Ont. winter wheat survives winter in good shape

(Resource News International) — The winter wheat crop in the province of Ontario is believed to have come through the winter in good shape, according to an official with the Ontario provincial government.

“From our viewpoint, the winter wheat crop is okay, but it is hard to know for sure as there has not been a lot of crop growth yet,” said Peter Johnson, a cereals specialist for the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs at Stratford.

There was some concern about winterkill, he said, given that most of the snow covering the winter wheat was lost back in mid-February and that temperatures after that became cold, with readings dipping into the -22°C range.

“There are quite a few areas in which the above-ground part of the wheat plant has turned brown,” Johnson said, adding that this was not necessarily unusual for this time of year.

“Certainly the cold temperatures were colder than what we are used to on a crop with no snow cover,” Johnson said. “However, having said that, anything I have looked at still looks to be OK.”

He estimated that 98 per cent of the crop was fine and that maybe only two per cent suffered any major damage.

The winter wheat that was believed to have suffered damage was in the heavier clay soil zones.

“The wheat in those areas were also planted late as well as into hostile conditions, meaning soils that were too wet,” Johnson said. “As a result, those plants probably died last fall already.”

Johnson also felt that a bigger concern at this time for the winter wheat in the province is the freeze-thaw cycles that occur.

Freeze-thaw cycles have a tendency to cause heaving, in which the wheat plant is physically jacked out of the ground, he said.

“We seem to be in a period of those freeze-thaw cycles at present, and in turn producers were keeping a close eye on their crops,” Johnson said, noting that what happens over the next three weeks will pretty much determine the end result for winter wheat.

If producers find a lot of damage to their winter wheat fields, they will probably put in an insurance claim, burn out the crop with some sort of herbicide variety and then till corn or soybeans into that stubble.

There were roughly 950,000 acres of land seeded to winter wheat in Ontario in the fall of 2008, Johnson said. This compares with the record 1.35 million seeded in the fall of 2007 and the 550,000 acres seeded in the fall of 2006.

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