Kevin Marriott was out in his tractor Tuesday but even on the warm sunny day the Enniskillen farmer wasn’t planting his crop yet.
Rain was on the way and Marriott says planting before a rain is not a great idea. Waiting on the weather is normal for farmers, says Marriott, but waiting on the weather in June is “frustrating.”
“We’re getting so close, it would be nice to be able to get going.”
Marriott is not alone. While about 70 per cent of the corn crop is planted in the former Euphemia Township near Bothwell, most Lambton County farmers and many in the rest of Ontario have very little of the 2019 crop in the ground and little patience left.
The rain has been constant. There was 111.5 mm of rain in April, well over 100 mm in May and there has already been 20 mm in June. That’s about double of the normal rainfall, says Marriott. But this year, says Keith Currie, the president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, the cold and the constant cloud cover contribute to the problem. The average maximum temperature in April was 11.6 C, 16 C in May and 17.2 in June. That, Currie says, leads to more problems.
“It is fairly similar across the board…there are pockets across the province which have been able to get some of the crop in but it is very slow going not only because it has been wet. It has also been cold…when the soil temperature is cold, it is not conducive to growth,” says Currie.
Currie says as the calendar flipped to June, many people started thinking about whether they should change their minds about planting corn. Some experts say in this region to have the best yield, corn should be planted no later than June 15.
Currie says farmers can choose to grow different varieties of corn, depending on what they use it for, but with the shorter growing season, there are concerns the amount of crop coming off will be less than last year.
“There are many people intending to plant corn that are going to be changing their mind and planting soybeans. The struggle with soybeans right now is because of geopolitics, prices are soft.” China is one of Canada’s biggest markets for soybeans and trade with the company has been rocky since the arrest of a top executive from China who is to extradited to the US. “Putting soybeans in the ground now is not going to guarantee you a better yield per acre.”
All this puts a lot of stress on farmers, says Currie. Normally spring is already stressful as farmers push to plant in a short time frame. Being kept off the tractor because of the weather does make things worse. And it is affecting people’s mental health.
“It is stressful but there is not much we can do right now. At the OFA we do get calls on a regular basis – staff try to walk them through their problems and give them names of people to call to help…but sometimes, the people need someone on the end of the phone just to vent.
And we certainly encourage people to seek the proper medical help as well.”
Marriott says while farmers do reach out to professionals for help, they also talk to each other. A local seed dealer who has coffee on for his customers each day told Marriott the daily sessions have become “like therapy” for farmers “because they’re getting so down.
“The pressures are so great because of the economic part of it with high land prices…40 years ago, people had debt but it wasn’t hinged on as much as it is today. People are feeling the pressure.”