By Connor Lynch
OSGOODE — The month of May was supposed to be that time of the year again, when all farmers could think about was getting in the field. But for three weeks — for many of them — it was also the only thing they couldn’t do.
The first week of May is the best planting window for corn in Eastern Ontario. Osgoode-area dairy and cash crop farmer Ivan Peterson was still rumbling along by May 22. With about 60 per cent of his 1,900 acres planted, he was making better progress than most. He’d first gotten started planting back on May 7, but progress was slow, with repeated rains dogging him. “We’re playing in the mud,” Peterson said.
Everyone was lagging behind. Napanee’s Max Kaiser is perennially one of the first in the field east of Toronto and the last of his corn went into the ground May 21. It took Kaiser about three weeks to plant his corn. Normally it takes about five days. Rain seemed to just keep coming. Extensive tile drainage in his ground is the key to his earlier starts, he said. “It’s not all luck that we’re ready to go. We paid for it a long time ago.” He was hoping to have his soybeans done by the end of May.
Most farmers aren’t nearly so far ahead, said agronomist Gilles Quesnel. By the end of the day on May 22, only as much as 30 per cent of Eastern and East-Central Ontario’s corn was planted. Much of that went into the ground on the afternoon and evening of May 22, when a dry spell gave farmers a chance to get into the fields.
The problem wasn’t that there was so much rain, so much as it never stopped raining or dried out. Above-average snowfall last winter and a cool spring with repeated rains, overcast skies and lack of wind have been slow to dry out fields.
Switching to a shorter-season corn hybrid was the big question by May 25. Anyone who hadn’t made significant headway before then likely made a decision to swap our their seed. That meant trading some yield potential in exchange for a crop that’s fully matured by the time killing frosts start to sweep through in the fall.
This year’s month of May is a repeat of 2017 when corn planting was significantly delayed by severe spring flooding but yields turned out above average, Quesnel said.
Josh Jaquemet, who crops about 3,000 acres at Winchester in Dundas County, had already switched to a shorter-season corn hybrid by May 21. He’s had good luck with his shorter-season hybrids, so he’s not overly concerned about his final yields. As for soybeans? “I figure you could go all the way to July,” he said.
Soybeans are notoriously hardy and few producers were concerned about them.
Quesnel said soybeans are more flexible than corn, since their maturation rate is more based on the amount of sunlight they get, so they can catch up a bit on maturity. OMAFRA data suggests that soybeans can lose as much as eight per cent of their yield if they aren’t planted before June 5.