Time to plant winter wheat

On average winter wheat still has a yield advantage over spring wheats, but there are other factors to consider 

The first two weeks of September is the best time for seeding winter wheat and with many canola crops already harvested there are fields suited for seeding now, says Lionel Kaskiw, Manitoba Agriculture’s farm production advisor in Souris.

But interest in winter wheat is declining with some farmers saying they can get almost the same yields growing spring wheats in the Canada Western Red Spring (CWRS) and Canada Northern Hard Red (CNHR) classes. It’s true. Last year some spring wheats yielded as much as winter wheat and many are yielding even better this year.

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“In individual cases it (winter wheat) may not yield as good as your hard red wheat, but… it’s still one of the crops that is yielding better, on average, throughout the province,” Kaskiw said during the CropTalk Westman webinar Sept. 6.

Crop insurance data reported in Yield Manitoba 2017 shows in 2016 Canada Western Red Spring (classified as hard red spring by the Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation), Canada Northern Hard Red (classified as feed wheat) and winter wheat averaged 52, 65 and 72 bushels an acre, respectively, province-wide.

The 10 year average yield for those classes is 47, 64 and 65 bushels an acre, respectively.

There are other reasons, in addition to yield, for considering winter wheat, including spreading out the spring seeding and fall harvest workload, Kaskiw said.

Winter wheat, especially when seeded early, will be harvested before spring seeded crops when the days are longer and harvest conditions are usually better, Kaskiw said.

Winter wheat will take advantage of moisture sooner than spring planted crops.

“If you’ve got fields that have seen issues before (due to excess moisture) it might be something for you to still get a crop off some of those acres (planted before they get too wet),” he said.

Winter wheat is another tool for managing herbicide resistant weeds, including wild oats.

“It does give you a break in a use of wild oat herbicide for the one year because usually winter wheat gets going early enough in the spring that it chokes out any wild oats that are growing… ,” Kaskiw said.

Here are Kaskiw’s tips for seeding winter wheat:

  • Don’t wait for rain, even if the soil is dry. It doesn’t take a lot of moisture to germinate shallow-sown winter wheat. “If you wait for a rain, all you are doing is delaying the time for the plant to emerge if we do get a rain…”
  • Plant into canola stubble, which is best for trapping snow to insulate the winter wheat crop and reduce winterkill. Chemfallow and barley stubble are other options.
  • Seeding date is important. “The quicker you get it in the ground in the fall, the quicker you’ll harvest it in the following year.”
  • Seed heavy. Aim for 30 to 35 plants per square foot. A thicker stand will be more weed competitive, reducing the need for a grassy weed herbicide. It will also result in more even crop maturity and less tillers, making it easier when timing a fungicide applications.
  • Seed shallow to take advantage of fall rains.
  • Apply a seed treatment because sometimes winter wheat sits in the ground a long time before germinating.
  • Treat winter wheat like a special crop. “You have to throw the fertilizer at it to get the high yields.”

About the author

Reporter

Allan Dawson

Allan Dawson is a reporter with the Manitoba Co-operator based near Miami, Man. Covering agriculture since 1980, Dawson has spent most of his career with the Co-operator except for several years with Farmers’ Independent Weekly and before that a Morden-Winkler area radio station.

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