Below-average protein expected from Prairie wheat

Farmers across Western Canada have started to harvest their spring wheat crops, and protein levels so far look like they’re going to be below average.

“Protein levels, at least initially, here are lower, so I would think a lower-than-average protein is going to be in the cards for this crop, just given how good things are,” said Bruce Burnett, crop and weather specialist with CWB in Winnipeg.

But that doesn’t mean there won’t be enough higher-protein wheat to meet demand.

“We’re going to have an increase in production this year, and when proteins are lower than average, that still doesn’t mean we don’t have high-protein wheat, there’s just less as a portion of the overall crop,” said Burnett.

Things could still change as harvest moves along, said Burnett, adding “protein levels are probably the most difficult to extrapolate from early harvest activity.”

According to a crop report from Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development, 9.4 per cent of the spring wheat crop was swathed or combined at the end of August.

In Saskatchewan, 19 per cent of the spring wheat crop was in swath or ready to straight combine, while five per cent of the crop was combined as of early September, a crop report from the Saskatchewan ag ministry said Thursday.

Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives said in a crop report that spring wheat harvest progress varies by region, with some areas in the very early stages, and others almost 50 per cent complete as of early September.

Harvest activities are a bit later than normal in some areas due to late seeding this spring, but because weather has remained favourable, quality and yields haven’t suffered, Burnett said.

“The quality has been good. There have been relatively few issues in terms of downgrading,” he said. “There have been some disease problems, due to fusarium and things like that, but in terms of overall quality it looks very good so far.”

Yields also look good in the early stages of harvest, said Burnett. For example, in Manitoba, spring wheat yields were reported as ranging from 35 to 80 bushels per acre in early September, according to Manitoba Agriculture’s crop report on Tuesday.

— Terryn Shiells writes for Commodity News Service Canada, a Winnipeg company specializing in grain and commodity market reporting.

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