A large part of the Prairies is dry. And when we say dry, we mean dusty dry down a few inches. No, not everywhere and, no, not like the U.S., but nearly the entire growing area of Manitoba could use a good drink. Farmers in parts of Saskatchewan and Alberta say the same.
A dry harvest season and fall aren’t usually a bad thing, but there are a few production areas that can be negatively impacted by a lack of moisture from August onward. The hardest hit right now is winter wheat. Crops seeded in late August and early September have not germinated; well-meaning farmers put the seed 1.5″ to 2″ down chasing moisture, but that’s backfired as little or no rain has left the seeds sitting in dust and dependent on a large rain event to receive moisture.
All is not lost, however. Winter wheat only needs a very little amount of rain and growth in order to be viable the following year. Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives has a great chart that shows that even a just-sprouted seed on October first could still reach 100% yield potential, it just depends on snow cover, winter survival and spring conditions.
The key thing to remember here is that winter wheat needs very little moisture and growth to get going and make a crop — this is why seeding any deeper than one inch can cause major headaches. Seed shallow and wait for rain, even when you’re seeding into dust. Yes, really.
Brunel Sabourin, area agronomist with Cargill at Morris, Man., took us out to look at some deep-seeded winter wheat stands. We asked him about whether or not the winter wheat has a chance. Check out the video for his take on the topic.
If you cannot see the embedded video below click here.