Pearce: Rains drench S. Ont. ahead of soy harvest

The totals are in, the maps have been drawn, and they confirm what many farmers and residents across north Middlesex and much of Perth counties already suspected: it rained, a lot, on Friday (Sept. 20).

How the deluge will ultimately affect growers about to harvest soybeans remains to be seen, but the intensity with which rains fell was truly awesome.

By the numbers, stations northwest and northeast of London recorded the highest totals across the province. According to Weather INnovations (WIN), the weather station at Ilderton reported rainfall totals of 136.4 mm (5.4 inches) from Friday evening through much of Saturday morning. St. Marys recorded 123 mm, Tavistock 112.4 mm and Listowel 100.8 mm. More than 30 other stations reported rainfall amounts of 70 to 99 mm.

As the rain began to subside Saturday morning, many concession roads and secondary highways northwest of London were barricaded to keep traffic to a minimum, as water from many low-lying fields ran across many of the roads in the area. But most of those closures were gone later that day.

The rains also forced the closure of the International Plowing Match for its final day. The IMP celebrated its 100th anniversary with the annual event held near Mitchell.

Despite such high rainfall amounts, the impact on the pending soybean harvest remains to be seen, as some growers in Essex County have been hard at it already (with anecdotal reports citing higher-than-expected yields).

Generally speaking, it’s believed the rains will delay growers for only a few days, depending on their location and the amount of rainfall. Although there might be some concerns about rutting or compacting wet soils, many soybean fields across southern Ontario are ready for harvest.

“It was dry enough ahead of time, because at the beginning of September, we had that rain and it was quickly absorbed,” said Karla Jackson of Weather INnovations, based near Chatham. “Places like Woodstock really needed it, so a lot of it was absorbed, but at the same time, we won’t know what kind of damage it caused until we start harvesting.”

WIN now has a very informative series of YouTube videos, comparing precipitation levels in 2012 to those of 2013. Part 1 summarizes totals from different points of the growing season in 2012, Part 2 provides the same summary of 2013 and Part 3 provides a side-by-side comparison of the two years.

As an overall snapshot of the April 1-to-Aug. 31 (153-day) growing season, 2012 was generally regarded as slightly dry (80 to 100 per cent of normal levels) to moderately dry across most of the province. By comparison, the same period in 2013 was excessively wet (100 to 120 per cent and higher in some regions). But the three video segments provide far greater detail on both years.

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

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