back pain photo

Day-to-day work around the farm doesn’t have to be painful

Here are some tips to avoid injury by evaluating activities and preparing for them

Farmers take their aches and pains as part of their work, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Understanding factors that contribute to on-farm injury can be a start to reducing risk of getting hurt.

Why it matters: Farmers are busy, especially in certain seasons of the year, so reducing risk of injury when they need to be at their physical best can have important farm business implications.

Julie Anceriz, Syngenta Canada’s territory health and safety manager, told a recent Whole Farm Health seminar put on by the Ag Women’s Network, that there are ergonomic factors that affect risk of injury no matter what type of work one does, whether sedentary at an office chair or in a combine or tractor, or active, lifting and doing heavy work. Read more

Early season pests

With the cold winter that we have had, a slow start of insect development may occur. Many of the acres planted in Ontario have been planted with neonicotinoid insecticides. With the current debates over neonicotinoid insecticides, the best strategies to control pests is to start with a good knowledge of crop pests. By understanding early […]

Corn Nitrogen Response Curve

Nitrogen stabilizers

Nitrogen management has always been a challenge in high nitrogen demand crops such as corn and winter wheat.

The three pathways that can contribute to significant nitrogen loss are:

  • Volatilization (loss of ammonia nitrogen to the atmosphere from the soil surface),
  • Denitrification (which occurs when soils are saturated and in an anaerobic environment) and
  • Leaching (downward movement of nitrate nitrogen out of the rooting zone due to excessive rains)

The challenge has always been to make nitrogen available when the crop needs it and minimize the exposure of nitrogen to the weather scenarios that contribute to N loss. Consider the nitrogen response relationship for corn and winter wheat (below):

Corn nitrogen response curve

(Adapted from Richie,, 2005, How a Corn Plant Develops).

Corn Nitrogen Response Curve

We often apply nitrogen early in the season before the crop actually utilizes it. For example, the demand for nitrogen in corn is at its peak at about the V10 growth stage (often around early to mid-July). Split-applying nitrogen has been a reasonably effective way to reduce the risk of nitrogen loss, however, with added application costs. Read more

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Do you understand the different forms of micronutrients?

Increased interest in micronutrients

When it comes to applying micronutrients, understanding the different forms that they can come in is very important to know. There is an increased interest in micronutrients with today’s growers. Many growers and advisors realize that these can be a major limiting factor in crop growth. In order to increase yields, the levels in the soil of micronutrients need to be monitored and properly placed. As well, more accurate soil testing through zone management has created the need to address micronutrients even more. There are agronomic advantages and disadvantages of each of the following forms of micronutrients. By understanding the different types of micronutrients, you can cater the right micronutrient product to the right field and operation. Read more

Phosphorus deficiency in corn photo

Phosphorus – what is the tie-up?

Phosphorus is a nutrient that is greatly needed for high yields in crop production. It stimulates root development, increases stalk and stem strength, improves flower formation and seed production, improves crop quality, and supports development throughout the entire life cycle of the plant.

Phosphorous has also been receiving a lot of attention lately in the ag industry with the emphasis being on using the 4Rs best management practices to reduce or eliminate it moving into the Great Lakes. Many growers in the province still do not soil sample properly. If a farm is not soil sampled correctly, understanding how much phosphorous is in your soil is simply a guess. Having large quantities of phosphorus in your soil doesn’t mean it will all be available to a crop.

A plant will take in phosphorus through three different ways. In the soil including interception, mass flow and diffusion. The majority typically is taken up through diffusion which is the movement of ions from areas of high concentration to areas of low concentration. Phosphorus is very insoluble, so movement is very slow. Placement and maintaining good soil levels of phosphorus are essential. An example of this is if you have loam soil, Phosphorus must be less than ¼’’ from the root to be taken up. Phosphorus does not readily leach out of the root zone. The loss of Phosphorus mainly stems from erosion and run-off of fertiliser or soil-adsorbed P.

Many growers do not know that phosphorus can easily become tied up and unavailable in their soil.

Two important things to remember about phosphorus is:

  1. As the chart below indicates, high pH levels with anything above 7.3 has calcium that can combine chemically with phosphorus, making a compound that is insoluble and that crops can’t access.
    Phosphorus tieup chart
  2. Lower soil pH that is below 6.3 can have iron and aluminium and manganese begin to tie up the phosphorus also making it unavailable to the plant, as the chart below indicates.
    Phosphorus tie-up chart 2

Phosphorus can exist in both organic and inorganic forms. In organic materials, the phosphorus is released by mineralization which occurs when microorganisms break down soil organic matter. For inorganic phosphorus, when phosphorus reacts with Iron, Aluminum and Calcium, it will create a product that is not very soluble and this is considered to be fixed or tied up.

There are several ways to protect and manage your phosphorus from becoming tied up in your soils:

  • Band your Phosphorus.This keeps areas concentrated in the soil allowing less to become tied up then if it was just broadcasted on the top or broadcasted and incorporated.
  • Take advantage of products that protect your Phosphorus from getting tied up. Using a product such as Avail from the Andersons can be a great option as it reduces fixation of phosphorus in the soil.
  • Cold soil and starters.If organic matter is a source of P, then it will release slowly if the soil is cool and wet. Roots have a hard time absorbing P when the soil is cold. That is why starters with P close to the seed is so important.
  • pH counts. We know that Phoshorus is most available between a pH of 6.5-6.8 but it can be hard to keep our soils exactly in that range. Accurate, proper, and timely soil sampling can make sure lime is being applied to correct to the pH, or acidifying products are used to lower the pH.
  • Mycorrhizae to the rescue. These are fungi that live in the soil and invade plant roots. They can provide supplementary P to the plant. These fungi move out over the soil and absorb many minerals such as Phosphorus, and pass that on to the plant.
Phosphorus deficiency in corn photo

A phosphorus deficient corn plant (Purdue University).

Myths about phosphorus

  • MYTH: Orthophosphate is better than polyphosphate because it is in the plant available form.
  • Polyphosphate ions are readily converted to orthophosphate ions in the presence of soil moisture. If the soil temperatures are normal the conversion can be completed in days with normal soil temp. Trials done show that fertilizer applied in the different forms clearly show that a pound of P is a pound of P.
  • MYTH: Liquid Phosphate is more mobile in the soil.
  • Phosphate will not move very far at all in the soil regardless of fertilizer form (liquid or granular.)
  • MYTH: Liquid Phosphate is available throughout the entire growing season.
  • Phosphate fertilizer in any form can get tied up quickly. Only 10-30% of applied phosphate fertilizer is available during the season it was applied in. It is important to remember that seed placed P fertilizer will always be more efficiently available compared to any broadcast that is spread on the field.
  • Mainly a MYTH: Elemental Sulfur acidifies the soil and frees up phosphate for the plant.
  • While it is true that elemental sulfur can acidify the soil or acidify a part of the soil locally, it has not been proven to be effective for improving phosphate availability.

Availability factors:

Several factors come into play when you are dealing with phosphorus and making it available to the plant.

Aeration and compaction 
If water levels are low, absorption by roots is low.

Diffusion needs moisture, excess limits water.

P level of the soil
More P concentration to move around.

Amount and type of clay
More P concentration to move around.

Time and method of application
The longer time it is applied before a crop the more chance it has to bind with the soil. Method determines how far it will be placed from the roots.

Other nutrients
Levels of other nutrients can affect uptake. The longer time it is applied before a crop the more chance it has to bind with the soil. Method determines how far it will be placed from the roots.

Soil pH
Most available at 6.5 – 6.8.

Deep rooting crops have more areas to pull from.

Temperature influences plant growth and P conversion.

Sources:,, Novozymes, MSU Extension,, and

corn seedling

Benefits of starter fertilizers

A starter fertilizer application is key to achieving the highest yield possible. It promotes an increase in early season plant growth, increased nutrient availability, and earlier crop maturity.

Applied nutrients are used more efficiently and provide a greater return on investment for your fertilizer dollars.

Finally, starter fertilizers promote good environmental stewardship because Read more

winter wheat stand

Nitrogen on winter wheat

Nitrogen on winter wheat

Cereals are very responsive to nitrogen. However, over-application of nitrogen or applying too early on a thick stand of wheat can cause lodging, resulting in reduced yield, quality, and harvestability. The optimum rate of nitrogen for a particular field will depend on the type of wheat grown, past applications of manure or fertilizer, soil type, and crop rotation. Use general recommendations as a starting point but combine them with observation of crop growth and lodging tendency. The idea is to ensure nitrogen is available early and consistently though the major uptake period (which is node development though booting). Read more

Assessing winter wheat survival

Assessing winter survival in wheat

Assessing winter survival in wheat Factors affecting winter survival in wheat The ability of winter wheat plants to survive winter often depends on each plant’s ability to tolerate low temperatures. Winter wheat plants go through a process called ‘cold acclimation’ in the fall during which each plant acquires the ability to withstand the cold temperatures […]

Proud to work in ag

Celebrating Canadian Agriculture Day

Let’s (always) celebrate the food we love.

Top 10 reasons to celebrate Canadian agriculture

The first-ever Canada’s Agriculture Day was a huge success. In 2018, it’s getting bigger and better. And why not? There are so many reasons to celebrate our industry. Here are our top 10.

  1. The ag industry is a major employer. Agriculture employs over two million Canadians – that’s one in eight jobs.
  2. We’re a trading powerhouse. Canada is the world’s fifth largest agriculture exporter with over $50 billion in annual sales.
  3. Family matters. We love ag for the life it gives our kids now and the opportunities it will give them in the future. It’s not just our livelihood, it’s our legacy – 97% of farms are family farms.
  4. Ag plays a major role in our economy. It contributes over $100 billion to Canada’s GDP each year.
  5. We’re proud environmentalists. Ike Skelton once said, “Because of their connections to the land, farmers do more to protect and preserve our environment than almost anyone else.”
  6. We love and care for our animals. We believe in responsible animal care and follow nationally recognized codes of practice for the care and handling of our animals.
  7. Ag is innovative. Thanks to modern farming practices, the average household saves more than $4,000 on food annually – that’s about $60 billion across Canada.
  8. We believe in quality. Canada ranks number one in global food safety.
  9. We’re a trusted industry. A recent Canadian Centre for Food Integrity survey shows that consumers trust farmers more than any other group and 60% want to know more about farming practices.
  10. We love what we do. Agriculture isn’t just our business, it’s our passion and our way of life. So, let’s be proud to share our story, explain where food comes from and how it’s produced, and reach out to those not in the ag industry.

No matter how you look at it, Canadian agriculture is a success story. Let’s get out there and start having ag and food conversations. And let’s celebrate!


tractor safety

Back to safety basics – operating a tractor

Safe operation of the most used equipment on the farm – the tractor

With a new year comes resolutions. This year, instead of making a resolution to do something you’ve never done before, what if you made a resolution to perform daily tasks properly and safely? Something like operating a tractor?

Tractors are essential to farm operations. From field work to feeding the livestock to cleaning snow, tractors are the most used machine on the farm. Firing up the tractor is pretty routine on the farm and operation seems pretty straightforward. As simple and as commonplace as using these machines are, the fact remains that the majority of agriculture machinery-related fatalities involve tractors. Reminders on basic safety while operating tractors can help everyone stay safe.

Did you know that the majority of deaths on Canadian farms involve a tractor? Runovers and rollovers are the top two ways people are killed on the farm. Unmanned machine runovers account for approximately half of all runover fatalities. This means that half of all runover deaths happen when no one is even driving the machine! Passengers and operators who fall from the machine are also killed in runovers all too frequently.

Bystanders are also in danger of being runover, unfortunately, most killed in bystander runovers are children under the age of nine. Runovers are easy to prevent if basic tractor operating procedures are followed. Before mounting the tractor, walk around the machine to check for obstructions, bystanders and to check the general condition of the tractor. If any systems are faulty, do not use the tractor.

Before starting the tractor, make sure that all controls are in their neutral positions, the parking brake is applied and the clutch and PTO are disengaged. Do not start or operate any of the controls from anywhere other than the seat. Be sure to drive at a speed slow enough to keep control of the tractor, especially over expected hazards like railroad crossings. Do not drive the tractor on ground that may collapse, like near ditches or embankments.

When coming to a stop, make sure you are parked on even ground, disengage the PTO (if connected), and lower any implements that are attached. Be sure to place all controls in the neutral position, apply the parking brake and turn off the engine. Remove the key. Never dismount if the tractor is still moving.

It cannot be stressed enough that tractors are not passenger vehicles. Except for those built with instructional seats, they are built for one person. There are far too many stories of extra riders being killed or injured. Keeping extra riders off the tractor is an easy way to prevent tragedy.

To sum up, watch for bystanders (keep kids in supervised, safe play areas), do not try to start the tractor from anywhere but the operator’s seat, drive cautiously and never, ever allow extra riders. Operating a tractor safely is one New Year’s resolution that will pay off in reduced injuries and fatalities.

Source: Grain News and The Canadian Agricultural Safety Association