News

Drought and downpours mean 2016 corn yields in Ontario vary greatly from county to county

By Debora Van Brenk, The London Free Press

(File photo)

(File photo)

One of the strangest crop years in recent history — a two-month drought followed by several August downpours — has left Southwestern Ontario corn production about 20 bushels an acre short of last year’s crop average.

The big story, though, is how variable the harvest will be: ranging from a low of 32 bushels an acre in some parts of Norfolk County to almost 230 bushels in Elgin County.

“The range is huge. Some areas have had virtually no rainfall in June or July,” said Don Kabbe, general manager of Great Lakes Grain, based in Chatham. The farmers’ co-op’s 16-county crop tour is likely the most extensive in the province.

“I think this year they’re going to see areas in Haldimand and Niagara that will record a zero (corn) yield,” Kabbe said.

Great Lakes Grain said some areas received just 30 per cent of the 30-year average rainfall.

Even within counties, the lows and highs are dramatic: some fields in Norfolk will yield 32 bushels an acre, while others that experienced more rain will harvest at 213, the assessment suggests.

In Southwestern Ontario, Chatham-Kent and the counties of Middlesex and Elgin fared best, the co-op’s assessment found.

Even at that, yields in the better areas are forecast to be lower than last year, including down about 30 bushels an acre in Kent compared with last year and a provincial average of about 20 bushels less than last year’s average of 173 bushels an acre.

Kabbe said the quality of the crop is “pretty average,” with mould issues in some locations.

Corn is grown on about two million acres in Ontario, and the lion’s share of the most productive land is in Southwestern Ontario, where crop production is a big economic driver.

The Great Lakes Grain tour also showed how much soybeans, the region’s other major crop, have suffered from the lack of summer rain, or benefited from the late-summer drenching.

In some areas to the east and north of London, the drought means some soybean fields won’t even be harvested, Kabbe said.

At the other end of the spectrum, some parts of Kent, Middlesex and Elgin counties could be looking at their best or second-best yield in the past decade as rain in August filled out pods just when they most needed moisture.

Great Lakes Grain scouts fields in person and by drone to measure yield in the field. It also has a network of 80 linked weather stations that detail rainfall, temperature and other information.

The full report is available at greatlakesgrain.com

dvanbrenk@postmedia.com

By the numbers

A sampling of 2016 corn yield estimates by county, showing average bushels/acre, with the difference between maximum and minimum yield in brackets.

Elgin: 171 (153)

Essex: 158 (150)

Huron: 158 (113)

Kent: 165 (144)

Lambton: 151 (101)

Middlesex: 164 (79)

Norfolk: 136 (181)

Oxford: 153 (91)

Perth: 160 (67)

Brant: 157 (105)

Ontario: 153 (113)