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Enhanced OMAFRA Extension Support (2019 field season)

Principal Investigator: Horst Bohner, Ben Rosser, and Joanna Follings

Research Institution: Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs

Timeline: January 2019 – December 2019


  • Enhanced Tech Transfer Efforts through upgrades to websites, apps, videos, YouTube segments, PowerPoint presentations and print publications. Tech transfer will also be improved through the support of field diagnostic and plot day activities. Southwest Diagnostic Days, FarmSmart Expo, and the Eastern Diagnostic Days are excellent examples of “hands on learning” for farmers and agronomists.
  • Improved Information Gathering through the investigation of new management techniques (producer driven) or new developments in products or processes (agricultural industry driven). This would include searching out innovative practices abroad, identifying key players and bringing them to speak at Ontario meetings. Conducting searches of scientific literature, government publications and web-based materials to ensure a “state-of-the-art” position when formulating research proposals, writing extension articles, or interpreting Ontario data.  Proper information gathering is essential to inform government policy to ensure practical solutions are created for Ontario farmers.
  • Breaking Issues Support is necessary throughout the growing season as challenges arise. Labour, travel, and lab costs associated with issues that develop (e.g., soil nitrate testing when weather is unusual, soybean pest scouting, gathering, testing of samples to monitor Fusarium levels in wheat or corn and wheat leaf disease surveys) will be supported with this funding.


  • Ensure the ongoing competitiveness and sustainability of the Ontario grain sector through extension and technology transfer.
  • Information provided to farmers and agronomists allows them to make the best management decisions possible in a particular growing season.
  • Produce new information and guidance during years with breaking or specific issues (e.g., impact of grain drying on test weight of immature corn).
  • Provide hands-on learning experiences, diagnostic education for Ontario agronomists, students, farmers (diagnostic events).
  • Respond and problem solve for grower inquiry/questions; provide case studies and examples to create new extension materials.
  • The Field Crop News webpage (supported by this project funding) received approximately 100,000 visits in 2019.
  • Approximately 1,100 participants attended demonstration trials that were established at: Ridgetown, Elora, Winchester, Perth Soil and Crop Improvement Association Demo Farm and Elgin Soil and Crop Demo Farm.

Scientific Summary:

Horst Bohner (Soybean)

1. Field Crop News Webpage:

Funding was used to update and maintain this webpage which received approximately 100,000 visits in 2019. It is an archive of information dedicated to the production of over 8.5 million acres of field crops in Ontario and a forum for which producers, researchers and industry personnel can share information and ideas. The OMAFRA field crop technology team, faculty at the University of Guelph and innovative growers work together to find ways to improve field crop production. Key learning and outcomes from these collaborations are captured on ‘Field Crop News.’

2. Delayed Soybean Planting Recommendations:

Unprecedented rainfall in the spring of 2019 resulted in the latest soybean planting window in recent memory. OMAFRA field crop specialists worked to provide information on best management for late planted soybeans and to determine the correct date to switch to earlier maturing soybean varieties. Extension funds were used to establish demonstration and research trials at various locations (Winchester, Elora, Bornholm, St. Thomas and Ridgetown) to assess best management practices when planting is delayed. Results from these trials were presented at various winter meetings (9 Agribusiness and Soil and Crop meetings, Southwest Ag Conference and the Soybean and Canola Committee, etc.) Trials indicated that switching to shorter season varieties is not necessary in Ontario if planting can be achieved before the crop insurance deadline. Trials also showed that increasing seeding rates did not improve yields when planting is delayed. Further the addition of N fertilizer at planting did not improve yields.

3. Southwest Crop Diagnostic Days, Eastern Diagnostic Days, FarmSmart Expo and Crop Twilight Meetings:

Demonstration trials were established (Ridgetown, Elora, Winchester, the Perth Soil and Crop Improvement Association Demo Farm and the Elgin Soil and Crop Demo Farm) to specifically improve the problem-solving skills of industry personnel, agricultural consultants, and growers by providing them with ‘hands-on’ learning experiences to assist in the correct identification and treatment of crop problems common in Ontario. The soybean focus in 2019 was variety selection, seedling establishment and foliar fungicide application. Approximately 1,100 participants attended these events. Extension funds were used to establish, manage, and harvest these replicated trials. Two new phone apps (BeanCam and Sporecaster, developed by the University of Wisconsin) were demonstrated. These were designed to assist growers in making replant decisions and to aid in the prediction of white mould development.

4. The Outdoor Farm Show:

A field demonstration trial was established at the show to display different oil seed crops including a number of novel soybeans including natto, tofu, green seeded soybeans as well as crusher types. Ontario Soil & Crop Improvement Association (OSCIA) and OMAFRA Crop Technology staff collaborate to prepare interactive demonstrations. About 40,000 people attended this show.

5. Do Soybeans Require Sulphur Fertilizer?

Extension funds were used to generate and collect soybean trial data to assess the use of sulphur fertilizer. Results (presented to approximately 3,000 Ontario soybean growers to date) show there is little evidence that they need to apply sulfur fertilizer to soybeans.   

Ben Rosser (Corn)

1. Field Crop News Support:

Extension funding helps support expenses associated with maintaining and operating This platform allows OMAFRA staff to easily produce and post extension articles particularly ones focused on critical, timely and breaking information along with annual survey activities. Collectively, page views would be in the tens of thousands. Without this platform it would not be possible to reach wide audiences in Ontario.

2. Ontario Soil Nitrate Survey:

OMAFRA staff conduct this survey every spring just prior to traditional sidedress time in order to identify any meaningful deviations in soil nitrates and to give corn producers an opportunity to make nitrogen rate adjustments should they be warranted. The 2019 survey was conducted June 17 – 19th, much later than typical given the late conditions and slow crop development. Soil nitrate levels were much lower than what would be typically observed and consistent with the cool, wet weather that had been experienced. General recommendations were to not short N rates in 2019, and if growers felt yield potential remained high, N rates may be more responsive.

3. Demonstration Events:

Demonstration plots were held as part of field days / expos across the province (Southwest Crop Diagnostic Days, Ridgetown, FarmSmart Expo, Elora; Eastern Ontario Crop Diagnostic Days, Winchester). Demo plots in 2019 investigated comparison of conventional, minimum and strip till tillage systems – residue management, compaction, planting condition, impacts on plant growth, how to diagnose fertilizer injury and considerations for balancing fertilizer safety with fertilizer response in strip till. These plots also provided a platform for producing additional extension materials, including the Real Agriculture Strip Till management video. In total across all events 1,000 participants would have experienced extension derived from these plots.

4. Ear Mould and DON Survey:

Each fall OMAFRA staff, with industry support, complete an annual pre-harvest grain corn ear mould and DON survey to provide Ontario growers and industry a snapshot as to what the crop looks like to allow pro-active management decisions to be made. In 2019, the survey was conducted in early October and showed DON levels among the lowest since 2011. Survey results were posted to FieldCropNews.

5. Impact of Grain Drying Temperature on Test Weight:

While general trends about the impact of grain drying temperature are known, there are few data applicable to Ontario to support drying during an immature/high moisture year. In response to this, OMAFRA staff collected samples representing a range of maturities and dried the samples at various temperatures and measured test weight changes over time. In general, lower temperatures resulted in better test weight improvements than high temperature drying. With some very immature corn, no test weight improvements were observed for high or low temperature drying.

Joanna Follings (Wheat)

1. Webpage:

Extension funds were used to update and maintain this webpage which in 2019 had 5,000 users on the site with 25,000 page views. This webpage is home to all Ontario cereal performance data and cereal production-related information.

2. Straw Yield Data:

Information on straw yield is important for Ontario winter wheat growers as it allows them to make better variety selections to meet the needs of their operations, particularly those who need straw for livestock bedding, feed rations and for those who supply straw to mushroom, strawberry and ginseng markets. All the data that was collected in 2019 has been published and made available through the website. Given the unprecedent amount of winterkill in 2019, the northern Ontario locations were the only source of 2019 data.

3. “Field Crop News” Upgrades and Updates:

Extension funding was used to upgrade and update the Field Crop News webpage which acts as an important extension tool for the OMAFRA Field Crop Team. Articles are posted daily on topics impacting producers throughout the growing season with the 2019 articles having up to 25,000 views.

4. Southwest Crop Diagnostic and Eastern Diagnostic Days:

Demonstration trials were established at both of these events to showcase the latest cereal production information to Ontario producers, agronomists and industry representatives. The goal is to better equip these individuals to deal with seasonal challenges and opportunities. The focus for 2019 was planning for winter wheat harvest and the use of plant growth regulators for Ontario wheat production. More than 1,000 participants attended these events.

5. Winter Wheat Straw Nutrient Removal Data:

In Season Questions – Working with growers, agronomists and labs, information was collected on nutrient removal from winter wheat straw given changes in management, varieties and changing weather patterns. Straw samples were collected from 8 winter wheat fields in Waterloo, Wellington, and Huron counties as soon as possible after harvest and before any rain event, with the exception of one location, to remove any potential leaching effect. Results showed that, on average, N values in winter wheat straw collected were 0.64%, phosphorus values averaged 0.05% and potassium values were 1.18%. These results show that the current OMAFRA guidelines on wheat straw nutrient removal are still relevant. The results of this work have been shared with approximately 1,000 wheat producers.

6. Harvest Delay Impact on Winter Wheat Yield and Quality: In Season Question:

Extension funds were used to look at the impact of a delayed harvest on wheat quality in 2019 compared to the costs associated with taking it off early and drying it. Samples of soft red winter wheat from the same field were collected at two locations (Palmerston and Elora) once a week at the same location for 4 weeks to keep as much consistency as possible. The two biggest factors impacted in terms of quality were falling number and test weight. As winter wheat harvest was delayed, test weight at the Palmerston location dropped from 78.3 kg/hl on August 2nd to 73.7 kg/hl on August 20th. Test weight at the Elora location dropped from 76.7 kh/hl on August 2nd to 71.9 kh/hl on August 23rd. While the test weights started at the grade 1 level, they did decline to a grade 2 level by the last harvest sample even in a relatively dry month compared to previous years.

We saw a similar trend when we looked at falling numbers. Falling numbers at the Palmerston location dropped from 402 seconds on August 2nd to 366 seconds on August 20th. Falling number at the Elora location dropped from 357 seconds to 335 seconds. While all falling number data collected was well above the 300 second threshold and test weights fell into the grade 2 category, these data re-confirm that by leaving wheat in the field longer we do see a reduction in quality and ultimately the grade producers are likely to get. We then took all the data that GFO collects through its annual wheat quality survey to see if we could see a similar trend across Ontario. In 2019, we saw very little impact of a delayed harvest on test weight across all samples collected. We also looked at falling number and found that samples collected in the southwest dropped from approximately 364 seconds to 342 seconds between July 30th and September 6th. In Niagara we saw a drop from 354 to 351 from August 8th to September 6th. In eastern Ontario we saw the opposite trend with the falling number increasing from 332 seconds on August 29th to 349 on September 6th.

Overall, the impact of delaying winter wheat harvest in 2019 was not as great as one may expect. These samples were collected over the course of four weeks when, in reality, even if there is a delay, growers are most likely able to get their wheat off within a matter of two weeks. The difference in quality at these locations in 2019 would not cover the costs associated with taking the crop off earlier and drying it on farm or having it custom dried. FHB at both locations actually declined over the course of the four weeks and DON was below the detectable limits. If a producer did have FHB present then the difference in quality may have warranted the need to harvest early and dry down the crop on farm to avoid the continued growth of FHB in the wheat crop.

Information around timely harvest and impact on quality have been shared with over 2,000 producers and agronomists at various grower meetings and will continue through the winter months.

External Funding Partners:


Project Related Publications:

Field Crop Team. 2021. 2019 Nitrate Survey. Field Crop News.

Follings, J. 2019. Impact of Harvest Delay on Winter Wheat Quality in 2019. Crop Advances: Field Crop Reports.

Follings, J. 2019. Winter Wheat Straw Nutrient Removal 2019. Crop Advances: Field Crop Reports.

Rosser, B. 2020. 2019 Ontario Grain Corn Ear Mould and DON Mycotoxin Survey. Field Crop News.