Soybean cyst nematode is spreading, an agronomist said
By Diego Flammini
With 2020 coming to an end, the 2021 planting season will be here sooner than later.
With that at top of mind, Farms.com connected with Jerry Winnicki, a Niagara-based agronomy manager at Clark Agri Service, to discuss the kinds of challenges Niagara cash crop growers may face next year.
“A few things are becoming more and more of a problem in our area,” he told Farms.com.
One item is soybean cyst nematode.
Farmers in other communities have had to manage the pest, and growers in Niagara may have to do the same soon, he said.
“We’ve been hearing about this pest for 20 years and I’m surprised it’s taken this long for it to be a problem in our fields,” he said. “We were warned not to grow continuous soybeans, but we still do. Pest levels aren’t at an epidemic level, but they are a problem in some areas.”
As soybean cyst nematode populations continue to increase, it wouldn’t be surprising if some farmers transport the pest when they travel, Winnicki added.
Farmers should be careful not to accidently transport nematode to other farms by not bringing their tools to another farm and changing boots before travelling to other farms.
Another challenge growers will have is identifying a new crop to grow.
Growing corn on heavy soils isn’t profitable during most years, Winnicki said. But crops like canola are being looked at as a suitable alternative.
“We’re stuck in a rotation of corn, soybeans and wheat,” he said. “Canola would be a nice option as it would fill in some of the quieter times in the growing season. If you’re concentrating on soybeans, you’re taking the nutrients out of the soil year after year, and a lack of rotation is really starting to show.”
Growers in the region have planted about 800 acres of winter canola and the crop is looking “fantastic,” he said.
A transition to cash crop production in the Niagara region has led to soil condition issues.
In 1976, Niagara had 350 dairy farms, no soybean acres and about 80,000 acres of hay. Today, Niagara has about 35 dairy farms, 80,000 acres of soybeans and 20,000 acres of hay, Winnicki said.
Removing livestock from the land has led to the loss of organic matter in soils.
“We’ve lost about 25 per cent of our organic matter on these soils that aren’t livestock-based anymore,” he said. “We have new fertility problems that we’re not used to and we’re running into boron deficiency.”