UPDATE November 26, 2014 9 a.m.
by JIM ALGIE
Mark Huston, who farms near Thamesville, estimated damage in his area at between 10 and 20 percent of standing corn. Kent director for Grain Farmers of Ontario, Huston figures harvest is about 50 per cent complete in the region. He was hoping for a freeze Tuesday that can help farmers clean up what remains.
“It’s been one of those trying harvests because, even when you could go, it was kind of tentative,” he said in an interview late Tuesday. “The moisture was always so thick,” Huston said.
“Trying to get soybeans off was a challenge and trying to get it off in good enough condition to go back and plant wheat was a real challenge,” he said.
Huston has about 60 acres of corn remaining, certainly the latest harvest in five years at his place. With “gummy” conditions on his relatively sandy soil, he was hoping for frost overnight, Tuesday, so “we might be able to get the combines back in the fields tomorrow.”
“I’m trying to be optimistic,” Huston said. “We’re so close you can almost see the end,” he said.
“I don’t think it’s just been the harvest,” Huston said. “I think it’s been the whole year,” he said, a reference to balky conditions that began with a late spring.
“Planting was stressful and we had a pretty stressful summer with no heat and whether or not the crop would even finish,” he said. “And now when you get to the harvest it would have been nice if we could have a clean stretch in the fall to finish everything off,” Huston said.
“It just doesn’t seem to be wanting to cooperate all that well.” END OF UPDATE
by JIM ALGIE
Some people in Chatham-Kent have taken to calling it “the harvest from hell.”
Wild, 100 kilometre per hour winds scoured parts of southwestern Ontario crop land late Monday, knocking down corn already overdue for harvest.
“It’s bad,” Blenheim-area farmer Jeremy Segeren said in an interview Tuesday. President of the Kent County Soil and Crop Improvement Association and a regional sales manager for Hyland Seeds, Segeren spent much of the day, Tuesday, fielding calls from growers and touring damaged fields. He hopes growers can recover most of the grain from damaged plants, but Monday’s wind storm adds inconvenience to an already complex growing season.
“I haven’t walked the fields myself, but just driving around this morning it looks like corn is broken off still high enough where the combine header snouts can pick it up,” Segeren said.
“It’s just going to slow down harvest tremendously. The combine will have to run slower; you can’t run at night as much . . . everything is going to slow the progress down on a slow harvest already,” he said.
Damage in Kent was particularly severe in sandy soil areas such as McKay’s Corners, Kent Bridge and Bothwell but it’s variable. And Segeren has been getting calls of damage widely from throughout southwestern Ontario through his work with Blenheim-based Hyland.
Segeren has about 30 acres of his own corn uncut on a gravel ridge near Blenheim with only about five per cent damage. But he has also seen nearby fields where as much as 60 per cent of the corn “is laying flat in the field.”
Farmers in the northerly counties of Grey and Bruce have been battling adverse harvest conditions since September. Repeated periods of rain with occasional cold spells have complicated harvest, particularly on elevated lands adjacent to Lake Huron. First snow on the Halloween weekend saw farmers two and a half weeks behind normal work schedules for the end of October.
Muddy fields and wetter-than-desirable crops delayed soybean harvest and cut into expected winter wheat plantings in northern counties. Farther south, early season harvest conditions were better but still complicated by moisture, Segeren said.
Most soybeans are off Kent fields and some producers have completed corn harvest. But “everybody was a week to 10 days behind normal harvest activity” for late November when Monday’s winds hit, he said.
“I’ve been through some wind storms in November but most of the corn’s been done so it wasn’t as big a thing,” Segeren said. “This year, there’s more guys out there struggling; that’s why it’s going to be a catastrophe at some guys’ places.”
Some of the downed crop shows signs of anthracnose stock rot, likely because “this corn has been standing so long,” Segeren said. Such stalk weakness leaves it susceptible to knock-down winds.
Variations in soil type and in unfamiliar varieties grown because of late planting this year may also explain current harvest woes, Segeren said. As bad as it is, this year’s damage can’t compare with a similar event 10 years ago likely because of varietal improvements since then, he said.
“Even last week when we had this heavier snow, in the past the snow would take down corn; well, this year it seems like the snow didn’t hurt us as much but this wind even definitely did a number on us,” Segeren said. BF