Northern Ontario Agriculture Facts and Figures in Brief

Climate change is having a global impact on agriculture, especially in Northeastern Ontario. What could this mean for the future of this region?

  • 2,800 farms which return $190 million in agricultural farm cash receipt
  • 700,000 acres of farmed land.
  • It has been estimated that most districts in Northern Ontario can increase active agricultural lands from 20 to 50% by drawing idled private lands back into use.
  • The Great Clay Belt (GCB) in Northeastern Ontario consists of 16 million acres of potentially fertile glaciolacustrine soils (Figure 1). This is double the amount of cropland currently being farmed in the province.

The Great Clay Belt

Figure 1. The Great Clay Belt

  • To date only about 2 per cent of this land has been developed for agriculture.
  • The GCB also stretches into Northwestern Quebec, which contains another 13 million acres.
  • The Canada Land Inventory has identified 4.4 million acres of Ontario's GCB as Class 2, 3 or 4, which are suitable for cultivation. The remainder has either not been classified or is unsuitable for agriculture.
  • The main limitations to productivity are drainage and climate. Systematic tile drainage has been shown to address the first limitation, while long-term climate warming and the development of new crop varieties and agronomic techniques have revolutionized the crops which can be grown (Figure 2)
  • The warming trend goes back at least 30 years, and is exemplified by the increase in annual crop heat units (CHU) at Earlton from 1800 to 2300 CHU. This has had a major positive impact on crop production. For example, soybeans, corn grain and silage corn are now reliably grown in the Temiskaming region, while canola has supplemented the traditional barley, oat and wheat crops in the Cochrane-Kapuskasing area.

2011 -2012 Crop Yields*

Temiskaming District

  • Corn = 130 - 145 bu/ac
  • Soybeans = 50 - 60 bu/ac

Cochrane District

  • Canola = 1.45 tonnes/ac

Kapuskasing CHU trend

Figure 2. Kapuskasing CHU trend

  • In addition, these regions are well suited to forage production and are capable of supporting large herds of ruminant animals
  • Development potential for the GCB in Ontario is shown by the degree to which agriculture in Northwestern Quebec has progressed (Figure 3)

Development differences between Northeastern Ontario (west or left of border) and Northwestern Quebec (right or east of the line) in the Great Clay Belt

Figure 3. Development differences between Northeastern Ontario (west or left of border) and Northwestern Quebec (right or east of the line) in the Great Clay Belt


2006 Census of Agriculture. Statistics Canada.
Chapman and Brown. The Canada Land Inventory. 1966.
Environment Canada Weather Station, Earlton Airport. Ontario Climate Center, Kapuskasing Data -
Environment Canada, 2012.
2011 Census of Agriculture (Preliminary data). Statistics Canada.

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