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Winter wheat acres down

“The biggest single factor was with harvesting so delayed, guys were just focused on harvesting the crop and didn’t have stubble conditions ready by the crop insurance deadline date.”

– Mike Grenier

While final figures remained unconfirmed, it appears winter wheat acres will be significantly lower across the province in 2009.

Manitoba Agriculture Food and Rural Initiatives author Rob Park said acres will not be near the high of the 2008 harvest of 600,000 acres, however, they will not fall as low as the 2006 levels of 294,000. In 2007 winter wheat acres reached 439,000. He feels the acres sown this year might be close to the 2007 number.

“This year everything was two weeks behind,” Park said. With no canola harvested until late, it left no time to sow winter wheat.

“Going into 2008, the markets looked good for winter wheat,” he said. Now the world wheat supply is up and prices aren’t attractive.

Park said farmers also respond to experience, and because of the wet year, many didn’t have a good experience with their winter wheat.

“We had sprouting issues and higher fusarium levels. It wasn’t all rosy,” he said.

Mike Grenier, agronomist for the Canadian Wheat Board said he couldn’t be certain without seeing final figures from Statistics Canada. For the past two years, there have been some fusarium issues in the winter wheat. There was also considerable winterkill in the Red River Valley.

“The biggest single factor was with harvesting so delayed, guys were just focused on harvesting the crop and didn’t have stubble conditions ready by the crop insurance deadline date,” he said.

Spring wheat yielded fairly well, so the yield gap between winter wheat and spring wheat wasn’t as large.

Grenier said it’s too early for any predictions as to what farmers will sow instead.

“They’re going to be looking at what the markets are telling them as far as seeding,” he said.

“We don’t know where barley prices are going to be. We don’t know where feed wheat prices are going to be.”

Jake Davidson, executive manager of Winter Cereals Canada observed the same trend towards lower acres.

“With a late fall, and very late canola harvest and therefore no stubble to seed into everything was two to three weeks late through the entire growing season. When it came time for winter wheat seeding, there was a lot less land available because the previous crop was still in the field,” he said.

Davidson figures farmers will seed spring wheat next year, depending on rotations.

Corey Bossuyt farms within the city limits and he managed to get 400 acres of winter wheat planted. But he knows the task proved impossible for some.”The weather definitely played into that hand,” he said.

Although his canola yields weren’t great, the drier weather in his area helped him get winter wheat sown into the stubble.

Craig Thompson, vice-president of Manitoba Agricultural Service Corporation said definite acreage numbers will be available next June.

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