Late harvest, dry soil to impact Prairie winter wheat seeding

Seeding of winter wheat has begun in some areas of the Prairies, but is delayed in others because of the late start to harvest this year.

“A lot of your winter wheat gets planted into some barley stubble or canola stubble and we really haven’t seen a lot of harvest done yet,” said Bruce Burnett, crop and weather specialist with CWB in Winnipeg. “So, the amount of the planting that has occurred is really quite minimal.”

Generally, the winter wheat planting window is from Aug. 15 to Sept. 15, which doesn’t leave much time to get the crop planted, said Jake Davidson, executive director and manager of Winter Cereals Canada.

If the crop gets in too late, it may not be able to develop and establish before the winter comes, Burnett added.

“The later you plant, the cooler conditions and frequent frosts and things like this keep the plant from developing as much as you would like,” he said.

Crop insurance deadlines are also a factor in when the crop needs to get into the ground. To get full crop insurance coverage in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, winter wheat must be seeded by Sept. 15. In Alberta, seeding deadlines range from Sept. 15 to 30, depending on the location.

Dry soils

“Diehard” winter wheat growers will still find a way to get their crop planted in time, despite the lack of canola stubble in Western Canada, said Davidson.

“The people that believe and will plant come hell or high water, they’ll be trying all sorts of things,” said Davidson. “They’ll be doing pea stubble, they’ll be trying barley stubble, they’ll be going into chemfallow.”

But growers with less experience might not be as willing to plant winter wheat due to the lateness of planting, said Davidson.

Seeding winter wheat in Western Canada may also be impacted by soil moisture conditions unless there are some general rains in the next week or two, said Burnett, adding that farmers now harvesting crops don’t want rain anytime soon.

Due to delayed seeding of winter wheat this fall, as well as less-than-ideal conditions, Burnett expects growers won’t seed more of the crop in Western Canada this year.

“I think the expectation would be that if conditions were good, farmers would plant more winter wheat area relative to last year,” he said. “But between the harvest and the dry soils, I think the expectation now would be a little bit more towards similar kind of an area to last year.”

In the fall of 2012, farmers in Western Canada planted 1.16 million acres of winter wheat, according to Statistics Canada data.

— Terryn Shiells writes for Commodity News Service Canada, a Winnipeg company specializing in grain and commodity market reporting.

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