by MATT MCINTOSH
Ontario has seen a sizeable amount of rainfall over the past few days, and according to Peter Johnson, cereal specialist for the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, that means some farmers will not be able to start planting their soybeans and corn for at least another week.
“Things look wet now because we got 60 per cent of our normal April rainfall in two days,” says Johnson. “April was actually pretty dry up until then.”
Right now, Johnson says that very few farmers have been able to plant, and those that have are located predominantly on sandier soils in the areas in and around southern Ontario. In areas characterized by heavier clay soils, such as Lambton County and parts of Essex County, Johnson says farmers might have to wait for another seven to 14 days before the ground is dry enough to start planting.
However, he reiterates that the time it takes to get back in the field can vary substantially from farm to farm, depending on factors other than soil type.
“Having good drainage obviously helps,” he says. “The weather over the next while will affect it too . . . even if we don’t see more rain, things won’t dry out as fast if we have cold cloudy days.”
Johnson also says that hybrid corn producers should not yet be concerned about missing their opportunity to take advantage of the full growing season. Instead, Johnson says farmers have until about May 20 before they might start thinking about swapping their hybrid corn seed for other varieties that require fewer heat units, or a shorter growing season.
“At this point in time, there is virtually no corn hybrid switching right now,” he says.
Despite the fact that wet ground also carries an increased risk for disease, Johnson says the relatively cold weather and small amount of planted acres means disease is not a major concern at this point; the crucial point for disease control occurs after seeding, he says, and there is ample opportunity for the soil to dry in the coming weeks.
When it comes to winter wheat, however, Johnson says the wet, cold winter has caused substantial damage to much of the province’s crop. Winter wheat crops in Grey and Bruce County fared well due to less exposure to ice, which Johnson says has been the major cause of winter kill this year.
Johnson estimates that about 15 per cent of the winter wheat crop will be re-planted, and at least three quarters of the crop that is left will have reduced yield potential thanks to winter kill.
“Average yields are possible this year, but because there has been so much winter kill, it will be hard to reach that average,” he says.
Jim Zavitz, chief inspector for Agricorp, says about 14 per cent of insured wheat acres in the province is already being processed as claims. In 2013 and 2012, the number of claims for all insured acres of winter wheat was only 2.3 and 4.1 per cent respectively.
Since it is early in the process, Zavitz says Agricorp has not yet issued any compensation for re-seeding. He does, however, strongly encourage producers who suspect they have substantial winterkill to contact Agricorp.
Agricorp is the provincial Crown corporation that delivers risk management programs to Ontario’s farmers. BF
Clarification May 1 2014 6:08 p.m.: Dominique O'Rourke of Agricorp notes in an email shortly after publication that the provincial Crown corporation has received "damage reports for 14 per cent of insured wheat acres, although it is too early to tell whether all will be processed as claims. In 2013 and 2012, the number of damage reports for all insured acres of wheat was only 2.3 and 4.1 per cent respectively." BF