By Brandy Harrison
CHESTERVILLE — With combine monitors signaling soaring yields across Eastern Ontario, at-capacity elevators struggled to find extra space in machine sheds and off-site bins to narrowly avoid a log jam.
“It was more of a headache this year,” says Greg Vanden Bosch, president of Vanden Bosch Elevators Inc., about scheduling unloading and managing grain flow to keep up with regular customers. “It’s one of those good problems when you have too much product that’s coming all at once.”
The Chesterville elevator has been full since the end of October for the first time in years and had to temporarily repurpose the storage shed and all of its wagons. With triple the dozen calls it usually gets from non-customers, the elevator had to turn away a few who called out of the blue.
Vanden Bosch chalks up the jam to unusually large corn and soybean crops that came off at the same time and earlier than expected.
“End users weren’t really prepared for the volumes. That just backed up the whole system,” he says.
Lance Stephenson, general foreman at the Port of Johnstown, heard reports that soybean yields were up 40 per cent and corn yields were averaging 196 to 236 dry bushels per acre. “That’s just plain unusual for Eastern Ontario,” he says.
Grain started pouring into the port just east of Prescott at the end of August and hasn’t let up, says Stephenson, who expected to stay busy until the second week of December. “We’re having an excellent run.”
Between July 1 and Nov. 23, the port accepted 226,592 metric tonnes of corn, soybeans, and wheat, up 17 per cent from the same time last year. It’s too early to tell, but Stephenson wonders if the port could be headed for a repeat of the record 2010 season, which saw 705,000 metric tonnes of grain pass through the port by year’s end.
The port had to restrict some appointments to ensure room for the incoming crop. “We never did get completely plugged. It was a balancing act,” says Stephenson.
It was a bin buster for many, says Winchester agronomist Gilles Quesnel. “For over half the growers, this will turn out to be a record yield for both corn and soybeans,” he says, adding that top-end averages for soybeans were 60 to 70 bu/ac and 220 to 240 bu/ac for corn.
The tight squeeze at elevators was likely a combination of the big yields, more acres cropped, and some space tied up with this year’s wheat and soybean crop, he says.
After scouting fields in the fall, bins were being thrown up on farms across Eastern Ontario, says Quesnel. After the record-breaking 2010 corn harvest, elevators across the province expanded storage in anticipation of more bin busters to come but in many cases it wasn’t enough.
Full by the third week in November, Marc Bourdon moved 2,000 metric tonnes of grain to bins at other farms to avoid turning anyone away.
“It’s been a good crop, with good quality and good yields, so farmers are happy,” says the owner of Bourdon Feed and Grain Inc. in Maxville.