It’s the middle of August and we’re in that awkward lull where cereals are off, the last passes of fungicides on soybeans are done and it is almost time to start attending all those in-field plot days. Those days are meant to get producers talking, asking questions and get the thought process started for the next growing season. While lots of decisions are made after the crop is harvested and the snow is on the ground, some decisions need to be made this fall to ensure that your farm continues to be as successful as you can make it. So, what decision-making tools are available at your fingertips this fall and how can you make the most of them?
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A big resource at your disposal is people. And I don’t mean just the neighbours (although they can be awesome for discussing localized strategies). I’m talking about your agronomist, local input and seed supplier sales rep, or your local OMAFRA crop specialists. All these people are equipped to answer questions and help you make good decisions for your operation – so don’t be afraid to reach out!
Chemical and seed selection tools
On top of that, lots of input companies publish chemical and seed guides each year that explain a lot of the new technologies. Many of them break down their seed trait packages, how you should use them and what they do. Others focus on seedbed establishment, herbicide efficacy and timing windows. These are good points of reference when trying to do variety and hybrid selections. Other updated crop variety trial tools; formerly found on GoCorn.net and GoSoy.net have been updated into a new Ontario Variety Performance Trials hosted on the GFO website. This is the new home for all corn, soybean, wheat, barley and oat variety performance data. Updated annually, this site publishes the data collected across the 5 crops from more than 15 sites across Ontario. These trials are conducted, inspected, and validated through a third party and published each year through Grain Farmers of Ontario. Data of some key metrics (see Table 1 below) can be viewed through spreadsheets or charts, allowing for easy comparisons within your specific growing region.
Additionally, the Ontario Forage Council launched a new Forage U-Pick tool helps match forage species with their field conditions, calculate seeding rates appropriately and help manage weed pressures in both pastures and forages. Broken out by region, Forage U-Pick walks you through a series of questions, ranging from your location to your soil pH, to field drainage capabilities. Based on your answers, it shows the best suited forage species options that can be added to a seeding mixture.
Crop agronomy tools
The Ontario Ministry of Food, Agriculture & Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) has published a wide variety of publications with a crop production and protection information.
Production publications are available online for everyone, with the option to order print copies. Publications range from the all-encompassing Agronomy Guide for Field Crops (Pub 811); to the recently updated Soil Fertility Handbook (Pub 611). These publications include crop heat unit zones, target planting dates for various field crops, right down to how different annual and perennial species fit into a forage rotation. Loaded with pictures, graphics and charts, these publications have easy to follow advice on rotation selection, when to scout for pest and diseases and how to match a cover crop species to the results you are looking for. Crop protection guides like the Field Crop Weed Guide (Pub 75) and Field Crop Protection Guide (Pub 812) are now available free on an interactive online database. It contains all the label information, application rates and timings, etc. for herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, nematicides and more. Updated routinely, the information for each product is the most current registration for each product and can be accessed on a desktop and a mobile device.
Nutrient planning tools
Ontario’s GoCorn.net hosts other interactive tools like the Ontario Corn Nitrogen Calculator which provides general nitrogen recommendations based on past Ontario corn nitrogen trials Manure Nutrient Calculator.
New updates in OMAFRAs AgriSuite are designed to help you with soil fertility planning, determining crop nutrient needs, and crop rotation management. With calculators for commercial fertilizer, nutrient values for manure application scenarios and various crop fertility practices, it is a user-friendly, free software to check up on your annual crop fertility plans.
You can also access Soil Survey Maps & Reports, by county, for much of the province. These maps are free to access and can be useful when diagnosing in-field crop performance issues or simply to help with management of a new farm. If you don’t feel as though you need a paper copy map, there is also available interactive GIS (Geographic Information System) forms for anyone accessed through AgMaps. This interactive tool allows you to view zoning, conservation areas, soil maps and much more.
New updates in AgriSuite are designed to help you with soil fertility planning, determining crop nutrient needs, and crop rotation management. With calculators for commercial fertilizer, nutrient values for manure application scenarios and various crop fertility practices, it is a user-friendly, free software to check up on your annual crop fertility plans. In conclusion, Ontario has several decision-making support tools that you can stock your on-farm toolboxes with. Using some (or all) of these resources is an excellent way to maximize on farm production and continue to learn new options available to producers.
– Read the full Field Crop Report for the week of August 14 at the OMAFRA website.