After wet year, Prairie farmers see benefits in growing winter wheat – Dec. 14, 2011

Dec 14, 2011

Regina, Sask., December 14, 2011 – There seems to be a great deal of crop growing under the snow this winter. Statistics Canada just released its seeded acre numbers for this fall and found that winter wheat acreage is up significantly from last year as a result of a wet spring and early summer. Farmers are seeing the many benefits of growing winter wheat and the potential of this fall-seeded crop is still growing.

“Winter wheat was a great solution for farmers who couldn’t seed this past spring,” said Paul Thoroughgood, regional agrologist with Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC). “Including winter wheat in the crop rotation improves the efficiency of the operation by conserving labour and capital by distributing the workload throughout the year.”

The seeded acreage for this fall is over 1.3 million acres, up from 695,000 acres seeded in 2010. The provincial breakdown for winter wheat acres seeded in 2011 is 580,000 in both Manitoba and Saskatchewan and 175,000 in Alberta.

“New varieties, improved marketing options and the agronomic advantages provided by winter wheat makes it an attractive choice for many growers. Farmers know growing winter wheat is a better use of soil moisture. In the spring, when others are fighting wet seeding conditions, winter wheat is already in the ground growing,” said Thoroughgood.

According to Thoroughgood, some other winter wheat benefits include:

  • Higher yields: 15 to 40 per cent higher than spring-seeded wheat. Available varieties are suitable for milling, feed and ethanol markets.
  • More efficient use of inputs: Increases competition and different timing of herbicide applications can increase the effectiveness of those herbicides in other years of the crop rotations.
  • Pest avoidance: Avoids common wheat pests such as orange blossom wheat midge and wheat stem sawfly; eliminating insecticide applications.
  • Conservation: Conserves labour and capital; shifting a portion of seeding to the fall removes some of the stress and challenges faced in the spring.
  • The increase in winter wheat acres also benefits spring-nesting waterfowl, particularly northern pintails, a species in decline since the late 1970s. This benefit to waterfowl, with support from Bayer CropScience, led DUC to invest $6 million in variety development and agronomic research in the past three years.

“The increase in acreage is a result of a great deal of co-operation between many organizations such as Bayer CropScience, Ducks Unlimited Canada and the provincial winter wheat producer commissions, but at the end of the day, the increase in seeded acres is the result of producers wanting to experience the benefits of winter wheat on their farms,” added Thoroughgood.

The shared vision of Ducks Unlimited Canada and Bayer CropScience for the future of agriculture includes a stewardship model that recognizes the agricultural productivity of farmland while retaining and improving the habitat available to North America’s waterfowl and other wildlife. As a result, Bayer and DUC have joined together to identify, research and promote cropping system changes that benefit the conservation of our natural resources in an economically viable way. The first step in this relationship is the Winter Cereals: Sustainability in Action project.

For further information, please contact:

Karli Reimer,
National Communications Specialist – Conservation
Ducks Unlimited Canada
Phone: (204) 467-3279