By Owen Roberts
Record warm temperatures and a March like none on record have Ontario farmers eying early planting.
A normal high temperature for this time of year in the Toronto region is 6 C. By comparison, this week officials were looking at a possible record 26 C by Thursday, the warmest day ever for the month since record keeping began in 1937.
Horst Bohner, soybean specialist for the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, predicted some spring cereals would be planted at the end of the week if the weather stayed dry. Forages and grasses will also be planted as soon as possible, he said, and some peas and sugar beets are already in.
“With the warm weather, farmers are thinking about planting,” he says.
However, adds Bohner, the province’s main cash crops, corn and soybeans, should not be planted in March, regardless of weather conditions that are making Ontario’s spring flowers and shrubbery bloom weeks ahead of normal.
“There will be just a few acres planted to test equipment but no one should start planting significant acres of corn until mid-April,” he says. “Even if the weather stays warm over the next couple of weeks I don’t know anyone that is comfortable planting significant acres of corn before the middle of April.”
Bohner says soybeans can be planted as early as April 20 in the southwest, but there is no yield advantage to planting too early. He recommends the bulk of soybean planting occur between May 1 and 10 to achieve maximum yields.
Thamesville-area cash crop and livestock farmer Mark Huston concurs. Huston, vice-chair of the Grain Farmers of Ontario, says while the incredible weather has farmers looking to their fields, it’s still too early to think about planting corn or soybeans.
“As we get closer to the middle of April, we will be heading to the fields if the weather and conditions allow us,” he says. “On our farm some areas are dry, but mostly the ground is still quite saturated with moisture.”