Field conditions vary in Ontario

Producers throughout Ontario would welcome warm nights and sunny days until harvest. This is the crucial part of the growing season when corn kernels and soybeans need moisture and warmth to fill.

Until now, weather conditions across the province have varied greatly, ranging from saturated fields in the east to parched conditions in the southwest.

Cool, dry July

Southwestern Ontario, which is normally rainy and warm, didn’t get much help from Mother Nature during July. Nights were cooler than normal, and fields received an average of 30 to 50 millimetres less precipitation than the same time last year.

Little has changed through the first part of August.

Combined with highly varied rainfall and temperatures during earlier months, fields are unusually spotty and uneven.

As a result, at harvest, producers there are likely to find parts of same field with different levels of maturity.

“Uneven crop development stays with you all season,” says Dale Cowan, senior agronomist at AGRIS and Wanstead Co-op. “That makes for a tough harvest.”

Earlier yield forecasts from the spring and early summer are being revised downwards.

Observers were once calling for well above average yields. But no more. Cowan is now expecting what he describes as “a good average yield.”

Central and eastern Ontario

It’s a different story in central and eastern Ontario, where it rained throughout most of the spring and continued on to summer. Some areas have received five times more rain than normal. Crop damage is severe.

“Last year, drought-like conditions plagued areas of the province,” says Bruce Buttar, a director with the Ontario Federation of Agriculture. “This year, especially in eastern Ontario, farmers are struggling with flooded fields, hay they can’t harvest and drowned out crops.”

Producers are urged to review management practices in light of changing weather patterns that have prevailed over the past few years: wet springs, dry summers and wet falls.

“If these patterns hold, producers will require different management,” Cowan says. He cites fall preparation of the seedbed and reduced tillage in the spring to avoid soil compaction, and more cover crops to improve soil health and resiliency.

For now, producers in the southwest have their fingers crossed. If the region receives a warm fall, less mature parts of the field might have the opportunity to catch up with the rest, and harvest can proceed in a timely manner.

“It could go either way,” he says. “The next two weeks are crucial.”

Bottom line

Cowan expects harvest there will likely start about a week later than usual, as producers wait for more uniform maturity.

Article by: Owen Roberts