By Connor Lynch
WALLACEBURG —While all of Ontario struggled with the cold and wet planting conditions, Essex and Kent Counties were among the slowest to finish planting because of their heavy clay soils.
Essex County’s Brendan Byrne was just getting started planting soybeans on June 25. He was one of many: A generous estimate would put Essex County at 50 per cent planted, he said. The coolness on the clay soil has kept it from drying out. He’d completely given up on 300 acres of corn and turned it to soybeans.
Agronomist Peter Johnson said as of June 24, many growers just had to pull the trigger on planting in less-than-ideal conditions. “The calendar finally trumped conditions,” he said. “Lord help us if it ever turns dry. Those crops will be in major trouble.”
Johnson doesn’t blame any grower who planted in wet ground. This year was too difficult for anyone to be pointing fingers or laying blame, he said.
Ontario’s unseeded fields could hit 60,000 to 100,000 acres, Johnson said. Last year, crop insurer Agricrop only recorded 5,494 unseeded acres. The 2013 to 2017 annual unseeded average was 35,000.
Chatham-Kent crop farmer Paul Delanghe, said he finished planting his corn, soybeans and sugar beets by June 10. But by June 25, some growers in his area were just finishing soybeans and others were just getting started.
Putting crop in the ground is a gamble in any year, but especially this year. Delanghe switched to a shorter-season corn hybrid to make sure it would mature before a frost. Some farmers pulled the plug on corn entirely, he said, figuring it was too big a risk, since many would’ve been planting it past the extended crop insurance deadline of June 17. Others gambled on a hot summer, planting more corn since soybean prices are so dismal.
The near-constant rain was every farmer’s nightmare. Perth County crop farmer Josh Boerson ended up planting more corn than he’d intended. But now that his crop is planted, he needs the rain to stick around. “If it turns dry, it’s going to be a big problem.”
If the ground dries out rapidly the crop’s roots could hit a hardened, compacted layer of soil, or seeding trenches could open up, exposing and drying out the roots.