Statistics Canada has confirmed what most farmers in Ontario knew this past summer: Hot and droughty conditions drove production of corn and soybeans almost 10 per cent lower than 2015 levels.
StatsCan’s harvest report, released this week, also showed the large wheat crop in Ontario was a record, with a 56 per cent increase in acreage over 2015 and a record high average yield of 90.9 bushels per acre.
The corn crop showed a 7.1 per cent decrease in average yield in 2016 from 2015 to 158.5 bushels per acre. There was some decrease in area harvested for a total decrease in grain corn production of 8.9 per cent to eight million tonnes.
“The drought that went through Ontario in this past year reduced yields in some areas,” said Richard Smibert, president of London Agricultural Commodities. “Other areas that had timely rain had record crop harvests.”
Ontario’s reduction in corn production also drove a national decline of 2.7 per cent in corn output. Nationally, however, average yield was above the five-year average.
Ontario’s average bushels per acre for corn were about on par with what the trade was expecting.
Don Kabbes, general manager of Great Lakes Grain, said the company estimated 153 bushels per acre from their summer crop tour. Great Lakes Grain is the grain marketing arm for the AGRIS and FS co-operatives.
“At the Outdoor Farm Show some people thought we were on the higher side, but the thought is that what we gained is in test weight.”
The drop in yield will mean more corn will need to be imported into Ontario, maintaining the current import basis.
“It was just too hot and too dry for a portion of the summer, especially through pollination. It was too droughty,” said Kabbes. “You can find lots of pockets where corn was almost zero.”
StatsCan’s previous report in September had predicted a 165-bushel-per-acre harvest in Ontario.
“Leading up to the release of this final harvest report, the trade seemed to have priced in a slight decrease in yield versus both last year’s crop and September’s 165 bushel per acre estimate – which the trade considered slightly aggressive,” said Jenny Van Rooy, grain broker and part owner of The Westland Corp.
“In the days and weeks leading up to harvest we didn’t see much fluctuation in local basis due to this fact.”
Corn quality is also a concern, with pockets of high vomitoxin levels throughout the province. Some corn is being rejected, some discounted and some farm elevators are blending corn to get it to an acceptable level, Smibert said.
“It’s a problem for commercial ethanol plants, it’s a problem for feed mills, it’s a problem for everybody,” he said.
“The big story continues to be vomitoxin,” VanRooy said. “This is something the trade did not fully price in for, and is creating an opportunity for growers with low vomitoxin levels in their corn.”
Soybean production was also down, 9.5 per cent lower than in 2015.
The drought didn’t hit soybeans as hard as corn, with average yield down 1.9 per cent compared with 2015. Acres of soybeans harvested fell 7.8 per cent, to 2.7 million.
“Beans at 45.9-ish… that’s pretty close,” said Kabbes. “Our crop tour was 47.6. Beans could be a bushel on the lower side. Beans in the south west part of the province just rolled in.”
Manitoba continued to expand its soybean space, adding 27.2 per cent higher production in 2016 over 2015, with growth in both acreage and yield.
Ontario wheat numbers for 2016 are skewed due to the extremely low harvest in 2015 from the wet fall in 2014, which meant half the usual acres were seeded.
However, the average yield of 90.9 bushels per acre of wheat is a record, thanks to the open spring with timely rains.
“It was a great wheat crop, with great quality and record yields,” said Smibert.
More wheat will be used for feed in Ontario over the next year, he said, due to the lower-volume and -quality corn crop.
— John Greig is a field editor for Glacier FarmMedia based at Ailsa Craig, Ont. Follow him at @jgreig on Twitter.