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  Crops flourish, prices languish
By Nelson Zandbergen - AgriNews Staff Writer

CHESTERVILLE -- Spurred by this year's heat and moisture, the crop picture in Eastern Ontario continues to look very favourable.

Corn is "about a week ahead and developing well," says Gilles Quesnel, a crop specialist and integrated pest management program lead with OMAFRA's Kemptville office.

That's in spite of some "unevenness" in many of the fields because of too much moisture at times. "We have some areas with maybe an excess of rain. And it's hard to find a field that doesn't have a low spot that was stunted," says Quesnel.

The weather conditions have led to impressive canopy development in this year's soybean crop. The flipside to this moisture-laden growth is that white mould is waiting in the wings. Quesnel says mould is already showing up in some bean fields, though it's still too early to predict the impact on yields.

"It will depend on what growing conditions are like through the rest of August. If it's dry, it's likely to be limited."

He also advises growers to watch out for soybean aphids. Most fields already have them at low levels, he says, but "numbers are slowly climbing."

Lately, he's noticed the critters moving lower within the canopy to escape the summer heat. As a result, farmers must be sure to examine the entire plant, right down to the bottom, when assessing their aphid population.

Also look out for dwarf aphids, which stay white in colour but still need to be counted in the overall total, he advises.

Harvesting of cereal crops was already under way when Quesnel spoke to the AgriNews Aug. 3.

He estimates that Eastern Ontario planted 15 to 20 per cent more cereal crops in 2006, and "good average yields" appear to be the norm this year -- thanks to a lack of extended heat waves earlier in the season. And while the moisture has prompted some fusarium development, "right now it looks like many fields could still make milling grade," he predicts.

And as it approaches the third cut, Eastern Ontario has plentiful hay in the field this year. Part and parcel with the bargain, as usual, is the challenge posed by frequent -- or inopportune -- showers.

"Only a few farmers have managed to make a few quality dry bales this year. Even making haylage hasn't been easy."

The caveat to all of this abundance, of course, is weak commodity prices.

During a July 31 tour at Oak Valley Farms near Inkerman, grower Norm Tinkler says he's forward-contracted his 320 acres of corn at a $126 tonne, which he finds tolerable for this year.

But Tinkler's holding off on selling his 170 acres of beans -- a rich, green stand that looks as if it's exploding from the soil along the South Nation River. Despite the gamble, he's not optimistic about a turnaround in bean prices.

"I don't think beans are going to be moving," the Pride Seeds dealer and dairyman, who farms with his son, exclaims somewhat ruefully.

Just returned from a week-long company trip to Indiana and Illinois, the beans in the American midwest were looking very good, he says.

But prices are not uppermost in the mind while perusing the impressive crops at the Tinkler family farm on a warm summer evening. A 36-acre stand of silage corn appears to tower more than 10-feet in height, and those soybeans easily reach up to Tinkler's waist.

Getting the crops in early this year was key to taking advantage of the subsequent gangbuster growing conditions, he says. In addition to having robust growth, the crops appear to be disease and pest-free, he adds.

Last year, Tinkler says he enjoyed record yields -- 183 bushels per acre in corn 47 bushels in soybeans. He suggests this year could be comparable.

"I'd say we live in God's country in this little valley here."



Eastern Ontario AgriNews is published on the third Monday of each month. The printed version is distributed free by postal mail to farms in Eastern Ontario, Canada.

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