Prairies expect reasonable winter wheat yields

(Resource News International) — The condition of the winter wheat crop in Western Canada is decent given the length of the winter and cool spring and generally “reasonable” yields are anticipated.

“It’s not going to be a record year but overall we’re generally pleased so far,” Jake Davidson, executive director of Winter Cereals Canada at Minnedosa, Man., said May 22.

“There are people who are getting crop insurance coverage on some of their fields but overall I think the winter wheat crop is as good as could have been expected given the winter, the spring and the flooding we saw,” he said.

South of Winnipeg, where a lot of winter wheat is typically grown, there will be acres lost due to the flooding in the Red River Valley. Higher-than-normal winter wheat acreage in Alberta, however, will partially offset those losses, he said.

Snow cover through the winter was good and soil temperatures remained decent but the lack of heat so far this spring is slowing the development of the crop.

“We’ll probably lose a little bit of production due to the lack of heat because that is what gets winter wheat development going before the weeds start growing like crazy,” Davidson said.

There needs to be less fluctuation between day- and night-time temperatures, and daytime temperatures need to hit the 18° to 20°C range, he said.

Prairie winter wheat is looking a “little rougher” than normal also because much of the crop was seeded into barley and pea stubble rather than canola stubble, which is preferred for its good snow-catching properties, Davidson said.

Winter wheat yields are expected to be mainly average but total western Canadian production will be down due to a significant drop in seeded area in the fall.

According to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada forecasts dated April 24, the amount of winter wheat area seeded in Western Canada in the fall declined 18.1 per cent, from 1.52 million acres in 2008-09 to 1.245 million acres.

The amount of winter wheat that will be harvested in Western Canada this summer was pegged by AAFC at 1.098 million acres, down from 1.34 million acres in 2008/09.

Western Canadian production was forecast at 1.488 million tonnes compared to 1.982 million tonnes for the 2008-09 marketing year.

Looking ahead to the fall, there are already concerns about timely winter wheat seeding in the fall, Davidson said.

“If spring seeding is delayed and we continue to have cool weather our stubble crops will be late coming off and we’ll run into the problem that we’re not going to get our crops in the ground in some areas,” he said.

However, if producers in flooded Manitoba areas are not able to seed this spring, they will be able to get a winter crop in early and that could offset problems in other areas, Davidson added.

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