By Janine Paly
As harvest wraps up across the Prairies, producers are starting to plan and even pre-buy seed for the upcoming spring season. For winter wheat production, selecting an appropriate crop to precede winter wheat is essential. Experienced growers begin their planning when spring crop decisions are being made to consistently achieve successful results from their winter wheat crop.
Having appropriate stubble available for fall planting is strongly influenced by the spring crop’s seeding date. Planning to have stubble available for the optimum winter wheat seeding window in your region is the first step towards achieving a successful winter wheat crop.
Canola stubble is ideally the most preferred choice, as it offers good weed sanitation and adequate stubble height to trap snow during the winter months. Another benefit is wheat yields increase 10 to 20 per cent when direct seeded into a field that was previously canola. When selecting a canola variety this fall, growers are encouraged to select an early- to mid-season variety or try to plant the canola as early as possible in the spring for an early harvest in the fall.
Even with a plan in place, a fall harvest can sometimes have obstacles. Long-term growers typically have a contingency plan to ensure stubble is available. Barley, oat, or forage crops are good options for alternative stubbles. In some regions of the Prairies, winter wheat is often seeded into field pea stubble. Even though growers can achieve a successful winter wheat crop seeded into pea stubble, producers must be aware this form of stubble does not provide adequate snow trapping potential and comes with a higher risk of winter injury.
In most areas across the Prairies, Argentine canola provides ideal stubble for winter wheat. The table below serves as an example of the dates Argentine canola must be seeded by in order to be harvested in time for winter wheat to be seeded by September 11. For example, Argentine canola seeded on May 1 in Birtle, MB has a 90 per cent likelihood (nine years out of 10) of being harvested in time to seed winter wheat by September 11. The Western Winter Wheat Initiative is currently working on a comprehensive tool that includes more Prairie locations to help you plan your canola seeding better.
When it comes to growing a successful winter wheat crop, the key management strategy is to have suitable stubble available for September seeding. Selecting an early maturing variety of canola may be the most important decision, however, having a contingency plan is always key when growing winter wheat. Planning today will help ensure you have a successful, profitable winter wheat crop next year.
Click here to watch our video for more information on Winter Wheat planning.