By Connor Lynch
CRYSLER — Mother Nature is normally farmers’ most unpredictable ally, as often a foe as a friend.
This year she was an ally as planting season roared to life in late April and many Eastern Ontario farmers had wrapped up planting corn and soybeans by the end of May.
Custom operator Marcel LaFrance at Crysler had already finished planting corn and was onto soybeans by May 12. Standing at his home farm and spinning 360 degrees, all you could see was flying dust and rolling machines. Seemingly all of Crysler was in the field. Small wonder; Ontario’s spring started off seesawing between warm and cold weather but by early May the heat was on.
That could be hardly more different from last spring, when the cold and wet persisted for months and planting dragged on into June for some growers. “(This year is) a lot less stressful than last year, let’s just say that,” LaFrance said. “We started with a bang and nothing but positives so far.”
He hit the field to do custom work on April 21 (putting on fertilizer) and put in the first corn on April 25. Instead of running extra long hours to keep up with multiple customers all at once, LaFrance and his two employees kept it to 12- hour days. “We’ve never seen a spring like this.”
Down in Prince Edward County, which often gets to a slower start, planting was well underway for many farmers as early as May 11. Picton-area crop farmer Lloyd Crowe had planted over half of his corn crop and about 400 acres of soybeans. “We’re quite happy with the conditions and the ground, so far, and it’s early in comparison to most years.”
At Morrisburg, along the St. Lawrence River, where there is a lot of heavy clay soils, Arden Schneckenburger finished corn planting by mid-May. Last year, he hadn’t started until May 22.
By mid-May, about probably 80 per cent of corn and around 50 per cent of soybeans were in the ground, said independent agronomist Gilles Quesnel. Seed beds were crumbly and crop hadn’t been mucked in, so growers just needed some warmth to get crops emerging, and boy did they get it.
Temperatures in much of Eastern Ontario hit the mid-to-high 20s by Victoria Day weekend (May 18) and stayed there, with no rain to sog up the fields.
Quesnel added that concern about the strength of supply chains during COVID-19, led many farmers to stock up on essentials, inputs, parts and extras early, so they were ready to hit the field early.
Said Quesnel: “Weather-wise, it’s not 2019.”