Wet prairie spring sees winter wheat acres nearly double

Official estimates aren’t finalized, but growers in Manitoba and Saskatchewan likely planted 800,000 acres of winter wheat this fall, said Winter Cereals Canada executive director Jake Davidson.

“In western Manitoba, there is winter wheat everywhere you look,” said Davidson, who maintains an office for Winter Cereals Canada in Minnedosa, Man.

If Davidson’s figures are correct, winter wheat in Manitoba and Saskatchewan would nearly double last year’s total of 430,000 acres for the two provinces, based on Statistics Canada estimates from June.

Alberta growers likely planted 200,000 acres of winter wheat this fall, said Paul Thoroughgood, regional agrologist for Ducks Unlimited in Regina.

Davidson’s and Thorough-good’s estimates would result in one million acres of winter wheat on the Prairies this fall, compared to 565,000 acres in 2010. However, Thoroughgood said one million acres could be a conservative guess because he’s heard estimates as high as 1.5 million acres.

Davidson said many farmers in southeastern Saskatchewan and southwestern Manitoba were unable to seed a crop this spring because of overland flooding.

Producers needed something to plant once the land dried up and opted for winter wheat, even if they had never previously grown the crop.

“I have neighbours near me, brothers in their 70s that still farm, and they planted winter wheat for the first time,” Davidson said.

“Most of the calls I got (this summer) were people trying to find seed. They weren’t even sure where to go (to buy seed).”

A warm and dry summer in Manitoba also meant farmers were able to harvest canola in late August or early September, said Pam DeRocquigny, Manitoba Agriculture’s feed grains specialist.

“This year we had an early harvest for some of those canola acres. So there was stubble available for those winter wheat growers.”

Many Manitoba growers seeded their winter wheat into dry soil, but timely rain has boosted germination going into the winter.

“The crop is looking great. This is a fantastic fall,” Davidson said.

A 400,000 acre winter wheat crop in Manitoba would be short of the 511,000 acre record planted in 2007.

Statistics Canada releases its estimates for winter wheat acres for the Prairies in the second week of December.

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