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
- 1,985 farms which return $208 million in agricultural farm cash
- 633,457 acres of farmed land in Northern Ontario.
- The Great Clay Belt (GCB), (Figure 1), in Northeastern Ontario
consists of 10.2 million acres of land, 35% of which is covered
in coniferous forest and 28% in mixed forest. Potentially fertile
glaciolacustrine and morainal calcareous clays and silts make
up 66% of the area. . The area of the Great Clay Belt is equal
to the total area under crops in the province in 2016.
Figure 1. The Great Clay Belt
- To date only about 1.4 per cent of the Great Clay Belt 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
- The main limitations to productivity in the Great Clay Belt
and Northern Ontario are drainage and climate. Systematic tile
drainage has been shown to address the first limitation. Long-term
climate warming and the development of new crop varieties and
agronomic techniques have revolutionized the crops which can be
grown across Northern Ontario. (Figure 2)
- This warming trend goes back at least 30 years, and is exemplified
by the increase in annual crop heat units (CHU), such as 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.
2012 Crop Yields*
- Corn = 111.8 bu/ac
- Soybeans = 40.1 bu/ac
Figure 2. Kapuskasing Crop Heat Unit
- 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,
- 2016 Census of Agriculture, Statistics Canada
- Ministry of Natural Resources, An assessment of the Vulnerability
of Forest Vegetation of Ontario's Clay Belt (Ecodistrict 3E-1),
- Bootsma, Andy et al. Decadal Trends in Crop Heat Units for Ontario
and Quebec from 1951 to 2010, Agriculture and Agri-Foods Canada
(AAFC), Eastern Cereal and Oilseeds Research Centre, Ottawa, Jan
- Longfeng (Jamison) Weng, Northern Ontario Region at a Glance,
Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, 01 June
- Tom Hamilton - Beef Cattle Specialist/OMAFRA
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