by BETTER FARMING STAFF
Don’t believe everything you hear, especially when it comes to yield predictions. That was one of the take-away messages from the 18th annual crop diagnostic days July 4 and 5 at Ridgetown Campus of the University of Guelph.
Peter Johnson, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) wheat specialist, and graduate student Anna Marie Megens, talked enthusiastically about something from Newfoundland that promised to increase wheat yields in Ontario by 40 to 50 per cent. Their secret ingredient was referred to as “AM987 natural growth enhancer.” They invited crop diagnostic participants to check wheat plots where they said this yield gain was evident and come back to discuss what they saw. After a few pointed questions from participants, Johnson and Megens admitted the truth. There was no real difference in the plots. The ingredient they had, moments earlier, said made the yield difference turned out to be Newfoundland Screech. It was all a test.
Johnson said accepting claims isn’t good enough, especially for people who are giving advice to farmers. You have to ask the right questions and trust the observations you make, he said. In the discussion portion of the handout for their “AM987 natural growth enhancer” they said, “Before using or promoting a product ask questions.” Those questions should include, “Are these all the test results? Are yields for biomass or grain?”
Insect migration, a session led by Tom Cowan of OMAFRA and Jocelyn Smith of the University of Guelph, was made timely by this year’s field events in Ontario. True armyworm plagued hay and wheat crops this spring. The moth flies into Ontario from the United States, lands in Ontario fields, lays eggs and the larvae feed at night and on overcast days. After two or three generations, the moth returns to the United States to overwinter.
Smith said this year’s infestation is not the first but it may have been the worst. “We have outbreaks sporadically,” she said. “The last time might have been 2008, but I think this year might have been worse than 2008.”
She said when the moths arrive they are most attracted to winter wheat fields. “The worms go after grasses only,” Smith said, “but corn as well. They will go to the corn after wheat is finishing up.”
The soybean aphid, one of the pests mentioned in the Cowan/Smith session, has gotten the attention of software developers at the University of Guelph. They’ve come up with a smartphone app to help with spraying decisions. Simply count and plug in the number of aphids and the number of beneficial insects on a plant and the app will tell you whether to spray, not spray or wait and check again in a few days. The BlackBerry app is called aphid advisor. There is also an iPhone/iPad app that can help with field scouting and record keeping. According to the website, fieldnotes is a “note-taking tool for iPhone/iPad to take with you on the road: locate your position using GPS and view a satellite map of the location, take notes, collect photographs all in geo-referenced format. Then transmit this information via e-mail as a kmz or text to any destination. “
Crop diagnostic days covered a broad range of topics, including sessions on herbicide injury in corn and soybeans, diagnosing crop diseases and crop nutrient deficiencies and identifying perimeter weeds.
Crop diagnostic days - the same program repeated over two days - is sponsored by the University of Guelph, Ridgetown Campus, OMAFRA and the Southwest Soil and Crop Improvement Association. It is designed to improve the problem-solving skills of seed, fertilizer and chemical industry personal and agricultural consultants. BF