By Tom Collins
PICTON — Many Ontario farmers are bracing for a lower-than-average corn yield this year because of a summer-long drought and Prince Edward County farmers are estimating they will be shy of 100 bushels per acre. That’s a far cry from the five-year county average of 136 bu/ac.
Lloyd Crowe, of Reynolds Farms in Picton, said he would be happy with 100 bushels per acre.
“Anything over 100 is going to be a gift,” said Crowe, who planted 2,000 acres of corn this year. He said four inches of rain in the middle of August is helping push the yield as high as it is. “It will still be a crop insurance claim.”
This is one of the worst yield years for Crowe since 1988. He said in a normal drought year, crop prices go up. But this year’s drought corresponds with an anticipated world-record crop, putting downward pressure on prices. Corn prices hovered at $4.40/bu at the end of August, a long way from $8/bu in September of 2012. Adding insult to injury, the United States has had excellent weather and the United States Department of Agriculture is anticipating a record 15.15 billion bushels of corn. The previous high was 14.2 billion bushels in 2014.
Just down the road from Crowe is Mark Davis of Hay Bay Genetics at Napanee. He also expects to haul in less than 100 bu/ac. His five-year average is about 152 bu/ac and last year he was around 176 bu/ac.
“We were extremely dry,” he said, adding about 10 to 15 per cent of his plants have no cobs on them at all. “We had a slight rain on May 22, and then we went right through to (the middle of August) with no rain.”
Davis almost replanted his soybeans in June because germination was so bad but he figured there wouldn’t be any germination from the replanted seeds if there was no moisture.
Many Eastern Ontario farmers are bracing for lower yields. Ed Gibson at Winchester had 198 bu/ac on his 120 acres last year, but would take 150 bu/ac this year. The five-year Eastern Ontario average yield is 151.5 bu/ac
“The cobs look good, they’re long,” he said. “When you husk them, that’s when the truth comes out. At the end of the cobs, there’s a couple of inches there without any kernels on them.”
Bruce Hudson, of Panmure Farms at Kinburn, said his 350 acres of corn will be average (about 160 bu/ac) at best and he would be happy with 140-150 bu/ac.
“There’s real variability,” he said, adding that he expects an early harvest. “Any field that got stressed is really showing up on poor-tip fill. Those extra bushels in the tip of the cobs just aren’t there this year.”
Ian Greydanus, at Grafton in Northumberland County, thought it was going to be a bin buster during planting based on the old adage “Plant in dust, bins will bust.”
He estimates he lost a third each of his 1,390 acres of corn and 1,350 acres of soybeans. An average corn yield for him would be 175 bu/ac and for soybeans 48 bu/ac.
“Which means a 30 per cent yield drop and a 10 to 15 per cent price drop. It’s going to be a tough year next year, isn’t it?” he said. “There’s a lot of damage. It’s going to be a red year unless something drastic happens with price.”
Greydanus said the last time he’d seen it this bad was in the late 1970s and early 1980s and that farmers have been preparing for a year such as this for years.
“You don’t buy any hardware, you cut back on some of your land improvements, and you just make it work.”