By Tom Collins
Western Ontario farmers weren’t worried about the slow start to the corn and soybean planting season even though they were still waiting for fields to dry at the end of April.
Thanks to a wet, cold winter followed by a wet, cold April, Strathroy-area dairy and cash crop farmer Andrew Campbell didn’t expect to get into the fields until the second week of May as a high amount of rain left water lying in the fields. Typically, Western and Southwestern Ontario crop farmers like to be planting corn by April 26. Growers like to have 80 per cent of the crop planted by May 15.
But, hey, we all know the spring can be unpredictable. In the first week of April, Vince Trudell, of DeDell Seeds, recalled seeing kids playing street hockey in Lucan, corn harvested near London, a farmer working a field at Strathroy and seeing someone ice fishing east of Montreal. “All this in one week,” Trudell said. “Only in Canada.”
OMAFRA corn specialist Ben Rosser said that the 2017 planting season began much the same way. About 90 per cent of the corn crop went in during the third week of May and Western and Southwestern Ontario still saw a record yield. Rosser knew of no one who had planted corn as of May 1.
As for soybeans, OMAFRA soybean specialist Horst Bohner told Farmers Forum that no one had planted as of the last day of April. Most soybean fields were still a week away from being planted, he said.
In an average year, the extreme southwest of the province might start planting beans around April 25, with the majority of soybeans across Western Ontario planted in the middle two weeks of May, he said. And while earlier is better, “we don’t really consider soybeans late until you get into June.”
Andy Pasztor, who farms at Port Burwell east of St. Thomas, said there were plenty of wet spots and cold days in late April. “Everybody’s ready to go, we’re just waiting for the weather to turn,” he said on April 26.
Pasztor was not worried about later planting as last year his later-planted crops out-yielded his earlier planted crops. “There’s still plenty of time.”
Southwestern Ontario farmers have until May 7 before they see a corn yield drop, OMAFRA research suggests. Planting after May 7, growers could see a one per cent yield loss per day. Soybean yields won’t see a significant yield loss until planting after May 20. Planting between May 21 and June 5 could mean as much as an eight per cent yield loss, OMAFRA reports.
Agriculture economist Matthew Pot asked farmers on Twitter on April 26 for a percentage of corn and soybeans planted or the expected start date. Almost all of the 45 respondents reported there was zero per cent planted, with most saying they probably wouldn’t get into the fields until May 6. Blenheim farmer Joe De Brouwer was the only one to report he had put in a crop — he had planted about 2 per cent of his corn.