Southwest Ontario planting off to an unusually late start

Higher heat units and warm seedbeds mean Ontario’s extreme southwest is usually the first region in the province to be planted with corn and soybeans. But this year it’s last, with planting finally wrapping up just last week.

The situation resulted from a cold April in the southwest – the coldest on record – followed by intermittent and spotty rain through most of May and early June. Although the rain wasn’t overwhelming, it was steady enough to keep many producers out of their fields. There would be a break for a couple of days, but not for long enough to dry out fields and warm up the seedbed.

“Producers in this part of the province are not used to being the last to get their crops planted,” says Dale Cowan, senior agronomist at AGRIS and Wanstead co-ops.

Some seed sewn into dry soil

Later in June, the rain stopped long enough for many fields to be planted.

Given the wet spring, producers expected rain to start again, but for the most part, it didn’t, Cowan says.

That meant some of the soybean crop, which is planted after corn, was sewn into dry soil and sat dormant. Although there was no moisture to carry disease, there was no seed growth, either. 

Rain falls, and the crop is saved

Finally, a broad rain fell June 19 and 20. That started germination, and with the hot weather that followed, so did plant development.

However, on the holiday weekend and through the early part of this week, with the heat soaring to 40 C with humidity in many parts of Ontario, some fields are actually starting to get too dry. Corn enjoys the heat, but wheat in particular is experiencing some heat stress.

“In three days, we went from ‘it’s too wet, I’ll never get on my land’ to ‘will we ever get a rain?’,” Cowan says.

Still time to catch up

Should conditions not worsen – including no drought – Cowan says the southwest crops will have no problem catching up, given the area’s high heat units. 

“If we get a good mid-July and August, we’ll be OK,” he says.

Bottom line

Planting in Ontario’s highly productive southwest got off to a very late start, but favourable conditions have now sparked optimistic forecasts. Crops should have no problem catching up.

Article by: Owen Roberts