Cold temperatures not causing problems for Prairies’ winter wheat

Western Canada may be in the midst of a deep freeze, but the region’s winter wheat crops are none the wiser.

“The crop sure is protected, there’s lots of snow,” said Jake Davidson, executive director of Winter Cereals Canada at Minnedosa, Man. “I would say that snow cover is more than adequate in most places.”

The ample amount of snow in many of Western Canada’s winter wheat growing regions has created good insulation that is helping to protect the crop from the extremely cold temperatures seen this winter.

It’s expected to warm up in mid-January in some areas, but the swinging temperatures shouldn’t cause any problems as long as the snow doesn’t melt, Davidson said.

The crop is expected to remain in good condition throughout the winter, as long as there aren’t any quick thaws before the spring.

“It’s the freeze/thaws that could cause problems, because (the ground) can get wet and the top level of the soil freezes and you get the ice in there,” Davidson said. “It’ll do in the crop.”

The crop was generally well established in many areas ahead of winter freeze-up, Davidson said, adding, “we’re working on the theory that all is going to be well.”

The number of acres that were planted to winter wheat this fall was exactly the same as last year, though the area dropped in Manitoba. But that doesn’t mean production in the province will also be down.

If the weather stays good, production should be around the same as the year prior, because a lot of winter wheat crops in Manitoba were victims of winterkill last year, said Davidson.

Farmers in Saskatchewan and Alberta seeded more acres to winter wheat this fall then they did last year.

Western Canadian farmers seeded 1.155 million acres to winter wheat this fall, with 525,000 in Saskatchewan, 435,000 in Manitoba and 195,000 in Alberta, Statistics Canada data shows.

Last fall, growers planted the same number of acres, with 390,000 from Saskatchewan, 600,000 from Manitoba and 165,000 from Alberta.

How many of this fall’s seeded acres will be harvested is yet to be seen, and will depend on what type of weather occurs throughout the rest of winter and the spring.

Flooding could also be an issue, as there is a lot of snow in some areas. But, it is still too early to tell, Davidson said, adding that some fields will be more prone to flooding than others.

Many farmers will plant winter wheat on land that wasn’t seeded in the spring due to flooding, Davidson added.

“It’s a catch-22, if you plant it on land because it had no crop because it was flooded, there always is a potential for it to flood again,” he said. “It’s a vicious circle.”

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

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