By Connor Lynch
KEMPTVILLE — Despite a sopping start to the year, with some fields so thoroughly flooded in early May that crops couldn’t go in, Statistics Canada forecasts a record high yield for the province this year.
But that’s not to be for Eastern Ontario, Kemptville-based independent agronomist Gilles Quesnel told Farmers Forum.
September was a boon for farmers who started the season staring at fields of muck with soybeans poking out green heads. Hot, dry weather finished beans, dried up fields, and dried down beans. Unseasonably warm weather through October, and rainfall that was at least more restrained than the spring deluges, protected late-planted beans from a killing frost and bought more time for maturation.
Quesnel said harvest got started in Eastern Ontario around its usual time, the first week of October. It’s dragging on somewhat, he said, anticipating about 90 per cent of harvest would be done by the end of October. While yields aren’t disastrous he said, it certainly won’t be a bin buster.
In-field yields are all over the place, Quesnel said. Fields that flooded multiple times were as low as 10 bushels per acre, he said, but fields with good drainage and reasonable rain have soared as high as 70 bu/ac. Fields themselves aren’t even consistent, Quesnel said.
“Everybody seems to have at least some fields that didn’t do well that knocked down their average,” and many farmers are running anywhere from 5 bu/ac to 10 bu/ac below their average yields. Eastern Ontario’s average soybean yield in 2016, was 43.5 bu/ac. Statistics Canada says 2015 was a record for the province at 51.5 bu/ac. But Quesnel expects most growers to be averaging closer to 40 bu/ac this year. Eastern Ontario’s five-year average for soybean yields between 2012 and 2016 is 45.1 bu/ac.
Quality is looking generally solid in Eastern Ontario, he said, although a few growers have had fairly serious issues with white mould. “Some will go on record suggesting it will be the worst year (for white mould) in several years. Others will say it’s pretty well average.”
Dean Patterson, who farms 20 minutes south of Ottawa, is one of the exceptions to projected yield averages. His harvest season has dragged on, with short rainfall events constantly pushing him out of his fields. “On a good note, yields have been close to phenomenal,” he said. The fields he was really stressing about, ones damaged by standing water, were yielding as much as 47 bu/ac, and his good fields were hitting as high as 60 bu/ac, “which is fantastic, even in a good year,” Patterson said.
Meanwhile, Brian Burnett, who farms 2,600 acres spread out over half a dozen municipalities south of Ottawa, has had much more variable yields. “We’ve got farms averaging 62 bu/ac, and farms averaging 30 bu/ac,” he said. Most of his fields were spared issues with white mould because he planted in 30-inch rows, but “the fields that did have it, had a lot.”
Up in Renfrew County, Jennifer Doelman, near Douglas, has had a stop-and-start harvest season that got started a bit late, on Oct. 12. But initial yields are promising. “Our first planted field was (yielding) 50 bu/ac, even with significant white mould pressure,” she said.