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Ont. winter wheat breaking dormancy early

Warmer-than-normal temperatures in Ontario are reported to have helped the winter wheat crop in the province break dormancy earlier than usual.

“There is certainly some wheat green-up with growth dependent on the region of the province,” says Peter Johnson, a cereals specialist for the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture.

However, while the crop has come out of dormancy earlier than anticipated, the real concern is if there is a sudden stretch of cold weather.

“Once winter wheat breaks dormancy it is less cold-tolerant than when it is in its dormant state,” Johnson said.

Winter wheat is still reasonably cold tolerant and if temperatures only decline into the -4 C region one night or even -8 C one night, damage will be minimal.

“But if we start getting into a string of temperatures hitting lows of -12 or -13 C, that would be bad for the crop,” Johnson said.

The crop was seeded in less than ideal conditions in the fall, he said, and in turn there were areas in which the stands were questionable.

“Planting of Ontario’s winter wheat was done under extremely wet conditions in October, with some areas too wet,” Johnson said, pointing out that winter wheat is a dryland crop. “Anytime that you have the soils water logged or saturated, wheat is not happy.”

Johnson said the crop as a whole has certainly spent more of the winter under less than perfect conditions than growers would have liked.

Wet conditions have done more to hurt the crop than the lack of snow cover during the winter, he added.

“There is no reason to expect that we will not have a good winter wheat harvest in Ontario due to the absence of snowfall during the dormancy period over the winter,” Johnson says.

However, the saturated soil conditions are a totally different story, with some winterkill expected, he said. †

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