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Ontario cash crops running out of time

A string of bad weather luck for Ontario cash crop farmers — one that started last fall, when rainier-than-usual skies lead to an outbreak of mould-causing deoxynivalenol, or DON — has produced a margin of error tighter than ever heading into a now-crucial stretch of August.
 
In the spring the story was too much rain, which pushed the planting season into June. Farmers in Lambton County were especially hard-hit. Two months later it’s the exact opposite, each rainfall offset by bright, hot weather preventing patches of corn and soybean crops across Southwestern Ontario from rebounding.
 
“We’re not critical yet — we had half an inch of rain last week — but we do need rain now,” Keith Black, a North Huron farmer, said. “We’re going to need a nice fall. If we get a September frost it will be a disaster.”
 
“It’s a really bizarre year. There’s some pockets that still look like they’re not going to be too bad, but there are other pockets that still look really, really rough. And they felt rough all spring,” Mark Huston, a Chatham-area farmer, said. “I can’t be displeased with where (my) crops are right now, but you don’t want to count your chickens before they’re hatched, right?”
 
Most farmers are “just trying to string their crops along,” Huston added. That, too, has proved difficult for some. When crops are planted later in the season they usually require more precipitation to mature — and summer 2019 has been remarkably dry, making August an important stretch for many Southwestern Ontario cash croppers.
 
“It could be some of the worst we’ve had in decades,” said Frank Backx, a grain merchant with Hensall Co-op.
 
It’s a far cry from the optimism of last summer, when all signs pointed to a possibly record-setting bumper crop for Ontario farmers. Those high yields were offset by widespread mould in corn, decreasing its worth across the board and prompting calls for government assistance.
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