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?

  • 1,985 farms which return $208 million in agricultural farm cash receipt.
  • 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.

The Great Clay Belt

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 for agriculture.
  • 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*

Temiskaming District

  • Corn = 111.8 bu/ac
  • Soybeans = 40.1 bu/ac

Cochrane District

  • Canola = 36.6 bu/ac

Kapuskasing CHU trend

Figure 2. Kapuskasing Crop Heat Unit 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.
  • 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), 2012
  • 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 2013
  • Longfeng (Jamison) Weng, Northern Ontario Region at a Glance, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, 01 June 2017
  • Tom Hamilton - Beef Cattle Specialist/OMAFRA

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