Manitoba happy with yield, quality of wheat crop

Solid performance | Sask., Alta. harvests haven’t progressed enough for adequate reading

Spring wheat is shaping up to be the king of crops in Manitoba this year.

However, a complete picture of spring wheat yields and quality has yet to emerge in Saskatchewan and Alberta, where significant acres are still in the field.

In Manitoba, where the spring wheat harvest is all but complete, reports suggest that this year’s crop came off in good shape, with average to above-average yields in most areas, good quality and higher-than-average protein levels.

Pam de Rocquigny, a cereal grains specialist with Manitoba Agriculture, said wheat was a solid performer in most parts of the province.

“I think most producers were happy with what’s been taken off,” she said.

“There are always exceptions … but generally speaking, I think most yields were average to slightly above-average.”

Manitoba’s 10-year average for red spring wheat production is 43 bushels per acre.

Wheat quality was also good, de Rocquigny said.

Producers across the province reported good test weights, low fusarium levels and high protein values.

Chuck Fossay, a grain grower from Starbuck, Man., southwest of Winnipeg, said wheat yields on his farm were a pleasant surprise.

“The canola was quite disappointing, but the wheat was surprisingly good,” he said.

“For hard red winter, we had excellent yields, in the 90s, and good quality. For red spring, we also had good yields, in the high 50s or low 60s, and protein anywhere from 13 percent to 14.5 percent. All of it was a No. 1 … so in general we’re very happy with the wheat crop.”

Fusarium, usually a major concern for Manitoba cereal growers, was a minor problem this year, he added.

In Saskatchewan, where the spring wheat harvest is still underway, early indications from the provincial crop reporting program suggest yields of 31 to 32 bu. per acre in southern and central regions up to 35 to 40 bu. in the northern grain belt.

Grant McLean, cropping management specialist with Saskatchewan Agriculture, said provincial yields could fall slightly below the long-term average.

Spring wheat crops in Saskatchewan have averaged 35.4 bu. per acre over the past seven years. Last year’s average was 41.4 bu.

This year, the province’s spring wheat harvest was 24 percent complete as of Sept. 3 with average yields of 33 bu. per acre.

“I think in most cases … quality is a bit lower and yields are a bit lower because of the heat stress and in some cases because of leaf diseases,” McLean said.

“I think protein is also quite variable, depending on the stage of the crop.”

Fusarium was more prevalent than normal in many parts of the province, particularly in central and northern regions that saw frequent rain and high humidity through much of the growing season.

In Alberta, provincial crop statistician Lukas Matejovsky said spring wheat yields recorded so far are slightly lower than Statistics Canada projections but slightly higher than the province’s 10-year average.

“I would summarize that the yields are above average with good quality so far,” Matejovsky said.

As of Sept. 4, 17.6 percent of Alberta’s spring wheat acres had been harvested with an average yield of 45 to 46 bu. per acre.

Alberta’s 10-year average for dryland spring wheat between 2002 and 2011 was 42.8 bushels per acre.

Earlier this year, Statistics Canada estimated average spring wheat yields in the province at 49.5 bu. per acre.

Kevin Bender, president of the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association, said wheat yields in his area near Bentley, Alta., will be good but not outstanding.

“I think (yields) will be average to maybe a little bit above average,” he said.

“Initially, we were thinking it would be well above average, but I don’t think that’ll be the case anymore. It looks good but it doesn’t look fantastic.”

As of Sept. 6, only the odd field of spring wheat had been harvested in the Bentley area, 50 kilometres northwest of Red Deer.

In its most recent production estimate, Statistics Canada projected total prairie wheat production of 24.8 million tonnes this year, up nearly 10 percent form the 22.6 million tonnes produced in 2011.

The Statistics Canada report projected overall yield at 41.5 bu. per acre, down slightly from last year’s 42.1 bu.

The modest decline in yield should be offset by a significant increase in total prairie wheat acreage, which was projected to rise 11.4 percent from 2011 to 22 million acres.

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