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Wheat yields, quality generally good

Prairie-wide look | Wheat avoids some of the problems farmers are seeing in canola

Amidst reports of lower-than-expected canola yields, some producers have found wheat crops have performed better under the environmental and disease pressures that slowed the oilseed’s development in 2012.

And growers who coupled good growing conditions with well-timed fungicide applications are seeing healthy yields for spring wheat, say farmers and market experts.

“In our area it can be very variable,” said Stephen Vandervalk, who farms near Fort Macleod, Alta.

When contacted by The Western Producer last week, the WCWGA and Grain Growers of Canada official said he was seeing spring wheat yields of 50 to 60 bushels.

“This was a year where if you spent money on your crop, you definitely saw that it paid,” he said. “There was lots of leaf disease.”

In his region, the growing season started off wet, but has been dry since the end of June.

“That really knocked back that bumper crop that we had coming until we lost maybe that top 20 percent of the yield,” said Vandervalk.

Sclerotinia and aster yellows have been an issue in canola across the Prairies, but officials also pointed to the development of wheat midge and fusarium head blight under similar growing conditions.

In the province next door, wheat yields vary, said Grant McLean of Saskatchewan Agriculture, but are “quite good” in spots assisted by fungicide.

“I think there are some yields that aren’t as high as you might expect in a very good cropping year. In many cases we’re still going to have an above-average crop and in some cases well above average,” he said.

“In general, the cereals are a little bit more resilient to some of the environmental stresses that we’ve seen this season.”

In Manitoba, where the winter wheat crop is already in the bin, producers netted average yields of 50 to 100 bu. for the crop — the development of which missed the stretch of dry weather that slowed other crops.

“It was good quality and no disease,” said Brandon-area winter wheat producer Brent Schram, who saw average yields for spring wheat and yields of 70 to 97 bu. for winter wheat.

He plans to start seeding next year’s winter wheat crop this week.

On his farm near Winnipeg, Winter Cereals Manitoba chair Doug Martin reported similar returns, although yields on barley and canola crops were below expectations.

“I think winter wheat was probably the winner as far as crops go this year,” he said.

In a late August report, FarmLink Marketing Solutions reported early returns of 40 to 50 bu. for spring wheat in southeastern Saskatchewan and 50 to 65 bu. in eastern Manitoba, with similar returns in the west.

Recently released data from Statistics Canada projects that producers will harvest 24.8 million tonnes of wheat — up from last year — albeit with average yields below last year’s average of 42.1 bu., which McLean said can be expected as more fields return to production following flooding in recent years.

“Protein has been very good. I think it would probably be fair to say that wheat would be a good solid average, maybe in some cases even a little bit better,” said FarmLink’s Jonathon Driedger.

“So if you looked at it purely from a spring wheat perspective, it’s probably one of the best crops out there, from a Manitoba perspective anyway.”

Yields in parts of west-central Saskatchewan that were seeded later — and have seen lots of rain and disease — may be at the bottom of this year’s average, said McLean.

In northern Saskatchewan, ergot may continue to harass crops, while isolated storms have damaged some fields in the province.

Vandervalk is optimistic about his crop.

“I think it’ll be good, actually. I think we’ll have a No. 1 wheat for sure,” he said.

He lost some land to a recent four-day stretch of weather that brought hail, rain and frost.

At this point in the season, however — where he’s looking for an extended period of dry weather — his biggest concern is wind.

“We’re worried about the wind and the canola swaths even more than rain on our cereals,” he said. “It’s not good that way for sure. The wind is pretty stressful.”

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