The dirt on soil tests

With soil nutrient levels dropping, how do you need to change your soil-testing program and fertility rates?

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Fewer farmers are sampling their soils. In Ontario, the numbers say fewer than 30 per cent of farmers test every three years, even though this trend is leading to a data gap at a time when everything else seems to be changing too, such as the rapid climb in yield potentials, and elite corn hybrids that are so much more efficient at extracting nutrients.

Also worrying is that the experts are lining up to tell us that, one way or another, more farmers are mining their soils. Read more

Estimating Corn Yield


Early corn yield estimations are a great way to get out into your field and start to predict the yield of different varieties given the growing season. It allows a grower to start making harvest decisions, marketing decisions, and to estimate needed storage capacity.

How many spots should I sample from?

Generally doing a kernel count every 10-15 acres is recommended. For soils that are extremely variable, doing a kernel count every 5-10 acres would be beneficial. Select random spots in the field when walking through as you are trying to get the best representation of the field.

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Estimating Soybean Yield

Calculating soybean yields can be difficult. Plant spacing, soil types, environmental factors, insect and disease stress can all affect the final yield. Pod numbers, seeds per pod, and seed size will all control yield.

When do I begin counting?

The earliest time to begin yield counts is around R5-R6 stage with the R6 stage being preferred (a pod on any of the top four nodes of main stem full of seed.). By R6, all flowering will stop, pods have developed, and seeds in the pods are mostly filled. The accuracy of counts will always increase the closer you are to harvest.

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Gibberella Ear Rot

Gibberella Ear Rot in corn

What is it?

Gibberella Ear Rot, or Red Ear Rot, is caused by the fungus, Gibberella zeae (Fusarium graminearum). This disease can occur throughout the U.S. Mid-West and Southern Ontario. The pathogen overwinters on corn, wheat and barley debris. Spores produced on the debris lead to infection during silking. Red Ear Rot is more prevalent when cool, wet weather occurs during the first 21 days after silking. Extended periods of rain in the fall, which delay dry down, increase the severity of the disease. Red Ear Rot will be most severe in fields where corn follows corn, or corn follows wheat that was affected by Fusarium head blight (scab), which is caused by the same pathogen. Read more

Ear Rots in Corn


Ear rots can be difficult to control since weather conditions are critical to the disease development. Rots can establish any time after pollination in wounds created by insects, birds, machinery, and even hail. Rainy weather or heavy, prolonged dews often lead to ear rots in these wounded cobs.

Why are rots a concern?

The direct concern for ear rot disease is yield loss due to poor quality grain. In years when conditions favour development, large portions of fields can be affected. Once fields are infected, other management practices should be followed which can increase cost of harvesting, drying, and storing the grain.

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Stalk rots in corn

The distribution and prevalence of stalk rot diseases vary from year to year. However, the diseases are present in most years even though it may be at low levels. The majority of stalk rot damage in Ontario is caused by three fungi, Anthracnose, Gibberella and Fusarium. However, Diplodia and Pythium have also been observed.

Although these fungi cause different symptoms, their ultimate effect on the corn plant is the same. They reduce grain fill, stalk integrity, and accelerate senescence. The severity of this damage increases when the crop is under stress.

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Managing Fusarium Head Blight at harvest

Fursarium Spores WheatThe less infected kernels that go into storage the better, and the greater of a chance a grower will have for not getting docked to a lower grade of wheat.

Combine tips and notes

  • Higher fan speeds are needed to blow infected kernels out the back. Ridgetown College has done studies on fan speeds, and there is a tenfold decrease in the amount of Fusarium damaged kernels in a sample when the fan speed is at maximum blast. But with that comes challenges of losing good healthy kernels.
  • Research from Ohio State showed combine fan speeds between 1375 and 1475 RPM and the shutter opening at 3.5 inches received the lowest discounts at elevators from FHB damaged wheat kernels and DON levels in the harvested grain.
  • Reduce combine speed. Having the combine traveling at a slower speed, will allow better separation between the good and bad kernels.
  • In fields which are severely affected by leaf diseases, the lower test weight of the grain may make it more difficult to separate normal kernels from Fusarium damaged kernels.

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Western Bean Cutworm Larvae

Western Bean Cutworm

Why are they a concern?

The western bean cutworm is a damaging pest in corn and dry edible beans. They can cause large yield losses and reduced grain quality.

In corn

They begin to feed on the tassels and silks until they are large enough to tunnel into the ear and feed extensively on the Read more

Environment Canada says more humidity to come for June and July

Looking ahead to the coming months, Environment Canada meteorologists expect there will be more heat and humidity than normal.

“We’ve already had a taste this month of temperatures getting close to the 30-degree mark and humidity making it feel more like the mid 30s. That looks like the shape of things to come for June and July,” said Geoff Coulson, a warning preparedness meteorologist with Environment Canada.

Last year the usual summer heat wave to hit southern Ontario was missing in action with a lack of flow of warm moist air from the Gulf of Mexico, Coulson said.

This season southern Ontario has already tapped into that flow from the Gulf a couple of times with Humidex readings in many parts of Southwestern Ontario reaching the mid 30s.