Winter Wheat Planting in Ontario

Wheat ready for harvest

While we usually think of fall as harvest time, you might not realize that a great deal of planting for the new year is already underway in Ontario. Across North America, Europe, and northern Asia, farmers plant winter wheat that will be harvested in the spring.

Winter wheat is harder than other wheats, and it has a higher gluten protein content (in its food uses, gluten is the protein that gives dough elasticity to rise and keep its shape). Winter wheat is used to produce flour for yeast breads and other chewy grain products; it is also blended with soft spring wheat to produce all purpose flour.

When farmers plant wheat in the fall, it must survive the cold winter. A process inside the plant called vernalization is what allows plants to flower in the spring, after long periods of colder weather. Many other species of plants undergo vernalization, including a variety of fruit tree species and annual and biennial flowering plants.

There are several varieties of winter wheat grown in Ontario, and wheat breeders are interested in learning more about and furthering the crop’s resistance to major diseases by developing new varieties. In a new partnership with Grain Farmers of Ontario and SeCan, the University of Guelph has hired Dr. Ali Navabi to fill a new professorship in wheat breeding in the department of plant agriculture. Researchers like Dr. Navabi hope to develop new varieties of wheat that will directly benefit farmers across Ontario. You can read more about Dr. Navabi and his research in the most recent issue of Ontario Grain Farmer magazine, and online here.

Does My Child Require a Gluten-Free Diet?

Everyday 100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

Cara Rosenbloom, Registered Dietitian & mom

Most kids adore pasta, bread and birthday cake – all made with wheat. But wheat contains gluten, a type of protein that has made headlines, and is the subject of questions from concerned parents. Is it okay for your kids to eat gluten? Let’s look at the evidence-based science to find out.

Who requires a gluten-free diet?

Celebrity endorsements and best-selling diet books focus on the glamour of going gluten free, but this popular diet is not meant for everyone.

Gluten-free foods are solely meant for people with celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that affects about one percent of Canadians. It’s also medically necessary for people with a wheat allergy or gluten intolerance. Otherwise, there is no reason for children to follow a gluten free diet.

Gluten is simply a protein found in wheat, rye and barley — staple foods that children enjoy. These foods add much-needed fibre, B vitamins, magnesium, iron and zinc to the diet – which are essential for normal growth and development.

I hear wheat has changed – is it harmful?

In a recent study, Canadian researchers grew wheat from seeds dating back to 1876. When comparing the genetic profile of the harvested wheat, they learned that there has not been a measurable change in the amount of protein and the composition of wheat since 1876. This negates all ideas to the contrary, which were simply based on speculations, but not on science.

Excluding gluten from a child’s diet for no medical reason has drawbacks

Gluten-free products are often made with less fibre and more sugar, salt, fat and refined starches than their gluten-containing counterparts, plus they cost an average of 162 per cent more. Grain Products are a staple food group in Canada’s Food Guide, and provide fuel for your child’s brain. If you are concerned your child has celiac disease, get them tested BEFORE you exclude gluten from their diet.

Cara Rosenbloom On How To Spice Up School Lunches

We’re nearly a month into the school year, which means parents and kids are starting to get the hang of home work, after school activities and early morning routines. For parents, packing a healthy, balanced lunch becomes one of the most important routines. Registered Dietitian and mom shared her tips for packing nutritious, yet easy school lunches kids will eat.

Need to freshen up your kids’ lunch box? Cara created two balanced meals, perfect to set your kids up for a successful day at school. Test them for yourself!

Check out this Global Morning Show Toronto segment for helpful advice:
Cara Rosenbloom On How To Spice Up School Lunches. •

White Mould Affecting Ontario Soybeans

Cool, wet, summers like the one we have just had in Ontario can have a lasting effect on crop success—in the case of soybean crops, as long as ten years.

White mould is a disease that affects soybean plants. The disease is caused by a fungus that lives in the soil surface and forms mushroom-like structures called apothecia. As soybean seedlings break through the soil, the apotheciaejects spores that attach themselves to flower petals and emerging bean pods. As the plant flowers and the bean pods develop, they grow a fuzzy, white, stem rot and hard, black bits called sclerotia inside the stem and pods.

White mould affects hundreds of different plants, including soybeans, dry beans, snap beans, lima beans, sunflowers, canola, carrots, cabbage, and many more (fortunately for Ontario grain farmers, it does not affect corn or wheat plants).

Once a single plant is infected with white mould, it spreads the disease to its neighbours by contact. The sclerotia is also released into the field when affected plants go through a combine at harvest time—they end up in the soil surface where they can infect future crops. It can take up to ten years for sclerotia in the soil surface to completely disappear.

Farmers have come up with a few low-tech responses to the problem that can be very effective means of preventing the spread of the fungus that causes white mould in their fields. Crop rotation is the simplest and often the most effective solution—white mould does not affect corn or wheat, so farmers can grow those crops in affected fields without any issues. Because it takes up to ten years for the sclerotia to completely disappear, and at least five years before sclerotia levels in the soil surface is substantially reduced, farmers will often plant soybeans in affected fields anyways. Research shows that while all varieties of soybean plants are susceptible to white mould, different varieties are more or less resistant to it. Varieties of soybean plants that yield lower are typically less susceptible, as are varieties that can be planted early in the season. Finally, since the mould mainly spreads through plant-to-plant contact, there’s one other low-tech solution for soybean farmers battling white mould: planting in wider rows that make it harder for plants to touch each other.

White mould is not a new issue for Ontario soybean farmers, but wet summers like this past one tend to exacerbate the issue. Fortunately, a bit of common sense, as well as ongoing research supported by Grain Farmers of Ontario, goes a long way to protecting the soybean crop.

Corn Prices Hit Four Year Low This Summer

Chicago Board of Trade

Last week at the International Plowing Match in Simcoe County, it seemed like farmers had one thing on their mind when they visited the Grain Farmers of Ontario: when will the price of corn go back up? It’s true that the price of corn has suffered lately—by July, it had reached a four year low in Ontario.

The single biggest factor keeping the price of corn lower than usual was the early expectation of a record crop in the United States. Like it often seems is the case with all farming questions, the weather is at the root of this—except in this case, it’s actually been the case that the weather was too good. A long summer in much of the U.S., which is the world’s single largest corn producer, has suppressed market prices for corn all summer. As the U.S. harvest has come in without any major issues, the price has stayed down. Even unrest in Ukraine, the world’s fifth-largest producer of corn, hasn’t affected the world supply enough to counteract the massive U.S. crop.

Ontario is Canada’s largest corn producer, and it produces significantly more than the next-largest province, Quebec. About half of Ontario’s corn is used for animal feed, while the other half is sold to companies that produce ethanol to be blended with gasoline. Philip Shaw, who writes market trend commentary for Grain Farmers of Ontario, notes that demand for ethanol production is sharply on the rise, which has prevented corn prices from falling even lower.

There are a few factors that might help farmers get a better price for their corn at a local level this year. Like this year’s Ontario soybean crop, planting was delayed this spring; combined with the early expectations for a record U.S. harvest, many farmers avoided planting corn altogether. Some farmers who did grow corn this year are hopeful that a local crop which is smaller than usual will help them market theirs to local processors. Should they be willing to pay a small premium to save on the expense and inconvenience of importing plentiful U.S. corn, processors will have a smaller local crop to buy from.

While the crop largely hasn’t been harvested yet (in much of the province, field corn still needs at least two weeks of frost free weather), it’s unlikely that the price will improve any time soon. Farmers will be keeping an eye on news about the U.S. harvest. As Shaw points out, it appears 2014 has been the year that supply caught up to a period of increased demand from 2007-2013. With the uncertainty of a late harvest, expect cash prices to fluctuate daily well into the season.

Soybean Harvest Behind Schedule

Brown soybeans in the field

Usually by mid-September, farmers across Ontario will have already begun harvesting the soybean crop; however, this year’s soybean harvest is at least two weeks behind in most parts of Ontario, and as much as a month behind in others.

There are a few reasons why this year’s crop is so far behind schedule, but like a lot of farming concerns, they’re all weather-related. Because of the long winter and deep frost, spring planting couldn’t begin until June in most parts of the province—about a month’s delay. In addition to the late start, crops haven’t seen as much warmth as they typically need, since it has been a very cool summer (and in some places, very wet). Like all crops, soybeans need sun, warmth, and time to develop.

Soybeans are typically planted in mid-May, when the soil temperature is at around 14-16°C, and there is little chance of frost after the seedling emerges from the soil. Soybeans usually take 95-105 days to grow from seed to maturity: as a single soybean plant matures it will produce as many as 80 fuzzy pods full of 2-4 beans each. The plant is ready to be harvested when it dries and turns completely brown.

Soybean farmers will be looking for another few weeks of warm weather this fall. Farmers have been growing soybeans in Ontario since 1942, and since then it has become the province’s largest field crop in terms of dollar value to producers.

You can learn more about growing soybeans in Ontario and soybean products at Grain Farmers of Ontario or by visiting the Growing Connections trailer, which is at the International Plowing Match in Simcoe County this week.

Visit us at the International Plowing Match in Simcoe County

Visitors in the Growing Connections trailer on Canada Day

Grain Farmers of Ontario will be bringing our 53’ trailer exhibit, Growing Connections, to Simcoe County for this week’s International Plowing Match & Rural Expo.

Just south of Barrie, this year’s IPM is taking over Ivy, Ontario. Today’s Opening Parade will feature the Ontario Provincial Police Golden Helmets precision motorcycle team and begins at 10:30am. The festivities officially begin at noon, as Canadian Olympic Gold Medalist Jennifer Jones, one of Canada’s most accomplished and recognizable curlers, leads the Opening Ceremonies on the Main Stage.

What began as a provincial plowing competition over 100 years ago has grown into one Canada’s largest outdoor exhibitions, and more than 100,000 visitors are expected to attend. The IPM runs until Friday, and it features competitions in horse and mule plowing and tractor plowing of all skill levels. Attendees will also be treated to concerts, tractor square dancing, food and fair activities, and the annual Queen of the Furrow competition.

Learn about the Good in Every Grain when you visit Grain Farmers of Ontario at the IPM this week.

Connect with us on Canada Day!

The Growing Connections trailer on Canada Day

Grain Farmers of Ontario’s 53′ trailer exhibit, Growing Connections, will be in Ottawa for Canada Day.

Visit us in Major’s Hill Park to explore our crop stage, watch videos in our theatre room, try your hand at one of our video games and interact with our touchscreen map, and learn how to make homemade play dough in our kitchen stage! Grain Farmers of Ontario staff and delegates will be present to answer questions and help you celebrate our nation’s birthday!

If you live in Ottawa or are planning on being there for Canada Day, visit Grain Farmers of Ontario and all of the other free events- it’s sure to be a fun, family-friendly day!

Grain Discovery Zone Update

Grain Discovery Zone at the Norwood Fair in summer 2017

June continues to be a busy month for the Grain Discovery Zone. This past weekend was spent at one of the southernmost regions in the province in Leamington, the tomato capital of the province. Leamington’s 166th annual fair offered a number of diverse activities to keep fairgoers busy throughout the three days including a stop at the Grain Discovery Zone.

Popular activities at the fair included a produce tent where taste testing of locally grown tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers occurred. Visitors tasted the different varieties and voted on their preferred choice and I can say that it was tough to decide! I often had to try the vegetables twice just to be sure!

There was also a demonstration of traditional aboriginal music and dance presented by First Nations people from across the province. The dress was beautiful and incredibly intricate and the drumming was enthralling. Between the dances, insight to the meanings of each beat of the drum and each body movement in the dance were discussed.

Other neat displays included a honey bee info stand, local students’ artwork, antique tractors, steam engine and handmade quilts. Leamington Fair also boasts live harness racing and a demolition derby with a grand stand for spectators.

Looking ahead, the Grain Discovery Zone will be participating in Fords in the Park event at Country Heritage Park in Milton on the 21st and then will be heading to Norwich Township to celebrate Canada Day.

Don’t forget to follow the Grain Discovery Zone throughout the summer and share your experience with us! Tweet @GrainFarmers #Discovery Zone and like us on Facebook

Discover the Good In Every Grain

Grain Farmers of Ontario recently unveiled a new campaign to help tell the story of corn, soybeans, and wheat and the 28,000 farmers that grow them. The new campaign, Good In Every Grain aims to connect rural and urban people, with a focus on the good things these crops bring.

Good in Every Grain speaks to the good values farmers represent, the good work they do for the environment and their communities, and the good quality grain crops they grow. Beyond the farm gate, Good in Every Grain is about the good products created with corn, soybeans, and wheat, and the good contribution the grain industry makes to Ontario’s economy.

Corn, soybeans, and wheat combined contribute $9 billion in economic input, employ 40,000 people and cover over five million acres of farm land across Ontario. These grains have roots in our backyard; however, as more complex commodities the various uses of commercial grains are often unknown. The Good in Every Grain campaign is here to tell the story of these vital grains and the 28,000 Ontario farmers who grow them.

Visit to purchase merchandise, discover school and media resources, and ask grain-related questions. Follow @GoodinGrain and #ONGrain on Twitter and like Good in Every Grain on Facebook for great information on corn, soybeans, and wheat.

Good in Every Grain builds on the popular Farmers Feed Cities campaign, replacing it with a focus more in line with its founding organization, Grain Farmers of Ontario.