EASTERN ONTARIO ó Despite late plantings, the regionís corn and soybean fields appear poised to deliver high-quality crops of at least average yield, according to OMAFRA field crops specialist Gilles Quesnel, integrated pest management program lead.
Unlike last year, Quesnel says growing conditions in Eastern Ontario have been highly variable in 2011, making it extra problematic to speak in generalities about the overall cropping situation.
That caveat aside, Quesnel remarked, "Itís looking a lot better now than it did at the end of May."
The sunny, dry weather in July accelerated the crop maturation process and helped the corn and beans nearly to almost catch up to an average schedule by the end of September, according to Quesnel, who estimated those crops were only about a week behind, overall, when he spoke to the AgriNews on Sept. 29.
Earlier indications with the corn silage crop ó now harvested in full ó pointed to positive trends in the field for this fallís grain corn and soybeans, he said. Quantity was down "but quality was good," he said of the silage.
The soybean harvest, already at least a week behind schedule, had just begun barely when rain put a halt to things in the final week of September. However, "most of the growers have been pleasantly surprised" with the beans they managed to get off, he reported. "Theyíre pointing to above-average yields."
He said he received secondhand reports of 60 bushels per acre as combines rolled into the first few fields of Eastern Ontario soybeans. "And thatís really good."
Soybean producers were "holding off a bit" on harvest to make up for later planting and uneven emergence. "But the crop is generally standing well. It wonít break records, but itíll be a good solid average."
At his South Dundas farm, cash cropper Beat Schraner said he had already taken off about 200 acres of his soybean crop. With a contractorís combine working its way across another 55-acre field, trailing a plume of dust, Schraner observed that the crop looked good, but not quite as good as last year.
Quesnel said it would be hard to beat the bumper crop year of 2010 and the bounty that descended in a remarkably uniform manner across the entire region.
He said that almost all of the grain corn appeared to be past the stage of risking any yield loss should a killing frost arrive ó†an event yet to happen by the beginning of October, though there were some mild touches of frost in places.
"The corn, given the planting date, is a lot more mature than the growers expected it to be."
On average, the corn crop is still about 200 heat units ahead of the 30-year average, he said.
Again, the weather in July pushed the maturation process forward but at the price of "chipping off a few bushels of yield," he said, acknowledging the outcome wonít be known for certain until the harvest proceeds later in October and November. "Bushel weight looks like itís going to be decent."
He added that the corn crop so far appears to be in very good condition, with very little pink mold on the ears. And assuming wet foggy conditions donít roll in, the corn "should hold its quality," he said.
Quesnel also said that, on average, it wasnít a bad year for making hay, although the supply may be a little tighter ó†though not disastrously so.
The alfalfa fields got off to a good start, surviving the winter with no more than a 20 per cent kill rate ó slightly better than average, according to Quesnel. And while dry weather may have prompted some hay growers to roll their second cuts into their third cuts, most farmers are not experiencing an actual shortage of hay, he suggested. The tighter quantity of hay on the market has driven up the price of hay, he said, also connecting the increase to overall strong prices for alternative feeds, including silage. As well, the especially high-quality hay produced this year tends to be consumed more quickly by the cattle that eat it, he said, contributing to less abundant hay.