Ontario gets rain, but damage done

For most areas, it was the driest year since 1988

DRESDEN, Ont. — Southern Ontario’s drought broke in mid-August with widespread rain, but it was too late for the corn crop.

“It looks like an average or below average crop for most of the guys. Now we’re seeing disease and pest issues with things like the western bean cutworm and corn smut,” said Moe Agostino, chief commodity strategist with Farms.com Risk Management Inc.

“The beans are looking a bit better. Some are not as mature as they should be. With the rain we’ve just had, they do have more potential, but it’s too late for the corn.”

Agostino, who is leading Farm.com’s 2016 Great Ontario Yield Tour, also visited major growing areas in the United States. He said the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s recent forecast for bumper corn yields of 175 bushels and close to 50 bu. soybeans may be overly optimistic.

“I don’t think the market believes them,” Agostino said.

Low pressure systems have regularly crossed Ontario this summer, but none brought more than scattered showers until Aug. 13-16.

Marcel Roelandt, who farms near Tilbury, said no measurable rain fell from mid-June until Aug.16, when 30 millimetres fell.

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A half hour away, Lloyd Dunlop was more fortunate with a few light showers arriving in a timely fashion. He was pleased with his sweet banana pepper yield and has hopes for a good processing tomato harvest.

Dunlop’s corn has suffered, but the Dresden-area farmer is taking the situation in stride.

“The good Lord looks after us. The more you make the more you spend, so what’s the difference?”

The hit-and-miss scenario has been playing out throughout southern Ontario.

Agostino said some of the corn fields in the Haldimand area are all but a write-off.

It’s the driest year in most of the province since 1988.

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Geoff Coulson, a meteorologist with Environment Canada, said much of the province has received 40 to 50 percent of the long-term average rainfall and some areas even less.

“We have had the fronts going through this summer, but the precipitation coming out of them has been spotty,” he said.

A broad sweep of farmland east of Toronto to Kingston along Lake Ontario’s north shore has been especially dry. There’s also been drought in Haldimand-Norfolk, Niagara, Elgin and south of Georgian Bay and in smaller pockets throughout the province.

Pat Cherneski, manager of Agriculture Canada’s National Agroclimate Information Service, said climate change may be part of the picture.

“I don’t think it’s going out on a limb to say that,” Cherneski said.

“In the last few years, there has been more extreme weather events. The complexity is increasing.… The overall global climate is changing, and there are impacts from that.”

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One crop that did do well in Ontario was winter wheat with many farmers recording yields of more than 100 bu. per acre. In recent years, the average wheat yield in the province has been close to 80 bu.