Survival check on Canada’s winter wheat

Canada’s winter wheat acres are down and survivability in some parts is uncertain heading into spring.

Acreage is down across the country and winter survival is still unfolding. Here's an update on Canada's winter wheat crop. Tweet this

Ontario

Farmers in Canada’s largest winter wheat producing province seeded approximately 925,000 acres to the crop last autumn, but conditions fell short of ideal, according to provincial cereals specialist Joanna Follings.

A delayed soybean harvest set back plantings, and wet fall conditions resulted in a significant amount of winter wheat seeded from mid to late October, she says.

“Due to the later planting and cool, wet fall conditions, a significant amount of winter wheat did not emerge before the snow came,” Follings says.

While many parts of the province received adequate snowfall, freeze-thaw events caused ice cover concerns in some regions.

Prairie acres decline

“With the drier-than-normal field conditions at fall seeding time, the number of acres seeded to winter cereals is below average in most areas,” says Cory Jacob, Saskatchewan Agriculture’s crops extension specialist.

Winter wheat acres there declined by 60,000 to 110,000 acres, according to the most recent Statistics Canada estimates.

Manitoba’s area also fell, dropping to 45,400 acres from fall 2017’s 70,000, while Alberta’s rose 5,000 acres to 100,000.

Farmers’ interest in the crop has waned in favour of spring wheat: “The yield advantage over spring wheat is less than what it used to be,” says Rejean Picard, Manitoba Agriculture farm production extension specialist, adding reseeding due to winter damage is another factor.

Germination

Ideally, the plants have three to five leaves and a well-developed crown before freezing, Picard says.

“Once hardened, most winter wheat varieties will be able to tolerate a soil temperature at the crown level in the soil as low as minus 20 to 22 C,” Picard says.

September rains allowed Saskatchewan’s winter cereal crops to germinate and establish in many areas, Jacob says.

In Manitoba, some fields were planted when clouds, rains and colder conditions reigned, resulting in poorly established seedlings.

Winter

Alberta’s crop headed into winter immature but wasn’t in danger of winterkill due to clement weather, says provincial cereal extension specialist Clair Langlois.

By the time cold did arrive in Alberta, enough snow had fallen to protect the crop, Langlois says.

Extreme cold may have impacted Saskatchewan’s over wintering, but Jacob suggests snow cover helped insulate against the chill.

In Manitoba, snow cover has provided winter damage protection against the deep freeze.

“Usually winter wheat losses to winter damage happen closer to spring when the plant is gradually losing its ability to tolerate cold temperatures, and, at the same time, snow may have melted, exposing soil to cold temperature periods,” says Picard.

Bottom line

With variable fall and winter conditions, experts encourage growers to monitor for growth and assess winter survival early this spring.

Article by: Richard Kamchen