Prairie winter wheat conditions remain a mystery

Wet and cool conditions across the Prairies have left a lot of uncertainty about the condition of the winter wheat crop that was planted last fall.

Jake Davidson, executive manager with Winter Cereals Canada at Minnedosa, Man., said with so much snowpack still on the ground, it is virtually impossible to make an educated guess at the status of the crop.

“It’s still a mystery right now,” Davidson said. “Some parts of Saskatchewan have gotten a whack of snow that they don’t normally get, so at this point no one is going to make any kind of prediction as to what the crop will look like.”

Although he wouldn’t make a formal prediction, Davidson said there a number of factors that are working against the current winter wheat crop in Western Canada.

“There are a lot of places where the ground didn’t freeze, because we got that big snow in November, so there is strong potential for snow mould,” he said. “As for when it melts is another question. There is still a lot of snow.”

The amount of damage depends on how fast the snow melts, and how severe winterkill is, Davidson said.

“If the snow melts quickly and the wheat is sitting in water and then it freezes overnight, that would kill the crop,” he said.

Although the conditions are wet at the moment, Davidson said it wouldn’t take all that much for things to change.

“If we get three or four days of temperatures 10 C above, the snow will melt quickly, and producers could be looking at a good crop,” he said.

According to Statistics Canada, a total of 695,000 acres of winter wheat were seeded in Western Canada in the fall of 2010, which compares to 650,000 in the fall of 2009.

Even though there are more acres, there won’t necessarily be larger production, Davidson said, because the numbers don’t say specifically where the acres planted, with regards to snow pack and soil moisture levels.

Though there is a lot of uncertainty about yields, he said that would not necessarily lead to higher prices.

“The big buyers want about a boatload a month or so, and when the crop is uncertain, the CWB can’t commit to those big sales because they don’t know where the winter wheat supply is going to come from,” he said.

There is still a lot of the 2009-10 winter wheat crop sitting in bins, he added.

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