Great Lakes Grain tour: Soys could hit record 54 bushels

The crop assessment tour predicts corn will be 183 bushels per acre

Great Lakes Grain is calling for record soybean yields in Ontario after its ninth annual crop assessment tour.

Teams made up of 85 staff from Great Lakes Grain, AGRIS Co-operative and FS Partners visited more than 500 corn and 450 soybean fields across southern and central Ontario from Sept. 4 to Sept. 7. They have estimated a provincial soybean yield of 54 bushels per acre and corn yields at 183 bushels per acre.

Why it matters: On-the-ground systemic crop yield estimates provide one of the most reliable counts of just what is growing in fields.

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“I think we’ve had great late summer rains. Our pod counts are the highest we’ve had in the last five years,” said Don Kabbes, general manager of Great Lakes Grain. The average pod count on a thousandth of an acre is 460 this year, whereas other years it rarely gets to 400, he said. That means there are more soybeans on the top cluster of the plants. The number of beans per pod also appears to be higher this year.

“With the dry season at the start, soybeans put down good root systems, and as the year went on they were capitalizing, it shows that soybeans don’t need a whole lot of rain. But then they do need the good moisture in August. I think that’s really driving it.”

The downside of all that moisture is some sudden death syndrome in southern counties.

Corn, on the other hand, looks good as well, with a half inch more cob fill on cobs this year than the average of other years. Test weight is also looking good and plant populations are higher.

“Farmers are doing a better and better and better job every year of growing corn, high populations, managing fertilization and their fungicides and insects. That’s adding to the corn yield as well.”

There may not be as many high-end corn yield numbers, said the report on the tour, but there also don’t appear to be many low-end yield fields either, meaning the average should be decent.

The corn fields are well ahead of where they were last year, said Devin Homick, grain origination coach with Great Lakes Grain during a visit to a field near Thamesford on Sept. 6 that had corn that was dented.

In fact, 95 per cent of the fields on the tour were dented, compared to 44 per cent last year, when farmers were still hoping for another 750 heat units in September to get the corn crop to maturity. That’s not an issue at all this summer.

The corn crop still has its issues. There were nitrogen deficiencies identified in 28 per cent of fields and in some fields, gaps in the plant stand.

Also, tour participants also saw normal silk channel infections on 18 per cent of the fields, especially on hybrids with an upright cob orientation and tight husks. Fields showing infection before black layer need to be harvested first. The longer it stays in the field, the worse the infection will become, the report said.

What’s driving soybean yields?

Soybean yields are also being driven by row spacing, with seven-inch spacing out-yielding wider row spacing by as much as five bushels per acre. Fields that were planted in narrower rows canopied earlier this year, the report said, meaning the plants in those fields could take advantage of sunlight earlier.

The crop scouts found low incidence of Western bean cutworm, but where it was present, there was significant damage that was likely to lead to Gibberella ear rots and the DON toxin it produces.

Record beans and lots of corn will mean challenges for farmers making storage decisions. More soybeans will need to be moved out of the province at harvest, said Kabbes, but with soybeans stuck at low prices due to Chinese tariffs on American soybeans and lots of supply, some farmers may elect to sell more corn and store soybeans waiting for better prices. With the advanced maturity of both crops, it is expected both corn and soybeans will be ready to harvest at the same time.

About the author


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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