growing winter wheat

Seeding early is the most important thing a grower can do to produce a vigorous plant with improved chances of winter survival. Plants that enter winter with greater than three leaves usually have well-developed crowns. The crown is the area at the base of the shoot from which the plant regrows in the spring.

Seeding too early, however, could promote excessive growth by winter, which can increase the risk for winter injury. Larger plants may also be at risk of snow mould. Despite these risks, seeding early is preferable to seeding too late.

The optimal seeding window across most of the Prairies is between September 1 and 15. If the crop is to be used for fall grazing it should be seeded by mid August. Seeding past the optimal date is ok and many growers still produce profitable yields.

The exceptions to this rule include:

  • The Peace Region of Alberta where ideal seeding dates are earlier than the rest of the Prairies due to cooler fall temperatures. Producers in this area should aim to seed around August 25-31.
  • The Chinook belt where seeding can be postponed because of long falls and milder winters. Producers in this area can seed into late September.

Producers should not wait for moisture prior to seeding. Winter wheat needs very little moisture to germinate. Under dry conditions, seeding into dry soil and waiting for rain to germinate the crop has been a far more successful strategy than delaying seeding until after rainfall. Research has demonstrated that postponement of seeding until after the middle of September can result in a five to ten per cent yield penalty for each week delayed.

There are many factors involved in deciding when to plant your winter wheat. Contact the agronomist for your area to discuss what is right for you.