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Enhanced OMAFRA Extension Support (2021)

Principal Investigator: Ben Rosser, Horst Bohner and Joanna Follings

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

Timeline: January 2021 – December 2021


  • Enhanced Tech Transfer Efforts: through upgrades to websites, apps, videos, YouTube segments, PowerPoint presentations and print publications. Technology 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: throughout the growing season as challenges arise. Labour, travel, and lab costs associated with issues that develop (i.e., soil nitrate testing when weather is unusual, soy pest scouting, gathering, and testing of samples to monitor Fusarium levels in wheat or corn, 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.

Scientific Summary:

Ben Rosser (Corn)

1. Field Crop News Support:

GFO Extension funding supports expenses associated with updating, maintaining and operating This platform allows OMAFRA Field Crop staff (cereals, soybean and corn specialists and supporting disciplines – entomology, disease, weeds, soils, nutrients) to easily produce and post extension articles – general production information, but more critically, timely, breaking information (pests, disease, growing season risk) and annual survey activities. Collectively, page views are in the 10’s of thousands by Ontario growers and those who support them (agronomists, crop scouts, salespersons). Without this platform, our ability to produce timely articles that can reach wide audiences in Ontario would be severely limited. In 2021, the website was updated for the first time since inception (2009) to make it easier to build and post articles and make articles more visually appealing and professional in appearance.

2. Ontario Soil Nitrate Survey:

Every spring, field crop staff conduct a provincial soil nitrate survey just prior to traditional side dress time to identify any meaningful deviations in soil nitrates and give corn producers an opportunity to make nitrogen rate adjustments should they be warranted. In 2021, the survey sampled 93 fields across the province from May 31 to June 2. Soil nitrate levels were similar to long term averages (13 ppm compared to 10-year average of 12 ppm) (Fig. 1). There was significant interest in N levels given the very cool start to the growing season followed by very warm temperatures during the latter half of May. General recommendations were to apply similar N rates as normal, assuming yield expectations were normal.

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Figure 1. PSNT survey results from 2021 in relation to the previous 10 years.

3. Demonstration Events:

Extension funding typically supports diagnostic stops (supplies, analysis, posters, signs) at various demonstration events such as Southwest Crop Diagnostics Days, FarmSmart, Eastern Ontario Crop Diagnostic Days and some industry or soil and crop field days. In 2021, no in-person demonstration events were held (COVID restrictions). A joint virtual series was held in lieu of the in-person events. Extension funding was used to support soil and tissue analysis and supplies for diagnostic videos such as diagnosing and confirming manganese deficiency in corn.

4. Ad Hoc Extension and Research:

Extension funding was used to support analysis and supply costs associated with some grower calls in 2021. This is used to diagnose issues in fields, and sometimes confirm with small hand plots. These visits not only help provide service to growers but can also be used to produce extension products (articles or videos on field management issues, how to diagnose issues).

There were also several research opportunities which relied on extension funding in 2021, including:

  • The question of weather top-up nitrogen applications were required in 2021 given the excessive rainfall in 2021 (on-farm hand harvest trials).
  • Testing of Envita nitrogen fixation product (a new bacteria product widely marketed to fix nitrogen to increase yields or replace some nitrogen fertilizer) under regular and low N scenarios at many research station and on-farm locations to include with a larger dataset generated by Thames Valley Soil and Crop counties.
  • Evaluation of soil and P loss with rainfall simulations under no-till, strip-till and conventional till soils both with and without fertilizer P applications, supporting an existing strip till fertility project.

Results from these projects are being included in presentations and will be summarized as Crop Advances articles to be posted on

5. Ear Mould and DON Survey:

Every fall, Field Crop staff with industry support complete an annual pre-harvest grain corn ear mould and DON survey. The survey gives a heads up to Ontario growers and industry to allow pro-active management decisions to be made. In 2021, the survey was conducted from September 21 to October 2, and revealed DON levels that were similar to long term averages. Survey results are posted to Field Crop News and often receive considerable interest from the corn industry. Support for the survey has typically come from GFO Extension funding, though OMAFRA funding was available in 2021.


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Horst Bohner (Soybean)

The following research and demonstration trials were established using extension funding.  Information from these trials was then used to make virtual diagnostic day videos as well as other virtual meetings.

1. Yield Response to Spring Applied Fertilizer:

Purpose: Nutrient crop removal budgets demonstrate the high nutrient requirements for excellent soybean yields. For example, an 80 bu/ac crop requires 390 lbs/ac of total N, 80 lbs/ac of P, and 140 lbs/ac of K.  It’s possible that higher yielding soybeans (60-80 bu/ac) may respond better to added spring fertilizer blends than soybeans at a lower yield potential.  There is also speculation that nitrogen may become limiting at these high yield levels and that present fertilizer recommendations are insufficient to meet the needs of high yielding soybeans. A combination of fertilizers that included N, P, K, Mg, S, Zn, Mg, and B were applied in these trials to assess the value of these blends. 

Table #1 Yield Response to Spring Applied Fertilizer

 Yield (Bu/ac)Advantage (Bu/ac)
Urea (50 lbs/ac)59.82.3
Ammonium sulphate (100 lbs/ac)60.22.7
Aspire (100 lbs/ac)61.94.4
Aspire + KMag + MESZ (83 lbs/ac + 45 lbs/ac + 100 lbs/ac)62.55.0

*8 trials 2020-2021. Average soil test P = 17 ppm, K = 126 ppm.

Urea = 0-0-46

AMS = 21-0-0-24S

KMag = 0-0-22-10.8Mg-22S

Aspire = 0-0-58-0.5B

MESZ = 12-40-0-10S-1Z

Summary:  A relatively large yield gain was realized even though soil test values for P and K were not considered low at most of these sites. An average yield gain of 5.0 bu/ac was achieved with the most comprehensive fertilizer blend (treatment #5).  The majority of the yield gain likely came from the potassium part of the blend since Aspire by itself provided 4.4 bu/ac.  These trials suggest that potassium should remain as the main component when fertilizing soybeans, but other nutrients should not be ignored.  It should also be noted that sites with high organic matter and higher soil test values showed no benefit to spring applied fertilizer.  The 4 sites with the lowest testing soil analysis gained 6.1 bu/ac from the Aspire and 7.1 bu/ac to the full blend. This is a good reminder that systematic soil sampling is still the best way to predict potential yield gains from applied fertilizer.  Sufficient nutrients are required for soybeans to mature evenly in the fall, which can be a factor in timely harvest.

2. Soybean Planting Depth:

Purpose: Some growers prefer to plant soybeans 2 inches or deeper. This idea comes from the well-known fact that if corn is planted shallow, it will not develop proper roots. There has also been speculation that when planting ultra-early it may be beneficial to plant deeper to avoid air temperature fluctuations. The purpose of these trials was to determine the optimal planting depth for soybeans across various planting dates. All trials were planted in 20 X 110 foot plots replicated 3 times.  Trials were planted in 15-inch rows with a John Deere 7200 vacuum planter.

Table #2*. Plant Stands at Various Planting Depths (plants/ac X 1000)

Planting DepthAprilMayJuneAverage (plants/acre)
1.0 inches129144162145
1.5 inches136142158145
2.0 inches132127150136
2.5 inches107124137123

Table #3*. Yields at Various Planting Depths (bu/ac)

Planting DepthAprilMayJuneAverage Yield (bu/ac)
1.0 inches63.165.856.0           61.6 ab
1.5 inches63.367.356.1           62.2 a
2.0 inches61.562.754.5  59.6 ab
2.5 inches59.762.953.8           58.8 b

*Seeding rate was 175 000 seeds/acre in 2020 and 161 000 in 2021.  Planting dates were April 22, 2020, and April 26, 2021.  May 22, 2020, and May 18, 2021.  June 10, 2020, and June 7, 2021.  Variety: RX Response in 2020 and Woden R2X in 2021.

Summary:  The best plant stands were achieved from planting at 1.0 or 1.5 inches. A reduction of 22 000 plants/acre was realized when planting was 2.5 inches compared to 1.0 or 1.5 inches.  The highest yields were achieved from planting at 1.0 to 2.0 inches. The 1.5-inch depth yielded the best numerically across all three dates.  A target depth of 1.5 inches seems to strike the best balance between getting good seed to soil contact, adequate moisture, but also placing seed shallow enough for quick emergence. It should be noted that the June planting had the smallest reduction in yield when planting at 2.5 inches compared to 1.5 inches.  This suggests that deeper planting may be less problematic as soils warm up in late spring.  There was no evidence that April planted soybeans should be planted deeper than normal, in fact the 1.0 and 1.5 inch depth yielded better than the 2.5 inch depth.

Soybeans planted June 7 yielded 9.6 bu/ac less compared to May 18 averaged across planting depths.   

3. Planting Depth for Late Planted Fields (warm soils):

Purpose: Soybeans should be planted about 0.5 inches into soil moisture (total depth of 1.0 – 2.0 inches) so the seed does not dry out before it can emerge.  However, planting deeper than 2.5 inches significantly reduces plant stands.  Since dry soils are often associated with later planting when soils are warmer is it possible to plant deeper when planting is delayed to June or July?  The purpose of this demonstration was to determine how many plants emerged when seeding up to 4.0 inches when soils were warm (24 degrees C).  

Table #4 Planting Depth Plant Stands from 2 Varieties

Planting Depth (inches)Woden R2X (plants/ac X 1000)P09A53X (plants/ac X 1000)

Seeding rate of 161 0000 seeds/acre.

Summary:  Seed placed on the soil surface (0 inches) established a surprising number of plants, but not enough to be considered an acceptable plant stand.   A seeding depth of 1.5 inches and 2.0 inches provided the best plant stands and at 3.0 inch or deeper suffered large reductions.  At a 4.0 inch depth plant stands were reduced by over two thirds.  These single row plots were not taken to yield but clearly demonstrate that even when soils are relatively warm reduced plant stands can be expected when planting very deep.  

Joanna Follings (Wheat)

1.Oat Day – August 17, 2021:

Extension funding was utilized to support an Oat Day on August 17, 2021. This event attracted approximately 40 participants including growers, agronomists, researchers, and ag industry partners. The event included a keynote address from Joanne McArthur, President, Nourish Food Marketing. Joanne spoke about the latest consumer market trends for oats. Dr. Josh Nasielski spoke about the latest oat agronomy research and there was a panel that spoke about the marketing opportunities for Ontario growers. The overall goal of the event was to share the marketing potential of oats and the latest agronomy research. Through a post-event survey, attendees requested more events specific to oats in the future and will be something to consider for 2022.

2.Go Cereals and Field Crop New Website (January 1 – December 31, 2021):

Extension funding was used to do updates and maintain data on the GoCereals website as well as the Field Crop News website. In 2021, the GoCereals site had 5,500 users on the site with over 29,000 page views. The most used pages include the performance pages for all cereals as well as the head-to-head feature which allows growers to compare specific varieties and characteristics that may be best suited for their operation. is home to all Ontario cereal performance data and cereal production related information.

Extension funding was used to update and maintain the field crop news webpage. Information is searchable through traditional crop categories as well as more targeted pest, equipment, and soil categories. Linkages to other important websites, publications, and tools such as the pest monitoring network, agronomy guide and crop performance data, are all available on the website in a more user-friendly way. The site now gets 125,000 users visiting annually and is 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 are all contributors to this website.

3.Winter Cereals Livestock Project (September 2020 – August 2021):

Extension funding was utilized to assist with the quality analysis of the winter cereals livestock project. This project is being conducted as a series of demos on pig and sheep operation and two dairy operations. Each farm is looking at different winter cereals to compare quality and overall return per acre. The two dairy farms compared common rye and hybrid rye and common rye combinations. The goal of the project was to demonstrate to livestock producers the different options available and how they compare. Rations continue to be fed. Results will be shared through livestock newsletters and magazines once data on all four farms is gathered.

4.Drill Demo Project (September 2020 – August 2021):

Extension funding was utilized to assist with the quality analysis for the drill demo project. There has been significant work done exploring phosphorus response in winter wheat, row spacing and more recently row opener down pressure adjustment. Knowing the importance of getting wheat off to a great start to optimize yields, a research trial was initiated in the fall of 2020 to answer a common question, what is the most economical way to get wheat in the ground and off to a good start if working with older equipment? Specifically, does it pay to rent a high-performance drill or pay a custom operator to plant your wheat? The project grew to answer even more questions, such as is SeederForce TM and other new drill technology worth the investment and what about MESZ vs MAP? A 10” row Sunflower no-till drill was the main drill being used on this operation and was used as our starting point.

On July 30th the plot was harvested and despite the lack of moisture in May to the end of June and significant lodging across treatments, yields were excellent. There were no statistical differences (NSD) across treatments. Meaning there was no response to the SeedForceTM technology, seed placed fertilizer or narrower row width. The analysis showed very little within-field variation, but we saw a lot of variation in treatment strip weights, which likely contributed to the lack of treatment effects found.


Drill Type – More research is required to fully assess the impact of the different drill technologies. This plot was seeded early in the season which likely played a role in the excellent yields overall. On years like this, where wheat is seeded early and is well established prior to winter and experiences minimal winter losses, the advantage of down pressure is not seen. Additional research looking at later planting dates should be considered as it is hypothesized the technology would be advantageous in those scenarios.

Starter Fertilizer – There was no response to starter fertilizer at this location regardless of the product applied. This is likely due to the fact that soil P and K levels were so high to begin with. This is consistent with previous Ontario research where we see a lower response in high testing soils. Again, research on lower testing soils would be advantageous.

Row Width – There was no advantage to 7.5” row widths vs 10” rows at this location. The early planting likely played a role in allowing the plants to tiller well before winter and achieve canopy closure early in the spring regardless of treatment. This helps optimize solar radiation capture.

The significant lodging that occurred during the grain-fill period may have also contributed to the NSD treatment effects found in this study. A full detailed report and video can be found on Field Crop News.

External Funding Partners:


Project Related Publications: