second half of the summer [over the Rockies]," Anderson says.

While the thunderstorms will bring rainfall and limit the heat, lightning could spark wildfires if the storms develop near unusually dry areas.

Warm, stormy summer to unfold around Great Lakes, Montreal

This summer is shaping up to bring typical warmth to much of Ontario and southern Quebec, while unbearable humidity remains at bay.

"The summer will be less humid than usual [in these areas]," Anderson says. This is due to cold fronts passing through the region on a regular basis.

The fronts will also bring many opportunities for thunderstorms, some of which may be severe.

"There is the potential for a few severe thunderstorm outbreaks in Ontario, especially from July into mid-August," Anderson says.

This includes major cities such as Ottawa and Windsor, Ontario.

Cool, wet weather on tap across Atlantic Canada

While summer heat dominates much of Canada, a much different weather pattern will set up over Atlantic Canada. Cool and wet conditions will dominate the weather pattern for much of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, Labrador and northern Quebec through August.

"This summer is not expected to be unusually hot, but humidity may be higher than usual the second half of the season," Anderson says.

The higher humidity will fuel showers and thunderstorms throughout the summer months, especially areas farther inland away from the comparatively cool waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

"Coastal areas may be especially cool due to below-normal sea-surface temperatures and a greater number of days with fog," Anderson says.

Click here to see what was predicited for the spring – did it play out accordingly in your area?
Published in Corporate News
A collaborative effort between Potato Growers of Alberta and the Oldman Watershed Council has produced three videos on watershed management and health. Click here to view the first of the three videos, highlighting the production history of the area.
Published in Irrigation
Page 1 of 27

Subscription Centre

 
New Subscription
 
Already a Subscriber
 
Customer Service
 
View Digital Magazine

Most Popular

Marketplace