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Enhanced OMAFRA Extension Support (2022)

Principal Investigator: Ben Rosser, Horst Bohner and Sophie Krolikowski

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

Timeline: January 2022 – December 2022


  • 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 quickly and 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 2022, several articles were posted on the impacts of changes in fertilizer prices, optimal fertilizer rates and practices and risks/management considerations if fertilizer supply were to become an issue. These were in response to the sharp increase in fertilizer prices over the winter of 2022 and supply chain concerns. Other articles included research summaries (e.g., strip till fertility placement) other timely articles based on common in-season questions (e.g., delayed start to planting in spring 2022) and ear mould and DON survey results.

2. Demonstration and Diagnostic Events:

Extension funding was used to support a strip till fertilizer management and fertilizer burn diagnostics stop at Southwest Crop Diagnostics Days at Ridgetown College. This included support for posters, supplies and tools for participants to diagnose fertilize burn (trowels, magnifying glasses etc.). A video including the key learnings from this stop was also produced for the virtual crop diagnostic series hosted by Real Agriculture. Some funding was also used for tissue analysis associated with diagnosing nutrient deficiencies as part of a stop for a 4H field crops educational event at the Elora Research Station.

3. Annual Crop Surveys:

OMAFRA field crop staff traditionally conducted a spring soil nitrate survey just prior to side dress time to identify seasonal deviations in soil nitrates to give corn producers an opportunity to make nitrogen rate adjustments should they be warranted. The survey requires corn fields that have not received any broadcast fertilizer nitrogen (e.g., growers who side dress nitrogen). The survey was ceased in 2022 as shifts in grower fertilizer practices have made it very difficult to find fields meeting this requirement. Many long-term co-operators have shifted to applying some nitrogen preplant and co-operating ag retailers have had difficulty finding alternative growers. In recent years, there was some shift to sampling other crops that do not receive nitrogen (e.g., soybeans) but these were representing a larger portion of fields every year and create concerns over how well these represent corn fields (e.g., many soybean fields are following corn, whereas a relatively small portion of corn fields would be following corn). OMAFRA field crop staff are consulting with soil fertility researchers over the winter of 2023 to explore alternative options for providing guidance to growers in 2023 and beyond.

The fall corn ear mould and DON survey has continued to be supported by OMAFRA funding and is forecast to continue to receive OMAFRA support over the next couple years. This funding does not include supplies (e.g., mesh collection and sample bags, tags), which still use GFO extension funding support.

4. Ad Hoc Research Projects:

No breaking-issue small research projects were initiated in 2022. Extension funds were used to support leaf tissue analysis for an N-response trial at the Elora Research Station. The purpose of this sampling is to identify if ear leaf or lower leaves at silking can be used as a good diagnostic tool to identify when a top-up for nitrogen may be required (e.g., if field is showing N deficiency, if excessive rainfall has been received in-season). Nitrogen top-up at later stages (e.g., silking or grain fill) has been a question received from growers several times over the past couple growing seasons, but diagnostics at that time were limited.

In these trials, tissue N was a good indicator where very large yield responses could be expected, for instance tissue N concentrations below 2.25% were often associated with large yield response to N (20-40 bu/ac). It still appears difficult to use this as a fine adjustment tool however – tissue concentrations of moderate yield responses (0-20 bu/ac) were often very similar to plots which had no response to N. This is only one trial in one year, more work will be required to fine tune interpretation of tissue N and potential yield responses.

5. Grower Calls/Diagnostics:

Extension funding was used to support one grower call in 2022. This was used for soil nitrate analysis to attempt to diagnose some issues in a field. No extension products were produced as a result of this visit.

Horst Bohner (Soybean)

1. Soybean Aphid Control Trial Results 2022:

Purpose: In 2021 and 2022, significant aphid infestations were found across most of eastern Ontario and in a few parts of western Ontario. While aphid numbers were not as high as in the 2003 – 2008 period, areas with infestations often saw aphid numbers in the 500 to 3,000 aphids per plant range.  In 2021 and 2022, small plot, replicated trials were conducted at the Winchester Research Station to assess the impact of these mid-level aphid populations on soybean yields. This aphid report was written by Gilles Quesnel, Independent Agronomist, Winchester.

Results:In 2021, insecticide treatments were applied to a decreasing aphid population. The aphid population reached a high of 900 aphids per plant at growth stage R2.5. The insecticide treatments were applied 6 days later at growth stage R3, at which time the aphid population had naturally dropped to 500 aphids per plant. No yield gain was obtained from applying an insecticide treatment to the decreasing, mid-level aphid population.

In 2022, the insecticide treatments were applied at growth stage R2.5. At the time of application, the aphid population was at 800 per plant and rapidly increasing. Aphid control with Matador provided a 6.6 bu/ac yield gain and control with Sefina provided an 8.4 bu/ac gain.


  • Soybean aphids can still be a serious pest. Start scouting for aphids when soybeans reach the R1 growth stage (first flower). Scout by checking 20 to 25 random soybean plants, avoiding field edges. Continue scouting every 7 to 10 days until the end of the R5 growth stage (seeds in top 4 pods are 0.3 cm or 1/8” long). Scout every 3 to 4 days if the population approaches 250 aphids per plant on 80% of the plants in the field.
  • When scouting, it is easy to significantly underestimate the aphid population, especially once aphids start to move down the soybean plant.
  • The economic injury level for soybean aphid infestations was originally determined to be around 660 aphids per plant. Given that today both yields and commodity price are higher than in the early 2000s, the current economic injury level for soybean aphid infestations is likely closer to 300 to 400 aphids per plant.
  • It rarely pays to apply an insecticide to a decreasing aphid population.
  • The cost of aphid control and the return on control/investment can be estimated using the table below.

2. Are longer maturing varieties (higher CHU’s) better suited when planting wide rows?

Purpose: Lower seeding cost, less white mould, and better emergence have led some growers to move away from seed drills in favour of planters. However, wide rows are known to have slightly lower yields. This yield reduction comes from slower canopy closure which reduces the amount of sunlight captured by the crop. For maximum yield potential 95% light interception must occur by early pod set. It takes 10 to 14 days longer for 30” rows to fill the canopy compared to 15” rows. One way to minimize this reduction in light interception might be to plant longer maturity group varieties (higher CHU’s). These varieties would have additional time to “catch up” because they mature later in the fall allowing them to use more of the growing seasons sunlight. This project assessed the performance of four varieties with different maturities in both 15” and 30” rows. Two planting dates were also assessed to determine if the yield gap of wide rows could also be reduced with earlier planting.

Results:  Averaged across all three sites each variety on both planting dates showed a yield loss when planted in 30” rows compared to 15” rows. See Table 1. The yield reduction was similar for both planting dates. This demonstrates that early planting alone cannot eliminate the yield loss associated with wide rows. However, there was a trend showing that shorter maturity group (MG) varieties suffered the greatest yield reductions. This suggests that careful variety selection is essential if planting in 30” rows. A longer MG variety appears to be more suited to 30” rows. This is likely because these varieties have additional time in the fall to catch up for sunlight “lost” during the first part of the growing season. It must also be noted that “bushy” varieties are better suited to wide row production, so MG is not the only criteria for variety selection.

Table 1. Soybean Yields When Planted in 15” and 30” Rows.

VarietyRow WidthMaturity Group (CHU)Seeding* RatePlanting DateYield (bu/ac)Loss to 30″ Rows (bu/ac)
1Viper R2X15″0.8 (2725)165May75.7 
2Viper R2X30″0.8 (2725)140May69.5-6.2
3Harrier E315″1.3 (2850)165May75.2 
4Harrier E330″1.3 (2850)140May70.0-5.2
5Cyclone R2X15″1.5 (2900)165May75.2 
6Cyclone R2X30″1.5 (2900140May71.9-3.3
7Cougar E315″1.7 (2950)165May73.9 
8Cougar E330″1.7 (2950)140May71.9-2.0
9Viper R2X15″0.8 (2725)165June71.7 
10Viper R2X30″0.8 (2725)140June65.6-6.1
11Harrier E315″1.3 (2850)165June68.5 
12Harrier E330″1.3 (2850)140June65.5-3.0
13Cyclone R2X15″1.5 (2900)165June71.3 
14Cyclone R2X30″1.5 (2900140June67.5-3.8
15Cougar E315″1.7 (2950)165June70.3 
16Cougar E330″1.7 (2950)140June67.6-2.7

*Seeding rates were 165 000 and 140 000 seeds/ac. Planting dates were May 10 and June 2 for Elora, May 11 and June 2 for Tavistock, and May 7 and May 30 for Winchester. Yields are averaged across 3 site locations. Each location was replicated 3 or 4 times.

3. Can the yield loss associated with wide rows be “won back” with the addition of starter nitrogen and foliar fungicides?

Purpose: Starter nitrogen can help “fill” the canopy faster and foliar fungicides will keep leaves healthier. A larger and healthier canopy should reduce the yield loss associated with wide rows. Therefore, wide rows may be more responsive to inputs such as starter N and foliar fungicides. 10 gallons of 28% UAN was applied at planting time on the soil surface on top of the row. The foliar fungicide applied was DELARO Complete and was applied at growth stage R2.5.

Results: The yield loss associated with wide rows could be “won back” with a combination of starter N fertilizer and a foliar fungicide. For example, the 30” rows planted in May yielded 71.9 bu/ac. This yield was increased to 75.8 bu/ac with the addition of starter N and a foliar fungicide. This yield is essentially equal to the 15” rows which yielded 75.2 bu/ac. However, it must be noted that the 15” rows also increased in yield with the addition of inputs resulting in a final yield of 78.3 bu/ac. The June results were similar although the yield gains associated with these inputs were smaller. Most of the yield gain came from the foliar fungicide not the starter nitrogen. This study does not suggest that wide rows are more responsive to the inputs tested. Both row widths showed similar yield gains.

Table 2. Soybean Response to Starter N and Foliar Fungicides.

VarietyRow WidthTreatment* (Input)Seeding RatePlanting DateYield (bu/ac)Gain of Input (same row width)
1Cyclone R2X15″ none165May75.2 
2Cyclone R2X30″none140May71.9 
3Cyclone R2X15″28%165May76.21.0
4Cyclone R2X30″28%140May73.51.6
5Cyclone R2X15″28%+Fungicide165May78.33.1
6Cyclone R2X30″28%+Fungicide140May75.83.9
7Cyclone R2X15″ none165June71.3 
8Cyclone R2X30″ none140June67.5 
9Cyclone R2X15″28%165June71.70.4
10Cyclone R2X30″28%140June68.00.5
11Cyclone R2X15″28%+Fungicide165June74.12.9
12Cyclone R2X30″28%+Fungicide140June69.52.0

*Input = 10 gallons/ac of 28% UAN applied on soil surface at planting streamed on the row. Foliar fungicide = DELARO Complete at growth stage R2.5

4. How clay soils impact planting depth:

Purpose: Ontario research has found that planting at a depth of 1.5 inches regardless of planting date provides the best plant stands and final yields.  This assumes soil moisture can be found at that depth.  These trials were established on loam soil types.  A trial was conducted to determine if clay soils were more sensitive to deep planting depth.

Results: A planting depth of 2.0 inches or deeper showed significant yield losses in clay soil (Table 1).  More shallow planting depths provided the highest yields with the exception of seeding right at the soil surface.  It must be noted that it rained 10 days after planning.  These findings suggest that clay soils are less able to withstand seeding depths of 2.0 inches or greater.

Table 1. Soybean planting depth results on clay soil.

 VarietyPlanting DepthYield Loss Over 1.5” Depth
1DKB-14650.1”64.1 – 9.4
2DKB-14650.5″72.5 NSD*
3DKB-14651.0″73.1 NSD*
4DKB-14651.5″73.5 NSD*
5DKB-14652.0″70.1 – 3.4
6DKB-14652.5″68.9 – 4.6
7DKB-14653.0″67.8 – 5.7
8DKB-14653.566.7 – 6.8

*No statistical difference in yield

Sophie Krolikowski (Wheat)

1.Enhanced Tech Transfer Efforts:

Extension funding was used to print a winter wheat staging guide (“A Visual Guide to Winter Wheat Staging” – Printed January 2023) that was co-authored by myself and Kim Ratz, Marty Vermey and Laura Ferrier at Grain Farmers of Ontario (GFO). The guide was adapted using the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Cool Beans Visual Guide to Wheat Staging and included key management practices for growing winter wheat in Ontario. These staging guides will be available to the public at GFO and OMAFRA shared events such as Diagnostic Days, The Outdoor Farm Show and will be available to all Great Lakes YEN participants.

Funding was also used to support the printing of OMAFRA Q&A articles for publication (“Field Crops Unit Q&A”). The Q&A offers condensed articles created by specialists in the field crops unit and included a variety of topics including weed and pest control, BMPs for field crops and precision ag. These articles will be handed out at OMAFRA events such as Diagnostic Days, The Ontario Agricultural Conference and The Outdoor Farm Show.

2. Improved Information Gathering:

Extension funding was used to support the Ontario Cereal Crop Committee (OCCC) Research Day where graduate students and researchers connect with OCCC members to provide updates on current winter wheat research. This hybrid event included collaborators from the University of Guelph, industry (i.e., C&M seeds), OMAFRA and AAFC. Topics included Fusarium head blight resistance breeding, winter wheat rotation benefits and insect pest management.

External Funding Partners:


Project Related Publications: