No Shortage Of Topics For Crop School

“Zero-till is harder in wheat stubble and strip-till seems to be a way to deal with it.”


John Heard and his Crop Diagnostic School team have taken the advice that when life delivers lemons, you make lemonade.

All that rain that’s hurting Manitoba crops has also hit the diagnostic school’s plots here at the University of Manitoba Ian N. Morrison Research Farm.

So Heard, a soil fertility specialist with Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives (MAFRI), says the agronomists and farmers who attend this year’s school, July 6 to 9 and July 12 to 16, will learn about the fallout –everything from delayed seeding and nutrient leaching to delayed herbicide applications and alfalfa re-establishment.

“Weed control suffers in a year like this because it’s hard to get the timing right,” Heard said during a pre-tour June 22. Re-infestation is also an issue.

Stressed crops are more susceptible to herbicide injury.

Other subjects include canola-related diseases, insect scouting and management in a number of crops, soil management, including strip tillage in row crops, oat management, controlling volunteers in pulse crops and assessing how many inputs to use on wheat.

The school is taking a targeted approach, providing mostly new lessons, which should prove valuable to those who have attended the school before, as well as newcomers, Heard said.

A lesson on managing oat lodging due to excess fertility, now includes a section on seeding dates because some of the plot had to be re-seeded due to excess moisture, Heard said.

Nutrient leaching is also on the agenda. “The gut reaction of a lot of growers is it’s gone, it has leached and they need more,” Heard said. “What I say is no. You need to put a crop advisor in that field to find out for you if it’s gone.”

When a crop is suffering, farmers are especially vulnerable to pitches from salesmen peddling a solution cocktails. Farmers call MAFRI and ask if they should spray or add inputs.

“The answer is to scout,” Heard said. “To me scouting means doing some tissue sampling or soil testing.”

Tissue testing can be misleading in years like this. A certain nutrient could be plentiful in the soil but not available to plants.

Farmers often wonder how much money to invest in a crop. One lesson explores that. Agronomists will compare wheat that hasn’t received any inputs against wheat that has had up to five – a fungicide seed treatment, fungicide with wire worm control, a pre-plant burn off, an in-crop herbicide and a foliar fungicide treatment.

Row crops are the last bastion of conventional tillage. Farmers want to seed their corn, sunflowers, soybeans and edible beans into black soils – and for good reason. They warm up faster and seed placement and emergence are unhindered by crop residue.

“Zero-till is harder in wheat stubble and strip-till seems to be a way to deal with it,” Heard said.

Strip-tillage, might offer the best of both worlds – a black, clean seedbed, but with crop residue on each side to prevent soil erosion and wind shearing.

The value of auto-steer and GPS is plain to see. Where the tractor driver veered off the strip, the crop took a hit.

Lots of alfalfa growers are wondering what to with drowned patches. If they leave them, weeds will move in. But re-seeding into alfalfa is tricky because of autotoxicity. There are ways to mitigate it, but readers will have to attend the school to hear what they are, said Glenn Friesen, MAFRI’s forage specialist.

Friesen will also have a lesson on seeding rates.

“There’s no question we want to try and cut seeding costs,” he said, noting that alfalfa seed costs range from $3 to more than $5 a pound.

Attendees will learn about alfalfa cover crops, the optimum plant density for maximum yield and how to use the highly effective PEAQ (Predictive Equation for Alfalfa Quality) stick to assess alfalfa quality.

For no additional cost, school participants can attend a late season school Aug. 18., to learn more about insects and diseases that are more common at that time of year, Heard said.

The Crop Diagnostic School, a joint effort between MAFRI and the University of Manitoba, has been an annual event since 1997.

It costs $160 to attend the daylong school, but there are group discounts for 50 or more participants.

Enrollment is limited to 60 people a day.

For more information or to register call 204-745-5663 or go to[email protected]

About the author


Allan Dawson

Allan Dawson is a reporter with the Manitoba Co-operator based near Miami, Man. Covering agriculture since 1980, Dawson has spent most of his career with the Co-operator except for several years with Farmers’ Independent Weekly and before that a Morden-Winkler area radio station.



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