Pearce: Ont. corn estimated a week behind schedule

Corn production, generally, has seen a slight drop-off in terms of expected yields and performance in the field. Monthly estimates from USDA have been downgraded by an almost two-bushel per acre drop in the past week.

But in Ontario, growers are concerned with the effects of higher-than-normal rainfall and a relatively sharp drop in temperatures in the past three weeks. That has provincial corn specialist Greg Stewart in Guelph estimating the corn crop across most of Ontario has, in fact, fallen behind.

“I would say that corn’s about a week behind, development-wise,” Stewart said Tuesday during a workshop of the Innovative Farmers’ Association of Ontario near Brantford.

Stewart noted that on July 25, he was like a lot of farmers: happy to see the corn tasselling the way it did. Heat units were on a par — almost in keeping with the 30-year average. But pollination has dragged on for a longer period of time than Stewart said he’d like to see.

Pollination usually lasts roughly 12 days, and he’d have expected the process by Tuesday to be complete and most of the corn crop in the province at or near full blister.

“But pollination hasn’t been completed,” said Stewart. “There’s been a lot of unevenness, some denitrification and there’s been a little too much rain in spots.”

He’s also fielded some questions about vomitoxin in corn. There has been some in wheat this year, yet Stewart conceded it’s hard to say whether it’s a foregone conclusion that it’ll appear in corn. Recent foggy mornings could be a sign of things to come.

“I think we’re setting ourselves up for some vomitoxin in corn, this year,” he said. “I’m just not sure when.”

Companies and breeders

Last year, the effects of drought had many people — farmers and seed company representatives alike — suggesting companies and their plant breeders had done an excellent job, selecting durable genetics and incorporating them into corn hybrids and soybean varieties. If corn could yield somewhere north of 150 bushels per acre, then imagine what it could do with a little bit of timely moisture.

Well, that was 2012, and this is 2013. And on July 10 this year, crops and fields across southern Ontario suffered the effects of severe thunderstorms, complete with driving winds and large hail in some locales.

Corn and soybean fields in the Hensall area north of London were reportedly stripped bare by hail, while fields near Embro, in Oxford County, were windblown with many corn plants lodging. One field in particular appeared to have been laid waste by the fierce winds.

But in what could be attributed as a testament to the seed companies and their plant breeders, that same field on Tuesday appeared as though nothing had ever been wrong with those plants (see photos).

That certainly says something about progress within the plant breeding sector.

— Ralph Pearce is a field editor for Country Guide at St. Marys, Ont.

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