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 Average winter wheat yields expected

(Resource News International) — Average yields are expected for the Canadian winter wheat crop this year but industry sources say warm weather is needed in the coming weeks in order to speed up crop development.

Jake Davidson, executive manager with Winter Cereals Canada at Minnedosa, Man., said winter wheat crop development is a week to 10 days behind normal as a result of cool, wet weather conditions during the spring.

Generally, however, he still expects to see average yields and said winter kill has not been too significant of a problem this year. Warm weather is needed now in order to encourage good plant growth, according to Davidson.

“Overall, we figure we’ll see average yields, it just depends on what happens in the next six weeks with the weather. We need some heat and some growing weather here to kickstart everything,” he said.

In some areas, winter wheat crops are far enough behind that farmers who don’t normally need to spray for wild oats have been forced to do so. Others will likely have to spray for fusarium, he said.

Normally, many producers would begin to harvest their winter wheat fields in roughly six weeks but unless temperatures rise, Davidson does not believe that will be the case this year. Rather, a delayed harvest is likely, thus increasing the chances of early frost damage.

Producers are also beginning to worry about the slow development of canola crops in Western Canada so far this year, Davidson said. Because canola is the preferred stubble for winter wheat crops, a late canola harvest shortens the time frame in which winter wheat can be planted.

“A late canola harvest means that when we get past a certain date guys won’t sow winter wheat anymore. Growers have until about Sept. 15 or 21, depending on their insurance program, to get their winter wheat in and make it insurable and if the canola crop is late coming off the fields, there is no place to put the winter wheat and that will ruin us for next year,” he said.

Bruce Burnett, director of weather and market analysis for the Canadian Wheat Board, is also forecasting average winter wheat yields this year provided weather is reasonably favourable in the coming weeks.

Abandonment up

He noted however, that abandonment of winter wheat crops was higher this year than in years past, particularly in Manitoba. Abandonment rates in Saskatchewan and Alberta were more or less in line with previous years’ rates.

“On some of the areas that were dry this year you didn’t see the spring tillering that one normally sees. That is going to cut the yields in those areas but for the most part, yields look pretty much average,” Burnett said.

He acknowledged the increased risk of fusarium this year on account of the delayed development of winter wheat crops, which he agreed is roughly a week to two weeks behind normal.

Wet weather and high humidity during the early kernel development stage are conducive to the development of the disease.

“The thing about fusarium this year is that we’re looking at delayed development compared with previous years. Normally winter wheat would be out of that window already but it is just in between it,” he explained. Much will depend on the weather in the very term, he said.

As far as seeding for next year goes, Burnett agreed that a delayed harvest time for spring-seeded crops could cut the seeding period for winter wheat short.

“Having said that, if we have a nice, clear harvest and there are not an awful lot of delays and the moisture conditions are good for the germination, there should still be no problem for that,” he added.

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