Winter cereal outlook better than anticipated

Producers urged to seed winter wheat even if it’s dry because enough moisture should fall to help the crop

WINNIPEG — Winter cereal acres are down following concerns in September about seeding in dry conditions, but crops seeded in Western Canada are in good shape heading into winter.

“Very little moisture is required in the fall to get that seed to germinate and start growing, especially if it’s been seeded shallow,” said Amanda Swanson, a southern Saskatchewan winter wheat agronomist with Ducks Unlimited.

The final crop report from Manitoba Agriculture, released Oct. 16, said germination and stand establishment of winter cereal crops was good, but seeded acres were down across the province.

Mid-September reports from southern Saskatchewan and Alberta said limited acres of winter cereals had been seeded because of dry conditions. A brief reprieve happened in the second half of September as rain fell.

“We always recommend guys to seed first and then usually the rains will come,” Swanson said.

“Even if the rains don’t come and it doesn’t germinate in the fall, it will germinate, come up in the spring time.”

If moisture doesn’t come until spring, it doesn’t mean the crop won’t come up, Swanson said, adding it will just act more like a spring wheat than a winter wheat.

Farmers in Western Canada seeded 535,000 acres of winter wheat last fall, eventually harvesting 398,000 acres, according to Statistics Canada. Prairie production came in at 546,400 tonnes, which was well below the 1.02 million tonnes grown in the previous year.

Swanson has been speaking to producers across southern Saskatchewan, and those who seeded winter cereals have said germination is at the two-leaf stage — the three-leaf stage is ideal.

“(The) seeding date didn’t really make a huge difference this year just with the conditions being so dry,” she said.

“The crop stages for the majority are at the same stage across the board regardless.”

However, Swanson has heard from colleagues in northern Saskatchewan that the situation is different with the area not having been as dry.

“There were lot of unseeded acres in the north, and guys had fields that they wanted to get back into production and they were going to seed (them to) winter wheat,” she said.

Swanson is estimating that while winter cereal acres seeded in southern Saskatchewan may be down, they could have increased in the north, balancing it all out.

In Manitoba, Jake Davidson, executive director of Winter Cereals Canada, is waiting for numbers from Statistics Canada on seeded acres to be released, but from what he has heard he thinks crops are doing well.

“It just stayed warm so long for people. We had people (seeding on) chem fallow, stubble, and their crops are up excellent,” he said.

Some directors with Winter Cereals Canada are based in western Manitoba, and from what Davidson has heard from them, he thinks winter cereal acres seeded north of the Trans-Canada Highway should be good.

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