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Harvest on hold… until spring?

Corn Field in February

We’ve heard a lot about the wet conditions that have held up harvest in much of Ontario this year. The rain continues to fall as temperatures dip through the end of October, and some Ontario corn farmers are starting to consider a unique solution: leaving the corn in the field until the weather gets warmer in Spring.

In many late-planted fields there just hasn’t been enough warm weather for the crop to mature. Peter Johnson, a crop specialist with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs says: “If you try to combine that now it would break up badly”, referring to immature corn fields with a moisture content still much too high.

Leaving corn in the fields is a risky prospect: too much snow can bury and damage the crop. Corn, like winter wheat, can survive the cold weather, provided it doesn’t suffer too much snow or ice damage. Still, it’s a rare practice: according to the London Free Press, farmers in the London area last harvested corn in the spring in 1992.

Farmers who don’t want to wait can try harvesting now, but drying after harvest can be very expensive, especially when the crop’s moisture content is as high as it will likely be for most in an extreme case like this year. There’s still time for farmers to get their crops off if the weather is favourable in the next few weeks, but it’s increasingly likely that we’ll be driving by fields full of corn this winter.