Appearances can be deceiving in the midst of continued warming temperatures and timely rains for southern Ontario. That was the underlying theme of the bi-weekly meeting of certified crop advisors and provincial ag ministry personnel here Tuesday.
The good news is that corn across much of the region is all but done. Since the last meeting May 1, growers have made a collective push to get the last 30 to 40 per cent of the crop into the ground.
As a testament to cooler temperatures and improved plant breeding, those fields that were planted within the past two weeks have progressed to almost the same stage as those fields planted in mid- to late-April. That led one advisor to note that heat is the key, and that calendar dates play less of a role.
Another advisor stated that one field just north of London was already side-dressing nitrogen. One other report noted that corn planting in Eastern Ontario is now at roughly 50 per cent complete.
If there's a downside to the corn picture, it came from several observations by CCAs that many of the emerging corn fields look "dirty." In the push to get the crop planted, growers opted to skip their herbicide applications, and as one advisor noted, in some fields he's seeing a lot of lamb's-quarters, and he's expecting more in the weeks ahead.
On the soybean side, several advisors cited 90 per cent of planting completed in their particular area while most reports fell into the 60 to 80 per cent range.
Despite the fluctuating temperatures, this year's planting is going well compared to 2011, when some growers were planting their soybeans into late June, with a few planting the first week of July.
Much of the concern expressed during the meeting however, pertained to the status of the wheat crop. As noted at the start of the meeting, the crop looks very good. But OMAFRA cereal specialist Peter Johnson cautioned that from the road, most fields appear healthy and lush.
Once in the field, however, closer examination revealed that only the main stem is at its peak. The tillers are not progressing, and in some fields, he said, there's a lot of brown leaf tissue beside the stem.
As a result, the Ontario crop is unlikely to reach above 100 bushels per acre and of added concern, the poor tillering could shorten the stems, meaning less straw and therefore tightening supplies.
On the plus side, a lot of spray applications were made this past weekend; advisors noted that there were more fields with tire tracks through them after Mother's Day than before, and much of the spraying that was done was likely a herbicide/fungicide tank mix.
In some areas, the crop is a week to two weeks ahead of normal. Some fields in Lambton County are heading out and one field near Harrow in Essex County was sprayed with Prosaro at day 2.
As for other crop news from the meeting, edible bean growers are set to begin planting this week, weather permitting. But again on the downside, forages are going to be in particularly short supply, partly due to the weed situation with dandelion but also because of cold nights affecting growth in the crop. One advisor suggested taking the first cut, then plowing it down and planting silage corn if feed was needed, or even oats or peas.
The worst news of the day came from the horticulture sector, where the frost on March 27-28 devastated Ontario's tree fruit crop, to the tune of 80 to 100 per cent loss. Currently, only the Niagara region is said to have avoided widespread losses.
This actually represents the third consecutive year that there's been frost damage to the fruit and vegetable crops in the province. As for this year's production, dollar estimates are being pegged at $100 million, and that hit is to the growers alone. The effect it will have on farm market sales, agri-tourism, food processing and retail is unknown. In some areas, strawberries also suffered marginal frost damage.
Finally, it was reported that onion and celery crops are all but planted, and potato planting is underway in the Lambton and Norfolk County regions and should begin soon in the Alliston area.
-- Ralph Pearce is a field editor for Country Guide at St. Marys, Ont.
CORRECTION, May 17, 2012: The previous version of paragraph 12 in this article incorrectly stated wheat crops in some areas of Ontario were a month to two months ahead of normal. We regret the error.