Producers in the province are taking equipment out of storage and finding ways to ready supplies while maintaining physical distance from others
By Jackie Clark
Farmers across Ontario are preparing for planting season because, even in a global pandemic, the agriculture show must go on.
“Hopefully (farmers) have had lots of time to get their equipment ready to go. There’s been some pretty nice weather lately to work outside,” Dale Cowan, senior agronomist at AGRIS Co-operative and Wanstead Farmers Co-operative, told Farms.com.
Producers and agricultural product suppliers want to be prepared “so when the good weather hits we’re ready to hit the fields,” Cowan said.
“Because of COVID-19, we’re moving as much seed and chemical (fertilizers and pesticides) to the farm as we can way ahead of time so it’s on hand when the farmer is ready to use it,” he explained. “Our retail location is open but the doors are locked; we’re not interfacing with customers, we’re doing everything by telephone, email, text and Zoom.”
Communication technology is allowing the agricultural supply chain to keep moving while maintaining physical distance to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
“We’re trying to use all the communication tools at our disposal to get our messaging out and finish crop plans with customers,” Cowan said.
Producers are also keeping a close eye on the weather forecast to see what field conditions may look like for planting.
Currently, conditions “depend on where you are; it’s been kind of spotty,” Cowan said. “Most fields are in pretty good condition to put nitrogen on” over the next week.
Some other areas, like Essex County, have had more rain.
“I hate to say it but it’s almost a repeat of last year,” Cowan said. There may be less total rain in the forecast than the spring of 2019, but it could still be enough to present challenges for producers on clay soils, he explained.
Farmers should be “walking the fields, scouting the fields,” he added. “Weeds are starting to grow, so of course we’re really concerned with weed resistance management.”
Producers and scouts are starting to see weeds like fleabane, ragweed, dandelions and wild carrots in fields.
“Any opportunity we have to pre-plant burn down early when the weeds are small, we need to take that opportunity … Last year we got delayed and were spraying some pretty big weeds,” Cowan said.
Farmers who have winter cereals should be monitoring those fields to plan management, he added.
“We’re a little early for foliar leaf disease on winter wheat but we have such a wide range of crop development. If you’ve got wheat that was planted early, you don’t need to be in a big rush to get nitrogen on. If you’ve got wheat that was planted late then you’ve got to get as much nitrogen on as you possibly can as soon as you can to get it to force some spring tillers and get it kick-started again.”
Though physical distancing may present some challenges, it is a necessary precaution. Cowan had some advice for producers seeking agronomy advice this season.
“Use your social media skills as much as you can. Take pictures and email them to your crop specialist if you need to. Use YouTube videos, do whatever you need to do because right now we’re just not meeting face-to-face,” he said.
CNH Industrial photo