Pearce: Ontario crop conditions a tale of two scenarios

A close-up of emerging corn seedlings north of London, Ont. on May 24, 2016. (Ralph Pearce photo)

When it comes to getting a handle on current crop conditions in Ontario, it really depends on who you ask.

Conditions and progress in the southern portion of the province vary — some considerably — compared to those in eastern Ontario, particularly where it comes to planting corn and soybeans. If there’s one common theme for both areas, it’s that most growers would like to see some rain in the coming week.

Across much of southern Ontario, the winter wheat crop is the outstanding story at this point of the season, with lush growth and a healthy overall grading from advisers, extension personnel and retailers. Based on figures from Agricorp, it’s estimated that growers managed to plant about one million acres of winter wheat in 2015 (800,000 acres insured, with an assumed 200,000 uninsured).

Of course, appearances can be deceiving with winter wheat; the “windshield survey” often hides problems deeper in the canopy, from phosphorus or sulphur deficiencies to drainage issues.

“But we’re really nitpicking and trying to find faults because the wheat crop does look terrific,” said Alan McCallum, an independent certified crop adviser from Iona Station, southwest of London. Most of the wheat he’s seen hasn’t grown too tall, he said, likely due to the cooler spring temperatures in the south thus far.

“In a lot of cases, it’s reaching the flag-leaf stage, and it’s a pretty good-looking crop — the disease pressure is pretty low.”

As for corn and soybean planting, the cool start to the spring has delayed that task so far this season.

“In my immediate area, there’s still a decent percentage of corn yet to be planted,” McCallum said. “The clay soils were still pretty tacky down at two and three inches, and there are pockets around the region that still have a ways to go on corn planting.”

A few soybean fields planted earlier in May were germinating following sufficient rains late during the week of May 9 and early the following week.

Eastern Ontario

In the east, the conditions are almost reversed. By the end of last week, corn planting was expected to be all but complete, with soybeans at roughly 70 to 75 per cent finished before the holiday weekend. It’s been a fast start, but some concerns that come with those ideal conditions, said Paul Hermans.

“The two-week forecast is dry, with hardly anything here,” said Hermans, DuPont Pioneer’s agronomist for eastern Ontario and the Maritimes. “My only concern right now is that conditions are so dry, and I hope the growers that did this last bit of planting got their seed into moisture.”

He’s also interested in watching earlier-planted fields for any signs of delayed emergence or damage caused by last week’s cold snaps across much of the province.

— Ralph Pearce is a field editor for Country Guide at St. Marys, Ont. Follow him at @arpee_AG on Twitter.

ontario wheat
(Dave Bedard photo)

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