CROP SCENE INVESTIGATION – 33: Which pest invaded Jeffrey’s corn field?

As expected, the western bean cutworm was part of the problem. But what was this other interloper?


As the 2010 growing season progressed, DeKalb agronomist Bob Thirlwall knew he would be getting calls from growers asking him to help identify western bean cutworm (WBC).

The pest had invaded Michigan corn fields the previous year. Extensive press coverage and presentations at farm meetings had fuelled speculation that the insect, which can reduce yields by up to 30 bushels per acre under heavy pressure, was set to sink its teeth into Ontario’s corn crop.

Seed suppliers offer growers a wide spectrum of new varieties


With March futures pushing past the $14.50 a bushel level, and an uncertain harvest in the Southern Hemisphere’s growing regions, soybeans are certain to occupy a share of the cropped land in Ontario fields from Essex to Earlton this summer.

Better Farming is again presenting Ontario’s crop-growing farmers with a list of new soybean varieties, available to them for the first time in 2011. The list will be published on the Better Farming website ( and will be updated as more varieties receive approval.

CROP SCENE INVESTIGATION – #31 SOLVED: Why was excess residue accumulating in Richard’s fields?


The narrow strips of yellow, slower-growing winter wheat plants in Richard’s field were the result of heavy levels of canola residue that had been buried three inches below the surface of the strips.

While Richard used a residue manager to incorporate the heavy residue produced by his canola crop, he did not account for the high portion of residue – chaff and pods – that ended up directly behind the combine.

CROP SCENE INVESTIGATION – 26 SOLVED: What’s ailing Art’s alfalfa?

Art’s yellow, stunted alfalfa was suffering from aphanomyces root rot.

This investigation was first published back in May 2010. Despite some editorial nudging in subsequent months, no one solved the mystery – until recently!

Similar to phytophthora root rot, aphanomyces is considered a major cause of disease in alfalfa seedlings, particularly in wet soil conditions. But, while there are seed treatments available to protect seed against phytophthora and other soil-borne diseases, no seed treatment product offers protection against aphanomyces.

CSI Agronomy – Crop Scene Investigation – 30 Solved: What’s clipping Wilson’s wheat?


The pest that was clipping the heads off Wilson’s wheat was a grass sawfly.

It is extremely rare for this pest to be found in wheat. Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs entomologist Tracey Baute consulted her colleagues across North America to help determine why the pest migrated to the crop in Ontario in 2010.

These pests have been observed clipping heads in wheat in Oregon, Delaware and in Michigan. In these cases, the grass sawflies fed on wheat plants during extremely warm spring weather conditions, just as occurred in Ontario in 2010. Baute says the pests were initially difficult to identify because they were hard to find.

CROP SCENE INVESTIGATION – 31: Why was excess residue accumulating in Richard’s fields?


How growers manage crop harvest residues in their fields can have a huge impact on the performance of the crops that follow.

For the past two years, Brian Hall, an Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs edible beans and canola specialist, has been working with Richard, a Wellington county grower, to help him manage the high levels of residue remaining in his canola fields after harvest.

Ridgetown’s biodiesel plant shows the way

Launched last spring, the plant has a capacity of 800,000-1,000,000 litres and is intended to serve as a model for interested producers


Art Schaafsma has real tractor-seat experience when it comes to biodiesel.
Schaafsma, a professor in the department of plant agriculture and director of the Ridgetown Campus of the University of Guelph, burned 100 per cent biodiesel on his farm last summer, using product produced at the college’s Centre for Agricultural Renewable Energy and Sustainability.

CROP SCENE INVESTIGATION – 29: The curious case of row unit number eight – Solved


One in every 12 rows of Bill’s corn was stunted because the plants in these rows were suffering from
fertilizer burn.

Bill had done a good job of maintaining the disc openers and tubes on his 12-row planter. However, the bushings on the parallel linkage of the eighth row unit were worn out. This allowed the unit to move a couple 
of inches from side to side, explains Pioneer Hi-Bred agronomist Scott Fife.

The fertilizer trench is usually set two inches beside the seed trench, so fertilizer is placed where it is available to the seed, but not close enough to burn it.

CROP SCENE INVESTIGATION – 30: What’s clipping Wilson’s wheat?


Tracey Baute, an entomologist at the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, knows her insects. But it’s hard to put your finger on a problem pest if you can’t find it.

That happened this summer when Baute got a call from Wilson, who farms near Rodney in Elgin County. He wanted her to identify the culprit that was clipping the heads off plants in his winter wheat field.

Before setting foot in the field, Baute had pegged the likely pest. All she had to do was get a visual identification to confirm her suspicions.