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Yield-boosting winter wheat research

Winter wheat already has a yield advantage but researchers think 
they could go even higher

The Western Winter Wheat Initiative is working to boost winter wheat yields.

“We really want to push the yield on these new varieties,” says Ken Gross, an agronomist with Ducks Unlimited Canada and the Western Winter Wheat Initiative.

“These new varieties have more yield potential. And we really want to push the yield on these varieties to see how far they can go. But there are issues with that.”

One is pushing yield results in taller crops, which can then lodge, cutting yield and quality.

Trials with plant growth regulators show promise, Gross said.

“In the research trials I’ve seen they seem to have a four- to five-inch decrease in the height of winter wheat (when a plant growth regulator is applied)… and that can be quite significant in reducing your lodging.”

Intercropping is also being explored. In one trial a farmer planted winter wheat and vetch last fall and field peas this spring, Gross said. The winter wheat yield and peas yielded just 20 bushels an acre, but the farmer also harvested 150 to 200 pounds an acre of vetch seed at $2 a pound. That along with low input costs made the mix a profitable option.

“Plus it’s going to build up his soil,” Gross said.

Growing three crops in two years is also something Gross wants researched.

“It is being promoted in the States,” he said. “It is hard to know if that will work up in Canada. The idea is perhaps that in year one we could seed a canola crop in the spring and harvest it in the fall and seed winter wheat into it in the fall. In the second year you seed your soybeans right in between the rows of winter wheat and harvest your winter wheat and then the beans take off and you harvest them in October.”

The Western Winter Wheat Initiative is a collaboration between Bayer Crop Science, The Mosaic Company Foundation, Richardson International, and Ducks Unlimited. The purpose is to promote winter wheat as a highly productive crop option.

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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