Mt. Forest Agribusiness Breakfast Meeting Minutes – May 21, 2019

May 24, 2019

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Thank you to BASF for sponsoring breakfast. The next meeting will be June 4th at 7:30 am. If there are any suggestions on edits required to the minutes herein, how to improve the meeting, or topics to discuss if you cannot attend, please let Ian McDonald know.

Cool temperatures are continuing the slow growth in overwintering crops. Total crop heat unit accumulation in Mount Forest from May 1-22 has been 124, which is below the 30-year average of 225. However, about 90% of the heat in an Ontario growing season occurs June through August, so we really aren’t missing out yet. Crops will go through their vegetative stage faster with a delayed planting date. However, fields are wet. Sprayers and even lawn mowers have been stuck in places where it has never happened before.

 
While people are stressed, and the conditions continue to be troublesome, it was emphasized by some of the seasoned participants that we have always got a crop in the ground in Ontario and we have always gotten it off. We will do the same again in 2019!
 
Safety
 
Safety always must be your highest priority. In a condensed, delayed spring field season, the pressure is high, the hours long, and the chance for breaks are far and few between. Regardless, you must remind yourself and those around you to be safe, cautious and calculated in the decisions and actions they are taking. Don’t cut corners to save a few minutes. The cost of doing so can be catastrophic.
 
With extended hours, less sleep, and the added stress, it’s important to keep in contact with your team continuously. Setting up a “Check In” protocol is recommended. With everyone having phones today, it’s easy to take a couple of minutes several times during the day to make sure everyone is “good”! This is especially true during night time but applies throughout the day. It also applies to farmers, those in the retail trade and others who are working hard to keep up to the farmers.
 
Factors beyond anyone’s control often cause a lot of stress and anxiety. The group had some suggestions of ways to keep morale up amongst clients and colleagues as the wet weather continues.
  • Only make farm calls when you are in a positive frame of mind
  • Surround yourself with positive people
  • Be sure to have something positive to say on farm visits
  • Keep farm visits short and upbeat
  • Be a listener when you go on farm
  • Small acts of kindness, such as bringing coffee for others, go a long way!
  • Encourage producers to explore their marketing options as there are often some desirable opportunities this time of year
  • Avoid reading, watching or listening to the news; they tend to cover negative stories
This may be a good time to review the crop plan and prepare to adjust as conditions evolve. It acts as a reminder to stay the course where appropriate, and to develop a Plan B that can be used if certain conditions, such as a calendar date or weather event, aren’t met. Having confidence in a plan offers reassurance.
 
Growers worried about meeting obligations of forward contracts should contact the person they contracted with. Often a solution can be reached to address conditions outside the grower’s control.
 
The Ontario Mental Health Help Line is 1-866-531-2600, or you can dial 211 to be connected to mental health support in your community.
 
Crisis Lines
 
 
 
We have never had a year where a crop has not been planted in Ontario (south of the Canadian Shield). Other seasons have challenged the industry and we have always pulled through and will do so this year as well.
 
Weather
 
Weather continues to plague field progress across Ontario. Things were getting nicely underway over the weekend when a fast-moving storm brought variable amounts of rain up to an inch across much of the area bringing activity to a stop again. However, many would be able to start again Wednesday where only a small amount of rain was received.
 
There is a very urgent need for sunlight and higher temperatures. The current persistent conditions are preventing fields from drying, even where a crop like winter wheat is growing and should be transpiring water out of the soil. We just are not getting the conditions that allow soils to dry.
 
Agricorp
 
Winter wheat continues to dominate their activity. Estimated that up to 40-50% of last fall’s plantings now will be taken out. With the continuation of the weather pattern more of the marginal acres continue to go backwards. There have been 3800 damage reports on winter wheat but are now tapering off. The majority have come from the southwest up through Middlesex county, and in Chatham/Kent/Lambton over 80% of crop will be gone. Middlesex/Perth 60% of acres to be taken out and Huron 40% and dimensioning moving east.
 
The RMP program continues to solidify (http://www.agricorp.com/en-ca/Programs/RMP/Pages/Overview.aspx ). Essentially:
 
New in 2019
  • New coverage level
  • The provincial government announced a new 95 per cent coverage level starting in 2019. The new coverage level is a cost-effective alternative to the existing 100 per cent coverage level.
  • Customers need to select their 2019 coverage
  • Because of the new coverage level option, coverage is not automatically renewed this year. Customers will need to evaluate their options and contact Agricorp to select a coverage level that is best for their farms.
  • More time to make farm business decisions
  • For 2019, participation timelines have been adjusted to provide additional time for customers to make the best decisions for their farm businesses.
  • Adjusted timelines are available on the agricorp.com deadlines page.
Planting Deadlines:
  • Spring Cereals – area A April 25, B and C May 20 (extended), E June 10
  • Corn – area ABC June 15, D June 20, E May 31
  • Soybeans – area ABC June 30, D June 20, E May 31.
  • The deadline for forage new seeding is August 31st 
 
The deadline to report acreage to Agricorp is June 30, however if growers finish before then they are encouraged to call in to avoid high call volumes. If growers think they will still have unseeded acres by June 30, they are encouraged to call Agricorp before June 15.
 
Deadlines are rarely extended because of the implications. The decision comes from a discussion between AAFC, OMAFRA, Agricorp since the governments put in 60% of the premium for the coverage. They only ever go 5 days of extension at one time and consider each crop and area carefully. USAB Insured wheat fields taken out are entitled to a $114/acre reseeding benefit. If you sprayed it off to plant another crop and can’t get the new intended crop planted, you do not qualify for Unseeded Acres Benefit (USAB)t, it’s a production claim. In this case it is best to put a cover crop in and plant wheat in good time this fall. The cover crop provides a place for manure application from full storages and can act as additional forage, while avoiding soil compaction this spring. The USAB must have been applied for by May 1 and all eligible crops must be insured to qualify. The benefit also requires that others in the area are not able to seed. Its not intended for fields where there was a crop like winter wheat already growing in that field.
 
Weed Control
 
Most are behind on spraying, since nitrogen application has been the first priority. Weeds have been held back by the conditions but starting to come on now and will need to be addressed especially in the poorer fields which have less canopy. Cool conditions especially overnight are of concern. The rule of 3 for cereals being at least 3 days with overnight temperatures above 3 ⁰C.
 
Advisors need to set expectations if growers start changing their management plans, particularly in soybeans. There are NOT a lot of options for fleabane post-emergence in IP soybeans. There is concern that people are abandoning burndowns. Weeds must be managed, and it’s usually a system approach with the pressures these days. Giving up on burndowns means other decisions must be made and implemented so its important to stay on top of this. This is especially true for fleabane control.
 
Where the crop has been planted, including some soybeans, there is a bit of time between planting and emergence with the cool temps but its very important to get those pre’s down.
 
Fleabane is getting big in many places; some is starting to bolt. It’s important not to skimp on the herbicide application. Keep water volumes up, tankmix with 2 if not 3 active ingredients to continue to manage this problem weed.
 
Bluegrass is becoming an increasing problem to be watched for. It germinates over a long period of the season so non-residual herbicides have a hard time holding it back.
 
With the continued cold and cloudy weather plants are not putting down good cuticle. This can make them more susceptible to crop injury from post applied herbicides. Watch temperature conditions and crop stages.
 
Even if we can’t plant based on soil conditions, we can often spray reasonably well so that is where people should be concentrating. Weeds are small and lush, so coverage and efficacy will be good under these conditions. This works especially where sprayers are equipped with proper tires for the conditions. Too many sprayers with narrow or old road tires will do a lot of damage under current soil conditions.
 
Manure
 
There are large volumes of manure in near-full storages. A wet fall and this spring have exacerbated the problem. Conditions are not fit for manure application across most acres. Waiting on soils to be fit for this will further delay planting but applying too early can do considerable damage to the soil from compaction.
 
Where possible, make sure spreaders are equipped with the best and biggest tires you can afford or fit under the unit. Inflation/deflation systems should be explored as the reduction in soil compaction is substantial. Get out only as much as you need to get you through and apply it on the fields that can withstand the stress the most. Save the rest for after hay cutting or cereal harvest. Some people are adapting to spreading into planted or standing crop if they have or have access to the equipment (draghose, big volume tires with inflation/deflation systems, in-crop application/narrow flotation tires with inter row injectors for corn).
 
Some with dry manure are electing to pile it in the fields and will spread it after forage or cereal harvest.
 
Another opportunity that more should explore is selling/swapping manure with cash crop farmers. Both can benefit from these options.
 
Cereals
 
There are still decisions to be made on whether to keep or release some of the wheat fields. The wet weather delays are affecting these decisions because growers may not have time to take out wheat fields and plant other crops in a timely manner. The change in fields for the better and worse continues field to field, mostly a function of wet feet. The differences between the early and late planted fields is getting larger. If fields are questionable, the consensus is that they should be taken out because they have a compromised ability to deliver a profitable yield and poor fields are as costly to manage as good fields. An option for those questionable fields that will be left is to plant alfalfa or other forages as there is likely to be a local demand for hay this fall.
 
Wheat stage is highly variable in the region both within and between fields. This needs to be accounted for in scouting and staging of other crop inputs. End of last week much of the early wheat was at 1st node stage, very little in the area at flag leaf. This is good considering the frost overnight Monday and the need for still getting some N on and much of the herbicides.
 
A majority of the wheat crop has had nitrogen. Most of the fertilizer that has been applied went onto healthy wheat acres. Response to the N hasn’t been as much as we hoped to date because the  cool damp weather hampering the crops utilization of the N. However, on fields where spreading got interrupted, its easy to see where the fertilizer was applied. With the cool, wet spring, sulphur deficiencies may become an issue. It is easily mistaken for nitrogen deficiency. Fields that received ammonium sulphate this spring look very good. Wheat can respond to foliar applied S so be sure to diagnose nutrient deficiencies accurately.
 
While people struggle to put additional inputs into poorer crops, those crops are often the ones that need the protection most. As straw is likely to have higher value this fall, fungicides should be considered to promote straw yields and quality. Scouting will be important since disease severity may be reduced in lower stands where there is a lighter canopy.
 
Most of the intended spring cereal acres are still not planted but progress has been made. With the significant delay in planting, many are turning to their corn acres to spend their time. The Agricorp planting deadline of May 15th has been extended by 5 days in the area. Planting beyond that date will be a function of feed and straw need. Delayed planting puts flowering into traditionally hot temperatures and this impacts yield potential.
 
If you are going to need bedding this fall, book it early either locally or through a broker who will be securing inventory already. Corn stalks can make suitable bedding. Nutrient removal of corn stalks baled in spring is low, as P and K have leached out of the stover during the winter. There was discussion about alternative crops like switchgrass. This perennial, warm-season grass can make good bedding. See Switchgrass Production in Ontario: A Management Guide for more information.
 
Soybeans
 
Probably less than 1% of intended acres are planted.
 
The biggest issue with soybeans right now is the impact of delayed planting on wheat planting date and the yield potential of that crop. Fields intended for wheat should have the shortest maturity beans and should be planted first. Under the tough conditions of this spring, soybean populations should be increased unless the weather really turns around and row widths should be narrowed to get early interception of sunlight by the later canopy.
 
Soybeans are usually more tolerant of being “mudded in” than corn. Think about planting soybeans first to give corn fields more opportunity to get “fit” prior to working and/or planting.
 
Corn
 
Corn has been the focus and frustration of most.
 
With the field conditions, there will be decisions made to change timing on operations: i.e. reduce tillage, plant direct, pass on burndowns, or delay fertilizer until after planting. All of these are options, but they need to be planned so they can be addressed once the crop is planted.
 
Planting progress varies widely. Some have not yet been in the fields while some have all their corn in (ie 600-700 acre guys). Much of the area was still only around 10-20%. West and north in the area had 20-40% planted, with areas like Amberley having up to 80% planted based on missing some rains previously. Many of those early planted fields were quite “black” suggesting that they have gone in “tough”. While its understandable, the group is worried about what those fields will look like mid season if things turn dry. While we understand the stress of late planting and the need to get in the fields, the size of equipment today means an early start into less than ideal soil conditions can put a lot of acres of crop at risk quickly.
 
Lots of questions are coming in about switching hybrids. The switch date for the region isn’t until May 26th, but a lot can change in a short period of time, so everyone is trying to be prepared. Some of this interest in switching has been tempered by the price differential between corn and soys, which is keeping growers leaning towards corn. Growers considering switching should talk to their seed suppliers. Suppliers should frame this conversation around the grower’s risk tolerance to Grade 4 corn and matching hybrids to the soils that are most suitable given the available planting date. Switching hybrids is about season length and flowering date. Changing for short differences in overall maturity will get the earlier flowering date which at this point is the important consideration. Hybrid differences must be 200 CHUs or more to make a real difference in the field. Yield expectations also must be managed. People are continuing to wait but concern that this will change rapidly if we get more wet weather this week.
 
Later planted corn goes through its vegetative stage of crop development faster than normal as it traditionally is growing under warmer conditions. This often leads to elongated corn, especially in tallish hybrids. This can lead to stand problems come harvest time. These tall hybrids should have their populations reduced 5% with late planting, but regular height hybrids should stay the course.
 
The switch date for silage corn is one week after grain corn. Corn silage hybrids should be chosen to give yourself some breathing room on harvest date to account for poor weather during some portion of the corn silage harvest window. While silage corn tends to be the tall types, the worry about standing at harvest is not the same as with grain, no change in population is required.
 
Do not “mud in” corn. Plant soybeans which can take tougher conditions better first and give corn fields a bit more time to get fit! Also, pay attention to hay crop maturity, and consider cutting before you finish planting corn; for every day of delay, forages lose quality faster than corn loses yield potential.
 
There will be those trying to plant at higher speed. It depends on the planter and the conditions (i.e. rocks, soil clods, etc.). If your planter is not equipped for this, higher speeds lead to depth and skip problems that can hurt you. The target is a uniformly planted depth and population that emerges simultaneously.
 
Regardless of the soil conditions, the group was adamant that planting depth should be 1.5” at minimum to ensure good establishment of the plants. More flexibility in soybeans. Make sure planters are equipped to attain and maintain the correct depth.
 
Forages
 
Despite early warnings of widespread winterkill across the province there are many just coming to the realization they have a problem. Lots of activity looking for seed to plant new stands but inventories are getting hard to find. Some producers have lost over 50% of their alfalfa. While the word is getting out, there are still concerns that not everyone growing alfalfa is aware of their situation. See Check Alfalfa Stands this Spring and Make a Plan for more information. Fields that were scouted early should be checked again because continued wet conditions mean those plants that looked like they were going to make it may not have survived the continued weather conditions. The planting season is still ahead of us, so producers have plenty of options for alternative forage crops, including:

In fields with less than 50% damage, growers could patch with red clover and/or grass (Italian ryegrass or typical perennial forage grasses). For best results, use a no-till drill. Once the alfalfa is over 15 cm (6 in.) tall, the plants are generally too competitive for new seedlings to establish well. In this case growers may have better success taking a first cut and then over-seeding into moisture. Plan to terminate and rotate patched stands in 2020.

 
Alternative forage crops can make great feed. The trick is to not manage them like alfalfa. Most are ready to harvest in 60 days or less, they don’t dry down well enough for hay, and they may require specific management to prevent animal health issues. See the articles linked in the list above for more information.
 
Discussion on whether 1st cut dairy hay will occur last week of May as usual. This will be field dependent due to the staging of the grass and alfalfa and amount of winter kill. Either way its likely that first cut will yield lower than expected. The only way to judge harvest date is to be scouting those fields continuously as we approach the 3rd week of May. With the cool conditions even the grasses have been slow to grow so are not as far ahead of the alfalfa as would normally be expected, which is a good thing.
 
The OntarioHayListings.ca website is a free classifieds database for producers looking to buy or sell hay and straw.
 
Pastures are off to a slow start. Even though there is virtually no feed in pastures yet, some livestock have already been turned out because winter feed is in short supply. With the wet conditions this poses a pugging/poaching risk, and the early grazing will reduce overall yield for the year. Conventional wisdom says for every day of grazing too early, a pasture loses three days’ worth of grazing in the fall.
 
Edible Beans
 
With the combinations of weather and global markets, there is talk of more edible beans in the area. Some are already sold out on their edible contracts while there might be some opportunity with other buyers.
 
Funding Opportunities
 
Canadian Agricultural Partnership intake closed May 5th. There were lots of applications submitted from the region. Best of luck to all applicants.
 
The Ottawa Valley Seed Growers Association is pleased to offer up to four $2,500 scholarships to recognize interest, knowledge and achievement in the Eastern Ontario agricultural community.
 
The scholarships are available to youth of Eastern Ontario enrolled in at least the second year of studies at any post-secondary College or University and planning to pursue a career in agriculture. Application form is available at: http://ottawafarmshow.com/youth-scholarship/
Source : Field Crop News