OMAFRA Report: 2020 exceptional year for many soybean growers

A weekly report prepared by the staff of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA).  If you require further information, regarding this report, call the Elora Resource Centre at 519-846-0941.  Office hours: 8:30am to 4:30pm.For technical information call the Agricultural Information Contact Centre at 1-877-424-1300 or visit the OMAFRA website:

January 22, 2021


2020 was an exceptional year for many Ontario soybean growers. Although not all regions had good yields, much of the province harvested outstanding soybeans. The overall provincial average will likely be a record in 2020. In several cases growers were able to achieve over 80 bu/ac. With 65% of insured growers having reported to date, the provincial average presently sits at 53 bu/ac. The 10-year average for those reported acres is 47 bu/ac. The previous highest yield was in 2018 at 51.4 bu/ac. What also made 2020 exceptional is the high prices that materialized this fall. It’s not often that both high yields and high prices occur at the same time. For those that were able to harvest a good crop and sell at excellent prices, 2020 will be remembered as one of the most profitable soybean growing seasons to date.

Although much of June and July was very dry, for those that received rain in August these dry conditions actually helped the soybean crop. Early season dry conditions drive roots deeper and minimizes diseases that prefer moist conditions, such as pythium and white mould. These deeper roots are then able to pick up more nutrients when the plant needs them the most, in August. Good root development, low disease pressure, rain in August and high solar radiation levels (sunlight) all worked together to achieve good yields in 2020. For those that missed August showers, yields were below average. An open fall meant that most soybeans were harvested early enough for timely winter wheat seeding.

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In March 2020 Statistics Canada estimated Ontario farmers intended to plant 2.3 million acres of grain corn, 10% higher than the 5-year average seeded acres of 2.1 million acres (2015-2019) (OMAFRA Crop Statistics).

Spring 2020 provided a great start to planting. April remained cold but sun and dry weather provided an extended period of excellent soil conditions.

A very small amount of planting was reported as early as the first half of April but planting did not start in earnest on lighter soils until just prior to the last weekend of April (April 25/26).

By the first week of May (May 3) planting was well underway in most areas, ranging from just starting on heavier soils to nearing completion on some lighter and better drained soils. General estimates were well over 50% of Ontario corn acreage was planted by the end of this week.

Weather conditions changed approaching mid-May with a forecast calling for significantly colder temperatures and rain or snow.

When to stop planting ahead of this forecast was a main point of conversation. Traditional wisdom suggests stopping planting 48 hours prior to cold soaking rain or snow to reduce seed vigour risks associated with a corn seed’s initial imbibition of cold water.

At Elora, from May 4 to May 13, there were nine days with low temperatures below freezing. Rain or snow was received in many areas from Friday, May 8 to Monday, May 11.

By the third week of May (May 17) planting was largely complete except for heavier textured soils and some sandy areas where some growers delayed planting to avoid potential for cold temperature complications.

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