by SUSAN MANN
Despite this fall’s record-shattering rainfall totals in some parts of Ontario, the province’s wheat crop shouldn’t be written off.
Wheat doesn’t like saturated soils but since temperatures have been cool the plants aren’t respiring much “so the impact of saturated soil is much reduced compared to what it would be with warmer temperatures,” says Peter Johnson, provincial agriculture ministry cereals specialist.
On heavy clay soils between the tile runs, wheat plants are suffering and may never make it through the winter. But Johnson says the crop isn’t dead yet. “It never ceases to amaze me how plants can compensate if they’re given the chance.”
At planting time the yield potential was 160 bushels per acre but with the excessive rain that’s been reduced to 130 bushels per acre.
For now, growers aren’t facing a disaster with their crop. “It’s a wait and see game,” he says, noting the crop’s outcome depends on the remainder of the fall, the winter and next growing season.
Johnson says he has been getting lots of calls from growers concerned about their wheat. But he’s advising them to have faith because the plants are much more resilient than they think.
His other piece of advice is for farmers to do everything they can to get water off their fields.
As for rainfall totals, the rainiest corner of the province by far was Southwestern Ontario. Environment Canada meteorologist Geoff Coulson says on just one day, Nov. 29, the Windsor area got 75 millimetres of rain - a new record for that date since 1940 when records started being kept at the Windsor airport. It was also new record for the single wettest day in November ever for the Windsor area.
This year the Windsor area is on track to set a new record for its annual rainfall total. So far, the area has received 1,375 mm of rain and the year isn’t finished yet. “It’s a record that keeps on growing,” Coulson says. The average yearly rainfall amount is 805 mm.
The previous record for rainfall in one year was 1,120.9 mm in 1990. “We’re not talking about breaking the record, we’re talking about shattering it at this point,” he says.
Windsor also set a record for the most rain in November ever with 187 mm in the one month alone.
Other areas in southwestern Ontario also had way more rain than normal in November including London (121.7 mm compared to the average of 91.1 mm); Sarnia (131 mm compared to the average of 76.4 mm), Toronto (98 mm compared to the average of 69.3 mm); and Kitchener-Waterloo (110.6 mm compared to the average of 82.7 mm).
But not all parts of Ontario have been rainy. Kingston in Eastern Ontario set a record for the driest November ever with 33.4 mm compared to the average of 92.7 mm.
The rainfall figures highlight how large Ontario is and “some of these storm systems can definitely impact some parts of the province” but leave other parts relatively untouched Coulson notes.
Another weather fact of note is Sudbury had the least snowiest November since 1963 with just 1.4 centimetres compared to the normal amount of 32.4 cm. The previous record for least snow was 2.5 cm.
Greg Stewart, Ontario agriculture ministry corn industry program lead, says most Ontario farmers have already finished their corn harvest except for a few pockets in Essex County and maybe a little bit in Lambton and Kent counties. In Essex, “some guys have struggled to finish off harvest because of wet conditions.”
For farmers wanting to do fall tillage on corn stalks “they’ve probably been held out of that,” he says. Those farmers can wait until spring or do it after the ground freezes a bit, Stewart says.
Adam Hayes, Ontario agriculture ministry soil management specialist, says 25 to 30 per cent of corn crop is still standing in Essex County. The majority of Essex is Brookston clay soil, which is naturally very poorly drained.
Even though there’s extensive tile drainage in Essex “it still takes time for that water to get to the tile and get out,” Hayes says.
The county’s farmers were making pretty good progress harvesting their corn but during the past two weeks they’ve been hit with more than five inches of rain. That’s a lot for anyone but with the clay soils its “way more than they can handle,” Hayes says, noting the soil is pretty saturated and with colder temperatures the water doesn’t drain through the soil as quickly.
Farmers are waiting for frost in the soil “to get enough to carry the combines to try and get the rest of the crop off when they can,” he notes. BF