Production
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
Harvest of cereal crops is nearly complete for this crop year and grain is in storage bins, waiting for delivery. While your grain is in storage, keep these methods in mind to protect its quality from insect infestations and mould.

Keep grain cool. Check your temperature probes every two weeks while grain is in storage. For best results, the temperature of grain should uniform and be less than 15°C. Aerating or turning grain helps keep grain cool and dry. Hot spots in grain may be indicators of the presence of insects.

Monitor moisture levels. Keep your grain at the appropriate moisture content to reduce the risk of spoilage. Moisture levels should be checked every two weeks.

Spot and identify insects. When you check grain moisture and temperature, take samples from the core of your grain to monitor for insect populations. Also check the top of the grain in the bin – this is where heat and moisture collect and insects may find this very attractive. If you find insects, determine what type they are to find the best control method.

Watch out for mould. Under warm, moist conditions, moulds can grow quickly and some fungi may produce poisonous mycotoxins, such as ochratoxin A. Mould may not be visible in dark grain bins or may form inside the grain bulk. A musty smell or grain clumping or caking may be signs of mould.

Contact the Canadian Grain Commission's Infestation Control and Sanitation Officer for further assistance.

Monitor stored grain regularly for hot spots and insect populations:
  • insects are likely to be found in pockets of warm or moist grain
  • sample the grain from the core at a depth of 30 to 50 centimetres (12 to 18 inches) from the surface
  • sieve the samples or examine small portions carefully
  • stored product insects are typically very small beetles (less than 3 millimetres or 1/8 inch) that may not be moving, so a magnifying glass can be helpful
Identify insects in your grain to determine the right control method
  • insects in your grain could be grain feeders, fungal feeders, or predators of these insects
  • for advice on controlling grain-feeding insects, visit the Canadian Grain Commission's website
For further information: Brent Elliott, Infestation Control and Sanitation Officer, Canadian Grain Commission, 204-983-3790, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Published in Storage
SG Ceresco (Ceresco), a Canadian leader in soybean processing, is being sold to Quebec interests. The company is owned by co-founders Thierry Gripon and Mireille Raymond, and the closing of the transaction is subject to certain customary closing conditions.

Purchasers Transit BD and Alain Létourneau Holdings will continue the company’s export sales activities in food grade soybeans, as well selling non-GMO soybean seeds to Canadian farmers. Thierry Gripon will remain as leader of the international soybean sales team and Mireille Raymond will be responsible for operational management until a new General Manager is in place.

"We are very pleased to have concluded this transaction with the founders of the company. Ceresco has a significant international development potential and we are very enthusiastic about further developing this Quebec jewel," says Transit BD shareholder Pierre Dagenais.

"Ceresco possesses an excellent customer base of soybean producers with whom we can build the future. We are particularly pleased to continue the work of the founders who have built this fine company over the last 30 years," adds Alain Létourneau.

Ceresco’s Thierry Gripon states: "We are convinced that the new group of shareholders will be successful in carrying out projects and the future destiny of the company. We have put in place a strong management team that will support the new owners. We are particularly proud to have built this beautiful company with our employees, soybean producers and international customers. We both pass on, Mireille and I, a wonderful project that we have successfully completed."
Published in Corporate News
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
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
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
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....

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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
The Alberta Wheat Commission (AWC), the Saskatchewan Wheat Development Commission (Sask Wheat) and the Manitoba Wheat and Barley Growers Association (MWBGA) announced the formation of the Canadian Wheat Research Coalition (CWRC), a federal not-for-profit corporation that will facilitate long-term investments aimed at improving profitability and competitiveness for western Canadian wheat farmers.

The CWRC will facilitate a collaborative approach to producer funding of regional and national research projects in variety development and agronomy including the next Canadian National Wheat Cluster and core wheat breeding agreements with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and universities. Additional regional projects that align with variety development and agronomic priorities will also be considered for funding.

The three wheat commissions will serve as founding members on the farmer-led board of directors.

The structure allows for additional producer or private sector groups that share an interest in advancing wheat research in Canada to join as organizational members.

This inclusive arrangement provides a platform for the CWRC to pursue new public, private, producer partnerships (4Ps).

The formation of the CWRC directly follows the commissions’ increased responsibility in funding core wheat breeding agreements and the national wheat cluster, coinciding with the end of the Western Canadian Deduction (WCD) on July 31, 2017. Under the previous structure, the Western Grains Research Foundation (WGRF) led these research initiatives through WCD funding.

In preparation for the end of the WCD, the commissions signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) outlining their agreement to partner in setting variety development priorities and funding commitments that meet the needs of wheat farmers in Western Canada. As a result of the MOU, the commissions will ensure continuity in new spring wheat variety development is maintained through the CWRC, and will continue to engage WGRF as a key player through this transition. Project funding will be shared on a proportionate basis by commissions based on check-off revenue.

The CWRC will be administered by a host commission, which will rotate every three years starting with Sask Wheat. The CWRC’s first board will consist of eight farmers including Kevin Auch, Jason Saunders and Terry Young representing AWC, Ken Rosaasen, Glenn Tait and Laura Reiter representing Sask Wheat, and Cale Jeffries and Dylan Wiebe representing MWBGA.
Published in Corporate News
Parts of southwestern Ontario remain dry, while eastern Ontario continues to have frequent rainfall and saturated soils in many areas. While yields have been good, making dry hay continues to be a struggle for many growers under the later conditions.

Winter wheat harvest has continued this past week in eastern Ontario. Most fields in the area have yielded between 70 to 80 bushels per acre. Quality has generally been better than expected. Spring cereal harvest has just begun on a small number of acres that were able to be planted early this spring.

Insects
Soybean Aphid numbers are generally low, but increasing in some areas in eastern Ontario. Soybean growers should be scouting. Apply foliar insecticide when threshold of 250 aphids per plant with increasing populations has been reached in the R1–R5 stage of soybeans. If aphid populations do not appear to be on the increase above 250 per plant, do not apply insecticide, as it will kill off the beneficial insects that are keeping the aphid population in check. Aphids are then likely to increase quickly in the absence of their predators and could easily reach threshold.

For further information on scouting techniques, thresholds and management options, see OMAFRA Publication 812, Field Crop Protection Guide.

Potato Leafhopper (PLH) continued to be a problem in many alfalfa stands particularly in eastern Ontario. Sweeps collected are showing at and above threshold numbers in many fields that have not been treated. Although PLH are rarely a problem in soybeans they can cause significant yield and quality losses in alfalfa and edible bean stands. New seedling alfalfa stands are particularly vulnerable as the PHL damage can weaken the new seedling alfalfa plant, making them more susceptible to stresses like winterkill.

Economic losses occur before plant symptoms develop, so it is important to identify the presence of large leafhopper populations before the damage occurs. Scouting with a sweep net will help you determine whether early harvest or spraying is needed. Scout at intervals of 5 to 7 days. To determine the number of leafhoppers, including adults and nymphs, take 10 sweeps and divide the number of insect captured by 10. Do this in 5 representative areas of the field and note the height of the alfalfa. Recommended action thresholds are listed in Table 1 below:

Table 1: Thresholds for Potato Leafhoppers in Alfalfa
Stem Height      # of PLH per sweep
9 cm (3.5 in.)     0.2 adults
15 cm (6 in.)      0.5 adults
25 cm (10 in.)    1.0 adults or nymph
36 cm (14 in.)    2.0 adults or nymph

It is important to make decisions to control PLH based on these threshold numbers as spraying insecticides on alfalfa will also kill beneficial insects, the natural enemies of PLH and alfalfa weevil.

Foliar insecticide options are available in Publication 812, Field Crop Protection Guide here.

Western Bean Cutworm (WBC) trap counts are still increasing in most counties north and east of Perth and into eastern Ontario. That means that WBC moth flight has not yet peaked in those areas. This is important because this also means that we have not reached peak egg laying in those areas and that there are a lot of moths flying around looking for somewhere to lay their eggs. Late planted corn fields that are still in the early pollination stages (i.e. silks have not dried down yet) and edible beans are still at risk.

For late planted corn fields, most of what you need to know about scouting and management has already been posted in a previous post here.

For edible beans, it is not as straight forward. Unlike in corn, WBC are nearly impossible to find in dry bean fields until pod feeding begins. Pheromone traps can still help indicate which fields are at greater risk though. Traps at dry bean fields that capture an accumulation of 50 or more moths per trap are likely at greater risk and require scouting for pod feeding.

Pod feeding is expected to begin 10 to 20 days after peak moth flight has occurred, as indicated when trap counts begin to decline after weeks of steady increase. Prior to pods being present on the plants, scouting for egg masses in adjacent cornfields can also help determine what the local WBC populations are like. If any of the corn fields in the immediate area are past early tasseling, the dry bean fields will be more attractive for the moths. If an adjacent corn field reached the corn egg mass threshold and required spraying, the dry bean field is also likely at risk.

Once pods are present, scout 100 plants (10 plants in 10 areas of the field). Look for signs of early surface feeding or holes going directly into the pod. If pod feeding is easily found, a spray application is necessary. Control is still very effective when done as soon as pod feeding is found. WBC exit and enter new pods each night, so insecticides still work at controlling the larvae, as long as the pods are present during the application so that there is residue left on the pod surface.

Spraying too early when pods are not present on the plants will not protect the crop from damage. Spraying too late, when pod feeding has been taking place for some time will not reduce the risk of seed damage and pod disease incidence. The key is to protect the plants when the larvae are feeding on the pods.

Foliar insecticide options are available in Publication 812, Field Crop Protection Guide.
Published in Corporate News
A groundbreaking new method for controlling flea beetle, the pest that causes at least $300 million in damage in North American canola every year, may hit growers’ fields early in the next decade.

RNA interference, or RNAi – a process by which RNA molecules “silence” genes targeted as threats – has already been harnessed by public and private research and development programs against several agricultural pests, including Colorado potato beetle (CPB) and corn rootworm.

According to Jim Baum, Monsanto’s insect control lead in chemistry, the use of RNAi technology against flea beetle “represents a sizable opportunity and need” for canola growers in the U.S. and Canada who have seen incomplete protection from neonicotinoid insecticides and other chemical products in recent years.

Monsanto began work on an RNAi-based product for flea beetle control several years ago, Baum says, as part of a suite of RNAi projects aimed at controlling agricultural pests, including corn rootworm and CPB.

Put simply, RNAi for flea beetle control works by “tricking” the beetle’s natural immune system to self-destruct. Beetles are fed double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) molecules that “turn down” expression of a critical gene in the flea beetle midgut, killing exposed insects within five days.

There are two possible delivery methods for RNAi-based pest control in agriculture: plants can be genetically engineered to express dsRNA in their leaves, or dsRNA can be applied externally to plants as a topical spray. Monsanto has worked with both methods; its corn rootworm product is transgenic.

But the company’s flea beetle project is currently focused on the development of a foliar insecticide that can be applied using its patented BioDirect platform.

Monsanto advanced its CPB BioDirect product to Stage 2 in 2015, and Baum says the company’s experience in RNAi for CPB control has streamlined its approach to new RNAi products.

The company has already run lab bioassays monitoring mortality in insects fed various dsRNAs, as well as seedling assays in which a set number of beetles are exposed to canola seedlings treated with dsRNA at a prescribed field rate.

Last year, Baum says, Monsanto ran successful field trials for its flea beetle RNAi project, and this year the number of trials more than doubled. (The company could not comment on the location of the field trials).

Next up, Monsanto will be analyzing effectiveness of various agronomic practices — basically, what works best in terms of rates and application timing, and how the product will work in combination with other products.

“Compared to previously approved products’ timelines, we’re being conservative with this one, recognizing that topical is a new application of the technology,” Baum says. “But if the project is successful, we’re projecting commercialization sometime on the early side of the next decade.”

Farmer and consumer outreach
Though RNAi-based insect control products won’t reach farmers’ fields for several years, they need to know what’s coming, and farmer and consumer outreach will be more important than ever for companies looking to commercialize the technology.

This is the view of Curtis Rempel, vice-president of crop production for the Canola Council of Canada.

“RNAi provides a tool or a technology that takes us outside of the traditional chemistry realm, so it has the potential for much improved environmental outcomes, but along with new technologies come a new set of regulatory and efficacy evaluations,” he says.

Just how safe is RNAi? According to Baum, RNAi has a built-in specificity that means once dsRNA is targeted to a specific insect pest, even closely related pest species are not harmed when they ingest it. “It’s hard to imagine a chemical insecticide, even Bt, that would be as specific as this RNAi product we’re talking about here,” he says.

Rempel agrees but believes farmers and consumers alike need to feel that regulators and scientists have had the opportunity to evaluate RNAi technologies in terms of environmental and societal norms.

Next year, the Canola Council hopes to include discussions around RNAi in its annual Canola Discovery Forum, and Rempel says the organization is working on developing “supporting material” to help communicate the role of RNAi in pest control to stakeholders – although he is quick to point out that communications outreach about RNAi requires the collaboration of all stakeholders.

In Rempel’s estimate, only 10 per cent of farmers are familiar with RNAi and aware of projects in the pipeline, even though they are the ones who will benefit most from its use.

But consumers shouldn’t be neglected either. After all, it’s consumers who implicitly afford farmers the “social license” to use technologies like RNAi, and they are the ones who will need to be assured of the products’ safety.

“I think we have an opportunity to do a good job of looking at the questions we’re asking, reviewing regulatory procedures and communicating these to the layperson,” Rempel says.

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Published in Insect Pests
Western bean cutworm (WBC) continues to be a concern for pollinating corn in areas with high trap counts. Peak moth flight has occurred in counties in the southwest but counties in Central and Eastern Ontario have not reached peak yet. Moths will now be looking for late planted corn that is still in the early tasseling stages or will focus on edible beans. Focus scouting efforts in those corn fields that do not have dried silks yet. Edible bean growers need to scout for pod feeding once pods are present. Edible bean fields that are adjacent to corn fields that reached WBC eggmass threshold this year are likely also at risk. It is best to control fields as soon as pod feeding is observed. The larvae are exposed to the insecticide when they make holes in the pods to get to the seed. For additional information on WBC thresholds as well as optimal scouting and insecticide application timing, click here. Information on product choices is available in the OMAFRA Field Crop Protection Guide.

Post Wheat Harvest Manure Application
For livestock producers and those using organic amendments, the post wheat harvest season is an excellent opportunity to apply manure for nutrients and organic matter. Spreading workload, reduced compaction and reduced risk of environmental losses from runoff and erosion, as well as the opportunity to combine the benefits of feeding cover crops with manure, are all benefits of manure applied during the growing season.

Where manure or other organic amendments are applied to fields it is important to take a sample for analysis to help determine available nutrients and potential commercial fertilizer savings. Along with analysis for N, P and K in manure, additional tests will help determine nutrient availability. Testing for sulphur will provide an indication of elemental sulphur content which is released to a crop similar to organic nitrogen and can provide all or some of the sulphur needs, especially for wheat and forage crops. Testing for C:N (carbon to nitrogen) ratio for solid manure and amendments will help indicate if additional commercial N will be required for a corn crop. C:N ratios below 20:1 will have adequate nitrogen to help with the breakdown of carbon. Materials with C:N ratios over 30:1 (especially for spring applied materials) should determine with pre-side dress N test if addition N will be required. With liquid materials, testing the pH will help determine the potential for rapid ammonium N loss where manure is not injected or immediately incorporated. Liquid manure with high NH4-N levels combined with high pH (above 7.8) will lose the majority of the quickly available nitrogen in the first 24 hours, especially when combined with warm dry soils and/or high winds over bare soils.

Often there is too little credit given to the nitrogen supplied by fall-applied manure. A general guideline with fall applied manure is to credit half the total nitrogen from the analysis. Cattle manure with heavy bedding and/or amendments with high carbon to nitrogen (C:N) ratio will have lower (30 to 40 per cent) nitrogen credit while broiler poultry manure will have higher N credits (50 – 60 per cent). Mild winter conditions will increase available N from solid manure but can reduce nitrogen contribution from liquid manure where ammonium N (NH4-N) is higher. An early warm period in spring also increases nitrogen contribution from manure to a crop, while a cool wet spring will slow down nutrient release; not able to meet the N needs of a rapid growing corn crop during the period ahead of pollination. Slow release nitrogen from manure will contribute to yield after pollination, especially in areas where frequent and heavy rain may have resulted in denitrification or leaching of commercial N sources. Tissue tests of fields with evidence of some N deficiency on lower corn leaves reveal that levels are still within the normal range. Where manure or other amendments were applied there should be adequate nitrogen to meet remaining crop needs.
Published in Harvesting
Recent rounds of wet weather over the past several years may contribute to an increase in salinity appearing in some areas of the Prairies. An increase in surface and subsurface soil water may bring dissolved salts into the rooting zone in concentrations high enough to impede crop establishment and growth. Traditionally, growers have planted salt-tolerant forages on the worst of their saline lands and barley on moderately saline soils.

“Growers are looking for a salt-resistant, non-cereal grain option as an alternative to barley, which is not that economically attractive compared to a crop like canola,” says Bryan Nybo, manager of the Wheatland Conservation Area (WCA) at Swift Current, Sask.

Growers concerned with soil degradation established WCA in 1983 with a special focus on salinity. It is now one of eight Agri-Arm research sites in Saskatchewan. Over the past several years, Nybo has been speaking to growers about research and completing demonstrations on using alternative crops on saline soils. One such demonstration was a 2012 Agricultural Demonstration of Practices and Technologies (ADOPT) trial conducted by Nybo. He demonstrated the option of growing canola in saline conditions.

“This demonstration of newer canola varieties attempted to emulate in the field what has been shown in the AAFC’s Salt Testing Facility by Dr. Harold Steppuhn, where canola has shown tolerance similar to barley,” Nybo says.

The Salt Lab opened at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) Swift Current in 1988, and has provided practical solutions for Prairie farmers, ranging from the development of salt-tolerant crops and varieties, to assessing crop tolerances to salinity. Steppuhn worked at the Salt Lab for almost 30 years alongside technician Ken Wall, both who are now retired from AAFC. The Salt Lab has since been converted to a service facility, accommodating the research needs and projects of scientists across AAFC’s science and technology branch as well as private industry.

Steppuhn originally found hybrid canola had similar tolerance to saline soils as barley in controlled laboratory situations. He compared Harrington barley to Hyola 401 and InVigor 2573 canola. Emergence, stand density and plant maturity all decreased as saline levels increased, but at a similar rate for all varieties. In terms of relative grain yield, the two hybrid canola varieties actually performed slightly better compared to Harrington.

Relative grain yield of hybrid canola and barley at different saline concentrations
WTCM14 steppuhnSource: Harold Steppuhn, AAFC

Researchers use arbitrary ratings set up at the U.S. Salinity Laboratory to rate soil salinity. They classified soils with electrical conductivity (ECe) (a measure used by soil test labs) between zero and two deci-Siemens per metre (dS/m) as non-saline, between two and four dS/m as slightly saline, four to eight dS/m as moderately saline and above eight dS/m as severely saline. This corresponds to an approximate rule of thumb where a grower can observe the occurrence of white surface salts that equate to the field’s ECe rating: rarely if ever seen (zero to two dS/m); infrequently seen (two to five dS/m); frequently seen (five to eight dS/m); and almost always seen (greater than eight dS/m).

Recognizing that salinity is much more variable in the field, Nybo tried to replicate the Salt Lab trial with his ADOPT program. He developed a salinity contour map of the demo area using an EM 38 ground conductivity metre to measure soil conductivity. Two InVigor hybrids (5440 LL; L150), three Roundup Ready hybrids (45H29RR; DK73-75RR; VT 500), two Clearfield hybrids (BY5525 CL; 45H75 CL), a canola quality mustard (XCEED Oasis CL) and Harrington barley were seeded in strips down the saline gradient from non-saline to relatively high saline areas.

Nybo used EM 38 measurements to provide ECe readings rated from non-saline to relatively high salinity:

<80 EC non-saline
80 to 100 low salinity
100 to 130 low to moderate
130 to 160 moderate to high
>160 relatively high salinity

“We found that hybrid canola was able to perform quite well against Harrington barley, especially the hybrid varieties DK73-75RR and BY 5525 CL,” Nybo says. “EXCEED juncea canola didn’t perform as well as barley.”

Canola establishment at increasing levels of salinity (EM 38)
WTCM14
Source: Wheatland Conservation Area. 2012

While the ADOPT demonstration was able to show similar results as the Salt Lab in this trial, Nybo admits conducting agronomic work on salinity in the field is difficult because of soil and environmental variability. Salinity can vary from slight to severe within a short distance, making replicated trials difficult. That’s why the Salt Lab is so valuable to growers.

Steppuhn also studied salinity tolerance of camelina compared to InVigor 9590 canola at the Salt Lab as part of the Canola Agronomic Research Program (CARP) project. He found camelina did not have the same tolerance to saline soils as the hybrid canola. His May 2012 final report indicated: “Overall, root-zone salinity affected both camelina and canola grain yields more than it affected seedling emergence, plant survival, seed-oil content, and oil composition. However, as salinity levels increased, the camelina was more affected than the canola in seedling emergence and early survival, plant heights, relative grain yield and oil percentages. The primary impact of this research shows a need for caution when selecting camelina for saline fields that previously produced adequate canola crops.”

Nybo says the results of these demonstrations and research trials show hybrid canola may be an option where barley has traditionally been grown on moderately saline soils. He says because canola may be harder to establish, canola seeding rates may need to be increased. However, on soils higher in salinity, he cautions against growing an annual crop.

“On high salinity soils, you would still want to grow a salt-tolerant perennial forage as the best option,” Nybo says.

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Published in Soil
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