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Ont. winter wheat acres drop less than expected

(Resource News International) — Acres seeded to winter wheat in Ontario during the fall of 2008 are expected to be down from the record level seen during the fall of 2007, but will still be the third highest on record.

“There were roughly 950,000 acres of land seeded to winter wheat in Ontario in the fall of 2008,” according to Peter Johnson, a cereals specialist with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.

He said this compares with the record 1.35 million seeded in the fall of 2007 and the 550,000 acres seeded in the fall of 2006.

“Considering the lateness of the soybean harvest in Ontario, the area seeded to winter wheat was much higher than anticipated,” Johnson said.

Optimal time to have the crop planted is normally by the end of September, but planting can still occur during the first two weeks in October, he said. After that, producers are taking great chances that the crop will even grow.

The higher-than-expected area planted to winter wheat also came despite price signals to the contrary, Johnson said.

“The majority of the winter wheat was seeded by the deadline, but there were some areas in which the crop was planted later,” he said. “Those areas were not expected to perform as well.”

Johnson said because a small percentage of the winter wheat was planted later rather than sooner, seeded area to the crop in the spring could be down to the 850,000- to 900,000-acre level.

An estimated 82 per cent of the winter wheat seeded during the fall of 2008 consisted of soft red varieties, which was up from 73 per cent during the fall of 2007, Johnson estimated. The percentage of winter wheat consisting of hard red declined to 11 per cent from 15 per cent while the soft white varieties were down to seven per cent from 12 per cent.

Production issues were blamed for the decline in soft white winter wheat area in favour of soft red varieties, Johnson said.

For the most part, he added, the majority of the winter wheat crop in Ontario got off to a good start. However, there were some areas in which overly wet and cool weather provided a poor start to winter wheat fields.

Johnson speculated that producers would likely be ploughing under those areas in the spring in favour of other crops.

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