Unseeded Prairie spring acres could see more winter crops

More winter cereals could get planted in untraditional areas that were too wet to seed this spring - but extreme dryness elsewhere could stymie an overall bump in winter crop acreage.

Many growers in Alberta and Saskatchewan who were unable to seed this spring are considering planting winter cereals, say Alberta Agriculture cereal extension specialist Clair Langlois and Western Winter Wheat Initiative agronomist Paul Thoroughgood.

Alberta producers were hardest hit by wet spring conditions. Up to 900,000 acres went unseeded thanks to saturated fields in the Peace, west-central and east-central regions of the province, and parts of south-central Alberta, says Langlois.

Waterlogged soils also impeded seeding operations in parts of northeastern and northwestern Saskatchewan.

First- time growers

For those who couldn’t get a crop in, winter wheat represents something they always wanted to try but never could get seeded on time in previous years, Langlois says.

“The majority of people, if they plant into some of their unseeded acreage, it will be their first time, or it would be a significant time since their last experience growing winter wheat,” Thoroughgood says.

Also appealing to farmers are the crop’s extra yields and simply getting their land into production, Langlois says.

“Many of these unseeded fields affected are often their wetter fields, and with so much ground moisture on them – even now – it is attractive to get them planted while at their driest,” he adds.

No overall acreage increase

But winter cereal acreage in other Prairie regions might actually be down this season.

Dryness in southern parts of the Prairies is significantly advancing harvest operations, but historically, producers have been reluctant to seed winter crops when it’s very dry, Thoroughgood says.

Farmers, however, are better off seeding into dry soils than delaying in hopes of rainfall, he explains.

Bottom line

Thouroughgood says if farmers wait for rain, by the time it dries up again to go seed, the opportunity for germination is lost.

“I’ve grown 18 winter wheat crops now and over half of them I’ve seeded into dry, hard ground,” Thoroughgood says. “Only once in those 18 years have I not had emergence in the fall because it didn’t rain until the middle of October.”

For more about planting winter cereals into areas that went unseeded in the spring, visit the Western Winter Wheat Initiative.

Article by: Richard Kamchen