Wheat Pete's Word, June 17: Ugly Corn, Side-Dress and Protected N Options, Fusarium Risk, & Armyworms on the Move


Knee-high on the 15th of June doesn’t have the same ring to it, but at least some Ontario corn growers report that they’ve got it. Unfortunately, that advanced corn is growing right next to ugly, short, ragged corn and that’s got farmers asking — is the yield potential still there?

That’s where we start this edition of Wheat Pete’s Word, and Peter Johnson, your host and agronomist for RealAgriculture, explains why we’ve got such big beautiful corn (May averaged about 15% more heat units), and why it’s OK that cold-shocked corn is small. The key detail going forward? When those smaller plants tassel. For now, it’s time to hurry up and wait…unless your crop needs nitrogen.

But how do you know? For those of you who have about 80 to 100 pounds of nitrogen on that corn crop, if it’s too wet to get a side-dress application knifed in, you’re going to be OK, says @WheatPete, and here’s why: the Ontario soil N survey pegs nitrate levels are higher than expected (again, thanks to a warm, dry May). What’s more, corn uses nearly 40% of the N it needs after tassel, so if you’ve got 80 lb there, you’ve bought yourself time. For farmers who only had say 30 lb down? Listen to the audio below to work through your options (including a caution on potential for leaf burn!).

Related: Corn School — How much N do I have?

On to the wheat crop, Johnson says that farmers with hard red winter may have lost significant nitrogen if the ground has been saturated for several days, and that N is necessary to achieve desirable protein levels. He explains what to anticipate for losses, given conditions and time and what you might do about it.

Overall, the fusarium risk in Ontario could be very high, or very low, depending on a few factors. If you’ve had low or spread out rainfall events, warm nights and foggy mornings, your fusarium risk is elevated. Take a look back, Johnson says, and compare night time temps and rainfall events. Nights under 9 degrees C and heavy rainfall events decrease your fusarium risk.

And, speaking of fusarium, is it too late to spray a fungicide targeted at this disease? If you’re 8 days after heading, fusarium control is diminished but still there, but past day 12, however, you’re approaching the allowable pre-harvest interval (PHI). What’s more, you’ll get leaf disease control this long after heading but not fusarium control. You’re locked out, that’s it.

Staying in the wheat, there have been reports of armyworm on the move, but not yet at threshold levels. The key with this pest is to scout at dusk, dawn or once the sun has gone down as it is nocturnal and feeds at night. The threshold is 4 to 5 per sq. ft., under 3/4? and not parasitized. Now is the time to scout. Don’t wait, says Johnson.

Related: Armyworm in wheat: where, when and how to scout

Finally, we’re on to the questions of the week, with topics like “What species should I plant to thicken up a hay stand” and “Will these wet conditions kill off earthworms?” and also, “Is trading straw for cow/calf manure a good idea?” Answers via Wheat Pete in the audio below.

Remember you can call and leave your own crop question for Wheat Pete at 1-888-746-3311!

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