Prairie winter wheat acres drop less than expected

(Resource News International) — Western Canadian winter wheat may be down on the year, but farmers still managed to plant more winter wheat this fall than had been expected, said an official with Winter Cereals Canada.

Western Canadian farmers planted 1.245 million acres of winter wheat this fall for harvest in 2009, according to Statistics Canada data released December 4. The seeded area was down from 1.520 million acres the previous year.

Provincially, Manitoba farmers planted 475,000 acres of winter wheat, down from 620,000 in 2007, Saskatchewan farmers planted 450,000 acres, down from 600,000, and Alberta farmers planted 320,000 acres, up slightly from 300,000 the previous year.

“If these numbers are right, I’m pleased to hear it,” said Jake Davidson, executive manager of Winter Cereals Canada at Minnedosa, Man., noting that signs had been pointing toward considerably smaller acres.

The lateness of the canola harvest this fall had created some concern that producers wouldn’t have the time to get winter wheat in the ground, Davidson said. Winter wheat is usually seeded into canola stubble in Western Canada.

Pea harvest timely

Davidson had expected seedings of closer to 400,000 acres in both Manitoba and Saskatchewan. While the canola harvest was late, he said, peas did come off in a timely fashion and some producers had seeded winter wheat into pea stubble.

Davidson thought those seedings into pea stubble helped keep the winter wheat acreage from slipping as much as it could have.

Now that the crop is in the ground, the focus in winter wheat has turned to weather conditions over the winter months. Davidson said many areas were starting to get some beneficial snow cover, which should help prevent winter kill.

“As long as we don’t get another 60-mile-per-hour wind to blow it all away, we’ll be fine,” he said.

Western Canadian winter wheat production in 2008 came in at 1.983 million tonnes, according to StatsCan, up from 1.285 million tons the previous year.

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