Home » Issue 27-2023 » Farm report » Adapting to Global Demands: Hugh Dietrich, CA

Adapting to Global Demands

In the idyllic town of Lucan, Southwestern Ontario, the Dietrich family's farming legacy transforms the landscape. From humble beginnings in 1952 to a booming international agricultural business today, their journey is a testament to innovation, adaptability, and a fierce passion for the land.


In the region of Southwestern Ontario, Canada, near the picturesque town of Lucan, the Dietrich family has transformed their agricultural endeavours from a modest start in 1952 into an internationally recognized farm. Hugh, Krista, and their sons, Eric, Grant, and Jake, lead the current generation. With the help of four committed farmhands, two of whom are part-time, the team efficiently oversees this expansive operation. The farm operates as a cash crop, commercial grain, and custom work establishment. They cultivate a variety of crops, including corn, soybeans, winter wheat, winter barley, and buckwheat.

Southwestern Ontario features a diverse range of soil types. While the region exhibits varied soil conditions, the Dietrich operation predominantly cultivates clay loam soils. These soils, paired with a climate that offers around 3,000 heat units, create an optimal setting for crops such as corn with a relative maturity of 100 to 104 days. In the field, the growing season is driven by HORSCH tillage and application products. Over time, the Dietrich’s have broadened their presence, both in terms of land ownership and storage capacity, within a 60km radius of their central farm.


Decades ago, the farm's storage capacity was a mere 5,500MT. As the demand increased, so did their ambitions. They expanded by buying, clearing, and enhancing their land, leading to improved yields. With the growth in scale came the need for substantial infrastructure upgrades. In 2014, while retaining only their original concrete silos, they overhauled their storage facilities. Their efforts persisted; by 2018, they had erected a 15,500MT concrete silo. This year, in line with their continual drive to innovate and expand, they added another 6,500MT to their storage capabilities. Their dedication to evolution and adaptability is evident, and today, the Lucan site boasts a storage capacity of 54,000MT.

Crop Report

The Dietrich’s have a diverse farming portfolio, with their primary focus on corn, soybeans, and wheat. Venturing into new terrains, the partners have recently expanded their production to include winter barley and buckwheat. This initiative, which is now in its third successful year, is testament to their adaptive and progressive approach to farming.

The process they've adopted is methodical. In the first week of July, the Dietrich’s’ harvest their winter barley. Following this, the straw is cleared, paving the way to direct-seed soybeans. To combat the generally dry conditions of the barley stubble, they utilize a dragline to administer sow manure, enriching the land with much-needed moisture to the typically dry barley stubble. With the Dietrich’s consistently reporting impressive yields: Using this approach, they've consistently achieved yields between 30 and 40 bushels per acre (between 2 and 2.7 t/ha), positioning the barley as their second harvested crop on that land annually.
But the innovation doesn't stop there. The Dietrich’s, drawing from their success with winter barley, have introduced more double crops. Post their winter wheat harvest, they now sow buckwheat. The strategic shift towards buckwheat is with a particular market in mind, aiming to cater to the non-gluten flour market in Southeast Asia, especially in Japan.
Instrumental in their buckwheat cultivation is a specific tool – the 12-meter HORSCH Joker RX40. Explaining its utility, they remark, "On the first Joker pass, we incorporate the remaining wheat residue. Then, we spread the buckwheat seed and integrate it with a second Joker pass." This adaptive strategy, especially their emphasis on non-GMO soybeans and buckwheat, has positioned the Dietrich family prominently on the global map, with exports exceeding 1,000 containers annually.

With a strategic location near the lake terminals of Goderich, Sarnia, and Hamilton, the Dietrich Grain Facility holds a competitive advantage in streamlining its grain export processes. Their proximity to the United States border, a mere 1 hour and 10 minutes away, further amplifies their market opportunities. Moreover, they benefit from a local consumer base; corn ethanol plants, as well as feed and flour mills, are all accessible within an hour's drive, ensuring the Dietrich’s are ideally positioned to cater to both international and domestic demands.

Draught to Drainage

The farming season of 2023 was not without its difficulties. While May experienced a mild drought, by July 12th, the fields were drenched with a saturating 24 inches of rain in a mere 30 days. Fortunately, foresight ensured that most of the farms had efficient tile drainage, with spacings of 20ft for newer sections and 40ft for the older ones. Additionally, the region benefits from a distinct microclimate due to the lake effect, further boosting the agricultural prospects of the area.

HORSCH Products & Relationship

HORSCH's products have played a pivotal role in the farm's operations. From the Joker RT, later the RX, and now their second Leeb sprayer, these tools have reshaped Dietrich’s farming techniques and efficiency. The partnership extends beyond just products; the feedback loop between the farm and HORSCH ensures continuous improvements tailored to real-world farming needs, which according to Dietrich’s, “farming with passion really is a true statement.”
The Dietrich’s have a deep-rooted relationship with HORSCH equipment, notably starting their journey with the Joker RT and subsequently upgrading to the 12 meter RX40. Their decision to incorporate these tools into their farming regimen stems from their alignment with the principles of minimum tillage and effective residue management that the equipment offers. The Joker earned their admiration not just for its operational efficacy but also for its ease of transport. Amplifying their positive experience with the brand has been the unwavering support and exceptional service extended by the HORSCH Ontario and the Canadian team.

Sharing their experiences, they remarked, “The HORSCH Joker’s fold style allows us to pull another roller behind it in dry conditions giving us the flexibility to work the ground while retaining soil moisture, leaving behind an ideal soil bed for planting. In our opinion, the folding and transport are one of the best in the market.” They also added, “The (HORSCH) Joker RX really fits our minimal till farming style and helps maintain an ideal amount of soil cover while simultaneously managing residue to protect our soil.”
As their farm has seen increasing corn yields and they've embraced new genetic enhancements in corn varieties, they've noticed a significant amount of corn residue. To address this, they've shifted their approach: “We don’t even lift the root balls out. By chopping and mixing the corn stalks in with the soil we give the soil life a head start on breaking down the corn residue in the fall. The following spring, we plant directly into what we worked in the fall. The stale seed bed in the spring offers the best of both tillage and no-till systems for planting.”
Reflecting on the benefits of this approach, they observed, “When we first started using their current min-till program, our soy stands increased by approximately 10% and improved our soy yields. We have since been able to reduce seeding rates to account for our improved soy stands, directly affecting our bottom line.”

The Dietrich’s were one of the first adopters of the HORSCH Leeb sprayer in Ontario, having first been introduced to it at Agritechnica in 2015. Their excitement was palpable, especially about a European-style sprayer in North America. Recounting their introduction to the Leeb, they remarked, “We learned more about the Leeb through our relationship [with HORSCH Canada]. The Leeb was still under wraps, and they basically pitched us the idea of a sprayer. The boom style and tank sizes really caught our eye.”
The automatic lift for high clearance, recirculating boom, and chemical fill made the Leeb an ideal fit for the Dietrich’s farming operations. Speaking on the arrival of HORSCH products in Ontario, Dietrich said, “We appreciate the new entrance of HORSCH products into the Ontario market. They fit a lot of the things that our family farm required, in terms of the min-till and additional spraying technologies.”Hugh Dietrich also provided feedback on the adaptability of HORSCH to local needs: “The suggestions on how to better adopt the sprayer to the Canadian market, HORSCH was quick to make changes and listen to the farmer. It’s almost like a direct line from the farm to the factory; they make changes on the fly.”
On the practicality of the sprayer in their operations, they commented, “Spraying tasseled corn is an important part of our corn fungicide program, and the Leeb is probably the best sprayer from the factory that fits our needs. The service we have received from HORSCH Ontario has exceeded our expectations.”

Planting Philosophy

The Dietrich’s have often considered incorporating a Maestro into their toolkit. "Many of the concepts on the Maestro were ones we had been applying on our farm for multiple seasons," they said. Drawing a comparison between farming practices in Ontario and the USA, they noted, "In Ontario, we have a lot of American farming influence. The majority of the U.S.A uses liquid starters on their planters, but we have been pulling a dry fertilizer commodity cart with our corn planter since 1997 and have found the higher concentration of dry fertilizers to lead to a lot of efficiencies in time and profits." They further added their thoughts on European-style planters, saying, "We see that the European style [Maestro] planter has a lot of attractive features for the Ontario market and is designed as an attractive single-unit platform. Every time we look into planter upgrades, we seriously consider the HORSCH design.”

Looking Into the Future

The Dietrich family firmly believes in the power of organization and forward planning. "We pride ourselves on how efficient we can be for our farm size, we run a very lean team, and that takes a lot of winter preparation. A lot of organization, meetings, communication, and reliable HORSCH equipment," Hugh and his son explained.
Discussing their aspirations, the young Dietrich’s shared their perspective on the farm's future, "Our goals for the farm are land improvement, expansion, and being able to pass on the family legacy to future generations."