Pearce: With wheat in head, Ont. aerial applicators get ready

One farmer’s deliverance can be another farmer’s delay — and that seems to be the case for many growers in parts of southern Ontario.

Rains in the past week have left some fields with flooded portions, mostly at the headlands. In spite of appearances, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of concern for those sections of a field that might be underwater — the belief is that most of the province was dry following a brisk planting season, in which corn was somewhat delayed but soybeans went into the ground in pretty good shape. All that was needed was some rain.

The rains have fallen, and in providing sufficient moisture to get the soybeans — and corn — growing, the late-spring deluge has also kept sprayers from fields of winter wheat that have headed out and are in the process of, or about to begin, pollinating.

Provincial cereal specialist Peter Johnson confirmed now is the time when growers would be considering heading to the fields to spray for fusarium head blight.

However, with higher rainfall amounts, it’ll be a challenge for ground-based sprayers to get into the fields. But as Johnson put it, “we’re definitely in the window” in terms of getting a fungicide application down to guard against diseases such as fusarium.

At Zimmer Air near Blenheim, Ont., phones have been ringing since late last week, and farmers are now booking aerial applications.

Paul Zimmer said his helicopters began spraying Monday (June 3) and would have been spraying during the past weekend but wind conditions made that unlikely.

“We’re getting a lot of calls already,” he said. “Right now, we’re getting calls for our neck of the woods (around Chatham) and up past St. Thomas (to the east along the shore of Lake Erie). And (the demand) will continue to head north and farther east.”

He added he’s expecting more calls from growers in the London area later this week, and that could last another week to 10 days, depending on the rainfall amounts before this weekend.

The long-term weather forecast, according to various sources, suggests a cool and marginally wetter period for the next six to 14 days. For most of southern Ontario, the U.S. National Weather Service forecasts cooler temperatures in both the six- to 10-day and eight- to 14-day outlooks.

Precipitation levels, which are much harder to predict, suggest slightly elevated precipitation amounts for the six- to 10-day period, but closer to normal for the eight- to 14-day forecast. Canada’s Weather Network forecasts cooler conditions for the next 14 days with intermittent showers Thursday through Tuesday.

The cooler temperatures may actually help keep the development of fusarium head blight in check; the disease develops faster and with greater intensity during warm and humid periods.

— Ralph Pearce is a field editor for Country Guide at St. Marys, Ont.

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