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The Cropwalker - Volume 3 Issue 1

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There are numerous conferences we will be sharing content from this month. SWAC will denote Southwest Ag Conference, held in Ridgetown, ON. CCA will denote the Certified Crop Advisor Conference held later this week, and FS will denote FarmSmart or CerealSmart, held at the end of the week.

Crop Conditions

Still some crop out. Area with most “unintended” unharvested acres is central Ontario. Harvest is progressing but some areas still have 25% out. Reports of corn with black kernels. This is one of two molds, probably a Cladosporium or maybe alternaria. Neither produce a toxin. They may make the corn a bit less palatable. But this corn is being blended to overcome this issue. Average Ontario yield according to Agricorp as of first week of January the reported yield is 169 bu/ac on about 74% of reported acres. A lot of growers are collecting on a few bu/ac. Few soybean acres still out.


SWAC - Organic Matter (OM) With Various Crops

Dale Cowan (AGRIS and Wanstead Farmers Co-operative) went through the various additions and deletion of OM with different crops. He presumptions are that you are working with a 3% OM, having a yearly 2% loss of OM and using a harvest index of 50%. i.e. OM returned is 50% of the harvested crop. The yields are presuming wheat straw is removed but soybean and corn stalks are left. Also, that 15% of biomass after harvest is retained as OM. Other parameters, corn equal biomass above and below ground, soybeans 20% more below ground, wheat 60% more below ground. All of this means you need 24,000 lbs of OM over 3 years to maintain soil OM. Of course, tillage will mean less OM is retained. Higher yields mean more OM. Bottom line is that soybeans are net reducers (250 lbs/ac) while corn increases (1932) OM. The more soybeans in a rotation the lower your OM.

Table 1 - Soil Organic Matter Gains/Loss by Crop

What to do since Soybeans Reduce OM?

The answer is obvious. You have to add a cover crop in soybeans. There are a couple of machines that will allow you to air flow cereal rye into standing soybeans to protect the soil. This will also reduce the amount of late germinating weeds. Or you can broadcast cereal rye into standing soybeans just before leaf drop. The least that you can do is if you plan to plant soybeans after soybeans, then these fields should have cereal rye planted into them.

Picture 1 - Interseeding cover crop into soybeans

This is How to Seed Forage Grasses

One of the problems with seeding large seed grass species (like brome, and some of the fescues) is the seed gets plugged in the seed tubes. Earlier we told you about smooth seed tubes. Using an air seeder such as the APV shown here is a better way. There are various similar brands. Basically, it is an air unit that you can put on to tillage equipment, or a drill. It is a separate unit that uses air to deliver the seed. They can be either hydraulic driven or electrically driven. The hydraulic driven allows high seeding amount. Width is variable. Great way to seed forages grasses and legumes by putting it on your tillage equipment. There are growers who have them on their Brillion seeders or John Deere no-till drills. Most sold are 8-20 feet wide.

Picture 2 - APV unit for seeding forages or cover crop seed

SWAC - Making War on Resistant Weeds

Willard Jack is a farmer originally from S Ontario. He moved to Mississippi years ago. He farms about 12,000 acres of a heavy flood plain soil. Topsoil is 6-8’ deep. But he has a problem with resistant weeds. He grows soybeans, corn, cotton and rice. He went through his soybean weed control program. He sprays weeds a minimum of 3 times a year. The problem is resistant weeds. To me his take home message is we have to get serious about resistant weeds now. He is battling resistant fleabane, and many others, including Palmer amaranth (similar to water hemp). That we are now getting. This weed grows 2” a day, germinates all season, and can produce 500,000 seeds per plant. His herbicide program is detailed, using different groups. He buys herbicides at a much lower price than we do. But his total bill is higher than yours. He has 3 products in his burndown, 2 products in his pre, and 3 products in his post program. He uses 3 or 4 products we can’t buy. His total herbicide program is $71/ ac US ($92 CDN). He has scared me into encouraging more growers to get more serious about weed control. You can’t stop birds from dropping weed seeds on your farm, but you can control weed along roadsides and fence rows. And you have to look at the neighbours fields to see what you can expect.

SWAC - Did you get any weed seeds in your cover crop mix?

At SWAC there was mention that cover crops could contain weed seeds of undesirable weeds. Especially if the mixture is small seeded species not grown in Ontario. One species that scares me is rye grass. I and others this past year recommended rye grass as a good way to thicken forage stands. However, if you did that just make sure none set seed and watch for ones that do not die.

How Good is Your Corn Silage (Shredlage)?

The merits of processing corn silage to increase milk and beef production have been known since the 90’s. But there is a big difference between silage processors. If you google “shredlage” you will see some of the specs. When you send a sample of corn silage for feed testing, ask to have a “processing score” done. I asked Jack Legg at SGS Labs in Guelph and he said very few growers ask for a processing score. One of our readers mentioned that they shoot for a 70% score and often get closer to 90%. To get full advantage of a processor you must have a high score. One of the criteria is to have a 55% deferential with the rollers. And they must be adjusted very close. This means they must be completely round. Few of the processors on the market can be adjusted close enough to get a good processing score. I am told that both Claas and John Deere have processors that can give a good score.

2019 Mystery Weed Question

Last issue we had a mystery weed for you to guess… drum roll… which is Biennial Wormwood. One reader suggested it looks like skinny ragweed. It is commonly mistaken as common ragweed in the spring. So why should this weed be on your radar?

Picture 3 - Biennial Wormwood in mature soybeans


Weed species of this plant typically behaves as an annual in field crop environments. It thrives in moist environments and has season-long emergence. Plants will grow to 3 to 7 feet tall, with a woody 1-2” stem. Biennial wormwood is a prolific seed producer, with approximately 400,0000 (annual) to 1 million (biennial) seeds per plant.


Research indicates that emergence varies by soil type, early April on sandy loam, late May on loam, and late June on silty clay. Typically remains a seedling for extended period, midsummer, during rapid growth, the plant bolts from the rosette stage.


It is commonly mis-identified as ragweed, but it is critical to distinguish it, as many herbicides that kill ragweed will not touch biennial wormwood.

Biennial wormwood leaves have sharp edges and are hairless, whereas common ragweed leaves have smooth and round edges and are hairy.

Yield Losses

Biennial wormwood can easily out compete soybeans for resources. At 10 plants/m2, it will reduce soybean yields by 44 percent. Addition reductions occur as result of unharvested areas of the field due to large infestations.

Herbicide Tolerance

This weed has natural tolerance to many soil-applied and post emergence broadleaf herbicides. These herbicide families include group 2-ALS (Pursuit, Pinnacle, First Rate), group X-dinotroanilines (Prowl, Treflan), PPO inhibitors (Aim, Reflex, Blazer), and group 15 – Acetamides (Dual, Frontier, etc), HPPD inhibitors (Callisto, Impact). Other weak herbicides include Pardner/Buctril M and fluoxypyr.


Those that have been working with this weed the longest recommend a pre-emergence followed by post-emergence strategy.

Pre-emergence options –

Corn – Aatrex, Converge XT, dicamba, One ALS that does have activity is Broadstrike.

Soybeans – Authority, Broadstrike, metribuzin (Sencor), Valtera.

Post-emergence options

Post-emerge applications must be made when seedlings are less than 3” in height, otherwise the plant is very tolerant to herbicide applications.

Actives with greater than 80% activity include; Aatrex, Basagran Forte, Lontrel, dicamba, Liberty, glyphosate, MCPA and 2,4-D. Basagran Forte, Liberty and glyphosate were rated the most effective are larger biennial wormwood.

Notes from NDSU Extension – Biology and Management of Biennial Wormwood


Management Improvements that Do Not Cost $$$

Sometimes a problem requires that more dollars are spent to address the issue. Other times it might be adjusting your priorities, the order you do things, putting together target orders, reviewing your budget, cutting out low return practices, shifting a portion of your dollars to fall burndowns, calibrating equipment, changing the placement of fertilizer. I can’t give away all my ideas…

CAP/LEADS Program – Must Do Programs

If you operate a cropping operation, there are a handful of items you should strongly be considering as part of your operation.

1)    Tires/Tire Inflation Systems – pick the heaviest piece of equipment used at the wettest times of year (typically a combine/grain buggy/manure tank/hay wagons), talk with your tire supplier on how you can minimize it’s impacts. I have also seen significant compaction from big square balers doing wet hay.

2)    Compost/Solid Manure – Ideally with the cost share it will be less than commercial fertilizer.

3)    Tillage/Equipment Modifications to Improve Nutrient Application – Whether you are thinking of going to strip till, adding a starter fertilizer system to your planter, or using section control on your spreader, improving the place and timing of applications pays. Funding is also available to add scales or hydraulic drive to manure spreaders, to improve records of what was applied, or enable VR application.

4)    Cover Crops – Minimize soil erosion where it is practical. This grant typically requires that the cover crop over winters.

5)    Nutrient and Soil Management Planning – perhaps you have access to a non-agricultural source material but must foot the bill for the NASM plan. Or would like to use site specific soil sample and require outside assistance to execute on the results. Either way the sampling, lab tests and consulting fees are covered under this category.

Canadian Agriculture Partnership (CAP) is a merit-based program (application period is open from January 9 to January 29), Lake Erie Agriculture Demonstrating Sustainability (LEADS) is a first come, first served program, and opens January 15th). All growers, (and in some cases commercial businesses) in Ontario can apply for CAP funding. LEADS is specific to growers farming in Watersheds that drain into the Lake Erie basin. (i.e. Grand, Thames and St Clair Conservation Authority). For more information, visit www.ontariosoilcrop.org

SWAC - YEN – Yield Enhancement Network

Drs. Roger Sylvester-Bradley and Ruth Wade with ADAS in the UK presented at SWAC about the Yield Enhancement Network. YEN is an annual contest that growers enter to compare themselves to the maximum possible theoretical yield for that field. At the end of the season awards are given out for those that have achieved the maximum possible yield given soil type, solar radiation and rainfall/soil moisture. Growers who participate share their practices on how they achieved their yields. I took a significant number of notes from the presentation, so more is to come in future newsletters. Below are some of their findings from 600 YEN wheat trials in the UK as far as key factors on what to focus on. While I would disagree that fertility isn’t a factor, my guess is that if you are participating in a yield trial, your unlikely to use a poor fertility field. You are also unlikely to enter poor genetics into a trial. Most of what their research is suggesting is that better management brings higher yields, once you take care of the basics.

Figure 1 - ADAS Winter Wheat YEN - Contributing Yield Factors

“Micro failures, macro wins.”

- Gary Vaynerchuk