Agronomy Library > Soil Conservation

Weather Delays Punctuate the Advantage of Seeding Winter Wheat
Author: Ducks Unlimited Canada
Date Created: June 13, 2007
Last Reviewed: June 13, 2007

Farmers who seeded a portion of their acres into winter wheat last year are happy to have a head start on seeding. “When you seed 4000 acres, having 500 acres done in the fall makes a real difference,” says Kent Erickson from Irma, “especially since we have such a short window of opportunity to seed in the spring.”

Craig Shaw from Lacombe agrees. “We never know what kind of a spring we’re going to get,” he says. “When it gets wet like this, seeding gets pushed later and later and it is harder to get all our acres seeded. Later seeding means we can start to lose quality and yield. Winter wheat takes some of the pressure off spring seeding and reduces our risk.”

The first week of May brought 2-3 inches of rain on Shaw’s farm which has narrowed the window for spring seeding. The wet weather extended across much of the province and has delayed seeding for many farmers.

According to Dale Soetaert with Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC), growers from across the province are reporting excellent survival of their winter wheat crops. “Good snow cover across central Alberta has benefited this year’s winter wheat crops,” says Soetaert. DUC works with farmers to grow winter wheat knowing that fall-seeded crops provide suitable habitat for nesting waterfowl.

Winter wheat has perked the interest of many growers in the past few years because of its economic potential. Several growers report higher winter wheat yields compared with their spring wheat. The competitive nature of winter wheat against weeds reduces in-crop herbicide use for most growers. “The real economic advantage of winter wheat is that one third of the time, we don’t have to spray for wild oats,” says Erickson.

In southern Alberta, winter wheat has broad appeal for similar reasons. “The main advantages on dry land are that we do not have to use wild oat spray and we get higher yields than spring wheat,” says Cory Nelson of Grassy Lake. He also grows winter wheat on irrigation for erosion control. “I like to pencil out the variable costs and most years we find winter wheat is more profitable than hard red spring wheat,” says Nelson.

The rising cost of fertilizer this spring has also given winter wheat an economic advantage over spring cereals. “The price of fertilizer has increased over 60% since last fall,” says Soetaert. “This means farmers who grow winter wheat are realizing huge savings on the nitrogen they applied last fall.”

Early harvest of winter wheat acres not only spreads out the work load over the growing season, it also offers marketing flexibility. “With crops being later this year, feed supplies may be fairly tight going into harvest,” says Shaw. “We may see some fairly good pricing opportunities for winter wheat this fall.”

For some Alberta producers, leaving wet land this spring in chem-fallow can aid in cleaning up fields and can prepare the land for seeding winter wheat. Producers can opt to avoid extremely late seeding this spring, and be fully prepared for optimal seeding of this fall’s winter wheat crop.

Farmers seeking further information on winter wheat production are encouraged to contact the Ducks Unlimited Canada office in Edmonton at (780) 489-2002 or 1-866-479-3825.