Winter wheat and canola are a winning combination when it comes to crop rotations and profitability, with the added benefit of protection and enhancement of wildlife habitats and broader benefits such as clean water and air.
Stats Canada data indicates winter wheat and canola are two crops increasing in acreage and, more importantly, in yield. Average yields for canola are up 16 per cent this decade compared to the 1990s while winter wheat yields are up 33 per cent over the same period. These crops are important components for sustainable rotations.
Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development research and crop insurance data indicate that wheat yields increase 10 to 20 per cent after canola in direct seeding systems.
Canola is the ideal crop for seeding winter wheat after because the stubble provides the “optimum crown protection during the winter months.”
“Canola stubble tends to be tall, strong and plentiful, all three qualities which contribute to ideal snow trapping conditions throughout the winter” says Autumn Barnes agronomist with the Canola Council of Canada.
Jake Davidson, the executive director of Winter Cereals Canada, agrees that canola is an ideal stubble for seeding winter wheat. “It is very strong stubble; it can take a beating and still stand up well, and it is dense compared to other stubble so it catches snow best.”
Winter wheat and canola together in a cropping system also offer producers an excellent opportunity to avoid the development of, or manage herbicide resistant weeds. Winter wheat generally does not require grassy weed control and several canola production systems use “non-traditional” herbicides.
Including an oilseed crop previous to winter wheat especially helps with suppressing downy brome, the most troubling weed for winter wheat. It also helps protect winter wheat from disease due to canola being a low-residue crop being planted before a high-residue crop, breaking the disease cycle.
Winter wheat also provides improved soil retention for following canola crops, preventing erosion and protecting valuable soil resources.
Canola should be seeded early in the spring and/or seeded with an early maturing variety. Stubble should be available for winter wheat to be planted September 1.