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
- 2,800 farms which return $190 million in agricultural farm cash
- 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.
Figure 1. The Great Clay Belt
- To date only about 2 per cent of this land has been developed
- 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
- 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*
- Corn = 130 - 145 bu/ac
- Soybeans = 50 - 60 bu/ac
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
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. http://www.climateontario.ca
2011 Census of Agriculture (Preliminary data). Statistics Canada.