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Great Lakes Grain tour calls for big soy and corn yields

Earlier planting and heat and rain when needed have boosted potential harvest

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[UPDATED: Sept. 22, 2020] The results of the Great Lakes Grain Yield Tour say that Ontario could have record soybean yields.

The 11th edition of the tour, which looks at crops from Windsor to the Ottawa Valley, assesses corn and soybean yield and gives individual farmers report cards on their projected yields.

This year the tour visited 538 corn fields and 421 soybeans fields.

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*Great Lakes Grain is calling for an average yield of 58.3 bushels per acre on soybeans, which would be an Ontario record.

“It feels like soybeans have had a pretty good run this year,” says Don Kabbes, general manager of Great Lakes Grain. “We’ve had the moisture in August and pretty good August rains, which seems to make soybeans.”

Why it matters: Yield estimates help farmers plan and the trade get ready for the coming harvest.

The tour evaluators have used 2.4 soybeans per pod as its average number in its calculations for 10 years, says Kabbes, but this year they’ve moved that up to 2.6 soybeans per pod, with more pods per plant and then more plants in a row. He says bean size will be larger than usual as well.

“Even though we are estimating a stellar soybean yield with the incidences of root rots and nutritional issues, it just means there is even is more yield being left unrealized in your fields,” says Dale Cowan, agronomy strategy manager and senior agronomist at AGRIS and Wanstead Co-operatives.

Planting date a factor

There are several other factors that have helped to make soybeans and corn grow well in 2020.

Average planting date was a month earlier than the wet spring of 2019. Corn heat unit accumulation in southwestern Ontario as of Sept. 5 was six full days ahead of a year ago and four days ahead of the 30-year trend.

Black layer for corn will be at the end of September or early October. In 2019, the challenge was to get corn to maturity without having to incur high drying costs. It doesn’t look like maturity will be a problem in 2020.

“The corn crop overall looks very decent and we’re calling that overall an average of 186 bushels per acre, so that is a big number as well,” says Kabbes.

Last year at this time 22 per cent of the corn was in dent stage, versus this year at 54 per cent.

There were corn planting challenges this year, with a cold snap in May that knocked back corn population, says Kabbes.

Deeper-planted corn — more than two inches — was challenged to get out of the ground this year, says the Great Lake Grains tour report, although it also emphasizes that shallow seeding corn “never pays”.

Plant health continues to improve, says Kabbes, as farmers put to use tools such as fungicides that protect both corn and soybeans and make higher yield possible.

Higher yields could mean better farm income

“I think farmers have to look at what their gross revenue per acre is going to be. We’ve had a nice little bump in soybeans (price) this last three weeks. That has gotten soybeans over the $12 mark. That has given growers an opportunity to sell more beans and they have more beans to sell,” says Kabbes. “It’s a good problem to have.”

Corn is still struggling to recover from the “demand destruction” that occurred earlier in the year as the COVID-19 pandemic limited demand for fuels, including corn-based ethanol. But add in higher yields and revenue per acre could be as high as last year, says Kabbes.

The Ontario elevator system should be able to handle a large volume of corn and soybeans, he added. There were more wheat acres in 2020 and they have already moved through the system, and there have been a lot of new bins put up in the countryside, says Kabbes.

“It depends how fast and furious the crop comes off.”

*(Update: Great Lakes Grain is calling for an average yield of 58.3 bushels per acre on soybeans, not the 158.3 bushels as previously stated. We regret the error.)

About the author


John Greig

John Greig has spent his career in agriculture journalism and communications. He lives on a farm near Ailsa Craig, Ontario. Contact John at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @jgreig



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