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Warm weather has farmers in fields

Record-breaking temperatures during the third week of March had many eastern Canadian farmers in the fields. That’s the news from Peter Johnson, cereals specialist with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. Much of the winter wheat crop has emerged from dormancy in fairly good shape, however, the warm weather has also imparted a false sense of security with some farmers.

“There’s been a fair bit of nitrogen going on wheat, and manure going on wheat and manure in general being applied,” says Johnson.

But he notes that it’s still too early in the wheat plant’s development to be applying full rates of nitrogen, which is why provincial advisors are cautious when it comes to fertilizer recommendations. Although there have been some who have thrown caution to the wind and applied their full rates, others have cut back to 30 to 40 pounds and will wait until mid- to late-April before applying their next round.

The more-pressing issue facing wheat growers right now, adds Johnson, is the quick-start some of the weed species have had with this stretch of weather. Instead of worrying about “nitrogen first — and then spraying for weeds,” Johnson advocates growers always assess spraying needs based on the most-prevalent issues. For 2012, that means going after weeds such as chickweed ahead of applying nitrogen.

What the warmer weather has also brought is early planting, including anecdotal reports of spring grains, particularly oats. “One grower I was talking to put in 50 acres of spring wheat (on March 21),” says Johnson. †

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