It’s been a tough year for farmers in southwest Manitoba, with disease hitting many field pea, spring wheat and barley crops hard.
While it’s too late to do anything about it this year, there are things farmers can do to try to avoid the same problems in future years, says Lionel Kaskiw, a Manitoba Agriculture farm production adviser based in Souris.
Excess moisture was a key factor for root rot and mycosphaerella in peas and fusarium head blight in spring wheat and barley. All three are fungal diseases that can hurt crop yield and quality, as they did this season.
“(Pea) crops went from standing four or five feet tall to lodged right to the ground making it virtually impossible for some producers to harvest,” Kaskiw said during the Crop Talk Westman webinar Sept. 14. “I’m still hearing about farmers leaving a good portion of their pea crop on the field because they just couldn’t get it picked up.”
Not all pea crops were a disaster though, he added.
“There were still a lot of producers who had a fairly good pea crop and were able to harvest them and get them off fairly well too. But I think when you talk to a lot of producers the harvest was definitely a lot slower than it has been for the last few years with some producers telling me if they got 40 acres off a day that was a pretty good day for them.”
Farmers should consider treating their pea seed to help protect the crop from disease, Kaskiw said.
He also suspects fungicide application timing was off this year.
That was also the case when applying fungicides to prevent fusarium infection in wheat and barley, Kaskiw said. What made fungicide timing so difficult was conditions for fusarium to infect cereal crops went on for almost a month.
Ideally a prophylactic fungicide should be applied when wheat is in the early-flowering stage. But, this year many wheat fields were in multiple stages of maturity. A dry spring saw many farmers seed deep to reach moisture. Some seeds germinated while others didn’t until it rained later.
“I usually don’t recommend seeding to moisture because if it doesn’t rain it won’t matter… ” Kaskiw said. “We need the rain. If we don’t get the rain we’re not going to have a crop anyway.”
Higher seeding rates will discourage wheat tillers, resulting in a more even stand, which also makes it easier to time a fungicide application, he said.
“You are reducing that window for when your crop is susceptible to fusarium,” Kaskiw said. “Anything we can do to make that window smaller is going to be a benefit.”
To try and avoid fusarium in barley, farmers should seed early, he said.
“The earlier you get it planted the better and hopefully avoid when we get fusarium… in that mid-July time.”
That’s also why farmers should consider planting winter wheat or fall rye, Kaskiw added.
“The winter wheat crop seems to avoid a lot of the timing when the infection was there,” he said “That might be an option for some producers to look at. There are some definitely interesting markets for fall rye right now.”
Frost threatened parts of western Manitoba last week, but Kaskiw said there was very little, if any, damage. Most canola and soybean crops were mature enough to withstand a light frost, but a killing frost could’ve reduced crop quality, he added.
When canola crops are above 20 per cent moisture it doesn’t matter whether the farmer swaths just before the frost or after, Kaskiw said. Either way it’s likely green seed colour will be locked in, downgrading it.
After a light frost farmers shouldn’t panic, but instead scout their canola fields and assess for damage.
“Go back in the afternoon and if there was a severe frost you will see some light speckling on the stems,” he said. “If you’re not seeing any wilting of the leaves I would leave it standing and keep checking it. If you don’t see any damage over the next couple of days keep delaying swathing and let those plants keep maturing. The only time you need to really start worrying about it is when you see pods opening up and starting to drop off and then you need to start (swathing) because otherwise it will continue and you will get a reduction in yield.”
Kaskiw has also seen some canola fields sprouting, but where there has been hail damage. Sprouting is something to be watching for, he said.
“Some (canola) has been down for a long period of time and it has had a fair bit of rainfall on it and the conditions are good for sprouting to occur.”
There are some good-looking sunflower fields in the southwest but disease — sclerotinia, rust and verticillium wilt — is showing up, Kaskiw said.
“You can definitely see plants that are not able to support the heavy heads if they have any type of disease issues,” he said. “We are starting to see them fall down on a fairly regular basis through the field. Hopefully they will be able to mature in.”
Silage and grain corn is at various stages in the southwest, depending on the variety. Some corn was being harvested for silage last week.