2019 growing conditions were some of the worst on record, says farmers co-op

It's no secret among southwestern Ontario farmers that 2019 was one of the hardest growing seasons in history. 

An especially cold winter made way for an exceptionally wet spring, which gave farmers very little time to plant enough crop for even an average harvest.

Figures released by Great Lakes Grain, a grain marketing partnership between Agris Co-operative and Growmark that touts itself as "cooperatively owned by farmers," now quantify that 2019 was "on record as one of the most unprecedented and challenging environmental conditions for farmers and the entire supply chain industry to manage."

Approximately 85 Great Lakes Grain staff surveyed more than 500 corn and 450 soybean fields between Aug. 26 and Sept. 6. It's part of the 2019 Crop Assessment Tour to provide insight into crop conditions across Ontario.

Great Lakes Grain said corn yields will likely average 164 bushels per acre, while soybean yields will likely average 40.2 bushels per acre. 

In terms of corn production, Great Lakes Grain said population, row number and cob lengths are "quite comparable" to last year.

"However, with cooler weather and the slower rate of crop growth, the length of the grain fill period is questionable," said Great Lakes Grain in a media release.

In contrast, the co-op said soybeans "are a slightly different story," with almost 15 per cent fewer soybean pods than last year. 

"The main concern is a smaller seed size, which combined with lower pod counts, will directly impact on estimated yield," the co-op said. 

Tom Steepe/CBC

Philip Shaw, an agricultural economist and farmer in Dresden, Ont. said he expects a below average crop yield this year. 

"We went through one of the most uneven, worst spring seasons ever and a lot of these soybeans were planted toward Canada Day with low expectations with regard to yield," he said. "Some land didn't get planted at all."

Despite the difficult start to the year, Shaw said the region has experienced "fairly decent weather" since Canada Day. 

"We've needed a home run to get here," he said.

Shaw explained that frost is a legitimate concern as well. 

"We all know that we have to have a long, warm fall to get [corn] to mature and that corn as of now is not very mature," he said. "If you got frost at an inopportune time in October, that corn likely would have quality issues."