As 2019 draws to a close, let’s take a look back and reflect on the challenges and opportunities that Ontario Soy Masters faced during the growing season. Now is also a great time to look forward and plan to apply lessons learned for a profitable and prosperous 2020.
To help with this recap, we asked our reps Shawn Brenneman, Andrew Wright and Stephanie Divitaris for a summary of what happened in their respective parts of the province this year.
“The biggest challenge for 2019 has been the weather,” says Wright, Territory Sales Rep in Eastern Ontario, from Bowmanville to the Quebec border.
“Growers really struggled to get crops into the ground,” agrees Divitaris, Territory Sales Rep who covers Southwestern Ontario, from Windsor to London. “It was a challenge to choose the correct variety to plant due to the weather delay. In many cases, growers had to work with their retailers to switch varieties.”
Brenneman, Agronomic Sales Rep working with growers and retailers in Lambton, Elgin and Middlesex Counties, adds that seedbed conditions were very poor this spring. “Growers planted through or around wet spots in fields, and seed slots did not close properly,” he says.
Late-season planting posed rotational challenges as well. “Growers were forced to take wheat out due to poor stands, or to switch from corn,” says Brenneman. In many cases, they ended up planting soybeans on soybeans, which can lead to disease such as Soybean Cyst Nematode (SCN).
“Sudden Death Syndrome (SDS) was also evident in many fields this year. Due to its linkage with SCN, these issues together caused significant yield loss through many areas in my territory,” he says. “With multiple heavy rains through the growing season, many wet spots in the fields also showed signs of Phytopthora Root Rot. Plants in these areas died in mid-late August, resulting in close to 100% yield loss.”
Weeds were another damaging pest in soybeans this season. Although the crop went in late, weeds were there from the start of the season. “Pre-emerge herbicides had ample rain for activation, but applying a pre-emerge program was difficult,” says Divitaris. Burndown was also problematic.
“Grasses, broadleaf weeds and glyphosate-resistant weeds were evident this year,” says Brenneman. “Many fields were sprayed with weeds that were much larger than ideal, decreasing herbicide effectiveness and increasing risk of resistance.”
Wright notes that the wave of resistant Canada fleabane progressing across Ontario has reached midway through his territory. “Growers on the west side are very familiar with it and taking measures to control it while the east side is just finding out what it is. Additional non-traditional weeds such as waterhemp and giant ragweed are showing up as well.”
Brenneman adds that due to the later planting date, temperatures during spraying were higher (late June into July) as compared to a normal year (late May into early June). “This caused potential issues with temperature-sensitive herbicides.”
Despite this season’s challenges, marketing opportunities abound. Wright sees a strong demand for IP soybeans and soybeans as forage.
“As you get further into Eastern Ontario, winter survival of wheat and forages becomes a challenge,” he explains. “Some dairy farmers have taken up growing forage soybeans to replace alfalfa. Growers use longer-season soybeans with good white mould tolerance for forage soybeans. Harvest is best at late R6 when pods are completely filled with seeds and the soybean plant has accumulated its maximum dry matter. But one challenge is keeping soil out of the silage during harvest.”
Overall, the growing season finished very much like it began with too much moisture – it was wet and snowy in many areas at harvest, making it difficult to get the crop off.
“Even with all these challenges, soybean yields are surprisingly good through most of the area,” says Brenneman. “This is mostly attributed to multiple rain events through August during flowering, increasing both pod number and seeds per pod.”
Divitaris predicts that planting consideration for 2020 will be delayed due to the late harvest and a generally tough year. “Growers may consider planting later since late planting in 2019 resulted in impressive yields, but this is not recommended,” she says. Her advice is to put increased focus on seed decisions.
“Weed control programs designed around residual chemistry and the ability to tackle problem weeds like fleabane are a must,” says Wright.
Brenneman adds: “If we do get into another late planting season at the end of June or early July, increasing populations and narrowing the rows will help maximize yield.”
As Soy Masters we are continually learning in order to grow a better crop. Before you close the book on 2019, take some time to identify the key lessons that you’re taking into 2020 to make it the best year yet.