flood damage in corn and wet fields

Wet fields create big dilemma for farmers

After a deluge of rain last week, London-area farmers are anxious to get their corn planted.

But an agronomist is advising them to wait until their fields have dried out.

“Farmers will have to have some patience this week,” said Peter Johnson, an agronomist with Real Agriculture.

Earlier planting increases chances of a good harvest but planting on soil that is too wet risks soil compaction that can stifle root growth, he said.

Johnson said there was a wide variation of rainfall across the region last week ranging from a low of about 30 mm around Bayfield to more than 100 mm in some areas.

About 20 per cent of the corn crop was planted in Essex-Kent prior to the rain but almost none in the London area, and Johnson said the rain brought planting to a standstill.

Corn planting is falling behind the long-term average but farmers will have to carefully gauge whether their fields have dried out enough for planting, he said.

“This is where the science of farming meets the art of farming. It’s a judgment call.”

The winter wheat crop was in excellent shape prior to the rain.

The wheat crop may have had a setback due to excessive moisture, especially in ponded areas, but it’s too soon to gauge, Johnson said.

Soybeans that can be planted later will have to wait until the fields are in better shape, he said.

“The best place for soybean seed right now is in the bag.”

Just in time for this year’s crop, farmers in a wide area southwest of London, including Essex, Chatham-Kent, Lambton, west Elgin and west Middlesex now have a new tool to plan for rain and other weather conditions.

The AGGrower Daily Dashboard system uses 80 automated weather stations spaced about 10 kilometres apart to deliver weather information in real time that farmers can access on a smartphone or other mobile device.

“We can get a more detailed estimation of what’s happening right down to the field level,” said Dale Cowan, project leader for Daily Dashboard.

The weather information, including precipitation, temperature, wind speed and humidity, is crucial in decisions on planting, herbicide applications, fertilizing and harvesting, he said.

“When you have information in the growth stage you can do some real-time decision making.”

Farmers using the system have to pay an annual fee of $250.

The Daily Dashboard is run by a partnership of the Agris Co-operative, the Wanstead Farmers Co-operative and the Haggerty Creek agribusiness. The weather stations are partially funded by the federal-provincial Growing Forward 2 agriculture program.

Source: Written by Hank Daniszewski, The London Free Press