Winter wheat is a beneficial crop for many farmers across Western Canada, but this “old school” crop is not lost on the new generation of farmers and could be making a comeback as a staple in many crop rotations.
At the age of 29, David Manness has been farming close to Domain, Manitoba for most of his life, but in an official capacity for the past eight years.
Winter wheat was a part of his family farm’s cropping plan for 12 years before David was involved and he recently reintegrated it back into their cropping plan for the last five years.
David appreciates the benefits of winter wheat, the biggest benefit being the potential for profit.
“The best thing, when we started growing winter wheat again four or five years ago, was the yield potential and the market for it,” says David. The Manness farm has seen very high yields with areas of over 100 bushels per acre and an average closer to 60 to 80 bushels per acre overall.
But there are many logistical benefits as well. “For our farm, typically we grow it because it’s convenient for us with our man power to seed it in the fall. It breaks up not only our fall field work but also our spring seeding, and it makes for a nice early harvest, as early as the very end of July in a hot year but more commonly the early to mid part of August,” says David. “It’s also an early start to spring, and if you have a wet spring, you already have a crop in, which at the end of the day is the most important thing for us as farmers.”
David recognizes that winter wheat doesn’t come without challenges, but the challenges haven’t discouraged him yet.
“The main challenges would be: can we get it in the ground on time in the fall, and will it last our harsh winters?” says David.
As far as other potential for crop loss, David hasn’t seen many issues, but selecting the right variety for your area and conditions is crucial.
“We did have white mould one of the years we had an outstanding crop stand. I don’t think that variety was a fit for our wet, cooler soil, and it was such a thick stand of wheat that it didn’t have very good air movement through the plants, which didn’t help.”
It seems the benefits out-weigh the challenges for David with winter wheat. He says, “Growing winter wheat is something we will consider every year.”