Crop Scene Investigation – 9: What had been feasting on Matt’s corn roots? – Solved


European chafer (white grub) was the pest that vanished after feasting on the roots in Matt’s cornfield. The chafers couldn’t be found  because they had already moved on to the next stage of their life cycle.

European chafers overwinter in the soil below the frost line. During the early part of the growing season, the larvae move up to the surface and feed on the corn plants fibrous roots. When they finish feeding by mid-June, these pests pupate and emerge from the soil as beetles and fly away to mate. In Matt’s field, they left behind some key pieces of evidence – the little holes where they emerged from the soil and the skin they shed during pupation.

Crop Scene Investigation – 11 What’s behind Sam’s uneven soybeans?

His beans seemed ‘to be struggling to come out of the ground.’ What’s more, the stand was thin and uneven across much of the field. So what was the cause?


One of my favourite times of year will soon be here. That’s when the first soybean seedlings begin popping out of the ground and getting a strong, vigorous start on the season.

Last spring, Sam from Stormont County called because he wasn’t seeing signs of vigour in his two-week old soybean crop. “My beans look thinner and less uniform than they should,” he said. “They seem to be struggling to come out of the ground.”

Crops: A new ally for farmers in controlling soybean aphids

A diminutive wasp has joined the growing number of natural predators which are helping to control otherwise costly aphid infestations in the province’s $194 million soybean crop


While scouting for soybean pests last year, Ed Kaiser noticed some black spots on the bottom of his plants’ leaves. “They could have been dust, for all I knew. They were very tiny and didn’t seem to be of any consequence,” says the Napanee-area farmer.

CROP SCENE INVESTIGATION – 6 SOLVED: Fusarium wilt was behind Blake’s dying soybeans


Fusarium wilt (also called soybean blight) was the culprit causing patches of dying soybean plants throughout Blake’s field.

The disease is caused by a common soil-borne fungus and is predominant when soybeans are under drought stress and root development is inhibited. Both factors can interfere with the normal activity of the plant’s root system and make it vulnerable to root diseases. Two key stressors were present in Blake’s field – soil compaction and lack of moisture.

Fusarium wilt lives up to its name by causing the soybean plant to wilt. It shares this characteristic with Phytophthora root rot, which also exhibits a droopy appearance. But there are two clues that help to rule out Phytophthora.

CROP SCENE INVESTIGATION – 9: What had been feasting on Matt’s corn roots?


Crime suspects don’t hang around the scene waiting to get caught. The same is true of some yield-robbing pests. They often flee without detection, but that doesn’t mean the trail of evidence has gone cold.

Things were heating up for an Elgin County grower early last summer after he noticed some damage in his cornfield. “I don’t like what I’m seeing in one of my fields,” said Matt. It was mid-June and he had just finished spraying his six-leaf corn. As he covered the ground with the sprayer, he had a good look at his crop. “There are some spots without any corn and, in some cases, plants have emerged, but they look wilted.”

This problem could be due to any number of things and I’d need to get into the field to investigate.

CROP SCENE INVESTIGATION – 7: Tracking down suspects in Alistair’s alfalfa – Solved


Planting depth caused poor emergence in Alistair’s alfalfa.

To be more specific, the seed was planted too deeply. Alfalfa must be planted in the top quarter-inch of soil for a successful stand.

You must pay particular attention to your field conditions at planting in order to get seed this shallow. A quick and easy test is that your heel shouldn’t sink more than 3/8 of an inch into the seedbed. Another key to alfalfa establishment is that you pack, plant and pack again.

CROP SCENE INVESTIGATION – 8: What was the trouble with Troy’s stunted corn?


Time is of the essence. This is especially true when you have a crop which doesn’t look healthy. Promptly figuring out why the crop isn’t thriving and taking action to correct it will help you maximize yield.

Time was ticking on the growing season when Troy, a Peel County corn grower, called me in early June. His month-old corn crop was in need of help. “My corn is yellow and stunted in two separate fields. It must be a hybrid issue,” he said.

Crops: CROP SCENE INVESTIGATION – 7: Tracking down suspects in Alistair’s alfalfa


I love my job because it keeps me on my toes. Every now and then I get a call from a grower with a problem that really challenges my agronomic knowledge. That’s one of the reasons I enjoy the agriculture industry – there’s always something new to learn.

I got a call in the spring from Alistair in Wellington County with a situation that really had me stumped. He was discouraged by the emergence of his newly seeded alfalfa crop. “It’s coming up in strips throughout the field,” he said. “Do you think the rest will fill in?”