Winter wheat looking good so far

Winter wheat across most of the Prairies appears to have survived a winter with little snow cover and few lengthy periods of severe cold.

Autumn Holmes-Saltzman, program specialist with Ducks Unlimited Canada, has spent the last several weeks visiting new winter wheat growers and observing crops.

So far, she has seen no sign of stripe rust, the disease that severely damaged many wheat crops in southern Alberta last year.

“I haven’t seen any stripe rust at all. Last spring we had some overwinter so I saw it pretty early out in the fields, and I have not seen any disease whatsoever in the fields I’ve checked,” said Holmes-Saltzman.

“It looks like (no disease) overwintered. I think the lack of snow really helped in that department.”

She said winter wheat crops overall look fairly consistent, with little winterkill reported. However, it’s too early to determine the crop conditions in cooler parts of the province.

No decision should be made until mid to late May if crops emerge in poor shape.

Late seeding in 2011 may have prevented fall emergence of some crops, but Holmes-Saltzman said those can still be productive when emerging this spring, although they will behave more like spring wheat and lack the benefit of early harvest.

For now, she recommended growers check weed growth in their winter wheat fields and consider applying nitrogen, which can help a struggling crop recover its potential.

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