Empty Fields Raise Winter Wheat Potential – for Sep. 2, 2010

Western Canada’s highest unplanted farm area in decades could lead to farmers sowing this summer record-high acres of winter wheat, a Canadian Wheat Board official say.

Western Canadian farmers left an estimated 10.5 million acres unplanted this spring due to heavy rains. That has left the land available for planting winter wheat, which farmers sow by early September, said Wheat Board director of weather and market analysis Bruce Burnett.

“It’s all about what’s on the land right now – nothing,” he said.

Western Canada usually plants about one million acres of winter wheat, with farmers in the eastern province of Ontario seeding another one million acres. This year western winter wheat acreage may double, Burnett said, pushing the total area potentially to a record high of three million acres.

Winter wheat acres typically make up well under 10 per cent of the all-wheat area in Canada, which is usually the world’s No. 6 wheat grower.

Farmers face, however, two big challenges to planting more winter wheat.

Recent rains have left some areas soggy, making it difficult for some farmers to plant as much winter wheat as they would like, Burnett said.

Western farmers have also bought up most winter wheat seed from last year, leaving others to rely on seed from wheat they are currently harvesting, said Jake Davidson, executive manager of Winter Cereals Canada, an industry group.

Larger winter wheat acreage would mean farmers will plant fewer acres with spring cereals next year in those areas.

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