By Elmer Kaskiw, MAFRD
Due to the lack of available stubble this fall, growers may not have been able to seed winter wheat. One option growers may want to consider on a trial basis is dormant seeding.
The dormant seeding of winter wheat is a relatively common practice for anyone trying to grow winter wheat in southern Alberta. This is due to the fact that fall seeded winter wheat can be impacted by Chinooks and warmer temperatures in mid-to-late winter can prematurely bring the crop out of dormancy resulting in winter kill if there is a return to colder temperatures. Similarly in southern Ontario, winter wheat is often dormant seeded on soybean stubble.
If harvest is delayed, growers can often dormant seed winter wheat well into late November and early December. Over the last number of years we have followed winter wheat crops that were both unintentionally and intentionally dormant seeded. In 2012, it was because of the very dry fall and in 2013 it was due to delayed rainfall and a rapid cool down in soil temperature.
In both events it is estimated that perhaps 30-40 per cent of a 2.25 bushel seeding rate actually emerged. In both years, the vast majority of the seed, which germinated, did not survive the winter. The un-germinated seed did vernalize and went on to produce a viable crop that in 2012 yielded similar to the record spring wheat yields of 60-70 bushels per acre. In 2014 and 2015, we have had winter wheat seeded intentionally in the last week of October and have had good success with yields in 2015 surpassing both traditional winter wheat seeding and spring wheat yields.
Some observations and suggestions that might improve the success of dormant seeding winter wheat include:
Note from WWWI: Dormant seeding winter wheat could, but may not, provide the 15 to 40 per cent yield advantage growers typically experience. Growers also need to be patient in the spring with dormant seeded winter wheat as it will take much longer to fill in than winter wheat seeded that achieved desired top growth last year. There may also be crop insurance implications (i.e. dormant seeded winter wheat will not qualify for a re-seeding benefit in Manitoba).