Wheat Growing Capabilities

he Daily Leader (Toronto), 5th November 1853

Wheat Growing Capabilities of Canada

It may be of interest to persons in search of the most productive land to know which are the countries giving the largest returns of Wheat, Peas, and Indian Corn. They are:

P acre,a’ge. P acre,a’ge. P acre,a’ge.
P Bus. P Lbs. P Bus. P Lbs. P Bus. P Lbs.
Bruce 20 2
Brant 19 2 17 17 26 31
Halton 18 53 14 23 30 18
York 18 39 18 52 22 15
Oxford 18 30 18 7 16 14
Kent 18 13 17 12 26 38
Peel 18 3 14 45 29 54
Ontario 17 55 18 27 25 46
Haldimand 17 9 12 48 23 19
Elgin 17 6 17 2 26 37
Durham 16 30 17 1 22 58
Waterloo 16 18 16 20 25 42
Peterboro’ 16 15 16 9 25 27
Simcoe 16 9 17 2 15 7

The Report remarks that “the county of Prince Edward has the largest crop of Indian Corn, viz: 30 bushels 40 lbs per acre owing probably to its situation between two large bodies of water,which ward off the early and late frosts. The produce of wheat in the country of Peterboro’ is the nearest the average of all Upper Canada, which is 16 bushels 14 lbs. per acre.”

It would be rash to conclude that because these counties give the largest returns, they therefore contain the best land in the Province. The capacity of some of the best lands in the province, lying in the Owen Sound settlement has yet to be tested.

There are townships of which the average produce of wheat is much greater than that of any county. The highest averages of wheat are given by the following townships:

P acre,a’ge.
Esquesing Halton 26 35
Scarborough York 24 3
Blenheim Oxford 21 51
Oxford, West Oxford 21 35
York York 21 5
Oxford, East Oxford 21 2
Onondaga Brant 20 40
Darlington Durham 20 32
Dover Kent 20 23
Louth Lincoln 20 17
Kipcardine Bruce 20 17
Gore of Toronto Peel 20 15
Blandford Oxford 20 12
Pickering Ontario 21 11
Harwich Kent 20 3
Bruce Bruce 20
Brant do. 20
Greenock do. 20
Chatham Kent 19 48
Toronto Peel 19 45
Whitby Ontario 19 40
Etobicoke York 19 40
Dorchester Middlesex 19 37
Tocumseth Simcoe 19 36
Collingwood Grey 19 25
Georgina Ontario 19 13
Westminster Middlesex 19 10
Southwold Elgin 19 10
Scugog Ontario 19
Dumfries, South Brant 18 56
Markham York 18 43

Here we have 20 bushels as the highest average yield of wheat in any county in Upper Canada – that county being Bruce – and 26 bushels as the highest average of any township, Esquesing being at the head of the list. These returns give no idea of the capabilities of the soil; for they have never been tested on so general a scale as to include a whole township. Esquesing was settled about 34 years ago; the eastern portion with Irish Protestants. Another part of the township has a large Scotch settlement, known as the “Scotch Block.” On the whole this township can boast of very good farmers, and great progress has been made in some parts of it, where a succession of fine stone houses and good orchards may be seen for miles together. But the soil is not uniformly good. A pine ridge runs through part of it and a mountain detracts from its productive capabilities. If therefore this township gives the largest average yield of wheat, it does not follow that its productive capacity is greater than that of any others which have not been brought to the same point of cultivation. Its resources have been developed to a greater extent than many other townships; although its capacity has by no means been fully tested. When this has been done, its average product of wheat will range far above 26 bushels; and till other townships have been farmed in a way to test their productive powers it would be unfair to limit their capacity by the results before us. There are instances in which the powers of the soil have been taxed to their utmost extent; but of these the census takes no cognizance. The census deals in general results; and gives us the average product of a whole township. But if we would know not the actual yield, under an imperfect system of farming, but the full capacity of the soil, we must seek it in instances where this has been tested by a high system of cultivation. For this purpose we leave the census tables for facts which have come to our knowledge through other channels. We have just seen a Scarboro’ farmer who has grown 45 bushels of wheat to the acre. A week or two ago a farmer from Clarke stated in this office, that he had known 60 bushels to the acre produced in that township; and had himself grown over 50. Clarke, it will be seen, has no place in the thirty-one townships which appear in the census table as producing the highest average crops of wheat. We are aware too that 55 bushels per acre has been grown in Trafalgar. These instances reveal the capabilities of the soil, under an improved system of cultivation. But after all they only show what can be done; without giving any ground to hope that the intelligence and good management which led to these results are likely to become general. It is certain, however, that the rising generation will possess advantages of which their fathers were deprived. The common school system is diffusing intelligence with as near an approach to university as in most other countries. University College has a professorship of Agriculture and the Normal school does not neglect those practical branches of education which are connected with the cultivation of the soil. Insome townships cultivation is carried to a much higher point than in others; and it follows that in some cases poor soil is made to produce more abundantly than better land cultivated with less skill and care. For instance, the Gore of Toronto is excellent soil; but its average yield of wheat does not rise above 20 bushels the acre. Its average ought certainly to be one-third greater, if not double. The township of York, which is not nearly so good land, has a higher average by one bushel an acre. The township which stands second on the list in the average production of wheat- Scarboro’ – is by no means a first class township, take it all in all; nor does it get any thing like fair play. It contains some excellent land, but probably one third of that which lies upon the lake is inferior, and there is a good deal of prime land in the township. It is the township which, to a greater extent than any other supplies this city with hay, straw, and oats; whereby it is deprived of that manure which other townships retain and which is essential to a high state of production. All this tends to show how low is the average production of wheat in Upper Canada as compared with the productive capabilities of the soil.

The Counties in the Lower Province giving the largest return of Wheat, Peas and Oats are:

P B. P Lbs. P B. P Lbs. P B. P Lbs.
Megantic 15 29 18 40 27 19
Quebec 14 11 22 .. 22 10
Bonaventure 14 2 7 24 27 18
Champlain 13 7 17 40 24 10
Stanstead 12 56 12 41 29 10
Missisquoi 12 55 12 .. 35 21
Ottawa 12 46 12 16 19 ..
Beauharnois 12 41 13 11 26 7
Drummond 12 30 11 16 25 1
Two Mountains 12 10 5 2 19 32
Nicolet 12 10 8 33 21 30
Vandreuil 11 48 14 47 22 33
Leinster 11 43 10 38 21 6
Sherbrooke 11 35 12 47 26 3
Montmoiency 10 56 13 30 12 10
St. Maurice 10 46 9 58 22 20
Yamaska 10 38 8 10 19 9
Vercheres 10 38 16 27 20 20
Portacuf 10 21 8 23 19 3
Terrebonne 10 14 11 45 27 ..
Dorchester 9 45 9 22 19 ..

It will be seen by this table that the average yield of wheat is over one-third less in Lower than in Upper Canada. There are counties in Lower Canada where the production of wheat must be unprofitable; and the surprise is that it is not abandoned altogether, or rather that it should have been revived after the discouragements inflicted by the wheat fly. The average returns from L’Islet are as low as six bushels an acre; from Gaspe and Saguenay seven, and Montreal eight. How far these miserable returns are due to bad cultivation and how far to climate or soil, we have no means of knowing; but it is certain that for farming purposes soil that ordinarily produces such meager crops, is not worth the owning. The soil of the counties in the above list is doubtless capable of being cultivated to a better purpose than to produce from nine to fifteen bushels the acre.

In 1850, the Canadas produced, according to the census returns, 16,202,272 bushels of wheat; of which 12,808,272 was the growth of the Upper and 3,400,000 of the Lower Province. Taking as guide what has been done in certain cases, there can be no doubt that the soil under cultivation might be made to produce about double its present amount. Mr. Hutton calculates the consumption at five bushels of wheat per head to the population; but there cannot be a question that he underrates the amount. The best proof of it is the fact that upon this estimate, he has a surplus of 1,039,610, after deducting the exports. This supposed surplus unquestionably went into consumption. Even then the consumption of each individual was only six bushels, which, were it an estimate instead of a fact, we should have thought it too low.

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