Big rains put Ontario crops under water

Time is now the factor for submerged crops if they are to remain healthy

A huge rainfall across midwestern Ontario has put fields of crops underwater.

The rain, overnight June 22, totalled four to eight inches in an area from Goderich to east of the Grand River, flooding towns built generations ago along the rivers, forcing cattle to higher ground and leaving growing crops covered in water.

Low points in fields were lakes, creating concerns about crop survivability, disease and loss of nitrogen.

Heavy rains and flooding occur in spring in the area, but it’s rare to have so much rain this far into the cropping season.

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“As long as the plants are healthy, they will make it through 48 hours of water. After five or six days of immersion, there will be significant areas of loss,” says Deb Campbell, an agronomist and owner of Agronomy Advantage, who works for farmers in the area.

In corn that survives the water, there are concerns about disease, including anthracnose, so farmers will need to monitor areas that have been under water.

Eugenia Banks of the Ontario Potato Board reported about 1,000 acres of potatoes have been lost due to flooding, mostly in the Orangeville and Beeton areas.

Ontario has had continuous rainfall for about the past eight weeks, which has created concern with loss of previously-applied nitrogen. Campbell says she and her staff will be doing more nitrate testing to monitor nitrogen levels.

Jonathan Zettler, the Regional Agronomy Lead for Ontario for Cargill, and the agronomist for Cargill’s Harriston site, says he’s not optimistic for corn that continues to be under water into this week and that farmers will have to make farm-by-farm decisions on applying more nitrogen.

The soybean crop should also grow through the water if it is not submerged for a long time. Campbell does have some concerns with the fact that soybeans in her area have had emergence issues and that means already-weakened root systems. Soybeans don’t like saturated soils.

“We are seeing a lot of scar tissue on soybean seedling root systems and it’s a vector for disease to get in,” says Campbell.

Corn and soybeans could yellow until the soils dry out.

The soybean crop in the area was planted into wet soils by many farmers and the crop is struggling, says Zettler. He is most concerned that farmers will be able to get another round of spray on the crop for weed control before the soybeans start flowering, as his area produces a significant amount of food-grade, non-GMO soybeans which need a more complicated weed control protocol. He also says white mould could be a concern in some fields.

The heavy-canopied wheat crop should be fine if it is done grain filling. It stood up well with the rain, likely because the heavy rain wasn’t accompanied by wind.

The crop most-susceptible to the overload of water is white beans. Campbell says they are often planted on 30-inch rows with conventional tillage, so more susceptible to erosion. They also are less resilient than corn, soybeans and wheat.

It was raining again on the Monday following the flood in Harriston, but Zettler says many of the fields have drained. The worst hit areas continue to be swails that were drained for cropping and areas along river and creek banks.

Horses moved to higher ground with their usual fence-line well below water as the Maitland River flooded in northern Huron County.
photo: John Greig

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Field editor

John Greig is a field editor for Glacier FarmMedia.

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