Manitoba’s winter wheat crop is just fine despite an unusually warm fall and a lack of snow in many parts of agro-Manitoba, says Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Development cereal specialist Pam de Rocquigny.
“It’s obviously warm, but it’s not warm enough to break dormancy so now the (winter wheat) plant is at its most winter hardy,” de Rocquigny said in an interview Dec. 8. “Even though we have warmer than normal temperatures it really should not be having an impact on the crop at this point.”
Dozens of maximum temperature records were shattered around Manitoba this month. In many places daytime highs were 10 degrees warmer than normal. In some instances overnight lows were warmer than normal daytime highs. Most fields south of Carman, Man., were snow-free as of Dec. 9.
CBC reported Jim Hartry of Morden mowed his lawn in shorts and a t-shirt Dec. 4. Morden hit 14 degrees that day. In all 23 record highs were set across Manitoba Dec. 4, said CBC meteorologist John Sauder.
de Rocquigny has been getting some calls from farmers wondering about the state of their winter wheat, but she always does this time of year no matter the weather, she said.
“Winter wheat is doing what it’s supposed to be doing this time of year and that’s being dormant,” she said. “We’ve had a really great fall for the plants to get that winter hardiness. We’ve had a nice open fall and a decline in those temperatures so that has been good as well. And the crop went into the fall in that perfect growth stage that we like to see. I think there are a lot of pluses going for it right now so we’ll remain positive.”
Ideally winter wheat should go into dormancy with three leaves to one tiller.
The leaves won’t survive winter; what’s critical is that the root crown does. A good layer of snow helps insulate the crown, protecting it from freezing to death.
Winter wheat is probably more susceptible to winterkill nearer spring as it prepares to start coming out of dormancy. If there hasn’t been much snow, or it has melted or blown away, the crown is more vulnerable to cold temperatures.
The November Statistics Canada report estimates Manitoba farmers planted 240,000 acres of winter wheat. de Rocquigny suspects that might be high. Last year Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation reported 160,000 acres of insured winter wheat.
“I don’t think we’re going to see a huge jump in acres from last yea, “ she said.
“I think we’re seeing interest in these higher yielding spring wheat varieties as opposed to some of our winter wheats. We’ll see what happens. My guess would be 175,000 to 200,000 acres.”