Pearce: Warmer Ont. weather opens window to plant

Two weeks ago, the word on corn planting in southern Ontario was so limited it wasn’t even expressed as a percentage, just as “a few acres” in the immediate area. The biweekly meeting of certified crop advisors and provincial ministry staff, held near Exeter, north of London, was more focussed on nitrogen applications on wheat and the state of winter annual weeds than planting progress in corn or soybeans.

But 14 days later, the situation has almost completely reversed itself, according to advisors attending this week’s meeting.

Several advisors reported corn planting jumped to 80 to 90 per cent in the municipality of Chatham-Kent, as well as in Huron and Perth counties. In Huron County, it was reported that some fields had already emerged. In Waterloo and Lambton, farmers were said to be 60 per cent complete, and one report cited planting was very nearly complete in central and eastern Ontario. Regions further south and west, including Elgin and Essex counties, have seen the lowest levels of corn planting, with Elgin reporting roughly 30 per cent of corn in the ground and Essex County farmers were said to have “barely started.” Some advisors also reported soybean plantings were 10 to 15 per cent complete in parts of Huron-Perth and Waterloo.

The extent of planting is especially surprising when compared to that of the U.S.; reports from farm media south of the border indicated that as of Sunday, only 28 per cent of the nation’s corn crop had been planted. Granted, the U.S. was to set to plant up to 99 million acres in 2013, so there’s a bit of discrepancy in terms of a straight acre-to-acre comparison. But that 28 per cent planting in the U.S. is still far below the five-year average of 65 per cent. Six per cent of the soybean crop was planted by May 12, and that’s also a drop from the five-year average of 24 per cent.

Revenge spraying

Back in Ontario, the window’s all but closed on herbicide applications on wheat. Provincial cereal specialist Peter Johnson noted wheat in Essex County is already at flag leaf and that most of the crop in the Middlesex, Oxford, Huron-Perth region is at growth stage 32, making almost any herbicide application little more than revenge spraying, especially with a forecast that’s off and on with rain, plus the tight timing of the flag leaf emerging in the next few days. The labels for formulations such as Estaprop or MCPA may indicate there’s still time to spray, but Johnson said he couldn’t recommend such applications, given the crop’s staging.

He did, however, state now is the perfect time for that first application of a fungicide on wheat. There are some reports of septoria at lower levels of the plant, and there are just 25 days to heading in the “good” fields.

Another issue that’s been raised for wheat this year is standability, and Johnson indicated that the weather’s been excellent in that regard. Daytime highs of 18 C and nighttime lows in the 8 to 13 C range have helped to reduce the likelihood of lodging.

Finally, David Connery from Agricorp was at the meeting and said that to date the insurer has received 124 damage reports, with 28 in the Huron-Perth and Middlesex district and 44 in the Bruce County region. Overall, the percentage of damage is not high –only two or three per cent of the crop, and most involved some level of flood damage, snow mould or winterkill.

— Ralph Pearce is a field editor for Country Guide at St. Marys, Ont.

COPA Medallion COPA finalist in 2012, 2014 and 2015.
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