By Jonathan Martin
It’s been a very wet spring in Ontario and wheat farmers are having challenges with spring fieldwork.
One item of major concern is fertilizer applications. Nitrogen and sulphur applications are delayed by wet conditions and some farmers are reportedly seeing flag leaves emerge without having put their fertilizer down.
Producers still have a chance to save the crop, though, Steph Kowalski, agronomy lead with The Agromart Group, told Farms.com.
“The simple answer to ‘What do I do?’ is that you’ll usually get a yield response until the full flag leaf emerges,” she said.
Flag leaves are starting to poke out in Essex County but the crop in the rest of Ontario is generally not that far along.
Nitrate-nitrogen is the best bet now, since it’s taken up rapidly by the plants, Kowalski said. Nitrogen uptake is slow, especially in cold weather. Nitrate nitrogen is expensive, though.
“It eventually becomes a question about value,” said Kowalski. “If boots are starting to swell, you have to start evaluating what the crop’s worth. If you’re at that point, you have to start looking at if corn is more economical.”
Farmers are likely looking at applying between 30 and 100 pounds of nitrogen, depending on the stands and growth rates. If they’re using a helicopter that charges by weight, it can become cost-prohibitive. A second pass with a ground machine, if possible, might be a good option.
Based on the rate of growth and Ontario’s weather forecast, wheat farmers are likely to have another 10-day stretch before things reach a tipping point, Kowalski said.
“Day 10 is do-or-die, though,” she said.