Corn takes ‘roller-coaster’ ride in Ontario

Excessive rainfall in June and July caused the variability seen in the province’s corn and soybean crops this year

DRESDEN, Ont. — There’s little certainty of profit for Ontario’s corn growers this year, according to analysts with two of the province’s largest co-operatives.

“I’d say right now it’s a losing proposition (for some),” said Frank Backx, a grain marketer with the Hensall District Co-operative.

“It depends totally on your land cost.”

Don Kabbes, market development manager with Great Lakes Grains, said farmers will harvest close to 2.1 million acres of corn this year, up from 1.8 million acres last year.

Great Lakes, which is the marketing arm of Agris Co-operative and GrowMark, Inc., conducts an annual pre-harvest yield estimate, and Kabbes also scouted crops Aug. 28 from an airplane.

“This year, I think we have roller-coaster corn across the province, and not in a good way,” Kabbes said.

“I think overall Chatham-Kent is the best, the Garden of Eden. If you go to Essex County next door, that’s not the Garden of Eden. Everything else is somewhere in between. There are lots of holes.”

Kabbes had thought the province’s average yield would likely approach 160 bushels per acre before he made his flight, but now he feels he may have been overly optimistic.

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Backx has the same impression.

He said the province will be in an export position if corn averages close to 160 bu., but a net importer of corn over the next year if the average is in the low 150s.

With a harvest of 160 bu., both Kabbes and Backx said the cost of land will determine profitability for many Ontario farmers.

Farmers in the province pay around $300 per acre to rent good land for corn and soybean production. Rental rates can be significantly higher in areas where specialty crops such as processing tomatoes and sugar beets are also grown.

Three million acres of soybeans were planted in Ontario this year, and Backx and Kabbes said estimating soybean yields is far more difficult than corn.

The variability of this year’s corn and soybean crops is related to excessive rainfall in June and July across most of the Ontario. Crops on well-drained, sandy soil are generally doing better.

Corn is also performing well directly above tile drainage, while plants are often shorter between the rows, especially in heavier soil.

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Backx said it’s been a challenge to price corn and soybeans. Some analysts were bullish in early summer, connecting poor cropping conditions to higher prices down the road.

There was a summer rally, but now prices for corn and soybeans have fallen back to previous lows.

Backx said corn prices may make a modest recovery once the North American harvest begins, a repeat of the scenario that played out in 1993. He feels the latest U.S. Department of Agriculture corn and soybeans yield estimates, at 168.8 and 46.9 bushels per acre, respectively, were optimistic.

In some U.S. states, such as Minnesota, farmers are on their way to harvesting 180 bu. crops, he said. In others, including Indiana, Ohio and parts of Iowa, farmers will be lucky to harvest 140 bu.

This year, Ontario farmers harvested 600,000 acres of winter wheat and 130,000 acres of spring wheat.

Winter wheat yields were surprisingly strong, but vomitoxin was a concern in some areas.

Spring wheat yields in the 70 to 80 bu. range were reported, which is one piece of good news in what Kabbes described as a “cool, backwards” kind of year.

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