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Final yield and crop quality report for 2019 Crop Assessment Tour

CHATHAM, Ontario - The official tour began on August 26 and concluded on September 6. The 2019 growing season goes on record as one of the most unprecedented and challenging environmental conditions for farmers and the entire supply chain industry to manage. With more than 500 corn and 450 soybean fields observed by teams consisting of 85 staff from Great Lakes Grain and participating FS Co-operatives from across Ontario, has provided great insight into crop conditions and assessment of final yields. This year included results from northern Ontario through Co-op Régionale.
We have documented the yield impacts of delayed planting conditions stemming from wet weather throughout April, May and June. We witnessed the combined effects of drainage, compaction, crop residue management and the impacts it had on planting conditions, crop emergence and inconsistency in growth-stage development. The more difficulties encountered, the greater the field variability. 
We are ready to call the corn yield at 164 bushels per acre and soybeans at 40.2 per acre. The current producer concern that is top of mind, is with delayed planting and how that will influence crop maturity. Most of the trading area is down 250 CHU from a year ago and approximately 110 from the five-year average. Most of the area will need another 25 days to accumulate sufficient heat to get to black layer on corn. With cooler weather the dry-down to harvest moistures may take us to late October before we see significant harvest activity on grain corn.
With this being our tenth year, we have a database to look back on to gain confidence in the values we calculate. The populations, row number and cob lengths are quite comparable to a year ago. However, with cooler weather and the slower rate of crop growth, the length of the grain fill period is questionable. For that reason, we are modifying our kernel numbers per bushel to estimate yields to take this into account. Last year, 93 per cent of the observed fields were in dent stage, this year it is only 22 per cent in dent stage.
Soybeans are a slightly different story. Once again, late planting was also challenging resulting in fewer main stem nodes and fewer pods. Nearly 15 per cent fewer pods than a year ago, with recent night time temperatures below 10°C, the growth rates are declining rapidly.
A ten day delay in planting in the spring is only a three day delay in maturity in the fall. With a four week planting window we will see the soybean acres mature within a ten to 12 day period around Thanksgiving. The cool weather will begin the premature senescence of leaves. The main concern is a smaller seed size, which combined with lower pod counts, will directly impact on estimated yield. The premature decline in growth will offer earlier harvest and facilitate winter wheat planting, which will help considering how many contracts were rolled from last year. 
Corn observations and comments from the field still highlighted the need to manage nitrogen as a system. Lots of opportunity for split application programs and utilizing nitrogen stabilizers to reduce N loss to the environment and reduce deficiency symptoms. This will improve kernel numbers and cob fill. Essentially no reports of ear rots, foliar leaf disease or widespread Western Bean Cutworm reported. There are isolated fields that will have some issues with ear rots, at this point we do not predict a widespread DON issue.
Soybeans was the crop we talked about last year, as we ended up with a new record provincial yield. That high water mark is safe this year. With late planting we were expecting to a see clear yield trend with 7.5-inch soybeans being able to close their canopy quickly, but that is not the case as 15-inch rows were similar in yield. There was a nearly even split in number of sites in 7.5 inch and 15 inch spacing. There were 28 sites with 30 inch rows that averaged four bushels higher than either 7.5 or 15 inch row spacing. There were 37 sites in 20 inch rows that averaged two bushel better than either seven or 15 inch rows. 
All row spacings had planting dates ranging from mid-May to mid-June. When looking at soybean stands, we observed rather large gaps within the row with drilled soybeans and that most likely contribute to lower populations and pod counts. Even in September, open seed slots were readily seen regardless of row spacing or planter type. This is as a testament to the fitness of soil seedbed conditions. It also serves as a constant reminder to be mindful of adopting practices of building resiliency into our cropping systems when opportunities arise to do so, it’s a journey not a destination.
Comments coming from the yield assessment teams were indicating opportunities to improve the management of  the primary nutrient potassium and micronutrient manganese. There was a notably higher frequency of comments being observed on deficiency symptoms relative to other years. I’m sure some of it is weather induced, but some also should lead us to review the need for current soil samples to evaluate the soils ability to supply adequate levels even under stressful situations in years like 2019.  
Current soil samples no older than four years are a requirement for the 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification program. It would be a good idea to consider reviewing the status of your fields with your trusted advisor and see which ones need to be brought into a current position. Limiting yields by something as controllable as fertility is not a wise practice. The less stress a plant encounters, the better the odds of having a desirable outcome. 
Weed control in particular on resistant weeds remains a high priority for many farmers. With delayed planting and fewer days with acceptable wind speeds for spraying we were trying to control, rather large weeds. Needless to say, there are fields that have weed escapes. Most weeds have come after the critical weed free period and have not impacted on yield, but they will add to the seed weed bank.
We may have some harvest challenges due to weed escapes. Some pre-harvest burn-down will be required to reduce dirt tag on IP soybeans. Escapes driven by late season rains has brought on Canada Fleabane and Giant Ragweed. Fall weed control will be highly recommended ahead of wheat planting.
The Great Lakes Grain Crop Assessment Tour is more than just trying to put a number on the county or provincial yield. It’s to better understand, with our customers and owners, what can we do differently next year to try and improve your returns, reduce your risk, make your life easier and make you more competitive.
Our field observations can hopefully allow you to implement an agronomic plan and marketing strategy that will allow you to accomplish these goals. We thank everyone who participated in this event and special thanks to our customers who shared their time with us in their fields and allowed us to get to know them better. Just because the tour is over does not mean we stop doing a pre-harvest assessment of your crop; give us a call. It is more important than ever to have a harvest plan.
I think it is worthwhile to take a moment to pause and reflect back on what was accomplished so far in 2019. The spring weather certainly created a lot of stress and anxiety amongst farmers and agri-businesses. We practiced patience, grit and determination and got this crop planted. Maybe not the one we wanted, but it is there. Let’s take some time to celebrate the achievement at this point, catch our breath and store up some strength for harvest!
Source : Great Lakes Grain