Winter wheat hit hard in southwestern Man.

One of the first casualties of this spring’s unusually cold weather appears to be the winter wheat crop in Manitoba’s southwest.

The recently-released crop report, compiled by Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Iniatives staff across the province, says winter wheat however continues to struggle, with poor winter survival being reported across much of the southwest region.

Many fields have well below minimal plant stand populations. Initial estimates are that 75 to 80 per cent of last fall’s winter wheat crop will be reseeded.

Pam de Rocquigny, a MAFRI cereals specialist at Carman, said crop insurance adjusters are out assessing stands, and many growers are faced with a decision whether to terminate the crop and reseed or gamble on it making a recovery.

“For what we’ve been hearing, guys are reseeding due to the poorer plant stands,” said de Rocquigny.

The losses are due to a handful of possible factors, such as poor or spotty germination last fall due to dry conditions at seeding time, combined with stunted development going into the winter, followed by winterkill that hit smaller, weaker plants hard.

The knockout punch for many stands came with the extended winter and delayed spring snowmelt, followed by cooler-than-normal conditions in April and May.

Although last year’s crop suffered from lack of snow cover, it was able to quickly recover with the early arrival of spring and warmer weather, she added.

“Whereas this year, we’ve seen cold, cool and in some areas wet conditions which didn’t help get the crop established. It’s a combination of a number of factors all coming together.”

Jake Davidson, executive manager of Winter Cereals Canada at Minnedosa, Man., said losses in the western and southwestern parts of Manitoba are high this spring, but eastern winter wheat crops in the Red River Valley, where there was more moisture in fall, appear to be doing better.

“From what I gather from talking to people, after the crop was seeded, it germinated and then the soil dried out and the plants died out,” he said.

In the area from Birtle to Hamiota, winter wheat losses could be as high as 100 per cent, he said.

“It’s not winter kill, it’s germination-related,” he said, adding that ample snow cover was of no use to plants that were probably already dead due to the drought last fall.

However, in some areas, the crop seems to be doing well. Near his home in Minnedosa, Davidson said a field that had been sown into summerfallow is “doing fantastic” with growth at four to five inches high already.

— Daniel Winters is a reporter for the Manitoba Co-operator at Oak Lake, Man.

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