By Connor Lynch
ST. ISIDORE — Ontario agronomists have been thumping continually on the virtues of crop rotation. Growing the same crop in the same ground year after year drains nutrients, raises input costs and is bad for the soil.
Prescott-Russell doesn’t seem to have gotten that memo. According to data from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Annual Crop Inventory, the county has been dominated by soybean-on-soybean rotations for years and it’s growing.
Soybeans dominate crop land in Prescott-Russell and from 2013 to 2015, about 54 per cent of all the corn, soybean and winter wheat acreage was a soybean-soybean-soybean rotation. From 2015-2017, that increased to 62 per cent.
Corn-on-corn wasn’t uncommon either. From 2013 to 2015, 24 per cent of all the crop acreage was corn-corn-corn. But that went down to 19 per cent from 2015-2017.
In total, 81 per cent of Prescott-Russell crop land is either soybeans-on-soybeans or corn-on-corn.
Crop going through a corn-soybean-wheat rotation actually fell, dropping from 22 per cent from 2013 to 2015 to 19 per cent from 2015 to 2017.
St. Isidore-area elevator operator and crop farmer Arnold Kuratli said that growers planting soybeans after soybeans certainly isn’t unheard of in the area. Soybeans just have too many advantages over corn, incentivizing growers to plant them again and again, he said. They come out of the ground earlier, making for a more comfortable harvest. Soybeans are more tolerant of both wet and dry conditions and have a larger planting window than corn.
Farmer Scott Fife, at neighbouring Stormont-Dundas-Glengarry, said that the heavy clay soils that dominate the area encourage farmers to plant soybeans year-after-year as well. Soybeans handle wet soil better, and even tile-drained clays don’t always drain well enough for corn.
Kuratli added that probably between 20 and 30 per cent of the farmland in his area either isn’t tile-drained, or isn’t well tile-drained. For Kuratli, the spring conditions often make a difference in what goes into the ground. If conditions are good, a bit more corn goes into the ground. Not so good and they plant more soybeans.
Vankleek Hill elevator operator and cash crop farmer Kevin Wilson said that for many farmers, it’s simple economics. Soybeans take fewer inputs than corn, yields are more consistent, and prices have been good. Some of his customers, he said, have planted soybeans on soybeans for 15 years straight. “They won’t pay $800 for corn in tiled ground when they can plant soybeans for $300 and away you go.”