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The Cropwalker - Volume 2 Issue 43

Always read and follow label directions.

November 2019 Complimentary Issue; to become a member and receive all issues, sign up at:


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Crop Conditions

Soybean harvest is winding down. Still some areas with significant acres out, other areas 100% done. Probably 90% harvested across Ontario. Corn harvest has started. Odd grower with over 50% harvested. Overall less than 5% harvested. Moistures are 25-35%. Some growers are harvesting to meet contract commitments, others just to get started. Bushel weight has been reasonable. Typically corn that is over 30% will improve by 1 grade after drying. Yields are all over the place depending on weather. From “wow” to “I will be claiming Crop Insurance”, to some acres hardly worth harvesting. Winter Wheat is looking good. It is off to great start.


Getting Rid of More Government Red Tape

The following is a note that I received as a CCA from our office.

On Monday, the Ontario government introduced Bill 132 the Better for People, Smarter for Business Act. It is a very long omnibus Bill which covers numerous individual Acts. CropLife Canada has done a very good job of summarizing the proposed changes which deal with agronomy. It includes changes to pest assessments that farmers must do in order to access neonic treated seed. See their email below. The comment period is open until November 27th. The link is https://ero.ontario.ca/notice/019-0774

Bottom line is we could see the end of Ontario Pesticide Advisory Committee (OPAC) which just slowed down the use in Ontario of registered products. I wrote about this in my Better Farming article of Things What I Wish for in Crop Production.

More from CropLife

The following is part of a statement from CropLife. For anyone wants to read their entire statement, I will forward it to you;

One-time test to replace proof of need for neonics

Farmers will no longer have to dig holes for traps, hire an agronomist, and annually apply for treated seed. Instead, they will have to complete a one-time pest risk assessment report, which will mesh with a one-time course on Integrated Pest Management. Once the farmer has done the assessment, s/he will show the completed form to the retailer and order their seed. This means if the farmer deems that s/he needs treated seed; they will get it.

This is also very good news for members of the Ontario Agri-Business Association, because it essentially eliminates their reporting and enforcement requirements, and their record keeping requirements have been reduced.

There is a 45-day consultation period for these regulatory changes, after which portions related to treated seed will come into force immediately. All other regulations, such as the class changes, will happen in 2020 after the ministry has made the internal changes required to implement them. Consultations on these changes are open until December 12.

What is Different About Corn Harvest in 1992 and 2019?

Must go back to 1991 when Mount Pinatubo, Philippines, erupted spilling 20 Million Tons of sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere. This resulted in a lowered US crop production. In 1991 they produced 7.42 M bushels. This resulted in high corn prices. Locally, our yields were high in western Ontario. Some growers had highest yields ever. For 1992 the US government put programs in place to increase corn acres, resulting in 9.47 M bushels being produced in 1992. (2017 14.64M bushels) Meanwhile eastern Canada started to see effects of ash in the air from Pinatubo. Start of our year was good then things slowed down because of lack of sunlight and heat. By end of October most corn had a long way to go. In November harvest started and some growers found they owed the elevator money after they delivered corn. The price was depressed because of a huge US crop. Bushel weight was low. Corn was wet. So, after harvesting, delivering, drying and elevating costs, the corn was worth nothing. Terry Daynard, and the then Ontario Corn Producers Association, worked hard to get Crop Insurance to allow corn producers to destroy their crop and collect insurance. There were some growers with no insurance. Research was done on this lower test weight corn with hogs and it was shown that feed quality was very good. Bottom line was that year corn was not worth harvesting. That is not the case this year.

Organic Matter (OM) vs Crop Residue

There is a lot of confusion about these two. Crop residue whether corn stalks, wheat straw, cover crops or manure eventually becomes OM. Based on research I have read it takes 3-10 years to turn crop residue into OM. When you hear or read of someone increasing OM by 1% over a year or so, know it is impossible to do that. A realistic goal is to raise OM levels by 0.1 to 0.2 % over 5-10 years. Also, it took probably 15 years to decrease organic matter by 0.75 %. A realistic goal is to raise organic matter levels by 0.75% in the next 15 years. Also, each soil has its individual organic matter equilibrium that has been established over thousands of years. The Ontario soil map is a great way to get a realistic handle on OM levels for the soil on your farm. This data includes OM levels when the soil survey was originally done. Another good way is to sample edges of fields. It is unrealistic to believe you can increase OM levels above what is naturally occurring for your soil. I checked the Ontario Soil Survey for Huron county. In that survey the OM levels for soil classified as Huron clay loam varies from 3.67 (Stephen township) to 7.23 (Colborne). So, the same soil type has a 200% variation in OM

Improving Water Use in Field Crops

A recent survey of Certified Crop Advisors suggests that water is the main limiting factor for crop yields. And there is some truth to that, but we all know growers that get the same amount of rainfall, operate on the same soil type, yet get drastically different results. How is it that two people can operate in essentially the same climates and have different results? What are the differences between the two operations? That should provide a clue to some of the limiting factors in your climate to maximizing water use efficiency.

“Water is the limiting factor used to be the argument. But for most people, it is not correct. They are not using the water they are given. My Kenyan clients on 800-1500 mm rainfall were adamant lack of rainfall was their problem. They could not fathom how we can grow higher yields than them on 150-200 mm rain, on far worse soils, and a much tougher environment. They now don't see lack of rainfall as their main problem, because they see the other constraints, I was pointing out to them as being the bigger problem.” – Wayne Smith, Owner of Agronomy Acumen, Western Australia

Sources of Water Loss

If water is truly one the major limitation of yield on your farm, what are possible sources of water loss? Major ones in field crop conditions include; Evaporation, Evapotranspiration, Surface Runoff, Sublimation, Snowmelt Runoff, and more, to name a few.

Figure 1 - USGS Water Cycle

Source: https://www.usgs.gov/special-topic/water-science-school/science/fundamentals-water-cycle?qt-science_center_objects=0#qt-science_center_objects

However, water loss being a limiting factor isn’t a new concept, see below;


PRODUCING 99 bushels of corn to the acre in South Dakota with only seven and a half inches of water may sound unbelievable. But it has been done—though not in a way that as yet is practical for the farmer to use. Soils Scientist J. R. Runkles, of the South Dakota State College agricultural experiment station, covered corn plots with plastic to obtain these results. By reducing soil moisture evaporation, he was able to get nearly 13 bushels of corn for each inch of water the soil had stored. Plots that weren't covered took twice as much water to produce a bushel of corn—only 6 bu. per inch. The yield was 87 bushels to the acre on nearly 14-1/2 inches of water. Where irrigation was used so water wasn't a limiting factor, 109 bushels of corn were produced on nearly 18-1/2 inches of water. Each inch of water produced nearly six bushels of corn. Runkles is trying to find inexpensive, yet effective, ways to reduce soil moisture evaporation. He says that if evaporation could be controlled, farmers could produce 100 bushels of corn on about eight inches of water. Practices that may have possibilities, in addition to plastic coverings, include mulch tillage, synthetic sprays, and producing a soil mulch. South Dakota News (as quoted in No. 5- 1962 - Better Crops with Plant Food).

The questions growers and their trusted advisors may want to ask themselves is; How can I get more yield from the water I have to work with? And, what management practices would limit water losses at critical points during the growing season?

Maximum Yields in Ontario Based Upon Soil Fertility Levels

Last week we had an article on landlords paying a portion of the fertilizer bill or having a say in how soil fertility is managed. One reader found the concept quite interesting and asked what had spurred the article. Much of what spurred the article is the frustration of seeing acres of under performing land because the tenant may not be able to recoup the costs of building fertility levels. One issue is short term rental agreements, the other is landlords not understanding the link between adequate soil fertility levels and crop yield potential. See Ontario data below.

Table 1 - Estimated Benefit to Landlords for Higher Fertility Levels

Now if we assume that the landlord would benefit from practices that would build soil fertility or limit soil erosion/fertility losses, they should expect an average increase in land returns of $18.13/ac/yr. on higher fertility farms compared to those with low fertility (Assuming land rent is 30% of gross income). About $2000/100 ac farm/year depending on yield potential, field variability, etc., for the area.

Liming No-Till Fields

If you have long term no-till fields that you think require liming, but do not want to work the product in, I would recommend sampling at a several depths to determine where the acidity lies within the soil profile. If acidity is mainly at the soil surface, you may be able to make corrections without incorporation. My suggestion would be to pull soil samples at 0-2”, 2-4”, 4-6” and 6-12”, to see where the acidity is within the soil profile. You will have to lime more frequently to adjust soil pH at depth than that of conventional tillage. (Notes from Soil Fertility and Fertilizers - 8th edition)

One Issue with Building Management Zones Off of Yield Data

Is that you can have two areas that yield the same but for very different reasons. One area may be at maximum potential for yield using your current static practices, another area maybe held back with your current static practices. Unfortunately if you use yield data as your starting point, you have no way of being able to determine which area is which. You are trying to group together similar response zones, but if you start with areas already performing the same, you will never get there. One way of addressing this issue is to create many zones within areas that yield the same to try and tease the effects of spatial variability within the field. After you identify areas that would respond similarly, you can then merge them together. However, there are likely more efficient and practical ways of building management zones.

Source: https://ontariograinfarmer.ca/2015/10/01/understanding-precision-agriculture-7/

Neighbours and Their Lawns

A few observations from Trick or Treating. All the same area, same climate, only difference is cutting height of the grass. One neighbor in my subdivision cuts his lawn short, quite a few cut their lawns long. 1) Heavy rain event – Short lawn was squishy, could feel soil compact under each step, worried about losing my boot, could see bare ground between plants. Taller, thicker lawns – boots stayed on my feet, minimal concerns about getting muddy, no soil squishing. 2) Melting snow – Short lawn was one of the first to melt, showing bare grass first. Taller, thicker lawns – snow was slower to melt. The takeaway? An example of how one factor that could influence moisture availability (good or bad, depending on the time of year) for your crops.

My fake plants died because I did not pretend to water them.” – Mitch Hedberg