Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Western Bean Cutworm

We have received a higher amount of calls this season than any other concerning this pest than any other this year.  We are fairly confident that if you pick any field in the area, you will likely be able to spot one of these nasty worms chomping away in the cobs.

Life Cycle:
Western Bean Cutworm has originated from the southern and western United States, and has over the years flown its way across the Midwest (in its moth form) and made it to Ontario about 6-7 years ago.  The female moth first laid its eggs on the upper leaves of pre-tasselled corn, to hatch 7-10 days later into these tiny worms.  The worms make their way down the plant and into the cob, where they begin to feed and grow as the grain develops.  Once it has reached its final instar (full size) it leaves the cob, makes its way down to the ground, where it burrows into the soil to overwinter and emerge as a moth again in the spring.  The one saving grace for most of Ontario, and has kept this pest under control for the most part, is that because they burrow into soil to overwinter they tend to target sandy farms because it is much softer soil and easier to burrow into.  In the North Middlesex area, there is a very small amount of sandy ground.  In Southwestern Ontario, there are hot spots where there is heavy cutworm infestation in largely sandy areas, such as Bothwell, Strathroy, and out in Norfolk. 

This year however there seems to be more feeding than usual.  It is not nice looking, I know, however it likely is not as bad as you might think it is.  In sandy hotspots, you can get as multiple worms in every cob, which can do a significant amount of damage and destroy a crop quickly.  Thanks to the Herculex Bt trait in all of our hybrids we have sold this season we are generally ok with the low pressures we have seen. The Herculex trait, for Western Bean Cutworm, is labeled to have about 70-80% control of Western Bean Cutworm under low pressure.  This means if there is a worm or two in a cob, they will generally munch away at the tips, however will not continue to feed on the whole cob because it doesn’t like the Bt protein it tastes.   But, if there are sevral worms per cob, that combination of feeding can destroy it pretty quickly.  Another concern with this pest is the fact that the feeding damage it causes can act as an entry point to ear molds, such as Giberella, which can put it at greater risk for higher Vomitoxin levels.

The threshold to spray for the cutworm occurs when 5% of plants have an egg mass present; the Herculex Bt gene is not enough to keep the worms from doing little damage.  You must scout for them in July, just before tasseling time, inspecting the upper leaves for egg masses.  If you find 1 in 20, or 5 in 100 plants have an egg mass, you should consider spraying just after the eggs hatch.  Don’t wait too long, as the worms travel down to the cob in a few days, at which point they are protected from the insecticide.  The egg masses first appear milky white, but begin to turn purple about 2 days before hatching.  As soon as you see purple egg masses, get ready to spray in a few days.

So why is the pressure higher than normal this year?  Well, like many of the other problems we have seen this year, the theory behind this year’s higher than normal cutworm pressure (outside of hot-spot areas) is the late planting season.  Every year, OMAFRA collects cutworm trap data to figure out which week through the summer has peak WBC moth flight.  Since sands are generally planted earlier than the rest of the province, it is believed that because they were planted on time they tasseled earlier than peak flight timing.  So, the moths flying looking to lay eggs pass over the already tasseled corn on the sands to look for the next best thing – the delayed corn that hasn't tasseled yet elsewhere, across the non sandy areas of Southwestern Ontario.

What can you do about it? Not much at this point now, spraying it useless as the worm has made it to the cob and is protected inside the husk.  The best thing you can do is prioritize the worst infested fields for harvest to prevent the spread of any Vomitoxin infection.  Also, at harvest you could adjust the combine to blow any light weight, infected kernels out the back. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

White Mold in Soybeans

The past few weeks we have been noticing and have fielded the odd call about some white mold issue in the countryside.  White mold infection process begins with the black bodies (sclerotinia, above) that grow from previous infections in past years that have been re-deposited to the soil.  The sclerotinia over-winter like seeds that germinate a small mushroom-like structure (right) called and apothecia, which releases millions of infecting spores.  In order for these spores to infect, dead plant material must be present for the spores to colonize and eventually move to the living material.  Killing stems and choking the flow of water and nutrients to the rest of the plant. 

As you might have noticed, this year is the year we would be seeing many disease issues, as it has been quite damp, with heavy dews, plenty of rain, and moderate/below-average temperatures.   These are the types of conditions that fuel this disease, as well as a few other factors:

·         A dense canopy that does not allow for good airflow.  Minimizing dampness in the canopy minimizes infection; white mold spores need moisture to take hold. 

·         Conventionally tilled/minimally tilled fields.  Tilling soil burries the sclerotinia, allowing for better germination of apothecia.  If you no-till, the sclerotinia are left on the surface with little seed-soil contact and are left exposed to the elements, as well as germinate and release spores in a crop that is not susceptible (ie corn, wheat).  Rotation will help plenty as well.

·         Highly growthy areas, particularly loams and muck soils.

·         A susceptible variety planted in prone areas is also a factor. 

What I would consider the most though if you have a highly susceptible farm is to grow a highly resistant variety.  In our maturity zone, Pioneer has one variety that his highly resistant (P22T69R), one that is moderately resistant (92Y55), a few that are average, and a few that are susceptible.  On the right is a picture taken last week in our own soybean plot (planted in a mucky area of one of our farms) with P22T69R, a highly resistant line on the left, and P24T19R, a susceptible line on the right.  If you know you have mold problems, P22T69R is the bean to grow on that farm!

Monday, July 21, 2014

To Fungicide? Or not to Fungicide. That is the Question!

Well the days are flying by and the crops have already come a long way in the short one and a half month period since we planted it.  Before we know it, we will start to see the first tassels emerging in a couple weeks time – slightly behind schedule of course, but still not too bad.  Also, most soy fields have begun to flower on the bottom few nodes of the plant.  Again, a week or two behind but nothing unusual for a late May/early June planting.  I have attached a chart showing predicted flowering dates for our hybrid P0216AM.  This will give you a guide as to when to expect pollination to take place.  Other hybrids are likely to a few days earlier as P0216AM will be the latest of the hybrids we sell to flower. 

                Over the last few seasons, as tasseling and flowering time approaches, many farmers were lining up to get their names on the list and secure some product for a fungicide application.  However, in the marketplace we are currently in today, we are looking at $3.75/bushel new crop corn and $11.20/bushel new crop soys.  All of the sudden it is harder to see a payback by applying a fungicide.  Because of this, the application of fungicides is, of course, expected to be reduced significantly in Ontario this year.   

                This is unfortunate because, in my observation of this season so far, we are on track for a high disease pressure year – similar to last year.  So far we have been damp, overcast, and there have been a number of storm systems rolling through the region.  These storm systems bring disease pathogens in from Southern and Midwestern U.S. as well as stir up pathogens already present on overwintered trash.  We saw this phenomenon last year, where we had large storms roll through in June, bring with it Northern Leaf Blight which infected earlier than usual, shutting down low score resistance hybrids early.  Grey Leaf spot also caused some serious problems along the shores of Lake Erie. 

                If you have sprayed before but are discouraged by commodity prices this year, I would encourage you not to write it off yet.  Perhaps spray some, but not all of your acres – maybe spray the higher risk acres.  High risk acres would be corn-on-corn, high residue presence (minimum/no-till), hybrids with average or below average natural disease resistance scores.   

                When you think about it, spending $20-$30/acre (fungicide + application) is pretty cheap insurance, especially on a high risk year like this one.  I would say in most instances you would at least break even with a 7-10 bushel yield bump in corn/2-3 bushel yield bump in soybeans (or at least maintenance over what was lost to disease on the unsprayed acres).  Think of it more in terms of what can be lost as opposed to what can be gained. 

                What are the fungicide options? Below I outline the different options and their specific attributes:


Acapela: Same family as active ingredient in Headline, its claim to fame is its mobility in the plant, which most fungicides on the market do not have (until this year).  Has longer activity in the plant for this reason. For soybeans, this is the only product that has claims to reduce white mold activity (2 applications required).

Headline: First product on the market.  One active ingredient, going after pathogens present at time of application.  No translocation within plant, so shorter residual than Acapela. 

Priaxor: The new one from BASF to replace headline.  Has two active ingredients, good for resistance management.  One active is same as headline (immobile in plant), second active is new and able to translocate through leaf tissue.  Claims higher yield bump over Headline in corn and soybeans.

Proline: Has ability to reduce DON by 40-50%, and can have the yield kick with it.  I feel every hog farmer/livestock producer feeding their own crop should be spraying some of this product on their corn, as an insurance policy to at least minimize risk of moldy corn the animals won’t eat, or cause health and breeding issues.  Yield kick possibility is a bonus; if none, at least there is the DON/vomitoxin protection. Replacing corn that is high in vomitoxin is a much higher cost than protecting the crop with this fungicide. Smaller application window (must be sprayed on young silks, must make contact with silks). 

General application window for corn is about 2 weeks from silking to dry silks (accept Proline), and in soybeans is R2 (full flower).  R2 in soybeans is coming up quickly, and could already be at that stage in some fields this week!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Managing Late Planted Soybeans

As we watch the calendar slip by, patiently waiting for an opportunity to plant,  many of us know from past history that delayed planting = lower yields and there is nothing we can do about it.  Right?  Well not necessarily.  On a recent conference call , we spent some time reevaluating the history of late plantings and a very valid comment has come to light.

We have all been seeing that lower planting populations in soybeans has been the talk of the winter newspapers and researchers meetings.  This is possibly a valid point when we are beginning to learn that we can plant soybeans as early as we plant corn.  Many growers have risen to that challenge and planted soybeans in mid to late April and have been very successful.  So now you are probably thinking,  “where is this going and why are we discussing this when it is now moving to late May and we still have very few acres of anything planted let alone soybeans!”  So growers have adapted to early planting.  Awesome! So now we need to rethink about the physiology of a soybean plant all over.

We have said that we need 6 fully expanded trifoliates to get the highest possible yields for our soybean crop in a given year.  Basically this means we will have many nodes where flowers can bloom and a pod can set. 

Here is what we know about a soybean plant.

5-6 days to emergence (under warm conditions and longer when we plant in April)

5 days for unifoliate leaf

5-6 days for each trifoliate leaf

June 21 is longest day of the year

Longer day soybeans will start to flower about a week after the longest day of the year


Well here we are.  It is May 20, and the weather man has been less than kind.  So we have only 31 days until the 21st of June and approximately another 7 days after that gives us 41 days to work with and that is assuming we can plant within the next few days.  I know some of you are laughing saying “Are you kidding me!  I gotta plant corn yet!”

So at best , we may plant May 27.  (I gotta pick a number).  This gives us only 34 days to build our soybean factory before it starts to flower a week after June 21. 

Best case scenario, plant May 27… emerge June 1.

5 days to unifoliate – June 6

6 days  to first trifoliate- June 12

And so on to next trifoliate – June 18

And the next one……………. June 24 (here we are past longest day already and it feels like we have not seen spring yet).

So now we have 3 trifoliates and we will likely see the fourth before the plant starts to get the message that the days are getting shorter and I better start to flower.

So we said we want 6 fully expanded trifoliates before first flower and we only have 4.

So how are we ever going to get a decent soybeans crop, you say?  Remember when we used to plant 200000+ plants per acre and plant our soybeans on May 25 and get a decent soybean crop.  I think this is the year we need to reassess our soybean planting rates to try to have more plants and more nodes to put flowers on and give us the best chance of having enough pods there to get a reasonable yield.  Now we know Mother Nature has more control that we do, but it is something to think about… at least on those heavier clays that don’t let us plant as early as we want and we don’t have white mold and lodging to worry about.  It makes very good sense for a lot of acres in a late spring.

Just some food for thought as we patiently wait!


And if you are bored and need something to cheer you up, I thought we would include the following link for your entertainment.  Something I saw on the tube this past winter, you may have seen this already but I figure you can’t watch it too often!


Hopefully we can get rolling soon!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Coming to a Field Near You!

We are gearing up and ready to go for another growing season (as soon as the tap turns off, anyways), and we are excited to launch our new AQUAmax corn hybrids this 2014 season. We have limited supplies of these new hybrids, so only some growers will get a chance to try it in a plot or side-by-side. However, there will be a few designated AQUAmax viewing sites available in the area if you wish to view these hybrids in season.

But, below we have a little preview of what is to come. The other day on Twitter a post was made in Texas about one of the hybrids that we will be growing in plots this season - P0157AM. It is currently three leaves away from tasseling and growing under a droughty environment - it has only received about a half inch of rain since it was planted.  Look how well it is handling the environment it is in! If you wish to see the post, follow this URL: https://twitter.com/LieselAnne/status/461627306985807872/photo/1

AquaMax hybrids are not transgenic. Pioneer's Optimum AQUAmax branding designate hybrids launched by Dupont Pioneer that maximize water use efficiency (AQUA = water, max = efficiency).  These hybrids are bred by identifying and selecting for genes that have the best water use efficiency or drought tolerance.  These hybrids are then tested on drought research farms and have shown that its water use efficiency per bushel of yield produced is greater than other hybrids of similar maturity.

In order for a hybrid to receive the AQUAmax designation, it must be able to demonstrate two key things:
1)      Under restricted water application it must be able to yield a minimum of 5% more than other similar maturing hybrids in its class.

2)      Under full water application it must be able to yield at the top of its class.

This year, look for the following hybrids with the AQUAmax designation in plots:

            P0157AM/P0157AMX (double and triple stack options) – 3000/3025 CHU

            P0496AMX (triple stack) – 3100 CHU

            P0506AM (double stack) – 3150 CHU


We are excited to bring to the table another consideration to your hybrid selections this coming fall.  But first, of course, it needs to stop raining so we can hit the fields to kick off this season!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Fertility in the Modern Crop Growing Environment

North Middlesex Seed Solutions – Ryan Kennes – CCA-ON

Over the first few years of my career in agronomy I have attended many presentations and discussions on soil fertility in Ontario, and a specific topic that usually comes up at these talks is the downward trend of soil fertility.  This is due to the fact that today’s modern crops are pushed to yield more and more, and in effect mines the soil for nutrients much more than crops of the past.  Unfortunately, as the soil fertility test results from various labs trend downwards through the years, some farmers are still fertilizing the way they did 10 or 20 years ago – which for the most part is not enough to maintain good soil levels anymore, resulting in this downward trend.
When you get soil test results back, what do you look for?  The basics I look at first are pH, Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K) levels, second I look at Magnesium (Mg), and third I might look at Zinc (Zn) and Manganese (Mn).   What to the test numbers mean for these nutrients, what is good and what is bad?  Below I list general guidelines for the most common macro and micronutrient soil test analysis:
pH – Once you get down below 5.5 pH I start to recommend liming.  Usually sandy soils only.
Phosphorus – In Ontario, most labs test soil P using the Sodium Bicarb method.  For this method, I like to see a minimum 20 ppm, but ideally 25 ppm.    
Potassium – I like to see 150 ppm, but minimum you should have 120 ppm.
Magnesium – Same as Potassium (120-150 ppm).  However, also want to see it higher than the potassium level because potassium and magnesium interact in the soil solution in that a higher Potassium:Magnesium ratio can cause improper uptake of these two nutrients.  Usually only a problem in high sand content soils.
Zinc – Over 1 ppm.
Manganese – Over 10-15 ppm.  Usually low in sand soils or high organic matter soils (mucks).  Plan to amend this with a foliar application; it is not usually economical to amend with dry fertilizer.
There are many other nutrients essential to crop development, however the above nutrients are most commonly found in Ontario. 
What Macronutrients a Crop Will Remove:
Total 3 yr rotation
200 bu
60 bu
100 bu
Phosphorus-P removal
75 lb/ac
50 lb/ac
50 lb/ac
175 lb/ac
Potassium-K removal
50 lb/ac
75 lb/ac
30 lb/ac
155 lb/ac
In the past, a lot of farmers might have been able to get all of their fertilizer needs on in one year with, say, the corn crop, saving passes over the field.  These days, however, the ability to get it all on in one shot is difficult for a variety of reasons, from a logistical/equipment standpoint to a crop safety standpoint.
The challenges of high fertilization
Because of higher nutrient removal rates, some farmers have responded with higher fertilization rates.  They are fertilizing and trying to re-build their soil, but sometimes over-applying the more toxic fertilizers, urea in combination with potash, can pose the possibility of causing crop injury.  Morris Sagriff, our agronomist at Dupont Pioneer, has seen an increased occurrence of seedling burn and injury on sand-type soils as a result of this phenomenon.  He explains that in some cases it simply stunts the plant for a period of time, but never fully recovers, shaving bushels off the final yield.  There are safe limits to what you can apply in one shot, depending on the crop type, method of application, soil type, and the blend of fertilizer.  In particular, too much urea and potash together are more toxic than other fertilizers. 
On sands and sand loams you must watch how much total Urea + Potash you might be broadcasting at one time prior to planting the corn crop, particularly if you do not get a rain after broadcast to dilute the nutrients into the soil profile.  In some cases, it might not be safe to broadcast over 230-250 lb/ac total N + K for risk of seed burn on sandy soils.  Loams and Clay Loams on the other hand have better nutrient absorptive capability, thus can handle it better.
As you are probably more familiar with, there are also limits to how much you can put down in a 2x2 starter band, and this goes for all soil types, not just sand!  I would be hesitant to put more than 55 lb/ac actual N + K (if the N source is urea, there are higher limits if it is a different source). 
In order to avoid these issues, my best recommendation would be to apply the majority of potash either in the fall or ahead of any other crop – soys, wheat, or edible bean crop.  Or, better yet, split-apply your corn N needs with a side-dress application.
Soys, Edibles, and Wheat:
Soybean and edibles are safe in terms of broadcast because you are not spreading urea, or in the case of edibles, not a lot of urea, and wheat you are not spreading the majority of urea at the time in which it could pose a threat to germinating seed.  You would need to spread an immense amount of potash alone to burn a seed in these scenarios.